Saturday, January 24, 2009


Question: Is there some sort of a link between what we find shocking and irritating in others, and our own behaviour and shortcomings?

The Mother in her talk to the children explains beautifully how life acts like a mirror reflecting what is within us and how becoming aware of this can help us to progress and to become more benevolent in our behaviour:

Life is a Mirror

It is rather remarkable that when we have a weakness—for example a ridiculous habit, a defect or an imperfection—since it is more or less part of our nature, we consider it to be very natural, it does not shock us. But as soon as we see this same weakness, this same imperfection, this same ridiculous habit in someone else, it seems quite shocking to us and we say, “What! He’s like that?”—without noticing that we ourselves are “like that”. And so to the weakness and imperfection we add the absurdity of not even noticing them.

There is a lesson to be drawn from this. When something in a person seems to you completely unacceptable or ridiculous —“What! He is like that, he behaves like that, he says things like that, he does things like that”—you should say to yourself, “Well, well, but perhaps I do the same thing without being aware of it. I would do better to look into myself first before criticizing him, so as to make sure that I am not doing the very same thing in a slightly different way.” If you have the good sense and intelligence to do this each time you are shocked by another person’s behaviour, you will realise that in life your relations with others are like a mirror which is presented to you so that you can see more easily and clearly the weaknesses you carry within you.

In a general and almost absolute way anything that shocks you in other people is the very thing you carry in yourself in a more or less veiled, more or less hidden form, though perhaps in a slightly different guise which allows you to delude yourself. And what in yourself seems inoffensive enough, becomes monstrous as soon as you see it in others.

How to Change Oneself

Try to experience this; it will greatly help you to change yourselves. At the same time it will bring a sunny tolerance to your relationships with others, the goodwill which comes from understanding, and it will very often put an end to these completely useless quarrels.

One can live without quarrelling. It seems strange to say this because as things are, it would seem, on the contrary, that life is made for quarrelling in the sense that the main occupation of people who are together is to quarrel, overtly or covertly. You do not always come to words, you do not always come to blows —fortunately—but you are in a state of perpetual irritation within because you do not find around you the perfection that you would yourself wish to realise, and which you find rather difficult to realise—but you find it entirely natural that others should realise it.

“How can they be like that?...” You forget how difficult you find it in yourself not to be “like that”!

Try, you will see.

The Best Attitude

Look upon everything with a benevolent smile. Take all the things which irritate you as a lesson for yourself and your life will be more peaceful and more effective as well, for a great percentage of your energy certainly goes to waste in the irritation you feel when you do not find in others the perfection that you would like to realise in yourself.

You stop short at the perfection that others should realise and you are seldom conscious of the goal you should be pursuing yourself. If you are conscious of it, well then, begin with the work which is given to you, that is to say, realise what you have to do and do not concern yourself with what others do, because, after all, it is not your business. And the best way to the true attitude is simply to say, “All those around me, all the circumstances of my life, all the people near me, are a mirror held up to me by the Divine Consciousness to show me the progress I must make. Everything that shocks me in others means a work I have to do in myself.”

And perhaps if one carried true perfection in oneself, one would discover it more often in others.

The Mother of Pondicherry

ANGER - (1)

No prophet, no philosopher has ever espoused anger as a permissible trait to cultivate. Some twentieth century arguments have justified human anger and ‘gave permission’ to stare others down, to beat pillows to let anger out and other ways of expressing anger. This is nothing but strengthening of a human weaknesses. An effective way that has come to us from the Hindu rishis is replacing anger with kindly thoughts, sublimating, seeking to improve oneself by way of self-quieting, becalming. This path of the saints is that of becoming a conqueror, a Jina (as in the tradition of the Jainas, the followers of the Jinas who are the true conquerors).

Gregory the Great in the 6th century A.D. listed the seven deadly sins, including anger, to be conquered. So also in our own times, the Oxford University Press has published a series of seven books on the same seven deadly sins. The book on ANGER by Robert A. F. Thurman, in the series, may be helpful as it supports the arguments presented by Manu, Gita, Patanjali, Vyasa, Buddha, Mahavira, Aristotle, Marcus Aurelius, Shantideva, Gandhi and the present Dalai Lama.

Science has discovered that anger generates stress hormones within us. The angry are less long lived. The angry are more prone to heart attacks than others. People have died in an intense fit of anger. Why not learn the art of using one’s volition to choose the most creative emotions rather than the destructive ones? It is simply a matter of retraining oneself. The re-training goes in these steps :

SELF-OBSERVATION: noticing one’s thoughts and moods. Catching the fact “I am now getting angry”, “I am at the verge of losing control” – recognizing it and making sure not to deny it.

AFFIRMATION: I am a conscious, self-aware being with freedom of will; I cannot be enslaved by emotions that are destructive and harmful to me and to others. Let me choose volitionally the reaction I need at this time.

ANALYSIS, Internal: I see this anger rising in me. Is it helpful to my health and well being and to that of others? No. From what I have read and understood, it can be very harmful. I better abandon it and choose a different reaction that would be creative, positive, helpful, beneficial, benevolent.

ANALYSIS, External: I know I am upset by this person’s attitude. I came to this shop to buy something and the salesperson has been rude. No doubt about it. How should I react? Let me try and understand. Is s/he perhaps very tired? Did s/he leave a sick child home and is worried but cannot talk to strangers about it? Has s/he suffered some loss or demotion lately? Is s/he ill but still needing to remain on the job? I am a spiritual person. Spirituality teaches me to be kind and helpful. Let me give her a smile, and speak even more softly than I did.

CONCLUSION: Ah, it worked. The person smiled back; chose to speak softly to me. MY effort at self-regulation was successful; my spiritual aspiration is not a failure. The way the matter has concluded has given me a quiet subtle pleasure. When I was feeling angry my breath was beginning to go faster and now it has slowed down; it increases my life span. My cortisol and epinephrine levels must have come down to normal; my endorphin output must have increased. I must try this again, and again, till this kind of volitional choosing of creative emotions becomes my normal pattern and people congratulate me on having become a ‘saumya’ person. This is the way to enlightenment and liberation I would like to follow.

PRAYER: May God and my Gurus help me in the path I have now chosen.

This kind of technique is called prati-paksha-bhavana (cultivating opposite of the negative emotion) by Patanjali. This series of the technique applies to all destructive emotions and leads one to a state of mind that is hitam, beneficial to others and sukham, easeful, pleasant and comfortable to oneself.

Coupled with the daily practice of meditation, these methods make life a series of happy events for oneself and for those one loves or comes into contact with.

Adapted from Swami Veda Bharati, MIND-FIELD : THE PLAYGROUND OF GODS

In the Talk Series - Indian Psychology-12