Joy and Suffering

If Buddha said that life is joy, then nobody would have listened to him, because everybody can see that there is so much suffering going on. Buddha drew attention to life’s suffering, the cause and the cure, because he could see that, beyond the suffering, life was joyful and he wanted to help those who were suffering.

Life is both suffering and joyful, each in its turn. Each of us is born into this world, destined to experience both. As soon as we begin, we start to feel the suffering. When the suffering subsides, we feel the joy. That goes on and on until we die.

Throughout life, we spend our time trying to limit suffering and create joy. We begin to put values on suffering and joy. If we’re feeling joyful, we’re winning and if we’re suffering, we’re losing. If we often feel joyful, we feel good about ourselves and if we often suffer, we feel bad about ourselves. Religions, like Buddhism, develop to help us negotiate that transition from suffering to joyfulness with promises of constant joy. Then, as we practice, we feel like we are succeeding when we are feeling joy and failing when we are suffering. Winning, losing, good, bad, failing, succeeding, all add to the drama of joy and suffering.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to feel joy and not suffer. To limit suffering and find joy, you have to become adept at suffering. You are not bad, losing, or failing if you are suffering, you are only suffering. When you are suffering you need compassion, understanding, kindness, and help. Those things help bring about joy. Some of those things you can provide for yourself. Some of those things others will provide. There is great joy in receiving help when you are suffering. There is great joy in offering help when others are suffering.

If you are feeling joy, wonderful. If you are suffering, too bad. Try not to stain your joy by worrying about suffering and try not to deepen your suffering by wishing you were more joyful. Be patient. Live life. Engage with joy and suffering. Give and accept kindness. You’ll surely find the joy you need to manage all the suffering.

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