Words. . .

The Buddha didn’t speak English. This should be obvious since the historical Buddha lived in India almost 26 centuries ago. Yet it’s a point lost on many who get stuck on the definitions of English words used in translations. People want to argue that the first of the Four Noble Truths, often translated as “life is suffering” in English is a tad negative. The Buddha didn’t speak English, so he didn’t use the English word, “suffering.” What he said, according to the earliest scriptures, is that life is dukkha.

The Buddha taught there are three main categories of dukkha. These are:

  • Suffering or Pain (Dukkha-dukkha). Ordinary suffering, as defined by the English word, is one form of dukkha. This includes physical, emotional and mental pain.
  • Impermanence or Change (Viparinama-dukkha). Anything that is not permanent, that is subject to change, is dukkha. Thus, happiness is dukkha, because it is not permanent. Great success, which fades with the passing of time, is dukkha. Even the purest state of bliss experienced in spiritual practice is dukkha. This doesn’t mean that happiness, success, and bliss are bad, or that it’s wrong to enjoy them. If you feel happy, then enjoy feeling happy. Just don’t cling to it.
  • Conditioned States (Samkhara-dukkha). To be conditioned is to be dependent on or affected by something else. According to the teaching of dependent origination, all phenomena are conditioned. Everything affects everything else. This is the most difficult part of the teachings on dukkha to understand, but it is critical to understanding Buddhism.

I think we should return to using the word “dukkha.” instead of “suffering” Define it for yourself, without other words getting in the way. Get to know it through your own definition and concepts. The Buddha once summarized his own teachings this way: “Both formerly and now, it is only dukkha that I describe, and the cessation of dukkha.”  Fill your mind, plot your course, walk your path and clear it for others as they come along.

Peace and Love, Jim

#wordsofwisdom #thedailybuddha

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