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What Hinduism Can Offer To Help With Your Pain: Part I

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“Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain but for the heart to conquer it.”  Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), Indian Hindu mystic philosopher

How our pain experiences relate to our spirituality/religion is a special interest of mine. Spirituality was an important way of coping for me when I was suffering due to pain, and one of the most important ways I grew as a person because of the difficult time I had. This series looks at Hinduism’s view of pain and suffering.

Hinduism is a religious tradition of Indian origin, and, with 900 million practitioners, is the third largest religious community in the world, after Christianity and Islam. Hindus are located primarily in India, Nepal, and Bali; 2% live outside India, and 1.5 million live in the United States.

Basic Concepts of Hinduism

Several concepts are central to Hinduism:

  1. The first is karma, which is the principle that governs the unfolding of events and is based for a person on the integrity with which he has lived previous lives. Karma is not imposed by an outside, punitive force, or God, but is rather an exercise of the moral law in the universe, these laws being inherently within the universe. Karma is encompassed by God/The Ultimate, as is each person’s soul. As both karma and souls are part of God/The Ultimate, karma is not external to the individual, but each is a part of the same greater whole.
  2. A related belief is samsara, the process of successive rebirths until one reaches moksha, the complete release from the cycle of rebirths.
  3. Hindu traditions promote living with integrity, causing no harm, and progressing further on a spiritual path by living according to dharma, stage-of-life appropriate guidelines or patterns of life, or by one’s sacred duty. A central life’s work is to become detached from overinvolvement in the world that’s apparent to us, which is seen as illusory and temporary, and turn toward God/The Ultimate. Many of these concepts are shared by or are similar to concepts in other eastern religions, for example, Buddhism.

4 different paths to achieve life goals are present:

  1. the path of devotion, in which a devotee submits himself or herself to the will of God, and through devotional practices, such as prayer, aims to become one with God and attain spiritual liberation,
  2. the path of ethical action, in which an individual chooses to perform work without attachment to its effects; this attitude purifies his or her mind so that he or she can attain a sense of God-vision,”
  3. the path of knowledge, in which he or she dedicates himself or herself to acquiring knowledge that reveals the impermanence and ineffectuality of things in the world, and thereby frees the self from the bondage of ignorance, leading to spiritual liberation, and
  4. the path of mental concentration, in which he or she practices disciplinary measures that involve physiological and psychological restraints to free the self from all impurities so that the Divine self of the person can then manifest itself, leading to spiritual liberation.

Part 2:  Concepts in Hinduism that relate to pain and suffering

Part 3:  Attachment and detachment to things in this world

Part 4:  When religion becomes a hindrance, rather than a help

Part 5:  Acceptance strategies to cope with pain

Part 6:  Is acceptance a superior coping skill?

Part 7:  What does research teach us about acceptance as a way to cope with pain?


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