Is life suffering?

Good info in the thread I posted earlier…

I am thinking the same. It depends on how do we understand what is life?

When we are saying that there is no life in Mars, we are talking about there is no organism there. When we are talking in this way, we are talking about life in general term. As my limited understanding, an organism is a being that can be born, getting old, sick and die. If we refer life in this way, then by definition of the first noble truth, it is suffering.

When we are saying life in heaven is not suffering, we are talking about a period of time in that life. That period excluded the time that the being is about to fall down and experience worry and anxiety.

When we are saying life of an arahant is not suffering, we are talking about an undefinable being. Since he cannot be defined, suffering does not apply to him, no-suffering does not apply to him. Therefore, this is undefinable. Any reference to that “being” has been cut off. There is no way to pinpoint that “being”, so life of that “being” is undefinable.

When we are saying life is not suffering, we may talk about a period of time in that life. That period excluded the time that the being is experiencing suffering.

When we are saying life is suffering, we may talk about a period of time in that life. That period excluded the time that the being is experiencing happiness, or we are referring it in general term.

That’s how I see.

This gloss is actually missing the scope of Dukkha.

Wednesday sitting in the park…

This is actually still marked by Dukkha. Every single instant of conditioned existence in Samsara is marked by Dukkha. Only Nibbana is unconditioned.

The three types of Dukkha:

1 Dukkhataa, an abstract noun denoting “suffering” in the most general sense.

2 Dukkha-dukkhataa, the actual feeling of physical or mental pain or anguish.

3 Sankhaara-dukkhataa, the suffering produced by all “conditioned phenomena” This includes also experiences associated with hedonically neutral feeling. The suffering inherent in the formations has its roots in the imperfectability of all conditioned existence, and in the fact that there cannot be any final satisfaction within the incessant turning of the Wheel of Life. The neutral feeling associated with this type of suffering is especially the indifference of those who do not understand the fact of suffering and are not moved by it. 4. Viparinaama-dukkhataa, the suffering associated with pleasant bodily and mental feelings: “because they are the cause for the arising of pain when they change” (VM XIV, 35).

So no, you are not free of Dukkha temporarily in your example.

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Trying to attain happiness and pleasure from impermanent things is suffering.

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If Dukkha is translated as suffering, then it should be acknowledged that we are caught up in a net of relational terms. Suffering, as an observable phenomena, has feeling as its necessary condition, in the sense that without feeling, there cannot be suffering neither mental nor physical. In life, people experience both pleasant and painful feelings, and whether these feelings are physical or mental, it does not really matter if Dukkha is translated as suffering.

To translate Dukkha as suffering is to communicate with the subject and to present the teachings in purposive language, when kamma are intentional/volitional actions performed by the subject in mind, speech and body.

IMO, we also need to distinguish Dukkha from Dukkhavedana.

The would be Arahant’s practice evolves in two ways ( based on my reading of SN12.51)

First, they need to fully enquire into Suffering and realize that it comes about because of rebirth and the recurrent manifestation of “I” viz continued existence. They can then practice for the ending of rebirth.

Secondly, they need to fully enquire into the cause of the recurrent manifestation of “I” viz continued existence. And realize that this “I” (which doesn’t truly exist at all) comes to be because of grasping at the feeling that is being experienced through the 6 sense fields on the basis of contact. That contact between inanimate and animate Rupa is processed by the system and Awareness emerges (Namma-Rupa-Vinnana). Experience is a Construct - a Sankhara - something put together and made Mine because of Ignorance of its actually impersonal and impermanent nature… They can then practice for the ending of this “I” - for the ending of ‘my’ and ‘mine’ making.

When the would be Arahant truly internalizes that there is no “I”, only impersonal and impermanent phenomena out of which an Experience is being constructed and responded to - and when they can let go of this “I”, their responses are no longer grounded in the Subject-Object delusion, lust or aversion. At that point ‘they’ no longer exist (Nor did ‘they’ ever truly exist, but ‘they’ thought they did!). Whatever responses can thereafter be elicited from the aggregates are simply Dhamma (Idapaccayata).

