Is There a Way Out of Human Suffering?

Is There a Way Out of Human Suffering?

Discover the profound wisdom that unveils the root causes of suffering and the potential for liberation through self-realisation - By Anandmutri Gurumaa

Reading time: 5 minutes

Suffering is universal. It crosses all barricades of nationality, race, gender, age, caste or creed. Even species. For, no living being is unscathed by the fire of suffering.

It comes in different forms: physical, mental and emotional. Broadly speaking, there are three causes of suffering. Natural calamities like earthquakes, floods, drought etc are beyond our control (except for man-made climate change-related disasters) and they lead to mass-scale destruction and devastation.

Then there is suffering caused by bodily afflictions like disease, debility, disability etc. And the third is caused by our mind. This includes mental illnesses, emotional trauma etc.  In a way, all suffering is due to our mind because, irrespective of the source, that is where one perceives the pain.

Every sentient being will experience pain at some time or the other in their life. Be it humans or animals or birds or insects.  All living creatures know what physical pain feels like. The shadow of pain haunts one and all.

As humans have a more evolved brain and mind, they also experience subtler forms of pain like the distress caused by loss, humiliation, rejection, failure, and so on. The poor suffer and so do the rich. The intellectuals suffer and so do the unlettered. Even the few who seem to have it all cannot shake off the sense of dissatisfaction and meaninglessness in their materialistic lives.

Young Prince Siddharth was handsome, healthy, and wealthy with all the possessions one could want. Surrounded by grandeur and beauty he led a life of merriment. His father had ensured that the prince would never be introduced to any form of suffering. Thus the old and decrepit, the diseased and poor were kept well out of his sight. But how long could the king hide the harsh reality of life? A day came when Siddharth saw the not-so-pretty side of life: old age, disease and death.

Shaken to his very core by the reality of universal suffering, the prince left his kingdom in the quest for a way of transcending it. Thus began his transformational spiritual journey that culminated in enlightenment. The world knows him now as Gautam Buddha. One of his main teachings was on suffering:

Impermanent, impermanent, all is impermanent

Momentary, momentary, all is momentary

Empty, empty, all is empty

Thus, suffering, suffering, all is suffering

But there is a way out of this suffering. Endowed with an evolved mind and intellect, human beings have the potential to go beyond suffering. Animals can’t do this. This capability is what makes the human race unique.

The root of all suffering is ignorance or not knowing. Ignorance of what? Our real identity. The path of spirituality is the path of self-enquiry. Who or what am I? Am I just this bundle of flesh and bones? Am I just this potpourri of thoughts, imaginations and emotions? Am I just this anxious, neurotic, fearful wreck?

To transcend suffering, one has to embark upon this inner journey on the quest to find one’s own real self. Why? Because that will reveal an absolute, eternal, ever-conscious and ever-blissful existence that is untouched by disease, old age and death. Those who accomplish this journey successfully, become a Buddha i.e. enlightened, self-realised.

Now, the question may arise: does an enlightened being not experience any pain? Did Gautam Buddha’s body not become old? Or diseased? Then, how can we say he overcame suffering? In what way?

The Buddha explained this with the example of an arrow. There is one arrow that life hits you with: disease, old age, loss, failure, poverty etc. This arrow is the fruit of your previous karma. Thus, it cannot be avoided.

But the major part of our suffering comes from the second arrow which we hit ourselves with: ‘Why did this happen to me? Why does it always happen to me? I am doomed. How am I going to cope?’ By fretting and fuming thus, people not only waste their physical and mental energy but they make the pain much, much bigger than what it originally was.

When we realise the truth of our real identity, when we realise that we are not this limited body-mind, we stop hitting ourselves with the second arrow. We do whatever is needed to be done in the situation with a calm and collected mind. What can be changed with effort, the enlightened being does it. What cannot, he accepts it gracefully.

Self-realisation liberates us from the bondage of this limited existence as an individual body-mind. By realising our infinite completeness, by realising that this world is no more than a fleeting dream, we can abide in eternal bliss which cannot be shaken by any worldly event, no matter how tragic.

By decoding the reality of our real nature, one transcends the confines of space, time and objects and thus, goes beyond suffering.

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Anandmurti Gurumaa

An awakened being and a contemporary spiritual master, Anandmurti Gurumaa continues to guide thousands of people worldwide on the path of yoga.