Sutta criticising complaint and lamenting

Dear all
I have read in several suttas points in which the Buddha has a critical attitude towards complains and laments, showing how useless such attitudes are.
Can you help me to locate these suttas?
Thanks :pray:

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Search for “wail and lament” in Voice returns 14 results that tell you for example:

AN5.48:2.4: If I were to sorrow and wail and lament, beating my breast and falling into confusion, just because someone liable to old age grows old, I’d lose my appetite and my physical appearance would deteriorate. My work wouldn’t get done, my enemies would be encouraged, and my friends would be dispirited.’

Search for “if you sorrow and wail” returns MN 148, which explains:

MN148:28.4-5: When you experience a painful feeling, if you sorrow and wail and lament, beating your breast and falling into confusion, the underlying tendency to repulsion underlies that.

And my favorite, which shows you two alternatives (search for “result of suffering”):

AN6.63:42.2-3: It’s when someone who is overcome and overwhelmed by suffering sorrows and wails and laments, beating their breast and falling into confusion. Or else, overcome by that suffering, they begin an external search, wondering: ‘Who knows one or two phrases to stop this suffering?’


‘Who knows a way or two to stop this pain?’ I tell you, monks, that stress results either in bewilderment or in search. This is called the result of stress." —AN 6.63

Important to recognize ‘search’ is the beneficial result out of the two, leading to the noble eightfold path.


Hi Gabi73,

I wonder whether complaining and lamenting is an attitude or just the effect of suffering for anyone who has not developed the wisdom to deal with suffering in an even healthier way?

Complaining and lamenting over hardships to someone you trust is probably the foremost worldly way of dealing with suffering. Being able to show emotions and vulnerability is an essential component of high quality interpersonal relationships.

[You may not be thinking this,] but I don’t think the Buddha is a proponent of a ‘suck it up’ strategy and just to not complain even if one is hurting, but rather to find a deeper solution to the problems of life :slight_smile:


I think the simile of the two arrows describes much of our dukkha. Here’s an excerpt:

SN 36.6
“When an uneducated ordinary person experiences painful physical feelings they sorrow and wail and lament, beating their breast and falling into confusion. They experience two feelings: physical and mental.

It’s like a person who is struck with an arrow, only to be struck with a second arrow. That person experiences the feeling of two arrows.

In the same way, when an uneducated ordinary person experiences painful physical feelings they sorrow and wail and lament, beating their breast and falling into confusion. They experience two feelings: physical and mental.

When they’re touched by painful feeling, they resist it. The underlying tendency for repulsion towards painful feeling underlies that."

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Dear Erik

Thanks for your point, which allows me to specify an important distinction.

There are two different kinds of complaining, lamenting and wailing. One is functional, the other dysfunctional. Functional complaining may be part of communication. This is visible in many Sutta where the Buddha or one of his disciples will as a person how do they feel, and the stock answer was often like this

I’m not keeping well, I’m not alright. The pain is terrible and growing, not fading; its growing is evident, not its fading. The winds piercing my head are so severe, it feels like a strong man drilling into my head with a sharp point. The pain in my head is so severe, it feels like a strong man tightening a tough leather strap around my head.

This of course was a communication of fact. This is similar to when we sit and ask others how they are doing; it is “informational”. This is where the idea of sucking it up it’s deeply wrong in all aspects.

As a counsellor, I hear people, of course, complaining and lamenting about the difficulties they have in their lives. This form is not what I was referring to.
Indeed the Buddha will listen to you with compassion and help you find the way out of suffering as the best counsellor we may ever see.

What the Buddha, as a compassionate teacher, was relatively firm about is the dysfunctional version of complaining, lamenting and wailing.

The one who brought you to feel miserable for yourself, the one which is empty and based on wrong view and stucks you in dukka without a way out other than the tautology of one’s ideas, thoughts and opinions.
Sometimes the Buddha (as you can see in some suttas) was extremely firm with people showing such attitudes. Usually, these people were people on the Path people who wanted to follow the Dhamma. Other times the Buddha was gentle but again very direct and used the wonderful counselling experience of self deduction through experience.

This was used more with people still not on the Path.
One famous example is Kisa Gotami and her desperation about the death of her child.

In Buddhism, if I understand correctly, the macho idea of sucking it up cannot exist since there is nothing to “suck it up”. What happens to you can only be understood with Right View, and if you do not understand the Four Noble Truth or at least start to move towards that understanding, the Buddha will tell you (and the style depends on your level in such progress) that our lamenting is not only useless but part indeed of dukkha.

Rumination, obsession, complaining about what it is not resolvable or beyond your possibility of being resolved (see the example of the mountains approaching from all sides), complaining about others for what happens to you, thinking that the problem is “out there”, are attitudes that the Buddha criticised pretty strongly in some cases and with extreme gentle skill in others.
In a certain way I think you confuse criticism of lamenting, complaining and wailing with the criticism of the being showing such expressions. To the being suffering the Buddha showed kindness, compassion and if nothing could be done, equanimity, to the mental process of complaining, lamenting and wailing the Teacher showed not appreciation or encouraging but rather an enlightened critical view so to shift people from wrong view to the view aimed to liberation. :pray: