Every religion has its way of explaining human suffering and the concept of evil. For Buddhists, understanding the causes of suffering and rejecting evil is part of the route to enlightenment. Therefore, in this piece, Buddhismzone took a quantum leap in explaining the origins of Buddhist suffering. And, of course, the possible ways to get rid of it.
However, What Is Buddhist Suffering?
Buddhist suffering is the state of undergoing pain, distress, or hardship. Basically, as an effect of negative attitudes resulting in selfish reasons.
What Is the Origin of Suffering?
Buddhists believe that suffering originated from the negative actions and beliefs of human beings. For example, these include greed, anger, and ignorance which give rise to evil. Hence, these three things can possibly stop a Buddhists from reaching enlightenment.
Indeed, Buddhists do not believe that human beings are evil. Instead, they generally accept the fact that humans create suffering through their own actions.
What Does Buddhism Teach About Suffering?
Suffering is a natural part of life. When Siddhartha left the palace in which he lived, the three people he saw were an older man, an ill man, and a dead person. As a result, he became obsessed with the fact that all must face age, sickness, and death. Consequently, he determined to find an answer to this anxiety and suffering.
What Are the Kinds of Suffering?
The Buddha identified three kinds of suffering:
- the dukkha of physical
- emotional pain and
- psychological suffering
The first kind of dukkha is the obvious suffering resulting from physical discomfort. From the minor pain of stubbing a toe, hunger, lack of sleep, to the agony of chronic disease.
This is emotional suffering. Generally, it arises when you become frustrated that things do not go your way. Or, on the other hand, upset about life’s injustices. More so, it can arise when you become worried about money or meeting others’ expectations.
This third kind of suffering is caused by the fact that life is continuously changing. In truth, no moment is reliable because the next moment is always coming along fast on its heels. Hence, it is like a constant bombardment of change undermining every state of happiness.
Furthermore, every day, even during the pleasant moments, we often experience an underlying unease about the future. Most of all, this worry and anxiety is a manifestation of psychological suffering the Buddha identified.
What is the Buddha’s Teaching On the Cause of Human Suffering?
“I teach suffering, its origin, cessation, and path. That’s all I teach“, declared the Buddha 2500 years ago.
Definitely, the Four Noble Truths contain the essence of the Buddha’s teachings. Thus, it was these four principles that the Buddha came to understand during his meditation under the bodhi tree.
Namely, the truth of,
- suffering (Dukkha)
- the origin of suffering (Samudāya)
- cessation of suffering (Nirodha)
- the path to the end of suffering (Magga)
Suffering comes in many forms. Accordingly, three distinct kinds of suffering correspond to the first three sights the Buddha saw on his first journey outside his palace. This includes old age, sickness, and death.
However, according to the Buddha, the problem of suffering goes much deeper. Hence, Life is not ideal. Thereby, it frequently fails to live up to our expectations.
Human beings are subject to desires and cravings. But, even when we can satisfy these desires, the satisfaction is only temporary. Moreover, pleasure does not last; or if it does, it becomes monotonous. Therefore, even when we are not suffering from outward causes like illness or bereavement, we are unfulfilled and unsatisfied. And, this is the truth of suffering.
Probably, some people who encounter this teaching may find it pessimistic. But, Buddhists find it neither optimistic nor pessimistic. Instead, they see it more as realistic. Fortunately, the Buddha’s teachings did not end with suffering. Instead, the teachings go on to tell us what we can do about it. Most importantly, they explained also how to stop it.
Origin of Suffering (Samudāya)
Actually, our day-to-day troubles may seem to have easily identifiable causes. For instance, the causes may include thirst, pain from an injury, or sadness from the loss of a loved one. In the second of his Noble Truths, the Buddha claimed to have found the cause of all suffering. And, it is much more deeply rooted than our immediate worries.
Furthermore, the Buddha taught that the root of all suffering is desire, tanhā. Basically, it comes in three forms. These forms are what which he described as the Three Roots of Evil, or the Three Fires, or the Three Poisons.
Cessation of Suffering (Nirodha)
In the third noble truth, the Buddha taught about the possibility of liberation. As a result, he instructed that there is a way to extinguish desire which causes suffering. Hence, the way is to free oneself from attachment. Really, the Buddha was a living example that this is possible in a human lifetime.
