This morning I was listening to the Buddhist teacher and scholar Vishvapani on Radio 4’s Thought for the Day. He was talking about the cycle of suffering, which leads us, unfortunately, very often into the path of violence. Suffering leads to anger, anger leads to hatred, hatred leads to violence, which then leads to more suffering. We could stop this cycle at any point as we go round, but the easiest place would be to start with the suffering and to understand that all human beings suffer in some way or another.

It may be that we don’t agree with what they say they’re suffering from, because it may go against our beliefs, or we may think it’s not true. But of course,

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as long as it’s true to the person who is suffering, then it is true, whatever it is. If we were to be more mindful of other people’s suffering, to help them to cope with it, perhaps we could then break the cycle

Suffering is inevitable. And if you believe it’s not, that’s just your belief. There will be something that causes you to suffer. It may be small; you may not even recognise it. I often say to people that I think I’ve had an easy life and then someone else will say, no you haven’t because this or that happened. I didn’t necessarily see that as causing me suffering, but it might have caused suffering if it happened to somebody else.

Judging Others

It’s very easy to judge people based on how we feel and behave. A more compassionate approach is to understand that the same event, which may not affect you, could affect other people profoundly in ways that you don’t understand. It might and lead to them to suffering, which then leads to them becoming angry, which then leads to them feeling hatred or fear, which ultimately might lead to violence.

In most cases, it doesn’t go that far, but clearly in some it does. It’s important to be aware and be mindful of other people’s points of view, even if they are not the same as yours. And even if they go against your point of view, because the consequences of not understanding or even seeing the suffering of others is what leads to a lot of the problems in the world today.

And it always begins within. You need to learn to show compassion to yourself, acknowledge when you might have been affected by circumstances. When you are able to do that for yourself, you are better able to recognise the suffering of others.