Book of Analysis, the truths (Vb 4): translator's introduction

By Waltham St. Lawrence

(4) Analysis Of The Truths (Saccavibhaṅga).

Of the detailed analysis of The Four Noble Truths which is dealt with in this vibhaṅga, little need be said, for as primary [xxxi] teachings in the Sutta Piṭaka they are universally known. However, it should here be observed that whereas the preceding vibhaṅgas have concentrated on what might seem to be the more material and tangible aspects of the conditioned state, this chapter makes clear statement of that salient point of the Buddha's Teaching that suffering (dukkha) is to an equal and inseparable degree a major constituent of that same conditioned state.

In this chapter the difference in method of analysis between Suttanta and Abhidhamma is very apparent. In the Analysis According to the Discourses the method is very clearly one of dealing with each truth separately and treating with them in terms of everyday inquiry, In the first truth, suffering (dukkha) is defined as birth, ageing and death, sorrow, lamentation, physical and mental pain and despair, association with the disliked and separation from the liked. Each of these is given a clear and individual explanation so that no mistake can be made in interpreting the meaning intended in terms of ordinary usage; more-over, as in all cases of Suttanta analysis, it shows how the particular condition manifests itself. As Aṭṭhasālinī, the commentary on Dhammasaṅgaṇī, says, one of the meanings implicit in the word 'sutta' is that it 'shows' (sūceti), therefore Suttanta analysis expresses the way in which a particular term 'shows' or 'manifests' itself.

In this vibhaṅga also, in the section dealing with the way leading to the cessation of suffering, is given for the first time a clear statement and analysis of the Noble Eight Constituent Path.

In Analysis According to Abhidhamma the method, as might be expected from what has been said earlier, changes from a statement of the manifestation of a particular term to its meaning within the framework of the absolute conditions laid down in Abhidhamma teaching, and more particularly in Dhammasaṅgaṇī. It is noteworthy that in this particular analysis it is the question, "What is the cause of suffering?" which is placed first, and not, "What is suffering?". The reason for this is that the eradication of cause and not its manifestations is the important consideration. The cause of suffering is craving (taṇhā), and it is the destruction of this craving, as will be clearly seen from the later chapter on Dependent Origination, which is the cessation of the whole process of becoming with its attendant suffering. Herein the [xxxii] statement and understanding of cause is of much greater importance from a practical point of view than is its manifestation, suffering.

With regard to the order of vibhaṅgas in the text the question may be asked as to why Analysis of the Truths is placed before Analysis of the Controlling Faculties, when in subject matter this latter would seem to be more nearly related to Bases and Elements and might be thought, therefore, should be placed next to them. The reason for this is purely one of numerical arrangement. As explained earlier, the individual vibhaṅgas are grouped first into three main groups and then into separate vibhaṅgas arranged in descending order of the number of modes of analysis. The first three vibhaṅgas, Khandha, Āyatana and Dhātu each have three, so also has Sacca, Indriya, however, has only two. Analysis of the Truths, therefore, for this numerical reason only is placed before Analysis of the Controlling Faculties.