Loneliness: An unknown epidemic?

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Yes I think you are right. Followed by an interesting statement from Tanouye Roshi. I’ve frequently heard meditation teachers advise that it’s easier to relax on the outbreath; this implied that there’s generally more tension (thus anxiety) on the inbreath.



One of the loneliest things ever inflected on us was the open-floor workbench design. I was pretty horrified to see that take over modern workplaces. The sweatshop has returned.

I am curious to see what the competition brings!


Another interesting effort: “our aim is to promote health and wellness by combining physical activity with meaningful engagement by club participants”.
Healthcare Innovator Attacks Social Isolation and Loneliness with Rapidly Expanding Network of Clubs | Business Wire


Interesting. I find satipatthana practice useful here because it makes me more aware that loneliness is a temporary feeling/mood, one which comes and goes…so it doesn’t define me.


Often the feeling of ‘I’ is deeply associated, with what happens to ‘me’, and the removal of the self-view, and the subsequently removing inaccurate thoughts about ‘I’ helps ease off suffering, though craving for the company, love or acknowledgement from others also plays a big role, because craving persists even after right view is established, I understand, so a sotapanna hasn’t eradicated the fetter of craving for sensuality, the form and formless.

“Bhikkhus, there are these ten fetters. What ten? The five lower fetters and the five higher fetters. And what are the five lower fetters? Personal-existence view, doubt, wrong grasp of behavior and observances, sensual desire, and ill will. These are the five lower fetters. And what are the five higher fetters? Lust for form, lust for the formless, conceit, restlessness, and ignorance. These are the five higher fetters. These, bhikkhus, are the ten fetters.” SuttaCentral


Well said Bhante :anjal:


I should explain it a bit more- in cognitive behavioural therapy every mood is connected or conditioned by certain thoughts. Remove the thought, and the mood vanishes, or vice versa. Removing the thought is quicker. But it’s more difficult as eliciting a thought behind a given mood requires of someone much more subtle levels of mindfulness and some skill, but if you can do it it’s the most effective method of removing a mood as it’s like untying a knot at the mouth of a balloon, while trying to remove a mood first is like trying to blow it away with a a fan, - it takes longer and has tendency to return.


I think the Buddha worries that a Bhikkhu living among many contacts, will eventually fall away from samadhi, while one living with few contacts (or forest dwellers) will soon gain samadhi. Those who are inclined to seclusion will find this trait to an advantage to them. They will soon lose their defilements. I will find this EBT quote.


It was fascinating to read that CBT is based on thought attachment and if you don’t mind, I’d be curious in exploring CBT further in the context of the EBTs, which assign attachment beginnings somewhat differently.

How might one use CBT to address lust? I.e., What thought removal would result in the cessation of recurring mood of lust?


Interesting but maybe in another thread.

People die from loneliness, and yet it remains difficult for people to talk or listen about it. Loneliness may be unadvanced, based on a delusion, etc. Just like gender. Let’s let it have a thread.


Please feel to start one :slight_smile: Just specify what aspects you want it to focus on and the frame of reference :slight_smile:


there is one moment call “I” so "u "are very safe.


I sometimes experience loneliness.

Sometimes during it, conditioning towards asceticism emerges. I power through, without actually connecting to anyone else or to those wounds this life has sustained. And i think, good, well done, you; you powered through.

Sometimes during those moments, I notice crankiness rising. I might consume & feed that crankiness, even if (as far as I know) i suppress its expression or negative impact on others.

Sometimes, during those moments in this life when loneliness stirs up, I note it; am especially mindful of more skillful practices; observe impermanence of conditioned phenomena; am diligent or evolving make-it-habitual towards diligence. One is alone and not alone, in this life. May all be happy, peaceful, ultimately freed of suffering.

Sometimes when this moments rise & fade, it amuses me greatly, and inspires humor, which might not be appropriate, but seems semi-healthy, encouraging of continued breath, perhaps worthy or sharing because it might help this or other lives as they are lived or endured or developed or occur.

Nothing new or brilliant in this, it just is what it is, notes on loneliness in this one ordinary life. May it lead to liberation.


This is one tool for a task that requires mostly jhana as the main powerhouse for this task. In the experience of lust ask ‘what does the form mean to me to generate such a strong emotional response? What’s it’s promise? What can and does it deliver? etc. If one can ferret out irrational thoughts that generate intense emotions then gently stay with those thoughts and let them fade to be replaced by realistic ones. This requires repeating but the intensity of emotions can be seen to fade with time.


Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Indeed. A most excellent approach. Thank you! :white_check_mark:

I have actually not tried such an approach. Instead I have restrained contact to simpler forms, such as “healthy young person filled with joy of life”. This has allowed me to let go of the particular forms that were personal cravings. And sometimes I still do have to call upon the “bag of bones” form out of desperation. :rofl:

A CBT approach would certainly zero in on those attachments.


ahhh i think i see - loneliness is just a form of lust?

How embarrassing. And hilarious. And difficult to apply to practice in this particular life, & kinda discouraging.
Even cautionary; I should not refer lonely persons to this thread, certainly… might not be harmless! Nor do I see any way to share these ideas or thoughts about them with nonBuddhist friends or associates, without confusion or worse being fed… hmmm.


@ERose I quite agree with you.

I think many of my friends, family or new Buddhists would be quite put off reading this thread. Are Buddhists really not warm and friendly, but cold and unfeeling?

Looking at the posts in this thread, I find it surprising that although it is about loneliness, people keep on pushing solitude. :laughing: As Buddhists, I think that we might need a few more tools in our toolkit if we are dealing with loneliness or a lonely person… Imagine–someone says they are lonely and we refer them to a 2500 year old text originally intended for renunciant monks on the theme of solitude!!! You’re lonely? Try solitude! How is that skilful?

Surely, the answer to loneliness is friendship. This is goodwill, kindness and compassion in action. Although for some reason this thread focuses on suttas about solitude, the theme of friendship also occupies a significant place in the suttas and is integral to spiritual development.

Firstly I’d like to address the idealised version of solitude that people are presenting here, of how they think it was at the time of the Buddha; an ascetic life of complete renunciation, no contact with people, entirely cut off from the world. This may have been true of some, probably a rather small number, but it would surely be a mistaken view that it was like this for most monastics. It is more likely that monks and nuns only periodically dwelt in solitude, for a period of retreat or for certain parts of the day. They clearly also had frequent interactions with others; it has already been pointed out here that monastics lived, ate and listened to Dhamma together even at the time of the Buddha. The Buddha asked the monks to come together frequently. We know they had strong friendships with each other. In MN31, we have the story of Kimbila, Anaruddha and Nandiya who lived in harmony together. Teachers had various novices and students in their care and the Buddha himself was frequently attended by monks, most especially Ananda. The beautiful friendship of Sariputta and Moggalana shows how fruitful it is to have spiritual companions. They were always in each others company and are said to have shared a hut. Further, we have many stories about the monks living together, bathing together, going for pindapata together, walking in large groups to visit towns, visiting families with friends, meditating together in parks and also spending the rains together. We should not ignore this evidence of friendship and community.

Further, there are also many rules in the Vinaya about living together and creating community harmony, settling disputes and so on. Coming together in groups was essential to learn the patimokkha rules and of course, necessary to learn and recite the suttas. There are many cases where we hear of monks or nuns going to visit the Buddha or other elder monks for clarification on Dhamma. There is plenty of evidence in the suttas and vinaya that shows complete solitude was not the norm at all. It is a myth that monks and nuns lived secluded in the forest in total solitude of the type some people today seem to fantasise about. Yes, the Buddha praised solitude, and it is essential for meditation, but it was not a practice of complete solitude, nor was it 100% of the time. I cannot see what is to be gained from promotimg this romantic version of solitude, especially to lonely lay people!

Secondly, I’d like to provide some texts that talk about the importance of friendship, to provide some much needed balance for all this talk of solitude and as references for those who might be lonely, or inspiration for us to be better friends to others.

What is admirable friendship? Dīghajāṇu Sutta AN8.54

It’s when a respectable person resides in a town or village. And in that place there are householders or their children who may be young or old, but are mature in conduct, accomplished in faith, ethics, generosity, and wisdom. That person associates with them, converses, and engages in discussion. And they emulate the same kind of accomplishment in faith, ethics, generosity, and wisdom. This is called accomplishment in good friendship.

In AN1.111,friendship is an external factor on the path.

“Taking into account exterior factors, mendicants, I do not see a single one that is so very beneficial as good friends. Good friends are very beneficial.”

and in AN1.71 is important for developing good qualities:

“Mendicants, I do not see a single thing that gives rise to skillful qualities, or makes unskillful qualities decline like good friends. When you have good friends, skillful qualities arise and unskillful qualities decline.”

