The Four Truths

The Four Truths are most frequently heard referred to as the Four Noble Truths, although a more accurate translation would be Four Arya Truths.  In brief, the Four Truths are:

  1. There is suffering
  2. Suffering has an origin
  3. Suffering has an end
  4. There is a way to end suffering


The Four Truths are a concise description of the worldview that leads to liberation.  Part of the attainment of stream-entry is the realization of these truths (hence the name Four Arya Truths).

The Buddha in his first teaching (Dhammacakka Sutta) said the following about the First Truth:

This is the Noble Truth of suffering: birth is suffering, aging is suffering; illness is suffering; death is suffering; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair are suffering; union with what is displeasing is suffering; separation from what is pleasing is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering; in brief, the five aggregates subject to clinging are suffering.

The Second Truth:

This is the Noble Truth of the origin of suffering: It is craving which produces rebirth, bound up with pleasure and greed. It finds delight in this and that; in other words, craving for sense pleasures, craving for existence or becoming and craving for nonexistence or self-annihilation.

The Third Truth:

This is the Noble Truth of the cessation of suffering. It is the complete cessation of suffering, the giving up, renouncing, relinquishing, detaching from craving.

and The Fourth Truth:

This is the Noble Truth of the path leading to the cessation of suffering. It is simply the Aryan Eightfold Path, namely: right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right awareness, and right concentration.

The first book that I picked up on Buddhism was Venerable Rewata Dhamma’s The First Discourse of the Buddha.  I highly recommend it.  It is a pith book that clearly outlines the Arya Eightfold Path and has a nice section on “right concentration” that describes the jhanas and other essentials.

Reference:  Rewata Dhamma (1997) The First Discourse of the Buddha.  Wisdom Press, Somerville Massachusetts.


An ayra or stream-enterer is a person that has eliminated the first three fetters.  These are

  • view that one is a separate self
  • belief that rites and rituals alone could lead to liberation
  • doubt or uncertainty, especially about the teachings regarding liberation (i.e. the noble eightfold path)


When we run into the word “noble” as in the eightfold noble path or the four noble truths, these are unfortunate translations of the word arya.  While an arya is noble, they are not nobility in our normal use of the word to mean royalty or a member of the aristocratic class.

The classic method of attaining stream-entry (aryahood) is to experience ultimate reality directly.  During this experience all cognition and sensing naturally ceases.  It is unclear how one know something has happened, but people do.  This experience can lead to a deep realization of how things really exist and the four arya truths (four noble truths) that the Buddha taught.  After the experience the practitioner has confidence in the path to liberation and although they experience themselves as a separate self, they no longer believe it at all.

An arya is called a stream-enterer, because they have reached a state which naturally flows to liberation.  The arya cannot fail to become enlightened, although I suppose it is possible to purposely revert back.



Karma is defined as the movement of the mind and what it motivates.

It is said that the subtle workings of karma are harder to perceive than ultimate reality itself.  This suggests that the karmic results we see around us are not as simple as direct cause and effect. Many factors go into the results we experience.

In the opening lines of the fourth chapter of the Abhidharmakosa we are told

Deeds (karma) make up the multitude of worlds.

Since many people call the creator of the universe “God” we find here an alternate definition of God as Karma (and vice versa Karma is God).

Another good definition is offered by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary Karma is the force generated by a person’s actions held in Hinduism and Buddhism to perpetuate transmigration and in its ethical consequences to determine the nature of the person’s next existence.

What is “next existence”?  The Buddhist understanding is that we are all changing things and a changing thing lasts less than a second.  So our next existence is who we are in the next moment, and the next, and the next….

Simplified Model of Karma

When one thinks or does an action this creates a seed, trace or mental potential that is held associated with the mindstream.  At a later date, when conditions are optimal, the seed ripens and the karmic result is experienced.  For instance, if I give money to a friend, I create a seed that can ripen into me receiving money from someone in the future.

Four Characteristics of Karma

  1. All actions lead to a result of similar type.
  2. The consequences are greater than the original action.
  3. If you experience something, you must have done the causal action in the past.
  4. Once you do the action the result cannot be lost.


The first characteristic means that if I give someone money I get money as a result.  If I instead call them a name, then I create the potential to be called a name in the future.

The second characteristic implies that the seeds that are planted “grow” during their latency period.  Just like an acorn produces a great oak, the seed of giving a dollar has the potential to come back as a thousand dollars.

The third characteristic is that everything you experience is due to something you have done in the past.  No more room for being a victim once you have this understanding.  This also frees us to be able to create our liberation.  Freedom is only possible if we have control over our destiny.

The fourth characteristic is that once you create the seed, it will not just disappear.  However, it you do not want that seed to ever germinate then you can do the practice of the four powers that the Buddha taught.  The instructions are in my book:  The Twelve Steps as  a Path to Enlightenment.