When we turn our minds toward an honest reflection on the nature of suffering, what happens? We encounter a fuller experience of our life. The Buddha knew this and that is why he turned his mind directly toward suffering—the very thing most of us spend our lives trying to avoid. Through doing this, the Buddha illustrated to us that to behold suffering—to admit suffering into our experience—reflects the bravery we need to awaken. The Buddha called this reflection on suffering the First Noble Truth. We must know that the Buddha only called suffering a “truth” in order to acknowledge that living beings experience it. Suffering itself possesses no inherent reality. Essentially, like all “things,” suffering arises and falls away due to its dependence upon causes and conditions. Therefore, it has no identifiable boundaries. It is just another experience that cannot be objectified, captured, or pinned down. What is suffering before we objectify it? That’s a good question. 

From The Power of an Open Question by Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel © 2010.

Thank you for subscribing to Tricycle! As a nonprofit, to keep Buddhist teachings and practices widely available.

This article is only for Subscribers!

Subscribe now to read this article and get immediate access to everything else.

Subscribe Now

Already a subscriber? Log in.