Who is responsible for my suffering? With this question the ascetic Kassapa approached the Buddha. Is it myself? Is it the other? Or rather a combination of both sides?
Am I telling myself, that I am to blame for suffering because I am not getting it, am not strong enough, smart enough, persistent enough? How cruel this self blame is, the pain and the harm in the view: „I am suffering – therefore I am doing something wrong.“ This creates an image of a defected Self, that is inflicting pain on itself and in the meantime should be able to be its own salvation. Rather a distorted view. Easily this leads to a vicious cycle of effort, exhaustion and more self blame.
Who else could we blame? Others of course! If they were kinder, more generous, less aggressive, would listen better, etc. my suffering would vanish in split seconds. While it is true, that others might act in unskillful, even hurtful ways, giving them the power to be responsible for our well being, is making ourselves victims and objects of their behavior. It also denies the possibility that we are capable to deal with suffering in a helpful way.
So is suffering a combination of both factors? – Or is it occurring randomly?, Kassapa asked. No and no again, said the Buddha. So is there no suffering?, Kassapa wanted to know. Sure there is, said the Buddha. At this point the good man was confused for sure! Where does it come from, is there anything left?
And here the Buddha points to something simple but immensely powerful: Suffering is there, it is real. We only have to look around. But there is no agent, who can be blamed. We rather have to take a big step backwards and look at the process in and of itself. There are causes for suffering to arise. There are conditions which have to be present in order for us to suffer. If we step back from the drama of „I, me, my“ suffering and „I“ or „You“ creating suffering we can see and know, what it needs for pressure to built and what it needs for it to subside again.
It takes practice to differentiate between the I as an agent that wants to get rid of suffering, and clear seeing and knowing that comes from a place of depth and clarity. This is what we practice meditation for. This is what we train our minds to do – to get the clarity, wisdom and insight to be capable to understand suffering, its causes, its ending and the way leading to this end. May our practice be fruitful!