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What are the Six types of Suffering in Sri Vaishnavism? | Short term Happiness and Consumerism

Do you feel that you have suffered any time?

Investigation through the Sri Vaishnava System

The Sri Vaishnava System as established by Sri Ramanujacharya delineates the five fundamental causes or origins of both physical and mental suffering. This becomes a subject of investigation for the living entity to begin his spiritual journey.

Three limiters of Spiritual Investigation

Eluding Happiness and Peace

Whatever the case with humans, ultimately they seek happiness. They do it through pleasure-seeking and other sensory indulgences with the hope that they may attain lasting happiness. Although the attempts are innumerable, soon, with passing time, mankind realizes that at all times there is something missing, something going astray. One is ultimately left with a feeling of utter dissatisfaction, emptiness and unease. These feelings will arise and that is guaranteed. One observes that change is tremendous at all times and yet it is dynamically constant. Pleasure alternates sorrow, hope alternates disappointment, and meeting ends with parting ways. That which is unattainable is peace and happiness that is lasting. Because man is pre-occupied with the senses he is inattentive towards the source of his constant failures.

Happiness has a new fake form

Man lives without a meaning in life, in the modern world especially in the developed world. In the third world people are fighting for existence and that is meaning enough for the people of that world. Only when physical needs are taken care of, can one begin seeking higher and more complex forms of happiness. This complexity of happiness exists in the Western world and also in the politically categorized developing world. The business communities have defined the boundaries of this satisfaction. This is called Consumerism. Consumerism is a cheap way of deriving pleasure out of the senses through use of products that titillate the senses in such a way that there is an extremely temporary and yet constant demand for sense-indulgence.

Pleasure seeking replaces innate human qualities

The big corporates mint currency by providing the goods for sense-indulgence to the consumerists. This is the capitalist driven philosophy of consumerism. Today, consumerism is equated and promoted as “happiness” by the capitalists who brain-wash the common folks by running advertising campaigns that try to establish consumables in that manner. The meaning of happiness is being equated to fleeting sensory pleasure which is similar to the pleasure of skin-itch and nothing more. What one fails to realize is that if one engages with skin-itch too much, one shall start to bleed. This is exactly what consumerism if doing to the modern world. People are losing the innate, natural abilities of the human species such as patience, tolerance, contentment, resilience and a host of other capabilities that consumerism is fast replacing with pure sense-born pleasure. Such sense-pleasure cannot be even remotely compared to pleasantness. Human species is only left with desperation and rising levels of anxiety in conclusion.

Seven types of defects with sense-driven material pleasures

End results of pleasure born experiences are trivial.

They are transient and impermanent.

All efforts connected with pleasure seeking require too much effort and consumes too much time.

The end result of pleasures is deep pain, grief and disappointment alone.

Grief and disappointment accompanied by continued struggle.

Incompatible with essential and innate human nature.

All initiatives of pleasure seeking proceeds from the false and delusive sense of identity.

What can deliver True meaning?

Only Spiritual Dharma, which is our innate essential nature can give ultimate meaning to life. Unless one aligns all layers of consciousness which includes the body-mind-intellect to our essential nature, this goal is never attained. Unless one is able to sense inner discontentment and dissatisfaction, the realization that one is heading in the wrong direction will never arise. Meanwhile the entire world continues to suffer for obvious reasons, essentially because it has not recognized the simple fact that it is painfully suffering. Pleasure-seeking of some kind is holding its interests. The decision to investigate the spiritual option usually comes as a fundamental realization when one suddenly wakes up to the waywardness of one’s direction.

Disenchantment from consumerism is a vital requirement to qualify to this stage, at least in the modern context. When such awakening takes place, questions begin to arise in the mind, due to merit accrued in previous lifetimes and through the Grace of God. Earnestly seeking the answer to these questions leads to introspection and the examination of one’s real nature, one’s position in society and in the universe.

Spiritual Ignorance and Types of Suffering

Material life is characterized by three states namely suffering and confusion both of which are based upon spiritual ignorance. Suffering manifests in six forms which are associated with the fundamental life process for which there can be no solutions. People try to fix these six types of problems through diversions such as sense gratification and getting addicted to pleasurable experiences. This attempt transforms pleasures into deep rooted suffering.

Physical Suffering

The process of birth

There is no child which is born laughing. As soon as the child is born, the first breath causes intense pain because now the living entity is forced to enter the life of bondage. This is experienced as a physical pain, although there are spiritual reasons associated with the process of birth.

Transformation and change

At the physical level one is never stable. There is growth of the body till a certain age. Then there is maturity in the body. During the entire lifetime, there are several hormonal changes that occur in the body. This gives rise to pain of different types as the body undergoes several changes during the course of a lifetime. 

Sickness and Physical Infirmity

The body undergoes the various pressures of life. Life experiences cause mental stress and strain because of which the body undergoes several beatings. Sickness is caused in the body due to the burden of the life-process itself. Diseases have a great role to play and hamper the body functioning. Hence quality of life is heavily impaired because of diseases and health issues that crop up from time to time

Hunger and Thirst

Hunger and Thirst is the need of the body. There are times when one has to go hungry or thirsty many times during the course of one’s lifetime and hence there is physical pain associated with hunger and thirst.

Old Age

Old Age is associated with obvious pains. The body loses many of its prior abilities and hence becoming old can also be a physically painful experience, thereby increasing the set of inabilities of the body. This is suffering of the body through old age.

Process of Dying

Dying is not a simple process. Depending on the consciousness of the individual and how much sense driven one is, death can be painful or can be painless which is inversely proportional to how much one’s consciousness is associates with matter. The more one is ambitious, the more one is pleasure driven, the more one is attached to the physical world; the more there will be physical pain at the time of death.

Mental Suffering

Identity Crisis

Many times man associates himself with his name, possessions, position, wealth and other abstract aspects of the world. Thus he gets terribly identified with it and forgets his original nature. The more man gets into this mode, his emotions and thoughts attain a materialistic color thereby making him touchy and heavy. When any of these worldly assets undergo some change either in a positive or negative way, the individual gets unstable on many fronts thereby creating within him mental turmoil, disabling him from attaining his true potential as a spiritual being. Suffering arising as a result of false identification can be very intense and destabilizing.

Confusion about a Purpose in Life

This mental agony is caused in an individual because he considers this world to be real, as something permanent and as related to oneself. In such a case, the individual is confused about his approach to relate to the world and a host of difficulties start cropping up. He is unable to establish his identity although it is his definite intention to relate to the world. Thus, this is a variation of identity crisis.

Frustration and Pain of Loss

This happens almost at all times, throughout one’s life journey. Whatever one gets, one tries to maintain and one fails. Whatever one tries to get, he fails to get. Whatever one has, one is ever striving to maintain permanently thereby increasing stress and strain. This results in continued frustration.

Questioning God for Rejection

This type of pain is experienced by many when one meets with constant failure in life and one starts questioning the existence of God because one has been rejected more than one can take. This suffering can make one a skeptic or a cynic.

Despairing life and deciding to end it

It is possible that one has failed in all of one’s attempts in creating an identity in the world, because one considers this ability as foremost after seeing the rest of the world do it. This can force the individual take the harsh decision of ending one’s life because one feels that life has been wasted. Thus trying to end one’s life is a decision that may be born out of insurmountable mental agony.

The knowledge which dispels these five manifestations of ignorance are formulated in the operative model or paradigm known as the Artha panchaka which means the “Five Required Things” or the Five matters which need to be investigated. This paradigm is the basis for the methodology of Spiritual development, the achievement of abiding happiness and the structure of the Sri Vaishnavism.

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