It’s suffering borne out of ignorance, of darkness. When your body and mind are not at ease you know why they’re not so most of the time. But when people around you suffer, you wonder why they are suffering. When you can feel their pain it’s no longer their pain–it’s yours. We don’t suffer only for our own pain but also for those around us. We might be insensitive to their suffering and then it’s not a suffering for us but if we are sensitive we feel the pain. Sometimes we feel the pain more than the people suffering do–because we are suffering for too many people at once–hearing too many cries simultaneously. When you see ignorance and resultant suffering you are compelled to help people out of their suffering but sometimes despite best of your intentions you can’t. Either they’re reluctant to accept help or they have grown so much in it that they’ve gone beyond being helped. But withdrawing yourself isn’t easy–simply accepting that it’s so and you can’t change it–you can’t alleviate their suffering, isn’t easy. Their suffering becomes your worst nightmare.
Bodhisattva is the name given in Buddhist texts to the beings who are inches away from enlightenment. They’re immensely compassionate and want to show others a way out of their suffering but what if they can’t? It remains their suffering. If you hear too many cries around you and can’t shut yourself down to them you are bound to suffer because of them. It’s your suffering because you’re hypersensitive. Either for good or for bad you are carrying a heavy weight inside you which can’t let you be at ease. Some people live in so much darkness that they create suffering for themselves and for others –incessantly by their own actions. They have no insight into the mechanisms which create pain for themselves and others and these mechanisms keep repeating themselves for their entire lives. What do you do when you see too many people living in darkness around you? What do you do when all you could do in your power fails to rescue them out of their suffering? How do you desensitize yourself from their pain and how do you shut yourself down? This pain is what makes it impossible for you to sleep and stirrings eventually lead to awakening. Then suffering is but you walk on waters. You float on it.