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Buddhism: The Four Noble Truths

Updated on August 23, 2017

The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism

The Four Noble Truths are key teaching of the Buddha (Dharma) and are fundamental to Buddhism philosophy and understanding life. By following the Four Noble Truths, Buddhists can understand the reality of life and work towards their goal. Read on to understand more about the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism.

The Four Noble truths of Buddhism are comparable to a medical diagnosis and cure, which helps the non-Buddhist to understand the doctrine.

The first Noble Truth, Dukkha, is the reality of suffering, comparable to having a disease or illness. The second Noble Truth (Samudaya) is that desire is the cause of suffering. This is like the cause of the disease or illness, such as a virus or bacteria. The third Noble Truth is Nirodha, the cessation of suffering, meaning that there is a cure for the illness or disease. Finally, the fourth noble truth is magga (the path to the cessation of suffering) which is like being cured from the illness or disease by medication or therapy, for example. In this lens, I will explore each of these is more detail.

Image credit: Tony Bowall Photography on Flickr

The Four Noble Truths

Books on Buddhism

Introduction to Buddhism
Introduction to Buddhism

This is the best introduction to Buddhism that I have found on Amazon.


The First Noble Truth - Dukkha

Dukkha is the truth or the reality of suffering. This includes the sights that the Buddha saw on leaving the palace - birth, old age, sickness and death. However, Dukkha goes beyond this. In Buddhism, all aspects of life are suffering. Life does not always meet our expectations, and Dukkha is more comparable to disatisfaction.

Many people think that Buddhism is extremely pessimistic because of this. However, Buddhism still recognises positives in life, it just encourages us to understand that even good things are Dukkha, because one day they will come to an end.

Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction
Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction

Perfect if you want something short and easy to understand. This short introduction contains a concise outline of the four noble truths.


The Dukkha Debate

Is life suffering?

The Second Noble Truth - Samudaya

The Second Noble Truth, Samudaya is the reality or truth of the origin of suffering. Tanha (craving) is the cause of suffering. Suffering is caused by craving or attachment. This isn't saying that we should never form attachments with people or things, just that we should develop an ability to let them go.

There are three forms of tanha or desire - hatred, ignorance and greed. In this close up picture of the centre of the Buddhist wheel, you can see the three evils represented as a pig, a snake and a rooster.

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The Third Noble Truth - Nirodha

The third Noble Truth, Nirodha, is the cessation of suffering. The goal of every Buddhist is to reach Nirvana. Nirvana in this context is not Kurt Cobain's rock band, neither is it comparable to the Christian heaven. This is because Nirvana is not a place or a state as such - it is easier to say what Nirvana IS NOT rather than what Nirvana is. Nirvana is the cessation of all tanha (craving) and therefore release from the cycle of birth, death and re-birth (samsara).

The Fourth Noble Truth - Magga

So, if the goal of every Buddhist is to reach Nirvana and escape the cycle of samsara (birth, death and rebirth). But how can Nirvana be reached? The fourth Noble Truth is Magga. The Buddha taught that one should follow the Noble Eightfold path as the path to the cessation of suffering (magga). The Eightfold path consists of these eight right actions.

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    • ForGoodPeople profile image

      Pinar Unlu 4 years ago from Mugla Turkey

      Nice lens, thanks !

    • Elaine Chen profile image

      Elaine Chen 5 years ago

      I learn more about Buddhism from this lens