6

I have been reflecting on suffering and it seems to me that, since everyone is suffering and yet most people around me seem happy and contented, there is a way to live "happily" despite suffering that is accessible to everyone, Buddhist and non buddhist alike.

None of these "happy" people I know are Buddhist - most have no spiritual beliefs. I'm mainly talking about the people at my work: I am the youngest and all the others are middle aged, I have a healthy body and most are overweight or have pain from age related problems, most have children which (from the sound of it) is a big source of suffering. I admit I have depression (I have had it since I was abused as a child by a parent and don't expect it will ever go away), and I only have one friend (probably due to depression too), but I feel that objectively I am suffering less than everyone I spend time with even though it doesn't seem that way.

If this is true then I must be missing something really big, if I'm here trying to learn the way to escaping suffering but my colleagues are already halfway there without thinking about it. It seems like every day takes all my effort just to get through, but my colleagues are doing the same work happily AND raising kids (for example).

My teacher seems to teach only that you can ignore suffering if you focus on imagined, "happy" scenarios, and that thia can even heal my depression if I brainwash myself enough, but I am questioning this as Buddha clearly said that only enlightenment is the cessation of suffering.

What does Buddha teach about how to live well while suffering? Do I need to suffer more to toughen myself up against suffering - am I too "soft" because I've lived a life relatively free of pain? Have my older colleagues already suffered so much that they are beginning to be free of it? Is it really just about ignoring the negative emotions and exhaustion I constantly feel, and lying to myself until it becomes true?

None of that seems right but my teacher seems so sure. (She is New Kadampa - I don't know where that sits under the various Buddhist umbrellas.)

3

Your work colleagues live lives of distraction. For example, when a person has children, they are psychologically driven as a parent to think about them. This brings happiness because it is good kamma to think about unselfishly caring for others. However, this good kamma does not end suffering. But this is why having family is better for the majority of people than becoming a monk or nun. Most people will suffer more if they become a monk or nun because they are designed psycho-biologically to have children & busy their lives with the excitements, loves, joys & sorrows of parenting. Parenting gives life a 'purpose', even though parenting does not end suffering.


As for depression, the Dhamma way is to completely respect non-harming; to know thoroughly in the heart through repeated reflection the Dhamma does not harm, is completely safe & protects all beings. This will result in the mind losing attachment towards abuse. Adults, such as parents, can only abuse children because children, in their innocence, look upon adults as authority figures. When the heart can completely embrace, respect & honor non-harming & non-violence, abusers will be disempowered & lose their authority. They will be rejected & purged.

With abusive parents, this type of cleansing/healing can be difficult to do because there is an instinctual expectation that parents should be good to us, which enhances the depression. The depression is not only caused by the abuse or violence but also due to the expectation, hurt & sense of betrayal that parents have not cared for us, making us feel unworthy.

Therefore, the Dhamma states no person, including parents, have the right to abuse or do violence to any person, including their own children. The Dhamma states abusers that abuse children end up in hell, according to the law of Dhamma. If we can imagine an abusive parent in hell, we may begin to feel sympathy for their ignorance & spiritual poverty/illness.

Parents that abuse their children have a serious mental problem or illness. The more clearly this can be seen & realised, the more the illness can be removed from our heart/mind & returned to where it came from; the more we can feel sorry for the abuser rather than feel hurt from the abuser.


To focus on imagined "happy" scenarios may possibly help overcome depression by brainwashing oneself enough. This sounds like painting over rust.

The Buddha clearly said enlightenment is the cessation of suffering. However, enlightenment is comprised of three factors, one of which is having a clear vision of non-harming. When the heart is saturated with the love (metta) of non-harming, this is like removing rust from shiny metal rather than painting over it. It is harder work & may be more painful in the short term.


Ultimately, enlightenment sees the 'doer' of abuse is merely the element of 'ignorance' (rather than a 'person', such as a 'parent'). The Buddha explained life is comprised of only 'elements' ('dhatu'), which includes elements such as 'violence' & 'non-harming'.

