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Question: Is it true that ‘to suffer is a blessing’ (吃亏是福)?

Answer: No. If ‘to suffer is a blessing’, the Buddha would not have given a single teaching on how to overcome suffering at all. Yet, his central messages are on how to transcend all suffering, so as to attain the True Happiness of complete enlightenment. If to suffer is a blessing, there would be no urge to practise compassion to help one another transcend suffering too. This too lacks wisdom. Lacking cultivation of compassion and wisdom thus, Buddhahood can never be realised. Romancing suffering is deluded and extreme asceticism too.

Also, as all suffer due to negative karma ripening, how can that be a blessing? While suffering is an expression of the clearing of negative karma, it is foolish to suffer on and on when one can simply walk away. Out of wisdom, one should protect oneself by taking a hand off a hot stove put upon. Also, it is cruel to let others inflict suffering onto you, who thus create negative karma for themselves, planting seeds for their future suffering. Out of compassion, whenever possible, they should be urged to stop. Not doing so when one can actually creates more negative karma from cold-hearted apathy on one’s part.

Question: Is it true that any slightest thought concerning ‘myself’ is selfish?

Answer: This is not always true. For instance, if I have a stomachache and go to the loo, there is nothing selfish about it. I would not be thinking of gaining something just for myself, even though relieving the bowels does benefit me. What more, to ‘go’ in open public instead of at the toilet will be selfish, as it gives displeasure to all. Going to the loo will thus involve thoughts of  ‘self’, but it has nothing to do with selfishness at all. It is just fulfilling a basic need. Linking to the above, to not do what is reasonable to relieve suffering is unskilful and pointless asceticism.

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