20. Dukkha By Venerable Amatha Gavesi

20. Dukkha

By Venerable Amatha Gavesi

Dated: 1994

Venerable Bhikkhus, brothers and sisters, the subject of the discourse today is Dukkha, Suffering. It is one of the truths Buddha realized and of all the truths the most important. Why I say most important because the other truths like the cause of suffering, cessation of suffering and the path leading to the cessation of suffering, they are all outcome of suffering or connected with suffering. Buddha defines suffering in the Dhammacakka Sutta, the wheel of Dhamma. He defines suffering as birth, to be born over & over again is suffering. He also defines suffering as the old age one is subjected to, that also leads to suffering. He also define as suffering sickness, when one is subject to sicknesses, he suffers. He also define as suffering death, dying is also suffering. Not only to the person who is subjected to the death also to those who are associated with him. He said, then again, as an individual to part from loved ones is suffering. As an individual, to associate with those whom this individual does not like is also suffering. He also said that when an individual wishes to possess something and if he cannot possess that, that leads to suffering. That’s the definition given by Buddha. And after giving this definition, he summarized suffering as the 5 grasping groups. That is something which one must give thought to. That is something which you must think with your developed mind. Buddha has always said and emphasized not to accept things as they are but you to think for yourself why this happen like that. When there is a good thing for you to think and that is why did Buddha summarize suffering as the 5 aggregates. There must be a cause for it. You all accept the fact that birth is dukkha, because the very existence is dukkha according to Buddhist philosophy and we accept that. So to be born over and over again, is the result of dukkha, you are subject to suffering. We also admit the fact that to grow old is also suffering because you are not in a physically fit condition to perform things which you like or which you are used to as a young man. Then you know that sickness is suffering, one is subjected in this young age or youthful condition or when he is old, any state if one is subject to sickness, he suffers. Then death is also quite obvious one suffers a person subject to death also those associated with him too suffers. Then he gives 3 other instances where one is subject to suffering and those are to part from loved ones is suffering, to associate with those one would not like is suffering and to deprive you of a thing which one would like to possess is also suffering.

Now, if you ask a question if one is only mind & body and performing the normal task, the body directed by the mind, would there be suffering of that nature? The body being directed by the mind to perform certain activities. Kamma has created this so call body for you and desire has brought about this mind to be associated with this body. If that is so, would this instances suffering, would be realistic? It’s cause and effect and nothing else. Is there an owner to that? Is there an author to your activities? Is there a person sincerely responsible subject to the suffering yourself?  If it is body and mind, these are 2 activities performing their tasks as cause & effect. One may be subject to certain condition, that’s the cause and effect and nothing else. That sort of valuation will not make one to suffer as an individual. If only you take upon yourself, believing yourself as an individual possessing this body and mind. Then naturally, this individual is a person who is subject to constant births. This individual is a person who is subject to sickness. This individual is the person who is subject to old age. This individual is the person who is subject to death. And this individual is the person who is parting from a loved one. This individual is the person who is associating with the person whom he doesn’t like. And it is this individual who watches his requirement fulfilled. That’s a clear indication that in this instances quoted by Buddha, subjecting oneself to suffering that there is this individuality, the so call being whom you have created in the mind who is subjected to this suffering. Isn’t it this false belief that you’ve created in your mind that you are so and so son or daughter, and this individual I am so and so and existing in this world. Therefore all that happens to you, you own it to yourself as a sufferer. If it is cause and effect, there’s no such ownership, that’s the cause the cause arose and effect arose and passed away. And isn’t that the reason why Buddha summarized suffering as the 5 aggregates. What are the 5 aggregates do? The 5 aggregates create in you a being and it is this being who is suffering. The body and mind which you possess due to cause and effect are not existing in that temperament in that acceptance of the truth that they are body and mind casually created. The mind has created in you a complete false view that you are a being, that you are the author of all activities, that the suffering which is just the cause and effect has been taken upon yourself as the person who is subjected to the suffering. Isn’t that the reason why Buddha said that he summaries suffering as the 5 aggregates, I may not dwell in detail about the 5 aggregates because we have dealt with that subject in the past and created before you a fair picture about these aggregates, their performance and also the misleading aspect created by these 5 aggregates in an individual. And Buddha here definitely lays the whole aspect of suffering with an individual is subjected to. This false creation of, by the 5 aggregates. That there is a being within you and he is the person who is subjected to this suffering. After all, the mind has created that. Mind has taken upon itself the creation of this being. And this is a delusion created by the consciousness. What is the purpose in creating a delusion of this nature by the consciousness, for continuity. The world must continue to exist, and only way the world to continue in this manner is to make those occupying the world feel that they are all individual living in this world. The deception, the delusion created by the mind is so intricate that even the world that is around you, you have been the author of the creation. But do you believe that? You believe your eyes, you believe your ears, you believe your nose, you believe your tongue, you believe your body, and you believe your mind and what they create you accept. But realistically and reasonably you go into this aspect, you will see that the philosophy taught by Buddha that this world is a creation by us in our imagination is absolutely true. It is a thought that helps you to know anything, either in the way of seeing or hearing or knowing or smelling or tasting or contacting or thinking, that’s all. And this consciousness is capable of creating thoughts, completely misguiding you, completely creating delusions in you with one object in view, and that is that this world which it has created around you should exist. Basic creation by the consciousness and this is the supporting links which makes any individual living in this world to feel that he is living in a world. Whereas he is creating a world for himself when living in that delusion. So that, Buddha clearly stated that this delusion created by the 5 grasping groups in the way of a author to all your activities is suffering. Frankly, if there is no person suffering, there are certain incidents that arise and pass away as cause and effect. Who takes upon oneself the responsibility or the authorship of those activities? No one. They arise and pass away, that’s all. Stretch your imagination to that extent. Logically if there is no person who is responsible for anything, it just has occurred and passed away. Where is the suffering? There is no sufferer. Something has occurred and something has passed away. Maybe your mind and the body may have contributed to that, the mind is energy, body is also energy. It’s the reaction of energy, nothing else, as cause and effect, why should one suffer? Who is this sufferer? No one. And you know now that this sufferer has been created by the consciousness. In every act of experience is something through a sense base. This consciousness has created a situation where you fall into a fabricated notion that that act committed by you is act committed by the author by the so call being within you, when in fact and it is clear even the doctrine that all our activities are committed as a result of cause and effect. Now our struggle is also to get rid of this wrong notion. Initially, of course we examine the mind and body acting together and committing certain acts and satisfy ourselves with the obvious exposition by the mind that the mind directs the body to perform acts and it just blindly perform those acts. Then, to support that further you also analyze all your activities as cause and effect. Effect is what you have done. Cause is why you are doing it. The mind is creating that for you, the cause and effect.

