Spiritualizing our relationships 3 – Learning to separate people from their behavior
[Phone talk to everydaychant.com online sanga]
Transcription of Lecture
Today we will be discussing the third part. In the first part we talked about how the soul itself is the basis of… without consciousness, without a spiritual ambition there cannot be any relationships, and in the second part I talked about how when we have certain conditionings and that makes us some things difficult for us to do… Similarly, others have different conditionings and that also makes it difficult for them to do certain things which will be easy for us.
So, today I will talk about the theme of serving someone because of them and serving someone in spite of them. That means that some people… in every relationship there is give and take where there is service. We are expected to do something for someone… we serve them. Now sometimes some people are so lovable, so kind, so nice that we feel like serving them because they are so nice. So, that is serving people because of them. In some cases there are people who we find it very difficult to deal with them. Oscar Wild said that, ‘There are some people who bring happiness where they go and there are some people who bring happiness when they go.’ So, there are people whom we find troubling and if somehow we are in a position where we have to deal with them, we have to serve them, we have to work with them which involves that we do something for them and they do something for us… So, normally our relationship is based on… ‘If you are good to me, I will be good to you. If you are harsh with me then my tendency is that I will be harsh with you or if you are happy to be harsh with me then why should I tolerate it’, and that is a fair enough reasoning. But as a devotee we can have a higher vision.
So, normally in most relationships if we understand the other person then we learn to moderate our expectations; we understand what we can expect from someone and we can’t expect from someone, and then once we moderate the expectation… we understand that this person cannot do this, I cannot count on this person for this, but the other things they can do quite well, and then in that way we all understand that all of us are combination of good and bad, and what is good in us is not necessarily what is good in other person, and in many cases things work out to be complementary… that something which I am not good at somebody else is good at, and then relationship moves on. So, usually we… if we have to have a long term relationship we do find something in the other person which we like, whom we are related with, something which is worth liking, and then based on that we learn to tolerate the less than pleasant part of their side. So, that means to put in other way say with respect to services… say sometimes there are some services which we like to do and those services we look forward to doing, we feel enlivened by doing them, and we long to do them again and again.
Some services, they give us energy and inspiration and in contrast there are some services which take away our energy and inspiration. Now they are so demanding. Maybe the results don’t come in that service or the service is very incompatible with our nature, and that is why we find it very difficult to do it. So, either way there are some services which give us strength, and there are some services which take away our strength. So, usually the balance needs to be such a way that the services that take away our strength are not that much as are the services that give us strength. So, then overall we will have a positive balance of strength and we can move forward in our life, and the same applies in the relationships also.
Now in some relationships we like to be with some person, we feel enlivened by being with that person, we feel happy with them, we look forward to being with them. So, basically that relationship gives us strength and there are some relationships which take away our strength. That means that just being with that person is so difficult. It drains us. So, now if we consider the category of people who we like to be with and whom we find it very difficult to be with…. these two categories; and the second… the number of people in the second category or if the nature of the people in the second category is so overbearing and so demanding… we need a overall positive, emotional balance. Just like there can be a overall strength balance which is positive with respect to our services. So, similarly there are some people with whom we work so nicely that associating with them gives us strength and if that strength which we get is more than the strength that we lose by associating with other people, then overall we stay emotionally and relationally stable.
Now of course this is generally about relationships… there is always some instability. So, it may well happen that today if there are two people, there is person A and there is person B. Person A gives me strength and person B takes away my strength, but tomorrow circumstances may change and the person A may be taking away my strength and person B may become the source of my strength. So, it depends on what situation we are in; it depends on what situation the other person is in, but overall we need to have a positive balance and now instead of considering person A and person B as two distinct persons, if we consider that it’s one person who has these features… Something about the person we like very much and something the person that we dislike very much, and then if what we dislike becomes more than what we like, then it becomes very difficult to function with that person.
In the Bhagavat- gita, in the 16th chapter Krishna says that, ‘One of the characteristics of the Godly people is apaisunam…. Apaisunum means aversion to fault finding. It is a very striking usage… aversion to fault finding. It is not saying you don’t find faults, but aversion means something which we don’t like to do. Attachment means we like to do it, and the opposite of attachment is aversion. So, there will be… all of us have faults and specially when we stay close with some person… we are closely related to some person, we observe them for a long time, then we can easily see their faults. So, we cannot go through life with closed eyes. So, when we see the faults of the other person, then how can we not notice it, how can we not highlight it, how can we become averse to it? So, this is where the Krishna factor becomes very important.
I will be talking about the relationship with Krishna and how that shapes our relationship with others more in the next session, but here also I will talk a little bit about it. So, the difference between the godly nature and the demoniac nature… in 16.1 to 16.3 in the Bhagavat- gita Krishna talks about the Godly nature where He lists apaisunam as a characteristic of the Godly, and then of the ungodly nature …
dambho darpo ’bhimānaś ca
krodhaḥ pāruṣyam eva ca
pārtha sampadam āsurīm
sampadam āsurīm…. the ungodly, the demoniac… sampada means actually wealth. So, the ungodly… they consider this qualities to be their wealth. Just like somebody who is very eloquent in speaking… then they consider their eloquence to be their wealth; somebody is very good looking then they consider their looks to be their wealth. So, we can have certain qualities which we consider our wealth.
Now somebody might be a very good artist, but they just don’t value their art… they dream to become say a doctor, then they have that artistic ability but they don’t consider it valuable. So, we may have something valuable but we also need to recognize its value, we also need to consider it valuable. So, the demoniac people… one situation is that we have something valuable but we don’t consider it valuable. The other is that something is actually not valuable, something is undesirable but we consider it to be valuable.
So, the demoniac people… they consider –dambhah, darpah, abhimānah … basically arrogance, conceit, ego and krodhaḥ pāruṣyam eva ca…. krodha is anger, parusya is harsh speech and ajnana is ignorance….
pārtha sampadam āsurīm
So, Krishna says, ‘Ungodly people… these are the qualities which they consider as valuable.’ That means that, ‘The more angry I can become, the more harshly I can speak…’ they consider that reflects their power, that reflects their cleverness. By my angry actions, by my harsh speech I can control people, I can force people what I want them to do and in that way they consider this to be their strength, their treasure.
