The sequence of the four noble truths

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Bundokji
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The sequence of the four noble truths

Post by Bundokji » Thu Aug 09, 2018 1:38 pm

Friends,

Is the sequence of the four noble truths of any significance?

One would assume that the Buddha taught the four noble truths in certain order because this would have an impact on the practice.

Usually, we take a path to reach a destination, so logically, the path comes first then the destination, and yet, the noble truth of the end of suffering (the third noble truth) precedes the noble eight fold path (the fourth noble truth).

Similarly, If wisdom is what ends suffering, one would expect that the training in wisdom would be the last, after training in morality and concentration, and yet, the path begins with wisdom and does not end with it.

What is the wisdom behind this particular order if there is any?
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.

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Bundokji
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Re: The sequence of the four noble truths

Post by Bundokji » Thu Aug 09, 2018 1:44 pm

I forgot to add that the same thing applies to the first two noble truths. One would expect cause to precede effect, and yet, the first noble truth of suffering (effect) precedes the second noble truth (the cause of suffering)
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.

JohnK
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Re: The sequence of the four noble truths

Post by JohnK » Thu Aug 09, 2018 2:25 pm

Bundokji wrote:
Thu Aug 09, 2018 1:38 pm
Is the sequence of the four noble truths of any significance?
I think the sequence makes sense in terms of delivering the message to people.
First, hey, have you noticed that you suffer? Second, here is why. Third, it can be stopped! Fourth, here is the way to stop it.
The doctor/disease metaphor makes sense: First, there are symptoms; second, the nature of the disease is known by the doctor (diagnosis); third, there is a prognosis (this can be cured!); fourth, here is the necessary treatment.
"...the practice is essentially a practice, and not a theory to be idly discussed...right view leaves unanswered many questions about the cosmos and the self, and directs your attention to what needs to be done to escape from the ravages of suffering." Thanissaro Bhikkhu, On The Path.

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budo
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Re: The sequence of the four noble truths

Post by budo » Thu Aug 09, 2018 2:35 pm

Yes the sequence is important.

SN 56.11 is one of the most important suttas.

Notice that

- First Noble truth (Dukkha & Five aggregates) must be comprehended & understood
- Second Noble truth (Craving, Sensual desire) must be abandoned
- Third Noble truth (Jhanas and contemplation leading to Cessation) must be directly experienced
- Fourth Noble truth (Eightfold path) must be developed

The eightfold path (fourth noble truth) is at the end because one makes several passes through 1 to 4 strengthening comprehension, abandonment, experience, and development.

It starts with comprehending and understanding because you cannot fix a problem you do not understand. Once you understand the problem you must stop the causes of it, thus abandonment is next, then you experience the result, and then you continue development so that you can make it stronger and stronger.

Suppose you're in first jhana, you comprehend 1) There is still dukkha, so you 2) abandon some more factors of first jhana, 3) you enter second jhana and experience less dukkha and 4) because you have not yet reached nibbana since dukkha still exists, you need to continue developing the path
Last edited by budo on Thu Aug 09, 2018 2:40 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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pitakele
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Re: The sequence of the four noble truths

Post by pitakele » Thu Aug 09, 2018 2:38 pm

Bundokji wrote:
Thu Aug 09, 2018 1:38 pm
Is the sequence of the four noble truths of any significance?
Similar to JohnK's explanation, I have heard or read that the 4NT are formulated according to the ancient Indian method of describing a disease and its cure.

Another way of thinking about this: when the 4NT are reduced to two, i.e. Buddha said that all he had been teaching for 45 years was 'suffering and the end of suffering'. If these two were reversed, it would make little sense causally.
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santa100
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Re: The sequence of the four noble truths

Post by santa100 » Fri Aug 10, 2018 1:34 am

Bundokji wrote:Similarly, If wisdom is what ends suffering, one would expect that the training in wisdom would be the last, after training in morality and concentration, and yet, the path begins with wisdom and does not end with it.

What is the wisdom behind this particular order if there is any?
A good explanation from Ven. Bodhi on this question in his Noble Eightfold Path

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Bundokji
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Re: The sequence of the four noble truths

Post by Bundokji » Fri Aug 10, 2018 2:36 am

Thank you all for your answers. I came across the doctor's analogy before, and it sounds like a good one, but was it mentioned by the Buddha himself? Does anyone know the historical background of this analogy? Could there be better explanation? Did it happen to any of the practitioners here that they began to see more clearly the limitations of what doctors can do as a result of their practice?

