Dukkha And Joy

David Price
3 min readMay 16, 2022
John Singer Sargent, (Atlantic Storm, 1876)

According to Monier-Williams in his Sanskrit-English Dictionary, duhkha means “uneasy, uncomfortable, unpleasant, difficult.”
If we give up trying to translate dukkha into one word, it could be said that it is an existential sense that things are not as they should be, which manifests in human experience in varying degrees between despair (things are vastly different from the way things should be) and a vague uneasiness (things are not quite as they should be)….We are sentient beings who are acutely aware of our existence, and therefore our potential non-existence. When humans contemplate this great matter, we typically experience dukkha.
The subtle nature of the experience of dukkha can be understood further from its etymology….

It is perhaps amusing to note the etymology of the words sukha (pleasure, comfort, bliss) and duḥkha (misery, unhappiness, pain). The ancient Aryans who brought the Sanskrit language to India were a nomadic, horse- and cattle-breeding people who traveled in horse- or ox-drawn vehicles. Su and dus are prefixes indicating good or bad. The word kha, in later Sanskrit meaning “sky,” “ether,” or “space,” was originally the word for “hole,” particularly an axle hole of one of the Aryan’s vehicles. Thus sukha … meant, originally, “having a good axle hole,” while duhkha meant “having a poor axle hole,” leading to discomfort.

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There is only one perpetrator of evil and that is human unconsciousness.

Eckhart Tolle

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“once upon a time, when women were birds, there was the simple understanding that to sing at dawn and to sing at dusk was to heal the world through joy.”

~ terry tempest williams

We do have a choice whether to create misery or bliss, but what Tolle is calling human unconsciousness easily overwhelms us. The story of humanity is the story of unconsciousness, with remarkably few occasions of bliss. We are mostly riding in the swaying cart of dukkha, which we ourselves have constructed out of our resistance to paying attention to how we act in the world, and why.

Healing the world is a worthy goal, but the question is how. How can we act in the world with a faulty axle in our inner self? We project our inner conflicts and…

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David Price

I write about creativity, loving, language learning and psycho/spirituality. I’m a longtime painter and reader.