Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ask Asha: Difficult People Are Our Companions in Delusion

[You can ask your own question here.]


There is a person that I have known for a while in business. Somehow the more time I spend with the person, the more I dislike the person. I do my best to find the good qualities in this person but, in the mean time, I feel like my effort is failing. One of the things that I dislike is this person always either blaming other people or situation for his carelessness or wrong doing or even refusing to hear what other people’s suggestions. Any suggestions?

from USA


Dear CJ:
Each lifetime has a beginning and an end. The body is born, and, sooner or later, the body dies. Because, for the most part, we don’t remember our previous incarnations, we tend to think that the events of one lifetime are caused by things that happen in that lifetime, but this is not true.

Even though the details may be lost to our conscious awareness, one incarnation is like a chapter in a much longer book. The plot began long before this body was manifested, and will go on (for most of us) long after this body has turned to dust.

Your disinclination for your business associate could be caused by his obvious unpleasant qualities. But your dislike might also be exacerbated by previous lifetimes of unpleasant experiences with this person or someone very much like him.

This person may be as unpleasant as you describe, or, your past life experiences with him may be clouding your perception in the present moment. Try to perceive only what he is actually doing, not what you are projecting from experiences long past.

Sometimes our relationships from life to life are with the same people; some are merely repeats of the same kind of relationships but not necessarily with the same people. Depends not only on our karma with them, but also on their karma with us.

One person, for example, may learn the karmic lesson faster. Then, even if his companion in delusion is still bound by that karma, the one who has transcended can go on, and the one still learning has to work it out with someone else.

The fact that this person’s bad qualities can upset your peace of mind means that you still have something to learn from your association with him. That doesn’t mean you have to quietly endure his bad company. What you have to learn may be simply to walk out on bad company. Or to speak up when he speaks badly. Or, it may be to have sympathy and compassion for his ignorance, rather than irritation with him.

It may be that circumstances compel you to work with him, so it is less about what you would like to do and more about how to make a bad situation tolerable. Having compassion and keeping your peace of mind in the face of challenges to that peace is always a good strategy.

“Karma” means, in a sense, unlearned lessons. Since the goal of all life is to be able, as Yogananda put it so dramatically, to “stand unshaken amidst the crash of breaking worlds,” learning how to be even-minded in the company of an unpleasant person is a nice way to begin.

When you are with this person, try to keep your consciousness elevated. Pay attention to your breath. Do Hong-Sau if you know it, Kriya, even, if you can, quietly, without drawing attention to yourself (if circumstances allow it). Think of this person simply as a child of God, behaving in a way that is not worthy of his divine nature. Pray for him. Send him divine light. Ask God to guide him away from his wrong understanding.

Concentrate on keeping your own heart soft and open to the divine flow so that you can be an instrument of God blessing this person.

All of this can certainly make your interactions more interesting and beneficial to you spiritually. And perhaps also beneficial spiritually to him.

Try to discriminate between what merely annoys you and what is actually an obstacle to the smooth flow of work. Yes, this person is unpleasant, but how much of his unpleasantness actually obstructs what you are doing together? In other words, choose your battles. Stand up if required in order to accomplish something important. Otherwise, if this person is not interested in your input, don’t offer it. Work instead on calming your own compelling urge to make him different.
His own karma will teach him. It isn’t up to you.

Swamiji’s book The Art of Supportive Leadership may have some useful ideas for getting along with this person, and others at your work place.

I do hope this is helpful to you.

Nayaswami Asha

[Questions and answers from other Ananda ministers worldwide can be found on the Ask the Experts page of]

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