Were the 4 truths originally 6?

so we all know that there are these 4 noble truths; suffering, sufferings arising, sufferings cessation, and the way leading to the cessation of suffering.
but one also sees a very similar form applied to other buddhist topics, such as feelings for example, but it has ‘extra’ bits; feelings, the arising of feelings, the cessation of feelings, the pleasure of feelings, the danger of feelings, and the escape from feelings.
It got me thinking of the relationship between the 2 forms, and it occurred to me that it makes perfect sense that the “6 truths” are the original, because the 2 extra bits, the pleasure and the danger, make no sense (in the first case) or are redundant (in the second) and so for a term like “suffering” they get dropped, and hence we have the 4 noble truths.
Has this thesis been defended before to anyone’s knowledge?
Do people agree, disagree, is it at least a plausible argument?


I think what I am getting at is that this, and many other examples like it, seem to be suggestive of the ETB’s being very much developed and evolved and refined and homogenized from a partly discernible less numerical and formal and more dynamic and analytical picture of the dhamma.

Would love to hear others thoughts.

All together 7 truths are found in SN/SA, e.g.:
Page 36 from The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism Choong Mun-keat 2000.pdf (65.5 KB)

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thank you thomas, yes, that’s very much what I am referring to, however I think the analysis could be applied to more than just the 5 aggregates, it could be applied to almost any phenomena, like food for example.

Yes, the 7 truths are also applied to other phenomena, such as the sense spheres, feeling, according to the findings of the book’s author, Choong Mun-keat, on the main portion of SN/SA suttas.

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And does Choon Mun-keat suggest that this is where the 4 noble truths come from, i.e that they are a truncation of the 7?

I think it is better to see this as different aspects of the known: the aspect of arising, ceasing, gratification, danger and escape. A Buddha knows and sees all these aspects. Delusion is when one here and now does not know and see all these aspect of something known.

For example, we all know the gratification aspect of sensual pleasure but do we also know the danger aspect and is the ceasing aspect part of our perception when we long for sensual pleasure?
Or, we all know the danger of elation and drunkeness but do we also know the gratification of it? Or, we all know the gratification of defending and holding on to certain opinions but do we also know the escape of all opinions? Or, we all know the gratification of the feeling to be mighty and in controll, but do we also see the arising, ceasing and danger in that sense of might and control.

I think it is very true that the Buddha describes how there are all these aspect of something. I personally find this very nice. It is very realistic. It is not judgemental.

Those aspect describe how we perceive something at a certain moment, what kind of sign we see.

The escape refers to the complete abandonment of tanha in relation to what is known.

The origin, cessation, and way to the cessation of the world should also be included. In a way, this subjective view of the world is kind of the elephant’s footprint that encompasses them all.

I wonder if these things were presented differently based on the whether the convert was a brahmin or a Jain. Their concerns and world view would have been very different. I wonder who he would present them to modern westerners. I doubt very much he would have presented them like he did to Brahmins. The notion of Atman is very different than the western view of self.

It never occur to me as 7 truths. I consider gratification, danger and escape as contemplations to help one release the tight grip over pleasant experiences. Normally, one only sees gratification and drift with the objects. However, with the perception of danger, at least it gives an opportunity to counter the natural tendencies. As for the escape, isn’t it the same as the 3rd noble truth, that is, the cessation of craving.


I find this conversation a bit strange, just running with a theory based on a hunch.

Anyway, to improve upon the thread, when quoting the Buddha it’s good, if you can, to share a primary source - perhaps the site linked to this forum, Sutta Central.

The Seven Cases sutta discussed in the link to Fundamental Teachings comes from here.

(The translation in Fundamental Teachings of “the flavour…danger… and giving up”, while technically correct, may be an outlier; Bhante Sujato & Bhikkhu Bodhi say gratification, drawback/danger and escape.)


I agree that ‘flavor’ as a rendering for assāda can be misleading. It seems svad in Sanskrit also has the sense of a sweet or agreeable taste, hence ‘gratification’.
The Pali word rasa seems better connected with “flavor”.

At least in the US, ‘flavor’ has more the sense of a characteristic quality.
Maybe this is a question of regional usage.


It seems more likely that there were a couple lists that were mixed and combined into one big list because they were of similar meaning, which is to describe the process of realizing the nature of phenomenal experience and detaching from it. When we read the SN 22 suttas (and the Agama parallels), there are few different permutations that take place, and largest being the seven items.

