Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta: The Sermon on the Four Noble Truths

The discourse of setting the wheel of Dhamma in motion

translated from the Pali by Piyadassi Thera

Thus have I heard:

On one occasion the Blessed One was living in the Deer Park in Isipatana, near Benares. Then he addressed the group of five monks:

“Monks, these two extremes ought not to be practiced by one who has gone forth from the household life. There is addiction to indulgence of sense-pleasures, which is low, coarse, the way of ordinary people, unworthy and unprofitable; and there is addiction to self-mortification, which is painful, unworthy and unprofitable.

“Avoiding both of these extremes, the Tathagata (The Perfect One) has realized the Middle Path, which gives vision, gives knowledge, and which leads to calm, insight, enlightenment and nirvana. And what is that Middle Path realized by the Tathagata which gives vision, gives knowledge, and which leads to calm, insight, enlightenment and nirvana? It is the Noble Eightfold path and no other: namely, right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness (samyak-smrti) and right concentration (samyak-samadhi).[1] This is the Middle Path realized by the Tathagata which gives vision, gives knowledge, and which leads to calm, insight, enlightenment, nirvana.

“The Noble Truth of Suffering, monks, is this: birth is suffering, aging is suffering, sickness is suffering, death is suffering, association with what is disliked is suffering, separation from what is cherished is suffering, not obtaining what one desires is suffering — in brief the five grasping skandhas are suffering.

“The Noble Truth of the Cause of Suffering is this: it is this craving (tanha) which leads to rebirth (ponobhavika), accompanied by desire and enjoyment, finding delight here or there, namely: craving for the sensual (kama-tanha),[2] craving for being (bhava-tanha), craving for not being (vibhava-tanha).

“The Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering is this: regarding this very craving [it is] remainderless fading away, cessation, giving up, relinquishment, emancipation, non-abiding (caga, patinissagga, mutti, analaya).[3]

“The Noble Truth of the Path Leading to the Cessation of Suffering is this: it is the Noble Eightfold Path and no other: namely, right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.

Observe the nature of want: it comes from nothing. So what comes of nothing must be purged from the soul, for so long as there is such want in you, you are not God’s son. Man laments and is sorrowful solely on account of want. And so for man to become the son of God, all of that must be purged and cast out, so that there is no more sorrow and lamentation. – Meister Eckhart, Sermon Seven

“‘This is the Noble Truth of Suffering’: such was the vision, the knowledge, the wisdom, the science, the light that arose in me concerning things not heard before. ‘This Noble Truth of Suffering should be fully understood’: such was the vision, the knowledge, the wisdom, the science, the light that arose in me concerning things not heard before. ‘This Noble Truth of Suffering has been fully understood’: such was the vision, the knowledge, the wisdom, the science, the light that arose in me concerning things not heard before.

“‘This is the Noble Truth of the Cause of Suffering’: such was the vision, the knowledge, the wisdom, the science, the light that arose in me concerning things not heard before. ‘This Noble Truth of the Cause of Suffering should be abandoned’ (pahatabba): such was the vision, the knowledge, the wisdom, the science, the light that arose in me concerning things not heard before. ‘This Noble Truth of the Cause of Suffering has been abandoned’: such was the vision, the knowledge, the wisdom, the science, the light that arose in me concerning things not heard before.

“‘This is the Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering’: such was the vision, the knowledge, the wisdom, the science, the light that arose in me concerning things not heard before. ‘This Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering should be realized’ (sacchikatabba): such was the vision, the knowledge, the wisdom, the science, the light that arose in me concerning things not heard before. ‘This Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering has been realized’: such was the vision, the knowledge, the wisdom, the science, the light that arose in me concerning things not heard before.

“‘This is the Noble Truth of the Path to the Cessation of Suffering’: such was the vision, the knowledge, the wisdom, the science, the light that arose in me concerning things not heard before. ‘This Noble Truth of the Path to the Cessation of Suffering should be brought into being’ (bhavitabba–lit. ‘cultivated’): such was the vision, the knowledge, the wisdom, the science, the light that arose in me concerning things not heard before. ‘This Noble Truth of the Path to the Cessation of Suffering has been brought into being’: such was the vision, the knowledge, the wisdom, the science, the light that arose in me concerning things not heard before.

“For as long as my knowledge of seeing things as they really are was not perfectly clear in these three aspects, in these twelve ways concerning the Four Noble Truths,[4] I did not claim to have realized anuttara samyak-sambodhi, in this world with its gods, with its maras and brahmas,[5] in this generation with its recluses and brahmanas,[6] with its devas and humans. But when my knowledge of seeing things as they really are was quite clear in these three aspects, in these twelve ways, concerning the Four Noble Truths, then I claimed to have realized anuttara samyak-sambodhi in this world with its gods, with its maras and brahmas, in this generation with its recluses and brahmanas, with its devas and humans. And a vision of insight arose in me thus: ‘Unshakable is the deliverance of my heart. This is the last birth. Now there is no further becoming.'”

