Truth in Buddhism -
09-06-2007, 01:43 PM
The Buddhist term for 'Truth' is Sacca in Pāli. The Sanskrit term is
Satya. Sacca means incontrovertible. It cannot be disagreed with or
What is `truth' in the world? Is it Brahma, Allah, God, Amitabha or
other Creator? It should be true to all beings irrespective of color,
caste, creed or other mental or physical differences; and it should
be a common truth, as far as we are aware, to all beings in the
Suppose someone says that the `truth' in the world is Brahma, as the
Hindus say. That is not truth to non-Hindus. If someone says that the
truth is Allah that is not truth to non-Muslims. If someone says
that the truth in the world is all mighty God - that is not truth to
So, what is the real truth? It is nothing but unsatisfactoriness,
dissatisfaction or suffering. That is the truth in the world.
The Buddhist term for suffering is 'dukkha'. It is one of the most
difficult words in Dhamma to be translated into English to give the
proper meaning. This truth is the ever-lasting phenomenon in the
world. This is truth not only for Buddhists, but also for all beings.
It is the common truth.
`World' here refers to the three types of world systems, namely the
sensual, material and the immaterial spheres. All those born in any
of these three (3) world systems necessarily face suffering. That is
the truth in the world.
Now, is there a truth beyond the world? There is. This is the
cessation of dis-satisfaction, known as nibbāna. It is the ultimate
truth, passion-less-ness or greed-less-ness, or non-delusion or non-
aversion; in short, 'suffering-less-ness'. Positively, it is a state
of mind, full of loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and
So, now it is clear that the truth in the world is suffering and that
the truth beyond the world is the cessation of suffering or "Nibbāna"
in Buddhist language.
According to the teaching of the Buddha, the truth has four (4)
facets. What are they?
The Causes of dissatisfaction.
The Cessation of dissatisfaction.
The Path leading to the cessation of dissatisfaction.
The Buddha said: "It is in this fathom-long body, with its
perceptions and thoughts, do I proclaim the world, the origin of the
world, cessation of the world, and the path leading to the cessation
of the world" (S.N.1. Rohitassa Sutta). The world here
means "Dissatisfaction" (dukkha).
In short, the Buddha enunciated dissatisfaction, its causes, its
cessation, and the path leading to the cessation of dissatisfaction,
here, in this very body. Whether the Buddhās arise or do not arise,
these Truths exist in the world. It is a Buddha who re-discovers and
reveals them to the deluded world. They do not, and cannot change
with time because they are beyond time, eternal Truths. As long as
there are beings in the world, these truths shall exist in the world.
The Buddha realized these 'Four Noble Truths' through his intuitive
wisdom without the support of anyone else. Therefore, he was not
indebted to anyone for his realization of this Dhamma. He himself
said, "They were unheard before".
All beings in the world are subject to birth and consequently to
disease, decay, and finally death. No one is exempt from these four
inevitable causes of dissatisfaction. As stated above,
dissatisfaction is the first thing to be understood. Explaining what
dissatisfaction is, the Buddha said, "Birth is dissatisfaction,
disease is dissatisfaction, decay is dissatisfaction, death is
dissatisfaction; associating with the unpleasant is dissatisfaction,
disassociating from the pleasant is dissatisfaction, not getting what
one wants is dissatisfaction; in short, all five grasping groups are
One must understand the causes of dissatisfaction. However, there is
no first cause taught in Buddhism. Buddhism teaches about clusters of
causes and clusters of effects. The main cause of dissatisfaction
here, as the Buddha discovered is craving. The Buddha said in the
Dhammapada, "From craving springs grief, from craving springs fear;
for him who is wholly free from craving there is no grief, much less
fear"(Vr.216). It is because of this craving, gross or subtle that we
are led us in the cycle of births and deaths (Samsāra).
The complete cessation of dissatisfaction called nibbāna is a supra-
mundane state of mind. This is the ultimate 'goal' of Buddhists. It
is achieved by the total eradication of all forms of craving. It is
to be seen by the mental eye by renouncing all internal and external
attachment and repulsion to the world.
This truth has to be realized by developing the Noble Eightfold Path,
which is the Fourth Noble Truth. This unique Path is the only
straight way that leads to nibbana. It is the Path leading to the
cessation of dissatisfaction.
This Path is not a creation or invention of the Buddha, but a
discovery by the Buddha or even more correctly, a re-discovery. The
Buddha himself said that it is an ancient Path (Purānam anjasam).