Abusers do not intentionally act to abuse. In reality, such minds have no control over such behaviour because an unwholesome suffering element is controlling the mind.

The Pali suttas say:

Dependent on the violence element, perception of violence arises;

dependent on perception of violence, violent intention arises;

dependent on violent intention, violent desire arises;

dependent on violent desire, violent passion arises;

dependent on violent passion , violent quest arises;

engaged in the quest of violence, the uninstructed worldling conducts himself wrongly in these three ways — with the body, with speech, and with the mind

SN 14.12


137. Those who inflicts violence on those who are unarmed, and offends those who are inoffensive, will soon come upon one of these ten states:

138-140 Sharp pain, or disaster, bodily injury, serious illness, or derangement of mind, trouble from the government, or grave charges, loss of relatives, or loss of wealth, or houses destroyed by ravaging fire; upon dissolution of the body that ignorant person is born in hell.

Dhammapada

1

All your experiences has 2 components:

  • feeling due to the experience
  • mental pain of the experience

[Sallatha Sutta]

The main thing is to cultivate stability of the mind so that what ever experience you get you do not feel mental pain. The pain due to contact though is unavoidable.

A fact of life is unsatisfactoriness from birth to death. When you grow old you feel pain. You get sick. You have to part with loved ones or be with unloved people. Whatever you cling as me or mine to is suffering, more technically the 5 aggregates is unsatisfactory. [Dhamma,cakka Pavattana Sutta, Anatta Lakkhana Sutta]

Putting food in the table requires you to work which might itself is not always easy. [The Four Nutriments of Life by Nyanaponika Thera] When you have a family it is not your self you are looking after, which multiples the effect, also with other numerous responsibilities. At some point you can let go but until such time you can do all this as a duty in very mentally detached way. This will help with the metal agitation of life.

As long as there is contact with the external world there will be experiences which are un agreeable. You cannot avoid them. You have no control here. You cannot focus only on what is happy. If this was the case everyone will be happy. This is one of the 3 Characteristic which is the non self nature. What you can do is not being mentally hurt by them through the practice of meditation. Your mental resilience should be build through Vipassana. This help to be equanimous and in touch with reality no matter what happens in life. This can also being viewed as a form of toughening up.

1

She is New Kadampa - I don't know where that sits under the various Buddhist umbrellas.

I think you should know that.

I didn't know and I did some minimal research the last time you mentioned it. You could at least read the whole Wikipedia article carefully.

My hasty opinion based on minimal research and no personal experience is that it has many branches in England, and that might be why you're studying with them: i.e. because they have school in your town.

Wikipedia suggests to me that people "teach" before they've finished their own studies -- I imagine it may be possible that some of them don't understand theory, not practice, nor how to teach students.


My teacher seems to teach only that you can ignore suffering if you focus on imagined, "happy" scenarios

That sounds quite new-age.

Anyway, Wikipedia suggests to me that "New Kadampa" theoretically ought to be more-or-less, or to have come from, Tibetan Buddhism.

I posted an introductory question to Tibetan Buddhism here, the simplest question I could think of: Pāramitāyāna and Tantrayāna -- I recommend you read the answers to that topic.

"Focussing on imagined scenarios" sounds like it could be "Tantrayana" explained in those answers?

But since you're posting questions about it here I guess there's something missing: maybe, who knows, you don't trust the teacher, it isn't the right method for you, it's not taught well, or I don't know what.


even heal my depression if I brainwash myself enough

I don't know what to make of this page. On the bad side it sounds like a one-size-fits-all approach, a "cookie-cutter" approach, perhaps even a "cargo cult" (or simply "cult") approach. On the other hand perhaps you are supposed to be learning something new or abandoning some old self-protective reflexes. I'm not a teacher and not wise about this kind of thing so I can't tell you.

I don't want to disparage your teacher but in theory (without knowing her nor NKT) it may be snake-oil.


Buddha clearly said that only enlightenment is the cessation of suffering

Where did the Buddha clearly say that?

