Spiritualizing our relationships 4 – Accept yourself to relate better with others
[Phone talk to everydaychant.com online sanga]
Transcription of Lecture
So, today we will talk about the topic of spiritualizing our relationships, continuing the discussion. In the previous session I talked about how we need to accept others, avoid nagging and fault finding.
Today we will talk about the other side of the relationship about accepting ourselves. Now we may say, ‘What is the meaning of I have to accept myself? Others have to accept me.’ Yes, others need to accept us, but before that we also need to accept ourselves. Now what does self acceptance mean? Actually we all are beings who exist in a state of duality, in a state of split existence in a sense. Now we are spiritual beings but we are in material bodies and these material bodies they all restrict the potential of the soul. They all stream and streamline and limit the consciousness of the soul that flows through. So, as souls we are parts of Krishna. Just as Krishna is all attractive, being His parts we also share in His attractiveness. We are also attractive at the spiritual level, but at the bodily level we all vary in how we look, in on how we conduct ourselves and what our nature is, what our talents are, and thus the body becomes not just a transmitter of the souls consciousness, it also becomes to some extent a distorter.
So, the kind of body that we have, the kind of mind that we have, that doesn’t just reflect the soul, it reflects the soul and also the kind of karma that the soul has done in the previous life. So, we all have the Bhagavat-gita. In the 13th chapter Krishna talks about Ksetra. Ksetra means that field of activity.
So, a elephant has a huge body, an ant has a tiny body. Now why this difference? It is because the souls in those two bodies have done different kinds of karma. The soul in the elephant body has in the past done some karma by which that soul has got a huge body of the elephant, and the soul in the ant body has got a tiny… has done some other karma by which it has got this tiny body. So, now this variation is very apparent, very dramatic, but similarly within the human species different people have different ksetras, different bodies.
Now the human body may not vary so much in size but within the looks, within the complexion, the IQ level, the EQ level, the various kinds of abilities, talents, all these vary and a lot of our mental energy goes in refusing to accept who we are. At present we are souls always but we are souls who are present in particular bodies, and currently our existence is rooted through these bodies.
So, just as there can be hatred towards others. Sometimes when we don’t like something in someone and if that person keeps exhibiting that characteristic again and again and again, that dislike eventually regenerates into hatred. So, similarly we may sometimes dislike ourselves. Now we may wonder what does it mean to dislike ourselves? Since our childhood we may have been say negatively compared with someone. Maybe we had a sibling who looked better than us, who scored better marks than us, was better in athletics than us, who was more social and outgoing than us, and then we were always negatively compared, and then that effected us. So, in every culture there is some stereotypical definition of success. There are some models of who are considered to be successful, and everybody is expected to aspire for that model and everybody is expected to conform to that model and when that doesn’t happen, when we are not able to conform to some particular models, then we end up feeling dissatisfied and frustrated, we get inferiority complex, we become insecure within and why does this matter for relationships? Because often when we have issues that we are unable to deal with, we deflect our attention to others.
So, sometimes we may find faults with others because of the faults that are there in them. We discussed how we need not obsess over those faults, but sometimes we find faults with others because we ourselves have unprocessed issues. So, for example say if a person is addict. If a person is alcoholic or is addicted to something, and they are trying to overcome that addiction, and they kept that addiction secret so that others don’t know that they are struggling, and then they are tormented by their desires, sometimes they relapse, sometimes again they get up, again they sleep, sometimes they fall. So, they are going through this inner turmoil and it is very difficult to live with this, and when they interact with others they sometimes just become unreasonably angry with others because there is anger… anger at their own inability to control themselves, and that inability to control themselves… the anger coming from that, that gets misdirected towards others.
So, we all have this experience that sometimes we do something small and the other person just explodes. Sometimes say, we do a small mistake and may be in the office the boss just goes on a tirade against us, and then we find that may that boss before they came to the office they had a big quarrel with their spouse and that anger is being vented at us in a misdirected way. So, we have this experience of how people’s unprocessed emotions often lead to misdirected expressions of those emotions.
So, this…when it is with anger it is very visible, but when it is with a nagging attitude, with fault-finding which is just a part of somebody’s nature and it seems to be like that. Often that is because that person has some unprocessed issues, and there may be long standing issues.
So, when a person is normally of a reasonable disposition and suddenly that person becomes snappy, we understand that something must have happened in their lives, but if a person is normally snappy, normally irritable, then in English the word is curmudgeon, the person always keeps finding faults. So, then we start thinking that this person is just like this only and it’s difficult to live with that person but we just think that it is like that, but often such people they have certain unprocessed emotional issues which make them act in particular ways.
In the Bhagavat Gita, 18th Chapter Krishna talks about determination in the mode of ignorance.
yayā svapnaṁ bhayaṁ śokaṁ
viṣādaṁ madam eva ca
na vimuñcati durmedhā
dhṛtiḥ sā pārtha tāmasī
So, when one is given to day dreaming, when one is given to fearfulness, paranoia… swamnam, vayam, sokam… when one is always lamenting, visadam… when one is always pessimistic, dejected, morose… madam eva ca… When one resorts to intoxication to forget one’s problems and although this kind of behaviours do not solve any problems, they only aggravate problems, still na vimuñcati durmedhā… the person doesn’t give it up.
dhṛtiḥ sā pārtha tāmasī… this is the verse which talks about… we could say some way of addiction…. na vimuñcati durmedhā.. Now addiction means what? Although we get the consequences of a particular indulgence still we keep craving for it, we keep slaving for it, we keep succumbing to it, we keep chasing after it.
