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Buddhadharma : Winter 2017
62 Buddhadharma: The PracTiTioner's QuarTerly Buddhadharma: Dukkha is the starting point of Buddhist teachings, but not everyone speaks about it in the same way. Speaking from your own tradition, what does dukkha mean? Konin Cardenas: In the Zen tradition, dukkha is often translated as “suffering,” although more often it means dissatisfac- tion or the nagging sense that something is off, or sometimes even existential angst. It seems that dukkha is discussed more explicitly in American Zen than it commonly has been elsewhere in the Zen world. In my experience, Japanese Zen tends to assume that people come to practice seeking enlightenment—I can’t think of a single time I heard the word “dukkha” used during my Japa- nese training. American Zen, however, acknowledges that whether or not people are seeking some kind of transcendent experience, they often come to practice motivated by the feeling that their life is difficult; I hear “dukkha” often at the places where I’ve trained in the U.S. But regardless of where it’s practiced, Zen (left—right):vAschelleAndré,unknown,sArAsvAti,unknown thuBten chodRon is abbess of Sravasti Abbey in Newport, Washington Bhikkhu Bodhi is a senior Theravada monk, scholar, and translator MARk unno is a Shin Buddhist priest and professor of East Asian religions at the University of Oregon konin cARdenAs is the guiding teacher of Ekan Zen Study Center BhiKKhu Bodhi: In the Pali suttas, the discourses of the Buddha, the word dukkha is used in at least three senses. One, which is probably the original sense of the word dukkha and was used in conventional discourse during the Bud- dha’s time, is pain, particularly painful bodily feelings. The Buddha also uses the word dukkha for the emotional aspect of human existence. There are a number of synonyms that comprise this aspect of dukkha: soka, which means sorrow; aryadeva, which is lamentation; dolme- nasa, which is sadness, grief, or displea- sure; and upayasa, which is misery, even despair. The deepest, most comprehen- sive aspect of dukkha is signified by the term samkara-dukkha, which means the dukkha that is inherent in all conditioned phenomena simply by virtue of the fact that they are conditioned.