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Buddhadharma : Winter 2017
64 Buddhadharma: The PracTiTioner's QuarTerly physical or mental, so when their lives are going well they think, “My life isn’t the nature of dukkha. I have a house, a job, a family—everything is fine. I’m not suffering.” Similarly, when you’re trying to encourage compassion, people can readily have compassion for those who are poor or sick, but they don’t think of extending it to residents of Beverly Hills or the West Side of Manhattan. So I think the word “suffering” actually limits peo- ple’s understanding of dukkha. I just use the Sanskrit and Pali term dukkha now and explain it when I talk. Sometimes I translate it as “unsatisfactory circum- stances,” but that becomes rather bulky. Konin Cardenas: I agree. Using a phrase like “the unsatisfactory nature of things” or simply using the term dukkha and explaining it is preferable because it encompasses the pervasive way in which dukkha is a part of life—that it’s more intrinsic than a tension between positive or negative or joyful versus not joyful. BhiKKhu Bodhi: It’s good to have a little debate here. I’m more comfortable with dukkha, though I’m also going to come to the defense of Mark’s preference for “suffering.” I agree that dukkha has a much more extensive meaning than the English word suffering; without explana- tion, it could easily be misunderstood. However, the Buddha picked up the word dukkha—which during his time meant suffering—and placed it within the archi- tecture of his teaching, from which multi- ple ramifications of the word arose. Simi- larly, through explanation one can show that what we call suffering encompasses a much wider range than we commonly understand—we start with the word that indicates pain, dissatisfaction, what is defective or inadequate, and then show that the things that we take to be pleas- ant, blissful, and enjoyable, when exam- ined more closely and deeply, are in fact unsatisfactory and inherently defective. There are a number of discourses in which the Buddha explains how when a meditator attains the higher levels of meditative absorption, the advanced stages of samadhi—the four jhanas, the four divine abodes, the bramaviharas, and the four formless meditations—and then examines those states that we gen- erally consider to be sublime or blissful, they too will be seen as impermanent, as dukkha, as a disease, a boil, an affliction, a tumor, and so forth. So we can extend our understanding of suffering to include even these exalted states. Buddhadharma: Rather than insist on a single translation, might it be bet- ter to talk of dukkha as a spectrum of experience? ThuBTen Chodron: Yes. One end of the spectrum is mental and physical suffering. The other end is the basic fact that our minds are not free. Due to afflictions and karma—the second noble truth, the truth of the origin of dukkha—continuous rebirth in samsara occurs. That’s a very subtle kind of dukkha that is difficult for people to realize; we don’t even tend to think of it as anything undesirable. We just take our body and mind for granted. But it is said that aryas, those who per- ceive reality directly, perceive that kind of dukkha with the same intensity as we would having a hair in our eye; they