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Sacca is a Pāli word meaning "real" or "true."

In early Buddhist literature, sacca is often found in the context of the "Four Noble Truths," a crystallization of Buddhist wisdom.

In addition, sacca is one of the ten pāramitās or "perfections" a Bodhisatta must develop in order to become a Buddha.

The profoundest truth of reality

In the Pali Canon, sacca is frequently found in the term Ariya-sacca, meaning "noble truth" or "truth of the noble ones."

More specifically, the term Ariya-sacca refers to The Buddha's "Four Noble Truths," elucidated in his first discourse as follows (where sacca is translated as "reality"):

"Now this, Bhikkhus, for the Noble One(s), is the reality which is pain:

birth is painful,

aging is painful,

illness is painful,

death is painful;

sorrow, lamentation,

physical pain, unhappiness and

distress are painful;

union with what is disliked is painful;

separation from what is liked is painful; not to get what one wants is painful;

in brief, the five bundles of grasping-fuel are painful.

"Now this, Bhikkhus, for the Noble One(s), is the pain-originating reality.

It is this craving which leads to renewed existence, accompanied by delight and attachment, seeking delight now here now there; that is, craving for sense-pleasures, craving for existence, craving for extermination (of what is not liked).

"Now this, Bhikkhus, for the Noble One(s), is the pain-ceasing reality.

It is the remainderless fading away and cessation of that same craving, the giving up and relinquishing of it, freedom from it, non-reliance on it.

"Now this, Bhikkhus, for the Noble One(s), is the reality which is the way leading to the cessation of pain.

It is this Noble Eight-factored Path, that is to say,

right view,

right resolve,

right speech,

right action,

right livelihood,

right effort,

right Mindfulness,

right mental unification."


In the Pali literature, these Four Noble Truths are often identified as the most common idea associated with the Noble Eightfold Path's factor of "right view" or "right understanding."

And in the Buddhist causal notion of Dependent origination, ignorance of these Four Noble Truths is often identified as the starting point for "the whole mass of Suffering" (kevalassa dukkhakkhandha).

Truth as an ethical practice

In terms of the daily practice of Buddhist laity, a lay devotee daily recites the Five Precepts which include:

I undertake the precept to refrain from incorrect speech.

"Incorrect speech," at its most basic, reflects speaking truthfully. Regarding this, contemporary Theravada Monk Bhikkhu Bodhi has written:

"It is said that in the course of his long training for Enlightenment over many lives, a Bodhisatta can break all the moral precepts except the pledge to speak the truth.

The reason for this is very profound, and reveals that the commitment to truth has a significance transcending the domain of ethics and even mental purification, taking us to the domains of knowledge and being.

Truthful speech provides, in the sphere of interpersonal communication, a parallel to Wisdom in the sphere of private understanding.

The two are respectively the outward and inward modalities of the same commitment to what is real. Wisdom consists in the realization of truth, and truth (sacca) is not just a verbal proposition but the nature of things as they are.

To realize truth our whole being has to be brought into accord with actuality, with things as they are, which requires that in communications with others we respect things as they are by speaking the truth.

Truthful speech establishes a correspondence between our own inner being and the real nature of phenomena, allowing Wisdom to rise up and fathom their real nature.

Thus, much more than an ethical principle, devotion to truthful speech is a matter of taking our stand on reality rather than illusion, on the truth grasped by Wisdom rather than the fantasies woven by desire."




1. On the 'two truths', conventional and ultimate, see paramattha.

2. 'The Four Noble Truths' (ariya-sacca) are the briefest synthesis of the entire teachings of Buddhism, since all those manifold doctrines of the threefold canon are, without any exception, included therein.

They are:

  1. the truth of suffering,
  2. of the origin of suffering,
  3. of the extinction of suffering,
  4. and of the Eightfold Path leading to the extinction of suffering.

The stereotype text frequently recurring in the Sutta Pitaka, runs as follows:

  1. "But what, o monks, is the noble truth of suffering?

Birth is suffering,

decay is suffering,

death is suffering;




grief and

despair are suffering;

in short, the 5 groups of existence connected with clinging are suffering (cf. dukkha, dukkhata).

