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What is Suffering?

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What is Suffering?
Answer
1/24/12 11:29 AM
Hi, I'm reading MCTB, and got a question related to the Three Characteristics.

I've been "meditating" (not so regularly) for about a year, and reading about the 3C, I realized how I was already perceiving no-self in things and a bit of impermanence, but I'm not so sure about suffering.
I tried re-reading this section in MCTB, but I still don't get it ):

From my point of view, to see no-self in things, is to see them as something that is not related to any self, as if it appears by itself.
And impermanence I see as how things come and go, seeing this with no attachment whatsoever.

But to me it seems an insatisfaction with the perceived things is a sensation itself. Isn't it after all?

Perhaps I'm already perceiving suffering in the way is meant, but don't realize it.
What is suffering after all? (from the 3C perspective)

RE: What is Suffering?
Answer
1/24/12 2:05 PM as a reply to John P.
Heres a link to the discourse on the great mass of stress.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.013.than.html

RE: What is Suffering?
Answer
1/24/12 6:19 PM as a reply to John P.
I'll keep this practical rather than theoretical as it should help you to understand this more through your own experience, and certainly more so than any amount of reading about it will.

From my point of view, to see no-self in things, is to see them as something that is not related to any self, as if it appears by itself.

If something can be observed, it cannot be that which observes it. If this is the case, see if you can catch what it is that is observing this experience as it unfolds.

And impermanence I see as how things come and go, seeing this with no attachment whatsoever.

What you're saying is correct, but it's much more subtle while at the same time being totally universal. Impermanence is there for all to see, but for it to make a change in the way you experience and understand the world you need to observe this in real-time. A theoretical understanding is one thing, the direct experience of it is quite another.

But to me it seems an insatisfaction with the perceived things is a sensation itself. Isn't it after all?
Perhaps I'm already perceiving suffering in the way is meant, but don't realize it.

It's a hugely complicated subject to be honest but I'll try to give you a simple example of suffering in action.

Remember a time when you really, really wanted something but couldn't have it? Or when you experienced something unpleasant which you wanted to avoid/get away from? Basically it comes down to craving and aversion. Craving is wanting something, aversion is not wanting something but they both operate on the same mechanism and lead to the same thing: Suffering/stress/dukkha.

Being dissatisfied with perceived things is a sensation, true, but so is stubbing your toe. You need to look at this more closely, look at how it is that no sensation can truly satisfy. Every sensation is impermanent and doesn't contain a self, how can anything that transient and empty ever lead to anything other than suffering? Why then do we cling to these things and hope that they'll make us happy? What will lead to a happiness independent of conditions?

Investigate your experience as it happens, see these things happen in real-time 'cause it makes it sooooooooo much clearer.

RE: What is Suffering?
Answer
12/11/12 2:35 PM as a reply to John P.
The reality is absolutely hilarious.

Today I read stuff about the five aggregates once again and contemplated the stuff quite a lot myself. In the process I became totally baffled about suffering. What an earth is suffering? Sensation? Perhaps not? Can it even be observed? I thought about it, meditated, googled and ended up in this thread. Then I realized that I have been suffering several hours today trying to understand suffering and still I do not grasp it! emoticon

RE: What is Suffering?
Answer
12/11/12 2:56 PM as a reply to John P.
John P:
Hi, I'm reading MCTB, and got a question related to the Three Characteristics.

I've been "meditating" (not so regularly) for about a year, and reading about the 3C, I realized how I was already perceiving no-self in things and a bit of impermanence, but I'm not so sure about suffering.
I tried re-reading this section in MCTB, but I still don't get it ):

From my point of view, to see no-self in things, is to see them as something that is not related to any self, as if it appears by itself.
And impermanence I see as how things come and go, seeing this with no attachment whatsoever.

But to me it seems an insatisfaction with the perceived things is a sensation itself. Isn't it after all?

Perhaps I'm already perceiving suffering in the way is meant, but don't realize it.
What is suffering after all? (from the 3C perspective)


I really dislike the word "suffering" as a translation of dukkha. Even from a practical point of view, it makes you think you should be looking for this awesome agony or profound unhappiness in things. Some people do have that experience, and the direct perception of it forces them into a profound spiritual experience (see Eckhart Tolle, for example). But I think it's difficult to find that degree of unhappiness in ordinary experience.

With regard to meditation, I'd follow Tommy's suggestions. But I'd offer this other suggestion, too: meditating is often annoying. There's stiffness, soreness, boredom. You want to change your posture, you want something to happen, you want to get up and do something else. Basically, you want things to be other than they are. For your purposes, that's "dukkha". It doesn't have to be more profound than that.

If you're doing the noting practice, you're going to get other forms of dukkha. There will be heat and itching, for example. See if you can just observe that without doing anything about it. See if you can observe the opposition between your wishes and the state of affairs. Try to understand it, not on an intellectual level, but at the level of pure, direct, simple seeing. Gradually your perception/attention will speed up, and you'll see it in finer and finer detail, in greater resolution. But for now, just know that that's what you're looking for. That's the component of your experience corresponding to dukkha.

RE: What is Suffering?
Answer
12/11/12 9:43 PM as a reply to John P.
The real reason imho for suffering is that this identity/self/being inside has to be and is forever 'on guard' - trying to defend and promote itself..each moment again..not one moment is it able to rest peacefully and that is why each moment of life is suffering..in short becoming/bhava/being leads to co-arising of suffering