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Gifted_With_Languages's avatar

Do you agree with the idea that all suffering in life is caused by desire or that life in itself is suffering?

Asked by Gifted_With_Languages (1129 points ) January 23rd, 2013

To be honest,if you ask me,I honestly believe that life itself is made up of suffering—if you have not suffered, then you have not eat learned to appreciate the goodness in your life. You can suffer but not from desire—there are many people who have suffered unwillingly without desire being the root cause of it.

What is your attitude to that?

I appreciate your attention.

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19 Answers

Shippy's avatar

It is said that you do not see the highs, if you have not suffered the lows. And one mans suffering is anothers mans daily occurrence. I am not sure what its relationship is to desire though?

rojo's avatar

I do not believe that life in and of itself is suffering.
Life simply is.
Suffering is a very personal perception to some aspect of life.
It can be something that is happening to you or something that you recognize as happening to others but your version or identification of suffering is different from everyone elses. There are some things that you may consider suffering the someone else does not and vice-a-versa.

tups's avatar

I don’t agree that life is suffering. Suffering is a part of life. If you have not suffered, you have not lived. Would there be suffering, if there were no life? I don’t know, I don’t know how it feels to not be alive. Does anybody know that? I guess not. Then how can they know what the alternative is? They can not, therefore it’s hard to tell what life is. But I think @rojo‘s answer is very true, life just is.

Does suffering come from desire? Yes, some suffering does. If you’re suffering because the one you love just left you, it comes from the desire to be with that person. If you’re suffering because your dreams can’t come true, you’re suffering because you have a desire for them to be true. If you’re suffering because you have no home or no food, then I guess you could say you’re suffering because you have a desire for a home and for food. I would say you’re suffering because, without food, you can’t survive. But then you could say, that it all comes down to a desire to live.

I don’t think desire has to be a bad thing. I have desire in my life. I don’t want to sit back and live my life in apathy.

bookish1's avatar

I think that life itself is suffering. I am still inclined to be sympathetic to the Buddha’s insight that desire is at the root of suffering, but I also think that he was not able to foresee the kinds of suffering that humans in the future would be capable of inflicting upon each other.

burntbonez's avatar

These tautologies (life is suffering) sound like you are saying something meaningful, but in fact they mean anything you want. No one defined suffering. No one defined life. It’s like saying, “God is love.”

Suffering is a normative statement about life. It is a personal statement. I think people say these things as part of the meaning-making process. Struggle gives us meaning because it provides a direction to move in—a problem to solve; an obstacle to overcome.

You could equally easily say that life is a bowl of cherries. All our “problems” are gifts to keep us interested. We live in a smorgasbord of delightful events that challenge us. Two different perspectives on the same thing. You pick. All depends on which attitude you are more comfortable with. Some of us actually do both at the same time.

tups's avatar

@burntbonez You say that a statement like “life is sufferig” is a part of the meaning-making process. It might be for some people.
The “life is suffering” statement comes from Buddhism and as far as I’m concerned (I might be wrong), the original Buddhist thought is that life is not meaningful. Life is Samsara, you want to make it to Nirvana. Life is suffering, you must reach enlightenment. You must get rid of attachment, aversion and ignorance in order to reach this.

Pachy's avatar

I don’t think I agree with either postulation. Without getting into God/religion, I believe that life simply is, and what happens to each us along the way, which we perceive as either joy or suffering and how we deal with both, is simply a part of living.

marinelife's avatar

Suffering comes into life by chance like joy. It is not of life.

KNOWITALL's avatar

I’ve always thought so, for a lot of us at least.

thorninmud's avatar

“Life is suffering” is a misleading way of putting it. That makes it sound like we never experience joy or pleasure, which, for most of us at least, is manifestly not the case. The common experience is that life is a mixed bag of ups and downs.

A better way of stating what the Buddha was getting at is that nothing is capable of giving lasting satisfaction. His original teaching was that all phenomena are marked by “dukkha”, a difficult-to-translate Pali word that can mean simply “unsatisfactory” or “stress-causing”.

