Suffering, from Islam and Buddhism point of view
The ways to escape from suffering in the opinion of Shiite Imams (PBUT) and Buddha
Reliance on Allah
Shia Imams believe that the only escape way of suffering is reliance on Allah; as Imam Reza (PBUH) mentioned the basis of relief from suffering for men is being in the strong fortress of monotheism and reliance on God. He said:
The word of La Ilaha Illa al-Allah (There is none God but Allah) is my fortress and whoever enters my fortress will be saved from my punishment”. (Saduq, 1317 AH, p. 306)
Undoubtedly, this quotation does not refer to the Judgment Day and whenever one’s will be aligned with Allah’s, he can be relieved of suffering. This is called Contentment. Imam Sadiq (PBUH) defined this attribute in this way: Contentment means for a man to be satisfied with whatever comes from Friend (Allah), whether he likes or dislikes it and indeed the content is the person who is well pleasing to Allah. (al Jubai – al Amili,1407 AH, p. 82)
Allama Tabatabai says about the philosophy of sufferings as a comment to this verse:
“Thinketh he, that none hath power over him?” (Al-Balad, 5)
This verse refers to the fact that our will is dominated by the will of Allah, and He permits man to go forward to the extent that is in accordance with the plan of the universe; hence, the will of men either may not be implemented or may be implemented partially and in any case it will lead to suffering; so, suffering in life should strengthen our comprehension of Allah (Tabatabai, 1417 AH, vol. 20, p. 327).
It can be concluded from the comments of Allama Tabatabai that there is only one way for men to be relieved of suffering and it is to vanish his will in Allah’s will and in this way he can attain the level of Contentment.
Also, in the quotations of Shiite Imams the state of Contentment is considered as one of the causes of relief of suffering, pain and sorrow. Imam Sadiq (PBUH) said: peace and comfort are in Contentment and certainty, and sorrow and sadness are in doubt and discontentment. (Reyshahri, vol. 2, p. 1132)
Also, consent to divine fate is introduced as the best medicine for sorrow and suffering in a hadith from Imam Ali (PBUH). He said: being content with divine fate is a good way for relief of grief (Al Laithi al-Wasiti, p. 494).
There is no mark of suffering in the life of Islamic figures and this is because they are content of the divine fate and adjust their will to Allah’s. Thus, we read about Imams (PBUT) in a prayer: “the will of God in the affaires’ fate descends on you, and spreads from your house. (Kulayni, 1367, vol. 4, p. 577)
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) introduced the agreement of two wills about Lady Fatima (AS) in these words:
“Allah the Almighty will be angry by the anger of Fatima (AS) and will be contented by her Contentment. (Saduq, 1417 AH, p. 467)
When Imam Hussein (AS) wanted to leave Mecca for Iraq he said in a sermon: the Contentment of Allah the Almighty is Contentment of us, the Ahl al-Bayt. (Majlesi, 1403 AH, vol. 44, p 367)
In this case, one does not suffer from any disaster and calamity and is content because he believes that all of them are from Allah and by his will. On the day of Ashura, the greatest of all the martyrs, Imam Hussein (PBUH), said to Allah: I would like to be killed seventy times and born again in the way of Allah’s love and obedience, especially if I can help your religion and revive your religious decree by my death. (Al Jannat al-Hadith fi ma’ahad al-Imam al-Baqir (PBUH), 1416 AH, p. 579)
Also it has been narrated about the last moments before the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (PBUH):
[Helal recounts] I came out of the two rows and stood up near Imam when he was passing away. I swear to Allah, I have never seen a blood-stained face of a man more beautiful and bright than his face. The brightness of his face and the glory of his dignity kept me from thinking about his martyrdom. He still was alive that asked for water… (Husseini, 1417 AH, p. 75)
Also, the master of mystics – Imam Ali (PBUH) – speaks about love to Allah in a very beautiful speech: love and friendship to Allah is a fire that burns anything it touches. It is a bright light which brighten everything which shone to it. It is a rainy cloud that covers everything under it. It is a divine refreshing breeze that cause movement and vitality by blowing. It is the water of rejuvenation and the source of life that gives life to everything. It is a fertile land that provides the growing field for every blessing. Allah bestows everything to the one who loves his lord with soul and body. (Majlesi, 1403 AH, vol. 67, p. 23)
When the heroine of Karbala, Lady Zeinab (AS), was asked about the battle of Karbala and the tragedies that she suffered, she answered: “I saw nothing but beauty” (Ibn Nema al Holli, 1369, p. 71).