So, in it is one thing to be short-tempered, it is one thing to be sarcastic in speech but it is another thing to consider this to be strength. So, all of us at different times do get angry, all of us at different times may speak in a bitingly sarcastic way, but most of us after we speak like that we recognize, ‘I should not have spoken like that, I should not have done like that.’ So, then we may apologize, we may try to rectify but those who are ungodly they don’t think of this as problems. They think that this is my strength. My capacity to speak in this way is what makes me strong. That means that it is not just what qualities are present that differentiate between the divine and the demoniac natures. It is what qualities are valued.
So, the anger something which is there is everyone. But if anger is considered valuable thing… as a treasure… that is what makes people demoniac. It is said that to err is human, but to persist in error is demoniac. So, to become anger is human, we all become angry but if we become self-righteous about our anger and we consider anger to be a virtue then it becomes a problem. So, why are we talking about this? We are talking about how can we be averse to fault finding? Apaisunam… So, what that means is that when we are interacting with people we will naturally see their limitations, we will see their defects. So, we can’t avoid seeing their faults, but there is one thing… which is delighting in seeing others faults, and the other is not delighting in seeing others fault’s. Delighting means, we are just looking for an opportunity to catch someone doing wrong, and as soon as we catch them we are so gleeful… ‘Now I caught you….You promised you will do this but you didn’t do that…’
So, basically when we start delighting in catching others doing wrong, that is what makes it demoniac, that is what makes it very ungodly, and it ruins the relationship because then when people see that we are delighting in finding their faults, then that means they just lose trust in us… that… any kind of trust that we actually wish them well. Yes, sometimes some people may have faults and those faults need to be corrected, but the correction has to be done in a way where the other person feels that they are valued. So, basically how can there be aversion to fault finding? It is only when we can separate the person from the behaviour. So, yes what this person did is wrong and what you did it hurt me, it caused a lot of trouble to us, it was short-sighted, it was irresponsible, whatever it is… we see that but we don’t blame that person. When we learn to separate the person from the behaviour then basically we have a affectionate regard towards that person, and because nobody likes to have their fault found or told to others… Now when our faults are told to us it’s not at all pleasant. In principle, in theory, we understand that if my faults are told then I can improve by that. That’s true but in practice it doesn’t work like that. Although I understand in principle that only when my faults are pointed out then I can improve, but when the faults are pointed out the first reaction is… it’s distressing.
So, as an author whenever I write articles for B.T.G or I publish articles in some magazines or books or some publishing houses, often there is a editorial team which reviews the article, which reviews the books and the editorial team… its basic job is to find faults. In a sense, the proof readers are meant to find spelling and punctuation faults, and editors are meant to find bigger faults. Now this logic doesn’t make much sense. This point is not proper; this doesn’t flow from here to there. This overall point is unclear. The language is not appropriate… whatever.
So, now I have worked on both sides. I have worked as an author who has been edited by others and I have worked as an editor who has edited authors. So, now I have found that actually when I read something with an editorial eye, it’s so easy to find faults, and whenever I write a editorial review for Back To Godhead or for some other devotee, as soon as I start typing the first thing that comes to my mind is… ‘Ok, 1,2,3,4…. five faults are there.’ But then if I just write that… I know that if somebody reviews an article of mine or book of mine and just points out the faults I will feel so distressed… even if these faults are true, I will feel distressed. So, then usually I try to make sure that before I point out any faults I give something positive… ‘that this articles theme is very good’… So, for us editors we understand that every profession has its own insider language. So, basically when we get an editorial review saying that the articles theme is good, that is a indirect way of saying that the article itself is not good… the topic which you spoke on is good, but the way you dealt with it is not that good. But we try to present things in a positive way. So, there is a tendency if we know better or if we think we know better to immediately point out the faults, and I have seen that if somebody points out faults in my writings it depends on who is pointing out the faults. If I respect that person as a very good author, as a good thinker, and if I see that person wants to help me improve as a writer, has helped me in the past, then if there is a overall positive relationship with that person, when they point out some fault then it is easier to take up, but when there is no positive relationship with that person and if there is a negative relationship, and that person points out faults then the instinctive reaction is to be defensive, and actually writing although it is an extension of a person but still whatever articles we have written they are different from us. Now it is my thoughts, my understanding which I have put forth in writing. So, even when something which is in a sense is external to us… that is critiqued, that also is difficult to take.
When our own behaviour, our own actions, our own modes of responding or acting… if they are criticised, if somebody finds faults with us for that, that is actually even more difficult to take because it is much more closer to us. Just like say, if we have some distant nephew and somebody criticizes that nephew. Now we may defend our nephew or we may speak something to… we may feel bad but we will not feel that much bad, but if say it is our own child, our own son or daughter that is being criticized, we will immediately spring to defence. Why? Because there the relationship is much closer. So, similarly if I consider my writing product just like a nephew, but my own behaviour… that is almost like my child, I am much more closely connected with that. So, if somebody criticizes my behaviour it’s not so easy for me to see that this behaviour is different from me. When somebody is criticizing, ‘You did not do that right.’, then that is instinctive human tendency to take criticism of our behaviour as criticism of ourselves, and when a person feels that they are being criticized and they are being threatened, then it becomes very difficult for that person to respond rationally.
