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Thread: The first noble truth and dukkha

  1. #1
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    The first noble truth and dukkha

    I think what got me interested in the dharma was the simple understanding of dukkha, that I first read about some 25 years ago. Realizing that the stress/dissatisfaction of dukkha is, well, stressful and dissatisfying, changed the way I look at the world. It's something I've held with me over the years, and it's helped me - I think - be more detached about the good and bad things that happen.

    I've been reading a book recently - Turning the Wheel of Truth, buy Ajahn Sucitto, an English Theravadan - which looks at the all-important first teaching of the Buddha where he explained the four noble truths. The bit about dukkha is very interesting, and I thought it would be a good thing to bring up the subject, which is something that I don't often see on the forum.

    First, here's Jundo's brief, yet precise discussion of the subject:

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...y-Dooby-Dukkha

    I've wondered about keeping a "dukkha diary," where I would note moments in my life where I feel dukkha. I think doing this might - rather than seem like a pessimistic way of recording my life - help me understand the myriad moments of dukkha, both small and large, and understand just how much dukkha there is, but also to accept them for what they are.

    So, today, here are some moments of dukkha I've had:

    At around 6:00 am, a bird started chirping outside my window. "Cheep! Cheep! Cheep!" He was most likely sitting under the eaves, and the sun's early rays prompted him to call out: was it a mating call, or just the joy of seeing the sun again. But for me, it was loud and disturbing. Yet I didn't want to prevent the bird from doing what was natural, so I lay on my side, and put a pillow on my top ear to quiet the bird. I fell back to sleep again, perhaps 20 minutes later.

    When I ate breakfast - just a piece of toast and a glass of milk, as I'm trying to lose weight - Titus the cat came and sniffed out the milk, and was very, very interested in it. I couldn't eat in peace, but I know Titus was just doing what cats do: looking for food, finding something, and wanting to get his share. It was frustrating and annoying, but I accepted that Titus was being a cat, so I just picked up the glass, and held it as I ate.

    I know; these are both tiny moments of dukkha, and ones that are easily identifiable. I have no big-picture dukkha to share today: no insecurity, pain, sickness, anxiety or doubt. But there were other small moments of dukkha this morning:

    The annoyance that a grocery store had not applied a £25 discount to my last online order, and I had already called twice. Since they still haven't called back, I have to waste time to either call them again, or just contest the payment with my bank. It's taken too much time already, and there's a lot of annoyance there: dukkha.

    Hearing Miles Davis' tone sounding bitter and acerbic on a live recording from 1965. All the reviews of the Live at the Plugged Nickel set were ecstatic, but I think Mile's tone was just terrible. The music doesn't sound to me as it should.

    My frustration at the rain outside: I wanted to go for a walk today, but it's going to rain all day.

    A bit of gut discomfort, and wondering what I could have eaten yesterday to cause it. A cup of chamomile tea is making it feel a bit better.

    Just realizing that it's 12:15 and that I haven't accomplished much yet today.

    There will be many more. Perhaps others would like to share moments of dukkha...?

    Gassho,

    Kirk

  2. #2
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    Waking up, remembering I didnt pay the parking ticket for my car outside, also remembering I didnt have any cash at home and it would be a big project just to get cash to put in the machine. Felt a great deal of dukkha, fell asleep again thinking "what ever F* it all, I can take a ticket"

  3. #3
    I already find this thread very frustrating.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  4. #4
    Blimey, Kirk, I would spend all day writing!

    Actually, though, this sounds like a great exercise to see how often and why we experience dukkha. I imagine that a lot of times it is something that, in retrospect, seems ridiculously trivial. The scientist in me already wants to chart different reasons for upset but that way lies madness!

    Do keep us posted how the exercise goes. Psychologists often give people with depression, anxiety or OCD a similar practice to note how often difficult thoughts arise.

    Gassho
    Andy

  5. #5
    Senior Member Sekishi's Avatar
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    Oh my, Kirk I don't know if you are my hero or a crazy man, maybe both! It is like the mirror image of the "thank the difficulties in your life" practice we did during Ango. Seriously though, please keep us informed on this exercise.

    Today, every moment the world was different than I wanted it to be, I experienced Dukkha. What would it be if I allowed the world to simply be? Grasping at all of the "beautiful" forms around me, passing away, ground by time into dust. Desiring oblivion for the "ugly" forms (which will also be ground into dust).

