One of my favorite Buddhist anecdotes I’ve run across recently:
This fellow was attending a retreat; it of course involved a lot of sitting meditation, for long periods of time. Make no mistake–this can lead to discomfort, especially if you’re not that flexible. His legs were cramping up, his back ached, and his mental state was worse–increasingly, he was alternating between intense itchy boredom (“this is stupid”), despair (“I’m not cut out for this”), and anger (“this is STUPID!”) and the usual combinations of those.
Between meditation sessions, the leader of the retreat gives readings, addresses, that sort of thing. He was addressing everyone there, of course, but the opening words really hit for that fellow. “The difficulty you are having now…” the leader began.
And in his head–as we all tend to do–he was already completing the thought according to his expectations. In his head, he already was thinking, “…will go away.”
Instead, the actual conclusion of the sentence was “…will be with you the rest of your lives.”
It’s certainly possible to read masochism into that kind of story–me, I see it mostly as an example of Buddhism-centric dark humor. (Which is a tangential side topic, it seems to me–lots of people just don’t get gallows humor, and will tend to think there’s something wrong with other people who are amused by it. I see some similarities there, in a way.)
And in a larger sense, it’s definitely possible to see various strains, aspects, and formulations of Buddhism as being masochistic in nature. There’s a tendency towards asceticism and isolationism that folks into it can fall into; on the purely physical side, “just sitting” can indeed be downright painful from time to time. Some of the more slippery elements of varying interpretations of it also–fairly–support the view; there’s a bit attributed to Nagarjuna that runs “Nirvana is samsara itself; samsara is nirvana itself.” That can easily be viewed as being a glorification of suffering.
But, I do think that’s a bit too simplistic; I’m relatively confident in saying it’s in error. It strikes me as similar to framing Christianity as essentially sadistic, by line of reasoning saying that it glorifies the Son’s sacrifice. You can similarly find support for that view, and Christians who seem hellbent (so to speak) on living that support, in the same way that you can find Buddhists hellbent on being living support for the equals-masochism framing. But I think both are simply human error, projected into practices where it isn’t the essential truth of them.