The Problem of Suffering

Discussion in 'Eastern Philosophy' started by Magical Realist, May 22, 2015.

  1. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    Found this video trailer (9 min excerpt) that indirectly explains the causation of suffering ( individual mind vs universal mind ~ ego)
    Samadhi ~ union

    "Suffering : The egoic identification of form and thought"
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  3. VossistArts 3MTA3 Registered Senior Member

    Yeah you need to accept suffering, ideally embrace it and learn to work with it. Suffering is precious in that it is the greatest inspiration for overcoming suffering.
    The solution is dedicating yourself, making continual effort to find Solutions.
    Personally, I was fortunate to have discovered Buddhism when I was around 17. I was acutely aware that I didn't have control or understanding of my mind and that frustrated me. I felt as though I was being controlled by some unseen force. I hate feeling controlled. So, almost all the teachings I've received have been through books. Until recently. Anyways, returning to silence. Zen seemed like the most honest approach to learning about ones mind. Zazen. Sitting and watching the breath and watching ones thoughts. That is how you start to get to know yourself, your mind. You learn that your thoughts are not you. You learn to see that you have unconsciously programmed yourself to think or to react in patterned, self destructive, restarting ways. You learn to stay focused on a single thing, your breath. Your programmed thoughts start to fall away. Your gradually gain the ability to return to your breath at will, quieting your mind.
    Then after you've stabilized your mind, you have the ability to stay focused throughout your day, watching yourself and how you react to your experiences. Reactive processing is the true cause of all suffering. You'll learn techniques for analyzing and deconstructing, out understand how and why individual reactions came to be. When you see the reaction clearly, to it's root, usually grounded in ego processing ( there primitive are preserving mechanism) you see how and why reaction is often an ill constructed and unnecessary way to cope with experiences. Reacting means youre not thinking. It evolved to save our life without consideration or graduation, often leaving collateral damage in the process. Wake up to the house in fire, and flew from the building leaving the children inside.. that kind of thing. Once you see through a reaction you can then use volitional or intentional consideration to come up with much better ways to handle things. Ways that takes a much more complete view of the situation into account, solving problems and creating far less suffering for yourself and others as a result.
    This is how you gradually uncover pure mind from obstructions (reactive processing)b and reduce suffering.
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  5. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    Which is essentially an ethical matter, I guess. Sin is a violation, it's doing something bad. In ancient Hebrew mythology, it's about disobeying a superior (in the Garden of Eden, original sin).

    According to the myth the first humans were thrown out. It was the intentional act of the superior, imagined according to the absolute-monarch model of their ancient kings.

    So does the Judeo-Christian tradition implicitly. Otherwise, why would it matter to us whether we are living in Eden or not?

    Its explanation is that suffering is a mental state, something that we do to ourselves. It's a mental state that arises due to causal (karmic) conditions, as the result of what the modern West would call a psychological process.

    The answer to the problem of suffering is to gain control of that process. Or perhaps more accurately, since in Buddhism "we" are the process (which makes Buddhism very congruent with modern neurophysiological understandings of the mind) it's for the process to evolve in such a way that suffering no longer arises in it.

    Suffering comes as the result of our own gross and subtle behavior.

    Addressing the former, Buddhism places great emphasis on ethics so as to reduce that kind of suffering. (Notice that the point of ethics in Buddhism isn't to please a superior being, a cosmic judge. It's to produce less suffering in ourselves and others.) And note as well that the point of behaving ethically isn't because doing so is good. (Buddhism doesn't really have the concepts of 'good' and 'evil'.)

    Buddhism is entirely consequentialist, it's about the consequences of what we do, both externally and internally. The latter is very important in Buddhism and Buddhist ethics are typically conceived in the form of precepts which one adopts in living one's life, which in turn are conceptualized as rules of training. So a big part of the goal of being ethical is the changes in one's own psychology (and the psychology of others too) that behaving in such a way brings about.

    (The 'no-self' doctrine kind of reduces the distinction between 'me' and 'you'. We are all just different interacting strands in the universal flow of causality. And ultimately, that's what each of us are individually too. That realization is part of what motivated the growth of Mahayana's Boddhisattva ideal.)

