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Buddhism Foundations: Buddhist Precepts|Four Noble Truths|Noble Eightfold Paths



According to the Pali Tipitaka, the Four Noble Truths were the first teaching of Gautama Buddha after attaining Nirvana. They are sometimes considered as containing the essence of the Buddha's teachings and are presented in the manner of a medical diagnosis and remedial prescription – a style common at that time:

  1. Life as we know it ultimately is or leads to suffering (dukkha) in one way or another.
  2. Suffering is caused by craving or attachments to worldly pleasures of all kinds. This is often expressed as a deluded clinging to a certain sense of existence, to selfhood, or to the things or people that we consider the cause of happiness or unhappiness.
  3. Suffering ends when craving ends, when one is freed from desire. This is achieved by eliminating all delusion, thereby reaching a liberated state of Enlightenment (bodhi);
  4. Reaching this liberated state is achieved by following the path laid out by the Buddha.
This interpretation is followed closely by many modern Theravadins described by early Western scholars, and taught as an introduction to Buddhism by some contemporary Mahayana teachers.

According to other interpretations by Buddhist teachers and scholars and lately recognized by some Western scholars the "truths" do not represent mere statements, but divisions or aspects of most phenomena, which fall into one of these four categories, grouped in two:

  1. Suffering and causes of suffering
  2. Cessation and the paths towards liberation from suffering.

Thus, according to the Macmillan Encyclopedia of Buddhism they are

  1. "the noble truth that is suffering"
  2. "the noble truth that is the arising of suffering"
  3. "the noble truth that is the end of suffering"
  4. "the noble truth that is the way leading to the end of suffering"
The early teaching, and the traditional understanding in the Theravada, is that the four noble truths are an advanced teaching for those who are ready for them. The Mahayana position is that they are a preliminary teaching for people not yet ready for the higher and more expansive Mahayana teachings.
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