What does "All Life is Suffering" Mean?

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What does "All Life is Suffering" Mean?

Postby Red Faced Buddha » Wed Oct 10, 2012 4:57 pm

Although I'm a Buddhist,I'm having a hard time understanding what "All life is suffering" means.Although life has pain and unpleasant stuff in it,I wouldn't say all life is suffering.Second,without suffering,life would be pretty boring(not saying I like suffering but that if everything was perfect and there was no unpleasant stuff,life would grow pretty boring.)this has kind of put me in a crisis of faith((know it's weird but it is.)so I'd appreciate some answers.
A person once asked me why I would want to stop rebirth. "It sounds pretty cool. Being able to come back. Who wouldn't want to be reborn."
I replied. "Wanting to be reborn is like wanting to stay in a jail cell, when you have the chance to go free and experience the whole wide world. Does a convict, on being freed from his shabby, constricting, little cell, suddenly say "I really want to go back to jail and be put in a cell. It sounds pretty cool. Being able to come back. Who wouldn't want that?"
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Re: What does "All Life is Suffering" Mean?

Postby Jesse » Wed Oct 10, 2012 5:19 pm

Life is suffering when you hold on to things, you want things to be this way but they aren't, you want reality to be this way but it isn't, you want to feel this but you don't. basically. The point of life is suffering to to show you this, how it happens, and how to get rid of the causes of this type of suffering.
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Re: What does "All Life is Suffering" Mean?

Postby Konchog1 » Wed Oct 10, 2012 7:11 pm

1. Suffering of Suffering
This is birth, sickness, old age, death, and all physical and mental pain.

2. Suffering of Change
Everything enjoyable will leave, including your life.

2. Suffering of being subject to Suffering (aka All-pervasive suffering)
"All-pervasive suffering is the suffering inherent in the fact of being born with contaminated aggregates, which by their very nature are like a magnet attracting sickness, old age and death." -Wangchuk Dorje
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

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Re: What does "All Life is Suffering" Mean?

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Wed Oct 10, 2012 7:54 pm

It ain't that bad.

We need ego otherwise we'd be dysfunctional puddles of jello.
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Re: What does "All Life is Suffering" Mean?

Postby deepbluehum » Wed Oct 10, 2012 7:57 pm

Red Faced Buddha wrote:Although I'm a Buddhist,I'm having a hard time understanding what "All life is suffering" means.Although life has pain and unpleasant stuff in it,I wouldn't say all life is suffering.Second,without suffering,life would be pretty boring(not saying I like suffering but that if everything was perfect and there was no unpleasant stuff,life would grow pretty boring.)this has kind of put me in a crisis of faith((know it's weird but it is.)so I'd appreciate some answers.

Actually Buddha didn't say all life is suffering. He just mentioned the truth about suffering.

"This is the noble truth of dukkha: birth is dukkha, aging is dukkha, illness is dukkha, death is dukkha; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair are dukkha; union with what is displeasing is dukkha; separation from what is pleasing is dukkha; not to get what one wants is dukkha; in brief, the five aggregates subject to clinging are dukkha."
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Re: What does "All Life is Suffering" Mean?

Postby Thus-gone » Thu Oct 11, 2012 12:28 am

All phenomena in samsara are characterised by suffering, as well as non-self and impermanence - though in many cases they are too ubiquitous and subtle to be acknowledged. This would be clear upon going into and coming out of Nirodha Samapatti.

If you think that Nirvana would be "boring," you should investigate exactly what thoughts and sensations make you feel that way. It's a delusion, a kind of intentional blindness to the truth. We are in many ways attached to our own suffering, so it's not surprising or uncommon that you would say that. It's obvious how incorrect it is, though; boredom is one of the fundamental modes of suffering, a lack of fulfillment or satisfaction (dukkha). Remember that Nirvana is the end of dukkha.
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Re: What does "All Life is Suffering" Mean?

Postby heart » Thu Oct 11, 2012 5:59 am

Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:It ain't that bad.

We need ego otherwise we'd be dysfunctional puddles of jello.



We don't have an ego, we just think we have, and that is actually what makes us dysfunctional and makes for a lot of unnecessary suffering. But, with or without the knowledge of our lack of ego, we will have all the sufferings of birth, growing up, getting old, getting sick and dying. Buddha had a lot of problems during his long life and then he eventually died, right? Because he completely let go of the illusion of an ego he were able to live his life, with all its ups and down, only benefiting others while abiding in vivid awareness. A good life. A splendid life.

/magnus
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Re: What does "All Life is Suffering" Mean?

Postby Seishin » Thu Oct 11, 2012 11:36 am

Suffering is a bad translation of Dukkha.

Gassho,
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Re: What does "All Life is Suffering" Mean?

Postby anjali » Thu Oct 11, 2012 3:31 pm

Red Faced Buddha wrote:Although I'm a Buddhist,I'm having a hard time understanding what "All life is suffering" means.Although life has pain and unpleasant stuff in it,I wouldn't say all life is suffering.Second,without suffering,life would be pretty boring(not saying I like suffering but that if everything was perfect and there was no unpleasant stuff,life would grow pretty boring.)this has kind of put me in a crisis of faith((know it's weird but it is.)so I'd appreciate some answers.


As Seishin said, suffering is a bad translation of dukkha. Perhaps the best way to think about "All life is suffering" from a Western perspective is to think of it as existential anxiety.
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  • All activities are like the games children play. If started, they can never be finished. They are only completed once you let them be, like castles made of sand. --Khenpo Nyoshul Rinpoche
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Re: What does "All Life is Suffering" Mean?

Postby heart » Thu Oct 11, 2012 3:51 pm

I disagree, suffering is correct. What ever you manage to get, you will loose and that includes life itself. Whatever you build will be destroyed. Whatever you think you know, will be forgotten. If you are free from clinging to your body, your possessions, your life, your friends and family, your intelligence and so on you are free from suffering.

/magnus
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Re: What does "All Life is Suffering" Mean?

Postby anjali » Fri Oct 12, 2012 12:51 am

heart wrote:I disagree, suffering is correct. What ever you manage to get, you will loose and that includes life itself. Whatever you build will be destroyed. Whatever you think you know, will be forgotten. If you are free from clinging to your body, your possessions, your life, your friends and family, your intelligence and so on you are free from suffering.

/magnus

I retract my statement about suffering being a bad translation. I should have been more thoughtful in my reply. ;-) Some people have suggested that a better translation of dukkha is unsatisfactoriness, dis-ease, or stress.

The thing is, on the surface of it, not every moment of our lives seems to be suffering. (For some reason I just thought of the song, Man of Constant Sorrow from the movie, O Brother, Where Art Thou?)We don't get the sense that every instant of our lives is some form of suffering. There are joys and sorrows--sukha and dukkha. It's the yin/yang of life. Yes, at the end of every temporal joy we gain, there is an inevitable sorrow and loss. But the flip side is that, eventually, at the end of every temporal sorrow and loss, there will be another temporal joy gained. As Kurt Vonnegut would say, "And so it goes", ad infinitum (if we believe in reincarnation). This would seem to be a case of either the eternal optimist or eternal pessimist! So, why would anyone ever want to get off the endless roller coaster ride of thrills and terror? Basically, people eventually get burned out on all the excitement and want some peace.
  • The object of the game is to go on playing it. --John Von Neumann
  • All activities are like the games children play. If started, they can never be finished. They are only completed once you let them be, like castles made of sand. --Khenpo Nyoshul Rinpoche
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Re: What does "All Life is Suffering" Mean?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Oct 12, 2012 2:01 am

heart wrote:I disagree, suffering is correct. What ever you manage to get, you will loose and that includes life itself. Whatever you build will be destroyed. Whatever you think you know, will be forgotten. If you are free from clinging to your body, your possessions, your life, your friends and family, your intelligence and so on you are free from suffering.

/magnus


All that may be true, but as you say, if you don't have expectations of permanence, then those changes won't lead to suffering.
For example, if I eat a huge meal, and thinking thus, "having eaten such a large meal, I shall never be hungry again" I will be very disappointed in a day or two to find out that indeed, although the meal filled me up, I am hungry again. That is because I have expected some sort of permanent satisfaction from something which, being a composite to begin with, is only temporary and can only provide a temporary, conditional experience.

if I eat a huge meal, knowing full well that the satisfaction from that meal is only temporary, then not only do I not suffer from the delusion that the meal would be permanently satisfying, but I can also enjoy the meal without attachment, and not worry that i am somehow being too self-indulgent or whatever.

I once heard a very good talk about suffering and yes, it is not a good translation for Dukkha. Dukkha instead suggests or refers to a kind of built-in dissatisfaction. The example that was given was something like this :

Suppose you are at the airport to greet someone that you have not seen for many years, somebody that you miss dearly, maybe your mother or somebody like that. They get off the plane and walk into the terminal and you see each other and immediately rush up and hug each other. It is the very best thing you could ever feel. This moment is so intense, maybe you are both crying with inexpressible joy.

