When the Buddha attained complete and final enlightenment, among his first thoughts were:
Then the thought occurred to me, ‘This Dhamma that I have attained is deep, hard to see, hard to realize, peaceful, refined, beyond the scope of conjecture, subtle, to-be-experienced by the wise. But this generation delights in attachment, is excited by attachment, enjoys attachment. For a generation delighting in attachment, excited by attachment, enjoying attachment, this/that conditionality & Dependent Origination are hard to see. This state, too, is hard to see: the resolution of all fabrications, the relinquishment of all acquisitions, the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding. And if I were to teach the Dhamma and others would not understand me, that would be tiresome for me, troublesome for me’. — Ariyapariyesana Sutta (Majjhima-Nikāya 26)
The Buddha’s original teaching is very subtle and sophisticated; it is admittedly difficult to understand. To make the Buddha’s teaching meaningful to the contemporary individual, we will make extensive use of a familiar metaphor: a computer infested with a virus or other malware. The inconvenience and computer malfunctions caused by the malware are compared with dukkha, a Pāli term for the common human disease of chronic mental suffering.
Before understanding the Buddha’s teaching we are ‘Puthujjanas’. That means we are conditioned; our mental functions are compromised, like a computer infected with malware. The virus has affected the hard drive and memory, spread to different levels of the system, and installed a rootkit; even a complete reset will not remove or affect it. The malware gradually degrades performance of the infected system until it can no longer function properly. The Buddha’s teaching is like an antivirus program that removes the malware completely, including the rootkit, restoring the system to its original function and performance.
Like computer malware, the mental malfunctions that cause dukkha are hard to see, and so is the cure. In the Puthujjana, the malware infection has penetrated so deeply that even death and subsequent rebirth cannot remove it. It has disguised itself as something necessary, that is required to be a ‘normal’ human being: our sense of self: ‘I’ and ‘mine’. However, not only is the false sense of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ unnecessary for the human being, it is actually a malfunction of the software of the mind, greatly reducing our performance, and the cause of so much unnecessary mental suffering (dukkha). You will gradually begin to understand this as we go deeper into the Buddha’s teaching, and especially as you begin to practice mindfulness and meditation.