buddhist quotes on suffering

10 Buddhist Quotes On Suffering & Interpretations

Buddhist Quotes on Suffering From Speakers Of All Ages

In Buddhism, suffering, or Dukkha, is considered one of the Four Noble Truths and is seen as an inevitable part of life. It is believed that all beings experience suffering to some degree, and that the root of suffering is attachment and craving for things that are impermanent and subject to change. The Buddhist teachings offer a path towards ending suffering through the practice of mindfulness, wisdom, and compassion. In this article, we gathered 10 Buddhist quotes on suffering and provide our interpretations for you to ponder upon.

“Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” – Buddha

The essence of Buddhist philosophy that we are familiar with rests upon this simple quote. We are trapped in this body that knows pain, and we have to go through endless lifetimes to learn the lessons we are supposed to learn to advance to higher levels. Those lessons surely will bring pain, but it is our choice to react to the pain that causes our suffering.

When we cling to things or people that we cannot keep, or when we resist change and try to hold onto what is passing away, we create suffering for ourselves.

On the other hand, though, pain is terrifying. To those who survived trauma and abuse, pain is more than just “inevitable”. Pain followed them through a large part of their life, haunting them, becoming their demons, forcing them to go into a dark path, associating with the wrong crowd, and their life gradually spirals downward a dark hole. They are unable to escape the twisted memories caused by these traumas.

The story of Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad is a great example. All of the terrifying crimes Jesse went through in his drug-selling journey crushed him with immeasurable guilt. He could never drop the weights of consequences for his action out of his fate, and he had no other choice but to live with it for the rest of his life. Yet, in the final scene of El Camino, Jesse drove off to Alaska with a gentle smile on his face. We never know how Jesse Pinkman’s new life in Alaska was, but at least we know that he had made peace with his past and decided to become a new man. Jesse chose to no longer suffer.

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think, we become.” – Buddha

Thoughts are essentially energy. When you are angry, your inner thoughts get extra busy, running at a million miles per hour. Similarly, when you are depressed, your thoughts are filled with melancholy, becoming heavy, dragging you down.

Our thoughts are essentially just a way of interpreting the world around us. We are angry because we interpreted a certain idea to be in discordance with our inner world, and anger therefore rose as a way to radically reject that idea. Thought simply reflects how you see the world.

We are the result of what we thought. If a person views the world as a place filled with joy, peace, happiness, and little things to be grateful for, they will selectively accept and allow those specific things to go in their inner world. However, if a person views the world as a terrifying place filled with hardship, challenges, and suffering, they will selectively bring it into their inner world. Eventually, we see only what we want to see, and become what we want to become.

In that spirit, you can totally shift your lens towards a more grateful one. View the world as an amazing place where we simply come to hang out and explore while enjoying the experience. See it as a playground filled with opportunities to experiment and grow. Once you adopt the mindset, you will gradually be able to accept the beautiful things life has to offer to you and become that version.

So, basically, this Buddhist quotes on suffering should actually be “we choose to accept what we think, and eventually we become it”.

“The root of suffering is attachment.” – Buddha

Attachment leads to craving, and craving leads to suffering. It is our tendency to cling to things, people, or experiences that we perceive as pleasant or desirable. This attachment can take many forms, including attachment to material possessions, relationships, status, and even ideas and beliefs.

Attachment is useful for the ego. The ego wants to have a concrete sense of identity. I am this title, I possess this object, I own X, I have Y, I believe in Z. Without such labels and identifications, the ego doesn’t know what it is, and that is terrifying.

However, the nature of everything is constant change. Once an object ceases its existence, we fall into a crisis because we have attached a great part of ourselves to the object. It feels insecure to lose that attachment, while it is an illusion of permanence and stability. We come to believe that the things we are attached to will always be there for us and that they will bring us lasting happiness and fulfillment. However, this belief is fundamentally flawed because all things are impermanent and subject to change.

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When the things we are attached to inevitably change or disappear, we experience craving and desire for them to return or be replaced by something similar. This craving leads to suffering because it creates a sense of lack or incompleteness that we seek to fill. No matter how much we try to satisfy our cravings, we can never find lasting happiness because everything changes.

When a relationship ends, we are devastated because we have become so attached to the idea of having such a great person by our side. We don’t simply seek to reunite with that person. We seek to reunite with a part of ourselves that we lost.

