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Four Noble Truths

Translations of
Four Noble Truths
Pali चत्तारि अरियसच्चानि
(cattāri ariyasaccāni)
Bengali চতুরার্য সত্য
chôturarjô sôtyô
Burmese သစ္စာလေးပါး
(IPA: [θɪʔsà lé bá])
Chinese 四聖諦(T) / (S)
(rōmaji: shitai)
Korean (四聖諦)
(Khutagt durvun unen)
Tibetan འཕགས་པའི་བདེན་པ་བཞི་
(Wylie: 'phags pa'i bden pa bzhi
THL: pakpé denpa shyi
(ariyasaj sii)
Vietnamese Tứ Diệu Đế( 四妙諦)
Glossary of Buddhism

The Four Noble Truths (Sanskrit: catvāri āryasatyāni; Pali: cattāri ariyasaccāni) are "the truths of the Noble Ones," the truths or realities which are understood by the "worthy ones" who have attained Nirvana. The truths are dukkha, the arising of dukkha, the cessation of dukkha, and the path leading to the cessation of dukkha.

The four truths express the basic orientation of Buddhism: we crave and cling to impermanent states and things, which is dukkha, "incapable of satisfying" and painful. This keeps us caught in samsara, the endless cycle of repeated rebirth, dukkha and dying again. But there is a way to reach real happiness and to end this cycle, namely following the eightfold path. The meaning of the truths is as follows:

The four truths provide a conceptual framework for introducing and explaining Buddhist thought, which has to be personally understood or "experienced." The formulation of the four truths, and their importance, developed over time, when prajna, or "liberating insight," came to be regarded as liberating in itself, instead of the practice of dhyana.

In the sutras, the four truths have both a symbolic and a propositional function. They represent the awakening and liberation of the Buddha, but also the possibility of liberation for all sentient beings, describing how release from craving is to be reached.

The four truths are of central importance in the Theravada tradition, which holds to the idea that insight into the four truths is liberating in itself. They are less prominent in the Mahayana traditions, which emphasize insight into sunyata and the Bodhisattva-path as a central elements in their teachings.

The four truths are best known from their presentation in the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, which contains two sets of the four truths, while various other sets can be found in the Pali Canon.

According to the Buddhist tradition, the Buddha first taught the four noble truths in the very first teaching he gave after attaining enlightenment, as recorded in the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta ("The Discourse That Sets Turning the Wheel of Truth"). Within this discourse, there are four key verses which present the four noble truths:

Through not seeing the Four Noble Truths,
Long was the weary path from birth to birth.
When these are known, removed is rebirth's cause,
The root of sorrow plucked; then ends rebirth.
  • idam dukkham, "this is pain"
  • ayam dukkha-samudayo, "this is the origin of pain"
  • ayam dukkha-nirodha, "this is the cessation of pain"
  • ayam dukkha-nirodha-gamini patipada, "this is the path leading to the cessation of pain"
  • Vetter, Tilmann (1988), The Ideas and Meditative Practices of Early Buddhism, BRILL 
  • Bronkhorst, Johannes (1993), The Two Traditions of Meditation in Ancient India, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers , chapter 8
  • Anderson, Carol (1999), Pain and Its Ending: The Four Noble Truths in the Theravada Buddhist Canon, Routledge 
  • Chögyam Trungpa (2009), The Truth of Suffering and the Path of Liberation, Shambhala.
  • Dalai Lama (1998), The Four Noble Truths, Thorsons.
  • Geshe Tashi Tsering (2005), The Four Noble Truths: The Foundation of Buddhist Thought, Volume I, Wisdom, Kindle Edition
  • Ringu Tulku (2005), Daring Steps Toward Fearlessness: The Three Vehicles of Tibetan Buddhism, Snow Lion. (Part 1 of 3 is a commentary on the four truths)
  • Epstein, Mark (2004), Thoughts Without A Thinker: Psychotherapy from a Buddhist Perspective. Basic Books. Kindle Edition. (Part 1 examines the four truths from a Western psychological perspective)
  • Moffitt, Phillip (2008), Dancing with Life: Buddhist Insights for Finding Meaning and Joy in the Face of Suffering, Rodale, Kindle Edition. (An explanation of how to apply the Four Noble Truths to daily life)
  • Thich Nhat Hanh (1999), The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching, Three Rivers Press
  • Gethin, Rupert (1998), Foundations of Buddhism, Oxford University Press, (Chapter 3 is a commentary of about 25 pages.)
  • Lopez, Donald S. (2001), The Story of Buddhism, HarperCollins. (pp. 42–54)
  • Walpola Rahula (1974), What the Buddha Taught, Grove Press


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