Wise Understanding of Dukkha

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

Wise Understanding of Dukkha

Postby Sally » Tue Aug 10, 2010 5:14 pm

Hello. I listened to a talk yesterday, and something about the emphasis bothered me. The teacher said that meditation should usually be about finding suffering within, and focusing on it.

My understanding of the First Noble Truth is that a fairly correct translation of it is "there is dissatisfaction", but that it is often translated in a more global way as "life is suffering".

I feel comfortable with the first translation, but not with the second.

As I understand it, the Buddha taught many kinds of meditation depending upon the needs and development of the student.

It does not feel wholesome to me that such an emphasis was placed on focusing on 'suffering'.

I am feeling disappointed at the possibility that the Buddhist community I have been a part of for many years is not offering teachings that are well balanced.

I welcome your perspective.

Sally
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Re: Wise Understanding of Dukkha

Postby PeterB » Tue Aug 10, 2010 6:02 pm

I dont think that the Buddhist Community is offering teachings at all Sally. Its always, at least in the Theravada tradition a question of individual interpretation.
Obviously I wasn't present at the teachings, but I wonder if the teacher was saying that Dukkha is always present in any experience. That doesn't mean that all there is is Dukkha. Certainly the idea of focussing on suffering seems odd.
Most forms of meditation are about awareness of what is arising, and if that at any given time is Dukkha then that will become the focus...until it changes which all impermanent states do.
I wonder whether he was warning against simply identifying with apparently positive states. Because of course they are constantly changing too.
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Re: Wise Understanding of Dukkha

Postby Kenshou » Tue Aug 10, 2010 7:29 pm

We have to understand for ourselves how it is that dukkha originates so that we can find out how to stop it, and for this reason it is good to take notice of suffering as it comes and goes, as well as why. This would be my guess about what that teacher was getting at, not that we should focus on suffering for it's own sake.
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Re: Wise Understanding of Dukkha

Postby Monkey Mind » Tue Aug 10, 2010 8:23 pm

I heard a teacher say something similar, try this on. During the moments when we are meditating and experience some type of discomfort [a back ache, legs fall asleep, feeling drowsy], these become the best practice moments because we can train ourselves to observe the origin, rise, and dissipation of the discomfort and our psychological reaction to the discomfort.
"As I am, so are others;
as others are, so am I."
Having thus identified self and others,
harm no one nor have them harmed.

Sutta Nipāta 3.710
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Re: Wise Understanding of Dukkha

Postby Shonin » Tue Aug 10, 2010 9:22 pm

I think 'there is dissatisfaction' and 'conditioned phenomena are unsatisfactory' is better translation than "life is suffering", which is pessimistic and untrue. Life includes pleasant as well as unpleasant experiences. It's just that, conditioned by craving and aversion, these experiences are not ultimately fulfilling.
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Re: Wise Understanding of Dukkha

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Aug 10, 2010 9:36 pm

Hi Sally,

The Buddha taught that all conditioned things are dukkha, ultimately unsatisfactory. If he stopped there it would be rather negative. But he also taught the ending of dukkha. To end dukkha we must first understand it.
Dhammapada 277-279
When you see with discernment, 'All fabrications are inconstant' [sankara anicca] — you grow disenchanted [nibbindati] with stress [dukkha]. This is the path to purity. [maggo visuddhiya]

When you see with discernment, 'All fabrications are stressful' [sankara dukkha] — you grow disenchanted with stress. This is the path to purity.

When you see with discernment, 'All phenomena are not-self' — [dhamma anatta] you grow disenchanted with stress. This is the path to purity.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

:anjali:
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Re: Wise Understanding of Dukkha

Postby Sally » Wed Aug 11, 2010 12:09 am

Dear Community,

Thank you so much for sharing your understanding, experience, and quotes. I am very grateful. In my five years with this community, I was always comfortable with the way that dukkha was discussed. I am very familiar with it arising within me during my meditations, as well, and most of the time do not avoid it.

For whatever reason, my teacher did indeed state that he actively looks for suffering within himself in most of his meditations, and he recommended that we do the same. This just does not seem right to me. There are other indications that some time away from this community is best for me at this time. Unfortunately, these indications are very pronounced. I need to care well for myself.

Thank you for hearing me and responding.

Sally
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Re: Wise Understanding of Dukkha

Postby Alex123 » Wed Aug 11, 2010 12:17 am

Hello all,

Speaking precisely, all feelings (including “pleasant” ones) are ultimately just greater or lesser dukkha. SN36.2, SN36.5, SN36.11.

