The purpose of suffering


Everyone is suffering; just the extent of suffering varies. Quite unfortunately, many of us don’t even know that we are suffering. The suffering has become such an integral part of our life that we take it for granted. We don’t even believe that there can exist a situation in which there is no suffering anymore. We don’t even know what it means to be suffering-free.

There is a quote that says, “Sometimes you don’t realise the weight of something you’ve been carrying, until you feel the weight of its release.” I think this is the case with all of us. Just as people who work in sewers become used to the smell of the sewers after some time, we have become used to constant suffering, like a background static, in our lives. We only feel it when it crosses a certain threshold, and this threshold is different for different people. Depending upon how sensitive a human is, he may sense even, say 1 unit of suffering, while another person may not even sense 10 units of suffering. The reason is that the second person is used to 10 units of suffering in his life, and thus, such a level doesn’t attract any special attention from him. However, obviously, it doesn’t mean that he is not suffering, just that his consciousness has taken it for granted, just as ears adjust to background noise after a period of time.

A problem needs to be identified first for it to be solved. A diseases needs to be diagnosed first before it can be treated. Similarly, a person needs to first identify the suffering that is a part of his life before he can work to eliminate the suffering. When a person evolves spiritually, his sensitivity increases. The first thing that happens to a spiritual aspirant is that he realises the suffering that is a part of his and everyone else’s life. He begins to notice the struggle, the tension and the lack of ease in everyday actions and life. When he so realises, he becomes more and more serious towards the spiritual path.

Then, as he starts walking on the spiritual path with the correct intent, joy, ease, and peace starts to enter his life gradually. While earlier, his consciousness was used to suffering, now his consciousness get more and more used to peace, joy, and ease. All of these qualities start reflecting in his daily life and every act that he performs. He starts avoiding activities or people that disturb his poise. His company begins to change as he avoids certain people and as he attracts more pleasant people to his life. The culmination of the spiritual path is the realisation of the individual of his or her divine heritage i.e. a realization that he or she is a soul and thus, joy, peace, bliss, and ease are his or her nature.

This is the realization that the Gurbani seeks for us:

man tu jot sarup

However, we are running away from Gurbani, and not even opening the wealth of wisdom that Guru Sahib has left for us:


What is the way to know if you have followed the path of Gurbani or not?

Just look at your life and if your suffering isn’t going down, you are not following the path of Gurbani. Every step you take on the path of Gurbani takes you away from suffering and towards the joy and peace that are your natural heritage. For example: If we put up a great fire on one end, and put up blocks of ice on the other end, the more you move closer to the first end, the more heat you feel; the more you move closer to the second end, the more cold you feel. The more you forget your (and everyone else’s) divine heritage and are driven by instincts of greed, fear, lust, contempt, vengeance, jealousy, hatred, pride, anger etc, the more the suffering in your life. The more you remember your (and everyone else’s) divine heritage, you are driven by compassion, love, forgiveness, humility, kindness, service and thus, experience joy, peace, and bliss in your life.

Suffering is a natural outcome of your distance from your divine heritage or true nature. The more you move away from the ice blocks towards the fire, the more you will suffer. No one is deliberately causing this suffering to you. It is a natural consequence of your actions. On the other hand, the more you move away from the fire towards the ice blocks, the more you experience coldness and relief from the heat. Again, it is also a natural consequence of your actions.


Therefore, the purpose of suffering is just to remind you of your distance from your true nature. Once you become one with your true nature, there will not be suffering anymore.


Gurbani line above says that pleasures are the disease. It is important to understand here the difference between pleasures of the world and the natural joy. Pleasures – you derive from the outside world through physical (delicious food, fragrances, sex, etc) or mental (puzzles, praise, etc) means. Joy – it lies latent in the soul; you don’t need to do anything but just dip into your soul. Once you are connected to the soul, you always experience joy, doesn’t matter what happens in the outside world.

Besides, pleasures always have their opposites that give us pain or suffering. Joy has no opposite. The opposite of joy is just the absence of joy. The purpose of suffering, in other words, is to help us see the absence of natural joy in our life. If we are always surrounded by pleasures, we may never even realize the absence of joy.

Therefore, one of the objectives of human life is to rise beyond the domain of pleasures and suffering into the realm of pure joy. Gurbani says:


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