    And there are things like physical pain which will always be there, so long as we are human. It's hard-wired in to our physiology, into the process. But the Buddhists say that we are the ones who turn physical pain into suffering. Their goal there is to sever that connection, to just observe pain's presence with equinamity, yes my shoulder hurts, it's sending those signals to my brain, so what?
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2018
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  7. Vociferous Valued Senior Member

    I don't really see much of a difference in how Buddhism and Christianity handle suffering. In both, it's a somewhat natural state, and avoiding it requires the actions of the self, whether those actions are externally proactive in making better decisions or internally proactive by denying desires. Both seem to do a bit of each, since avoiding some bad decisions requires denying desires and denying desires results in avoiding some bad decisions. Maybe the only real difference is the justification for the self-imposed ethic?
  8. kx000 Valued Senior Member

    You need this; ahimsaprajnanibbanachakra.
  9. Bowser Namaste Valued Senior Member

    Yet circumstances beyond the individual's control do arise.

    I think some Buddhists consider some Karma to be a form of Hell. It's not a direct threat, but it is implied.
    Vociferous likes this.
  10. VossistArts 3MTA3 Registered Senior Member

    Another big difference between Christianity and Buddhism is that in Buddhism you have actual meditative practices that facilitate steadying the mind to be able to better focus on becoming aware of reactive thoughts and behaviors. Recognizing and deconstructing reactivity allows one to see the faulty nature of reactive processing, to be able to let it go and replace it with volitional thinking. That is key to clarifying the mind and using it to it's full potential.
  11. Marathon-man Registered Member

    I see Christ dealing with the forgiveness of Sin through sacrifice. His solution is love, brotherhood and compassion
    I see the Buddha deals with life by seeing it as suffering. "life is suffering" and his solution is the ancient concept of Dharma which is fully developed in Hinduism.

    Buddhism is Asia's Humanism and is of deeper scope than Humanism of the ancient Greeks

    Dharma deals with codes of Honor, Ethics, Duty, Good Morals. Unlike Hinduism Dharma is not connected to the Gods outside but directed within Man.
    In Hinduism, the Bhagavad Gita (Song of God) which is basically a sermon given by Krishna to Arjuna in the middle of the battlefield of Kurukshetra, is all about Dharma. The Battlefield is an allegory of Dharma. It is also expounded in the Dharma Shastras (Treaties on Dharma). Even the Gods have to follow the Dharmic way.
    The Artha Shastra of Kautilya, a 15 volume work on statecraft and diplomacy revolves around Dharma.
    In Buddhism Dharma is expounded in the
    Dharma chakra (The Eightfold Path)
    Dhammapada (The path of Dharma) which is part of the Tipitaka, the holy book of Buddhism, which was put into writing in the 1st century BC under King Vatagamini in Sri Lanka. Copies were made and distributed across the Buddhist world.
    By putting into writing the entire Tipitaka (22 thousand pages) from an oral tradition, the Pali language was canonized
  12. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

    I've read different Buddhist ideas regarding being that pain and tragedies in life are inevitable, but suffering is optional. I'd say that suffering can have merit, if you grow through it, or even despite it. But, I think we've all known people who love to complain, love to share their problems as if they're going through life with an albatross around their necks. For people like this, suffering isn't really helping them to grow, it's actually hindering them from seeing the beauty in life. Pain is inevitable, but maybe how we process it is what determines the quality of our lives.

    ''To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.'' - Friedrich Nietzsche
  13. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    Just some thoughts Wegs that may help if interested.
    If you are serious about understanding "all is suffering" it is important to clearly identify the differences between "pain and suffering" and how they relate to the topic. Also keep in mind that the term suffering is loaded with different meanings dependent on culture and traditions etc.
    "The intensity of the beauty before me causes me pain."
    "I suffer the beauty of our love, consummated or not"
    "My attachment to oxygen means that I must suffer the act of breathing to stay alive for with out suffering oxygen deprivation I would not need to breath."
    "There is no greater sufferance for a artist painter than a blank canvas"

    Even when listening to the Dalai Lama frequent web video discourses one can note that he often makes the distinction between popular Buddhism and the more profound forms. Commonly people think of suffering in a somewhat superficial sense but when the deeper meaning is applied we are indeed discussing the nature of existence and the attachments of the ego that grant it reality.
    This attachment includes attachment to the "I" , an attachment that causes a tremendous amount of suffering as by it's vary nature the vanity of the ego demands sacrifice to maintain identity ( self esteem) and worth.
    Suffice to say the mere act of thought is suffering manifested as "action" to relieve suffering as is all movement or activity undertaken by an individual.
    "I suffer, so therefore I am"

    So your quote by Nietzsche is very apt. IMO
    although I would reword it as:
    "To survive is to suffer, to live is to find pleasurable meaning in the suffering."

