Paramahansa Yogananda - Understanding One Another
by Sri Sri Daya Mata
We should behave always according to our true nature as divine children of God. No matter what others do to hurt us, we ought to return forgiveness and compassion. We have the power to change others' feelings toward us if we practice that. With heartfelt sincerity, the hand of love and friendship should be offered to all. If the hand is slapped, or as often as it is slapped, it should be proffered again. If that person continues to reject you, withdraw for a time, but silently continue to send him your loving thoughts. Be ever ready to extend the hand of friendship again, when an opportunity arises.
Receive praise or blame without becoming excited about either. Though, at times, it may be difficult to cope with persons who are critical of us, we should not ignore what they say, if it is constructive. Sometimes it is all right to try to explain ourselves, to make every effort to come to an understanding. But often it is a waste of time to go into long explanations, which may sound only like justifications. In such instances, we are wiser merely to accept silently.
The best attitude is that divine humility referred to by a saint when he said, "Accept blame, criticism, and accusation silently and without retaliation, even though untrue and unjustified." Even if what is said about us is untrue, even if we feel it is unjustified, we are spiritually ennobled when we accept it without argument and without retaliation. Leave the judgment to God. One who would know God must strive first to please Him, not man.
The time to explain, the time to remain silent, depends upon the circumstances. But there is never a time to retaliate, under any circumstances. Always let God be the judge. His laws are just, so in the highest sense we need never defend ourselves.
There will be those who praise and understand us; there will be those who blame and misunderstand. We should take both evaluations in stride. Our part is to strive always to the best of our ability to live by truth. When we realize we have made a mistake, we should instantly ask the Divine to forgive us; and then correct ourselves.
It is no use trying to hide our errors from God; He knows them anyway. We can trustingly tell Him all our mistakes and seek His help in righting them. God's immanence makes Him a constant, divine companion with whom we can freely share our feelings. He sees us as we are. How can we feel egotistical about ourselves when we know we are nothing without Him? Once we realize this, there begins within us a persistent struggle to reach perfection in His eyes. The person who is satisfied with himself ceases to grow spiritually. Egoistic self-satisfaction is a grave sin against the higher Self. Whosoever ceases to strive for improvement shrinks in spiritual stature.
Any time we are wrong, let's admit it. Let us not always think we have to be right. This is not being honest with ourselves. The fact that we believe a certain way does not necessarily make it right. If someone shows us we are wrong, we should be willing and ready to change. This is the way we grow and acquire understanding. Long explanations of why we erred are unnecessary. We need simply say, "I am very sorry. I didn't understand it that way."
When a person misunderstands us, and is angry, nothing we can say will in any way enlighten him while he is under the influence of emotion. It is best to wait until our would-be antagonist is calm, and then endeavor to communicate. When people cease to communicate with one another, misunderstanding grows. So long as there is communication - not argumentation, but open-minded discussion - there is hope for cultivating understanding and harmony.
It is important never to have a closed mind. Our gurudeva, Paramahansa Yogananda, would not tolerate it in those who sought his training. Whosoever wished to be around him had to be an open-minded and a reasonable human being.
In trying to communicate with others, we should always watch our motives. If under the guise of seeking understanding, our real intent is to thrust our own ideas down their throats, our motive is impure, and hence wrong. We should always sincerely attempt to understand others, setting aside momentarily our own viewpoint to identify with the other person's thinking. We have to do this if we are to communicate successfully with others. If we are seeking truth, not justification of our own convictions, we must be able to let go, for the moment, of what we feel is right, and see through the other person's eyes.
Let him express himself. Then, having heard his side, and having impartially analyzed it from his viewpoint, we may present our side. In other words, there must be a fair exchange of ideas. Both parties may then see that they have erred in their thinking, and that truth lies somewhere between their opposite stands.
One trouble with most of us is that we are so busy putting across our own point and trying to convince the other party of it, we don't give him a chance to air his view. When you have difficulties with someone, always give him sufficient respect by allowing him to "get it off his chest."
Let him have his say. Then respond quietly and kindly. Even though he might be saying the most unkind things about you, listen respectfully while inwardly saying to God, "Is this so? I am interested in the truth. If I am this way, You must help me, Lord, to overcome my fault and change myself." But should the person be abusive to the point of forgetting himself, and offend spiritual principles, not mere personal pride and ego, it is our duty to resist, to become like steel. To offend divine principles is to offend God, and we must never be a party to that.
Our duty as children of God in this world, then, is to seek understanding: understanding of self, of others, of life, and, above all, of God. This world can be a better place only when understanding reigns in the heart and mind of man. Individuals must learn to get along with one another before nations can ever hope to.
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