There’s another related list that describes the steps of liberation as to correctly observe or understand, become free of desire or disillusioned, stop enjoying, and then to become liberated from phenomenal experience (aggregates, elements, etc.).


That is correct, the noble eightfold path is designed as a ‘banner’ teaching, accessible to all levels. The reduction to dynamics is in the seven factors of awakening, and SN 46.53 separates the factors into two groups the passive and active, with mindfulness the governing factor. It also associates the elements of water with serenity, and fire insight.

The seven factors interact in insight resulting in tranquillity, with ‘investigation’ being the key activity, examining the effects of thoughts connected with either the second or third noble truths. For example this is the underlying process in DN 19, where the Buddha to be describes his thinking approaching awakening:

""And as I remained thus heedful, ardent, & resolute, thinking imbued with renunciation arose in me. I discerned that 'Thinking imbued with renunciation has arisen in me; and that leads neither to my own affliction, nor to the affliction of others, nor to the affliction of both. It fosters discernment, promotes lack of vexation, & leads to Unbinding. "

discerned (investigation, energy, joy)> promotes lack of vexation (tranquillity)

No, he does not suggest that.
The table indicates a list of different numbers of the seven things in different textual contexts. The number ranges from two to seven. The set of four (the five aggregates, their arising, their cessation, and the way to their cessation) is the familiar set of four noble truths:
Page 50 from The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism Choong Mun-keat 2000.pdf (82.7 KB)

Yes, you may refer to these five stages of liberation (p. 53):
Pages 52-3 from The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism Choong Mun-keat 2000.pdf (155.1 KB)

I’m not sure what you mean, I am saying that it appears to me that the pericope of the form "food, the arising of food, the ceasing off food, the attraction, danger and escape from food is of an identical form to “suffering, the arising of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the path leading to the cessation of suffering” if one takes “escape” and “path leading to the cessation” as being synonyms, except for the suffering pericope lacking the attraction and danger parts, and that this would be plausably explained by the fact that saying that suffering is a danger is redundant and saying it has an attraction is nonsensical so it would make sense to leave these two terms out in this case. I am therefore suggesting that the longer 6 item pericope is the original, or at least more generic and widely applicable form and the pericope for suffering the derivitive, and enqueuing if anyone is aware of this thesis being defended before by people interested in examining the EBT’s to try and discover the teachings of the Buddha.
I am not running with the theory, just asking if it’s been suggested before, and I am not sure what you mean by hunch, I have a plausible argument for the thesis.

“When, friends, a noble disciple understands nutriment, the origin of nutriment, the cessation of nutriment, and the way leading to the cessation of nutriment, in that way he is one of right view, whose view is straight, who has unwavering confidence in the Dhamma and has arrived at this true Dhamma."

MN 9 Sammādiṭṭhi Sutta

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I love this one Charlotteannun! I sometimes play with alternate translations of the 12 nidanas using this idea; i.e: Death requires Birth, Birth requires Beings (parents), Beings requires Food, Food requires Hunger, Hunger requires Feeling, Feeling requires Sensation, Sensation requires Senses, Senses requires a Body, a Body requires a Mind, a Mind requires Intention, Intention requires an Unknown.

I find that trying out different “translations” like that helps me get a feeling for the idea.

just in terms of the original post, the food example works with the 6 form; the origin of food (hunger), the cessation of food (cessation of hunger) the attraction of food (tasty!) the danger of food (continued being prone to hunger, distress starvation) and the way leading to the cessation of food (freeing oneself of attachment to hunger-food)

Thank you for taking the time to reply to me, I am conscious that I may be somewhat “hot-headed” but the discovery of this forum and the opportunity to discuss dhamma with such knowledgeable people has caused a great deal of excitement in me :slight_smile:
much love.

I think a more closely parallel form for the 4NT is the four skills of a physician

There are many, many other suttas that simply list “the gratification, danger and the escape with regards to XXX”, so I think it much more likely that this “super list” was made by combining these two (normally separate) lists (which happens all the time in the Pāḷi Canon) than for the early monks and nuns to have systematically chopped off a third of the central teaching of the Buddha in all cases except this one. :laughing:


Thank you Khemerato bhikku! I am sure your right, I have an overactive imagination :slight_smile: