In regard to physical pleasure and pain, it is more difficult to apply the universal truth; for this is the very domain of the nerves and the body, the centre and seat of that in us whose nature is to be dominated by external contact and external pressure. Even here, however, we have glimpses of the truth. We see it in the fact that according to the habit the same physical contact can be either pleasurable or painful, not only to different individuals, but to the same individual under different conditions or at different stages of his development. We see it in the fact that men in periods of great excitement or high exaltation remain physically indifferent to pain or unconscious of pain under contacts which ordinarily would inflict severe torture or suffering.
In the previous paragraph we have seen that we can disengage our mind from the influence of our emotional self and can remain unaffected by pleasure and grief. Sri Aurobindo says it is more difficult to apply this principle when it comes to pain and pleasure of our physical body. Because, here, our nerves and body are directly involved. Our nervous centre is the seat that controls our nature which is under the dominance of external contacts and external pressure.
Even here we get a glimpse of some truth. We see the fact that the same physical contact can be either painful or pleasurable not only to different individuals but to the same individual under different conditions and under different stages of his development. When in periods of some great excitement (sports events) or great happiness or in the middle of some great action like war, we see men not feeling any pain at all. In normal times it would have caused them a severe torture or suffering.
In many cases it is only when the nerves are able to reassert themselves and remind the mentality of its habitual obligation to suffer that the sense of suffering returns. But this return to the habitual obligation is not inevitable; it is only habitual. We see that in the phenomena of hypnosis not only can the hypnotised subject be successfully forbidden to feel the pain of a wound or puncture when in the abnormal state, but can be prevented with equal success from returning to his habitual reaction of suffering when he is awakened.
In many such (extraordinary) cases the person returns to his usual reaction of pain and suffering because his nervous centre regains its position. Here the nervous-self reminds the mental- self of its habitual obligation(nature) to suffer.
Again, this habitual sense of suffering is not something which is unavoidable. Because it is only habit. We see in hypnosis, the person who is under hypnosis is successfully prevented from feeling the pain of a wound or puncture in an abnormal state. Not only that, he can be forever prevented from his habitual reaction to suffering even when he is awakened.
The reason of this phenomenon is perfectly simple; it is because the hypnotiser suspends the habitual waking consciousness which is the slave of nervous habits and is able to appeal to the subliminal mental being in the depths, the inner mental being who is master, if he wills, of the nerves and the body. But this freedom which is effected by hypnosis abnormally, rapidly, without true possession, by an alien will, may equally be won normally, gradually, with true possession, by one’s own will so as to effect partially or completely a victory of the mental being over the habitual nervous reactions of the body.
In hypnosis the hypnotiser suspends the waking consciousness which is the slave of nervous habits. He is able to appeal to the subliminal mental being in the depths. This inner mental being, if he wills, can be the master of the nerves and body.
But this freedom of our inner mental being is made possible by hypnosis in an abnormal way. This freedom which happens rapidly is not a true possession. It is caused by an outsider will (hypnotiser).
Yet this freedom can be acquired normally, gradually with true possession by one’s own will. This would ensure a partial or complete victory of our mental being over the habitual nervous reactions of the body.
Pain of mind and body is a device of Nature, that is to say, of Force in her works, meant to subserve a definite transitional end in her upward evolution. The world is from the point of view of the individual a play and complex shock of multitudinous forces. In the midst of this complex play the individual stands as a limited constructed being with a limited amount of force exposed to numberless shocks which may wound, maim, break up or disintegrate the construction which he calls himself.
Pain of mind and body is a device of Nature, or rather, a device of Force in her works. It is meant to serve a temporary purpose in her upward evolution. For the individual, the world is a play and complex shock of multitudinous forces. The individual stands as a limited constructed being amongst the complex play of world-forces. He possesses only a limited force as his defence. He is exposed to numberless shocks that may wound or harm him; they may totally destroy the construction which he calls himself.
Pain is in the nature of a nervous and physical recoil from a dangerous or harmful contact; it is a part of what the Upanishad calls jugupsa, the shrinking of the limited being from that which is not himself and not sympathetic or in harmony with himself, its impulse of self-defence against “others”. It is, from this point of view, an indication by Nature of that which has to be avoided or, if not successfully avoided, has to be remedied.
Pain is the nervous and physical recoil (moving away) from a dangerous or harmful contact. It is a part of what Upanishad calls jugupsa (shrinking from a harmful contact).
Man is a limited being. Instinctively he shrinks from everything which is not himself, not in harmony or sympathy with himself. This impulse is the means of his self-defence against others. It is the Nature’s way of indicating what is to be avoided; or if not avoided what can be remedied.
So, in the beginning till the consciousness grows, it is nature’s way of making the person feel a pleasure or pain in order to alert him that a particular experience or a particular movement is favourable or not favourable, till the mind becomes free and can judge for itself independently the outer impacts.
It does not come into being in the purely physical world so long as life does not enter into it; for till then mechanical methods are sufficient. Its office begins when life with its frailty and imperfect possession of Matter enters on the scene; it grows with the growth of Mind in life. Its office continues so long as Mind is bound in the life and body which it is using, dependent upon them for its knowledge and means of action, subjected to their limitations and to the egoistic impulses and aims which are born of those limitations.
In the physical world where matter is only involved, pain is not required as a natural means of defence. There are mechanical means present in nature for self-preservation. For example, banks are formed on the sides of the river which serve as its protection.
Whereas self-defence of shrinking begins with the entry of life forms in the physical world. Because life is fragile and it is not in full possession of Matter on which it depends for its survival. The phenomenon of pain grows with the growth of Mind in life.
The necessity of pain continues as long as Mind is bound in the life and body which it is using. It depends on them for knowledge and means of action. Mind is subjected to the limitations of body and life and to the egoistic impulses and the aims arising out of such limitations.
But if and when Mind in man becomes capable of being free, unegoistic, in harmony with all other beings and with the play of the universal forces, the use and office of suffering diminishes, its raison d’ˆetre must finally cease to be and it can only continue as an atavism of Nature, a habit that has survived its use, a persistence of the lower in the as yet imperfect organisation of the higher. Its eventual elimination must be an essential point in the destined conquest of the soul over subjection to Matter and egoistic limitation in Mind.
When Mind becomes free, unegoistic, strikes harmony with all other beings and with universal forces, the necessity of suffering diminishes. When one develops in the heart a oneness with the cosmic or universal existence, no contact from outside can be painful, no contact can be harmful. Then the reason for existence of suffering must finally cease to be. It can only continue as a mere recurrence of the past; as a habit which has outlived its purpose. It can only remain as a persistence of the lower organisation in the higher organisation which is not fully developed.
The final elimination of suffering will be the essential point in the destined victory of the soul over the domination of matter and the egoistic limitation in Mind.