Monday, January 11, 2010

The Four Noble Truths

The following are the Four Noble Truths, which the Buddha explained in his first teaching after his enlightenment. These are the fundamental tenets of Buddhism.

First Noble Truth: There is suffering
Second Noble Truth: Suffering is caused by desire
Third Noble Truth: Suffering can end completely
Fourth Noble Truth: The Noble Eightfold Path is the answer to suffering

What do they mean? In a simple sense, the meaning of the First Noble Truth is apparent. We see suffering everyday, in ourselves and others. The Second Noble Truth states that desire, selfish craving, and wishing things to be different from how they are is the cause of all suffering. The Third Noble Truth states that the constant state of suffering we experience can totally cease by way of observing the Fourth Noble Truth; following the Noble Eightfold Path

Possible misconceptions: I have heard the First Noble Truth stated as (to paraphrase) 'All the world and all of life is suffering'. This would lead the casual observer to think that Buddhism has a very pessimistic worldview.

Not necessarily. First of all, the word which is translated into the English word 'suffering' is 'dukkha', which has a complex definition and therefore many meanings. For simplicity, I always say that dukkha refers to the inherent 'unsatisfactoriness' of all things, and can represent suffering ranging from slight discomfort to extreme misery.

I hope this post has been helpful, kindly post your feedback in the comments.

May all beings be happy (and free from dukkha)!


  1. For the longest time I fought against the "Life is Suffering" translation of the First Noble Truth, thinking this was somehow an error, and have used the same translation you have used... "There is Suffering".

    However after years it has become clear that conditioned existence is unsatisfactory on the whole (taking all of Dukkha's meanings into account), and so "Life is Unsatisfactory (Dukkha)" would actually be more correct.

    "Suffering" just doesn't cut it, because really even worldly happiness is a part of Samsara.

    1. Dear Karmicloud,
      Thank you so much for the insight you have provided today. I know what you mean about there being some confusion about the meaning of the First Noble truth, which is why I thought further clarification was necessary :) I also found the Wikipedia link about Dukkha to be very helpful as well.

      Thanks again- I hope you have a wonderful day!


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