Going Through Dukkha

  • by Thaniyo Thero

If I experience a painful feeling in relation to a bodily sensation, such as a backache, should I then just leave that ache alone without trying to get rid of it, so that my craving and suffering diminish?

If your attitude behind your action is not one of craving, then you can do whatever it takes to heal the backache. Lay down, take an ibuprofen, etc.

Using medicines or trying to heal the body doesn’t have to involve craving, but it will unless you know the Middle way (non-lust, non-aversion, non-distraction) to escape from craving.

Pain can be managed, but one must do so in such a way that uproots one’s suffering (the starving of craving) rather than managing one’s suffering (the feeding of craving).

By no longer acting out of craving, which you have been doing habitually since you can remember, you can begin to discern the nature of that attitude of craving, which does not disappear as soon as you decide to stop following it. As one becomes aware of craving, one becomes aware of suffering in all its gory details. It feels pretty intense and seems like it’s going to last forever. No ibuprofen or physical relaxation is going to help with that suffering. The point is that you can manage your physical pain without feeding your suffering.

When you don’t act out of craving, you will discover its true nature. You get to see the extent of Dukkha.

Now, any act of craving, no matter how small, will fuel that dukkha and keep you confined within it. Any management of that suffering will keep you liable to the management of suffering. The only escape lies in ‘patient endurance’- the Middle way. In other words, the dukkha must be experienced without adding more fuel to its fire, and as long as the craving persists, it’s going to burn.

Trying to find a way to manage that suffering is inevitable. Likewise with wanting to get rid of it. And if you manage not to do that, you will come face to face with dukkha, which will seem everlasting. The goal, however, is not to be moved by it, to no longer be affected even if it is the most severe suffering you can imagine, even if it feels like it will last forever. Dukkha must be overcome, and in order to do that, you have to adopt this ‘middle way of non-craving’ attitude.

This non-doing of craving is one of the hardest things to accomplish. Nevertheless, if you keep trying, you can eventually find the right balance and at that point, you must stay, until there is no longer a problem with dukkha. Which means it’s no longer dukkha.