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Life is suffering... In order to end suffering... follow the Eightfold Path ...a path for accomplishing this. ~ Gautama Buddha

Suffering is an individual's basic affective experience of physical or mental unpleasantness and aversion associated with harm or threat of harm.

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  • For the good man is neither uplifted with the good things of time, nor broken by its ills; but the wicked man, because he is corrupted by this world’s happiness, feels himself punished by its unhappiness. Yet often, even in the present distribution of temporal things, does God plainly evince His own interference. For if every sin were now visited with manifest punishment, nothing would seem to be reserved for the final judgment; on the other hand, if no sin received now a plainly divine punishment, it would be concluded that there is no divine providence at all. And so of the good things of this life: if God did not by a very visible liberality confer these on some of those persons who ask for them, we should say that these good things were not at His disposal; and if He gave them to all who sought them, we should suppose that such were the only rewards of His service; and such a service would make us not godly, but greedy rather, and covetous. Wherefore, though good and bad men suffer alike, we must not suppose that there is no difference between the men themselves, because there is no difference in what they both suffer. For even in the likeness of the sufferings, there remains an unlikeness in the sufferers; and though exposed to the same anguish, virtue and vice are not the same thing. For as the same fire causes gold to glow brightly, and chaff to smoke; and under the same flail the straw is beaten small, while the grain is cleansed; and as the lees are not mixed with the oil, though squeezed out of the vat by the same pressure, so the same violence of affliction proves, purges, clarifies the good, but damns, ruins, exterminates the wicked. And thus it is that in the same affliction the wicked detest God and blaspheme, while the good pray and praise. So material a difference does it make, not what ills are suffered, but what kind of man suffers them. For, stirred up with the same movement, mud exhales a horrible stench, and ointment emits a fragrant odor.


  • Suffering is not necessarily a fixed and universal experience that can be measured by a single rod: it is related to situations, needs, and aspirations. But there must be some historical and political parameters for the use of the term so that political priorities can be established and different forms and degrees of suffering can be given the most attention.
  • The capacity to accept suffering for the sake of goodness, truth and justice is an essential criterion of humanity, because if my own well-being and safety are ultimately more important than truth and justice, then the power of the stronger prevails, then violence and untruth reign supreme. Truth and justice must stand above my comfort and physical well-being, or else my life itself becomes a lie. In the end, even the “yes” to love is a source of suffering, because love always requires expropriations of my “I”, in which I allow myself to be pruned and wounded. Love simply cannot exist without this painful renunciation of myself, for otherwise it becomes pure selfishness and thereby ceases to be love.
  • “You know, my dear, you’re wrong that suffering ennobles people.” She’d stopped to massage her hip, wincing. “It simply makes one cross.”
  • Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of suffering: birth is suffering, aging is suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering; union with what is displeasing is suffering; separation from what is pleasing is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering; in brief, the five aggregates subject to clinging are suffering.
    Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of the origin of suffering: it is this craving which leads to re-becoming, accompanied by delight and lust, seeking delight here and there; that is, craving for sensual pleasures, craving for becoming, craving for disbecoming.
    Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of the cessation of suffering: it is the remainderless fading away and cessation of that same craving, the giving up and relinquishing of it, freedom from it, non-reliance on it.
    Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering: it is this noble eightfold path; that is, right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.
  • 1. Dukkha: Suffering exists: Life is suffering. Suffering is real and almost universal. Suffering has many causes: loss, sickness, pain, failure, and the impermanence of pleasure.
  • 2. Samudaya: There is a cause of suffering. Suffering is due to attachment. It is the desire to have and control things. It can take many forms: craving of sensual pleasures; the desire for fame; the desire to avoid unpleasant sensations, like fear, anger or jealousy.
  • 3. Nirodha: There is an end to suffering. Attachment can be overcome. Suffering ceases with the final liberation of Nirvana (Nibbana). The mind experiences complete freedom, liberation and non-attachment. It lets go of any desire or craving.
  • 4. Magga: In order to end suffering... follow the Eightfold Path ...a path for accomplishing this.
  • Look, the rich are bankrolled/where your suffering begins
    • ¡Mira que el rico se afianza/donde tu pena se inicia
    • Canción de la verdad sencilla/Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia de Burgos translated by Jack Agüeros (1997)


  • Our sweat and our blood have fallen on this land to make other men rich. The pilgrimage is a witness to the suffering we have seen for generations.
  • This is the beginning of a social movement in fact and not in pronouncements. We seek our basic, God-given rights as human beings. Because we have suffered — and are not afraid to suffer — in order to survive, we are ready to give up everything, even our lives, in our fight for social justice.
  • We are suffering. We have suffered, and we are not afraid to suffer in order to win our cause. We have suffered unnumbered ills and crimes in the name of the Law of the Land. Our men, women, and children have suffered not only the basic brutality of stoop labor, and the most obvious injustices of the system; they have also suffered the desperation of knowing that the system caters to the greed of callous men and not to our needs. Now we will suffer for the purpose of ending the poverty, the misery, and the injustice, with the hope that our children will not be exploited as we have been. They have imposed hunger on us, and now we hunger for justice. We draw our strength from the very despair in which we have been forced to live. We shall endure.


