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The truth that makes us noble

By Nischhal Pradhan at
The truth that makes us noble
"The four noble truths are not true for everyone for the ones who are aware of the truth are not exactly the noble ones."

The four noble truths of the Buddhist principle are: existence is suffering or dukha, the suffering has an origin samudaya, there is the termination or nirodha of suffering and lastly, that there is a path or marga which leads to that state of termination. These four principles are the most famous doctrines of the Buddhist teachings. These four paths are the first doctrine that the Buddha preached and is considered as the content of his first sermon. On this event, he described and explained when he first turned the well of the "Dharma", also known as the Dharmachakrapravartana in Buddhism. The conclusion of his attainment of the enlightenment under the Bodhi tree was that this knowledge could be understood by the others. These four Noble truths, which is also one of the basic principles during the carving of many Buddha statues, is one of the few phrases that the world is well aware of from the vast knowledge and principles of Buddhism. As this is also taken as the "Introduction of Buddhism", this common misconception is nothing more than a mistranslation.

The main term in the phrase is "noble". The original Sanskrit term "Arya" used by the inhabitants of north India to distinguish themselves from the other inhabitants of the region. This term was then reinterpreted by the Buddha which means "noble" or "superior", into a spiritual meaning which refers to those with an insight into the reality and having a broader sense of life to that of ordinary people.

The term Arya started to become a technical term early on in the tradition of Buddhism which specifically referred to the four stages on the path of Nirvana. Meanwhile, the ones who attained those stages were referred to as the four noble persons or "Aryapudgala". The first of the four noble persons are known as the stream enterers (srotaapanna). These persons have had an initial insight into the nature of reality, such that they have destroyed all causes for future rebirth as an animal, ghost and who are destined to enter nirvana in seven lifetimes or less. The second ones are known as the once-returners or Sakradagamin, who have a deep knowledge into the insight of life but twill only be reborn into our world, the realm of Kamadhatu only once. The third type of the Noble persons are the never returners or Anagamin, who have an ability to achieve Nirvana in "pure abodes" (Suddhavasa) at the upper stages of the heavens in the realm of Rupadhatu. The fourth type of the Noble person are the worthy ones or Arhats who have destroyed all the causes for future rebirth and will never be reborn again, entering Nirvana at death. The Buddha is said to have passed through all these four stages on the night of his enlightenment, eventually becoming an arhat.

Thus the term which we are known to us as the "Four Noble Truths" should properly be translated as the "Four truths for the (spiritually) Noble". The truths themselves are not noble but the people who comprehend them are. It is the understanding of these truths that makes them noble.

The four truths may not be true for everyone. Anyone who has not yet achieved at least the level of Strotaapanna is known as "ordinary person" or common being and sometimes also called bala meaning childish or foolish. So, we can say that we, the ordinary people are foolish as we are yet unaware about the truth. Moreover, we do not know that the existence of life itself is suffering and this suffering has an origin. The suffering can be brought to an end and there is a path to that state of termination. We may be known to it intellectually and know it well enough to list it correctly on the mid-term but this is not enough to make us noble.