The Most Common Cause of Suffering According to Buddhism (and What You Can Do About it)

Do you know about the four noble truths of Buddhism? Have you ever heard of them? Well, don’t worry if you haven’t. The four noble truths of Buddhism are essentially the four principles of life which governs the Buddhism philosophy. The four principles are:

  1. The truth of suffering (dukkha)
  2. The truth of the source of suffering (samudaya)
  3. The truth of the end of suffering (nirhodha)
  4. The truth of the path that releases us from suffering (magga)

In this article, we will talk about the second principle, the truth of the cause of suffering, and then we will discuss the approaches that we can use to overcome it.

What Causes Our Suffering

According to the teachings of Lord Buddha, suffering is the end result of attachment to desires, which varies from material objects to your relationships or even sensual pleasures. Desires cause suffering since attachments are temporary, and loss is unavoidable.

In Buddhism, there is also teaching where it states that change is the only constant in the universe, and through desires, we try to take control and make something stationary. As we go against the forces of the universe, suffering will automatically follow, and this is what causes us pain, depression, anxiety and negative emotions.

Suffering Ceases When Attachment to Desire Ceases

When we free our mind from attachment, all suffering comes to an end. Freeing your mind from attachment is letting go of any worldly cravings or desires. This freedom or state of enlightenment is called “nirvana”. When one attains nirvana, it means that the mind is free from all troubles, worries, and anxieties, and it is said that one who hadn’t achieved it, cannot comprehend it.

How Do You Eliminate Desire?

One should always remember that desire cannot be completely eliminated. Most people who wish to start the journey to eliminate desire, they are faced with the dilemma that when trying to eliminate desire, there is a desire not to desire. What should be done is to eliminate attachment and desire as much as possible. Buddha has taught the path of the eightfold to end all suffering. The end to all suffering is what is meant by attaining enlightenment. The Eightfold Path, which needs to be followed to end all suffering is: 

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right speech
  4. Right action
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What Are Some Practical Strategies?

So, there is this excellent article from Tiny Buddha on six ways to reduce suffering. The most important points are summarized below, and we highly recommend that everyone read it.

Let go of creating stories

When we go through suffering and pain, we create stories and scenarios on what happens. Let’s say that someone experiences the end of a relationship, they tend to tell themselves that “I will never find someone as good again” or “there is no way out of our suffering.” What we do is we add multiple layers of meaning which doesn’t exist in the initial feeling. What we should be doing is practice positive self-talk and live in the moment. Once we start doing this, we get to understand that what happens to us isn’t as bad as we think.

Embrace Change.

In Buddhism, it is said that there is only one law in the universe, and that is change. One should know that all positive and negative feelings will one day change. By keeping this in mind, it gives one hope when times are bad, and helps us realize that we need to enjoy each moment as it comes, as it doesn’t last forever.

Even if you don’t feel like it, keep smiling

It was said by Thich Nhat Hanh that “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” This is a great reminder to all of us that we are the ones who have more power to change our mood.

Jolt yourself out of your usual routine. 

Whatever circumstance pulls you out of your pain, you should give it a try and understand how it changes your suffering.

Soften someone else’s suffering.

You and I aren’t the only people experiencing pain and suffering. Everyone experiences pain and suffering. One should understand and realize that there is always someone who is probably suffering more than you. Therefore, you should always try to be kind to others. When you start thinking about others, it will drastically improve your well-being.

Remember your basic goodness.

A great notion that comes down from the Shambhala Buddhist tradition is “Basic goodness.” This concept constantly reminds us that even though our lives may have so many negative or confusing situations, there is ALWAYS basic goodness within ourselves that we can always count on.