    As the doge says: Such grasping. Much Dukkha. Wow.

    Gassho,
    Sekishi

    髭 Sekishi / Eric

  6. #6
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Hi Kirk,

    Sorry for asking this, but isn't this journal too focused on the bad things?

    Life includes dukkha, but in every second of the day there are happy simple things as well.

    As I type this the sun is shining and I can see hummingbirds flying near my girlfriend's little garden. I also had a few raisins and their taste and sweetness was explosive in my mouth. Also I am a little uncomfortable from my yoga practice this morning. And I just read the news, which are horrible as usual. But then again, I am typing in another language, sitting comfortable in my office chair... which means I have a home, work, a chair, a desk and a (poor) education.

    In a single second there are good things and bad things. All happening at the same time.

    Could it be that you could also be aware on the good things? Or even better, just to surf the waves and taking things just as they are?

    I don't know. Just a though. I could be totally wrong.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    Please remember I am only a priest in training. I could be wrong in everything I say. Slap me if needed.

    The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. Mr. Spock

  7. #7
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Kyonin,

    I think it's easy to record the good things. It's interesting, however, to record dukkha; not just the Big Bad Things, but the little ones, the ones we pay no attention to normally. I think it's important to realize how pervasive dukkha is, not to be dismal, but to put things into perspective.

    Also, I think a lot of understanding dukkha is about accepting it and letting it go, but without ignoring its existence.

    As I type this, I'm slightly twisted in my office chair, because Titus the cat has taken up residence on my lap, and I can't sit exactly the way I want. Is that dukkha? Yes and no; I'd rather sit more comfortably, but Titus on my lap feels warm and fluffy. ;-)

    Jundo? Would you like to weigh in here?

    Gassho,

    Kirk

  8. #8
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    It doesn't take tirelessly writing every incident of dukkha to recognize dukkha. You already know when it's there.
    迎 Geika

  9. #9
    Senior Member Sekishi's Avatar
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    Kirk, thank you for your post. I've really sunk into contemplation of Dukkha / the First Noble Truth today because of it.

    I did some writing, but thought it might be better not to clutter up your thread with it.

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...t-Noble-Truth)

    Gassho,
    Sekishi

    髭 Sekishi / Eric

  10. #10
    Senior Member Nameless's Avatar
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    "I exist, that is dukkha," hahaha just kidding. Thought I'd donate a thought I would have had back when there was Depressed Teenager John. The dukkha of the last week was, "This song does not sound like I want it to." When I set this mind on something, I don't usually fail. I have an album coming out next month and I just wanted to throw one more track on it that would tie it all together (it's kind of a concept album). This track too me days and days just to get the music levels right. Then I realized after recording the vocals that there was no way that I could have them both 1) be heard 2) not cause distortion.

    After all the hours put in, and the realization that the song's message could not be expressed, I broke down and cried. I was very attached to this song. The next day I had the insight to change it into a spoken word song. So I wrote a short story, recorded myself reading it, and then played some soft piano under it. I decided to throw parts of the original into it for when I wasn't reading. It worked, though it is so novel and incongruous that most people probably won't enjoy it, so I'll probably end up leaving it off the album anyway.

    The irony of this story is that the album is about Buddhist concepts. There's even a song called Dukkha on it. I literally threw away practice this week and was emerged into the gritty world of worldliness. The only difference was that I was aware of this every moment. Aware that I was veering off into the Dark Side of the force haha. The lesson the week? Things don't always work out the way you want them to. You can't have everything just so, and can't prevent difficulties from arising when the conditions are right. We can still realize that it's good practice and that all is Shikantaza. The clear sky is there above the clouds.

    Gassho, Foolishly Serious John

  11. #11
    Senior Member Myosha's Avatar
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    It's all practice.^^


    Gassho,
    Myosha
    Practice with humility, respect all beings, avoid attachments, give rise to prajña from your own awareness, put an end to delusions - Hui-neng

  12. #12
    I'm glad Treeleaf has a "Buddha basics" section. The ABC's of early Buddhism bloomed into the skillful means of the Zen and Tibetan Buddhism. It is made of sturdy stuff.

