Does Hinduism provide a solution to stop suffering due to past life karmas? As suicide is not an option according to Garuda Purana, is there another way? What does a man to do according to scriptures when he is tired of being alive due to suffering?
First, let's see what are these sufferings and how they might be caused?
- As discussed in this answer: there are three types of suffering (duḥkha), which are collectively called the Tāpatraya ( तापत्रय ).
1. Ādhibhoutika: These are the miseries that are caused by Bhūtas or other living beings.
2. Ādhidaivika: This is the pain that we get from unseen sources like gods, fate (daiva, our own karmas) and nature.
3. Ādhyātmika: These are the sufferings that are caused by our body and mind.
- Om Swami gives another perspective on how a suffering is manifested as he says in this video (starting at 0:46 sec) :
" जीवन में दुःख तो सबके आएँगे। ऐसा कोई व्यक्ति नही जिसके जीवन में कष्ट ना आयें। कष्ट तो सबके जीवन में आएँगे, परंतु यदि हमारी ईश्वर पर श्रद्धा ना हो, ईश्वर के प्रति या हमारे मन में ब्रह्मांड के प्रति समर्पण ना हो, तो वही कष्ट दुःख बन जाते हैं । जब हम यें सोचें कि मेरा जीवन मेरे अनुसार ही चलना चाहिए और जैसे ही थोड़ा उसके बाहर जाएगा तो कष्ट जो है दुःख में बदल जाता है। नही तो वो कष्ट ही रहता है।
"Sorrow will come to everyone's life. There is no such a person free from hardships and troubles. Hardships will definitely come, but if we do not have faith in God, we do not have devotion towards God or the Universe (in our mind), then the same hardships become sorrow and suffering. When we think here that my life should go on according to me, and as soon as it goes a little against the plan, the hardship which is there, turns into suffering. Otherwise, it remains a hardship only.
तो दुःख और कष्ट में अंतर क्या क्या है?
दुःख में मनुष्य को लगता है कि जो मेरे साथ हो रहा है वो अन्याय होरा है, मेरे साथ ऐसा नही होना चाहिए, मेरे साथ ऐसा नही हो सकता। कष्ट में मनुष्य उसके बारे में ऐसा ऩही सोचता: कष्ट में मनुष्य बोले - चलो कुछ हुआ है, यह दिक्कत आन पड़ी है, यह समस्या आन पड़ी, मुझे यह कष्ट है, अब है तो है, अब इसको साधा जाए।
So what is the difference between sorrow and suffering?
In Suffering, a person feels that what is happening to me is injustice, it should not happen to me, it cannot happen to me. A man in trouble does not think like this: a man facing hardships will say - Come on, something has happened, this problem has arisen, this difficulty is there, I have this trouble, now it is there, so what? - now it should be solved.
कष्ट वो है जो हमें होता है, दुःख वो है जो हम महसूस करते हैं। जो हमारे साथ घटित हो रहा है उसको हम कैसे महसूस करते हैं, वो दुःख होता है। "
Hardships are what happen to us, Sorrow & Suffering is what and how we experience and feel about those hardships. How we feel and react what is happening to us is in actual Suffering. "
So basically, according to OM Swami, each jīvātman is bound to experience some kind of hardships and troubles ( kaṣṭa - कष्ट ) in their lives in some form or another. However, it's how the jīvātman understand, experience and feel about those troubles (through their own faculties of mind and cognition), that's what turns a struggle (कष्ट) to a suffering (दुःख). When a physical pain or hardship perturbs us mentally it turns to a suffering.
- Further, from the Advaitic Perspectives, there's is no suffering but avidyā. The Suffering as perceived by the material body is because of the avidyā of duality of existence.
Is there a solution to stop suffering?
Ultimately, the solution is to attain Mokṣha. Each school has different understanding of how that Mokṣha is achieved or experienced. Yet, the keyword is Mokṣha.
Here we list some ways to end or ameliorate the Suffering:
1. Chanting Shanti Mantras:
A simple way thought to provide relief from these three sufferings is chanting any of the Shanti Mantras found in the Vedic (Upaniṣhadas) Literature.
I'm quoting the most popular of these "Shanti-Mantras".
ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः
सर्वे सन्तु निरामयाः।
सर्वे भद्राणि पश्यन्तु
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः॥
The three times chanting of "śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ" at the end of all these "Shanti Mantras" siginifies us praying the Supreme to relieve us of the three sufferings (Tāpatraya) altogether. More Shanti Mantras might be read from here.
Swami Krishnanda writes the same on the 'significance of thrice chanting of the word - peace (śāntiḥ)' in his COMMENTARY ON THE KATHA UPANISHAD.
Thrice peace; we have three kinds of troubles, called tapatraya: internally, physical ones; externally, from outside beings; and from above, given by the gods. May all these cease.