Of course, perception of dukkhavedana still occurs - that is a mechanical outcome of contact. But its no longer ‘theirs’ - they feel it detached. Hence there is no more Dukkha.

Hence, IMO it is not life per se that is Suffering, it is the clinging to the experience of life, craving for it, making it personal… Mine… delighting in that experience… that is the root of Suffering (SN22.29).


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Just to be alive is suffering, even for Buddhas.

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Sometimes a strong word like suffering is needed, other times a word like “unsatisfactory” better fits. There is the direct suffering of suffering - if you’re in pain from complications of childbirth or terminal cancer, it’s pure suffering.

But if you are celebrating a tennis Grand Slam win, “suffering” doesn’t quite fit. However while that’s not suffering in the sense of pain, it’s unsatisfactory - this is the suffering of change. You get fame and fortune for a bit, but then you have to strive to win it again or you’ll lose the sense of validation and success you had before. So it’s dissatisfying, as are all temporary experiences.

The rhyme doesn’t work in English, but in Pali suffering is dukkha which in the first three jhanas becomes sukha or happiness/joy/bliss and then in the fourth jhana becomes upekha or pure peace. In jhanas, any experience of pain or discomfort is gone and there’s only true happiness. However, even those experiences are temporary and conditioned, which is why they are used to go beyond the conditioned into nibbana where there’s no dukkha again.

So if life is suffering even for Buddhas, what’s the point of practising? Just the hope of a better rebirth, or eventually no further rebirths?
I don’t find this an inspiring view, it seems rather pessimistic.

That would be my “gloss”.

What you wrote seems to be above and beyond “the call of duty” of what is in the suttas, if not in the actual writings ( which I could be wrong about ) or in the spirit of it.

That kind of sentiment keeps painting Buddhism as negative, and would studious Buddhists from being happy.

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Quite to the contrary, this is from the Suttas. It’s not my interpretation.

The Buddha declared: sabbe sankhara dukkha (All conditioned things are Dukkha.)

Only Nibbana is unconditioned.

This is the fundamental teaching of Buddhism.

To end suffering completely, which for a Buddha or Arahant comes at the end of life. There being no more craving, there is no more rebirth-linking consciousness and so the tyranny of existence comes to an end.

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Enlightenment as a means to oblivion? It doesn’t sound like an appealing prospect.

I don’t agree with that interpretation either.

There’s many suttas that show that suffering has nothing to do with the aggregates (and life) themselves but with clinging to them. Thus suffering is a result of mindset and deeply ingrained habits, not life itself.

"Dry out that which is past, [8] let there be nothing for you in the future. [9] If you do not grasp at anything in the present you will go about at peace. One who, in regard to this entire mindbody complex, has no cherishing of it as ‘mine,’ and who does not grieve for what is non-existent truly suffers no loss in the world. For him there is no thought of anything as ‘this is mine’ or ‘this is another’s’; not finding any state of ownership, and realizing, ‘nothing is mine,’ he does not grieve.

  • Sn 4.15

This sutta, like many others, for example show that peace can be had here and now once the 3 poisons especially conceit (I am-ness) are given up.

Another such sutta

Then, late at night, the glorious god Kakudha, lighting up the entire Añjana Wood, went up to the Buddha, bowed, stood to one side, and said to him, “Do you delight, ascetic?”

“What have I gained, sir?”

“Well then, ascetic, do you sorrow?”

“What have I lost, sir?”

“Well then, ascetic, do you neither delight nor sorrow?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I hope you’re untroubled, mendicant, I hope that delight isn’t found in you. I hope that discontent doesn’t overwhelm you as you sit alone.”

“I’m genuinely untroubled, spirit, and no delight is found in me. And also discontent doesn’t overwhelm me as I sit alone.”

“How are you untroubled, mendicant? How is delight not found in you? How does discontent not overwhelm you as you sit alone?”

“Delight is born from misery, misery is born from delight; sir, you should know me as a mendicant free of delight and misery.”

“After a long time I see a brahmin extinguished. A mendicant free of delight and misery, he has crossed over clinging to the world.”

  • SN 2.18

The Buddha claims he is genuinely untroubled yet he is still alive. Notice the Buddha is extinguished, yet still alive.


