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Prof M Sivaramakrishna
Magazine : Mother of All
Language : English
Volume Number : 8
Month : July
Issue Number : 3
Year : 2009

This time shall we reflect on what Mother has to say about ‘pain and suffering? For this, I (somewhat impulsively) selected a dialogue recorded in Dr. Sripada Gopalakrishnamurthi’s book¹. The following is an approximate English rendering of the Telugu original:

Mother, I have a headache. The smallest thing related to Hyma recurs in memory.

Devotee: “Does Mother, too, have suffering?” they ask. 

Mother: They are accustomed to think in that manner. Since there is this thing called ‘the body’, all kinds exist.

Devotee: One asserts, “No question of suffering for Mother”. Another affirms: “whatever had happened in the past, she is experiencing it now”. Another wonders: “Don’t know whose (suffering) it is!” Finally, they say: “Like all of us, she does have a body. And let her suffer like us. Let her!” Are all these four feelings true? Of these four, what truly is yours? Mother: One truth alone appears in these four forms.

Devotee: Did the One become the four!

The next part of the conversation lets us take up the next issue. It raises several aspects which have to be considered cautiously.

First, whatever form it assumes (and whoever is its victim) suffering and pain are facts, universally experienced. It has no racial or creedal boundaries. It is an innate psychological fact. Suffering is. That’s it.

Here the nucleus of the conversation is that the Mother (of all) has a headache. The apparent reason is rooted and springs from the ties of family: fond memories of the daughter, Hyma. But most of us are, by and large, inclined to think that saints and sages, incarnations, have no suffering. Or, they all have transcended it. They have ties but no duties (ties dictated by a dualistic world in which we live).

They are, in short, detached from all ties, including the familial ones, living in a citadel of aloofness, in line, detached splendour. Therefore, we wonder when we hear that Mother has a headache. “We can’t believe that you do, like us, lesser mortals, suffer from headache, illness, disease, etc” — this is our version. (Quite often, this is a subversion or perversion which we create, impose and attribute to them).

We have precedents. In our own time Sri Ramakrishna had cancer. Ramana Maharshi had a carbuncle, which he suffered gladly. Suffering aggravated by the operations carried out, ironically, by love and affection of the devotees for Maharshi. In spite of the Maharshi’s saying ‘no’ to surgery! In other words, are we not ostensibly, out of what we assume our love and affection, disregarding the guru’s injunction? In short, “we know better! Maharshi!” is what we mean, in fact. That is why, Mother in the later part of the dialog, says: “Yes! devotees are accustomed to think in that manner!”

Now, let us look at the four versions of Mother’s headache and its pain which a devotee sums up. The first one is “No question of suffering for Mother!” This has an interesting and recurring background. Our perception of Mother is her ever blissful nature is gloriously exempt from the slightest tinge (if not taint) of suffering, pain and the corresponding emotions and feelings. Her perennial mood is one of unending joy that is what we like to assume, often raising it to the level of a self evident truth. So, suffering is a human, our lot and this does not touch Mother. Is this a fact?

The extended position of this view is articulated by another devotee: “She does, like us, have a body. And let her suffer like us, let her!” In this view, any one who has a body is bound to suffer. Mother has a body. Ergo “let her suffer, let her!” Is this brazenness or blindness or both? We have to wait and ponder. Rather, we need not do either. If only we allow Mother herself to clarify, as she does.

There is an interesting and recurring tendency here. Generally, we put questions to her not for clarification but for confirmation of the answers we possibly already know, or thought out as the right one. The “crooked intellect” – if one uses such harsh words – plays its own game of “hide one’s answers and seek answers from Mother”. In most they evoke acceptance but with some reservations.


There is also another aspect to this. Do we listen or merely hear what Mother tells us? Hearing is a mental act mediated by the intellect. In most cases, intellect is like Hanuman’s tail: it stretches unendingly. Sage J. Krishnamurti says: “It is essential, it seems to me to have a quiet mind because the mind is our only instrument of understanding, of perception, of communication, and as long as that instrument is not completely clear and capable of perception, capable of pursuit without an end, there can be no freedom, no tranquillity and therefore no discovery of anything new.” (J. Krishnamurti, As One Is, Prescott, Arizona; Hohm Press, 2007; p.40)

Two words in Telugu perhaps clarify the issue: (39, mg): intelligence and discriminating intellect. The first is a clever way of closing the mind with preconceived notions, assuming that they are irrefutable conclusions. The second is intellect which is free and open to learn. Learn and not try to earn a name as a seasoned debater.

Thus, we have two views: first, Mother is not subject to any suffering, with all its implications. Second, she has a body and it is natural to be a subject of suffering and pain. These two are not, for Mother, abstract, vague ideas. They constitute a context of concrete experience: headache and the memories of Hyma. But does Mother link these two facts as cause and consequence? Or, simply “random” events which do not permit any linkage?

By Mother’s grace, let us explore further aspects. But, personally, I learnt a lot, for this context, from an observation David Bohn, a celebrated physicist, made: “Thought can produce experiences without our being aware that they are produced by thought. It is this deceptive feature of thought that we have to watch out for.” (David Bohn, Thought as a system London : Routledge, 1994; pp. 18 and 24)

The problem for us is to experience without getting obsessed by ideas and thought. (I am a victim of the latter). Let us continue this in the next issue.

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