So, na vimuñcati durmedhā … we just don’t give it up. So, this irritability, negativity, all this results because of a misdirected determination, and this is often a psychological coping mechanism for dealing with unprocessed emotional issues.
We all cope with difficulties in different ways. Some people when the face problems they just want someone to talk with and when they just vent out their problems they just talk with someone and then they feel calm, they feel relieved that at least someone understand me, they feel unburdened. Some other people when the face problem they just want solitude… ‘Leave me alone, let me think clearly.’ And if somebody presses that, ‘No, let’s talk.’… ‘No, just leave me alone. I will talk but later. Right now I need to be alone.’ So, we all have our own different coping mechanisms for dealing with stress, dealing with problems.
Now some mechanisms are just a matter of preference. Some people may talk and deal with issues, and some people may think in solitude and deal with issues, but that is a matter of preference, but there are some other coping mechanisms… they are not just matters of preference, they are actually matter of consequences. They lead to unhealthy consequences. So, if somebody says, ‘I will cope with stress by drinking.’ Now, that is not just a matter of preference because that has serious consequence.
So, similarly some people they deal with their issues… their inner insecurity they try to cover up by putting on a mask of irritability. That means that because I keep finding faults with myself, I feel insecure with myself and I don’t think about myself so much. So, I start thinking about others, finding faults in others and I just become irritable. Now, actually it could very well work the other way, as I said that when we see the faults that we have in ourselves then we can see that, if I have so much difficulty in giving up my faults, others will also have difficulty in giving up their faults. So, we encourage others. We appreciate their struggles and we try to help them as much as we can. So, this is one result that could happen if we accept ourselves for who we are and we accept others for what they are and then after that acceptance we rise above, but in some cases when we refuse to accept ourselves for what we are, then we refuse to accept also others for what they are, and our anger at not being what we want to be that spills out as anger towards others.
Now there can be many external things because of which we feel resentful to ourselves. We might have wanted to get into a particular college, we might have to pursue a particular career, we may have wanted to have a particular level of life-style, even if spiritual life… we might have expected that I should made this level of spiritual advancement, this level of spiritual practice, and when somehow for whatever reasons we are not able to do that, then that creates irritability. So, we all have an inner image of how we should be, and as contrasted with that is the reality of what we are, and this distance is just a part of being human. The tension between our ideals and our reality is just natural. It becomes hypocritical if we completely cover up the real and we just pretend that we are already at the level of ideal. The ideal is where I am going towards, but this is where I am now. If we accept that, then there is that tension between our ideal and our actual that actually fuels us to move from the actual… take small steps at least to move towards the ideal. But we expect that I should be already at the ideal level, whatever that ideal may be, and if I am not at that level, then I become angry with myself and that anger, that irritability, it vents out towards others.
So, often in the relationships when people are internally insecure then it becomes very difficult for them to relate with anyone, and it becomes equally difficult for others to relate with them. So, acceptance is very important.
So now, we may say that, Isn’t that we should transform ourselves? That we should become better. If I am greedy, I am angry, If I am lusty, I am meant to give up this things. So, how can I accept myself? Yes, we are meant to purify ourselves, but purification begins with acceptance just like if a patient is sick… if a person is sick and that person is denies the sickness, then it becomes very difficult to treat them. Now they don’t even go to a doctor. Even if sometimes there is a doctor in the family or a doctor in their acquaintance, we will tell them, ‘You have some problem. Please go to a doctor. Please have yourselves diagnosed.’… ‘No, everything is alright with me.’
So, as long as somebody is denying a problem, you can’t treat a problem. So, naturally if somebody is sick, the desire is that they should become healthy, and they should take the process to become healthy, but the journey towards health begins with the acceptance of sickness. As long as I am resenting and rejecting the reality of sickness, I cannot access the potency of the treatment because I am simply not open to taking the treatment at that stage.
So, similarly with respect to our particular conditioning, with respect to our particular issues that we have, we all want to change ourselves but we all want to become better, but that journey towards becoming better begins with accepting where we are right now. So, if we think of certain features that we have don’t like, and then if we are thinking about those again and again, we start beating ourselves up mentally, and that can be very damaging.
So, let me start with some externals, and then we will move towards more internal.
In today’s world obesity is almost considered to be like a evil. If somebody is fat, the fatness is considered to be like a sign of ugliness and people sometimes go to great extremes to somehow or the other get rid of their weight. People even become anorexic, don’t eat enough, they get all kind of eating disorders and it is a very difficult situation. It is like a double pincer. Double pincer means people are caught in two ways. One is that in the media one side the thin figure is glamorized, and the fat figure is demonized. So, people aspire for the thin figure, ‘I want to be like this, I want to be like this.’, and on the other hand that same media advertises often aggressively variety of food stuffs all of which are fatty. So, the idea is, ‘Eat this, eat this… and then look like this, have a figure like this, have a body like this.’ So, the two are impossible to reconcile.
