The four noble truths are not true for everyone.

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 16979
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: Aotearoa, New Zealand

The four noble truths are not true for everyone.

Post by mikenz66 » Sun Jun 22, 2014 1:35 am

This ongoing tricyle blog is interesting, in part, for the reactions that it gets.

This installment:
Four Ennobling Truths: The four noble truths are not true for everyone.
Robert E. Buswell Jr. and Donald S. Lopez Jr.
http://www.tricycle.com/blog/four-ennobling-truths
Suggests that most of don't fully understand these truths:
There is an important teaching in this term: the four truths are not true for everyone. Anyone who has not achieved at least the level of stream-enterer is called an “ordinary person” or “common being” (prthagjana)—sometimes also called bala, meaning “childish” or “foolish.” We ordinary persons are foolish because we don’t know the truth. Specifically, we don’t know that existence itself is suffering, that suffering has an origin, that suffering can be brought to an end, and that there is a path to that state of cessation. We may know it intellectually, we might know it well enough to list it correctly on the midterm, but this does not make us noble. Only the person who has direct insight into the four truths is noble. And it is only for such people that the four truths are, in fact, true.
That would seem to me to be rather uncontroversial. If we properly understood, we would be awakened already, right?

However, some of the reaction on Tricycle's Facebook page is that of outrage.
https://www.facebook.com/tricyclemag/ph ... =1&theater
Buddha never said "existence itself is suffering". Buddha said that grasping at the five aggregates as though they constitute a self is suffering. "Existence itself" -- in the absence of ignorance, delusion, fear and grasping -- is Nirvana.
Seemingly overlooking the rest of the sentence in the article: "... that suffering has an origin, that suffering can be brought to an end, and that there is a path to that state of cessation."

Other reactions include:
It is becoming clearer to me that the author of this series is doing more to create the misconceptions he is reporting than to clarify them. This one in particular irks me, has the stink of hubris and arrogance to it. The four first truths are ARYA not because of the nobility of the one who has insight, but because they are the "irreducible truths" concerning the universally human nature of realization.
This is very elitist. I am content to cherry pick mindfulness, compassion, and self compassion. These truths i am discovering without any aim or purpose toward a life without suffering.
This "elitist" claim is interesting. Perhaps, as one of my friends has commented, people are "rattled" by the idea that the Noble Truths are not soothing and democratic, but extremely challenging and difficult.

:anjali:
Mike

User avatar
Mkoll
Posts: 6501
Joined: Wed Dec 05, 2012 6:55 pm
Location: Texas

Re: The four noble truths are not true for everyone.

Post by Mkoll » Sun Jun 22, 2014 1:54 am

The Dhamma goes "against the stream" of the world so outrage and rejection is to be expected IMO, especially on a more popular medium like Tricycle. I mean, look at all the controversy that comes up here on Dhamma Wheel - and this is on a Theravada forum!
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

daverupa
Posts: 5980
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:58 pm

Re: The four noble truths are not true for everyone.

Post by daverupa » Sun Jun 22, 2014 3:26 am

My opinion is that talk of that sort begins to approach a certain 'orthodox shape' which many find troubling, because it might mean that certain things are simply deluded acts, not amenable to the 'skillful means' mulligan so popular in such media.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

User avatar
Kim OHara
Posts: 5116
Joined: Wed Dec 09, 2009 5:47 am
Location: North Queensland, Australia

Re: The four noble truths are not true for everyone.

Post by Kim OHara » Sun Jun 22, 2014 4:21 am

I'm not outraged, or even remotely close, but I reckon Buswell and Lopez are completely wrong.
I'm surprised they can't see a monstrous contradiction in their own argument: according to them, no-one but the Buddha was "ariya" before the first turning of the wheel but that means no-one at all was capable of understanding that first sermon.
:rolleye:
After that, the elitism: sutta after sutta has the Buddha preaching to anyone that cared enough to come and listen ... for forty years.

But no doubt Buswell and Lopez see themselves as ariya and enjoy looking down on the the rest of us (which also is out of step with everything the Buddha stood for and taught) and I don't begrudge them their illusions. I just hope not too many people are led astray by them.

:namaste:
Kim

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 16979
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: Aotearoa, New Zealand

Re: The four noble truths are not true for everyone.

Post by mikenz66 » Sun Jun 22, 2014 4:37 am

Hi Kim,

I don't see the elitism. I don't think they are claiming to be ariyas. What they say in that blog sounds fairly standard: I've heard in several other places that "truths of the noble ones" would be a better translation. As I read it, they are saying that noone really understands the truths until they are an ariya, not that noone is capable of understanding.

The Buddha often talked about the Dhamma being deep and difficult to understand. There seems to be a modern fashion that it's not acceptable to tell people that they don't understand something. It might upset them too much, or something. I face that sometimes in my day job. People with a high school knowledge of physics claiming that Einstein (or someone else) was wrong...

