INTELLIGENT LIVING

This is the story of a snake. It lived in the outskirts of a little village. This snake was a great menace to the villagers. It bit and killed many of them.

One day a sage (mahatma) passed its way. The snake charged out of its hideout to attack him. The sage stood unperturbed. The assailant instantly recognized the divine personality. It prostrated before him and begged his pardon. The sage being a godly man blessed the creature and counselled, Why do you harass innocent villagers thus? It will not do you good. Learn to love your fellow beings.

The snake bowed down in submission and in a repentant tone replied, I will not do so again. I will follow your advice. The sage condoned the blessed creature and went his way.

Many days passed. The good man happened to cross the same path again. And lo! he found the snake broken and lacerated with wounds. He enquired lovingly as to the cause of its sad state.

The ignorant one, still full of devotion, replied, ‘My lord, I only followed your words of wisdom and expressed my love to one and all. The villagers pelted me with stones and brought me to this condition.

How silly have you been, my child, rejoined the wise man. I only asked you to love others, but I did not want you to express your love for them. You should have hissed and driven them away.

Such it is with my life also. I cannot afford to manifest, that is demonstrate or express my feelings all the time. My discrimination must be ever alert to guide my emotions to proper channels. This is intelligent living.

BHARTIS COMMENTARY:

This is a wonderful story by Bal Thanedar, from which he draws the conclusion that, in following religious precepts, we need to still exercise our intelligent understanding of human foibles and weaknesses and the instinctive reactions of people who are not sensitive to changes in learned and expected patterns of behavior. The villagers reacted towards the snake according to their past bad experiences, and were totally unprepared to understand, let alone accept, his conversion by the wise sage, and his unexpectedly loving change of heart and behavior.

As we evolve into higher consciousness, we still must be prudent and realize that the ways of the world do not change, and people react according to past experience and are slow to evaluate, let alone understand, changes in consciousness, and the evolution of people and beings in their vicinity. Therefore, the powers of the intellect to process external circumstances are essential to protect growth in consciousness until the villagers could be open-minded and non-reactive enough to accept non-standard behavior.

Under the influence of the mahatma, the snake had learned to forego his cruel behavior and to truly try to love his fellow men. However, his fellow men had not changed and had no basis for realizing his evolution in consciousness.  So it is casting a pearl before swine to expect people to respond differently than their habitual behavior without themselves undergoing any kind of conversion experience too.

So the evolved individual or creature would be wise to discriminate when the time and conditions are ripe for his fellows to realize that circumstances and people change and evolve, and that nothing in the river of time stays the same. Until people lose their conditioning, it is foolish to expect anything from them except their learned and habitual behavior. Only when we perceive an opening in an individual can we help them to rise to a new level. It is important to understand the limitations of others as we try intelligently and respectfully to change attitudes and behavior in society.

This is why Christ, dying an agonizing death on the cross, reviled and tortured by his fellow men, said, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. He knew and accepted and did not turn away when Judas Iscariot, one of his own twelve chosen disciples, betrayed him to the Roman authorities out of jealousy and for thirty pieces of silver.

Until ordinary people grow in Christ consciousness, it is impossible for them to behave in any other way but their habitual cruelty and conditioned reflexes. The prudent man or creature recognizes this and wisely behaves accordingly. Only those who truly embody divine nature will sacrifice themselves, atoning for the imperfection of others, and even then it will take thousands of years for the evolution of human consciousness.

HUMILITY

The less compelled I am to try to prove myself to others, the easier it is to feel peaceful inside. Proving myself is a dangerous trap.  It takes an enormous energy to be continually pointing out my accomplishments, bragging and trying to convince others of my worth as a human being. Bragging actually dilutes the positive feeling I receive from an accomplishment or something I am proud of. To make matters worse, the more I try to prove, the more others will avoid me, talk behind my back about my insecure need to brag and perhaps even resent me.

Ironically the less I care about seeking approval, the more approval I seem to get. People are drawn to those who are with a quiet inner confidence. People who do not need to make themselves look good are right all the time, or steal the glory. Most people love a person who does not need to brag a person who shares from the heart, not from the ego. Humility and inner peace go hand-in-hand. The way to develop genuine humility is to practice.  It is nice because I get immediate feedback of calmness and easy feelings. When I get an opportunity to brag I do make a special attempt to resist the temptation.

