In Buddhism, the Four Noble Truths (Sanskrit: catvāri āryasatyāni; Pali: cattāri ariyasaccāni; "The four Arya satyas") are "the truths of the Noble Ones", the truths or realities for the "spiritually worthy ones".[1][web 1][2] The truths are:

  • dukkha (literally "suffering"; here "unsatisfactoriness"[note 1]) is an innate characteristic of existence in the realm of samsara;[web 2][3][4]
  • samudaya (origin, arising, combination; 'cause'): dukkha arises or continues with taṇhā ("craving, desire or attachment, lit. "thirst").[web 3][5][6] While taṇhā is traditionally interpreted in western languages as the 'cause' of dukkha, tanha can also be seen as the factor tying us to dukkha, or as a response to dukkha, trying to escape it;[7][8]
  • nirodha (cessation, ending, confinement): dukkha can be ended or contained by the renouncement or letting go of this taṇhā;[9][10][11][12] the confinement of taṇhā releases the excessive bind of dukkha;[7][8]
  • magga (path, Noble Eightfold Path) is the path leading to the confinement of tanha and dukkha.[13][14][15]

The Buddha teaching the Four Noble Truths. Sanskrit manuscript. Nālandā, Bihar, India.
Quick facts: Translations of Four Noble Truths, Sanskrit, ...
Translations of
Four Noble Truths
Sanskritचत्वारि आर्यसत्यानि
(catvāri āryasatyāni)
Palicattāri ariyasaccāni
Bengaliচত্বারি আর্য সত্য
(Chôttari Arjô Shôttô)
(MLCTS: θɪʔsà lé bá)
Chinese四聖諦(T) / 四圣谛(S)
(Pinyin: sìshèngdì)
IndonesianEmpat Kebenaran Mulia
(Rōmaji: shitai)
(areyasachak buon)
MongolianХутагт дөрвөн үнэн
(Khutagt durvun unen)
(ᠬᠤᠲᠤᠭᠲᠤ ᠳᠥᠷᠪᠡᠨ ᠦᠨᠡᠨ)
Sinhalaචතුරාර්ය සත්‍යය සත්‍යය
(Chathurarya Sathyaya)
(Wylie: 'phags pa'i bden pa bzhi
THL: pakpé denpa shyi
TagalogAng mga Apat na Maharlikang Katotohanan
(ariyasat sii)
VietnameseTứ Diệu Đế (四妙諦)
Glossary of Buddhism

The four truths appear in many grammatical forms in the ancient Buddhist texts,[16] and are traditionally identified as the first teaching given by the Buddha.[note 2] While often called one of the most important teachings in Buddhism,[17] they have both a symbolic and a propositional function.[18] Symbolically, they represent the awakening and liberation of the Buddha, and of the potential for his followers to reach the same liberation and freedom as him.[19] As propositions, the Four Truths are a conceptual framework that appear in the Pali canon and early Hybrid Sanskrit Buddhist scriptures,[20] as a part of the broader "network of teachings"[21] (the "dhamma matrix"),[22] which have to be taken together.[21] They provide a conceptual framework for introducing and explaining Buddhist thought, which has to be personally understood or "experienced".[23][note 3]

As a proposition, the four truths defy an exact definition, but refer to and express the basic orientation of Buddhism:[24] unguarded sensory contact gives rise to craving and clinging to impermanent states and things,[25] which are dukkha,[26] "unsatisfactory,"[27] "incapable of satisfying"[web 4] and painful.[25][28][29][note 1]) This craving keeps us caught in saṃsāra,[note 4] "wandering," usually interpreted as the endless cycle of repeated rebirth,[note 5] and the continued dukkha that comes with it,[note 6] but also referring to the endless cycle of attraction and rejection that perpetuates the ego-mind.[note 5] There is a way to end this cycle,[31][note 7] namely by attaining nirvana, cessation of craving, whereafter rebirth and the accompanying dukkha will no longer arise again.[note 8][32] This can be accomplished by following the eightfold path,[note 2] confining our automatic responses to sensory contact by restraining oneself, cultivating discipline and wholesome states, and practicing mindfulness and dhyana (meditation).[33][34]

The function of the four truths, and their importance, developed over time and the Buddhist tradition slowly recognized them as the Buddha's first teaching.[35] This tradition was established when prajna, or "liberating insight", came to be regarded as liberating in itself,[36][37] instead of or in addition to the practice of dhyana.[36] This "liberating insight" gained a prominent place in the sutras, and the four truths came to represent this liberating insight, as a part of the enlightenment story of the Buddha.[38][39]

The four truths grew to be of central importance in the Theravada tradition of Buddhism by about the 5th-century CE,[40][41] which holds that the insight into the four truths is liberating in itself.[42] They are less prominent in the Mahayana tradition, which sees the higher aims of insight into sunyata, emptiness, and following the Bodhisattva path as central elements in their teachings and practice.[43] The Mahayana tradition reinterpreted the four truths to explain how a liberated being can still be "pervasively operative in this world".[44] Beginning with the exploration of Buddhism by western colonialists in the 19th century and the development of Buddhist modernism, they came to be often presented in the west as the central teaching of Buddhism,[45][46] sometimes with novel modernistic reinterpretations very different from the historic Buddhist traditions in Asia.[47][48][49]