Path to the Cessation of Suffering (Magga)
The final Noble Truth is the Buddha’s prescription for the end of suffering. And, it is a set of principles called the Eightfold Path. On the same note, one can also refer to it as the Middle Way. This is because the path avoids both indulgence and severe asceticism. More so, the Buddha found neither of them helpful in his search for enlightenment.
The Eight Divisions
The eight stages are not to be taken in order. Rather, each should support and reinforce the other. Thus,
Right Understanding – Sammā ditthi
Accepting the teachings of the Buddha. In general, the Buddha never intended his followers to believe his teachings blindly. Instead, he admonishes that they practice them. Thereafter, they should judge for themselves whether they were true.
Right Intention – Sammā san̄kappa
A commitment to cultivate the right attitudes.
Right Speech – Sammā vācā
Speaking truthfully, avoiding slander, gossip, and offensive speech.
Right Action – Sammā kammanta
Behaving peacefully and harmoniously. Thus, refraining from stealing, killing, and overindulgence in sensual pleasure.
Right Livelihood – Sammā ājīva
Avoiding making a living in ways that cause harm. For example, exploiting people or killing animals, or trading in intoxicants or weapons.
Right Effort – Sammā vāyāma
Cultivating positive states of mind. Even more, freeing oneself from evil and unwholesome states. And, then, preventing them from arising in the future.
Right Mindfulness – Sammā sati
Developing awareness of the body, sensations, feelings, and states of mind.
Right Concentration – Sammā samādhi
Developing the mental focus necessary for this awareness.
Other Areas of Development for Overcoming Suffering
Aside from the eight noble paths, the Buddha also exposed a sacred text called the “sabbasava sutta”. Here, the Buddha outlined these seven areas of development. In general, we can overcome suffering in these areas.
Actually, we currently live in an age of information. This stockpile of knowledge can at times be overwhelming. But, then, it can prove beneficial for overcoming challenges in our life.
Therefore, when we have a challenge, there is always a solution out there. However, it is still your job to gather the information you will be needing. Hence, filter the good from the bad and work out a plan for getting there.
This is not always easy. In fact, it is usually very difficult. Even more, depending on the problem you are facing, it could take some real trial and error. However, when determination sets in to overcome a problem you are facing, there will always be a solution out there. Thus, you have to find it!
Also, when you are making a transition in life, there will be times when you will have to call on your resistance to temptation. For instance, if you are starting a new exercise regime, trying to overcome procrastination. Or, maybe, trying to get rid of an addiction of any type. Hence, there will be times when you will have to resist the temptation to fall back into bad habits. But, while this is very important, it is only part of the solution.
Therein, to give up a bad habit using resistance alone would be very difficult. So, when you are trying to change a bad routine, you will find it easier if you consciously replace it with a more productive one.
Moreover, the Buddha taught to replace a bad routine with a more productive one consciously. As a result, if you stop smoking, you could start painting. If you stop eating junk food, you could start eating healthy food. Or, if you are going to stop hanging out in nightclubs and getting drunk, you could start going to yoga and drinking raw juice.
Definitely, it is essential that you consciously look for a healthy and sustainable replacement to bad habits. Because if you don’t, you may end up with a worse habit in its place.
Consumption works both ways. Thus, you could be over-consuming or under-consuming.
You could be eating too much or not enough. On the other hand, you could not be drinking enough water. Or, be drinking too many fizzy drinks. Also, you could be buying too much stuff that you do not need. Or, you could be depriving yourself of the things that you really do need.
Whichever your case is, consuming more or less of certain things will help you overcome some of life’s challenges.
As a result, this lesson really goes hand in hand with knowledge. That is to say when it becomes important that you learn more about your needs as a human being. Thereby, you get more understanding of what you need to consume more or less.
A prime example of this is medicine which also includes plants, herbs, and food medicines. A lot of Buddhist take pills for problems that we can overcome naturally. And because of this, these pills cause more problem to our health. Consequently, it leaves side effects too difficult to overcome.
But basically, most illness, spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical can be overcome through meditation. So, try your best in practicing more of mindful meditation to overcome your problems. At least, before consuming toxic and dangerous medicines.
