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The Anatomy of Suffering

Discussion in 'Sikh Sikhi Sikhism' started by Admin Singh, Nov 10, 2010.

  1. Admin Singh

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    The Anatomy of Suffering
    Late Sr. Raghbir Singh Bir*

    Human beings are, by nature, pleasure loving, hungering for the gratification of passions and, indeed, believing that sensual satisfaction is life’s sole purpose. As a result, man remains preoccupied - day in and day out - with fulfilling his fleshly desires. Yet unbeknownst to him the desire to attain everlasting happiness lurks in every human being. In so far as he fails to discover the true bliss in sensual gratification, his quest for it seems unending and his wandering ceaseless.

    In order to gratify his basic instincts man takes recourse to exploring everyone of his passions: lust, anger, avarice, attachment and false pride. He resorts to sinful wrong-doing under the recurring illusion that, somewhere at the bottom, he would discover the supreme bliss. Even though occasionally he realises that the transient pleasures he experiences are like the mirage seen by a thirsty deer wandering in the shimmering desert sands, yet as long as the illusion is not dispelled, man remains captive to the appearance of things. Thus the miser is victim of his avarice, forever accumulating wealth and believing that possessing more and more of it will somehow confer on him an everlasting happiness and freedom from want.

    Arguably, the desire to own good thing of life is a natural and legitimate bent of human mind. But, untrained in the true methodology, one adopts all sorts of questionable means to achieve one’s goal. Man is thus responsible for the invidious division of wealth, determined to possess more than his neighbour. When he is denied success in his purpose or, having achieved some degree of success without attaining contentment, he is disappointed and miserable. The more he acquires, the greater his greed, and in the end most possessions, instead of providing comfort, become the cause of grief and suffering.

    Similarly, sensual gratification of libido seems to provide immense pleasure and thrill. With every act of sexual indulgence the fire of desire seems to grow and, by its accentuation, one becomes enslaved to passion, as well as mentally weak and physically exhausted. A deeper reflection would show that behind the desire for physical union is man’s love and longing for a durable bliss, but being a stranger to the ultimate state of joy, man unconsciously pursues the transient pleasures. If - and when - he experiences a momentary pleasure of the spirit, he feels a strange elation, only to discover that the pleasure was but a mirage - as of water in the shimmering desert sands. Dispirited, he reverts to the routine of transient satisfaction of his fleshly senses.

    Worldly attachments, in the nature of Moha, provide similar illusions of happiness simply because the uninitiated man is a stranger to the spirit within. He holds tightly to these relationships even while knowing that they are transient. This desperation is doubtless a reflection of man’s deep desire - and - quest - for permanence, the pain and suffering being
    integral to their transience. After a while he is reconciled to his own ignorance and regards the world as a place where he must "make hay while the sun shines."

    But in reality, at the bottom of their arrogance and anger, most human beings long for recognition and self-respect, which are perfectly legitimate aspirations. It is the improper and excessive display of anger and arrogance that causes human misery and disturbs the equilibrium of civilized society.
    In consequence of the various permutations and combinations of these five deadly sins, humanity continues to suffer distress and disunity, at the individual as well as collection levels. For instance, fanatical nationalism breeds international tensions, armed conflict and the holocaust. Racial discrimination is yet another manifestation.

    On thoughtful analysis, the five deadly sins that are found to be at the root of most human ills are born of haumai, i.e ego - whether individual or collective - and exert their malevolent influence on the society. When ego is controlled, goodwill returns. That is, the reason why the Sikh Scriptural Gurbani lays so much stress on the decimation of ego or haumai - even more than the control of the five passions of lust, anger, greed, arrogance and blind attachment. Ego, in a sense, is the root from which evil stems in all directions; with its uprooting, the evil is dispelled effortlessly.

    Hard as the attainment of true bliss may be, the slow decimation of passions should become a day to day habit, even as normal life goes on. In a positive sense, the life on earth is, to some extent, sustained by the same five passions. That axiomatic truth sustains the basic Sikh belief about the life of a householder, for Sikhism deprecates renunciation as escapist. This realistic principle not only ensures continuity of a humane society but also helps contain - and rein in - the five passions, which in turn strengthens the steady pursuit of simran in a moral environment.
    The practice of Simran by meditation strengthens awareness of the spirit even as it weakens the power of ego; and, in the result, the negative factors vanish. The seeker then systematically comes closer to true bliss, realising that the ego and its constituent elements have no real existence of their own. He feels reassured of a life of everlasting joy, free of ego as well as the bondage of the five malevolent forces.

    * With grateful acknowledgement to the Atam Science Trust, A-1 Kalindi Colony, New Delhi, 110065 for permission to reprint this excerpt from thee author’s Bandgi-Nama.
     

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