The Buddhist path towards ending suffering involves recognizing the impermanence of all things and developing detachment from them. By letting go of our attachments and cravings, we can find freedom from suffering and cultivate a sense of inner peace and contentment that is not dependent on external circumstances.

“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.” – Dalai Lama

We are all interconnected and our inner state of being has a profound effect on the world around us. The beauty of this quote lies in its profound truth that peace can only be achieved in the external world if we have first found peace within ourselves. In order to create a world that is peaceful, harmonious, and full of love, we must first cultivate these qualities within ourselves.

A beautiful example of this concept can be seen from the movie “The Shawshank Redemption”. In the film, the character of Andy Dufresne (played by Tim Robbins) is wrongfully convicted of murder and sent to Shawshank State Penitentiary. Despite the bleak and oppressive environment of the prison, Andy manages to find inner peace through his love of books and his unwavering hope for a better future.

Through his perseverance and dedication, Andy is able to make peace with himself and find a sense of inner tranquility, despite the harsh circumstances of his external world. He remains optimistic, kind, and compassionate towards his fellow inmates, even in the face of adversity.

In the end, Andy’s inner peace not only transforms his own life but also has a ripple effect on those around him. He inspires others to find hope and meaning in their own lives, and through his actions, he helps to create a more peaceful and harmonious environment within the prison.

“The Shawshank Redemption” beautifully illustrates the power of inner peace and how it can radiate outwards, transforming not only our own lives but also the world around us. When we make peace with ourselves, we become a beacon of light and hope in a world that so desperately needs it.

“To be identified with your mind is to be trapped in time: the compulsion to live almost exclusively through memory and anticipation.” – Eckhart Tolle

Such an amazing quote on being present in the Now. When we become overly identified with our minds, we can lose touch with the present moment and get caught up in a cycle of memory and anticipation that can leave us feeling trapped and disconnected from our inner selves.

To Eckhart Tolle, get caught up in “memory” means being unable to let go of the past. It is indeed a beautiful experience to be reminisce of the “good ol’ days” and relive the peaceful days of the past. But, to some people, “the past” is just too comfortable and too good to let go. For others, “the past” is more like a collection of horrible mistakes and failures and shitty experiences that they can never forgive themselves for. They either cling onto the beauty of the past or unable to escape the horrors of the past, and both of those experience is equally suffering.

On the other hand, get caught up in “anticipation” is the anxiety for the unknown future. We look forward to a non-existent future. Yes, it’s great to hope, but when your hope doesn’t turn out to be what we want, we are devastated. Hope is just the projection of our desires. We are constantly worried, anxious, not knowing how things might turn out.

While in fact, the past or the future doesn’t exist. What truly exists is the Now.

Even if you’re preparing for the “future”, you are preparing in the Now. Only this very moment exists, and that moment stretches into infinity.

Such realization is, in a way, liberating, and it allows us to live consciously.

“Suffering is like the wind, it comes and goes.” – Pema Chödrön

Suffering, just like the wind, is a natural and impermanent force in our lives that ebbs and flows. Suffering may blow in like a sudden gust of wind, causing us to feel unsteady and off-balance, but it can also dissipate just as quickly, leaving us in a state of calm.

To better understand this concept, imagine a large tree that has weathered many storms throughout its long life. When the wind blows fiercely, the tree sways and bends under the force of the wind, its branches thrashing about wildly. Despite the intensity of the wind, the tree remains rooted in the ground, firmly anchored by its deep roots. Eventually, the storm passes, and the wind calms down, and the tree stands tall once again, its branches still and peaceful.

Similarly, when we experience suffering, we may feel like we are being battered by the strong winds of emotion and pain. We may feel like we are about to be uprooted, but just like the tree, we can remain anchored in our inner being, our true nature. By allowing the storm to pass, we can experience a sense of calm and peace that comes from the recognition that the winds of suffering are impermanent and transient.

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“Suffering is the mud out of which the lotus of compassion grows.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

This quote suggests that suffering can be transformative and lead to positive growth. It implies that by going through difficult times, we can develop a greater capacity for empathy and compassion towards others.

In Buddhist philosophy, the lotus flower is often used as a symbol of enlightenment and spiritual purity. It is believed that the lotus flower, with its ability to grow out of muddy waters and emerge unscathed, represents the possibility of overcoming the suffering of the human condition and achieving spiritual awakening.

