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When will the suffering cease?

The Mahabharata,
Santi Parva Section CCXX
Translated by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli

King Yudhishthira said: By doing what does one acquire happiness, and what is that by doing which one meets with woe? What also is that, O Bharata, by doing which one becomes freed from fear and sojourns here crowned with success (in respect of the objects of life)?

Bhishma said: The ancients who had their understandings directed to the Srutis (Vedas), highly applauded the duty of self-restraint for all the orders generally but for the Brahmanas in especial. Success in respect of religious rites never occurs in the case of one that is not self-restrained. Religious rites, penances, truth,- all these are established upon self-restraint. Self-restraint enhances one’s energy. Self-restraint is said to be sacred. The man of self-restraint becomes sinless and fearless and wins great results. One that is self-restrained sleeps happily and wakes happily. He sojourns happily in the world and his mind always remains cheerful. Every kind of excitement is quietly controlled by self-restraint. One that is not self-restrained fails in a similar endeavour.

The practice of self-restraint is
distinguished above all other virtues.

The man of self-restraint beholds his innumerable foes (in the form of lust, desire and wrath, etc.), as if these dwell in a separate body. Like tigers and other carnivorous beasts, persons destitute of self-restraint always inspire all creatures with dread. For controlling these men, the Self-born (Brahman) created kings. In all the four modes of life, the practice of self-restraint is distinguished above all other virtues. The fruits of self-restraint are much greater than those obtainable in all the modes of life.

I shall now mention to thee the indications of those persons who prize self-restraint highly. They are nobility, calmness of disposition, faith, forgiveness, invariable simplicity, the absence of garrulity, humility, reverence for superiors, benevolence, compassion for all creatures, frankness, abstention from talk upon kings and men in authority, from all false and useless discourses, and from applause and censure of others. The self-restrained man becomes desirous of emancipation and, quietly bearing present joys and griefs, is never exhilarated or depressed by prospective ones.

Destitute of vindictivenes and all kinds of guile, and unmoved by praise and blame, such a man is well-behaved, has good manners, is pure of soul, has firmness or fortitude, and is a complete master of his passions. Receiving honours in this world, such a man in after-life goes to heaven. Causing all creatures to acquire what they cannot acquire without his aid, such a man rejoices and becomes happy.
[Note: Giving food and clothes to the poor and needy in times of scarcity is referred to].
Devoted to universal benevolence, such a man never cherishes animosity for any one. Tranquil like the ocean at a dead calm, wisdom fills his soul and he is never cheerful. Possessed of intelligence, and deserving of universal reverence, the man of self-restraint never cherishes fear of any creature and is feared by no creature in return.

That man who never rejoices even at large acquisitions and never feels sorrow when overtaken by calamity, is said to be possessed of contented wisdom. Such a man is said to be self-restrained. Indeed, such a man is said to be a regenerate being. Versed with the scriptures and endued with a pure soul, the man of self-restraint, accomplishing all those acts that are done by the good, enjoys their high fruits.

They, however, that are of wicked soul never betake themselves to the path represented by benevolence, forgiveness, tranquillity, contentment, sweetness of speech, truth, liberality and comfort. Their path consists of lust and wrath and cupidity and envy of others and boastfulness.

Subjugating lust and wrath, practising the vow of Brahmacharya (celibacy) and becoming a complete master of his senses, the Brahmana, exerting himself with endurance in the austerest of penances, and observing the most rigid restraints, should live in this world, calmly waiting for his time like one seeming to have a body though fully knowing that he is not subject to destruction.


From The Mahabharata
Santi Parva Section CXC
Translated by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli

Bharadwaja said:
You have said that happiness is the highest object. I do not comprehend this. This attribute of the soul that (you say) is so desirable is not sought by the Rishis who are regarded to be engaged in something promising a higher reward. It is heard that the Creator of the three worlds, viz., the puissant Brahma, lives alone, observant of the vow of Brahmacharya (celibacy). He never devotes himself to the happiness obtainable from the gratification of desire. Also, the divine Master of the universe, the lord of Uma (Siva), reduced Kama (the deity of desire) to extinction. For this reason, we say that happiness is not acceptable to high-souled people. Nor does it appear to be a high attribute of the Soul.

I cannot put faith in what thy divine self has said, viz., that there is nothing higher than happiness. That there are two kinds of consequences in respect of our acts, viz., the springing of happiness from good acts and of sorrow from sinful acts, is only a saying that is current in the world.

Brigu said: On this it is said as follows:
From Untruth springs Darkness. They that are overwhelmed by Darkness pursue only Unrighteousness and not Righteousness, being overmastered by wrath, covetousness, malice, falsehood, and similar evils. They never obtain happiness either here or hereafter.

On the other hand, they are afflicted by various kinds of disease and pain and trouble. They are tortured by Death, imprisonment, and diverse other griefs of that kind, and by the sorrows, attending on hunger and thirst and toil. They are pained by the numerous bodily griefs that arise from rain and wind and burning heat and exceeding cold.

