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When in pain, there is no need to denounce a cruel God or shake your fist at the heavens.

Look to Indic thought that offers solutions to pain and suffering, writes DEEPAK CHOPRA. When youre in pain, you say: Life is unfair! You see an innocent child suffer the pain of cancer, and you know that God does not exist. Havent whole populations been snuffed out by genocide? What about the rich-poor divide that stares you in the face? Lets confront the pain and suffering with honesty. Dont sidestep the issue by saying, God is unfair! Or that God does not exist. Indic spiritual tradition looks at pain and suffering differently. We cannot shake our fist at the heavens before we look at this answer, which comes from within. I believe that there is a solution to pain that really works 1. It is primitive to project our fallible human nature on to God. God means the source. To know what that source is, requires going within. An experience of essence is the only way to know essence. This isnt knowledge you learn; it is knowledge you become. 2. The reality of good and evil changes as consciousness changes. If the only consciousness we possessed was that of a creature moaning in pain, unable to surmount evil, the world would be a wicked place. However, consciousness evolves it moves from duality to unity. In duality, there is a stark division between good and evil, pain and pleasure. This duality is not part of the world as it is; it reflects our divided nature. The Upanishads say that fear is born of duality. So the evolutionary setup is this: animals feel pain, but it isnt their psychological enemy. Human beings feel pain, but we question it and fight it. In our pain, we are motivated to find answers. A journey begins with the flame of discontent, and on that journey, the scenery changes as consciousness expands. By the time unity is reached or even glimpsed a person can emotionally reconcile pain with the nature of existence, and in that reconciliation, reality shifts. 3. Life reflects your vision of it. What vision should we have? Two realities compete to be the ultimate ground of existence. One, the karmic reality, depends on the war between light and dark that is represented by cause and effect; this would include the pendulum swing between pleasure and pain, happiness and suffering. The other is absolute bliss-consciousness. It is up to the individual to test which of these is true. The worlds wisdom traditions declare that the karmic claim is secondary. It is a distraction from the real reality, which transcends pain and suffering. So once again a journey is implied, a journey of transcendence.

The reason that the gurus condemn the path of pleasure is not because they were puritanical and hated pleasure, but because they saw, quite clearly, that an entirely pleasant or sattvic life was impossible. Be without the three gunas means that you dont accept the evidence of your senses as ultimate reality. That evidence contains the thread of another path the pathless path that allows the mind to find its source in sat-chit-ananda. 4. The argument posed by rishis was experiential, and its a distortion to describe it as philosophical or abstract. Unwittingly, those who reject an ultimate vision are condemned to live out an unconscious vision of life. For most people, who are willing to let life unfold unconsciously, there is no alternative but to be tossed between desire for pleasure and fear of pain. The real solution doesnt lie there, at the level of the problem. Pain like any other deep problem in human existence is solved by finding the level at which the answer actually exists. In a simple way, rishis are asking us to seek the level of the answer rather than remaining stuck at the level of the problem. Whether Life Is Unfair The view that life is unfair is popularly supported by events like the Holocaust, childhood cancer, and so on, provoking moral outrage, and only the most devout believers are content to say that God is mysterious, or that God doesnt have to justify his ways to man. We live in a post-theological age, and people want realistic answers. Good, because the only realistic answer, as I see it, lies in the experiential path that takes a person toward unity consciousness. But lets say that someone is a thorough materialist, believing that physical pain is sending a message that cannot be solved by any kind of higher vision. What, then, is the answer for him? Such a person will not budge from the experience of pain as entirely physical and purely negative, with no moral or spiritual implications. An Existential Trap We are all victims of an existential trap in which innocent children can suffer horribly and many of us could face tragic deaths. In such a worldview, there is actually no mystery about pain. Pain simply is, and the questions we ask are really a disguised complaint that we are stuck with horrible outcomes beyond our control. What Kind Of Worldview? As it happens, a worldview based on random chance is a sham intellectually,

because the very sceptics, atheists, and dogmatic materialists who support randomness dont believe that their lives are meaningless; far from it. They devote themselves to purpose and meaning every moment of the day. The beauty of abandoning materialism is that a unified field theory, in which all matter has its source in an invisible, or virtual, domain, begins to merge with Vedanta. The most basic question, Where do we come from and who are we?must have a consistent answer. There cant be one answer for physics and another for Advaita Vedantists. Quantum physics proved we dont have to be imprisoned in duality seemingly disparate things like matter and energy have a single source. So the essential problem of suffering can be solved once you willingly give up a vision that dictates dualistic answers. Having taken that step, all kinds of opposites, such as nature and nurture, mind and brain, objective and subjective, begin to present a different face. A Fresh View Of Life The upshot is that when you really face the bullet when your vision of life confronts pain and suffering in all its gruesomeness the whole setup of your life must be examined afresh. Otherwise, we wind up with circular questions that are hiding predetermined answers. You cant solve suffering by reinforcing your rigid worldview.