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Buddhadharma : Winter 2017
forum | dukkha 63 identifies the fundamental source of suf- fering as confusion about the true nature of things. marK unno: The suffering of samsara is due to human attachment. In the Jodo Shinshu tradition, we sometimes simply say, “Things don’t go the way I want them to.” It’s a relatable way of talking about attachment as a fundamental cause of suffering. Within that, there is physi- cal suffering such as illness or injury, and there is emotional suffering of various kinds, but those might be categorized as finite sufferings that are addressed within the tradition; the fundamental suffering is the suffering of existence, which is due to attachment to existence, particularly ego attachment. In Shin Buddhism, the term we use most often to describe the cause of dukkha is “blind passions.” Human beings are driven by their passions. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the basic desires for food, sleep, sex, suc- cess. But problems arise when we grow attached to preconceived notions of how to fulfill those desires, to notions of who we think we are or should be, or to who we think others should be or are. It’s really the attachment to notions of real- ity that causes our feelings and desires to become blinded, hence the term “blind passions.” ThuBTen Chodron: I think “suffering” is a very confusing translation for the word dukkha. Suffering often refers to painful feelings and only that, whereas the word dukkha is much more inclu- sive. We often speak of three types of dukkha. The first is painful sensations, which can be mental or physical. The second is the dukkha of change—even when we have happiness in samsara, it doesn’t last. The activity that we believe is bringing us happiness isn’t truly of the nature of happiness; if we keep doing it, eventually it too becomes painful, like eating too much and eventually feeling sick. The subtlest level of dukkha is the pervasive dukkha of conditioning, taking the five aggregates again and again under the influence of afflictions and polluted karma. Even though we want happiness and peace, because our mind isn’t free from mental afflictions—ignorance, ani- mosity, and attachment—and the karma or actions that we perform under their influence, we are reborn in cyclic exis- tence and experience dukkha again and again. Buddhadharma: Are there English translations of dukkha that are preferable to “suffering”? marK unno: There can be a lot of con- fusion around the term, but I like “suf- fering” as a translation; it’s a relatable term that has deep resonance with the fundamental condition that Buddhism is seeking to address. It’s also the most common translation, and over time, espe- cially in a religious context, words in the vernacular can absorb more subtle layers of meaning. So when “suffering” is used within the Buddhist context now, it’s understood with an increasing degree of sophistication. ThuBTen Chodron: My experience is that when people hear “suffering,” they think of the ouch kind of pain, either