“Dukkha” or Discontentedness

By David Roylance

There are some in the world that feel these teachings are pessimistic, however, I do not and have not ever seen it that way. I agree, the language being used for the word “dhukkha” is not correct and leads to this confusion. The word I use for the word “dhukkha” is discontentedness not suffering. Here’s why….(I know its a long answer but requires in-depth explanation. Feel free to ask more questions or follow ups to this one.) The word “suffering” is often translated from the word “Dukkha”, used by Gotama Buddha, which you will see if you are studying Gotama Buddha’s teachings in the Pāli language, if you speak with Bhikkhus or Bhikkhunis, or other places in your journey with Gotama Buddha’s teachings.

Often the word “suffering” is used in the English language to represent the subject Gotama Buddha discussed in the Pāli language as “Dukkha”. However, I have found, that the word “discontentedness” is a much better word to use and understand. This word represents much more than the word suffering.

The word suffering tends to only bring one’s mind to think of physical or emotional “pain”. It does not capture the full range of physical sensations or emotional feelings that exist in one’s experiences of daily life. The word “suffering” is ineffective in bringing a practitioner’s mind wholly to the understanding shared by Gotama Buddha. The word suffering will not bring a practitioners mind to the world view described by Gotama Buddha thus offering the word “discontentedness” will assist a practitioner to gain the insight needed for establishing a foundation for further studies.

2.) Discontentedness can capture the essence and meaning of what is mostly described across books and writings about Gotama Buddha’s teachings where you see the word “suffering” substitute the word “discontentedness”. Where you see the word “Dukkha” substitute the word “discontentedness”.

Discontentedness can describe everything from physical or emotional pain through to the slightest unpleasantness of a small odor (emotional) or slightest of touches (physical). It describes extreme physical discomfort through to the smallest of needle pricks, emotional unpleasantries or significant traumas and effects of the mind.

Discontentedness is a state of being, not a feeling or emotion itself necessarily. Discontentedness may be viewed as only a negative or unhealthy state of being, however, there is discontentedness in pain, suffering, physical and emotional along with discontentedness in emotions such as happiness and physical pleasures because happiness does not last forever, it is still impermanent.

The mind will crave these impermanent states of mind causing discontentedness. This relates to walking the middle way which will be explained further in future chapters titled “The Eight Fold Path” and “The Middle Way”.

Gotama Buddha describes three feelings as discontent or “Dukkha” due to their nature of being impermanent.

– A painful feeling (Sadness, depression, anger, hatred, ill will, etc.)
– A pleasant feeling (happiness, joy, excitement, etc.)
– A feeling that is neither painful-nor-pleasant (boredom, loneliness, melancholy, etc.)

Happiness and too much pleasure can be described as discontentedness because we know those emotions and pleasure will not last – impermanence. Once they cease to exist, this can create discontentedness within a Being who clings or longs for the continuation of these impermanent states of mind.

All three of these feelings can be experienced both physically and emotionally which can be described as discontent. If we use the word “suffering”, as has been used in the past, it only describes 1/3 of the meaning of Dukkha originally taught by Gotama Buddha. Suffering describes a painful feeling but it does not describe the other two (2) types of Dukkha.

Discontentedness is experienced through the six (6) sense faculties. The eyes, ears, nose, mouth, contact, and the mind. We experience discontentedness by:

Eyes: forms that we see.
Ears: sounds that we hear.
Nose: smells that we experience.
Mouth: tastes that we experience.
Contact: physical contact with the body.
Mind: thoughts, ideas, perception within the mind.

Through all six (6) sense faculties or The Six Doorways to Discontentedness, we experience painful feelings, pleasant feelings, and feelings that are neither painful-nor-pleasant both physically and emotionally.

There is discontentedness from all six sense bases because the mind can not reside with painful feelings, pleasant feelings, or feelings that are neither painful-nor-pleasant permanently.

Since the mind is not resting in one of these feelings permanently, due to everything being impermanent, you will experience discontentedness. The goal of Gotama Buddha’s teachings and pursuing nibbana, is for the mind to be content which is a permanent place the mind can reside through liberation of the mind by acquiring wisdom.

We acquire wisdom through practicing and observing the same “truths” as Gotama Buddha. The collection of this wisdom leads to nibbana which is a permanent place for the mind to reside because once you learn something you do not “unlearn” it. Liberation of the mind by wisdom is the only thing in the world that is permanent.

We will now use the word discontentedness, rather than suffering or dukkha, throughout this book.


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