The Spiritual Transformation of Pain and Suffering

We see in the earliest manifestations of existence a relative imperviousness to pain, in part due to a general insensitivity, and in part due to an ability to withstand pain. As conscious awareness increases, there is a greater sensitivity and with it generally comes a greater susceptibility to pain and suffering. Sri Aurobindo points out that “It is the incompleteness and weakness of the Consciousness-Force manifested in the mental, vital and physical being, its inability to receive or refuse at will, or, receiving, to assimilate or harmonise the contacts of the universal Energy cast upon it, that is the cause of pain and suffering.” The greater susceptibility is due to the fact that greater conscious awareness does not bring with it an equal measure of force to meet or withstand the external shocks. “the body becomes more subtle, more finely capable, but less solidly efficient in its external energy…”

As the evolution thus proceeds to finer and more subtle development of consciousness, it is necessary to develop new responses to the pain and suffering which, to a less subtle form, were not as intensely experienced, or at least more easily borne. “man has to call in his will, his mental power to dynamise, correct and control his nervous being, force it to the strenuous tasks he demands from his instruments, steel it against suffering and disaster.”

“In the spiritual ascent this power of the consciousness and its will over the instruments, the control of spirit and inner mind over the outer mentality and the nervous being and the body, increases immensely; a tranquil and wide equality of the spirit to all shocks and contacts comes in and becomes the habitual poise, and this can pass from the mind to the vital parts and establish there too an immense and enduring largeness of strength and peace; even in the body this state may form itself and meet inwardly the shocks of grief and pain and all kinds of suffering.”

The entire reaction of the body to the pressures that cause pain and suffering can be transformed. Still more significant is the power that comes on the level of spiritual Mind or Overmind to change the vibrations of pain into vibrations of Ananda: even if this were to go only up to a certain point, it indicates the possibility of an entire reversal of the ordinary rule of the reacting consciousness…”

There is also the possibility that higher levels of consciousness can develop the power to actually “turns away the shocks that are more difficult to transmute or to endure.”

Sri Aurobindo points out: “The gnostic evolution at a certain stage must bring about a completeness of this reversal and of this power of self-protection which will fulfil the claim of the body for immunity and serenity of its being and for deliverance from suffering and build in it a power for the total delight of existence. A spiritual Ananda can flow into the body and inundate cell and tissue; a luminous materialisation of this higher Ananda could of itself bring about a total transformation of the deficient or adverse sensibilities of physical Nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 27, “The Gnostic Being”