In Sikhism, the concept of grief is understood in relation to human experiences of happiness and sorrow. Sorrow is considered inevitable and necessary for individuals, and it is seen as a garment that humans must wear as they navigate the world. Those who recognize sorrow as a gift from a higher power give it equal importance in their minds.

However, those who constantly lament and weep when faced with suffering find that their sorrow becomes more intense and does not dissipate. Sikhism acknowledges that forgetfulness is a valuable quality bestowed upon humans, allowing them to experience both happiness and sorrow. Forgetting about suffering provides relief from it.

Meditation, on the other hand, is not easy to achieve, as the mind tends to gravitate towards things or individuals it loves. However, most worldly things and relationships are transient, and the love attached to them tends to diminish over time. But if one falls in love with something that remains constant and unchanging, such as the divine presence of Vahiguru and Satguru, their attention will be drawn back to it.

Suffering can arise from various sources, such as physical ailments, mental anguish, anxiety, worry, or separation. Anything that displeases the mind becomes a cause of suffering. Satguru also emphasizes that even what pleases the mind can be painful. The pursuit of external wealth or physical pleasures may bring temporary satisfaction, but the attainment of such desires can also lead to sorrow. There are several reasons why the enjoyment of worldly pleasures ultimately leads to suffering: (a) The happiness derived from such pleasures is fleeting and short-lived. The pursuit of happiness often involves enduring suffering, and once happiness is attained, its subsequent loss brings pain. (b) There is no satiation in the indulgence of these pleasures. Each indulgence creates a desire for more, and as one enjoys a particular pleasure, the desire for more intensifies. This cycle of desire renders true satisfaction elusive. (c) Excessive and immoderate indulgence in these pleasures becomes a source of suffering. The human body is designed in such a way that it craves and enjoys the substances it desires. However, overindulgence leads to its own consequences, including physical ailments and suffering.

According to Sikh teachings, the pursuit of worldly pleasures and attachment to them ultimately results in suffering. The transient nature of these pleasures, the insatiable desire for more, and the immoderate use of them all contribute to the sorrow experienced by individuals. Sikhism encourages individuals to find solace and liberation in the divine presence, recognizing that true and lasting happiness lies beyond the transient world.

When desires and jealousy arise in a person, they suffer. Even when they realize the world is false, the state of disillusionment does not last and still brings sorrow. This is because the person is trapped in their ego, constantly seeking self-identity. The suffering stems from the ego's separation of oneself from the entire creation and the Creator. The pursuit of pleasure turns into misery, and the ego keeps the mind restless, causing suffering. Additionally, the chain of enjoying the fruits of one's actions becomes a long cycle, leading to more suffering. Epidemics, diseases, natural disasters, wars, and accidents are examples of suffering that may be seen as the wrath of God. The causes of these sufferings are often beyond human comprehension and can be attributed to karma, bad luck, or a higher power.

Suffering arises from our relentless pursuit of maximum happiness and the means we employ to achieve it. In our endeavors, we endure hardships and pain, even for trivial desires. We flatter and demean ourselves, experiencing disappointment, despair, wounded pride, anger, and the desire for revenge. All of these contribute to our sorrow. 

Wise individuals have categorized suffering into three types: Aadhi, Byadhi, and Upadhi. Aadhi refers to mental suffering caused by the mind, such as worry, fear, grief, separation, jealousy, bitterness, thirst, anger, and pride. Regardless of their cause, when the mind becomes entangled in these emotions, it burns and decays like fire or a fish out of water. The intensity of such suffering can be likened to witnessing a suffering fish.

The second type is the pain of the body, also known as Byadhi. This includes physical pain resulting from injuries, illnesses, or extreme temperatures. Furthermore, the sorrows of old age, referred to as Jara Roga, fall into this category. Our minds are so fickle that they create imaginary scenarios leading to suffering. We worry about being robbed, losing loved ones, facing accidents or calamities, despite the actual probability being low. It is our own thinking that drags us into such suffering. Someone who habitually indulges in mental suffering experiences neither Aadhi nor Byadhi. Persistent mental anguish hampers normal activities like eating, drinking, and sleeping. Losing sleep, in particular, becomes akin to experiencing hell while still alive.

Apart from spiritual separation, there are two significant types of suffering caused by physical separation. The first is the separation from noble friends, while the second involves the loss of wealth and various other forms of separation. These spiritual and physical separations inflict pain on individuals according to their wisdom and perception.

The third type of suffering is hunger pangs, an indelible pain inflicted by God upon humans. Contentment is rare in human life, as our desires are insatiable. No matter how much we acquire, our hunger for more persists. These unquenchable cravings for other achievements become the source of eternal suffering.

Lastly, there are the severe blows of Jamduts, symbolic of the cruel times of the age. These can be seen as karmic afflictions or diseases that mankind must endure.

The human mind is the primary sufferer because it has the capacity to feel pain. However, a strong mind can overcome suffering by being selfless and fearless. Developing purity of mind helps in avoiding various miseries. When faced with suffering, accepting it willingly and increasing the power of love and consent can enhance the ability to endure pain.

In Sikh history, there are examples of individuals who did not consider their suffering as pain due to their hunger for the Divine Name. The concept of suffering can also differ, as there are instances where individuals find happiness and joy in their suffering. This occurs when they pursue union with the Divine, serve the Divine, or sacrifice for the Divine's happiness. Such suffering is transformed into love and devotion.

There are three types of suffering: mental suffering (caused by worries, fears, grief, etc.), physical suffering (related to the body, such as disease or old age), and suffering from external factors (natural calamities, accidents, etc.). The causes of external suffering may not always be understood. Desire for maximum happiness often leads to pain and disappointment.

Karma also plays a role in suffering. The consequences of past actions may manifest in this or future lifetimes, contributing to further suffering. Ego, the feeling of separation from others, is a primary cause of suffering. It is a natural disease in humans, influenced by their actions and nature.

In the pursuit of happiness, humans indulge in various pleasures, but they eventually realize the transient nature of these pleasures. Despite their desires, everything has an end, and the absence of desired things leads to suffering. Excessive indulgence in sensory pleasures also leads to personal suffering.

In summary, suffering encompasses mental anguish, bodily pain, and imagination distress. It includes the pain of spiritual and physical separation, the unending hunger for desires, and the blows of karmic forces. The human mind is susceptible to suffering, but a strong mind can overcome it. Purity of mind, acceptance of suffering, and increasing love and consent are essential. The pursuit of the Divine and selfless service can transform suffering into joy. Different types of suffering exist, including mental, physical, and external suffering. Ego and excessive indulgence in pleasures contribute to human suffering.

Jasbir Singh Sarna

Jasbir Singh Sarna

Native of Kashmir, Independent historian, poet, Journalist. A well known writer with 62 published books in Punjabi and English. Retired Agriculture Officer

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