Even pleasant feelings are ultimately just suffering, only to a lesser degree. Even blissful Jhānic feelings are stressful (AN 9.41) in comparison with higher Jhanas (where more and more vedana and other mental factors have ceased). Since there is less suffering, the more pleasant feeling are only mispercieved as happiness in contrast to much greater suffering that came before. Their pleasure is due to absence of most suffering. The pleasant feelings are pleasant only in comparison with far greater suffering. One of the perversions of perception is seeing pleasure in painful. So due to this perversion people actually think that some things are happy. It is perversion of perception and view, not how it actually is.

So ultimately all feelings are directly or indirectly included in Suffering/Stress. It is just a matter of degree.



Pleasant feelings do not have inherent nature of pleasure. How could they? How can inherent nature produce opposite result? For example: will lots of sugar change its sweet taste to something opposite (such as salty)? No. It is sweet and more of sugar produces more of the like qualities.

If something is inherently pleasurable than it will only produce pleasure when increased in quantity, and no matter when taken it is supposed to produce more pleasant feelings, but from real life experience we see something else. Why does indulging excessively in what is supposed to be inherently pleasurable feels painful? Why is taking what is supposed to be happy at wrong times actually hurt? Perhaps because these feelings were never pleasurable in the first place and when the quantity was increased, their painful nature was more salient.

Ex of excessive “pleasant feeling” and at inoportune time is warming yourself up. If it is very cold outside then warming up feels pleasant. But if you try to warm yourself up when you are already hot or if you use very warm (very hot) temperature it will feel uncomfortable. On one occasion it feels pleasant on another if feels discomforting. So is it really inherently pleasant? Same with cooling oneself. It feels pleasant to take a cold drink outside in hot day under scorching sun. But try to take it when it is freezing cold outside with snow up to the knees. Same thing taken on different occasions feels different. So where is the inherent nature of pleasure?

Another example: You are tired of being on foot all day and decide to lie down and rest. Lying down and resting feels pleasant (at first). But try to remain in that pleasant position motionless for may hours (lets say 12+) and it will feel painful, you will want to get up and stretch or stand or walk. So in one case it felt pleasant, but when you got more of it (more of the subtle suffering) it added up to lots of discomfort. Changing posture seems pleasant, but try to remain in that “pleasant” posture for too long. You will be unable to bear that “pleasure”.

Salt can may the bland food taste “better”. But just try to add up that better and very soon it will be too bad. So maybe it wasn't inherent pleasure
even in the beginning. The bland taste was much worse than taste of food with a little bit of salt. Try to take your favorite meal 3 times a day, each day. Very soon you will be sick from eating food that you’ve previously considered to be “pleasant”. Remember that it is mispercepetion to see pleasure in what
is painful and that "all that is felt is included in suffering". The difference of suffering is what is responsible for perception of pleasure. Where there is
less suffering, there is pleasure (of having less pain), but it is pain nonetheless.



“Whether it be pleasant or painful, Along with the neither-painful-nor-pleasant, Both the internal and the external, Whatever kind of feeling there is: Having known, This is suffering (dukkhanti), Perishable, disintegrating, Having touched and touched them, seeing their fall, Thus one loses one's passion for them” SN36.2(2)

"Pleasant feeling, bhikkhus, should be seen as painful;"
Sukhā, bhikkhave, vedanā dukkhato daṭṭhabbā -SN 36.5(5)


"Whatever is felt is included in suffering." yaṃ kiñci vedayitaṃ taṃ dukkhasmi’nti
SN 36.11(1)

Sabbe saṅkhārā dukkhā’’ti , All formations are stressful. Dhp 278

'Pleasant' with regard to the stressful is a perversion of perception, a perversion of mind, a perversion of view.

'Stressful' with regard to the stressful is a non-perversion of perception, a non-perversion of mind, a non-perversion of view.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

With the complete transcending of the dimension of nothingness, I entered & remained in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception.
"As I remained there, I was beset with attention to perceptions dealing with the dimension of nothingness. That was an affliction for me. Just as pain arises as an affliction for a healthy person, even so the attention to perceptions dealing with the dimension of nothingness that beset me was an affliction for me.
"So at a later time, having seen the drawback of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, I pursued that theme; having understood the reward of the cessation of perception & feeling, I familiarized myself with it. My heart leaped up at the cessation of perception & feeling, grew confident, steadfast, & firm, seeing it as peace. With the complete transcending of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, I entered & remained in the cessation of perception & feeling. And as I saw with discernment, the mental fermentations went to their total end.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care."
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Re: Wise Understanding of Dukkha

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Aug 11, 2010 12:19 am

Greetings Sally,

It might be worth clarifying what your teacher means. If he means the causes of suffering, or examining suffering in order to identify its causes then this is likely to be valuable. If the contemplation just results in a wallowing in suffering, then clearly it's not.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Wise Understanding of Dukkha

Postby nameless » Wed Aug 11, 2010 2:58 am

Does he really mean what you think he means? Maybe it would be useful to seek clarification.

