The Existence of Suffering
by Sri Chinmoy
Suffering is an experience that God is having in and through us. It is the result of our limited consciousness. When unlimited consciousness operates, we see the result in the form of joy and delight. In the Infinite when we accomplish something, we are satisfied. But right now we are in the finite. When we accomplish something in the finite, we are not satisfied. When an individual has five dollars, he wants to make ten dollars. He suffers because he feels he is limited. Then when he makes ten dollars, he sees that somebody else has twenty dollars. Again, he suffers and enters into turmoil, thinking about how to make twenty dollars.
In the finite there will always be suffering because we try to compete, to grasp, to possess. But in the Infinite there is no suffering because once we enter into the Universal Consciousness, our will and the Universal Will are the same. Right now we are trying to satisfy the world with our limited consciousness, and the world also wants to satisfy us with its limited consciousness. We are limiting others and we ourselves are limited. Our main experience in this world is the experience of limitation, and that is why we suffer.
From the highest point of view, God embodies both the limited and the unlimited consciousness. He is the tiniest insect and at the same time He is the measureless cosmos. He is smaller than the smallest and larger than the largest. He is farther than the farthest and nearer than the nearest. He is nearer than the nearest for whom? For the seeker. He is farther than the farthest for whom? For the non-seeker.
For those who are wallowing in the pleasures of ignorance, God is farther than the farthest. Naturally those individuals suffer. But when a seeker prays to God and meditates on God, he feels that he is God’s dearest child. When he prays to God he feels that God the Omniscient is there, listening to him. When he meditates on God he feels that God is talking to him and he is listening to God. If he is listening to God and God is listening to him, there can be no suffering.
If God is loving, why would He let us suffer?
Because of our wrong deeds, the negative, unaspiring, undivine forces have come into existence. When these forces enter into us, we suffer. Again, whatever we call suffering, and whatever we call sinful, evil, undivine or unaspiring, is also part of God. We experience God in and through everything. When we see suffering, immediately we feel that God is cruel. This is our human way of judging God. But if we go deep within, we see that what we call suffering is nothing but an experience. And who is having that experience? God Himself. God is the Doer, God is the action and God is the fruit.
If you suffer, thank God.
For nothing abides
Away from His Vision-Eye
The human in us will see suffering as something horrible and undivine, but the divine in us will see it as God’s experience in the process of cosmic evolution. The higher we go, the clearer it becomes to our human mind that all the incidents that have taken place on earth are the experiences of God in and through each human being. In God’s Cosmic Game, we see multitudinous activities, countless forces operating all at once. But a day will dawn when the sincere seekers will realise the highest Truth and outnumber the unaspiring people, and then the undivine forces will have to give way.
When a seeker consciously enters into the sea of peace and light on the strength of his aspiration, he becomes part and parcel of God’s Will. Then he does not commit the mistakes that unaspiring human beings commit. Unfortunately, right now, out of a million people, perhaps only one or two aspire; and again, out of those aspirants, a very limited few are extremely sincere in their spiritual life.
We have come to sing
The songs of joy
In this suffering world.
The world is progressing towards the Light, although this progress is very slow. Human suffering will come to an end, because God is all Delight. We come from Delight. On earth we are growing in Delight. At the end of our soul’s journey we shall return to Delight. This experience of Delight we develop when we meditate and pray.
Most of us do not pray or meditate sincerely or soulfully; therefore, the existence of Delight is a far cry for us. But if we soulfully meditate and unconditionally surrender our day-to-day existence to the Almighty, to our Divine Father, then Delight will be our everyday reality. At every second we shall feel the presence of Delight. Our outer experience may be otherwise; it may seem painful or destructive. But in our inner experience we shall become inseparably one with the cosmic Will. In that Will there is no suffering. Suffering is in the human mind and in the earth-consciousness.
When we go beyond the earth-consciousness, when we offer our very existence to the Supreme and become part and parcel of His cosmic Will on earth, we see that there is no such thing as suffering. We see only an experience, a divine cosmic experience which God Himself is having in and through us.
Even in our heart’s suffering-garden
Will eventually blossom.
Do pain and suffering aid our spiritual life somehow?
There is a general notion that if we go through suffering, tribulations and physical pain, then our system will be purified. This idea is not always founded upon reality. There are many people who are suffering because of their past karma or because undivine forces are attacking them, but we cannot say that they are nearing their destination. No! They have to aspire more sincerely in order to reach their destination.
