Bhikkhu Bodhi begins with the First Noble Truth by discussing the Pali word dukkha:
The Pali word is often translated as suffering, but it means something deeper than pain and misery. It refers to a basic unsatisfactoriness running through our lives, the lives of all but the enlightened. Sometimes this unsatisfactoriness erupts into the open as sorrow, grief, disappointment, or despair; but usually it hovers at the edge of our awareness as a vague unlocalized sense that things are never quite perfect, never fully adequate to our expectations of what they should be. This fact of dukkha, the Buddha says, is the only real spiritual problem.
Three great sources of suffering that are named again and again in Buddhist teachings are sickness, old age, and death, which all humans experience. There are also many other pervasive sources of this unease, this dukkha, we experience so often.
Bhikkhu Bodhi continues:
But even death, the Buddha teaches, does not bring us to the end of dukkha, for the life process does not stop with death. When life ends in one place, with one body, the “mental continuum,” the individual stream of consciousness, springs up again elsewhere with a new body as its physical support. Thus the cycle goes on over and over — birth, aging, and death — driven by the thirst for more existence. The Buddha declares that this round of rebirths — called samsara, “the wandering” — has been turning through beginningless time. It is without a first point, without temporal origin. No matter how far back in time we go we always find living beings — ourselves in previous lives — wandering from one state of existence to another.
This is a crucial element in Buddhist thought: Our suffering does not end when we die. Understanding this gives me a great incentive to practice with diligence.
- A long, hot shower
- Very, very long walks
Not necessarily in that order.