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Jiddu Krishnamurti on Pain and Suffering

Question: What is the significance of pain and suffering?
Jiddu Krishnamurti : When you suffer, when you have pain, what is the significance of it?
Physical pain has one significance but probably we mean psychological pain and sufferings which has quite a different significance at different levels. What is the significance of suffering? Why do you want to find the significance of suffering? Not that it has no significance - we are going to find out. But why do you want to find it? Why do you want to find out why you suffer? When you put that question to yourself, "Why do I suffer?", and are looking for the cause of sufferings are you not escaping from suffering?

When I seek the significance of sufferings am I not avoidings, evading it, running away from it? The fact is, I am suffering; but the moment I bring the mind to operate upon it and say, "Now, why?", I have already diluted the intensity of suffering. In other words, we want suffering to be diluted, alleviated, put away, explained away. Surely that doesn't give an understanding of suffering. If I am free from that desire to run away from its then I begin to understand what is the content of suffering.

What is suffering? A disturbances isn't it?, at different levels - at the physical and at the different levels of the subconscious. It is an acute form of disturbance which I don't like. My son is dead. I have built round him all my hopes or round my daughter, my husband, what you will. I have enshrined him with all the things I wanted him to be and I have kept him as my companion - you know, all that sort of thing. Suddenly he is gone. So there is a disturbance, isn't there? That disturbance I call suffering.

If I don't like that suffering, then I say "Why am I suffering?", "I loved him so much", "He was this", "I had that". I try to escape in words, in labels, in beliefs, as most of us do. They act as a narcotic. If I do not do that, what happens? I am simply aware of suffering. I don't condemn it, I don't justify it - I am suffering. Then I can follow its movements can't I? Then I can follow the whole content of what it means - `I follow' in the sense of trying to understand something.

What does it mean? What is it that is suffering? Not why there is suffering, not what is the cause of suffering, but what is actually happening? I do not know if you see the difference. When I am simply aware of suffering, not as apart from me, not as an observer watching suffering - it is part of me, that is the whole of me is suffering. Then I am able to follow its movement, see where it leads. Surely if I do that it opens up, does it not? Then I see that I have laid emphasis on the `me' - not on the person whom I love.

He only acted to cover me from my misery, from my loneliness, from my misfortune. As I am not something, I hoped he would be that. That has gone; I am left, I am lost, I am lonely. Without him, I am nothing. So I cry. It is not that he is gone but that I am left. I am alone. To come to that point is very difficult, isn't it? It is difficult really to recognize it and not merely say, "I am alone and how am I to get rid of that loneliness?", which is another form of escape, but to be conscious of it, to remain with it, to see its movement.

I am only taking this as an example. Gradually, if I allow it to unfold, to open up, I see that I am suffering because I am lost; I am being called to give my attention to something which I am not willing to look at; something is being forced upon me which I am reluctant to see and to understand. There are innumerable people to help me to escape - thousands of so-called religious people, with their beliefs and dogmas, hopes and fantasies - "it is karma, it is God's will" - you know, all giving me a way out. But if I can stay with it and not put it away from me, not try to circumscribe or deny it, then what happens? What is the state of my mind when it is thus following the movement of suffering?

Is suffering merely a word, or an actuality? If it is an actuality and not just a word, then the word has no meaning now, so there is merely the feeling of intense pain. With regard to what? With regard to an image, to an experience, to something which you have or have not. If you have it, you call it pleasure; if you haven't it is pain. Therefore pain, sorrow, is in relationship to something. Is that something merely a verbalization, or an actuality ? That is when sorrow exists, it exists only in relationship to something. it cannot exist by itself - even as fear cannot exist by itself but only in relationship to something: to an individual, to an incident, to a feeling. Now, you are fully aware of the suffering. Is that suffering apart from you and therefore you are merely the observer who perceives the suffering, or is that suffering you?

When there is no observer who is suffering, is the suffering different from you? You are the suffering, are you not? You are not apart from the pain - you are the pain. What happens? There is no labelling, there is no giving it a name and thereby brushing it aside - you are merely that pain, that feeling, that sense of agony. When you are that, what happens? When you do not name it, when there is no fear with regard to it, is the centre related to it? If the centre is related to it, then it is afraid of it. Then it must act and do something about it.

But if the centre is that, then what do you do? There is nothing to be done, is there? If you are that and you are not accepting it, not labelling it, not pushing it aside - if you are that thing, what happens? Do you say you suffer then? Surely, a fundamental transformation has taken place. Then there is no longer "I suffer", because there is no centre to suffer and the centre suffers because we have never examined what the centre is. We just live from word to word, from reaction to reaction. We never say, "Let me see what that thing is that suffers", You cannot see by enforcement, by discipline.

You must look with interest, with spontaneous comprehension. Then you will see that the thing we call suffering, pain, the thing that we avoid, and the discipline, have all gone. As long as I have no relationship to the thing as outside me, the problem is not; the moment I establish a relationship with it outside me, the problem is. As long as I treat suffering as something outside - I suffer because I lost my brother, because I have no money, because of this or that - I establish a relationship to it and that relationship is fictitious. But if I am that thing, if I see the fact, then the whole thing is transformed, it all has a different meaning. Then there is full attention, integrated attention and that which is completely regarded is understood and dissolved, and so there is no fear and therefore the word `sorrow' is non-existent.

Source : from Jiddu Krishnamurti book "The First and Last Freedom"