Talk:Four Noble Truths

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This is hard to understand[edit]

As a lay-person, who doesn´t know a lot about buddhism, I find the lead of this article very hard to read and enjoy (I haven´t read beyond the lead, it was sort of discouraging). It seems to be written for an audience of people with in-depth knowledge, but that is not the usual WP-way.

Take the first section:

The Four Noble Truths (Sanskrit: catvāri āryasatyāni; Pali: cattāri ariyasaccāni) are "the truths of the Noble Ones,"[1] the truths or realities which are understood by the "worthy ones"[web 1] who have attained Nirvana.[2][web 1] The truths are dukkha, the arising of dukkha, the cessation of dukkha, and the path leading to the cessation of dukkha.

Apart from "Nirvana", these are all unfamiliar concepts to me, and reading it gives me very little. It doesn´t mention buddhism, or what dukkha is, that comes later, the "painful incapableness of satisfying". So this lead seems to state that the four truths (buddhistic concept) are: painful incapableness of satisfying exists, where it comes from, that it can cease, and how to make it cease.

I could go into more detail, but, editors who know the subject, please read the lead from the POV of a reader who´ve heard of buddhism, but not the sutras (or think it´s spelled "suras"), the Pali canon, the entire dhamma matrix, prajna, dhyana, Theravada tradition, Mahayana tradition, or the Bodhisattva-path. I guess what I´m asking is much less "insider-language" in the lead, leave this (with explananations) more for the body of the article. Gråbergs Gråa Sång (talk) 05:52, 2 May 2017 (UTC)

@Gråbergs Gråa Sång: we've had endless discussions on this; the lead as it is now is a compromise. Although the four truths are quite popular to introduce Buddhist teachings, they are not a matter of mere statement or simple definition; they refer to the full scope of the Buddhist teachings, which have to be comprehended in their totality, not as a short list of mere definitions. I'm afraid there is no simple way to state the four truths without doing unjustice to this scope and subltety of the Buddhist teachings. See also Talk:Four Noble Truths/Archive 1#The Fundamental Challenge of this Page:
" may simply be impossible to handle this topic in the way the typical Wikipedia reader -- "western" trained, appreciative of scholastic methods rather than mystical ones, yada yada -- expects a topic to be handled [...] To be honest, I don't know how we handle this. Simply offering a summary of the kind I did seemed to help at the time, but in fact it could even make things worse, because it gives a false sense of security that the FNTs are things one "knows". Someone can read the summary, and think that simply by understanding *that* the origins of suffering are greed and aversion arising from delusion, then they get what the Buddha was on about."
That was in 2012... I've moved the third paragraph upwards; I hope that this helps. Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 06:06, 2 May 2017 (UTC)
I´d say it helped A LOT. Now it makes much more sense. WP at it´s finest. Gråbergs Gråa Sång (talk) 06:24, 2 May 2017 (UTC)
@Gråbergs Gråa Sång: thanks!!! That's really a great compliment right now! I've been thinking about the past hour; you know, the four truths are like a snapshot, a picture from a childhood holiday. You look at it, and you see all those memories at once: your parents, maybe your grandparnets, the thrill (or horror) of moving to a holiday destination, the warmth, the smell of the ait, the sound of the sea, the sun-burn, everything. You see it all at once - if you've been there. That's what the four truths do; call into mind all those teachings, their interconnectedness. It all comes alive, like a big clokwork, or a database. Or like a hologram. Or Indra's net. Or the Periodic table, once you see the repetition of structures, the symmetry. All the best, Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 07:04, 2 May 2017 (UTC)
Joshua Jonathan, Thanks for taking the time to write that, understanding is dawning. Is there a better word than formulaic [1] in "the basic orientation of Buddhism in a formulaic expression", perhaps doctrinal, metaphorical, philosophical, theological, simple, short, etc? Gråbergs Gråa Sång (talk) 08:21, 2 May 2017 (UTC)
Propositional [2] in "the four truths have both a symbolic and a propositional function", same question, maybe. One meaning of "proposition" is "A statement of religious doctrine; an article of faith; creed." so it kinda fits, but it´s an unfamiliar word with unclear meaning (to me). Gråbergs Gråa Sång (talk) 08:34, 2 May 2017 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── @Gråbergs Gråa Sång: I've changed "formulaic" into "simple"; I'd rather leave "propositional" os it is, since this is the term that Anderson uses, and keeps coming back in the article.