Here is a true story shared by my confidant. This person was with a group of friends just a few days after he had been promoted instead of another friend of theirs. Their other friend was a little competitive with this person and my confidant admitted that he had a very strong temptation to sneak in the fact that he had been chosen and this other friend had not. He felt ready to say something, when a little voice inside him said, Stop, do not do it! So he never mentioned how their other friend did not get promoted. He told me that he could not remember ever feeling so calm and proud of himself. He was able to enjoy his success without bragging. Later, when his friends did find out what had happened, they let him know that they were extremely impressed with his good judgment and humility. He received more positive feedback and attention from practicing humility – not less.

Eye of a storm is a good example of the calm. It is that one specific spot in the center of the twister, hurricane and tornado that is calm. Everything around the center is violent and turbulent, but the center remains peaceful. How nice it would be if I could remain calm and serene in the midst of chaos just like the eye of the storm.

Equanimity is an another name for the quality of remaining calm and undisturbed. It is evenness of mind and temper. It is a composure to achieve and is a dynamic quality expressing the purity of mind with the following four important attributes:

  1. The mind is free from a blind reaction and takes positive action that is creative, productive and beneficial to all.
  2. The mind has love and goodwill for the benefit of others without expecting anything in return. I do understand that in order to achieve this I will have to be successful in not harboring, that is keeping in mind, thoughts such as, He or she abused me, He or she beat me, He or she defeated me, or He or she robbed me. Such thoughts will only create hatred, and through love alone I can succeed in stopping the hatred.
  3. Compassion is deep sympathy for failings and sufferings of others. prompted by the urge to help.
  4. Sympathetic joy shows genuine agreement in others success and good fortune.

The September 11 2001 attack on New Yorks World Trade Center is an example how great some peoples hatred is and how dangerous it is. Millions have watched this in helpless horror. The suffering is inescapable.  Everything I cling to is bound to pass away, and I have no real control over what happens. All acts, good and evil, originate in the mind. The greater food is to have a pure mind, free of unpleasantness.

Mind is analogous to a musical instrument that is out of tune and I do not know how to play it. Simply pounding the key in the name of self-expression will only create discord. However, if I learn how to tune this instrument and play it properly , then I can make pleasing music, using the full range of notes from the lowest to the highest. I understand that my own happiness cannot be achieved at the expense of others. Giving happiness to others bring happiness to myself, therefore I seek to share whatever good I have with others.

BHARTIS COMMENTARY

Mr Thanedar is an exemplary human being. He realizes that humility is an essential quality that enables us to live well as human beings in harmony with others, and brings us peace of mind. He talks of humility re not bragging about his promotion over another candidate in his circle of friendship. Humility comes from realizing that there, but for the grace of God, go I. It stems from understanding that the situation could so easily be reversed, and often different circumstances might have permitted the other candidate to be chosen. Very often right and wrong are extreme polarities that have nothing to do with the situation, and many times it is intangible qualities or a coming together of a particular concatenation of events that separates the winner from the loser.

However, I would go farther and say that the whole concept of winning and losing is antithetical to the true practice of compassion towards others. Most of the time it is a hairs breadth that separates often equally well-qualified candidates. It would be presumptuous of us to make judgments as to why one was chosen over another as we are not endowed with divine wisdom and do not, nor ever can, understand the workings of destiny.

So we have to be extremely careful with this concept of humility to prevent humility itself from becoming a source of pride. We have to truly feel that, winner or loser, the other party is equally valid in Gods eyes. It is only when we truly feel in the marrow of our bones that we are equal children of God and, like Job in the Old Testament, fortune goes up and down in a way we cannot truly comprehend, that we become truly humble. We can only feel gratitude that, whatever our limitations – and make no mistake, we all have limitations – we walk our particular path by the grace of God.

Let us take to heart the words of the old gospel song, Amazing Grace, because this shows us the true nature and origins of humility:

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,

That saved a wretch like me,

I once was lost but now am found,

Was blind, but now I see.

Twas Grace that taught 

my heart to fear,

And Grace, my fears relieved.

How precious did that Grace appear

the hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares

I have already come.

Tis Grace has brought me safe thus far

and Grace will lead us home.

Nothing is ours, not even humility – for everything is achieved through the mysterious workings of Grace. This does not mean we should not strive to be humble and enjoy the calmness that this entails. It means this striving merely creates an opening, and takes us only so far and not to the farthest shore.

