The saying that it, “Takes two to tango” is a very old American expression. It is a dance from my parents’ era.
The saying that it, “Takes two to tango” is a very old American expression. It is a dance from my parents’ era. So I am saying it takes two to dance, which also may be dated, but you catch my drift. (It is more fun to do the “Swami step” in kirtana with more people than to do line dancing or to be thrown around in the mosh pit.) The idea I am getting out here is that relationships are between two people as are conflicts and disagreements. (People are sometimes conflicted with different “parts” of their psyche which is like two or more “persons”, but that is not important here.)
As I have mentioned before, my wife and I work together with couples for premarital and marital counseling. With couples (or anyone else) in crisis or conflict, we have to get each person to take at least 50% responsibility for the problem (which is were the “tango” line might fit in—though I have never used it). One husband, we worked with early on, would not take 1% responsibility for his conflict with his wife. As you might imagine this was a very difficult man to work with, and he would often storm out of the room in anger. The husband was absolutely convinced of his perception, and knew nothing about “subjective reality” (I talked about this in a blog, “Subjective reality in Relationships”), which says that everyone sees things through their own colored glasses, and is too close to a problem to see with detached objectivity.
I was inspired to write this blog, because friends often confide in me. This can be difficult since a friend wants to be understood and have sympathy, but may need some “straight shooting”. In the particular relationship I thought about today, he is a much junior devotee, so giving suggestions is not a problem. In his particular relationship conflict, he was in the “victim” mode of blaming, and didn’t understand that he should take any responsibility for the outcome. After all he was wronged, and unjustly!
Our philosophy can be a real blessing in dealing with crisis or reverses in life–or a “dark night of the soul”, though when we are in the middle of human intense emotion (hurt, anger, resentment etc) it is hard to step back from life to see philosophically.
From one perspective, since we have chosen to be in the material world of rebellious souls who are trying to enjoy and exploit things and others, we have to take full responsibility for our woes. We have incurred karma from countless births, and have to experience reactions. That may not be much consolation in the beginning of our pain, yet eventually we will be ready to hear this if we have worked through our issues properly.
However, from the point of view of personal growth and change, there is a more important perspective to consider. If we are a helpless victim like my friend felt he was, there is no way out. No way to learn, grow, and be changed for the better from our crisis. Taking responsibility for our life, and our problems, means we can do something about it. At the very “least”, we can change our attitude, and actually this is a very big thing.
Changing the meaning we give things, changes our life.
Thinking that difficulty is coming to us because we are just the lowest sinner or a terribly bad person, is much different than thinking that this difficulty has come to me with a positive message. (While it is true that every conditioned soul commits sins, just constantly meditating on this doesn’t give us solutions to problems. I am not blogging for Uttama adhikaris (the realized devotees) here!!! )
In addition, we have to ask the right questions which are “empowering” and not depressing, and keep us from change. Instead of thinking, “Why are bad things ALWAYS happening to me”, which means we will likely keep attracting these things, we need to ask, “What is it in me, that is causeing this problem or this type of person into my life”. One question is victim consciousness, and the other question is a positive view that looks for a solution.
From many wisdom traditions, and even from our own mother, we hear that we don’t have a problem or crisis without the resources to deal with it. (Now that is a purposeful universe!!! ) And a very empowering and true perspective, even though in one’s great calamity, one can’t believe this to be true. There is always a gift for us, or the seed of an equal or greater gain in every circumstance, no matter how vile or terrible—but we have to have the faith to believe it, and look for it. Life, like a mirror, reflects back to us our beliefs about ourself. If we think we are bad or stupid, we will find so much evidence. The same is true with judging others.
Again we have to find better meaning to give to life and circumstances. For a devotee, whatever happens to us is ultimately meant for our highest good. Some become mad hearing this from the human perspective, but it is true from the spiritual perspective. And even if you want to philosophically argue with me, I tell you that this perspective will make a huge improvement in your attitude toward life!!!
I will end with the famous verse from the 10th Canto: “My dear Lord, one who earnestly waits for You to bestow Your causeless mercy upon him, all the while patiently suffering the reactions of his past misdeeds and offering You respectful obeisances with his heart, words and body, is surely eligible for liberation, for it has become his rightful claim.”
A useful poetic paraphrase of this verse, is that for the devotee, the environment is friendly and is meant to help them in Bhakti. The Bible also tells us that everything works for the good of those who wait upon the Lord. Surrendering our life to Krishna means being under Krishna’s shelter. Krishna tell us in his Gita 9.22, “But those who always worship Me with exclusive devotion, meditating on My transcendental form—to them I carry what they lack, and I preserve what they have.”
Coming to Krishna means having the most positive and hopeful life. Like the Chinese letter for problems which also means opportunity, in our challenges, we have to take personal responsibility, looking for the positive and how we can learn and grow.
Spiritual life is about change—and for the better, and reawakening our eternal love for Krishna. All the things we are searching for in matter, we already have as souls. We just have to uncover our spiritual nature though the purification of loving and serving Krishna (Bhakti-yoga or devotional service).