The Vedic Rishis belong to two main categories, pravrithi marga and nivrithi marga (path of action and path of renunciation). The great Rishis of the nivrithi marga were Yagnavalkya, Kapila and Patanajli.
According to these Rishis, life presents us with two possibilities, experience and liberation. Experience is of pleasure and pain, based on the ego’s response to the ever changing events of life. Liberation is to transcend this world play in the realisation of our true nature as immortal spirit. Their teaching’s therefore start by pointing out the pain of existence. Actual pain is obvious to all, but they also point out that pleasure becomes pain when we lose the object of pleasure or the ability to experience it. So, in the final analysis, all is suffering.
The pain of earthly existence is called the Three Fold Suffering and Nivrithi Yoga is the path to ending it permanently.
So what are these three kinds of pain, how can we recognise them and how can we be free from them?
Adhyatmika is the pain arising due to one’s self. Any bodily or mental pain that arises; illness, fatigue, cold and hot, depression, confusion and anger are examples. Old age and death will ultimately come to us also.
Adhibhautika is pain caused to us by other beings. A harsh word, physical violence, a dog bite are examples.
Adhidaivika is pain caused by natural and supernatural forces. A flood, gale or earthquake are examples. Devas (angels), demi-gods, planets etc. can influence human and natural affairs, so these effects are included here.
All human activity is directed towards the avoidance of this pain. Food, shelter, clothes and medicine are necessities of life without which we would be most uncomfortable and these things protect us from various sufferings. But none of these expedients is a certain or permanent remedy; medicine does not always work, homes can be flooded. Even if the remedy works in the short term, the three pains will arise again.
To grapple with this truth is difficult. If we do engage with it, the insight gained will lead one to a solution. You may be aware that Buddha began his teaching with the truth of suffering; “There is this suffering.” Buddha pointed out that these pains are an inevitable and unavoidable consequence of birth. If we have the insight into the truth of suffering the desire for liberation will be awakened in us. Also great empathy will arise for all beings, as we all suffer, more or less. Wisdom and Compassion arise in us.
(c) Steve Brandon