The Four Noble Truths

Buddhist Philosophy › Four Noble Truths | Tibetan MastersDodrupchen Jigme Tenpe Nyima

English | བོད་ཡིག

Dodrupchen Jigme Tenpe Nyima

Buddha Turning the Wheel of Dharma

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Entry Point for All Seekers of Liberation

A Succinct Presentation of the Four Truths

by Jigme Tenpé Nyima

At the feet of the five-tufted Lion of Speech
And the guru Ajita, buddha’s regent,[1]
With a mind of faith, I present my crown,
As I briefly elaborate upon the four truths.

Those who seek liberation must learn the four truths.

1. The Truth of Suffering

What is the basis for the definition of the truth of suffering? The impure environment and its impure inhabitants. What is the definition of the truth of suffering? That which belongs to the category of tainted factors to be abandoned and which arises from the particular cause of the truth of origin. What are the essential categories of suffering? The suffering of change, blatant suffering and the pervasive suffering of conditioning. What is the suffering of change? Pleasant sensation. What is blatant suffering? Painful sensation. What is the pervasive suffering of conditioning? The tainted appropriating aggregates. What are the features of suffering? Impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, selflessness and emptiness. What is the feature of impermanence? Momentariness. What is the feature of unsatisfactoriness? The five aggregates being under the influence of karma and afflictions. What is the feature of selflessness? The absence of an essential self. What is the feature of emptiness? The absence of other aspects of a controlling identity. The truth of suffering is to be understood, just as someone who has fallen ill must understand whether the sickness derives from wind, bile or phlegm, or from a combination of them all.

2. The Truth of Origin

What is the basis for the definition of the truth of origin? Karma and the mental afflictions. What is the definition of the truth of origin? That which belongs to the category of tainted factors to be abandoned and which produces the particular result of the truth of suffering. What are the essential categories of origin? Virtuous, unvirtuous and neutral karma, and the afflictions of desire, hatred and ignorance. What are the features of the origin? Causation, origination, intense arising, and conditionality. What is the feature of causation? The sources of suffering, such as craving. What is the feature of origination? How the likes of craving produce suffering again and again. What is the feature of intense arising? How the likes of craving produce suffering with intensity. What is the feature of conditionality? How the likes of craving contribute to suffering. The reality of the origin is to be abandoned, in the same way that the cause of a given sickness must be eliminated.

3. The Truth of Cessation

What is the basis for the definition of the truth of cessation? The result that is freedom from both suffering and the origin. What is the definition of the truth of cessation? The freedom-result (bral 'bras) that is gained through the power of the particular cause of cultivating the true path. What are the essential categories of the truth of cessation? Nominal cessation and ultimate cessation. What is nominal cessation? The temporary non-arising of a given mental affliction within the mindstream of an ordinary being. What is ultimate cessation? The permanent absence of a given factor to be abandoned within the mindstream of a noble one. What are the features of true cessation? Cessation, peace, perfection and true deliverance. What is the feature of cessation? The result that is freedom from suffering. What is the feature of peace? The result that is freedom from the origin. What is the feature of perfection? The mindstream of a noble one that has transformed into the essence of benefit and happiness. What is the feature of true deliverance? It is freedom from saṃsāra. The reality of cessation is to be attained, in the same way that the wellness that is the absence of sickness must be brought about.

4. The Truth of the Path

What is the basis for the definition of the truth of the path? The wisdom in the mindstream of a noble one. What is the definition of the truth of the path? The realization in the mindstream of a noble one that is the means of attaining the particular result that is true cessation. What are the essential categories of the truth of the path? The path of seeing, the path of meditation and the path of no-more-learning. What are features of the true path? It has the features of being a path, appropriateness, effectiveness and being truly delivering. What is the feature of being a path? It means that within the mindstream of a noble one there is that which leads to liberation. What is the feature of appropriateness? It means that it serves as a remedy to the mental afflictions. What is the feature of effectiveness? It means there is that which reveals unerringly the natural state of the mind. What is the feature of being truly delivering? It means that there is a yoga within the mindstram of a noble one that leads to a state of lasting happiness from which there is no returning to saṃsāra. The reality of the path is to be practised, just as medicine must be taken.