TOWARDS PEACE OF MIND

I have been thinking that life as well as the people I meet in life should be fair. A frustrating aspect of life is not being able to understand other peoples behavior. I used to focus on other peoples seemingly irrational behavior, their comments, actions, mean-spirited acts, selfish behavior, and get myself extremely frustrated. It seemed that other people made me miserable. Definitely every individual is different. Every person has his attributes, virtues and contributes in his or her own way. When that way does not match exactly to mine, I consider other people do weird things. However, I am the one getting upset. So, I am the one who needs to change.

Realizing this, I have learned to be less bothered by the actions of others. When someone is acting the way I do not like, I distance myself from the behavior to ‘look beyond it’ and to look for an innocence in it with a basis in diversity.

Prior to providing a solution to a problem I like to study it in depth. Many a times people have pressured me to hurry up. Often their technique for getting me to hurry along is obnoxious, even insulting. If I just focus on the words they use, the tone of their voices and the urgency of their messages surely I get annoyed, even angry, thus making me unable to concentrate on the actual problem to be solved. If I remember the urgency I feel when I am in a hurry to do something, it allows me to discover the innocence in their behavior. Underneath even the most annoying behavior I do see a totally frustrated person crying out for compassion.

Compassion is a sympathetic feeling. It includes willingness to put myself in someone elses shoes to take the focus off myself and to imagine what it is like to be in someone elses condition with a simultaneous feeling of love for that person. This is a recognition of the other persons problems, pains, frustrations to be every bit as real as my own. The intention in compassion is to open my heart to others. Next comes action: What I do about it! I can offer my time, genuine services to ease out the burden. Mother Teresa reminds us that We cannot do great things on this earth. We can only do small things with great love.  This is what my mother did in her own way and even after she has gone for a long time, she is still remembered.

I have noticed we tend to spend a lot of time complaining about what is wrong with life. the fact is life is not fair and also it will not be. Surrendering to this fact has kept me from feeling sorry for myself. It encourages me to do the best I can with what I have. It is not lifes job to make everything perfect. it is my own challenge. The fact that life is not fair does not mean that I should not do everything in my power to improve my own life. To the contrary, suggests that I should.

I notice that without patience life is extremely frustrating. The more patient I am the more accepting I will be of what is. Becoming more patient involves opening my heart to the present moment, even if I do not like it. We have a cat called Shadow. On many occasions, he has walked into my study-room, jumped on my notebook where I was writing, interrupted my work, my train of thought, which can be disruptive.  What I have learned to do is to see the innocence in his behavior rather than just focusing on the potential implications of his interruptions. When I am working in the yard, he comes from almost nowhere and stands close to me. I have to stop whatever I was doing and caress him. I remind myself why he is coming to see me because he loves me, not because he is conspiring to ruin my work. When I remember to see this innocence I immediately bring forth a feeling of patience and my attention is brought back to the present moment. Any irritation that may have been building up is eliminated, and I am reminded again of how fortunate I am to have such a loving pet like Shadow. From my experience with Shadow I have found that if I look really deep enough I can almost see the innocence in other people as well.

My ego mistakenly believed that if I point out how someone is wrong I must be right and therefore I will feel better.  However, when I paid special attention to how I feel after I put someone else down, I noticed that I feel worse than before the put-down.  It is impossible to feel better at the expense of someone else. The compassionate part of me for my own peace of mind propelled me to have my goal to build people up, to make them feel better, to share their joy. I make cautious attempts to resist my temptation of correcting others and ask myself, What do I want from this interaction? Do I want to be right or do I want to be happy? Many a times the two are mutually exclusive. Usually it is just my ego creeping in a habit of wanting to be or needing to be right. Being right is defending my position. It takes an enormous amount of energy and often alienates me from people in my life.

Needing to be right means needing someone else to be wrong. This encourages others to become defensive and puts pressure on me to keep defending. I do spend a great deal of energy and time to prove that I am right and/or others are wrong. I used to believe that it is somehow my job to show others how their positions, statements and points of view are incorrect and that I in doing so the person I am correcting is going to appreciate it. I am totally wrong. We all want our positions to be respected and understood. Being listened to and heard is one of the greatest desires of the human heart. Those who learn to listen are the most loved and respected. Those who are in the habit of correcting others are often resented and avoided.

BHARTIS COMMENTARY

Like most of us, Bal Thanedar is struggling to discover which modes of action will be effective in changing the multitude of situations we face in life for the better. He has discovered that this can in no way be achieved by letting the ego get in the way because the ego is inherently self-protective and self-righteous. Egotistic thinking is essentially dualistic and divisive: I can only be considered right if I prove that someone else is wrong. Egotistic thinking cannot abide the other being equally right, or interestingly different, because the ego feeds on a sense of its own superiority, i.e. I am great only if others are small and insignificant.

