"This is the noble truth of suffering. Birth is suffering; aging is suffering; sickness is suffering; death is suffering; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair are suffering; association with the unpleasant is suffering; separation from the pleasant is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering; in brief, the five aggregates of clinging are suffering.
The last statement makes a comprehensive claim that calls for some attention. The five aggregates of clinging (pañcupadanakkandha) are a classificatory scheme for understanding the nature of our being. What we are, the Buddha teaches, is a set of five aggregates — material form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness — all connected with clinging. We are the five and the five are us. Whatever we identify with, whatever we hold to as our self, falls within the set of five aggregates. Together these five aggregates generate the whole array of thoughts, emotions, ideas, and dispositions in which we dwell, "our world." Thus the Buddha's declaration that the five aggregates are dukkha in effect brings all experience, our entire existence, into the range of dukkha.
"http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... toend.html
I think that Bhikkhu Bodhi should have qualified his statement. Ordinary
existence is tainted by dukkha. The same discourse declares a "path leading to the cessation of dukkha"! Bhikkhu Bodhi knows that buddhas and arahants are free from dukkha. They have attained the goal. They have extinguished attachment, aversion, and delusion, and, therefore, the very tanha or craving that this discourse tells us is the origin of suffering. (Upadana or clinging, including clinging to the aggregates, is conditioned by tanha or craving, according to the scriptures. It is to be overcome as well. It is optional.) "Happy indeed are the arahants! No craving can be found in them." (SN 22.76) In other words the arahants have overcome the origin of dukkha, have ended dukkha, and have attained happiness in the truest sense. Dukkha is optional, according to the scriptures.
I think that Buddhists sometimes don't realize what we are communicating to nonBuddhists about the teachings. Many nonBuddhists perceive Buddhism as negative and "pessimistic," pervaded by hopelessness. This misperception goes all the way back to the 19th century, but it persists to this day, partly because of how Buddhists present (or misrepresent) the teachings. Recently, comedian and TV show host Bill Maher (here in the U.S.A.) said, "Buddhism is for actors. And it really is outdated in some ways - the 'Life sucks, and then you die' philosophy was useful when Buddha came up with it around 500 B.C., because back then life pretty much sucked, and then you died..." Maher, like many, sees Buddhism as a form of despair. Who would want to practice hopelessness and misery? But, clearly, that isn't what Buddhism is about. Buddhism is supremely optimistic. It teaches that suffering can be overcome!
One of the terms applied to the Buddha in the scriptures is "ever-smiling" (mihita-pubbangama
). His disciples are called "joyful and elated" (hattha-pahattha
), "jubilant and exultant" (udaggudagga
), "free from anxiety" (appossukka
), etc. (See WR's What the Buddha Taught
.) I wish that more people knew what a joyful, optimistic path Buddhism is.