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Buddhadharma : Winter 2017
60 Buddhadharma: The PracTiTioner's QuarTerly THE POWER AND unpredictability of sudden suffering has been dramatically illustrated around the world recently—three terrible hurricanes on the East Coast, refugees pouring out of Burma and Syria, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. It would be a mistake, however, to equate dukkha, a centerpiece of Buddhist teaching, only with such devastating drama. Its scope extends far beyond this to include a much more subtle state of vulnerability that persists even in the absence of mani- fest pain, even in the midst of apparent contentment. Buddha’s four ennobling truths present dukkha as the key to the knot in our existence, a knot that unravels only if we look into it closely. Mahayana traditions in Tibet speak of the sixteen aspects of the four noble truths. The four aspects of the first truth, dukkha, evoke the entire horizon of the path: pain, impermanence, emptiness, and selflessness. And indeed, look- ing closely into the pervasiveness of instability in our lives, we begin to see through the illusion of stable happiness and perma- nence of any kind; we realize that our personhood is not sub- stantial, that our real selves are not invulnerable to causes and conditions. When we recognize it, when dukkha and its corollaries are as apparent to us as a hair on our eyeball, we begin to wake up. We cease to be at odds with, or divided from, our real nature. Not knowing that nature, we feel separate from it. For the eleventh-century Tibetan sage Gampopa, this separation was the hallmark of the “ordinary person,” or so sor skyes bu—a term introduction by Anne carolyn klein Forum: Understanding Dukkha preceding page | The Flood, (2017) paintings By JeFF WigMan