In the eyes of the perfect man, everything is beautiful even being killed or captured and this view to the painful events of Ashura is the same view that the creature of universe has to it; when he says:
[Allah is the one] who perfected everything He created. (As-Sajda, 7)
Perfect people are the apparent icons on Earth. The followers of these great people should be aware like themselves that difficulty and hardship in the way of Allah for true believers are beautiful, pleasing and good like comfort.
One like pain and the other likes treatment … One like coupling and the other likes separation
Among treatment, pain, coupling and separation … I like what the Dearest (Allah) likes.
(Baba Tahir Oryan)
The same behaviors also can be seen in the companions of Imam Hussein (PBUH): Imam Hussein (PBUH) turned to Qasim ibn Hasan (AS) and said: “How is the death for you?” He answered: It is sweeter than honey for me.
In the following prayers we can find the result of reliance on Allah and relief of suffering in Imams’ life: You are my only wish, and only for you I stay awake during nights, and my eyes’ light and heart’s wish is to meet You, my delight is towards you and I’m longing for your friendship, and my great love is for You.
Imam Ali (PBUH), the commander of the faithful, whispered this fact to Allah in these words:
Oh Allah! You are the most familiar to your friends, and the most resourceful to those who rely on You; if solitude and roam frightened them, your reminiscence will give them peace and if they are overwhelmed by disasters, they will seek refuge in you and will turn to you; because they know that you have control over all events and every fate is determined by you. (Radhi, 1370, vol. 2, p. 221)
Also, Muslim thinkers and mystics have explored various aspects of the real cause of joy: for example Ibn Sina believed that the greatest joys are with Allah and Allah is the happiest one in the universe; because the most perfections are with Him and the highest perceptions, too; there is no being more perfect than Him in the universe. There is no defect in him. The source of the pain and suffering are inexistence and shortcomings and he is free from them and hence he is the first happy being in the universe and the only way to reach the true happiness is to find a way to get nearer to him. In other words, everyone who is closer to him is happier and everyone who is further away from him is sadder. Accordingly, we can say that saints and devotees to Allah have indescribable joy and happiness. (Ibn Sina, vol. 4, p. 40, 41).
In his book, Isharat, as the ninth method he introduced the mystic who has reached the god in this way: “The mystic is one who is good-tempered, affable and smiling.” (ibid, p. 101)
Maulana Rumi in his book Masnavi Ma’navi stated about the consent to Allah’s providence:
When the predestination of God becomes the pleasure of his servant, he (the servant) becomes willing to his decree,
Without any obligation, and not on account of the (future) reward and recompense; nay, but his nature has become so goodly.
He does not desire his life for himself nor to the end that he may enjoy the life that is found sweet (by others).
Wherever the Eternal Command takes its course [he will follow], living and dying are the same for him.
He lives for God’s sake, not for riches; he dies for God’s sake, not from fear or pain.
His faith is (held) for the sake of (doing) god’s will, not for the sake of Paradise and its trees and streams.
For God’s sake his (own) death and the death of his children are like sweetmeat to him.
He laughs at the moment when he sees the god is pleased with him: to him destiny is even as sugared sweetmeat.” (Maulana Rumi, 1386, p. 389)
And also he wrote in another part:
The prophets abandoned the delight of this world because they were steeped in the Divine delight;
Since their spirit had experienced that delight, these delights seemed to them (mere) a childish play.
(Ibid., p. 358 359)
- A comprehensive approach for addressing to human needs
The most basic program to achieve true peace is a program that covers all innate tendencies. True peace comes when the other aspects of human nature are considered so that the spiritual thirst of human may be satisfied. We should look for a program that brings freedom and peace, hope and love, humility and strength, light and joy at once to humans, and this program could be received only from Allah; because otherwise the peace is imaginary and is nothing more than a mirage. True peace will be attainable through linkage with monotheism, under god’s patronage and by a simple and clear religion, in a way that meet all the beautiful and enchanting natural tendencies. (Mazaheri Saif, 1387, p. 56).
