The Four Noble Truths

Ganharan Buddha Head V&A
Four Noble Truths

The truth of anguish
The truth of the arising of anguish
The truth of the stopping of anguish
The truth of the course leading to the stopping of anguish

Thus have I heard. At one time the Lord was staying near Benares in the deer-park at Isipatana. While he was there the Lord addressed the monks, saying, ‘The matchless Wheel of dhamma set rolling by the Tathagata, the perfected one, the fully Self ­awakened One in the deer-park at Isipatana near Benares cannot be rolled back by a recluse, brahman, deva, Mara, Brahma, or by anyone in the world. It was a proclamation of the four ariyan [noble] truths, a teaching, a laying down, an establishing, an opening up, an analysing, and a making of them plain. It was a proclamation of the ariyan [noble] truth of anguish, of the arising of anguish, of the stopping of anguish, of the course leading to the stopping of anguish.

Monks, follow Sariputta and Moggallana, associate with them; they are wise monks who are helpers to Brahma-farers. Like a mother, so is Sariputta; like a child’s foster mother, so is Moggallana. Sariputta trains one in the fruit of stream-attainment, Moggallana in the highest goal.(1) Sariputta is able to teach, establish, analyse and make plain the four ariyan truths in full.’(2) Thus spoke the Lord; and having said this, the Well-farer rose from his seat and entered a dwelling-place.

[ (1). i.e. arahantship. It seems that Sariputta expends himself on newly ordained monks rather than on those he knows to be on the higher ways.

(2). This is Sariputta’s aspect as Dhammasenapati, Captain or General of Dhamma, next to the Buddha in power to roll on the Dhamma-wheel. ]

Soon after the Lord had departed the venerable Sariputta addressed the monks who were there, saying, ‘Reverend monks, the matchless Wheel of dhamma set rolling by the Tathagata in the deer-park at Isipatana cannot be rolled back. It was a proclamation of the ariyan truth of anguish, the arising of anguish, the stopping of anguish, the course leading to the stopping of anguish.

‘And what is the ariyan truth of anguish? Birth, ageing, dying, grief, sorrow, suffering, misery and despair are anguish. And not getting what one desires, that too is anguish. In brief, the five groups of grasping* are anguish.

‘And what is birth? It is the con­ception, production, descent, rebirth, the coming forth of various beings in the various classes of beings, the appearance of the groups of grasping, the acquiring of the sense-bases. This is called birth.

[*Grasping after material shape, feeling, per­ception, habitual tendencies, and consciousness.]

‘And what is old age? It is de­crepitude, broken teeth, greying hair, wrinkly skin, the dwindling of the life span, the collapse of the sense organs of the various beings in the various classes of beings. This is called old age.

‘And what is dying? It is the falling away, passing away, breaking up, disappearance, death and dying, the action of time, the breaking up of the groups of grasping, the laying down of the body. This is called dying.

‘And what is grief? It is sorrow, inward grief, the inner pain of one visited by some kind of calamity or other, smitten by some kind of ill or other. This is called grief.

‘And what is sorrow? It is the crying of one visited by some calamity or other, smitten by some kind of ill or other. This is called sorrow.

‘And what is suffering? It is physical suffering, physical disagree­ableness arising from an impingement on the body and experienced as suffer­ing, as disagreeableness. This is called suffering.

‘And what is misery? It is mental suffering, mental disagreeableness arising from an impingement on the mind and experienced as suffering, as disagreeableness. This is called misery.

‘ And what is despair? It is de­spondency, the state of despair of one visited by some calamity, smitten by some kind of ill or other. This is called despair.

‘And what is meant by “not getting what one desires”? Your reverences, a wish arises in creatures liable to birth:
“O might we be not liable to birth and birth not come to us.” But this is not to be had for the wishing. A wish like this arises in creatures liable to ageing, to disease, dying, grief, sorrow, suffer­ing, misery and despair: “0 might we not be liable to ageing, disease, dying, grief, sorrow, suffering, misery and despair, and might ageing, disease, dying, grief, sorrow, suffering, misery and despair not come to us.” But this is not to be had for the wishing.

‘And what, in brief, are the five groups of grasping that are anguish? These are the group of grasping after material shape, grasping after feeling, grasping after perception, grasping after the habitual tendencies, grasping after consciousness. These are called the five groups of grasping that are anguish.

‘Your reverences, this is called the ariyan truth of anguish.

Korean shrine detail‘ And what is the ariyan truth of the arising of anguish? Whatever crav­ing is connected with again-becoming, accompanied by delight and attach­ment, finding delight in this and that, namely the craving for sense-pleasures, the craving for becoming, the craving for annihilation — this is called the ariyan truth of the arising of anguish.

‘And what is the ariyan truth of the stopping of anguish? Whatever is, the stopping with no attachment re­maining of that selfsame craving, the relinquishment of it, casting aside of it, release from it, independence of it— this is called the ariyan truth of the stopping of anguish.

‘ And what is the ariyan truth of the course leading to the stopping of anguish? It is the ariyan eightfold Way itself — that is to say: right view, right aspiration, right speech, right action, right mode of livelihood, right endeavour, right mindfulness, right concentration.

‘ And what is right view? Whatever is knowledge of anguish, knowledge of the arising of anguish, knowledge of the stopping of anguish, knowledge of the course leading to the stopping of anguish — this is called right view.

