Cattari Ariya Saccani (Pali) / Catur Arya Satyani (Sanskrit) / The Four Noble Truths
1. Thus is the Noble Truth of Suffering ( dukkha / duhkha )Birth- When we are born, we cry.
Sickness- When we are sick, we are miserable.
Old age- When old, we will have ache and pains and find it hard to get around.
Death- None of us wants to die. We feel deep sorrow when someone dies.
Other things we suffer from are:
Being with those we dislike,
Being apart from those we love,
Not getting what we want,
All kinds of problems and disappointments that are unavoidable.
The Buddha did not deny that there is happiness in life, but he pointed out it does not last forever.
Eventually everyone meets with some kind of suffering. He said:
"There is happiness in life,
happiness in friendship,
happiness of a family,
happiness in a health y body and mind,
...but when one loses them, there is suffering."
2. Thus is the Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering ( dukkha samudaya )it is this craving ( tanha ) which leads to renewed existence, accompanied by delight and lust, seeking delight here and there,
that is, craving for sensual pleasures ( kama tanha ), craving for existence ( bhava tanha ), craving for extermination ( vibhava tanha )
3. Thus is the Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering ( dukkha nirodha )The end of suffering is non-attachment, or letting go of desire or craving ( tanha ). This is the state of Nibbana (Pali) / Nirvana (Sanskrit), where greed, hatred and delusion are extinct.
Freedom from attachments to the five aggregates ( khandha / skandha ) of attachment is the end of suffering.
This freedom is not conditioned by causes, as are the conditioned states: Nibbana (Pali) / Nirvana (Sanskrit) is the non-attachment to conditioned experience.
To understand the unconditioned, we need to see for ourselves that everything that has a nature to be born has a nature to die:
that every phenomenon that has a cause is impermanent.
By letting go of attachment to desire for conditioned phenomena, desire can come to an end and we can be liberated from suffering.
4. Thus is the Noble Truth of the Path that leads to the Cessation of Suffering ( dukkha nirodha gaminipatipada )This is also called majjhimā patipadā ( middle way / middle path ) or ariya atthangika magga / hasta ariya marga ( noble eightfold path )
1. Right View / Understanding--samma ditthiRight view (samyag-drsti / sammā-ditthi) can also be translated as "right perspectiveness", "right vision" or "right understanding". It is the right way of looking at life, nature, and the world as they really are. It is to understand how reality works. It acts as the reasoning for someone to start practicing the path. It explains the reasons for human existence, suffering, sickness, aging, death, the existence of greed, hatred, and delusion. It gives direction and efficacy to the other seven path factors. Right view begins with concepts and propositional knowledge, but through the practice of right concentration, it gradually becomes transmuted into wisdom, which can eradicate the fetters of the mind. Understanding of right view will inspire the person to lead a virtuous life in line with right view. In the Pali and Chinese canons, it is explained thus:
And what is right view? Knowledge with reference to suffering ( dukkha / duhkha ), knowledge with reference to the origination of suffering ( dukkha samudaya ), knowledge with reference to the cessation of suffering ( dukkha nirodha ), knowledge with reference to the way of practice leading to the cessation of suffering ( dukkha nirodha gaminipatipada ): This is called right view.
There are two types of right view:
1. View with taints: this view is mundane. Having this type of view will bring merit and will support the favourable existence of the sentient being in the realm of samsara.
2. View without taints: this view is supramundane. It is a factor of the path and will lead the holder of this view toward self-awakening and liberation from the realm of samsara.
Right view has many facets; its elementary form is suitable for lay followers, while the other form, which requires deeper understanding, is suitable for monastics. Usually, it involves understanding the following reality:
1. Moral law of karma: Every action (by way of body, speech, and mind) will have karmic results (a.k.a. reaction). Wholesome and unwholesome actions will produce results and effects that correspond with the nature of that action. It is the right view about the moral process of the world.
