Is suffering all about perspective?
Sometimes [very often, in fact], I meet those who are single. Generally, they are looking for the right person, a companion to spend their life with. They have been either hurt in the past or just haven’t found the perfect match yet. No one’s waiting for them when they get to their empty home in the evening. They wake up by themselves, with no one next to them. They are suffering with loneliness and the probability of growing old alone haunts them every now and then. All they want is to love and be loved but they can’t find anyone, they tell me.
And then, I meet those who are married. While they love their family, they long for a period of peace and rest. They feel tied down with their commitments. They have come to understand that marriage is a synonym of compromise and requires tremendous sacrifice on a daily basis, at all levels. There are changes they want to see around the house, in their partner and kids, and so on before they think they can be truly happy. All they wanted was to love and be loved, they’d even married someone who they thought foot the bill. But, it now feels they married the wrong person, they say.
In their quest for true love, either way, as far as I’m concerned the outcome of every meeting is the same. Almost every time. In two parts:
1. I see my box of tissues depleting faster than the water level in Delhi’s municipal tank.
2. I hear the same questions. Why? Why me? Why doesn’t he/she realize? Why am I suffering? How can God do this to me?
The tissue issue is easy. I just put a new box to handle the tear ducts. We shed our tears and we can wipe them. The second one, however, is a bit more complicated. Let me share with you a little story before I offer my perspective.
The Mughal emperor Akbar once asked his courtiers – who was more powerful of the two: God or Akbar. The ministers were in a fix because clearly the answer was God but to say anyone was greater than the king might mean getting your next haircut with a guillotine. And giving the wrong answer, which would be perceived as blatant flattery, might still result in the same fate. One by one though, deciding to speak the truth, everyone said that God was more potent than their emperor. Everyone but one person.
The wisest man in the royal court, Birbal, proclaimed that Akbar was indeed more powerful than God. The courtiers secretly rejoiced seeing Birbal in the soup. Finally, it was out in the open that he was sucking up to the king, they thought.
“Obviously, you just want to impress me, Birbal,” the king spoke sternly, shaking his head. “I’m disgusted at your blasphemous reply. How can I be more powerful than God?”
“His Excellency,” Birbal replied, “Indeed, our emperor is more powerful than God. God is beyond discrimination and favoritism. He is bound by dharma, every act of God is in line with the meticulous working of the infinite Universe. But, your highness is not bound by any law. You can punish anyone even if he is innocent. God can’t do that.”
Praising Birbal, Akbar rewarded him amply. Later in the evening, when Birbal’s wife heard what had transpired in the court, she confronted him gently, asking him not to give such risky answers in the future, and why would he even do that?
“Because,” Birbal replied calmly, “it was an ignorant question.”
I agree with Birbal wholeheartedly. You really think that someone up there is giving you the stick or the lollies based on how cleverly you call out to him? I doubt it.
God cannot solve our relationship problems because he did not create them at the first place. It has nothing to do with God, Universe, Nature or whatever name you want to give.
What is suffering?
We suffer when we are unable to handle ourselves, our emotions, and our circumstances.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the existence of God. The whole existence is God for that matter. I see God as the endless compassion, beauty and bliss that flows through our infinite Universe. But, I don’t think that being a love-guru, matchmaker or magistrate is part of his job description. Nature runs its course most indiscriminately and dispassionately with the greatest detachment.
A man went to a tailor to collect his suit he’d given for stitching a week earlier.
“Sorry, sir,” the tailor said, “it’s not done yet. God willing, it’ll be ready in 3 days.”
The disappointed customer came back three days later but got the same reply. “God willing, sir,” the tailor said, “I’ll definitely finish it in a week’s time.”
The customer shouted at the tailor and went away disgruntled. Much to his chagrin, a week later, the tailor still hadn’t sewed the suit.
“God willing, sir,” he pleaded, “it should be ready in 4 days.”
“Listen up, buddy,” the customer said, “let’s keep God out of this. Tell me how long it would take if God is not willing.”
Imagine there was no help available from any external source, how would you go about finding your happiness? For, to be honest with you, I don’t think Grace means that our lives’ problems will end. I don’t believe that we pray or be religious so we may talk some God into our traps of desires.
If happiness is what you seek, ending your sufferings, begin with the premise that no one else can give it to you. Anyone who wants someone else to make them feel fulfilled, often end up only more discontent.
As Goethe once said, “From the power that binds all beings, that man frees himself who overcomes himself.” key to end suffering.
The only way to end our suffering is to overcome ourselves.
Other people in our lives are merely enablers and catalysts of the suffering we already carry within. Suffering is another name for our inability to come to terms with life. When it comes to inner peace, the greater our acceptance and understanding of our circumstances and people around us, the more peaceful we are. You may want to read – Is suffering necessary?
The path to bliss and peace begins with responsibility. Take responsible steps, speak responsible words, act responsibly. Before long, you will find the joy of inner peace straining against your consciousness like the spring breeze against the blooming trees, caressing your soul, filling your cup. From the noise of expectations, like the rustle of cicada on a midsummer day stridulating passionately from the dry grass of desires, your whole being will murmur with bliss like the gentle mountainous stream under the soft winter sun.
Be responsible. Be gentle. Be happy.
On a different note, the other day, I did a discourse with a small group of devotees in Sydney. We had a beautiful evening where we ended up singing Sri Hari Aarti together. You can listen to it by clicking on the play button below:
Or, you can also download it from Soundcloud (here). The lyrics are also available on the same page.
I’m deeply grateful to Ramona Borthwick, one of the most talented and finest piano teachers I’ve ever known (here). She patiently taught me to try my hand at piano, something I’d always wanted to do. Ramona’s the one who worked out the melody and drone on the piano, I’m merely playing it. If not for her, I probably wouldn’t know a piano from a typewriter. It was an impromptu recording. Hope you enjoy.