So, the Bhagavat-gita says in the 14th chapter, how sometimes the modes pull us in the different directions and they create tussle in the heart. So, there is nothing spiritual in this. It is simply material. One sensual desire is to look good, and the other sensual desire is to eat good, and the two just cannot go together. So, of course we can eat good food that is healthy also, but today most of the food that is glamorized is not healthy, it is fatty. So, people suffer a lot of mental trauma. For many people, they sometimes when they find their weight has gone up, they go through all kinds of extreme dietary fats, fasting too much and spoiling their health by that. Sometimes they go through some excessive exercise routines or they keep searching for some magical health pills or heath potions which they think will… ‘You just take it and the fat will be cut from the body.’… and this is a huge industry today. In fact according to some surveys the amount of money that Americans spent on trying to counter obesity is more than enough to feed all the hungry people in the world.
So, now of course there is nothing wrong in having a attractive figure, and if we want to work for that is fine, but when that becomes a obsession, and that becomes an obsession because of the excessive glamorization of a particular model of beauty, of a particular model of attractiveness, then just people subject themselves to so much insecurity.
So, sometimes people weigh themselves on a weighing scale and their mood becomes inversely proportional to the weighing scale. If the figure on the weighing scale becomes low their mood goes high, and the figure goes high their mood goes low. So, some people become very emotionally volatile, emotionally insecure.
Now again we may say that, ‘No, now, I need to look good.’ Yes, that is fine and we can work, we can do a proper exercise, proper diet, or whatever is required for that, but becoming obsessed by that… when we are obsessed we feel, ‘How can I be looking like this? I should not be looking.’ There is no acceptance of that, then that causes enormous frustration. Now life is too short for us to keep fighting with the reality of who are. Yes, we need to fight with our lower desires so that our higher desires come out, but that fight involves adopting a process. That fight doesn’t involve simply resenting who we are. Our focus should be a positive, not negative. This can be… So, with respect to say physical health or physical looks, the psychologist William James said, ‘Oh, what a relief it is when we stop trying to have a slender, young body. It is a big burden.’
So, Socrates said that, ‘Beauty is a short-lived tyranny.’ Short-lived first of all, and when is there, and we are trying to conform to it, it subjects us to so much trouble. Now from there we can move inwards. There are different kinds of abilities that different people have. So, some of us may be more outgoing. When we meet with people we naturally make friends, we naturally interact with people, and some of us may be more introverts… where we may find that for us to talk with people it’s not easy. If given a choice we would prefer just to be alone, and if we don’t know someone, how to initiate a conversation, how to carry on a conversation, that causes a lot of anxiety, and when we live in a society where the extrovert model is considered to be the ideal although many of the greatest thinkers, many of the greatest innovators, many of the greatest pioneers even in modern history have been introverts, and much of the best work has been done when people are alone, in the solitude thinking deeply, but still somehow the glamorized social model is of the extrovert, and suppose we find that we just find it very difficult to be with people for long, and then if we were in a society where the extrovert nature is glamorized, then we may feel sorry for ourselves because of being an introvert. Now this is not something which we can change. It is not that introverts don’t like people; It is just that they get strength when they are alone, and they have a social stamina which gets exhausted soon and they get to rejuvenate it.
So, sometimes when there is an extrovert they get strength when they meet people, if they go to a get together or a party, a meeting, a gathering, the more people they meet the more people they interact and their smile becomes bigger and bigger. They feel jolly, ‘Yea, I am living, I am doing something, I am meeting so many people.’, and there are some people, they just go to a party… if they are introverts, they are just looking at the watch, looking at the door, ‘How many more people I have to meet, how can I get out of here?’ The longer they stay the more becomes the tension on their face, the more becomes the burden on their heart.
So, now if somebody is introvert and they are constantly beating themselves up for being an introvert, then that is just a waste of mental energy, we just need to accept ourselves for who we are. So, the introverts have their strengths, introverts have their weaknesses. Extrovert have their strengths, extrovert have their weaknesses also.
So, in the extrovert nature people may just waste a lot of time in socialising, people may just get very easily into gossiping because they just want to be with people, and when they want to be with people they want to speak, and when they want to speak indiscriminately they will speak in a way that will cause harm to themselves or to others. So, extrovert nature also has disadvantages. The introvert nature also has its advantages. Introvert people think more, so they speak more carefully, and what they speak is often filled with sense, with wisdom. So, either way we have to learn to accept ourselves.
So, we may say, ‘Others should accept me for what I am.’ Yes, that is true. Others… also have to accept us, but first of all we need to accept ourselves. Our acceptance of ourselves cannot depend on others acceptance of us. That means that if there are some people in our social circle who disapprove of the way we are. They say, ‘You should be doing like this, you should be like this, you should be like that.’ Now, wanting to please others is good, but sometimes pleasing others can become a compulsion, where it is almost like the disease to please, where we need, we depend on other people’s approval, we cannot get the approval of everyone. So, this doesn’t mean that we try to change, we all need to try to change, but as I said, the change begins with acceptance, and even when I am talking about acceptance the more focus is on not having a negative attitude towards oneself. You may say, ‘I as a soul am pure, but my body and my mind are so stupid. This mind is so terrible. The body is so terrible. Such a big mess.’
