Dukkha, The First Noble Truth

This presentation by April Koester, one of our cadre of teachers, begins an extensive review of the Four Noble Truths, focusing on the inevitability of dukkha, the physical and mental suffering that comes with being alive.  During the talk, several participants share their questions and observations regarding this important and basic point of study and practice within all the Buddhist traditions.

Next week’s talk will focus on how the First Noble Truth applies to the experience of parenting, presented by Lili Fernandez, another one of our teachers, who has two young boys.


Reviewing the First Noble Truth

This talk reviews the characteristics of dukkha, traditionally translated to mean suffering or dissatisfaction.  The Buddha is understood to have described his mission to be understanding the nature of dukkha and the ways and means for overcoming it.  The three varieties of dukkha are described as well as ways skillful application of mindfulness, investigation and Right Effort will interrupt self-state organizations afflicted by dukkha.  The review also provides descriptions of three stages to be cultivated for providing relief from dukkha: conceptual understanding, skillful awareness & discipline, and finally direct realization of liberation.

Here are the notes prepared for this talk:  Reviewing the First Noble Truth

Here is the URL for a guided contemplation of dukkha found in the archives of this website:  https://orlandoinsightmeditation.org/2020/07/guided-contemplation-of-dukkha/

The topic for next week’s review is the Second Noble Truth, the cause of dukkha.


Dukkha And Consumerism September 11 2019

This talk continues the ongoing exploration of the distress and confusion prevalent in current American society, with a focus on consumerism.  Peter described how exposure to commercial advertising even before we learn to read negatively influences our self-identity and values in life.  Contemporary research conducted by commercial and political interests is very sophisticated in cultivating craving and clinging regarding material possessions and social status and this creates much distress and confusion for us all, whether we are aware of the conditioning or not.  The understanding and application of the Four Noble Truths can be very beneficial in recognizing the manipulation of advertising and cultivating a more stress-resilient lifestyle and provide a secure basis for Buddhist Awakening processes.  Consumerism has had significant negative influence on contemporary culture (See previous talks on depression, anxiety and addiction, which are epidemic in our society), as well as a serious and increasingly destructive impact on the earth’s environment through global warming, massive pollution, etc., which creates enormous personal and societal stress.  There are ways to personally and socially affect these conditions; the application of them requires the sort of self-inquiry and discipline that mindfulness meditation practice provides.

Peter referred to last week’s talk, posted September 4, that referred to the Four Clear Comprehensions as a useful “decision tree” for setting goals in life that counter the adverse conditioning of consumerism and provide the ways and means for cultivating Right Livelihood.  You are invited to contemplate your direct daily experience of dukkha (First Noble Truth) when exposed to commercial advertising and then practice recognizing the craving and clinging embedded within advertising (Second Noble Truth) and train yourself to use Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration to cultivate Right Livelihood (Fourth Noble Truth) and realize liberation from consumerism (Third Noble Truth).

There was discussion among those attending about how daily mindfulness of breathing meditation has been beneficial in overcoming the temptations of consumer culture.

Here are the notes prepared for this talk:  Dukkha And Consumerism

There will be an ongoing series of discussions focusing on various aspects of consumer acculturation such a managing finances, maintaining physical health, cultivating ways to counter social polarization, etc., along with ways that the Four Noble Truths can effectively impact these important lifestyle issues.


Dukkha As A Confused Mind August 7 2019

This talk is focused on the second of the two causes of dukkha which is clinging, upadana in Pali; last week’s posting of July 31 was focused on the other cause of  dukkha, craving, tanha in Pali.  Peter described ego as a dynamic process of the brain during which sorting through and prioritizing various sensory stimuli in the creation creates a “self”, emphasizing that this process is affected by “confirmation bias”, a psychological process which overrides new considerations, emphasizing already organized memories in self-state identifications.  This is clinging, and it inevitably creates a more or less confusing conflict between what the mind creates from memory and what actually happens.  He used the example of a personality organized around prior conditioning towards perfectionism that is adversely affected when a failure occurs, generalizing a mistake into “I am a stupid failure!”.

A Buddhist concept called sunnata (soon-yah-tah) was described, traditionally translated as emptiness, which misrepresents the term as similar to the space between stars.  It is better understood as, for example,  the absence of any determining description regarding sound before being interpreted by the mind’s confirmation bias.  Referring to a concept that Daniel Siegel terms the “plane of possibility”, the progression of self-forming process was related to as being clearly investigated and understood through the cultivation of mindfulness of breathing, which allows insight into more creative and flexibly adaptive self-state organizing processes to alleviate the conflicted personality confusion of dukkha.

Here are the notes prepared for this talk:  Dukkha As Mental Confusion

Next week’s talk will focus on clinical anxiety as a pschological example of dukkha, suggesting ways that mindfulness practices can bring relief to this mental disorder.  Peter, who has a 35 year background in psychotherapy, will focus on how mindfulness has been clinically effective in resolving this condition, which is reaching epidemic proportions in current American culture.


Understanding Dukkha

Dukkha is one of the key concepts of Buddhist practice, considered as one of the three characteristics of existence, along with anicca (impermanence) and anatta (the absence of an autonomous and enduring self).  It is traditionally translated as suffering; however, Peter suggests the terms distress and confusion as more workable.  Dukkha is the First Noble Truth, and the Second Noble Truth is understanding the cause of dukkha, which is craving (tanha in Pali) and clinging (upadana in Pali).  Distress is a more direct rendering of craving, and clinging involves confusion about the true nature of reality.   The way dukkha was understood in the Buddha’s era can be related to the poor fit between the axle of a cart and the hub of the wheel.  Contemporary commentators suggest this uncomfortable and unreliable fit as a useful representation of dukkha.  During the talk, Peter emphasized the importance of not just understanding dukkha conceptually; experiential understanding through the practice of vipassana is essential for resolving dukkha as well as craving and clinging, and this is accomplished through the practice of Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration, the mental training components of the Noble Eightfold Path.

The presentation was followed by a discussion of how to recognize the experience of dukkha, craving or clinging, in order to use Right Effort to provide clarity and serenity in life.

Here are the notes prepared for this talk:  Understanding Dukkha

During the talk, Peter frequently referred to the cetasikas, conditioning functions of the mind.  Here is a chart listing them categorically:  CETASIKAS POSTER