We derive meaning based on our conditioning, that certain words in certain sequences mean certain things. And in the overall language, I can be certain that we both speak English and that what I mean is being transmitted to you. But in subtle ways, we might say the same thing but mean something different, or say different things that mean the same. Basically when we communicate, what happens is "if I say these words in this sequence it would mean this, he said these words in the same sequence, hence he must mean the same", and most of the time it works, sometimes it doesn't.

Perhaps, even if he is a lousy teacher who's teaching the wrong stuff, there can be a more beneficial attitude to take towards the situation. Basically what you're saying is (or to illustrate my point, what I would mean if I said the same things) I'm not comfortable, it's not wholesome, it's not well balanced, hence it's wrong and I should go elsewhere. It's wrong because I don't like it/I'm not comfortable with it/it does not fit my expectation about what Buddhism should be about. But that's conceit! "I know better so if it doesn't fit my expectations it is wrong". Of course I'm not encouraging blind faith, but rather than take something as wrong because it doesn't fit your expectations, maybe another attitude you could take is "It doesn't sound right, but does he have a point? Let's think about it a little before deciding, let's try and see if it works". And of course if it doesn't you can then conclude maybe it's wrong or not for you at the time.
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Re: Wise Understanding of Dukkha

Postby jcsuperstar » Wed Aug 11, 2010 8:21 am

vipassana, as i understand it, is insight into the true nature of things, and according to the Buddha all conditioned things are not-self, impermanent and dukkha(suffering, stressful, unsatisfactory whatever you want to translate it as), so if one is meditating in order for insight to arise then one is in a way actively searching for suffering. it could be compared to a biologist in the field who is searching for a specific animal in order to study it. without her study no wisdom of the nature of this creature can be known, and without the search no study can be done so she has to search, one good way is to just set up a base and wait to trap the creature, take a good look at it and learn what she can.
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Wise Understanding of Dukkha

Postby dhamma_spoon » Wed Aug 11, 2010 2:06 pm

Sally wrote:Hello. ...My understanding of the First Noble Truth is that a fairly correct translation of it is "there is dissatisfaction", but that it is often translated in a more global way as "life is suffering". I feel comfortable with the first translation, but not with the second.

....It does not feel wholesome to me that such an emphasis was placed on focusing on 'suffering'. I am feeling disappointed at the possibility that the Buddhist community I have been a part of for many years is not offering teachings that are well balanced.

I welcome your perspective.

Sally


Hi Sally and other members of Dhamma Wheel, -

If you ask 100 Buddhists to tell you what they believe the Buddha really taught, how many different answers will you get?
I think you will get at least 75 different answers.
Now what do you think the Buddha considered the main idea of his teaching?

"Both formerly & now, it is only stress that I describe, and the cessation of stress." [SN 22.86]
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Stress is just one rendition of the Pali 'dukkha'.

Dukkha is: Disturbance, irritation, dejection, worry, despair, fear, dread, anguish, anxiety; vulnerability, injury, inability, inferiority; sickness, aging, decay of body and faculties, senility; pain/pleasure; excitement/boredom; deprivation/excess; desire/frustration, suppression; longing/aimlessness; hope/hopelessness; effort, activity, striving/repression; loss, want, insufficiency/satiety; love/lovelessness, friendlessness; dislike, aversion/attraction; parenthood/childlessness; submission/rebellion; decision/indecisiveness, vacillation, uncertainty.

— Francis Story in Suffering, in Vol. II of The Three Basic Facts of Existence (Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society, 1983)

So, now you see why most people are so confused?

[Dhamma spoon is stirring the Dhamma pot]
:stirthepot:
A soup spoon does not know the taste of the soup.
A dhamma spoon does not know the taste of the Dhamma!
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Re: Wise Understanding of Dukkha

Postby PeterB » Wed Aug 11, 2010 2:41 pm

Are you saying that they are confused because of Dukkha ? Or because there are so many translations of Dukkha ? Or that their Dukkha is the result of confusion ?
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Re: Wise Understanding of Dukkha

Postby dhamma_spoon » Wed Aug 11, 2010 2:59 pm

PeterB wrote:Are you saying that they are confused because of Dukkha ? Or because there are so many translations of Dukkha ? Or that their Dukkha is the result of confusion ?


Dear PeterB (Sally and others), -

I appreciate the opportunity you have given me.
They are confused because understanding dukkha is the same as having no doubt about the first noble truth (dukkha sacca).
That understanding or penetration is not easy to arise in most uninstructed people!
Such penetration of dukkha sacca is the first step towards Stream-entry. :meditate:

MN 2: "He attends appropriately, This is stress... This is the origination of stress... This is the cessation of stress... This is the way leading to the cessation of stress. As he attends appropriately in this way, three fetters are abandoned in him: identity-view, doubt, and grasping at precepts & practices. These are called the fermentations to be abandoned by seeing.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

:stirthepot:
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A dhamma spoon does not know the taste of the Dhamma!
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Re: Wise Understanding of Dukkha

Postby Goedert » Thu Aug 12, 2010 3:02 am

Sally wrote:Hello. I listened to a talk yesterday, and something about the emphasis bothered me. The teacher said that meditation should usually be about finding suffering within, and focusing on it.

