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What is suffering?

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What is suffering?

Postby zenci on Sat Apr 22, 2017 12:30 am

What is suffering from a Zen perspective? Thanks.
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Re: What is suffering?

Postby jundo on Sat Apr 22, 2017 1:15 am

Hi Zenci,

Let me post two little talks that I have at Treeleaf on this topic. I hope that they do not cause much suffering! :)


Life often entails Dukkha; there is a cause for Dukkha; there is a way to the cessation of Dukkha; that way is the Noble Eightfold Path.

So, what’s “Dukkha”? …and what does Dukkha do?

No one English word captures the full depth and range of the Pali term, Dukkha. It is sometimes rendered as “suffering,” as in “life is suffering.” But perhaps it’s better expressed as “dissatisfaction,” “anxiety,” “disappointment,” “unease at perfection,” or “frustration” — terms that wonderfully convey a subtlety of meaning.

In a nutshell, your “self” wishes this world to be X, yet this world is not X. The mental state that may result to the “self” from this disparity is Dukkha.
Shakyamuni Buddha gave many examples: sickness (when we do not wish to be sick), old age (when we long for youth), death (if we cling to life), loss of a loved one (as we cannot let go), violated expectations, the failure of happy moments to last (though we wish them to last). Even joyous moments — such as happiness and good news, treasure or pleasant times — can be a source of suffering if we cling to them, if we are attached to those things.

In ancient stories, Dukkha is often compared to a chariot’s or potter’s wheel that will not turn smoothly as it revolves. The opposite, Sukkha, is a wheel that spins smoothly and noiselessly, without resistance as it goes.

Fortunately, Shakyamuni Buddha also provided the Dukkha cure.



These Basic Buddhist Teachings are for right in the heart of life, today in a hospital room with my wife, the night before surgery. Times like these are the true proving ground.

This Practice has no purpose or value… and it is at moments like this one that its value and purpose are crystal clear.

In life, there’s sickness, old age, death and loss… other very hard times… But that’s not why ‘Life is Suffering‘. Not at all, said the Buddha.
Instead …

... it’s sickness, but only when we refuse the condition
…old age, if we long for youth
… death, because we cling to life
… loss, when we cannot let go
... violated expectations, because we wished otherwise

Our “dissatisfaction,” “disappointment,”‘ “unease” and “frustration” — Dukkha — arises as a state of mind, as our demands and wishes for how things “should be” or “if only would be for life to be content” differ from”the way things are.” Your “self” wishes this world to be X, yet this world is not X. That wide gap of “self” and “not self” is the source of Dukkha.
Our Practice closes the gap; not the least separation.

What’s more, even happiness can be a source of Dukkha if we cling to the happy state, demand that it stay, are attached to good news, material successes, pleasures and the like, refusing the way life may otherwise go. That is also the “self” placing judgments and demands on life.

Fortunately, the Buddha provided the medicine for this disease of dis-ease: The Eightfold Path (which we will talk about in our next ‘Buddha-Basics’).

Oh, no amount of Practice can make times like these — sitting in a hospital room, in pain and awaiting the surgeon’s knife — fun. It is natural to worry too. Yet all is revealed as somehow okay: okay beyond okay, allowing all, yielding, flowing with the flowing, beyond worry (even in the heart of worry), resistance gone… letting it be.

The gap is closed. There is peace.


Hope that helps a little, and sorry to be a pain.

Gassho, J

Founder Treeleaf Zendo, Japan. Member SZBA. Treeleaf is an online Sangha for those unable to commute to a Sangha, w/ netcast Zazen, interaction with other practitioners and teachers & all activities of a Soto Sangha, fully online without charge (http://www.treeleaf.org) Nishijima/Niwa
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Re: What is suffering?

Postby Guo Gu on Mon Oct 09, 2017 3:42 am

zenci wrote:What is suffering from a Zen perspective? Thanks.


buddha said craving is the root of suffering. but craving (and aversion) always manifest through the stories we create. thus, stories.

when the author stops writing, the stories end. living begins. one freely enters in and out of stories of living beings.

be well,
guo gu
Founder and teacher of Tallahassee Chan Center of the Dharma Drum Lineage of Chan Buddhism
Received inka from Master Sheng Yen (1930-2009) in 1995
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