Understanding Dukkha

by Peter Carlson on February 8, 2018

Dukkha is one of the key concepts of Buddhist practice, considered as one of the three characteristics of existence, along with anicca (impermanence) and anatta (the absence of an autonomous and enduring self).  It is traditionally translated as suffering; however, Peter suggests the terms distress and confusion as more workable.  Dukkha is the First Noble Truth, and the Second Noble Truth is understanding the cause of dukkha, which is craving (tanha in Pali) and clinging (upadana in Pali).  Distress is a more direct rendering of craving, and clinging involves confusion about the true nature of reality.   The way dukkha was understood in the Buddha’s era can be related to the poor fit between the axle of a cart and the hub of the wheel.  Contemporary commentators suggest this uncomfortable and unreliable fit as a useful representation of dukkha.  During the talk, Peter emphasized the importance of not just understanding dukkha conceptually; experiential understanding through the practice of vipassana is essential for resolving dukkha as well as craving and clinging, and this is accomplished through the practice of Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration, the mental training components of the Noble Eightfold Path.

The presentation was followed by a discussion of how to recognize the experience of dukkha, craving or clinging, in order to use Right Effort to provide clarity and serenity in life.

Here are the notes prepared for this talk:  Understanding Dukkha

During the talk, Peter frequently referred to the cetasikas, conditioning functions of the mind.  Here is a chart listing them categorically:  CETASIKAS POSTER

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