Living with the dodgy wheel
7 November 2007
I meant to post about the Noble Eightfold Path, and my own struggles with staying on it, and planned to start out of order with ‘Right Speech’, because it is speech that often gets me into trouble and causes the suffering of myself and others.
However, I tried to build on the good work last night and went into Treeleaf’s blog archives for a random sitting to practise with. I found, serendipitously, that Jundo had in fact posted a series of talks and sittings around the Four Noble Truths, and the Noble Eightfold Path, and I took it as a sign that I really ought to begin at the beginning.
The Four Noble Truths are (and they are always worth repeating):
- Life is suffering.
- There is a cause of suffering.
- There is a way to end suffering.
- And that way is the Noble Eightfold Path.
At least, that is my paraphrase of how they are commonly understood. In the Buddhist texts (which I haven’t read, but have read about), the word for suffering is dukkha.
Dukkha, as I understand it, translates less as suffering than as dissatisfaction. It is what we experience when we don’t get what we want.
My favourite analogy for dukkha is the dodgy chariot wheel. Jundo explains:
In ancient stories, Dukkha is often compared to a chariot’s or potter’s wheel that will not turn smoothly as it revolves. The opposite, Sukkha, is a wheel that spins smoothly and noiselessly, without resistance as it goes.
The image in my mind is also accompanied with a squeaky sound, like a wheel needing to be greased. In other words, ‘suffering’, in this context, is not necessarily something catastrophic, but just your everyday squeaky wheel. And that is sometimes what suffering is — the long drawn out dissatisfactions, minor at first, but building and accumulating over time into something much bigger than what it started out as.
When you have a chariot with a dodgy wheel, do you change chariots? The wheel on that one could go, too. Do you change the wheel? You can, but bear in mind wheels don’t last forever. Or do you perhaps try to adjust your body to the uneven rhythm so that it doesn’t feel uneven anymore?