The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism

What did Buddha teach? Well, the Four Noble Truths express the essential insights at the heart of Buddha Dharma – the freedom from struggle – as taught by the Buddha in his first teaching.

This first teaching comes from the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, which means the Turning of the Wheel of Truth.

Buddha on a leaf - Four Noble Truths

What Are The Four Noble Truths?

(1) The truth of Dukkha. Dukkha can be translated as struggle, suffering, difficulty, anxiety, unsatisfactoriness, stressfulness. In short, life is inherently difficult because all things are impermanent, and we don’t want to hear that.

(2) Next, the truth of the origin of Dukkha. This is the insight that we build the struggle ourselves, which means that there is a cause or reason for struggle and suffering. We suffer when we try to cling even a single moment rather than accept each moment as it is.

(3) Then, the truth of the cessation of Dukkha. This is the insight and experience that it is possible to not be subject to struggle and suffering, that it is possible for all of us to live in an ongoing experience of awakening, freedom, happiness, compassion and peace.

(4) Finally, the truth of the path leading to the cessation of Dukkha. This is the insight of the key steps we can take towards awakening and freedom from being subject to struggle.

Video: The Four Noble Truths Introduced

In this clip from one of Clear Sky Meditation Center’s Thursday evening classes in 2022, Maureen Smith introduces the first three of the Four Noble Truths. These lay out the basic concept of Dharma, or he reality of our human existence. The fourth Noble Truth leads us to the actual path from suffering, which takes us to the Eightfold Noble Path. We will upload the next three classes in this series when they are available.
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More about Suffering and the First Noble Truth

In the Buddha Dharma, this pivotal realization is called dukkha. It is often translated as “suffering,'” but has a much wider and richer meaning. The historical Buddha began his spiritual journey in earnest with three mesmerizing encounters with sickness, old age, and death.

The elegant clarity of the teaching of dukkha is also a great example of the whole Buddhist approach. Generally we try to ignore dukkha, or just as easily we can get overwhelmed and depressed by our own suffering and the suffering around us. So, the first Noble Truth is about seeing clearly into the nature of dukkha. When we are suffering, how often do we stop and simply examine and understand deeply what is going on? In the classical teachings, there are three main flavors of dukkha:

  • Dukkha-dukkha (dukkha as ordinary suffering). This is plain and simple suffering – being sick, being hurt, any direct physical, emotional and mental pain and suffering.
  • Vipariṇāma-dukkha (dukkha as produced by change). This is the anxiety or stress of trying to hold onto things that are constantly changing. We are constantly running on a hamster wheel to try to get things as we want them and keep them there.
  • Saṃkhāra-dukkha (dukkha of conditioned states). This is a basic unsatisfactoriness or discontent of realizing that, fundamentally, we cannot find happiness where we usually look for it. Everything is conditioned, changing, impermanent and without any inner core or substance. Things never measure up to our expectations or standards.


The Eightfold Path

The truth of the path (the fourth Noble Truth), leads us to a solution in the form of the Eightfold Path – a methodology for complete spiritual awakening. Further, these eight are divided into three sections: pannasila, and samadhi. One way to translate these are wisdomcalm coolness, and meditative absorption, and they correspond to mind, speech, and body.

The Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path came at the beginning, and the Buddha went on to teach for forty years. Imagine what awaits those who delve deeper.

The Paramis / Paramitas / Perfections 

To attain the wisdom of a full, experiential understanding the fourth Noble Truth we can study and practice the Paramis, also know as the Paramitas or Perfections. 

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Next Steps

The words above connect us to the very first teachings of the Buddha, the Awakened One. Thankfully, these and many other teachings have survived for 2,500 years and give us a clear path out of suffering. And Clear Sky and its teachers and sangha form part of this unbroken lineage of wisdom. Clear Sky Retreat Center exists to help people on this path to transform struggle and embrace vitality. So if this resonates and you want to go deeper, consider connecting with us: