Spiritualizing our relationships 5 – Focus more on our intentions than on others’ dispositions
Transcription of Lecture
So, I will focus on the topic of how we can continue our own service while dealing with others who may be differently disposed in different situations. So, the topic will be – ‘Focus on our intentions, not on others dispositions.’
In the Bhagavat-gita, in the sixth chapter, Krishna talks about how as we advance spiritually, as we learn to control the mind, then we don’t get tossed up and down by the mind. Our perceptions are not that subjected to duality because of the mind, and He talks about this at three levels. First, He talks about emotions, then He talks about things, and then He talks about people.
So, in 6.5 and 6.6 are the well known verses where Krishna talks about how the mind can be friend as well as the enemy. 6.6 says that,
bandhur ātmātmanas tasya
anātmanas tu śatrutve
If the mind is controlled it is our best friend, and if the mind is not controlled… if it is in control then it our worst enemy.
Then the next verse it says, what happens when we are able to control the mind…
In 6.7, Krishna says that that when the mind is controlled one becomes peaceful. Then, the super soul is reached at that time… paramātmā samāhitaḥ, Then what happens, śītoṣṇa-sukha-duḥkheṣu… The happiness and distress, the heat and cold, honour and dishonour… So, we are able to be equipoised among this two.
So, Krishna has talked about this earlier also in 2.14, when first He said that actually…
mātrā-sparśās tu kaunteya
tāṁs titikṣasva bhārata
titikṣasva- tolerate, and this tolerance is a result of spiritual knowledge. So, that time Krishna has talked about the spiritual knowledge in terms of understanding our spiritual identity. This was 2.14 and 2.30 is the well known…
dehī nityam avadhyo ’yaṁ
dehe sarvasya bhārata
tasmāt sarvāṇi bhūtāni
na tvaṁ śocitum arhasi
So, when we understand that we are not the body and the soul, then we experience dualities at the level of the body, but we don’t get carried away by that knowing that they are inevitable and they are ephemeral. They can’t be avoided and when they come they are not going to last forever. So, when we see dualities as inevitable and ephemeral, then they become tolerable, but somehow if we think of them as firstly… if we think that dualities are avoidable and they are going to be forever, then it becomes very difficult to tolerate them, but when we see them as inevitable and ephemeral, tolerating them becomes easier. Same way if you move forward… here Krishna is talking about the knowledge of the supersoul…
So, paramātmā samāhitaḥ means, when we reach the supersoul, then what happens? At that time also we are able to tolerate dualities. This duality at the level of the body, at the level of the mind and at the level of the ego
śītoṣṇa is at the level of the body. sukha-duḥkha is at the level of the mind, and mānāpamān is at the level of the ego. So, equanimity it the test of our spirituality. We will talk about equanimity a little bit more. Equanimity does not mean apathy or it does not mean being insentient, being stone-like. It means being purposeful. So, here Krishna is talking about this equanimity. The next verse, that is 6.8 He talks about how…
yukta ity ucyate yogī
This person becomes equipoised towards things… sama-loṣṭrāśma-kāñcanaḥ… So, whether it is stones or it is pebbles or gold, the person sees them equally and then thereafter in the next verse, that is 6.9 Krishna says,
sādhuṣv api ca pāpeṣu
So, the acharyas explain that viśiṣyate means visesh, this is special, that means that this is an even higher stage as compared to the earlier stages, and what is that? sama-buddhi, to see everyone equally. Who all are the people to be seen equally? suhṛn-mitrāry-udāsīna, that those who are very close friends…. heart to heart friends. Krishna has used the word suhṛn to refer to Himself.
Ten verses earlier, 5.29 He has referred also to how…
So, He is the well-wisher of all living beings and like that sometimes in our life also we have some people who are very close friends. Then there are other people who are friendly but not that close.
suhṛn-mitrā… ari are enemies, udasina – those who are neutral, those who are uninvolved. They are detached, indifferent.
madhyastha-dveṣya-bandhuṣu madhyastha – those who are in between… those who are mediators. So, there as some people who when there is a conflict between two people, they say, ‘I just don’t want to get involved, and stay out of it.’ They don’t take any side at all, but madhyastha is those who are in between and those who try to get the two people to come together…. dveṣya-bandhuṣu.. and those who are envious, those who are friendly… sādhuṣv api ca pāpeṣu… and Krishna after talking about… in the first two lines He talks about how this people are disposed towards us, and how they are differently disposed, and beyond that Krishna now in 6.9 talks about how their own inclinations are, independent to how they are disposed towards are, what their inclinations are…
sādhuṣv api ca pāpeṣu… some people are pious, virtuous, and some people are sinful, vicious, but all of them… sama-buddhir viśiṣyate… one who sees all of them equally, that person is at a spiritually advanced stage. Now equality of vision… it can be with respect to their disposition towards us, and it can be with respect to their inclination in general. That’s what 6.9 A, B and C are talking about, but beyond that what we can further see is- this equality of action what does it mean? Does it mean an absolute equality where we just become naive and don’t see anyone how they are disposed towards us.
If some people if we go to them, they affectionately hug us, embrace us. If some other people we go, they may punch us. Some people may rob us. So, what does it mean to treat everyone equally? Obviously just at a functional level we cannot treat everyone equally, and we also see that Krishna also states that at the end of Bhagavat-gita He tells Arjuna, fight!
tasmāt tvam uttiṣṭha yaśo labhasva
in 11.33 after displayed the universal form… therefore Arjuna, arise and fight and there also uses the word..
jitvā śatrūn bhuṅkṣva rājyaṁ samṛddham
Conquer over your enemy. So, the point here is Krishna is identifying the enemies as enemies. So, equality of vision doesn’t mean identicality of action. It means… Krishna says that, sama-buddhir viśiṣyate in 6.9, but 11.33 still identifies the Kauravas still as satrus, as enemies. So, that means that there has to be difference between what is our internal intension and what may be our external action. So, that means that in different situations based on how particularly that person is disposed towards us, how that person is acting in relationship with us we may chose, or we may need to act in different ways.
With some people who are very friendly, very welcoming, then at that time we reciprocate accordingly. Let me start with a more general scenario where we are interacting with people who are not very closely related, and then we will come to people with who we are working on a regular basis. Just like if we are giving a class and after the program say either there are questions-answers or privately people are coming and meeting us.
So, now if there is some person who is say totally uninterested… sometimes people come for a program because somebody else has compelled them to and throughout the program they are just not interested. May be they are looking at the ceiling, they are looking at the wall, they are checking in the phone. They are doing everything except walking out of the program. So, all that actions are screaming, ‘I don’t want to be here.’ But somehow some something forces them to be there. Now, we may still cordially talk with them for a minute or two, but if they are showing that they are not interested, then we may also reciprocate like that. ‘If you want to go somewhere, yes… Thank you for coming.’ We will cordial with them, and then we will not hold them back. We would like to share Krishna with everyone, but if a person is not receptive, he is apathetic, not interested at all, then you may decide that, I won’t spend time with them, and I won’t take their time also. Our desire is always to share Krishna but specifically how we will share Krishna with them, that will vary depending on their level of interest or receptivity.
So, if somebody is totally inimical. Throughout the class they interrupt and they ask questions and they ask questions also not in an inquisitive mood but they ask it in a challenging mood. So, then we have to be at that time careful. Sometimes if we feel that that person is interested genuinely but is just asking questions with the challenging mode, then we can see… maybe answer one or two of their questions and see whether their disposition changes or if it just becoming endless to and fro argument, and if it is going off in a direction different from what the focus of the class is. Then we may just tell them, ‘I will talk with you later. We will discuss if after the class privately?’ and sometimes privately also, after the class we are talking, we may also need to be discreet, how much time we want to give such a person if that person is endlessly argumentative and we have limited time with other people, then we may decide… we have limited time there after the program, then we may decide that the other people who are more interested, we may tell them, we may answer one or two of their questions and tell them, ‘This is big subject. If you keep coming and hearing, gradually understanding will happen. It is not that all questions can be answered in one session, just like when you study Physics, when you study Botany, when you study Mathematics, it is not that in one class we understand things. So, please keep coming, and we can discuss your questions in future classes.’ So, by this what are we doing? We are not rejecting that person, but we are also in a sense following Krishna, ye yathā māṁ prapadyante (B.G. 4.11). That means what we are doing is, we are testing whether that person is having some commitment. If that person keeps coming from programs regularly, then that person at least that much commitment to come, and we can also so some reciprocation and give them some time.
So, although that person is hostile, that person is interested. Some people are hostile and they challenging, they are arguing, and then we may decide… ‘We will just close the topic. This is not the focus of our class. We will discuss it at some other time.’ Politely but firmly… and some people are really interested and they are eager to hear more, to learn more, they flock around and they want to understand, and we may spend a lot of time with them. So, in all cases our intension is to serve Krishna… to serve them by helping them to understand about Krishna, and helping them come closer to Krishna, but in all these situations we don’t act in the same way. How do we act? We act based on understanding what is the most effective way we can serve Krishna in that situation, and that effective way will vary from person to person. So, there is similarity of disposition in that we are seeing that all of them are souls who are in need of Krishna, and all of them are souls whom we can serve them by sharing Krishna with them. Of course we can serve Krishna by trying to share His message with those who are connected with Krishna eternally. So, that way our disposition is the disposition of service. At the same time we can’t always serve through the same actions with everyone, and Krishna Himself tells that,
ye yathā māṁ prapadyante
tāṁs tathaiva bhajāmy aham
All people as they surrender, I reciprocate accordingly. So, depending on how much commitment people will show, what is their disposition, and what is their dedication… these two factors, their disposition and their dedication will determine our reciprocation, and that also determines… that’s how Krishna determines His reciprocation also. So, basically the point which I am making is, in any relationship we are functioning, our intension has to be that we want to serve Krishna, but specifically how we serve Krishna that will vary depeding on what is the receptivity of those people.
So, moving from a context where we don’t know the person so much, if we come to a context where we know someone well and say we are in a family, we are in a community where often we have to work with each other, and we interact with each other, and after a few interactions we get some understanding of different people…. ‘This person functions like this, this person is of this nature.’ And to some extent we also… it is important for us to learn to read people. Now what do people like? What do people don’t like? So, what is it that inspires them? What is that turns them off? And then based on that we discuss with them, we reciprocate with them, and we move forward… Just like if we consider any relationship, that relationship is like journey, and in a journey sometimes to go to different places we may take different roads, and especially in places like India where not all roads are good. Some roads are good, some roads are tolerable, some roads are an insult to the word road to call them roads, somehow we navigate the way along. So, basically now if we have to go to a particular destination, and there is only a particular road to go that destination, then we will travel along that road but we will naturally be aware… ‘Ok, what is this road. This road is a smooth road, I can just go fast, but this road is a slippery road, very curvy road, I have to go carefully. What kinds of turns will come suddenly I will not know, but I will have to be careful. Even if I have gone on this roads the turns are so abrupt I have to be careful, and some roads there is no road only, there are so many pot holes and there are so many bumps and there are so many ditches and it is a… driving becomes almost like a acrobatic exercise on such roads. So, like that we can say similarly different relationships work in different ways. So, in some relationships it is like a smooth road. So, we just click with some people, what they speak makes so much sense to us, what we speak makes sense to them and then that relationship is like a smooth road and then there will also be some relationship which are like curvy roads.
Curvy roads means, some people they are so unpredictable… unpredictable in their moods, in their words and in their actions. Today they meet and they are so warm and so friendly. When the meet, they rush forward and they hug us, and the next day we meet them and they don’t even acknowledge us our greeting. What is this happening? So, some people are just too much in their own world, and they are quite moody, or sometimes when people talk with them also some people just are very focussed, if you are talking one subject they will …20.23… that subject. Some people just ramble, and some people just jump from one topic to another as if conversation is like a competition where we are setting long-jump records. So, we are speaking one subject and suddenly that person quotes some other subject, and then we feel like, ‘Wait a minute, wait a minute, how is this connected, what is going on over here?’, and that connection is there mind, and sometimes the connection is not there in their mind also.
There was an author who was known to be a very abstruse writer. He would write things in a very complicated way, and many people would think that this person is so brilliant that he writes so well. So, the London Royal Society… one of his books they were thinking of giving an award to that book, but it was a very complicated book, and their reviewers they went through one particular passage and they just couldn’t understand it. So, then they called this author and they told him, ‘Can you explain what you said over there?’ So, he read it thrice, and then he said that, ‘When I wrote this God and I knew what I meant. Now only God knows what I meant.’ So, basically some people’s brains work in ways that it is very difficult for us to understand, and sometimes it is very difficult for them to understand that also, like sometimes the class is going on and some people just go from here to there and then suddenly they themselves ask the audience, ‘So, how did I come here, what was I speaking about.’ Sometimes it maybe because of ecstasy where they are so eager to glorify Krishna that they just… whatever their thoughts go towards Krishna they speak about it. If that is happening that is wonderful.
It is said about Sukhadeva Goswami, that some of the pastimes described in the 10th canto are not chronologically described. So, sometimes he describes a later pastime earlier and earlier pastime later, especially from the 55th chapter of the 10th Canto he just goes… he talks about Rukmini, and then immediately talks about Rukmini’s sons, and he talks about that by that time Rukmini’s sons are also grown up, and then he talks about Krishna’s other marriages. So, things are not that chronological over there. So, acharyas describe, jiva goswami describes that actually because Sukhadev Goswami is such a dear devotee of Krishna that’s why he goes into ecstasy and that time he is not speaking so chronologically. That’s find if somebody is in ecstasy, and that is why they are not speaking so chronologically. That’s wonderful, but there are times when the mind is so disorderedly that they don’t speak so chronologically. So, the point which I was making is that different people are like different roads, and some roads are such unpredictable curves… you are going in this way, and then it’s almost like it is not 90 degree turn, it is almost like a 120 degree turn, and then it is not even 120 degree turn, it is also very narrow area in which you have to take a turn. So, it is difficult to navigate such …23.50… We have to do whatever needs to be done in such situations, but the important thing is we keep moving onwards. No matter what happens we keep moving onwards. So, that’s a road and we learn, ‘Ok, this is the road is, and we accept it.’
So, basically if some roads may be very bumpy, very very difficult to move at all. While dealing with some people it’s like walking in a mine field. Mine fields are places where specially war-torn areas or terror affected areas where explosives are put under the ground, and when a person steps on some place which like it is ordinary ground, but there is some wire over there, some detector placed over there and as soon as the foot is placed over there, and as soon as the pressure comes it explodes, and the person may be blown to smithereens. So, like that sometimes dealing with some people is like walking on a emotional mine field. We just don’t know what will trigger an explosion there. So, they are just so unstable, so irritable. At that time we just understand this is difficult.
Sometimes if a soldier has to go to a particular place and the only way is through mine fields, then they know that there is risk over there. If I have to go there, then I have to take the risk and go. So, the basic point is that our intension is what remains consistent, but our action does not always have to be consistent. That means that if I am going on a smooth road, and I am going on curvy road, in both cases my goal is to go towards the destination, but how I drive will vary. So, similarly when we are trying to function in the world, we are interacting with different people our goal is one common goal to try to serve Krishna, to try to connect with Krishna, and try to connect others with Krishna. So, that disposition of service is there within us. That is our intension. But how that intension is expressed that will vary according to the road that we are travelling, according to the nature of that person, the disposition of that person. So, Krishna is telling samabuddhi, let our buddhi be sama… but He is not telling us to think that those people are sama.
In 6.9 He says that, ‘Some of them are suhrd, some of them are mitr, some are udasin, some are ari, some are enemies.’ So, Krishna is acknowledging the reality that they have different dispositions, and at the same time He is saying, ‘Keep our intelligence fixed, keep our intelligence focussed. Wherever I am I meant to serve, So how best I can serve in this particular relationship, in this particular situation. When we have that attitude, then we can both be fixed and flexible. We are fixed in our intension of service and we are flexible in our method of service. We are fixed in driving towards our destination, we are flexible in how we drive based on how the road is. We are fixed in the fact that while interacting with this people… whatever the service I have to get it done, but flexible about how I am going to deal with this person.
So, in our relationships there are different kinds of people and some people are just joy to be with, some people are joy to be without. We just feel a breath of relief when interaction with some people ends. So, either way if we have to function, if we have to serve, then we needful. So, how do we do it? This is where the intension of service can be boosted by the vision of the object of service. That mean, ‘Yes, I want to serve, and ultimately I am serving Krishna.’ So, if we have that vision. So, we are not just serving that particular person…. we are serving that person, but we are also serving Krishna through that person. We are serving Krishna by serving that person. So, that means there are three ways of looking at this. Say, I am person A, there is person B, and there is Krishna who is say K. So, Krishna is up and both of us are in this world. So, I can see A… I am serving B, that is one way of looking at things, and then when I think that I am serving B then I will think if B behaves kindly with me, then I will behave kindly with him. If B is going to be rude, B is going to be temperamental, B is going to be neglectful, then why should I waste my time? So, there will be reciprocation which is at one level reasonable but it will simply be on how B is functioning. Another way is we see that B is also a part of Krishna, and I am serving Krishna by serving B. So, that means that actually through serving this person I am serving Krishna. So, Prabhupada himself often had this vision. He would say….one Chandrani mataji would come to Srila Prabhupada, Prabhupada was doing some translation of his books. She had some issues and she wanted to talk with him. So, he said Prabhupada… ‘I am sorry he said, I am taking your time away from your service to the spiritual master’, and Prabhupada had a broad smile. He said, ‘You are my service to my spiritual master.’ So, that means that Prabhupada saw that he is serving his guru maharaj by translating the various sastras and he is serving the spiritual master by sharing he spiritual master’s message with those who are coming to hear the message. So, there is another vision where we see that we are serving that person and by serving that person we are serving Krishna.
So, the third could be that we are serving Krishna in spite of that person. In spite of that person means, sometimes that person just… so, if that person is also interested in Krishna, and then we can actually feel that by helping this person, by answering their questions, by giving them some guidance, I am helping them, I am serving Krishna, but sometimes we are not actually serving Him. Sometimes that person will not just be interested, and sometimes that person it appears as if that person is actually disturbing our service to Krishna. Is interfering with and impeding our service to Krishna, and then it may appear as if what am I doing over here, why am I dealing with this person at all. So, sometimes we serve Krishna through a person and sometimes we serve Krishna in spite of that person. In spite of that person means that person is not helping us in our service to Krishna, that person is impeding us, but we serve that person, how? Because we see that ultimately we can serve Krishna in different ways in different times. So, this person is also a part of Krishna. Now if that person is not interested, if that person is not polite, not interested, or not reasonable, then depending on either the nature of the relationship or the nature of the service, then we may adjust. So, for example if you are closely related with some person, their family member or close relative then we may decide that this relationship is important and even if this relationship is not directly helping me in my bhakti, even if this relationship is impeding me in my bhakti, still I will focus on this relationship and I will do what it takes. So, sometimes we may need to be kind, we need to be cordial, we need to be friendly, and we need to do all these in spite of that person, and we do it not because that person is behaving like that, we do it because we want to please Krishna.
So, one way to please Krishna is by sharing Krishna’s message with those who are interested in them, but another way to please Krishna is also by exemplifying the character of a devotee even among those who are troublesome.
So, if somebody is irritable and he becomes irritated, then where is our transcendence, where is our bhakti. So, the test of our devotion would be in not getting irritated with irritable people. Now Prabhupada said that … in the Krishna book… in the famous book he has said that, ‘One’s greatness is known by the capacity to tolerating provoking situations. So, how do we do this? We see that actually we advance towards Krishna, we grow in our bhakti not just by whether that person accepts our service or not, whether that person comes closer to Krishna or not. We grow primarily by our intension. If our intension is to serve Krishna, and we see that relationship as a service to Krishna, then we will stick to that relationship and we will do whatever it takes from that relationship, no matter how difficult it is.
Suppose a person is working in a shop, there as an attendant… it is cloth shop and they want to show, their job is to show the clothes there to the customers. Now some customers are very finicky and fastidious. They just look at hundred clothes, and they don’t buy anyone. They just keep finding faults with this and this and this. They look at hundred clothes and they say,
‘Actually I don’t want to buy anyone of this, I am going to anther shop and I am going to buy that, and now the sales person, the attendant over there feels exasperated, ‘Why did you take so much of my time? You never intended to buy.’ And now if there is a customer who behaves like this repeatedly then the sales person, the attendant will get irritated. They will want to keep a distance. Now sometimes normally in a shop if a customer comes in, and if there are various attendants and all the attendants may want to serve that customer because probably they may get a commission if that customer takes something or whatever. So, in some places as soon as a customer enters the attendants may almost like pounce on the person. Of course the company also may have some policy, ‘You take up this area…this area…whatever.’ But the point is sometimes customers… normally the attendants will be eager to deal with customers, but some customers are almost like hot potatoes and nobody wants to touch them. When that customer comes in they know that this person is going to take a lot of time, is going to be irritable, and is not going to buy anything. So, still in spite of this if an attendant takes care, and attendant speaks cordially, is polite, is courteous, is helpful and remains even-tempered even after that person goes away, even if that person goes away without purchasing. Then, at that level that interaction is a failure because that customer did not take any clothes, but if the attendant has a good boss, has a vigilant boss… there are some bosses who just simply look at numbers. ‘You sold this many, you will get this raise; you sold this much, you are not going to get any raise; you are not able to sell at all, your salary is going to go down’, whatever… so, just look at numbers, but there are some bosses who have a more holistic picture of things. They see, ‘You are in this department, this clothes they don’t go so much. It’s hot now, and who is going to purchase winter clothes. So, whatever, they are understanding, they just look at numbers, they see the whole picture. So, if they have a boss like that, then the boss will be observing. Nowadays most shops, even if they are huge shops, they usually have C.C. TV cameras, something like that, by which what is happening in different parts of the shop can be seen. So, then they may also know… the boss may also know that this customer is a tough customer, and although the attendant was not able to make a sell, the attendant remained even-tempered, remained cordial throughout, then the boss becomes pleased by that, ‘You are cool guy, you know how to deal with tough people’, and then that trust of the boss in that attendant may increase, and although the attendant may not make a sell, the attendant actually gains the confidence, gains the trust of the boss, and the boss may even give a raise or the boss may make that attendant a team Leader or whatever. The other attendants, when they get some tough customers then you bring them to him, or her and let them deal with him.
So, basically, Yes there is success at one level where the person gets commission when somebody takes clothes, but there is success in another level also where although apparently from the numerical calculation point of view there is no commission got… no sale made, so no commission got. So, from the non-quantitative point of view there is trust that is earned, and the trust that is gained that is a far greater gain. So, like that when we deal with difficult people… now I am speaking this and I also fail at this. It is just so easy and so natural and it seems so justifiable that when somebody is behaving irritably with us, we just get irritated. The whole idea is tit for tat. You do like this, and I will do like that. It’s just a very deep rooted human tendency, and it is difficult to resist it but just by speaking about it, contemplating this, I hope that I can also become better when I have to deal with people who are difficult, but the point is that if we have this broader vision that we see our interactions with others also as having bearing on our interaction with Krishna, on our relationship with Krishna. So, by dealing with difficult people in a graceful way… we… even if externally they don’t come closer to Krishna, but we may still come closer to Krishna. In fact the major difference between a Kanistha adhikar, a madhyama adhikari and a Uttama adhikari… these are three different levels which sadhakas can practice bhakti. The main difference is not just in specifics.
The Kanistah adhikari… deities, madhayama adhikari have different dispositions towards different people, Uttama adhikari sees Krisha everywhere…always remembers Krishna, yes that is true but what is the underlying principle over there? Basically the underlying principle is that, once… as we advance our appreciation of the jurisdiction of Krishna increases. That means that if I am.. If I am just like a gentleman or a lady in the temple, very cultured, very humble, very polite, very religious looking, bowing down everywhere, then… I have done my work before God, and then going before other people, I just shout at them, I blast at them and I do all kinds of things, then basically I am not seeing God anywhere else except the temple. The madhyamadhikari sees that, my relationship with God is not limited to how I am in the temple, nor is it limited to how I directly do my devotional activities. Yes, they are important, no doubt. How I chant, how I study scripture, how I worship the deities, that’s extremely important, but my relationship with God, with Krishna is not limited only to these things.
How I relate with things unrelated with Krishna also determines my relationship with Krishna. So, of course at one level nothing is unrelated with Krishna, because everybody is related with Krishna, and everything is related with Krishna. Everything is Krishna’s energy, everyone is Krishna’s parts, but at a material vision we see that this person is a non-devotee, never comes to a temple, but no it doesn’t matter. How we deal with them is very important and when we deal with them properly, then we actually are growing in or bhakti.
Sometimes we may feel very underappreciated in some relationships. Some people are very difficult to deal with, and then… we have been dealing with that persons for weeks, months, years, and sometimes for social dealings we also put on a good face, so by which we don’t even tell others that I am having so much difficulties in this relationships, and then we are trying to just keep… as they say don’t wash your dirty linen in public… so like that we are just keeping things private, and then we are wondering, ‘Doesn’t anyone even notice? Is anyone appreciating. I am taking up so much trouble, but actually if no one appreciates, Krishna appreciates, even if no one appreciates.
Caksur yasya narishyati… in the 8th Canto of the Bhagavatam it is said that Lord’s eyes never blink. So, He is noting and appreciating how we are dealing with different people, and how we are dealing with difficult people.
So, of course in the next session I will talk about what are the different ways that we can deal with difficult people? Here I was talking about how we don’t have to act at their level… act at their level means that if they shout at us, we shout back at them. If they are disagreeable, we become disagreeable, but we need to be actually very careful that we see that irrespective of how they act what is the best way I can act for serving Krishna. What is the best way I can serve Krishna, what would be the most pleasing to Krishna in this situation, and that will give us a further impetus, a further guidance, a further motivation to try to act in a respectable way, act in a graceful way. So, we focus on our intension, not only on their disposition; obviously we have to consider their disposition, but our focus should be on our intension, and then how best to express that intension according to that particular person’s disposition… that is something we have think of separately.
The other point is that actually even when certain relationships are difficult, at that time we often grow and improve in various ways. So, we sometimes have a very uni-dimensional conception of growth, that means say with some people we are so natural, so comfortable, we are able to express ourselves, they express themselves and our relationship blossoms with them, and sometimes because we are able to express ourselves so freely, our personality also blossoms, we also feel happy, we find some talents, and then they say, ‘why don’t you try this out’, and we try it out and then because of their encouragement, because of their insistence we develop some skills that we have, and we grow by that. So, that is one way we grow, but that is not the only way we grow.
One of the features of nature is that actually when plants grow or animals grow… now Darwin he proposed the idea of the survival of the fittest. Now there is truth to the fact that species do evolve, they do adapt to nature, and those who adapt to nature they only survive for longer time. Now the problem is that there is a huge extrapolation over there.
Survival of the fittest is a reasonable enough principle. Now survival of the fittest does not explain arrival of the fittest. It doesn’t necessarily explain the origin of the new species, and certainly not the origin of all species, but the point is that… normally the species grow when there… say plants grow when there are abundant resources, when there is water, when there is sunlight, there is whatever is required for the plant to grow, all these things are there. There is good soil with some kind of nutrition over there for them, but sometimes when this are not there, and the resources are scarce, at that also the plants grow although it is difficult to grow at that time but the plants that grow at that time they are actually much tougher. So, the plants that grow when the necessities are nicely there… that’s good, the necessities are required, but when the necessities are not there… the plants that grow, those plants have far greater survival capacity, sustainability there. Now their capacity to tolerate… endure is much more, and then they grow, they are the plants … generation after generation in that particular species or … in that species that survives. So, like that we don’t just grow in the association of friendly, godly people. We grow also in the association of difficult people.
So, it is not just we please Krishna by dealing with difficult people, but also sometimes we may just have a tendency to speak casually, to speak flippantly, to speak excessively, and some people are just so meticulous, so scrupulous, sometimes to the extent of almost fault finding. You speak one wrong and they catch us. So, then what happens? We may feel, ‘I have to be always so alert around this person.’, but then by being alert around that person we also learn to become more measured in our speech, to speak more carefully, more effectively, that is also a skill that is required. We may have a naturally effusive personality where we speak a lot, but there are times when speech has to be measured, speech has to be… as they say parsimonious, carefully spoken. So, we may by being with difficult people also learn some things which are important for us. So, it’s not that… we needn’t see growth uni-dimensionally. If we growth uni- dimensionally in terms of, ‘I want to do this, and I want to do that, and because of this person I am not able to do it.’ So, we are thinking only in external terms of doing actions, but actually in terms of developing some qualities, some toughness, some people put us in difficult situations, and then we may develop some virtues over there which we would not have developed otherwise, and who knows how those virtues will help us in future. So, whatever we are going through it is not just by chance. Whoever is there in our life… yes, it maybe because of our decisions, we decided to form a relationship with someone or somehow someone else formed a relationship and we consented to it without thinking much. People are not just in our life by chance. There is a plan over there, and of course that doesn’t mean that we just tolerate anything and everything, it doesn’t meant that we tolerate abusive people, but it just means that we don’t be negatively disposed towards people by default.
Even if some people are difficult, actually through their difficult nature that may help us to grow and that growth in tolerance, that growth in humility, that growth in patience, that growth in certain features with certain qualities, certain skills which they are very finicky about, that may help us in future in some other service, some other role. So, rather than reducing our vision of our life to simply – ‘This is what I want to do, and this person doesn’t allow me to do this. So, therefore this person is a big obstacle in my life.’ We can have a more expansive vision, ‘Yea, this I am not able to do, but being with this person I am learning something.’ , and who knows if Krishna has some plans in the future. Whatever I am learning here that may be of great use to me in the future.
So, that way… I wil conclude in one incident. I was in America recently. So, one temple President told me that… he had built a whole temple, and somehow some devotees they were upset with him and there was a whole political …52.27… and he was sent out of the temple, and he was very disturbed, but then he went to some other place and that place is like a evangelical Christian stronghold, and they are very very suspicious and averse to people of any other faith, and he had his business over there and he tried to do some outreach also in a small way over there. So, he stayed there for seven, eight years and he said that, ‘It was very difficult time but eventually… he was very good at his business, and he was good in his dealings with the people and he won those people over, and when eventually again after eight years that same place where he was there, he was invited back, and they said that they made a mistake. Said that, ‘You were actually very sincere.’ The person who had done the whole …53.15… against him, that person who he personally called him apologised to him and told him to come back. ‘You take over.’ When his spiritual master told him, he came back but the point which he was making is that when he lived with those people, at that place for those eight years, they were very difficult people but after living with them, after dealing with people who were that hostile, he said, ‘Now if there are some devotees are little trouble cases, I just don’t feel so irritated because I have dealt with far tougher people.’
So, somehow when he was there, eventually when he left…it was a small town where he was for those eight years. So, when he left actually the whole… the Mayor and the Counsel over there, they called him and thanked him and gave him a send off. So, for his service to the town. So, it was a enormous growing experience.
We don’t know how Krishna is planning our growth, and that is why if we can just keep that intension of service, then even in difficult situations we will find that we will grow in ways that we would not have appreciated if we just had narrow conception of what growing is. So, when we are open to serving Krishna in whatever situation we are in we can actually grow in multi-faceted ways, in multi-directional ways and become better and better instruments for serving Krishna.
So, I will summarize:
I spoke today about how we can focus more on our intensions than on others dispositions. I talked how Bhagavat-gita says that when the mind is controlled we can see dualities of the body and the mind at the ego level with equipoise, and similarly we see objects with equipoise and similarly we see people with equipoise. So, the test of our spirituality is our equanimity.
Krishna talks about first when we know the soul we become equipoised, when we know the supersoul we become even more equiposed. So, now equal disposition does not necessarily mean identical action. So, Krishna Himself tells, ‘See sama budhi, see enemies and friends equally.’, but he tells Arjuna, ‘Fight and kill. Defeat them.’ So, that’s what he tells in the 11th chapter.
So, our action is more a matter of reciprocation, how best I can serve Krishna in this situation while dealing with this person. So, different relationships are like different roads, and some roads are very smooth and some roads are very bumpy and some roads are insult to the word roads, they are like landmines. So, if we have to go to a particular destination then we adapt ourselves, we go fast, or we go slowly or we go with a super caution, that what is required, we do that, and when we are dealing with difficult people at that time we can focus on the principle that… actually while dealing with those difficult people with whom it is like with a mine… it is like walking in a mine field, anything can cause any explosion, then we need to see that we are serving Krishna in spite of them.
I talked about how different people have different nature, just like some people jump from one topic to another in conversations, so like that their minds also jump from one emotion to another emotion. They are very unpredictable, and then we have to adapt ourselves and expect that kind of moody, unpredictable nature and deal with them appropriately. So, say some people… we serve Krishna through them. Some people we serve just them, there is no Krishna factor, that is at the level of material duty and material responsibility. It is also important but that is incomplete division, but some people we serve them and through them we serve Krishna, like Prahupada said that… he told his disciple Yadurani Mataji, ‘You are my service to my spiritual master.’, and some people we serve Krishna in spite of them, just like an attendant attending to a very… in a cloth shop attending to a very difficult customer in spite of that customers irritability and fault finding, demanding nature. So, Krishna is not a uni-dimensional boss who asses based only on numbers. He doesn’t see, ‘Ok, in your life this person has become a devotee, this relative has become a devotee, you have made this many people in your program devotees… Krishna doesn’t only see that much, Krishna also sees what is the disposition of those people, and sometimes some people may be very difficult to deal with, just like a boss may reward a employee who can deal with tough people gracefully, and promote that person. So like that, sometimes even by dealing with people and even if the dealings are not successful in terms of externally making them favourable or getting a favourable result still we may grow through that relationship.
So, when we are serving Krishna we don’t have to stick to seeing only a single conception of growth.
I can do this, I can do this… that is how I am growing. Sometimes some people may restrict us in our goal but then that restriction of growth may also involve actually incubation or facilitation of growth of character. We may not be able to do a lot of things, but we develop tolerance, we develop patience, we develop humility whatever.
So, sometimes some people are very finicky about particular things and if we are just too talkative, and we may just learn to become more cautious in our speech, then that is also a skill that can help us.
So, I talked about the devotee who was sent away from the place where they had set up preaching to some other place where there were very hostile people, but through… after dealing with those hostile people even the toughest people in the devotee community they didn’t find it so difficult. So, the test of a advancing devotee is that they don’t see their Krishna bhakti as restricted to only directly devotional activities, but they see it also in terms of… If I grow in my relationship with Krishna, it is based on how I deal with different people, even if they are not directly connected with Krishna, and by having this vision that wherever I am I am actually serving Krishna we can move forwards steadily and grow in a way that will help us in our personal growth and how Krishna wants to serve us … by preparing us for the future service through even the difficult situations in our life right now.
(Transcription by Sadananda Krishnaprem Das)