An Eternal Career, by Frank and Lydia Hammer, , at sacred-texts.com
"Earth hath no sorrows that
All over the world people are asking, "Why is there so much suffering?" Sorrow and pain are excellent awakeners, conducive to thought; and when people have had abundant afflictive experiences they seek the cause, and for a means of future prevention.
Why there should be pain at all is a paradox for undoubtedly Omnipotent God could have created man differently; but for wise purposes beyond our present range of knowledge created him with the capacity to suffer. God also gave man free will, and it is by the exercise of this, that man settles his own destiny and makes his happiness or unhappiness.
Searching for causes of suffering leads to the inevitable conclusion that the responsibility of it rests with man, and not with God. Although the primitive view of suffering was that it was made by God, and that therefore it should be removed by Him without any effort on the part of man. Backward
people have always imagined that God is cruel and capricious and delighted in torturing His children. Enlightened men, however, do not subscribe to this theory and hold that God is goodness, mercy and justice with a profound love for His creations.
Since men can choose good or evil, why do they often elect the latter? Why do they inflict injuries upon their fellowmen when they can confer benefits? The answer is ignorance. As all men are ignorant to some degree, all men suffer.
The only antidote for ignorance is knowledge. Not academic or intellectual attainments for they will never solve the problem; but the understanding and the application of spiritual laws and principles. Tragically, most men are unaware of them. They do not understand their true nature; they have no knowledge of the relation of the soul to the body; of the continuity of life, and that immutable and irrevocable laws govern their thinking and conduct. Humanity's prevailing unawarenes of these truths is reflected in the misery of the world.
Unquestionably physical suffering is the most common. While everyone admits that good health is one of the greatest of blessings, yet few are they who can boast of all around good health. Despite the advance of science and the discovery of drugs, hospitals and sanitariums are more crowded than ever. Why? Because people violate the laws of health and hygiene. True, they do it mostly in ignorance, but ignorance does not change or suspend the laws of nature. Many people delude themselves
that they are "getting by with it" because the effects of the violation are often slow and subtle, only in later years to pay the penalty in pain and suffering.
Another source of suffering is the flouting of the civil laws. Like hospitals, reports from every section of the country indicate that the jails, prisons and penitentiaries are badly over-crowded. With statistics disclosing that more than one-half a million people are incarcerated, one would suppose that men would see the folly of such conduct and become law-abiding. Such however is not the case. Peculiarly, men remain unteachable save through bitter experience, and persist in trying to do what never has been doneoutwit the law of cause and effect.
The fact that only about one-tenth of the criminals are apprehended leads many people to believe they can get by with it if sufficiently clever. Circumventing earthly laws is only postponement for the episode does not end when the judge and jury pronounce them "not guilty." Eventually all violators are overtaken by the law of retribution which operates with a geometrical rigor penalizing all wrong-doers.
A prolific source of suffering arises from the violation of the mental laws. Few people have the slightest conception that their thinking has a corresponding effect upon themselves and the external world. Yet it is in his creative capacity that man most closely resembles his Creator. THOUGHT IS THE CREATIVE POWER! BEWARE HOW YOU USE IT! Harboring thoughts of
hate, envy, malice, ill-will, jealousy and the rest of their breed is inviting certain disaster. It is the nature of thoughts to become objective and man then finds himself surrounded by his mental creations.
Wrong thinking has filled the world with injurious and malevolent productions, and the worst of these is war. Thoughts are highly contagious and quickly infect the minds of the multitude with the epidemic of violence. The masses unfamiliar with the nature and power of thought, supinely allow their minds to be manipulated by a morally corrupt and spiritually bankrupt minority. Governments spend billions of the people's money for propagandizing them to hate and kill one another, much in the same manner as thugs are primed with dope. Yet much less money would be needed to indoctrinate people with peace, because peace is natural, while war is unnatural.
