18 Nov 2011
November 18, 2011

Acknowledge Suffering


One of the things that makes relationships so difficult is the way in which we protect ourselves from suffering — from our own and from each other’s. Because when you love someone you don’t want to lay your suffering on them and your fears. Also you are afraid if you open your heart too far their suffering will overwhelm you. Because when you look at the world, you just see suffering everywhere.

If you scratched the surface of every person in this room, you will find that there is some suffering. Some people who are walking around here smiling at each other and sitting down and having wonderful, gentle conversations, inside have very deep pain and deep fear. But they have learned so well how to mask it from each other. The culture reinforces that saying, don’t bring your pain to me. I only want your happiness. I’ll put up with a little of it but not much of it because you will scare me.

Now just as I said before, if you are going to be able to deal with seeing someone else’s beauty, you have to be able to acknowledge your own beauty. In a similar way if you are going to able to be available for someone else’s suffering you have to be able to acknowledge your own suffering and be able to understand the nature of suffering in such a way that you have converted the quality of suffering in yourself.

Gurdjieff, the Russian philosopher, said there is nothing that can be attained spiritually without suffering in life. But at the same time, if you are going to proceed on the journey you must sacrifice suffering. You hear the dual nature of it. You have to have suffered because the suffering is what burns through you and deepens the compassion and opens the door. Suffering brings you closer to the mystery. At the same moment if you hold on to the suffering and grab at it and sort of wallow in it or cling to it, it stops the journey.

There is an understanding of suffering such that you don’t invite suffering into your life but when it comes you work with it and transform it. The extreme of it is the Christian monk who is saying, “God, God give me more pain. Give me more suffering because I want to get closer to you.”  And Maharaj ji saying, “Do you like suffering or joy,” and saying, “I love suffering – it brings me so close to God.”


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  • http://www.aboutunusualdesign.com lisa

    thank you for your words of love and truth. thank you for the support of living from the heart. what a journey, in and of itself, that can be as awareness and consciousness continue to transform into the deeper part of deep. i so appreciate you and thank you for the many years i have had your writings to find more and more of myself along the way. peace to you my friend i have nver met.

  • http://www.welovelofts.com John Risica

    I do believe that some measure of suffering is necessary to have lived and to enjoy a fully embraced life. What perplexes me, is how to pass this understanding to those that suffer lightly and complain loudly. Thank God for the suffering, so that we can appreciate how good we have it now.

  • Urvashi Bhatia

    This article came into Facebook just at the right time, when I needed it the most. Last almost whole night I spent crying and questioning Maharaj ji, how long and how much more is He going to test my patience ? I had also thought to myself, I wish I could have a video chat with Ram Dass ji and share my sorrow, unburden myself and get answers to my questions. I am amazed how soon Maharaj ji listened to me and answered my questions. I would want to know if there is a way to video chat with ram Dass ji and get his blessings and taste the nectar of his devotion and love towards Maharaj ji. Ram Ram


    “Suffering brings you closer to the mystery”. What mystery are you specifically talking about? If God so loves us why are we made to suffer? And what about those who don’t get to suffer and have the wonderful lives we desire! At 50 years of age I find myself feeling little, resigned to my fate that this is all there is. Why would anyone live a life that is devoid-and I am not just talking about my life, I am talking of the thousands whose lives are devoid-why if God so loves these people does he give them lives that are devoid! Why would anyone choose to be born into such a life.

    • joe

      Suffering is expressed as a key to the mystery is based on the perspective that when one suffers, they seek to be free of it, and in that seeking suffering falls away. This is a valid perspective based on the observation of the world we live in where people suffer, get sick and die. From our living in a world where these sufferings appear, any individual enlightened person within it would have to see suffering as part of it. Suffering is good because it causes us to seek, or suffering is good because we appreciate no longer suffering… All these statements are based from a false premise that suffering is an inherent truth about the nature of all things, or god. Suffering is an observation of nature, like science observing gravity. When an enlightened being is free from suffering, they still observe it in others, so they try to communicate their experience, while in doing so turn suffering into a positive thing. Suffering exists, and if we seek to end our own suffering it can be a liken to a blessing, but suffering is not a blessing.
      All this explanation was to give sustenance to this point : suffering exists as an observable phenomena only because it appears in this point in human and universal evolvement. Just as the topography of the universe and the objects of the universe transform and evolve over time, so too do the concepts of suffering. Suffering is not of god, or love. Suffering is like an object. It serves a purpose only by how we experience it and choose to use it. If we never experienced suffering, it could never be a tool for enlightenment. However to say that suffering has to be, or is an necessary part of growing or knowing god is false. Suffering exists and is justifiable because those who are liberated from it are still surrounded by it in others and their world. This personal liberation amidst a world of suffering is an outer expression of subtle ignorance, or separateness, that still remains in them. Only from a consciousness that is of true oneness can the personal liberation of all living beings be seen without suffering.
      The end of personal suffering is only the beginning, because when individuals become free, they are bound within a world where others still suffer. If others are not others but oneness, how does one not experience suffering while others do? The answer can only be found in an end to subtle dualistic appearances. From the perspective free of subtle dualistic ignorance arises the solution to the end of the world of suffering and the liberation of mankind. This is what will arise when love becomes perfected in those who are liberated.

    • Michael

      God loves everyone and everything equally. It – he / she doesnt play favorites until you get on its radar as a positive force in life. As you move yourself closer to the God, your life becomes less devoid and more full of love. It is simple really. Get you devoid filled by moving closer in any way you can. Start small at first with meditation and perhaps some exercise … Yoga may be one stop shopping for this for you brother.

