Learning to live with suffering is an art

If I say happiness is the absence of suffering, I may not be far off the mark. But this statement needs a bit of clarification. ‘Absence’ here does not mean that suffering does not exist. It is very much there but you have either learnt to live with it or have reached a state of mind that joy and suffering make no difference to you at all. As someone had said man is the only creature with the power of laughter, the reverse too can be a statement of profound truth. One can say man is the only creature that can understand and minimise or dispel the very root of suffering. The Buddha had said this and gave the ways and means too.

Suffering is caused by various reasons, external as well as internal. Internal reasons for suffering are because of your inability to tide over it. It can happen when one, instead of resolving a problem philosophically, gets bogged down into serious grief. The death or prolonged illness of a relative or a dear and near one has the potential of making one a serious candidate in line to illness and ultimately death. The fact that many of us don’t understand or do not try to understand the inevitability of death because of whatever the reason and our inability to learn to live with such tragedies can be the most potent causes of suffering.

To overcome such suffering, instead of plunging into grief, one has to let oneself understand and have “This too will pass” kind of attitude. That means it is basically the state of positive mind that can control your attitude towards suffering and enable you to come victorious over a tragic loss, for example.

Sudesh Sehgal, in his book, The Path to Spiritual Healing, has illustrated this with a beautiful example. When there is a heavy storm, and if you look at the top of a tree with heavily swinging branches, you might feel that it would fall. But if you look below at its strong and unshakable trunk, you get a different picture— that it will not fall.

So, that is it. It all depends how you look at things—the brighter or the shady aspect. Both exist simultaneously and one has the option to choose either of the two. True, a little bit of understanding and philosophical approach is needed; and nobody is devoid of such a capacity.

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