A few weeks back I read a calendar quote from Om Swami (🙏🏻) which said – ‘Pain is inevitable, Suffering is optional‘. It got etched into my mind right away and it kept spreading it’s multidimensional and multi faceted meanings as my consciousness kept exploring it and making meanings which were based on my own experiences.
First question that arose in my mind helped me to explore the nature of ‘pain’ and ‘suffering’. The observation, though very obvious, was that pain is always in body and can identified with a body part, while suffering is always in the mind. That means that pain always has it’s seat in a disease (that could have manifested either because of unwholesome awareness or unwholesome behaviours as per Ayurveda), while suffering has it’s seat in the experience of that pain. Since experiences are always sense oriented, they are recorded through mind. Hence, it’s effectively a body-mind complex which is giving reality to the pain and suffering in a defined way. Simply speaking, pain is objective while suffering is subjective. That being said, since our existence is not just a physical one, suffering also happens at emotional level which may not have any root in physical pain, but doesn’t mean that it will not manifest in our biology later.
Second question – why this pain and suffering at all? Why with us (those going through it, atleast we realise that if our world is not ideal the reason could be inside ourselves, I hope that counts as conscious living 😊)
And the third question – how do we overcome it (or atleast try for it)
Let me first deliberate on the question ‘how to overcome’, and then we shall come at the ‘why us’ part?
In Gita, Krishna bhagwaan has said that only a wise and knowledgeable person can overcome senses and rise above the tendencies of an uncontrolled mind. Now, we can extrapolate this in the way that it’s only a wise who can differentiate, separate and get rid of sufferings through the power of discernment. But what makes a wise person essentially wise? It’s the Gyan ! – knowledge of the truth. And what’s that Gyan? – that we are not the body and we are not the mind (and neither the experiences borne out of them). An interesting thing with all the Gyan in the world is that if not internalised, it remains merely an information, sometimes weird enough to keep contemplating about it through years. Coming back – now how do we internalise this teaching that we are beyond this physical body and this mind, and what’s that essence? The answer is in experience. Anything which not yet experienced by the body and not recorded by mind earlier and neither it’s has originated from these two – essentially an experience which appears magical and miraculous and remains that. Infact the whole basis of meditation is this to calm the body and mind to prepare ourselves experience something beyond. I didn’t want to aggrandise it with the words like ‘magical’ and ‘miraculous’, but since it’s supposed to be totally anew, it should be like ‘surreal’. It’s not about it being positive or negative, good or bad, comfortable or uncomfortable, soothing or painful, or anything else. All of this categorisation is our own (conscious or unconscious) reaction to that magical thing. Why would I say ‘unconscious reaction’, is that the reaction that we’re having (or more precisely, witnessing in our body/mind) is only based on our own make up (past sanskaar), which might not be in our accessible memory. Such situations are very confusing for any spiritual aspirant since he/she never able to understand the meaning of these experiences. However it’s not necessary to understand them at the first place. I would like to believe that, before reaching the shore of our own truth, any new experience is just our truth meeting our past. Now the choice is with us to get entangled or go past it, go further. Summarily, the answer to ‘how to overcome our suffering’ lies in our ability to go past it, to ignore it. Best way is to identify ourselves with something bigger than our current identity (which is causing that suffering). However the sad part is we cannot overcome our ‘pain’ (if it’s not curable), as it’s part of our biology, our physical reality. We can then only watch our pain, and at most accept it – learn to live with it. The more we hate our pain, the more it troubles. This is the limitation of our biology. Hence traditionally, a healthy body is equated with the greatest wealth.
Now I would try to throw some light on the second question – ‘why us at all?’. Well, a straight answer would be – to help shed our layers of pretence and untruth. To help us understand that what we identify ourselves with, is not our reality. So this is essentially a process of continuous identity crisis and resultantly a loss of it, which comes as pain or suffering or both. While going through this if we try to hang on to the identity, the suffering will be greater. Interestingly, the journey of consciousness ends at emptiness, as it is in the emptiness, it plays it’s unbridled dance. All the hurdles, blockages, knots which hinders this dance will get affected (burnt or resolved) along the way. It’s our choice that what do we identify ourselves with, the pain, or it’s root (the knot/hurdle), or the consciousness which is trying to resolve it. Our choice of identification would decide how much time spend on this journey of resolving the identity crisis (whether this lifetime or multiple life times ahead). Probably this is only why Buddha pronounced that, ‘Life is nothing but suffering’. And thence, there can’t be any spiritual progress without suffering.
Now if this is really true – how can one think of love and happiness that we all talk about and anspire for? Well, all contemporary ideas of love and happiness have become nothing but of attachments and pleasures respectively. True love and happiness was never a function of individual (falsely identified) self, it was all about others – the universe around us. That is also the easiest way to detach from oneself – just lead a selfless life! And promote those social values where others wellbeing is kept above oneself.
Effectively, we are nothing but an anamoly in the core software of emptiness (inspired from the movie Matrix 😁), but thankfully as a part of auto-corrective program called ‘Life’. The only way to let Life organically self correct this anamoly is practicing true love and selfless life. In this way Life (consciousness) finds the path of least resistance to meet its source, the emptiness, and hence causing least pain and suffering along the way.
Jai Sri Hari 😊🙏🏻