One of the common questions people ask me during my workshop is “How do we avoid suffering?”
People are so focused in action, not realizing that an action which is born out of ignorance is an extension of ignorance. Hence, more than the action, one has to bring the light of understanding to one’s action.
My reply is, ‘Understand that you are the creator of your suffering. This understanding will help you dissolve suffering. An unhappy person in heaven, will convert heaven also into hell; the happy person will convert the hell into heaven.’ So, the change is not anywhere except within oneself. Reflect on this.
A Prime Minister and his secretary visit a palace in England. The Prime Minister detects a foul smell and out of anger tells his secretary ‘Your socks stink. Can’t you wear clean ones? We are meeting the King. Tomorrow come with a clean pair of socks.’
The next day too, while the secretary is with the Prime Minister, he encounters foul smell. Again, in anger, he thunders ‘You are stinking.’
The secretary immediately says, ‘I have worn a new pair of socks today, here is the bill for it. And since you don’t trust me I have carried the old socks in my pocket to show them to you.’
The stinking pair of socks is like our unhappy mind. If you have an unhappy mind, even if you are in heaven, you will stink. So, to overcome suffering, you have to understand that your unhappy mind is the cause.
There are two types of sufferings.
Legitimate suffering is a sorrow proportionate to the situation. For example your son dies in an accident. This sorrow is valid. But if you continue worrying for more than one or two years, then there is a psychological aspect to it.
To handle legitimate sufferings, one should understand such a suffering is the result of your past deeds.
Illegitimate suffering is a suffering not proportionate to the situation. For example, somebody calls you foolish.
You go on playing this thought in your mind even after many days. It is this suffering that one can end through right thinking.
When your suffering is due to the past Karma, past deeds, you have to understand that you are only repaying your debt.