Four Noble Truths

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Great Buddha of Kamakura

The Four Noble Truths (Pali: cattari ariya saccani) are the central teaching of Buddhism, declared by Gautama Buddha.

The Buddha first expounded the Four Noble Truths several weeks after his Enlightenment to a group of former companions in the Deer Park at Isipatana. This discourse is recounted in the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta ("Setting in Motion the Wheel of Truth") (Samyutta Nikaya 56.11).

The following is brief and cursory description of the Four Noble Truths. Further explanation follows.

  1. dukkha ("suffering") – Life means suffering.
  2. samudaya ("origin") – Suffering is caused by desire for and attachment to sensual pleasure and existence itself, and by ignorance of the true nature of the self and reality.
  3. nirodha ("cessation") – Suffering can be ended by letting go of these desires and attachments and by overcoming this ignorance.
  4. magga ("the path") – The Noble Eightfold Path is the means by which to accomplish this.

1. dukkha

"Suffering" is the most common English translation of dukkha, but it is inadequate and misleading. A better rendering would be "unsatisfactoriness": the fact that human life never provides complete and lasting satisfaction of physical, mental and emotional needs and desires. Thus, even pleasant things, experiences that are certainly not suffering, are dukkha because they are temporary. Dukkha does not just characterize the human condition; it is the human condition.

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