In my most recent blog I put forward the thesis that Jesus understood the Buddhist teaching of anattā (‘no-self’ or, more correctly, ‘not-self’), even though he expressed it in his own distinctive way.
There is no one single English word that is adequate to describe or rather compress all the aspects of the meaning of the word dukkha. Traditionally, the EngIish word 'suffering' has been used. However, I have chosen, for want of a better, the word ‘unsatisfactoriness,’ because I think that English word includes almost everything which dukkha embraces ... things such as (but not limited to) unfulfilled desire, suffering (both physical and mental), distress, dissatisfaction, discomfort, discontent, disquietude, disharmony, pain, sorrow, affliction, bodily ailments, misery, unhappiness, anguish, angst, anxiety, depression, stress, tension, insecurity, conflict, separation, alienation, frustration, emptiness, insubstantiality, etc, etc. Here are the written words of Shakyamuni Budhha on the nature of dukkha:
Yes, negativity in any way or form is dukkha, or unsatisfactoriness. Being born, aging, sickness, death, separation – all those things are dukkha. The Bible affirms the truth of that teaching as well, for we are told that all our days are sorrows, and our travail grief, with there being no rest in the night (cf Ec 2:23). Indeed, the whole creation ‘groans and travails in pain together’ (Ro 8:22). The psalmist writes, ‘My heart is sore pained with me: and the terrors of death are fallen upon me’ (Ps 55:4). Our days are ‘full of trouble’ (Jb 14:1) and ‘are passed away in thy wrath’ (Ps 90:9). Indeed, there is ‘trouble and darkness, [and] dimness of anguish’ (Is 48:10), for ‘all things are full of labour: it is simply inexpressible’ (Ec 1:8). Yes, we are ‘consumed ... [and] troubled’ (Ps 90:7).
Christianity – but not Judaism – teaches the doctrine of ‘original sin,’ and that all sickness, suffering, the pain of childbirth, and even death itself are said to be the result of the so-called ‘Fall.’ Much of what Buddhism describes and refers to as dukkha is ‘sin’ or the result of original sin in Christianity.
Now, it would be misleading of me to suggest or imply that the Bible has no ‘solution’ to this generalised state of dukkha, for clearly the Bible does present a solution ... a way out. I referred to that solution in my previous blog. We need to come to the realization that our problems are for the most part of our own making, that those problems arise from a mistaken belief in ‘self’, that ‘self cannot change self,’ and that freedom from the bondage of self is possible if we are ‘born anew.’ That happens when, in the words of the Prodigal Son, we say to ourselves, ‘I will arise and go to my father’ (Lk 15:18) ... that is, having 'come to [ourselves]' (cf Lk 15:17), we ‘wake up,’ and say, ‘I don’t want to live this way anymore. I choose to live differently and mindfully from now on.’ Call it repentance, if you like, the Greek word of which that is the English translation [viz metanoia] denotes not just 'a change of mind' but a 'total about-face' or 'complete turn-around' ... that is, a radically fresh view about oneself, the world, and matters spiritual – a psychological mutation.