Buddha said that Nirvana is an end to the suffering of an individual. However if we think from a larger perspective, there is no end to the suffering as a whole. The world will get created again and new Buddha will or will not arise to help us escape the suffering. There were Buddhas in the past and there will be many Buddhas in the future but so has the suffering manifested in the past and will manifest in the future.

My question is: Is it possible to envisage an end to the suffering, absolutely for all, for ever?


7 Answers 7


Yes and no. To be is to suffer. Our desire to be is what keeps us on the round of rebirth. Nibbana will come to every being just not all at the same time(Vast time). That's what I've heard from various teachers.

We mix our individual truth up with the truth of society and until we can see the difference we have no business trying to fix society as we seek while ourselves we are broken. Our business is to fix ourselves then fix society one individual at a time. The society of the entire universe.

So, imho, I think you should tend to the universe of mind and body, moment by moment instead of the "business as usual", blurry truth of the world.

  • I am not trying to fix the society. I am trying to save another phenomenon from occurring.I don't want another "He" to appear. Oct 6, 2017 at 16:04
  • Maybe it would be good to reflect on why you are trying to do that, not that that wouldn't be totally cool.
    – Lowbrow
    Oct 7, 2017 at 23:29
  • I am trying to do that out of karuna. I feel distress for others. Oct 8, 2017 at 2:06
  • Me too! It might sound like a silly question ... but how do you know other beings are suffering?
    – Lowbrow
    Oct 8, 2017 at 17:03
  • 1
    Agreed. The ignorance gave rise to this interaction. Interaction which suggested that there is something else other than Dhamma to understand. Dhamma says I am not you because you are perishable and changeable. Similarly I am not the person who is suffering. I must leave all identities and merge with ultimate inexplicable reality of anatta. Having said that we know that somehow suffering will arise again but so will Buddha. There is no end to suffering in general but there is also no end to Buddhas. Oct 11, 2017 at 15:07

The ultimate truth is that there is no suffering, absolutely for all, for ever. Everything is already Nibanna.

However, the mundane truth is that there is suffering, absolutely for all, for ever. Everything is Samsara.

Can you change Samsara to Nibanna?

That would be impossible. How can you change Samsara to Nibanna, if Samsara is already Nibanna? It's impossible.

Can you change Nibanna to Samsara?

That would be impossible. How can you change Nibanna to Samsara, if Nibanna is already Samsara? It's impossible.

An instructed mind, very well versed in the Dhamma, knows: this is change, this is its cessation, and this is its end. Knowing change in this way, he let's go of change. His craving ceases and right discernment arises: From ignorance as a condition comes craving. From craving as a condition comes change. From change as a condition comes suffering.

Thus knowing, an instructed mind, very well versed in the Dhamma, gives up change. Giving up change, suffering ceases, absolutely for all, for ever.

  • It kind of makes sense. But if Samsara is already Nibanna then why would the future Buddhas arise? Oct 7, 2017 at 1:37
  • because of their great compassion to beings who experience subjective suffering in Samsara due to the ignorance in their minds.
    – Andriy Volkov
    Oct 8, 2017 at 2:49

No. But for your world, as you perceive it, with all it's and you relatives, this very wandering on can/could find an end.

Anamatagga-samyutta — The unimaginable beginnings of samsara


A possible hint to the answer comes from the Buddha in MN26:

"Then the thought occurred to me, 'This Dhamma that I have attained is deep, hard to see, hard to realize, peaceful, refined, beyond the scope of conjecture, subtle, to-be-experienced by the wise. But this generation delights in attachment, is excited by attachment, enjoys attachment. For a generation delighting in attachment, excited by attachment, enjoying attachment, this/that conditionality & dependent co-arising are hard to see. This state, too, is hard to see: the resolution of all fabrications, the relinquishment of all acquisitions, the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding. And if I were to teach the Dhamma and others would not understand me, that would be tiresome for me, troublesome for me.'

Almost all sentient beings are here because they want to be here and they thoroughly enjoy attachment, eventhough none of it is permanent and none of it is permanently satisfactory. Even if they suffer much (for e.g. in hell), they continue to cling to their selfhood and maintain their craving to-be, not ready to let go.

If you look deep into yourself and find that you're not ready to let go of your selfhood and not ready to let go of your craving to-be, then you could empathize that this is indeed the case for the googolplex of beings out there.

Even if you had the power to end all sufferings, I bet there would be great opposition to that, from the vast majority of beings who are not yet ready to let go.

MN75 provides a reason why sentient beings see "painful" sensual pleasures with a biased perception of being "pleasant":

"Now suppose that there was a leper covered with sores & infections, devoured by worms, picking the scabs off the openings of his wounds with his nails, cauterizing his body over a pit of glowing embers. The more he cauterized his body over the pit of glowing embers, the more disgusting, foul-smelling, & putrid the openings of his wounds would become, and yet he would feel a modicum of enjoyment & satisfaction because of the itchiness of his wounds. In the same way, beings not free from passion for sensual pleasures — devoured by sensual craving, burning with sensual fever — indulge in sensual pleasures. The more they indulge in sensual pleasures, the more their sensual craving increases and the more they burn with sensual fever, and yet they feel a modicum of enjoyment & satisfaction dependent on the five strings of sensuality.