We may sometimes talk about how the mind is an enemy, how the mind is a trecheror, and we say, ok, but ultimately our mind is the only mind that we have. We can’t get a substitute mind. Sometimes in a cricket match say a player gets injured, a substitute comes into field or do whatever else but we can’t do that… our mind we can’t get a substitute, our mind is the only mind that we have. So, we need to learn to live with it. Live with it doesn’t mean we live for it, it doesn’t mean necessarily that we do everything that the mind tells us to do, but this is the nature of the mind.
‘Ok, my mind can’t deal with too many people. My mind can’t deal with so many pressure. Ok, then within that limitation how can I function?’ So, there is self-obsession that can happen in two ways. When self-obsession manifests as self-congratulation… that means some people they are always talking about themselves… ‘I did this, I went here, I am so great, you know what I did? You know how much I have achieved?’ Such people we can easily see that they are so egoistic, and it is not very pleasant to be with such people, and to think of that as self-centredness is very easy.. ‘this looks so self-obsessed.’ So, just as the self-obsessed can be thinking how great I am, how good I am, self obsession can also take the negative form of how bad I am. So, self-obsession can come in the form of self-castigation, always beating oneself up…. ‘You fool, you always do things wrong. You did this wrong, you spoke like that, you talked like that, you did like that, you are good for nothing, you are useless, you are hopeless.’ Now this is also self-obsession.
Sometimes things become complicated for us when we practice bhakti because we are told to have humility, but humility is very different from self-pity. Self-pity means that we are always feeling sorry for ourselves and we are self-centred. Humility means that we understand that, ‘I am not all that important, I don’t have to be the centre of my world, I don’t have to be centre of my consciousness. There is something which I can do with however I am, whatever I am, so let me do that.’ Humility enables us to become Krishna centred, whereas self-pity keeps us locked in self-centredness. So, self-pity and humility are very different. Humility is satwic. It is in the mode of goodness. Self-pity is in the mode of ignorance. So, defining difference in the mode of goodness and in the mode of ignorance is that in the mode of goodness our emotions are in the control of intelligence, whereas in the mode of ignorance our emotions are totally in control. In the mode of passion also the modes are in control, but the emotions impel us to actions.
Of course the actions maybe thoughtless, but the emotions impel us to actions. In the mode of ignorance the emotions they just don’t let us do anything, the emotions paralyse us in the mode of ignorance, and thus we end up being incapable of doing anything. So, self-pity and humility are very different. In bhakti our goal is to be Krishna centred, and when we are to be Krishna centred we have to understand that Krishna has a plan for our life. However we are, Krishna can use us.
Sometimes even the philosophy we may take negatively and we may think that, ‘Ok… what I am, my body and mind is simply the result of past bad karma, and it is such a terrible thing that I have to live with it.’ But we have to understand that we are not simply products of karmas, we are also plans of Krishna. That means, who we are is not simply a product of our past karma. Yes, our past karma is there, it is involved, but along with the past karma there is also Krishna’s plan. That Krishna has arranged the things in such a way for us… Yes, our past karma has come to us in such a way it is suitable for us to make spiritual growth. Now whatever we need to do in this life, if we strive diligently we can do it.
So, yes at one level we see that whatever we are is a result of our past karma. But, another perspective of it is that, it is not just past karma, karma doesn’t act arbitrarily. Karma acts under Krishna’s plan.
So, what I am is also a part of Krishna’s plan. That doesn’t mean that necessarily all the negative things about me is what Krishna wants me to be there, but rather even if the negative things are there, Krishna has given me what it takes to live with the negative to gradually overcome this negative and to move ahead in my life.
So, when we see ourselves not as merely the products of karma, but plans of Krishna then we become less self-centred and become more Krishna centred. So, less self-centred would mean that even not negatively self-centred also. So, when we have this unprocessed issues with ourselves, then being unable to deal with this issues we sometimes hit out at others, we behave in irritable, disagreeable ways with others, and then we are emotionally wounded, we are emotionally hurt, and we have a need for emotional comfort and solace, but rather than expressing that need in a way in which others will respond and offer us some support, we don’t voice it very clearly and that comes out negatively as our anger because of our unmet needs, and the people end up becoming more distant, more hostile.
To express this more clearly, say some of us have been hurt in our relationships in the past, somebody has disappointed us, somebody has betrayed us, then for us to develop new relationships become difficult. For us to trust anyone, for us to open our hearts to anyone becomes difficult. That is perfectly understandable. It is just like if somebody has blister on their leg, then they will put their foot carefully over there. So, now say if two people are walking along and one person is walking in a normal speed and the other person is walking slowly because they got blister on their leg, but they don’t tell the other person that I have blister on my leg, and then the other person is wondering… ‘Why are you walking slowly?’, and we are getting irritated, ‘Why do you have to walk so fast? Can’t you see I am walking slowly, can’t you walk slowly with me?’ Here what has happened, when they keep walking slowly and they keep walking fast and we try to walk fast with them, and our blister gets… touches the ground or whatever, and it pains us and then we get irritated, ‘Why can’t you be understanding? I don’t want to go so fast.’
But, while all this is happening you don’t tell the other person, ‘You know I have a blister here.’, and instead of telling that I have a blister here, we get angry that, ‘Why are you walking so fast. Why can’t you walk slowly?’, and that person will wonder, ‘Come on, you know, this is normal speed I am walking, it is you who are walking slowly and you are getting angry with me.’
