In Buddha's time, the new invention of the spoked wooden cartwheel, was causing a Cultural Revolution. Buddha saw the connections: desire is self-perpetuating, and once the wheels of desire start turning, then they turn with their own karmic momentum.

The First Truth - What is Dukkha?

"The Right Understanding of Dukkha" is central to Buddhism. Dukkha is usually understood as 'suffering'.

ancient wooden spoked wheel Originally Dukkha described when a wheel was problematic and not running smoothly.

The ancient wooden spoked wheel was an excellent symbol for how life wobbles, and sometimes starts grinding, or gets twisted and blocked.

Sometimes there were extreme degrees of Dukkha, but mostly it was a monotonous squeaking, or rhythmic wobble. The hub of the wheel needed constant maintenance in order to get it to run smoothly, to make it Sukkha.

But for Buddha, this was not a question of the literal meaning of the word Dukkha. In those days, everyone knew what Dukkha meant. Buddha's question was what is the problem with life's wheel? What is not running smoothly?

In many texts, it is written that the Five Aggregates are Dukkha. The Aggregates are five umbrella terms which explain how we experience the world. They describe the process: manifest form, sensation, perception, concepts and consciousness. The Aggregates apply to all of our senses. They describe the way we sense life.

The process: manifest form, sensation, perception, concepts and consciousness is Dukkha.

The First Truth tells us: Our sensory apparatus is problematic.

The Second Truth – The Origin of Dukkha

What is the reason that our sensory wheels are problematic? Our sensory apparatus is influenced by craving, and this is connected with pleasure and delight (ref).

My understanding of Buddhism differs from the usual or traditional view. Craving is an extreme form of wanting. Craving limits the universal relevance of the Noble Truths.

As i understand it, the origin of Dukkha is when our sensory apparatus is influenced by wanting and pleasure.

The usual view is that pleasure and wanting lead to attachment. And any hope of fulfilment or security through attachments is illusory, due to impermanence and change. Consequently, non-attachment and letting go are widely recommended countermeasures.

Excuse the complexity of these ideas, but i am contradicting the basics of modern Buddhism, and to relate to Buddhist scholars it is necessary to add that the texts refer to "the five aggregates of clinging". 'Clinging' is an extreme form of attachment. Again, this extreme wording severely limits the interpretation of the Noble Truths, and their potential as a universal theory.

Pleasure and Wanting Lead to Repetition
The point is, the everyday sense of: "that craving which gives rise to fresh rebirth"(ref); is "that wanting which leads to fresh repetition".

Clinging, craving, and attachment, are all the results of a long process, they are the results of Dukkha.

Freedom from karma, i.e. freedom from habitual or pre-set repetitions, is the aim of Buddhism.

And Buddha's teaching addresses this: The Origin of Dukkha – the start, the first step and all the other steps in the development – is that pleasure, and also wanting lead to repetitions.

If something is pleasurable, we want to repeat it. When we want something, the idea repeats in our memories. Even the smallest pleasure we have, will lead to some form of repetition of the idea, and often an actual repetition.

Repetitions involve us in a timeline, they are not conducive to being now. And, once the repetitions start, once the wheels start turning; then they turn with their own karmic momentum.

It may well be that extreme forms of wanting like craving, lead to extreme forms of repetition like rebirth; but it is obvious that even the smallest want we have, will lead to some form of repetition, either mental or actual – and this is the prime, basic and universal truth.

Attachment, clinging, and craving – cycles, routines, and habits – and also greed and closed-mindedness – are all possible consequences of a sequence of repetitions.

The texts – which were subject to multiple translations and written more than 400 years after Buddha spoke – have been exaggerated to make Buddha's message more striking and awesome and dramatic, but with that they have diminished its universal application. Traditional Buddhists who wish to examine this, and question their beliefs, are invited to read Dukkha in Detail.

The end point of any debate on the authenticity of the texts, has to be common sense – pleasure and wanting lead to repetition.

The First and Second Truth speak of the origin of suffering.

The Third and Fourth Truth, and also The Middle Way, show the way to the alleviation of all suffering.

Please continue with The Middle Way and The Third Truth


Ref. Nyanaponika Thera, "The Heart of Buddhist Meditation" (page 142) Rider & Co. London (1962). The same translation is given by Burma Piṭaka Association and U Jotika & U Dhamminda.

Full References – see Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Translations for links to original texts.

Nyanaponika Thera
It is that craving which gives rise to fresh rebirth, and, bound up with pleasure and lust, finds ever fresh delight, now here, now there to wit. the Sensual Craving, the Craving for (Eternal) Existence and the Craving for Non-Existence.

Thanissaro bhikkhu
The craving that makes for further becoming — accompanied by passion & delight, relishing now here & now there — i.e., craving for sensuality, craving for becoming, craving for non-becoming.

Vipassana Research Institute
It is this craving that occurs again and again and is bound up with pleasure and lust and finds delight now here, now there. That is, the craving for sensual pleasures, the craving for repeated rebirth and the craving for annihilation.

Burma Piṭaka Association
The origin of dukkha is the Craving which gives rise to fresh rebirth, and, accompanied by pleasure and passion, finds great delight in this or that existence, namely, Craving for pleasures of the senses,[99] Craving for better existence, and Craving for non-existence.

99 Kāma-taṇhā is hankering after and becoming attached to pleasures of the senses. Bhava- taṇhā is hankering after and becoming attached to continued existence, either the current sensual existence or a better and higher existence in the rūpa (fine material) or arūpa (non-material) brahmā realms, or becoming attached to the rūpa and arūpa jhānas. Vibhava- taṇhā is hankering after and becoming attached to the idea that there is no kamma for rebirth, and hence no future existence.

U Jotika & U Dhamminda
It is that craving which gives rise to fresh rebirth; and which together with delight and clinging, (accepts, enjoys, and) finds great delight in this or that (existence or sense pleasure that happens to arise). Namely, craving for sense pleasures (kamatanha), craving for (better) existences (bhavatanha), and craving for non-existence (vibhavatanha). note97

note97. The craving for pleasurable sights, sounds, smells, tastes and tactile objects is kamatanha. The craving to be born in any sensual; rupa or arupa worlds, and the attachment to rupa or arupa jhanas, and the craving associated with the belief in an eternal and indestructible Self or Soul are all included in the term bhavatanha. The craving that associated with the wrong view that at death one is annihilated and hence that there is no rebirth or results of good or bad actions is vibhavatanha.

Please continue with The Middle Way and The Third Truth

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