Suffering and Evil – September 23 2020

Suffering and Evil – September 23 2020

Pain is not the same as suffering. Left to itself, the body discharges pain spontaneously, letting go of it the moment that the underlying cause is healed. Suffering is pain that we hold on to. It comes from the mind’s mysterious instinct to believe that pain is good, or that it cannot be escaped, or that the person deserves it.

Deepak Chopra, The Book of Secrets: 

Unlocking the Hidden Dimensions of Your Life


In 1536, [John] Calvin published Institutes of the Christian Religion; it… laid out the foundations [that] came to be known as Calvinism,[the first of which states]: Total depravity: all people are born sinful.

from The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor


When it seems that suffering cannot be avoided, we have to somehow make sense of it. Why am I suffering? My mind, my ego, is more than happy to give me an almost unlimited number of reasons.


What is suffering? The word itself comes from the Latin word meaning ‘to bear.’ Suffering is about enduring, tolerating, bearing the weight of all that it means to be human.


As this ego self, what I am is a mass of sensation and feeling, an agglomeration of history and memory, opinions and ideas, likes and dislikes; and all of the thoughts I have about these parts of me, the stories I tell myself about why I feel this way, why I am this way, what you did wrong, what I did wrong, what my parents did wrong.


All of which pulls me into speculation – the endless, pointless thinking about the past and the future – which causes only suffering. Ever. When I leave present moment awareness, I cut myself off from life. I starve myself of the life force. I feel worse and worse, suffering more and more, and coming up with even more ideas of ‘why.’


Identified as the ego and experiencing the suffering it entails, I will see the world as black and white. Good and bad, right and wrong. This is what the ego does: it discerns and discriminates. It separates. As the ego, the only way I am able to understand suffering is to see darkness and sin as its cause, both in myself and in the world. This makes for a very uncomfortable walk through life, always having to be on guard against the evil that lurks just under the surface. Of me, of you, of everything.


As meditators, we have the experience of transcending the ego – going beyond thought, feeling, our physical existence – and of feeling ourselves, to some degree, as at-one-with something greater than our individuality.


When we truly begin to know this something greater – call it nature, God, consciousness, spirit – we can begin to see that there is so much more than these bundles of ego and intellect. We can begin to know that this greater thing is the truth of life, and that there is no opposite to it. There is truth, and there are those places where truth is not yet enlightened. 


There is no evil. And suffering is only a mistaken idea that I deserve to be punished.


Today I will choose to see my world–and myself–as nature, and I will choose to see nature as nature sees itself: as perfect, pure, whole and complete.

Chair in yard, extreme wide angle tintype