So, here what is our need, Our need is that, we have a blister and we cannot walk fast, we have to walk slowly, and we want the other person to understand that, but instead of telling the other person that we become angry with the other person. Then what happens? A simple walk together is which is just a non-event practically, or it could even we could talk and come closer to each other, it becomes something which strains… creates a strain between us.
Now normally when we have blister, we wouldn’t hesitate to tell someone about it, because it is just a physical thing that happens sometimes, but when we have emotional blisters, when we are have wounds inside us because of past bad experiences, we often hesitate to tell that to others, and that is also understandable. We don’t want to tell our sorry story to everyone, we don’t want others to pity us, we also have our sense of self-respect and certainly we don’t want others to know our weaknesses and manipulate or exploit us. So, just as when we have blister, we might put on a thick shoe or we might put on a soft padding on our shoe, in our footwear so that it doesn’t hurt us that much. So, similarly when we have emotionally unprocessed issues, then in order to protect ourselves from the hurt we shield ourselves, and unfortunately this shield comes off not so much as protecting us, it comes off as alienating others. So, rather than understanding what is our need and trying to see how this need can be fulfilled, we come off getting angry towards others.
So, there is insecure people…on one level they can’t trust others, and on another level they have a lot of emotional needs. So, that becomes a big problem. They need a lot of emotional support, but they can’t open their hearts, and that is a difficult situation to be in. So, often at such times we may need to work on ourselves and working on ourselves may begin with just acceptance, ‘Yes, this is the way I am. May be in the past I was a little naive and trust someone who I should not have trusted, or whatever this is my nature.’
So, I talked about… sometimes we beat ourselves because of some abilities that we don’t have or sometimes we beat ourselves up because we made some stupid decisions, because we let ourselves be taken on a ride by someone, but whatever has happened has happened, whatever is there is there. So, just as we need to accept ourselves for who we are, we need to accept the even that has happened also even if those events have happened because of our past mistakes, because of something which we did wrong, still we need to accept that. So, now acceptance is also a part of surrender. Surrender means many different things at different times. Surrender… if we look at it… How Draupadi surrendered? Draupadi, she was a royal princess and she threw a magnificent Swamvhar was to be married to a hero and then somehow by the arrangement of fate she got married to five husbands, and then after that what happened was that in the asatsabha, in the Kuru assembly she was dragged in public, she was disgraced, she was dishonour and she was about to be disrobed. It was a horrendous plight for her. Now at this point she could have become resentful. Now she could have become resentful, ‘Why are my husband’s not doing anything to protect me, why are they sitting passively over there?’ She could have become resentful, ‘Why did even agree to marry five husbands, If I had only married Arjuna, then Yudhistir could not have gambled me.’ She could have thought of hundred other things, but at that point she did not get into any of that… Even throughout the incident she never even blames also Yudhistir. She accepts, but she accepts that Yudhistir at that particular point acted in a wrong way, but she did not hold it against him. Now she accepts, and for her the surrender is, ‘Ok, this is the situation that I am in, What can I do?’ She tries to defend herself and she can’t. She just surrenders. She raises her hands and calls out, ‘Hey Krishna, Hey Govinda, Hey Gopala, I am sinking in the Kuru ocean. Please protect me’, and Krishna miraculously intervened, offered her an endless sari to protect her. So, in her case her surrender began with acceptance. This is way I am and I am helpless Krishna. Please help me.
So, when we surrender… Draupadi closed her eyes. She just looked up and called out to Krishna. She closed her eyes and she was looking up, and she is looking up with her heart, begging Krishna for help, but when there is no acceptance, then we just can’t look up. We are looking down and sometimes we look down at others to see how low down they are.
Sometimes we look down at ourselves and say, ‘How foolish this person, how bad I am.’ So, we need to accept ourselves. Surrender means acceptance. Acceptance is the beginning of transcendence. ‘This is the situation I am. This is the way I am, and in this situation what can I do?’ So, rather than deflecting attention from our weaknesses to others weaknesses, and making a issue out of others weaknesses, we can accept, ‘This is way I am. This are my weaknesses.’ Now whether we tell others…. Sometimes people also come to know, ‘Why this is person so irritable?’ Sometimes we may tell to some people, and then, ‘I never knew you gone through all these. That’s why you were so hesitant. You were so irritable, you were so suspicious. Whatever….’ People may actually understand better, but we may have to be a little discreet whom we speak to, but more important is that we accept ourselves for we are. We are not just products of Krishna, we are just not products of Karma, we are plans of Krishna, and we are work in progress. So, the progress happens through our direct practices of bhakti and the progress happens also through the relationships we have with each other, but it all begins with acceptance. Yes, this is how I am, and from here rather than resenting myself for why I am here, why I am like this… from here, with this current situation what can I do? And I find that I can take this one step, I can take the second step, I can take this third step, and I can move on this way. So, we can find that we can take tangible steps and move on from where we are, and if we accept ourselves for we are, the insecurity goes down substantially.
Much of the insecurity is caused because we all had acquired certain models, certain ideas of how we should be, and because we are not like that we feel insecure, but we don’t have to be like anyone else. If Krishna had wanted us to be someone else, he would have made us someone else. Krishna has made you, and Krishna has made me me, and I don’t have to become you, and you don’t have to become me. I have to become the best me, and you have to become the best you. So, that is definitely there. We want to bring out our best, we want to become our best, but becoming our best doesn’t mean that we have to conform to some model of somehow… how we need to be. We have to understand who we are, and from there we become the best that we can be.
