Some thoughts on suffering (part 1 of 3)

What is the (“existential”) purpose of suffering? That question has pursued me for many years now. My own personal struggles I’ve found easier to respond to, in relative terms, coming to see them as a learning ground for a deeper existential and spiritual understanding. What’s always been much more difficult for me is witnessing, or simply knowing of, the suffering endured by other humans and animals in incredibly cruel and/or dangerous circumstances e.g. subject to physical and/or psychological violence, hunger, displacement, personal loss, etc. Consequently, I’ve felt an existential imperative to gain some constructive perspectives on the meaning of suffering in order to understand how best to remain in touch with my empathy, whilst at the same time avoiding the pitfall of feeling discouraged.

SunThe spiritual challenge we face is to be joyful no matter what life conditions we are experiencing i.e. whether we are surrounded by love and good fortune, or suffering and injustice. The tantric tradition offers a helpful insight by distinguishing between ananda, which is our innate blissful state of consciousness, and sukha, which is the emotional state of ordinary happiness that is dependent on external conditions. Ananda abides ceaselessly within us, therefore, there is no contradiction in being joy-filled even in the midst of challenging and painful life circumstances. “… ananda designates a way of experiencing and loving reality that is completely independent of circumstance. […] it [is] a state of absolute contentment, acceptance, and quiet yet sublime joy; the peace that passeth all understanding.”[1]

I recommend keeping the emotional, sukha-oriented mind out of the equation when witnessing the suffering of others, using instead techniques that are rooted in ananda, like light radiation which involves opening our hearts, stilling our minds and (having the intention of) allowing what we perceive to be healing energy, love and good wishes to pour out of us. Moreover, I suggest not having any expectations of what the outcome should be. Life’s design is much more than we can ever fully comprehend. All the same, we have the power to bring positivity and love into all  situations we witness, as well as into our actions and attitudes each and every day; the echo of which will reverberate through the transpersonal field, bringing greater coherence there with the potential for a similar resonance on the physical plane.

Edited extract from my book “She Who Is Unto Herself”

Photo c/o Wondermar:

[1] Wallis, C.D. (2013) Tantra Illuminated. Mattamayura Press: San Rafael, CA, p.104.

9 thoughts on “Some thoughts on suffering (part 1 of 3)

  1. Pingback: Some thoughts on suffering (part 1 of 3) | crowdCONNX

    • Thanks so much, Steven, for your kind comment and for being open to hearing perspectives that differ from your own 🙂 I much enjoyed reading your post on the link you gave me and browsing your blog 🙂 Joyful greetings, Sam 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve often wondered if the purpose of suffering isn’t seeing light in everything. Do we need to suffer? I think not. But then again, my greatest suffering (I’ve had a few near death, even excruciatingly painful experiences) have provided me the greatest strength on the backside. I don’t know how I would have got to this level without these experiences. So to be happy in suffering may amount to this: what are we learning through it. It is coming to us for a reason, and as far as that reason goes, it appears to be all good.
    I enjoyed your perspective, and have taken note of sukha and ananda.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for your comments and kind words 🙂 I agree with your perspective. In fact, there will be echoes of your viewpoint in parts 2 & 3 of this post on suffering. Wishing you a joyful evening, Sam 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Just this morning, my SO and I got into a discussion about suffering after she looked into the debate out there on whether clams should be included as vegan food. The nuances of this heated (internet) debate is not the point here. Rather the debate highlights among other things that there are different “kinds” of suffering, depending on how one approaches the matter.

    Your succulent description of the difference between ananda and sukha is a perfect illustration. Maybe it is helpful to understand suffering as coming either from a lack of ananda or a lack of sukha or a lack of both. When we speak of learning from our suffering or our suffering has a value, we are speaking of those times when we experience a lack to a certain degrees of sukha. One might even posit the extent to which we are able to learn or grow from moments that induce a lack of sukha is dependent upon the extent of ananda present within at the time. The “more” ananda, the more we are able to embrace that which is causing the sukha.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Many thanks for your very interesting feedback, Doug. Clams as vegan food?? Well, well 😉 Anyhow, yes, I agree with you, the more we are in touch with ananda, the more we can embrace the triggers of sukha because – and here I link to your comment on part 2 of this post on suffering, which I have slightly edited to fit this reply – “we don’t fear losing what we have that we want to keep; we don’t fear getting what we don’t have but don’t want; we are not attached to our desire for what we want to have but do not have; and we are not attached to our desire to get rid of what we have but do not want”. Joyful greetings, Sam 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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