“You may not keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.”
— Martin Luther
We live amidst a culture of violence and indifference. Some people resort to violence at even the slightest provocation and others often just stand by, watching indifferently, as if they were seeing a movie spectacle rather than seeing the victimization of a living human being, who is essentially just like them. This prevailing culture of violence and indifference can make us apathetic, unless we ourselves are targeted.
Yes, in the world there’s much wrong that we can’t change. But still there are things we can change. At the very least, we can change our defeatist attitude that we can’t change anything. Actually, nothing will change if we don’t change our notion that nothing will change.
It is easy to blame others for the state of the world. But the easy way is hardly ever transforming or fulfilling.
We often stand passively when things go wrong in the world. And when things go wrong in our own life, we stand passively in another way – we, in the sense of our intelligent side, stands passive and paralyzed while our emotions take over and make us act in ways that simply worsen the situation.
Consider a situation when we find ourselves in a conflict with someone. Whenever any conflict involving us escalates, we are responsible, even if we are not the cause. We are responsible for how we conduct ourselves in that conflict, whether we arouse the fire or whether we douse it. If we let our situations determine our emotions and thereafter our actions, then we become reactive, thereby arousing the fire of conflict further. If we decide in advance the principles we wish to live by, and then let our emotions and actions be determined primarily by those principles and secondarily by the circumstances we find ourselves in, then we can ensure that we do our part in dousing the fire of conflicts.
We could label the other person as irrational, sentimental, delusional. And, sadly, those labels do apply to some people. Yet labeling anyone thus does little to resolve conflicts. People may be what they are, but we don’t have to give them the power to make us what they are. And unwittingly that’s what we do when we let our responses be determined by anger or other such emotions.
We are not here to see through each other – we are here to see each other through. This becomes our guiding principle when we internalize spiritual wisdom. The Bhagavad-gita (06.32) states that the topmost yogis exhibit empathy, seeing others’ joys and sorrows similar to their own joys and sorrows. Gita wisdom explains that we all are interconnected, being parts of the Whole, the supreme spiritual reality that is the source of everything. The more we become spiritually conscious, the more we become sensitized to see how others are ultimately like us, how we too might be acting the way they are acting now if we had been in their circumstances.
Gita wisdom helps us sharpen our spiritual intelligence. This intelligence helps us to cut through the fog of emotion that clouds our inner world whenever we are confronted with unreasonable, aggressive people. We learn to go beyond the emotions to the actual issues and respond appropriately.
Grounded in spiritual wisdom, we get the strength to take a stand. Firstly, we take a stand in our own inner world, refusing to be swept away by the stormy emotions that impel us to kneejerk reactions. We stand firm in our knowledge of our core identity as parts of God and in his love and guidance. With our mind thus calmed and clarified, we can take a worthy stand externally too – we can do our part in solving the problem, and in going through and growing through the situation.
Jan 23, 2022
Anandini Tikunov (8th-grade student)
Jan 22, 2022
Sunanda Das, tovp.org