For the multitude of sentient beings who want to-be, the best thing that you can wish for them, comes from the Karaniya Metta Sutta:

Think: Happy, at rest,
may all beings be happy at heart.
Whatever beings there may be,
weak or strong,
without exception,
long, large,
middling, short,
subtle, blatant,
seen & unseen,
near & far,
born & seeking birth:
May all beings be happy at heart.


A disjointed answer:

  • This question sounds like it's central to Mahayana (so to answer it you might want to read Mahayana literature, learn from a Mahayana teacher or school).
  • I'm not sure that everyone is suffering, in the way that you or I might understand "suffering": I mean, for example, that I didn't get far in explaining the four noble truths to my Mum -- see How to explain what Buddhism is? (and the answer I accepted to that question).
  • If you are suffering from karuna ("I feel distress for others"), you might want to address that -- more equanimity, perhaps, or less conceit (the conceit that "I" could help someone).
  • There's what can be inferred from the tenth of the Ten Bulls. One of the (English-language) commentaries to that ends with, "... and everyone I look upon becomes enlightened."
  • "Envisaging an end to suffering" is also maybe a part of "pure land" doctrines.
  • 1
    I am envisaging Nirvana once and for all. All blessings no sufferings. Oct 8, 2017 at 12:46
  • I said the Buddha never referred to absolute truth and Nagarjuna argued that he did. Yet you suggest I read Nagarjuna (Mahayana) to correct my misunderstanding!! You obviously support Mahayana over Theravadin teachings. I rest my case. Oct 16, 2017 at 12:50
  • @RonaldCowen I don't know who you were addressing in this comment, nor why. You're the only person, that I can see, who mentioned "Nagarjuna" on this page; so I don't know who you're replying to. My answer ("you might want to read Mahayana literature") was addressed to the OP (i.e. it's in reply to Dheeraj Verma's question, was not addressed to you, and wasn't meant to imply that you misunderstood anything ... I psted my answer four days before you posted yours). I wasn't intending to say that Mahayana is superior or inferior, but I think the OP's question was a topic central to Mahayana.
    – ChrisW
    Oct 16, 2017 at 13:04
  • My mistake. Nagarjuna is the Buddhist philosopher who began the Mahayana teachings by talking about sunyata and absolute truth. Oct 17, 2017 at 13:33

From a Theravadin point of view, the cessation of suffering is caused by insight, which consists of psychological knowledge about the cause of a specific form of suffering. It is important to bear in mind that the Buddha was addressing the suffering experienced by monks and nuns. His main advice was to set aside greed, hatred, and illusion (of self or god) and get on with the practice of meditation. The Buddha did not deal with the kind of suffering (depression, serious problems with relationships, low self-esteem, inability to find love, etc.) that is caused by physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse during childhood. Modern psychology is needed to address such problems. Absolute truth does not provide psychological insight (which is a form of relative truth). Not all suffering, such as the loss of child, is caused by lack of insight. If a person feels no suffering, then he is indifferent to the suffering of others. The advice of the Buddha remains valid: Get on with one's meditation in order to deal with one's own lack of insight.

  • Buddha taught anatta and when a person has realized anatta then as a consequence all his sufferings gets converted into blessings by attaining Nirvana. Oct 13, 2017 at 1:43
  • "The Buddha did not deal with the kind of suffering (depression, serious problems with relationships, low self-esteem, inability to find love, etc.) that is caused by physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse during childhood." Really? So doctors do help in real things and the Buddha just metaphorical?
    – user11235
    Oct 13, 2017 at 3:35
  • Sarcasm has no value in this kind of discussion. Obviously both doctors and the Buddha help with real things. Theravadin Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism are not the same. Anatta and sunyata are not the same thing. You may believe Mahayana Buddhism is a correction of Theravadin Buddhism, but that is a statement of faith not fact. The Buddha never referred to absolute truth. Nagarjuna argued that he did. You and Nagarjuna are entitled to your opinions, but they are merely opinions. Does this Buddhist stackexchange have the hidden agenda of negating the teaching of Theravadin Buddhism? Oct 15, 2017 at 7:36
  • Does this Buddhist stackexchange have the hidden agenda of negating the teaching of Theravadin Buddhism? If you think that's happening (or vice versa) please flag it for moderator attention. I suspect both people who commented above aren't doing so from a Mahayana viewpoint, but that they doubt your claim that modern psychology is needed and/because Buddhist doctrine is insufficient.
    – ChrisW
    Oct 15, 2017 at 15:01

In the Theravadin teachings, the concept of anatta is entirely in the realm of relative truth in the sense that it points out the fact there does not exist an uncaused self. In Mahayana Buddhist teachings, anatta is the experience of sunyata (emptiness), which is a real experience but it does not "convert" suffering into blessings. The concept of Nirvana is a Theravadin concept that has no equivalent in Mahayana Buddhism. The experience of sunyata brings absolute knowledge but not Nirvana. Theravadin insight is relative knowledge about the causes of suffering and thereby provides a means of dealing with and ending suffering. The experience of sunyata does not bring insight, which is strictly relative truth. Both doctors and the Buddha help in real things, obviously. Where did I say the Buddha was "metaphorical"? I invite objective criticism, but not stupid sarcasm.

  • Is that an indirect "we are already liberated" approach, that suggest now just look for the real suffering till the end? Or how is this view to be understood in relation of the question?
    – user11235
    Oct 14, 2017 at 5:27

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