Meditation Articles Series


What Causes Suffering?

14 Nov 2008

The Buddha worked it out when he said, “The degree to which you are attached is the degree to which you will suffer.” Well, that may not have been his exact words but that’s pretty much how I remember reading it somewhere. All sages, saints, philosophers, and even wise and dear friends who have already trodden the path of attachment say the same thing.

What Causes Us to Become Attached?

It seems to me that we become attached to people and things in the hope that they will make us happy. Yet the wise ones tell us again that our natural state of being is happiness. However, in childhood we are taken away from being ourselves by the conditioning forces around us. Our families, schools, religious affiliations, and our culture all have their own take on what we should and shouldn’t do, think, and believe. How often are young people told to strive, to get ahead in the world, and climb the ladder of success to gain wealth and status, when it may be their true desire to live a simpler life doing what they really love to do. When our attachment doesn’t get us what we want, or fulfil us in some way we become miserable. Being miserable we enter into a state of suffering.

What Happens to Us Because of Our Attachments?

Yes, we become miserable. We suffer. Sometimes we have so much invested in the person or thing we are attached to that we cannot break free, or extricate ourselves. We’re afraid of loss. We stay locked into a situation that is the cause of our misery and then we become stressed physically and emotionally. We become immersed in toxic emotions like shame, guilt, resentment, anger and even hatred. We look to blame the other, or judge the other as causing our pain. We become like a drowning person clinging to the side of a boat.

How to Stop Suffering

The boat can be seen as a symbol of our life. To stop suffering we need to climb into the boat, or into our own life. To do that my dear spiritual mentor suggests that we face Reality. Reality is what is, and so we need to take stock of the situation. Sometimes we may have become so emotionally distraught that we cannot see beyond our own suffering. At this point it may be appropriate to seek counselling from someone trustworthy who can remain objective and help us steer a safer course. If we do manage to break free of the attachment we may have to undergo a time of grieving and readjustment. If we stay focused on what is correct for us we will end our own suffering. It requires great strength and courage to do what is right for ourselves. If we don’t break free of attachment and it’s consequences, suffering and misery, we then live a life that sucks us of our energy, vitality, creativity and love.

Helpful Hints to End Suffering

If you are experiencing attachment that is unhealthy for you, you may find that it becomes a real struggle to meditate. I would suggest that you listen to some of Fragrant Heart’s relaxation audios. Also spend time in nature if you can. If not surround yourself with living plants indoors, or even pictures of nature. Also reduce the preoccupying and worrying thoughts that arise by doing something physical like going for a walk or dancing to music. Hold a vision of how you would like your life to be. Visualize this everyday. Have faith and trust that you will let go of the attachment that is binding you in suffering. Each day take action in some way. Even the littlest step toward your vision is a step toward being who you truly are, which is love and happiness.



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