Possible Objections[2]

According to some, saying that whatever is the result of a cause that is the origin must necessarily be true suffering would entail that the bodhicitta in the mindstream of noble Maitreya, which arose after earlier thoughts of desire in the mind of Devadatta, would necessarily be true suffering, since it is a result that has the origin as its cause. If this is accepted, one might respond by saying of the same subject that it is not true suffering, because it is the true path. If the interlocutor says that the reason is not established, one would reply that it is indeed, since what is referred to is wisdom in the mind of a noble one.

Some say that it does not follow that whatever is a sensation must necessarily be suffering. They give the example of pleasant sensation, which is a sensation but, so they claim, is not suffering. To this one might respond that a pleasant sensation is indeed suffering, since a sūtra says, "Any and all forms of sensation are suffering," and it is a sensation.

Some say that both the environment and its inhabitants must necessarily be suffering. But this would then apply to the world that a buddha creates through his own self-manifestation and to the sambhogakāya too.

Many claim that whatever is suffering must necessarily be the origin. To this one might respond by saying that a stone would therefore have to be the origin, since it belongs to the truth of suffering.

Others assert that cessation and the path have a common locus. It would follow from this that conditioned and unconditioned phenomena must have a common locus, since they correspond to true cessation and the true path. But there could be no such common locus, given that permanence and impermanence are incompatible. The interlocutor might claim that it is not proven that these two truths correspond to the conditioned and unconditioned. It would then follow that the svabhāvikakāya must be created, since true cessation can refer to more than the unconditioned and the true path includes more than simply the conditioned true path, and the svabhāvikakāya is true cessation.[3] If this is accepted, then would follow that emptiness must be ignorance, because the naturally pure svabhāvikakāya is emptiness, which would be something created.

Some claim that cessation and the path are not of the same essence. In that case, there could be no true cessation in the mindstream of someone on the path of total release of the path of seeing, because there would be no true cessation with the same essence as the true path.

Some say that any established basis must belong to one of the four truths. If so, it would follow that space must belong to one of the four truths, since it is an established basis. This might be accepted, but it is not so, since it is neither suffering nor origin and neither cessation nor path.

Before the victorious ones and their heirs, I confess any flaws in these points, which, in my confusion, I have inelegantly explained.

Through the virtue that is hereby produced,
May all infinite beings attain the Victor’s level,
And gain the splendour of taking possession
Of all the qualities of purity, such as the strengths.

As requested by the monk Matibhadra, this succinct presentation of the four truths entitled 'Entry Point for All Seekers of Liberation' was completed on the eleventh day of the waning phase of the month by the fool named Könchok.

| Translated by Adam Pearcey, 2022, with many thanks to Sean Price for his valuable suggestions.


Bibliography

Tibetan Editions

'jigs med bstan pa'i nyi ma. "bden bzhi’i rnam bzhag" In The collected works (gsuṅ ’bum) of Rdo Grub-chen ’Jigs-med bstan-pa’i-ñi-ma. 5 vols. Gangtok, Sikkim: Dodrupchen Rinpoche. 1974–1975. (BDRC W23627) Vol.1: 458–465

'jigs med bstan pa'i nyi ma. "bden bzhi’i rnam bzhag" In rdo grub chen ’jigs med bstan pa’i nyi ma’i gsung 'bum. 7 vols. Chengdu: Si khron mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2003. (BDRC W25007). Vol. 7: 404-409


Version: 1.1-20220825


  1. i.e., Maitreya  ↩

  2. The following section, untitled in the origin, uses the abbreviated, formulaic language of debate. Although an attempt has been made to simplify this in the translation, the discussion is highly technical.  ↩

  3. Here the translation is based on the Gangtok edition of the Tibetan: 'gog bden 'dus ma byas ma yin la… The Chengdu edition omits ma: 'gog bden 'dus byas ma yin la ↩