  • Toil on, O weary, way-worn sufferer! bear up, O crushed and sorrowing heart! thy bed of pain, thy silent heroism, thy patient Christian walk, thy resignation, and thy grief, glow all unconsciously to thee with winning radiance, and fill the world with life's sweetest fragrance—as bruised flowers with perfume do the air.
    • Alexander Dickson, Beauty for Ashes (New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, 1878), p. 305.


  • If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death.
    • Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning (Boston: Beacon Press, 1959), p. 67
  • Pain is inescapable, and must be met with suffering. Suffering is raw and must be transcended with art. Art will be repudiated, giving out again the opportunity of pain.


  • … is the evil sufficiently horrible, it appears to be able to wipe out the good from the picture and make continued calculation redundant.… The worst in life, the fate of the completely unhappy, the uninterrupted, infernal suffering, the hopeless humiliation, a child who is slowly tormented to death – I cannot see that all the beauty in the world or even the most exceptional thoughts can ‘counterbalance’ such things, nor that other humans’ happiness and culture can do it either.… One can call this ‘the norm of the weight of evil’.… I cannot accept the thought that the worst in life can be counterbalanced by ever so many symphonies and welfare arrangements etc. or of … the superhumans’ coming existence.


  • Years of struggle and worry bring one no greater balance or insight. People may believe that suffering brings wisdom, but they ought to know better. All it brings is early senility.
  • One’s strategy in trying to defend or to attack the claim that God exists obviously depends on what is meant by “God.” It may be objected that it is not so difficult to isolate what might be called the popular conception of God. The problem of suffering is of crucial importance because it shows that the God of popular theism does not exist.
  • When does temporal suffering weigh most appallingly on a person? Is it not when it seems to him to have no meaning, procures and acquires nothing; is it not when suffering, as the impatient person expresses it, is meaningless and pointless? Does someone who wants to take part in a competition complain even if preparation takes ever so much effort; does he complain even if it involves ever so much suffering and pain? Why does he not complain? Because he, although running aimlessly, understands, or thinks he understands, that this suffering will procure the victory prize for him. Just when the effort is greatest and most painful, he encourages himself with the thought that the prize and that this specific suffering will help to procure for him.
    If, however, the suffering embraces a person so tightly that his understanding wants to have nothing more to do with it, because the understanding cannot comprehend what the suffering would be able to procure when the sufferer cannot grasp this dark riddle, neither the basis of the suffering nor its purpose, neither why he should be so afflicted more than others nor how this would benefit him-and he now, when powerless he feels that he cannot throw off the suffering, rebelliously casts away faith, refuses to believe that the suffering will procure anything-well, then eternal happiness certainly cannot have the overweight, because it is totally excluded.
    However, if the sufferer firmly holds on to what understanding admittedly cannot comprehend, but what faith, on the other hand, firmly holds on to-that suffering will procure a great and eternal weight of glory-then eternal happiness has the overweight, then the sufferer not only endures the suffering but understands that the eternal happiness has the overweight. (II Corinthians 4:17)
  • In a church somewhere here in our country, there is on the altar an artwork that presents an angel who holds out to Christ the cup of suffering. As you look at the picture, it does indeed make the impression that the artist wanted to produce; you lose yourself in this impression, because this was indeed that way it was, it was held out to him, the cup of suffering! But if you remained the whole day sitting by the altar in order to look at this painting, or if you looked at it every Sunday year after year – oh, is it not true, however piously you are always reminded of his suffering, also praying to him to remind you of it continually, is it not true that there will come a moment when everything infinitely changes for you, when the picture blessedly turns around, as it were, when you will say to yourself, “No, surely it did not last that long, surely the angel did not keep on holding out the cup to him; he took it willingly from the angel’s or obediently from God’s hand. He has indeed emptied it, the cup of suffering, because what he suffered he suffered once, but he is victorious eternally!”
    • Soren Kierkegaard, Christian Discourses, 1848 Hong 1997 p. 103
  • You must bear your karma cheerfully, whatever it may be, taking it as an honor that Suffering comes to you, because it shows that the Lords of Karma think you worth helping. However hard it is, be thankful that it is no worse.


