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What is the Buddhist view on crying? I don't remember hearing or reading about the Buddha ever crying. Is crying a consequence of "lack of understanding" of the ultimate reality?

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Crying can be caused due to both physical and mental reasons.

Physical reasons:

  1. Irritation in the eyes.
  2. Sickness affecting the eyes.
  3. Side effects of strong medication or extremely spicy food.

Mental reasons:

  1. Sadness(obvious sadness and the sadness disguised as compassion), depression, aversion to pain, fear
  2. Clinging to happy/pleasant/joyful states of the mind.

Assuming that this question is aimed at the 2nd category, it is highly unlikely that a fully enlightened being would cry as they no longer become sad or cling to pleasant states of the mind.

Arhanths only have Kiriya Cittas. Those are of 3 types.

i. Consciousness turning to impressions at the five doors (panca dvara-avajjana) accompanied by feeling of indifference(Upekkhā).

ii. Consciousness turning to impressions at the mind-door (mana dvara-avajjana) accompanied by feeling of indifference(Upekkhā).

iii. Consciousness of the genesis of smile (hasitoppada citta) accompanied by joy(Pīti).

Hasita(a smile which slightly reveals the tips of the teeth) is their reaction to joy. If they ever cried, there should be another called the Assuppada citta. But there isn't! :)

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    Yes, an enlightened being would have perfected the Upekkhā pāramī. Would that too make crying unlikely? – Robin111 Jun 28 '15 at 10:56
  • Actually, Arahaths have only Kiriya citta AFAIK. 2 of them are Uppekka and 1 of them has Joy. But that joy is not followed by clinging. Updated the answer. – Sankha Kulathantille Jun 28 '15 at 11:45
  • The reference doesn't contain the word "Kiriya". Which page of that PDF were you recommending as relevant? – ChrisW Dec 22 '16 at 23:44
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    Updated reference – Sankha Kulathantille Dec 23 '16 at 1:22
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What is the Buddhist view on crying?

We must not pretend to be the Buddha, if tears come, we must respect that while investigating causes and conditions, using the moment as a teacher, to gather fresh insight. When true understanding is born, the tears will naturally dry up. New tears of compassion may form as one walks the path of the Bodhisattva.

Bodhisattvas have cried at seeing the fate of those in pain, and enlightened people like Jesus have shed compassionate tears.

I don't remember hearing or reading about the Buddha ever crying.

I can't recall any suttas that talk about the Buddha crying or not, but I am not a Tipitaka master. It is not explicitly one of the 18 Buddha attributes. One can surmise therefore that this is not considered a very important distinction.

The key aspect of a Buddha is volition. If he cried at all, it would not be meaningless.

Is crying a consequence of "lack of understanding" of the ultimate reality?

Yes and no - Involuntary crying of the nature humans often perform - where we try to hold back our tears, yet the circumstance overpowers us should not be the case for the Buddha. He has no remaining sankharas, no hidden traumas in the mind, no lack of control over his actions and perfect understanding of cause and effect.

If his crying served a purpose, then he may cry because it is Upaya.

Caveat: I am no Buddha, so I can't know for sure. It makes me a little uncomfortable to deal in the hypothetical.

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An enlightened person who has achieved arahantship has put an end to mental fermentations, so how would they cry?

Fermentations which would cause one to cry, experience grief and sorrow wouldn't be there.

This means they could only pretend to cry or have the appearance of crying but not actually experience grief or sorrow.

"From craving springs grief, from craving springs fear. For one who is wholly free from craving there is no grief; whence then fear?" (Dhammapada, 216)


"Whoever is overcome by this wretched and sticky craving, his sorrows grow like grass after the rains."

"But whoever overcomes this wretched craving, so difficult to overcome, from him sorrows fall away like water from a lotus leaf." (Dhammapada, 335-336)

Nibbana is the highest bliss, highest enjoyment, with fermentations (asavas) put to an end how can someone cry, be fearful, sorrowful, angry? Experiencing such an extreme form of enjoyment why would anyone cry?

Doubtless, fearless, sorrowless, angerless, calm, and happy walks the arahant.

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Crying can happen because of many reasons but there has never been a record of an enlightened one crying because of sadness or any other mental discomfort.Because once you are enlightened you understand that there is no reason for sadness.sadness is purely a product of not being able to understand things according to Buddhas teachings.

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from "Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism":

[Enlightened master] Marpa was very upset when his son was killed, and one of his disciples said, "You used to tell us that everything is illusion. How about the death of your son? Isn't it illusion?" And Marpa replied, "True, but my son's death is a super-illusion."

from Sakka's Questions Sutta:

Grief is of two sorts, I tell you: to be pursued & not to be pursued.’ Thus was it said. And in reference to what was it said? When one knows of a feeling of grief, ‘As I pursue this grief, unskilful mental qualities increase, and skilful mental qualities decline,’ that sort of grief is not to be pursued. When one knows of a feeling of grief, ‘As I pursue this grief, unskilful mental qualities decline, and skilful mental qualities increase,’ that sort of grief is to be pursued. And this sort of grief may be accompanied by directed thought & evaluation or free of directed thought & evaluation. Of the two, the latter is the more refined. ‘Grief is of two sorts, I tell you: to be pursued & not to be pursued.’ Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

  • What do you mean by super illusion? – Motivated Nov 11 '15 at 17:49
  • I believe Marpa was referring to the unity of the ultimate and the relative truths (realities). – Andrei Volkov Nov 11 '15 at 18:19
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Here is one theoretical answer.

The Buddha said that at the root of all virtue is gratitude.

Many believe people cry when they are sad. This could be true.

Have you noticed when people cry as they tell their story?

It is uncommon for tears as they say they lost their job, they lost their house, they lost their wife....but then they say..."...this person came..."...and they choke up..."...this person came and helped us when we needed it most..."...then the tears begin to flow.

Gratitude is the source of many tears.

If Buddha believed that gratitude was the source of all virtue - then certainly the Buddha had moments of profound gratitude...and thus tears.

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Buddhas are people so yeah they probably cried sometimes during their life. Who knows after enlightenment, perhaps they are in emotional states where tears no longer come, or if they do have sadness, grief, gratitude, and other powerful emotions they reacted differently due to their wisdom and compassion. Or maybe they just cried and didn't worry about it so much. No offense, but the entire "deification" of Buddha(s) through pure scriptual reference is a bit absurd. My two cents are just cry, feel and don't be ashamed or think you have to get enlightened. Enlightenment doesn't mean you snuff out into bliss land, you still have a body, you still have to eat, sleep, and so on. As far as I know the Tathagatha never said he was a God, or Divine, just awake to truth. Argue all you want about mind streams and rebirth, etc. For me too much fancy thinking and dreaming of transformative experiences did not necessarily improve my daily practice. Quite the opposite, I found it a road block. During my study or mediation I have cried, walking meditation in the mountains, I have cried. Sitting at my desk and hearing Stevie Wonder singing and reminding me of my finite time with my daughter, I cried. What the heck is wrong with crying anyway. I feel better afterwards and I know why I cry so I'm glad I can have that normal and natural experience rather than fight it and stuff my emotions to be a mindful practitioner. Also, if by crying I am better able to handle my life and have understanding and compassion for others, than that seems healthy and productive as part of my practice. For me it's like learning to have feelings but not be blown about in the storm by them meaninglessly. Emotions are good teachers. Best of luck to you.

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