To Live Is to Suffer - a Hindu/Buddhist Perspective

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Crestwell Jr., John T., Pastor, Is Buddhism Practical in Western Culture? Retrieved July 21, 2008 from http://www.dmuuc.org/minister/John/Buddhism.html McIntyre, Ray, A Basis for a Buddhist Ethic. Retrieved July 21, 2008 from http://buddhist-beliefs.suite101.com/article.cfm/a_basis_for_a_buddhist_ethic Molloy, Michael (2008) Experiencing the World’s Religions: Tradition Challenge, and Change. Boston: McGraw-Hill Higher Education. Sarma, P. Ravi, MD. Hindus: How does Hinduism explain suffering? Retrieved July 21, 2008 from http://en.allexperts.com/q/Hindus-946/Hinduism-explain-suffering.htm Sin and Suffering. (1994, December). Hinduism Today. Retrieved July 21, 2008, from http://www.hinduismtoday.com/archives/1994/12/1994-12-14.shtml V, Jayaram. The Four Universal Truths About Suffering. Retrieved July 21, 2008 fromhttp://www.hinduwebsite.com/divinelife/divinelaws7.asp



To Live is to Suffer. According to Molloy (Molloy 133), “birth is attended with pain, decay is painful, disease and death are painful.” I take this to mean that, since mankind has a physical body, we will experience suffering at many times during our Earthly lives. In this paper, I will present a basic discussion of the Hindu and Buddhist perspectives on living and suffering, interspersed with some of my own life experiences.

Hinduism and Suffering
Why is a soul born here on earth, and why does it suffer? In the Hindu belief system, every person is accountable for his or her actions (Sarma). Some people say that we create our own suffering. According to Jayaram, suffering arises out of our actions, inactions, reactions, thinking, conditioning, desires, attachment to earthly things, beliefs, attitudes and associations. Jayaram also says that suffering exists only in our minds. I tend to disagree with this last part of Jayaram’s argument. For instance, several years ago, I had a medical emergency that required immediate surgery to save my life. To the best of my knowledge, I did not do anything to bring this condition on. However, I suffered as a result of this condition, both in the hospital and during my recovery at home.

We suffer because of the way we think and act, the way we look at earthly things, and how we respond to life’s experiences. This I do agree with. As an example, I offer a family situation I am presently undergoing. I have not spoken with a large portion of my family since my mother’s death in 1995. Immediately following her death, I had a large and loud argument with certain members of the family about some of my personal dealings. Those family members have not spoken to me since, not even to notify me about the subsequent deaths of other family members. I have been suffering from this to this very day. I suffer from various physical and mental/emotional issues due to this family situation. According to Jayaram, my thinking and attitude towards suffering has trended into a rather familiar pattern and I have accepted and integrated it into the basic makeup of my personality.

However, according to Hindus, suffering can be a rather valuable educational tool. According to Jayaram, the aim of suffering is to make us whole and perfected and to guide us on the path to salvation. Much as a lump of gold ore that is refined repeatedly in the furnace, Hinduism believes that suffering is necessary as a prerequisite to one’s liberation from earthly confinement. I don’t know whether that is true. Maybe when I meet my God (I was raised in the Christian tradition) He will tell me why I have been made to suffer so during my life on this Earth. I hope he does, because I don’t understand why this is so. Maybe I have wronged someone in a previous existence and I am paying for it now.

Hinduism offers the believer some good news. According to Jayaram, suffering is short-term (in the grand scheme of things) and does not last long. Through our efforts and prayers, we can be delivered...
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