The following was published in the Sri Kalki Krupa Darshan, October 2004
Relationships - the Web of Life
Relationships are like a tangled ball of wool. The more you try to disentangle them, the more entangled they become. Ramesh was at his wits ends. Life had become a tight rope act. His busy schedule barely gave him breathing time, and even the few minutes he had were spent in futile mental activity. "How do I keep all these people happy? No matter what I do my wife always has a long list of complaints. My children constantly bicker that I don't understand them, I don't give them freedom. My mother is so hostile, anybody would think I am hatching a secret conspiracy to throw her out".
Too many people lead unhappy lives just like Renuka's, due to their inability to deal with others. While they understand the importance of having successful relationships, they aren't able to do so. It is a source of tremendous frustration to a person and drains away all his energy, when in spite of his best efforts the relationship remains unresolved.
One of the core teachings of Sri Bhagavan is to set right relationships. Sri Bhagavan says, "Life is Relationships". Your very existence is relative to the existence of the other. Your very identity comes from you relationships. You are the son or daughter of somebody, the wife of somebody, the brother of somebody or the employee or the employer of somebody. Take away all this and there remains no identity, no person.
Also the amount of happiness experienced is directly proportional to the state of your relationships. The better your relationships, the happier you are. A happy person is one who spreads happiness. An unhappy person only creates mischief and more often than not makes trouble for the family and society at large.
The teaching of Sri Bhagavan offer the seeker many insights into life to set right relationships. Let us look into a few.
"I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant". This is an amusing statement; and it does make people laugh, but unfortunately, it is not far from the truth in describing how we humans frequently communicate with one another.
Failure to listen brings unfortunate results. Listening is very different from hearing. In hearing the sound of the words reaches the eardrum. In listening you are paying complete attention to what the other is saying, without the commentaries of the mind interfering in the process. But much of the time, you are not listening to the other; rather you are listening to what you mind is talking about the other. Hence, a simple, ‘try to come early from work', is translated as, ‘my wife is a big nag'; a concerned, ‘don't forget to take you sweater, it's chilly outside', is interpreted as ‘she still thinks I am a child, am I not grown enough to take care of myself?" An unassuming ‘don't spend too much money', irritates you to think, ‘why is my father trying to control me, I want my freedom'.
What Interferes with Listening?
1. A feeling of I know what he/she is saying.
Very often you feel that I know this person very well, I know how he responds to situations, and I know all the emotions and thoughts he is capable of. And because you feel you already know what the person is going to say, or is saying, you barely pay attention. In fact your replies are ready even before the person has finished what he/she has to say. Many a times, you don't even wait for the person to finish speaking; you interrupt with you answers. Have you never heard the complaint, ‘please listen to me for once'; but then your standard defense is. ‘Hey! I know what you are going to say'. With such an attitude, what happens over a period of time is, conversation is reduced to a bare minimum, and even when things are said there is always a feeling of inadequacy and a constant feeling of alienation.
Marriages fall apart, children and parents are alienated, friendships fail and business deals do not come off simply because people do not listen to others, although they think they do.
Shridha a busy executive from the national capital always felt that she knew the needs of her teenage daughter and she was doing all that she could for her. But no matter how hard she tried every conversation ended in an argument. Desperate for a solution she enrolled for the 3-day course on enlightenment. Insights poured into her as she realized that she always presumed what her daughter needed, and she only told her things, never listened to her. ‘I am your mother, learn to listen to me', was the only explanation offered. She realized how unheard and misunderstood her daughter felt. This insight led to deep change in attitude. Today Shridha and her daughter enjoy a complete relationship.
2. Turning the speakers off and dwelling on the plethora of internal distractions we all have.
‘Why have you put on such a blank expressions, do you understand what I am saying? Oh! You are always lost in you thoughts, do listen to me'. If you frequently get to listen to such complaints you belong to this category of people. Many of you feel, what the other is speaking is of no importance; he/she has a habit of speaking, hence is speaking; you become careless about listening. You are too involved in various issues within you own mind to pay attention, and your issues are more important than any other conversation. Of course excessive stress and strain, frustration or worry too leads to exhibition of such behaviour. At that point paying attention is an energy consuming experience, and you would rather sort out your own thoughts, or continue with your own activity.
