The Four Noble Truths – Introduction

Dancing With Life (pp. 1-24)

The Four Noble Truths

After the Buddha was awakened, he gave a discourse called the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta —Setting the Wheel of Dhamma in Motion.  “Setting the Wheel in Motion” means that once insight has been transmitted, the influence of the dhamma has been inaugurated in the world.  The Buddha addressed five disciples after which one of whom, the monk Kondanna attained the first stage of awakening through this transmission.

When the Buddha’s teachings were written down over 500 years after his death, this sutta was included in what is called the The Samyutta Nikaya, the third division of the Sutta Pitaka which is the second division of the Tipitaka or the Pali Canon (the complete discourses of the Buddha.  More information can be found at

In our exploration of the Four Noble Truths, we will be mainly using two commentaries, Dancing with Life by Phillip Moffitt which is based on his teacher’s commentary, The Four Noble Truthspdf_icon, by Venerable Ajahn Sumedho.

The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta

This sutta is widely acknowledged to be the first discourse of the Buddha.  It was given to a group of five monks.  The translated sutta is only 972 words in length and was enough to awaken one of the listeners.

The Buddha mentioned the Four Noble Truths in many of his other teachings. The Sattipatthana Sutta or the Four Foundations of Mindfulness is a significant example of this.

The Twelve Insights

The Buddha’s basic method of teaching was threefold.  He wanted his listeners to (1) hear his discourse, (2) reflect on it to understand and then (3) experience it to know the truth.

Similarly, for each of the Four Noble Truths, there are three insights:  The statement, the prescription (what to do with it), the result of having experienced it to truly know.

Dancing with Life is organized according to the twelve insights.  Each Noble Truth has five chapters devoted to (1) the statement, (2) the reflection (3) experiencing (4) knowing that you know, and (5) summary.



  • Meditate as usual in your daily practice being mindful of what arises and falls away.

Next: The First Noble Truth: Insight 1 There is Suffering