The Truth of Suffering in Buddhism


The aspect of suffering is one of the most important things one will know if studying or planning to convert to Buddhism. Suffering is the one truth that links the various core concepts together such as Four Noble Truths, Eightfold Path, Three Poisons, Ten Meritorious Deeds, Three Universal Characteristics, Three Universal Truths, and so forth. Suffering is the core part of Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths: Dukkha, Samudaya, Nirodha, and Magga.

Dukkha, the Noble Truth about suffering, explains that we all suffer in one way, shape, or form. One person’s suffering is different from another. Humans are not perfect. The world is not perfect. Life is not perfect. There is the saying that life is unfair. For the most part, life is rather unfair. Instead of clinging onto a grudge, we have to learn to let go. If not, we end up suffering.

Suffering comes in many different forms.

You can have physical suffering, mental suffering, spiritual suffering, and so forth.

One person could emotionally suffer after losing his/her job. In the current state of the global economy, jobs are hard to come by. With regard to Dukkha, one probably will not keep one job forever. One might not remain a police officer forever. One might not remain an actor/actress forever.

Physically, we succumb to old age, weakness, pain, and so forth.

In this respect, this can be linked with “desire” which is the first of the Three Poisons of Buddhism. Without accepting that growing old and dying is part of the life cycle, we could try so hard to cling onto our youth. We can become dangerously obsessive about it. Because of that, we end up hurting ourselves with drugs, cosmetic surgeries, etc. Drugs have many side effects. There could also be a botched cosmetic surgery.

All suffering has a source

In regards to Samudaya, all suffering has a source. One example would be the popular medical drama series on Fox called “House.” This is in regards to Dr. Remy “Thirteen” Hadley, who is portrayed by actress Olivia Wilde. For those that kept up with the latest season, there is speculation that Thirteen will succumb to Huntington’s Disease which was inherited from her mother. As a result, Thirteen has problems accepting that she could die in the near future. Plus, it caused Thirteen to become distant from other people.

One could say that Thirteen’s dilemma fits the bill of Dukkha and Samudaya. Thirteen’s suffering is from knowing that she could die soon due to Huntington’s Disease. But, she still clings onto life.

This is an example of how all suffering has a source. In short, we all suffer in one way or form. Nothing lasts forever. Life, itself, is by no means an exception. Yoda, in “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace,” talks to young Anakin Skywalker about the source of his suffering. Thus, Anakin slowly begins his descent to the dark side.

The truth of suffering, in regards to Buddhism, can be found in the first two of the Four Noble Truths.

This is interlinked with the Three Poisons which is touched upon in Tibetan Buddhism.

But, we can always let go of whatever causes us to suffer. We can let go of our obsession, our greed, our hatred, our past grudges, and so forth. One example would be a scorned one learning to forgive his/her spouse for committing adultery.

In regards to the final Noble Truth about suffering, as long as we can remain in a right state of mind and tranquility, we do not suffer. Since the day we are born, we start to suffer. We will go through many things that cause us to suffer. Buddhism encourages one to reflect on the roots of our suffering. Then, we uproot such causes.

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