December 21, 2011

On dukkha and sukha (suffering and sweetness).

Polarity Drawing by Heather Ward

Light is meaningful only in relation to darkness, and truth presupposes error. It is these mingled opposites which people our life, which make it pungent, intoxicating. We only exist in terms of this conflict, in the zone where black and white clash. ~Louis Aragon

Dukkha is a Pali term that the Buddha used. It roughly corresponds to the English words for real bad stuff including but not limited to: suffering, pain, discontent, sorrow, affliction, social alienation, anxiety, dissatisfaction, discomfort and frustration.

Dukkha hurts — but without experiencing physical pain, emotional anguish, mental misery or spiritual stress — we would be incapable of appreciating its opposite, sukha.

In his Yoga Sutras, that wise old Patanjali wrote, “Sthira sukam asanam.” The posture is steady and comfortable. Sukha is the sweetness of life. Sukha is the state of deep, lasting happiness that allows us to see reality as it is, without distortion. Of course, getting all attached to sukha can easily turn into craving. Which is a path straight to hell.

Dukkha and sukha. Yin and yang. Shadow and light. One can’t exist without the other.

Where do you get hooked?
When do you cling?
How do you suffer?
How do you end suffering?

Where do you encounter sweetness?
In the warm embrace of a trusted friend?
In an unexpected home cooked meal after a long day of work?
In the park at sunset?
On the yoga mat?
At the beach?
Within the confines of your own bedroom?
All of the above,
I hope.

Remember: the grass is never greener. You don’t need any presents for Christmas. Presence in the moment — whether it’s a dukkha moment or a sukha moment — is the greatest gift of all.


This was inspired by the Reverb11 prompts for December 21 and 22:

December 21 – Dukkha (Misery)
What was the low point of your year? How did you heal and move forward?
December 22 – Sukkha (Happiness)
Where did you discover sweetness in 2011?
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