  • The First Truth is an assertion that all manifested life is sorrow, unless man knows how to live it... the Cause of Sorrow is always desire. If a man has no desires, if he is not striving for place or power or wealth, then he is equally tranquil whether the wealth or position comes or whether it goes. He remains unruffled and serene.... Being human, he will of course wish for this or that, but always mildly and gently, so that he does not allow himself to be disturbed... the Noble Eightfold Path... can be taken at all levels. The man in the world, even the uneducated man, can take it in its lowest aspects and find a way to peace and comfort through it. And yet the highest philosopher may also take it and interpret it at his level and learn very much from it.
  • How often, for example, a young man desires affection from someone who cannot give it to him, who has it not to give! From such a desire as that comes often a great deal of sadness, jealousy and much other ill-feeling. You will say that such a desire is natural; undoubtedly it is, and affection which is returned is a great source of happiness. Yet if it cannot be returned, a man should have the strength to accept the situation, and not allow sorrow to be caused by the unsatisfied desire.
  • Certain broad facts are always put before men in some form or other. They are explained even to savage tribes by their medicine-men, and to the rest of mankind by various religious teachers and in all kinds of scriptures. It is very true that scriptures and religions differ, but the points in which they all agree have to be accepted by a man before he can understand life sufficiently to live happily. One of these facts is the eternal Law of Cause and Effect. If a man lives under the delusion that he can do anything that he likes, and that the effect of his actions will never recoil upon himself, he will most certainly find that some of these actions eventually involve him in unhappiness and suffering. If, again, he does not understand that the object of his life is progress, that God’s Will for him is that he shall grow to be something better and nobler than he is now, then also he will bring unhappiness and suffering upon himself, because he will be likely to live for the lower side of life only, and that lower side of life never finally satisfies the inner man.


  • Real cases of suffering ... tend to go unheard. This is not only because people who are genuinely suffering typically lack the resources with which to publicize their condition, but also because ... many forms of suffering deprive people of the very ability to express, sometimes even think, the fact that they are suffering.
  • A genuine Left doesn't consider anyone's suffering irrelevant, or titillating; nor does it function as a microcosm of capitalist economy, with men competing for power and status at the top, and women doing all the work at the bottom (and functioning as objectified prizes or "coin" as well). Goodbye to all that.
    • Robin Morgan Goodbye to All That, 1970 in Going Too Far: The Personal Chronicle of a Feminist, p 123.


  • No suffering is self-caused.
    Nothing causes itself.
    If another is not self-made,
    How could suffering be caused by another?

    If suffering were caused by each,
    Suffering could be caused by both.
    Not caused by self or by other,
    How could suffering be uncaused?


  • What is the light that can dispel this ignorance of ours and remove all sorrows? A. The knowledge of the Four Noble Truths, as the Buddha called them... How can we escape the sufferings which result from unsatisfied desires and ignorant cravings? A. By complete conquest over, and destruction of, this eager thirst for life and its pleasures, which causes sorrow.... By following the Noble Eight-fold Path which the Buddha discovered and pointed out...The man who keeps these... in mind and follows them will be free from sorrow and ultimately reach salvation.
  • Intense suffering may be a private, internal phenomenon, often hidden from the gaze or awareness of others, but it is the most viscerally overwhelming experience there is, pleading desperately for relief. There is nothing else that has greater urgency than preventing or relieving intense suffering – of human beings and, indeed, of any sentient beings capable of suffering. It is the single most important goal of a compassionate society.


  • For I consider that the sufferings of the present time do not amount to anything in comparison with the glory that is going to be revealed in us. For the creation is waiting with eager expectation for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not by its own will, but through the one who subjected it, on the basis of hope that the creation itself will also be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God. For we know that all creation keeps on groaning together and being in pain together until now.
  • If it is true that one gets used to suffering, how is it that as the years go one always suffers more?
    No, they are not mad, those people who amuse themselves, enjoy life, travel, make love, fight—they are not mad. We should like to do the same ourselves.
  • But the real, tremendous truth is this: suffering serves no purpose whatever.
  • You cannot insult a man more atrociously than by refusing to believe he is suffering.
  • It's easy to convince oneself that things can't really be that bad, that the horror invoked is being overblown, that what is going on elsewhere in space-time is somehow less real than this here-and-now, or that the good in the world somehow offsets the bad. Yet however vividly one thinks one can imagine what agony, torture or suicidal despair must be like, the reality is inconceivably worse. Hazy images of Orwell's 'Room 101' barely hint at what I'm talking about. The force of 'inconceivably' is itself largely inconceivable here. For even if one's ancestral namesakes [aka "younger self"] underwent great pain, then the state-dependence of memory means, right this moment, that the utter dreadfulness of suffering is semantically, cognitively and emotionally inaccessible to the author and site visitors alike.