Now, logically, since this moment is so wonderful, logically you should just want to stand there and hug forever. Not for a minute or two minutes, but for an hour, a day, two days, a week, just stand there in the airport and just keep hugging until you both die. Why not? This is the best thing in the whole world. you have never felt happier in your whole life. Who could possibly want it to stop?

But after a few minutes of embracing, you actually want to stop and go do something else...get the luggage, go eat lunch or whatever. None of the activities that follow will be as great as the moment you just shared, but you have the desire to do something else now, something different. Standing there hugging, as great as it is, is no longer satisfying.

That lack of satisfaction, even dissatisfaction with something pleasurable , that is dukkha. It is very, very basic, but it underscores everything, If things keep changing we want stability. If things aren't changing fast enough, we feel bored. If it is cool out, we put on a sweater. If it is warm out, we turn on a fan. It has nothing to do with the circumstances or what we would call "external conditions' of things. It has to do with the defining characteristic of "human realm", which is a gnawing dissatisfaction.

Dukkha refers to a kind of basic, very subtle, restlessness. From that restlessness, the more obvious expressions of suffering, being bored, worrying about stuff, and so on occur.
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Re: What does "All Life is Suffering" Mean?

Postby Konchog1 » Fri Oct 12, 2012 3:21 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:I once heard a very good talk about suffering and yes, it is not a good translation for Dukkha. Dukkha instead suggests or refers to a kind of built-in dissatisfaction. The example that was given was something like this :

Suppose you are at the airport to greet someone that you have not seen for many years, somebody that you miss dearly, maybe your mother or somebody like that. They get off the plane and walk into the terminal and you see each other and immediately rush up and hug each other. It is the very best thing you could ever feel. This moment is so intense, maybe you are both crying with inexpressible joy.

Now, logically, since this moment is so wonderful, logically you should just want to stand there and hug forever. Not for a minute or two minutes, but for an hour, a day, two days, a week, just stand there in the airport and just keep hugging until you both die. Why not? This is the best thing in the whole world. you have never felt happier in your whole life. Who could possibly want it to stop?

But after a few minutes of embracing, you actually want to stop and go do something else...get the luggage, go eat lunch or whatever. None of the activities that follow will be as great as the moment you just shared, but you have the desire to do something else now, something different. Standing there hugging, as great as it is, is no longer satisfying.

That lack of satisfaction, even dissatisfaction with something pleasurable , that is dukkha. It is very, very basic, but it underscores everything, If things keep changing we want stability. If things aren't changing fast enough, we feel bored. If it is cool out, we put on a sweater. If it is warm out, we turn on a fan. It has nothing to do with the circumstances or what we would call "external conditions' of things. It has to do with the defining characteristic of "human realm", which is a gnawing dissatisfaction.

Dukkha refers to a kind of basic, very subtle, restlessness. From that restlessness, the more obvious expressions of suffering, being bored, worrying about stuff, and so on occur.
:anjali:
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats
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Re: What does "All Life is Suffering" Mean?

Postby nilakantha » Fri Oct 12, 2012 5:00 am

I like Emile Cioran's gloss of duḥkha as nightmare. Since our Saha world is, literally, nothing but an intersubjective projection of our collective ignorance and sin, and the only way to escape is to become Buddha (i.e. awake), I think it works well.
May I be a poet in birth after birth, a devotee of the feet of Lord Avalokiteśvara,
with elevated heart, spontaneously directed towards his Refuge,
wholly occupied with the solemn duty of saving others.

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Re: What does "All Life is Suffering" Mean?

Postby cooran » Fri Oct 12, 2012 5:57 am

Hello all,

‘’Oftentimes, the First Noble Truth is misquoted as `All life is suffering," but that is an inaccurate and misleading reflection of the Buddha's insight. He did not teach that life is constant misery, nor that you should expect to feel pain and unhappiness at all times. Rather, he proclaimed that suffering is an unavoidable reality of ordinary human existence that is to be known and responded to wisely.’’
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dukkha

with metta
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Re: What does "All Life is Suffering" Mean?

Postby heart » Fri Oct 12, 2012 6:10 am

anjali wrote:
heart wrote:I disagree, suffering is correct. What ever you manage to get, you will loose and that includes life itself. Whatever you build will be destroyed. Whatever you think you know, will be forgotten. If you are free from clinging to your body, your possessions, your life, your friends and family, your intelligence and so on you are free from suffering.

/magnus

I retract my statement about suffering being a bad translation. I should have been more thoughtful in my reply. ;-) Some people have suggested that a better translation of dukkha is unsatisfactoriness, dis-ease, or stress.