Similarly, our experiences of suffering and pain, while difficult and uncomfortable, can actually help us to develop empathy and compassion for others who are also struggling. When we face our own suffering with mindfulness and self-awareness, we can cultivate a deeper understanding of the human condition. We have gone through the hardship ourselves, so we learn to see ourselves in others who went through the same hardship like us. This is the foundation of compassion.

Instead of avoiding or trying to escape from our suffering, we can embrace it as an opportunity for growth and transformation. The mud of our suffering can become the fertile ground from which the lotus of our compassion can grow and bloom.


“The root of suffering is not to be found outside ourselves but within.” – Ajahn Amaro

We tend to believe that our suffering was caused by the people and events around us. We blamed others for our pain and felt like a victim of circumstance. Sometimes indeed others brought us pain, but sometimes it was us that brought ourselves pain. It was our reaction towards the world that fuels suffering in our life.

It wasn’t until we started to look within and examine our own thought patterns and beliefs that we can begin to understand the true root of our suffering.

Through meditation and mindfulness practices, we should start to see how our own negative thoughts and emotions were contributing to our suffering. We will begin to notice how our attachment to certain ideas, people, and outcomes was causing us to feel anxious, frustrated, and sad.

Have a look at yourself. Ask yourself:

  1. What am I afraid of losing?
  2. What do I get overly attached to, even if it’s not good for me?
  3. What beliefs or ideas do I cling to, even if they no longer serve me?
  4. What possessions do I have difficulty letting go of?
  5. What relationships or people do I feel possessive or overly attached to?

By honestly examining our answers to these questions, we can gain a better understanding of our attachments and begin to work on releasing them. True freedom from suffering comes from within.

The teachings of Buddhism remind us that the nature of life is impermanence and that attachment to anything is the root cause of pain. By letting go of our attachments and cultivating inner peace and equanimity, we can transform our suffering and find true happiness and liberation. This is the wisdom that Ajahn Amaro’s quote encapsulates.

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“The purpose of suffering is to awaken the heart and mind to the interconnectedness of all things.” – Thubten Chodron

We are inherently connected to everything. Although we might think that we are separated from everything else, in fact we are not. We are also made from millions of atoms, just like the tree, the river, the Sun, and almost everything out there. Materials from the universe were selected and magically combined to create our body.

Suffering is a messenger that comes knocking on the door of our consciousness, inviting us to wake up from the slumber of illusion and delusion that keeps us chained to the fleeting pleasures and pains of the world. It is a call to transcend the limitations of the ego-self, which imagines itself to be separate from the rest of reality, and to remember our true nature as interconnected and interdependent beings.

Suffering is not a punishment or a curse, but a catalyst for growth and transformation, a gift that helps us to see through the veils of ignorance and to realize the inherent beauty and goodness of existence. When we embrace our suffering with openness and compassion, we can discover the hidden treasures of wisdom and love that lie within us, waiting to be revealed.

“The seed of suffering in you may be strong, but don’t wait until you have no more suffering before allowing yourself to be happy.”

This Buddhist quote on suffering is so simple yet so profound. You don’t have to suffer, like, at all. You don’t have to suffer, and you can always enjoy life at literally ANY moment. Just allow yourself to be happy. Enjoy the tiny little things in your life. To wait until the seed of suffering is uprooted entirely before allowing ourselves to experience happiness is to live a life of self-imposed imprisonment.

True happiness is not dependent on external circumstances, nor is it merely the absence of suffering. Rather, it is a state of being that arises from within, a deep and abiding peace that is independent of the fluctuations of the world around us. To deny ourselves happiness until our suffering is eradicated is to deny our true nature as spiritual beings, and to give power to the very source of our suffering.

Instead, we must learn to cultivate happiness even in the midst of our suffering. We must recognize that our suffering is a call to awaken to our higher selves, to transcend the illusions of ego and separateness, and to realize that our true nature is one of love, compassion, and interconnectedness with all that exists.

So, let us not wait until the seed of suffering is uprooted before we allow ourselves to experience the joy and beauty of life. Let us water the seeds of happiness within us, and allow them to grow and flourish, even in the midst of our pain. For in doing so, we will find that our suffering becomes a catalyst for growth and transformation, and that the light of our true nature shines ever brighter in the world.

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