It took a rude shock for Kirit to realize his errors. The signs had been there for long. His children barely spoke to him and preferred the company of their mother. Telephone conversations with his parents were few and rare and all dialogues with his wife were restricted to monosyllables. Out of the blue his wife, who was vacationing with her parents, sent him a divorce notice. He ran helter-skelter to Amma and Bhagavan for help. In the course of a Samskara Suddi, Bhagavan put him through the shoes of all his near and dear ones. Being a reputed scientist, he barely spoke to anybody and was continually lost in his own thoughts. He considered any conversation other that ones that stimulated him intellectually to be beneath him. As he experienced the pain and agony of his wife and children, he changed. With the Grace of Amma and Bhagavan, his wife returned to him. Today he is an attentive husband and a loving father. His wife is indebted to Bhagavan.
The arguments had reached gigantic proportions. It was a veritable slinging match between Sarita and Amol. Accusations flew back and forth. It seemed like the end of 8-year-old relationship. Amol and Sarita had been married for less than a year after a 7 yearlong courtship. They had a beautiful relationship, but marriage had changed all that. Right from day one, their marriage was in doldrums. He was suspicious of every things she did and she found him totally obnoxious. As days passed it became intolerable for both of them to live together, divorce seemed the only way out. They were brought to the ashram by some well-wishers. During the process that they underwent, Bhagavan revealed to them the cause of their problems. The day of their marriage had been very hectic as they had to leave immediately the very next day to the USA. Sarita's parents had brought them home after the ceremony and had asked their maid to serve Amol his food as they had been busy packing for their daughters departure. Amol had felt deeply insulted, that they were treating their NRI son-in-law this way. He had become suspicious of their motives, but then with all the chaos, things had been seemingly forgotten. But then grudge had taken deep roots. Unconsciously he started suspecting every move of Sarita. All her professions of love now seemed false and shallow. He became a nagging complaining husband. Sarita in turn, hurt by his needless criticism had labeled him as a heartless tyrant. Both remained stubborn in their views, the relationship was broken.
The nature of the mind is to label every person with every experience and then that perception prevails in every interaction. Every time the person speaks or does something it is not perceived as a unique action, but is judged from the previous perspective. If the perception is negative, then however good the act, it would seem wrong, and the negative perception would only be strengthened. In this condition, it becomes impossible to listen to anything that the person says, as you would be only listening to your mind commenting about that person; ‘he is bad, she is a nag, he doesn't understand me, she is too suspicious, they don't love me, and so on and on forth'. When you don't listen, it is improbable that you would ever be able to understand that person or see him in new light. Nothing new can ever happen in that relationship. This is akin to wearing colored glasses. Everything that you see would be coloured, but you would continue to think that the fault lies with the other.
How Does One Develop Listening
Good listening has important value and can be learned and improved to yield enormous benefits. It takes effort but everyone can and should learn to do it.
- The first thing is to know a simple fact that when you are talking, you are not listening. Become aware of the constant urge to talk and then you would automatically move into the listening mode.
- Maintain eye contact with the person you are listening to. No matter how trivial you feel the matter may be, it is vital that you pay full attention to the other. The constant chattering of a child may be irritating to the parent, but in the perspective of the child it would account to how much the parent loves her.
- As you are speaking to the person, become aware of the constant chattering of your mind, the judgement, the labeling, the perceptions that you hold. See how harmful they are, see how they are destroying your relationships, and in turn destroying you. As you see the harmful nature of labeling, it would automatically lose charge. Listening would then happen to you.
- Sri Bhagavan says; don't try to practice listening, only become aware that you are not listening. In the awareness listening would be a happening.
- Ultimately, if all this does not work, seek for GRACE. Amma and Bhagavan are here to help you move into a state of listening, where your mind would no longer interfere in any experience. All past perceptions would be rendered charge less, every experience would be new and fresh.
Such a state is bestowed to all seekers in the courses that happens every week at the Oneness University at Golden City.