However, there is a crucial difference between the physics and Dhamma cases. In the physics case I know where they are going wrong, and, given time (a 4 year degree would be a good amount of time :)) can educate them. In the case of the Dhamma, if I believe the suttas, I'm just as in the dark as anyone else...

:anjali:
Mike

culaavuso
Posts: 1363
Joined: Sat Jan 11, 2014 8:27 pm

Re: The four noble truths are not true for everyone.

Post by culaavuso » Sun Jun 22, 2014 4:45 am

Kim OHara wrote:I'm not outraged, or even remotely close, but I reckon Buswell and Lopez are completely wrong.
The article seems to confuse what is true with what is known to be true or deeply understood:
[url=http://www.tricycle.com/blog/four-ennobling-truths]Four Ennobling Truths[/url] by Robert E. Buswell Jr. and Donald S. Lopez Jr. wrote: We ordinary persons are foolish because we don’t know the truth. Specifically, we don’t know that existence itself is suffering, that suffering has an origin, that suffering can be brought to an end, and that there is a path to that state of cessation. We may know it intellectually, we might know it well enough to list it correctly on the midterm, but this does not make us noble. Only the person who has direct insight into the four truths is noble. And it is only for such people that the four truths are, in fact, true.
This sounds somewhat like saying that gravity or relativity is only true for physicists.

This is interesting to contrast with another Tricycle article linked from the comments:
[url=http://www.tricycle.com/blog/what%e2%80%99s-noble-about-four-noble-truths]What's Noble about the Four Noble Truths[/url] by Ven. Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote: For instance, even though the truths are true for noble people, they’re not true only for noble people. They’re classed as right view, part of the path that will take you from your not-yet-noble condition and lead you to a noble attainment. In other words, they’re specifically for people who aren’t yet fully awakened.
...
And the Buddha didn’t save these truths only for those who are on the verge of awakening. Once, when quizzed by a newcomer to the dhamma named Gandhabhaka, he taught the origination and cessation of suffering by using examples from Gandhabhaka’s daily life

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 16979
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: Aotearoa, New Zealand

Re: The four noble truths are not true for everyone.

Post by mikenz66 » Sun Jun 22, 2014 4:56 am

I really don't see a contradiction apart from nuances of terminology.
We may know it intellectually, we might know it well enough to list it correctly on the midterm, but this does not make us noble.
They’re classed as right view, part of the path that will take you from your not-yet-noble condition and lead you to a noble attainment.
The point that both make is that a non-noble person doesn't fully understand. I think that's the point that gets people on the defensive. Being told they have something difficult to learn...

:anjali:
Mike

culaavuso
Posts: 1363
Joined: Sat Jan 11, 2014 8:27 pm

Re: The four noble truths are not true for everyone.

Post by culaavuso » Sun Jun 22, 2014 5:12 am

mikenz66 wrote:I really don't see a contradiction apart from nuances of terminology.
Perhaps confusing terminology is the culprit here. The point that the four noble truths aren't fully understood except by noble individuals seems uncontroversial based on the suttas. The confusing point seems to be the question of whether it's correct to say that something that isn't fully understood isn't true. This misunderstanding of the terminology may explain some of the comments. If they actually aren't true for non-noble people then it would seem they aren't relevant to non-noble people, and thus there would seem to be little purpose in gaining a proper understanding in the first place. However, if they are true then that provides a strong reason to gain a proper understanding of them so that the understanding can be used beneficially.

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 16979
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: Aotearoa, New Zealand

Re: The four noble truths are not true for everyone.

Post by mikenz66 » Sun Jun 22, 2014 5:45 am

Hmm, yes, that's a good way of putting it. :sage:

However, I don't think that tricky questions of terminology are behind objections such as:
This is very elitist. I am content to cherry pick mindfulness, compassion, and self compassion. These truths i am discovering without any aim or purpose toward a life without suffering.
There seems to be an emotional recoil from the depth of the task...

:anjali:
Mike

User avatar
TheNoBSBuddhist
Posts: 1614
Joined: Mon Apr 07, 2014 4:06 pm
Location: Loch Lomond, via the High AND Low road....

Re: The four noble truths are not true for everyone.

Post by TheNoBSBuddhist » Sun Jun 22, 2014 8:08 am

Simple Idiot-Mind here:

Simply because they cannot be understood, doesn't make them not true.

The 4 Noble Truths ARE true for everyone. Some people just don't WANT them to be true for everyone....

See, the question lies in understanding, acceptance and realisation (small 'r') that such Truths are deep, require introspection, examination and careful study.

On the face of it though, the 4 Noble Truths are very simple in their teaching.

The problem lies with people developing an aversion to what is right under their nose, turning it up and saying "I don't think it's true at all" thus effectively discarding the Truth, and ultimately lying to themselves.

Simple idiot-Mind post, ends.
:namaste:

You will not be punished FOR your 'emotions'; you will be punished BY your 'emotions'.



Image

Pay attention, simplify, and (Meditation instruction in a nutshell) "Mind - the Gap."
‘Absit invidia verbo’ - may ill-will be absent from the word. And mindful of that, if I don't respond, this may be why....

