Coming to Terms with Suffering and Injustice

The issue of integrity was haunting me. The issue of living my life in a way that doesn’t acknowledge what I know. I am part of the small percentage of the universe, of this world, of the 7 billion people of this world, that uses an inordinately large amount of resources. I am part of the wealthy, middle-class of America. I’m not wealthy, but by standards of the world, I’m wealthy, so I have to struggle with a question, really the issue of suffering.

Today, 35,000 children die of starvation, and tomorrow another 35,000, and under those conditions, how happy can you be? How are you going to be happy? Are you gonna be happy by averting your gaze, by saying, “Let’s not talk about that, can’t you leave me alone for a while about that?…. I want to be happy.”

I saw that wasn’t going to be good enough, it wasn’t going to work, so what I want to tell you, and this is one of the most profound things I can say to you, is that if you and I are going to be ‘peacers’, if you and I are going to be people that are going to help the evolutionary process happen, we have got to be able to look suffering right in the eye and not flicker a bit. We have to be able to keep our hearts open as Hell. This game is not for the faint of heart.

And the only way you can keep you heart open is by living simultaneously on more than one plane of consciousness. When I was in India, there was a time in Bangladesh when things were just falling apart, and I wanted to take my VW over there and use it as an ambulance. My guru didn’t tell me to or not to, but he saw how agitated I was, and he said, “Ram Dass, don’t you see it’s all perfect?” and I said “Perfect?!” – I was outraged because people were dying and suffering.

My self-righteousness was outraged. How could it be perfect if people were being violated, and there is injustice?

Yet he would cry over the suffering, and he would do things to alleviate suffering, so I began to try to embrace the paradox of the planes of consciousness, in which there are inconsistencies. It involves the evolution of the individual soul through all kinds of learning experiences that involve suffering and death, but if you are looking at it through the eyes of your separateness, through your individual rational mind, it becomes a trap where you cannot see that it is all simultaneously perfect and it stinks.

You embrace the paradox, and then you can sit in a place where nothing is happening; and you do what you can to relieve suffering and you do your part to relieve the suffering not because you’re good, but because what else are you going to do, because you see that the person suffering is no longer ‘them.’

-Ram Dass

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