Why Is There Pain?

Why Is There Pain?

This one requires a bit of an introduction. In the ’60’s and early 70’s, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi worked on translations and commentary on the Bhagavad Gita and Brahma Sutra. While he was urged to continue and cover the Upanishads, the last of the 3 key books of Vedanta*, he declined, saying it was more important to enlighten the world than write books. The first 6 chapters (of 18) of the Gita were published back in the day but the rest of the project went to the back-burner while he began to train thousands of meditation teachers. The project was almost forgotten and many wondered if the rest of it was actually ever done. Then after Maharishi had passed, a Frenchman began working to gather all the parts together from the people Maharishi had worked with back in the day. More of it was there than anyone had realized and the project was brought back on-line.

Those translations are now evidently slowly working their way to publishing. In the interim Dr. Vernon Katz has published 2 books, Conversations with Maharishi, Volumes 1 and 2. He is a British Sanskrit scholar who worked very closely with Maharishi on the translations. Many of their conversations were recorded for reference. He took those old recordings and assembled some of the discussions on philosophical points, mainly from the Brahma Sutra, into the books. The first volume covers the ’60’s when Maharishi had more blocks of time. The second in the early ’70’s when it was more snippets in his busy global schedule.

These are more philosophical than reference books but if you have such an inclination, it’s a fascinating exploration of the thinking behind the Brahma Sutra translation. A kind of behind-the-scenes look. Some of that will of course be condensed in the coming commentary but in the meantime, it’s a wonderful look at the time and insight of a man with a rare gift for explaining the profoundly abstract. And the Brahma Sutra are certainly that.

I’ve recently begun the newly published 2nd volume. In the first conversation on the Internal Mechanics of the Absolute, they discuss how bliss unites consciousness and existence, hence sat-chit-ananda. Then Maharishi clarifies an important point.

If the nature of creation is bliss, why is there pain? Because it’s infinite. Infinite means all possibilities, including opposites, there together. The extreme value of bliss? Pain. (duhkha) Infinity leads to what he later called the co-existence of opposites and allows the diversity of experience to arise – along with the apparent paradox of opposites. The unmoving moving. Intelligence as ignorance. And bliss as pain.

The never-changing become changing and consciousness becomes unconscious. Inherent in any quality is it’s own lack. Thus in a curious way, the lack of something points to it’s existence. Pain points to it’s origins in bliss and indeed, I’ve seen people be lead under their pain, only to discover it’s origins in bliss or peace.

And when the finite values are by virtue of the infinite [recognized as], then only, by bringing the infinite in this saturated state into our awareness, will the infinite live in the values of the finite. Otherwise it won’t be possible. And because Unity is a possibility of life, it is on this level that there is the area which joins together the opposite finite values and holds them intact, in existence [sat]. That is why the chit (intelligence [consciousness]) could comprehend the state of sat (existence) which upholds opposite finite values. So when the chit comprehends that [I am That], then the sat becomes a living reality. And when the sat becomes a living reality, ananda (bliss) flourishes, ananda becomes lively, so to say. But it is within these two values, change and non-change, that the absolute breathes cognition. The Absolute can breathe its own cognition between change and non-change. And that is why it is attributeless – because it is neither change nor non-change. It is a witness of change and non-change; it binds together change and non-change. It is that energy which releases the existence of this and this [finite thing] without itself being affected by anything.”  – Maharishi, Dec 1970

Which is of course why, when we discover our Absolute nature, it is the end of suffering. Not because pain ceases but because we shift from being in it to being the witness of it. We recognize pain as a part of the vastness of infinity, an extreme value at one end that all too many have had dominate their lives.

Many spiritual teachers talk of the duality of absolute and relative world. Some speak of the relative as illusion to be ignored. But here Maharishi speaks of how they can be lived together, united as one. Nothing denied. And he notes they must co-exist to be lived. Without one, there is no recognition of the other. This is true non-duality.

In this case, Absolute is seen to be beyond existence and non-existence. The word I use for this on this blog has been Brahman.

*Vedanta means “end of the Veda”, the core or end teachings of the 6 systems of philosophy and the foundation of Non-duality or Oneness.

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One comment

  1. I should also note that Volume 1 went out of print between editions. Prices online skyrocketed. If the books are of interest to you, I’d suggest you order them sooner rather than later. They may not have long term availability.

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