Profanation of the law of brotherhood has caused more sorrow and suffering than any other single factor. It should be, but unfortunately it is not even apparent that the individual man is but an infinitesimal part of the whole, and that he is indissolubly linked with the rest of the race. The will, thoughts and actions of other men influence his life, affect his destiny and contribute towards his happiness and unhappiness. We cannot rise above humanity, nor isolate ourselves from them, or escape their ignorance, degradations and other diseases.
[paragraph continues] What we do to one man, we do to all men; so long as one man suffers, we shall all suffer.
The poor suppose that money can eliminate all troubles. But poverty is only one affliction of the human race and by no means the worst. If money could cure trouble, the rich would be care-free. But the slaves of poverty are no worse off than the slaves of wealth, whose poverty is often worse than that of purse. Both are miserable. Suffering has nothing to do with a man's station in life or his assets. Afflictions that money can cure are not really afflictions. Those who have experienced tragedy, frustrations, separations, disappointments and despair, know how little material things avail at times like these.
Some men seem to lead an untroubled existence, but we do not know what they may be carrying around in their hearts. And we may be sure that if life has not already dealt with them, it will. On the highway of life all men carry a load, and if one could see beneath the surface he would be amazed at the even-handed justice with which burdens are distributed, and appalled at the weight of these burdens.
Many believe that when children are born physically, morally or mentally defective, that they are being punished by God, or for the sins of their parents. Firstly, God never punishes anyone, innocent or guilty. Men punish themselves by violating God's laws. The theory that because a father committed crimes before the birth of his child, therefore the
child is punished, is not substantiated by knowledge or record. The truth is, that the soul is ancient and has behind it at birth a past replete with every manner of experience. When it is born with deformities he is discharging his own, and not an-other's Karmic debts. Every soul has created its own fate, and when he does not like what he has created blames chance, relatives, God, everybody but himself. Whenever we suffer we are responsible for it, and not innocent victims of another's iniquities.
Not a few suppose that one is rewarded in the next world because he has suffered in this. There are, however, no premiums or vicarious rewards attached to suffering. Life bestows neither rewards nor punishments, only consequences; these are correspondingly pleasant or unpleasant as their initiating cause was good or bad.
Sins can be forgiven but their consequences cannot be remitted, which continue to exist in Cosmic Mind wherein all things of earth have their imperishable record. No cause can be severed from its effect. Nor are prayers, penitence, tears of any avail when they encounter the operation of the spiritual laws. Neither can a sum of money be paid another for remission of sins, a fallacy which many have learned to their sorrow after passing over.
Only physical suffering ends with death; all other forms continue in more or less active form. Emotional and mental distress is intensified when one has lived an unethical or selfish life, the suffering of
which lasts as long as the consequences. No agony is comparable to that of a condemning conscience, remorse and regret which constitute the fires of Hell.
There is no greater illusion than that death liquidates sins. It was Plato who said: "If death had only been the end of all, the wicked would have a good bargain in dying, for they would have happily quit not only of their body, but of their own evil together with their souls."
The contemptible practise of "getting even" takes a terrific toll in suffering. It is natural when we are wronged to seek to retaliate, but this is the worst course to pursue. Revenge does not obliterate the injury, but only puts into operation another set of causes with resultant suffering to the operator. All history declares that revenge is a costly business. Revenge has no place in civilized conduct for it harks back to the primitive promptings of the savage whose concept of justice was the iron fist.
Pearl Harbor was avenged by the annihilation of two cities and their 125,000 helpless inhabitants. "We settled the score," said many with sadistic glee. We settled nothing. What we did was set into motion innumerable other evils which will culminate in dreadful disasters for us. The people of this country have good reason to fear the atomic bombtheir fear is coupled with guilt. War never decides who is right; it only determines who is left.
Reaction is sure to follow for those who sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind. Men who go abroad
to rape, murder, and rob have no suspicion that the consequences of their deeds will at length come home to them, and they will bow the neck in turn.
Mankind still awaits the realization and fulfillment of the law of non-resistance, the only method that will ever overcome evil and abolish suffering. Returning good for evil is stressed by all wise men. Plato says: "If thou wouldst punish thine enemy, allow him to go unpunished; that is true retaliation." The Hindu sages also teach the law of non-resistance and forbid their followers to commit acts of aggression against their oppressors.
