Questioner: What is Duḥkha?
Acharya Prashant: The thought, the desire of all that which is fleeting, ephemeral is Duḥkha. Why is it Duḥkha? To whom, is it Duḥkha? Few things have to be understood. Everything likes to be in its most stress-free state. That's what even material wants; to be in the most relaxed state possible. Given the suitable condition, everything in the universe wants to move towards its most relaxed, lowest agitation, lowest energy state, and that is what is called its natural state. Something that is not in its natural state will be unstable. Being unstable it will want to do things that can relieve it of its energy, or it will want to use the environment around itself to be relieved of its excess energy which in itself is stress.
So, a system or an object which is possessed of excessive energy or tension tends to react with the environment. It wants to react with the environment precisely with the intention to give up the stress that it has, and settle down into a stable state. That's what consciousness also does. Its most stable state is energy-less and inert, totally non-reactive, totally at rest and peace.
But somehow if it is not in its peaceful and restful state, then it will look around, to react with something or somebody in its vicinity, so that it may come to stability and rest. If the reaction is right and suitable then consciousness will be relieved of its excess tension. But if the reaction is with an improper or unsuitable object, then instead of the tension being relieved, the tension will increase, multiply. This tension itself is Duḥkha. What is the fundamental tension that consciousness has? The fundamental tension that it has is existence itself. "Why do I exist? Why do I exist as I appear to exist? I exist in a bodily confinement", that's how man's consciousness is, right? Bodily. "Why do I exist in a bodily way? Why do I exist in a temporal way, why am I spatially limited, why do I forget things, why can't I know fully?" This is what the innate tension of consciousness is, "Why am I so limited?"
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Acharya Prashant is an emerging champion of socio-spiritual awakening in the world today. An alumnus of IIT-Delhi and IIM-Ahmedabad, and a former Civil Services officer, Acharya Prashant is an acclaimed Speaker, Vedanta Teacher and author of over 50 books. Apart from that he wears various hats: a veganism promoter, an environmental activist, a science activist, a campaigner against superstition, and a champion of essential human freedom. Know More