The end game of conflicts

Recently, conflicts seem to chase me down and it’s fine. I’m dealing with it. It’s part of my life now, but it’s not a part of me. Despite my attempts at high mindedness in dealing with conflicts, what is left in the end?

I believe that we have to help people. I consider even helping people in their personal development to be indirectly devotional service. Everybody is a jiva with a birth right to spiritual life. Even if they in no way approach God, if I have somehow facilitated a person to increase their self reflection, tolerance, patience or whatever – I consider my life successful. I believe those qualities will follow them in their next life, because those qualities are also part of Krishna (and therefore spiritual).

But the thing is – conflicts are a diversion. In one sense I’m happy for the resistance I’m meeting because it makes me strive harder for God. But in another sense I see it for what it is: It’s a diversion from what I want.

It’s not even interesting. I don’t really see things as conflicts and quarrels anymore, all I see is a lack of different qualities in people. By all means, I can get angry like the next person, but I also see the lack of qualification in people that makes a situation to what it is. Understanding people takes away anger quickly. I see how little I can influence; it’s probably better to just leave it to Krishna.

But – if there is a problem we still have to deal with the problem and solve it somehow.

It’s just so boring still. It’s so temporary and uninteresting. We have gone down this path thousands of times before. Why don’t we go listen to some Harikatha instead?

 

The point of contention

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Kali yuga – the age of quarrel and hypocracy

The main quality I seek in people is self reflection. The ability to reflect on different situations and view oneself from perspectives that differ from one’s own. To look at a bad situation and see if one could have handled oneself differently. To view the other persons, make an assessment of who they are, what level they are at, the viewpoints they have and why. To come up with a different strategy if things goes awry.

I didn’t have these social skills at all during my childhood, adolescence and the twenties. I had parents with no social skills, so therefore I never had anybody who taught it to me. Fortunately or unfortunately, I’m a highly sensitive person, which mean I process more impulses than the average person. So I learned by people’s reaction to my actions. Of course, I didn’t understand their reaction then – I just saw it. I had to walk through depressions and burned outs before in the end of the twenties I begun to work on myself and slowly the puzzle began to take shape. I began to understand myself, my social skills began to evolve slowly, my ability to understand and (really) see other people evolved. There was a lot of self work involved.

The reason why I have so many opinions on how to deal with conflicts is because I’ve become good at it. I’m good at self reflection, and I’m good at dealing with other people. I’m able to take an argument and work on the other person. I might not see the change, but it’s usually there. I see it in the way we deal with each other afterwards. I see it in how the other persons dealings afterward with me. When I enter a conflict, I don’t enter the conflict itself – I start working on and with the other person (including myself if that is needed). Some may have a quarrel with me, but that doesn’t mean I have a quarrel with them. My goal is to teach and learn, and it also involves teaching people how to have an argument. I listen, really listen. And I give people resistance if it’s needed. Usually, people just need to he heard. Most people never ask for advice, so I just have to listen. It might sound strange, but I listen and perceive with my eyes, ears and skin. My whole body is involved. People never need judgment, but they do need resistance sometimes.

Kali yuga – the age of quarrel and hypocrisy. We take offense for the slightest misunderstanding and we expect more of others than of ourselves. Currently, me and a neighbor is in a disagreement about an area. The neighbor is struggling mentally and is not rational in her conduct, which manifests when we have a disagreement. So when she’s not rational, I call her out on it and explain why. When she began to utter a threat, I paid it no heed because I understood that underlying it was a lack of ability to come with rational arguments and solutions. She expects more of my social skills than she has herself and I take no offense to her conduct though it’s certainly unhealthy at times. It’s fine and in the end we are still amiable to each other.

Which is probably why I’m usually baffled with how devotees deal with conflicts. You would think that devotees have so much social skills, but instead I find devotees who have even less social skills than people in general. I’m beginning to understand why the view on conflicts seem to be childrens play. It’s because devotees are like children who have not learned how to deal with  conflicts and arguments – or even just proper conduct at times. No wonder the advices are on such a basic level. Sometimes during disagreements a devotee may say to another person that he will “do dandavats from a far”. I would never say something like that to another person. I would instead say that we disagree on this point and since we are not getting any further, just leave it at that. I have left arguments so many times because I see that the other person is unable to move further and see beyond his own world. I’m not even sure I have quarrels anymore, for me it’s just disagreements. When I display anger or negative feelings, it’s often a bit of acting behind it. My heart isn’t in it.

A conflict is a gateway to personal growth. Though it’s disheartening and sad to see the level people are at when conflicts arise.

Pratistha – we should avoid it like the stool of a pig

Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura

The lack of women in Krishna Consciousness

11017125_10152606580856433_3603299318713914365_nHow many female preachers do you know compared to male preachers? How many lectures are delivered by females compared to males? How many women in leadership positions versus males?