In the Sambodhi Sutta, friendship is the essential first step in developing the qualities that lead to awakening and a cause of many excellent states:

‘It’s when a mendicant has good friends, companions, and associates. This is the first vital condition for the development of the awakening factors…
Furthermore, a mendicant gets to take part in talk about self-effacement that helps open the heart, when they want, without trouble or difficulty. That is, talk about fewness of wishes, contentment, seclusion, aloofness, arousing energy, ethics, immersion, wisdom, freedom, and the knowledge and vision of freedom. This is the third vital condition for the development of the awakening factors…
A mendicant with good friends, companions, and associates can expect to be ethical …
A mendicant with good friends, companions, and associates can expect to take part in talk about self-effacement that helps open the heart …
A mendicant with good friends, companions, and associates can expect to live with energy roused up …
A mendicant with good friends, companions, and associates can expect to be wise…

In the Cūḷagosiṅga Sutta MN 31, Anaruddha tells us:

‘I’m fortunate, so very fortunate, to live together with spiritual companions such as these.’ I consistently treat these venerables with kindness by way of body, speech, and mind, both in public and in private Though we’re different in body, sir, we’re one in mind, it seems to me.”

Nandiya and Kinbila also echo Anaruddha’s words. These are arahants, whose practice is not dwelling in the forest alone, but living together. There is still a beautiful version of renunciation, however:

I think: ‘Why don’t I set aside my own ideas and just go along with these venerables’ ideas?’ And that’s what I do.

Instead of preaching solitude to lay people, the Buddha emphasises the importance of choosing your friends carefully, because of their potential to influence us and because we become like them:

Whatever person one befriends,
Whomever one associates with,
One becomes of like quality,
One becomes like one’s companion.
Sukhapatthanā Sutta Iti 76
[SuttaCentral](http://Sukhapatthanā Sutta Iti 76)

and this concern is also seen in the description of good and fake friends in the
Siṅgāla Sutta DN 31.

Further we have the practice of metta, which comes from the pali word mitta, meaning friend. Friendliness is at the heart of the Brahmaviharis! There are many other examples of friendship in the suttas, even towards unsavoury characters like Angulimala, or people who were really suffering terribly, like Patacara.

I hope that these few examples (there are so many more!) show that there are different approaches to Buddhist practice other than just solitude, and that the Buddha gave us many strategies and approaches to use for specific circumstances.

If you know someone is lonely, please offer them your friendship! It will have immeasurable benefits for your own practice and will help them with theirs.

It’s worth repeating,

Good friends, companions, and associates are the whole of the spiritual life. A mendicant with good friends, companions, and associates can expect to develop and cultivate the noble eightfold path.
Upaḍḍha Sutta SN 45.2



The suffering in loneliness is caused by the craving-for-the-pleasure-of-being-with-others.
The only practical way to overcome that suffering is to give up the craving-for-the-pleasure-of-being-with-others.
This doesn’t mean that one will be alone forever, for that is impossible, but only that it won’t matter anymore.

This is also quite encouraging because the presence of craving and the presence of suffering is something that is maintained by oneself, it is not imposed on one by another.
Of course, it needs the strength of mind to uproot the craving, which is difficult, yet possible.

Loneliness is a symptom of the underlying cause which is craving. You can deal with the symptom in many different ways e.g get a pet, find a partner, join a forum, become a counsellor, have a party, start a family etc,
but the cause will still be there underlying it all and then it’s just a matter of time until loneliness is experienced again.

The more one tries to numb the loneliness-symptom with various distractions and social projects, the worse the suffering will be when those distractions and social projects stop working or one cannot maintain them anymore, hence the suffering of old age.

The craving was always the underlying motivator for one’s socialising, and so one is essentially cultivating that craving (and that potential suffering) through trying to DEAL with loneliness by socialising, because one thinks that being alone is the cause of ones suffering, yet it’s the craving which is the cause of ones suffering.

Depending on how long one has been relying on and craving for others being around so that one does not suffer, will determine the amount of suffering that is felt when one is alone or even threatened with the mere prospect of being alone.


Thank you, @Akaliko Sir. This resonates with the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha in which I have faith. There is much for me to study and consider in your post, and I am grateful. I aspire to use it to benefit, and practice the generosity modelled.

Can’t sadhu [sadhu, sadu!] this enough… ok, maybe that’s enough!