They are also overwhelmed by numerous mental griefs caused by loss of wealth and separation from friends, as also by griefs caused by decrepitude and death. They that are not touched by these diverse kinds of physical and mental afflictions, know what happiness is.

These evils are never found in heaven. There delicious breezes blow. In heaven there is also perpetual fragrance. In heaven there is no hunger, no thirst, no decrepitude, no sin. In this world there is both happiness and misery. In hell there is only misery. Therefore, happiness is the highest object of acquisition.

The Earth is the progenitrix of all creatures. Females partake of her nature. The male animal is like Prajapati himself. The vital seed, it should be known, is the creative energy. In this way did Brahman ordain in days of old that the creation should go on. Each, affected by his own acts, obtains happiness or misery.

From The Bhagavad Gita, Ch. 18, Verse 10

The man of renunciation, pervaded by purity, intelligent and
with his doubts cut asunder, does not hate a disagreeable
work nor is he attached to an agreeable one.

From The Chhandogya Upanishad
XVIII.  vii.  23-26

Narada approached Sanatkumara and said: “Sir, teach me.”

“Come and tell me what you know,” he replied, “and then I will teach you what is beyond that.”

“Sir, I know the Rig-Veda, the Yajur-Veda, the Sama-Veda and Atharvan the fourth; and also the Itihasa-Purana as the fifth. I know the Veda of the Vedas (viz., grammar), the rules for the propitiation of the Pitris (ancestors), the science of numbers, the science of portents, the science of time, the science of logic, ethics and politics, the science of the gods, the science of scriptural studies, the science of the elemental science, the science of weapons, the science of the stars, the science of snake-charming and the fine arts – all these, Sir, I know,”

“But, Sir, with all these I am only a knower of words, not a knower of the Self. I have heard from holy men like you that he who knows the Self crosses over sorrow. I am in sorrow. Do, Sir, help me to cross over to the other side of sorrow.”

To him he then said: “Verily, whatever you have learned here is only a name.

“That which is Infinite – that, indeed, is happiness. There is no happiness in anything that is finite. The Infinite alone is happiness. But this Infinite one must desire to understand.”


From The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi
Edited by David Godman

Question: What do you consider to be the cause of world
suffering? And how can we help to change it, (a) as individuals, or (b) collectively?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Realise the Self. It is all that is necessary.

Question: In this life beset with limitations can I ever realise the bliss of the Self?

Maharshi: That bliss of the Self is always with you, and you will find it for yourself, if you would seek it earnestly. The cause of your misery is not in the life outside you, it is in you as the ego. You impose limitations on yourself and then make a vain struggle to transcend them. All unhappiness is due to the ego; with it comes all your trouble. What does it avail you to attribute to the happenings in life the cause of misery which is really within you? What happiness can you get from things extraneous to yourself? When you get it, how long will it last?

If you would deny the ego and scorch it by ignoring it, you would be free. If you accept it, it will impose limitations on you and throw you into a vain struggle to transcend them. To be the Self that you really are is the only means to realise the bliss that is ever yours.

Question: If God is all why does the individual suffer for his
actions? Are not the actions for which the individual is made
to suffer prompted by him?

Maharshi: He who thinks he is the doer is also the sufferer.

Questioner: But the actions are prompted by God and the individual is only his tool.

Maharshi: This logic is applied only when one suffers, but not when one rejoices. If the conviction prevails always, there will be no suffering either.

Question: When will the suffering cease?

Maharshi: Not until individuality is lost. If both the good and bad actions are his, why should you think that the enjoyment and suffering are yours alone? He who does good or bad, also enjoys pleasure or suffers pain. Leave it there and do not superimpose suffering on yourself.

Question: How can you say that suffering is non-existent? I see it everywhere.

Maharshi: One’s own reality, which shines within everyone as the Heart, is itself the ocean of unalloyed bliss. Therefore like the unreal blueness of the sky, misery does not exist in reality but only in mere imagination. Since one’s own reality, which is the sun of jnana (Spiritual knowledge) that cannot be approached by the dark delusion of ignorance, itself shines as happiness, misery is nothing but an illusion caused by the unreal sense of individuality. In truth no one has ever experienced any such thing other than that unreal illusion. If one scrutinises one’s own Self, which is bliss, there will be no misery at all in one’s life. One suffers because of the idea that the body, which is never oneself, is ‘I’; suffering is all due to this delusion.

Question: I suffer in both mind and body. From the day of my birth I have never had happiness. My mother too suffered from the time she conceived me, I hear. Why do I suffer thus? I have not sinned in this life. Is all this due to the sins of past lives?

Maharshi: You say the mind and body suffer. But do they ask the questions? Who is the questioner? Is it not the one that is beyond both mind and body? You say the body suffers in this life and ask if the cause of this is the previous life. If that is so then the cause of that life is the one before it, and so on. So, like the case of the seed and the sprout, there is no end to the causal series. It has to be said that all the lives have their first cause in ignorance. That same ignorance is present even now, framing this question. That ignorance must be removed by jnana (spiritual knowledge).

