Why is there suffering? To thicken the plot - Sri Ramakrishna
In class 29 you will:
- Understand the relationship between charity and oneness.
The Lost City.
Roger walked into what was sometimes known as
'The Lost City'
and was immediately struck by the level of suffering. This was not one or two
homeless and hungry, this was thousands of lost, lonely and painful
souls. There were those bankrupt, those ostracised for their colour, religion,
their weight or lack of weight, their ugly faces or scars or criminal record,
their sexuality, their violence, their mental illness, their lack of education...
There were people everywhere, in everyone’s faces, most were barely conscious
from apathy mixed with a cocktail of alcohol and drugs and petrol and paint cans. Everyone was on
top of everyone and all they seemed to want was distance.
A mess of garbage mixed with urine and faeces littered the landscape but mostly it
choked Rogers breath. He could barely breathe without feeling he was going to
vomit. Involuntarily already he had dry wretched but had been able to
hide it feebly behind a movement of his hand.
He stared away not because he meant to, but because he
physically could not get his eyes to look. He had never seen anything like it.
This lack of human dignity, lack of human self-worth.
Then he recognised a face, a shining light, a nerdy, gawky
looking girl he recognised from high school. She caught his eyes immediately and
smiled. There was nothing at all attractive about her physically but in this
place she exuded warmth and presence. All the suffering people around her seemed
to gather another breath as she walked past.
‘Hi Roger’ she called, ‘what are you doing here?’
‘Hi’ said Roger, not remembering her name, ‘I came to see
Sister Veronica, I have some money for the …’ his voice trailed as he suddenly
remembered that this girls name was Veronica.
‘O you are an angel’ she squealed, ‘thank you so much, you
have no idea how much this helps’
‘And you are Sister Veronica?’
‘Yes, of course, do you not recognise me?’ she laughed.
‘Yes, yes! But I did not know,’ he stammered. He was so
shocked his words were coming out in short bursts as if incapable of all lining
up in any sort of order. ‘I did not know!’
‘Did not know what?’
‘I did not know that you are the famous Sister Veronica,
winner of the Nobel Prize, leader of the wonderful ‘Sisters of the Lost.’'
She smiled, but lowered her gaze and whispered solemnly. ’It
is not me that is special, it is every one of these people. It is they that
deserve the love. Look at the adversity they face, the loneliness. I am so lucky
to be amongst them.’
tried to look around but his eyes could not look, let alone see. They physically
would not fix themselves on the amount of pain and suffering that surrounded
him. All he could feel was he needed to get out of here. He wanted to give the
cheque to Veronica and run and run and run. He smiled.
‘Roger, I know it is hard, but there is nothing these people
really need but us.’ Sister Veronica was suddenly serious and whispering as if
telling a great secret. ‘They need us to be present, so that they can see how we
have removed their dignity, taken their hope and then kicked them into this.
Their fault was to believe in us. To trust us.’
Roger looked at Sister Veronica incredulously. He was one of
the people at the local church that went out of his way to give to the poor.
Each week 10% of what he earned was given to charity. He gave his old clothes
and many times furniture and other things to the Salvation Army. The reason he
was here now was because he had recently organised a big dance party that
raised over $100,000 for Sister Veronica and her wonderful ‘Sisters of the
‘Every day we push them down, so we might feel a little
higher ourselves,’ Sister Veronica continued, ‘are you here to really help them
or help your self?’
‘I want to help them,’ he said defensively. ‘How can we be
blamed when they will not work or are not willing to get an education, or are
simply too drunk or high to do anything for themselves. I want to help but they
must be willing to help themselves.’
Sister Veronica smiled and looked down. ‘It is not them, it
is us that first has to change.’ She paused and gathered her thoughts. She was
obviously exasperated. Exasperated after many years of this.
‘If you really want to help, try looking at one of them.
Just one.’ There was a long pause as Roger took in her words. It was true all he
had been able to do was scan the scenes before him, he had not been able to
look, to really see. He was scared. And he really didn’t know why. Perhaps it
was the feeling that if he got involved he would be compelled by his conscience
to stay here, to be in this squalor, this painful hell of a place, for ever.
‘I don’t need to look I can see what is going on,’ Roger
defended, ‘I can see that no matter how much money we give they will keep
taking, and keep taking. It is like a bottomless pit. These people do not care
how much we try to help, they will just take more and what they cant take, they
Suddenly Sister Veronica looked at Roger with such love and
understanding, such compassion, he felt his heart would melt. She reached out
with her hand and touching him gently on the arm, she whispered again, ‘Just
Roger looked up and immediately saw a little girl who could
be no more than 7 years old. She was obviously hungry and wore rags for clothes.
Her face was dirty and hair dishevelled. He looked at her and found his gaze
could now not be averted. And as he looked he could see her story. He could see
that she was the child of addicts that had sold her for drugs. She had then been
taken to the U.S. as a child sex slave. After 1 year friends of Sister Veronica
had found her and managed to free her or at least had brought to this city of
lost souls. Roger could clearly see that this little girl’s tortured upbringing
had left her not trusting anyone, unloved but fiercely strong. He could see that
she could easily become a violent criminal, the sort that would have little
remorse about killing people, or destroying others’ lives. But he could also see
that if she was loved she might have a chance.
