We are all in the same boat. Every human being we come across is sailing along with us on this ocean of life. Some are going through good times; others are ploughing through the bad, with everyone having their own individual natures. Some people are kind, loving and easy to get along with, while others are difficult and complicated. But whatever the character, whatever the circumstance, one thing is certain – everyone carries their fair share of strengths and weaknesses, and no one is perfect.
This is perhaps why, since the beginning of time, the scriptures have cautioned us not to be harsh and judgmental of others. For if we ourselves are neither perfect nor free from making mistakes, then how can it be right to point a finger at someone else?
Sant Mat teaches us that however an individual has turned out, every person is a product of the choices he has made over the millions of incarnations he has lived. Therefore, one’s personality, nature, quirks and habits – every peculiarity from an anxious nature to the shape of one’s toes – is based on the blueprint of one’s own karma. So, from a practical perspective, there is no way one can ever know the true condition of someone who might say or do something we find reason to criticize.
Living the spiritual life, at some point we come to realize that people are the way they are for reasons that are beyond the understanding of an ordinary mind. The only way to maintain an atmosphere of peace and understanding amongst such a wide variety of human specimens is to simply accept everyone as they are.
The fact is, it is futile to try and change another person. Nature has ordained we have absolutely no control over how others think and behave, but we have been given full jurisdiction over our own conduct and attitude. The irony is that the only way we can change others is by being good examples ourselves.
But it is difficult to overcome the age-old conundrum that when it comes to the weaknesses of others, we have 20/20 vision but when it comes to our own selves, we are blind as a bat. An inspiring piece of counsel in the Bible (Matthew 7:3) advises us not to focus on the speck in our neighbour’s eye before removing the log from our own eye. Meaning, in a situation of conflict, rather than justifying ourselves and blaming others, perhaps it would be wiser to reflect upon why we are having such feelings of resentment; to consider where we may have been at fault, and from that starting point strive to resolve the situation.
The mystics often remind us that, as spiritual beings struggling through this human experience, nobody wants to be bad. Everybody we come across is fighting some kind of battle, and under the circumstances, people do the best they can. The point worth considering is this: if we have our own crosses to bear, then can we find room in our hearts for tolerance and forgiveness?
From a logical perspective, the mystics urge us to think and ask ourselves: why are we so sensitive? Does it really make a difference what people say? Just because someone says something, does it make it true? Today someone will praise us, tomorrow someone will insult us -who is right and who is wrong? Is it really worth ruining our peace of mind over something which, from a larger perspective, is actually so insignificant that we probably will not even remember it ten years from now?
Nothing is more inspiring than the example of our own perfect living Master – the epitome of lovingkindness and compassion. If we truly believe that he is raising us to walk shoulder to shoulder with him, then wouldn’t it be a giant leap towards our spiritual goal and a great tribute to our beloved mentor to be able to respond to such situations the same way he would?
We often hear in satsangs that in the final analysis, it is not between us and the people of this world; it is between us and our supreme Father. The Masters always remind us that in the same way we judge others, we too will be judged with the same measure. So when the time comes for our soul to stand before our benevolent Redeemer and all our transgressions are laid out before him, if we want love and forgiveness, then the measure must be set here and now – in this life.
That means that no matter what anyone says or does, there is only one option available to us, one way to respond to every situation – with love.
The Lord loves the humble and the low. Beware of injuring the heart of any man. God lives there. To those who break another’s heart the gates of heaven shall ever remain closed. Always speak gently, lovingly and selflessly. The higher the position you hold, the humbler your mind should be. A sweet word never costs anything, but wins the world.
Maharaj Jagat Singh, The Science of the Soul