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Chapter 12: Becoming a Witness

In moments of pain one wishes he were not the body. Ordinarily, a man who takes himself to be nothing but the body also wishes he were not the body when his head hurts or when his foot is injured or when his body aches. He tends to agree with monks all over the world who go about saying that, “It would have been better if I were not the body.” Feeling the pain in his body, he becomes eager to somehow find out he is not the body too. That’s why I say to you, the moments of pain can become moments of spiritual discipline, they can be turned into moments of sadhana. But ordinarily, what do we do?

Ordinarily, during times of suffering, we try to forget pain. If a man is in trouble, he will drink alcohol. Someone is in pain and he will go and sit in a movie theater. Somebody is miserable and he will try to forget his misery with prayers and devotional songs. These are all different ways and means to forget pain.

Someone drinks; we can say this is one tactic: someone goes and watches a movie, this is another. A person goes to a concert; this is a third way of forgetting pain. Somebody goes to the temple and drowns himself in prayers and hymns; this is a fourth strategy. There can be a thousand and one strategies - they can be religious, nonreligious, or secular. That’s not a big question. Underneath all this, the basic thing is that man wants to forget his misery. He is into forgetting misery.

A person who is out to forget misery can never wake up to misery. How can we become aware of something we tend to forget? Only with an attitude of remembering can we become aware of something. Hence, only by remembering pain can we become aware of it.

So whenever you are in misery, take it as an opportunity. Be totally aware of it, and you will have a wonderful experience. When you become fully aware of your suffering, when you look at it face to face, not escaping the pain, you will have a glimpse of your separateness from it. For example, you fell, were injured, hurt your foot. Now try to locate the pain inside, try to pinpoint the exact spot where it hurts, and you will be astonished to discover how you have managed to spread the pain over a much wider area, away from the original spot where its intensity is not so much.

Man exaggerates his suffering. He magnifies his misery, which is never actually that much. The reason behind this is the same - identification with the body. Misery is like the flame of a lamp, but we experience it as the dispersed light of the lamp. Misery is like the flame, limited to a very small section of the body. But we feel it like the very extended light of the lamp, covering a much larger area. Close your eyes and try to locate the pain from inside.

Remember too, we have always known the body from the outside, never from within. Even if you know your body, it is known as others see it. If you have seen your hand, it is always from the outside, but you can feel your hand from within too. It is as if one were to remain contented with seeing his house only from the outside. But there is an inner side to the house as well.

Pain occurs at the inner parts of the body. The point where it hurts is located somewhere in the interior of the body, but the pain spreads to the outer parts of the body. It is like this: the flame of pain is located inside, while the light radiates outward.

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