I am more thinking of it in terms of the relationship between cause and effect and the circular nature of our existence.

According to the above, the four noble truths appear as the following:

Suffering (effect), cause of suffering (cause), end of suffering (effect), the path (cause) then according to the path in which the training in wisdom and the understanding of the four noble truths is the first step, the cycle begin again in reverse order and the effect becomes the cause and vice versa.

If we take the following example to illustrate the above:

An alcoholic is sitting at home. A feeling of unease arises (suffering) which takes the form of craving for alcohol (a cause of suffering) so he begin to consume alcohol (end of suffering) and this particular path brings him back to square one, in which his solution becomes the problem.

While it might have all began by consuming alcohol for the first time, after a while, it is difficult to distinguish cause from effect as the role between the two keeps on changing. Suffering leads to attachment, and equally, in a future state, attachment leads to suffering ad infinitum. And if we look with sympathy, the alcoholic is somehow justified by following this approach, because according to his observations, consuming alcohol is associated with alleviating his suffering, at least for a while. What strengthens this belief is that the arising of suffering is associated with the subsiding of alcohol effect from his body.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.

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Re: The sequence of the four noble truths

Post by SarathW » Fri Aug 10, 2018 2:51 am

Thanks for all good replies.
I think Four Noble Truths start from some thing known to every person.
However according to Buddhist teaching Dukkha and Dukkha Satya are two different things.
Even non-Buddhists understand the Dukkha but not the Dukkha Satya.
So it is important to clarify this from the outset.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Bundokji
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Re: The sequence of the four noble truths

Post by Bundokji » Fri Aug 10, 2018 3:00 am

SarathW wrote:
Fri Aug 10, 2018 2:51 am
Thanks for all good replies.
I think Four Noble Truths start from some thing known to every person.
However according to Buddhist teaching Dukkha and Dukkha Satya are two different things.
Even non-Buddhists understand the Dukkha but not the Dukkha Satya.
So it is important to clarify this from the outset.
Thanks Sarath :anjali:

Could you please elaborate?
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.

SarathW
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Re: The sequence of the four noble truths

Post by SarathW » Fri Aug 10, 2018 4:04 am

Could you please elaborate?
I think your request is relating to Dukkha and Dukkha Satya.
I tried to discuss this topic in another thread as well.

viewtopic.php?f=13&t=32465&hilit=

It appears many do not fully comprehend the meaning of Dukkha.
What is important to understand is the Sankhara Dukkha which is more difficult to understand than the Dukkha Dukkha and Viparinama Dukkha.
Dukkha Satya is mainly about the Sankhara Dukkha (self identification) which will be comprehend only by Ariyas. (Sotapanna etc)
Dukkha understood by puthujana is limited to the Dukkha Dukkha and Viparinama Dukkha.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dukkha

This is how I understood it after listening to Ven. Kumara Kassapa.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Bundokji
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Re: The sequence of the four noble truths

Post by Bundokji » Fri Aug 10, 2018 4:35 am

SarathW wrote:
Fri Aug 10, 2018 4:04 am
Could you please elaborate?
I think your request is relating to Dukkha and Dukkha Satya.
I tried to discuss this topic in another thread as well.

viewtopic.php?f=13&t=32465&hilit=

It appears many do not fully comprehend the meaning of Dukkha.
What is important to understand is the Sankhara Dukkha which is more difficult to understand than the Dukkha Dukkha and Viparinama Dukkha.
Dukkha Satya is mainly about the Sankhara Dukkha (self identification) which will be comprehend only by Ariyas. (Sotapanna etc)
Dukkha understood by puthujana is limited to the Dukkha Dukkha and Viparinama Dukkha.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dukkha

This is how I understood it after listening to Ven. Kumara Kassapa.
Thanks Sarath,

I encountered the above thread before you reply, but as i don't speak Sinhalese, i am unable to benefit from the Venerable's Dhamma talk.

However, we can attempt to expand based on your input and the example i provided in my previous post.