So, we can help others not just by telling them that they are wrong but by helping them separate the behaviour from the person. So, that means that we see that… ‘Ok , this person is good.’ Ultimately if we really have spiritual vision then that spiritual vision will help us to understand that Krishna is the Lord of all living beings, everyone is a part of Krishna. So, therefore everybody is at their core good. Yes, they may have some conditionings because of which they may be behaving in some problematic ways, but at their core everyone is good. To the extent we understand this, to the extent we have this vision…then whatever problematic behaviours they may have, we can separate that behaviour… ‘Yes, this behaviour is a problem, this behaviour hurts me, it vexes me, this behaviour infuriates me but the person is different from the behaviour.’ To the extent we can separate that…. and then even when we have to point out something, ‘Ok, you know… when you do like this I feel angry because I feel that you know I am troubled or I am hurt or I am inconvenienced or I can’t do things properly’…whatever. We objectively point out the behaviour, we objectively point out the consequence of that behaviour and then we state the emotion that is induced within us. So, when we do that… If I say you are irresponsible, then that becomes a attack on that person, but when I tell that person… separate that person from that behaviour, when I say that… ‘When you fail to come on time as we had agreed to I felt disappointed, I felt troubled because I had to keep waiting for an hour and my time was wasted.’ So, basically… objectively we explain what the object was. We explain our emotion and we explained the reason for our emotion. So, then when we speak in this way this is a speech in which we are separating the behaviour of the person from the person.
Now if I just say, ‘You are so insensitive, you are so irresponsibly, you are so lazy, you are so uncaring’, then this sort of value judgements become a attack on the person, and then we start combating that person. That person starts counter-attacking and becomes a combat. The problematic behaviour doesn’t stay in the centre, it doesn’t remain in the matter of the discussion. So, when the Bhagavat- gita says that we should cultivate aversion to fault finding that means that we should be able to see the person as separate from the behaviour and we see that person as at their core pure, a part of Krishna and we are also parts of Krishna. So, we have affection for the person, we have appreciation for the person, but they have this problematic behaviour. So, it’s not that we get pleasure in it. We feel it’s the duty that I have to do, I have to point out these faults, so I will point it out but it is not something that we delight in doing. So, this is how by seeing the core spirituality of the other person, by seeing the connection of the person with Krishna we may have to find faults but we don’t delight in fault finding.
So, when a person has say… we know a person… they have some things that we like, some things that we don’t like about them. So, quite often we tend to speak more and more about the things that we don’t like about them. We may keep nagging them, we keep nagging them, telling them, ‘don’t do like this, don’t do like that, why do you do like that …’ Often what happens is that the things that we like about them, the things that we appreciate about them, we don’t speak about that at all, and the things which we don’t like we just keep speaking about them. When this happens, then ultimately we can’t see each other’s hearts. All that we can see is people’s actions, people’s words, people’s expressions. So, we may have some affection for a person, we have appreciation for the person but we don’t speak that, we only speak the things… we don’t speak about the things that we like in them, we only harp on the things that we don’t like about them, and then it’s very easy for the other person to start thinking that, ‘This person doesn’t like me only.’, and then when they start feeling that we don’t like them, that we are averse to them, then the strain in the relationship goes to a far higher level. So, as long as two people… basically we are together and we are going to work together, and whatever it is we will face it together. If that basic understanding of connectedness, of a team-spirit is there, then they work together. Just like say there is a cricket match… there is a cricket team, there are eleven players, it is not that all the eleven players will like each other, but some players may bond more and some players may bond less, but they all understand that we are in the same team, and yes I may not like the way this person… I may find this person little bossy, I may find this person little showy. So, it is not that all the eleven players in the team are going to like each other, but at least they all understand that we are in the same team, and we all have to work together to ensure that the team wins, but if the hostility between the two players becomes so much that say one player is a captain, and some other player doesn’t like the captain, and then that player starts playing in a way that the team loses the match so that the captain gets the blame for losing the match. Now whether the player has done like that or not, if the captain starts suspecting that this player is not on my team, this player is physically in my team but in terms of performance this player is not on my team. Then the tension in the locker room becomes horrible. Then the team spirit itself is destroyed if at the very least the team members are not convinced that all the members are going to work for the team. So, they may work for the team in different ways and they may not appreciate specifically they work, but if we start doubting that, are they going to work for the team or not, or are they going to work against the team?… once we start feeling that, then the team cannot work together.
When somebody has to go out of the team, either the captain has to go out of the team or the other person has to go out of the team, or the two have to really sit together and clarify their misunderstanding so that both of them understand that we are working for the same team. So, something similar… when we are interacting with people, when we are interacting with someone and we all need to get things done. Now we have responsibilities; some of them are individual, many of them are group responsibilities… I have to do something, somebody has to do something and we all work together as a team. So, now when two people…as long as they feel that we are together… and sometimes I may not be able to do something, the other person covers up for that; sometimes they are not able to do it, so we cover up for them, but if there is constant nagging in a relationship then the second person stats feeling, ‘This person is not really on my side. This person is not working for my good. This person simply wants to find faults with me.’, and then if two people are working together… when two people are working together externally but they are working against each other internally then that relationships is almost already sabotaged. It’s already on the rocks, and this happens when we speak the other person’s faults and we have things which we appreciate in the other person also, but we don’t speak that.
So, it is so important that when we see something good in someone we speak about it. If we don’t speak about it, then people just don’t know, and if we speak only about the faults of the person then they feel that this person just doesn’t like me, doesn’t want me, doesn’t care for me, doesn’t care for me, doesn’t value me, and then the relationship becomes very hostile. So, it is not just for the sake of that person that we see the good in them… that we speak the good in them.
Every relationship for it to grow it requires two basic things: One is understanding, and the second is appreciating. To the extent these two things are there, the relationship can move forward. Two people can be very different from each other, but if these two things are there… Understanding means… ‘You know the problems that I am going through, the problems that I am facing, the other person understands that, and the second is, ‘Ok, in spite of all these problems I am doing so much and the other person appreciates that.’ So, understanding and appreciating is what is the foundation of any relationship… understanding and appreciating. Now in the last class I talked about understanding. That means that just as we have our conditioning which makes certain things difficult for us to do; like that others have their conditioning which may make something difficult for them to do. Those things may be very easy for us but we understand that they are from a different background, they have different conditionings, so it is difficult for them.
