Thoughts and Aphorisms – Bhakti – 3

The sixth in the series on Sri Aurobindo’s aphorisms and my understanding of it.

It was a blistering 45 degrees Celsius in that famous temple town in southern India, cradled by an arc of mountains that reflected the searing heat. One felt the upper lip burning with every exhalation of breath. I was like a cauldron into which fate had poured unpleasant ingredients. Where the traveling pilgrims saw God and his benediction I saw an unyielding Tyrant. The heat brought it to breaking point. In the middle of road, near the outskirts of the town, away from all that I loved and hoped, I was being dissected.  And it was not the first, or the last, time I felt life-sapping pain.

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Who amongst us has not known pain? It is one of the few universals that make up the human condition. Whether it is physical pain or the more destructive emotional pain, it is such an intense feeling that we almost instinctively recognize and avoid it.

To the aspirant pain is a harsh reality, more than a common man with conventional ambitions. I believe the pain one undergoes is in proportion to the quest undertaken. To gain a glimpse of the Infinite is to challenge the vast machinery of manifest existence and its rules. We pay the price to unravel every knot and to peer through every appearance.

But an Omniscient’s creation would not manifest something without purpose, pain included. Sri Aurobindo says-

I used to hate and avoid pain and resent its infliction; but now I find that had I not so suffered, I would not now possess, trained and perfected, this infinitely and multitudinously sensible capacity of delight in my mind, heart and body. God justifies himself in the end even when He has masked Himself as a bully and a tyrant.

To consider one type of experience would suffice to understand what positive changes pain can manifest. I would like to mention how my appreciation of music has changed over these troubled years. I have always listened to music, especially classical music, with a certain intensity. Have tried to perceive it with my heart since I have no formal training or knowledge of music. One of the most exhilarating experiences in my life was when I intuitively understood Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. I still cannot explain it but it stands like an unseen monument within my heart, a thing of constant awe and joy!

I believe what made this possible was a re-forging of the emotional being. The old vocabulary was pulled down. The landscape within had been changed, newer pathways established. Life was not lived in the senses alone. Other worlds could enter my bleak existence. Honeyed whispers of a higher self could reach me now.

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