What Are the Four Noble Truths?

four-noble-truths Credit: Andrew Moore/CC-BY-SA 2.0

The Four Noble Truths are the principles that form the foundation of Buddhism. They are comprised of the truth of suffering, the truth of the origin of suffering, the truth of the end of suffering and the truth of the path to freedom from suffering.

The first truth concedes that life is surfeited with suffering. This includes the common suffering of birth, old age, sickness and death, the anxiety of constant change in people and situations and the lack of satisfaction brought on by ignorance. The second truth is that all suffering is caused by desire. This includes the craving for sensory pleasures, the craving to dominate others and the craving to be freed from pain. The third truth gives the hope of the cessation of suffering by freedom from attachments. The state of cessation is referred to as nirvana. The fourth truth is the way to the end of suffering known as the Eightfold Path.

The stages of the Eightfold Path support and complement each other. Daily practice involves developing all of these factors simultaneously. They include right understanding, right intention, right speech, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration, right action and right livelihood. The Eightfold Path is also known as the Middle Way, as it helps devotees avoid the extremes of overly severe asceticism and self-indulgence.