Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Pain & No suffering

Pain and suffering are a twosome expression that is believed to follow one another, like dark clouds and rain or, that goes well with each other, like, bread and butter. They constitute an important head of claim in tortious action and for quantification of damages. Pain is a qualitative response to an unpleasant stimulus that could be either physical or mental. Physical injury as resulting in pain is more common than psychiatric injury resulting either to a primary victim to the words expressed or to a secondary victim to the scene beholden of a physical wrong done to another. Both the Indian Penal Code and the laws that allow for compensation for civil wrongs recognize physical and mental injuries as coming within the definition of injuries. If a person inflicts pain voluntarily or accidentally to you in a legal relationship that requires an obligation not to cause harm, the act becomes either an offence or a civil wrong. If it is self inflicted, such a consequence may not follow.
When an injury is caused to you, by whatever means, how do you make any sense to it? The answer to it is not always legal and it is in the realm of religion. Medical dictionaries will list several entries to pain but when we are talking about suffering, it is to theology that we turn to. The scientific attitude is just that -- scientific: a methodical, reasoned approach that intends to understand the subject and so achieve human control. The religious attitude, on the other hand, tends to trail off into the big questions. It asks about the meaning of pain and philosophizes about how one can bear pain.
Suffering, the Hindu tradition tells us, is for the body but not to the soul. They are the result of your past actions, of the unfolding of the law of karma. So long as there is body, there has to be pain in some form. The issue is how to cope with it, without suffering. Rabindranath Tagore expresses the sentiment: “Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain but for the heart to conquer it.” Acquisition of worldly wealth does not always yield pleasure. It is the renunciation that relieves the human suffering, the Buddha expounded. Christianity sees pain and suffering as symptoms of the sin in our world. So the pain and suffering in and around us can become occasions for us to turn to deeper realities. They can invite us to repentance, forgiveness, compassion and ministry. Teachers of Islam say that pain and suffering are the ultimate test to humanity to righteous conduct - To see if we will turn towards Siratul Mustaqeem (the Straight Path), or away from it.
The Saint-Poet Tiruvalluvar devotes a whole title (no.63) to the attitude to be adopted in response to pain caused through sorrow and tells us how not to suffer. There is no better technique than laughing away sorrow. Stifle the suffering by equipoise. Realise that sorrows always target human beings and hence do not suffer. The person that does not crave for happiness will not sulk that sorrows bring suffering. Treat happiness and sorrow alike. Confront suffering with cheer; it is a quality that even your enemy will extol in you!
As lawyers, we unwittingly play a vital role in alleviating or adding suffering to innumerable litigants. The litigation itself is pain. If it secures the relief sought for, the suffering is obviated. If it denies it, there is a greater suffering. The one thing that we need to resist is to stop undermining the judicial system by malicious comments. We have the tools to stem the rot. Say ‘no’ to vexatious litigations; have a penchant for research and hone the skills of pleadings and advocacy; have passion for law and strive for justice. In pain and injury, learn to laugh. Lawyers pick up several techniques to let the news of the client’s defeat to unfold: One, by telling the client that the judge has advised the client to go to the higher forum! Two, money has changed hands; three, the courts cannot enforce the decree in the near future; four, a fresh suit is possible to stifle the decree. A lot of us are not given to such crafty ways. We also suffer with the client. It is vicarious. Even if we have personal calamities unrelated to a case we have handled, we attribute our sufferings to some wrong done on behalf of our client to the other side. The best prescription seems to be to suggest settlement. What is your take?

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