PAIN AND COMPASSION – PHILOSOPHY OF MEDICINE


Statue of Buddha in Vietnam
Image via Wikipedia
Lord Gautama Buddha has laid the foundation for understanding Pain and Suffering that is implicit in Human Existence.However, Buddha had failed to recognize the second face of the same coin that represents the nature of human existence. In Pain or Joy, man exists because of the Power/Force/Energy of Mercy/Grace/Compassion of the LORD, the Creator of man and all that exists.

 

Lord Gautama Buddha claimed that pain, suffering, and the experience of sorrow(‘DUKHA’) is implicit in Human Existence. There is no escape from sorrow. Fortunately, there is hope. When man recognizes pain or sorrow in the lives of others, it spontaneously arouses the feelings of Compassion, which is described in Sanskrit language as  Karuna, or Krupa. If pain is a part of human existence, compassion is an instinctive response generated by human nature. The problem is, man unfailingly recognizes his own pain and sorrow and pays no attention to the pain and sorrow that is being experienced by others. When I recognize my pain or feelings of sorrow, I may generate a feeling of self-pity and not that of compassion. Compassion acts like a physical force, power, or energy. It has the ability to uplift man from pain and his experience of sorrow. However, self-pity has no such uplifting power. As a human, I can only use compassion to serve others and not for promoting my escape from pain or mental misery. People who do not recognize this Divine Force of Mercy, Grace, and Compassion often live in a state of self-pity. The instinct of compassion comes into play when man reacts to pain that he witnesses and responds to it. I can only use this force of compassion to serve others and not for securing my own well-being.     

WHAT DO I GET IF I RESPOND WITH COMPASSION ?     

Any act of compassion, or an act of kindness gives the performer an experience of Joy or Sweetness. It is a physical, and a mental experience. It is a whole body experience. A person who responds to an instinctive impulse generated by the force of compassion accomplishes his task of serving another person without the experience of physical or mental fatigue. The burden of providing assistance becomes light and the task itself provides a sensation of Joy or Sweetness as it is being performed or accomplished. The mind, and body collectively share this experience.     

PRAYER TO ACKNOWLEDGE COMPASSION  :     

The Lord of Compassion is described as MADHAVA and His Energy/Power/Force of Compassion is personified as MADHAVI. The Lord is always accompanied by His Energy, His Consort.

Prayer is an acknowledgment of God’s Power/Force/Energy of Compassion, Grace, and Mercy. There is no human existence in the absence of this Energy. All living organisms and entities lead an energy-dependent existence. We exist as energy seekers and we exist because of an Energy Provider. In  good health or sickness, and at any stage of human existence, from conception until death, man is energy-dependent and he has no other choice apart from this Divine Providence. The following is a hymn in Sanskrit language that acknowledges the immense power of compassion :     

Muukam karoti Vaachalam, Panghum langha ye tey girim,     

Yat Krupaa ta Maham, Vande Paramananda Madhavam.     

The person described as mute(Muukam), and Disabled(Panghum) in this prayer is not me. It is the other human being whom I recognize as mute, or handicapped. I can recognize the pain, the condition, or the physical state of this person even while he is speechless. I am empowered to gain information as if the mute person is able to communicate fluently the information about his condition. In practical terms, the mute person is transformed into a person who can speak effortlessly(Vaachalam). Similarly, the handicapped person who cannot walk or climb, overcomes all obstacles and will be able to cross over the hills(Girim). The man afflicted by disability need not walk. I am empowered by compassion and I would lift him and move him over the obstacles in his path. This prayer motivates me to use the uplifting force of compassion. While I am not physically strong or powerful, the energy of compassion lightens my physical burden and makes the task easier for me to complete without over stretching myself. The Divine Providence is identified as ‘Paramananda Madhava’. Ananda means Joy or Happiness. Paramananda means Great Joy or Perfect Bliss. The Lord gets the name of Madhava as the personification of His Energy of Compassion is described as Madhavi. Madhavi is a word derived from ‘MADHU’ which means honey, nectar, or sweetness. The Lord is always accompanied by His Energy, His Consort Madhavi. When Lord Madhava applies this Force called Madhavi, the experience would impart a sensation called ‘Madhurya’ or Sweetness in the person who is the beneficiary and also in the benefactor who is acting on behalf of the Lord in response to the instinct called compassion.     

