I have been trying to relate some of my own realizations, for better or for worse, on the strange art of relationships. This is perhaps the most difficult of the arts to grasp, for we are speaking of hearts full of hopes and wounds and ideals and misconceptions, not knowing how to even love or hate properly, being so wrapped up in a primal fear and loneliness that is but the reflection of our deepest separation from God.
To even begin to grasp this art, we must become conversant, if not comfortable, in the realms of honesty ad vulnerability. For me, and to say for all of us, this leads us into the realm of conflict, where we can become exposed in ways that can help or harm, depending on our consciousness and our perspective. This is a frightening thing. Stuck in the fight or flee mentality of our animal genetics, we choose one or the other on a certain instinct, and without discrimination, knowledge, or sanctity, we just add to the menace that seems to flow freely through the ethers that surround us.
We can make it black or white, and sometimes, in rare moments of crystal clarity, the calling of truth demands such divides. I am coming to learn that conflict can be something much more dynamic, and with this discrimination, knowledge, and sanctity, we can earn and find very valuable insights on our sojourn back to our spiritual identity and our spiritual home.
It is matter of finding our voice, our integrity, our calling. Speaking to my friend and fellow monk Hari Prasada, he encouraged me, as he has encouraged others close to him, to not instinctively shy away from necessary moments of conflict when they arise. For him, to see others having the tendency to be a continual push-over, was a frustrating experience. He saw they were missing a tremendous opportunity to grow, to know themselves in a deeper way, and to stand up for their own integrity and the truth at hand.
The caveat here is that to find one's voice in the realm of conflict, one must be devoted a sacred principle of honesty. We can fight and scratch and claw for what we want, for what we believe in, and there is a certain empowerment that is there, but there is a very thin line between honesty that heals and empowers, or honesty which wounds and offends.
The holy books of the Vedic spirtual culture explain numerous examples of those who had found their voice and integrity in the deepest possible way, fully saturated as they were in love of God. Despite this, even because of this, conflict still followed them like a shadow. Yet, when they were confronted, their responses were full of an incredible enlightening potency. At the essence of this potency was and is the devotion to actual forgiveness.
When the great Vedic emperor Maharaja Pariksit was unduly cursed by a young boy for a mistake he had made, he did not avenge and counter-curse. He forgave the impetuous young boy and accepted his fate, to die in seven days, in the most graceful manner, and his determination to fully understand spiritual truth left us with a perfect example of behavior and a treasure trove of knowledge through the dialogue that was recorded between him and his guru in his final days.
Another classical example is Jesus forgiving those who had crucified him on the cross. In their forgiveness, these irrepressibly divine saints are not showing weakness, or letting themselves be pushed over, but are responding with their most sacred voice, with the most honest expression of their heart. We can begin to approach them and their example when the honesty we bring to our conflicts is balanced with the intention to forgive, not to avenge.
Relationships mean conflict, either on an one-to-one basis, or in our community settings. The conflicts that inevitably result quite literally define the destiny of our aspirations together. There is no way to avoid this confrontation of definition, for the holy books of the Vedas tell us that we live in the age of quarrel and hypocrisy.
Every particle, every atom of our age is saturated with quarrel and hypocrisy. We grow old and experience this reality more and more, the searing of life itself it seems. Everything we build is so fragile in comparison to this onslaught of disarray. We can find ourselves burrowed into a deep well of our own cynicism, firmly convinced that unity is but a pipe dream.
This is where the voice of our honesty, if couched in an understanding and a desire for actual forgiveness, is such a powerful force against this seemingly impossible nightmare. We must understand that we have been forgiven for so much in our lives by others, for so much to even enter into the spiritual realm, therefore it is our most sacred duty to be able to forgive others.
This is not cheap. This is not easy, especially when emotions are torn asunder and raw. It is a bittersweet and fine line to walk, and knowing how to do so only comes from the maturity that is earned through sincerity and the mistakes that come along with it. Somehow, through the falsities of our own ego, we must develop our devotion to forgiveness. The alternative is a universe of pain and heartbreak, and it is nothing we want to put our hearts through or anyone else's heart for that matter.
This world and all the people in it require for us a tough skin, but an open heart. Our conflicts, if we approach them with this maturity, will give us a growth we can feel in every fiber of our being, and a surcharge in our spirit which cannot be denied.