‘ And what is right aspiration? Aspiration for renunciation, for non­malevolence, for harmlessness — this is called right aspiration.

‘ And what is right speech? Re­fraining from lying speech, slanderous speech, harsh speech, gossip—this is called right speech.

‘And what is right action? Re­fraining from onslaught on creatures, from taking what has not been given, from going wrongly among the sense-pleasures — this is called right action.

‘ And what is right mode of liveli­hood? A disciple of the ariyans, get­ting rid of a wrong mode of livelihood, makes his living by a right mode of livelihood.

‘ And what is right endeavour? A monk generates desire, stirs up energy, exerts his mind and strives for the non-arising of evil unskilled states that have not arisen, for the getting rid of evil unskilled states that have arisen, for the arising of skilled states that have not arisen, for the maintenance, preservation, increase, maturity, devel­opment and completion of skilled states that have arisen. This is called right endeavour. And what is right mindfulness? A monk fares along contemplating the body in the body, the feelings in the feelings, the mind in the mind, the mental states in the mental states, ardent, clearly conscious of them, mindful of them so as to control the covetousness and dejection in the world. This is called right mindfulness.

‘And what is right concentration? A monk, aloof from pleasures of the senses, aloof from unskilled states of mind, enters on and abides in the first meditation, which is accompanied by initial thought and discursive thought, is born of aloofness, and is rapturous and joyful. By allaying initial thought and discursive thought, with the mind subjectively tranquillized and fixed on one point, he enters on and abides in the second meditation, which is devoid of initial and discursive thought, is born of concentration, and is rapturous and joyful. By the fading out of rap­ture, he dwells with equanimity, attentive and clearly conscious; and he experiences in his person that joy of which the ariyans say, “Joyful lives he who has equanimity and is mindful,” and he enters on and abides in the third meditation. By getting rid of joy, by getting rid of anguish, by the going down of his former pleasures and sorrows, he enters on and abides in the fourth meditation, which is entirely purified by equanimity and mindfulness.

Stone Buddha in Mudra‘This is called the ariyan truth of the course leading to the stopping of anguish.

‘Your reverences, the matchless Wheel of dhamma set rolling by the Tathagata, perfected one, the fully Self-awakened One in the deer-park at Isipatana near Benares cannot be rolled back by a recluse, brahman, deva, Mara, Brahma, or by anyone in the world. It was a proclamation, a teaching, a laying down, an establishing, an opening up, an analysing, and a making plain of these four ariyan truths.

‘Thus spoke the venerable Sariputta. Delighted, these monks rejoiced in what the venerable Sariputta had said.

Also see The Eightfold Path

An abridged version of the Saccavibhanga sutta taken from Volume III of The Middle Length Sayings (Majjhima-Nikaya) Translated by I.B. Horner and published by the Pali Text Society. In which Sariputta, one of the Buddha’s disciples, giving a detailed explanation of the Four Noble Truths, the cornerstone of the Buddha’s teach­ing — the truth of anguish, the arising of anguish, the stopping of anguish, and the course leading to the stopping of anguish.

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With many thanks to the Pali Text Society

For a list of Pali Text Society trans­lations and publications as well as details of membership, please write to: Pali Text Society, 73 Lime Walk,Oxford, 0X3 7AD, UK

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GLOSSARY

ARAHANT: A person who has liber­ated himself from aIl defilements and impurities, and is full of wisdom and compassion.

ARIYAN: Noble, pure, flawless, super-mundane.

BRAHMA: One aspect of the triune Godhead of Hinduism, with Vishnu and Shiva. But in the Buddhist Scriptures the word is used as an adjective mean­ing holy. The Brahma-faring is the holy life.

DEVAS: The heavenly or shining ones, the gods.

DHAMMA (Pali), DHARMA (Sanskrit): The teaching of the Buddha; that which supports reality; the truth; the natural state.

MARA: Delusion; defilement; death; the personification of evil.

STREAM—ATTAINMENT: ‘Stream’ is a synonym for the Way; a fruit of the Way.

TATHAGATA: Thus come; the one who neither comes nor goes; one who has attained full enlightenment. Another name for the Buddha and a name the Buddha often used when referring to himself.




Categories: Beginners, Buddhism, Buddhist meditation, Encyclopedia, Foundations, Metta, Texts, Theravada

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7 replies

  1. Thank you. Om Mani Padme Hum _/!\_

  2. Help! Did the Buddha set the wheel of Dhamma rolling, as per the excellent piece above (many thanks for that!) or did he stop the Dhamma wheel – inscription at the base of Amaravati Temple BuddhaRupa: Phra Buddha Dhammacakra maravati – this (possibly) translates as stopping the wheel of Dhamma.
    Apologies for such a basic question and metta and thanks!

    • Dear Tony

      The Buddha in the main temple at Amaravati is called ‘Phra Buddha Dhammacakra Amaravati’, which translates as ‘The Buddha of the Deathless Realm’. Deathlessness is nibbana (going beyond birth and death). This is what the Buddha taught. The Buddha therefore did set the wheel of Dhamma rolling, and never taught anything about stopping it.

      Hope this helps,

      DSR

  3. I have a lot of respect when I see articles by other people who will be more of an expert as compared with me on this topic. The audience might think that looks effortless, but there’s so much going on behind the scenes. Your work is a result of analysis and knowledge by you and you were very good enough to share these with people like me. Thanks a lot.

  4. Thank you.

  5. Excellent, thank you

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