 

During Indo-Pak War of 1971, in the conduct of military operations in Chittagong Hill Tracts, we had experienced a sense of Joy called Madhurya. Myself, and a team of about 65 soldiers had medically evacuated our battle wounded soldiers carrying them in improvised stretchers. We had covered a total distance of over eighty miles in less than 24 hours which included a night halt. None of us had experienced sore feet, leg cramps, muscle fatigue, or mental anxiety or irritation. The patients also remained in a stable condition in spite of blood loss, and painful injuries.

 

PAIN TOLERANCE AND PAIN RESISTANCE :    

The Art of Battlefield Medicine demands adequate Pain management. Pain aggravates circulatory collapse/SHOCK caused by blood loss. Transportation of critically injured battle wounded persons also aggravates the pain sensation. By providing care and comfort, by treating wounded persons with kindness, and compassion, I had recognized that I could manage their pain with minimal use of narcotics or other medications used in pain relief. Compassion exerts a positive influence and alters the perception of the pain sensation. Under the influence of compassion, man learns pain tolerance.

People have various degrees of pain tolerance. I have practically experienced that by providing care, and comfort, by treating people with kindness and compassion, I can increase their physical capacity to tolerate pain. The beneficiary, and the benefactor who serves with compassion, both equally experience a sense of Joy and tend to become Pain Tolerant and Pain Resistant. Compassion has a quality and it gives the man a capacity to tolerate and resist  a far greater amount of physical, mental, and emotional pain as compared to an individual who has not experienced the force of compassion.     

ADVANTAGES OF PAIN TOLERANCE AND PAIN RESISTANCE  :     

King of Pop, Michael Jackson died unfortunately as a consequence of an inappropriate use of a pain killer. His pain was not managed in a manner that could have avoided this tragedy.

The person who is Pain Resistant or Pain Tolerant would not need high doses of pain killers. Such Pain Tolerant persons would not use drugs to alter mood or to elevate mood. The Pain Resistant person would not use recreational drugs like alcohol, tobacco, or other chemical substances. He is not prone to the problems of Drug Addiction or Drug Abuse and Drug Dependence. He would not need drugs to relieve Anxiety, or Depression as he is not likely to be susceptible to states of mental anxiety or mental depression. He would not routinely use drugs for pain relief as the body has made psychological adjustments for its level of pain perception . We need to know people who depend upon drugs to live their lives. If Michael Jackson is alive, he would tell us about his drug-dependent human existence. There are millions of such human beings who live using drugs and they would be only experiencing self-pity. If we recognize the Force of Divine Providence called Compassion, we could help people and help them to live a life without drugs.     

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SELF-GRATIFICATION AND COMPASSIONATE SERVICE :     

Self-gratification would provide a man with an experience of sensual pleasure. It is a pleasing and enjoyable experience while it lasts. The problem is that of addiction. The mind, and body would demand more and more of such sensual pleasure experience. Without further self-gratification, man becomes miserable. The experience of Joy or Sweetness associated with Compassion is not addictive. It would not lead to compulsive behavior and would not contribute to Behavioral Disorders. We need to address this issue of pain and its experience. Our aim should not be that of providing maximal pain relief using drugs. We need to serve people experiencing pain using the force of compassion and transform their lives and make them pain tolerant and pain resistant while enjoying the sense of Pure Joy and Sweetness inherent in service with Kindness and Compassion. 

Please view my related blog post titled ‘Krupa – A Force to Preserve Human Existence 

http://bhavanajagat.wordpress.com/2010/04/10/krupa-a-force-to-preserve-human-existence/      

Dr. R. Rudra Narasimham, B.Sc., M.B.B.S.,   

Kurnool Medical College, Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, India,   

M.B.B.S.,  Class of  April 1970.

 

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4 thoughts on “PAIN AND COMPASSION – PHILOSOPHY OF MEDICINE”

    1. Thanks for kindly according permission to use the photo of Buddha from your Flickr site. The image captures the attention of viewers and my intention is that of asking the viewers to reflect upon the nature of human existence. The living cell (and all living organisms including human beings) represents a thermodynamically unstable system. This means that without a continuous input of energy, a living cell will degrade spontaneously into a nonliving collection of molecules. The living cell is energy dependent for its existence. A living thing exists only when it exists in a state of relationship with its energy provider. This ability to acquire energy from its environment is implanted in the living substance by the Creator of Life. Gautama Buddha could only see one face of the coin where he had visualized pain and sorrow. The second face of the same coin is that of Mercy/Grace/ and Compassion. Man exists as a created being and Gautama Buddha had existed as a created being.

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      1. You’re welcome. However my permission to use the photo is only when you sign it (under the photo) with my full name and the link to my blog. Otherwise please remove it from the website.
        Thank you.

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