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The Problem of Suffering

Book  stop.gif (845 bytes)  Weekly Message Archive

WEEKLY MESSAGES

In this new feature of our website, we present every week a new selection of the teachings of Vedanta, taken from a variety of sources lectures and writings of Swami Adiswarananda, Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Literature, and other spiritual texts.

 

 

 

 

THE PROBLEM OF SUFFERING

by

SWAMI ADISWARANANDA

 

Life in this world is not what it appears to be. It is plagued by the proverbial pairs of opposites, such as pain and pleasure, birth and death, and hope and disappointment. It is subject to the sixfold change: birth, subsistence, growth, maturity, decline, and death. Uncertainties face us at every step of life and create anxiety, fear, and hopelessness. Things do not happen according to our plans. Our optimism turns into pessimism as we grow older. Idealistic dreams of happiness and fulfillment rarely come to be true. A human individual is born crying, lives complaining, and dies disappointed. Asked by a king about the meaning of life, a sage once replied, A man is born, he suffers, and he dies. That is all. The agonies of life outweigh its pleasures and promises. For the vast majority, life is a series of crises and confrontations, sorrows and sufferings.

Responses to the problem of suffering have been various. Prophetists hope that some day a prophet or an incarnation of God will be born and usher in a golden age of peace and happiness. Fatalists cope with the problems of life, assuming them to be the decrees of fate. Transcendentalists try to withdraw from life and seek solace and serenity on the spiritual plane. Pragmatists maintain that this life is the only life we have and so we must enjoy it to the full. Progressivists believe that the advancement of science and technology will some day eliminate all evils and ills, and then there will be only good in this world. Materialists fight the ills of life solely by material means and by improving the quality of life. People of faith bear with suffering and practice religious virtues, hoping for compensation hereafter. But none of these solutions really helps us face and overcome the problem of suffering. The golden age never comes. Coping with the problems of life is easier said than done. Escaping the problems of life and withdrawing into silence and solitude only frustrate a person. Pragmatists find that enjoyment is inevitably followed by sorrow. Progressivists come to realize that as we progress toward good we also progress toward evil. Materialists discover that the sufferings of life are not all physical; there are other components of suffering, mental and spiritual. People of faith hope that the rewards of the hereafter will take away the sufferings of life here on earth. But there can be no heavenly solution to our earthly problems.

 

(To be continued)

Book  stop.gif (845 bytes) Weekly Message Archive