Points of Controversy

6.3. Of the Four Truths

Controverted Point: That the Four Truths are unconditioned.

Theravādin: Do you then also admit not one, but four Nibbānas? For if you do, is there among these four a boundary, division, line or interstice, different degrees as to loftiness, excellence or sublimity?…

You affirm, do you not, that each Truth is unconditioned. Take the first Truth on the fact and nature of Suffering: is Suffering itself unconditioned? You deny—that is, you mean that bodily suffering, mental suffering, grief, lamentation, melancholy or despair is conditioned? Or the second Truth on the cause of Suffering—is that cause unconditioned? You deny… . Then you must equally deny that desires of sense, desire for after-life, or desire to end life, is unconditioned? Or the fourth Truth of the Path to Cessation of Suffering—is the Path itself unconditioned? You deny… . Then you do not mean that right views, right intentions… right samādhi are unconditioned?

You admit then that Suffering, its Cause, the Path are conditioned, and all the factors of those facts are conditioned, but deny that the abstract statement of each fact as a “Truth” is conditioned—which cannot be… .

Take now the Third Truth on the Cessation of Suffering—is Cessation unconditioned? “Yes,” you say? Why then, if the First Truth is unconditioned, is not Suffering unconditioned? Or the Cause? Or the Path? In all but the Third Truth, you maintain that the true thing is conditioned—why not in the Third?

Pubbaseliyas: But if I am wrong, why was it said by the Exalted One:

“These four things, bhikkhus, are stable, constant, immutable. Which are the four? “This is Suffering!”—this, bhikkhus, is stable, constant, immutable. “This is the cause of Suffering… the Cessation of Suffering… the course leading to the Cessation of Suffering!”—this, bhikkhus, is stable, constant, immutable. These are the four.”

Surely then the Four Truths are unconditioned.