At a minimum the fact that you said that suggests there's maybe some disconnect between the "Buddhist" theory you think you know already, compared to the theory based on which the NKT teacher may be trying to teach you.

Based on the Pali suttas I'd tend to associate "the cessation of suffering" with the third noble truth, i.e. the cessation of craving; and with the cessation of identity view; and with the ability to interrupt or cut short trains of thought; not to mention social harmony.


What does Buddha teach about how to live well while suffering?

There's a book The Buddha's Teachings on Prosperity: At Home, At Work, in the World -- which introduces the suttas, but categorizes them and picks the ones which are especially intended for people in lay society. The emphasis is more on living well than on suffering. The author is Theravada (as are the suttas that are referenced in the book), rather than Tibetan, though.

If you want some more specifically Gelug teachings you might consider His Holiness the Dalai Lama's many books. Or ask another question about that on this site (i.e. to ask for book recommendations).


I'd like to address other parts of your OP, but it's too late to do that right now ... maybe later.

  • You're right, I go to the NKT lessons because it's the only thing I could find that I can go to after work, but from reading stuff online I'm worried that I am just being told some Buddhist-like stuff that people want to hear. It's disheartening because I'm not smart enough to understand any of the actual dharma texts on my own, it feels like. Not sure what to do because I don't really want to give NKT any more of my money... Thanks for your help in answering my questions though :) – user11124 Apr 20 '17 at 6:05
1

If you would takes the time to read the Dukkhata Sutta in the Samyutta Nikaya you will get to know what is meant by suffering as per Dhamma. We suffer when we cannot maintain things to our satisfaction. Therefore, you yourself can find out the truth of it, by seeing whether there is anything in this world that can be maintained to your satisfaction.

Our world can be summed up by saying that it is what we experience through our internal six senses (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, mind). As long as we can have good, pleasant experiences we are happy, otherwise, we get sad and suffer. We suffer because of ‘Anicca’. Things are subjected to decay and destruction, and nothing in this world is exempt from that. This is viparinäma dukkha, suffering that arises due to change and decay.

Whether we are wealthy or poor we all suffer as suffering is in our minds. A wealthy person may suffer due to a loss of something he had, and a poor person may suffer due to the inability get what he wants. Either person becomes distraught due to his/her mind activities - attachment to what one has or craving for what one desires. This mental suffering is called sankhära dukkha. It arises through the struggles we engage in trying to maintain things to our satisfaction.

The third category of suffering arises due to immoral deeds, and may not become evident in this life. For example, a person who made money by killing another or by stealing from another may live well in this life (at least outwardly), but will be subjected to much suffering in the upcoming births. This is the suffering of dukkha dukkha, which can lead to rebirth in the four lower realms.

1

I have been reflecting on suffering and it seems to me that, since everyone is suffering and yet most people around me seem happy and contented, there is a way to live "happily" despite suffering that is accessible to everyone, Buddhist and non buddhist alike.

Learn to assess happiness or suffering for very long spans of time. For example do these people look happy when people they love die? A wise man looks at things far ahead of time. Assessing suffering isn't about feeling like you yourself suffer. It's rather, to let go of one's own clinging to eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and brain. They in turn are part of pancha upädänakkhanda, which is by definition, suffering. The idea is to detach yourself from them.

None of these "happy" people I know are Buddhist - most have no spiritual beliefs. I'm mainly talking about the people at my work: I am the youngest and all the others are middle aged, I have a healthy body and most are overweight or have pain from age related problems, most have children which (from the sound of it) is a big source of suffering.

If you want to observe these people, observe more intently. For example, you can observe how a person dresses and talks and conclude their insecurities. You can also see how much they cling on to something and would be unhappy if they lose it.

I admit I have depression (I have had it since I was abused as a child by a parent and don't expect it will ever go away), and I only have one friend (probably due to depression too), but I feel that objectively I am suffering less than everyone I spend time with even though it doesn't seem that way.

If you're suffering from a problem like depression, equip yourself with a good lifestyle; good diet, exercise and sleep first. Read the book Spark by Doctor John Ratey if you want to have more control over your situation besides medication and a doctor.