The thing is, on the surface of it, not every moment of our lives seems to be suffering. (For some reason I just thought of the song, Man of Constant Sorrow from the movie, O Brother, Where Art Thou?)We don't get the sense that every instant of our lives is some form of suffering. There are joys and sorrows--sukha and dukkha. It's the yin/yang of life. Yes, at the end of every temporal joy we gain, there is an inevitable sorrow and loss. But the flip side is that, eventually, at the end of every temporal sorrow and loss, there will be another temporal joy gained. As Kurt Vonnegut would say, "And so it goes", ad infinitum (if we believe in reincarnation). This would seem to be a case of either the eternal optimist or eternal pessimist! So, why would anyone ever want to get off the endless roller coaster ride of thrills and terror? Basically, people eventually get burned out on all the excitement and want some peace.


So the problem isn't "suffering", it the "all life is". Life lead to suffering, that is undeniable since life lead to death. Happiness leads to suffering that leads to happiness and so on but eventually we will die and loose everything. So the Buddha is cooking it down for us, considering the nature of impermanence there is no stable happiness to be found in life, hence "life is suffering" not "all life is suffering". Or life is a roller-coaster ending in death and loss.

/magnus
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Re: What does "All Life is Suffering" Mean?

Postby dakini_boi » Fri Oct 12, 2012 6:11 am

Red Faced Buddha wrote:Although I'm a Buddhist,I'm having a hard time understanding what "All life is suffering" means.Although life has pain and unpleasant stuff in it,I wouldn't say all life is suffering.Second,without suffering,life would be pretty boring(not saying I like suffering but that if everything was perfect and there was no unpleasant stuff,life would grow pretty boring.)this has kind of put me in a crisis of faith((know it's weird but it is.)so I'd appreciate some answers.


Depends which vehicle you favor. Hinayana tends to emphasize the suffering inherent in samsaric life. Sure, there is pleasure even in samsaric life. But noticing how it eventually transforms into suffering is helpful so that you don't remain satisfied with the pleasure of samsara, which is limited. Then you can go for the real bliss. In tantra, they would say that if you actually perceive the truth behind appearances, then you see the entire universe as a pure land, and all beings as deities. Does that sound like suffering? If that isn't currently your reality, it just means you have a bit of work to do. Part of that work is observing and understanding how suffering arises for you, and how it is linked inseparably with samsara's pleasures. If you can't imagine a life of pleasure that isn't boring and doesn't rely on suffering to be pleasurable, then pray to the Buddhas for an inconceivably vast imagination.

Does that help?
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Re: What does "All Life is Suffering" Mean?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Oct 12, 2012 12:46 pm

nilakantha wrote:I like Emile Cioran's gloss of duḥkha as nightmare. Since our Saha world is, literally, nothing but an intersubjective projection of our collective ignorance and sin, and the only way to escape is to become Buddha (i.e. awake), I think it works well.



If "...our Saha world is, literally, nothing but an intersubjective projection of our collective ignorance and sin..." then how, and by what means could one possibly know whether or not one has become Buddha (i.e. awake) or whether one is in fact, still dreaming?
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Re: What does "All Life is Suffering" Mean?

Postby nilakantha » Fri Oct 12, 2012 10:19 pm

If "...our Saha world is, literally, nothing but an intersubjective projection of our collective ignorance and sin..." then how, and by what means could one possibly know whether or not one has become Buddha (i.e. awake) or whether one is in fact, still dreaming?
[/quote]

I suppose you know you are Buddha when, after passing through the 10 stages, you appear in Palace of the Supreme Lord in Akaniṣṭha Heaven, where all Buddhas become awakened, and manifest your Saṃbhogakāya and your pure land.
May I be a poet in birth after birth, a devotee of the feet of Lord Avalokiteśvara,
with elevated heart, spontaneously directed towards his Refuge,
wholly occupied with the solemn duty of saving others.

--Lokeshvarashatakam of Vajradatta
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Re: What does "All Life is Suffering" Mean?

Postby dakini_boi » Thu Oct 18, 2012 7:04 pm

Red Faced Buddha wrote:Although I'm a Buddhist,I'm having a hard time understanding what "All life is suffering" means.Although life has pain and unpleasant stuff in it,I wouldn't say all life is suffering.Second,without suffering,life would be pretty boring(not saying I like suffering but that if everything was perfect and there was no unpleasant stuff,life would grow pretty boring.)this has kind of put me in a crisis of faith((know it's weird but it is.)so I'd appreciate some answers.


Another thing I would like to add is - if you take the "truth of suffering" out of its context among the other 3 noble truths, then it ceases to be the Buddhist view. Buddhism doesn't actually say "life is suffering." There are truths which are suffering and truths which are devoid of suffering. . . ignorance is when you get these confused. Dharma teaches you the difference.
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