What a paltry and sad position this is, for it will inevitably poison all our relationships with others because it rules out compassion and acceptance of diverse ways of thinking. Love and patient understanding are the motivating forces that can truly propel the emergence of human actions that can ameliorate every situation because at the heart of compassionate thinking is the feeling that life is and should be a win-win situation in which my good fortune is never at the expense of anyone elses, but only serves to raise up all ships, not just my own.

There is a certain innocence in this which Bal observes in his cat Shadow. This innocence characterizes all compassionate actions, for Shadow only wants to be seen and heard purring softly and contentedly, to give and receive love and attention, which, if we are honest, is exactly what we humans truly desire if we can only get the ego out of the way.

Yes, there is a certain naivety in compassionate action which is based on the premise of love and mutuality. The ego considers such thinking to be foolish and heedless of self-regard. The ego is based on calculation and self-righteousness and requires someone to be put down and defeated, not loved as an equal.

Being in love is impossible without naivety, for it requires us to let go and abandon ourselves to the other. The nature of love opens us and leaves us exposed as nothing else can. However, without the courage to love naively and unconditionally, we cannot truly make sense of our intrinsic interdependence which is the basis of all uplifting social interaction. Mother Teresas small acts of compassion in the Calcutta slums among the outcaste and the dying were born out of great love which by its very nature is naive and risk-taking, expecting nothing in return, and yet receiving everything.

RETROSPECTIVE BY BAL THANEDAR

Very often I ask myself a question. Do I want to be right, or do I want to be happy? Many a times these two are mutually exclusive. Being right is defending my position. I have noticed that it takes an enormous amount of energy and alienates (makes unfriendly) me from some people in my life. If I analyze the situation, needing me to be right means needing someone else to be wrong. This encourages others to become defensive. and put pressure on me to keep defending. I do spend a great deal of time and energy here, attempting to prove that I am right -and/or others are wrong.

Consciously or unconsciously I used to believe that it is somehow my job to show others how their positions, statements and points of view are incorrect and that in doing so, the person I am correcting is going to somehow appreciate it, or at least learn something. I discovered that is WRONG!

Let me state my own experience. Many a times I have been corrected. However, to the person who was trying to correct me and who actually was right, I have never said, Thank you so much for showing me that I am wrong and you are right. Now I see it. Boy, you are great!

The plain truth is all of us hate to be corrected. We all want our positions to be respected and understood by others. Being listened to and heard is one of the greatest desires of the human heart, and those who learn to listen are the most liked and respected. Those who are in the habit of correcting others are often resented and avoided.

It is not that it is never appropriate to be right. There are times I genuinely need to be or want not to be budged on, for example, some derogatory comment on, for example, Ayurveda, the Indian medical science. Here it is important I speak my mind. When I did this, many noticed and some resented this also. However, I must stay on watch as it might just be my ego creeping in and ruining an otherwise peaceful encounter – a habit of needing to be or wanting to be right.

BHARTIS COMMENTARY:

The need to be always right is a serious defect of the egoic mind. It makes one continually defensive, and more interested in how the argument affects ones standing in the other persons mind than in exploring the issue together. By not listening to, and thereby, respecting the other persons legitimate concerns and contributions to the subject, we lose incalculably the ability to learn from others and enable them to modify our views, or ourselves to truly engage with the other and modify their views. So then these antagonistic views only rigidify and become entrenched, further making true communication and a real dialog of minds impossible.

Needing to be right is a serious stumbling block to the interchange of ideas. It comes from the shallow ego always trying to put down someone, so its own estimation in the eyes of others can somehow be elevated. The fatal flaw in this defective thinking is not realizing that the learning process requires two minds, not one, to be fully functional. It is in the interaction and true free flowing of ideas, in an atmosphere of mutual respect and caring, that the best ideas and solutions come to the surface.

So the next time you feel you need to be right, catch yourself, for you will gain so much more and make a lifelong friend by just listening to the other person without interruption.  By humbly listening and respecting the viewpoints of others, however different from our own, or however wrong we might initially think them, this enables us to engage in true dialog which can change ones own mind, or both minds, towards a deeper understanding of the situation, shorn of emotional power games and hurtful put-downs.

