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Somebody said --> Nobody is really suffering. Nobody is really ignorant or anything. It is just a movie. We suffer because we think it is real. The moment we realize the Truth, we are happy and always enjoy the illusion show. Advaita perspective.

Does that mean if nobody is suffering, we can harm anyone? Why would GOD want us to harm anyone?

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    Not sure why someone voted this to be closed. Clearly a question about advaita - which is Hinduism. I have edited the tag. – Swami Vishwananda Mar 24 '15 at 4:37
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    If by 'God' you mean Brahman, then Brahman is one without a second. Brahman is unaware of the causal universe, Brahman's awareness is only of Brahman. The world is a mirage. Does the water in a mirage make the earth wet? How can suffering in a mirage harm the real Brahman? Who is suffering? Who is harming who? – Swami Vishwananda Mar 25 '15 at 15:18
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Good question!!

Short Answer

No. Because from a relative perspective, saying 'nobody is suffering' is different from knowing it, just as saying 'Kailash', 'Kailash' a hundred times does not make it equal to visiting Kailash.

Long Answer

By Advaita Perspective

Nobody is really suffering.

Brahma satyam jagat mithya (Reference: Vivekachudamani)

Brahman is the only truth, the world is unreal.

Why?

Because the true identity of each person is the soul, not the body. The soul can never be subject to suffering.

Sri Krishna says in Gita 2:16, 18

In the unreal there is no duration and in the real there is no cessation; indeed the conclusion between both the two has been analyzed by knowers of the truth.

But know that by whom this entire body is prevaded (Atma), is indestructible. No one is able to cause the destruction of the imperishable soul.

Then can I harm anyone?

You can harm no-one because their atma is just as eternal as yours. How can you harm the atma? The Atma is invinvible and cannot be harmed.

Sri Krishna says in Gita 2: 19, 21

Anyone who thinks the soul is the slayer and anyone who thinks the soul is slain both of them are in ignorance; the soul never slays nor is slain.

O Arjuna, one who knows the soul as eternal, unborn, undeteriorating and indestructable; how does that person cause death to anyone and whom does he slay?

Then who is suffering?

It is the body that suffers.

Gita 2:18

The material body of the indestructible, immeasurable and eternal living entity is sure to come to an end; therefore, fight, O descendant of Bharata.

Gita 2:14

O son of Kuntī, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.

If we are not really suffering then why do we feel that we are suffering?

It is because of wrong association. Avidhya. We think we are the body, thus we suffer.

Swami Adiswarananda describes this:

Patanjali (the teacher of the Yoga system), in one of his aphorisms, describes the causes of suffering as five: ignorance, ego-sense, attachment, aversion, and clinging to life.

So in other words, all suffering is due to the attachment to our false identity. Our true identity is Atma. But we think we are the body (there are actually several layers of bodies, called three upadhis and five sheaths).

But I know now that I am not the body, then why do I feel that I am suffering?

Reading something does not mean that you have realized it. You have now read that you are not the body. But still you have not realized it. In other words, your knowledge is merely a theoretical knowledge and not a practical knowledge. Here is an example to understand. Suppose your friend reads a hundred books about how to drive a car. Will you then give him your car and say 'drive me to Kodaikannal'? Generally, the answer is No. Why? because even though He has read it, still He needs practice isn't it? His theoretical knowledge is not good enough. Practical knowledge is necessary.

Similarly you have read that you are not the body. But now it is time to realize it. Practical knowledge is necessary to remove suffering.

Also remember that the law of karma is not cessated until practical realization dawns. Merely knowing intellectually (without practical) that 'I am not the body' and then harming others, will bring about similar harm back to the jiva.

Swami Vishwananda says in the comment that:

I would only add that it is correct that you cannot 'ultimately' harm anyone. But so long as you see the world as real, then if you do harm, you will suffer the karma. To have the intellectual understanding that no one suffers and to cause suffering is tamasic. One should have the practical understanding that to cause suffering to another is actually causing suffering to your own self.

Then how to practice and end this suffering?

By realizing who we really are which is the indestructible atma.

How to realize this?

By Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga or Karma Yoga

Bhakti Yoga - By practising love for God and service to all because God resides in all. (Reference 'Bhakti Yoga' by Sri Swami Sivananda)

Jnana Yoga - By investigating into the Truth about our true identity and by practising the feeling of detachment and renunciation.

Karma Yoga - By helping all, without any desire for fruits. [Reference: Gita 2:47]

Which of these paths have the words 'harm others'? None of these. In other words, in order to practically realize who we really are, a certain amount of discipline, goodness and virtues are helpful.

Can we harm other people in Bhakti?

Sri Swami Sivananda describes that good conduct is absolutely necessary:

Good conduct which is in accordance with perfect moral law is an auxiliary to pure Bhakti and it follows the true Bhakta wherever he goes. One cannot develop true devotion to God if he is crooked in his heart, if he has got objects of love in this world, if he is tempted by charming worldly thing... Perfect detachment from all objects is a preliminary to real devotion. Vairagya is the product of real love for God. One who has love for the world cannot have love for God. Where there is Kama, there cannot be Rama and where there is Rama there cannot be Kama. Love for the world and love for God are diametrically opposite things.

How about other paths?

Swami Vivekananda, describes the importance of service and doing good (not causing harm):

My children, the secret of religion is not in theories but in practice. To be good and to do good---that is the whole of religion.

If you harm the body of others, then you can not realize the truth that you are that Atma.

Why?

