Anger and Meditation part 1

Bodhinatha talks today on how important smooth interpersonal relationships are to the meditator. If our relationships with others are in poor shape, they will come up from our subconscious mind and prevent us from meditating. We can't avoid other people, though. The solution lies in working to get along, to resolve differences, and to mystically work within ourselves on that which we don't like in others.

Unedited Transcript:

Last week, we explored anger and anger management in-depth, shall we say. So today, we just have a few additional thoughts on that and some related ideas. In reading in 'Living with Siva' about anger, I came across a very nice section on interpersonal relations and meditation.

Let me begin by asking a question. Say that someone approaches you for advise and they say, "I really want to learn how to meditate better. But when I sit down to meditate, I usually end up thinking about the people I know and the interactions with them. Family members, friends, neighbors, people at work. I just sit down and I can't get them out of my mind. What do you suggest I do?" Or what would you suggest? That they find the nearest cave and spend a couple hours a day in a cave? If they sat by themselves, they would do better?

It is an interesting question and Gurudeva has a very interesting answer in 'Living with Siva', which points out that quite often it is our poor interpersonal relationships that are an obstacle to meditation. We don't get along well with other people, at least some of the other people. We get along well with some, others we don't. The fact that there are people that we do not get along well with, is an obstacle to meditation. The solution isn't going off and sitting in a cave by yourself so that people are not around. That might be an obvious solution. Well, the people are the problem right? All we have to do is get away from the people, problem solved. I'll just go sit in a cave. If you are a single person, you say, "Oh, I'll just go live by myself. It is all these people around me that are causing me problem here. I can't meditate."

Gurudeva's advise, of course, is the opposite, very mystical advise. He says, "No, you don't run away from the people that are disturbing your mind, you learn how to get along with them." We don't learn how to meditate better by avoiding people that are disturbing us. If there are people we can't get along with, why is that? Well, we don't understand them, right? We react to something in their nature.

You know, people are visible. You can see what expression is on their face. You can listen to the tone of their voice when they talk. There are lots of clues here as to what is in their mind. You can see them, you can think about it. So Gurudeva says that if you cannot get along with other people, how in the world can you expect to ferret out the subtlety of your subconscious mind, let alone the subtlety of your super conscious mind? You won't be able to do it. We need to be able to ferret out the nature of other people. We can see them when we gain that ability to understand other people and work with them harmoniously. Then, we are well prepared to be able to meditate. But if we can't get along with certain other people, we just don't get along with this person and that person, there is no way we are ever going to get along, it is an obstacle to meditation not because of the person, because it shows you are not understanding something, not understanding something about your own mind.

Gurudeva gives us a wonderful teaching which we have talked about a number of times, which is the idea that whatever you see in someone else has to be in you to some degree. Otherwise you couldn't recognize that quality. So if we see a quality in someone else that we really like, obviously that quality is in us, maybe that is why we like it. "That person is just like me, I really like him." That is because we like ourselves. If we see a quality in someone we can't stand, we say, "Oh, that is a terrible quality. I don't know why that person is that way. Every time I am around that person I get upset." What does that mean? Where is that quality that is upsetting us? Is it in the other person? Of course not! It is in our selves but we are not admitting it. If some quality in another person really upsets us, the only reason it can do that is, it is in ourselves and we are denying the fact that it is in ourselves. Otherwise, we just observe and we say, "Oh, that person has that trait." We would not be upset about it, it wouldn't bother us at all. But the more it upsets us, the greater the quality is within ourselves.

Why don't we see it? Well, maybe we are suppressing it or repressing it. The subconscious mind is hiding it from ourselves. We don't want to admit that, "Gee, we are that way too." So we get upset when we see it in someone else. That is a wonderful teaching. Of course, on the positive side as we have often said, you see spiritual qualities in someone else such as in Gurudeva, you know. We see his wonderful qualities. Any quality you see in Gurudeva has to be present in you to some degree. Otherwise, you could not recognize it in Gurudeva. So that is encouraging, right? Because we all see these beautiful spiritual qualities in Gurudeva. So they have to be alive in us or we wouldn't even know that Gurudeva possessed them.

What does all that mean? It means that the solution to being able to meditate if we have the problem of not getting along with other people, is not to avoid the other people. It is not a solution. It is not a solution to go off to a cave. It is not a solution to buy a mountaintop hermitage and live in it by ourselves if we are a single person. No. The solution is to interact with other people, to live with other people. Living alone if we have this problem of not being able to get along well with everyone, isn't making spiritual progress. It just seems like it because there is no argument, there is no one to disagree with. It is harmonious, there is just no one to argue with. But that doesn't mean we are making spiritual progress. It might just seem so. But, we are actually just putting our karmas on hold. It is quiet but quiet isn't necessarily good when it comes to making spiritual progress. It is good if you want quiet. But if you want to make spiritual progress and you have trouble with getting along with other people, then you need to interact. You need to live with other people, you need to overcome whatever it is you don't like about another person because that quality has to be in you, you have to recognize it, find it.

If the ordinary person sees a quality in another person, he wants to walk up to that person and correct him, "Boy, you do all these things wrong. This and this and this and this and I really don't like it." Of course Gurudeva is saying, "Well, wait a minute. That quality has to be in you. So don't correct the other person when it comes to something you don't like about them that upsets you. Correct yourself. If you correct yourself, you will find you no longer get upset by the quality in the other person. In fact, it looks a little different. You have a better understanding of it. You have more compassion of it. You just see it as part of human nature. It doesn't bother you at all.

That is the wisdom of improving our interpersonal relationships and interacting with other people. It doesn't mean there is no value in sitting in a cave. It means sitting in a cave has its natural timing in anyone's life, spending time alone. Extra time in meditation shouldn't be done if we are still having this problem with poor interpersonal relationships. We should overcome that problem first and possibly other problems before sitting in a cave for extended periods of time. It rarely is going to bear the fruit that we think it will.