So, the difficulties that other’s are facing… even if we are not facing those difficulties… if we understand that from their perspective their situation is very difficult for them, then we appreciate it. We understand the difficulty… there we show understanding.
Today we are talking about appreciating. So, if this appreciation is not there, then the relationship starts becoming strained and it may even break down. So, sometimes we find sometimes we find certain things to appreciate in people and we speak those things because we really find something good in that person, and we feel inspired to speak that, but there are other times when the problem areas of that person so much overshadows our consciousness that even if there is something good in them we don’t see it, and even if we see it we don’t speak it, and then the whole relationship becomes negative.
So, we can see appreciation also as a service. Not a service in the sense that we do it superficially, we do it like dragging our feet but apaisunam means aversion to fault finding which is the characteristic of the godly. People put the same thing positively as, ‘One who is averse to find faults, is eager to find good.’ If my goal is to find good, then that is what naturally I will find. Sometimes we think that if we can find faults in someone we are very clever, ‘I found this fault in this…’
Actually Kaliyuga is an ocean of faults, and in Kaliyuga to find faults requires as much cleverness as is required to find water in an ocean. Finding water in ocean… it is there everywhere. So, there is no great credit in finding water. If someone can find land, ‘Oh! Our sheep is stranded, our boat is stranded in the ocean, is there some land?’ If somebody can find land when they are lost in the ocean that is helpful, but if someone is finding water what is so great about it? It is there everywhere. So, in Kaliyuga faults are there everywhere and everywhere doesn’t mean in an abstract sense what is happening in the middle east… there are terrorists or there is this… in South Korea a nuclear war may take place, or here this is happening or there that is happening. When we say, the faults are there everywhere… faults would be there even in the people around us, faults will be there in us also. So, it doesn’t require much cleverness to find faults. Cleverness is required much more to find good. So, if we are eager to see the good in the other person, and speak that… not just see the good but speak it, and when we talk about doing this as a service… as a service doesn’t mean that we do it superficially, but rather we see that when we are doing something as a service sometimes we feel like doing it, and sometimes we may not feel like doing it, but we don’t let our service become a function solely of our feelings. Just like when we are chanting. Sometimes we feel like chanting, and sometimes we don’t feel like chanting, but we understand that this is a initiation vow, this is a yuga dharma, this is going to purify me, so therefore I will do it irrespective of my feelings and I will also… of course we can’t keep pushing against our feelings constantly. So, we may also try to associate with other devotees who are enthusiastic about chanting. We may try to learn more about the glories of chanting so that our feelings also become aligned with our intensions.
So, determination means that our action doesn’t depend on the alignment of our feelings with those actions. So, sometimes our feelings will be aligned and sometime the feelings will not be aligned, but in spite of that if we persevere in that action, that is determination.
So, sometimes when we are interacting with someone… their faults may be so apparent in our eyes, so self-evident in our eyes, that… that’s what we can see. As soon as we talk about some person we want to talk about their faults, but at that time even if we don’t feel like speaking good about them… speaking good not just about them in general but even appreciating them in their presence; appreciating them directly, but we do it as a service… do it as a service means that not superficially but consciously. Even if I don’t feel like it, I look at what I genuinely appreciate in a person. Now if the appreciation is counter-factual… if somebody’s tilak is all twisted and we say, ‘Oh, your tilak is so beautiful.’… then that kind of counter factual appreciation is disrespectful. The other person also sees through this that we are just trying to flatter the person, but if we genuinely, with a desire to see good… we look at the good and then we speak it, although we may not be at that particular point feeling good about the person, but we speak that good. We will find that by such appreciation the relationship will become much warmer.
So, sometimes we may serve someone because of them. That means there is so much that we like about them that we naturally feel like doing things for them, but sometimes when we need to serve people in spite of them. That means that they have so much negativity and that negativity is what strikes in our eyes. That’s what registers in our mind. So, we need to inspite of that continue, and how do we continue that? By consciously trying to look for the good, and trying to speak the good. So, if we see people at their core they are spiritual. That is the essence of spiritual vision. So, essence of spiritual vision is to see that people’s central essence is more important than their periphery.
Krishna talks about knowledge in the mode of goodness, knowledge in the mode of passion and knowledge in the mode of ignorance, in 18.20-18.22. So, in 18.20 He states that…
bhāvam avyayam īkṣate
taj jñānaṁ viddhi sāttvikam
So, He says that when we see that all living beings… sarva-bhūteṣu yenaikaṁ
bhāvam avyayam īkṣate…. we see that the same imperishable spirit, that same imperishable nature is there.. avibhaktaṁ vibhakteṣu… although these people are different, they have different bodies, but that same indivisible spiritual essence is there in all living beings. Everybody is spiritual, everybody is a part of the whole, everybody is a part of Krishna. When we see that, that is knowledge in the mode of goodness. That means that our vision doesn’t focus on their material side, it focuses on the spiritual essence. That is knowledge in the mode of goodness, and this can apply in our relationship with others also. If our focus is on their spiritual potential, their spiritual essence, which may not be manifested right now, but that is what we should focus…
So, Prabhupada went to America… If he had wanted to see faults with the hippies, he could have seen millions of faults, because if we consider the hippies… in general, from the traditional orthodox Brahmin perspective, the Western world itself is considered degraded, but the hippies were such that even Western people considered them degraded. So, the hippies were considered degraded by the degraded. So, if Prabhupada had wanted to find faults, he could have found so many faults in them, but what did he find? He found the spark of spiritual interest in them, and he fanned that, and he saw that this is what was important for him. The other things were there, and because he fanned the spiritual sparks, gradually their conditionings became overcome. So, this is… that means knowledge in the mood of goodness when it is applied to relationships, then we foresee people’s spiritual essence rather than their material conditionings.
