Buddhism: The Four Noble Truths

Robert Howard Kroepel
Copyright © 2007
Lakeside Studios
20 South Shore Road
New Durham, NH USA 03855

The Essence of Buddhism: The Four Noble Truths [1]:

I. Dukkha: Man suffers.
II. Tanha: Man suffers because of greed, defined as excessive desire.
III. Nirvana: Man's suffering can be alleviated.
IV. Marga: Man's suffering can be alleviated by means of the Eightfold Path.

  1. Right View or Knowledge.
  2. Right Thought.
  3. Right Speech.
  4. Right Conduct.
  5. Right Livelihood
  6. Right Effort.
  7. Right Mind Control.
  8. Right Meditation.
The Eightfold Path :
  1. Right View or Knowledge.

  2. Knowledge of the Four Noble Truths, and of the power of reason to determine or discover a map or blueprint for one's life, and to veto false, bad, unproductive ideas.
    Knowledge of life's central problem.

  3. Right Thought.

  4. Also, Right Aspiration. Right Desiring. Right Intent.
    Determining what is really wanted, what is really desired.
    Enlightenment? Liberation? What is the person's life passion?

  5. Right Speech.

  6. Language: One control one has over one's life.
    Language: Two functions: 1. Reveals character; 2. Enables the person to change.
    To first monitor patterns of speech:
    A. Deviations from truth and the motives for the deviation;
    B. Deviations from charity and the motives for the deviation.
    To second make changes:
    A. To speak the truth. To get rid of the ego motive for self protection and therefore experience life directly, instead of across the distance of deceit.
    B. To speak charity. No overt false witness, idle chatter, verbal abuse, slander, no covert subtle belittling, tactlessness, wit.

  7. Right Conduct.

  8. Also, Right Behavior.
    To monitor what is done and the motives for so doing.
    Goals: Selflessness and Charity.
    The Five Precepts:
    A. Do not kill.
    B. Do not steal.
    C. Do not lie.
    D. Do not be unchaste:
    1. Unmarrieds: No premarital sex;
    2. Marrieds: No adultery, instead, restraint.
    E. Do not drink intoxicants. To drink is to become distanced from reality and the Path to Enlightenment.

  9. Right Livelihood.

  10. The right occupation, work, job, that helps the person stay on the Path.
    Path of Liberation: Requires monasticism and discipline.
    For most people: Doing that which is innocent, not criminal, that which promotes life, not death.

  11. Right Effort.

  12. Will power. Toward developing virtues, controlling passions, transcending bad mind states—for the sake of love and detachment. Through effort of will the person gets rid of bad thoughts. " 'He robbed, me, he beat me, he abused me'-- in the minds of those who think like this, hatred will never cease.' "

  13. Right Mind Control.

  14. Also, Right Mindfulness.
    Buddhist text: The Dammapada: Opens thus: "All we are is the result of what we have thought."
    Understand life and life ceases to be a problem; understand oneself, and oneself ceases to be a problem.
    To Buddha, ignorance, not sin, is a problem.
    Goals: Continuous alertness; self examination. See everything as it is, not as it is wanted to be.
    Thoughts and feelings are transitory, not permanent. Moods and emotions are to be analyzed, their motives discerned. Control the senses. Think of fearful and disgusting persons, things and events until they are not so fearful or disgusting. Keep in mind the life goal. Have loving thoughts for all creatures.

  15. Right Meditation.

  16. Also Right Absorption.
    Using the techniques of raja yoga.
    Through deep thought, to abandon worldliness and embrace spiritualism, to find a new life experience as well as a new philosophy of life, by the "extirpation of delusion, craving, and hostility."
    Through immediate awareness thought is eliminated and the mind rests in its true state.
Most Eastern religions including Buddhism present three basic mysticisms:
    Samsara: The wheel of birth and rebirth (westerners interpret samsara as reincarnation).
    Karma: What is done in this life affects what one is in the next life. Through learning in each birth-rebirth cycle, an individual's karma increases.
    Nirvana: The release from samsara, achieved by accumulating good karma in many birth-rebirth cycles.

The Four Noble Truths are the essence of Buddhism stripped of its mysticism.  The Four Noble Truths are thus "Pure Buddhism."

The Buddhist Philosophy of the Four Noble Truths is a theory of psychology [2] leading to the observation that mental problems (dukkha: man's suffering) are caused by unachievable and/or inappropriate desires (tanha: man suffers because of greed, or excessive desire), and mental problems can be resolved (nirvana: the alleviation of suffering) by getting rid of desires that are liabilities and keeping only those that are assets (marga: the Eightfold Path).

The Four Noble Truths focus upon the individual and his desires, particularly his excessive desires, or greed. Excessive desires cause suffering.

The Four Noble Truths imply a code of morality wherein the individual benefits from recognizing (I) that he suffers, (II) that he suffers from, or because of, greed, or excessive desire, and that excessive desire could involve injury to innocent others, which he would not want for himself and the people for whom he has compassion and love, and (III) that he can control his excessive desires, and (IV) therefore he must learn to control his excessive desires through journeying upon the Eigthfold Path.

Pure Buddhism focuses not upon punishing those who violate the implied Buddhist moral code but upon the benefits of following the Buddhist moral code for the individual and the people in the society in which he lives.

The Buddha (Enlightened One) was a real person, Siddhartha Gautama, a prince who lived a perfect life until he saw sickness, death, poverty, and a monk seeking truth, which caused him to become a monk and to seek truth until he judged that what he was being taught by others was not the truth and he began to seek the truth within himself and within others, until he formulated the Four Noble Truths. [3]

The Buddha, himself, never talked of an afterlife, and thus Pure Buddhism is actually a form of agnosticism, a philosophy without concern for mystical beings. In essence, the Buddha said that we have a problem here on the Earth and there is a way to help people help themselves and other people—The Four Noble Truths. [4]


[1] The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism:

Huston Smith.
The Religions of Man.
Perennial Library, Harper and Row, Publishers, Inc., New York, 1965.
pp. 109-123.

David G. Bradley.
A Guide To the World’s Religions.
Prentice-Hall, Inc., Engelwood Cliffs, NJ, 1963.
pp. 111-112.

T. Patrick Burke.
The Major Religions.
Blackwell Publishers, Inc., 238 Main Street, Cambridge, MA. USA 02142, 1996.
pp. 62-65.

[2] The Four Noble Truths of [Pure] Buddhism as psychology:

Huston Smith.
The Religions of Man.
Perennial Library, Harper and Row, Publishers, Inc., New York, 1965.
pp. 104-123.

Alan W. Watts.
Psychotherapy East and West.
Mentor Books, The New American Library of World Literature, Inc., 501 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10022, 1963; also Pantheon Books, Inc., 22 East 51st St., New York, NY 10022,
Chapter One: Psychotherapy and Liberation.
pp. 11-24.

[3] Huston Smith, pp. 91-96.

[4] Huston Smith, pp. 104-123.