We can’t forget the fact that Buddha has clearly stated that this consciousness is a conjuror. All that he does is creating, creating a world for us to live. That world is not your world, his world, the creator’s world. Who creates? The consciousness and you are made to believe that this so call being which is a fiction, which is completely a fabrication, which is completely delusion, is the author of all our activities. Therefore, if you summarize the whole issue, we create the author and take upon ourselves as responsible for all that the mind feels or that the body acts. Whereas in truth, mind directs the body to perform certain activities, and these performance is done as cause and effect and nothing else. Who is then the author? Who is then the creator of these activities?  Who commit these activities? No one commit them. If no one is committing those activities, who is going to suffer. There is no sufferer here. And distinctly said that that in suffering there is no sufferer, only cause and effect and nothing else. I mean you solve the entire problem before you as to what this delusion is that we are. Misled from birth up to the death and even further leading life after life still believing in a false fabrication by the mind. We can realistically analyze this suffering as something which had been mentally created under the delusion that there is a being in you and that being is subject to this suffering. And Buddha rightly said, this is suffering, that is suffering, that is suffering, that is suffering, but he said I summarize suffering as the 5 aggregates, what is this 5 aggregates? Well, with education you have got all about the 5 aggregates, you know these 5 aggregates creates a being in you. That’s a delusion created by the mind, consciousness.