Non-resistance was not only taught but demonstrated by Christ for when he was nailed to the cross by his enemies he did not say: "Crucify those who have crucified me." No, he said: "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." And in forgiving them he gained his greatest triumph.
Selfishness contributes its quota of suffering. In fact selfishness is about the most wretched of vices with innumerable manifestations called diseases. A selfish individual is always miserable; while those who live for others are impervious to the things which vex and irritate those whose every thought is, "What will I get out of it?" Or "how will this affect ME?" A God-centered life is free from the cares and worries of a self-centered life.
All great teachers, including Jesus, insisted upon the extinguishment of the self. "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life shall find it."
Inasmuch as man is responsible for his suffering, it will cease when he ceases doing the things which cause him to suffer. It is only a question of how long will man persist in doing them. Christ invariably admonished those men he had healed "to go and sin no more;" implying that sinning had caused their suffering, and if they violated the law again, the result would be the same.
The capacity for suffering depends on the nervous system which is the instrument of emotion, and there is a wide range of differences in the development of the nervous organizations. Some people's nerves are like taut strings and vibrate to every shade of thought and feeling; they suffer excruciatingly at things that the dull and gross laugh off with a shrug. On the other hand they derive far greater enjoyment from life for they have an acute awareness of it; they are responsive to spiritual vibrations and in tune with the higher forces. It is to the sensitive souls the world is indebted for its artistic treasures; for its literature, music, poetry and religion.
Some people think life intolerable because they suffer; yet without pain little progress would be made. Few people listen to spiritual truths before they have been through the purifying process of loss, disaster, calamity or death. Sorrow and suffering are builders, and millions of people but for these would not have made the progress they have. In the crucible of pain great souls are fashioned; the strong sturdy ones, those whose characters shine, are well acquainted with grief.
The higher the unfoldment of the soul the more impregnable it becomes to suffering; for after having been dealt many blows, instead of sharp anguish feels only a dull ache. It is the tears and heartaches of friends and loved ones that now cause him to suffer. No one lives unto himself alone, but each soul is a link weak or strong in an endless chain.
Suffering that emanates from love and the affections is ennobling and worthwhile, even though it may sear the mind and scar the soul. We cannot love and not suffer. We cannot have children or a companion without experiencing deep anguish. We cannot have a friend and not grieve. Suffering is the price we pay for these blessings, and we should count ourselves fortunate if we have been worthy of them.
Pain, in its manifold aspects is the supreme cure for the imperfections of the soul, and is like a bitter medicine in our onward march towards the goal of liberation from ignorance. People resent painful experiences and rejoice at pleasant ones; yet from happiness we learn but little. We should rather hold closely to the things that have been painful; investigate their action upon our inner self, and endeavor to ascertain whether we have learned the lessons contained therein. Later, when we survey the events of our life we behold only mercy from the hand of God; the crosses, afflictions, misfortunes and calamities when judged by their visible effects were in reality blessings in disguise.
Suffering teaches us the universal language of the heart; we learn to understand our fellowmen and help our struggling brothers upwards towards the light. It develops patience and inculcates kindness and makes us tolerant and compassionate. Those who are indifferent to the distress of others have yet to learn this language, and their turn will surely come when they too will walk the treadmill of pain.
Do not feel sorry for one who has suffered tremendously. Feel sorry for one who has had a smooth, soft and easy life. Do not pity one who has been frustrated; who has tasted bitter defeat and has had frequent disappointments; and has been crushed to earth time and time again. Pity the one who has never known anything but wealth, ease, comfort and achievement. Do not weep for one whose heart has been broken innumerable times. Weep for the one who hasn't a heart to be broken.
Who are the individuals who have the most vitality, energy and endurance? They are those who have suffered the most; who have had bitter experiences, and thus gained wisdom, sympathy, tolerance and understanding. Who are the individuals that attract us the most? They are those who have found an answer to life's problems, and in their deep, hard-won serenity have found peace.