Do you think this is accidental? All the Gaudiya Vaishnava instituations are heavily male dominated, with very few revered female devotees.

I’ve always thought of me being outside of devotee association to be a lack in me, but I now believe it has been a mercy. I would not have survived in Krishna Consciousness if I had been a part of a temple etc.

btgBack to Godhead india just released a link to a blog post about a rape statement made by Srila Prabhupada where Jayadvaita Swami uses Hollywood and romance novels as an understanding of the female psyche. Then Jayadvaita Swami comes with this statement:

Of course, “rape” carries with it images of guns, bruises, and brutal thugs–hardly what any woman hopes for. But the essential feature–a man who is strong and aggressive–is sexually attractive.

I don’t even know where to begin with these ignorant statements.

a man is attractive to a woman when he is bold, strong, valorous, assertive, aggressive, “manly,” and so on.

 

So how many romance novels has this Swami read since he know they sell so well? What is meant by aggressive? What is the meaning of “manly”?

Jayadvaita Swami has misunderstood how romance novels function on the female psyche. It usually comes in the form of pining after some man you can’t have, and he wants to protect his female. Not aggressively and “manly” rape her, which kind of opposes the whole idea of protecting females. So can we please just lay to rest this idea of the female psyche.

I know no women who wants the advances of an aggressive and “manly” man.

On the contrary the statements of Jayadvaita Swami and Srila Prabhupada shows a huge lack of understanding of the female psyche. Stating that women thinks strong and aggressive men are sexually desirable can *drive* rape offenders towards their abominable acts. If you want males to sexually harass and rape women, those are the kinds of statements that supports it !

I find this whole article to be offensive towards women, and dangerously so.

We all accept Srila Prabhupada as a pure devotee, so how do we reconcile that he makes such statements? The trouble is that devotees take whatever comes out of the mouth of pure devotees so literal and to be absolute truths no matter what is said. The whole guru-disciple relationship encourages blind following and accepting without asking too many critical questions. Criticism is discouraged hugely within our movement, because it can destroy your spiritual life and is a huge offense.

We need to understand that pure devotees can be both omniscience and bewildered at the same time. This is how child abuse happened during the presence of Srila Prabhupada without him doing anything about it. Srila Prabhupada didn’t know because Krishna withheld these abominable acts from him.

Secondly, we have to differentiate between material matters and spiritual matters. I accept Srila Prabhupada wholeheartedly when it comes to spiritual matters. When it comes to statements concerning this material world (including women), I reserve the right to reject those statements without them in any way breach my faith in krishna consciousness or Srila Prabhupada.

We take a pure devotees word so literal when it comes to his statement about material nature that we try to explain away things that are not morally okey in any way. We lack the ability to separate between statements on spiritual and material matter. I will question statements on this material world, but accept everything in regard to the spiritual world. I wish more could make this crucial difference.

I just keep on coming back to Bhaktivinode Thakur who reserved the right to question everything in regards to material nature:

… the confidence to follow their ancestral religious traditions by showing how those traditions could plausibly be redefined and re-appropriated according to the culture of the modern world.

Hindu Encounter with Modernity page 136 – 137

 

The understanding that women seeks a strong, aggressive and “manly” male may have had some understanding decades ago. Fortunately, the world has evolved since then, and I wish the males understanding would have evolved as well.

Mahadyuti Prabhu defaming women

2015-03-04_2225Apparantly Mahadyuti Prabhu in his orange robe of honor in a lecture in Norway use the first two minutes (which was all I was able to hear) begins his lecture by talking about how females should dress appropriately according to what he believe Srila Prabhupada likes. He talks about how Gopi Skirts is a new innovation where somebody thought they could make a lot of money of lazy women. What in the world makes it okey to defame women like that?

First off, let’s begin with the innovation of Gopi skirts. Srila Prabhupada broughts saris from india which is the traditional cloth for women and gopi skirts is a new innovation, which is true. But there’s a world of changes in between when Srila Prabhupada walked this earth and now. We have to make changes according to the times. A good point in this is Bhaktivinode Thakura which brought critical thinking into our Gaudiya Vaishnava line. His thought was that everything about the spiritual world is something to accept. Everything connected to this material world was available for scrutiny. This was the basis of adhunika-vada:

… the confidence to follow their ancestral religious traditions by showing how those traditions could plausibly be redefined and re-appropriated according to the culture of the modern world.

Hindu Encounter with Modernity page 136 – 137

Traditions are there to be redefined according to the culture of the modern world – which changes all the time.

I mean, did Srila Prabhupada make vegetarian italian food, Balinese food or did he only eat traditional indian food? Should we all just eat traditional indian food because that’s tradition? If we eat something besides traditional indian food – are we lazy to splurge on something that we deem are “not part of our spiritual tradition”?

