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Seinfeld and the Four Noble Truths (1 Viewer)


Senior Member
Wrote this for a bit of fun when I really should be sleeping, if just to get some rest before my Communications final. Oh well though, I'd rather be thinking than sleeping any day. I admit, this is a very generalized view of Buddhism, and in some cases, may be slightly inaccurate or lacking depth. Bear with me here, people. Haven't been around here much lately, what with school and all. Hope to start frequenting more regularly. Thanks, everybody.


Seinfeld and the Four Noble Truths

In Buddhist philosophy, there are Four Noble Truths: the Dukkha, the Samudaya, the Nirodha, and the Marga. These Truths are reflected very strongly in the four major characters of what was arguably the most popular television series of all time, Seinfeld: George Costanza, Jerry Seinfeld, Elaine Benes, and Cosmo Kramer, respectively. Though each branches into other aspects of the Four Noble Truths, they can easily be generalized into the Four Noble Truths. Perhaps Seinfeld was not truly a show about nothing, but a show about enlightenment.

The Dukkha is the first of the Noble Truths, and essentially states that all worldly life is unsatisfactory, disjointed, suffering. This is very closely reflected in the character of George Costanza, a short, fat, balding man who lives with his parents. With each event in his life, he presents a very bleak outlook on things, pushing forward a feeling of pure and utter torture. He feels the urge to complain whenever anything in his relatively simple life goes wrong, and from his perspective, this is virtually non-stop. He is constantly entering into romantic relationships, then, once things begin to look serious, he attempts to sever the relationship. At one point, he is engaged to be married to a woman, but shortly before the marriage -- during the process of sending invitations, in fact -- his fiancee dies. Nothing seems to go right in George's life, and by no means can he figure out why.

The Samudaya is the second of the Noble Truths, stating that there is a cause of suffering, which is attachment or desire. Jerry Seinfeld, the lead character of Seinfeld, is a comedian who specializes in observational humor. In his career, as well as everyday dealings, Jerry instinctively recognizes the effects that attachment and desire bring. His relationships typically last no more than a few weeks, at which point he begins anew, searching now for new relationships. He recognizes the pain and suffering it brings into his life, but he does nothing to stop it, primarily simply because he does not see how, bringing to life the essence of the Samudaya.

The Nirodha is the third of the Noble Truths, and perhaps the most important to reaching enlightenment, as it essentializes the moment of realization. It states that there is a way out of suffering, which is by eliminating attachment and desire. Elaine Benes reflects upon this in her unique approach to life, viewing relationships as largely harmful, and demonstrating that enlightenment can be reached only through the rejection of worldly attachments and desires. In relationships, she sees the suffering that is caused, and recognizes that the only way to end the suffering is to remove the cause -- breaking off the relationship. She does not always follow through with this, however, providing the essential difference between Nirodha and Marga.

The Marga is the fourth and final Noble Truth, and is essentially the final step in enlightenment. The eternally zany Cosmo Kramer is the embodiment of the Marga as the path that leads out of suffering. Kramer's outlook on life is one of pure beauty. He removes himself from physical attachment and desire. His apartment is a perfect example of such: there is, by and large, a lack of furnishings and decorations that are the cause of suffering. His romantic relationships are few and far between, unlike his three comrades in Seinfeld. He exemplifies enlightenment, if through a slightly skewed lens. He is at peace with himself and his surroundings, he is free from suffering; he is truly enlightened.

Matthew Montgomery


Senior Member

You've managed to combine the two things I most admire. I don't mind telling you I'm a little disappointed I didn't come up with it myself.

There might be a few holes in your comparisons, as you noted, but they're probably not worth pointing out. You should consider flushing this idea out a little more, maybe even get a book out of it. Someone wrote a book about the Simpsons a while back, comparing each character to a different philosopher/philosophy.


Senior Member
Very good. Like eleuth said there are holes but nothing worth debating about. You can turn this into a book and It would definitely sell.

Cheers to you.


Senior Member
Observational humour, is there any other kind?

This is definately a very interesting peice, though not as well written as some of your previous works, it presents interesting notions. It's certainly the kind of thing that, if written as a book, would sell. Try possibly filling it out a little and putting in a bit more explanation.

And as a side note, do you ever see the inside of Kramer's apartment, apart from when he has the set of the Merv Griffin show?


Senior Member
Thanks for all the suggestions, I would like to revise and expand on this piece. It was thrown together rather hastily for even me. I simply felt like writing, as most of what I had written lately had been school related, and I needed to clear my mind. I feel like I generalized the characters too much, which is where I think a lot of the problems I had with flow and style came from. I also would like to expand upon this with more specific examples as to how the characters embody these Four Noble Truths. Thanks for all the support, hopefully I can turn this into something greater.

We did see in Kramer's apartment in a few episodes: the episode where he has seizures from a woman's voice on television (I forget the name), and the episode where he decides to go with some untraditional layout... I forget the name of this one, too, as well as the untraditional layout. Also, The Chicken Roaster and The Hot Tub featured Kramer's apartment, to name a couple more.


Senior Member
I will have to see these episodes! Good luck with expanding this peice, I'd love to read it when you're done!