So next time you say, I dont agree. because you are wrong, catch yourself and think a lot harder as to where the other person is coming from, their age, background and circumstances. Think hard whether what they are saying makes sense in their own context.

Then having truly heard someone, you are in a much better position to find the real convincing arguments, which are not just offensive put-downs and self-righteous statements, to bring about a true change of heart in one, or both of you.

Simple Thoughts

It is always easy for me to remember all the chores that I do, as well as all the other to-do-things that I take care of. However, at the same time, it it naturally very easy for me to forget all the innumerable things that my wife does on a daily basis. How convenient for me!

It is really difficult to become a contented person if I continue keeping a score of all that I do.  Such keeping track has a negative effect. It clutters my mind with who is doing what. On the other hand it brings in far more joy to my life to know that I have done my part sincerely and someone else in my family has one less thing to do, than it will be to fret and worry over whose turn it is to take-out and sort the trash for the recycle.

The strongest argument against this is the concern that I will be taken advantage of. This is a mistake. It is similar to believing that I am right! Most of the time it is not important that I am right and neither is it important if I take out the trash a few more times. Making garbage irrelevant in my life undoubtedly frees up more time and energy for truly important things.

I have found that scheduling a little time for myself each day, as if it were an actual appointment, is the only way to ensure that I do schedule the time and that I stick to it; how I choose to use this time is up to me. I use it for praying, meditating, reflecting, exercising this is how I want to use this time.

I do practice trusting my intuitive heart. This means listening to and trusting that quiet inner voice that knows what it is I need to do, what actions need to be taken or changes need to be made. Self-examination showed that earlier I was not listening to my intuitive heart for fear that I could not possibly know something without thinking it through, or for fear that legitimate answers could possibly be so obvious. I used to say to myself things like, That could not possibly be right, or I could not possibly do that.

And as soon as I allowed my thinking-mind to enter into the picture, I thought myself out of it. I then argued for my limitations. When I decide that something is beyond my reach, it is very difficult to pierce through this self-created hurdle. When I tell myself, I cannot write, I look for examples to prove my position. I still remember my poor essays in my school days and do recall how awkward I felt when I sat down to write. I fill my head with limitations that will frighten me from trying. In order to become a writer, or something else, I must get rid of my self-created limitations.

When I overcame my fear that my intuitive heart will give me incorrect answers I did learn to trust it, and life became the magical adventure that it was meant to be. Trusting the intuitive heart is like removing the barrier to enjoyment and wisdom.

Initially when I was unfamiliar with trusting my intuition, I started by setting aside a little quiet time to clear my mind and listen. I used to ignore and dismiss any habitual, self-defeating thoughts that enter my mind and used to pay attention only to the calm thoughts that begin to surface. If my intuitive heart says I need to slow down, or take more time for myself, I tried to make it happen. If I am reminded of a habit that needs attention, I do pay attention. I do find that when my intuition gives me messages and I respond with action, I have often been rewarded with positive loving experiences.

My intuitive heart tells me true compassion is to serve people, to help them out of suffering and this must be without attachment. If I start crying over the suffering of others, I only make myself unhappy. This is not the correct path. If I have true compassion, then with all possible love, I try to help others to the best of my ability. If I fail, I smile and try another way to help. I serve without worrying about the results of my service. This is real compassion, proceeding from a balanced mind.

The development of goodwill toward others is a positive progression. Previously I might have paid lip service to such sentiments; but deep within the mind the old process of craving and aversion continued.  Now, to some extent, the process of reaction has stopped, the old habit of egoism has gone, and goodwill naturally flows from the depth of the mind. With the entire force of the pure mind behind it, this goodwill can be very powerful in creating a peaceful and harmonious atmosphere for the benefit of all.

Always remaining balanced does not mean I can no longer enjoy life in all its variety. If I am a painter with a palette full of colors, I do not have to choose just nothing but gray. I can choose beautiful combinations of various colors.

BHARTIS COMMENTARY:

Mr Thanedar so beautifully reminds us how easy it is to focus on the negative in our lives, and in society. He shows us how we can turn around this self-limiting behavior, rooted in defensive attitudes of protecting our so-called rights, into more constructive channels by not allowing ourselves to be ruled by the petty judgmental thinking of the egoic mind, which considers everything a zero sum game. He tells us so patiently how we need to expose ourselves to the expansive liberating viewpoint of the intuitive heart.

