Anna Lyons: “B.K.S. Iyengar states that: the fluctations of the mind may be painful or non-painful. He also states that pain may be hidden in the non-painful state, and that non-pain may be hidden in the painful state. I can understand how pain may be hidden in the non-painful state, but I have some trouble with how I may be able to discover the non-pain in the painful state. Lets take the example of a person dying of cancer; is it possible for them to find the non-pain in this situation and how. This is an important question for me.”
I think that part of the answer may be found in section 2 of the yoga sutras. The causes of pain/suffering are identified in yoga sutra II 3 and described in II 4-9.
Sutra II,15 explains that for one who is discriminating, ?everything is painful indeed, due to its consequences:
i. the anxiety and fear over losing what is gained;
ii. the resulting impressions left in the mind to create renewed cravings; and
iii. the constant conflict among the three gunas, which control the mind.?
(p100; Sw. Satchidananda).
So pain results from our attachments to our pleasures and possessions, memories and perceived happiness.
Sw. Satchidananda states that ?all experiences that come from outside through the world, through nature or material things are ultimately painful.? (p. 100) However, ?in reality, nothing is bad in this world. What you enjoy one minute, you hate the next…Real pleasure comes from detaching ourselves completely from the entire world, in standing aloof ? making use of the world as a master of it.? (p. 101). Therefore, one of the lessons of this life may be to view ?the world is a training place where we learn to use the world without getting attached to it.? (p102)
Sutra II, 17 explains that ?the cause of that avoidable pain is the union of the Seer (Purusha) and seen (Prakriti or Nature).? (p. 103).
So we suffer because we identify with all that we see or possess.
Sw. Satchidananda encourages us to stay in our true Self. He says that ?you are the knower. You know everything. When you are happy you know you are happy., When you suffer you know you suffer. That knowing is permanent. You know you have a headache, but at the same time you say, ‘I am aching.’ This identification should be avoided. If you feel you have suffered a loss, ask, ‘Who is the loser?’ You’ll find that you are still here, that you didn’t lose yourself, but just something you had. That will greatly reduce your sorrow.? (p103)
Sutra II, 18 states that the seen (Nature or Prakriti) exists for the ?dual purpose of sensory enjoyment and the liberation of the self.? (p. 21; Stiles)
Sw. Satchidananda gives many example to illustrate this point. One example is that of the silk moth. A one day old silk worm will consume a single leaf but by the fourth day, each requires a truckload. After 30-40 days of non-stop consumption, they stop, fall unconscious, form a cocoon of silk from the digested leaves. When they awake, they find themselves bound in a cocoon ? the result of their overindulgence and selfish ways.
The ?the worms repent, pray and fast. In their deep meditation they resolve all their unconscious impressions and decide not to live a selfish life again; in the future, they will discriminate before accepting anything. At this decision two wings appear on either side of each worm ? one named viveka (discrimination), the other vairagya (dispassion). These are combined with a sharp, clear intellect, which turns into a sharp nose to pierce open the cocoon. With that, the worms ? now silk moths ? slip out and fly up high with their fantastically colored wings and look back to see their discarded prisons.?
My understanding of these sutras is that pain and suffering is Nature’s way of liberating us from the bondage of this world and this body (temporary and changing) and moving us towards the True Self (eternal and permanent). I don’t know the pain of cancer but I have experienced the pain of the loss of a loved one. For me this pain was the spark that initiated my spiritual quest and re-examination of my life. Now pain and suffering is an indication that I am attached to the object of pain and suffering. In the case of my father’s death, it was the attachment to his physical body and the idea of a father. However, he was terribly unhappy in this life and towards the end, he was not present…so what good was the physical body to either him or his family. And perhaps now I am provided with the opportunity of a new father.
There is a Rumi poem entitled ?A necessary autumn inside each? that I read over and over again for inspiration when I have pain or am suffering:
?You and I have spoken all these words, but as for the way we have to go, words are no preparation.
There is no getting ready, other than grace.
My faults have stayed hidden.
One might call that a preparation !
I have one small drop of knowing in my soul.
Let it dissolve in your ocean.
There are so many threats to it.
Inside each of us, there’s continual autumn.
Our leaves fall and are blown out over the water.
A crow sits in the blackened limbs and talks about what 's gone.
Then your generosity returns: spring, moisture, intelligence, the scent of hyacinth and rose and cypress.
Joseph is back !
And if you don’t feel in yourself the freshness of Joseph, be Jacob!
Weep and then smile.
Don’t pretend to know something you haven’t experienced.
There’s a necessary dying, and then Jesus is breathing again.
Very little grows on jagged rock.
Be crumbled, so wildflowers will come up where you are.
You’ve been stony for too many years.
Try something different.
(From Coleman Barks, The Soul of Rumi, HarperSanFrancisco: San Francisco, 2001, p. 21 )
For me, when I feel pain or suffering, this poem reminds me to ?be crumbled? and that ?I have been stony for too long?.
One book that I found very helpful is called ?Graceful Exits: How Great Beings Die? by Sushila Blackman.
?Sushila Blackman was a student of the Hindu master Swami Muktananda and was present at his ashram in India during his death. A few months before she completed Graceful Exists, Blackman learned that she had advanced lung cancer. She died a month and a half after finishing the book."
I think finding ‘non-pain’ within pain is about being detached from the body, that is aware of being ‘a soul’ or conciouness, and so being able to remain calm, peaceful through the pain. In the buddhist teachings I think this is Equanimity.
To lavina’s post. I just noticed the " Nature’s way of liberating us from the bondage of this world and this body" statement. By Nature do you mean Prakriti, the manifested world ?
I am not comfortable with the term Nature, as it is often took for granted, the subject to conquer, and one also used by materialists. But perhpas this is just my view.
On the pain theme … Brancusi said, in pain, there is always a dram of pleasure. It is also possible to be addicted to this pleasure.
For me, I find that although I am not attached to thoughts anymore, at least not too much as I learned the illusory nature of the mind, I am still very attached to concepts what have an emotional charge (what also belongs to the mind). My way of dealing with them is going all the way. As Jesus said: if your enemy wants to take you one step with him, go with him two steps. So I tell to myself … this is what you want ? Here, you have it … and some ! Than it becomes so grotesque than I cannot attach to it anymore.