alone
Creative Commons Licensephoto credit: elward-photography


It would be a mistake to attempt to block out suffering or create mental distance from suffering. In fact this is the opposite of what I have experienced and come to understand. Trying to do so will most likely simply cause more suffering. What I’ve come to understand quite simply amounts to an embracing of the totality of existence. Opening up to all things.

The Buddha said existence is suffering but he did not say existence causes suffering. The way to eliminate suffering is to eliminate its cause. And that cause is desire. Not because desire of itself is inherently bad or wrong or that the things one can desire are inherently wrong but simply because desire leads to all manner of great suffering. “Eliminate suffering” is probably a poor choice of phrase. To me the action feels more like letting go of suffering and relaxing into existence. Similar to forgiving another person as a gift to one’s self. Thus “transcend suffering” is probably a better way to put it.

The way I see it is the opposite of suffering is not pleasure. The opposite of suffering is a state of having no opposites, no opinions, no preferences. Simply experiencing life as it comes, as it is without some sort of judgment call about how we as an individual may feel about it. It simply is. Anything else is non-acceptance. If you don’t accept something you thus desire for it to be otherwise and thus you suffer.

This is not to say one can’t do anything about situations. Acceptance does not mean a person simply curls up and waits for death. It just means you accept fully what is without complaint and move forward from that point. Whatever happens from there – happens. It is a great letting go of all tension and fear.

A Supremely Valuable Skill – Letting Go
For most people the ability to let go takes a reasonable amount of time and practice on simple things that are easier to let go of. For example some cuts you off in traffic while you’re not in an absolute rush to be somewhere. At such a moment consciously seize the opportunity to practice the skill of letting go.

Letting go is difficult for us because over the course of this life we’ve come to hold onto a great many things. We have learned to be very fearful and hold a lot of tension both mentally and physically. If you wish to actively improve the quality of your life you need to consider a gradual program of letting go. Remember, the development of any skill is simply a matter of practice. Look for and seize opportunities to practice wherever you can.

The Trap of Dualistic Thinking
Above I described the opposite state of suffering as one in which an individual holds onto no opinions, no preferences, no judgments. This is because in the tangle of good and evil for good to exist implies a distinction between good and bad. I said no distinctions. Not good. Not bad. Just is. It requires a step outside of dualistic thinking. To illustrate – good and bad are sides of one coin. See the whole coin. Not just its sides. Now that is just an illustration. It’s imperfect but perhaps useful.

On Physical Pain & Suffering
The difference between physical pain and suffering is that pain is a physical sensation. Pain is thus inherently no different from other physical sensations. Suffering occurs when pain is rejected. When one desires the pain to go away but it doesn’t. Then one suffers.

Existence is suffering because of our conception/perception of the world, because of how we interpret reality, because of how we become conditioned. Existence meanwhile is inherently as it is. Not good. Not bad. Just is. How you choose to take it or how you become conditioned to taking it will dictate the quality of your life. We can do something about that or we can ruminate about it and keep getting what we’ve always gotten. If someone is happy with whatever constitutes the status quo in their life then they can always just keep on keeping on. The choice is all theirs. You alone are responsible for you. Even if you don’t take responsibility for yourself you are still responsible for not taking responsibility.

The eight fold path of Buddhism is the path the Buddha laid out for those who wanted to transcend suffering. If you would like to find out more about the Buddhist idea of suffering you might like to read some of my other articles on this subject:



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