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What is the beginning of suffering?

Deepak Chopra
Alternative & Complementary Medicine
The beginning of suffering is often a refusal to look at how the situation really is. Several years ago some researchers conducted a study to find out how people deal with crisis when it unexpectedly arises. When the worst misfortune occurs -- when someone gets fired, has a spouse walk out, hears a diagnosis of cancer -- about 15 percent seek some kind of help from a counselor, therapist, or pastor. The rest watch TV. They refuse to even consider looking at the problem or opening it up to discussion with someone who migh thelp. The therapists behind the study were appalled by this deep denial, but I couldn't help thinking: Isn't watching TV a natural reaction? People instinctively try to blot out pain with pleasure.

Buddha faced the same situation many centuries ago. People at the time of Buddha were also trying to blot out pain because the monsoons didn't come and all their crops died, or their whole family perished in a cholera epidemic. Without TV they had to find other escapes, but the assumption was the same: Pleasure is better than pain; therefore, it must be the answer to suffering. Replacing pleasure with pain may work in the short run. Both are sensations, and if one is strong enough it can cancel out the other. But Buddha didn't teach that life hurts because of pain; it hurts because the cause of suffering hasn't been examined.

Someone can be sitting by the pool in Miami Beach, watching a favorite sitcom, eating chocolate, and being tickled with a feather at the same time. The person won't feel much pain, but could be suffering very deeply anyway. And the only lasting way out is to take steps that will confront the source of the suffering, the first step being a willingness to look at what is actually happening.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.