How can we serve cooperatively with devotees without aggravating mutual conflicts?
Transcriber: Suresh Gupta
Question: How can we serve cooperatively with devotees without aggravating mutual conflicts?
Answer: Basically, if we remind ourselves the purpose for which we are practicing bhakti and help each other remember the same then whatever conflicts happen, we can see them in perspective. Conflicts can have various results; it can cause some people to leave bhakti or it can aggravate the internal tensions so much that we do not feel inspired to share bhakti with others at all. Or because of it, people serving together may try to undermine each other’s efforts and pull each other down. All this can happen because we are all sadhakas and human beings with conditionings. That is why, we should periodically remind ourselves about our purpose and ask ourselves, why have I come here?
In my understanding, the Krishna consciousness movement is also like Krishna, in the sense, it is like kalpataru (desire fulfilling tree) which means whatever we want from it, we will get it. If we come here for power, we will get power; if we want prestige, we can get a lot of prestige; if we want conflict, we can get more conflict then we can in material world and if we want controversies, we can get that as well but most importantly, if we want Krishna, then we can get Krishna also.
Srila Prabhupada often said, “ISKCON is my body” but Prabhupada also taught us that we are not our body. It means that there is an institution and there is also the purpose of the institution. Just as soul is different from the body, similarly along with the institution, there is also the essence of the institution, which is the spiritual purposefulness of the devotees. Conflicts maybe unavoidable but that is just because we all are different human beings due to which differences may pop up, but if we keep reminding ourselves of our purpose then before the conflicts become too much, we will look for course correction. This can be done in various ways. Broadly, when we face with problems, we can do three things:
(i) change the situation or try to solve the problem by changing the consensus which can also involve getting people to change.
(ii) change ourselves
(iii) walk away from there. Walking away is not necessarily running away.
The above three options may not be necessarily right or wrong but once we come to the ground level and recognise what our options are in dealing with people who may exasperate us or irritates us, then we may try to change them or change ourselves. Trying to change a person is not something where we should be investing our energy since people can be rigid and are ultimately what they are. Although bhakti process can cause people to change but sometimes, some changes manifest quickly, and some changes take a lot of time.
Broadly speaking, in an institution, we will have relationship with different people who will be at different levels of proximity. As human nature goes, some people will get along and some will not. If some people are important in a project but it is difficult to get along with them then it is best to have clearly defined boundaries. There is a saying, “good fences make good neighbours”. Similarly, if we have well defined boundaries, then the responsibilities can be executed much more smoothly. When people feel that their area of influence is being encroached, then they become hypersensitive especially if there is a situation where no clear senior authority is present, and individuals are more or less at same levels. At that time, having well defined policies is important. Policies are not substitute for human relationships, but policies can minimise the friction which are there in human relationships.
When the five Pandavas got married to Draupadi, Narada Muni came and instructed them on how they should be associating with her. Narada Muni is a sannyasi but he plans for Pandavas who are grihasthas that when one brother is associating with Draupadi, no one else should come in at that time. We may say, why is Narada Muni doing all this, but he tells the story of how there were two undefeatable demons – Sunda and Upasunda and they were both attracted to the same woman Tilottama. Before meeting her, they were undefeatable, but after they met her, they both became attracted to her and fought with each other. The Pandavas were exalted devotees and they were dharmic souls yet Narada Muni gives them this warning and creates the system for them.
Similarly, if we are working with people together on a project then many things have to be shared and it is vital that we have some system by which different people have different responsibilities which have been clearly defined. That way, even if we notice something wrong in someone else’s area of responsibility, we don’t have to necessarily go and correct that. If we have a good rapport and if the problem is big, we can go and give some feedback, but basically, we stay off each other’s turf. That way everybody gets room to grow and people actually feel satisfied. We might say it is the ego that is satisfied, but ultimately, we cannot wish away our ego right now. When people are satisfied then actually relationships can work out much better.
In summary, there are three things. First, everybody should remind themselves repeatedly about their purpose in practising bhakti and even if some complication comes up, then course correction will help us come back on track. Second, ISKCON is like a kalpataru, and it will give us what we are looking for. Hence, even in situations which are filled with conflicts, if we are looking for Krishna in that situation and the other person may be seeing conflict then keeping ourselves purposefully fixed in Krishna, will help us grow in that situation. Third, for dealing with specific issues of conflict basically there are three ways – changing the situation, changing ourselves, walking out of the situation. The way we adopt will differ according to the situation. If there are number of equals working together then we remember that “good fences make good neighbours”. We need to have well defined areas of jurisdictions as per the policies and that can give everyone space for making their contributions which will ultimately help the project to move on.
End of transcription.