Then, let us go a little further. What is the cause of suffering? Desire. Who created desire. If your activities are committed as a result of cause and effect, who is the creator of this desire, where is this desire. If logically you have to admit the fact, brother & sister that the desire is created by a person who is subjected to the desire. There cannot be just the desire created. Who desires? If there is no one to desire, there is no desire.  Because you have created desire, there is desire. Desire to see, desire to hear, desire to smell, desire to eat, desire to think. All these are activities which the desire is promoting. And desire too is fed by these activities because such a creation promotes more & more of desire. But those activities created desire on the false foundation that there is a person desiring in you. If there is no person desiring in you, who sees and who decides to see more, who hears and who desires to hear more, who smells and wants more smelling done of that nature something pleasant and create also an aversion to something unpleasant. Who wants to have more and more taste, the taste is something which one experiences. If there is no one to experience, what is this taste you are tasting? And what is the contact you are feeling? And you are creating even the thoughts, you see which are casually created as somebody who is creating them. And this is the result of desire. You can’t forget the fact, brothers & sisters, Buddha has distinctly said, that unless one sees the end of the world, that you will never experience Nibbana. What is this world, end of the world? The world which you have created as a fictitious person. You realize now that there is no one in this creation, is a mere creation and you have come to a false conclusion that it is somebody’s creation, and that somebody is within you, he is the being responsible for the creation. And he creates why, how does he create? Because this imaginary person feels. That is your belief that he feels, he feels for what? He likes something pleasant, he dislike something unpleasant. And these 2 created the desire. Who likes, who dislike? This imaginary person you have created. If there is no person created in your mind, will there be a like and dislike. There can’t be a like and dislike. It occurs, arises and pass away, that is all. Who is liking it? There is no one liking in you. That is you have created that being in you, these 5 grasping groups created by the consciousness to mislead you. To take you along this world birth after birth as a being in this world. You fell into this false creation, you believe this false creation, you live in this false creation. You in your mind grasp this false creation so well that all that you experience as cause and effect you have put upon this so call being who is the person who is subject to this activity. As a result this imaginary person whom you imagine to be in you, he is subject to the suffering.

Buddha clearly state that, brothers & sisters, it is in this phantom of body and mind is your suffering. It is in this phantom of body and mind is the cause of suffering. It is in this phantom of body and mind is the cessation of suffering. And it is this phantom of body and mind is the path leading to the cessation of suffering. What does it indicate? What does that indicate, brothers & sisters? The solution about your difficulty about your suffering in this world is not anywhere else, it is in your mind and body. Solve this for yourself and he gives us ample evidence in support of his conclusion that there is no being in you except that you are imaging yourself as a being, and taking upon yourself activities which are committed as a result of cause and effect as activities committed by yourself. And it is not so. Because of the feeling you have created as a being, that you have created desire. What is the feeling? Like and dislike. Who likes, who dislikes? If there is no one brothers & sisters, you know there is no like and dislike. Like & dislike is committed by somebody individually feeling about it that way. That is why he said when you see something, avoid the mind creating the like and the dislike. When you hear something, avoid the mind creating the like and the dislike. When you smell something, avoid the mind creating the like and the dislike. When you taste something, avoid the mind creating the like and the dislike. When you contact something, avoid the mind creating the like and the dislike. And when you think about something, avoid the mind creating the like and the dislike. Who create this like and the dislike? That individual whom you have create in you mind foolish. You see as a result of cause and effect, what is the like and the dislike in that. What is there to pursue that, who pursue that? No one. You see something …. (side B). Pursuance of the like and the dislikes is something which is done not by just the consciousness seeing and identifying an object as one which is to one liking or not liking, but  it is this individual that have been created in your mind who’s taking upon, he shoulder the responsibility of creating this liking and disliking. Buddha said, avoid that happening. Buddha has always said that be a light unto yourself, there is no one who can help you in solving this problem. May be because somebody say so that there is no person in you, no individual in you, you can’t just believe it and just live in that belief, no. It is something that must come out of your mind as a result of fully convinced that there is no one living in you. It’s not a belief but a conviction. A conviction is greater than belief because you are convinced as a result of supporting evidence. Belief is just on the surface, when somebody say something you believe it. Therefore you must be convinced in this. Then how are you going to convince yourself with this. That there is no being in you and is that the only problem you are confronted with, there are no other problem. It is creation that is creating all these trouble for you. And that is one thing that you have to carefully look into, dukkha.

