Shuba’s Weblog

Journeys of the soul…

Suffering is universal..

on November 14, 2007

Last evening, I had the opportunity to attend a book discussion group at the local library. I had seen a flier about it in the library and it was on a book I had read a few months ago and really loved. The book is a non-fiction called ‘eat, pray,love’ and is the memoirs of this woman’s journey to Italy (eat), India (pray) and Indonesia (love). The book is very funny and very down-to-earth. The writer is at the lowest point in her life after a messy divorce and in severe depression, when she decides to take a journey-a year off to be on her own and find herself. She is vivacious, and the book is humorous and her experiences with meditation in an ashram in India are particularly very funny.

I loved the book. In the book discussion group though, there were mixed reactions. Some of the folks thought the writer was a tad self-absorbed. And then, half way through the discussion, this old woman of russian descent spoke. She said, she couldn’t understand what the big deal was, why the woman was so depressed. and how she could eat so obsessively (in Italy). When one of the women asked her if she put herself back at age 37, she said yes. At that age, she had survived the world war II. She had seen her people die. When she came to the US, there were days when they survived on potato peels, and several folks died of mushroom poisoning, because that was all they could find. She talked about her past, a past marred with some major tragedies. And in her view, Elizebeth Gilbert’s suffering paled in comparison.

It raises an interesting point-can suffering experienced by different people be compared on the same scale? Obviously, the woman has been through a lot in her life, and certainly from no choice of her own. And yet, is that suffering much greater than that experienced by most of us out there who may not have survived a war, but still have to find peace in our lives.

In my own personal life, I have often felt in the past that I haven’t really suffered much. I haven’t been in a war, I haven’t ever been seriously ill and I have not been hungry or seen my loved ones leave my side. It generally helped put my own suffering in perspective with respect to the rest of the world. Yet, I have also come to realize that while that is true in a certain sense, I do have my own hassles, as do every one of us. We all face troubles in our lives and no matter how small or big, we all have to learn to deal with it. And it is the *dealing* part of the equation that shapes us as a person, not the fact that we have suffered. After all, as Buddha said, suffering is universal.

Each one of us has a different journey in life and no two paths can be compared. Some of us have to go through wars and give our lives for others. Some of us have children and we live our lives for them. And some others amongst us have to take the journey to come to terms with who we are. We all have to find ways to live life on our own terms . And whether that involves a journey across the world, or just across our minds and hearts seems irrelevant.

Also, when we realize that suffering doesn’t really have a scale to measure on, it becomes easier to become compassionate to others. We no longer judge their suffering or ours, and we are able to open our hearts to whatever comes along, just because it is not personal. Thats just the way life is. And we continue to move on. Our steps no longer isolated, but together with our friends, family and fellow-beings. we all have had troubles and we will all get through it.

Sending you peace and love, S.

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