‘All suffering has only one cause Roger,’ she paused this
time interminably and then finally continued, ‘lack of love. And all happiness
has only one cause, the fullness of love. It is really that simple.’
Roger couldn’t help it but he was still staring at the
little girl and the more he looked the more he could see. He could see her
entire past, more than that he could feel it as though he was walking in her
shoes. And as Sister Veronica continued he could see a flow of golden light from
Sister Veronica to the little girl.
‘I agree with you about the money. It does not matter how
many hundreds of thousands, or hundreds of millions of dollars we throw into the
lost city it will all disappear if we do not change first. It is our
responsibility to stop ostracising minorities because they are slightly
different to us. Every single soul here has a story of not being loved enough.
And now we put them further from us. We give charity but what we are really
saying is ‘I am up here’ and ‘you are down there’ and I am paying so I don’t
have to look. I am paying so I can put distance from me and your pain. People
commit crimes so that they can be noticed, so that they can be loved. There is
not a crime in the world that does not hide a cry for love. And what we do? We
lock them up in a place that they will be certain to not be loved. Where people
will never look at them. Or see them. Let alone love them.’
felt himself welling up almost uncontrollably as he listened to Sister Veronica
but was watching the little girls life play before him. He, for a moment,
thought he was her. There she was 3 years old being dragged from one hellhole to
another, while her parents were drunk and bordering on unconscious. Both parents
had been victimised as children, both inextricably drawn to each other. Tears
flowed freely down his face as he saw the patterns unfolding generation after
‘And the biggest problem is that they have so much distrust
and so much self-loathing that they feel they are unlovable. So then they physically stop themselves from receiving love if it is ever offered. So we
have a terrible loop. Where we remove the love, they react by blocking
themselves off and it is very difficult to open them to love again or to receive
love when it is offered.’
‘So we just have to love and accept them over and over
again,’ Roger offered.
‘Yes that is it, Roger! It is the only way. To love without
condition or expectation and to begin with total acceptance. Education,
self-worth and the rest will follow, but in the first place we have to be the
‘Just as God does.’
‘What did you say Roger?’
‘ I said, just as God does.’
‘Yes that is exactly the point. We are loved infinitely
every moment, but we have closed ourselves off. We do not believe we deserve it,
just as the souls here do not believe they deserve it. But in reality, we are
all supposed to be having a great time, to be in heaven and we would be if we
could open ourselves to the love that floods us at every moment.’
Roger couldn’t believe it but suddenly he could smell
flowers. He found himself looking around the lost city and staring at every face
and seeing the stories, the painful stories, but in this moment all he could
feel was love. As though everyone was loving him and he was loving them, as
though, it struck him suddenly, he was in heaven. ‘What a perfect place’ he
thought to himself. ‘What a perfect place.’
And as he looked back to Sister Veronica he realised how she
was able to be smiling, to be happy in this city of lost souls. This was her
heaven. A place of repair, surely, but she was so perfectly suited. He saw her
radiant smile and love flowing from her to every person in this place. With her
they had found a measure of acceptance, a measure of love, that they could open
to. They trusted her and she gave them dignity and respect. And he realised that
for every one person here there was at least ten others that had been freed by
Sister Veronica’s love and had now begun to help in their own ways. Some
directly with her, but many more in their own families and communities offering
and receiving love with abandon. Roger could see a tidal wave following this
beautiful soul and he marvelled at the effect one Sister Veronica, just one
soul, could have by engaging in the flow of love with so many others.
"Thanks so much for everything. I will be back," he said.
"No, thank you," Sister Veronica smiled, "you probably don't
realise it but that was much more powerful than all the money, all the charity that
you and your friends have given in the past."
Roger gasped. She was right. He knew it. Now it was for him to change. Just as it is for each of us.
We each must see, must each walk in another's shoes, must each engage in the flow of love
with no conditions and expectations. We
will not hide ourselves from each other, but we will all be found inside the
hearts of us all.
Please sit and concentrate for a moment on your
loved ones. Bring an image of them to your heart and offer them the
purest and sweetest love you can imagine, without expectations or
conditions, just your heart full of love. They might be your family or
simply your friends, but in this moment, offer love and love and love.
Feel them deep inside your own heart as though
they have an existence within you. And realise that they do. And you
have an existence in them.
Feel their existence within you, broadening your
experience, deepening your intuition, inspiring a wider and deeper
Offer them love and feel their love flowing back
to you. In this flow of love we are all family, we are all one.
Feel how you are expanded by your oneness. Feel
the peace and lack of fear.
Then spend some time expanding this sense of
Expand your heart to encompass friends and
acquaintances. Here there is no judgement, no labels, no analysis of
perceived failings, here we are all family or deeper still, we are all
Then continue the process to strangers. Deeper
still to enemies or those that perhaps you hide from or scorn. Feel how
each of these people expand you and realise that you will not be
complete, not be perfect until there is room in your heart to be one
with every one and every thing, even those that you presently judge to
Our journey is inevitably to oneness. We are all
family. It is not a journey to exclude some and include others, we are
all connected. If even one of us is not perfect, then inevitably each
one of us can not be.
Spend time here in this oneness and be the
inspirational catalyst to all of your brothers and sisters in the
29th class you will have;
imagined yourself in another's
practiced feeling oneness for
your loved ones and for everyone.