Question: Is suffering necessary for spiritual progress?

Sri Chinmoy: According to my personal belief, according to my own realisation, suffering is not to be glorified. No! We suffer because we identify ourselves with ignorance. When we are in the vital world, we suffer. When we are in the emotional world, we suffer. When we do something wrong, we suffer. God is not imposing suffering on us; far from it. But if we have done something wrong and the Cosmic Law offers us suffering, then we have to feel that this is something that we need for our own progress. When we do something right, even then sometimes we suffer. The world does not understand us; the world finds it difficult to see the truth in us, and we suffer.

We have to know that we have come into the world to fulfil God's Will. If it is God's Will that we undergo suffering, then we shall have to accept it. But by praying to God and meditating on God, we can change His Will. If we do the right thing, if we act divinely, then He will minimise our suffering or He may eliminate it altogether.

If suffering comes, we have to face it; we have to accept it as an experience on our way. But we do not have to add to our suffering in order to make further progress. We do not have to glorify suffering in order to make higher progress. I don't have to cut off my arms or my nose in order to go to my Eternal Father. I don't have to prove to Him how much I have suffered in order to reach Him. He is my all-loving Father and I have to approach Him with all my love.

Why do we suffer? We suffer because we do not identify ourselves with our inner joy. There is abundant joy in our inner being, but we do not consciously or even unconsciously identify ourselves with the joy that we have within. Many times we consciously and deliberately identify ourselves with outer suffering. Then we are caught in the prison cell of suffering and we don't want to come out. At that time suffering enters into us and plays its role and we cherish it. Then we are helpless.

In the spiritual life, there are many undivine qualities that add to our suffering: fear, doubt, anxiety, worry, depression, jealousy and so forth. When we are a victim to doubt or fear, we suffer mercilessly. But for this suffering we ourselves are responsible. God has given us the necessary faith to know that He loves us and thinks of us and meditates on us. So why should we doubt either God or our own existence?

An aspirant has to feel that God is all the time thinking of us, whether we think of Him or not. But if we are not seekers, then we can never have that feeling. We will think that since we are not thinking of God, then naturally God is also not thinking of us. That is our realisation. But when we follow the spiritual life we come to know that God thinks of us infinitely more than we think of ourselves. Such being the case, we must not be victims to fear, doubt and anxiety, which all contribute to our suffering.

Our philosophy is this: from light we shall grow into more light, abundant light, infinite Light. From joy we shall grow into more joy, infinite Joy. We shall go ahead and not go backwards. We shall not stay in the dark room of suffering. We shall only move forward to the room that is light.