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What Are The Four Noble Truths?

According to the Buddhist school of thought, the Four Noble Truths, also known as the four Arya satyas, are the truth of the Noble people who are worthy of it. These Noble Ones are the people who have been understood as the spiritually worthy ones because of their own truths and realities. The Four Noble Truths are as follows –

  1. Dukkha – A state of suffering and pain that is not capable of satisfaction, peace or prosperity of any kind. This one truth represents the innate attribute of a person’s existence in the dimensional realm of Samsara.

  2. Samudaya – This word denotes the origin, combination, arising and cause of a particular notion. Along with dukkha appears the idea of tanha, which stands for craving, desire or attachment in a person. In western languages, this tanha is conventionally interpreted as the reason behind dukkha. However, it can also be seen as the factor that ties us with the idea of dukkha. It can also be interpreted as the response to dukkha or an attempt to escape dukkha.

  3. Nirodha – The act of cessation, confinement or ending. It is believed that the idea of dukkha can be relieved, ended or contained by letting go of the tanha. Many believe that as soon as an individual renounces or releases the confinement of tanha, they are also freed of the unending and excessive binds of dukkha.

  4. Magga – The word denotes the Noble Eightfold Path. This path leads to the confinement of both Tanha and Dukkha in an individual’s life. Considering that these two notions have been standing as hurdles in one’s achievement of peace, this path, Magga, is instrumental.

In ancient Buddhist texts, The four truths have been known to appear in various grammatical forms. They are traditionally identified as the primary teaching given by Buddha himself. Being one of the most important teachings in Buddhism, the four truths are both a propositional and a symbolic function.

Firstly, when considered a symbol, they connote the awakening and liberation of the Buddha. Other than this, they also symbolise the potential of Buddha’s followers to reach similar spiritual experiences as himself. Secondly, as propositions, the four truths can be described as a conceptual skeleton that appears in the Pali Canon and the ancient hybrid Sanskrit Buddhist scriptures. They represent a more expansive “network of teachings”, which need to be understood together for better comprehension. This skeleton or framework introduces and explains Buddhist thought, which is known to be personally understood and experienced.

When understood in the context of propositions, the four truths do not have an exact definition, but they are known to express Buddhism’s basic orientation. They denote an unguarded sensory contact that initiates the cravings for an impermanent state of things.

This impermanent space of things is known as dukkha (incapable of satisfying and painful). This craving keeps us attached to the perception of Samsara or wandering, which is usually understood as the endless cycle of repeated rebirth. Considering that this cycle is continuous, the dukkha that comes with it is also unending. This infinite cycle also stands for an eternal process of attraction and rejection known to propagate the ego-mind. The one and only way in which one can end this cycle is by achieving Nirvana or the cessation of craving. In this state of Nirvana, rebirth and the accompanying Dukkha will no longer affect an individual. Achievement of Nirvana can be done by following the eightfold path. This path asks us to confine one’s responses by restriction, the cultivation of discipline, the achievement of a wholesome state and by the practice of mindfulness and dhyana or meditation.

The four truths' function and their importance have developed over a specific period in the Buddhist tradition. The Buddhist tradition has slowly understood these truths as Buddha’s first teaching. The tradition was first established when Prajna, also known as the liberating insight, came to posit the idea of liberation in itself. This idea which was earlier known to exist in addition to the practice of dhyana, gained an important place in the sutras. Hence, the four truths came to signify the liberating insight which became an essential part of the Enlightenment story, as was described by Buddha.

According to the Theravada tradition of Buddhism, the four truths became a notion of central importance by 5th-century CE. This tradition held the idea that a mere insight into the understanding of the four truths is liberating for an individual. The idea of the four truths is less critical in the Mahayana Tradition because this convention believed that an even higher aim of insight can be seen in sunyata or emptiness. They wanted their disciples to follow the Bodhisattva path as a central element in their teachings and practice.

The foundational teaching course in the Mahayana tradition was the reinterpretation of the four truths. They had faith in the idea that a liberated being could achieve enlightenment in this world. Western colonialists began with their exploration of Buddhism in the 19th century. When the western colonists came across the ideas of Buddhist modernism, the four truths came to be known as the central teachings of Buddhism. Sometimes, these interpretations are very different from the Asiatic Buddhist traditions.

Symbolic and Propositional function

When considered to be a proposition, the four noble truths are a constituent of a matrix or “network of teachings.” These truths are not particularly central to these teachings, but they have an equal place next to the other instructions.

The four noble truths are known to be learned as a part of the network that describes how various teachings intersect with each other in the central matrix. They refer to different Buddhist techniques, which are explicitly and implicitly all part of the passage, which connotes the four truths.

According to the studies of Anderson, there has been no single way to comprehend these teachings. Still, one needs to realise that these teachings might be utilised to explain another in one passage. This relationship might even get reversed or altered in other contexts.


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