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Suffering in Buddhism


Suffering is a part of our lives. We are usually trying not to think about it. Therefore Buddhists seem obsessed with Dukkha or suffering and ways of dealing with it.


As Buddha Shakyamuni taught that unless we recognize how suffering affects everyone we will have no incentive to investigate the cause of suffering, the second noble truth, and no possibility of ending suffering, the third noble truth.

The Buddha said, “All I teach is suffering and the end of suffering.”

One of the fundamental doctrines of Buddhism is The Four Noble Truth:

1. There is suffering

2. The origin of suffering.

3. The cessation of suffering.

4. The path leading to the cessation of suffering.


We all are experiencing suffering, and we all naturally desire happiness. To be free from suffering, we need to clearly understand the causes and conditions that give rise to suffering and ways to eliminate them. Until we understand that, no matter our wealth, intellect, the success we may have achieved, there is no real peace.


Suffering is a part of our everyday life. It comes from within, from our minds.

As Lama Zopa Rinpoche beautifully said: “One of the fundamental points of Buddhism is that there is no creator other than our own minds. No creator has a mind separate from ours. There is nobody outside who created the ups and downs of our lives except our own minds and our own actions, which have collectively produced the results we now face.”


All of our problems, happiness, joy, and sufferings are caused by imprints of our own accumulated positive and negative karma.

How things appear to us depend on these karmic imprints in our minds, which determine what the mind projects and how it labels things. Therefore we cannot trust outer appearances.

The root of the problem is in truly believing in the existent of “I” as something permanent as well as labeling things around us as “good” and “bad”.

The arising of anger or other disturbing emotions is often based on believing someone else created problems for us. Our angry thoughts about harming others are rooted in believing someone else is the source of our misery and that those problems had nothing to do with our own mistaken actions.


We have to realize that we are the creator, of all of the problems in our lives. Our sufferings come from us acting on thoughts influenced by delusions. As soon as we accept that there will be nothing external to blame, no person to blame, and therefore no basis for anger to arise against anyone.

We need to apply logic, reasoning, and analysis to whatever is being taught before accepting it. Buddha Shakyamuni said, “Examine my teachings well, the way a goldsmith examines gold, by cutting it, rubbing it, and melting it to see whether it is false gold, mixed, or pure.”

As we have heard before, happiness lies within the mind. If we want to have control over our minds, we need to practice. We can uncover the ultimate nature of the mind - the Buddha-nature.


As Lama Zopa Rinpoche said: “Why are our minds so often disturbed and upset? This is because we have not realized that the principal cause of unhappiness lies within the mind. We have always assumed the principal cause of happiness is external, so we constantly try to manipulate our external environment to find happiness. When this fails we blame others and never think to look within, never try to develop our minds.”


There are three types of suffering:


  1. The suffering of suffering - the pain of birth, old age, sickness, and death, as the Buddha described it.

  2. The suffering of change. When you do get what you want, you can’t hold onto it. Everything is impermanent. Everything will change and disaster, it’s just a matter of time.

  3. All-pervasive suffering of conditioning. This is the type of suffering that is the hardest to recognize. A basic unsatisfactoriness pervading all forms of existence, because all forms of life are changing, impermanent, and without any inner core or substance. On this level, the term indicates a lack of satisfaction, a sense that things never measure up to our expectations or standards.


The Six General Sufferings:


1.Nothing is definite.

2.Nothing in Samsara gives everlasting happiness.

3.Death is inevitable

4.We have to be reborn again and again.

5.We move from the high tear to the lower states of existence.

6.When we die, we leave everything behind.



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