A philological study of the ariya-sacca as “Noble Truths”

Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and texts.
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ancientbuddhism
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A philological study of the ariya-sacca as “Noble Truths”

Post by ancientbuddhism » Fri Feb 06, 2015 5:26 pm

In 1982, K.R. Norman published a paper on The Four Noble Truths, a complete philological examination of the topic with the scope “…to examine the grammar and syntax of something which, although fundamental to Buddhist doctrine, has never been satisfactorily explained at a linguistic level…”. Truly a thorough study of the Tathāgata’s doctrine on dukkha, with and without the superlative ‘ariya sacca’.

With reference to ‘ariya-sacca’, Norman mentions in A Philological Approach to Buddhism (p.16):
  • “Take for example, the phrase “noble truth”, which I mentioned a few minutes ago. It has become a commonplace to talk about the four noble truths, and this is a perfectly acceptable translation of the compound ariya-sacca: ariya means noble and sacca means truth, so ariya-sacca means noble truth. This translation is so common and so fixed in our minds, that it seems almost like blasphemy to have to point out that not only is this not the only possible translation, but it is in fact the least likely of all the possibilities. If we look at the commentators we find that they knew this very well. They point out that the compound can have a number of meanings. It can mean “truth of the noble one”, “truth of the noble ones”, “truth for a noble one”, i.e. truth that will make one noble, as well as the translation “noble truth” so familiar to us. This last possibility, however, they put at the bottom of the list of possibilities, if they mention it at all. My own feeling is that it is very likely that “the truth of the noble one (the Buddha)” is the correct translation, although we must never lose sight of the fact that in Indian literature multiple meanings are very often intended, so that it is not always possible to say that there is a single correct meaning.”
And then Norman’s paper Why are the Four Noble Truths Called “Noble”? (1990) gives a concise summary of the place of ‘ariya sacca’.

All of this may seem much over nothing, like Gandalf's questioning of Bilbo's simple ‘good morning’. However, what I have found useful in these papers is at least caution on how critical a rendering pāḷi idiom into English (or another) language is.

Another page to read is one Dmytro had posted on this topic here on DW
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paul
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Re: A philological study of the ariya-sacca as “Noble Truths”

Post by paul » Fri Feb 06, 2015 5:49 pm

-Extract from "Aryan', Google:
"The name Iran, Iranian is itself equivalent to Aryan, where Iran means "land of the Aryans,"[12][12][14][28][29][30][31][32] and has been in use since Sassanid times[30][31]"

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Re: A philological study of the ariya-sacca as “Noble Truths”

Post by Nicolas » Fri Feb 06, 2015 6:48 pm

(Why not post on Dmytro's thread?)
Leigh Brasington calls them the "Four Ennobling Truths".

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Re: A philological study of the ariya-sacca as “Noble Truths”

Post by daverupa » Fri Feb 06, 2015 7:10 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:They point out that the compound can have a number of meanings. It can mean

1. “truth of the noble one”,
2. “truth of the noble ones”,
3. “truth for a noble one”, i.e. truth that will make one noble, as well as the translation
4. “noble truth” so familiar to us.
Nicolas wrote:Leigh Brasington calls them the 3. "Four Ennobling Truths".
I tend to prefer 3. as well; 1. & 2. both seem to me to be synonyms for *buddha-sacca, which can be understood in the same way that 'buddha-dhamma' can be understood: the Buddha's Dhamma which he discovered but did not invent & the Buddha's Truth which he discovered but did not invent.

So I'll say "Buddhadhamma", or "the Dhamma", or "the ennobling truths" to refer to this.
ancientbuddhism wrote:However, what I have found useful in these papers is at least caution on how critical a rendering pāḷi idiom into English (or another) language is.
Indeed! Getting foreign language idioms into one's wheelhouse is the bee's knees, though a hard nut to crack...
  • "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]

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Re: A philological study of the ariya-sacca as “Noble Truths”

Post by ancientbuddhism » Sat Feb 07, 2015 12:53 am

“the ennobling truths” (p. 172) does fit with the closing possibility Norman gives in Why are the Four Noble Truths Called “Noble”? @ p. 174:
  • “There is, in fact, at least one further possibility, where the first element is also taken in the genitive, but as a simple possessive – “the truths of, possessed by, the noble ones”. This could be a reference to the Buddhists as a whole, as these would then be truths held by the Buddhists, as opposed to anything held by the Jains or the Brāhmaṇas.”
I personally have encountered resistance from Western students whenever “noble truth” is attach to the doctrine on dukkha. It has a dogmatic tone that anti-traditional hippies don’t like. And to rather get the edifying information of Dhamma across, I leave it out of some materials, talks and discussions.
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Re: A philological study of the ariya-sacca as “Noble Truths”

Post by alan » Sat Feb 07, 2015 1:43 am

Don't do that. Those who want to be ennobled will probably be the best students. And if you downplay Dukkha, the message will never be properly understood anyway.

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Re: A philological study of the ariya-sacca as “Noble Truths”

Post by chownah » Sat Feb 07, 2015 3:01 am

Why not call it the buddha sanctioned overview and introduction?
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Re: A philological study of the ariya-sacca as “Noble Truths”

Post by sphairos » Sat Feb 07, 2015 2:35 pm

Those issues are explored at length in P. Harvey's publications (his "Introduction to Buddhism" and translations and commentaries to them)
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Re: A philological study of the ariya-sacca as “Noble Truths”

Post by DGDC » Thu Mar 17, 2016 12:06 am

Ariyasacca should be translated as noblest-truth.

Noblest implies unique, one and only, highest, beyond all known truths.

It also means 'samma'. Sammasambuddha is unique 'Sambuddha'.

I shall give the references if someone is interested in discussing this matter further.

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