So, when we address our internal insecurities through spirituality, through bhakti… by fixing our consciousness on Krishna, that by understanding that whatever I am I am also a plan of Krishna, and seeing, ‘Ok in this situation how best can I serve Krishna.’ That service can be there by direct practice of bhakti. In fact the direct practice of bhakti can give us a lot of emotional healing and strength, and that service can also be through our relationships. ‘Ok, in this particular situation, in this particular relationship, with my functional limitations how can I best function?’ Rather than denying our limitations and hitting out at others, we accept our limitations. Now how we speak about those limitations. When we speak? That is something which we can decide based on individual discretion, but the important thing is we don’t let our unprocessed issues come in the way of our relationships. We accept ourselves and when we start functioning in our relationship as a service in a mood of acceptance… ‘This is the way this person is. This is the way I am, and with this setting I have perform in this relationship. How do I perform?’ It is just like… I will conclude with this example that, just like if there is a cricket match. In a cricket match a player wants to make a debut, or a player may want to… on my debut I will make a century, I will make a double century.’, but then that player comes in to bat on a pitch that is terrible. A player comes to bat when the opposing bowlers are bowling in devastating form, the player comes into bat when the best players of his team has already got out, and then now this player maybe a very aggressive player but at that time the player has to accept, ‘Ok, in this situation so many of our team batsman are out. It all because of the pitch being so difficult, the bowlers being so much in form. I have to adapt.’ After the player accepts the reality, ‘This is the reality.’ Then they can navigate. The can adjust the game and play accordingly as much as they can adjust. But basically the player doesn’t accept the reality of the pitch, and just tries to play aggressively on a pitch where even getting the bat to the bowl is difficult. Then that player is soon going to get out. He is not going to perform. So, acceptance is the beginning of performance. ‘Ok, this is the pitch, this is the bowler and this is where I have to bat.’ So, like that in our life we have to begin with acceptance. We have been given a particular pitch. The particular pitch can refer to our inner mental disposition, it can refer to our social situation, family situation, and it is in this pitch that we are going to bat.
If we are resenting that pitch we can’t bat over there, but once we can accept, then we can … that, and once we can accept we can adapt, and based on acceptance there can performance also. So, by seeing that… no matter how many things are messed up with me, still Krishna is in control, Krishna is in my heart, Krishna… I am still within the plan of Krishna. By thinking like this we can shift our focus from ourselves to Krishna, and think about how we can best serve in that situation, and by thus… getting security through our relationship with Krishna.
Because of whatever deficiencies we have, because of whatever issue we have, we may have insecurities in our horizontal relationships, in our capacity to form horizontal relationship, in our capacity to function responsibly in our horizontal relationships, but Krishna’s love for us is unconditional. Krishna no matter what we do, Krishna is never going to live in our heart. So, by fixing our vision on Krishna, by gaining security through our connection with Krishna, we can start the process of dealing with our insecurity. Accepting ourselves for who we are, and then gradually working through the practice of bhakti, through the mood of services to becoming better, and as we accept ourselves and try to make ourselves better, we find that relationships will also becoming much more stabler, much more saner, much more sweeter.
I spoke today on the topic of spiritualizing our relationships, and within that I spoke about accepting ourselves. So, I talked about how… many of us… we may dislike ourselves, we may hate ourselves, and we may resent ourselves because during our childhood or during some phase of our life we may have been given some model, and as compared to that model we felt short, and because of which we developed feelings of inferiority and insecurity, and often when we have emotional internal issues which are unprocessed, facing them head on becomes difficult. I mean trying to deflect attention by hitting out at others…
Just like if the boss had a quarrel with the spouse, and that anger is unprocessed, and they come and hit out at some subordinate in the office. So, when this is just an occasional occurrence then we understand that may be there is some specific cause, but when this becomes a habitual pattern then others stop questioning it and they start thinking that this person is just irritable, and we also start thinking that this is the way that I am, but often below that there are issue that need to be addressed.
So, we discussed how the external models may define our sense of self-worth. So, it may be that we want to look good and we want to have a slim figure, and we may become obsessive about that and our moods may go up and down based on whether our weights go down or up, and thus our whole sense of self-worth becomes founded on our looks, and then it causes great insecurity to us, or sometimes it may not be so external as looks. It may be a little bit internal such as our nature.
In a culture which glamorizes extroverts who can mix with people and who enjoy talking with people… if we are introverts, we may feel sorry for ourselves for not being as outgoing and sociable as someone else who might have been held before us as a model. So, extroverts have their strengths but they also have their weaknesses. They may gossip too much, they may waste a lot of time socializing. Introverts also… they also have their strengths. They can be more thoughtful, they can be more articulate in their speech when they speak, although they speak infrequently. So, we have to accept what we are.
So, now…. what about conditioning like lust, anger and greed? Yes, then we need to transform them, we need to cure them, but even healing begins with accepting. A person who denies that he has got sickness… they will not go to a doctor, and they will not take the treatment also, and their sickness will become worse. So, they need to accept that I am sick and then they can start the treatment.
