The Origin of Distress

2nd Noble Truth



1st translation (Jennings): Again, bikkhus, this is the Noble Truth as to the origin of sorrow (dukkha samudayam ariya­saccam); it is this recurring (pono bbhavikā) craving (tanhā=hunger or thirst) associated with enjoy­ment, and desire, seeking enjoyment (nandi = pleasure) everywhere, namely, the craving for sense-pleasures (kama-tanhā), the craving for individual existence (bhava-tanhā), the craving for non-(possibly super-) existence (vibhava-tanhā).


2nd translation (PTS). “This, O bhikkhus, is the Noble Truth of the Cause of Suffering: craving (tanhā = hunger or thirst) that leads to re-birth, accompanied by pleasure and lust, finding its delight here and there. This craving is threefold, namely, craving for pleasure, craving for existence, craving for prosperity.”


Re-read (the umbrella term) suffering to mean (the umbrella term) distress.


The above appears to have been the village pitch. It doesn’t really come off in that distress results not from craving but from the inability either to satisfy craving or to respond to the stress caused by insatiable craving

Note the solution to craving described in the 4th Noble Truth. There one would expect to find ‘the elimination of craving’ but discovers, to one’s surprise, the Nobel 8-fold Path (i.e. attainment (i.e. success) procedures). Elimination of craving, as one can read, is not a step on the Noble 8-fold Path.


The 2nd Noble Truth purporting to describe the Origin of Distress is only one of several origins of Distress (of dukkha) described elsewhere and not included in the above list, to wit:


Distress (Pali: dukkha, meaning either distress or dissatisfaction) results from:


1.     Greed (lobha), hatred (dosa) and delusion (moha)

2.     Anatta (not-self, actually: not (my) own)

3.     Anicca (transience)

4.     Ignorance (avijjā) (See: Dependent Origination)

5.     The 4 taints (i.e. asavas), i.e. sense desire, desiring existence, wrong views and ignorance   

6.     The 5 hindrances, i.e. desire for sensuality, ill will, lethargy-and-drowsiness, agitation-and-worry, and uncertainty

7.     The 10 defilements

8.     1st Noble Truth, to wit, the examples given are all causes of distress

9.     Non-attainment (i.e. imperfection)

10.‘vana’ (blowing), i.e. absence of nir-‘vana’ (not blowing)

11.The unanswered questions



Since the primary cause of distress derives from anicca, i.e. transience (“What is transient is (dis-)tress, what is (dis-)tress is not-SELF”* S.35:1; 22.46, consequently, transience = not-SELF; and: “A thing arises because of conditions; it ceases when the conditions for its arising cease!”), it would appear that the 2nd Noble was (indeed, the 4 Noble Truths were) designed later for the laity and was (or were) not the Tathagata’s original teaching (to his immediate followers) about distress and how to end it.


* … Note the extremeness (or absoluteness) of the statement (with or without the ad-in is): “What is transient is distress, what is distress is not-SELF”. The true Middle Way expression would go: “What is transient may lead to (i.e. cause) distress, what is experienced as distressful may be not-SELF. The notion that transience = distress = not-SELF was an ancient Indian premise ‘being un-apprehendable as true’. The notion was both put forward as true and disputed as true by the inventors of the Upanishads, to wit: ‘All (and which includes dukkha) is Brahman’, and ‘Brahman = atman’ (i.e. SELF ).


The 4 Noble Truths should read (New Buddhism):


1.     Distress happens.

2.     Distress is caused by the inability to cope with stress.

3.     There is an end to distress.

4.     Distress is ended by ending stress (i.e. by overcoming the stressor, to wit: problem solving; by eliminating the stressor; by not responding to the stressor, for instance, by distracting from the stressor; by not responding psychologically to the stressor. In short, by avoiding stress.



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