Why Do We Suffer?

Guest Article on Suffering and Releasing Suffering

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by Neva J. Howell unless otherwise noted

The Cause of Suffering
The cause of suffering is desire. So taught the Buddha 2500 years ago. This was his second Noble Truth called samudaya, meaning arising. It is desire and associated feelings that arise within us as a response or reaction to our affliction, challenges or suffering.

As long as we are alive we will always respond to what we experience. The initial responses are automatic reactions. These reactions need to be acknowledged, accepted and understood before any conscious decisions can be made regarding action.

Everyone has needs and feelings. An enlightened person too has needs and feelings. So don’t think that if you eliminate needs and feelings you will be enlightened. You, in fact, would be deluded.
Desire is necessary to help us grasp life in order to experience it more fully. The purpose of desire is to take us to the need, but usually our desire is a longing for things to be other than what they are. When desire is not used as an indicator to reveal and fulfill need, it will cause suffering, because we are using it for something other than what its purpose is.

Desires are of two types: cravings and aversions, both of which lead to suffering. It is through these opposite attachments that we lose ourselves and lose the reality we are experiencing. We thus end up with inauthentic and superficial living. The suffering that results is to get us to live more deeply and to become more authentic.

Living authentically means, in this application, to attend to what arises within us in a welcoming way, seeing that what arises is the need we have. To attend to the need is not the means to enlightenment. Attending to the need is enlightenment. Denial, shame, escapism, manipulation in relation to what arises is anti- enlightenment.

The path to enlightenment involves the complete acceptance that suffering (dukkha) in the form of being born, working, handling relationships, growing old, and so on is an essential part of what makes us human. Desiring to escape from this reality, rather than embracing it as part of our journey inhibits our learning and blocks our expansion of consciousness.

There is a solution to the suffering we experience, which is to let go of desire and to practice detachment so that compassion may flow and the Divine Presence be contacted. This is our topic for the next Soul Perspectives.

1. Make a list of your cravings and another list of your aversions. Reflect on the consequences of each with regard to the quality of your life.
2. When desires arise within you, identify the need behind the desire. Then attempt to respond to the need rather than to the desire.

The Soul Journey Program – Education for Higher Consciousness

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