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Food#10: "Pain as a Vehicle for Becoming a Co-Worker with God"


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Pain: It's Meaning and Use

"A matter which is full of deep interest, I think, to everyone, as everyone comes in the way of it: the Meaning and Use of Pain.

Man's true Self, his innermost Self, (is)...the man working in different bodies or sheaths, so manifesting consciousness in different ways... It is always the Self working... the spiritual Self lies at the root of all activities.

The spiritual Self is conscious on his plane from the beginning. Offspring of Universal Consciousness, what else could he be?

But as Soul descends into this manifested universe, and as he clothes himself in body after body, the eyes, so to speak, of the Self become blinded by these successive veils that this Soul wraps around him.

So when he arrives at the lowest stage of his manifestation - this physical universe in which we are - Soul becomes blinded by Matter, and is no longer conscious of his own high destiny or of his own essential nature in the physical universe.

Now, it is this blinded Self... that comes into the manifested universe for the sake of learning and of gathering experience. Let us think of Soul for a moment as wearing those bodies... The body in which he thinks, the mind or mentality. The body in which he feels, the 'body of desire'...

Feeling and desire are so very closely connected. Feelings of pleasure and of pain arise - from contact with things from without - which work on this body of desire, and make it to be either attracted to or repelled from external objects.

Think, then, for a moment of the Self clothed in this body of desire, and blinded by it to his own real nature and to the true conditions in which he finds himself. He will be attracted by all sorts of external objects; attracted by those from which he gains pleasure, repelled by those from which he feels pain.

So that coming into this world ,of which he knows nothing, he will naturally be strongly attracted to that which gives him pleasure by contact, which makes him feel that which he recognizes as joy or happiness or content.

Thus attracted to everything which appears to him desirable, he will often find that the gratification of desire is followed by suffering. Attracted by the desirable object, and without experience, which would enable him to distinguish and to discriminate, he flings himself, as it were, towards this attractive thing, only knowing that he feels pleasure in the contact.

Presently out of this contact, which was pleasurable, pain grows up; and by that pain he finds that he has flung himself against something that is not desirable, but repellent. He will have this experience; constantly repeated he will find this lesson, which is taught him by the universe. 'The senses are like horses yoked to the chariot of the body, and that carry away the Soul towards the objects of desire'.

For example, if he will gratify the sense of taste to excess; he will pass into gluttony. The result of gratification of the sense of taste without experience will be the pain that will follow on over gratification. And when this has been repeated over and over again, this Soul... connects the things together, connects the gratification of the desire with the pain which follows on that gratification.

In this way, Soul gradually comes to understand that there are laws in the universe connected with his physical body, and that if he comes into contact with those laws and tries to violate them, he will suffer as a result. Thus there would grow up in his mind the idea of sequence, of cause and effect, of the relationship existing between the gratification and the suffering which followed after it.

It would become impressed on the infant Soul learning its lessons, that there is something in the world that is stronger than itself: a Law which it cannot break. A Law, which it may endeavor to violate but which it cannot violate, and which will prove its existence by the suffering which is inflicted when the Soul tries to violate it. And thus with object of desire after object of desire this lesson will be learned, until an accumulated mass of experience will gradually be gained by the Soul.

Soul will learn by pain to regulate his desires and no longer to let the horses of the senses gallop wherever they will. He will learn that it is necessary to curb them and rein them in, and permit them only to go along the roads that are really desirable. Thus the lesson of self-control will be the result of man's this painful experience.

"In man you have not only to deal with this body of desire - which if it were alone, would be guided by an external law. That body of desire would direct it towards the objects that were healthful and health-giving and make it avoid the objects which were fatal or dangerous - but you have in man the coming in of the Soul.

The individualised Soul, which is not to be compelled by a Law from without, but evolved by a Law from within. Man is to take his evolution into his own hands; his evolution is to be by experience and not by compulsion. For at this period of evolution. Soul has become individualized by the sheath of the mind that has been formed by the accumulating experience of the reincarnating Soul.

So it is the presence of mind, in man that makes this element of pain so necessary a part of his education. He is able to remember, he is able to compare, he is able to draw this link of relation between the things that form the sequence of events. Just because he has this power of thought, of mind, he is able to take his growth into his own hands, that he may become a fellow-worker with Nature.

Man is not merely a brick as it were in her edifice, but a self-conscious builder, taking part in that building of the whole. Gradually by education of pain, working upon mind through the body of desire, this knowledge of Law in the universe grows up. So that the meaning of pain is hostile contact with Law, the effort to break Law that never can succeed. The use of pain is the gaining of the knowledge of Law, and so the education of the lower nature by the reasoning intelligence.

Let us pass from that view of pain to another. By pain is rooted out desire for every object in the external universe. Desire is that which draws the Soul to rebirth; desire is that which fundamentally causes the manifestation of the universe.

When 'Desire arose in the bosom of the Eternal' that the germ of the manifested universe appeared. So always it is desire that leads to manifestation - whether of the whole or part. Desire continually draws back the Soul over again to Earth.

Notice that it is desire which draws the Soul outwards, always outwards, to the external. The education of the Soul consists in this passing out into the external, gathering there all knowledge, and then by experience losing its taste for the external and carrying inwards the knowledge it has obtained.

Suppose that objects of desire remained desirable, then there would be no end to the revolution of the wheel of births and deaths. Then there could be no garnering, as it were, of knowledge, and no real evolution of the highest possibilities. For remember that human perfection is not the end of our growth; it is the end of the present cycle; but this is only the preparation for another.

Those who become perfect men in the present cycle are those who are to come out in the next period of manifestation. They are no longer men to be educated, but builders to guide the next manifested universe, passing on into that higher sphere of activity and utilizing there the experiences that here they have won.

These manifesting Souls that today are human but in future millenniums are to be divine - it is necessary that they shall not only gather knowledge but shall also carry it back with them, and so make it part of their own future being. So this may be done, desire must gradually change its nature until at last it vanishes away.

The objects of the lowest external world must become undesirable to the Soul that has gained knowledge. The objects of each phase of the external world, subtle or physical, must become undesirable. Everything must become undesirable save the Eternal, which is the essence of the Soul himself: and so gradually the Soul learns by pain in the physical universe to get rid of desire.

There is no other way in which desire can be conquered. You might, if there were no pain in the gratification of these external desires, you might by strong will how back the horses and prevent them from galloping along the road which you did not choose that they should go. But you want to do more than hold them back by force-that is a very elementary stage of the progress of the Soul.

You want them no longer to desire to gallop after these objects. You want to cut off the very root of desire. That can only be by the objects that once attracted, losing their power of attraction, so that they no longer can draw the Soul outwards.

The Soul, having exhausted everything that he can learn from the object, and having found it productive of pain in the end, no longer finds it desirable, but casts it aside, and carries away only the knowledge he his gained.

For the Soul is like the bee that visits the flower - it does not need to stay always in the flower, it needs only the honey the flower contains - when it has gathered the honey, the flower is no longer desirable to it. And when the Soul has gathered the honey of knowledge from the flowers of earth then it is the use of pain that he no longer feels desire for the flower. He has gained from it all that is needed for the lesson, and the pain destroys desire and throws the Soul inward on himself.

Unless you can get rid of desire for the things of the physical world, you will never feel the inner drawing, first to things of the mind, and then to those of the Higher Life. It is these which are the very objects of the Soul's evolution to make the experience of all that are born into the world.

But what other use has pain? We have found out two: the learning of Law and the gradual lessening of desire. The next lesson we learn through pain is the transitory nature of all that is not of the essence of the Soul himself. So we ask. Why has the pity of the God been turned into scourges for the torturing of man? Why are there diseases and miseries which afflict human kind? What is the God of Death?

The God of death is the incarnation of change. We hear of the God of Death as Destroyer; the truer word is Regenerator; for there is no such thing as destruction in the universe. Always that which on one side is death, on another side is birth. And that which is change and which seems to destroy is that which in another aspect is giving new form and new shape to the life which is seeking embodiment.

