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Taking Things Too Hard is the Greatest Suffering in Life

The greatest suffering in life is to take things too hard and torment ourselves mentally. We must be able to rise above suffering and find joy in life.

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Photo by Lai Tong Heng

As mundane beings, we often give rise to a discriminating mind. There are people who are especially beloved to us, and there are those whom we particularly dislike. This is why we are unable to free ourselves from afflictions. Therefore, as Buddhist practitioners, we should train ourselves to treat the people we dislike with the same love that we show to our dearest ones.

Some people may say that this is easier said than done, because it seems very difficult to forgive people who are against us.

Once, an eight-year-old boy came to Jing Si Abode and heard me say, "We must be able to forgive others. A truly good person is someone who can forgive others." And he was able to apply this teaching in his life.

The boy is a first-year elementary school student. When he was bullied or beaten by his schoolmate, he would be so angry that he would clench his fist. But he was determined to become a forgiving person and so, he would shun the student who wanted to beat him. He even said to himself: "I must forgive him and love him."

After hearing him, his teacher asked, "What are you mumbling about?"

He replied, "I must forgive him and love him."

The teacher then realised that because the boy had vowed to be a forgiving person, he could be tolerant towards others. This eight-year-old boy was able to bear in his mind the teaching he had heard. Whenever someone bullied him, he was able to avoid clashing with the latter and choose to be forgiving. Why can’t people like us, who have lived for decades, do that?

The Buddha had also taught us to keep our minds at ease and in peace, and not be swayed by the “eight winds” in life, namely, “gain, loss, disgrace, honour, praise, criticism, suffering, and pleasure”. Being praised by others is nothing to shout about, because being a good person, doing good, and treating others well are what we should do in daily life. (We should not lose all our bearings in a moment of pride and satisfaction when praised by others, as this is also a form of affliction.)

However, taking things too hard is the greatest suffering in life. We need not get angry when criticized or defamed by others. Verbally spoken words are like a gust of wind; they disappear in a split second. So why should we let our hearts be shattered by words that carry no weight? Can words really hurt our hearts?  It is actually we ourselves that have hurt ourselves. So, whatever we face in life, we should not take it too hard.

If we keep clinging to the words spoken by others, we will feel troubled and easily incur enmity with others. When we hear someone defaming us, we should immediately reflect on ourselves and ponder whether we have committed any wrongs. On the other hand, we must stay vigilant when we are praised by others and think carefully if we have really built a solid foundation. We must further work harder to do things that benefit others.

Where prosperity is concerned, we should think about prosperity for all, likewise for blessings—we must think of sowing blessings for all in the world. We should not tirelessly compete with others just for the sake of personal gains. We must work for the greater good of all in the world. In the long journey of life, hurdles along the way are unavoidable. But they should not defeat or deter us in any way and make us lose hope. We should instead stand tall and remain steadfast in our footsteps.


The greatest suffering in life is to take things too hard and torment ourselves mentally. We must be able to rise above suffering and find joy in life. We should not be attached to trivialities and bring suffering upon ourselves. Only then can we feel at ease at all times."

Extracted from “心宽念纯—追求美善人生” (Xin Kuan Nian Chun – Zhui Qiu Mei Shan Ren Sheng)
Translated by the Tzu Chi Singapore translation team