Most of our communal life is full of inner and outer conflicts because many of our inner attitudes to people and relationship are egocentric and breed conflict. This article presents a path of uplifting attitudes which can lead to mutual understanding, harmony and unity. To a pragmatic mind these attitudes may appear too saintly to be practical. But what is practical, to be constantly in a state of painful conflict or in happy harmony with all? The saintly attitude are much more practical than the selfish because in the long-term it leads to a peaceful and harmonious life.
1. Learn to be a good listener.
If you wish to grow in the spirit of understanding, you must let the other person talk and prove his point to his satisfaction. Do not interrupt him while he is talking. You know how exasperated you become when someone interrupts you, while you are trying to prove a point. At committee meetings, I have heard those words uttered quite often: “But let me finish!”
Listen more, talk less. You are made to listen. Before a word can be spoken, it has to cross two fences two rows of teeth and two lips. Therefore, think twice before you talk. Never forget that of the unspoken word, you are a master, of the spoken word, you are a slave. Words once spoken cannot be got back.
2. Do not belittle the other person. Do not make him feel small. Do not criticise him or find fault with him.
No one likes to be criticised. Look for good qualities in others and appreciate them. When you appreciate others, you draw out the best that is in them. Appreciate your friends, your spouse and your children. Never scold children. When you scold them, you stifle the life-force that is within them.
Appreciate your children. Appreciate your spouse. Women have complained to me: “There was a time when our husbands gave us many pledges, but all that has become a part of history. Today, they pay no attention to us. They take us for granted.”
3. When you find you cannot get along well with others, do not blame them. Find the fault in yourself.
It is easy to blame others, but it does not help. When you find that things are not going well, ask yourself: “What have I done? Where have I gone wrong?” You will find that your relationship with others will immediately improve.
4. There can be no true understanding without the spirit of humility.
It is only when you grow humble that you can truly understand. The word, “understand” says stand under. No one is prepared today, to stand under anyone. Everybody wants to stand over everybody. That is the main cause of misunderstandings. That is why the man of humility will never misunderstand others. He will never give himself airs. He will never show that he is superior to others.
The conversation of so many of us is full of the pronoun, “I”. I did this, I did that. I gave this, I gave that. I achieved this, I achieved that. The man of humility will rarely use the pronoun “I”. His conversation is full of the pronouns, “we” and “you”.
How often do we not, in our daily life, behave like egoists? It is I, I, I, all the time. The ego keeps on playing its game, singing its tune. The ego is the cause of misunderstandings and so much of our suffering.
5. The man of understanding argues little.
How true it is that no one ever wins an argument. When you think you have won an argument, sooner or later, you will discover that you have not convinced the other person. You have only worn him out. In the process, you may have lost a friend.
For forty years, a man has refused to have anything to do with his only brother just because the other brother would rather win an argument than have his brother’s respect and love.
6. The man of understanding knows what it is to agree, despite differences.
Even when he does not agree, he respects the other person. He never indulges in backbiting. He does not compare himself or his partner with others. He forgets his ego. He practises what he preaches.
It is very easy to give advice to others. It is very easy to tell your partner to do this or that. But, if you do not practise what you preach, no one will pay attention.
7. The man of understanding is always on the lookout for opportunities to be of service to others.
In big cities like Bombay, Madras, Calcutta, London, New York, wherever I have gone, I have found that people are indifferent to the needs of others. They are indifferent to the point of callousness. May I tell you what the opposite of love is? The opposite of love is not hatred, but apathy, indifference to the needs of those around you. If you wish to grow in the spirit of understanding, you must grow in the spirit of service. You must look out for opportunities to be of service to others.
A boy asked his mother, “Ma! Why are we here?” She answered, “We are here to help others.”
The boy was not satisfied. He asked, “What are the others here for?”
Those of us, who would wish to grow in the spirit of understanding, do not have to ask, what are the others here for? We have only to understand that we are here to help others. Is that not the hunger of every human heart? Everyone wants someone to understand him or her. But here lies the great paradox of understanding. You will not receive understanding until first you forget yourself and give understanding to others. The understanding that goes out of you will come back to you. For understanding moves in a circle.
Courtesy: East and West Series
The author is universally acclaimed as a humanitarian, philosopher, educator, acclaimed writer, powerful orator, messiah of ahimsa, and non-sectarian spiritual leader.