How about music and the so many different styles of bhajana sung using rock, pop etc. Let’s defame that as well, because they certainly can’t have any spiritual potency when you use a non-traditional tune? This is just ridiculous. But for some reason  it’s okey to call women lazy for wearing something that isn’t deemed traditional.

It’s not okey to begin a lecture by talking down on how women dress.
It’s not okey to begin a lecture by calling women lazy.
It’s not okey to talk down women that way – period.

This should be common sense.

Using criticism as a supression technique

It bugs me the way the scare of criticism is used to stop discussions instead of moving discussions forward. It seems like we are so afraid to make offenses that we are moving backwards instead of forward.

So let’s define the basics. What is criticism? Do you have a clear idea what it actually is?
So the book definition is as follows:

: the act of expressing disapproval and of noting the problems or faults of a person or thing

: the act of criticizing someone or something

: a remark or comment that expresses disapproval of someone or something

: the activity of making careful judgments about the good and bad qualities of books, movies, etc.

I would like to add another dimension to criticism that I think very few are aware of.

Bhakti is feelings of love in different varieties. What if the danger of criticism is linked to the feelings that criticism gives?

So if one is able to criticize, but know how to do this with love…. Then that may be one of the reasons why a pure devotee can criticize, but most people not. The keyword here is to criticize with the correct intention. If you have the correct intention – then the correct feeling naturally follows.

You see, never criticize to hurt another person. You criticize to help them, but you do it in a very careful way where it’s not about you and your feelings/ego. I don’t even like using the word criticism because what I usually try to do is to hint about direction of where I think things should be going. Rarely I take the direct approach (which is prone to backfire), but people very quickly catch on that I mean them no harm because they see it in my manners, in how I look at them. That I care about them.

When receiving criticism, make sure to check a persons intention.If the intention is good, something interesting can come out of it. Don’t use the fear of criticism to stop what can be a good discussion. Instead, deal with criticism in a mature way. Take the discussion, sit with the uncomfortableness of it when it gets heated and a bit ugly because that’s where the most learning can be for all parties. This approach does require a very mature person, though. But don’t use fear of criticism to stop what can be a good discussion. Learn how to use a discussion to enhance people.

Learn to say you are sorry when you see that you have made an error in your dealings, and don’t expect gracefulness back.

Criticism is dangerous, that’s why we need to have good understanding of what it is, how to wield it and use it in a constructive way.

Which I rarely see, but I wish it was a quality that people could try to understand and develop. Then discussions would take on a whole different level of maturity, and of really trying to understand others point of view. Then criticism will actually disappear because it will instead be a sharing of hearts with the wonderful understanding that sometimes we agree to disagree and that is okey.

When the kid eats meat

The-Laws-of-Nature-PicMy kid eats meat and I have no bad conscience about it. How can I allow this considering I have been a vegetarian for twenty years?

I told this to my two devotee friends in Bergen this spring and they were appalled. It was unacceptable in their belief and they considered it my obligation to make sure the kid is vegetarian. Whatever the parent decides, the kid have to do.

Well, you know what the problem with this is? They don’t have kids. They have no idea what it means to have a kid in the situation I live in.

You see, I was staunch on the kid being vegetarian even before the kid was born. This was a big problem between my ex and me, with numerous discussions that went nowhere. My ex was eating meat and wanted the kid to experience the same food culture as him, while I considered it to be violence and murder and certainly not food culture.

While the kid was a baby it was no problem because mother’s milk is vegetarian. The problem arised when the kid became more aware of what he was eating – and that happened much more quickly than I thought.

He was only a couple of months over one year when I realized this wasn’t working. The kid knew he wasn’t allowed to eat the same thing as his father and he was hurt. He wanted to eat what his father was eating and he made it clear. He didn’t care much for what I was eating, and didn’t want it.

Now, when my kid is nearing three, it’s still the same case. He prefer meat over my meals, unfortunately.

The thing is, a kid has a personality and a will of his own. From the moment a kid is born, that kid has a personality and a will. You can try your best to be a role model, but that kid makes his own decisions.

If I had been living in an all vegetarian environment, this would never have been a problem. But since his family and everybody around is eating meat – there isn’t anything I can do. I can only be a role model and provide guidance if wanted when he becomes older and start questioning things.

I only have two principles. I will never buy meat and I will never prepare it. Those are the only principles I’m able to stand for because they involve me. Any action on behalf of other people is beyond me. I can control myself, but not other people. Not even my kid.

Let’s say I force vegetarianism on my son. I’m pretty sure I know what will happen. As he grows older, he will oppose my strict rule and become a verocious meat eater. Do I know this for sure? No, and eating prasada will probably help on this.

Still, I have no bad conscience for letting this happen, though it’s wrong. So this is a case of circumstances versus philosophy where circumstances is winning.

The problem is, I’m pretty sure my Gurudeva would never say that this is okey, which makes my decision wrong. Though I can’t really see I can do something different in this case.