We all know suffering. We have met it, lived with it, and done our best to get rid of it. In this issue of Inquiring Mind—second in a series focusing on the “three characteristics” of impermanence (anicca), suffering (dukkha) and nonself (anatta)—we investigate this core problem of existence. We begin with the Buddha’s words—quotations about suffering taken from various books of the Pali Canon and selected for us by Thanissaro Bhikkhu, abbot of Metta Forest Monastery. Tulku Thondup Rinpoche offers us a Tibetan Buddhist point of view on dukkha, along with practices for healing and transforming emotional suffering. Thanissaro Bhikkhu follows with a traditional Theravadan perspective, contrasting the two primary ways in which the Buddha discusses dukkha: in the Four Noble Truths and the three characteristics. Bringing things back to the personal, Susan Moon looks back on her struggle with depression; Ed Brown recounts a cooking catastrophe; and Tara Bennett-Goleman describes an unexpected lesson on suffering, taken from her new book, Emotional Alchemy. Vipassana teacher and therapist Tara Brach then examines a contemporary affliction experienced by many of us—the “trance of unworthiness.”
To uncover the institutional sources of dukkha, we invited “engaged Buddhist” monk Santikaro Bhikkhu and Buddhist Peace Fellowship director Alan Senauke and associate director Diana Winston to join us in a roundtable discussion on the suffering caused by the systems we create in society. Next, Mushim Ikeda-Nash explores how the telling of our stories can help heal the racial divides that separate us from one another. On the practice page, Zen teacher Maylie Scott offers practical advice on responding to the suffering we encounter every day when we read the paper or watch the TV news.
Finally, our poetry page features the fun rhymes of sangha member Gary Turchin.