310. The Devastating Mistranslations
Few alterations of Gotamo's original message
have caused as much damage as the (mis)translations of the Pali word dukkha.
The combined net result of out-of-context quotes
and inappropriate labelling is that the bottomline of 'Buddhism'
is being equated with the statement 'all life is suffering' for the majority
of people. It does not require a vast amount of knowledge about Gotamo's
teachings or on the subject of the human mind in general in order to recognize
how an opinion such as 'all life is suffering' can act as a self-fulfilling
prophecy and have devastating consequences.
Both super- and subconscious minds are taking
statements that are formulated as commands literally and will execute them
once they have entered the system through the conscious mind:
Once having entered the sub- and superconscious
parts of the mind of a being, several things will happen if no further
actions are taken:
the subconscious mind will obey the command directly
in form of sickness and body problems in general and indirectly
by gravitating towards physical situations that contain pain or discomfort
the superconscious mind will implement the command
in three steps: it adopts the viewpoint (such as 'all life is suffering')
and if a situation arises that does in fact contain suffering, it will
strengthen the viewpoint. After repeated impressions of this kind, the
superconscious will then decide that 'life is indeed suffering'.
Now, if life does not give reason for suffering already, the superconscious
will postulate the occurence of suffering in the future.
This way, entire populations have rushed into
self-destruction, dragging with them millions of beings, human and animals
passive circuits will be created by the subconscious
mind to automate the identification that goes along with the statement
'all life is suffering',
entities will attach to those passive circuits
that are loaded or primed with mini-postulates containing the self-defeating
statement, thus creating 'active' circuits,
the active circuits (entities) will propagate
in one of two ways: cloning or jumping ships to other circuits whether
on the same bearer or another being or entity,
the active circuits will integrate into clusters
(or entity mini-organizations) within which they are now even further hidden
from direct inspections of the conscious mind,
the superconscious mind may duplicate the content
of the circuit onto a higher level of organization, for example, from individual
to his/her family, from there to the city, and, in more cases than it is
commonly recognized or acknowledged, to entire nations or ethnic groups
(cp. 316. Group Identities).
The 'cause' will always be blamed on whoever
happens to be on the other side of the incident that has been postulated,
provoked, or 'pulled in', thus strengthening the 'victim' viewpoint and
in the wake lowering responsibility.
There are several vicious features of this
trap in which a Being can easily be caught when going on this route to
disaster, some of which are:
One could write a book of hundreds of pages explaining
why translating dukkha as 'suffering' is a fatal mistake.
One could add a couple of hundred pages with examples of how 'happiness
is achieved through happiness' which Gotamo was reported to have presented
to his audience.
in a condition of suffering, the Being is much
less able to work on its liberation and therefore,
as a side effect it will not confront nor successfully
resolve traumatic incidents from the past;
this trap will enter a downward spiral rather
quickly, making it more difficult to escape with every turn;
other beings and super-beings ('nature') can recognize
the condition on the superconscious or group level and either contribute
(resulting in more suffering) or dissociate (refusing to help);
the person will be unable to use the 'meditation
path' correctly (which is usually sold as _the_ way of the 'Buddha', and
then also as the _only_ way) because the person cannot completely enter
the first of the four wholesome states of the mind which is 'sharing love'
or 'metta'. It will further merge its _own_ suffering within the second
state of the mind ('compassion'), thus likely to _increase_ suffering of
others in general rather than to _heal_, and it can certainly not properly
enter the third state ('sharing joy'). How could someone who thinks
'all life is suffering' share joy with others in a non-discriminating attitude?
Lastly, the forth state of the four wholesome (most often called 'noble')
states of the mind, the state of equanimity, a lower harmonic of nibbaana
or the 'complete liberation', is beyond their reach, too, because it is
a level that is properly reached only in progression after passing through
the first three states. (The four states of the mind will be explained
in another chapter). Usually, the person will justify this failure and
replace the proper state of the mind with emotional
(body) states which in the later case will be close to 'dullness' or
'no-interest', thus adding to the motion of the downward spiral of the
The bottom line is that the complete 'truth
of dukkha', the first of the four 'noble truth', can only properly
be recognized in a liberated state. But then, it should be considered that
by recognizing a condition 'as it is' the condition is automatically
In this notebook, dukkha will be left
mostly untranslated. A close English description in a modern context would
be the concept of 'case', a wording that is not too widespread, however.
Throughout this book one could safely use the word 'dukkha' whenever the
word 'case' has been used.
The word 'in-sanity' would also be an acceptable
choice in many cases because it maintains the original structure of the
compound word dukkha which literally means 'not wholesome'.
How did the translation 'suffering' enter the
scene? 'Suffering' is a consequence of dukkha in very much
the same way that 'case' or 'in-sanity' is the cause of the problems that
a person has in life.
A person has to realize that it has 'case'
before it can do something about it. This is a modern phrasing of the 'first
noble truth: the truth of dukkha'. In order to do something about
'case', it has to be understood how it came about in the first place and
how it continues to be created. This is obviously the 'second noble truth'
of Gotamo. The third one is the truth about resolving 'case', or 'the truth
of resolving dukkha'. This is the basic possibility of what
is nowadays called 'clearing' or 'processing'. The forth truth, the 'path
to resolving case (dukkha)', would be called 'applied technology'
in modern words.
In any case, to close this sad chapter of the
notebook with a more positive note, here is a quote from the Pali
Canon about a liberated person:
"Whatever had to be done was done.
Whatever could be enjoyed has been enjoyed.
Happiness was achieved through happiness."
Copyleft © 1998
by Maximilian J. Sandor, Ph.D.