My understanding of the First Noble Truth is that a fairly correct translation of it is "there is dissatisfaction", but that it is often translated in a more global way as "life is suffering".

I feel comfortable with the first translation, but not with the second.

As I understand it, the Buddha taught many kinds of meditation depending upon the needs and development of the student.

It does not feel wholesome to me that such an emphasis was placed on focusing on 'suffering'.

I am feeling disappointed at the possibility that the Buddhist community I have been a part of for many years is not offering teachings that are well balanced.

I welcome your perspective.

Sally


A wise understand of dukkha:

- See impernance phenomena as self, as I, as mine, as my. This is suffering.

But we must remember that the blissful way exist... The Noble Path.
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Re: Wise Understanding of Dukkha

Postby rowyourboat » Fri Aug 13, 2010 6:14 pm

I think there is a big difference in looking for the TRUTH of suffering (understanding, insight based) as opposed to the EMOTION of suffering (mood, feeling). One leads to letting go, the other, perhaps worsening of the problem, perhaps understanding its roots.

with metta

RYB
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Re: Wise Understanding of Dukkha

Postby dhamma_spoon » Fri Aug 13, 2010 9:16 pm

rowyourboat wrote:I think there is a big difference in looking for the TRUTH of suffering (understanding, insight based) as opposed to the EMOTION of suffering (mood, feeling). One leads to letting go, the other, perhaps worsening of the problem, perhaps understanding its roots.

with metta

RYB


Thank you for making the comparison. Now let me add a little more : :thanks:
I think clinging to feeling (vedana-khandha) is dukkha. Feeling, according to the Dependent origination principle, is an origination of dukkha
(since craving follows feeling).

Dhamma Spoon
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A dhamma spoon does not know the taste of the Dhamma!
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Re: Wise Understanding of Dukkha

Postby ground » Sat Aug 14, 2010 3:01 am

I would suggest the following view:
Perfect renunciation is one cause of liberation. Disenchantment is one cause of perfect renunciation. Disenchantment entails not clinging to what is called "life" in any way and that means not expecting anything from what is called "life". If there remains anything about "life" which does not stand for "dukkha" then this may be the crucial obstacle. Because what is "life"? It is the total of thought experiences in the context of the past, thought experiences in the context of the present and thought experiences in context of the future and all these are thought about in the context of "I" and "mine". Active rejection of the idea that all of "life" is dukkha necessarily is concomittant with attachment to "life". Being attached to "life" is being attached to experiences is being attached to phenomena is being attached to the thought of being the experiencer i.e. being attached to "I" and "mine".
The decisive point for the extension of the meaning of "dukkha" in one's mind seems to be the intention. A mind really intent on liberation will not accept a compromise. However a mind really intent on liberation actually is an effect of practice because initially the self-centered striving for what is commonly called "happiness" prevails.

Kind regards
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Re: Wise Understanding of Dukkha

Postby dhamma_spoon » Sat Aug 14, 2010 3:21 am

Dear Dhamma friend TMing (and other readers) -

I found myself nodding often as I was reading through your Dhamma-wise comment. Yes, I totally agree with your suggestion. :thanks:

TMing: "Perfect renunciation is one cause of liberation. Disenchantment is one cause of perfect renunciation. Disenchantment entails not clinging to what is called "life" in any way and that means not expecting anything from what is called "life". If there remains anything about "life" which does not stand for "dukkha" then this may be the crucial obstacle. Because what is "life"? It is the total of thought experiences in the context of the past, thought experiences in the context of the present and thought experiences in context of the future and all these are thought about in the context of "I" and "mine". Active rejection of the idea that all of "life" is dukkha necessarily is concomittant with attachment to "life". Being attached to "life" is being attached to experiences is being attached to phenomena is being attached to the thought of being the experiencer i.e. being attached to "I" and "mine".
The decisive point for the extension of the meaning of "dukkha" in one's mind seems to be the intention. A mind really intent on liberation will not accept a compromise. However a mind really intent on liberation actually is an effect of practice because initially the self-centered striving for what is commonly called "happiness" prevails.

Dhamma_spoon : The last sentence is a crucial balance to the extreme view that only sees "no self", "no doer", "nobody practices".

But who am I to say? I am just a spoon, hanging in there. :stirthepot:
A soup spoon does not know the taste of the soup.
A dhamma spoon does not know the taste of the Dhamma!
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