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Book: Buddhism in Five Minutes

Chapter: 21. What are the "Four Noble Truths" About?

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.40759


The Four Noble Truths form the crux of the Buddha’s teachings. They are the focus of his first (formal) sermon, given shortly after his enlightenment, and they recur as a subject throughout his discourses, as recorded in the texts of Buddhism. When they were first taught, a light was said to appear in the world. “The Wheel of the Dhamma” was set in motion; a movement was begun.
Essentially, they encompass the subject of suffering (or the unsatisfactoriness of life) and the release from it. Expanded upon, however, they form the basis of what came to be popularly known as the Buddha’s 84,000 teachings. One important text reveals that to see one of the four truths is to see them all. So they all actually interpenetrate and coalesce. In this sense, looking at them is like looking at different facets of a cut diamond. We can look at them from different sides, but they are ultimately the same gem.

Chapter Contributors

  • Arjuna Ranatunga ( - aranatunga) 'SOAS, University of London'