Dukkha is a Pali word that is classically defined as suffering. But dukkha can also be translated as anxiety, stress, and unsatisfactoriness. It is found in physical, emotional, and mental pain. It is found in our misconception that everything will remain as it is and not change. It is found in the fact that we think we are permanent, integral, autonomous beings within an individual existence. None of these are true, but we believe them and so continue to get caught in the endless cycle of distress.
The Buddha said “I teach only one thing; suffering and the end of suffering, ” with the intention of liberating us. The practice that can liberate us from dukkha, as described by the Buddha, is the Noble Eightfold Path. It is divided into the following factors: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. These eight factors can be collapsed into three components: ethical conduct, concentration, and wisdom.
Secularization of the Noble Eightfold Path has placed an emphasis on right mindfulness (one of the concentration components, along with right effort and right concentration) and diminished the importance of ethical conduct. Ethical conduct means non-harming, not taking what is not freely given, abstaining from sexual misconduct, refraining from false speech, and abstaining from intoxicants that cloud the mind.
Take the opportunity and see where you harm. Do you denigrate yourself ? That’s harming. What other ways do you harm yourself and others?
Take the opportunity and see if you take that which is not freely given. Do you help yourself to things at work? Pencils and pens perhaps?
Take the opportunity to see if you practice sexual misconduct. Remember, thinking sexually about someone else influences your relationship to those whom you have a relationship with.
Take the opportunity to see if you practice false speech. This includes gossip and not keeping your word. How often do we say something we regret later?
Take the opportunity to see if your drinking or taking drugs (not prescription drugs) clouds your mind in any way. Notice what it is that encourages you to continue to cloud your mind.
This inquiry isn’t intended to make you feel bad about yourself. It is an investigation into when you are keeping the precepts and when you are not. We explore this because the precepts are the foundation of your practice. Without them you perpetrate the dukkha in your life, no matter how much you say you practice mindfulness.
“Birth is dukkha, aging is dukkha, death is dukkha; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, & despair are dukkha; association with the unbeloved is dukkha; separation from the loved is dukkha; not getting what is wanted is dukkha. In short, the five clinging-aggregates are dukkha.”
—Buddha – SN 56.11
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