Pain, Suffering, and the Noble Truths

Sunday, June 30, 2019, 2 pm

This month's Science & Buddhism Discussion continues our 2019 theme of Wellness when we look at Pain, Suffering, and the Noble Truths, led by Taizan Mark Adams.

In our Zen practice we work to develop compassion (to relieve pain and suffering), yet credit is often given to pain and suffering as catalysts for growth, insight, and transformation. What does Zen have to offer on this immensely challenging life subject? Mark will also be giving the Dharma Talk, June 30, 11:30am, at our regular Sunday Program.


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Finding a Joyful Life in the Heart of Pain by Darlene Cohen
Darlene Cohen, a long time resident of the San Francisco Zen Center, discovered the secret to finding happiness in the midst of debilitating pain. Suffering from rheumatoid arthritis for eighteen years, one day she made a discovery that changed her life: by focusing on the foot that was in the air as she walked, as well as the one that was hitting the pavement, she could increase her stamina enormously. Paradoxically, Cohen says, release from suffering lies in paying closer attention to our pain.

Listening to Pain by David Biro, MD
Subtitled Finding Words, Compassion, and Relief, in this book, practicing physician David Brio shares how his own life journey revealed pain (both physical and emotional) to be an all consuming internal experience that threatens to destroy everything except itself—family, friends, language, the world, one’s thoughts, and ultimately, one’s self. Breaking through that silent wall of suffering, Listening to Pain demonstrates how language can alleviate the loneliness of pain, paving the way to empathy and effective treatment.

Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn
This book is the basis of the mindfulness based stress relief (MBSR) program used in medical centers around the world. Described as a comprehensive and influential integration of secular Buddhist principles, neuroscience research, and 21st century medical science, MBSR is credited over the last 25 years with transforming the lives of hundreds of thousands of people suffering with chronic diseases.

The Nature of Suffering and the Goals of Medicine by Eric Cassell
Written when he was Clinical Professor of Public Health at Cornell University, Eric Cassell’s classic book is considered by many to be a founding cornerstone in the palliative care movement. This book offers a distinction, based on clinical observations, between suffering and physical distress. Suffering is experienced by persons, not merely by bodies, and has its source in challenges that threaten the intactness of the person as a complex social and psychological entity. Suffering can include physical pain but is by no means limited to it. The relief of suffering and the cure of disease must be seen as twin obligations of a medical profession that is truly dedicated to the care of the sick. Physicians' failure to understand the nature of suffering can result in medical intervention that (though technically adequate) not only fails to relieve suffering but becomes a source of suffering itself.


Suffering Opens The Real Path by Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Zoketsu Norman Fischer is a writer, poet and Zen Buddhist priest. For many years he has taught at San Francisco Zen Center, the oldest and largest of new Buddhist organizations in the West, where he served as co-Abbot from 1995 to 2000 and is currently a Senior Dharma Teacher. Norman is also the founder and spiritual director of the Everyday Zen Foundation, an organization dedicated to adapting Zen Buddhist teachings to Western culture. In this article he explains why it’s suffering that gives us the incentive, vision, and strength to transform our lives.

The Stoic Response to Pain
Far more than the definition of a stoic being “…a person who can endure pain or hardship without showing their feelings or complaining,” stoicism is a philosophy of personal ethics dating back to the 3rd century BC, and shares much in common with Buddhist philosophy, in advocating acceptance of “what is.” Perhaps best summarized by the “Serenity Prayer,” the influence of this philosophy and approach to life in general and pain in particular can be identified throughout the world.

What is Suffering? By Sam Littlefair
Nine Buddhist teachers weigh in on the question of “What is suffering,” including Pema Chodron, Phillip Moffett, Sharon Salzburg.


As always, our “Last Sundays” Science & Buddhism discussions are quite open and informal with all invited to participate.

All are welcome. No prior experience with science, Buddhism, or meditation is necessary. Hope to see you there!

Sunday Program: We also invite you to join us that Sunday morning for our 10 am Sunday Program, Dharma Talk, and social lunch, ahead of our 2 pm Science & Buddhism session. Our Sunday, June 30, 11:30am Dharma Talk will also be by Mark Adams on the same subject as his Science & Buddhism discussion later that afternoon.