Relationships - Testing the spirit
by Gopika Nath
Relationships are the ultimate testing ground for our spiritual evolution. The human being evolves by virtue of his or her interactions with others. Sometimes we like what we see, sometimes we are intrigued and even fascinated, but there are times when we experience self-disgust and even hatred.
This is when our self-mage is tested and redefined. Relationships are a spiritual quest, for it is through the rigours of engagement and involvement with others that we access facets of our being to know ourselves and the depth of this existence.
Different relationships bring to the fore different aspects of our being. As they progress, we learn to appreciate and endure the many interchangeable images of ourselves in the mirror of these faces.
There have been many times that I have shuddered at what I was being called upon to do. The kind of pain I was making myself and others endure to assert a point of view or my perceived right just did not seem right. I fought endless battles with myself. I felt that I should be above the needs that I sought to fulfil, but life relentlessly put me back in positions which left me with no option but to battle on.
At times like this, I truly understood the veracity and sanctity of the Updesh that Krishna gave to Arjun. Time and again I was thus emboldened to pursue battles that I felt served no purpose other than to fulfil the illusion I was ‘play-acting’ in. I could see that there would be no losers or winners, but perhaps the point was to give myself and others the opportunity to understand this with a depth of realisation we hadn’t quite arrived at yet.
I cannot say that I was able to do all of this devoid of emotion. No, not at all. I hated myself, I cried and berated God and life, but realised that nothing would allow me to escape my destiny and its pre-ordained struggles and tussles. To protect myself, I fought shy of involvement and entanglement. I tried to avoid engaging in any kind of intimacy and dialogue, but the very nature of being human and its consequences drew me into the illusions I realised that I had to live out. This after all, was what living was all about.
Nothing tests us the way relationships can, because life is about relationships. Life is about us and others who represent other dimensions of us.
When people praise our words and or deeds, we feel happy. When they challenge us, we are intrigued. But when they criticise, malign or humiliate us, we feel chastened. Some of us even try and change, but sometimes the boot really is on the other foot. God lies in the conviction we have with regard to our point of view. It can be tedious and taxing accessing this again and again. But, to rise above the dirt and grime, to revive our capacity to love ourselves, our need, our point of view and also others, is in essence representative of the invincibility of the spirit. Actions taken from a standpoint of honesty and self-examination do serve the larger interests of life and the people enjoined with us in this.
It is often difficult to see this as such, but dharma is really about each one’s own ‘truth’ seen from an objective and therefore balanced perspective. The nature of the battles we struggle with, is determined by the level of evolution we are at. In the Mahabharat, Krishna chose Arjuna for his disciple. Bhima was thirsting for battle. Yudhishtra, the eldest, would have been the natural leader, but they were not chosen for this purpose. Neither Bhima, with his ‘animal impetuosity’ nor Yudhishtra, ‘the yogi’ were seen as fit for this role. Arjun stood somewhere in between, he was ripe for the ‘Knowledge’. Swami Chidbhavanand says that although he had ‘‘definitely outgrown animal propensities’’, he had not yet entered ‘‘the domain that was divine.... ordinary human elements were predominant in him’’. Arjuna represents the ‘normal’ human being. The Gita is advice for those of us in a similar state of evolution. The battles of everyday being and their consequences are for us a foregone conclusion. We cannot shy away from them and should not either.
If you have lived your life fully and explored its experiences to their fullest potential, there will be many skeletons that haunt or rattle in the cupboard of your mind. But if the lessons have been learned, then the chances that they will disturb are few, if any.
What takes us back to the unpleasantness of any relationship or situation is essentially our sense of guilt or shame, that we did not know or behave better. We want ourselves to be seen as perfect, our images and reputations untarnished. And, I suppose, depending on how we perceive ourselves, it always is so, for warts and wounds, pain and humiliation, alongwith appreciation and acceptance is what living as a human being is all about. To transcend this, we have to first live through it. There is no speedy courier service to the divine. There is no mailman either. The delivery is ours, as is the deliverance. And this we arrive at by cultivating those relationships that lead us to the ultimate relationship. This is with none other than ourselves, for as Ghalib has said: ‘‘Jab ke tujh bin koi nahin maujood, Phir ye hungama aye Khuda kya hai’’ (When none apart from you exists, why this struggle and alarm, oh God?)
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