The Four Noble Truths by Bhikkhu SumedhoThis small booklet was compiled and edited from talks given by Venerable Ajahn Sumedho on the central teaching of the Buddha: that the unhappiness of humanity can be overcome through spiritual means. The teaching is conveyed through the Buddhas Four Noble Truths, first expounded in 528 B.C. in the Deer Park at Saranath near Varanasi and kept alive in the Buddhist world ever since.
Venerable Ajahn Sumedho is a bhikkhu (mendicant monk) of the Theravada tradition of Buddhism. He was ordained in Thailand in 1966 and trained there for ten years. He is currently the Abbot of the Amaravati Buddhist Centre as well as teacher and spiritual guide to many bhikkhus, Buddhist nuns and lay people.
This booklet has been made available through the voluntary efforts of many people for the welfare of others.
Note on the Text:
The first exposition of the Four Noble Truths was a discourse (sutta) called Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta — literally, the discourse that sets the vehicle of the teaching in motion. Extracts from this are quoted at the beginning of each chapter describing the Four Truths. The reference quoted is to the sections in the books of the scriptures where this discourse can be found. However, the theme of the Four Noble Truths recurs many times, for example in the quotation that appears at the beginning of the Introduction.
From the Preface
The Four Noble Truths
The four noble truths are the most basic expression of the Buddha's teaching. As Ven. Sariputta once said, they encompass the entire teaching, just as the footprint of an elephant can encompass the footprints of all other footed beings on earth. These four truths are best understood, not as beliefs, but as categories of experience. These ordinary categories create trouble, for the attempt to maintain full being for one's sense of "me" is a stressful effort doomed to failure, in that all of the components of that "me" are inconstant, stressful, and thus not worthy of identifying as "me" or "mine. In other words, there is the truth of stress and suffering unskillful effect , the truth of the origination of stress unskillful cause , the truth of the cessation of stress skillful effect , and the truth of the path to the cessation of stress skillful cause.
The Four Noble Truths
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The Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths, which includes the theoretical as well as the practical aspect of his teaching. Hearing these truths and understanding them at the intellectual level is good but not sufficient. To benefit from these truths, it is essential to gain knowledge about them through experiential wisdom. The Buddha taught his five companions how to develop in wisdom and get established in it. One misconception that they spread was that the teaching was utterly pessimistic and useless; and therefore it was lost from our country—because the word suffering was used four times whereas happiness was not mentioned at all. Unless one practices Vipassana, how can one understand that the cessation of suffering dukkhanirodha is nothing but supreme happiness? Similarly, the practice of the other three truths also leads to supreme happiness.