Buddha on How to End Suffering

Douglas C. Bates
2 min readFeb 15, 2023

Don’t believe what you think.

In the Bahiya Sutta we have one of the most concise formulations given in Buddhist teachings on how to end suffering.

In this sutta the respected ascetic, Bahiya, learns about the Buddha and travels to see him. When Bahiya eventually finds the Buddha he says: “It is difficult to know for certain, revered sir, how long the Lord will live or how long I will live. Teach me Dhamma, Lord; teach me Dhamma, Sugata, so that it will be for my good and happiness for a long time.”

The Buddha tells him: “Herein, Bahiya, you should train yourself thus: ‘In the seen will be merely what is seen; in the heard will be merely what is heard; in the sensed will be merely what is sensed; in the cognized will be merely what is cognized…. When, Bahiya, for you in the seen is merely what is seen and in the cognized is merely what is cognized, then, Bahiya, you will not be ‘with that.’ When, Bahiya, you are not ‘with that,’ then, Bahiya, you will not be ‘in that.’ When, Bahiya, you are not ‘in that,’ then, Bahiya, you will be neither here nor beyond nor in between the two. Just this is the end of suffering.”

Through this brief dhamma teaching, Bahiya immediately attained nirvana.

What the Buddha said here is that one should take thoughts and sensations as they are, meaning that one should not extrapolate from them that these things are true about reality, but merely what has been sensed and thought of. When one can do this, one will no longer identify with one’s thoughts and sensations. One will not be with those thoughts or in those thoughts, meaning that one’s identity will not be defined by those thoughts, and that one will not be attached to those thoughts, nor believe that those thoughts represent the truth about reality. The achievement of this ends suffering.

For a similar, Western approach, consider Pyrrhonism, the ancient Greek philosophy based on Buddhism.

--

--

Douglas C. Bates

Ancient Greek philosophies of life. http://www.pyrrhonism.org Author of “Pyrrho’s Way: The Ancient Greek Version of Buddhism.”