Bear with me, for today I’m writing on one of the most important topics. Perhaps, what I’m writing today is the only thing you ever need to know. Yeah I know it’s a tall claim but hopefully, by the time you get to the end of this post, you’ll have a new perspective. Many readers who read my memoir ask me how come I was (or am) not angry with my guru. They question why I went through what I did at his place. I will give you my answer in one simple sentence: I don’t see how having grudges against anyone or holding anger regarding anything does any good to anybody. I stayed at his place out of choice, maybe even a naive one, yet it was a conscious choice. And, I must take complete responsibility for my own choices.
When I wrote Betrayal of Trust (here) in response to a question, it was not about Swami Satyananda (which some readers felt it was and even got upset), nor was it about my own guru, or any other guru for that matter. My post was simply about not turning a deaf ear to your inner voice, it was about ensuring that you verify the person before you place your trust in someone, it was simply about you. Because, ultimately, we are responsible for our conduct and they are responsible for theirs. And, if you take it a step further, there is no us and them, really. The same Divine dwells in all. When you drop the veil of ego, of I-ness, there’s no distinction. Each one of us is an identical entity in the infinite creation, like drops in the ocean.
Before I spell out the most important thing you ever need to know in my view, here’s a short poem called The Paradoxical Commandments by Kent M Keith which is sometimes attributed to Mother Teresa, for this was hung on a wall in a children’s home where she served for the most part of her life. The version I share below is slightly modified from the original one and is more commonly referred to as The Final Analysis.
People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered,
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives,
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true friends,
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you,
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight,
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous,
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow,
Do good anyway.
Give the world your best anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is not between you and them,
It is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.
We are often dealing with conflicting situations in life, every now and then we have to make choices, choices that affect our present and shape our future. No doubt, the actions and choices of our parents, family members, and others around us have an impact on our lives too. The truth, however, remains that our life is mostly the outcome of our thoughts and actions and not of others. And, choices are not always black-or-white, the path is not always clear. The question is, how should we behave when we are being wronged or mistreated? Should we not give it back to the other person when we know they are being unreasonable for sure? Or should we follow Gandhi’s turn-the-other-cheek formula?
Here’s my view. We suffer when we hold other people responsible for our choices. We suffer when we think the world owes us something. For most things we want in life, from wealth and status to love and respect, we have to earn it. No one owes us anything. Yes, yes, I know, you may say but what if you have done a lot for someone, shouldn’t they have any duty of care towards you? Maybe. The fact is, they are responsible for their actions and you are for yours. We can’t say we mistreated them because they mistreated us.
There was a man once who took out a $5,000 loan. Out of this sum, he lent $4,000 to a friend who needed it urgently. The remaining $1,000 he used for his personal stuff. A month later, the bank manager asked for a repayment.
“Is it okay if I just pay an installment on $1,000 of it and not on the whole amount because I only used $1k?” he said to the manager. “My friend borrowed the rest.”
The manager was not pleased. “Look, I gave the loan to you and I’m not responsible for what you do with it. I need a repayment on the full sum,” he said.
Similarly, in the final analysis, Nature will say, “I gave you the body and mind and what you did with it was your responsibility.” At that moment, you can’t say, “I wronged because I was wronged.” For, it’ll say, “What they did is their business, I’ll talk to them separately. I’m only concerned with your account.” Figuratively speaking, of course. We can’t take their wrongdoing as any justification for our own misconduct. Each one of us is accountable for the transactions in our karmic account.
Finally, let me tell you the only thing you ever need to know. Here: in any situation, you should behave in a manner that befits you. You follow this principle and you’ll know right from wrong, you’ll know what choice to make. When they elicit anger, hate or other negative emotions in you, at that time, ask yourself a simple question: if I could make a completely independent choice, unaffected by the conduct and actions of the other person, how would I behave? Almost always, you will find that you can behave in your way, you don’t have to carry yourself any differently. The pure ones, the noble ones don’t cast stones irrespective of the actions of the other person. Besides, violent thoughts, words and actions only grow and never diminish when returned with violence. Violence is not Swami’s way.
Conduct yourself in a manner that befits you. At all times, under all circumstances, with everyone. Now, go ahead and reflect on what kind of behavior suits someone of your stature. Done? Live it.
This is the only thing you ever need to know. The only mantra. The rest is commentary.