  1. But what, o monks, is the noble truth of the origin of suffering? It is that craving which gives rise to fresh rebirth and, bound up with lust and greed, now here, now there, finds ever fresh delight.

It is the sensual craving (kāma-tanhā), the craving for existence (bhava-tanhā), the craving for non-existence or self-annihilation (vibhava-tanhā).

  1. "But what, o monks, is the noble truth of the extinction of suffering? It is the complete fading away and extinction of this craving, its forsaking and giving up, liberation and detachment from it.
  1. "But what, o monks, is the noble truth of the path leading to the extinction of suffering? It is the Noble Eightfold Path (ariya-atthangika-magga) that leads to the extinction of suffering, namely:

1. Right view (sammā-ditthi)
2. Right thought (sammā-sankappa)
III. Wisdom (paññā)
3. Right speech (sammā-vācā)
4. Right action (sammā-kammanta)
5. Right livelihood (sammd-djiva)
I. Morality (sīla)
6. Right effort (sammā-vāyāma)
7. Right mindfulness (sammā-sati)
8. Right concentration (sammā-samādhi)
II. Concentration (samādhi)

1. "What now, o monks, is right view (or right understanding)?

It is the understanding of suffering, of the origin of suffering, of the extinction of suffering, and of the path leading to the extinction of suffering.

2. "What now, o monks, is right thought? It is a mind free from sensual lust, ill-will and cruelty.

3. "What now, o monks, is right speech? Abstaining from lying, tale-bearing, harsh words, and foolish babble (cf. tiracchānakathā).

4. "What now, o monks, is right action? Abstaining from injuring living beings, from stealing and from unlawful sexual intercourse (s. kāmesu micchācāra).

5. "What now, o monks, is right livelihood? If the noble disciple rejects a wrong living, and gains his living by means of right livelihood (s. magga, 5).

6. "What now, o monks, is right effort? If the disciple rouses his will to avoid the arising of evil, demeritorious things that have not yet arisen; ... if he rouses his will to overcome the evil, demeritorious things that have already arisen; ... if he rouses his will to produce meritorious things that have not yet arisen; ... if he rouses his will to maintain the meritorious things that have already arisen and not to let them disappear, but to bring them to growth, to maturity and to the full perfection of development; he thus makes effort, stirs up his energy, exerts his mind and strives (s. padhāna).

7. "What now, o monks is right mindfulness? If the disciple dwells in contemplation of corporeality ... of feeling ... of mind ... of the mind-objects, ardent, clearly conscious, and mindful after putting away worldly greed and grief (s. satipatthāna).

8. "What now, o monks, is right concentration? If the disciple is detached from sensual objects, detached from unwholesome things, and enters into the first absorption ... the second absorption ... the third absorption ... the fourth absorption" (s. jhāna).

In the Buddha's first sermon, the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, it is said that

"The truth of suffering is to be compared with a disease, the truth of the origin of suffering with the cause of the disease, the truth of extinction of suffering with the cure of the disease, the truth of the path with the medicine" (Vis.M. XVI).

In the ultimate sense, all these 4 truths are to be considered as empty of a self, since there is no feeling agent, no doer, no liberated one. no one who follows along the path. Therefore it is said:

                'Mere suffering exists, no sufferer is found.
                The deed is, but no doer of the deed is there.
                Nibbāna is, but not the man that enters it.
                The path is, but no traveller on it is seen.
                'The first truth and the second truth are empty
                Of permanency, joy, of self and beauty;
                The Deathless Realm is empty of an ego,
                And free from permanency, joy and self, the path.'

                (Vis.M. XVI)

It must be pointed out that the first truth does not merely refer to actual suffering, i.e. to suffering as feeling, but that it shows that, in consequence of the universal law of impermanency, all the phenomena of existence whatsoever, even the sublimest states of existence, are subject to change and dissolution, and hence are miserable and unsatisfactory; and that thus, without exception, they all contain in themselves the germ of suffering. Cf. Guide, p. 101f.

Regarding the true nature of the path, s. magga.