BUDDHISM, WHEELS and REPETITIONSPleasure and wanting lead primarily to repetitions.
Attachment is only one of the consequence of repetitions.
Buddha's central teachings are the Four Noble Truths. The Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna is by far the most detailed version, in the original Pali scriptures, of the Four Noble Truths. This essay is based on the Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutra (DN.22).
The first three Truths are about Dukkha (Pali), its beginnings and endings. These days Dukkha is commonly understood as 'suffering'. The Fourth Truth is a list of instructions and directions, the first of these instructions is to correctly understand Dukkha!
THE FIRST TRUTH
In Buddha's time the word Dukkha was used to describe when a wheel was not turning smoothly on its axle. The spoked wheel dates from around 2,000 B.C.. By 500 B.C., when Buddha was alive, the wheel had led to a cultural revolution.
There was one big central problem : Dukkha. In those days the wheels squeaked and wobbled, and the hub needed constant maintenance in order to run smoothly.
Dukkha describes how our existence is not running smoothly. The hub of the ancient wooden spoked wheel symbolises almost perfectly, how life wobbles, and sometimes starts grinding or gets twisted and blocked.
Modern suggestions for the interpretation of Dukkha are : suffering, anxiety, distress, unsatisfactory, frustration, unease, stress; - but none of these have the sense of repetition and self-perpetuating motion as witnessed in the wheel: - not running smoothly, not turning well.
There is another symbolism to the old fashioned cart wheel which would have been obvious to anyone living in those days : the hard wheels on the soft dirt roads made tracks, habitual ruts, karmic ruts.
The 17th century invention of the ship's wheel has a totally different use and function to the spoked wheel of Buddha's times.
The use of the ship's wheel on many Buddhist websites, including the english wikipedia page on Dukkha(1), exemplifies how far modern Buddhism has diverged from the original teaching.
In many texts it is written that the Five Aggregates are Dukkha. The Aggregates are five umbrella terms which explain how we experience the world. They are: manifest form, sensation, perception, concepts and consciousness. The Aggregates apply to all of our senses.
In Buddhism, where thoughts are considered as manifest forms or 'mind-objects', the Aggregates also apply to how the mind senses its own thoughts. In other words, the mind sensing thoughts, functions in the same way as the eye sees a sight, or the ear hears a sound.
The First Truth tells us very simply: Our sensory apparatus, is not running smoothly; or -
Our sensory apparatus, the Five Aggregates which are manifest in the six senses of touch, taste, smell, sound, sight and thought, are not running smoothly.
THE SECOND TRUTH
The Second Truth discusses the cause of Dukkha. Our sensory apparatus is influenced by pleasure and wanting. This is the prime cause of Dukkha. And i agree with this, but then my understanding of Buddhism differs from the normal view.
The normal view is that Buddha adopted the Hindu idea that pleasure and wanting lead to attachment, and then he added the new idea that due to impermanence and change, attachment leads to suffering.
I believe Buddha's new central idea (or one of them), was that pleasure and wanting lead primarily to repetitions. Simply: if something is pleasurable, we want to repeat it. Repetitions involve us in a timeline, they are not conducive to being now. And, once the repetitions start, once the wheels start turning; then they turn with their own karmic momentum.
Repetitious wanting causes endless 'next things to do' and a mental feedback system, which one translation gives as "The rolling in thoughts of mind objects"(3). The origin of Dukkha is the ever increasing complexity, and conflicting directions between all the different types of repetition.
The traditional view that attachment is the central problem, is supported by the fact that the Five Aggregates are almost always and only defined in terms of "the Five Aggregates of Clinging". 'Clinging' limits their interpretation and their potential as a universal theory.
I believe the Aggregates primary attribute is once set in motion, - once the wheels start turning - the mind starts sensing it's own thoughts, and then they keep repeating. Attachments, especially extreme attachments like clinging, are just one of the consequences of the repetitions.
Suffering, and all the other exaggerated terms like 'clinging' and 'craving'; make Buddha's message more concrete and dramatic, but they diminish its universal application.
I believe Buddha's message was a universal one, and applied to all the little wants and problems we have, like the times we end up in the kitchen and forget what we came for ... not only the most extreme forms of attachment : craving, clinging, and suffering.
Buddha found the answer to fulfillment in life, not only the answer to suffering.
There is another word in basic Buddhism: Sukkha. Sukkha means when a wheel is running smoothly. A good wheelwright would not only be able to cure Dukka, he would know how to make a wheel Sukkha.
My way of understanding Buddha's prime-truths, started when i read : the origin of Dukkha is "that craving which gives rise to fresh rebirth"(2) - and realised the simple everyday sense of is : "that wanting which leads to another repetition".
It may well be that an extreme form of wanting like craving, leads to extreme forms of repetition like rebirth; but it is blatantly obvious that wanting leads to repetition, and this is a basic universal truth.
If pleasure and wanting lead primarily to repetition, and not to attachment, this modifies much in the modern understanding of Buddhism.
Ref. 1, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dukkha 2019, Ref. 2, Nyanaponika Thera, p.128, "The Heart of Buddhist Meditation" (page 142) Rider & Co. London. (1962). Ref. 3, Pali Tipitaka, Vipassana Research Institute, Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutra https://www.tipitaka.org/stp-pali-eng-series#42 (last paragraph before #43 ). Ref. 4, Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutra Collected Translations(English, French, German).