The Buddha's "First Sermon," delivered at the deer park in Benares, sets out the doctrine of the Four Noble Truths, a key concept of Buddhist thought. (The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East, J. Horne, ed., Volume 10 [London: 1917].)

There are two extremes, oh Bhikkus, which a holy man should avoid--the habitual practice of . . . self-indulgence, which is vulgar and profitless . . . and the habitual practice of self-mortification, which is painful and equally profitless.

There is a middle path, oh Bhikkus, discovered by the Tathagata--a path which opens the eyes, and bestows understanding, which leads to peace of mind, to the higher wisdom, to full enlightenment, to Nirvana. Verily! it is this noble eightfold path; that is to say: Right views; Right aspirations; Right speech; Right conduct; Right livelihood; Right effort; Right mindfulness; and, Right contemplation.

This, oh Bhikkus, is that middle path, avoiding these two extremes, discovered by the Tathagata--that path which opens the eyes, and bestows understanding, which leads to peace of mind, to the higher wisdom, to full enlightenment, to Nirvana!

Now this, oh Bhikkus, is the noble truth concerning suffering. Birth is attended with pain, decay is painful, disease is painful, death is painful. Union with the unpleasant is painful, painful is separation from the pleasant; and any craving that is unsatisfied, that too is painful. In brief, these [components of individuality] are painful.

This, then, oh Bhikkus, is the noble truth concerning suffering.

Now this, oh Bhikkus, is the noble truth concerning the origin of suffering. Verily, it is that thirst, causing the renewal of existence, accompanied by sensual delight, seeking satisfaction now here, now there--that is to say, the craving for the gratification of the passions, or the craving for a future life, or the craving for success in this present life.

This, oh Bhikkus, is the noble truth concerning the origin of suffering.

Now this, oh Bhikkus, is the noble truth concerning the destruction of suffering. Verily, it is the destruction, in which no passion remains, of this very thirst; the laying aside of, the getting rid of, the being free from, the harboring no longer of this thirst.

This then, oh Bhikkus, is the noble truth concerning the destruction of suffering.

Now this, oh Bhikkus, is the noble truth concerning the way which leads to the destruction of sorrow. Verily! it is this noble eightfold path; that is to say: Right views; Right aspirations; Right speech; Right conduct; Right livelihood; Right effort; Right mindfulness; and, Right contemplation.

This then, oh Bhikkus, is the noble truth concerning the destruction of sorrow.

That this was the noble truth concerning sorrow, was not, oh Bhikkus, among the doctrines handed down, but there arose within me the eye to perceive it, there arose the knowledge of its nature, there arose the understanding of its cause, there arose the wisdom to guide in the path of tranquillity, there arose the light to dispel darkness from it.

. . . That I had become versed in the way which leads to the destruction of sorrow, though the noble truth concerning it was not among the doctrines handed down, there arose within me the eye, there arose the knowledge, there arose the understanding, there arose the wisdom, there arose the light.

So long, oh Bhikkus, as my knowledge and insight were not quite clear, regarding each of these four noble truths in this triple order, in this twelvefold manner--so long was I uncertain whether I had attained to the full insight of that wisdom which is unsurpassed in the heavens or on earth, among the whole race of Samanas and brahmins, or of gods or men.

But as soon, oh Bhikkus, as my knowledge and insight were quite clear regarding each of these four noble truths in this triple order, in this twelvefold manner--then did I become certain that I had attained to the full insight of that wisdom which is unsurpassed in the heavens or on earth, among the whole race of Samanas and brahmins, or of gods or men.

And now this knowledge and this insight has arisen within me. Immovable is the emancipation of my heart. This is my last existence. There will now be no rebirth for me!