Dukkha

A crucial concept of Buddhism is that life is "dukkha", usually translated from the Pali language as "suffering". The Buddha is said to have realized the human condition after seeing a sick person, an old person, and a dead person, discovering for himself that sickness, old age, and death are our common fate.

I have read an alternative, quite profound, translation of "dukkha": that life is "unsatisfactory". This is not so dramatic as "suffering", but I believe it is more accurate.

Years ago, when I was living in Evanston, Illinois, I happened upon a restaurant named "Fritz, That's It!" that served veal parmesan over pasta with melted romano cheese on top. I had never consumed anything so delicious in my life, and I went back there as often as I could to recapture the experience. After several visits I found myself ordering something else. It wasn't that veal parmesan topped wth romano cheese had begun to taste bad; it was simply that the first "rush," the first imprinting, was over.

This was my first conscious experience of the psychological phenomenon of "habituation." Any pleasurable experience, if repeated often enough, will become habitual, in the sense that we do not derive any special joy from experiencing it, but feel deprived if it is withdrawn.

That is the true "dukkha."

07-Oct-2006