Four Noble Truths

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Four Noble Truths

The Four Noble Truths (Sanskrit: catvāri āryasatyāni) are an important principle in Buddhism, and were classically taught by the Buddha in the Dharmacakra Pravartana Sūtra. These four truths are best understood, not as beliefs, but as categories of experience.[1]


Basic teaching

According to the Saṃyukta Āgama of the Sarvāstivāda school, the basic teachings of the Four Noble Truths are:[2]

The Sanskrit and Pali words satya and sacca, respectively, mean both "truth" and "real" or "actual thing." With that in mind, one scholar argues that the four noble truths are not asserted as propositional truths or creeds, but as "true things" or "realities" that the Buddha experienced.[3] The original Tibetan Lotsawas (Sanskrit: locchāwa; Tibetan: lo ts'a ba), who studied Sanskrit grammar thoroughly, used the Tibetan term bden pa, which reflects this understanding.

Four Noble Truth definitions

Some versions of the Dharmacakra Pravartana Sutra contain definitions of the Four Noble Truths while others do not. For example, the Sarvastivadin versions portrays the truths as principles to be contemplated in various methods, and no definitions are given.[2] In the Theravada version and the version translated by An Shigao, the Four Noble Truths are given definitions:

Relation to the Eightfold Noble Path

In the version of the Dharmacakra Pravartana Sūtra contained in the extant Saṃyukta Āgama, there is no mention of the Noble Eightfold Path. Instead, contemplation of the Four Noble Truths is taken to be the path itself.[2]

The Four Noble Truths and the Lotus Sutra

The Lotus Sutra's text views the Four Noble Truths as the first teaching of the Buddha, but not the final teaching. In Chapter 3, Similes and Parables, the Sutra introduces what it calls "the most wonderful / the unsurpassed great Law": [8][9]

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