Suffering Spurs Us to Transformative Action

There is an inner drive within humanity to strive towards greater perfection, greater achievement, and reach out for harmony, love, knowledge, power and longer life. This drive is directly related to our experience of incapacity, limitation, suffering and defeat. In fact we see that individuals surfeited with pleasure or enjoyment tend not to strive for greater perfections. It thus becomes clear that somehow the mystery of suffering is tied into our evolutionary purpose and that the suffering itself is one of the keys to our evolutionary action.

Sri Aurobindo points out that when we achieve a deeper and wider consciousness, from which we can understand more completely, “we find then that there is a cosmic and individual utility in what presents itself to us as adverse and evil. For without experience of pain we would not get all the infinite value of the divine delight of which pain is in travail, all ignorance is a penumbra which environs an orb of knowledge, every error is significant of the possibility and the effort of a discovery of truth; every weakness and failure is a first sounding of gulfs of power and potentiality; all division is intended to enrich by an experience of various sweetness of unification the joy of realised unity. All this imperfection is to us evil, but all evil is in travail of the eternal good; for all is an imperfection which is the first condition,–in the law of life evolving out of Inconscience,–of a greater perfection in the manifesting of the hidden divinity.”

It is insufficient to achieve a personal deliverance from this suffering by attaining a state of ultimate Peace and Equality…Sri Aurobindo reminds us “But even if our personal deliverance is complete, still there is the suffering of others, the world travail, which the great of soul cannot regard with indifference. There is a unity with all beings which something within us feels and the deliverance of others must be felt as intimate to its own deliverance.”

Sri Aurobindo’s statement here reminds us of the vow of the Bodhisattva in the Mahayana Buddhist tradition, that the Bodhisattwa pledges to not abandon any other sentient being to the suffering of the world, and who thereby renounces a personal salvation that is not preceded by every other sentient being achieving enlightenment.

reference: Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 4, The Divine and the Undivine, pp. 405-406

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