1. To feel pain or distress; sustain loss, injury, harm, or punishment.
2. To tolerate or endure evil, injury, pain, or death. See Synonyms at bear1.
3. To appear at a disadvantage:
The First Noble Truth in Buddhism is simply this: All sentient beings suffer.
What does that mean? Why would the first basic truth of a philosophy having millions of followers focus on such a seemingly negative thing?
Victor Frankl once wrote, "We can discover this meaning in life in three different ways: 1. by doing a deed; 2. by experiencing a value; and 3. by suffering."
If you had to choose between 1, 2, and 3, which would you take? Doing a deed is straight forward enough but it takes knowledge to know that our actions will result in the desired effects; how do we aquire such knowledge? Experience is easy, just sit back and let it happen; what motivates us to pay attention?
Why would anyone choose to suffer?
"Suffering and joy teach us, if we allow them, how to make the leap of empathy," said Fritz Williams, "which transports us into the soul and heart of another person. In those transparent moments we know other people's joys and sorrows, and we care about their concerns as if they were our own."
One answer, then, is empathy.
Helen Keller wrote, "Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved."
Another: To strengthen one's character and one's soul.
So few I've known in this life have used their suffering in those ways, but for those few I can name their lives have transformed into a warm light that surrounds them. They've gone through horrible tragedies, been psychologically or physically abused--if only we knew their stories and what we ourselves would learn if we would embrace our own suffering!
Acknowledgement and acceptance of our suffering benefits us and all sentient beings.
"You know quite well, deep within you, that there is only a single magic, a single power, a single salvation and that is called loving. Well, then, love your suffering. Do not resist it, do not flee from it. It is your aversion that hurts, nothing else." - Hermann Hesse