“He is cursed,” said an elderly lady to her relatives who too were in the train with me.
“These fellows commit sins in the previous life, so God punishes them in this life with disabilities,” she continued, as if I wasn’t present or as if my presence made no difference. “He has an ill luck, he is unfortunate."
The engine roared in the night, the train caught speed, and my heart started to swell and throb with bliss because I used to be scared of trains and lone trips and strange lands – but I had freshly smashed off those foolish fears.
They requested that I exchange my lower berth with a middle one reserved for a girl travelling with them, offering to help me throughout the journey in return. I told them that I needed nothing, exchanged the berth, and fell asleep. But I woke up twice – to tell them the time and to reassure them that they haven’t missed their destination.
That lady, however, fuelled several questions:
Is my blindness a misfortune?
The meaning of misfortune differs from person to person. Idleness is a misfortune for you if you love working – though a work-shy person will think it’s your misfortune. A mountain enthusiast despite his injuries snatches the first chance to go trekking to the amazement of those who love the home comforts. A military man plunges himself straight in the ranks of enemy though many think it’s his misfortune. A compassionate person gives to the poor but the hoarder?
So, your misfortune and fortune, joys and sorrows spring from within your nature, and your pains and comforts are therefore dependent on it. What ultimately matters is the peace of your inner self, the cheer of your heart, of your soul or subconscious.
How is it related to blindness?
The simple truth is that it’s actually your heart which feels happiness and sadness. If it’s getting the kind of nourishment it needs then no matter how disabled you are – you’ll be content. You can reverse that sentence.
People don’t want to believe that persons with disabilities can live joyously and blissfully.
Once when I answered a person that blindness brings several challenges yet I enjoy it, he dismissed me by saying that I’m deceiving myself to be happy. If you tell such people that you’re content with your life, they dismiss you by saying it’s because you haven’t seen how beautiful this world is. If you tell them that earlier you had sight and hence you have seen that beauty, they dismiss you by saying that it’s impossible. If you give them the examples of Helen Keller or John Milton, they dismiss you by calling them exceptions.
For such people this world is black and white and hence they have a very narrow view about life – you can’t change their perspective.
But how does this link to rebirth and retribution?
The theory of rebirth answers several questions about innocent suffering and beautifully addresses the problem of evil. At the same time, you can’t ignore the theistic philosophy of keeping the soul above flesh; that the pain of the soul is infinitely more acute than the pain of the flesh. And if you keep the soul above the flesh (and you should if you’re a theist) then you have to believe that the joys and sorrows of the soul matter more than the condition of your body. Indeed, you’ll find it ridiculous to compare the soul to the body.
Then pause a moment and tell me: isn’t the discomfort of the soul a greater punishment than the discomfort of the flesh?
Yes, we have a discomfort of the flesh because we’re blind. But the discomforts and disabilities of the soul also exist in this world, and needless to say that they cause the actual distress.
What then are the disabilities of the soul? Hypocrisy, greed, envy, hatred, cunningness, cruelty, conscious ignorance (ignorance and illiteracy are different.) For a soul tainted with these disabilities, joy is like a mirage and it remains in continuous anguish and never achieves its food which is truth and peace.
So brother if you have faith in rebirth and punishment then let it be known to you that the real sinners are those who are spiritually disabled; not those who are physically disabled but spiritually abled. And, from now on, there’s no need for you to feel low or wounded by those hurting remarks; perhaps who intentionally hurt others have souls with disabilities – hearts with impairments.
“For surely it is not the eyes that are blind, but blind are the hearts which are in the breasts.” - Holy Quran
Check out more posts by Shadab Husain on his blog