The answer lies here, - intention. Why do you harm others? To gain money? Then you are attached to money. To gain victory? Then you are proud. So long as you have:

  1. Lust
  2. Anger
  3. Greed
  4. Delusion
  5. Pride
  6. Envy

you cannot realize the Truth. [Arishadvargas ]

These six enemies of Man, blind us and make us believe that we are the 'body'. Then we get feeling that we can harm other bodies. But in truth we are the eternal Atma. We cannot be harmed, and we cannot harm others.

Sri Krishna asked Arjuna to fight Mahabharata war. Again the reason is intention. Arjuna was not motivated by His own selfishness at that time. But rather He was fighting to rid the world of adharma. To show to the world that Dharma always wins! Therefore intention matters. All the best.

Summary

So from an Absolute standpoint, you cannot harm others, because they too are the immortal Atma, just as you are.

From a relative standpoint, you cannot harm others, because your attachment to the body grows because of that. Then you can not be free of your ignorance.

All the best!!

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    I'm reminded of a quote by the early Christian philosopher Augustine of Hippo: "Lord, grant me chastity and continence, but not yet." That is to say, Augustine wanted to first live a hedonistic lifestyle filled with sin, and then afterwards he wanted to give all that up and pursue a spiritual path. – Keshav Srinivasan Mar 24 '15 at 19:18
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    @KeshavSrinivasan thanks for sharing that. I guess deep down every human being has the fear that upon taking up the spiritual path, He will never be 'normal' again. That fear is the reason for laziness many times. :) Thank you sir – Sai Mar 24 '15 at 19:39
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    Good answer. I would only add that it is correct that you cannot 'ultimately' harm anyone. But so long as you see the world as real, then if you do harm, you will suffer the karma. To have the intellectual understanding that no one suffers and to cause suffering is tamasic. One should have the practical understanding that to cause suffering to another is actually causing suffering to your own self. – Swami Vishwananda Mar 25 '15 at 15:11
  • @SwamiVishwananda Thank you Swamiji. Thank you also for that insight. :) the law of karma would certainly be a factor to avoid harming others :). Added that part to the answer :) Thank you – Sai Mar 25 '15 at 15:23
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    @ChinmaySarupria Very good question. There are primarily four types of yogas, 1. Karma Yoga, 2. Bhakti Yoga, 3. Jnana Yoga and 4. Raja Yoga. The various yogas such as ashtanga yoga, kriya yoga, all are specific types of Raja Yoga method of self-realization. Raja Yoga aims at a scientific way of reaching Self Realization by usage of meditation techniques. There is more about Raja Yoga here excerpts from writings of Paramahansa Yogananda here if you're interested yogananda.com.au/pyr/pyr_raja_yoga.html. I will try to add some info about it in the answer.. – Sai Dec 7 '15 at 18:03
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"nobody is really suffering"

may be inapplicable to most of our viewpoints
- on the other hand, it may be 'applicable', but not helpful at all.
The term "nobody" of course contains "body".
If you consider the body to be a purely material thing, without any consciousness of its own,
that thing would not be capable of suffering
- like you would think, a wooden stick would be incapable of suffering.

Now think again: "Is there really a purely material body, without consciousness(, anywhere)?"

I would argue, that there is a least one conscious unit connected to each living body...
that would suffer if you harmed that body...

If you have a little experience with injuries,
you may know, that there can be injuries, that hurt very much,
but more severe injuries, may perhaps not hurt at all - you would not feel pain [at that moment].
You may still miss the body part, you just lost (in such a case)...

Events that would cause sudden death, may perhaps not imply much "physical" pain
(and you may not even have time enough to moan),
but that does not mean no damage was done.

The being whose body was just killed may be in a terrible condition because of that sudden event:
Perhaps very confused, now incapable of really communicating with his loved ones...,
incapable of working to reach the hopefully noble goals he set...

There may be a lot of people, now missing him,
relatives and acquaintances mourning the loss,
now missing his presence, love, friendship, support, ...
now incapable of really communicating with him.
There may be some special knowledge, he hadn't gotten to tell anyone yet,
that's absence might cause anything between some insignificant inconvenience to some mayor life threatening problems to the ones who should know about...

Observers of the event may feel bad (in multiple ways)...,
even if they did not even know that man before.
Such may even be true about the perpetrator (assuming there was one).

Of course the circumstances can be quite diverse.
(Some souls may recover rather quickly from a sudden death...
may perhaps manage to communicate (at least some important information) to their loved ones... - I should think that would also depend upon, if those people are up to receive that communication...)
A man thrown into the sea, may drown, because he doesn't know how to swim,
he may enjoy a little swim,
he may be eaten by sharks,
he may be rescued by dolphins,
he may drown in spite of his basic capability to swim and the absence of sharks,
because

  • the water is freezing cold, so he could not move (for long),
  • he was to sick or exhausted to begin with
  • he was unprepared for the extreme surprise and therefore in shock...,
  • he was hurt by the hard impact on the surface (fell a great hight),
  • ...

Our karma is what we create - our world is what we make it

"If nobody is really suffering, does that mean we can harm anyone?"

I believe there is this basic law, we hopefully should be able to agree upon:
to
do no harm

Doing harm means to make the world a worse place.

The world is the obvious aspect where we are connected with another.
(Perhaps you could replace the "world" with the "universe".)
The world is the common place where we exist.

Doing harm to anyone, is doing harm to the whole.

If any part of your body is harmed, that means harm to the body as such.
That may endanger the survival of all other body parts as well.

I believe there is something to the idea that:
If anyone of us is suffering, we all are suffering.

I plead for making the world a better place, where it is fun living,
not a worse place, where life would be unbearable.

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