The Buddhist Belief on Sorrow

The Buddha overcame sorrow and suffering through meditation.
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Sorrow is defined as sadness caused by the loss of something or someone and often contains an element of regret or disappointment pertaining to one's circumstances. Overcoming suffering, and sorrow is one of the main forms of human suffering, is the central goal of Buddhism. According to the Buddha, sorrow and suffering are caused by attachment, specifically to a particular outcome or possession. By freeing themselves of all attachments and cravings, individuals can also free themselves from suffering and sorrow.

1 Craving and Sorrow

One of the core teachings of the Buddha is the Four Noble Truths, which describe the various types of suffering as well as their cause and the means to their cessation. In the First Noble Truth, the Buddha describes sorrow: "And what is sorrow? Whatever sorrow, sorrowing, sadness, inward sorrow, inward sadness of anyone suffering from misfortune, touched by a painful thing, that is called sorrow." In the Second Noble Truth, the Buddha goes on to explain that the origin of all suffering, including sorrow, is craving -- craving for anything other than what is. The Third Noble Truth deals with ending suffering, which is accomplished by "cessation, renunciation, relinquishment, release, and letting go of that very craving."

2 Impermanence and Attachment

Another important Buddhist concept that is central to overcoming suffering and sorrow is impermanence, which if not understood is actually what causes craving in the first place. The Buddha taught that everything in the world is impermanent, which it is why becoming attached to anything, even your own life, is fundamentally futile. Sorrow is caused by not fully realizing this, and feeling like something is wrong when loss occurs -- even death -- despite the fact that loss is inevitable in an impermanent world.

3 Delusion and Freedom

In Buddhism, delusion (Samsara) is the cause of all suffering, including sorrow. It is a delusion to cling to things and people, as the law of impermanence means that nothing will last. Therefore, those that cling and crave are setting themselves up for guaranteed suffering. The point of Buddhism is to reach a place called "Original Mind" or "Nirvana" in which a person has relinquished all attachment, thereby overcoming delusion and freeing himself from suffering and sorrow.

4 The Path of Truth

The Buddhist path to overcoming suffering and sorrow is based on personal revelation, especially in regards to using the technique of meditation to cultivate a mind full of truth instead of delusion. The Fourth Noble Truth sets forth the eight-fold path that should be undertaken to achieve this: "right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration." In Buddhism, by abandoning the delusion of permanence and attachment -- which causes craving and therefore suffering -- and instead training the mind on the truth and then living that truth, sorrow and all other forms of suffering may be overcome.

Based in San Francisco, Ocean Malandra is a travel writer, author and documentary filmmaker. He runs a major San Francisco travel website, is widely published in both online and print publications and has contributed to several travel guidebooks to South America.