"Life is suffering."
What does that statement conjure in your mind? Likely a sense of your life being filled with nothing but difficulty, pain, and the like.
Instead of suffering, what if we used the word "unsatisfactory?"
Now, we are cutting a little closer to the bone, and getting to the root of the sentiment behind the classic Buddhist teaching.
"Life" is also somewhat vague since life is not inherently painful or unsatisfactory. There have been plenty of people who have walked this planet in states of pure, unalloyed joy, the Buddha included.
It's a certain approach (a common one) to life that leads to dissatisfaction, which, in turn, leads to suffering.
Most of us live in the try to state. We are trying to get something for ourselves, e.g., happiness, a sense of security, power, etc. Like Pac Man, we shrink into our personal sense of self and chase after these feelings, while trying to avoid anything that might take them away.
From time to time, maybe more often than not, we will get what we want and win a few games. However, like a dose of dopamine, the high is short lived, and then its back to the hunt for the next one and the next after that, our sense of I and bigness growing larger all the while.
This approach is a recipe for a life of never being satisfied. A life of suffering.
After a fair amount of seeking and not finding, we begin to ask new questions. We start to wonder about what it is that we are really looking for, and if there are more sustainable sources of it.
With these questions resting firmly on our heart, we are now free to pursue answers.