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To Accommodate or Not to Accommodate
Mary: Dear James, my husband recently broke his leg, and as he does not subscribe to the stiff-upper-lip school of suffering, and as I am the only one available on whom he can vent his pain and anger, I have been given ample opportunity to practice the value of kshanti – accommodation. Every day has been a lesson in the folly of wishing a person or a circumstance to be other than what he or she or it is. All pain comes from refusing to accept a fact and wanting it to be otherwise. I know you sometimes counsel walking away from a situation or person, but I do wonder if that can simply further the notion that happiness will occur when my affairs are arranged in a way that pleases me; in other words, in changing our circumstances, are we not reinforcing the notion that happiness is in the object?
James: Maybe and maybe not. Staying can equally reinforce the belief that the happiness is in the object. It basically depends on the motivation for staying or going. It’s pretty clear, I think, that Frank is not going to become a forbearing person in this lifetime. He’s the rajasic/tamasic type, not even vaguely introspective, nor is he doing sadhana. As the Bhagavad Gita says, “All beings follow their natures. What use is control?” So that option is out. The simple objective solution is to split up, but that may not be so simple. Perhaps your sense of loyalty is tamasic. Taking the karma yoga attitude only goes so far if the circumstances are a violation of dharma, which it seems they are because they continually create conflict; you are basically sattvic and he is basically rajasic. You are a spiritual woman and he is a samsari. The occasional conflicts Sundari and I have are due to our respective guna make-ups. We are both basically sattvic, but she is more rajasic and I am more tamasic, so these two natures/energies sometimes clash when her rajas and my tamas are predominant. Since we are both committed to peace of mind, we have developed internal mechanisms that allow us to keep conflict at bay when her rajas and my tamas are dominant. In fact just understanding the respective guna mixtures is basically enough to keep the peace. I have a hard and fast agreement with myself: I won’t take consistent abuse from anyone. I’m good for the occasional kick here and there, but if there is a pattern, I either shoo the person out of my life or take a powder or work out a modus vivendi. I’m so committed to peace of mind that Isvara always comes through for me, and life is smooth sailing. You guys have been married for a long time, raised a family, been through the wars together, etc., so the idea of separating is probably pretty daunting. Maybe moving out or filing for divorce might be a wake-up call for him and give you some leverage to negotiate a mutually beneficial arrangement, but you can’t ignore the fact that his tendency to emotional violence is pretty well developed. If you’ve considered these options, which you probably have, then it is just a matter of exercising your free will, as the Gita advises, and resolving to resolve the situation once and for all, and then let the chips fall where they may.
Mary: I also listened to your Practicing Vedanta lectures delivered in Germany a few years ago, a great exposition of the teaching. It has struck me lately that one aspect of Vedanta that might be given more attention is the distinction between Isvara shristi and jiva shristi. There is some persistent confusion, and frequent forgetfulness, about the difference between the vyavaharika and pratibhasika worlds. People sometimes get the mistaken notion that some drastic change will occur on the empirical level once avidya comes to an end; or that an objective circumstance can be made to disappear when one becomes “enlightened.”
James: Yes, the distinction between jiva and Isvara is a very important teaching. It is really the essence of karma yoga. Most don’t understand that Isvara is just a facilitator of jiva’s karma, not a big enforcer or liberator in the spiritual sky. Isvara is not going to fix jiva’s karma before, during or after enlightenment. Any fixing has to be done by jiva, with the help of Isvara. So jiva, owing to free will, is really in the driver’s seat. A lot of people pray to Isvara to sort out their problems, but Isvara doesn’t see problems; it sees everything as Isvara and is quite pleased with itself. But if jiva does actions, Isvara has to facilitate them. Freedom means that since you are paramatma, ever-free, limitless existence/consciousness, you have a leg-up on Isvara and can mold your destiny, keeping in mind the constraints set up by Isvara.
Mary: I know you have dealt with this time and again, so this is not news to you. I’m just musing on a Sunday afternoon, thinking about possibly writing something on the subject if I can get sufficient clarity on it myself. I feel as though I had fallen off my Vedanta bike and broken a few bones, and that I am on the mend. But one never really falls, so to speak; it’s just that more of our stuff gets unpacked and needs to be sorted out, which can be humbling when you think you’ve come farther than you actually have.
James: I love you, Mary. You are very honest. No, you never really fall off the path and the unpacking never ends. Well, it does and it doesn’t. Write the article. I’m happy to review it. Hey, if you need to get out of the house, why not come to Trout Lake and/or India? You’ll meet a lot of very interesting people.
~ Love, James