- Acceptance of a religion for life
From the previous discussions it became clear that achieving peace is in the light of reliance on Allah and leaving the affairs to the lord almighty. Undoubtedly, the precondition for reaching Allah and creating inner bond with him can be received by following Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) through living according to the framework of religion. Hence God gives strict orders to humans that if you are willing to be my friends and if you claim that, you must follow Prophet Muhammad (PBUH):
“Say: If ye do love Allah, Follow me: Allah will love you and forgive you your sins: For Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Al-E-Imran, 31)
This content is also mentioned in the prayer of Shabaniya: “Oh Allah send peace upon Muhammad and His family, who are a ship moving among endless floods, and whoever embarks on it will be safe, and the person who leaves it will drown; each person goes further is out of religion and anyone who remains behind them is destroyed and their companions and attendants will reach to the Truth. ((Shaykh Tusi, 1411 AH, p. 361)
This part of the prayer introduced their companionship and exact obedience as the basis for reaching to divine destination of humanity. In this way, if anyone does not wish to be strayed, should be fully associated with Infallible Imams (PBUT).
The ways to be relived of suffering from Buddha’s point of view
To be relieved of the suffering we should follow a practical plan consisting of eight methods including true cognition, true thought, true speech, true action, true life, true effort, true awareness and true empathy (Hawkins, 1380, p. 64 65 / Shayegan, 1356, vol. 1, p. 141).
In the following we will give a brief description for each of the eight steps:
True cognition: cognition of four great truths;
True thought: freedom from desire, freedom from malice and hatred and freedom from oppression;
True speech: avoiding lies and nonsense;
True action: mystic must be free from theft and lechery and must not be unchaste;
True life: Stay away from jobs that are harmful to others; like dealing weapons and slaves and also fortune telling;
True effort: Trying to stay away from any evil and expanding and maintaining goodness;
True awareness: mystic must be aware of his internal feelings and must live consciously;
True empathy (meditation): thinking and meditation.
The mystic takes this eight-step through three practices; it means that firstly he starts with the best behavior that is truth and honesty in speech, action and life; then he will turn to the greatest empathy that is travelling through intimate worlds and attention and meditation; it means that he pays attention to honesty in effort, awareness and empathy and then he will reach to the superior cognition (panna) that is the true cognition and true thought (Pashaei, 1380, pp. 29, 30).
The difference in relief of suffering from the viewpoints of Shiite Imams and Buddha
As stated, in Islam, the most important way to be relieved of suffering is reliance on Allah, Contentment to divine fate; but in Buddhism there is no content about the source of creation and there exist the belief that it is incomprehensible. Buddha says: “Creatures’ straying has begun from a time without start. No origin can be found from which the creatures are derived” (Shayegan, 1356, vol. 1, p. 142).
Also Buddhism has no religious law, therefore it is called “Buddhism” not Buddha religion. Basically, Buddhism is a spiritual and moral movement and even Buddhists have regarded themselves, from ancient time, not only as a monastic order, but also as a Spiritual movement, with popular aspects. They emphasize on the ways to rescue people from suffering and torment that surrounds them, and to bring them to Nirvana (Hume, 1376, p. 91).
From the above, we can conclude the following:
- One of the important teachings of newly-born mystic orders is the suffering issue in life and the ways to be relieved of them.
- Buddhism pays more attention to this issue from other religions.
- Buddha has a dark and pessimistic view to this world. He also states some way for relief of this suffering.
- Buddhists try to remove painful and stressful and worrying factors, without reliance on a supporter with absolute power and unlimited love (Allah). As a result, the peace that they are looking for is nothing more than a mirage and it is a negative peace.
- Although, the existence of difficulties and disasters in the life of all mankind are admitted by Imams (PBUT), but the suffering caused by disasters, depend upon human’s point of view to them. When human looks at the disasters in a negative viewpoint, he will always suffer from them; but if he looks in positive viewpoint, as Shiite Imams (PBUT) faced disasters and calamities, since they had reached the level of contentment and faded their will in the will of Allah, he will wholeheartedly feel a close connection with someone needless, pure, beautiful and kind and will seek definite peace only in his remembrance and consent. So, they say that “We saw nothing but beauty” and are completely released from the abyss of sufferings. The friends of Allah are indeed in peace with Allah’s remembrance; because, although they were caught in hard disasters, but they never suffered from psychological problems and anxieties. The life of these great Ones is an evidence for this claim.
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