The Sixteen Elements of the Four Noble Truths

Real Sufferings Real sufferings(sdug-bsngal bden-pa, Skt.du: kha-satya)describe the five tainted aggregate elements of experience (zag-bcas-kyi phung-po lnga, five polluted skandhas). The five aggregate factors are kinds of physical phenomena, sensation levels of happiness or distress, distinguishing (acknowledgment), other affecting variables (volitions), and types of consciousness. “Tainted” suggests that they emerge from disturbing feelings and mindsets (nyon-mongs, Skt. klesha, afflictive feelings).

[See: Standard Plan of the Five Aggregates. See also: Tainted and Untainted Phenomena]

The 4 aspects of real sufferings are:

  1. Nonstatic phenomena (mi-rtag-pa, Skt. anitya, impermanence)– the five tainted aggregate aspects are nonstatic phenomena, which are temporary and modification from minute to minute. Any set of five aggregates in a particular life time eventually concerns an end and, in each minute, it is drawing closer to that end.
  2. Miserable phenomena (sdug-bsngal-ba, Skt. du: kha, suffering)– the 5 polluted aggregate elements are phenomena that go through one or more of the 3 types of suffering with no break in connection. Thus, they are miserable phenomena because they are under the control of other elements (specifically, real origins of suffering) that cause them to be polluted. The three kinds of suffering are unhappiness, change (referring to tainted joy), and all-pervasively impacting suffering (describing the 5 aggregates being the basis for the first two types of suffering).
  3. Space phenomena (stong-pa, Skt. shunya, empty)– the 5 polluted aggregate elements are devoid of a gross difficult “soul”– a fixed, monolithic self (“me”) that is a separate entity, independent from the 5 aggregates, occupying, owning, managing and using the 5.
  4. Phenomena lacking an impossible “soul” (bdag-med-pa, Skt. anatmaka, selfless)– the 5 polluted aggregate factors do not have a subtle impossible “soul”– a self-sufficiently knowable self (“me”) (rang-rkya thub-pa’i rdzas-yod-kyi bdag).

There are alternative explanations of the 3rd and 4th aspects. “The five polluted aggregate elements being void phenomena” means that, in relation to the five, there is no such thing as an impossible soul that is either one with them (precisely the like them) or totally various (fully different) from them. “The five tainted aggregate factors being phenomena that lack an impossible soul” indicates the decisive understanding of the total absence of an impossible soul, based upon the 3rd aspect of real sufferings as the line of reasoning. The definitive understanding is that the 5 polluted aggregate elements are totally lacking an impossible soul, because such a soul can not be established as being either exactly the same as these aggregates or completely different from them.

In this solution, the impossible soul is the same in both the third and fourth aspects. Depending upon the tenet system, the impossible soul may be the subtle difficult soul of an individual– particularly a self-sufficiently knowable “me”– or it might be the difficult soul of all phenomena, as specified by that system.

True Origins (Real Causes)

Real origins (kun-‘byung bden-pa, Skt. samudaya-satya, real causes) for suffering refer in general to the disturbing feelings and mindsets and to karmic impulses (karma).

More specifically, “troubling emotions and mindsets” refer to craving (sred-pa, Skt. trshnaʼ, thirsting), the eighth of the twelve links of dependent emerging (rten-‘brel ‘byung-ba, Skt. pratityasamutpada). Comparable to accessory (chags-pa), craving manifests as clinging (a) not to be parted from ordinary types of happiness, (b) to be separated from what is afraid, specifically discomfort and misery, and (c) to continue having further presence.

“Karmic impulses,” here, refers more particularly to the 2nd link of reliant occurring– affecting impulses (‘du-byed, Skt. samskara, volitional aspects)– and the tenth link– further existence (srid-pa, Skt. bhava, becoming). “Affecting impulses” describe tossing karma (‘phen-byed-kyi las), which are karmic impulses highly motivated by disturbing feelings and attitudes. The karmic consequences of these impulses (the favorable and negative karmic forces and the positive and unfavorable karmic propensities or seeds) can “throw” our mental continuums into additional samsaric renewals. Yearning activates this karmic aftermath; while the link of additional presence describes this activated karmic after-effects. This mechanism is the cause of the all-pervasively impacting suffering of continuing to have actually polluted aggregate factors that are the basis for the suffering of misery and change.

