Suffering – the Salt of Life

From Bhakti Yoga Sagar, Volume Five, Swami Satyananda Saraswati

What kind of people are we? We are unreasonable. We only want from God those things that we want. We don’t want what he wants. That is why everybody is unhappy. What is the grace of God? If you go to hospital to see a surgeon, do you want him to use a rose or a knife to operate with? Tulsidas has clearly said in his Ramayana that even though a mother loves her child, when an operation is necessary she will agree to it because it will cure the child and make him healthy. Suffering makes a man strong enjoyment makes him weak. That is why all the saints suffered. Christ suffered throughout his life. I don’t think he ever slept on a foam mattress! He must have slept on the floor with a rotten blanket. I don’t think he had a comb or used bath oil and shampoo. Christ could perform miracles, but why didn’t he do so on the cross? He had to suffer. You can say the same about many other saints. Analyse the life of Sri Rama, whom you call the incarnation of God, or Sitaji, whom millions of Indians consider to be the incarnation of the Goddess. Rama, an emperor’s son, lived in his guru's ashram for twelve years, sleeping on the floor and tending the guru’s cattle. When he re turned home, instead of a coronation, he was exiled to the for est. If your mother-in law threw you out of your home, how would you feel? Then, just one year before his period of exile was over, a powerful emperor kidnapped his wife. Is that not a tragedy?

Even these men with miraculous powers, who could control the elements, who could control destinies, suffered because suffering is the salt of life. Why didn’t Rama change his own destiny? Why didn’t Krishna change his own destiny? Krishna’s life was out and out suffering. Before he was born he was on Kamsa’s hit list and he faced many problems during his childhood. These great men were supposed to be prophets, sons of God or incarnations of God, yet they all suffered. Therefore, you must understand that suffering is the salt of life. “Suffering is the crucible into which nature throws a man whenever she wishes to mould him into a sublime superman.” Only when you enter the furnace can you become gold. Sorrow is not an enemy. Sorrow and suffering are my friends. Happiness comes to destroy me. I am telling you from the depth of my heart that spiritual seekers must understand that God is the only source. God is the only support. If he wants you to do sadhana, do it. If he wants you to enjoy life, enjoy it. If he wants you to suffer, suffer. Become his servant. You have no choice because a servant has no choice. After all, why did he send you here in human form? After evolving through so many incarnations, today you have become a human being. Yet, even after becoming a human being, you behave in the same way as an animal behaves.

Purpose of human evolution

What does an animal do? It eats and so do you, although of course from a plate. An animal sleeps and you also sleep, although of course in a cosy bed. An animal is insecure; you are also insecure, although of course you can lock the door. An animal has a sex life, you also have a sex life. Where is the difference? You behave exactly the same as an animal. Ahara (food), nidra (sleep), bhaya (fear) and maithuna (sex) are the four basic instincts common to both man and animals. There is only one difference. Should I tell you the difference or can you work it out for yourself?

You may say we have a society, but animals also have a society. Fish, elephants, horses, foxes, ants and bees have solid social systems. They have rules and regulations. Many animals such as lions and tigers define the boundary of their territory by urinating around it. They have property rights. They have their own languages. Animals have names. When a dog meets another dog, he will first smell its anus because a dog’s name tag is its anus. Although tigers may all look the same to us, research scholars say that no two tigers have the same stripes. Monkeys have a very solid social system. They have a system of marriage, rules for intercourse and a divorce system. Animals have everything. You don't know much about it because you are more interested in your own neighbours. So, how is man different from other animals when we can see they have these characteristics in common? Is there anything that makes him different? Find out what it is.

—30 November 1997, Rikhiapeeth