Similarly, we need to accept who we are, where we are, and from there we can start the journey of healing ourselves. So, by denying we just perpetuate and aggravate the problem. Now, accepting ourselves means that we understand that by our past karma we have got a particular body and a particular mind, and they may be problematic but we can’t have negative, adversarial, hateful relationship with them, because that is the only body and mind we have, and we have to work with it. This is the functional tool that we have.
So, life is too short to be wasted in fighting with ourselves. Yes, we fight with our lower shelves so that our higher shelf can come out, but if we fight to deny the very existence of the lower sense, then we can never bring out our higher self. This denial can also affect our relationships. That if we have been hurt by someone in the past… then we are very suspicious in developing relationships and at the same time we have a lot of emotional needs. So, we don’t open our heart and yet we expect a lot from others, and then when we don’t express our needs, but just get angry at others for not meeting our need, then we strain and even break our relationships. Just like, if I have a blister in my leg because of which I need to walk slowly… but others are walking at normal speed. We need to tell them that, ‘Please walk slowly.’ We can’t just get angry at them for walking faster than what we can comfortably walk.
So, like that we need to process our own issues. Acceptance begins with the understanding that we are not just products of Karma but we are also plans of Krishna. Even if we have some negativities… but Krishna has given us positives also and the combination of negatives and positives is what is best suited for our evolution, for our spiritual growth, and for doing whatever we are meant to do. So, we looked at Draupadi’s example, how rather than resenting her husband or just resenting herself, she just surrendered to Krishna.
Surrender is based on acceptance, and through surrender we move from acceptance towards transcendence, and for us we may have insecurity because of our weaknesses… that, will others accept me? Will others value me? We should know that there is one Other, Who will always accept and value us, and that Other is Krishna.
So, whatever insecurities we have, if we focus on developing our relationship with Krishna… emotionally connecting to Krishna through the practices of bhakti, then the awareness of his love…. the peace and the joy that we remember in his remembrance… that will give us the necessary security and based on that security…coming from our spirituality…. then we can move forward and work towards our relationships. So, we see our relationships… as whatever relationships we have as a service and we take whatever steps we can.
There will be tension between the ideal and the actual, but that tension can lead to progress if we accept the actual and then take steps towards the ideal. But if we just deny the actual, then we become hypocritical, and then we sometimes hit out at others and we alienate others.
So, by accepting who we are, we can begin the journey of bhakti by which we can transform ourselves and bring out our better side.
Thank you very much…
Are there any questions:
Question 1: When somebody who is a non-devotee who is related with us, they become irritable for whatever reasons… sometimes we also become irritable and hit back at them, then we feel guilty that as devotee we should be acting as models. So, what should we do in such a situation?
Chaitanya Charan Prabhu: Again I would say we also have to accept ourselves for who we are. We also have our limits of tolerance. That doesn’t mean that we just hit back and rationalise that whatever I did was just natural for me, but we cannot expect unrealistic levels of saintliness from ourselves. We all have our limits, and if in a particular situation we find that our pressure point is exceeded, then at time it might be best to withdraw from the situation. We are expected to be even-tempered, not short-tempered, and yes as we keep practicing bhakti, as we getting purified that even-temperedness will come more and more, but till it comes we all need to recognize our limits.
Will power is a finite resource. It is not an infinite resource. So, if our willpower is already expended on many different issues then we may not have the adequate power at a particular time to deal with the issue. So, when we say that will power is a finite resource… say, if I have a capacity to lift weight I have lifted weights already… A porter who has lifted weights throughout the day, at the end of the day the porter may not be lift the same weight which the porter could have lifted in the start of the day, because the energy is exhausted although the bodily capacity in terms of muscles are there, but at that particular time the energy is not there. So, like that we may also in particular situations be more vulnerable to anger. So, if we find ourselves in that situation it is best to withdraw. Not that we have to accept that… in this situation I tend to get provoked. So, what can I do to avoid that situation? What can I do to manage in that situation? You have to stay calm and give a sane answer. If I can do that that is great, but if I can’t do that just beating myself up is not going to help me, because just as anger is a thing which is there within us. It has to be worked out of the way, it can’t be wished away.
So, we have our will power, and by will power if we feel angry we can control the anger, but we have to check how much we can deal with a particular situation. So, yes sometimes when a confrontation is happening, walking away might seem rude or might aggravate the situation, but it may well be that staying there may aggravate the situation further. So, we have to use our intelligence how to best we can deal with that situation, and that intelligence has to be based on a realistic assessment of our capacities. So, if we can anticipate in advance, ‘Ok, some issues are building up now. This happened. That happened. Now three things have happened. If the fourth thing happens in my relationship with the person, it will be difficult for me to control myself, I am going to explode.’ So, better anticipate that and may be have a plan or discussion where we address the issues calmly. Not let all those three issues come out when the confrontation is happening over some fourth issue. So, basically say, we are going on a road and we know that there is a pot hole somewhere in the road, then we have to plan in advance… if you can go around the pothole or the pothole is just full across the road only. There is no way to go across it, then we can slow down so that go through the pot hole. So, we prepare. Like that in our journey of relationships also sometimes we hit potholes, and if we are going on a road regularly we know that at this point there is going to be potholes, so let me go slowly or let me go the other way. So, like that if we can also observe our relationships and patters within them we can also come to know which are the situations which are volatile, and then if you plan a little bit in advance then we can deal with them in a appropriate way. So, we can also plan how we could connect with things which makes us calm.
