FOUR SKILLS A MEDITATOR NEEDS TO DEVELOP: NUMBER FOUR: Keeping the three Universals in Mind -- Dukkha, Anicca, Anatta

Listen to Chas' October 14, 2017 teaching and meditations related to this blog post by clicking here.  In the talk, Chas refers to a piece by the American Buddhist monk and Dharma teacher Thanissaro Bikkhu, which you can read or download here.  Post your comments on the blog post, the talk, and the meditation practices below -- join in a community dialogue!


Connection Between Anicca (Change) and Dukkha (Stress)

It is said that understanding change is the gateway to understanding Stress and Not Self. This is because change is an integral part of Stress and Not Self. One could say that these three characteristics are three angles on one truth. Similar to the way light goes through a prism and reveals itself in different colors, the truth of the way things are, reveals itself in Change, Stress and Not Self. Yet, it is just one truth. The three characteristics can’t be separated.

The first level of subtlety of Dukkha is that which is associated with unpleasant experiences of body and mind. Stubbing one’s toe, or becoming jealous of another person, are examples of this level of Dukkha. This is the aspect of Dukkha that is connected to things we don’t like.

The next level of Dukkha is drastically different.  It incorporates not only the difficult experiences of life, but the pleasant ones as well. This is where we start to get into the radical nature of the Buddha’s teachings. Precisely because everything changes, pleasant experiences, along with the happiness that comes with them, must come to an end. Another way of seeing this is that all experiences, including pleasant ones, are unstable. They rely on causes and conditions for their arising, and for their life. When those conditions change, they disappear. This instability of conditions (change) is what is pointed to in this more subtle level of Dukkha.

Here’s a good example:  The other day I was meditating with a sitting group. There was calm and concentration in the mind, and it was pleasant. I was enjoying this, when all of a sudden someone coughed. The calm, concentration, and enjoyment disappeared. The calm and concentration were Dukkha. Not because they were inherently bad or wrong. They were just vulnerable to changing conditions

It can be easy to be lulled into the wrong view that Dukkha means things are bad, wrong, or unpleasant. It’s not that at all. It’s just saying that, in this second level of subtlety, things can’t be relied on to stay the way they are. If we are committed to finding our happiness in them, there will be an associated level of stress. That is all.