Regarding the interpretation of the four truths: it's worthwhile to reflect on the multiple meanings of the terms. Especially samudaya, and dukkha-samudaya. Samudaya may mean "cause, origin," but also "coming up together with," or "joined to," or "existing together" (see also Pratītyasamutpāda): together with dukkha there is the craving towards "things" that are dukkha, incapable of giving us satisfaction. And that's really unworthy, says he: longing for things which won't last. That's for fools, not for noble persons. let go of it! Unfortunately, the terms being used in the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta apparently uses the term dukkha-samudaya, and is almost commonly translated as "the origin of suffering": craving causes suffering. Right; so when you've got cancer, this is caused by craving. Sounds like Ronda Byrne's The Secret, doesn't it? So, it's worthwhile to ponder on this. Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 04:35, 3 May 2017 (UTC)

Mnemonic set[edit]

Ms Sarah Welsh: when we take the mnemonic set, samudaya has a double meaning, referring to '_bound together with_ this fleeting world and its unsatisfactoriness [is] longing for this fleeting world (which is utterly foolish, un-arya)', and to the continuation of samsara by this craving (pratitya-samutpada), right? And nirodha refers to the cessation of craving, but also, similar to the previous second meaning, to the reversal of pratitya-samutpada. With other words, the basic set is confusing: dukkha-samutpada is to easily interpreted as "craving causes suffering," while it also means "craving co es with dukkha." Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 16:06, 2 May 2017 (UTC)

@JJ, Yes. Pratītyasamutpāda is not "causality theory" if by "causality" we mean Newtonian mechanics like cause-effect relationship. It is best understood as dependent origination, or dependent arising. This Buddhist idea does have a double meaning, and states that "if this exists, that exists" and "if this ceases to exist, that also ceases to exist." So, dukkha-samutpada would be best interpreted as "if X exists, dukkha exists" and "if X ceases to exist, dukkha also ceases to exist". The wheel is more complicated though, bit differently explained in Theravada / Mahayana / Tibetan / extinct early schools/ etc. The samutpada links go generally as phassa <-> vedana <-> tanha (craving) <-> upadana etc. This is off my recollection, and you would find more in Harvey's Introduction to Buddhism book (he refers to it as Conditioned Arising), and in Jay Garfield's paper on this in Philosophy East and West. Ms Sarah Welch (talk) 16:34, 2 May 2017 (UTC)
Thanks; I'll have to read Norman again, on this basic set. Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 17:12, 2 May 2017 (UTC)

The Vipassana movement and the "pursuit of happiness"[edit]

@Ms Sarah Welch: I think that a few lines have to be added about the Viapssana movement; that's probably from where comes this emphasis om happiness. See:

What do you think? Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 04:08, 3 May 2017 (UTC)

done. Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 06:20, 3 May 2017 (UTC)
Yes, Braun: traditional Theravada deems the attainment of nirvana impossible in our times; the Burmese Vipassana-teachers fundamentally changed this notion, in response to the British colonialism, and the effort to preserve Buddhist society. Blessed are the efforts of scholarship to providd a broader view... Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 07:30, 3 May 2017 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── JJ: Your intent is good, but the article may be better and more stable if we avoid SPS and blogs such as, and instead summarize some peer reviewed RS on this. There was a chapter by Fronsdal in a book edited by Charles Prebish about Vipassana for happiness, with complete silence on rebirth/wheel/hungry ghosts/realms of existence etc. I will locate it, check if he mentioned 4NT, and then update the source/etc later today. Ms Sarah Welch (talk) 11:14, 3 May 2017 (UTC)

Okay. Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 11:25, 3 May 2017 (UTC)
Found the book. FWIW, there has been a vipassana movement in Jainism too! They call their insight meditation as preksa dhyana, and offer a course on "happiness with non-violence" (aka, science of living) as jnana vijnana (it is a sub-tradition within Terapanthis). Not aimed at western audience, but for Jains and non-Jains on the Indian subcontinent. Like the Burmese/Sri Lankan/Indian Buddhists, the rationale of these Jains is the same. Reinterpret. Something very common in all religions and innovators within each. But at least the Jains don't try to rewrite history, and allege that Jinas never taught / discussed rebirth. Not yet that I am aware of! We need to avoid over-weighting the "happiness, no rebirth" parts in this article, though a mention is indeed due. Ms Sarah Welch (talk) 12:08, 3 May 2017 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── JJ: Why do we have Fake Buddha Quotes? Wouldn't something from some RS be better as refn notes? I left that in for now, but am wondering, Ms Sarah Welch (talk) 14:44, 3 May 2017 (UTC)

Just remove it; that's fine. Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 16:42, 3 May 2017 (UTC)

Who is Anderson?[edit]

We use her a lot in this article. According to [3] it´s Carol S. Anderson. Carol Anderson doesn´t seem to fit. If she can´t wikilinked, we should at least cite "professor of whatever at wherever" or somesuch. Gråbergs Gråa Sång (talk) 18:25, 4 May 2017 (UTC)