Sometimes when we get angry, we will be just chanting Hare Krishna in our mind, may be just remembering some verse, may be remembering some devotee who we know is very calm, may be praying to Krishna with a specific prayer or taking deep breathes, or whatever that is that works for us…. for controlling our anger if can have some strategy that works for us, planned and ready at that, that may also help us to strain our anger. So, tolerance is a virtue and tolerance can help us to avoid the confrontation that comes out of anger, but we also should know that our capacity for tolerance is not infinite, and so being realistic… accepting our limitations, our vulnerability to anger beyond a particular points we need to plan properly and then deal with the situation.
Question 2: If there is already guilt because we have acted unreasonably or angrily… how do we deal with that guilt, and how do we rectify ourselves?
Chaitanya Charan Prabhu: There is guilt and there is pseudo-guilt. If we consider the five fingers of a hand, then say the middle finger is me, the soul. The little finger is Krishna, and thumb is the wrong action. So, guilt should be like the point finger. It should come between us, and the wrong action, but sometimes guilt simply discourages us so much that it deters us from doing anything, even practicing bhakti, and then at that time guilt is coming not between us and the wrong action, guilt ends up coming between us and Krishna. So, then that becomes pseudo-guilt. That means say for example, say ‘As a devotee I should have become angry like that. Why did I become so angry? How foolish I am. Now I should not have become angry.’ But from that point the mind is so cunning that it just shifts the whole thing. It says you know, ‘If you become angry like this what is your use of being a devotee, what is the use of your practicing bhakti, your chanting so many rounds, doing so many things, it is of no use, and thus we become disheartened even in the practice of bhakti itself. So, that guilt has shifted position and instead of coming between us and the wrong doing, it has come between us and Krishna… and that is pseudo guilt… when it comes between us and Krishna…actually Krishna is our shelter whenever our lower passions they drag us down, but when because of this pseudo guilt we become disheartened in connecting with Krishna, then we end up more vulnerable to that wrong action again. Whenever that wrong passion comes it will pull us down again.
So, we need to ensure that nothing should be allowed to discourage us in our practice of bhakti. In our connection with Krishna nothing should be allowed to come in the way. On the spiritualscientist.com I have a full article on guilt and pseudo-guilt where I analysed this concept elaborately, but suffice it to say that if guilt comes between us and Krishna we should see that guilt as pseudo-guilt. That is also an arrangement of Maya. That is… just like the temptations in the form of lust or anger or greed which takes us away from Krishna… So, that which takes us away from Krishna is a temptation, but that which comes in the way of going towards Krishna also be called a temptation.
So, boredom can be a temptation. Apathy can be a temptation, and laziness can be a temptation, and pseudo guilt can also be a temptation. So, beating ourselves up can also be a temptation which stops us from pulling ourselves towards Krishna.
We consider Bhakti to be like a rope by which we are holding on to it. We pull ourselves up to higher levels of consciousness. So, instead of pulling ourselves up by holding on the rope of bhakti, if we simply beat ourselves up, ‘what a fool I am, what a fool I am…’ then we are not going to move up. We may beat ourselves up but again when the provocation comes we end up doing the same thing.
So, no matter what lapses have happened to us in the past, first principle is that nothing should be allowed to deter us in the path of bhakti. Nothing should decrease our enthusiasm for practicing bhakti. So, yes if we feel that, ‘I may not be hyprocritical, I chant so much and still I got angry like that.’ Yea, it is not hypocritical if we are repenting it, we are trying to reform ourselves. So, may be what we could do is that, we should not have a ‘holier than though’ attitude towards others. We need not instruct others about not becoming angry, but we can of course try to practice bhakti and try to overcome anger. So, anything that comes between us that is pseudo guilt and that needs to be given up. Now having said that, what about genuine guilt? We feel bad about having done something wrong. That is… it is good to feel bad.
So, guilt is like an innate psychological defence mechanism, just like when we do something we are prompted to do that activity more. So, we feel bad after doing something… that acts as a deterrent from doing that activity again. So, that guilt… we can take that as stair… to plan how to function better, to see what we can do by which we can respond better in the situation. So, that may require some practical thinking and planning. Now beating ourselves up is not the solution. Beating ourselves up may remind us that I have to be careful.
Just like say if a child has got a rash, and the mother, the doctor they have told the child, ‘Don’t scratch the rash, there may be itch but don’t scratch it.’ Now, if the child suppose scratches the rash and the rash becomes worse, and then after that the child becomes angry why… and the child started beating itself up, that is not going to solve the problem. The child should not scratch the rash, that is true, but if it has scratched it has scratched. Now the best thing that can be done is, the child can apply medicine, so that whatever aggravation is there that can gradually be mitigated, and of course the child has to be careful not to scratch again. So, basically we cannot wish away our emotions, our emotions comprise of force, comprise a energy but we can decide where that energy will be channelled. That means that guilt is like a wave of emotions. That wave of emotions can take us away from Krishna or we can ensure that the wave of emotions can take us towards Krishna, and towards Krishna means towards healing, just like the child the applying of the medicine is the way to heal. So, like that for us connecting with Krishna most strongly is the way to healing. If we are more strongly connected with Krishna, and then there is also the guilt which deters from going towards that again, then in the future when the provocations come we will be better equipped to resist the provocation.
(Transcription by Sadananda Krishnaprema Prabhu)