In the aftermath of the London bombings and Hurricane Katrina, as well as the fourth anniversary of 9/11, the age-old question naturally arises: “Why do bad things happen to good people.” Sri Swami Satchidanda addressed this issue many times, under a variety of circumstances. Here is an excerpt from one talk in which he speaks about responding to the challenges in life in a way that can bring us comfort, hope and a deepened experience of faith. May this help relieve the suffering of all those in need. Om Shanti.
Again and again, people ask me, “Why is there suffering? How can I avoid suffering?” My answer is, “You cannot.”
If anything has to happen, it will happen. Think, “All right, let it happen. I am bold. What’s the use of being afraid of it? I’m not going to be able to stop anything that is meant to happen.” That really takes a lot of faith. If you have that kind of faith, you don’t have to be afraid of anything. That doesn’t mean that you should not be careful. Be careful, but don’t be afraid.
Then you might ask, how can I get that kind of faith? Know that such faith does not come that easily. We acquire faith only through suffering. Only then do you realize that nothing in this world is going to bring you eternal happiness and peace. You will say, “I tried this and that; I ran here and there, but I ran into troubles everywhere.” When we really understand the world and its nature, we get sick and tired of running after external happiness and only then we turn to God. Then our faith becomes really strong.
It is God’s mercy that we are put to a lot of suffering so that we will turn to God. That is what all the sages and saints say. Nothing is going to save us but God. It’s only during these very challenging times that we really turn to God. That’s why the Mother Nature itself is a factory. We are all being rubbed and scrubbed and chiseled and cut and filed until we are fit for the showroom. Like a piece of marble that becomes a beautiful statue that is put on the altar and worshipped.
Life is like that. So if we understand this well, we will accept all the adversities and sufferings. We will thank the people who bring us sufferings. Why? They are messengers of God. When somebody comes and brings you some suffering, know that God has sent that somebody out of His kindness. Accept it. Knowing the purpose and the meaning of suffering itself is an answer to suffering. Once you know the suffering is for your benefit you don’t have to be worried about it. You won’t be suffering for that. You will gladly go through it. Your faith will be tested by the sufferings. We can say, “Oh, we are all faithful to God.” But if God doesn’t give you an A or A+ on your exam, forget it. If God doesn’t give you $100,000 in your business, forget it. That is conditional faith. God wants unconditional faith.
When suffering comes from the nature itself, that also teaches us. These kind of situations help us learn to live as a global family. We remember that this is God’s home and we are all children of God, so we are one global family. With that understanding, we will collectively take care of each other, and the world. Even if one individual is unhappy, everybody will take care of that person and see that he or she becomes happy again.
If we could live that way, certainly we would have a heaven here. That is exactly what yogic life means. Living a collective life and rising above selfishness. Sharing the joy of everyone, and the pain of everyone. Let us learn that first. To love and give, care and share. Then, we will really see a beautiful heaven on this earth.