What are the Four Noble Truths in Buddhism?

The reality of suffering, the impermanence of the world, the liberation that comes by eliminating desire, and the necessity of following the Noble Eightfold Path are the four cornerstones of nearly all forms of Buddhism. These are the Four Noble Truths. They are buttressed by a belief in reincarnation (samsara) and Nirvana, the elimination of all desire and suffering.

Experiencing these truths is more important than believing in them, Buddhism says.

The reality of suffering (dukkha) incorporates anxiety, frustration, and dissatisfaction. Buddhism teaches that suffering stems from wrong desires and expectations, specifically due to the temporary nature of all things. This is central to Buddhist belief and is Buddhists' explanation of what is wrong with humanity—suffering caused by desire for that which is temporary.

This impermanence (anicca or tanha) is applied to all things, including self. Nothing in the universe is unchanging or permanent according to Buddhist thought. It's easy to see why negative desires are harmful, but Buddhism also teaches that positive desires are also based on the temporary and therefore also contribute to the cycle of reincarnation and dukkha. This is the Second Noble Truth.

The cycle of suffering, death, and rebirth can only be broken by eliminating all desire for temporal things, the Third Noble Truth.

Fourthly, the Noble Eightfold Path is the way to remove desire from a person's experience. These include right views, right intent, right speech, right behavior, right livelihood, right effort, right awareness, and right meditation.

Buddhists teach that following the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path is the way to eliminate the cycle of reincarnation and reach Nirvana—a state of complete absence of desire. Here, one ceases to exist.

As with many major worldviews, not everything in this teaching is contrary to the Bible. Life does include suffering, and much of that is based on sinful desires (Romans 13:14; Galatians 5:17). Many things in this life are not permanent and shouldn't be invested in (Matthew 6:19–20). Our lives are brief and often changing (James 4:14). However, on the matters of eternity and how one is transformed, the Four Noble Truths are drastically different from biblical truth.

The Bible reveals the one, true God who is eternal and does not change. He communicates His desire for relationship with people and how that relationship may be kept right. Those who follow His prescription will enter into an eternal relationship with Him and ultimately live with Him in heaven forever (Matthew 25:21; John 4:14; 10:28). Those who do not follow His prescription, who reject it and the God who wrote it, will also live eternally, but separated from God (2 Thessalonians 1:9). Contrary to reincarnation, the Bible says that each person will die once, then face judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

Additionally, the Bible teaches that life can be enjoyed (John 10:10). Not all desire is wrong (Psalm 37:4). Our lives on earth have value and merit and can be lived for the glory of Christ (Philippians 1:21; Colossians 3:17). The problem with humanity is not desire, but sin. And the only solution to that problem is salvation through Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Ephesians 2:8–10).

Both Christianity and Buddhism teach that people need to be transformed in their attitudes, desires, and behavior. Buddhism teaches that this can be done by eliminating self through willpower and discipline, while Christianity teaches this can be done only with the intervention of God Himself (1 Corinthians 6:11; Romans 12:2). Christianity also teaches that each person is created individually (Psalm 139:13) and has value and meaning (Genesis 1:26–27; Matthew 5:22). The self does not need to be eliminated, but regenerated and sanctified through the work of Jesus Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18; 5:17–21). Humans are made for the glory of God and can delight in Him for eternity. Rather than annihilate the self by eliminating desire, we are to be transformed and restored by the God who created us.

Related Truth:

What do Buddhists believe? What is Buddhism?

What is the Noble Eightfold Path in Buddhism?

What is Nirvana in Buddhism?

Why should a Buddhist consider becoming a Christian?

There are so many different religions; how do I know which one is right?

Return to:
Truth about Religion

Subscribe to the CompellingTruth.org Newsletter:

Preferred Bible Version:

CompellingTruth.org is a ministry of