Suffering a gift?

Just thinking about human anguish, mental suffering. We understand, ultimately, that there is no one to suffer, there is no suffering. But that is on a level that will seem insane to almost everyone. So why is suffering so common? Ignorance? Yes but, I feel, not just that. Could suffering be the greatest gift? When you put your hand too close to a flame it hurts and you draw away. You’ve learnt something useful and if you’re sensible you don’t do it again. Pain has modified your behaviour, informed understanding and you’re the better for it. This is pain related to the body. 

But pain related to the mind, or more accurately, the sensed separate self, is more valuable still. I view this pain as Consciousness calling one over and over again to wake up, to come home, to see through the mortal error of egoic identity. And the stronger the sense of separation, the greater correspondence of pain until a tipping point is reached and critical existential questions are asked and necessary change begins. Or it doesn’t. And a life of misery pushes on, maybe ending in the deepest and darkest of separate identity: suicide.

Not only do we suffer for ourselves, but we suffer for others, too. A loved one sick, an injured pet, a friend’s job loss, the death of a child or infant. The death of a child looms unbearably painful and unjust. But, in this Theatre that we’re apparently living, could it be that the child who dies might be the most effective prop available, a pain so sear that life changing introspection is inevitable? The greatest sacrifice in order to save another? In a nutshell: is pain God’s compassion?

I don’t offer these thoughts lightly. But they occur to me, and I just wanted to share them among friends.


Kevin Harlow

By Kevin Harlow



  1. I, too, have been thinking about this and related issues, particularly when I hear certain teachers say that no practice is needed, just an instantaneous recognition of Awareness, pointed to by suffering and all other conditioned experiences. may be hard for some people to watch, but it provides an insight that challenges the notion that nonduality needs to be preached until people “get it”. Is the teacher who preaches nonduality as a dogma helping others or giving in to their own ego? I don’t know the answer yet, but hope that this group will help me find it.

  2. Dear David, this here is just my humble reply to your “no practice is needed” aspect.

    This here is an interesting and clear instruction:
    “Until now you have not asked for anything in My name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete. 25I have spoken these things to you in figures of speech. An hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you this way, but will tell you plainly about the Father.…”

    “ask and you will receive” points me to inquiry; the inquiry into the nature of reality and mind.

    Father as a different word for Consciousness.

    “In My name” is I am… the simple effortless unadulterated sense of “being myself”. The absence of the separate-self, the presence of the ‘LORD’.

    Practice is an effort, an activity for the separate-self; the assumed doer wants to do, doesn’t know anything else but doing.

    “I don’t know” for the separate-self seems to be more like death, defeat, loss, shame, guilt… as a concession it gets a toy to calm down a little bit.

    David, it seems you have a different audience, a different clientele, a different aim, with your TM.

    Yes, you can use ‘practice’ but it needs some loving disclaimers for people to see the trap of it, and to really understand what they are looking for. It needs to be clear that it is a temporary stepping stone, otherwise your practice becomes a golden cage.

    “And just as it is not necessary to undress in order to feel our naked body, it is not necessary to change the content of experience in any way in order to be in touch with our innate peace and happiness.”

    I see ‘teaching nonduality’ (the removal of self-entertained obstacles) more like an art than a craft.


  3. Your reply sounds like you did not watch the video. What did you learn from the video? Can you see yourself in the portrayal of a nonduality teacher?

    What is wrong with a form of meditation, like the one I teach, that disappears when it is no longer needed? How is this different in results from what Ramana Maharshi taught (atma vichara)? (Reference:

    “David, it seems you have a different audience, a different clientele, a different aim, with your TM. ”

    Quite possibly. My audience for my teaching activities is any of the 7.2 billion people in the world who wish to obtain peace, happiness, productivity, harmony, freedom from psychological stress, and fulfillment, or wish the same for others. What is your audience, or the audience you perceive for nonduality? Is it really different? In what way, exactly?

    1. David, I don’t recall where, but you yourself mentioned recently that your audience is only interested in stress-reduction, without the interest in inquiring into the nature of mind and reality. Do I remember incorrectly?

      If you don’t uproot the source of stress you are only replacing a bucket under a dripping faucet.

      There is nothing wrong with your ‘teaching’, but simply listening to you… you say something on your side seems to be missing, some sort of self-realization (whatever this may be) is missing on your side.

      I hope you don’t take my words personally.

      We share the same interest in demystifying spirituality and to help people see the elephant in the room.


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