Much is made of dukkhā in the world of Buddhist philosophies, but little seems to be understood. There is much about it and about it. What it is, and is not. Where is comes from. What is its cause. And on and on. People scour the suttas and commentaries for evidence to bolster their particular view of dukkhā.
There are some very narrow understandings, some very traditional understandings, taken from the Buddhist literature. I have from time to time come across explanations of dukkhā which rely on belief in one or another metaphysical systems.
But, dukkhā isn’t found in the texts. Sure, the texts talk about dukkhā, or more accurately what people think about dukkhā. But let us take a lesson from Zen: let us not confuse the finger pointing for the moon.
Dukkhā is a human experience. It may also be experienced by non-humans; by sentient animals as well. If we are to grasp the significance of the Four Noble Truths, then we must focus on human experience. Our experience. Our personal experience of dukkhā. And, whether we are aware of it, whether it has registered as such, we all have experienced dukkhā. And that experience, our experience of dukkhā, has shaped our thinking and our behavior.
Dukkhā is not a “thing” like a strawberry. It is more a “state” that is experienced. Like being in a state of bewilderment. Or having a broken heart. Or just dying to own that 1967, two-door hardtop Chevy Bel-Aire, so Marilu will go out with you. And not wanting the night to end when she does.
Dukkhā is a state of dis-satisfactoriness. And a lot of other words. It is a part of the human condition.
We enter into the state of dukkhā when we lack the wisdom, the vision, the knowledge, the insight, the clarity to see things as they are, and to understand our desire for them to be in some way, great or small, different than they are. When we are attached to having things our way, and they are not our way, there arises the state of dukkhā.
What’s your experience?