When Krishna talks about knowledge in the mode of passion… that is 18.21, He states there…
pṛthaktvena tu yaj jñānaṁ
vetti sarveṣu bhūteṣu
taj jñānaṁ viddhi rājasam
When we basically equate people with their bodies; when we see that different people have different bodies… that means that they are entirely different individuals, there is nothing common in them. We basically equate people with their bodies, then that means that we are seeing in the mode of passion. So, this happens say when people want to be involved in a romantic relationship… they just look at appearances. ‘Oh, this person looks so good, that means that this person I want to date, I want to have a court, I want to have a relationship.’ So, we equate people with their bodies. So, now of course at the body level also some people may some good, some people may have some problems, but we just identify… to identify people with their bodies that is knowledge in the mode of passion. So, if somebody is very wealthy, somebody is well-dressed and in expensive clothes, we think, ‘Oh, it is so expensive, He must be a good person.’ Now, their appearance doesn’t necessarily reflect their character, but when we see only the externals of a person and we don’t see their spiritual essence, that is the knowledge in the mode of passion, but what is the knowledge in the mode of ignorance? That is
yat tu kṛtsna-vad ekasmin
kārye saktam ahaitukam
atattvārtha-vad alpaṁ ca
tat tāmasam udāhṛtam
Krishna says yat tu kṛtsna-vad ekasmin, when we see one thing in a person, and we make that one thing into everything, kārye saktam ahaitukam, we are very irrationally attached to our own perception, we don’t see the whole picture; atattvārtha-vad alpaṁ ca,
we don’t see their complete truth. We see only one thing… alpa… we see only one thing. Little; tat tāmasam udāhṛtam … that means that we find some faults in a person, and we just equate that person with that fault. ‘This person is so forgetful.’ The forgetfulness is there, but we see… otherwise the person is kind, the person is gentle, but they have this one problem, that they are forgetful, but if we just equate that one feature of that person with that whole person; we make that one thing into everything, that is knowledge in the mode of ignorance, and sometimes in our relationship with others we see one thing which is problematic and that one thing which is problematic, that completely dominates the consciousness… or that dominates our consciousness and that defines our perception of that person.
So, if we look at… if we think about ourselves… whenever we meet people, whenever we meet someone, our mind often passes comment, ‘Oh, he is like this, he is like that, he is like this…’, and quite often the comments that our mind passes about other people, they are based on just one aspect of that person. So, if internally we see only that one aspect and problematic aspect of that person and that becomes the defining way in which we see the person, then over a period of time that person will also understand that we are seeing them in that way. They may not specifically know what it is that is straining that relationship, but they will say, ‘They are always nagging me about this, they are always nagging me about that.’
So, now if there is fault in the person and that troubles us, we may need to express it but it has to be done in a appropriate way. Appropriate way means that we separate the person from the behaviour and we speak appreciation of the person, we speak appreciation of whatever good is there in the person, whatever we like in them, and then we also point out objectively what is the problematic behaviour and why it is problematic and what is the effect of it on us emotionally. Then we will find that the hostility, the animosity in the relationship can go down substantially, and this way we can conduct this relationship in the mode of goodness. Ultimately we want to spiritualize our relationships but before we can spiritualize… we cannot go to the mode of transcendence even without coming to the mode of goodness. So, we need to come to the mode of goodness, and mode of goodness means we are able to see people’s core spirituality, core purity, core goodness, and we consider that as more important than whatever conditionings they may be having. No matter how much those conditioning trouble us, even if we have to take some strong action to protect ourselves from being hurt by those conditionings we can protect ourselves without hurting them. We can point out that this problem is there, and because of that I feel that we need not interact so closely, we can keep a distance on this, or whatever, but we do it in a way that where we don’t attack them, we just point out that behaviour, and we point out the effect of that behaviour on us, and then we do whatever is required for remedying. So, when I say that we should look for good in others that doesn’t mean that we continue to let the bad in others keep hurting but rather that we don’t keep our eyes fixed on the bad in others, and we don’t let ourselves to get blinded to the good in them, and especially that we communicate whatever we see good in them also, and in that way when we will able to serve people… sometimes because they have lot of good in them, and we just focus on the good and we feel, ‘Yes, he is such a nice person.’, but even if there is some bad in them, something that we find bad, then how can we still connect with them? How can we still work with them? By seeing beyond that bad to their core spirituality. That problem that is there we will deal with them appropriately.
So, because we see that they are parts of Krishna… and that through serving them we can be serving Krishna. This theme of how by serving others we can serve Krishna, that I will talk about in the next class.
I will summarize what I a talked about today…
I talked about how when we serve someone because of them, and when we serve someone in spite of them. That means that, whenever we interact with each other we see some good in some people and we see some bad in some people, and of course first we separate it… and some people who we look forward to we delight in it, and some people who we feel troubled by… some people bring happiness where they go, and some people bring happiness when they go.
So, I talked about how with our spiritual services also some services give us strength and some services takes away our strength. So, then if the overall strength balance is positive, that means the service that give us strength are more than the services that take away our strength, then we can function effectively. So, similarly in our life, in our relationships, if the relationships that gives us strength are more than the relationships that take away our strength, then we can be emotionally and relationally stable. So, now when we put both this together… that means in a person there is something which we like and that gives us strength, and there is something which we don’t like and takes away our strength. So, then what do we focus on? How do we get that emotional stability and relational stability? That will depend on what we focus on.
I talked about how the godly are averse to fault finding, whereas the ungodly delight in fault finding. They delight… they consider anger and harsh speech as their treasure… So, we all have anger but when we consider anger as strength, then it becomes a far greater problem. If I have anger and I recognize the anger as a problem, then it is lesser problem, it can be dealt with.
So, how can we have aversion to fault finding. We can’t be with closed eyes and not see the faults, but we can avoid focussing on the faults, we can avoid speaking only about the faults.
I talked about how… I give my example of writing and editing… that even when there is something that is faulty and even if I know that somebody has the service to find faults and improve my writings, still it is not easy to take only faults. So, if there are some appreciations and then some corrections are pointed out then it becomes easier to take, and also if I have trust that this person is overall my well-wisher and this person wants to become better, then it is easier to take faults, take corrections.