    Just speaking from my own experience, dukkha and cessation of dukkha is still in play while practicing zazen, even though it is not something that is focused on. When I "just sit" there is a simple openness with no agenda, but that spacious mind has a natural quality of clarity or sharpness. It is an immediate discerning aspect that is not thinking, but direct and experiential. This discerning aspect tastes "dukkha" or "wanting this moment to be/feel other than it is" , and the openness spontaneously releases it. One of the interesting things about dukkha is that it seems to be in the very process of becoming in time and space, deeper than personal suffering. Cessation of dukkha open and opens. I don't think there is an end to it. All in the simple space of just sitting with no agenda.

    Gassho Daizan
    Last edited by Daizan; 04-08-2014 at 04:54 AM.
    大山

  13. #13
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Yes, dukkha is not just bad things, or unhappy things; it's also I-want-this-to-be-different things.

    Gassho,

    Kirk

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc View Post
    Yes, dukkha is not just bad things, or unhappy things; it's also I-want-this-to-be-different things.

    Gassho,

    Kirk
    Most of the heavy handed personal suffering I grew up with is gone, along with the awful questions, they have been settled in cessation of dukkha. But there is still a subtle dukkha in the very extension from a dimensionless point.. So to say "life is suffering" is wrong, suffering is optional, but dukkha in the more subtle non-suffering sense is very deep. It opens out and out.

    The beauty of Just Sitting ,IMHO, is that the Four Noble truths , 8 fold path, dependent origination etc. is all right there in the most perfectly simple non-practice practice. I'm not sure if a teacher of Shikantaza would put it that way, and maybe those basics are not a required study for the non-ordained practitioner, but having come from a background of those "Buddha Basic", it has been very much an organic whole. Thank you for raising the topic. it is a special interest for me.

    Gassho Daizan
    大山

  15. #15
    I had diarrhea and vomiting for around 12 hours this weekend, along with dehydration. The most dukkha I've experienced in a long, long time. Made all the little stuff I worry/get annoyed about seem ridiculous, and also reminded me, quite clearly, that I'm in control of nothing. Nothing. Sitting zazen is giving into that open flowing that is beyond the little me. Sitting zazen, even on the sofa, in the middle of of this sickness, there was that brief stillness of nondukkha amidst the dukkha: that, even if briefly, it was okay my body was violently ill: it was just what was happening. Then I went back to complaining like a child.

    Gassho
    Shōmon

  16. #16
    Hi

    Dukkha, the suffering of dissatisfaction, arises in connection with the big and little things and events in life that bother us ... from annoying bird tweets to losing someone we love. Of course, the things and events are just "what they are", and it is really our mental reaction to them that is the ultimate source of Dukkha ...

    The circumstances of everyone’s life will include unpleasant experiences. But these are not in themselves what the Buddha meant by dukkha dukkha. It’s the aversion to the unpleasantness that is dukkha dukkha. And so, the origin of dukkha dukkha is tanha – that craving or longing for the circumstances of our lives to be different. That craving is like hitting our heads against a wall because this is how things are: we were born and so are subject to injury, illness, old age, and loss. Our loved ones are subject to the same conditions and so we will experience unpleasant feelings of separation and loss.
    The only way to keep dukkha dukkha from arising is to change our response to unpleasant experience.
    http://shambhalasun.com/sunspace/?p=21250
    But Dukkha also arises in connection with happy and pleasant things ... joyous moments — such as happiness and good news, treasure or pleasant times — can be a source of suffering if we cling to them, if we are attached to those things.

    Viparinama dukkha: Whereas dukkha dukkha arises in response to unpleasant experiences, viparinama dukkha arises in response to pleasant ones; it is tied to impermanence or change. (Viparinama means “changing.”) As with the other two kinds of dukkha, the origin of viparinama dukkha is craving. When we’re enjoying a pleasant experience, we crave for it to continue. In fact, we’ll go to extremes to keep it going (driving too fast, eating too much). Viparinama dukkha arises when, inevitably, the universal law of impermanence leaves that craving unsatisfied.
    More profoundly, it can be present during a pleasant experience There’s often an underlying unease or dissatisfaction even when we’re happy or joyful because, at a gut level, we know it won’t last.
    Furthermore, the Buddha pointed out a kind of existential Angst Dukkha (sankhara-dukkha) simply inherent in the human condition and the feeling of mortality, separation from the world and such. It is the basic unsatisfactoriness pervading all existence, all forms of life, because all forms of life are changing, impermanent and without any abiding core or substance. The medicine for this is to transcend all that ... which is what is undertaken in Shikantaza.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 04-09-2014 at 01:31 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  17. #17
    Senior Member Clark's Avatar
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    Yes

    I am currently in a situation where I have lost 2 friends recently through no fault of my own. One was a misunderstanding and one was a friend of a family member that unilaterally decided to end the relationship. I do find myself clinging to these situations, wishing they were different, and yet I have absolutely no control over ANY of it. Impermanence indeed reigns. Good or bad I don't know. But I do know I still feel sadness and longing for things to stay the same.
    Gassho
    C

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    The medicine for this is to transcend all that ... which is what is undertaken in Shikantaza.
    How? Elegantly simple really.