If this is true then I must be missing something really big, if I'm here trying to learn the way to escaping suffering but my colleagues are already halfway there without thinking about it. It seems like every day takes all my effort just to get through, but my colleagues are doing the same work happily AND raising kids (for example).

Suffering is caused by the desire to pancha upädänakkhanda. You need to define suffering. Sometimes it is best to identify the problem very well before pursuing an answer.

My teacher seems to teach only that you can ignore suffering if you focus on imagined, "happy" scenarios, and that thia can even heal my depression if I brainwash myself enough, but I am questioning this as Buddha clearly said that only enlightenment is the cessation of suffering.

Best follow your doctors advice at least for periods he recommends. For example if he asks to visualize an hour daily, do so. Buddhism can increase your depression if applied with Miccä Ditti. So it is best to find out what is Sammä Ditti before apply any Buddhist views while being in depression.

What does Buddha teach about how to live well while suffering? Do I need to suffer more to toughen myself up against suffering - am I too "soft" because I've lived a life relatively free of pain? Have my older colleagues already suffered so much that they are beginning to be free of it? Is it really just about ignoring the negative emotions and exhaustion I constantly feel, and lying to myself until it becomes true?

Practicing Buddhism is not a suffering and is very liberating. As to living while suffering, you need to understand than your current situation is likely your own fault, but, your future situations will be your own fault too unless you act wisely now. Best start doing good karma. Remember that karma is also partially applicable to the current birth so if you do enough good you'll see the results soon. Start by doing metta meditation.

None of that seems right but my teacher seems so sure. (She is New Kadampa - I don't know where that sits under the various Buddhist umbrellas.)

You need to know how to find what is right.

Buddhism is very open to public these days. There is original words of Buddha in Päli with translations on the web. So you can read them. It is for intelligent people to discover, understand, bear in mind individually and practice. It will give you benefit without delay. It is valid during any time period of the world.

Finally, getting out of depression can also be helped outside in. That is, start exercising, sleeping well, drinking adequate water and maintaining a healthy diet, consistently for three months. You will most likely see a dramatic improvement.

  • I have to agree, there is no use trying to master Buddhism with a major obstacle to deal with first. And I always emphasize the physical basics, especially water and sleep, to everyone who will listen, including myself. Silly animal, that is too dumb to drink enough water! I sometimes think we deserve what we get. – user2341 Apr 23 '17 at 2:13
0

Most of the "happy" people you saw are not necessarily happy inside. With Facebook, Instragram, LinkedIn... social medias everyone is mandatory to have an account, happy, successful...etc. are norms, else you will be looked down upon and despised, termed a loser; and lost the opportunities to be promoted, to advance socially.

Buddha said the Samsara is suffering, described happiness is when one temporary lifted/freed from the torment. Like one trapped in a burning house, when the fire is not so furious cooked by the heat, it's this interval we called "happiness". The name of our world is Sahā-lokadhātu (忍世界), which the meaning is endurance/put-up-with; i.e., this endurance developed from numbed in suffering making people be able to put on a smile on the face.

my teacher... New Kadampa

I've read something unfavourable on this school, from the internet, however I'm not sure since I don't plan to spend time on this. If any school placed too much on individual worshiping, too glorifying a particular personnel, it doesn't smell right, normally. I hope you willl find a pure tradition to pursuit Buddha's teaching.

What does Buddha teach about how to live well while suffering?...

In short, the big principle Buddha taught is "you reap what you sow", which is big, but raw, right ;). Sow the good seeds then you will reap good fruits. That is Karma. Many people, esp. Western people when hearing this "Karma" at the 1st time will be disheartened reading it's a passivity, also this word is so corrupted by the New Age sect. Then is the Saḍ-pāramitā (六波羅蜜). In these 6, Dhyana is pursued by many modern-day Buddhists but I doubt if these teachings by those are really adequate. Suffering has it's use of cultivating wisdom... how to live well while suffering? there are more to say but. Hopefully I could find time to return to if.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.