Being Laced With

The reality is that our selved experience is laced with dukkhaDukkha, a Pali term used by the Buddha, refers to the basic unsatisfactoriness of experience, the feeling, as I’d say, of something being off, if only a little bit.

When we say that “X is laced with Y,” we mean that Y occurs in small or trace amounts in X. Why is this analysis significant?

Because we’re willing to grant, I think, that one may enjoy eating ice cream (or whatever), finding it pleasant, only later on to feel the pain of having eaten too much. So too with other selved experiences: pleasure follows pain or pain precedes pleasure. Our egoic experience, indeed, reveals to us that pleasure is transient.

This, of course, is true, but it’s not yet profound. What is profound is the more nuanced understanding and feeling having to do with dukkha insinuating itself even, if only a tiny bit, into whatever it is that is going on providing that one is egoically engaged.

And this is disturbing. It’s disturbing because it feels as if everything we touch is tainted somehow, stained in some way, painted with poison. Therefore, I say again, “The reality is that our selved experience is laced with dukkha.”

But, you reply, surely this does not describe all my experiences? Quite so. You’ve probably, if only rarely and fleetingly, had non-egoic experiences, experiences when you “lost your self.” You tasted something indeed, something very special or, if you prefer, very ordinary.

Enlightenment, the total losing of one’s self, is therefore the experience of freedom and purity. The experience of this not being laced with dukkha.