This is the way the Dhamma is practiced. Without it, the Dhamma
becomes a mere collection of theories, and perhaps an empty show
However, it is shrouded in the darkness of dust and ignorance. It is
the Buddha who re-discovers this path and reveals it to humans and
devās (heavenly beings) as well.
In His first sermon, the Buddha said that by re-discovering this
path, the eye of vision arose in him, cognition arose in him, wisdom
arose in him, knowledge arose in him, and light arose in him (cakkhum
udapādi Ńānam udapādi pańńā udapādi vijjā udapādi āloko udapādi).
This path is called a Middle Path because it lies between the two
extremes, sensual indulgence and self-mortification. When people
think they live only this one life, they want to enjoy everything
possible by gratifying their senses. Therefore, they strive mightily
to indulge their senses. This is not the way to develop the eye of
wisdom, knowledge or light. In reality, it weakens one's knowledge
and wisdom. Especially, as they do not understand the nature of re-
becoming or the renewed existence of beings - rebirth in simple
language - they make every effort to indulge the senses.
The other extreme is self-mortification. When people think there is a
permanent entity known as the soul to be unified with the universal
infinite (Creator), then they practice self-mortifications such as
enduring extreme hardship, giving up sensual pleasures, living under
self-imposed hardship, etc. But the Buddha realized both of these as
extremes and avoiding them proclaimed the Eightfold Path as
the 'Middle Path'.
As the name suggests, there are eight (8) factors, namely:
(Here, the first two are grouped as Wisdom, the next three are
Morality and the last three are Concentration= Three groups of
When we study the Path, we first begin to know that there are two
parts in the path.
1. Knowledge (vijjā)> Right View or Right Understanding
2. Conduct (carana)> All the other seven (7) factors, (Right
Intention through Right Concentration)
Right View is like the eye, and the others are how we conduct our
behavior in the world. Without eyes we all are blind. Therefore,
Right view or Right understanding (vision), is of much significance
in the process of understanding the Dhamma.
1. Right View or Right Understanding
Right understanding, according to the early discourses of the
Buddha, can be presented in three levels:
I. Understanding the tenfold wrong view as wrong views. They are:
1. There is no fruit from giving to anybody
2. No result from what is offered
3. No results of performing any sacrifices
4. No fruit from good or bad actions
5. No re-becoming of beings into this world
6. No re-becoming of beings into worlds beyond this one
7. No fruit of good conduct or bad conduct towards mother
8. No fruit of good conduct or bad conduct towards father
9. No beings who are reborn spontaneously
10. No good and virtuous recluses in the world.
II. Understanding what are wholesome and unwholesome (Kusala and
According to the Sammāditthi sutta of the Middle Length Sayings of
the Buddha, this is: Understanding the unwholesome and the roots of
unwholesome; understanding the wholesome and the roots of wholesome.
Then what are the unwholesome? There are ten unwholesome actions:
iii. Sexual misconduct
iv. False speech
v. Malicious speech
vi. Harsh speech
vii. Frivolous talk
viii. greed (Covetousness )
ix. Ill will and
x. Wrong view.
Then, what are the roots of unwholesome actions? There are three
roots of unwholesome actions: Greed, hatred, and delusion.
What are the wholesome? There are ten wholesome actions too. They are
the abstinence of the above ten unwholesome actions namely;
i. Abstention from killing
ii. Abstention from stealing
iii. Abstention from sexual misconduct
iv. Abstention from false speech
v. Abstention from malicious speech
vi. Abstention from harsh speech
vii. Abstention from frivolous talk
ix. Non-ill-will and
x. Right view.
What are the roots of wholesome Actions? Non-greed, non-hatred, and
non-delusion are the three roots.
iii. Understanding the Four Noble Truths:
The Four Noble Truths are:
i. Understanding dissatisfaction as the truth in the world
ii. Understanding the cause of dissatisfaction
iii. Understanding the cessation of dissatisfaction
iv. Understanding the path leading to the cessation of dissatisfaction
(This is not the realization of the Four Noble Truths, but an
understanding level, perhaps through books or listening to teachers,
With this knowledge, this understanding of the Four Noble Truths, one
has to put the Dhamma into practice. When one puts it into practice,
one should have, certainly, good intentions. That is Right
2. Right Intention: Whatever we do, our intention is very important.
There are three aspects to right intention:
(1) Intention of sharing, practicing generosity, giving up or
renunciation is one of the good intentions, which is in its ultimate
sense, nekkhamma samkappa. Giving up of all material things and
mental formations such as hindrances and evil thoughts are included.
