Reflections on Suffering with Ram Dass
Suffering — the nature of it, how to be with it (ours or someone eles’s), what attention we give it in our lives — can be a major dilemma for most of us. We often don’t know how to be with it, whether to embrace it or shun it, give it space or re-direct it. In this brief yet profound excerpt from “Reflections on Suffering”, a talk given by Ram Dass in 1987, the heart of the matter is revealed, offering succint and direct teaching and wisdom on the place that suffering should have in our lives.
Now, just as I said before, if you are going to be able to deal with see somebody else’s beauty, you have to be able to acknowledge your own beauty. In a similar way, if you are going to be able to be available to someone else’s suffering, you have to be able to acknowledge your own suffering and be able to understand the nature of suffering in such a way that you have converted the quality of suffering in yourself.
Gurdjieff, the Russian philosopher said, “There is nothing that can be obtained spiritually without suffering in life, but at the same time, if you are going to proceed on the journey you must sacrifice suffering.”
You hear that dual nature of it. You have to have suffered because the suffering is what burns through you and what deepens the compassion and opens the door. Suffering brings you closer to the mystery and at the same moment, if you hold onto the suffering and grab at it and sort of wallow in it or cling to it, it stops the journey.
There is an understanding of suffering such that you don’t invite suffering into your life, but when it comes, you work with it and transform it. The extreme of it is the Christian monk who is saying, “God, God, give me more pain. Give me more suffering because I want to get closer to you” and Maharaji saying “Do you like suffering or joy?” and saying, “I love suffering. It brings me so close to God.”
- Michelle W