This the Blessed One said. The five monks were glad, and they rejoiced at the words of the Blessed One.

When this discourse was thus expounded there arose in the Venerable Kondañña the passion-free, stainless vision of truth; in other words, he attained the first stage of sainthood and realized: “Whatever has the nature of arising has the nature of ceasing.”

Now when the Blessed One had set in motion the Wheel of Truth (dhammacakkappavattana), the earthly deities proclaimed: “The Unsurpassed Wheel of Truth that cannot be set in motion by recluse, brahmana, deva, mara, brahma, or anyone in the world, has been set in motion by the Blessed One in the Deer Park in Isipatana, near Benares.”

Hearing these words of the earth deities, all the devas of the higher realms proclaimed: “The Unsurpassed Wheel of Truth that cannot be set in motion by recluse, brahmana, deva, mara, brahma or anyone in the world has been set in motion by the Blessed One in the Deer Park in Isipatana, near Benares.” These words were heard in the higher realms, and from Catummaharajika it was proclaimed in Tavatimsa… Yama… Tusita… Nimmanarati… Paranimmita-vasavatti… and the brahmas of Brahma Parisajja… Brahma Purohita… Maha Brahma… Parittabha… Appamanabha… Abhassara… Parittasubha… Appamana subha… Subhakinna… Vehapphala… Aviha… Atappa… Sudassa… Sudassi… and in Akanittha: “The Unsurpassed Wheel of Truth that cannot be set in motion by recluse, brahmana, deva, mara, brahma, or anyone in the world, has been set in motion by the Blessed One in the Deer Park in Isipatana, near Benares.”

Thus at that very moment, at that instant, the cry spread as far as Brahma realm, the system of ten thousand worlds trembled and quaked and shook. A boundless sublime radiance surpassing the power of devas appeared in the world.

Then the Blessed One uttered this paean of joy: “Verily Kondañña has realized, verily Kondañña has realized.” Thus it was that the Venerable Kondañña received the name, “Añña Kondañña’ — Kondañña who realizes.”

Notes

1. Samyak: consummate, perfect.

2. Though kama originally referred to lustful desire, in Buddhism the term refers to the fields of the senses: the visual field, the auditory field, scents, flavors and sensations in general. Kama-raga is another term for desire for the sensory.

3. Craving and ignorance are two of the twelve links of the chain of dependent arising–paticca-samuppada. According to the sutras, eliminating either craving or ignorance destroys the entire chain, and as a matter of fact, it is easier to eliminate craving for the sensual realm if one believes that it is all illusion!

But with the remainder-less fading away and cessation of ignorance there is cessation of expectations; with the cessation of expectations, phenomena (vijnana); with the cessation of phenomena, name-and-form; with the cessation of name-and-form, the six sense-domains; with the cessation of the six sense-domains, contact; with the cessation of contact, feeling; with the cessation of feeling, craving; with the cessation of craving, clinging; with the cessation of clinging, existence; with the cessation of existence, birth; with the cessation of birth, aging-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair cease. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering.”  (SN 12.1 Paṭiccasamuppāda Sutta: Dependent Origination)

4. The twelve ways: the application of the three aspects of knowledge to the Four Noble Truths.

1. The knowledge that it is the truth (sacca-ñana).
2. The knowledge of the function of the truth (kicca-ñana).
3. The knowledge that it has been accomplished (kata-ñana).

5. Brahma: an inhabitant of the form realm (heavens). “The gods who have cut through desire for the sensual (raga) are all called Brahma, and it is said that these Brahmas dwell in the form realm (rupadhatu).”

6. Brahmana: One who has eliminated desire for the sensual. “And so the fact of having cut through sensual desire is called brahmacarya and those who have cut through it are called brahmanas.” https://www.wisdomlib.org/definition/brahmana

Pali text: Buddha Vacana (http://www.buddha-vacana.org/sutta/samyutta/maha/sn56-011.html)

©1999 Buddhist Publication Society.
You may copy, reformat, reprint, republish, and redistribute this work in any medium whatsoever, provided that: (1) you only make such copies, etc. available free of charge and, in the case of reprinting, only in quantities of no more than 50 copies; (2) you clearly indicate that any derivatives of this work (including translations) are derived from this source document; and (3) you include the full text of this license in any copies or derivatives of this work. Otherwise, all rights reserved. Documents linked from this page may be subject to other restrictions. From The Book of Protection, translated by Piyadassi Thera (Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society, 1999). Copyright © 1999 Buddhist Publication Society. Used with permission. Last revised for Access to Insight on 30 November 2013.
How to cite this document (a suggested style): “Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta: Setting in Motion the Wheel of Truth” (SN 56.11), translated from the Pali by Piyadassi Thera. Access to Insight (BCBS Edition), 30 November 2013, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn56/sn56.011.piya.html .

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