2. The Advaitic Solution:
Trying to dissolve the veil of avidyā via self-introspection (ātmajñāna & ātmabodha), self-initiation (as one thinks, so one becomes) and trying to gain and assimilate the knowledge and nature of the Self (the Atman, the Brahman). Thus, As soon as these above conditions are fulfilled, the way for Mokṣha becomes clear and so does the suffering end.
3. Complete Surrender to the Supreme:
Unequivocal surrender unto the Supreme, called as Prapatti or Śharaṇāgati, has been assured in the Śrīmada Bhagavad Gītā as a valid path to Mokṣha and thus an end to all kinds of sufferings. This is said to be the "most effortless" of all the paths to end Suffering (i.e, achieve Mokṣha).
The Lord says:
सर्वधर्मान्परित्यज्य मामेकं शरणं व्रज।
अहं त्वा सर्वपापेभ्यो मोक्षयिष्यामि मा शुचः।।18.66।।
English Translation By Swami Gambirananda
18.66. Abandoning all forms of rites and duties, take refuge in Me alone. I shall free you from all sins. (Therefore) do not grieve.
The Lord has further assured about how worshipping the Supreme, the devotee is freed from all problems & sufferings.
अनन्याश्चिन्तयन्तो मां ये जनाः पर्युपासते।
तेषां नित्याभियुक्तानां योगक्षेमं वहाम्यहम्।।9.22।।
English Translation By Swami Gambirananda
9.22 Those persons who, becoming non-different from Me and meditative, worship Me everywhere, for them, who are ever attached (to Me), I arrange for securing what they lack and preserving what they have.
A similar concept of "Divine grace yielding End of Suffering" is found in the Pāśhupata based Śhaiva sect, where the paśhu (jīvātman) achieves Mokṣha only through the grace of the Paśhupatinātha (i.e., Shiva), thus making him duḥkhāntaka - ( i.e., the one who ends sorrow and suffering). This has been discussed in this QnA.
4. The Path of the three Yoga:
The Lord describes in detail several paths to Mokṣha in the Śrīmada Bhagavad Gītā. The most popular amongst them being the three Yogas: The Bhakti Yoga, the Jñāna Yoga and the Karma Yoga. Each of them has been described as a valid means to achieve Mokṣha and thus, an end to Suffering.
But how to apply this in practical life?
For practical purpose and how to "try to apply them in your daily lives", one may want to learn about the concept of a Sthita-Prajña person (स्थितप्रज्ञ), also called as "Para-Sympathetic state of Mind and body." This is discussed in BG 2.54 to BG 2.58 and onwards till BG 2.71. You may read some details in this QnA, and further in this book, Gita’s Sthita Prajna Darshan by Sri Swami Shantananda Puri. I'm just quoting the concluding lines in the book by him:
The main key factor in becoming a Sthita Prajna is renouncing of all desires/ attachment by controlling the senses and the mind and getting rid of ego i.e., considering the body – mind complex as ‘I’. When once the desires are quelled and the ego is got rid off, all the other qualities like choiceless perception, removal of anger and fear, even - mindedness etc., will all follow. It is a question of ‘Detach and Attach.” When the mind desires for worldly objects detach it from them and attach it to the Lord. Love the Lord dearly. Be sure that the Lord’s Grace has been with us ever since we were born and it is with us during every moment of our sadhana. It gives us all active encouragement and help and ensures that we reach our destination. A princess lost her golden necklace and she was searching for it everywhere with concern and worry. At last when somebody among the courtiers pointed out that the necklace was already in her neck, the princess became happy. It was not a case of finding the necklace but she had only to recognise the necklace which was already with her.
Same is the case with the Self (Atman). All the search is meant to recognise the Self which has always been with us. We are that ‘Self’. Bhagawan Ramana calls this illustrative story as a story of “Kantabharanam” (the ornament which was already in the neck).
To know God alone is the end of suffering and misery as per scriptures. I suggest you to start practising Spirituality.
That which is beyond this world, is without form and devoid of suffering. Those who know this become immortal. Others are drawn to suffering only.(Svetasvatara Up 3.10)
Being in this very body we have somehow known that (Brahman). If not, (I should have been) ignorant, (and) great destruction (would have taken place). Those who know It become immortal, while others attain misery alone. (Brihadaranyaka Up 4.4.14)
As the sun, the eye of all the world, is not tainted with the stains in external objects seen by the eyes, so, the one internal atman of all living things is not tainted with the world’s grief, being external to it.(Katha Up 2.2.11)
By knowing God all the bonds are destroyed. When the afflictions are dissolved, there is freedom from the cycle of births and deaths. Meditating upon Him is the third stage. And through it one achieves the feeling of separation from the body, the possession of universal abundance and enjoyment through absorption into oneself alone.(Svetasvatara Up 1.11)