  • For there are deeds
    Which have no form, sufferings which have no tongue.
Dr. Leonard McCoy: I never say that.


  • The pain that you create now is always some form of non acceptance, some form of unconscious resistance to what is. On the level of thought, the resistance is some form of judgment. On the emotional level, it is some form of negativity. The intensity of the pain depends on the degree of resistance to the present moment, and this in turn depends on how strongly you are identified with your mind. The mind always seeks to deny the Now and to escape from it. In other words, the more you are identified with your mind, the more you suffer. Or you may put it like this: the more you are able to honor and accept the Now, the more you are free of pain, of suffering - and free of the egoic mind.
    • Eckhart Tolle in The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment (1997) p. 26
  • When you create a problem, you create pain. All it takes is a simple choice, a simple decision: no matter what happens, I will create no more pain for myself. I will create no more problems. Although it is a simple choice, it is also very radical. You won' t make that choice unless you are truly fed up with suffering, unless you have truly had enough. And you won't be able to go through with it unless you access the power of the Now. If you create no more pain for yourself, then you create no more pain for others. You also no longer contaminate the beautiful Earth, your inner space, and the collective human psyche with the negativity of problem-making.
    If you have ever been in a life-or-death emergency situation, you will know that it wasn't a problem. The mind didn't have time to fool around and make it into a problem. In a true emergency, the mind stops; you become totally present in the Now, and something infinitely more powerful takes over. This is why there are many reports of ordinary people suddenly becoming capable of incredibly courageous deeds. In any emergency, either you survive or you don't. Either way, it is not a problem.
  • Why does the mind habitually deny or resist the Now? Because it cannot function and remain in control without time, which is past and future, so it perceives the timeless Now as threatening. Time and mind are in fact inseparable.
    • Eckhart Tolle in The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment (1997)
  • Many people live with a tormentor in their head that continuously attacks and punishes them and drains them of vital energy. It is the cause of untold misery and unhappiness, as well as of disease. The good news is that you can free yourself from your mind. This is the only true liberation. You can take the first step right now. Start listening to the voice in your head as often as you can. Pay particular attention to any repetitive thought patterns, those old gramophone records that have been playing in your head perhaps for many years. This is what I mean by "watching the thinker," which is another way of saying: listen to the voice in your head, be there as the witnessing presence. When you listen to that voice, listen to it impartially. That is to say, do not judge. Do not judge or condemn what you hear, for doing so would mean that the same voice has come in again through the back door. You'll soon realize: there is the voice, and here I am listening to it, watching it. This I am realization, this sense of your own presence, is not a thought. It arises from beyond the mind.
    • Eckhart Tolle in A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose, p. 17, (2005)
  • The modalities of awakened doing are acceptance, enjoyment, and enthusiasm. Each one represents a certain vibrational frequency of consciousness. You need to be vigilant to make sure that one of them operates whenever you are engaged in doing anything at all – from the most simple task to the most complex. If you are not in the state of either acceptance, enjoyment, or enthusiasm, look closely and you will find that you are creating suffering for yourself and others.
    • Eckhart Tolle inA New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose, (2005) Chapter 10
  • When you suffer, think not on how you can escape suffering, but concentrate your efforts on what kind of inner moral and spiritual perfection this suffering requires.


  • ... [M]uch suffering serves absolutely no function and entails no silver lining whatsoever, such as the suffering endured by countless individuals every second who are eaten alive while fully conscious and unable to escape, or the suffering entailed by debilitating chronic pain. The world contains vast amounts of such useless suffering, and we should all be able to agree that this suffering is worth preventing.
    • Magnus Vinding, Suffering-Focused Ethics: Defense and Implications (2020); the "countless individuals" to whom Vinding refers includes non-human animals.