    There is also another way of looking at the subject that Westerners can find benefit.
    Consider the notion that humans are fundamentally masochistic and that the notion of pleasurable suffering has a place. That a healthy human gains pleasure from certain forms of suffering such as breathing, climbing, walking, meeting a challenge, ambition, pride in achievement, desire, love etc...
    Something that you might relate to:
    "A writer gains pleasure from completing a work after much suffering in the composition.."
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2021
  14. Dicart Registered Senior Member

    One Suffer if he dont accept change.
  15. Dennis Tate Valued Senior Member

    Finding out about the vastness of the reincarnation cycle could help to humble any of us who are struggling against ego / self.
  16. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    That may be true to a point.
    But let's never forget that all physical and emotional experiences are all part of our evolved survival mechanism.

    In his ascetic period Buddha nearly killed himself in his quest to overcome the warning sign of hunger and would have died if it were not for a young girl offering him food when he was sitting under a tree, near death and delirious.

    After that experience Buddha realized that pain and suffering are a necessary part of life and from that moment advocated the benefits and blessings of moderation in all actions and behaviors.
  17. sculptor Valued Senior Member

    Fear and Trembling and The Sickness Unto Death
    (interesting read---if nothing else)
  18. river

    True , but also those who are not aware , of the ego and self , as well .

    Reincarnation needs Alot more Reasearch done .
  19. cluelusshusbund + Public Dilemma + Valued Senior Member

    Funy how that was obvous to some so long ago an yet most people today still dont get-it.!!!
    Thats perty much what i do.!!!
    Several years ago i hit my thum wit a hammer (not on purpose) an at first i grabbed my thum an groaned out loud but that harsh pain only lasted for a minute or so... an soon after i was able to continue on wit my project... an by bedtime the throbbin had lessened to the pont that i was able to get to sleep that night.!!!
  20. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    To dredge up this random sample circa six years later for a Part Two:

    Basics of Buddhism: . . . The Four Noble Truths are a contingency plan for dealing with the suffering humanity faces -- suffering of a physical kind, or of a mental nature. The First Truth identifies the presence of suffering. The Second Truth, on the other hand, seeks to determine the cause of suffering. In Buddhism, desire and ignorance lie at the root of suffering. By desire, Buddhists refer to craving pleasure, material goods, and immortality, all of which are wants that can never be satisfied. As a result, desiring them can only bring suffering. Ignorance, in comparison, relates to not seeing the world as it actually is. Without the capacity for mental concentration and insight, Buddhism explains, one's mind is left undeveloped, unable to grasp the true nature of things. Vices, such as greed, envy, hatred and anger, derive from this ignorance.

    The Third Noble Truth, the truth of the end of suffering, has dual meaning, suggesting either the end of suffering in this life, on earth, or in the spiritual life, through achieving Nirvana. When one has achieved Nirvana, which is a transcendent state free from suffering and our worldly cycle of birth and rebirth, spiritual enlightenment has been reached...

    Meh. Simply being dead and non-conscious puts an end to all manifestations and feelings, both those pleasant and those dissatisfying. Panpsychism (or pan-phenomenalism if more accurate) was probably widespread in the ancient world, beyond just its roots in the West. Even if they lacked a distinguishing concept for the orientation at the time (an owl doesn't need to know it's an owl to be an owl).

    Thus, whereas death for the material extinctivist of today means "absence of everything" (all introspective and extrospective events disappearing), for those "qualia realists" of olden times there could be enlightening states (like Nirvana or whatever) still exhibiting themselves in a public-transcendent context after the dissolution of self. Or instead for the unfortunate, via reincarnation as another embodied observer, a continuing sequence of more biological needs and their corresponding miseries.

    The contemporary version of death is egalitarian: Saints and sinners alike receive the empty peace of not-even-nothingness.
    Last edited: May 5, 2021

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