Utility of suffering


There are times when I feel extremely sad and miserable. In such cases I turn to my favorite author’s article.

Suffering is a feeling that none of us like. But it continues to exist. Several great people tried to demystify it but none on seems to have a plausible answer. Arun Shourie writes an article about utility of suffering. I have copied the text from here. The words here make me forget my own suffering somehow. I dont know if suffering is by design or not but I feel that suffering can change a man it can transform. Look at  Baba Amte who made the “sick” leprosy patients live a life of utmost dignity and they eventually build a college for the “healthy” people, they have no hatred for the rest of the world which treated them mercilessly instead they give back love. They blame no one. Contrast this against several of the organizations representing poor and downtrodden who are busy blaming someone else for the foes and demanding special treatment. Contrast this to Mother Teresa who denied painkillers to her patients because she thought “pain takes people closer to god”.

Let me quote the part of article here. It’s very touching.

So, suffering can be put to work. Suffering teaches, it transforms. From this many assert that there is a purpose to it, that it has been put in place, it has been inflicted by design. That is what I am not able to reconcile myself to. The point was once put by a child at the Spastics Society school with a finality that sealed it.Baba Amte was in Delhi. He was so kind as to take time off to visit the school. As everyone who has met him knows, he has presence. His work has been of the highest order. To see Anandvan, the settlement of leprosy patients that has grown up as a result of his life-long service of them is to see a miracle. Persons afflicted by this terrible ailment lead lives of utmost dignity. They grow crops — “Everything other than tea,” they say joyfully — they produce goods — “Everything other than salt,” they say in triumph– they man a complex and extensive irrigation system. They cook, they teach. By their earnings they have endowed an enormous college for the uncaring, ungrateful community of those like us who are “healthy”. Their houses are spotlessly clean. When one is in the presence of Baba Amte, therefore, one is in the presence of a person who has worked a miracle. And he has done so by sheer grit, by a super-human obstinacy. And then there is his own physical condition — he cannot sit, he has either to stand or lie down.

He had been round the school. He had planted a pipal sapling. He was now lying on a cot, talking to the children. Every word he said rang true, for he was not reciting words, he had lived them.

Alok raised his hand. Now, Alok Sikka is as much of a fighter as Baba Amte. He is, if I may say so, in Baba Amte’s mould. At that time he could not walk, he had to crawl on all fours. His speech was difficult to comprehend. He had a hundred problems. But his spirit was — and remains — as strong as Baba Amte’s is. After Baba Amte had finished his talk, and perhaps Baba Amte had said something about God, Alok asked, “But why did your God do this to me ?”

For a moment there was silence. Baba Amte then said, “I will tell you what happened once.” He told us that one of Gandhiji’s associates had a retarded daughter. The associate and his family, including the daughter were staying at Gandhiji’s ashram. Upon reaching his quarters one day the father found the child in a most distressing condition. He was moved to rage. He lifted up the daughter, and stomped back to Gandhiji’s room. Gandhiji was sitting with his head bowed, silent, in contemplation. The father as good as hurled the child into Gandhiji’s lap. “Why has your God done this ?”, he screamed. Gandhiji was startled. He did not speak for a moment. And then he said softly, “He has done this to melt your heart into kindness.”

We were all moved. Not Alok. He said, “But if your God wanted to make my parents kind, why did He do this to me ?” Everyone was dumbstruck. Including Baba Amte.

And for good reason. After all, look at Baba Amte’s own life. He was a very successful man of the world. One day he was out for his early morning walk. Perhaps the sun had not risen or there was fog, I forget the exact circumstance. But one could see for only a short distance. He heard a groan of agony. He walked over. There in the dirt on the side of the road, with nothing but a few newspaper sheets to shield him against the searing cold, lay a man unconscious, disfigured by leprosy. Baba Amte gave up all his affairs, and with just his wife and, as he says, one lame cow set off to serve lepers the rest of his life.

Over the years, as he served them — so many of them broken in spirit, disfigured in body — dread, revulsion, anger, frustration, all must have welled up in him. Seeing these emotions and reactions, watching them mindfully as the Buddhist masters would say, he must have overcome them. But could one therefore say that the others had been afflicted with that terrible ailment so that he might conquer fear, rage and the rest ? Obviously not. And that is why, whenever we have met since that encounter with Alok, Baba Amte has told me, “I am still searching for the answer to Alok’s question.”

I am posting these exact same words the second time.

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