We had a great discussion last week. I realize that there may be some confusion around what expectation has to do with dukkha. On one hand I mentioned that “not expecting was dukkha”, at another time I said “expecting was dukkha” It may have left some of you with several questions around what is right. My answer? I don’t know…depends…maybe… Questioning is the key to wisdom. We need questions to investigate. Instead of looking for an answer from outside of you. Consider why the question has come to you in the first place and look inside for the answer. If you don’t have any questions from the discussion last week. Re-read the post and try to stir up a question or two for this week.
For the month of January we will be exploring the 1st Noble Truth – There is dukkha. Dukkha is commonly translated as suffering but in this puts “dukkha” in a bad light. It creates an identification that is rooted in the idea that something is wrong and that this wrong is mine, about me or connected to me. Dukkha, however, has nothing to do with bad, wrong, etc. It has to do with understanding a naturally occurring human condition. The more we understand this occurring phenomenon the more we can see dukkha as it is which ultimately leads to our liberation around it.
So where does this misinterpretation of dukkha come from? To begin with, I looked up the word “suffering”. According to Webster, suffering means pain that is caused by injury, illness, loss, etc.; physical, mental or emotional pain; feelings of pain. This seems like the perfect definition of bad, wrong, etc. and it is why I think as practitioners we fall into the misinterpretation trap. This definition of suffering is not what Buddha was referring to with the word dukkha. Buddha’s dukkha is about our relationship with pain that is caused by injury, illness, loss, etc.; physical, mental or emotional pain; feelings of pain. Dukkha is also about our relationship with aid, good health, gain,; physical, mental or emotional benefit; feelings of elation. Dukkha is what arises when we don’t pay attention to the true nature of human existence. It is the trap that we get caught in when we are asleep – hence the need for us to find a path to awakening.
Everything about our natural human existence is impermanent and conditional but we have a human mind that perceives everything about our human existence as permanent and personal. This distortion is dukkha. Because of this distortion is so glued to and intertwined with everything about our existence we are continually shrouded in dukkha. It has nothing to do with you or I. Its not about whether we practice or not. As long as we are alive, this distortion will be present.
What Buddha saw during his awakening meditation was that liberation lies in seeing this dukkha. If we see it for what it is – a slight of hand, magic trick, distortion of mind – we will not get caught in the trap. As we explore this over the month, we will look into what the trap of dukkha looks like. You will began to see why it has been translated as “suffering”. Without a doubt, we suffering under the weight of dukkha. But to experience liberation, we must be willing to look for dukkha itself and not just because we are experiencing something we consider bad, wrong, etc. We want to first be aware that dukkha is present and have a willingness to understand it more fully. Finally, after we have investigated our experience, we was to acknowledge to ourselves that we understand dukkha a little more and start looking for it again in another experience.
I find a good way to focus my looking/investigating is with rhetorical questions. Randomly throughout the day/night ask yourself – where is impermence? what conditions have come together to make this moment? what am I holding as mine, me or myself in this moment? If you are having some difficulty, consider asking – am I expecting lasting satisfaction from something that is inherently conditional and thus unreliable to satisfy? ; am I expecting permanence in something that is inherently impermanent?; am I taking this situation personally unnecessarily? You are basically looking for the distortion between your perception and the nature of the moment. Don’t expect to like what you see or that seeing with make the experience all better. This month is about seeing dukkha. No amount of teaching with help you see it. You will only see it when you decide to look for it for yourself. Hint: dukkha is not about your suffering.
If you practice this month with looking for dukkha, you will understand this 1st Noble Truth on a deeper level. The more you look, the more you will understand the insidious nature of dukkha. The more you understand it’s nature, the more you will be ready to investigate the 2nd Noble Truth. Take your time, you have all day, all night, 7 days a week for 3 weeks. Don’t get caught in judging what you see. Just look, look, look!
See you tomorrow – Tuere
FYI – Given that we are only doing one post a month, the post will most likely be longer. Also, I might repost them weekly to remind us to keep up with the practice. If you stay connected to the practice of these Noble Truths I promise you will be amazed at your level of wisdom this time next year.