Therefore, we must not just blindly say no to a thing or blindly say yes to a thing. Think for yourself, who is doing this? Who is doing that? No one doing that. I have also given an example to you, that there are certain people who being under their control other people who are weak in mind and make them to perform activities as dictated by them under trance. And I gave you an example where a man holds a pencil throws to the skin of the other person and say, I am going to burn you now with a red hot iron. He foolishly believe that, because he is under the trance of this person and he creates a situation, thereby crying out as this pencil touches his body that is feeling the burn. And so much so that some people even develop reactions in the skin as a result of the burn. It’s a belief. The belief is so much in your mind that you have no doubt about it and are living in that. You are living your body is living in that, your very self is living in that, your mind is also living in that. You are just living in that. The creation is so firm in you, the creation is so convincingly proved to you in your own way and you have accepted it and live in it. As a result, all your activities, you heaped on this person. This person, “I”, created in my mind as the owner of this body, owner of this thinking who is doing everything, where this body and the mind is concerned, this person is responsible. If for instance, we ask this question, Buddha gave all these details for us to reasonably understand that there is no individual being in us. All our activities are committed as cause & effect, but there is no sufferer, there is suffering. If you feel there is a pain, you feel the pain. If there is something, that is the reaction of the mind to the activity. But ownership of that suffering as I am suffering, I am happy, that ‘I’, that is something which you have created. Even an arahat suffers, if arahat is subject to sickness, he suffers from that sickness. But he has given up this idea of “I” and “mine”. No longer exist in him, neither believes in this fallacy. Buddha suffers, Buddha has suffered on many occasions as a result of ailments occurring in him. That is the reaction of the mental and physical. The final aspect of that is that there is no one owning that as ‘I ‘,  ‘mine’. That is the aspect that you have to be very careful about to clear from your mind, that there is no person as such.

That is why other religious, they pursue this so call feeling in you as soul, the mind. The mind feels and there is some permanent feature in this aspect. It continues to exist. It continues to exist so that it can be everlasting. And Buddha has proved that it is not so. Once you have cleared that basic defilements one can clear, then the final aspect of your development is the mind. That is the power, mental power that remains and you have to deal with that.  You are not feeling the body now. You left the body when you developed your 3rd absorption. You’re seed of tranquility, you don’t feel the body. Then Buddha clearly gives you a path to follow, there you pitched your mind to a higher level at the final stages of your development. It enables you to understand the belief, whether that belief you have harbored so long is true or not true. If it is true, then the mind must exist right throughout without creating any situation where the mind is not present and you go on analyze the mind further and further and further. Analyze as something subject to constant change, something not substantial, something which is not a soul, you go on analyzing it carefully, carefully, carefully, carefully, when you have transcend your mind to a higher state, when you have cleared the defilements that basically tied you down to this earthly life as a worldling. When you reach the stages when you have to deal with this mind ultimately, now that you have completed your task with regards to your body. Then in that you begin to see the part played by the mind carefully. This mind is also subjected to 3 realities of impermanence, unsatisfactory nature of things and the soullessness. You analyze it, analyze it, analyze it. If it has any permanency, if it is a soul, if it is a self that is ever existing and ever lastingly exist, then there cannot be a dissolution of this so call power at the developed stage of your mind. This power you are now watching and treating as impermanent, unsatisfactory and soulless. Clearly analyzing it, clearly understanding cause it also then reaches a very very weak stage and disappears. Where are you? You have no mind, you have no body. What is there? The void. That is the state when one reaches where one has completely dealt with the mind as again cause and effect and nothing else. And then the final realization dawns to you when the maturity of the void reaches its peak.

Therefore from the beginning to the end, very end, brothers and sisters, you will see it is a creation we are dealing with. Who created this? Your mind created it. We have lived in a deception, we have been born in deception. We have been born thousands and thousands of times in this worldly way as human beings, as four legged animals, various types of animals, various types of insects, various types of let’s say in the animal kingdom, various species of animals we have lived. We have also gone to heaven with the false belief of a person living in you and he is the owner of that heavenly existence. We have gone to the luminous worlds, there too with the false belief that there is a being in you, and you have pitched your mind to a higher level where you can enjoy such benefits as a luminous world. But ultimately we realized that non of those places are permanent, they are all temporary residence for you. You stay and you passed away to something else. And the karmic forces which you have committed, who commit? You committed. That’s the false impression you have created. Because of this planting of the “you” into all your activities, you have taken upon the responsibility of facing the reaction of such activities. If it is cause and effect, there would have been nothing. But then you would not be committing any wrong. Because there is desire, desire created the liking and dislike, that is the base of desire, foundation of desire and to pursue likes and dislikes, you go on committing acts, some of them are harmful. You commit the act, you suffer from the harmful. Look at the blessings of those activities which you have committed as good acts. And this is the life you have been leading, completely in a delusion that there is a person within you and it is this person within you who is the author of all your activities when it is not so. Yours is a mass of cause and effect and nothing else who’s with an undeveloped mind, with a mind living a worldly life, basic life, experiencing things good and bad, experiencing always something pleasant or unpleasant, but would always like to have something comfortable, something pleasant, that urge is there. The result is that you have in your own way created this situation for yourself. That is why Buddha says there is no one responsible for this situation created for you, no one responsible for this suffering you are undergoing. You are the author of all these, therefore the solution to this riddle lies in you, you solve it for yourself. Seek refuge from inside you. There is no one outside who can help you except to guide you by saying this has happened this way, just think about it and you are the author of that thought and you have to think and satisfy yourself well whether that what is told is true or not true. You are your resolution or your conclusion.

