Pain is Inevitable, Suffering is Optional

Gautama Buddha is no stranger to us. His famed words of enlightenment are thrown around social networks with varying hashtags and spelling mistakes.

buddha quote

In fact, the very title of this post is a prime Buddha quote and also a prime foundation of his teachings.

He proposed the Four Noble Truths which all revolve around overcoming “dukkha” (“suffering” in Sanskrit).

Whilst other scientists may have deduced formulae and dissected body parts to educate us about life, Buddha guides us on how to live. Both are important. The only difference is that the former is taught in universities and the latter is something we need to teach ourselves.

Now this isn’t some “holier than thou” sermon, but with the inevitable cycles of sadness that envelop our life, we can all use some enlightenment every now and then. 

A Twitter user (@debihope) once stated – “Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self esteem, first make sure you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes.” The user wrote that tweet based on a past boyfriend and it went viral. (For the record, this quote does not belong to Freud or William Gibson)

From experience, I can tell you that the folks who are generally cheerful are the ones who get burned out the most. It’s not that they have some special stock of weed that makes them oblivious to pain, but they realize that humor is a sound remedy for overcoming it. In other words, they choose not to suffer, despite their sufferings. [Personally, I tend to release my inner Chandler when things get too serious]


The other extreme is what JK Rowling best describes as “dementors.” They tend to sap your happiness and spread negativity wherever they go.

Using the wisdom imparted by Buddha and random strangers like Debi on the internet, the goal is to be the former and avoid the latter. In short, we can overcome our “dukkha” by adopting a more asshole-free environment.

This isn’t easy for obvious reasons. It requires a great degree of mental preparedness and since dukkha surfaces in different contexts and intervals, we can’t always be ready for it. A loss of a loved one, job loss, difficulties with kids or a beloved etc, can make us feel helpless, beaten down, and dispirited.

Though no one can really be an expert on these matters, we can only share our experiences as tokens of understanding.

A beautiful example of this is when I served as a school teacher last week and witnessed two high school students giving a presentation about suicide prevention and awareness. They shared their personal stories of being bullied for their appearance and sexuality. One student was a transgender and recounted his journey of being born as a girl but coming out as a boy when he was 14. He thanked the support of his family, close friends, and school administration for helping him. The other student was of mixed race and her bully used derogatory words to offend her. After reeling through depression, she finally confided in the school guidance counselor and was able to end the torment. They also showed a picture of one boy who had unfortunately taken his life and reminded everyone that they are loved, and suicide hurts all those who loved you.

golden gate bridge

As I weather my ups and downs, below are 3 things that helped me and I hope they serve as some reprieve for you.

  1. Accept that some things are out of your control

    No matter how much my family thinks about going back in time to save my dad, no one can change the present.
    If you don’t land the position after an interview or a beloved ends a relationship, learn to not take it too personally. Perhaps the employer had a certain personality in mind, or the beloved was not ready for commitment.Now, there are things you can take charge of such as pursuing hobbies that help you feel better. My personal favorites are reading and jump-roping. My toned body isn’t a bad side-effect either 🙂A lot of what happens is dependent on the intricate functioning of the universe. Sometimes the situation is ideal, but the timing isn’t and vice versa. When you relieve yourself of unwarranted anxiety or fear, you can breathe easier. I am still working on this.
  2. Realize that we may have to unlearn some of the suffocating concepts that have been ingrained as norms and relearn new ideas based on the lessons life throws at us

    To give you some context, we have always been taught to respect our elders. However, if an elder causes some physical or mental harm to your well-being, you need to voice your concerns and take action, as needed.Another example is challenging societal expectations that hinder progress. I want my brother and I to enjoy the same liberties. It would be unfair if I got out of doing some chore because I am a girl or he enjoyed the freedom to travel abroad simply because he is a boy. Some societies may still question the girl more about her whereabouts and dressing sense than a boy, but it does not make it OK. By questioning such regressive norms, we can change them.

  3. Sacrificing for others does not mean you stop taking care of yourself

    This is, by far, the most important. Sacrifices and compromises are part and parcel of maintaining healthy relationships. The hubby may cook a few nights so you can rest and you may go earlier to work so you can pickup the kids for their afternoon soccer practice. We have to forego some of our own interests to help others and many times, it is out of love. But if we sideline our needs for too long, we allow ourselves to get burned out.Women tend to over-sacrifice to meet expectations at the expense of their own health. Like my female Asian boss once told me, “You don’t need to get a perfect report card with everyone. It’s ok to get an F here and there so as long as you take care of yourself.” Not only was she an excellent boss and a wonderful mentor, but a mother of two young girls too. Her words resonated with me and it made me realize that if I don’t take care of my needs, I, too, will become dependent on someone else. So folks — take that mental break! Go out for a run, read a book, catch up with friends, get your massage etc.

Below, I have listed some things that I look forward to as a living soul. Feel free to make your list own to remind yourself of the wonders life has to offer.

  1. Eating dosa and sambhar
  2. Reading a new book
  3. Dancing for fun
  4. Watching the next Kangana Ranaut movie
  5. Watching the next movie that stars Benedict Cumberbatch or Abhay Deol!!! 😉
  6. Sunrise and sunset
  7. Eating ice-cream at beaches
  8. Getting married and loving my hubby
  9. Being loved by my hubby
  10. Having babies and watching them grow up
  11. Playing with my kids or kids in general (though the part about them making myriad Instagram and Facebook profiles is actually kind of scary haha!)
  12. Celebrating festivals with friends and family
  13. Going for a run and feeling pumped right after
  14. Meeting my idol, Sunitha Krishnan (founder of Prajwala) someday
  15. Re-watching great episodes of Friends or Sherlock Holmes
  16. Eating Chipotle
  17. Eating Thai food
  18. Eating dark chocolate
  19. Eating pizza
  20. Eating gol gappe, papdi chaat, paneer tikka, tandoori roti, rasmalai, gulab jamun, falooda milkshakes, lychee kulfis….

Ok, you can tell where this is going LOLOL

Many of you who read my page are strangers to me. If it helps, I would be happy to hear about your struggles and stories.

Depression is a growing concern for all age groups and even just talking about your problems can make a positive impact. One should not tell a depressed person to simply stop thinking a certain way, as if it is some on/off switch in the brain. Treat depression like a physical illness. Would you tell a person who was bleeding to simply think away their pain?

Feel free to write an anonymous comment or send me a message on my kismatandkarma facebook page. I am here to listen 🙂

Thanks for reading. Namaste.

This entry was posted in Biology, Buddhism, Environment, Health & Nature, Science & Nature, spirituality and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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