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Suffering: The Catalyst for Liberation

The very word suffering brings to our memory feelings of agony, pain, and unpleasant experiences. Despite our ceaseless attempts, the fact remains that none escape from the very experience that we strive to avoid. What if I were to tell you that the feeling that “I am suffering” is nothing but your response to a situation or circumstance and, in reality, you control how you feel, not the situation? Painful experiences can only affect you to the extent you allow it to, nothing more than that.

Unpleasant circumstances, however long their duration may seem, do not last forever. They are like dark clouds that clear quickly, revealing the clear blue sky of spirituality. It is the law of nature that after every night there is day. The sun must rise at dawn, no matter how dark the night had been. Just before dawn, however, the night is the darkest. In the same manner, know that when you are in the darkest and toughest phase of your life, dawn (happiness) is very close at hand.

Contrary to our imagination, these experiences serve a great purpose in life, and if utilized correctly, the lessons learnt take us a step closer to our goal: liberation. Don’t get me wrong. I am not a masochist. I am simply making an attempt to speak about the other side that we often tend to overlook (a very natural human inclination). There are various viewpoints that attempt to elaborate on the purpose—and reason—behind all the unpleasant experiences we undergo. Some attribute it to karmas, others speak of it as being a test, some others consider it to be a routine part of life, and there are still others who welcome suffering as a cherished gift. A gift? I hear you ask. Yes, a gift. I will get to that a little later in this article.

As long as we live in body consciousness, we will never understand the reason behind our circumstances, and to a great extent we don’t even control their presence in our life. What we control, however, is our reaction to these circumstances. Bringing negative thoughts will make you feel exactly that: “unhappy”. Positive thoughts on the other hand will elevate your spirits and give you the sense of happiness you seek and deserve.

The lowest periods of our life should be used to learn how to avoid future mistakes and to progress toward the goal of human life: evolution to divine consciousness. Have you noticed how compassionate we become during trying circumstances? We suddenly start to not only understand, but also feel the sorrow of others. Great teachers often liken suffering to fire and speak of it as being a great furnace of life where real gold (soul) is purified and molded in a form worthy of adoration. When we graduate from this phase, our inner splendor is revealed in all its glory.

Turning inwards is the only way to permanent happiness. Suffering compels us to turn inwards, breaking free from the iron grip of worldly attachments. No matter what religion you follow, lives of saintly incarnations in your own religious philosophy will serve as beacon lights. You will not find a single saint or incarnation who did not have to suffer in the physical sense. Did Jesus not have the power to prevent His crucifixion? He could have averted the entire episode. But He did not; instead, He embraced the torment with great joy. He knew that this suffering would lead Him back to God and give Him an everlasting life of eternal bliss. It is for this reason that saints and great beings embrace suffering as a divine gift—an opportunity to get closer to God. Not only Jesus, every divine being embraced suffering with equanimity. Moses, Buddha, Krishna, Rama, Baba, Pope John Paul II—all these incarnations joyously accepted what came their way. Their blissful nature was not in the least tainted by worldly sorrows.

Once Krishna asked Kunti, the mother of pandavas, to seek a boon. Kunti grabbed the opportunity and asked for a life full of difficulties and sufferings. Normally, people would seek happiness, yet she acted quite to the contrary. The all-knowing Krishna knew her intentions, yet for the sake of the world He asked her the reason behind choosing such an unusual boon. The wise Kunti explained that it is only during trying times that one constantly remembers the Lord and seeks His grace and proximity. The Lord too, during tough times, is closest to us, carrying us safely through a phase that we can never dream of getting through on our own.

Do not ever lose hope in life. Take this opportunity to realize your own inherent divinity. Turn inwards and enter the gates of bliss that await your return. Tough times wont last forever. Bliss is your birthright; strive to achieve it in this birth itself.

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