Although we may not want it to be so, suffering is a part of life. For many years I sought to avoid it. Then, my beloved teacher, Swami Veda Bharati, told me, "everything in life is composed of packets of pain and pleasure. You can’t have one without the other." He said that I was trying to have only pleasure and trying to avoid pain, but that life doesn’t work that way. He was right. We all, in our human frailty, are subject to the pains and pleasures of life.
April 5th, just past, was Rama Navami, which celebrates the ninth day after the birth of Lord Rama. In the great Indian epic, the Ramayana, Vishnu incarnates as Rama to kill the terrible Rakshasa (demon), Ravana, who has, through immense penance and tapasya to Shiva, earned the favor that he is protected against being killed by gods or other divine beings. Only a human being or animal could kill Ravana. In his vast pride, he believes himself invincible and that nothing so puny as a human or animal could harm him.
Having taken human form, Rama, like all humans, suffers greatly. He faces many challenges but the most devastating one is the kidnapping of his beloved wife, Sita, by Ravana. Because he is subject to human emotions, this is terribly painful for Rama - it is as if half of him has been taken. Much of the Ramayana tells of Rama’s search for Sita and ultimate battle against Ravana to recover her.
If Rama, who was an incarnation of God, could suffer because he had taken human form, then it is inevitable that we, too, will experience suffering. If, however, we face and accept the unavoidable pain and suffering that comes our way, then we can get through it. If we avoid solving the problems that cause our pain, then our life contracts and the pain actually increases.
As Yogi Baba Hari Dass wrote, ‘Face, fight, and finish.’ Follow Rama’s example - face the difficulties and suffering of life, fight through them, and get finished with them. Don’t run away.
I wish to thank both Ammaji (Lalita) Arya, for ideas which led to the writing of this article, and also Stoma Persaud for editorial input. Both Ammaji and Stomya oversee the KHEL charity, which runs a charitable school for disadvantaged children in the city of Dehradun, India. For more information, see www.khelcharities.org.
*Photo credit: https://www.vina.cc/