How to Deal With Pain and Suffering


Please share stories of some hopeless cases that had miraculous results and life turn around - stories to increase faith. Has anyone with herpes zoster been set free from it for life and lead a happy healthy life after praying for it?

—Aisshvarya, Sweden


Dear Aisshvarya,

Oh my: there are so many stories of people being told they had but a few months to live and instead have lived for years! Yes, life itself is not just a miracle but full of miracles. However, the desperate desire for a miracle is, ironically, not the state of consciousness that attracts a miracle.

The secret of success in all aspects of life is non-attachment, called in Sanskrit nishkam karma. It is described in some length by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita.

I will tell you a few stories, however. A saintly person was diagnosed with an advanced case of diabetes. Seeing that he had not much time to live, the devotee vowed to pray and meditate as much as possible. But his condition at first prevented him from meditating for more than a few minutes at a time, being so painful but he kept trying. Time went by and his meditations grew longer and deeper. One day in what had become a long meditation he realized inwardly, that he was healed completely and had already lived several years longer than he was supposed to. In his prayer-thought he said to God, “I didn’t ask you to heal me.” He “heard” God’s response: “Where My Light is, no disease can be.” This devotee, you see, did not think of his illness or his impending death.

There is a famous Sufi saint Rabi’a who on her deathbed, not unlike Job of the Old Testament, was sorely afflicted by cancer. One disciple said to her, “She who accepts suffering as coming from God surely is blessed.” Rabi’a replied, “This smacks of egoism.” Another disciple, instead, suggested that “She who suffers gladly, surely is blessed.” Rabi’a replied the same. “Tell us, then, mother, how does the true devotee accept suffering?” Rabi’a said: “She who in contemplation of God forgets suffering, it is she who is a true devotee.”

One Sunday morning some years ago, Swami Kriyananda was scheduled to give the service at 11 a.m. at Ananda Meditation Retreat in California. Suddenly he was struck by intense pain: a kidney stone. He could hardly move. Nor could he even imagine that he could sustain the long ride on bumpy dirt roads to the nearby town to the local hospital.

Yet he would not pray to Divine Mother for his pain. Not long before the Service was to begin, however, a thought came to him and he prayed: “Divine Mother if you want me to conduct this Service in your name, you will have to do something about this pain.” Instantly the pain vanished as if it had never existed. A wave of bliss came over him: not just relief of the intense pain but the joy of Divine Mother’s love and caring. Ironically, he was so overcome with joy that he could hardly give the talk at the Service!

I could go on but you see now the point: when we focus on our suffering, our consciousness is that of suffering. It is small and identified with the body. Even the woman who was healed in the New Testament by merely touching Jesus’ cloak, though suffering, was focused with great faith on the living incarnation of God she beheld in front of her. “Your faith hath healed you,” Jesus said.

I myself have had shingles (as we call herpes zoster here in the USA). It is very painful. I did my best to function normally and it took great will power to do so. Following the example of my teacher, Swami Kriyananda, I would not pray for relief though I did what I could from a known medical perspective (which as you know, isn’t much). I did pray, however, to Divine Mother, to my guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, that if I am to serve their spiritual work of Ananda in my role here that I would need some assistance! It so happened, however, that Divine Mother was too clever because I got the shingles while on VACATION! So She, the rascal, negated the power of my prayer in advance! Ha, ha, ha!

Never forget that suffering, though a great test and challenge to one’s faith, is the vehicle — more than any other in life — that has the potential to re-direct our attention from the body, from comfort, from worldly success, and from the ego to God alone. We must also accept that suffering is ours. It is not inflicted by someone else upon us. This world is a mixture of pleasure and pain; success and failure; etc., etc. It all, ultimately, balances to zero and we should look upon our troubles as redemptive: balancing our karma so that we can be free of all karma, good and bad (as we describe or react to life’s circumstances).

The first step is to accept suffering as yours. It is part of the matrix of your life that includes your past actions (whether this life or another). Second, is to do what you can to relieve your suffering in practical, medical ways. Don’t suffer unnecessarily in other words. Third, see your woes as the grace of God using your karma to re-direct your attention to soul freedom in God rather than temporary comfort in this body. Fourth, re-directing your attention God-ward is to transcend awareness of suffering in the flow of grace and joy from within and above. [Seeking this consolation of grace is, however, not to be deemed a goal in itself. It must happen on its own accord and is the gift of God.]

May the peace of God’s grace be with you!
Nayaswami Hriman
Seattle WA USA