The Problem of Suffering – July 29 2020

The Problem of Suffering – July 29 2020

You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.

Pema Chödrön


Pain occurs. Pain is the body’s way of communicating that something is amiss. When I step on a piece of glass, a nerve message is sent to my brain to indicate that I have injured myself and that care must be taken. This is what some call necessary pain, or unavoidable pain. And of course the same holds true with emotional pain. Death of loved ones, broken relationships, career disappointments–there are things in life that simply hurt, no matter how far along the path we have come.


Suffering, however, is what we experience when we think about the pains we have experienced, when we tell ourselves why we have the pains we are experiencing, try to think our way out of future, imagined pains, or blame ourselves or others for the pains we are experiencing in the moment. Any sort of speculation about pain, even the act of speculation itself, will lead to suffering. Always.


Speculation leads to suffering. And all suffering involves speculation. Dr. Nitin Trasi, in The Science of Enlightenment, calls speculation “Unnecessary Thoughts,” as distinct from “Necessary Thoughts,” which are involved in performing one’s job or paying one’s bills. 


And why do we have these unnecessary thoughts? They arise from our belief in the separateness of our self from others, from the world. Our sole identity with ego. When we believe the world or others in it can harm us, can give to or take from our fulfillment, can cause us grief or happiness by their opinions of us–this is what leads to speculation, to unnecessary thoughts.


Of course the world can harm us, harm our individuality. This fact is not to be ignored. But our individuality is the smallest part of us. We are so much more.


The Veda says that the truth of me is Oneness. The consciousness that underlies my individuality and the individuality of everyone everywhere. Which means that everyone I meet, everyone I see, each and every person in my world is at one with me, and at one with the Whole. From this perspective, there is nothing that can harm me, for there is nothing outside of what I am. 


I may choose at any moment, to move in the direction of this oneness, to know myself as this oneness. I may choose to love the world rather than to fear it. When I choose to love the world, I will no longer lose myself in speculation and suffering. I will begin to find happiness where it actually can be found: within myself and my connection to the whole.


Today I will look at one of my fellows and imagine, at least for a moment, what it might feel like if we shared the same consciousness, the same mind. If we shared the same heart. I will look into his eyes without fear, and I will send him love.

Lotuses tintype, Echo Park Lake, LA, CA