Napa Valley Insight Meditation Message Board › The Second Noble Trusth: Reading for the Tuesday Jan. 14th NVMG meeting
This week (Tuesday, Jan 14) we will continue our study of the Four Noble Truths, by focusing on the Second Noble Truth – the cause of suffering. The reading for the discussion again comes from the 4th chapter of Arinna Weisman and Jean Smith’s book “The Beginner’s Guide to Insight Meditation." You can be downloaded a copy of the reading by clicking on the link below.
The second noble truth deals with the origin, roots, creation or arising of Dukkha (dis-ease, anxiety, stress, fear, unsatisfactoriness, or simply suffering). Once we touch our suffering (first noble truth), the practice is to begin to look deeply into it in order to recognize and identify the feelings, thoughts and perceptions that are causing us to suffer.
Buddhism does not teach that everything is suffering. What it does say is that life, by its nature, is difficult, flawed, and imperfect. That's just the nature of life. This is not a judgment of life's joys and sorrows; it is a simple, down-to-earth, matter-of-fact description of the way things are.
The Buddha acknowledged that there is both happiness and sorrow in the world, but he taught that even when we have some kind of happiness, it is not permanent; it is subject to change. It is this impermanent nature of all things that gives our experiences the quality of Dukkha – of being unsatisfactory. Unless we can gain insight into what is causing this feeling, and understand what is really able to provide lasting happiness, the experience of dissatisfaction will persist.
It is traditionally taught that there are three different categories or causes of Dukkha. The first is the Dukkha of ordinary suffering, which is the physical and mental suffering associated with birth, growing old, illness and dying, as well as the general anxiety that arises from experiencing undesirable situations. The second category is the Dukkha produced by change or impermanent. This level of suffering includes the anxiety or stress of trying to hold onto what is desirable and as well as the frustration that arises from not getting what you want. Pema Chodron described this type of suffering as "the suffering of trying to hold onto things that are always changing.”
Finally, the third category is what is termed the Dukkha of “conditioned states.” I think this is the most difficult part of the teachings to understand, but it is central to understanding Buddhism. It basically means that because everything affects everything else, all forms of life are changing, impermanent and without any inner core or substance. Pema Chodron describes this as the suffering of ego-clinging; the suffering of struggling with life as it is, as it presents itself to you; struggling against outer situations and yourself, your own emotions and thoughts, rather than just opening and allowing.. Phillip Moffitt puts it this way:
Every day, even during the pleasant moments, do you not experience an underlying unease about the future? This worry and anxiety is a manifestation of the third type of suffering the Buddha identified – life's inherent unsatisfactoriness due to its insubstantial compositional nature. Each moment arises due to certain conditions, then it just disappears. There is not a lasting or substantial "there there" in daily life, thus it is often described as being like a dream.
The Dukkha of conditional states gives rise to the Buddhist concept of “no-self”, i.e. that there is no self in the sense of a permanent, autonomous being with an individual existence. What we think of as our self, our personality and ego, are temporary creations of our senses, feelings, perceptions, thoughts, and conscious awareness that arise and pass away due to our contact with the physical world.
At the core of all of these categories of suffering is the concept called mental clinging or craving. It is our craving for pleasant feelings, for permanence and stability, for not getting what we don’t want, for a substance and individual self, etc. that is the root cause of our Dukkha. The second noble truth invites us to investigate deeply our assumptions about life and the nature of our craving. This investigation is rooted in mindfulness and our meditation practice. Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the founder of Shambhala, describes the importance of meditation in helping us relate to dukkha as follows:
The practice of meditation is designed not to develop pleasure, but to understand the truth of suffering; and in order to understand the truth of suffering, one also has to understand the truth of awareness. When true awareness takes place, suffering does not exist. Through awareness, suffering is somewhat changed in its perspective. It is not necessarily that you do not suffer, but the haunting quality that fundamentally you are in trouble is removed. It is like removing a splinter. It might hurt, and you might still feel pain, but the basic cause of that pain, the ego, has been removed