Rev Dr Brian K Graham, author, speaker, wedding officiant

The root of suffering

According to Buddha the root of all suffering is attachment.  Many people have the mistaken impression that attachment is limited to being attached to our material things, but it is more wide ranging.

What is suffering?

Suffering is that mental anguish which accompanies the drama of life.  Drama is the after effect of trying to control other people and conditions.  “But I don’t try to control others,” you say.

Have you ever been in a conversation expecting the other person to indicate they agree with you or respond in a certain way?  When they don’t do what you want them to do, suffering occurs.

Consider when you are driving.  The person in front of you seems to be doing anything but paying attention to the road.  How angry have you gotten at that person?  They are completely unaware of your upset but you get wound-up and angry.  That is suffering.

What about wanting an event to have a specific outcome.  When it doesn’t turn-out as you anticipated or planned disappointment follows which is a form of suffering.

The suffering Buddha refers to is any condition which is not joy, peace and happiness.  When we are attached to an outcome we find the root of suffering.


What then, is attachment?  Attachment is nothing more nor less than a form of egocentric behavior.  Somewhere within ourselves we believe we know what is best.  We become so convinced that our view is balanced, carefully thought-out and, well, the only way things should be.

Image how many wonderful experiences we would have missed if everything turned out or unveil themselves as we imagined.

Embracing the unexpected

The unexpected is where the best parts of life happen.  When we walk out our door headed to our car but notice the sunset is magnificent.  When we dial the phone thinking we are going to reach John but discover Michael answering our call and he has delightful news for us.  That annoying driver who is slowing us down causes us to arrive later than expected and we discover the perfect parking place.  Each of these events can seem like a deviation from our perfect plan, yet the outcome is even better than we anticipated.  Embrace the unexpected!

Limiting ourselves.

Another concept attributed to Buddha is that those who grasp at perceptions and views go about butting their heads in the wall.  When we doggedly insist upon every situation unfolding a particular way we doom ourselves to unhappiness.  Life is not a pre-written script.  We are not living in a movie, we live in a state of flux.  Some view this state of flux as chaos, but chaos is where new opportunities are formed.  Without chaos, nothing new can happen.  When we insist on things happening as we anticipate we trip over the root of suffering and boy, can that hurt!

Material attachment

You are not your house, your car or any of your possessions.  Take all this “stuff” away and you will still be here.  When we make the error of judging our value, or the value of others based upon material items we find the root of suffering once again.

This is a great time to look at your life and your own views.  Have you created fertile ground for the root of suffering to grow?  Cut through the tendency to hang on. Resist the urge to hang on to ideas, to the past and to your stuff.  Remember, you can only lose what you cling to.


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