And so the God of Death is the great representative of change - the change which marks manifestation, the change which is in everything save in the Eternal itself. Since he who is change incarnate weeps over men, it is natural that his tears should be the things that teach men the transitory nature of all that surrounds them. These miseries turn into the tears of the God of Death are the lessons which in guise of pain bring the most useful teaching. It is that nothing transitory can satisfy the Soul.

Only by learning the transitory nature of the lower life will the Soul turn to that in which true happiness and satisfaction must lie. So the God of Death shows the deepest compassion in the lessons that by pain he gives to human kind. For by disease and misery, by poverty and by grief, we learn everything that surrounds us - in the physical world, in the region of desire and mind - is always changing.

We learn that in the changing he who is changeless may never find his rest. For at heart we are the Eternal and not the transient; the center of our life, the very Self within us, is immortal and eternal, he can never change nor die.

Therefore, nothing that changes can satisfy him; nothing over which Death has power can bring to him final happiness and peace. But he must learn this lesson through pain, and only in that learning lies the possibility of final joy. Thus the Soul also learns the difference between the stages of transitoriness; very slow are these lessons in the learning, and many a life it takes to complete them.

At first the Soul will not think of the Eternal being that in which he must rest. He will learn to turn from the physical to the mental, to turn from the sensuous to the intellectual, because one is relatively permanent to the other, and the happinesses of the mind are lasting as compared with the pleasures of the body.

In the slow course of evolution that lesson is learned long before the lessons of the Soul are touched. Man becomes a higher creature when he dominates the animal side and finds satisfaction in the mind and in the intelligence. The pleasures of the aesthetic tastes overbear the pleasures of the body. The pleasures of the mind and of the intellect and of the intelligence are more attractive than the pleasures of the lower senses. And it is this evolution that is relatively permanent as compared with the senses and of the body in which the waking consciousness of man is active.

"What man on the average needs to do is to turn his desires from the transient to the relatively permanent. As a start, he should cultivate the mind and the intellect and seek the artistic side of Nature instead of seeking the gratification of the senses which he has in common with the lower forms of animal life.

And those who are helping human evolution are turning away from the life of the body and are training themselves in the life of the mind. Although the life of the mind, in its turn, will be found to be transitory, still it is a step upward.

It is the drawing away of desire from the body to the mind, from the senses to the internal perception, from sensations to ideas and images. And that is part of the experience of the indrawing Soul, which draws himself away from the senses and fixes himself for a while in the inner mind. And then that inner organ is also found only to give rise to things that are transitory.

See, yet, how great is the gain: for conflict between men is over when the desire turns to the intelligence, to the inner organ instead of to the outer things of sense. The things of sense are 'limited'; and men fight the one with the other in order to get their share of the 'limited quantity'. The things of intelligence are practically unlimited. So there is no conflict between men for them. No man is the poorer because his brother is richly gifted artistically or intellectually. None has his own share diminished because his brother's share is great.

And so humanity progresses from competition to co-operation, and learns the lesson of Brotherhood. It is that the richer you are in intellect the more you can give and the less you need grudge. Seeing that we are going upwards to the Higher Life where all is giving, none desires to seize for self.

For in this region of intellect and of the higher tastes and emotions, there is no need for grudging. All may share what they have, and find themselves, after the sharing, the richer and not the poorer for the giving. Even then it is found that satisfaction does not lie that way, for still it is of the nature of desire.

On the realization of the principle that I am now going to put to you depends the whole direction of your life. If you seek gratification of desire you will never find happiness, for every desire that is gratified gives birth to a new desire, and the more desires you gratify the more open mouths there are demanding to be filled.

For if happiness does not lie along the road of desire, then the majority of people, especially in civilized lands, are on the wrong road to happiness: they will never reach it along the road they travel. If you notice the demand of modern life, it is always for more of the same thing already possessed - for the multiplication of the objects of desire, and the continual increase of longings which cannot be gratified.

Happiness does not lie in this increasing gratification of desires, but in transmuting of the desire for the transitory into the aspiration to the Eternal, and the complete changing of the nature from that which seeks to enjoy to that which seeks to give.

