In Buddhist practice, we investigate the nature of suffering. One of the first things we may notice is our relationship to it. We may discover how we tolerate, avoid, or accept suffering in unhealthy ways. We may notice our aversion to suffering, which creates even more suffering.We may also notice how suffering functions in our lives. We might be using it as proof of or justification for inappropriate judgments about ourselves: e.g., that we are blameworthy, inadequate, or incapable. Identifying strongly with our suffering can become our orientation to the world. Occasionally people hang on to the identity “I’m a victim,” and want to be treated by others as a victim. We can use our suffering to get other people to respond to us in ways that may not be healthy.

However, being willing to investigate suffering and to look at it closely and nonreactively changes our relationship to it. We bring a healthy part of our psyche to the experience of suffering. Instead of being wrapped up in our suffering, lost in aversion to it, or shut off from it, we simply ask: “What is this?”

– Gil Fronsdal, Tricycle, Winter 2002

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Living Two Traditions

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