So, the more close the thing is to us, the more difficult it is to take its criticism. So, for my writing I am able to take criticism, but my behaviour if they criticize it will be more difficult. Just like if someone criticizes a distant nephew that doesn’t evoke as strong a reaction, as if somebody criticizes our own child. So, in order to may be understand this… and just as we find it difficult to take criticism, so others also find it difficult to take criticism.
So, when people have some problematic behaviour which needs to be corrected, we need to separate the person from the behaviour, and separating the person from the behaviour means that firstly there is understanding and there is appreciation. We understand that based on their conditionings this is difficult for them to do. It’s not that they are deliberately doing it to trouble us, it is difficult for them to do it. So, we appreciate their struggles, we appreciate their…whatever they are doing. First of all we understand and then… whatever is good in them we appreciate that, and then if the problematic behaviour has to be pointed out, rather than making it as a value judgement, ‘You are so irresponsible.’ We make it as an objective statement…. ‘When you did not come on time, then I got angry because one hour of my valuable time was wasted. I was just left stranded over there…. whatever.’
So, when we present things objectively, then there is a greater chance of resolving tensions and promoting understanding but if we just speak the faults and we… a value judgements… ‘You are so irresponsible, you are so lazy.’, and that’s all that people keep speaking… whenever we are interacting we just point out the faults, then people start doubting whether we are their well-wishers, people start doubting whether we are working together as a team or we are working against each other. Just like in a cricket team… the players may have some differences, they may not all like each other, but if the players start suspecting, ‘Is this player playing for us or is he playing against us?’, then the tension goes far, far higher. So, like that all relationships have a team-spirit, need to have and if there is constant criticism and they are especially delighting in fighting faults, then when the other person feeling that this person is not from my team, is against my team, then the relationship becomes almost dysfunctional. So, to avoid that we ourselves need to see, no matter how much of a fault that is there… how can we separate the person from the fault? By spiritual vision, by understanding that they are parts of Krishna, and as parts of Krishna they are pure.
So, I talked about knowledge in the mode of goodness, that means the focus is on the spiritual essence, not the other conditioning, not the external conditioning. Knowledge in the mode of passion means: we equate the people with their bodies. So, if in the bodily level they look very good, we think that they must be wonderful person. If the body doesn’t look good, they are no good; and knowledge in the mode of ignorance with respect to relationship means that we see a fault and define the person’s fault alone. Then our attitude towards them become negative. We level them mentally and then they also sense the negative vibrations and the relationship gets hurt… gets strained, may be break down.
So, appreciating can be done a service. Service doesn’t mean superficially, but service means that even if we don’t feel like doing it, we do it. Determination means that our actions continue even when our emotions don’t align with the actions, and of course we try to cultivate the positive emotions also by seeing the good in the other person.
So, sometimes we can love some people because of them, and because their good qualities are so evident for us, and in some cases we may have to love and serve people in spite of that. That means although their weakness are so apparent to us, we see beyond them, we see the spirituality, we see their Krishna connection and then continue the relationship. Of course if the bad qualities are hurting us, we may need to create the appropriate distance to protect ourselves, but we can do that without creating undue hostility. By keeping the spiritual vision in the centre we will find that our relationships can improve substantially from whatever they are right now.
Question and Answer Session:
Question 1: If say there is strain in the marital relationship or there is strain in the parental relationships with the children, then the relationship has to go on, but how can it go on amidst so much strain or negativity?
C. C. Prabhu: First is that, every relationship can function at a particular level of expectation and some relationships… if parents know that there are two, three children, then all children are the same, and they have to treat each child as an individual and interact appropriately with that child. So, sometimes if we just understand what we can expect in a relationship… that we need to moderate our expectations and that moderation of the expectations may make the relationship less fulfilling, but then it will also make the relationship less frustrating.
In general frustration is a function of expectation. The more there is expectation, and the expectation is not fulfilled there is frustration. If there is less expectation, then there is less frustration also. So, if some relationships are strained, then rather than expecting them to conform to some ideal which… not necessarily ideal in the Utopian sense but … we might have seen how say parental relationship… how parent-child relationship is in our generation… the way we dealt with our parents, but the way our children deal with us it is very different. So, now we cannot expect children of today’s generation… they are very different. The world has changed. In many ways the world has changed more in the last 30-40 years than it has changed in the last 300-400 years. So, we cannot expect too much from others in today’s world. So, we have to first of all moderate our expectations. That means it is said that, good fences make good neighbours. So, if the expectations are not clarified. If the parents are expecting something from the children, and the children don’t think that that’s what they are expected to do, or they don’t feel that they need to do so much… So, then it is not easy to negotiate but to the extent that is negotiated… So, sometimes some relationships just need to function at a different level.
Now we all have a need for an intimate relationships… close relationships in general, but we cannot expect this, expect closeness in all relationship. We might have one or two relationships which are close and in trying to get closeness in other relationships, that’s what causes them to become more straight. So, if we understand that there will be certain level of distance and at this level of distance this relationship can function reasonably well.
So, frustration is a function of expectation, and by decreasing expectation we can find that relationship which have been… which seems to be dysfunctional earlier, which seem to be very distressing, they become at least functional at a somewhat greater distance. The second thing is that when we find that a particular relationship is breaking down for whatever reason, then it is very important to have honest communication. Now how that honest communication will be worked out that we will have to see. Sometimes there are many mediators, some people who both people trust, and then they both of them can speak out and understand each other.
One reason why relationships become strained is that people speak about each other instead of speaking with each other. If A and B have a problem, and A doesn’t speak to B, or B doesn’t speak to A. A goes and speak to C and D, and B goes and speaks to E and F, and then C and D tells what A spoke to B, and E and F tells what B spoke to A, but in each of these speaking’s, intentionally or unintentionally people add their own distortions. Just like a game of a Chinese Whispers, but here it is not a funny game, it is a tragic game.