(2) Intention of non-ill-will (avyapada samkappa) is the second type
of right intention. This is extending loving-kindness (metta) to all
beings in the world irrespective of their trivial distinctions.
(3) Non-violence (avihimsa samkappa) is the third aspect of right
intention. It is because of not understanding this that people harm
and kill each other in different ways and on different levels.
However, harmfulness is harmfulness, whether or not the person doing
it is the leader of a society or a simple person. The Buddha
said, "All tremble at violence; all fear death. Putting oneself in
the place of another, one should not kill nor cause another to
3. Right Speech: With good intention, abstaining from false speech,
one should speak what is truth; abstaining from malicious divisive
talk, one should talk to unite people; one should abstain from harsh
speech and talk gently and peacefully; abstaining from frivolous talk
or gossip, one should talk about the Dhamma. The Buddha exhorted two
things to be done by practitioners whenever they get together.
1. Either talk on the Dhamma or else,
2. Observe Noble silence.
There is a saying, "Silence is Golden". But one should understand
that it is true only if one is mindful. Let us talk of what is good
for others as well as us.
4. Right Action:
Abstaining from killing, abstaining from stealing, and abstaining
from sexual misconduct are the three aspects of Right Actions. We do
things in three ways: mentally, verbally and physically. At this time
we are only concerned with physical actions because mental actions
have already been discussed in the category of Right Intention.
5. Right Livelihood:
That is to live righteously. To live righteously, one has to earn
righteously. In the time of the Buddha, most of the people were
farmers but there were also merchants, smiths, carpenters, and
government officers. Today, many people like to earn money by selling
something to others. Therefore, there are many vendors, traders, and
merchants in society.
According to the teaching of the Buddha, in order to earn
righteously, one has to refrain from five (5) kinds of wrong trades.
What are they?
1. Trading in arms (weapons) 2. Trading in or raising cattle or
other animals for slaughter. 3. Trading in flesh 4. Selling
intoxicating drinks, and 5. Selling poisons.
So in accordance with the teaching of the Buddha, if one wants to be
happy and peaceful minded, one should earn righteously. Earning one's
way by hook or crook or by any means available is not the way of
6. Right Effort:
Without effort one can do nothing, one cannot even rise from the seat
where one is seated. The Buddha always appreciated right effort. It
was declared as one of the factors of the Attainment of
Enlightenment. In this context, there is a fourfold (4) effort.
1. One has to make effort to avoid unwholesome thoughts
2. To remove unwholesome thoughts arisen in the mind
3. To develop wholesome thoughts
4. To maintain wholesome thoughts
7. Right Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the most important factor in the teaching of the
Buddha. It is the key word in Buddhism. Without mindfulness there is
no development of meditation, without meditation there is no
attainment of Enlightenment. For the purification of mind and the
attainment of nibbāna, the Buddha recommended practicing the 'Four
Foundations of Mindfulness'. They are:
1. Contemplation of body as body
2. Contemplation of feelings as feelings
3. Contemplation of consciousness as consciousness
4. Contemplation of mental objects as mental objects
8. Right Concentration
Concentration is not the real purpose of Buddhist meditation.
However, it has much significance because without it, one cannot
develop insight and wisdom. There are four (4) progressively
deepening states of mental tranquility or kinds of ecstasies. When
one develops them, one can develop insight so that one would be able
to see through things and realize them as they really are. In order
to develop concentration, one first has to subdue the five
According to Buddhist literature, there are three (3) levels of
concentration namely; 1. Preparatory concentration 2. Neighborhood
concentration, and 3. Attainment of concentration. As the result of
practicing and developing these concentrations, one can gain six
kinds of knowledge and finally, by developing insight one can attain
the ultimate bliss of Enlightenment. There are four blessings from
developing concentration. 1. Mindfulness 2. Knowledge 3. Vision and
insight 4. Extirpation of defilements.
When one practices this path, as the Middle Path taught by the
Exalted One, one can reach the goal and realize the Four Noble Truths
and nibbāna; and this is by completing 'Right Knowledge' and 'Right
Liberation' (Sammā Ńāna and Sammā Vimukti).
Therefore, let us understand the significance of the teaching of the
Buddha and practice it in our daily lives to realize the Dhamma and
the Truth in the world.
May all beings be well, happy and peaceful!