So in your search for happiness you had better consider on what line you are travelling. For if you are travelling along the line of the gratification of desire, then no matter how much you refine it, you are travelling along a road that is an endless circle. It will always leave you unsatisfied and never give you the bliss
......which is the natural goal of the Soul in man.

Thus after a while, by this absence of satisfaction, which is pain, the realization comes to the Soul that this is not the road, and he grows weary of change. All these outer objects of body and of mind lose their attractive force; weary of the change which he finds everywhere in the lower world, he no longer goes outward but he turns his face inward and upward. For when he went outward to the senses, he failed. Then he drew into the mind, but the mind is outward from the standpoint of the Soul, and again he failed.

Always beaten back by pain, always beaten back by the dissatisfaction that is the most wearisome pain of all. And then, finally, he learns his lesson, and he turns away from that which is without; he turns within; and then he finds the beginning of peace, the first touch of real, of essential satisfaction.

And another use of pain, a more inner lesson now. For we have reached the point where the Soul has distinguished himself from the body of desire and even from the mind itself. And still he has not got outside the reach of pain, for he has not yet quite found his center, he is only seeking it still.

"Although he knows that he is not the body, nor the senses, nor the mind, he still finds himself susceptible of pain that comes from within, of contacts that translate themselves as pain. And coming into contact with others - with the thoughts and the feelings and the judgment of others - he constantly finds himself pained by misjudgments and misunderstandings, by unkind thoughts and unkind feelings.

If the Soul has gained wisdom, then he will begin to ask himself: 'Why do I still feel pain?' 'What is there, not in the outside, but in me that gives rise to pain?' For he has now passed beyond the ignorance which makes this outer thing appear as the inflicter of pain. He relates to himself the element that causes pain, and realizes that nothing can touch him save himself, which is in truth responsible for all.

So if he feels pain the cause of pain must lie in himself, and not in the external object. For if the Soul were perfect, nothing that is outside of him could avail to give him pain. If he feels pain, it is a sign of imperfection, that he is not withdrawn wholly from the lower nature which is not himself. And then he begins to use pain instead of merely feeling it; and there is a distinction between the two.

Soul is no longer at the mercy of pain, but he takes pain into his own hands as an instrument and uses it for his own purpose. When he finds this pain - we will say which comes from unkind action, or from misjudgment of motive or of conduct - the Soul takes the pain in hand as a sculptor might take a chisel.

With this instrument of pain he strikes at his own personality, for he knows that if it were not for this personality which is selfish, he would not feel the pain at all. So he may use the pain as a chisel to cut off this personal weakness, and so remain serene and untroubled amid the conflicts of the world.

For thus has it been with all those who have risen above personality, those great and liberated, Souls whom we speak of as Masters, and who always work for the world. No matter how the world misjudges them. It was said by one of Them: 'We feel the slanders and the criticisms of mankind just as much as the heights of the mountains feel the hissing of the serpents that glide around their feet.'

In the inner realms, there is no personality which can be hurt by misjudgment, no personality which can suffer by misunderstanding, or misinterpretation. They bestow a blessing, and the man who receives it knows not whence it comes. And in his complete ignorance he jeers or scoffs, or accuses the Masters unknowing what They are, and translating Them into himself as though he were They.

As so you ask: are The Masters hurt? No; they answer with pity, to the insult. They answer with forgiveness. In Them there is nothing that can be hurt by misunderstanding, or misinterpretation. Only They can feel pity for the sake of the one who is blinded and who cannot see - pity for the blinded brother who by his wrong thought is injuring his own Soul.

The moon is not injured by anyone who would throw mud against it. The mud falls back on the one who throws it and soils his garments; the light of the moon stays pure and untouched by the mud of earth. So, as the Soul is thus growing onwards to the light, he uses pain as an instrument to destroy personality and those subtle things of the personality that even the strong Soul may be blind to.

Soul takes the pain as the most merciful of messages to tell him of his weakness, his own fault, and his own mistake. For as you grow in knowledge you realize that your worst enemy is not the outside fault you recognize, but the inner blindness that does not see the place of danger, and does not know that it does not see.

