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Buddhism: Understanding suffering


By Newagemag.com - 6/13/2013

Buddha status
  Photo Credit: Amnartk / Shutterstock.com

Many people who hear about Buddhism and its teachings get stuck on the idea that life is suffering. It sounds so pessimistic, doesn't it? Who wants to dig deeper into a philosophy with such a negative outlook? But the Buddha never used the word suffering. To understand Buddhism and its most basic principles, we need to take a look at what he really meant instead.

The Buddha used the Pali term dukkha to explain what life is, and dukkha doesn't mean just suffering. It could instead be understood as stress, imbalance or dissatisfaction. Simply put, dukkha is a state in which things aren't working as they should.

Dukkha comes in three forms, the first of which is what we know as pain. Being alive means occasionally being in pain, whether that pain is physical, emotional or mental. As we get sick, give birth, grow old we all experience these forms of dukkha. We also add dukkha unconsciously by hoping the pain will go away or trying to endure it, when we instead should be present in the moment.

The second kind of dukkha is caused by change. Anything that isn't permanent, and let's face it, most things aren't, is dukkha. When we are happy we tend to hold on to that feeling and worry that it will go away. These attempts to cling to something that isn't going to last cause us dukkha. However, that doesn't mean we aren't supposed to feel happy. It just means we should understand that happiness never lasts and enjoy it while we can.

The third kind of dukkha is due to us being conditioned, or dependent, on something. This is dukkha arising from the fact that we cling to our perception of our self. It also stems from life never fully living up to our expectations and our disappointment when it doesn't.

Dukkha is caused by ignorance, of not seeing life and the world as they truly are. When we experience pain we fail to understand and accept pain as it is, and instead focus on enduring it or lessening it. We often stress because happiness or success won't last, without seeing and accepting that they can't possibly remain the same forever. Life keeps disappointing us but we still hold on to our expectations.

Buddhism isn't pessimistic; there is always a solution to dukkha. Though it requires hard work, we can all end the cycle of suffering by stop clinging to our ignorance and strive for enlightenment.


 








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