According to the Saṃyukta Āgama of the Sarvāstivāda school, the basic teachings of the Four Noble Truths are:
1.Thus is the Noble Truth of Suffering
2.Thus is the Noble Truth of the Accumulation of Suffering
3.Thus is the Noble Truth of the Elimination of Suffering
4.Thus is the Noble Truth of the Path that Leads Away from Suffering
The Sanskrit and Pali words satya and sacca, respectively, mean both "truth" and "real" or "actual thing." With that in mind, one scholar argues that the four noble truths are not asserted as propositional truths or creeds, but as "true things" or "realities" that the Buddha experienced. The original Tibetan Lotsawas (Sanskrit: locchāwa; Tibetan: lo ts'a ba), who studied Sanskrit grammar thoroughly, used the Tibetan term bden pa, which reflects this understanding.
Four Noble Truths definations
Some versions of the Dharmacakra Pravartana Sutra contain definitions of the Four Noble Truths while others do not. For example, the Sarvastivadin versions portrays the truths as principles to be contemplated in various methods, and no definitions are given. In the Theravada version and the version translated by An Shigao, the Four Noble Truths are given definitions:
1.The Nature of Suffering (or Dukkha):
"This is the noble truth of suffering: birth is suffering, aging is suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair are suffering; union with what is displeasing is suffering; separation from what is pleasing is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering; in brief, the five aggregates subject to clinging are suffering." or simply " There is suffering in life for all beings."
2.Suffering's Origin (Dukkha Samudaya):
"This is the noble truth of the origin of suffering: it is this craving which leads to renewed existence, accompanied by delight and lust, seeking delight here and there, that is, craving for sensual pleasures, craving for existence, craving for extermination." or simply " There is a cause of suffering, which is attachment and desire."
"This is the noble truth of the cessation of suffering: it is the remainderless fading away and cessation of that same craving, the giving up and relinquishing of it, freedom from it, nonreliance on it." or simply " There is a way out of suffering, which is to eliminate attachment and desire."
4.The Path (Dukkha Nirodha Gamini Patipada Magga) Leading to the Cessation of Suffering:
"This is the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering: it is the Noble Eightfold Path; that is, right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration."
Relation to the Eightfold Noble Path
In the version of the Dharmacakra Pravartana Sūtra contained in the extant Saṃyukta Āgama, there is no mention of the Noble Eightfold Path. Instead, contemplation of the Four Noble Truths is taken to be the path itself.
The Four Noble Truths and the Lotus Sutra
The Lotus Sutra's text views the Four Noble Truths as the first teaching of the Buddha, but not the final teaching. In Chapter 3, Similes and Parables, the Sutra introduces what it calls "the most wonderful / the unsurpassed great Law":
In the past at Varanasi/ you turned the wheel of the Law of the Four Noble Truths/ , making distinctions/ preaching that all things are born and become extinct,/ being made up of the five components/ Now you turn the wheel of the most wonderful/ the unsurpassed great Law/.This Law is very profound and abstruse;/ there are few who can believe it/ Since times past often we have heard/ the World-Honored One's preaching,/ but we have never heard/ this kind of profound, wonderful and superior Law./ Since the World-Honored One preaches this Law,/ we all welcome it with joy.
Nichiren, whose teachings were based on the Lotus Sutra, stated in his letter "Comparison of the Lotus and Other Sutras" that the doctrine of the Four Noble Truths was expounded especially for the Voice-Hearers or Sravaka disciples, while the Lotus Sūtra was taught equally for all.
This outline form is exactly that used by doctors of the Buddha's culture when diagnosing and prescribing for a disease: identify the disease, its cause, whether it is curable, and the prescribed cure. Thus the Buddha treats suffering as a "disease" we can confidently expect to cure.
Because of its focus on suffering, Buddhism is often called pessimistic. But since Gautama Buddha presented a cure, Buddhists consider it neither pessimistic nor optimistic but realistic.
The Four Noble Truths was the topic of the first sermon given by the Buddha after his enlightenment. He gave the sermon to the ascetics with whom he had practiced austerities.