    Shikantaza sits, allowing bird chirps to be chirpy, the breeze to be breezy, stinky garbage to be just that, lovely flowers to flower, yesterday yesterday and tomorrow tomorrow ... placing aside all judgment and resistance, analysis and plans, dreams of "what if" and regrets for "what was". All is as it is, and a vibrant flowing wholeness is all things.

    Rising from the cushion, we can and should still clean up the stinky garbage, water the flowers and pick the weeds, learn from yesterday and plan for tomorrow (we are not complacent) ... yet the sensation of "flowing wholeness is all things" simultaneously pervades. Beyond good or bad, clean vs. dirty yet, hand-in-hand (like seeing out of two eyes at once) bad is yet bad and in need of fixing, dirty is still dirty in need of cleaning ... we should get on the clean-up job, and realization happens in our every choice and action in life ... while simultaneously all is as it is, not a thing in need of fixing.

    As to the Dukkha of good things ... one can learn to appreciate and savor them while they are present, but appreciate and savor their parting too. One is not their prisoner, does not cling. Rather, one embraces ... yet also embraces their departing. If one has assets or a bit of treasure, one learns to appreciate them for what they are, not be overly attached like a sickness, and use them for good and healthful purposes. One is at Peace of One Piece with the happy times and sad/scary times too (even as the sad times make us fearful or cry with a broken heart ... there is the Heart which Cannot Be Broken). All is as it is, flowing wholeness ever changing.

    And thus Shikantaza closes the gap on the existential Angst of the human condition, our mortality, feeling of separation from the world, basic unsatisfactoriness due to change and impermanence. The reason is that we come to now flow along (and feel ourselves as the flow) of change and impermanence, taste something timeless and whole as the mind drops human measures of "beginnings and endings, births and deaths" and "me and you, this vs. that" in the wholeness of Shikantaza.

    The frictions drop away and the gap is closed. In fact, there never was a gap all along. All flowing flowing.

    Thus the simple elegance, the power of the medicine of Shikantaza.

    Gassho, Jundo
    Last edited by Jundo; 04-09-2014 at 02:01 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  19. #19
    Senior Member Heion's Avatar
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    I love this thread and Jundo's many words of wisdom! haha The more I notice that suffering is the same as non suffering and the more I put my worries into perspective, the more at peace I become. I have noticed that when we realize that the friction is just caused by us, and all of it are just useless divisions by the mind. The more my though process 'simplifies', the clearer I see.

    Gassho,
    Alex

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Clarinetist! View Post
    I love this thread and Jundo's many words of wisdom! haha The more I notice that suffering is the same as non suffering and the more I put my worries into perspective, the more at peace I become. I have noticed that when we realize that the friction is just caused by us, and all of it are just useless divisions by the mind. The more my though process 'simplifies', the clearer I see.

    Gassho,
    Alex
    Dear Clarinet Man,

    The Buddha's Music is always Harmonious, never off tempo (all things in their time) or off key. All notes and melodies are held within, both allegro and doloroso and every other emotion. There is never a bad performance.

    And yet, and yet ... standing on this stage of life, we do what we can to avoid being flat and off key, missing the beat.

    How to get to Buddha's Carnegie Hall? PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  21. #21
    Senior Member Joyo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Clark View Post
    Yes

    I am currently in a situation where I have lost 2 friends recently through no fault of my own. One was a misunderstanding and one was a friend of a family member that unilaterally decided to end the relationship. I do find myself clinging to these situations, wishing they were different, and yet I have absolutely no control over ANY of it. Impermanence indeed reigns. Good or bad I don't know. But I do know I still feel sadness and longing for things to stay the same.
    Gassho
    C
    Clark, much metta to you. As I posted before, I do understand how much this hurts. I hope things turn around and you find peace.

    Gassho,
    Joyo

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