Study Guide

Lord of Light Suffering

By Roger Zelazny


"It is written that to live is to suffer. This is so, say the sages, for man must work off his burden of Karma if he is to achieve enlightenment. For this reason, say the sages, what does it profit a man to struggle within a dream against that which is his lot, which is the path he must follow to attain liberation? In the light of eternal values, say the sages, the suffering is as nothing; in terms of Samsara, say the sages, it leads to that which is good. What justification, then, has a man to struggle against those who be mighty for ill?" (1.415)

By making suffering a positive in their religion, the gods have basically made it so that no one will question why they suffer. And if they don't question why they suffer, they won't question the gods. Stamp that power and label it absolute.

Few are the beings born again among men; more numerous are those born again elsewhere. Anguttara-nikaya (2.Intro)

In Hinduism and Buddhism, to live is to suffer. A higher birth may lessen the suffering, but it won't wipe it out entirely. Still, better to suffer as a human than to suffer as, let's say, a boxelder bug. Definitely.

"The definition of bad karma is anything our friends the gods don't like." (2.172)

Once again, the gods have cornered the market on suffering. Don't do anything the gods don't like because that promotes bad karma, and bad karma promotes suffering (but not the kind of suffering the gods will reward like we mentioned above).

"Are you certain," asked the Enlightened One, "that you do not seek merely to punish yourself for what has been weighing upon your conscience as a failure, or a sin?"

"Of that I am certain," said Rild. "I have held your words within me and felt the truth which they contain." (3.109-110)

Since Sam's religion is anti-suffering, he needs to make sure Rild isn't punishing himself by taking up the Buddhist robes. It would kind of defeat the whole point, wouldn't it?

"So? Despite her strength, she is not an unjust goddess."

The priest smiled. "What man who has lived for more than a score of years desires justice, warrior? For my part, I find mercy infinitely more attractive. Give me a forgiving deity any day." (3.275-276)

Justice is fine and dandy, but it can be cruel at times; it's mercy that ends suffering. Which do you think is the more benevolent of the two?

He rested, and a babble of voices filled his mind—promising, tempting, pleading. Visions of wealth and of splendor flowed before his eyes. Wondrous harems were paraded before him, and banquets were laid at his feet. (4.104)

Although these temptations seem to promote happiness, they are empty pleasures and, in the long run, will only promote suffering. In the short run? Well… that's kind of up to you, we suppose.

[…] to behold the flames of their beings, colored with the hues and shades of their passions, flickering with avarice and lust and envy, darting with greed and hunger, smouldering with hate, waning with fear and pain. (4.199)

Interesting, isn't it? When Sam takes a peek at the flames—the souls—of other people, they are colored not in the hues of their virtues, but in the hues of their sins and sufferings. That's fascinating. Awful, but fascinating.

[…] and then Lord Mara re-created the flight of Helba and the Buddha through the City. This last dreaming troubled many, however, and more names were recorded at that time. (5.454)

Mara takes delight in the suffering of others. It's about the only thing we can say about the guy, and it doesn't bode well for him getting an invite to our fancy dress party.

"I decided that mankind could live better without the gods. If I disposed of them all, people could start having can openers and cans to open again, and things like that, without fearing the wrath of Heaven. We've stopped on these poor fools enough. I wanted to give them a chance to be free, to build what they wanted." (6.303)

Sam's version of helping to end suffering is with can openers and cans. Seems odd at first, but take a second and consider a world without cans. Or cans and no can openers. Pretty spot on, right?

"If Heaven will add its power to our own, Nirriti will meet his downfall at Khaipur. We will do this, if Heaven will sanction Accelerationism and religious freedom, and end the reign of the Lords of Karma." (7.401)

Sam's fight was never personal, er, is no longer personal. If the gods help him end the suffering of people by accepting Accelerationism and religious freedom, he'll number them as allies.