So this is the truth ………, brothers and sisters. Give a thought to this, what is suffering? This so call thing suffering, that is ever present in every object in this world. Of course there is no consciousness in inanimate object you see to feel this but we have the consciousness, therefore we feel it. But you find that tree also grows, bear fruits and pad roots here and there and again to start growth again. That is how it develop itself, its continuity in the world. Of course this is also due to old age, it grows up to a period you see and then died because that is the span of life given to that tree. That’s the nature’s commitment. And you have then of course sicknesses, various sickness can occur in the tree also you see. Various various things can happen and destroy the tree in its growing age. I shouldn’t say that it is exactly the same, but the situation of that exists confronting itself is incidents where if one takes upon oneself the suffering, it also can suffer in the same way, like yourself.

Therefore this is something which you have to think carefully. And I always say Buddha clearly emphasize that it is thinking that made him to be Buddha. The thinking that produced the wisdom, it is analysis on your own reasonably that convinced you of the truth and it is such analysis truthfully done will ultimately lead to your liberation also. If you are just a believer of things, you will never escape from this cycle of births. You yourself must be able to take upon yourself as the responsibility of saying yes, I know I am convinced that this is so. It’s just not a belief because somebody say so, I believe so and so. No! That is not sufficient for you to escape from this cycle of births. You have to very boldly say, I know, I believe it, I saw, I realised it. That is the thing that is realistic, that is what is important. That is why we always advice you to think, just not be led by somebody’s statement that this is so. Sit and think for yourself, is it so? If it is not convincing, don’t accept it.  If it is convincing, accept it, that’s the essential thing.

After all, bear in mind Buddhism is a path for you to follow reasonably, not blindly. Buddha has never classified himself as a great being or a great power who is instilling into you something which he wants you to believe it. No, Buddha only places facts before you, analyzes clearly many things for you to yourself satisfy whether such analysis acceptable or not. And if such analysis shown to you by Buddha is not to your satisfaction, you have the option to leave them aside. Just don’t live in that because Buddha has said so. That is the thing that you have to realize. It is such a person who realized the truth. If you are just a believer, whatever Buddha said you are ready to believe. Surely, I know is a holy respect to the great being, but that is not the attitude Buddha expects of you. Mainly because I say so, he says, don’t believe. Think for yourself, because it is thinking that has led me to reach this height as Buddha. Therefore that principle applies to you also clearly. Analyze dukkha in that manner.

Frankly if you take out this aspect, this creation by the five grasping groups of a being in you, if that is taken out, is there any dukkha? Is there sufferer? There are incidents happening as cause and effect but you would not own such incidents as your own creation or that you are subject to such creations. It is something happening and that’s the end of it. Cause and effect. And that unnecessary suffering which you are subjecting yourself is due to this foolish acceptance of the notion that there is a being in you. And that aspect is created in your mind by the 5 grasping groups, brothers and sisters. 5 grasping groups and that is the consciousness. Consciousness in creating circumstances for you to make use of the 6 sense bases and then experience things through them, consciousness also creates a person who experience such things. This fabrication by the consciousness, this delusion created by the consciousness is completely misleading you and you take up on yourself that what you derive from that is yours, you enjoy it. And what you do not derive from that as expected by you is something which hurts you. You, person, individual, the creator, the author, the being in you who is responsible for all these, but it is not so. That is the truth, brothers and sisters. I have given you food for thought. Don’t just believe me, merely I said so. Even Buddha said so merely because I say that certain thing has happened this way, don’t just believe it. Think for yourself and justify whether it is true or not. And if it is true, take upon yourself to act on that truth. If it is not true, leave that aside till such time you give more thought to it and then find out exactly what it is, whether it is true or not. If it cannot be accepted, just dispel it out of your mind, that’s it.

I give you this idea because you have to see that is the aspect that you have to see in the dukkha. That is the realistic aspect one would develop in oneself, you see when he goes along the path to higher states. He sees more than what he sees on the surface. He sees the depth in that statement made by Buddha. That this is so, this is so. And the depth he sees the realistic aspect and that is wisdom.

May you all attain Nibbana.

Thank you.






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