Seeing only suffering in life is probably (close to) depression?

Oke, one can point out that the Buddha teaches …sabba sankhara dukkha…and feel supported in seeing life as suffering. Or even feel one has a good reason to live in darkness. I think this is not wise and not meant by the Buddha.

I am familair with states of gloom, with sadness, depressed states, but my judgement about it is that one must no see this as quality or result of wisdom or justify them and hold on to those states. Because probably there is much anger involved, feelings of powerlessness, wrong views, obsessions, strong passions, a lot of conceit etc.

I also think many teachings are only skillfull means. Meant to make a development towards becoming less obsessive, dispassionate, (more oneself) and taste the cooling down effects and get a taste of the third noble truth. But one must not take it to literally to see the body as disgusting, or not to delight in the entire world, or to see food as disgusting, etc. The sutta’s show that this can lead to depression and suicide.

I like those sutta fragments which highlight that a Buddha sees all aspect of something: the arising, the ceasing, the escape, the danger, the gratification of it. This way view is balanced. If one only sees danger, suffering, misery then view is only dark. There is no light and wisdom in it. Maybe that can be temporarily also skillfull but if one starts to believe that all is danger, suffering and misery, then one has developed extreme view, i believe.

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DO tells us that ignorance is the root of suffering.
So should it be: “A life lived in ignorance is unsatisfactory”?

The trick is to see things from a phenomological perspective, i.e. first person subjective, and not “objective” as in third person, metaphysical or scientific.

What is life then? Life is simply “experience”, and what is experience? it is sensual contact.

Identifying with sensual contact and therefore the aggregates is going to lead to both extremes of depression (and suicide/annihilation) and delight (eternalism).

Someone who doesn’t identify with experience and body (5 aggregates) is indifferent, and is unaffected by aging and impermanence.

It’s impermanence that makes experience a drawback, and it is clinging to impermanent things that creates suffering.


Hi Martin,

Maybe something like this:

All kinds of needs are connected especially to ego-perception (asmi mana). They dominate the mind and our behaviour. Ego wants power, controll, status, be loved, be respected etc.

Sometimes this ego is very satisfied and sometimes very dissatisfied, resp. when things go like one wants and when it does not go like one wants. I think both are the mind-patterns of avijja. The happy and unhappy mind.

I can see i become very happy when people like my texts. It is still quit childish but it is clearly how my mind functions. It likes to be appreciated, loved, seen, respected etc. and when this fails…oeps…it can become an angry desperate irksome little child, c, i see.

Most challenging i feel, are the times when things do not go like one wishes. But in a certain way, being happy because all goes well, like planned, wishes for, that is also a kind of avijja pattern, i believe.

I believe the ariya Path is beyond this kind of satisfaction and dissatisfaction, dispassionate, sobered up, not dreaming anymore. That’s why it is not attractive for humans :innocent:

If you are unconscious are you not alive? I feel Life is not the same as vinnana or being conscious.
Life is like an iceberg. The conscious aspect is very small but sticks out.

Oke, but i believe this is impossible if one has not found the unborn, deathless, unaging.
Someone who just conditions him or herself daily to see the body and mind as not self, not mine, only forces a indifference, i believe.

I feel impermanence can be a blessing. The impermanence of pain, sickness, of suffering, of tanha and avijja etc. I do not think impermanence is really a problem.

I think that when we in our younger years do not learn to see the body and mental aspect as me and mine, we get into great problems. I think we first have to develop in this way. I doubt if a child can develop in a healthy way when at very young age he/she is learned that nothing of body of mind is me and mine.

Also psychologics say we need to become attached to your parents. This is a very important phase to develop healthy. It is not good for ones development if one does not attach to ones parents in a safe way or does not attach at all.

I think it is just like the development of identity view and a sound ego conceit. i believe it must first develop in a sound way. And if it has not, i believe Dhamma can become harmful.

I believe one first of all must develop into a completely normal human being, not denying any emotions, open up, communicating well about ones longings, not denying them, not denying to exist as a unique human being, a person, believing in a self, becoming comfortable with oneself, not judging this or that about oneself.