User avatar
Mkoll
Posts: 6501
Joined: Wed Dec 05, 2012 6:55 pm
Location: Texas

Re: The four noble truths are not true for everyone.

Post by Mkoll » Sun Jun 22, 2014 8:35 am

AN 10.118 wrote:"Amongst humans, very few are they, those mortals going to the farthest shore; Rather, the rest of humankind runs just along this shore.
Yeah, the Four Noble Truths aren't for everyone. I doubt they ever were and I doubt they ever will be.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 16979
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: Aotearoa, New Zealand

Re: The four noble truths are not true for everyone.

Post by mikenz66 » Sun Jun 22, 2014 8:38 am

TheNoBSBuddhist wrote: The problem lies with people developing an aversion to what is right under their nose, turning it up and saying "I don't think it's true at all" thus effectively discarding the Truth, and ultimately lying to themselves.
That's exactly what I mean. One can always argue over technicalities, but, as I indicated above, at the root of many arguments appears to be an emotional recoil from the depth of the task. Of course, I wouldn't suggest introducing the Dhamma in a negative way --- the Buddha made sure that his students minds were sufficiently "gladdened" in order to be ready to learn the deep teachings:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=16192

:anjali:
Mike

User avatar
Unrul3r
Posts: 174
Joined: Sat Oct 16, 2010 6:29 pm
Location: Porto, Portugal

Re: The four noble truths are not true for everyone.

Post by Unrul3r » Sun Jun 22, 2014 9:02 am

Not fully on-topic but also not off-topic so I'll just share the thoughts that popped up.

The word "noble" never made it for me. Apart from the meaning of "having or showing fine personal qualities or high moral principles", which is good except for the word "high". It also has a second meaning "belonging by rank, title, or birth to the aristocracy" which, I think, soils the word a bit and may stem conceited controversy.

The Dhammapada Verse 270 has a less conceited definition of the word:
Dhp v270 wrote:na tena ariyo hoti, yena pāṇāni hiṃsati.
ahiṃsā sabbapāṇānaṃ, “ariyo”ti pavuccati
.

One isn't noble by injuring living beings.
By not injuring any of them, one is called “noble”.
I tend to use this one, "four harmless truths".

:anjali:

User avatar
Unrul3r
Posts: 174
Joined: Sat Oct 16, 2010 6:29 pm
Location: Porto, Portugal

Re: The four noble truths are not true for everyone.

Post by Unrul3r » Sun Jun 22, 2014 9:16 am

TheNoBSBuddhist wrote:...
The 4 Noble Truths ARE true for everyone. Some people just don't WANT them to be true for everyone....
...
On the face of it though, the 4 Noble Truths are very simple in their teaching.

The problem lies with people developing an aversion to what is right under their nose, turning it up and saying "I don't think it's true at all" thus effectively discarding the Truth, and ultimately lying to themselves.
Wise words. It's called picking-up the snake by it's tail.

:anjali:

User avatar
TheNoBSBuddhist
Posts: 1614
Joined: Mon Apr 07, 2014 4:06 pm
Location: Loch Lomond, via the High AND Low road....

Re: The four noble truths are not true for everyone.

Post by TheNoBSBuddhist » Sun Jun 22, 2014 9:33 am

Unrul3r wrote:Not fully on-topic but also not off-topic so I'll just share the thoughts that popped up.

The word "noble" never made it for me. Apart from the meaning of "having or showing fine personal qualities or high moral principles", which is good except for the word "high". It also has a second meaning "belonging by rank, title, or birth to the aristocracy" which, I think, soils the word a bit and may stem conceited controversy.

The Dhammapada Verse 270 has a less conceited definition of the word:
Dhp v270 wrote:na tena ariyo hoti, yena pāṇāni hiṃsati.
ahiṃsā sabbapāṇānaṃ, “ariyo”ti pavuccati
.

One isn't noble by injuring living beings.
By not injuring any of them, one is called “noble”.
I tend to use this one, "four harmless truths".

:anjali:
Again we have the semantic idiosyncrasies of translation.... Noble was intended to mean Indisputable, rock-solid, unshakeable.

The problem with the word 'Noble' is precisely what you indicate - open to different interpretations which can make the concept sound arrogant, and unattainable by the 'simple' mind.

(Took me a while...!)

We know now, thanks to scholarly minds, those with an acute interest in conveying the Buddha's original message as comprehensively as possible, that many terms previously accepted as satisfactory, are now anything but.

'Suffering' being the most obvious one which springs to mind... :thumbsup:

My preference is for the word 'unshakeable'.

To me, that denotes dependability, reliability, Confidence and indisputability.

For my personal part in that....
:namaste:

You will not be punished FOR your 'emotions'; you will be punished BY your 'emotions'.



Image

Pay attention, simplify, and (Meditation instruction in a nutshell) "Mind - the Gap."
‘Absit invidia verbo’ - may ill-will be absent from the word. And mindful of that, if I don't respond, this may be why....

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Chanh Dao, Porl, Sam Vara and 145 guests