Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Why Good People Suffer?

Swami Tejomayananda
The Asian Age

"Why do good people suffer or why do bad things end up happening to good people?" This question seems to be very common these days. It seems as though the good people end up bearing the brunt of all sufferings while the evil doers seem to enjoy life. But if we observe closely, we see that everyone undergoes suffering in some form or the other. Keeping this in mind, our question becomes meaningless. Just because a person is good does not mean that there would be no suffering in his/her life.

But how exactly do we define "good"? In Sanskrit, "sadhu" is the word used to define a good person. The Sanskrit word Sadhu is derived from the root word, "saadh" which means "to accomplish". If we work for ourselves and achieve great things, there is nothing laudable about it but if we help others to achieve their goals then it becomes an accomplishment. It is courtesy to return good for good. But if someone harms you and despite that, you continue to wish that person without expecting anything in return, that is real goodness.

A sadhu bathing on the banks of the river Sarayu once saw a drowning insect. He saved the insect from drowning and was stung on his neck in return. Again, the insect fell back into the river and the sadhu pulled it out of the water and placed it under a shady tree. On seeing this, a bystander asked the sadhu, "Why did you do that?" The sadhu smiled and replied, "The insect did not give up its nature, so why should I?"

How can we achieve this goodness in our lives? To reach any target, we must first have a high stand and then know the goal. Similarly, for achieving goodness, we have a standard of goodness which is known to us because only then can we rise up to the required levels. As long as we see differences in the world around us, true goodness will fail to manifest. This can be achieved only when we become aware of the sama (oneness) with others.

An example will be better to further illustrate this point. Every part of my body is one whole. If the finger accidentally pokes the eye, there is instant forgiveness because of the complete identification with the finger. Now that we have an idea of goodness, let us now see what suffering is. Objective suffering befalls all people, good or bad. Situations leading to suffering could have their roots in their past actions. Objectively, the existence of pain or any other physical handicap cannot be denied but the degree of sorrow this leads to is entirely subjective.

Riches or positions of power do not alone guarantee happiness. People feel miserable about tiny matters. If a person claims that he is good and is suffering while the dishonest person is flourishing; we can be very sure that the person is not good. For a good man, the real suffering is to do something against his convictions. Imagine, a pure vegetarian is faced with a situation of remaining hungry or eating beef, the chances are that the former option would be more acceptable.

All our spiritual practices cannot eliminate suffering but they protect the mind and make sufferings acceptable, just as during the monsoons, we cannot stop the rains but we can protect ourselves from getting drenched by an umbrella or a raincoat. Sarathi, the charioteer says: "A good person never suffers."

By some strange logic, we end up feeling that suffering and enjoyment is related to our past actions. If we observe more closely at the subtle level, we find immediate results of our own actions. The moment a good thought enters our mind, we feel elated and similarly, a wicked thought causes agitation. The real suffering occurs when we lose our goodness. Compromising with goodness is the greatest suffering. Even though superficially, it may appear that the evil doers are flourishing, it should not serve as an excuse to compromise. The problem arises when one does not have an ideal or when one is unable to live up to one's ideals. But the greatest sadness is when one believes that the ideal is not worth living up to and has lost its utility.

Ultimately, a good man will stand by his convictions because, "if you do not stand for something, you will fall for everything."

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