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Kusanga or Satsanga?
Sonja: Dear Sundari, I hope you and James are doing well and living happy in good health.
My name is Sonja. I met James a few times and saw you once in Europe. I and my husband are very glad to have discovered Vedanta through the ShiningWorld site. Life is very manageable and quite the summer camp but there’s a thing which might be better if I have extra tools to manage it.
Ever since I was little, I am very sensitive to the (unconscious) energy of other people.
For example, when I was young, my mother had a friend. This woman had a lot of psychological problems. When I visited her the first time I could literally not breathe in the house. I had to go outside. (Later I once literally fell asleep while she was talking to me. I said “sorry” afterwards but she said, “No worries, I just wanted to get my story off my chest!!) ☺
I also used to pick up info from their lives or thoughts. This has more or less disappeared.
So when I grew up I chose my friends and these friends were more “light” people. I don’t feel the need to hang out a lot with other people, I’m quite a private person who likes to be on her own studying Vedanta, listening to music, cooking nice food and hanging out with Peter (my husband).
My question is: I read in an e-satsang that you’re also “condemned” to pick up on unconscious baggage from other people. How do you deal with that? Do you have practical advice for me?
I am already very picky with whom I choose to hang out, I always was, but there are some people I have to see, for instance, my mother whom I love very much, but she is extremely rajasic-tamasic. Besides her there are a few other mandatory contacts I am obliged to deal with. I do the karma yoga attitude in these contacts, try to be dispassionate and see my mohter as the self, and not own up all the feelings that “enter” me, but after a couple of hours with my mum, for instance, it’s just so physically uncomfortable. Every cell in my body seems to get aggressive. Even on the phone I can feel her anger in my belly, my body starts shaking, I get a headache.
I love her but she is so intense. When I grew up I was happy to go live on my own (I feel guilty saying these things but it’s the truth).
I asked this question of James last year in Heerde (Holland) and he rightly said: then don’t hang out with these people or just burn the vibes, but I didn’t tell him that it was my mum, and I’m not capable of burning it away. Or maybe I don’t know how to do it yet. He also said, “Ask Sundari,” but I didn’t then.
Sundari: Hello, Sonja. I read carefully through your email and sympathise with you! The problem is that your mind is very sattvic and therefore very in tune with the unconscious, or causal body. You will receive much clearer information from the causal body than most people. Usually, one cannot share the information one picks up from the unconscious with the people in question because they are not aware of it and are more than likely not ready to hear it. As there is only one causal body, or unconscious, everyone shares it; there is also really only one subtle body, or jiva, appearing as the many. Vedanta also calls the causal body Isvara.
For me, most of the time, I can read people like a book; very little escapes sattva because it is the energy of clarity, understanding and revelation. This is because I understand how the gunas function; this is the same as saying I understand the psychological order of Isvara, which is what runs the dharma field. Rajas is the projecting energy, and tamas clouding, dulling energy. Excess rajas and tamas are the basis of ignorance, maya. All the gunas give rise to very predictable thoughts and emotional patterns; when ignorance obtains and the mind lacks self-knowledge, these patterns, or vasanas, run the mind. The only way the vasanas (likes and dislikes) can be dissolved is through self-knowledge. They do not belong to the jiva as all vasanas are generated by the gunas, or Isvara. So no one is to blame for anything; people cannot help the way they are made and if they could be different, they would be. Often I find the information that apparently comes from other minds and appears in my mind disturbing, and I have learned how to tune out, which is to say, how to manage the information, by not identifying with it.
The thing is that rajas and tamas are highly painful for a sattvic mind; this is why Vedanta teaches that purifying the mind is removing excess rajas and tamas by subjecting the mind to the yoga of self-inquiry. Meditation is a helpful means to purifying the mind if undertaken with the karma yoga attitude. This is because sattva is not something to be gained. Sattva is the nature of the mind and so is always present, but because most minds are run by excessive rajas/tamas, they cannot tune in to sattva other than periodically, when the mind calms for a short while.
I am afraid that the advice James gave you is the only advice possible; there is no magic formula that will work, other than applying self-knowledge with total dispassion and acceptance. You can burn the vibes but that takes concentration and effort; who wants to work that hard to be around certain people? Even though you know that you are not the doer, the mind is still apparently affected by exposure to ignorance, enlightened or not. You see your mother as the self under the spell of ignorance and that her state of mind is not under her control; you have compassion for her and do not resist her. Most importantly, you apply karma yoga. You have the correct attitude and you are applying the knowledge to your life.
The problem is that rajas and tamas are contagious and no matter how sattvic the mind, they are painful. It is not natural for the self to suffer, and once self-knowledge is firm one avoids it wherever possible. Have you tried to explain to your mother how the state of her mind disturbs you and why? You could put it in such a way that it does not come across as a judgement or criticism. Try to explain to her how her agitation affects you. If you can’t do this then you will have to restrict your contact with her and others like her. This is the dharmic thing for you to do, following your true nature.
This is what James and I do. James and I value our time together, as well as peace and silence, so much that we hardly ever go out or socialise, other than when we hold seminars and travel.
I am sorry that I cannot be of more help but Vedanta urges those who are self-realised or genuine inquirers to avoid the company of rajasic/tamasic people. Keeping adharmic company is called kusanga; keeping dharmic company of like-minded people is called satsanga.
I wish you all the best with those you love.
~ Namaste, Sundari