Ajahn Chah on Dukkha

I was re-reading this Ajahn Chah talk, and thought others might like it.


There is difficulty in practice, but in anything we undertake we have to pass through difficulty to reach ease. In Dhamma practice we begin with the truth of dukkha, the pervasive unsatisfactoriness of existence. But as soon as we experience this we lose heart. We don’t want to look at it. Dukkha is really the truth, but we want to get around it somehow. It’s similar to the way we don’t like to look at old people, but prefer to look at those who are young.

If we don’t want to look at dukkha we will never understand dukkha, no matter how many births we go through. Dukkha is a noble truth. If we allow ourselves to face it then we will start to seek a way out of it. If we are trying to go somewhere and the road is blocked we will think about how to make a pathway. Working at it day after day we can get through. When we encounter problems we develop wisdom like this. Without seeing dukkha we don’t really look into and resolve our problems; we just pass them by indifferently.

My way of training people involves some suffering, because suffering is the Buddha’s path to enlightenment. He wanted us to see suffering and to see origination, cessation and the path. This is the way out for all the ariya, the awakened ones. If you don’t go this way there is no way out. The only way is knowing suffering, knowing the cause of suffering, knowing the cessation of suffering and knowing the path of practice leading to the cessation of suffering. This is the way that the ariya, beginning with Stream Entry, were able to escape. It’s necessary to know suffering.

If we know suffering, we will see it in everything we experience. Some people feel that they don’t really suffer much. Practice in Buddhism is for the purpose of freeing ourselves from suffering. What should we do not to suffer anymore? When dukkha arises we should investigate to see the causes of its arising. Then once we know that, we can practice to remove those causes. Suffering, origination, cessation - in order to bring it to cessation we have to understand the path of practice. Then once we travel the path to fulfillment, dukkha will no longer arise. In Buddhism, this is the way out.

Opposing our habits creates some suffering. Generally we are afraid of suffering. If something will make us suffer, we don’t want to do it. We are interested in what appears to be good and beautiful, but we feel that anything involving suffering is bad. It’s not like that. Suffering is saccadhamma, truth. If there is suffering in the heart it becomes the cause that makes you think about escaping. It leads you to contemplate. You won’t sleep so soundly because you will be intent on investigating to find out what is really going on, trying to see causes and their results.


[quote=“DKervick, post:1, topic:5767”]
In Dhamma practice we begin with the truth of dukkha, the pervasive unsatisfactoriness of existence… When dukkha arises we should investigate to see the causes of its arising.[/quote]

I can’t understand what is being said here, since if dukkha is the pervasive unsatisfactoriness of existence, how can I end dukkha while alive? How can I investigate to see the causes of the pervasive unsatisfactoriness of existence? :neutral_face:

Well, “pervasive” is not a synonym for “ineradicable.” For example, oxygen is pervasive throughout the world, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be sucked out of a vacuum chamber.

But also, more aptly, if “existence” in this context is Ajahn Chah’s English substitute for “bhava”, then we can note that bhava is a nidāna conditioned by attachment. It is the ongoing becoming that comes from attaching to the phenomena of experience and building a self out of those phenomena, the self that is born again and again into each moment of experience. When attachment ceases, bhava and jati cease. The phenomena of sensory and imaginative experience continue to occur, but without the greed, hatred and confusion that usually accompany them in the life of the non-liberated being, and without the craving, self-making and sense of “I am thus-and-so” that are present in such beings.

1 Like

I suspect that the entire phrase is just the translator’s explanatory addition, for none of the usual Thai translations of dukkha means anything like ‘unsatisfactoriness’.


This sounds like your opinion, similar to the translation sounding like the translator’s opinion.

This video is clear:

Yes that is my interpretation of paticcasamuppada, which I have given before, but I don’t think it is all that different from Ajahn Chah’s views.