A spiritual leader got very tired of his flock arguing about whose suffering was worst. Week after week, not only did they proclaim the supremacy of their own suffering, but they demeaned their neighbors’ as not being justified in their personal suffering.
They each thought, “If my pain was as little as theirs, I could laugh and be joyous, rather than be forced to go about with this pained look in my eye.”
The leader called his flock together, around a low tree with thick branches, one winter day and handed each person a pencil and an envelope with a string through a hole in the corner, and a blank piece of paper inside.
“I have been very troubled that many of you feel that Spirit has given you a more severe burden to carry than your neighbors. I took this heartfelt concern to prayer with me, and Spirit has offered a solution.
“We will each take the blank paper out of the envelope, write down our personal suffering, and put the paper back in the envelope. Write your name on the front of the envelope and find a limb to tie your envelope on.
“This is our suffering tree. When you tie your envelope, your suffering, onto the tree, Spirit has promised that you will be free of it. However, as you have left a suffering on the tree, you must take one from the tree. Every person will be allowed to exchange their suffering for any other that they pick off this tree as we walk around it. Once all the sufferings have been taken back from this tree, we will be done, and Spirit promises that each of us will then be more content with the suffering we bear.”
It took quite a long time of walking around the tree before anyone took any suffering to be their own. But eventually, the first envelope was claimed. Little by little, every envelope came off the tree, each person claiming the suffering of their choice.
And each person claimed the very same suffering they had hung on the tree…so Spirit was correct. Each one was more content with what was theirs to bear.
It is human nature to think and feel that others are better off than we are. We tend to complain that God, Creator or Nature has been unkind to us while being generous to others. The grass always seems to appear greener on the other side of the fence, that is, until we actually are on the other side.
“If the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, you can bet the water bill is higher.”
In life, whatever we get is strictly according to our own past karma-s (actions), nothing more nothing less. Yet, Nature is very kind to us in the sense that it doesn’t fructify all our bad karma-s for us to experience in one life. Otherwise life would become unbearable. It fructifies a mix of good and bad karma-s so that life becomes bearable. Along with the sufferings each one is also equipped with the means and the strength to bear the sufferings peculiar to each one, which will not match with the sufferings of others. Therefore, everyone in the above story eventually chose their own suffering.
“Pain nourishes courage. You can’t be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you.” — Mary Tyler Moore
We need to experience and exhaust fruits of our actions without accumulating more karma-s, which create karmic bondage, that binds us to life and death cycle endlessly.