2. The three characteristics ( tilakkhana / tri laksana): everything that arises will cease (impermanence). Mental and body phenomena are impermanent, source of suffering and not-self.
3. Suffering ( dukkha / duhkha ): Birth, aging, sickness, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, distress, and despair are suffering. Not being able to obtain what one wants is also suffering. The arising of craving is the proximate cause of the arising of suffering and the cessation of craving is the proximate cause of the cessation of the suffering. The quality of ignorance is the root cause of the arising of suffering, and the elimination of this quality is the root cause of the cessation of suffering. The way leading to the cessation of suffering is the noble eightfold path. This type of right view is explained in terms of Four Noble Truths.
Right view for monastics is explained in detail in the Sammāditthi Sutta ("Right View Discourse"), in which Ven. Sariputta instructs that right view can alternately be attained by the thorough understanding of the unwholesome and the wholesome, the four nutriments, the twelve nidanas or the three taints. "Wrong view" arising from ignorance ( avijja / avidya ), is the precondition for wrong intention, wrong speech, wrong action, wrong livelihood, wrong effort, wrong mindfulness and wrong concentration. The practitioner should use right effort to abandon the wrong view and to enter into right view. Right mindfulness is used to constantly remain in right view.
The purpose of right view is to clear one's path of the majority of confusion, misunderstanding, and deluded thinking. It is a means to gain right understanding of reality. Right view should be held with a flexible, open mind, without clinging to that view as a dogmatic position. In this way, right view becomes a route to liberation rather than an obstacle.
2. Right Intention / Thought--samma sankappaRight intention (samyak-samkalpa/sammā sankappa) can also be known as "right thought", "right resolve", "right conception", "right aspiration" or "the exertion of our own will to change". In this factor, the practitioner should constantly aspire to rid themselves of whatever qualities they know to be wrong and immoral. Correct understanding of right view will help the practitioner to discern the differences between right intention and wrong intention. In the Chinese and Pali Canon, it is explained thus:
And what is right resolve? Being resolved on renunciation, on freedom from ill will, on harmlessness: This is called right resolve.
It means the renunciation of the worldly things and an accordant greater commitment to the spiritual path; good will; and a commitment to non-violence, or harmlessness, towards other living beings.
3. Right Speech--samma vacaRight speech (samyag-vāca / sammā-vācā), deals with the way in which a Buddhist practitioner would best make use of their words. In the Pali Canon, it is explained thus:
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, and from idle chatter: This is called right speech.
The Samaññaphala Sutta, Kevatta Sutta and Cunda Kammaraputta Sutta elaborate:
Abandoning false speech... He speaks the truth, holds to the truth, is firm, reliable, no deceiver of the world...
Abandoning divisive speech... What he has heard here he does not tell there to break those people apart from these people here...Thus reconciling those who have broken apart or cementing those who are united, he loves concord, delights in concord, enjoys concord, speaks things that create concord...
Abandoning abusive speech... He speaks words that are soothing to the ear, that are affectionate, that go to the heart, that are polite, appealing and pleasing to people at large...
Abandoning idle chatter... He speaks in season, speaks what is factual, what is in accordance with the goal, the Dhamma, and the Vinaya. He speaks words worth treasuring, seasonable, reasonable, circumscribed, connected with the goal...
The Abhaya Sutta elaborates:
In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial (or: not connected with the goal), unendearing and disagreeable to others, he does not say them.
In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, unendearing and disagreeable to others, he does not say them.
In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, but unendearing and disagreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them.
In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial, but endearing and agreeable to others, he does not say them.
In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, but endearing and agreeable to others, he does not say them.
In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, and endearing and agreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them. Why is that? Because the Tathagata has sympathy for living beings.
In every case, if it is not beneficial, one is not to say it. The Buddha followed this, for example, when asked questions of a metaphysical nature. When a question was unrelated to anything a person might experience (e.g. "Is the universe eternal?"), the Buddha dismissed the topic with the response: "It does not further."
