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How Buddhism and Hinduism Share a Belief That Life Suffering Is Caused by Desire?

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Buddhism is a pragmatic, philosophical discipline built on the foundations of Hinduism. Both of these Eastern philosophical perspectives are intended to establish personal mental peace and harmony as opposed to attempting an answer to deep and unanswerable questions such as "who is God" or "how the universe was created," for example. (Molloy, 2010)

Hindu Bhagavad-Gita teaches that human suffering is the result of the instability of the mind caused by desire, and is a direct result of karma, the consequences of previous actions. By comparison, the philosophical idea expressed in Buddha's First and Second Noble Truths (i.e., suffering & craving) form the primary foundational element of Buddhism.

This paper will explore how Buddhism and Hinduism share a belief that life suffering is caused by desire, and that each individual has the capacity to mitigate and eliminate suffering through self-discipline .


Rebirth in Hinduism is dictated by karma. Karma does not play as direct a role in Buddhism, but both philosophies share the belief karma is present and that man is in complete control over his fate and destiny. (Molloy, 2010) Patanjali describes the causes of suffering as ignorance, ego-sense, attachment, aversion, and clinging to life. Reality is what it 'is', and is neither good nor evil. The rule of karma is the rule of cause and effect.

Karma will not permit actions (good or bad) to escape without consequences . The circumstances of our present life, including both suffering and pleasures we experience, are the product of our actions in this and countless previous existences; our karma. In the Christian New Testament, the truth of karma is illustrated in the well-known words of Paul in his Epistle to the Galatians 6:7: "For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap ."

Karma produces three results:

1. Results of past actions shaping the current circumstance,

2. Results accumulated from past actions, but not yet presented; and

3. Results accumulated now.

No man has control over consequences from their past existences, (the first category or karmic results); these must be dealt with by suffering through them . The second and third types of karma can be managed through understanding and self-discipline. (Adiswarananda, 2011) A follower of Hinduism is called to act in the present, to change fate by changing his way of life, thoughts, and actions. As such it is not only our past that determines our present, but also our present circumstances and actions. Our joys and sufferings are of our own making.


The word 'dhukka' in Pali means suffering. The primary reason for the suffering in the world is the inherent nature of incarnate life; it just 'is', it is not perfect nor are the circumstances in which we live. In the words of the Buddha, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (nd):

"Now this, monks, is the Noble Truth of dukkha: Birth is dukkha, aging is dukkha, death is dukkha; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, & despair are dukkha; association with the unbeloved is dukkha; separation from the loved is dukkha; not getting what is wanted is dukkha." (SN 56.11)

Dukkha is the common bond we all share; everybody suffers. Human beings suffered in the past, they suffer in the 21st Century, and will suffer in the future. To live, you must suffer. It is impossible to live without experiencing some kind of suffering. During each of our lives, we cannot avoid pain, sicknesses, injuries, fatigue, old age, and eventually death. We also suffer psychologically and such suffering can be manifested in loneliness, frustration, fear, embarrassment, disappointment, anger, or depression. People suffer when they are unable to satisfy their needs and desires. The Buddha's teachings stress the importance of recognizing that suffering is part of life. Any attempt to avoid suffering completely it is a futile effort, ultimately doomed for failure. Regardless of its form, dukkha must be borne alone. When you are sick, it is your sickness and only you experience how it feels for you. In the same way, if a child falls ill, parents cannot experience or understand the pain of their own child's illness.

While the Buddha taught about suffering as an inherent part of life, He also spoke about many different forms of happiness; the happiness of friendship, the happiness of family life; the happiness of a healthy body and mind; the happiness of gifts, as well as the happiness from sharing and giving. Buddhists believe that happiness is genuine but impermanent; happiness is a transient by nature. When happiness fade, suffering ensues . (Buddah Dharma Education Association, 2011)

Some people may attempt to escape the effects of suffering in life by distracting themselves with temporary pleasures. Others may develop coping mechanisms to block out sadness, pain, loss and grief or they may indulge in pleasures believed to re-instate their need for happiness or pleasure. However, to simply disguise one's true feelings of pain or loss may result in yet more or greater suffering when the temporary state of happiness inevitably fades. To this end, the Buddha taught his followers to avoid the temptation to placate themselves with momentary pleasures by adopting a more holistic view of their life experiences.


The Second Noble Truth states that the core of human suffering is attachment to desire; the desire for sense pleasure (kama tanha), to become (bhava tanha) and to get rid of (vibhava tanha). The origin of suffering is attachment to desire. (Bhikkhu ,2010)

In the words of the Buddha, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (nd),

"And what is the cause by which dukkha comes into play? Craving is the cause by which dukkha comes into play."

"And this, monks is the noble truth of the origination of dukkha: the craving that makes for further becoming accompanied by passion & delight, relishing now here & now there i.e., craving for sensual pleasure, craving for becoming, craving for non-becoming."(SN 56.11)

Suffering is caused directly by attachment to impermanent things and the ignorance thereof. Transient things include the physical objects around us as well as ideas. Ignorance is the lack of understanding of how we crave these transient things. Because the objects of our craving are impermanent, their loss is inevitable, therefore more dukkha will follow. (Knierim, 2011) There is no one alive



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