Be very careful about how much suffering you take away from people, because you may be taking away their key to freedom.
– Adyashanti, paraphrasing his teacher.
This is one of those statements that can be very helpful if understood a certain way, and less helpful if understood another way.
What it means, in my mind, is to notice that when we try to comfort by words, these words can be a comfort for a while, but they may not do much to help the person find their own clarity and truth. As Byron Katie says, words can be a pillow for sleeping. The person’s suffering may be alleviated, but the roots of it are still there.
What’s more helpful is to offer the tools for seeing through these roots, for instance inquiry.
And is it true we can take away anyone’s suffering? If another person says comforting words to me, and I take them as a comfort, as a way to avoid looking at the roots of my own suffering, I am the one doing it. The other person doesn’t have that power. And is my suffering taken away? No, it’s here. It’s waiting to resurface as soon as the triggers of my suffering, the images I take as true, are triggered again.
So I can be a friend to the other person. I can be there for him or her. I can listen. I can hold. I can support in any way that feels kind and wise.
And, if the other person is receptive and ask, I can offer tools that can get to the root of his or her suffering.