Koan: Jingqing said, “Ordinary people are upside down, falling into delusion about themselves, pursuing things outside themselves.”
“What about yourself?” asked a student.
“I am on the brink of falling into delusion about myself.”
The word dukkha, which is often translated as suffering, as in Buddhism’s first noble truth of suffering, is a Sanskrit word. The ancient Aryans who brought the Sanskrit language to India were nomadic people who travelled in horse- or ox-drawn vehicles.
The etymology of the word dukkha in Sanskrit is literally ‘bad axle hole’. When the hole for the axle is not in the center of the wheel the wheel is not balanced and it leads to a bumpy ride and a lot of suffering for a nomadic people riding in wagons. ‘Out of balance’ an interesting alternate translation for dukkha in lieu of ‘suffering’.
Balance feels connected to being in the middle. The way a teeter totter is balanced in the middle, or the scales of justice. I’m reminded of the middle way and how that midpoint is not static. The liminal state between awake and asleep, balancing on the edge of unconsciousness, has a kind of deliciousness to it. It is recommended to meditate as you drift off to sleep as the process of falling asleep is the same as that of dying.
There is something valuable to be learned hovering between here and there, this and that, delusion and wisdom. In fact, in Taoist practice, mid-step is considered to be the most powerful position. Standing on one foot, balanced, we are more stable than with both feet firmly planted on the ground.