The Cause of Suffering

The Cause

Rather than positing that the existence of suffering results from personal defect, Buddhism delineates three basic causes of human suffering as Greed, Hatred (or Aversion), and Delusion.

Greed basically refers to the desire that pleasant experiences, things, etc. be of a nature that does not correspond to reality – i.e, that these experiences last beyond the natural arising and cessation.  The delusion in this scenario is that positive experiences should not dissipate.  Ultimately we come to view the cessation of the positive feeling tone to equate to suffering.

Clients may try and counter the natural cessation of positive experiences by employing outcome-oriented strategies to prolong these positive feelings.  When he or she eventually finds these efforts to be unsustainable, he or she will often realize that help is needed to become realigned with the nature of things and experiences to simply arise and pass away. 

Hatred refers to the internalized strategy to insulate one from unpleasant experiences.  It is conceived as a “pushing away.”  When a life situation gives rise to “unpleasant” feelings, we react based on the assumption that what is happening should not be happening.  Additionally, we come to develop avoidance strategies in an attempt to prevent similar situations from arising in the future.

Whether acting out of “greed” or “hatred,” one is fundamentally at odds with the nature of things in any given moment to arise and pass away in the natural course.  Thus, on a basic level, Buddhist psychology posits that suffering arises and is exacerbated when one relates to the unfolding of life from an internalized judgment that life should be different than it is in the moment.