The First Noble Truth of Buddhism is that dukkha exists.
Unfortunately, the word dukkha is untranslatable. It is often rendered in English as suffering. But this misleading. Even sukkha — satisfaction, or pleasure — falls within the realm of dukkha if we relate to it in an unwholesome way.
We’ll better understand dukkha when we remember two things.
The deeper meaning of dukkha
Dukkha has layers. The most obvious is pain — physical and emotional. Yet there’s much more.
Dukkha also points to the fact that everything changes. Our experience is pure flux. Even the most intense pleasures fade away.
We ignore this fact, however. We try to make some experiences last forever and other experiences end forever. The result is that we are duped and constantly at odds with reality.
That’s dukkha in a deeper sense. It’s a profound dissatisfaction with a basic fact of our existence — impermanence.
Dukkha is not inevitable
You’ll often see the First Noble Truth rendered as “life is suffering.”
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The whole message of Buddhism is that dukkha is optional. We don’t have to suffer. We don’t have to struggle with change.
In fact, we can relate to impermanence in a way that liberates us.
The rest of the Noble Truths explain how.
Posts in this series:
- Returning to the Roots of Mindfulness — The Four Noble Truths
- Returning to the Roots of Mindfulness — The First Noble Truth
- Returning to the Roots of Mindfulness — The Second Noble Truth
- Returning to the Roots of Mindfulness — The Third Noble Truth
- Returning to the Roots of Mindfulness — The Fourth Noble Truth
- Returning to the Roots Of Mindfulness — How Modern Authors Distort an Ancient Teaching