Buddha’s advice on dealing with pain
Tl;dr: the Buddha stresses the importance of the responsibility of the individual in its own suffering.
The Origin of the Buddha
Siddhartha Gautama was born in the 6th century before Christ in Nepal and died in the 5th century.
He was the son of a ruler that, to protect Siddhartha from the pain and suffering of the world, had forbidden him to escape the castle in which he lived.
One day though, he escaped and discovered a world of pain, ignorance, disease, and poverty.
Shocked, he decided to look for a way to end suffering on earth.
He first looked into Hinduism and practiced it for some years, starving himself to have a clearer mind or doing other extreme practices at the time preached by philosophy.
It didn’t work.
Gautama wasn’t getting any answer. So he went on to look for answers by himself.
He abandoned Hinduism, sat under a tree (the Bodhi tree), and meditated during the entire night.
When the sun rose, he reached awakening and subsequently became the Buddha, “the one that is awakened”.
He subsequently waited 40 days to think about how he was going to teach what he had learned. The beginning of his teaching is known as the setting in motion of the wheel of the Dharma.
Buddha taught four basic truths: life is suffering (1), this suffering has a root (2), you can find the root and end it (3), here’s how (4).
Originally, the Buddha didn’t want to teach what he had learned under the tree because he didn’t think people would listen or understand.
He was right. People neither listened nor understood.
When Gautama died, he asked for no subsequent leader to replace him, but that each of their followers be “their own light”. He wanted each of them to take the initiative to find the truth for herself by herself, not by listening to others (this is capital, and we’ll talk about it in a moment).
That didn’t happen, and Buddhism, like all religions, split into different “cults”, each with their own interpretation of what the Buddha had said.
Applying What the Buddha Taught
Life is suffering: at least, Buddha is honest. No stories of angels or virgins giving birth.
The Buddha recognizes the existence of pain in life. However, unlike other religions that sell their own gods to remedy pain, Buddha continues to expand on the topic. Suffering has roots.
This second revelation is rather positive.
If all pain has an origin, it means that pain does not randomly appear for no reason: you are not a random victim of your suffering. Pain is caused by something.
By suppressing the cause of the pain, the pain will go away.
This third truth may be the best because it shows that there is a path free from pain: the Eightfold Path.
Remember what the Buddha said before he died?
That must have been the most important lesson of his teaching: he said “be your own light”. Don’t follow a guru, don’t think what you’re told to think but think for yourself.
He said that the end of suffering is up to you which means that no one will do what you must do for yourself.
This is a stageering difference with other religions. While most of them advise prayers and redemption, the Buddha places emphasis on the individual to fix his own pain.
Buddha is entrusting the responsibility of yourself to yourself and while it is rather scary, it is also profoundly liberating. It means you’re free to do what you want with yourself.
Whatever you do though, you will have to pay for the consequences.
The Buddha does not speak to groups of people with his message. He’s speaking to individuals.
Pain intervenes and exists at the individual’s level and it is therefore at this level that pain should be dealt with.
How Does It Translate to Today’s Society?
Buddha’s teachings are transcending 2500 years with this simple message.
Look for your own truth.
Search what is real, question what you’re being told, don’t follow anyone and don’t agree with something before thinking deeply about it.
While this amount of freedom that the Buddha tells you to take is liberating, it doesn’t come for free.
You are the sole soul in charge of your body.
If you don’t seek the cause of your pain, if you don’t suppress them, no one will do it for you and you will suffer.
If you treat yourself badly, you will suffer.
In this life, you harvest the fruit of your labor.
Should you not work, you won’t harvest anything.
The Bottom Line
In a time of crisis of responsibility, the teachings of the Buddha may never have been so relevant.
The Buddha’s message is empowering and gives people back their right to do with their lives as they please.
Neither your time nor your body belongs to anyone else but you.
Should you misuse them though, you will have to suffer and pay for the consequences.
No one else will.
No one else should either.