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Dispel the Clouds of Misunderstanding

by Swami Jyotirmayananda

Human life abounds with diverse misunderstandings. You are misunderstood because you belong to a particular race or you are of a different faith. You are misunderstood because of your complexion. You are misunderstood by your friends and relatives for trifling reasons. In turn, you often misunderstand others and suffer the consequences in the form of regret, repentance, and sorrow.

Misunderstanding broods over the countries and races of the world like a dark cloud. International harmony is only possible when understanding is promoted among different nations, and when people begin to cooperate with each other to evolve a happy form of coexistence.

The roots of misunderstanding lie deep in the human heart. Until a higher form of education is able to instill in the human heart the urge to unfold its latent spiritual faculties, it will remain impossible for men to overcome the manifold tentacles of the hideous demon of misunderstanding which afflicts a great number of human beings today.

Gain Philosophical Insight

Misunderstanding is rather beautifully illustrated in the example of the monkey brothers Bali and Sugriva presented in the Ramayana. These valiant  brothers who ruled over the vast empire of monkeys were profoundly bound to each other in brotherly love.

One day, after he was challenged by a demon, Bali pursued his enemy into a dark cave in the mountains. He then placed his brother Sugriva at the opening of the cave, and asked him to wait there for 40 days. If Bali did not return by then, Sugriva should consider him dead.

Sugriva waited for more than 40 days, until finally, after having seen a great pool of blood proceeding from the dark passage, he mistakenly thought that his brother had been killed. Afraid of the demon, he blocked the passage with a mighty rock, returned to his kingdom, and began to rule in place of Bali. Naturally, he exercised his control over all that had belonged to his brother.

Bali however, had not been killed. He would return after destroying the demon, only to find the opening of the cave blocked. He instantly became incensed and certainly misunderstood the acts and intentions of his brother. Sugriva had likewise misunderstood the true development of things. Seeing Sugriva ruling in his place,  and exercising control over all that he had owned led Bali to become a mortal enemy of his brother.

The Ramayana goes on to show how simple acts of misunderstanding grow to mountainous proportions, and how at the same time, the Divine Will continues to see its plans fulfilled through the misunderstandings that operate in the hearts of men.

Bitter misunderstandings in a human relationship are not accidental developments as karma from the past conditions your circumstances. Notwithstanding, you must exercise your free will in the present to combat against all misunderstanding with diligent methods, artistic dealings, and patient acts of goodness. When your best efforts fail to overcome misunderstanding however, you should not become discouraged. See a Divine Hand behind that development and endure it with a sense of austerity and surrender. In the fullness of time, you will discover profound meaning behind the apparent experiences of bitterness and disharmony.

All human beings are expressions of the One Supreme Self. Just as the sun is reflected differently in different reservoirs of water, so the Self is reflected differently in different minds. This reflected Self, called jiva (individual soul), is conditioned by a limited mind. It is backed up by a storehouse of past karmas (impressions of action). Even though they are essentially linked to the same source, people develop disharmony among themselves due to ignorance. Inner frustrations and psychological complexes bring about situations of misunderstanding at every step.

It is important to understand that you are not lead to bitter developments in human relationships just by chance. You have been brought to these conditions by the workings of your unconscious mind. Learn to analyze your mind. Practice reflection and meditation, and you will find that most of your irritations are not caused by anything outside, but are reflections of your inner restlessness and frustrations. And, these inner frustrations are founded on misunderstanding pertaining to your essential nature.

You should understand through a highly evolved mind that you do not depend upon this world for your happiness and comfort. Rather, you exist as the Reality behind the world. You are not confined to the realm of the mind and senses; you are the transcendental Self, the very embodiment of peace and bliss. When this understanding deepens, you will cut down the roots of misunderstanding in all human relationships.

How to Overcome Misunderstanding

Affected by the causal disease – ignorance, a person is unable to find fulfillment in his own essential reality. Therefore, he continues to seek the illusions of fulfillment in the objects of the world. This basic misunderstanding thus maintains the conditioned mind by constantly feeding it on a diet of its own creations of false impressions.

The mind that has weakened its will is bound to maintain negative imaginations about both oneself as well as others. Weak will gives rise to false fears, negative imaginations, and narrow-minded prejudices. But when the will is strengthened by the practice of Integral Yoga in daily life, one becomes accustomed to a life of sublime thoughts and feelings. There is no longer space in the mind for the empty ghosts of misunderstandings.

Do not combat misunderstanding by developing more misunderstanding. Do not misunderstand the person who is misunderstanding you. In exchange for misunderstandings directed towards you, you must extend your vision of understanding, your heart of love, and your willingness to be a true help even to those who are ever prone to misunderstand you. Misunderstanding can be nullified and cured by understanding alone.

People who are prone to misunderstandings are patients in this great hospital of the world-process. You too remain a patient until you gain intuitional knowledge of the Self. Therefore, if you wish that others would forget your acts of misunderstanding, you must also learn to transcend and forget the acts of others. Develop an insight into those inner maladies of life which continue to affect the majority of human beings, and learn the art of remedying them.

Do not just dismiss the acts of misunderstanding directed towards you. Rather, try to analyze and understand your own defects which have now been magnified by those who have misunderstood you. The world of misunderstanding is a necessary evil to aid the spiritual growth of every soul. The thorns are needed for the healthy development of the rosebush. Only then can there unfold the beautiful petals of the rose itself. Similarly, in a life tested and tried by the critical judgments of others, there develops a bloom of spiritual vision which far surpasses all the expectations of the human mind.

Sage Kabira says, “Those persons who criticize and vilify you – keep them near to yourself, even in your very house,  and they will purify your mind without the addition of water and soap.”

Adapt and adjust in your practical life to avoid misunderstandings. But, if others continue to grossly misunderstand you despite your best efforts, then you should learn to endure with resignation to the Divine Will. The clouds will disperse in a short time.

Do not perform acts of violence, greed, and falsehood. These actions condition your mind in such a way that even during harmonious conditions of life, causes for gross misunderstandings develop. Cultivate a broad understanding and a generous heart. Do not become imprisoned by your own narrow minded prejudices. All religious teachings basically emphasize the same truth. Therefore, do not hate others on the basis of their faith or religion.

Live to serve the Divine Self in all beings. You should overcome hate by acts of love, greed by acts of generosity, and all forms of misunderstanding by an increasing understanding of the Divine nature of the Self.

Live to outgrow your senses, your mind, intellect, and ego, so that you may realize your essential nature – the non-dual Atman. Live a life dedicated to the practice of Integral Yoga. Let the dark clouds of misunderstanding be disbursed from the firmament of your heart, and be replaced by the revelation of the Cosmic Life which shines like the sun, and  refreshes like the moon!

May God bless you! Hari OM Tat Sat!


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