You cannot always have what you want when you want it! This is not a bad thing. Moreover, just imagine if everything you set out to do works out straight away. Of course, you would have nothing to aim for. There would be no goals and obviously no reason to wake up in the morning.
Surely, if you have something big that you want in your life, you will have to be patient. And, you will also need to be persistent.
Definitely, if you work every day towards a goal and that goal is something that you have some control over, then the only thing that can stand between you and your goal is time!
In addition, one thing to remember here is to try and enjoy the journey. Especially, if you think a specific goal will bring you happiness. Then, you struggle to find something to be grateful on the way. Chances exist that when you finally get there you will feel satisfied.
For that reason, celebrate every small victory en route to your big goals. Therefore, be patient and persistent, and you will get there in the end!
Some things in your life will be out of your control. Certainly, some people and places will leave a negative impact on you. Sometimes, it will not be possible to walk away from these things. But, you can do your best to avoid them.
If someone at work acts negatively and always leaves you feeling down, avoid them. Further, if you are making dietary changes and your friends are going to a fast food restaurant, do not go. If your partner happens to love Housewives of New Jersey and you do not, then try to read a book when they are watching it!
Some things in life will need confrontation. But, sometimes the best way to deal with a problem is to avoid or ignore it.
There will be times in your life when avoiding a problem is just not viable. Sometimes in life, you have to make tough decisions. Note, usually, the tough decisions result in the most significant impact.
Sometimes friendships and relationships end. And, other times a career is having such a negative impact on your life that you will have to leave. Also, you have to stop relying on will power to help you through your diet and throw out the chocolate chip cookies.
Your life is your responsibility. Therefore, when certain things have a constant negative impact on you, you will have to make a decision. Thus, am I going to accept this or remove it and move on.
All the same, this can be one of the hardest things a person can do. However, you should take note of things, people and places that impact your life in the wrong way. Thereafter, do your best to remove them. Your life will change for the better.
Truly, the first step for lifestyle is finding out what lifestyle you want. A lot of people go into adulthood without knowing what they want or what they stand for. Note, your lifestyle will affect your health, wealth, and relationships. So, it is crucial if you want to lead a fulfilling life that you know what you want. Subsequently, build a lifestyle around that.
Nevertheless, lifestyle is a combination of the knowledge you acquire, the daily habits you partake in, and what you deem as acceptable on your journey. As a result, it is very important that you set strict boundaries in some areas of your life to make sure your experience is the one you want to be living.
Unquestionably, we all have the same amount of time in the day. Yet, some people can barely manage to get on top of household chores. While others can run a fortune of 500 company and still find the time to meditate, go to the gym and hang out with friends and family in the evening.
So, to be industrious, the Buddha taught to cultivate the positive, reduce negativity, and purify the mind.
It is very much about viewing your life and seeing what is productive and empowering you. And, on the other hand, find what is harmful and disempowering you. Then, do more of the positive and less of the negative.
Buddha’s Quotes On Suffering
“Suffering is not objective. It depends largely on the way you perceive it. Some things cause you to suffer, but do not cause others to suffer. There are things that bring you joy but do not bring others joy.”
― Hanh Nhat Thich.
“If you nourish your hatred and your anger, you burn yourself. Understanding is the only way out. If you understand, you will suffer less, and you will know how to get to the root of injustice.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh.
“When we direct our attention toward our suffering, we see our potential for happiness. We see the nature of suffering and the way out. That is why the Buddha called suffering a holy truth. When we use the word “suffering” in Buddhism, we mean the kind of suffering that can show us the way out.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh.
“Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety, or possessions – we cannot be free.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh.
“The seed of suffering in you may be strong, but don’t wait until you have no more suffering before allowing yourself to be happy.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh.
People suffer because they are caught in their views. As soon as we release those views, we are free. As a result, we do not have to suffer anymore.
Henceforth, do not lose yourself in the past. Likewise, do not lose yourself in the future. Above all, do not get yourself caught in views of anger, worries, or fears.
Come back to the present moment and touch life deeply. Thus, live happily and avoid suffering. That’s mindfulness!
Here is Buddha’s Quote Website