Sweetness and Suffering, Sukha and Dukkha by Melissa Perehudoff
Sukha and dukkha. These two little Sanskrit words are packed with meaning. Sukha has been translated as delight, comfort, alleviation, bliss or sweetness. Dukkha is commonly translated as pain, suffering, distress, unhappiness and unpleasantness.
Sutra 2.7 sukha anusayi ragah is translated by BKS Iyengar as,” Pleasure leads to desire and emotional attachment” (1).
The sweetness of life is easy to catch in the summer. A swim in fresh lake or river water, a bite into a juicy peach or watermelon, the abundance of colourful flowers, the smell of chopped basil and peppermint all awaken the senses and make me feel alive. Knowing that these are short-lived pleasures of summer, I delight in these experiences. I may try to hold onto some of these summer delights by canning peaches or going for September swims but I am usually content to keep them fondly tucked in my summer memories.
Sutra 2.8 duhka annusayi dvesah is translated by Nischala Joy Devi as, “Excessive avoidance of unpleasant experiences causes disdain” (2). There seems to be an extra hint of dukkha in the air these days with all the Covid uncertainty. Uneasiness at the grocery store, discomfort when people do not maintain the two meter distance and dissatisfaction in not being able to give and receive hugs can be considered dukkha. What can be done with these feelings of discomfort or dis-ease? Well, first of all like the Buddhists say in the First Noble Truth we can accept that There is suffering. We can learn from meditators to not judge our feelings or try to get rid of them but just look and observe that suffering is there (3). What can we do next? Well how about practice some yoga?
Yoga practiced with awareness creates horizontal expansion and vertical extension through the whole body. When yoga is practiced with no strain or aggression it allows a fresh supply of blood to flow to each and every cell of the body. And when one stretches completely, one relaxes completely. This is why yoga feels so good. The spaciousness in body can be experienced as spaciousness in mind since there really is no separation between body-mind. Have you ever noticed how you are a little more patient and light-hearted after a yoga class? The extra physical and mental space after practicing yoga with attention can allow you to meet the little dukhas of life with more love, spaciousness and acceptance.
1 BKS Iyengar , Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. 1993, p.109
2 Nischala Joy Devi, The Secret Power of Yoga. 2007, p. 122
3 Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, Joyful Wisdom, Embracing Change and Finding Freedom. 2009, p. 49
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