Overcoming sensitivity ~ becoming ‘Self’s best friend
Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita says ‘If one is friend of Self, one is Self’s best friend. And if one is enemy of Self, one is Self’s worst enemy.’ There is no one that can hurt us more than we can hurt ourselves. And there’s no one who has the power to make us happy but ourselves. We have to want it and make that effort. Anger, fears, worries, anxieties, frustrations, hate, jealousy, criticism, vengeance–all these trouble us to a great extent, and create ill health as well as mental problems. …
Individuals sometimes do not behave properly. Sometimes they’re critical, abusive even, but we know we should not be affected. And yet we are affected by what people say or do that we don’t like. We should not take it personally. That we understand, too. We have heard it probably many times, and yet we are affected by individuals, what they say or do that may be negative. …
If a person is antagonistic it doesn’t mean we should feel bad about it, melt like butter. If we shrink that way then it means that we have a weakness that is harmful to us. If we easily get hurt then we are too sensitive, and Master used to speak about how bad sensitivity was.
Master lectures Bro. Bhaktananda about his sensitivity
At one time when I first came, I was very sensitive myself. And I was sitting in the temple with guests, right in the middle of the temple, and he was talking on some subject…and then he changed subjects and started to talk about sensitivity, and looking right at me…and for about 5 minutes he stayed on the subject, how important it is to get rid of sensitivity…Then he went back to his subject after he was through with me. (laughter) He often did that, sometimes he would stop in the middle of a talk and change the subject altogether… Well he had the power to know what people needed to know and wanted..
And so being sensitive Master said was like having a boil on your arm, and someone accidentally touches it, and you shout ‘Ouch! don’t touch me, it hurts!’ Well, he said, we have psychological boils. And if someone says or does something we don’t like, we say Ouch! We get hurt. And so he admonished us to make an effort to get rid of sensitivity.
When we are sensitive it is due to our ego, it’s our human nature that is hurt. The soul is not hurt by it. Oh, why did he say that to me? Why did he do this to me? And that is what we usually ask when something is said or done that we don’t like.
Well, we can’t help how others behave, but we have to behave properly ourselves regardless. We can only control ourselves. Concentrate on the problem and seek a solution, work on the problem instead of thinking so much about our own feelings, our hurt feelings. … And so when we’re criticized, remain calm, remain poised
“Miss Hoover is an old cow”
There was a teacher who noticed that boys were passing a note around the room, and so she came to the last boy that had the note and she took note from him, and she opened the note and read, “Miss Hoover is an old cow.” (laughter) And it was signed ‘Andy’. And of course everyone was cowering there in the room. But Miss Hoover kept calm, she looked at Andy and she said, “Why Andy, this is wonderful! There isn’t a single misspelled word in the note!” (laughter) Will Andy want to be mean to her again? She didn’t upset him, she didn’t scold him before his friends, she saved his face. Isn’t he going to think well of her and probably be a friend.
That’s a great lesson for us. Turn a negative situation to a positive one. Find out how to solve the problem rather than create more problems by being angry, upset. We must forget our feelings and deal from the mind. That’s a proper way when we’re dealing with others. Master used to say be like steel toward yourself, but soft toward others…treat others gently, kindly.
If someone criticizes you, just say ‘thank you.’ Master’s response was, “Is that so?” (laughter) … But don’t admit your fault because that person could use it against you sometime. But instead, when you are alone analyze yourself and find out whether there is that fault. If there is, correct yourself, and be thankful the fault was brought up to your attention, you see? Because sometimes our enemies are our best friends …
The example of Abraham Lincoln
[Abraham] Lincoln was a man of great character. He practiced honesty, truthfulness. He was an attorney and he was hired to defend a company in a law suit. He prepared for the case. When it came time he entered the courtroom and there were two other lawyers. One was Edwin Stanton. And so Lincoln came up to Stanton and said that he was the one that was supposed to defend the company. And Stanton said, no, we just talked to the company and they want us to conduct this trial. And not only that, but Stanton insulted him, called him names, called him a country lawyer, and so on.
And so Lincoln took it, and he sat down to see how it was going to go, and if he had any part in it. And as he was listening to Stanton conducting this trial, doing his part, he realized he was a man of great intelligence, he was well prepared, he was mentally sharp, logical, and orderly. And so he admired Stanton very much, even though he was insulted just some time ago.
Then when Lincoln was voted to be the president of the United States, and Lincoln was forming his cabinet, and he wanted a good secretary of war, and he chose Edwin Stanton, who was his enemy. But they were not enemies for long. Stanton became his good friend. And so when Lincoln died, Stanton paid a great tribute to him.
So if Lincoln was angry, and scolded Stanton, and caused a lot of trouble, it would have been different. But he was a man of honor, and he was humble, and he won out. And so we win friends by being a friend. He put aside his own feelings, emotions, and considered the welfare of the country. He wanted good men in his cabinet, as he said. He stood independently. That’s what we have to do. …
If we are in an argument with someone else, we should not want to win an argument, but find out what is the truth, and follow the ways of the truth, because, in the long run, we’re going to win out, you see. We’re going to have good come into our lives.
“Blessed are the peacemakers…”
There’s another story about Lincoln which falls into this category of dealing with truth and honestly, rather than our own feelings.
Lincoln, while president, had an office to fill, and he mentioned to several of his cabinet members, he gave a man’s name, and he said I want to have him in this particular office. And someone said, well he’s your enemy. You should destroy your enemy. And Lincoln said, ‘Don’t I destroy my enemy when I make him my friend?’
Don’t I destroy my enemy when I make him my friend?
That’s the way to destroy enemies, be good ourselves, and we’ll be surprised how many people change and want to be good, too. Master gives us that opportunity. So we must change. As Master used to say when we are dealing with others, be a peacemaker. And Jesus likewise says, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.’ And when we live the spiritual life, when we treat others properly, then we are peacemakers and blessed by God.
In this 1991 Convocation talk, Brother Bhaktananda addresses oft-voiced concerns of devotees regarding inter-personal challenges at home and the workplace, which impede their efforts at meditation.