Richard (now Radhanath Swami) travelled to Dehra Dun to see Anandamayi Ma, an extraordinary woman who was also the guru of Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India. Anandamayi Ma defined wisdom as the ability to see everything in relation to the whole. She gave a beautiful explanation of suffering; she said all sorrow comes from the sense of me and mine. “All sorrow is due to one’s keeping apart from God. When you are with Him, all pain disappears.” She also explained to Richard that the world is endlessly oscillating between pleasure and pain; there can be no stability or security in this world. All suffering in this world is to remind us to turn our thoughts toward God who alone will give us solace.
On hearing Anandamayi Ma’s explanation of suffering, I wonder why God gives us tests and sufferings in this world; why can’t he make it easy for us and carry us back to His loving kingdom easily. Radhanath Swami says in spiritual life sufferings are important because they purify us of the material contaminations of the heart and they provide us with the strength to progress towards God. If we do not go through suffering at all, we would take spiritual life cheaply, says Radhanath Swami.
In her poem “There Is a Reason for Everything,” the poet Helen Steiner Rice wrote:
“Our Father tests us often
With suffering and with sorrow;
He tests us not to punish us,
But to help us meet tomorrow.
For growing trees are strengthened
When they withstand the storm;
And the sharp cut of a chisel
Gives the marble grace and form….
So whenever we are troubled
And when everything goes wrong,
It is just God working in us
To make our spirits strong. “
Radhanath Swami’s best friend, Bhakti Tirtha Swami, on whose insistence Radhanath Swami wrote ‘Journey Home’ also described God’s grace beautifully. Bhakti Tirtha Swami went through external sufferings in the form of cancer and amputations etc, especially during the last phase of his life. But he accepted these difficulties with grace and dignity, teaching all of us how to accept sufferings in this world. With heart felt gratitude to God for his sufferings, he composed the following:
“I asked for strength, and God gave me difficulties to make me strong
I asked for wisdom, and God gave me problems to solve….
I prayed for favours, and God gave me opportunities”
I asked God to grant me patience, and God said:
“No, suffering draws you apart from worldly cares and brings you closer to Me.”
I received nothing I wanted
I received everything I needed.”
Radhanath Swami says that such heart-felt sentiments open our eyes to the understanding of why are sufferings and tests necessary: they help us to grow deep and take full shelter of God.