Joseph begins a five-part series on the Four Noble Truths. This week: what is Dukkha?
The first of the Four Noble Truths is that Dukkha exists. Joseph dives deep into the true meaning of Dukkha, which is the foundation of the Buddha’s teaching.
The Four Noble Truths (Opening) – Joseph reads the Four Noble Truths as written in the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta. In essence, Dukkha exists; Dukkha arises from attachment to desires. Dukkha ceases when attachment to desire ceases; freedom from Dukkha is possible by practicing the Eightfold Path. The Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta concludes with a contemplation of these truths because they express the very essence of the Buddha’s awakening.
“Despite the many differences among various Buddhist traditions and schools, they are all in agreement that the Four Noble Truths are the foundation of understanding and realization.”
What is Dukkha? (4:55) – To understand the Four Noble Truths, it is important to have a strong understanding of Dukkha. The Buddha often said that all conditioned phenomena are Dukkha. The word suffering is often used to translate Dukkha. However, in English, no one word captures the range of its meaning.
Dukkha can be better thought of as an underlying unsatisfactoriness in all things. All conditioned phenomena are unsatisfying, but whether or not they cause suffering depends on our relationship to them.
“Suffering, unlike unsatisfactoriness, is not inherent in the phenomena in the world, only in the way in which the unawakened mind experiences them. This is indeed the underlying theme of the Four Noble Truths as a whole. The suffering caused by attachment and craving can be overcome by awakening. In our hunt, the unsatisfactory nature of all conditioned phenomena is no longer.”
Aspects of Dukkha (16:45) – In his first discourse, the Buddha discusses the Middle Way and the Four Noble Truths as the framework for liberating wisdom. He points out the experience of Dukkha in terms of our ordinary lives. Buddha also addresses the underlying nature of Dukkha.
Dukkha Everywhere (24:55) – The Buddha invites us to investigate the truth of Dukkha. We can investigate how we experience Dukkha internally and in the external world. When we look, we see that things are unsatisfying in three different ways.
There is the Dukkha of external experiences that are painful in themselves. This is where the translation of suffering come from. Internally, there is the pain associated with the body. The final form of Dukkha is the deeply conditioned pain of the mind. This emotional pain is the only one we have any control over.
Impermanence and Burdens (30:55) – We can experience Dukkha through the direct perception of the changing nature of things. Whatever has the nature to arise, will also pass away. The suffering comes from this impermanence. There is nothing to rely on to provide lasting happiness because nothing lasts.
Dukkah can also be experienced as the burdensomeness of conditioned existence. Think of what is needed to simply fulfill the basic needs of life. This is the Dukkah of “Life as work.”
“In the end, entropy always prevails.”
Seeing Dukkha in Our Lives (40:10) – In order to have a complete understanding of Dukkha, we need to investigate and reflect upon each of these aspects of Dukkha in our lives. The transforming value of these teachings comes when we take the concept and see it in our lives and the world around us.
Joseph gives us a final perspective on seeing Dukkah in our lives. He explains the Buddha’s lesson of the five aggregates subject to grasping.
This episode is the first in a series of talks on the Four Noble Truths and the Eight Fold Path. Next episode: Attachment to Suffering