Quaker Universalist Conversations

Pain and Suffering

Both Buddhism and Quakerism embrace paradox. The ways that each of these spiritual paths takes to get to higher and nobler living involves going deeper into the human experience.

Thus, the first of “The Four Noble Truths” of Buddhism is, oddly enough, “Pain exists.” And the first of the Quaker Meetings for Business were, significantly enough, Meetings regarding Sufferings.

Dharma Wheel

In fact, nowadays the only time that humans acknowledge being human is when we are in pain or the depths of sorrow/suffering. If we heed, rather than medicate or even transcend, this vulnerability, we are led from our pain and suffering to regret and reparation, or amending change.

Whether nirvana or peace, there are no shortcuts around our human/earthly condition. Even “holy indifference” is achieved by submissive immersion, not active dispersion, into that which both holds and releases us in our human poverty/vulnerability.

Each to his own incarnation,
Clem Gerdelmann

Image: “Dharma Wheel,” from the library of Triratna_Photos on flickr.


Actually, the first Noble Truth is more like Suffering exists. Through practicing the Noble Eightfold Path, one can learn how to be in pain (physical, emotional) without suffering. It’s a subtle difference, but an important one. I write a bit about the difference in this blog post: "Suffering… End of Suffering" .
Thank you, T., for this comment. In the blog post you refer us to, you write the following: Suffering doesn’t come from having emotions; it comes from feeling that the emotion you’re having isn’t right, from judging that emotion and labeling it. Just as one can be in physical pain and not be suffering, so one can be in the throng of despair and also not be suffering. This Friend speaks my mind. Blessings, Mike
Friends seem to do lots of work with communities that suffer. How do Buddhists participate in helping to alleviate the suffering of communities in pain?
Free, I can not speak for Buddhists, even though I can value their insight into the religious venture, but would point you to my blog, The Wait of the World on www.quakerquaker.org for your (possible) answer.
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