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Reality and Wisdom

Exploring the Buddha's Four Noble Truths and The Heart Sutra

Published by Wisdom Publications
Distributed by Simon & Schuster

About The Book

A clear and comprehensive guide to practicing the foundational Buddhist teachings of the four noble truths—and how these truths can lead to the liberating insight of the “wisdom gone beyond.”

Written in a warm and accessible style by one of today’s most respected Tibetan Buddhist masters, Reality and Wisdom leads the reader on a journey of discovery beginning with the very first teachings of the Buddha and into the profound experience of emptiness.

The first section of the book explores the bedrock Buddhist teachings of the four noble truths—insights into freedom from suffering from craving—which underpin all schools of Buddhism. Lama Migmar presents and explores these foundational Buddhist truths with humor and insight, explaining how, from a Mahayana Buddhist perspective, these truths serve as crucial supports for cultivating the transformative wisdom of emptiness.

In the book’s second half, Lama Migmar illuminates the terse and enigmatic lines of the Heart Sutra, perhaps the most studied and revered of all Mahayana Buddhist scriptures. The Heart Sutra presents the reader with a vision of reality as it is perceived by a buddha, a vision underpinned by and infused with the radical flexibility and possibility of emptiness and the engagement and responsiveness of profound compassion.

The clarity, warmth, and vibrancy of Lama Migmar’s writing combined with the comprehensiveness and detail of his presentations of key Buddhist teachings make this book a valuable resource for a range of readers, from beginners to more advanced practitioners seeking to deepen their practice.


First Chapter

The First Noble Truth: Suffering

The four noble truths are the central teachings of the Buddhist tradition. They provide the framework upon which all Buddhist philosophy and meditation are based. Although we may already be familiar with them, by repeatedly studying them and their sixteen corresponding aspects, our realizations on the spiritual path can become more transformative and profound.

These noble truths are the truth of suffering, the truth of the origin of suffering, the truth of the cessation of suffering, and the truth of the path leading to the cessation of suffering.

These four truths are based on the realizations of Prince Siddhartha, who reached enlightenment to become the Buddha Shakyamuni. It is said that the Buddha’s very first teachings after attaining enlightenment were these teachings on the four noble truths.

Prince Siddhartha’s early life in India was one of great wealth and privilege. He was given every luxury imaginable, but he soon realized that none of these comforts were bringing him true happiness, and he began to venture outside the palace walls.

On these early trips, the young prince was first exposed to the sufferings of impermanence. As he toured the town, he saw sick, aging, and dying people in the streets. He recognized that, despite all the comforts one may possess, no one can avoid the sufferings of sickness, old age, and death.

As he continued to venture from the palace, Prince Siddhartha also saw a meditator and was introduced to the idea of a spiritual life. This was the moment in which he saw that there was another way to live.

At this point he abandoned his life as a prince and renounced the kingdom. He dedicated his life to spiritual practice and eventually came to the profound realization of enlightenment. Through this awakening he came to recognize the four noble truths, including the noble eightfold path, which outlines the essence of Buddhist practice and provides eight practical instructions that lead to the cessation of all suffering.

These eight interconnected factors are to be developed simultaneously in our lives, and they instruct us on the following ways to live: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.

It is essential in our perfection of the practice that we not only comprehend these four noble truths intellectually but also integrate such wisdom into our meditation and into every aspect of our lives.

About The Author

Lama Migmar Tseten has served as Buddhist chaplain at Harvard University since 1997. He received both a traditional and a contemporary education in India, graduating from the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies at Sanskrit University in Varanasi. He served as the head of the Sakya Center in Rajpur, India, and the Sakya Monastery in Puruwalla. Lama Migmar has supervised the editing and publication of more than fifty rare volumes of Sakya literature and is the author of many books, including Awakening to the Noble Truth and The Tibetan Book of Awakening. As the founder of the Sakya Institute for Buddhist Studies in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Lama Migmar leads retreats throughout North America and Europe.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Wisdom Publications (October 10, 2023)
  • Length: 288 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781614298557

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Raves and Reviews

“In Reality and Wisdom, Khenpo Migmar Tseten explains important sutras clearly for students who wish to understand them more deeply. Careful study and practice of these important teachings will bring great blessings in one's daily life and Dharma practice.”

– His Holiness the Sakya Trichen

"Lama Migmar Tseten’s new book is about what matters most—to see the truth, the way things really are. The Buddha’s first teaching of the four noble truths, and the view of emptiness presented in the Heart Sutra, are discussed here with admirable clarity. Reality and Wisdom is enjoyable to read, conversational in tone, and deeply informative."

– Cyrus Stearns, translator and author

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