Questions about reality are often raised by thinkers and philosophers. Is there reality? Is there an absolute reality? Are everything relative? Is the reality something that cannot be grasped by humans? These are some of myriad of questions that can be raised in relation to reality.
Conventionally we take certain things as reality. These conventional realities are true only within the contexts or only when certain conditions exist. For example, beauty of an artifact could be conventional or conditional since it depends on the culture in which it is viewed. As another example certain phenomena may be true only during a certain period of time. For example, certain tribes or countries may become powerful militarily and it may be only during certain time periods. If we say Romans are powerful as a general statement it is not a reality today. As another simple example, stones were the most powerful weapon in pre-historic times but not any more. In general, these conventional realities are true only within the space and time contexts in which they are defined. Then there are realities constructed by the societies due to hearsay, mysteries or by using logic argumentation within certain belief frameworks. For example, children believe that a tooth fairy will come when a tooth is fallen. In the modern world, such creation of reality is taken into such an extent that it is taught by repeating a lie several times it is possible to make a person believe the lie as a truth.
The purpose of modern scientific inquiry is to extend our thinking beyond these conventional realities. The differences among human beings, animals and plants etc. can be traced to genes now. Diseases are no longer caused by evil spirits but by bacteria, viruses and other causes which can be studied and understood. Now in reality physical material are no longer the objects that we see. Scientists could penetrate the constituents and structures of the objects and understand and measure the characteristics of minute particles that form them. Even matter itself is not any longer an absolute reality since it can be transformed into energy.
The buddha did not discount such scientific inquiry. In fact, such learning was valued by the Buddha as a blessing .However, the buddha's effort had been to search beyond these conventions to see the real happiness. Hence dhamma is taught to show the realities beyond the conventional realities also. The four noble truths are termed as Noble because they are realities that span spatial and temporal dimensions and hold as truths. Let us consider the first Noble truth, the realities of unsatisfactoriness occur to all the human as well as non-human beings, whether they are rich or poor, powerful or powerless, or big or small. Humans as well non-humans are inflicted by disease. The effort of scientists give hope in treating diseases but not curing them completely. Similarly other types of unsatisfactoriness are realities that occur. The causes of such unsatisfactoriness are also common to all human and non-human creatures. We have often seen flies that fall into traps because of their attractions to certain lights, heat or sounds. More explicitly we could see how the humans undergo unsatisfactoriness or suffering due to their own greed or cravings.
The other two Noble truths show that there is a solution to this unsatisfactoriness beyond the conventional solutions (that are dependent upon temporary conditions). The Buddha termed the solution, Nirvana, he expounded as a Noble Truth because it is a reality that surpasses the conventional realities. Nirvana is true not only within certain cultures, races or time periods but also in any time period and anywhere in the world. Furthermore, it is not something created by the Buddha. It is realized by the Buddha and he showed the path to realize it opening the next Noble Truth to the world.
The greatest miracle is this fourth Noble truth since it shows the way to transform a human being to an extraordinary person. This greatness or nobleness is not something achieved looking down upon others or ignoring others suffering. It is achieved through understanding of the suffering undergone by onself and others. Gradually as the nature of the suffering is understood it becomes easier to follow the path. Again this is a Noble truth since it surpasses the conventional truths and shows the way to a Noble happiness that surpasses the conditioned happinesses and brings relief.