[See: Perpetuating Samsara: The 12 Hyperlinks of Dependent Arising]

The four elements of true origins are:

  1. Causes (rgyu, Skt. hetu)– yearning, for example, is a cause for true sufferings in the sense that, together with an obtainer (len-pa, Skt. upadana, understanding), the ninth link of reliant occurring, it activates throwing karma. The triggered throwing karma then ripens into an additional samsaric renewal. Thus, craving is often defined as the “root of all suffering.” “Obtainers” refer to a set of troubling emotions and mindsets. They include (a) desire for some sensory things, (b) a distorted outlook, extreme outlook, or holding a deluded outlook as supreme, (c) holding misguided morality or conduct as supreme, and (d) a deluded outlook toward a temporal network.
  2. Origins (kun-‘byung, Skt. samudaya)– craving, obtainer disturbing feelings and mindsets, and karmic impulses are the origins from which emerge, over and once again, all the real sufferings of duplicated samsaric renewal.
  3. Strong manufacturers (rab-skyes, Skt. prabhava)– craving and karmic impulses, both in basic and specific instances of them, highly bring about the production of strong sufferings as their outcome.
  4. Conditions (rkyen, Skt. pratyaya)– craving and obtainers are the all at once acting conditions (lhan-cig byed-pa’i rkyen, Skt. sahakaripratyaya) for the arising of more samsaric rebirth and the true sufferings that such rebirth entails. This indicates that craving and an obtainer disturbing feeling or attitude should be present for karmic consequences to be triggered and to function as a throwing karmic impulse. This is like the requirement for water and fertilizer to be present for a seed to sprout into a sprout.

Real Stoppings (Real Cessations)

Real stoppings (‘gog-pa’i bden-pa, Skt. nirodha-satya, real cessations) of true sufferings and real origins take place on the psychological continuums of aryas (extremely recognized practitioners with nonconceptual cognition of the sixteen elements of the 4 worthy realities) through the power of their application of opponent forces. Real stoppings are static phenomena, which never change and which last forever. Therefore, when they are present on somebody’s mental continuum, real sufferings and true origins never ever happen once again. More particularly, they are stoppings of parts of either psychological or cognitive obscuration.

The 4 elements of true preventings are:

  1. Stoppings (‘gog-pa, Skt. nirodha)– true preventings are preventings of a part of true sufferings and real origins on someone’s psychological continuum, such that, due to the fact that of the opponent forces looked for the true stoppings to occur, absolutely nothing remains on that continuum for there to be a recurrence of that portion of suffering or its origin.
  2. Pacifications (zhi-ba Skt. shanta)– real preventings are pacifications in the sense that, because the psychological continuums on which they take place are totally rid forever of a part of real sufferings and real origins, they are states of everlasting peace. Keep in mind that in Buddhist technical terminology, a riddance (spong-ba, Skt. hani, abandonment) is a parting (bral-ba, Skt. visamyoga, separation) that is fixed– imperishable and long lasting permanently.
  3. Superior states (gya-nom-pa, Skt. pranita)– true stoppings transcend states that are spotless given that they are parted forever from a part of troubling emotions and mindsets. In addition, they are euphoric considering that they are parted forever from the real sufferings caused by that part of disturbing feelings and mindsets.
  4. Definite emergences (nges-‘byung, Skt. nihsarana)– real stoppings are certain developments from the sufferings of samsara in the sense that they last permanently.

Real Pathway Minds (True Paths)

Real pathway minds (lam-gyi bden-pa, Skt. marga-satya, true courses) refer to the seeing path minds (mthong-lam, course of seeing), accustoming path minds (sgom-lam, course of meditation), and path minds requiring no additional training (mi-slob lam, course of no more learning) of shravakas, pratyekabuddhas, and bodhisattvas. Simply put, they refer to the pathway minds of all aryas. Therefore, pathway minds refer more particularly to the minds that have non-conceptual discriminating awareness of the sixteen elements of the 4 worthy truths.

The 4 elements of real path minds are:

  1. Path minds (lam, Skt. marga)– true path minds, being non-conceptual cognitions of the lack of an impossible soul, serve as pathways for leaving the state of being a regular being and attaining the state of an arya and onwards. “Onwards” refers to advancing to the goal of either liberation as a shravaka or pratyekabuddha arhat or knowledge as a Buddha.
  2. Appropriate ways (rigs-pa, Skt. nyaya)– true path minds have the discriminating awareness of the real sufferings and real origins that are suitable to eliminate and the proper opponents that get rid of them forever.
  3. Way for actualizations (sgrubs-pa, Skt. pratipatti)– real pathway minds are implies for actualizing appropriate non-conceptual realizations in order to actualize the state of an arya, and the objective of either freedom or knowledge. In the Mahayana context, this entails, for bodhisattvas, an appropriate awareness of the void nature of the mind.
  4. Method for certain removals (nges-‘byin-pa, Skt. nairyanika)– true path minds are means for definitely removing permanently all obscurations preventing the attainment of those goals.


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