This is closely linked to his other teaching, that all things are impermanent; things come and go. This constant shifting means that we can never find lasting ease in any particular set of circumstances. Even when things are “going great”, we’re aware of the precariousness of the joy that comes from those favorable circumstances, and that it can’t last. That causes unease—dukkha. And of course, when things are going badly, we can’t wait for things to change.

The gist of the teaching, then, is that we find ourselves constantly wishing either that pleasant things will stay the same (which they can’t), or that unpleasant things will go away. This wishing is the “desire” part of your question. We’re always wishing things were otherwise, fighting the natural way of things. Thus our inability to find lasting ease.

Coloma's avatar

I like the saying that “pain happens, suffering is optional.”
We may not be able to avoid the natural pain of living, death, illness, disaster, crisis, but…we CAN choose our attitude. We can kick and scream and rage against reality or we can accept and go with the flow and the unfoldings.This brings to mind another saying….
” When you fight with reality you suffer.”

Life is uncertain and learning to live with uncertainty elevates one above neurotic attempts to control and know the outcome of things that are beyond our control.
I do agree that attachment to desire plays a large part in human suffering.
If ones identity is too enmeshed with the need for external props, approval, looks, money, material items etc. the house of cards ( psychically speaking ) is a flimsy structure that lives with the ever present threat of collapse which in turn causes ones ego to take a nose dive.

@thorninmud ‘s last paragraph says it all.

burntbonez's avatar

@tups, Even a statement like life is not meaningful is a meaning-making statement.

tups's avatar

@burntbonez How is that? I do not disagree with you, I’d just like to here your reason.

burntbonez's avatar

Either it is self-evident, or I can’t help you. I’m sorry. If you can’t see that saying life is not meaningful is making a meaning (or non-meaning) out of life, I don’t know what else to say to explain it. Maybe someone else could help.

tups's avatar

*hear

ETpro's avatar

I do not believe life is suffering. @tups put it well. Life has its highs and its lows. It’s not all one or the other.

Further, desire can motivate life to good as well as evil. The Aramaic word, “mammon” means worldly things. Lust for more money, sex, power, drugs, etc is the lust for mammon, and it is the root of suffering. Let’s not confuse that with the desire for good. Humans desire to cure disease, and some succeed to the benefit of us all. Humans desire to help the least fortunate among us. Many do, and alleviate a great deal of suffering through that desire. So the problem is not desire. Desire motivates all actions. Whether it leads to good or evil depends on what is desired.

Suffering also exists in life quite outside any desire. When an epidemic of debilitating disease sweeps a land it brings enormous suffering quite independent of any desire of those sickened or those robbed of loved ones who die in the event. The tsunami that destroyed so much of Japan brought great suffering. No untoward desire caused that. Tectonic plate movement was the cause of that disaster.

Mariah's avatar

No, not all suffering is caused by desire. If you tell me my body malfunctioned as punishment for some evil desire I had at age 14, I’m liable to rip your head off.

I agree it is much harder to appreciate the good things in life without experiencing some shitty stuff. I wouldn’t say “life in itself is suffering” though. Life is a lot of things.

wundayatta's avatar

“Life is this.” “Life is that.” These are kind of argumentative statements. Propositions. They give us a perspective from which to view life. A point of view can be helpful, but you always have to remember that when you select one point of view to take a stand from, you are leaving out an infinite number of other points of view that are equally valid.

Life is suffering. Life is a box of chocolates. Life is good. Life is long and then you die. How many other statements about life have you heard?

I love life because without life, there is nothing. Not even an awareness of nothingness.

However unrelenting psychic pain is enough to make me consider giving up life. Consider. For a moment. Fortunately, it didn’t last.

Life is precious. Life is all there is. Life is meaningless. Life is everything. Life sucks.

I’ve heard many different things and thought many different things and in the end, I really think these are just momentary platforms. They are mental costumes. They are fleeting and don’t mean much.

In the end, life is what you live and how you live it.

flutherother's avatar

Desire isn’t necessarily bad, it depends what we desire. We can desire all sorts of things some of which are good for us and some bad. Life isn’t suffering or why would we want it so much.

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