A Little Basic Buddhism, Part 1

256px-Earth_from_SpaceThe historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, described this world in which we live, a world bracketed by birth and death, as dukkha. It is impermanent, unreliable, unsatisfactory, subject to decay, and, as such, a source of suffering. There is certainly happiness to be found in this world but it does not last and is often mixed with suffering.

Dukkha is often broken down into three levels. Now, of course, you can read about dukkha in many places on the internet and in various Buddhist books. What I would like to emphasize here is the importance of examining critically the basic truths of Buddhism. It is not enough to just read through them and accept them at face value. We must test them. This is especially the case with the first noble truth, which is the Shakyamuni Buddha’s statement of our existential situation. If we do not find this foundational truth tenable then the rest of the Buddha’s teachings will not hold up for us.

The first level of dukkha, the most basic level, is identified as the suffering of suffering. This is what most of us would think of as suffering. Our bodies are fragile, subject to injury, disease, discomfort, old age and death. We suffer from heat and cold, insect bites, hunger, thirst, allergies, etc.

I know this seems very basic, obvious even, but it is important to examine this truth. Because if we do not really get at this most fundamental truth, it will just remain a concept with little power to transform our lives. If we do not realize this truth for ourselves, we will buy into the dominant message in the West that that physical comfort equals real happiness.

To have a right understanding of the Buddha’s message, we must ask ourselves if this body is subject to injury, disease, discomfort, old age and death? Is there anyone who has ever escaped any of these? Have I ever been sick? Have I ever been injured? Do we know anyone who has died? Do I know anyone who as been seriously ill? Could any of these happen to me?

It is not enough to just realize it intellectually, we must know truth of it in our bones. We must allow the experiential realization of our own mortality and frailty to challenge and transform us.

Namo Amida Bu!

Peace, Paul

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2 Responses to “A Little Basic Buddhism, Part 1”

  1. carelessism Says:

    Certainty itself is uncertain. Suffering is with attachments..!

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