Thursday, January 23, 2014

The conquest of pain

Mula came upon a frowning man walking along the road to town. "What's wrong?" he asked. The man held up a tattered bag and moaned, "All that I own in this wide world barely fills this miserable, wretched sack."
"Too bad," said Mula, and with that, he snatched the bag from the man's hands and ran down the road with it.
 Having lost everything, the man burst into tears and, more miserable than before, continued walking. Meanwhile, Mula quickly ran around the bend and placed the man's sack in the middle of the road where he would have to come upon it.
When the man saw his bag sitting in the road before him, he laughed with joy, and shouted, "My sack! I thought I'd lost you!"
Watching through the bushes, Mula chuckled. "Well, that's one way to make someone happy!"
The man in the story was initially unhappy that he had nothing except the tattered bag. When he lost the bag he became miserable. When he got it back he turned happy even though the tattered bag was the same. The intensity of the pain changed when mental circumstances changed. He realized the value of the bag that he despised initially only when he lost it and therefore was pleased when he got it back.
A child injures its finger slightly and cries hard. When running towards its mother, it falls and gets hurt in the knuckle. The pain in the finger is gone and the one at the knuckle is causing trouble. When a bigger problem comes, the minor one is gone. Is it not then the mischief of the mind? It is like drawing a longer line by pencil by the side of a line to make it appear short.Nothing was done to the line, yet it became shorter.
There is another aspect. The pain for the same problem is felt differently by different people depending upon the circumstances. The loss of a ten rupee note by a beggar is more painful than the same loss is to a white collared employee. The fear of loss of job is more to an unqualified individual than to a person with professional qualification. The intensity of the pain is proportionate to the fear. Some people shudder at the thought of a prick with the needle by a nurse while a soldier in the front with one leg shot and incapacitated keeps fighting bravely. It is again the mental makeup. Cowards suffer more.
We have heard the story of a man clinging in great fear to a straw-like branch over a bottomless deep pit not knowing what was there deep down and yet when a drop of honey fell on his chin from a beehive, he licked happily the sweet treacle with his tongue with the fear gone for a while. A small pleasure like the smile of a child blunts the great unhappiness of a grieving man.
Diverting the mind to God when the trouble seems insurmountable lulls the stressed mind into calm. The problems do not vanish but the mind is turned away in hope. This is what all of us do.
Sage Ramana Maharishi suffered from an extremely painful form of bone cancer in his elbow. The doctors suggested amputation of the arm but Maharishi declined saying with a smile: “There is no need for alarm. The body is itself a disease. Let it have its natural end. Why mutilate it? Simple dressing of the affected part will do.” The disease did not yield to treatment. The sage was quite unconcerned and was supremely indifferent to suffering. He sat as a spectator watching the disease waste the body. But his eyes shone as bright as ever and his grace continued to flow towards all beings. He was unconcerned and assured the weeping devotees that the body is not the Maharishi. He conquered pain by detachment but such stoicism does not come by easily to ordinary folks.
Many a pain is caused by desire. We long for things we do not have and feel bad for not possessing it. Once you get it, the mind seeks another one, a new and novel thing. Not all things are easy to obtain. We use short cuts that are not always proper and results in trouble. There is no end to pain till you curb the desire

“Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain, but for the heart to conquer it.”Rabindranath Tagore


  1. Lovely piece KP! Pain is but a result of our mental makeup. What is painful to me maybe painless for the another and vice versa. What was a mountain today maybe a mole for me tomorrow. By dwelling on God we surely can erase the pain and feel happy though momentarily. Only contentment can curb pain and this calls for discipline.

  2. I loved the bag story. And I loved the concept you were trying to put forward.
    But for some reason I did not appreciate the Sage story. Not adhering to treatment just because your body will be gone sometime in future is not a bright thing to do.

  3. Agree to red handed...tolerating the pain with a smile is brave, but not treating it may be unwise..

  4. Through ages, saints and sages preached this concept of impermanence. Some followed scriptures, went to prayer halls but only those who could internalise through their own experiences, could appreciate fully and practise.
    It is a lovely piece from you, as always

  5. Very serene piece from you, as always

  6. The mula story is very good. The child story also is very very good.

    All types of pains are bearable or unbearable according to our mental make - up. Many problems look big at night but when you wake up, our mind also brightens up and we feel silly for all the tensions we experienced at night. Mind is the cause for everything. Very well said, Partha Sir.

    Yes, Desire is the culprit for all the unimportant pains we face..

  7. I didnt know Tagore's words, but my constant prayer has been that. I agree with Ramana Maharshi and that is the ideal way to deal with a sick body. Glad that I found this blog today, catching up with other posts now!

  8. Beautiful post KP. Thought provoking. !!

  9. that’s really a silly story…in fact just imagine such a scenario happening right in front of us…ohhh…
    but the point to note is, how happy that man would be upon seeing his sack…gives a lot to think about

  10. Yes, any misfortune makes you feel the others were of no consequence. However, that is life, we tend to worry and fret over petty issues all the time. Sometimes, I think God creates situations that bring us down to earth and realise our follies

  11. This is an interesting shift from the usual writing that you do.
    Your thoughts make for interesting reading, tho insure a
    definitive line of movement from your annotations to that
    of the quoted lines for purposes of clarity. We don't want
    to see the quote grabbing attention away from your piece.
    The quote is simply the punctuation mark. What you say is
    the highlight of the post.

    More power to you. Thanks for sharing.

  12. There are so many issues in this post. And yes happiness is the focal point in all.
    For each his suffering/ pain looks bigger and others achievements bigger. But that is how we are made :)
    Regarding Raman Maharishi.. great saints like him 'understand' well that we are spirit souls and so bodily discomforts/ disease do not affect them.
    And yes I like to read such post from you rather than the stories :P