Saying Yes when we mean No.

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Do you do this? Occasionally or habitually? As a general rule I would say this is not a good practice. I have counseled couples where one of the partners said yes when they meant no, and their marriage didn't last a year. We can't please everyone or avoid difficulties by avoiding the truth of who we are--though we are not the body, we have to acknowledge its nature. This doesn't mean that we will have no unpleasant duties if we are honest about our feelings, yet we will live more authentically. It also doesn't mean we agree to unnecessary sensual desires, or avoid getting up early or chanting because we don't feel like it. There is some inconvenience in spiritual life, but that is a different thing than I am speaking about. Basically we have to understand our material self on the path of understanding our soul. As the saying goes, "To thy own self be true"--though I would add--but do so in the service of who you really are spiritually. The whole Bhagavad-gita is based on this principle.

A basic example of saying yes when we mean no would be agreeing to do something we don't want to and then begrudgingly doing it. Worse would be that you are so used to agreeing, that you forget what you really want or who you really are. Then there is the easy way out, as when we are asked to attend some function, and we say "I will try".

Growing up in an alcoholic family I learned to yes when I didn't really want to at a young age, and most of my adult life I have had to work at changing this self denying habit. As a child in a hostile environment so much of our behavior is reactionary, survival, or both.

I unconsciously learned as a child that if I spoke up to be myself I got slapped. Therefore I adopted to be hyper vigilant to determine the mood of my father so as not to displease him. In this mood I sometimes agreed I had done things I didn't, and was always afraid to admit things I did. Hows that for confusion?

A defining moment of my childhood--as I know see it--was having to testify at the divorce court which parent I wanted to live with. My father was a violent drunk who I was scared of, my mom, the nurturer, yet I happily testified that I wanted to live with my father.

I know this happened because my father used to tell me how proud and happy he was that I wanted to live him, yet although I was sixteen, I have no memory of this occasion. That is how contrary to me it was. I see it as giving away my power and who I was. Years later, my mom told me, that my father had threated to kill both of us if she got custody of me, so I guess it was a good thing I chose my father! Had I known that at the time, it might not have had such an negative effect on my life--or enabled me to come to Krishna!

The intense misery of my childhood was a catalyst to come to Krishna only because of my past life background of Bhakti. My attitude of submission though more reactionary than spiritually realized served me when I lived in the Temple community, though eventually I had to learn who I was in the body and act accordingly. Submission and surrender have an apparent and realized side. A struggle for new devotees is wanting to live the ideal of the soul, yet having to deal with psycho-physical necessities, and (alas we might sigh) material desires.

If our physical life is such a painful state we want to turn it off and transcend immediately. However, that is generally not to be. We only gradually spiritual awaken, though we have an ocean of theory to give us a direction, and a community of fellow travelers (devotees of Krishna) to give us support. In the mean time, most of us need to address the reality of our desires and attachments, and work through them. Many devotees have tried to ignore them, and fallen away from the path to pursue what I call their "karmic mission".

We can make our conditioned nature our friend instead of our enemy by using our occupational and family necessities in Krishna's service. We have to serve Krishna with the help of our mind and senses, not turn them off and deny them. What is the cause of bondage--attachment--is also the cause of spiritual elevation. Material attachments can be dovetailed and used and thus gradually given up, or they can bind us take another birth. We want to ultimately become attached to saintly devotees and for service to Krishna.

"One must deliver himself with the help of his mind, and not degrade himself. The mind is the friend of the conditioned soul, and his enemy as well." [BG 6.5]

"Even a man of knowledge acts according to his own nature, for everyone follows the nature he has acquired from the three modes. What can repression accomplish? There are principles to regulate attachment and aversion pertaining to the senses and their objects. One should not come under the control of such attachment and aversion, because they are stumbling blocks on the path of self-realization." [BG 3.33-34]

Combined comments from old site

Mon, 01/26/2009 - 07:26 — Snehal
Trick your mind

Hare Krishna!

Long time back, I remember my brother had said, " Snehal, learn to trick your mind." I still trying to learn the art to trick the mind.

We are very attached to sense gratification and have no taste for Holy name. Niether we feel the urgency for spiritual development. Hence we need to trick the mind by assuring it sense gratification which is actually not sense gratification. Something like I want to listen to music,so I listen to some music related to Krishna. This way satisfy my mind by listening to music but because I am listening to music related to Krishna, I am absorbing my mind in Krishna's thoughts.

Another way to trick the mind can be to sympathise with it but not listen to what it says. Many times we are depressed or disappointed due to unfulfilled material desires. In such situations, the mind wants to keep lamenting over it and tries to deviate us from our bhakti. So what we do is just sympathise for time, but then say that I have to chant or go to temple now, so I will lament some other time. Then get immersed in devotional activities so that mind forgets about situation. Next time the mind wants to lament, again give some excuse and get involved in devotional activities. At last the mind will totally forget about it and will automatically not want to lament.

I am aware this is not easy, but practice makes man perfect. When Arjuna told Krishna that it is nearly impossible to control mind as it is like controlling wind, Krishna agreed readily but said practice and deattachment will assure sucess. So there is some hope for all of us, if we sincerely try to trick mind for our spiritual benefit.