(Source: From a Zennist)
“All those feelings of suffering stem from “discontent”. If things do not turn out the way we want, we will feel miserable. Thus, to overcome the feelings of suffering, we should practise the method: not reviving the past, not dreaming of the future; dwelling in the present moment. This is the mindful practice to eliminate suffering.”
The Buddha taught that: “Hard is the winning of a human birth. Hard is the life of mortals.” However, many people harbour the intention of suicide, hoping to end current suffering. So, what should we do to overcome suicidal thoughts?
When does the feeling of suffering appear?
The feeling of suffering appears when our body suffers from pain, hunger and thirst or our appearance is not as we want it to be.
That feeling also arises when our talent or intellect is limited and inferior to that of others, when we don’t have enough money as expected, when our love is unrequited or when we are misunderstood, slandered or betrayed, etc.
All those feelings of suffering stem from “discontent”. Discontent means when something isn’t as we want it to be, it causes our suffering.
In real life, no one can have everything turn out the way they want. Even though we are the best at present, there will be someone better than us in the future. Even though we are the most beautiful at present, we will be eclipsed by a new beauty, sooner or later. The wealthiest person can still desire a piece of freedom of a monk. We think we love a person the most, but one day we will have feelings for someone else. And inevitable forces like aging, sickness and death go against our wishes. Everyone wants to stay young, healthy and alive forever, but aging, sickness and death come to all. Thus, we are bound to live with discontent all our life.
As long as there is discontent, there is suffering. Except for people who have attained liberation, everyone lives in discontent. Since the present is not what we expect, we want something better. Since we want the better, there exists development. Thus, we are not different from one another. Instead of self-pity, we need to think that everyone suffers their own way, depending on what they desire. Those who have many desires will definitely go through many feelings of suffering.
How to resolve the feeling of discontent and suffering
In this world, we always resolve discontent by expecting a better future, for example, a manual fan tires us so we want an electric fan; similarly, we want to replace our old-fashioned car with a new one, etc.
When improperly applied to some situations, the habit of resolving discontent by expecting something better in the future can give rise to suffering in the present. Let’s take an example of improving a relationship. Someone harms us and we try to be tolerant but they treat us worse, hence our suffering. When our loved ones betray us, we try to hold on to them, but to no avail, hence our suffering. When our business sustains a loss, the more we try, the more we fail and thus, we suffer, etc.
The Buddha taught us the method of ridding ourselves of suffering in the present to harvest better outcomes. That is learning to live in every moment of the present by contemplating: NOT REVIVING THE PAST, NOT DREAMING OF THE FUTURE; DWELLING IN THE PRESENT MOMENT. THAT IS TRULY NIRVANA.
How to resolve the feeling of suffering in relationships
When we are betrayed, we often think about the past: how we sacrificed ourselves for them, how we loved and took care of them, etc. This act of looking backwards gives rise to our suffering. It causes us to imagine that our lovers are having good times with someone else while we are left alone and ridiculed by our peers. Then we hope to find a way to win them back. It’s the wishful thinking that causes our feelings of suffering.
We should apply “living in the present” by practising mindfulness: We have this body and need to treat it well; we feed it when it’s hungry; clothe it when it’s hot or cold; let it rest and exercise appropriately to keep it healthy, etc. We should be mindful of eating when we are eating; be mindful of when our body gets dirty and we need bathing; when bathing, be mindful that we are bathing.
When unwelcome thoughts of those kinds of suffering come, let them go and get back to our present work.
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As for our parents and siblings, etc., we should also control our mind and act in a mindful way according to the present situation. Don’t mention what’s in the past or discuss what will come, etc. Act in that way in all situations. If we patiently adopt this practice within three to seven days, the agony will disappear and our spirit will be positive and optimistic, from which wisdom will arise, resulting in insightful solutions. And then, when we meet the one who has done us wrong, we will be able to treat them as a friend.
It may be awkward in the beginning, but the mental agony will lessen and our emotions will change. Therefore, we will be able to behave in a way that other people may find strange. But that is the truth, that is the path of emotional change, which leads to the change of mind and consequently the change of behavior. In Buddhism, it is explained that a change in sensation leads to a change in perception, which in turn changes our mind, and consequently, changes our consciousness. Continue practising mindfulness that way in one month, you will see many changes, which are the results of mindful practice. Although adopting such practice is hard at first as our mind is constantly controlled by idle thoughts of suffering, with patience, we can succeed. That’s a good habit helping us overcome and eliminate mental suffering.
How to resolve the feeling of suffering when we are struggling financially
When our business fails, we often revive the past: the golden days and luxuries that are long gone. And then we think about the future, about how we can face tomorrow, thus we suffer. All this looking back and forth will make us stuck. We should practise living in the present moment as mentioned above, maybe in one or two hours, at different times in the day. That way of practice will calm our mind, thus wisdom arises helping us come up with insightful solutions.
For example, there are people who fail in business, out of weariness, they let everything run its course, but then luckily they come up with a way to turn things around. In this case, it’s not luck, but it is their LETTING GO, that is, living in the present that eases their mind and frees it from greed and hatred. As a result, wisdom arises that in turn gives them clear thinking. As mentioned above, it’s the change in sensation that leads to the change in perception, in turn, leads to change in the mind and then change in consciousness. Consciousness belongs to wisdom.
Therefore, if you want to overcome suffering, adopt this practice: do not revive the past, do not dream of the future; dwell in the present moment. This is the mindful practice to eliminate suffering.
Will our death bring an end to suffering?
Where will people dying by suicide go?
According to the Buddha’s teachings, if we die with a mind full of suffering, we will fall into the three lower paths of reincarnation. For example, we may be reborn as sad ghosts and will stay sad continuously for all our lifetime. When we are humans, our sadness about what has happened can be discontinuous on the first day, and more discontinuous in the following days and then disappear altogether. But once reborn as sad ghosts, we will suffer from the continuous sadness throughout life without a second of interruption until the end of our lifetime. And being reborn in the animal realm or hell realm is also extremely miserable.
Suicide and its consequences
Suicide is also an act of killing, that is, taking one’s own life. Thus, the retribution in the three evil realms will be more intense.
Not only will people committing suicide suffer after death but they also cause those close to them to suffer. Consequently, when reborn as humans, they will suffer the separation from those they deeply love and poor health which causes pain to themselves.
Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh once taught that: “Many people often think that life is too miserable and weary, so it is best to die to end suffering. Death by suicide, however, isn’t the end of suffering. On the contrary, it will lead to even more suffering. Therefore, if someone has understood the Buddha Dharma, remember that even if life is stuck, never harbour the intention of suicide. Instead, remain patient to overcome suicidal thoughts, maybe it takes more than just one year, but even in three, five or ten years of patience, we must still live and cultivate good qualities. Therefore, according to Buddhist perspectives, under no circumstance should we have suicidal thoughts.”
Hopefully, people in desperation, in an impasse and with suicide intention can overcome suicidal thoughts by practising mindfulness and then regain balance in life.