The four noble truths are the most widely recognized teaching of the Buddha today. This book is the first comprehensive study of the teaching as it appears in the Tipitaka, the canon of the Theravada Buddhism. By first identifying the four noble truths as a "right view", the author traces the teaching throughout the canon and the commentaries. There are two distinct patterns that the four noble truths follow: first, they appear in stories of the Buddha's biography as a symbol of his enlightenment; and a second, they appear in extended networks of the Buddha's teachings as propositions of doctrine.
Surveying the breadth of scholarship on the four noble truths, the book argues that the four noble truths have been identified as the central teaching of the Buddha because they have been interpreted according to their symbolic function in the Tipitaka. The book concludes that the historical claim that the four noble truths are the first teaching of the Buddha is less compelling than the fact that the teaching functions both as a symbol and as a proposition within the Theravada tradition. Even the categories of symbol and proposition, however in order to fully grasp the range of meanings encompassed by the category of "right view".
About the Author:
Professor Carol Anderson teaches in the Department of Religion, Kalamazoo College, Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA.
Introduction: A Historical Context for the Four Noble Truths
Chapter 1: Cultivating Religious Experiences: Doctorine and Ditthi
Chapter 2: Stories and Symbols of the Buddha's Enlightenment
Chapter 3: Analyzing the Four Noble Truths
Chapter 4: Abhidhamma Analysis of the Four Noble Truths
Chapter 5: The Four Noble Truths and the Path
Chapter 6: Studies of the Four Noble Truths in Europe and the United States
Chapter 7: Symbols, Propositions and Religious Experiences
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