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candid portrait of homeless street kid
New Delhi, India
Dukkha is identified as the first of the Four Noble Truths. The Pali term dukkha (Sanskrit: duhkha) is typically translated as “suffering”, but the term dukkha has a much broader meaning than the typical use of the word “suffering”. Dukkha suggests a basic unsatisfactoriness pervading all forms of life, due to the fact that all forms of life are impermanent and constantly changing. Dukkha indicates a lack of satisfaction, a sense that things never measure up to our expectations or standards.
The emphasis on dukkha is not intended to be pessimistic, but rather to identify the nature of dukkha, in order that dukkha things may be overcome. The Buddha acknowledged that there is both happiness and sorrow in the world, but he taught that even when we have some kind of happiness, it is not permanent; it is subject to change. And due to this unstable, impermanent nature of all things, everything we experience is said to have the quality of duhkha or unsatisfactoriness. Therefore unless we can gain insight into that truth, and understand what is really able to give us happiness, and what is unable to provide happiness, the experience of dissatisfaction will persist.
Traleg Kyabgon explains:
Normally we think our happiness is contingent upon external circumstances and situations, rather than upon our own inner attitude toward things, or toward life in general. The Buddha was saying that dissatisfaction is part of life, even if we are seeking happiness and even if we manage to find temporary happiness. The very fact that it is temporary means that sooner or later the happiness is going to pass. So the Buddha said that unless we understand this and see how pervasive dissatisfaction or duhkha is, it is impossible for us to start looking for real happiness.
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