4. Right Action--samma kammantaRight action (samyak-karmānta / sammā-kammanta) can also be translated as "right conduct". As such, the practitioner should train oneself to be morally upright in one's activities, not acting in ways that would be corrupt or bring harm to oneself or to others. In the Chinese and Pali Canon, it is explained as:
And what is right action? Abstaining from taking life, from stealing, and from illicit sex [or sexual misconduct]. This is called right action.
And what, monks, is right action? Abstaining from taking life, abstaining from stealing, abstaining from unchastity: This, monks, is called right action.
For the lay follower, the Cunda Kammaraputta Sutta elaborates:
And how is one made pure in three ways by bodily action? There is the case where a certain person, abandoning the taking of life, abstains from the taking of life. He dwells with his... knife laid down, scrupulous, merciful, compassionate for the welfare of all living beings. Abandoning the taking of what is not given, he abstains from taking what is not given. He does not take, in the manner of a thief, things in a village or a wilderness that belong to others and have not been given by them. Abandoning sensual misconduct, he abstains from sensual misconduct. He does not get sexually involved with those who are protected by their mothers, their fathers, their brothers, their sisters, their relatives, or their Dhamma; those with husbands, those who entail punishments, or even those crowned with flowers by another man. This is how one is made pure in three ways by bodily action.
For the monastic, the Samaññaphala Sutta adds:
Abandoning uncelibacy, he lives a celibate life, aloof, refraining from the sexual act that is the villager's way.
5. Right Livelihood--samma ajivaRight livelihood (samyag-ājīva / sammā-ājīva). This means that practitioners ought not to engage in trades or occupations which, either directly or indirectly, result in harm for other living beings. In the Chinese and Pali Canon, it is explained thus:
And what is right livelihood? There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones, having abandoned dishonest livelihood, keeps his life going with right livelihood: This is called right livelihood.
The five types of businesses that are harmful to undertake are:
1. Business in weapons: trading in all kinds of weapons and instruments for killing.
2. Business in human beings: slave trading, prostitution, or the buying and selling of children or adults.
3. Business in meat: "meat" refers to the bodies of beings after they are killed. This includes breeding animals for slaughter.
4. Business in intoxicants: manufacturing or selling intoxicating drinks or addictive drugs.
5. Business in poison: producing or trading in any kind of toxic product designed to kill.
6. Right Effort--samma vayamaRight effort (samyag-vyāyāma / sammā-vāyāma) can also be translated as "right endeavor". In this factor, the practitioners should make a persisting effort to abandon all the wrong and harmful thoughts, words, and deeds. The practitioner should instead be persisting in giving rise to what would be good and useful to themselves and others in their thoughts, words, and deeds, without a thought for the difficulty or weariness involved. In the Chinese and Pali Canon, it is explained thus:
And what, monks, is right effort?
(i) There is the case where a monk generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds and exerts his intent for the sake of the non-arising of evil, unskillful qualities that have not yet arisen.
(ii) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds and exerts his intent for the sake of the abandonment of evil, unskillful qualities that have arisen.
(iii) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds and exerts his intent for the sake of the arising of skillful qualities that have not yet arisen.
(iv) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds and exerts his intent for the maintenance, non-confusion, increase, plenitude, development, and culmination of skillful qualities that have arisen:
This, monks, is called right effort.
Although the above instruction is given to the male monastic order, it is also meant for the female monastic order and can be practiced by lay followers of both genders.
The above four phases of right effort mean to:
1. Prevent the unwholesome that has not yet arisen in oneself.
2. Let go of the unwholesome that has arisen in oneself.
3. Bring up the wholesome that has not yet arisen in oneself.
4. Maintain the wholesome that has arisen in oneself.
7. Right Mindfulness--samma satiRight mindfulness (samyak-smrti / sammā-sati), also translated as "right memory", "right awareness" or "right attention". Here, practitioners should constantly keep their minds alert to phenomena that affect the body and mind. They should be mindful and deliberate, making sure not to act or speak due to inattention or forgetfulness. In the Pali Canon, it is explained thus:
And what, monks, is right mindfulness?