Last weekend I saw a horrifying movie called The Children of War which is about the use of rape as a weapon of war in the Bangladeshi War of Independence of 1971. Pakistani soldiers systematically and brutally raped 400,000 women as a way of subjugating the population, and rationalized this as producing children of a so-called unified country. It is so easy to be depressed by the savagery of human to human interaction that we tend to lose sight of the humanity of the other.

Somehow, no matter how hard it is, we need to also see the desperation of soldiers so far from home and so pulverized by fear and the dread of mortality that they vent their inadequacies and raw nerves on those in their power who are even more exposed and vulnerable than they are. Instead of seeing vulnerability as a source of change and growth, they allow shame and terror to dictate their actions. Many of them will also die a horrific death in battle or be haunted by post-traumatic stress syndrome and other psychological disorders which may make them take their own lives. So difficult as it is, we need to stay calm and balanced in the face of whatever life throws at us. We need to build ways of reaching out to others and holding a space for them, so that they too can change and evolve.

Bal Thanedar tells us how we need to stop defending our turf and start exposing our vulnerabilities to the unlimited possibilities of collaborative thinking and intuitive insights. For when our hearts are open, and our minds guided by intuition and the spirit of love, it is impossible to be ruled by fear and greed that make us trample on our fellow beings. Then, as Mr Thanedar points out, we can achieve balance in life, and relax effortlessly into attitudes of loving service with no thought of instant gratification at others expense. We can be motivated simply by the joy of relieving suffering, changing hearts, and filling the world with the rainbow colors of love.

BAD IDEA CORRECTING EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING

BAL THANEDAR

I meet a person and all is well. I am attached to this persons personality, intellect, sense of humor – some combination of all these traits. Initially, I not only approve my differences with this person, but also appreciate them. I might have been attracted to this person, in part, because of how different I am; how different  my opinions, preferences, tastes and priorities are. However, after a while, I begin to notice little quirks about this person that I feel could be improved upon. I try to bring this to the persons attention by saying,

You know, you sure have a tendency to be late or I have noticed you do not read very much. When I disagree with this persons opinions I have begun showing visibly my disapproval. Others have noticed this and my dear spouse was kind enough to bring this to my attention. The point is I have begun what inevitably turns into a way of life looking for and thinking about what I do not like about someone or something that is not quite right. During my self-examination I came to realize I should not allow this habit to creep into my thinking. I must catch myself and seal my lips. Correcting – that is fixing everyone and everything – is a bad idea!

I need to watch myself whether I am on this careful lookout of what needs to be fixed, or repaired. It is finding the cracks and flaws of life and either trying to fix them or at least point them out to others. This tendency is not good. It encourages me to think about what is wrong with everyone and everything..what I do not like. So rather than appreciating our relationships and our precious lives this encourages me to end up thinking nothing is ever good enough the way it is.

What I need to do is to remain being interested without judgement – in the way other people choose to live and behave. This will help me become more patient. Being interested in the way other people act is a way of replacing judgment with loving kindness. When I am genuinely curious about the way someone reacts or the way a person feels about something, it is unlikely that I will also be annoyed. This is a way of becoming less frustrated by the actions of others.

When someone acts in a way that seems strange to me, my most likely way of reacting is: I cannot believe this person would do that!

Instead of this I plan to say to myself something like, I see, that must be how this person sees the things in this world; very interesting!

In order for this strategy to be help me, I have to be genuine.  There is a fine line between being interested and being arrogant as if I secretly believe that my way is better.

One of the fundamental rules of joyful living is that judging others takes a great deal of energy and without exception pulls away from where I want to be..achieving inner peace.

The principle of realities tells me that individuals from different cultures will see or do things differently. Here goes one line in the saying, Pinde Piinde Matir Bhinna ”- meaning various thoughts from various individuals. It is not the matter of merely tolerating the differences but truly understanding and honoring the fact that it literally cannot be any other way. Real understanding of this principle, I am sure, helps us to eliminate quarrels. When I expect to see things differently, that is when I take it as a given fact ”- that others will do things differently and react differently to the same stimulus, then the sympathy I have for others rises dramatically. The moment I expect otherwise the potential for conflict does exist.

Whenver I am attached to having something or someone in a certain way, better than it already is, I am almost by definition engaged in a losing battle. Rather than being content and grateful for what I have, I am focussed on what is wrong. It implies that I am dissatisfied, discontent.