Let us assume that the same alcoholic began noticing that alcohol is causing him suffering and not improving his life long term, so he decided to quit. He might endure a lot of discomfort at the beginning due to his past Kamma, but after a while, he would begin to notice an improvement. Based on what he noticed, his mind would associate certain actions (quitting or renunciating in this case) with certain results (the relative peace experienced after quitting), so his basis of knowledge or justification (linking feelings to actions) are not radically different from when he was an alcoholic. The drivers behind his behavior and his tools of knowledge are still the same.

Maybe some practitioners can relate to the above. Many would enjoy some experiences while meditating, and their minds will associate it to certain actions, which becomes a source of frustration trying to repeat the same experiences perceiving it as a breakthrough or a sign of progress.

So, even renunciation (a perceived solution) becomes a problem (cause and effect exchanging roles), and the practitioner is back to square one. The sequence or the design of the four noble truths seem to match this vicious circle perfectly.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.

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Re: The sequence of the four noble truths

Post by justindesilva » Fri Aug 10, 2018 7:26 am

JohnK wrote:
Thu Aug 09, 2018 2:25 pm
Bundokji wrote:
Thu Aug 09, 2018 1:38 pm
Is the sequence of the four noble truths of any significance?
I think the sequence makes sense in terms of delivering the message to people.
First, hey, have you noticed that you suffer? Second, here is why. Third, it can be stopped! Fourth, here is the way to stop it.
The doctor/disease metaphor makes sense: First, there are symptoms; second, the nature of the disease is known by the doctor (diagnosis); third, there is a prognosis (this can be cured!); fourth, here is the necessary treatment.
Let me first note that the modern explanations from buddhism by vibajjavadins at times is difficult to be comprehended by damma seekers who are less oriented in abidamma.
However in addressing dukka satya , it is found that this same question of dukka satya was discussed in ACELA KASSAPA sutta . In this sutta the naked Acela requests an explanation of what dukka or suffering is. He asks lord budda whether dukka is a self causations or a causation made by some other. When lord budda denies both Kassapa insists on knowing the truth of sufering and lord Budda explains the causations in paticca samuppada. He explains him the way of getting rid of such conditioning and causations .
Thereby it is good to know that paticca samuppada explains the dukka satya in the 1st and 2nd noble truths with the arya ashtangika marga as the 4th noble truth.
These truths are contained in paticca samuppada vibanga paticca samuppada sutta (imho) as the 3rd noble truth and eight noble path (as the 4th) leads the way to be relieved from dukka satya ( learned as paticca samuppada).
bhava, becoming of birth, old age and death ( as kamma vipaka) are all suffering
while paticca samuppada explains the reasons for such suffering. These are dukka satya ( truth of suffering).
The way to end suffering is to get relieved from craving (tanha) and upadana ( clinging) . this is the 3 rd truth.
Arya ashtanga marga is the path to liberate one from tanha , and upadana , by getting rid of avijja ( ignorance)
The sequence of Four noble truths hence are of value.

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Re: The sequence of the four noble truths

Post by Dinsdale » Fri Aug 10, 2018 8:19 am

pitakele wrote:
Thu Aug 09, 2018 2:38 pm
Similar to JohnK's explanation, I have heard or read that the 4NT are formulated according to the ancient Indian method of describing a disease and its cure.
I think that's correct. The sequence could also be viewed as a more general approach to problem-solving:
1. What is the problem?
2. What causes the problem?
3. What would solving the problem look like?
4. What is the method for resolving the problem?
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Re: The sequence of the four noble truths

Post by JohnK » Fri Aug 10, 2018 8:46 pm

Bundokji wrote:
Fri Aug 10, 2018 2:36 am
I came across the doctor's analogy before, and it sounds like a good one, but was it mentioned by the Buddha himself? Does anyone know the historical background of this analogy?...
Two possibilities:
https://suttacentral.net/an3.22/en/sujato
https://suttacentral.net/an10.108/en/sujato

Edit: https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/stu ... icine.html
"...the practice is essentially a practice, and not a theory to be idly discussed...right view leaves unanswered many questions about the cosmos and the self, and directs your attention to what needs to be done to escape from the ravages of suffering." Thanissaro Bhikkhu, On The Path.

form
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Re: The sequence of the four noble truths

Post by form » Sat Aug 11, 2018 12:24 am

It is a medical model.

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