Ah, that's your point. She's a scholar of religion, and published an extensive study of the four truths. I'll add some info tomorrow. Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 18:35, 4 May 2017 (UTC)
Thank you! I´m reading the article now, but that´s your fault ;-) BTW, what is "six sense spheres" (Alternative formulations section)? Gråbergs Gråa Sång (talk) 18:55, 4 May 2017 (UTC)
Six sense spheres is a vipassana-thingy, probably linked to sadayatanam/salayatanam in Satipatthana-sutta etc. Is it JJ? In the version of this article a year ago, we had "who is Anderson", and the information about a few other scholars named in the article. Someone removed it. Comes and goes!, Ms Sarah Welch (talk) 19:46, 4 May 2017 (UTC)
@Gråbergs Gråa Sång: I've added a few words + references on Anderson.
"Six sense spheres" is indeed ayatana, the five ordinary senses plus the sense for perceiving thoughts. I've added a link. The terms in Four Noble Truths#Alternative formulations all point to the same basic idea of Buddhism, as described in Skandha and Twelve Nidānas: sense-contact with objects leads to sensation, perception, Saṅkhāra ('inclinations', c.q. craving etc.), and consciousness. The Twelve Nidānas describe how this also leads to rebirth: from sensation comes craving, from craving comes karma, from karma comes rebirth. No (response to) sensation, no craving, no karma, no rebirth. That's classical Buddhism in a nutshell!
The term "samudaya" in the four truths also refers to process of sensation > craving > rebirth, I think, and not to a causal chain which literally causes dukkha to come into existence. Dukkha is a quality of (temporary) states and things, not a quality of the craving mind! When the mind has come to peace, dukkha still exists; temporay states and things do not all of a sudden become satisfiable. It is the craving to those temporary states and things which is confined; this gives peace of mind, and breaks the causal (sic) chain. Unfortunately, most explanations of the four truths take "dukkha samudaya" too literal. Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 04:26, 5 May 2017 (UTC)
Well, that was actually quite helpfull, that you pointed to those alternative formulations. Especially asavas makes clear what the four truths point too. It's a nice illustration of why the teachings have to be taken together, and not in isolation, as mere "doctrines." When you know the various meanings and references, you see them all together, also when only one specific set or meaning is presented.
Funny things is, just like the terms "Buddha," "Buddhism" and "enlightenment" quite explicitly state that insight is the main means to liberation, but in practice meditation is important for self-restraint and liberation; so also dukkha takes center-stage in many introductory explanations, but the liberation from rebirth is the real aim. Buddhism is not as clear and univocal as we westerners want to believe; when you take the teachings and stories too literal, you'll be led astray. That's also, I suppose, why teachers are important: theu teach by example, and use the texts as stories, not as dogma. That is, that's what good teachers do, I guess! Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 04:41, 5 May 2017 (UTC)
Looks good! Kalamazoo College, eh? So, where in Australia... Huh. Not Australia. Gråbergs Gråa Sång (talk) 07:48, 5 May 2017 (UTC)

The statement of the four truths[edit]

I've added the following comment: "[This full set,] which is most commonly used in modern expositions,". Together with that comment, I re-inserted part of an old note b by Dorje108, in response to a comment by Robert at Talk:Four Noble Truths#What's wrong - short summary - Four Truths incorrectly stated, Redeath technical, and POV statements on authenticity, subsection "Background - How the Four Noble Truths came to be stated incorrectly in this article":

"The previous lede stated the truths correctly as the truths of suffering (or more generally unsatisfactoriness), origin, cessation and path.[1]. This is how most books, articles and online WP:RS sources introduce them, followed by a detailed exposition of each truth in turn [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] (For many more cites to WP:RS see the old lede's footnote b). Sometimes they are introduced one at a time as section or chapter headings, however it is still the same approach: short form first then exposition. It is hard to find a source that does it in any other way. This is, after all, how Buddha himself taught them according to the Pali canon."

Robert was at least partly correct here: most books etc. do present the four truths in this way. It is how they are presented in the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, which figures prominently at the opening of the article: Four Noble Truths#Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta. But saying that this is how the Buddha presented them needs a qualification; and there are Sutras which present them in another way. As Norman and Anderson, and others, make clear, the four truths probably were not part of the oldest versions of this sutra; there are several versions of the four truths, mnemonic and more expanded; and the four truths may refer to various subjects, not only dukkha. Ironically, Dorje108 stated in that note:

"Contemporary translators have used a number of variations in presenting the essential list (i.e. the names or titles) of the Four Noble Truths."

Actually, they have all presented a quite similar translation of just one list, what Norman called the "full list," with just one subject, namely dukkha. The idea that this is "the essential list" may be a personal conclusion.

So, it's not a matter of stating "the" truths "correctly," as if thre is only one set and one fixed meaning. It's matter of selection from a range of sets, subjects and meanings; only one set with only one subject is usually being presented; and only one translation c.q. interpretation is usually being given. It shows the consequences of relying one-sidedly at one's own understanding of popular sources, and ignoring the scholarly literature, which can give a much broader background. Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 05:19, 5 May 2017 (UTC)

PS: see also Talk:Four Noble Truths/Archive 1#The Fundamental Challenge of this Page. Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 05:47, 5 May 2017 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Yes, it is the interpretation/meaning where the colors and hues emerge, not the "correct statement". The above was clear in this article version last month, and this further clarification is welcome. Let us keep the article size, and the subject focus in perspective, as JimRenge rightly reminds in various Buddhism space articles. Ms Sarah Welch (talk) 15:30, 5 May 2017 (UTC)

Maybe we can split-off the notes to a separate page? ;) Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 15:44, 5 May 2017 (UTC)