  • Now and then, in the course of the century, a great man of science, like Darwin; a great poet, like Keats; a fine critical spirit, like M. Renan; a supreme artist, like Flaubert, has been able to isolate himself, to keep himself out of reach of the clamorous claims of others, to stand “under the shelter of the wall,” as Plato puts it, and so to realise the perfection of what was in him, to his own incomparable gain, and to the incomparable and lasting gain of the whole world. These, however, are exceptions. The majority of people spoil their lives by an unhealthy and exaggerated altruism—are forced, indeed, so to spoil them. They find themselves surrounded by hideous poverty, by hideous ugliness, by hideous starvation. It is inevitable that they should be strongly moved by all this. The emotions of man are stirred more quickly than man’s intelligence. … It is much more easy to have sympathy with suffering than it is to have sympathy with thought.
    • Oscar Wilde, “The Soul of Man Under Socialism,” Complete Works (New York: 1989), p. 1079
  • Suffering is admittedly one of the central problems of human existence; but this is because we have a suspicion that it is all for nothing. If we had a certainty about meaning, the suffering would be bearable. With no certainty of meaning, even comfort begins to feel futile.
  • He could afford to suffer
    With those whom he saw suffer.
  • Suffering is permanent, obscure and dark,
    And shares the nature of infinity.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 762-63.
  • To each his suff'rings; all are men,
    Condemn'd alike to groan;
    The tender for another's pain,
    Th' unfeeling for his own.
    Yet ah! why should they know their fate,
    Since sorrow never comes too late,
    And happiness too swiftly flies?
    Thought would destroy their paradise.
    • Thomas Gray, Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College (1742), Stanza 10.
  • Ho! why dost thou shiver and shake, Gaffer Grey?
    And why does thy nose look so blue?
  • And taste
    The melancholy joys of evils pass'd,
    For he who much has suffer'd, much will know.
    • Homer, The Odyssey, Book XV, line 434. Pope's translation.
  • I have trodden the wine-press alone.
  • Graviora quæ patiantur videntur jam hominibus quam quæ metuant.
    • Present sufferings seem far greater to men than those they merely dread.
    • Livy, Annales, III. 39.
  • They, the holy ones and weakly,
    Who the cross of suffering bore,
    Folded their pale hands so meekly,
    Spake with us on earth no more!
  • Perfer et obdura; dolor hic tibi proderit olim.
    • Have patience and endure; this unhappiness will one day be beneficial.
    • Ovid, Amorum (16 BC), III. 11. 7.
  • Leniter ex merito quidquid patiare ferendum est,
    Quæ venit indigne pœna dolenda venit.
    • What is deservedly suffered must be borne with calmness, but when the pain is unmerited, the grief is resistless.
    • Ovid, Heriodes, V. 7.
  • Si stimulos pugnis cædis manibus plus dolet.
    • If you strike the goads with your fists, your hands suffer most.
    • Plautus, Truculentus, IV. 2. 54.
  • Levia perpessi sumus
    Si flenda patimur.
    • We have suffered lightly, if we have suffered what we should weep for.
    • Seneca the Younger, Agamemnon, 665.
  • Those who inflict must suffer, for they see
    The work of their own hearts, and that must be
    Our chastisement or recompense.
  • Can it be, O Christ in heaven, that the holiest suffer most,
    That the strongest wander furthest, and more hopelessly are lost?


  • Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Angers leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.
    • Yoda, Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers

Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).
  • Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seamed with scars; martyrs have put on their coronation robes glittering with fire; and through their tears have the sorrowful first seen the gate of heaven.
  • There is seldom a line of glory written upon the earth's face, but a line of suffering runs parallel with it; and they that read the lustrous syllables of the one, and stoop not to decipher the spotted and worn inscription of the other, get the least half of the lesson earth has to give.
  • He knows the bitter, weary way,
    The endless striving day by day,
    The souls that weep, the souls that pray
    He knows!

    He knows! Oh thought so full of bliss!
    For though on earth our joy we miss,
    We still can bear it, feeling this,—
    He knows'

    He knows; O heart take up thy cross,
    And know earth's treasures are but dross,

    And He will prove as gain our loss!
    He knows.
  • Our merciful Father has no pleasure in the sufferings of His children; He chastens them in love; He never inflicts a stroke He could safely spare; He inflicts it to purify as well as to punish, to caution as well as to cure, to improve as well as to chastise.
  • Suffering is my gain; I bow
    To my Heavenly Father's will,
    And receive it hushed and still;
    Suffering is my worship now.
  • Not till I was shut up to prayer and to the study of God's word by the loss of earthly joys — sickness destroying the flavor of them all — did I begin to penetrate the mystery that is learned under the cross. And wondrous as it is, how simple is this mystery! To love Christ, and to know that I love Him — this is all.
  • Some of His children must go into the furnace to testify that the Son of God is there with them.
  • The cross of Christ is the pledge to us that the deepest suffering may be the condition of the highest blessing; the sign, not of God's displeasure, but of His widest and most compassionate face.
  • In the highest class of God's school of suffering we learn not resignation nor patience, but rejoicing in tribulation.

See also

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