Does an Avatar Experience Suffering?


Hello friends! I wonder, does a fully enlightened Guru also experience suffering? Or are they completely not touched by any suffering? Best wishes from Sweden

—Bea, Sweden


Dear Bea (in Sweden):

An enlightened being does experience suffering. Paramhansa Yogananda was stricken with grief as a boy at the death of his mother. Here, however, is some perspective:

1. If your child experiences pain, you, as a mother, feel at least some of that pain by virtue of your empathy.

2. If someone in another country is suffering, you do not feel anything.

3. An avatar or otherwise enlightened being is connected with all life and hence feels the joys and sorrows of all beings as those are presented to him by way of his expanded consciousness.

4. Such a being willingly takes on a human form and attendant ego for the upliftment of others. Though not compelled by past karma, the avatar nonetheless accepts limitations inherent in human existence: the limitations, for example, of the five senses; the limitations attendant to having, say, one native tongue or culture. Yogananda’s boyhood grief at losing his mother was real even if, internally, he retained his sense of freedom from identification with the illusory world of maya. He was not pretending and at the same time, inwardly, he remained free. That’s not easy thing to grasp but I think you and I have experiences of this perhaps frequently if far less intensely. [I’ve been at many a funeral where our sadness coexisted with laughter and the joy of seeing old friends or family.]

5. But having an expanded consciousness means that such a one can relate to his/her body as transcendently just as you or I do not feel the suffering of those whom we do not know. A saint’s body is simply another object in the dream creation of God. That being said, however, a saint has manifold reasons for accepting the experience of suffering: taking on the karma of others; to demonstrate how to handle suffering; and much more. This “decision” to feel pain or to transcend is not the kind of ego-motivated decision that you and I make when we choose to take a pain pill. We take the Novocaine to avoid pain. The saint moves in the “flow of Brahma” or inspiration and inner guidance. Jesus prayed briefly that “this cup passeth” (knowing his fate, as it were) but immediately said, “Thy will be done.”

Paramhansa Yogananda was with disciples when a very heavy, concrete garden object was being moved. It was dropped onto his foot. At first, his face was contorted in pain. Then, to illustrate the power of the superconscious mind, he directed the disciples to observe how when he put his consciousness at the point between the eyebrows, his face softened and the pain vanished even though his foot had been crushed.

So the response to your question is a both-and, or, neither yes, nor no, or both yes and no! (Zen koan, right?) ok?

Blessings to you,
Nayaswami Hriman
Seattle WA USA