Question: Craig I heard a nondual teacher named B$#%#, say that “when we are enlightened we never experience suffering again.” Is this really true? I find this hard to believe. I live in a state of chronic pain due to an illness and have been bedridden for two years now. I was quite upset when I heard this teacher, because it did not seem to honor the human experience.
Craig: I can’t speak for B@#$#, but I have seen this type of confusion many times in the nondual world.
The confusion often comes in the way that we use the word suffering. Suffering in the nondual world often refers to our mind arguing with reality. I can have cancer and know that my body is in pain and experience pain. It is possible that I could be free of an internal argument about my cancer and about my pain. When I have let go of my total argument with life, this is possible, to experience pain and not “suffer.” If you worked in a hospice, you may see a handful of folks come to this place before their own death. They come to a space of total acceptance with what is…
This internal argument is how suffering is defined, by most nondual teachers. To not suffer is to fully let go of this argument. Pain is still present, but suffering can (mostly) fall away. I always add the word mostly, because I do not believe in absolutes, in regards to the messiness of life. Life is complicated and absolute teachings do not attend to or acknowledge the complicated nature of life.
Two years ago, I was in an accident where I almost drowned and I was at total peace with the moment of my impending death. Afterwards I was taken to the hospital and was at peace with my experience, I was in pain—but there was no argument (no suffering) that this shouldn’t have happened, or that it was my friend’s fault for not having control of the white water raft, which flipped and almost killed me. I was not upset with God at all for what happened, I did not go into any thoughts that God did not love me or I had terrible karma, I deserved this, or did not deserve this. It simply was and is. This is what most nondual teachers call (the end of suffering). There is no argument with what was or what is…..
But what I did experience, and still do, is a head injury. I experience pain on a daily basis, in the form of intense headaches. I experience the pain fully, yet do not argue with the fact that there is pain here—often a lot of debilitating pain, which causes me to miss out on the experience of life. I had a very similar experience with Kundalini.
Now, I can also say, that during the course of the last 2 years, since my head injury, I have been irritated, I have been grumpy, I have even been angry. Someone might ask, “Craig are you suffering? Are you arguing with life?” Yes, I am =) Absolutely. I am not perfect, I am human, I fall and am often humbled… “Craig do you experience and express enlightenment in every single moment of life: waking, sleeping and dreaming?” No, I do not. There has been a great burden of what I call extra suffering, created by the mind that has mostly ceased. Pain is pain, but argument with pain is an extra burden and adds unnecessary suffering to the experience of being human. Yet, suffering is also human. Did the great enlightened Jesus, suffer? Absolutely.
It is easy to talk about the end of suffering, when we are seating in a comfortable seat, and teaching before a quiet audience. Most nondual teachers, I do not think could handle and experience total uninterrupted enlightenment, given your situation. Most enlightened individuals would fall from total uninterrupted experience and expression of enlightenment, simply through the experience of raising a toddler or teenager.
They would suffer, if they were a refugee fleeing a war zone. They would suffer if they had to be up 3 nights with a sick baby. They would suffer if their teenaged daughter, was addicted to meth or ran away. They would suffer, along with the rest of the humans on this planet, because they are also human.
I use the words awakening (instead of enlightenment), because it is much more fluid, and I would say we suffer less—there is much less after awakening. Suffering is different than the direct experience of pain. But show me a human who does not suffer when his child is diagnosed with cancer and I would look into their chest and see if they had a heart missing.
Sometimes nondual teachers can be quite arrogant, or said differently, are often very immature or speak in absolutes. In his defense, it is just a quote, there is no further context…
Almost all absolute teachings, are not applicable absolutely. Life is complicated. Or as the Buddha put it, Life is suffering.
Peace be with you. If you can let go anymore and give up any resistance consciously or unconsciously, do so… otherwise, keep up the good work.