So, then when A thinks, Oh B spoke like this about me. How horrible.. and B thinks , Oh A thinks like this about me… Then we see each other though the filter of what others have spoken about the other person.
So, A is not seeing B for what B is. A is seeing B through the filter of what E and F have told. So, that makes things worse. So, if there can be… some trustworthy friend, devotee, relative, whoever can act as a mediator, that is fine but otherwise it is best to… when both people are calm, have some honest communication, and by that honest communication at least we can understand what the other person is expecting or what the person is frustrated about.
Sometimes we have a particular conception of what is wrong … and this is not something I can do. What this other person is demanding is so unreasonable, I can’t do this, and we figure why is this person not doing it,… so, there may be somethings we can’t do and there are certain things which the other person can’t do, but there are things which we can do and there are other things which the other person will be ready to do.
So, if there is clear communication. It is not easy… because when the relation is hostile it is not easy, but somehow if we work out a proper place, a proper time, a proper atmosphere for having some candid conversation, then we will be able to find out that there are things which we both are misunderstanding, because we were hearing through the filter of others, now we talk face to face. It can be painful initially because when we hear the other person anger, the other persons suspicion…. whatever, but if we can go through that… Krishna says in the Bhagavat-gita that … that which tastes like poison in the beginning and will taste like nectar in the end. So, generally when we have a problem with a person it is easy to go and talk with others, and if others are also sympathetic… ‘This person is so bad.’ And the other person says, ‘He is so bad’, and both of them have a jolly good time beating up the other person, but what happens is… this is like nectar in the beginning but when that other person goes and tells… say, A tells something to C, and C and A have a jolly time bashing up B, but then C goes and tells B that A said this. Then pariname vishame…. the result is poison. On the other hand if A and B decide to meet each other, there is animosity in it and it is difficult. So, it is like poison in the beginning, but if they meet each other and they can weather the poison, they can go through the poison, then actually they come to an understanding that I never knew that you wanted me to do this. I thought that you were so angry with me, you were always finding faults. I could have done this.’ Then we can come to some understanding. It may not be exactly nectar but it will be much more positive. So, when relationships are getting strained moderating our expectation and establishing candid communication are ways in which we can improve the relationship. Of course if we see the relation as a service to Krishna, then that can help us to become more tolerant and humble and that is also positive, but just seeing the Krishna factor, how does that translate into practical action? That is through moderating our expectation and increasing direct communication.
Question: If we have an atheist box who is also very negative and we can’t see any good in him… The boss is troubling us a lot, then how do we deal with that person?
C.C.Prabhu: Sometimes we serve somebody because of them, and sometimes we serve in spite of them. So, we understand that sometimes some people who come in our life, they are a result of some past karma that we have done. So, if some disagreeable boss is there, then we see that actually it is my…. this persons disagreeability is the way… through this persons harsh behaviour… unreasonable behaviour… it is my past karma that is being exhausted. So, in a sense in the Vedic literature it is said that actually when we are happy we should be unhappy, and when we are unhappy we should be happy. What that means is that when we are happy that means… when things are going nice in our life, that means that our good karma is getting exhausted and if good karma is getting exhausted then what is going to happen? Afterwards the bad karma will be there. So, when we are happy we should be unhappy because our good karma is getting exhausted, and when we are unhappy we should be happy because what is happening is that our bad karma is getting exhausted when we are having difficult situations, and once the bad karmas are exhausted then good karma will remain. So, of course when it comes to practical dealings this doesn’t mean that we should be masochistic. Masochistic means that we take pleasure in hurting ourselves. In some religious rituals like Islam they whip themselves, and they inflict hut on themselves. It’s not like that.
The point is that we should try to see positively whatever situation that we are in. So, sometimes through some people some of our bad karma gets exhausted. Now having said that, even if we can’t see some good in that person… now we can see the good in that situation; what does it mean? We may not see good in that person, but we can see good in that situation means that all of us in our life have to deal with different people at different times, and if we have to deal with a very difficult person now, then after that even if we have some other difficult people to deal with, it will not be that difficult.
So, somebody who has lived in the freezing cold of Antartica, that person in any other part of the world if they go where there is cold, it is never going to be that cold as Antarctica. They can manage that. So, some situations in life… we can see them as opportunities to discover how tough we can be or rather how tough Krishna can make us. So, if we see that ultimately this person is a rage in my life by Krishna’s arrangement, and if I can tolerate this, if I can move forward, then actually my tolerance muscles are improving. It is Krishna consciousness which is making me tough. Now frequently it will be difficult. Just like a person who is in freezing cold, he is going to find it difficult, but we need to know very clearly that the difficult situations in life are not permanent. Like we talk about how pleasures are temporary, so problems are also temporary in this world, and if the problems are temporary it means that although they may seem to be very big and very painful now they are not going to last forever. Sometimes when say a leech bites a person, the leech catches on to the skin and drinks bloods through its tubules. That can be very scary to feel the tubule penetrating into the skin and pulling out the blood. Some leeches are so strong that if we try to pull the leech out, then the leech holds on the skin so tightly that the whole skin gets rip out, and it becomes when the skin itself comes out, but if we just tolerate that and let the leech do its work, the leech’s capacity to drink blood is not infinite. Once it’s tubules gets filled then the leech itself lets go, and with just a little flip of the finger the leech will fall off.
So, like that some problems in our life are like leeches and if we overreact in those situations, then it is like forcibly leave the leech out and it will rip out our skin. The problems will get multiplied and aggravated, but if we just tolerate then the problems will pass.
