A Simple Life: Buddhist Basics ~ Suffering

[This week I am reprinting a short article I wrote on the basics of Buddhism.  It was quick, short and blunt; without (at least I tried) a large amount of language that would be unfamiliar to readers with no experience in the Dharma.  Enjoy and feel free to comment]

The Marks of our Existence

It takes very little imagination to view the world as being defined largely by our own painful and frustrating experiences. Many, when they hear this aspect of Buddhist practice immediately state that it is pessimistic or nihilistic. Nothing could be farther from the truth. By accepting that the world we are in is full of pain, is impermanent (in a constant state of flux and change) and that we are not defined by our perceptions (egolessness) we free ourselves from those illusions and instead focus on the root cause of all this suffering. These three things: suffering, impermanence and egolessness are known as the three marks of existence and form an important foundation for the core Buddhist beliefs.


Accept your life and then face it.”—Dainin Katagiri

Buddhists admit that suffering exists in the world and search for the root of that suffering. This searching can be a personal event where we find the basis of how we, as individuals, suffer or can exist as a wider construct of why the world as a whole suffers. Much of Buddhist practice thus consists of cultivating the tools and methods that will eliminate delusions and increase clarity so as to alleviate the suffering and enjoy the moments, both positive and negative. The methods employed depend upon school, sect and culture. Some see the ultimate goal as reducing delusions while others see the ultimate goal as expressing and realizing one’s own True Nature (the form of Mind that is unfettered by delusions and the cycle of rebirth).

Again, it is this aspect of Buddhist philosophy that gets labeled as “pessimistic” or “nihilistic” but while focusing on the negative aspects of life a Buddhist does not necessarily expect negative outcomes (as does a pessimist) nor does he expect nothing or believe in nothing (as would a nihilist). If a term was fitting for a Buddhist it would simply be realist. We would prefer to always be happy and be surrounded by positive events (who wouldn’t?) but we understand that suffering exists and we need to engage that suffering directly in order to understand it.  Through that understanding, suffering is alleviated for ourselves, those around us and for all sentient beings.



For Part 1  A Simple Life: Buddhist Basics ~ Intro


6 thoughts on “A Simple Life: Buddhist Basics ~ Suffering

  1. The uninformed critics always key in on suffering as the Buddha’s main teaching. He pointed out it’s existence but went on to teach that there was a pathway to freedom.

    A very basic response, but one that many casual observers overlook.

    Thanks for your continued commitment…

  2. Hi John

    Great post, I got a lot from it. Your blog is cool to.

    Dukkha is a difficult one, there is no English translation and those that have tried to translate it have found it very difficult.

    I prefer to use the term as it stands, there is dukkha, for me personally it simply means separation, separation from conscious awareness.

    The mind is a small aspect of consciousness and as soon as it starts seeing something as good or bad I experience dukkha. The absence of dukkha is conscious awareness.

    The Buddha said ‘Birth is dukkha, aging is dukkha, death is dukkha; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, & despair are dukkha; association with the unbeloved is dukkha; separation from the loved is dukkha; not getting what is wanted is dukkha. In short, the five clinging-aggregates are dukkha.’

    Here the Buddha is explaining how dukkha reinforces the minds preoccupation with the self, the I am, the mind needs to be active in order to exist. We are not mind.

    Have a great day

    Best wishes



  3. Thank you very much for this post. I find it helpful to refer to “stress” as opposed to “suffering.” I think the term suffering can mislead non-Buddhists into thinking we have a dreary outlook on life. For instance, Dukkha can refer the anxiety one might feel prior to a job interview, as well the real pain one experiences at the death of a loved one. They are both rooted in attachment, but on opposite sides of a broad spectrum. With this understanding, someone new to Buddhist teaching can reference Dukkha in terms of their own lives.

    With Metta

  4. “Everybody’s an enemy… I hate everybody. I’m not part of any scene. I do my own thing. My mind is a machine gun, my body is the bullets, the audience is the target. ”
    ~GG Allin

  5. Pingback: A Simple Life: Buddhist Basics ~ Egolessness « Sweep the dust, Push the dirt

  6. Pingback: A Simple Life: Buddhist Basics ~ The Five Skandhas « Sweep the dust, Push the dirt

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