When you fall, and know you fall, then the danger is but a small one. It is when you fall and know not that you have fallen, that the enemies of the Soul rejoice. And if there comes pain from the falling then the pain is quite welcome: for that tells of the danger and may open our eyes to the slip that has been made.

In this way, pain is no longer an infliction - something imposed from the outside. It is welcome as a warning and as an instrument that Soul may use. Pain becomes the surgeon's knife that cuts away the spot of danger. Therefore, pain is no longer to be resisted as an enemy but is to be welcomed as a friend.

"And still pain has another use, now a matter of choice by the free Soul, the Soul that means to be strong, not for himself but for helping the world. The Soul realizes he has to live for others, and knows that he can only learn to live for others if he is strong in himself, will choose pain. He will choose pain because only thus can he learn endurance: he will choose pain because only thus can he learn patience.

Those who never suffer must always remain weak. For only in the stress and the agony of the combat will the Soul learn to endure, though the combat, remember, is still a sign of weakness. Were we strong we should not need to fight.

Yet we can only gain the strength that shall not need to struggle in the agony of the struggle. For then gradually the strength will work itself into the Soul and that, which once was anxiety and struggle, will gain the calm serenity of perfect strength.

And for one other thing the Soul will choose pain: that it may learn sympathy. For even the strong Soul, would be useless if he had not learned sympathy. The strong Soul might be rather dangerous if he had become strong without compassion, and had learned to gather force while he had not learned to guide that force aright. For force that is only strong and, not compassionate may trample instead of raising, and of all things that would break the heart of the Soul that would wish to rise.

Strength, not having that touch of sympathy which is keener than all sight and is the very intuition of the Soul, might be used for mischief and not for helping. He might injure, where he desired to help, and might crush where he desired to lift. And so the stronger it is, the more eagerly will the Soul seek this lesson of pain in order that by feeling he may learn to feel. So by his own pain he may learn how the pains of the world shall be healed: for otherwise, he may not learn.

Not from without but from within we have to be built. All the pains that we have in our imperfections are the stones with which the temple of the perfect Soul is finally built. Pain in the end there will not be; but pain in the building there must be.

Therefore the Disciple chooses the Path of Woe, because only by woe may he learn compassion. Only as he thrills to every touch from the outer universe will he, who is to be the heart of the universe, be able to send out responsive thrills of healing. Healing which shall pass through all manifested life and carry with it the message of helpfulness and of strength.

Thus then for the uses of pain, though you might find many another. They err who believe that sorrow is the end of things. They err who believe that pain and sadness are really the atmosphere in which the Soul lives. Soul is bliss, it is not sorrow. Soul is joy, it is not pain. Soul is peace, it is not struggle.

The essence and the heart of all things is love, is joy, is peace. The path of pain is the path and not the goal. Instead, the Path of Woe is, only the means and not the end. It is the means to reach the Ocean of Love and Mercy from whence the universe has sprung. For out of that Ocean of Blessedness flow love and peace and joy unceasing, and those are the heritage of the Soul out of manifestation.

Pain lies in the sheaths in which he is clothed, and not in his essential nature. Never forget that in the struggle of life! Never let the pain blind your eyes to the joy, nor let the passing anxieties make you unconscious of the bliss which is the core and heart of Being. Pain is passing, bliss is eternal; for bliss is the inner essence of the Self of all. Therefore as the Soul goes onward, therefore as the Soul grows freer, peace takes the place of struggle, and joy takes the place of pain.

Look on the highest face: there is indeed the mark of pain, but of pain that is over. For that has been changed into strength and sympathy and compassion, and a deep unending joy. For the final word of the universe is Bliss. The final outcome of: Humanity is rest, conscious rest in happiness.

And all the messages of pain are in order that the Soul may gain his liberation; the end is the end of peace, and the manifested side of peace is joy."

Credits: abridged from "Pain: It's Meaning and Use" by Annie Besant's Lecture at the Blavatsky Lodge.


 

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