Volume 20, 2013
Suffering Made Sufferable: Śāntideva, Dzongkaba, and Modern Therapeutic Approaches to Suffering’s Silver Lining
Suffering’s positive side was elucidated beautifully by the eighth century Mahāyāna poet Śāntideva in his Bodhicāryavatāra. Dzongkaba Losang Drakpa, the founder of what came to be known as the Gelukba (dge lugs pa) order of Tibetan Buddhism, used Śāntideva’s text as his main source in the chapter on patience in his masterwork, Lam rim Chenmo. In this article I attempt to explicate Śāntideva’s thought by way of the commentary of Dzongkaba. I then consider it in the context of what Ariel Glucklich has called “Sacred Pain”—the myriad ways in which religious people have found meaning in pain. I conclude with some observations about ways in which some Buddhist-inspired or -influenced therapeutic movements such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Positive Psychology are helping contemporary people to reconcile themselves to pain or to discover that it may have positive value.