Whether it is related to myself, e.g. a disorganized worktable, closet, scratch on the car, an imperfect accomplishment, the more salary I need to gain, or someone elses imperfections – the way someone looks, behaves or lives their life – the very act of focussing on imperfection pulls me away from my goal of being kind and gentle.

This strategy has nothing to do with ceasing to do my best, but everything to do with being overly attached and focussed on what is wrong with life. It is about realizing that while there is always a better way to do something, this does not mean that I cannot enjoy and appreciate things the way they already are.

The solution here is to catch myself when I fall into my habit of insisting that things and individuals should be other than they are. I have to gently remind myself that life is okay the way it is right now. In the absence of my judgement, everyone and everything would be fine. If I begin to eliminate my needs for perfection in all areas of my life, I will begin to discover the real perfection in life itself.

BHARTIS COMMENTARY:

These are the thoughts of a remarkable person, who is highly evolved spiritually. Noticing how different we are without judgement is the attitude we most need in this world today. People are too eager to censure and criticize people who think and behave differently, instead of seeing differences as a strength, born out of different life circumstances.

Just as we are the product of a particular environment and conditioning, others have marked differences from us due to their life situation and conditioning. This does not mean that we are right and they are wrong in the way they perceive the world. It just means they have different perceptions arising from different experiences and we need to make allowances for this, reflect on it and understand how this came about, and accept it as part of lifes varied tapestry without condemnation or prejudice.

Having said all this and firmly believing it as I do, I also recognize how hard it is to actually put this into practice, and how many times a day each of us fails to live up to this. And the best of us, including Mr Thanedar, fail several times a day to cultivate a true attitude of non-judgment, as he would be the first to admit.

Sadly the worst prejudices pertain to religion and regional differences: Jains are hypocrites, South Indians are puny, Punjabis are loud-mouthed. These stupid prejudices prevent us from actually celebrating that we are different and being happy about it, and enjoying these differences that show us that variety is the spice of life. So next time you say, Punjabis are like catch yourself right away and say My friend is Punjabi and he is a pearl among men. If I generalize about Punjabis, I will lose the ability to appreciate my particular friend.

Mr Thanedar brilliantly expresses that we must not only accept but expect differences to exist  between us all. There is no one in the world who has your particular voice, features, history, and demeanor, and that must be recognized as normative. If we do this, the potential for conflict diminishes. We must constantly watch for and guard against this habitual behavior of desiring people and things to be other than what they are, i.e. to be more perfect than they are. If we can eliminate perfectionism, we might be able to see how perfect things truly are for our needs.

None of us can, or should be, categorized. Lets drop the pejoratives we all carry around with us like ammunition. We are all born free and we cannot be boxed into these categories and labels. Let us be free to be gloriously different and gloriously ourselves, and even gloriously imperfect, unique among Gods creatures, for the way it is is the way it should be…. until, that is, we can be soulful enough to channel reality another way by Gods grace, for then the kaleidoscope turns and the pieces fall a different way.

DAY THIRTY

This is the wonderful culminating wisdom from St Teresa. She tells us that, because the nature of God is charity and love, we can love ourselves in Him, and love all our neighbors for his sake.  We should never fool ourselves into thinking that we can hear Gods voice without listening intently to the voices of our neighbors. God is the sole treasure who emanates perfect love for us and all his creatures. There is only one true glory and that is God. When we dwell with God, nothing can disturb us whatever the clamor, trials and burdens of life, for God is the infinite calm, the peace beyond all peace, that helps us endure now and through eternity. Bharti

PRAYER:  My God,

you who are charity and love itself.

Help me to love myself in you,

for you and by you,

and my neighbor for your sake.

May I possess you as my sole treasure

and my one glory,

far dearer than all creatures.

Grant that I may rejoice

in your perfect love for me,

and in the eternal love borne for you

by all the angels and saints

who see you face to face.

If I do this,

as you have promised,

there will be many things

I will not care about at all.

Nothing will disturb me.

MANTRA:  For me to live is Christ,

to die is gain.

EVENING PRAYER: O Lord,

in the silence of this night,

let me hear the voice of my neighbors,

so often drowned out

by the clamor of my own needs.

Let me not fool myself into thinking

that I can hear your voice

if I do not listen to theirs.

You speak to me in the voice of my neighbors.

I cannot claim to love you

if I do not love them

even as I love myself.

You have promised,

that there will be many things

we will not care about at all,

that nothing will disturb us.

For if we have you, God,

we will want for nothing,

You alone suffice.

