Why do we suffer

This is an attempt to respond to the most basic of all questions: “Why do sentient beings suffer? Or why is there evil in this world?”

Surely if God was omnipotent and filled with love and compassion, he could have created a universe in which sentient beings were always happy and did not have to be subject to suffering. But He chose not to do so. Why is that?

There are two responses to this question (that I know of). The first is the response of the Buddha. The Buddha said that there is no point asking this question or pondering over it. He said that even if we find the answer it will not do us any good. We will still be subject to suffering, to old age, sickness and death and all the ills that the flesh is heir to.

So what is the point in pondering over such philosophical questions. We would be better served If we acted to reach Nirvana – a stage beyond suffering.

There is a story to illustrate this concept. Suppose there is a man who is going about his business and is hit by an arrow and gets wounded. Now the only thing that can help the wounded man if taking the arrow out and treating the wound. Suppose the man were to say: Í will not have the arrow taken out until I know what is the name of the man who wounded me, his caste, his livelihood, where he lives and so on?”

Surely – the Buddha said – the wounded man will die before he got the answer to all his questions. The only thing that will help the wounded man is medical treatment to remove the arrow and dress the wound.

In the same way, there is no point asking why there is suffering or complaining about it. Use suffering as a motivator to seek God or Nirvana. That is the only response that will be beneficial to you.

The second response is taken from Greek mythology. It is said there that the gods envy humans because we suffer and because we are mortal (because we die). They themselves are immortal (they live forever) and they are constantly enjoying in heaven. And according to the Greek myths, that is a state that is much worse than that of humans who suffer and die.

Good and bad are two poles. Without the one we cannot experience and appreciate the other.

WE appreciate health because of our experience of sickness. We appreciate happiness because we are unhappy at times. Unhappiness provides a contrast that makes us aware and appreciate happiness when we are blessed with it. If we were never unhappy, we would not be able to experience happiness either.

If we are to take the advice of the Buddha and seek and attain Nirvana, we would be able to reach a stage of being that is beyond all dualities. That would be a stage that is much higher than the position of the gods. That would be lasting happiness. And it is suffering that motivates us to seek God. Without it we would never make the attempt.

I hope you found this article interesting.

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