‘Why and to whom did this suffering come?’ If you question thus you will find that the ‘I’ is separate from the mind and body, that the Self is the only eternal being, and that it is eternal bliss. This is jnana.

Question: I suffer from worries without end; there is no peace for me, though there is nothing wanting for me to be happy.

Maharshi: Do these worries affect you in sleep?

Questioner: No, they do not.

Maharshi: Are you the very same man now, or are you different from him that slept without any worry?

Questioner: Yes, I am the same person.

Maharshi: Then surely those worries do not belong to you. It is your own fault if you assume that they are yours.

Question: When we suffer grief and complain and appeal to
you by letter or mentally by prayer, are you not moved to feel
what a pity it is that your child suffers like this?

Maharshi: If one felt like that one would not be a jnani.

Question: We see pain in the world. A man is hungry. It is a physical reality, and as such, it is very real to him. Are we to call it a dream and remain unmoved by his pain?

Maharshi: From the point of view of jnana or the reality, the pain you speak of is certainly a dream, as is the world of which the pain is an infinitesimal part. In the dream also you yourself feel hunger. You feed yourself and, moved by pity, feed the others that you find suffering from hunger. So long as the dream lasts, all those hunger pains are quite as real as you now think the pain you see in the world to be. It is only when you wake up that you discover that the pain in the dream was unreal.

You might have eaten to the full and gone to sleep. You dream that you work hard and long in the hot sun all day, are tired and hungry and want to eat a lot. Then you get up and find your stomach is full and you have not stirred out of your bed. But all this is not to say that while you are in the dream you can act as if the pain you feel there is not real. The hunger in the dream has to be assuaged by the food in the dream. The fellow beings you found so hungry in the dream had to be provided with food in that dream. You can never mix up the two states, the dream and the waking state. Till you reach the state of jnana and thus wake out of this maya, you must do social service by relieving suffering whenever you see it.

But even then you must do it, as we are told, without ahamkara, that is without the sense ‘I am the doer’, but feeling, ‘I am the Lord’s tool.’ Similarly one must not be conceited and think, ‘I am helping a man below me. He needs help. I am in a position to help. I am superior and he is inferior.’ You must help the man as a means of worshipping God in that man. All such service too is for you the Self, not for anybody else. You are not helping anybody else, but only yourself.

Question: In the case of persons who are not capable of long meditation will it not be enough if they engage themselves in doing good to others?

Maharshi: Yes, it will do. The idea of good will be in their heart.
That is enough. Good, God, love, all are the same thing. If the
person keeps continuously thinking of any one of these, it will be enough. All meditation is for the purpose of keeping out all other thoughts.

Question: So one should try to ameliorate suffering,
even if one knows that ultimately it is non-existent?

Maharshi: There never was and never will be a time when all are equally happy or rich or wise or healthy. In fact none of these terms has any meaning except in so far as the opposite to it exists. But that does not mean that when you come across anyone who is less happy or more miserable than yourself, you are not to be moved to compassion or to seek to relieve him as best you can. On the contrary, you must love all and help all, since only in that way can you help yourself.

When you seek to reduce the suffering of any fellow man or fellow creature, whether your efforts succeed or not, you are yourself evolving spiritually especially if such service is rendered disinterestedly, not with the egotistic feeling ‘I am doing this’, but in the spirit ‘God is making me the channel of this service; he is the doer and I am the instrument.’

If one knows the truth that all that one gives to others is giving only to oneself, who indeed will not be a virtuous person and perform the kind act of giving to others? Since everyone is one’s own Self, whoever does whatever to whomever is doing it only to himself.

From The Bhagavad Gita
Translations and commentaries by
Swami Shivananda
The Divine Life Society, Rishikesh

The enjoyments that are born of contacts are only generators of pain, for they have a beginning and an end, O Arjuna: the wise do not rejoice in them.
-Gita, Ch. 5, Verse 22

[Note: Man goes in quest of joy and searches in the external perishable objects for his happiness. He fails to get it but instead he carries a load of sorrow on his head.

You should withdraw the senses from the sense-objects as there is no trace of happiness in them and fix the mind on the immortal, blissful Self within. The sense-objects have a beginning and an end. Separation from the sense-objects gives you a lot of pain. During the interval between the origin and the end you experience a hollow, momentary, illusory pleasure. This fleeting pleasure is due to Avidya or ignorance. He who is endowed with discrimination or knowledge of the Self will never rejoice in these sensual objects. Only ignorant persons who are passionate will rejoice in the sense-objects.]

That pleasure which arises from the contact of the sense-organ with the objects, which is at first like nectar, and in the end like poison - that is declared to be Rajasic.
-Gita, Ch. 18, Verse 38

The contacts of the senses with the objects, O son of Kunti (Arjuna), which causes heat and cold, pleasure and pain, have a beginning and an end; they are impermanent; endure them bravely, O Arjuna.
-Gita, Ch. 2, Verse 14



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