Reducing Suffering

     I was always intrigued with the Buddhist concepts that involved suffering and as is popularly said “Ending Suffering.” I don’t particularly think that it’s a great ideal. I do understand not clinging to suffering and certainly ascribe to the idea of reducing suffering. “Ending Suffering” always had that Madison Ave feel as a sort of advertising campaign. I mean who doesn’t want to end suffering on the surface of it? 

     Drilling a little deeper seems to open up some other aspects of suffering. Some suffering is necessary to enable us to see the beauty of the sadness of humanity. Some suffering exists so we can change our perspective from ego centric conditioning to an aware responsive ego. Some suffering will always exist. The idea of eliminating something totally is the same as saying that change will not exist. It’s another ideal that wastes lots of time processing. Things don’t last forever or disappear entirely. 

     Reducing suffering is a different story. We can always reduce our suffering. Gautama showed us how that works. We practice meditation to develop awareness of how much suffering is created as an artificial means to keep conditioned ego at the center of the universe. We, as spiritual warriors, work to see clearly the parts of our suffering that are not truthful but just fabrication. By seeing clearly they start to fade and diminish. By honest and open examination and awareness we reduce what used to trap us for what seemed like forever. 

     Are you aware of the model of harm reduction? It says I am successful if I REDUCE my suffering. We are successful if we can reduce each  others suffering. The unrealistic goal of ending something gives way to a more human and realistic goal of reducing in the most realistic way possible. 

      The main reason I wrote the book Visions of a People’s Dharma was to start on the path of reducing suffering by using the wisdom teachings of the world. If we reduce our suffering we are reducing others suffering. 

      I enjoy and encourage feedback. Ideas concerning reducing suffering are valuable and needed. There is no single path or solution. 


Bryan Wagner


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