(i) There is the case where a monk remains focused on the body in and of itself—ardent, aware, and mindful—putting away greed and distress with reference to the world.
(ii) He remains focused on feelings in and of themselves—ardent, aware, and mindful—putting away greed and distress with reference to the world.
(iii) He remains focused on the mind in and of itself—ardent, aware, and mindful—putting away greed and distress with reference to the world.
(iv) He remains focused on mental qualities in and of themselves—ardent, aware, and mindful—putting away greed and distress with reference to the world.
This, monks, is called right mindfulness.
Although the above instruction is given to the male monastic order, it is also meant for the female monastic order and can be practiced by lay followers from both genders.
Bhikkhu Bodhi, a monk of the Theravada tradition, further explains the concept of mindfulness as follows:
The mind is deliberately kept at the level of bare attention, a detached observation of what is happening within us and around us in the present moment. In the practice of right mindfulness the mind is trained to remain in the present, open, quiet, and alert, contemplating the present event. All judgments and interpretations have to be suspended, or if they occur, just registered and dropped.
The Maha Satipatthana Sutta also teaches that by mindfully observing these phenomena, we begin to discern its arising and subsiding and the Three Characteristics of Dharma in direct experience, which leads to the arising of insight and the qualities of dispassion, non-clinging, and release.
8. Right Concentration--samma samadhiRight concentration (samyak-samādhi / sammā-samādhi), as its Sanskrit and Pali names indicate, is the practice of concentration (samadhi). As such, the practitioner concentrates on an object of attention until reaching full concentration and a state of meditative absorption (jhana). Traditionally, the practice of samadhi can be developed through mindfulness of breathing (anapanasati), through visual objects (kasina), and through repetition of phrases (mantra). Samadhi is used to suppress the five hindrances in order to enter into jhana (Pali) / dhyana (Sanskrit). Jhana (Pali) / Dhyana (Sanskrit) is an instrument used for developing wisdom by cultivating insight and using it to examine true nature of phenomena with direct cognition. This leads to cutting off the defilements, realizing the dhamma (Pali) / dharma (Sanskrit) and, finally, self-awakening. During the practice of right concentration, the practitioner will need to investigate and verify their right view. In the process right knowledge will arise, followed by right liberation. In the Pali Canon, it is explained thus:
And what is right concentration?
(i) Herein a monk aloof from sense desires, aloof from unwholesome thoughts, attains to and abides in the first meditative absorption [jhana / dhyana], which is detachment-born and accompanied by applied thought, sustained thought, joy, and bliss.
(ii) By allaying applied and sustained thought he attains to, and abides in the second jhana / dhyana, which is inner tranquillity, which is unification (of the mind), devoid of applied and sustained thought, and which has joy and bliss.
(iii) By detachment from joy he dwells in equanimity, mindful, and with clear comprehension and enjoys bliss in body, and attains to and abides in the third jhana / dhyana, which the noble ones [ariyas] call "dwelling in equanimity, mindfulness, and bliss".
(iv) By giving up of bliss and suffering, by the disappearance already of joy and sorrow, he attains to, and abides in the fourth jhana / dhyana, which is neither suffering nor bliss, and which is the purity of equanimity — mindfulness.
This is called right concentration.
Although this instruction is given to the male monastic order, it is also meant for the female monastic order and can be practiced by lay followers from both genders.
According to the Pali and Chinese canon, right concentration is dependent on the development of preceding path factors:
The Blessed One said: "Now what, monks, is noble right concentration with its supports and requisite conditions? Any singleness of mind equipped with these seven factors — right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, and right mindfulness — is called noble right concentration with its supports and requisite conditions.