A quote usually attributed to Buddha says, “Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional.” What a profound statement!

There is no suffering if you can let go. Pain becomes immaterial in the absence of suffering. I am reminded of a story I had come across a while ago. As follows:

After a day of preaching and alms, two fellow monks, brimming with youth, of more or less the same age, with one being more senior, were returning to their monastery while the sun was returning to its abode. Firmly established in their conduct, they would walk with their heads down and glances scanning not beyond two feet. Those were the days of the monsoon and the gods seemed happy as it had rained generously that day too. The valley was green and puddles of water looked like patches of random art on the unpaved roads. Their monastery beautifully set in the magnificent mountains was past a rivulet, barely six feet wide, that would have a strong water current during the monsoons.

Naturally, they had to cross the rivulet to get to the monastery. As they arrive at the bank of the river, they see a beautiful young woman, white like the pearlescent snow-capped mountains of the valley, with a softly radiating face like the morning sun, standing there still but somewhat anxious. They exchange glances; the senior monk understood that the young lady was afraid of crossing the swollen rivulet.

Without any verbal communication and with no further ado, he gets closer to the feminine idol and gently picks her up in his arms. He crosses the river and puts her down, even more gently, on the other side of the river. She bows in gratitude and respect before making tracks towards her home.

The younger monk is somewhat troubled by the actions of the senior one. Out of veneration and respect, however, he stays quiet. The two monks continue walking towards their destination. Silence persists for a good few hours before it is broken by the junior monk.

“Can I please ask you a question, if I may?” he mutters.
“Yes, of course,” the elder one replies.
“According to our code of conduct, we are not allowed to touch a woman.” His statement fails to hide the immanent question hiding in it.
The senior monk says, “Yes, indeed.”
The younger one finally asks, “So, how come you carried that young woman across?”
“I did not carry the woman, I simply lifted the one in need,” the elder one says, adding, “besides, I left her on the other side of the river and you are still carrying her, brother.”

Most people do not want to let go, many others, do not know how to. On the journey of self-transformation, under the practices of mental transformation, the next post in the series will highlight the practice of letting go. Stay tuned.




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They say “Suffering is optional” but is it really?

As we walk on our journey to enlightenment, the duality of pain & suffering takes on a very practical meaning. Let’s look deeper into whether we can really make suffering optional and if yes, how. 
If suffering is optional, does that mean we suffer out of choice?

We suffer when we are unable to handle ourselves, our emotions, and our circumstances. When we continue to suppress our thoughts and feelings, they hit back with vengeance one day. And, their attack is brutal, often resulting in not just sapping one of their mental energy but robbing them of their sanity altogether. Read more here.

If suffering is optional, how do I stop suffering?

When you remain oblivious to the goodness, beauty and divinity in your life, or if you don’t selflessly devote a portion of your time to a cause, life is then forced to hand you the third perspective: suffering. It may come as acute boredom, deep sadness, severe depression or a wake-up call in the form of great personal loss. Whether you want to go with the first, second or third option, the choice is yours. Read more here.

If suffering is optional, and pain is inevitable how do I stay graceful in a situation?

Perhaps suffering could be looked upon differently. Maybe like a season, a passing phase. “I don’t deserve suffering” is a statement Nature does not understand and “Why me” is a question it does not answer. Therefore, if we truly wish to get past a sense of suffering, we’ll have to focus on some other dimension of it. Read more here.

If suffering is optional, why am I not able to make happiness a choice?

Your actions fill your day and your days make up your life. It’s as simple as that. Excessive or negative thinking, being lazy or a workaholic, these are just habits. I would say even being jealous is a habit, for, a jealous person will find one reason or another to repeatedly experience (and justify) this emotion. It’s remarkable how much of what we think and do is driven by our habits. Read more here.

If suffering is optional, why is suffering an intricate part of our lives?

When you begin to accept that anything can happen to anyone, including you and I, another question starts to plague the mind: “Why me?” I get to hear so many terrible stories of suffering that you really are forced to question what anyone could have done to deserve this in their lives? And whatever it was that they did, could it be not forgiven by nature or God or the universe or whoever? The truth is some questions just don’t have answers. The law of karma, of attraction, of manifestation, everything fails at times. We are only left with some theories, consolations and probabilities. Read more here.

If suffering is optional, why do good people suffer?

Good people suffer all the time. So much so, there’s almost no direct correlation between how good or spiritual you are vis-à-vis how much suffering you may have to endure in your life. Being good or great cannot protect you from physical or mental diseases if you hit the genetic jackpot, for example. Being good doesn’t mean that we can’t be hit by a truck or a drunk driver. Being good has no bearing on your stock prices or the life of your loved ones. In other words, goodness grants neither immunity from nor compensation for everything that we may deem as not good.