The Buddha's teachings on Dukkha: About suffering and the end of all suffering
The four noble truths
A few days ago I wrote a reaction on a weblog about the Buddha's teachings on dhukkha, generally translated by suffering. With all my writing about Buddhism on jeroensjourney (click here
), I never really fully explained this important teaching. In the four noble truths Buddha explained what suffering was and how to end it.
The four noble truths are in short:
1. The nature of dhukkha
2. The cause of dhukkha
3. The cessation of dhukkha
4. The path that leads to the cessation of dhukkha (the end of all suffering).
What is dukkha or suffering?
For me dukkha, simply means any unpleasant emotion. From a slight impatience or irritation, to anger, rage, fear, jealousy, sadness, worry or hatred. All these, and more, are what makes us suffer in life. Buddha said it as follows:
Birth is dukkha, aging is dukkha, sickness is dukkha, death is dukkha;
union with what is displeasing is dukkha;
separation from what is pleasing is dukkha;
not to get what one wants is dukkha.
I won't go further into this now, but it will become clearer in the following paragraphs.
The cause of dhukkha?
The cause of dhukkha is ignorance, and the main symptoms of that are attachment and craving. So we suffer because we do not understand the cause of our suffering and do not know how to end this suffering.
I wrote a blog about attachment
on my other weblog, but will explain a bit more here in my own words.
We suffer because we are attached [gehecht] to things, to people to pleasant emotions to sensual pleasures, etc. The problem is that all these things and experiences, all wordly things in Buddhist terms, are impermanent, which means that the don't last. So sooner of later we loose then and then we suffer because we miss what we had. In the Buddha's words impermanence is explained as birth, aging, sickness and death. So a pleasant emotion arises (birth), it lasts for a while (aging), it starts to fade away (sickness) and it ends (death). What the Buddha meant here (in the above text on the first noble truth) when he said 'birth is dhukkha' is the birth of the conscious that identifies with the pleasureable feeling. And that identification, the birth of self in Buddhist terms, is the attachment that leads to suffering.
In itself the fact that pleasant experiences and emotions are impermanent does not make us suffer. What makes us suffer is that we attach to them. Some examples.
So let's say I really enjoy skiing (which I do). So I go on a skiing holiday and I love it. But I cling to the pleasure of the skiing, so when the holiday ends I dread my days at work or at home and miss the mountains, the sun and the great feeling of the skiing. So I suffer. Dukkha arises.
However, if I just enjoy the skiing, being completely in the here and now when I do it and then, when the holiday ends be completely present in whatever comes next, I won't suffer. No dukkha arises. So in this example I detach from the pleasureable experience, but that doesn't mean I enjoy it less. Actually it means that I enjoy it more because there is no negative feeling associated with the imminent end of my holiday.
Another example about which I wrote a lot already, but I think many people can relate to this is attaching to a relationship. I was so attached to my girlfriend that this not only led to the end of the relationship, but it also brought up a lot of fear about losing her. And then when it ended it indeed was horrible because I was so attached to her, to my dreams and plans with a life with her and more. So a very strong example of how attachment leads to dukkha.
Craving is the same thing. We crave something we don't have, so we miss that and we suffer. Whether it is craving for food, for a holiday, a relationship, sex, whatever. Craving leads to dhukkha.
I will leave it at this for now. All the best,