So, some people are disagreeable on the surface but it’s usually that hurt people, hurt people. That people who are themselves being hurt, they hurt other people. So, if we can see beyond that layer of that defensiveness which is coming out of aggressiveness, then we may find that once we earn somebody’s trust, it may be very difficult but if we earn them then we may become among the few people who has actually weathered that storm, weathered that trust and things may become much better. Of course if we define that dealing with that particular person it is almost impossible for us, and that strain is becoming unbearable then we may have to change the situation. Then we may look for some other job, but that needn’t be the first or a knee jerk reaction. We can try to see that situation positively as an opportunity to increase our tolerance, increase our toughness and we may decide that let me wait out some period, just like I decide that this leech… I understand that it is going to take blood for a few seconds or a few minutes. So, we may decide that I will persevere in this particular situation for this much time, and I will do my best in this situation. If we start thinking that this boss could be like this lifelong, and I will have to tolerate this life-long… once we start thinking of problems as life-long, then we can’t even tolerate it for day long. We may feel that I have to end this today, but instead of thinking of it as life-long we think that it is for a finite time, may be for… ‘I will rather than just resenting and being angry and frustrated, I will be for the next month, next 15 days, next two months, whatever, I will do my best even in this very difficult situation, and if after I have done my best if I find that things don’t improve then at least I will have the confidence, I will have the conviction that I didn’t run away from the problem. I tried my best and this was not meant to work out.’
So, then we move on. We don’t have to keep letting ourselves to be beaten up. We can move on and look for some other job, but we don’t have to necessarily get their atheism in the picture here because we don’t know why a person is becoming atheistic. Sometimes the way religion is presented and practiced in today’s world, it’s quite likely that people become atheistic because of that. In fact I have read some of the biographies or autobiographical essays of some of the leading atheists in the world, and the kind of experiences that they have with religion, if I had that kind of experiences with religion I might also have became atheistic. So, let’s not get too much negative based on whatever belief for disbelief the person has and just focus on how I can function effectively in that situation, and if we give it a diligent try in a mood to Krishna… if it works then it is well and good, if it doesn’t work also at least we won’t have drained ourselves in resentment. We will have grown in our tolerance.
Question 3: Generally we say that husband and wife are opposite. They have their own strengths and they complement each other, but if the opposites are such that they don’t complement but rather they lead to contradiction, they lead to conflict, then what to do?
C.C.Prabhu: It is a bit difficult because with the change in the society, social structure now… just for surviving in the competitive world even woman have to take on some masculine qualities and sometimes the men also have some effeminate qualities. It is not necessarily a bad thing, but that is just the functional need in today’s world. So, we have to see that there is… we all have our own conceptions of how a relation should be.
Now for example when you talk about gender roles we may have seen our parents, we have seen some other relatives or some other acquaintances, how the gender roles functioned, and based on that we have our own conception of how the gender roles should be and it’s quite likely that our spouse has a different conception of what the gender roles should be, because before the modern age the gender roles were quite clearly defined and people had a basic… there was a more or less reasonable division of labour in family but now it is not that people don’t have… because now the society has changed so much, so those… the traditional gender role division may not work practically and more important than that is that we don’t have the same conceptions. So, we have a certain expectation, certain stereotype of how the gender roles should be and the other person has a different expectation, different stereotype in their mind and then we expect that… I will do this, and you will do that… but they don’t understand that… they think that I will be doing that and you will be doing that. So, basically our actions flow from our conceptions.
So, for example if I have been habituated to driving in India, then I drive in a particular direction of the road and I conceive that as a right way to drive, but if I come to America and I drive the same direction I will get into trouble, but I will automatically drive the way I drive in India because that my action of exception of what is right. So, basically if in a marital relationship, if there is honest communication about what is it, what is the conception of the gender role that are there, what is it that wife is expected to do, what does the husband think what the wife is expected to do, what does the wife think that she is expected to do, what does the wife think that the husband is expected to do, what the husband think that the husband is expected to do?
So, these roles… we have our conceptions based on which we have expectations but because our society is so changed this conceptions may not… our conceptions itself may not be matching with the reality of what is practical in today’s world and our conceptions may not match with the other person also.
So, if there is clarification of expectations … ‘this is what you can do, and this is what I can do.’ This is what you expect me to do, but I can’t do it. This is what you expect me to do, I will do it, and then although there can be dissimilarities… see there are dissimilarities, there are differences and there are dissentions. Dissimilarity is just a fact of life, that will be there. Then the differences I am talking about is the difference of opinion. I think this way, and you think that way, but dissention means that there is tension, there is conflict. So, dissimilarities are unavoidable. We all are different, and differences of opinion are also unavoidable but if there is a basic understanding which is shared then those differences don’t have to lead to dissentions, they don’t have to lead to conflicts. That means that if basically like in a cricket match a fielder can also sometimes play the role of a wicket keeper, and a wicket keeper can also sometimes be a bowler, and a bowler may also have to bat, and the bowler may also bat times. But, overall each of these players have their own roles and that is the role that will do and they will do it well, and in exceptional situations they can do other roles also.
So, but if the captain is expecting the bowler to be good batsman… and he bats poorly and then the bowler is thinking… I am here, why am I not getting changed to bowl at all. The captain is expecting the bowler to perform as a batsman, not as a bowler. Then that is mismatch of expectations because the roles are not understood, the roles were not defined? So, like that if there is clear communication that, ‘Yes, we have these differences and in some cases the differences are complementary and in some cases they are contradictory, but this is what is the reality. So, we know what are the roles that… what is the division of the roles; Is this what I am going to do and what are you are going to do? So, this is actually kind of clear discussion, candid discussion, clear thinking… this is all in the mode of goodness. So, when to some extent we do this, then we will find that the contradictions that are there which lead to conflicts they will go down, and although there may not be natural complementarity; the husband and wife may not naturally complement but they can become… they cannot effortlessly complement each other, but they can become effort-fully complementary to each other. You have to put in an effort… ‘Ok, I don’t really like to do this but if this is what I need to do, then I will do it, I love doing this and I will do this.’ But if you also like to do it you can also do it… whatever.
So, basically if complementarity is not naturally there, then complementarity has to be consciously established, and for establishing that there has to be a clear understanding of what is the conception of the gender roles in the family and what is the workable reality in today’s world in that particular relationship. When that is taken care of then things can be improved substantially.
(End of Transcription)
Transcribed by: Sadananda Krishnaprem Das.