DAY TWENTY-NINE

This Prayer of St Teresa strikes a real chord. For as long as we are human, we lack the consistency and constancy that are the hallmark of God. We are full of courage and firm resolve one day to do Gods will, and the next day we are discouraged and dispirited, overwhelmed by the magnitude of the tasks before us or beaten down by adverse people and circumstances. Truly God alone never changes and we need so much to cultivate that unwavering constancy and consistent strength that is God. Bharti

PRAYER: There are moments when I wish

I had a thousand lives to spend for God,

when no penance or suffering seems too severe. 

But I cannot say these desires stay with me,

for at times my soul turns coward

in the most trivial mattes

and is too frightened

to undertake any work for God.

There are days when nothing anyone says disturbs me.

And yet there are also days

when a single word so devastates me

that I long to flee the world.

Have pity on me.

Grant that I might accomplish

some of my dreams

for your greater honor and glory.

Spare me not completely,

For with your strength I can endure much;

without you I can do nothing.

MANTRA: God alone never changes.

EVENING PRAYER:  It is easy here by myself

wrapped around by your presence

to promise you the world and my whole heart,

but by tomorrow

I may be a coward again.

Grant that I might accomplish

for your greater honor and glory,

at least some of my dreams

and overcome some of my cowardice.

For deep within my heart and soul

I desire only you God;

You alone suffice.

DAY TWENTY-EIGHT

This Prayer of St Teresa is refreshing and welcome. We do not need any special qualities to come before Jesus our Lord. Realizing that he is not only God, but also human, he becomes eminently approachable. We do not need any unusual introduction, intercession, demeanor, expressions, qualities to stand before him. He knows very well how frail we are and how many times we fail, and he still offers to be our true friend.  Our worldly friends may desert us and talk disparagingly about us behind our backs. St Teresa had many enemies who opposed her reforms in the Church. With Jesus on her side, she persevered.  God will never desert us as long as we pursue the path to unite with him in good faith and sincerity. Bharti

PRAYER:  My love of and trust in our Lord

has never ceased to grow

from the moment when I first realized

that though he was God, he was also human.

He is not surprised

by our frailties or our continuing failures.

How good is our Lord,

and how powerful!

and with you

I feel myself so empowered.

Knowing you will never fail me,

I feel able to withstand the whole world,

should it turn against me.

You are on our side, O Lord,

you can do all things

and subject all things to yourself.

We have nothing to fear

if we walk in the truth,

iin the sight of your majesty

with a pure conscience.

MANTRA: God is my friend, my one true friend.

EVENING PRAYER: Let me not be afraid

to linger here in your presence

with all my humanity exposed.

For you are God”

you are not surprised by my frailties,

my continuous failures.

You are my God,

but you are also my friend.

You are on my side;

you will never fail me.

Here in the gathering darkness

I feel able to withstand the whole world,

should it turn against me.

DAY TWENTY-SEVEN

I am so grateful to St Teresa for making me understand that yes, you can choose the way of the Cross, and we must choose this path. For Gods love is not to be measured by a superficially easy and outwardly happy life in the conventional sense in which we use these words. Such a life is a calamity because it means we are totally unaware of a truer, deeper reality that makes the things of this world pale into insignificance. Conventional happiness is the measure of nothing but itself. What we should seek is the hard and narrow path that leads through suffering and service to a contentment that is nothing to do with this world. Bharti

PRAYER: As for me, given a choice

I would always choose the way of suffering.

Not just because it allows me to imitate the way of Jesus,

but because it brings many other blessings with it.

We cannot understand how suffering can be a grace

and how great a blessing it is

until we have left all things for the sake of Jesus.

For if we are attached to any one thing,

it is because we set a value on it.

It may be painful to surrender what we value,

but what greater loss, what greater blindness,

what greater calamity could there be

than to make much of what is nothing,

to cling to what has no value?

One day my Lord said to me:

Believe me, my daughter,

trials are the heaviest for those

my father loves best.

Trials are Gods measure of love,

How could I better demonstrate my love for you

than by desiring for you what I desired for myself?

MANTRA:Trials are a measure of Gods love.

EVENING PRAYER:   In this quiet let me begin

to let go of the thousand tripial attachments

upon which I have come to depend,

out of which I have built my life,

and upon which I have rested my hopes.

Letting go of what I have come to value

will be painful.

But what greater loss could I know,

what greater blindness,

what greater calamity could there be,

than to make much of what is nothing,

to cling to what has no value?