What A Child Taught Me About Suffering

I have spent a great amount of time learning from spiritual books about suffering. I  read Buddhist principles about suffering being a choice and I understood it on a mental level but still found it challenging to not see the distance between what I had and what I wanted as a bridge of pain to relief.

I tried everything possible, including positive thinking to refocus my energy on not experiencing suffering while I waited for whatever it was I had deemed the source of my happiness.

Then, one day, I was with my young cousin. He is only 3. He has yet to experience a world of pain and many of his needs are catered to by those around him.

On this day, he was not happy and every little thing seemed to upset him.

I watched as he let his mother know he was hungry. He whined, cried and fell on the floor. She stared at him with mild interest before disappearing into the kitchen and leaving him to his fit.

Instead of soothing him, I just watched.

He continued to whine, cry and get himself increasingly worked up. He cried as if he had been abandoned or as if someone harmed him. But, all he was a victim of was mild hunger pangs and the uncertainty of when he would eat. He continued this for minutes, vacillating between soothing himself and launching into cries of despair.

If he had been an adult, I am sure he would have cursed the heavens and shook his fist. But, since he was a child, he kicked his own toys in frustration and induced snot and tears. But, this tornado of feelings was created by this tiny human being.

Then, his Mother appeared with a plate of food and placed it in front of him. He quickly stopped crying and ate as if he hadn’t just thrown a full tantrum. And, when he was satiated, he went on to play as if the hunger and fear never existed.

After watching him, I understood how we create our own suffering. He expressed his hunger. He asked his Mother for what he wanted. She left his view to fulfill his desire, but he was left with no assurance he would receive what he asked for. And, rather than trust his Mother would feed him, even though she did it 3 times a day, he launched into madness.

But, this madness didn’t inspire the food to cook any faster. It didn’t move heaven and earth to give him what he wanted. It didn’t ease his hunger pangs. He was still hungry. But, he worked himself into a frenzy and created new problems as he threw his toys about so that they too could feel broken, abandoned and rejected.

In the end, the food he needed appeared and everything worked out.

At that moment, I understood that, at times, suffering is a choice. But, without witnessing his suffering, I wouldn’t have recognized my own.

The ground submits to the sky and suffers whatever comes. Tell me, is the Earth worse for giving in like that?


2 thoughts on “What A Child Taught Me About Suffering

  1. I think, as you’ve illustrated by this story, that most of our suffering comes from ourselves and our expectations or lack thereof. It’s an inner choice to be positive about life, come what may. Life is also reciprocal. If we expect good things, good things happen.


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