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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Your suffering is up to you!

There’s no way you can avoid pain in Life. But you can choose not to suffer.

How Life deals with you is not in your hands at all. Anything can happen in Life. Absolutely anything. This morning’s Hindu reported the ghastly story of a man, who’s legitimately owned house in Bengaluru, was razed to the ground and demolished by a group of vandals, even as the police looked on as mute spectators, without intervening, in a case of illegitimate, extra-constitutional action in a property dispute. Obviously the man and his family will be greatly pained by the shocking turn of events. In their case, it was their house that was razed to the ground in a flash. In someone else’s Life, a landslide or a tsunami can cause similar damage. Or someone may lose a bread-winner to death or lose a job and be rendered unemployed for months on end. Life is unpredictable. Just as pain in Life is inevitable.

How we respond to Life determines whether we suffer or not. In Buddhist thought, there’s a teaching that says that when you get hurt, say, by an arrow, that is pain. The arrow hitting your arm, it hurts. Pain. However, there is a second arrow, which is your reaction to the arrow, the getting angry, the planning revenge, or the sorrow, the grief that follows, that is beyond pain, that is suffering. The venerable Buddha said, “Pain in inevitable. Suffering is optional!”

The only antidote to suffering is acceptance. Total, complete acceptance of whatever is happening to you. When you don’t resist Life, the pain does not cripple you. It is there, but it does not limit you. Suffering cripples, limits and halts you. Pain does not cause suffering. Be sure about this. Suffering happens only when you wish, you desire, that the pain not be there. But how is that possible? Life happens per its own inscrutable design – not because you control, wish or will it to be a certain way. And because Life happens on its own, pain also comes to you on its own. To wish that pain does not exist means to wish that your Life does not exist. That you are not alive. And that, you will agree, is a stupid expectation. So, in effect, your suffering is your own creation – born out of a stupid, impractical desire!

You have a headache. That’s a fact. The headache is the element causing you pain. The moment you ask ‘Why is there a headache?’ or ‘Why am I having a headache?’ or wish, vainly, that ‘the headache should not be there’ – the why, the why me, the wish – those are what cause you suffering. So, the headache does not cause suffering. You cause it. On the other hand, if you accepted the headache as a fact, as a current event in your Life, and don’t desire its absence or don’t ask it questions – the headache, the pain, will last a while and go away. This is the way the way Life works – across all phases and facets.

Know this. Understand this. Appreciate this. Then, you will realize that, to suffer or not, in any context, is truly up to you!  

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