We shall not welcome pain; we shall try to conquer pain if it appears. If we can take pain as an experience, then we can try to transform it into joy by our own identification with joy, which we then try to bring into the pain itself.
It is not necessary to go through suffering before we can enter into the Kingdom of Delight. Many people have realised God through love. The Father has love for the child and the child has love for the Father. This love takes us to our goal. Our philosophy emphasises the positive way of approaching Truth. We have limited light; now let us increase it. Let us progress from more light to abundant light to infinite Light.
Light, more light, abundant light,
We need every day
To illumine our ignorance-sufferings.
Can God eliminate the suffering in the world?
Yes, God can and does eliminate the suffering in the world. But who sincerely wants the elimination of suffering? We are all acting like camels. The camel eats cactus thorns until its mouth bleeds; then it goes and again eats thorns. In some way, consciously or unconsciously, the camel cherishes thorns. We human beings also cherish suffering, unconsciously or consciously. As long as we cherish suffering, suffering will remain on earth.
God really did not want
The human life
To be divided into
Half joy and half sorrow.
When we suffer unpleasant experiences and make mistakes, does that mean that the Supreme has withdrawn His Grace?
No, no, that is not true. It is just that ignorance-forces are there. If a child puts his finger into fire, that does not mean that the mother has less concern for the child. The mother has tremendous concern. But the mother is upstairs and the child has gone into the kitchen and placed his finger in the fire. Does that mean that the mother has no concern for the child? No. But the child is still ignorant. He does not know the power of fire.
When we do something wrong, at times it is because we do not know, and at times it is because we are tempted to do the thing. Sometimes the child knows that the fire will burn his finger, but he gets a kind of malicious pleasure in touching fire. With us also, in spite of knowing better, sometimes we enter into ignorance. It is like eating food. We know there is something called a sufficient quantity, but we overeat. We eat voraciously, and then we pay the penalty.
When we become, consciously or unconsciously, victims of temptation, we cannot say that God’s Grace has withdrawn from our lives. Far from it! The mother can try to prevent the child from touching fire. She can say, “Do not do it, do not do it.” But if the determination does not come from within, then when the divine forces try to prevent us from doing the wrong thing, we will feel a sense of loss. We will feel that we have missed something.
We have to feel that we are not losing anything by not entering into ignorance; or we have to feel that it is only a temporary necessity for us to make mistakes, because of our ignorance. If we live in light, there is no necessity to make mistakes. It is not because the divine Grace has been withdrawn that we become victims to ignorance. Far from it. But what can the divine Grace do? God has given us limited freedom. This limited freedom is like a knife. Somebody will use the knife to cut a mango and share it with others, and somebody else will use the knife to stab another person. Let us use the capacity that God has given us wisely.
If you are a true God-lover,
Then you will definitely feel
That your suffering-life
Is not desired by God.
Do accidents ever have a divine purpose?
If we look at an accident from the highest spiritual consciousness, then it is not an accident at all. It is just an incident, an experience that God is having in and through a particular human being. But in the outer world, in the field of manifestation, very often the wrong forces cause accidents. Sometimes the Supreme actually disapproves of these accidents. Sometimes He just tolerates them, and sometimes He approves of them. At the time of the accident the Supreme may feel that a particular person can be inspired to lead a better, more spiritual and more significant life. Someone may be disturbed by circumstances in his life, by members of the family, his neighbours and so forth, so that a new life can be opened to him.
If you look at it with your outer eyes, you may call it an accident. But you have to know, did God want that accident? Is it for the person’s illumination? God never punishes us. He may give us an experience, but if we go deep within, we will feel that it is God who is actually having this experience. If we can identify ourselves consciously with the Will of the Supreme, then there is no such thing as an accident.
If suffering comes to us, what can we do?
We have to make the best of it. We have to take it as something unavoidable or as a blessing. It is a blessing in the sense that we can derive some advantage or some benefit from it. The benefit we derive is that we will not repeat the same error, we will not commit the same mistake again and again.
If we are suffering, we have to be conscious of the mistake we have made. When we become conscious of our mistake, automatically a sense of purification dawns in us. But in order to achieve purity, we do not have to go through suffering. No! For God-realisation, suffering is not necessary. What is needed is love of Truth, love of Light. If we allow light to enter into us and remain inside us, then there will not be any suffering.
Why do you have to think
Of your difficulties
As negative forces?
Just think of them
Lo, they will increase
Your inner and outer capacities!