The first of the four noble truths that Buddha taught is that-‘Life is suffering’. In one way or another we all suffer. Either for want of the fulfilment of our material desires or for want of a permanent exit from the cycle of birth and death (samsara).
In both the cases we suffer because we seek something. And as the second truth goes- ‘Desire is the root cause of our suffering’. Our worldly desires are not just limited to worldly acquisitions or achievements but almost unique in its variety of pursuit. From the pursuit of beauty to the pursuit of a hearty meal. There are as many desires as there are souls. Quietly but desperately seeking that which we assume will give us happiness. But till the time we are stuck in a situation or deprived of our unique pursuit, we suffer.
Human nature tends to focus on what is lacking. However, in some cases the material deprivation or physical situation is actually grave. Though most of us like to believe or glorify our need or situation as the most difficult to endure. But grave or make believe, it is our response to suffering that reveals our character and our character shapes our destiny.
According to the Law of Karma, we are born with a karmic heritage from our previous life which is individual to us. This decides the nature of our suffering. But suffering is imperative to cleanse out our past debts, there is no other way. Yet, how we choose to suffer is an act (action/karma) in itself. We can make an undignified spectacle of ourselves or we can bear it with peaceful demeanour, silently and gracefully.
This choice as Viktor E Frankl, the author of ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ writes- ‘the last of the human freedoms-to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.’ Being loud and vocal about our suffering (not injustice) does not solve our problems. Instead, it rips us of an opportunity to grow, to learn, to evolve.
Those who take suffering in their stride, use it as an opportunity to add a deeper meaning to their life. By not using their suffering as an excuse to forsake their sense of decency, they strive to maintain their sense of morality even under the most difficult circumstances.
Our life, like the seasons, changes. The difficult phase gives way to a comfortable one and vice versa. The trying times come to an end and usher in a period of ease. When we look back at our hard times, may we do so with a sense of pride and not shame. As Dostoevski’s famous line goes- ‘There is only one thing that I dread, not to be worthy of my suffering.’