It's Not Suffering, It's Impermanence!
The Terrific Mistranslation of a Central Buddhist Tenet (Vol. 3; Issue 14)
Three recent newsletter issues on alienation, and a few on suffering? I mean, what’s up? Apologies, but I just can’t let it go—at least yet. The Buddhist tenet that life is suffering has bugged me from when I first learned it in my 20s.
Yes, of course, plenty of pain in life, but must it be constant suffering? What about the great times with loved ones and family? What about friendships, meaningful work, and play, or even planting a simple garden?
Here’s some good news on the suffering front:
The Pali word the Buddha used to describe his First Noble Truth was mistranslated. Pali is one of the languages the Buddha spoke. Dukkha, the English word translated from Sanskrit (not Pali), is commonly understood to mean suffering, pain, sorrow, affliction, anxiety, dissatisfaction, discomfort, anguish, stress, misery, and frustration.
However, when examined closely, Dukkha refers specifically to impermanence. Lack of satisfaction or unease follow from it. Herein lies the key idea of this week’s newsletter:
Those four uses of the word, suffering, which you often hear in any list of the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths, is wrong. His famous list reads:
The truth of suffering;
The truth of the cause of suffering;
The truth of the end of suffering, and;
The truth of the path to end suffering.
Again, all those words just noted, referring to variations of discomfort, result from the ever-changing nature of all things.
Its a basic truth with a capital T:
Everything is changing.
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