Before talking about the cause of suffering, we should first learn what suffering is. Suffering is a part of our life. It is inseparable with life. Suffering starts from the time of conception (birth) although the baby in the womb cannot sense it. If we think about his situation, we can understand his difficult life in his mother's womb.
After birth, we age from moment to moment. When we get old, our skin changes from smoothness to wrinkles. We dislike aging because it seems the source of suffering.
We are not only subject to aging, but prone to disease. When we have a severe illness, we suffer from it. Aging and disease gradually end in death. The suffering of death is the worst experience in our lives. Although we are physically strong, we suffer from mental illness. To live with those whom we dislike and to be separated with our beloved ones also makes us unhappy. Sometimes we are upset and worried about not getting what we want. Such situations are the roots of suffering. In brief our body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness are the source of suffering in reality.
The Buddha therefore expounded them in his first discourse, the Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta.
"Birth is suffering; aging is suffering; disease is suffering; death is suffering; association with the disliked ones is suffering; separation with the loved ones is suffering; not getting what one wants is suffering; the five aggregates (body, feeling, perception, mental formation and consciousness) are suffering in brief."
So far we have learned the varieties of suffering. I am now going to proceed to explain about the original suffering from the Buddhist point of view.
Although some people consider the eight kinds of suffering mentioned above are natural things and unavoidable conditions to be ignored. There are some intelligent people who want to know the origination of them in the present as well as in the past.
A head man named Baddaraka from Uruvela village, the district of Malla, asked the question of suffering to the Buddha. He requested the Buddha to tell him about the origination and disolution of suffering. Then the Buddha said to him that He was going to explain about the suffering which has originated in the present, not in the past or in the future.
"Suppose, Baddaraka, the people of Uruvela have a disaster. They are arrested, killed, and robbed. Do you feel sad, grievous and dispaired?"
He said, "He does, regarding the people whom he likes and loves, however, he does not feel upset, regarding those whom he does not know."
The Buddha said to him that suffering originates from attachment and craving. It has the root of attachment and craving.
" Suppose, Baddaraka, your son, Ciravasim is away and you order somebody to send your son to you. When they do not come back in time, how do you feel?"
He answered, "I worry about my son."
"Suppose, you heard that Ciravasim was arrested, robbed, and killed. Then how would you feel?"
He said, "I would go insane with pain or die."
Therefore, it is obvious that suffering originates from attachment and craving, the Buddha said.
The Buddha gave another example to explain about the origination of suffering.
"Baddaraka, if you had not seen the mother of Ciravasim before, you would not have such a feeling of love for her. From having seen or having heard of her, you have affection for her."
"Suppose, Baddaraka, if you heard that she was arrested, robbed or killed, how would you feel?"
He said, "I would be insane with pain or die."
Then the Buddha said that suffering is actually rooted in attachment and craving. Desire and craving are the cause of suffering.
(Baddaraka Sutta, Gamani Vagga, Samyuttanikaya)
(From "The Universal Peace Buddha Temple, New York, Newsletter, April 14, 2002)