      • Meeno

        Yoga has been an important path for me. It has brought about a deep peace and a feeling of connection to the spirit.
        Suffering is a tool of last resort to get our attention in order to bring about needed change. Spirit/God/ Creative forces will not intervene without our permission or cooperation. Suffering is a natural consequence of being out of attunement, not something put on us by a higher being.

  • Urvashi Bhatia

    This is really amazing. Last almost entire night I spent crying, finding answers to my questions. I had also thought to myself, if only I could communicate with Ram Dass ji and get some counseling done. And this article so beautifully answers all my questions. I would like to know if there is a way to video chat(skype) with Ram Dass ji and get his blessings, and taste the nectar of his devotion and love for Maharajji.

  • cesar cuellar


  • http://www.drjonci.com Jonci Jensen

    Thank you. :)

  • cathy smith

    I so appreciate the notion that we have to see the suffering in ourselves to understand the suffering of others we are in relationship with. But what if we are in a relationship with someone who won’t ‘sacrifice suffering’ or burn through it? What if they cling to their suffering and we are more interested in the process of burning through ours?

  • http://www.upsidedowntimes.com Dr Rob Pennington

    I am always taken deeper instantly receiving the blessings of your insights. It’s been that way these 40+ years of appreciating you. I am currently learning to lean more quickly into the suffering when it hits, and ride it like a wave until it passes. Though the pain that comes may be just as intense each time, the less I resist, the more I lean into it, feel it fully and then release it, the shorter the duration and the longer the time until the next wave. In dealing with grieving the loss of my spouse of 30 years after a slow decade of decline from MS, I measure progress in that way, i.e., when the pain comes, as intense as it may be, it doesn’t last as long and there is more time until the next time.

  • Dorothy

    Thank you Ram Dass for writing this message about suffering. I love you.
    Love and hugs,

  • debrah

    Another timely message, and yes is that not so true. People want the happy face and the light heart, yet I prefer to also go deep into the pain to find the connection which binds yet repels. How to find the balance between my self and my story..am I my story. Still hard to let go of all that has transpired this year, yet finding space for others now. And am able to dive deep or play a little Jai Ram

  • Christanne

    I’m 65 now and this past summer my 95-year-old mother died. She showed me a couple of months before it happened that despite talking almost every day on the phone in the past ten years and always touching base with her all my life that we were not really close. I had a child’s dependence on my mother’s love all this time and had not really gotten past it. When I realized she didn’t like me much i was crushed – suffered so much grief. When she was sick I came to her and tried to be there but she didn’t want me. As hard as this was it opened my eyes to my own fear and dependence and my own refusal to rock the boat enough to know the truth a long time ago. I had never really shared my heart and in fact this is the first time I have done so in years.

    After some time had passed i realized that i still love her and will remember her as my beloved mom. I also know that she is more than my mother and has her own life to live and that i will never understand it all and don’t need to. I just let it go.

    In one of Ram Das’s book I read about the love of the Mother and finally took refuge where there will be no sorrow and pain and no blame. I know my Mom is also safe in those loving arms and that I have never truly been neglected or abandoned or forgotten. It made me realize that i am blessed to be here and that all will be well. There is comfort and joy despite suffering. Thank you thank you thank you. Now I really want to get on with it.

    • Joris

      Thank you for your openness and sharing this :) Much joy, grounding and lovely birdsounds in your life :)

  • Anna

    I love you Ram Dass. Your presence awakens my heart and soothes my timid soul. You are a miracle in my life.

  • Christine

    I grew up in a family that connected with each other by “good-natured” teasing. Dad would laugh and poke at a point of my character, or looks, or behavior, laughing all the time so it seemed “we” must be having a good time. Only I would writhe under the laughter, off balance from the humiliation masked as humor, confused. “Why am I not having a good time with this?” Years later, I came to realize he was a bully, and we all became bullies. To this day I associate showing my suffering with the idea that someone will poke right at that tender spot and cause me to collapse.

    It takes so much consciousness of what I’m feeling, why I want to share it, who I’m sharing it with, what could possibly happen anyway, what have I got to lose.

    Jai Jai Babaji. Your love, Maharajji’s love removes my vulnerabilities.

  • Anthea Haupt

    For me the question now, after many years of suffering the solitude of feeling especially “cursed” with suffering and having come through it through the minds of great people and spiritual teachers dead and alive, like Ram Dass (and meditation and plain hard work, !!) is how to be there for others who see no sense whatsoever in their own suffering and constantly dwell on the past and all that has gone wrong in their lives. ..Namaste. I see the strength in you to transform the pain … but do YOU see it???.

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  • Mahendra Patel

    We suffer when we expected or thought they should be some thing in relationship to me and they turned out to be totaly opposite say did not fit the expectations and this could be our relationship with wife ,mother, parents, friends, relatives, teachers and world at large or GOD..

    I am keeping out. Health, physical or economic suffereing at present though it is equally or sometimes more and real.

    I was born very sensitive, even if some one mis-understand me I cried, but was very stubbern and can stand any hardship finacially,physically, socially but if some one feel sorry for me or sympathise It bring tears.

    So suffering can can different for different persons, I am bitter about it?

    No, but world is not perfect and more sensitive you are you can feel the your own or other around you very accutley.

    Sensitivity is the quality very close to universal heart.

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