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The Suffering of Others

The First Noble Truth of Buddhism teaches that life is suffering. In other words, life consists of disease, physical pain, mental anguish, aging, and ultimately death.

Yet at the same time, Buddhism teaches the virtues of compassion and empathy (to feel what others are feeling).

At first, I thought these two Buddhist tenets were at odds with each other. Now, I am no longer sure.

According to Buddhism, one must accept the suffering of one's own life to help reach enlightenment and thus eventually end their own suffering. To further reach enlightenment, one must also be empathic of others including their suffering.

I find it very difficult to only accept my own suffering yet only be compassionate of the suffering of others. Shouldn't I also accept the suffering of others? I think it is fair to reason that Buddhism is both compassionate and accepting of the suffering of others, even though I do not think Buddhism directly states this belief.

Now here is what I am confused about concerning Buddhism. Should the acceptance of suffering be taught to those who are suffering, even if they are not purposefully seeking an end to their suffering or even acceptance of their own suffering?

In my opinion, the passiveness nature of Buddhism's compassion does not aid individuals who are not seeking enlightenment to help end their suffering. Instead, Buddhism's compassion only attempts to ease the suffering of others through empathy.

In other words, I now realize that Buddhism does not attempt to end all suffering; but instead, Buddhism only attempts to end suffering for those seeking enlightenment.

by Phil for Humanity
on 10/10/2012

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