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Arya (Skt. ārya; P. ariya; T. phags pa འཕགས་པ་; C. sheng 聖) is translated as "noble," "not ordinary," "valuable," "superior," "precious,"[1] "pure,"[2] etc. Arya in the sense of "noble" or "exalted" is frequently used in Buddhist texts to designate a spiritual warrior or hero.

The term is used in the following contexts:

  • The Four Noble Truths are called the catvāry ārya satyāni (Sanskrit) or cattāri ariya saccāni (Pali).
  • The Noble Eightfold Path is called the ārya mārga (Sanskrit, also āryāṣṭāṅgikamārga) or ariya magga (Pāli).
  • Buddha's Dharma and Vinaya are the ariyassa dhammavinayo.
  • arya pudgala are disciples of the Buddha who have reached high stages of realization, specifically one of the four stages of the supramundane path.
  • arya sangha are the community of arya puggalas.
  • an ārya can refer to those who follow the Buddhist path and have developed virtue (śīla).

Those who despise Buddhism are often called "anāryas".

Within the Four Noble Truths

In the context of the four noble truths (Sanskrit: arya satya; Pali: ariya sacca), arya refers to the truths perceived by highly realized beings (worthy ones; arya pudgala).

Geshe Tashi Tsering states:

The modifier noble [i.e. arya] means truth as perceived by arya beings, those beings who have had a direct realization of emptiness or selflessness. Noble means something seen by arya beings as it really is, and in this case it is four recognitions—suffering, origin, cessation, and path. Arya beings see all types of suffering—physical and mental, gross and subtle—exactly as they are, as suffering. For people like us, who do not have the direct realization of emptiness, although we may understand certain levels of physical and mental experiences as suffering, it is impossible for us to see all the levels of suffering for what they are. Instead we may see some things as desirable when in truth they are suffering.[3]


  1. Ajahn Sucitto 2010, Kindle Location 122.
  2. Mingyur Rinpoche 2007, p. 70.
  3. Geshe Tashi Tsering 2005, Kindle Locations 349-350.


  • Ajahn Sumedho (2002), The Four Noble Truths, Amaravati Publications 
  • Ajahn Sucitto (2010), Turning the Wheel of Truth: Commentary on the Buddha's First Teaching, Shambhala 
  • Bronkhorst, J.; Deshpande, M.M., eds. (1999), Aryan and Non-Aryan in South Asia: Evidence, Interpretation, and Ideology, Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies, Harvard University, ISBN 1-888789-04-2 
  • Geshe Tashi Tsering (2005), The Four Noble Truths: The Foundation of Buddhist Thought, Volume I, Wisdom, Kindle Edition 
  • Mingyur Rinpoche (2007), The Joy of Living: Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happiness, Harmony Kindle Edition