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Does Love Mean We Can’t See Things Differently?
Ted: Hello, Ram. I must say, Ram, that although we had a good sharing before you left, I am still not happy with your way of friendship. I found many points you made about me very useful and they will bear fruit because I am open to looking at myself. There is a very strong sense that you are not apparently open to seeing your stuff. How do you justify your behaviour vis-à-vis me in terms of dharma? This lack of honesty affects my interest in our friendship. Your feeling okay to speak against me to all and sundry whilst emailing me to say you knew little of the gossip about me and that you were anyway defending me rings out as dishonest and difficult to reconcile with real friendship. It is also noticed that it is I who visit you, but you never visit me even when you are about to leave. Your idea of friendship is quite different from mine. When I am in self, I value our dialogues and interest in Truth. I’m glad for you that you have a job and are busy in Europe. My own position is highly tentative and I feel hanging by a thread with no idea how things will work out. Bye, Ram.
~ Love and light, Ted
Ram: Hi, Ted. Very good to hear from you. I’m sorry you’re still troubled by the gossip. I can see why you might think that I’m not a friend, but I feel that you are one of my friends – I’m quite fond of you. We obviously have different views of friendship. It may not be profitable to go through this again, since we covered it before, but I don’t think that love means that I should lose my discrimination. Christ is reported to have said, “Hate the sin, not the sinner.” I think the difference between me and the others who were talking about you is this: while they were unable to separate their interpretation of your actions from their feelings about you, I had no such trouble. I agree with some of the general criticisms, but this never affected how I feel about you.
One thing you can’t know but should know is that in every case where my views were solicited I offered a balanced view – I extolled your wonderful qualities and criticized what I thought were some of your misguided views. And I always mentioned that you treated me with utmost respect.
The whole thing is over now, so I’ll tell how I saw it. I saw that you were trying to get a satsang going and that it was not working properly. And from talking with you, observing you, I identified what I thought were some views that would necessarily work against you. Unfortunately, these were largely unexamined by you, so I knew that getting you to acknowledge them would be difficult. Since you had so much going on, we could not work on them in a patient, dignified way.
I was interested in “helping” you because I admire your dedication to spirituality and would like to see you succeed. I believe that most conflicts come from unrealistic dualistic views one holds about oneself and the world. Vedanta doesn’t set out to enlighten people, because it believes that everyone is already enlightened. Instead, it tries to remove the beliefs and opinions that prevent one from enjoying the universal view. So I thought if I could direct your attention to these views and the problems they were generating, it would make your path much easier.
But as is often the case, attachment develops when someone has been operating out of a certain idea for a long time, and this produces resistance to contradictory views. The night Mary and I tried to get at the source of your lack of concern for people’s feelings is an example. You experienced a “breakthrough,” but it was hard work and it did not lay the issue to rest once and for all. Something that deep, something that is part of the ego structure, will only yield to long and patient analysis.
Mind you, it is only an opinion, but I feel that the widespread idea in the “satsang” world that gurus are meant to bust egos is dead wrong. It is probably due to a teacher’s lack of skill in revealing the Truth. If a person is shown the truth, they will be able to sort themselves out. I told you this in the beginning and I declined to get into it with you on the ego level. But you kept asking – and so I told you what I thought. It was not that my opinion about your negative views was important to me. What was important was the rapport that we were establishing. I figured if the love between us was strong enough then you would figure it out on your own – once I had made some suggestions what to look at.
You didn’t set out to have your retreats work out like they did nor did those who attended them. We can’t fault them, because by getting into it they were admitting that they were unskilful living their lives. But your case was different because you were basically saying that you had it together and that you would show them how to make life work. So when you appeared to be unskillful avoiding and then handling conflict, it caused unhappiness.
From their side it was of course their fault, but it takes two to tango – you had your responsibility too. Just declaring oneself a spiritual teacher does not set you above karma. It is no respecter of enlightenment. The results are appropriate to the actions. People who are aware of how karma works avoid putting forth actions, words, thoughts, etc. that rebound unfavorably. Sure, one occasionally acts inadvertently and gets socked, but when there is a consistent pattern of unwanted karma over time it means that the person is not looking at something. But now it seems Ted is looking at his stuff and – good for him!
Am I not looking at my stuff? Am I a hypocrite and dishonest as you suggest? Maybe. But if I am, it doesn’t seem to be making my life difficult for me or for any one of my many friends – except you. If I am deluded, it is too late to do anything about it. I’m in the late autumn of my life and am not going to do one thing to fix myself. What use is it if death is knocking at the door? I’m quite happy with who I am and love myself – warts and all. If I heard this kind of statement consistently from many people I would be inclined to investigate it – but I don’t. I continue to get more invitations into people’s lives than I can comfortably handle and things seem to turn out very successfully over and over again. There are never more than one or two unpleasant incidents in a year and these are usually a result of a misunderstanding, not a character defect, so perhaps there is another reason why you have this view.
It is not because I think you are dishonest. Nobody sets out to purposely misunderstand things, but when you are identified what you are doing and you are moving very fast through life, you are not always in a position to see what is actually going on. One is often inclined to relate to appearances and draw conclusions that are not accurate.
Your statement “…your feeling okay to speak against me to all and sundry whilst emailing me to say you knew little of the gossip about me, and anyway you were defending me, rings out as dishonest and difficult to reconcile with real friendship…” is inaccurate. I never thought I was “speaking against you.” I explained above how it was with me. I’m a fair-minded person. I don’t play politics. I don’t curry favor.
Everyone has an upside and a downside, and people discuss people. I saw a program on TV the other day – a documentary about a “scientific” study on gossip, and it turns out that 67 percent of people’s conversations are about other people. Because I happened to share some of others’ perceptions about some of your behavior is in no way a statement about my feelings for you. And you are dead wrong if you think that I didn’t make it clear that I liked you – that you had many good qualities. If I don’t like someone, Ted, I don’t associate with them. I was always happy to see you when you came. I was always happy to talk Vedanta with you. I shied away from ego analysis and only gave in when you repeatedly asked me to.
I don’t know, this is just speculation, but maybe you believe that when differences arise between people – when they see things differently – it is not love. Perhaps you think that love means that people see eye-to-eye on everything. Our egos are different. They were formed under completely different circumstances, so how can everything be in harmony on that level? And when there is real love – differences are welcomed – the spice of life. The fact that I cared enough to talk about you – positive and negative – means that I care for you.
Okay, enough already. I welcome your comments.
~ Love, Ram