While sitting in a large group of meditators, I bumped into another metaphor for dukkha — background radiation. As I sat I noticed a pervasive sense of feeling, feeling with an emotional coloring. Although subtle, it was clearly perceptible. It seemed to be a tinge of sadness, poignancy, or some such quality as that. It was radiating in the
background of my awareness. It was neither pleasant nor unpleasant, and I wondered if that was dukkha? As long as there is a story of me there will be this background radiation. When it is no longer present, I suppose I’ll be enlightened, but I don’t expect this anytime soon!
This background radiation can be understood as a pervasive and unconscious feeling tone. Much of mental life (over 99%) occurs outside of conscious awareness, and this is true for feelings and emotions too. It seems as if this background radiation is a repository or a dumping ground for all the “selfing” that goes on throughout the day. All the aspects of what the Buddha called, “I, me, mine.” The things I want, the expectations I have that may not
be met or I fear may not be met. It all boils down to desire and what I do with it.
Arnie Kozak, Dukkha: The Buddha’s Metaphor for All That Ails You