What is the spiritual meaning behind mass suffering?

Question: What is the spiritual meaning behind a mass number of people enduring the same type of suffering, i.e. slavery or oppression?

Answer:  The simple answer is to increase awareness of the issue.

If only a dozen people in the world endured slavery it probably would never get much attention.  But if hundreds of thousands or even millions of people are suffering in some way, that will get attention.  With attention comes examination.  People will polarize on the issue.  That leads to debate and discussion, which eventually leads to acceptance or change.

So let’s take slavery as an example.  In the beginning most people probably thought human slavery was alright.  It was probably a social norm.  People accepted it, and the slaves may have even accepted their lot in life.  But as this continued some people began to see that slavery was inhumane.  Maybe a few spoke up and were put down or ostracized for their unusual beliefs.  But as time went on, more and more people began to agree with those who opposed slavery.  That led to an examination of slavery, discussion and debate.  In America, it led to civil war.  Slavery is no longer accepted in civilized society.  Would we have arrived at this conclusion if only a dozen people were enslaved?  Or did it take a much larger number for the tipping point to occur?

The spiritual meaning behind mass suffering is for us to examine the plight of others, to feel compassion, to repel fear (as the slave owners had to when they realized their slaves would be freed), and to have the courage to make change.  It would be great if this sort of mass suffering was not required for us humans to adopt change, wouldn’t it?

In the words of Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Be a thoughtful citizen.  Stand up for those who are oppressed.  Speak out when you see injustices inflicted on others.  Be guided into action by your compassion.

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