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It takes two to "Tango", and two to tangle

spiritual marriageThe saying that it, "Takes two to tango" is a very old American expression. It is a dance from my parents' era. So I am saying it takes two to dance, which also may be dated, but you catch my drift. (It is more fun to do the "Swami step" in kirtana with more people than to do line dancing or to be thrown around in the mosh pit.) The idea I am getting out here is that relationships are between two people as are conflicts and disagreements. (People are sometimes conflicted with different "parts" of their psyche which is like two or more "persons", but that is not important here.)

As I have mentioned before, my wife and I work together with couples for premarital and marital counseling. With couples (or anyone else) in crisis or conflict, we have to get each person to take at least 50% responsibility for the problem (which is were the "tango" line might fit in---though I have never used it). One husband, we worked with early on, would not take 1% responsibility for his conflict with his wife. As you might imagine this was a very difficult man to work with, and he would often storm out of the room in anger. The husband was absolutely convinced of his perception, and knew nothing about "subjective reality" (I talked about this in a blog, "Subjective reality in Relationships"), which says that everyone sees things through their own colored glasses, and is too close to a problem to see with detached objectivity.

I was inspired to write this blog, because friends often confide in me. This can be difficult since a friend wants to be understood and have sympathy, but may need some "straight shooting". In the particular relationship I thought about today, he is a much junior devotee, so giving suggestions is not a problem. In his particular relationship conflict, he was in the "victim" mode of blaming, and didn't understand that he should take any responsibility for the outcome. After all he was wronged, and unjustly!

Our philosophy can be a real blessing in dealing with crisis or reverses in life--or a "dark night of the soul", though when we are in the middle of human intense emotion (hurt, anger, resentment etc) it is hard to step back from life to see philosophically.

From one perspective, since we have chosen to be in the material world of rebellious souls who are trying to enjoy and exploit things and others, we have to take full responsibility for our woes. We have incurred karma from countless births, and have to experience reactions. That may not be much consolation in the beginning of our pain, yet eventually we will be ready to hear this if we have worked through our issues properly.

However, from the point of view of personal growth and change, there is a more important perspective to consider. If we are a helpless victim like my friend felt he was, there is no way out. No way to learn, grow, and be changed for the better from our crisis. Taking responsibility for our life, and our problems, means we can do something about it. At the very "least", we can change our attitude, and actually this is a very big thing.

Changing the meaning we give things, changes our life.

Thinking that difficulty is coming to us because we are just the lowest sinner or a terribly bad person, is much different than thinking that this difficulty has come to me with a positive message. (While it is true that every conditioned soul commits sins, just constantly meditating on this doesn't give us solutions to problems. I am not blogging for Uttama adhikaris (the realized devotees) here!!! )

In addition, we have to ask the right questions which are "empowering" and not depressing, and keep us from change. Instead of thinking, "Why are bad things ALWAYS happening to me", which means we will likely keep attracting these things, we need to ask, "What is it in me, that is causeing this problem or this type of person into my life". One question is victim consciousness, and the other question is a positive view that looks for a solution.

From many wisdom traditions, and even from our own mother, we hear that we don't have a problem or crisis without the resources to deal with it. (Now that is a purposeful universe!!! ) And a very empowering and true perspective, even though in one's great calamity, one can't believe this to be true. There is always a gift for us, or the seed of an equal or greater gain in every circumstance, no matter how vile or terrible---but we have to have the faith to believe it, and look for it. Life, like a mirror, reflects back to us our beliefs about ourself. If we think we are bad or stupid, we will find so much evidence. The same is true with judging others.

Again we have to find better meaning to give to life and circumstances. For a devotee, whatever happens to us is ultimately meant for our highest good. Some become mad hearing this from the human perspective, but it is true from the spiritual perspective. And even if you want to philosophically argue with me, I tell you that this perspective will make a huge improvement in your attitude toward life!!!

I will end with the famous verse from the 10th Canto: "My dear Lord, one who earnestly waits for You to bestow Your causeless mercy upon him, all the while patiently suffering the reactions of his past misdeeds and offering You respectful obeisances with his heart, words and body, is surely eligible for liberation, for it has become his rightful claim."

A useful poetic paraphrase of this verse, is that for the devotee, the environment is friendly and is meant to help them in Bhakti. The Bible also tells us that everything works for the good of those who wait upon the Lord. Surrendering our life to Krishna means being under Krishna's shelter. Krishna tell us in his Gita 9.22, "But those who always worship Me with exclusive devotion, meditating on My transcendental form—to them I carry what they lack, and I preserve what they have."

Coming to Krishna means having the most positive and hopeful life. Like the Chinese letter for problems which also means opportunity, in our challenges, we have to take personal responsibility, looking for the positive and how we can learn and grow.

Spiritual life is about change---and for the better, and reawakening our eternal love for Krishna. All the things we are searching for in matter, we already have as souls. We just have to uncover our spiritual nature though the purification of loving and serving Krishna (Bhakti-yoga or devotional service).

Combined comments from old site

Tue, 12/11/2007 - 09:51 — Radwinters
Praying for peace and clarification

Thank you for this blog post. I will try to take it to heart and improve my own consciousness. Lately I have been having some troubles with my husband and I feel he is like the guy in your post, where he does not feel he is responsible for anything. It is all my fault for being the way I am, or saying or doing the wrong thing, or whatever. Now I know my husband is not really this unreasonable but like all of us, he gets a bad mood and blames others. I often do the same thing

So it would seem the answer here, is perhaps my raising of my energy can affect his positively?

Without falling into the trap of domestic abuse or codependency (wherein one party takes all the responsibility and feels it is his/her duty to "change" or "save" the abusive spouse) (and which btw I do not feel I am being subjected to), is it possible to lovingly help one's spouse attain a higher and more spiritual vibration? Can this be done by chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra?

Sorry if my questions are dumb; I am very new here and just beginning to learn about Krishna and relationships. I have only been married a couple of years so it is still new to me. Thanks!


Tue, 12/11/2007 - 13:29 — Karnamrita.das
Questions are always welcome

Hi Rebecca! I won't say there are no dumb questions as it is sometimes said, but yours are not in the least.

Certainly the more spiritual and compassionate you are the better. You can't force a spouse to change, but if you change for the better, it does change the relationship for the better. When you are less reactive, and more loving, that has a positive effect on your relationship. And people can't change what they don't see as a problem. A notoriously male line is, "That is just the way I am", said to justify all types of bad behavior.

There are stages of relationships. The first being the infatuation stage where we are "soulmates" and lovers forever; then you begin to notice the faults and may wonder where the person you thought you married went, then you want to try to change them, and after some serious work comes acceptance.

In relationships we find that a lot of problems come from a poor foundation, with expectations not expressed. Sometimes a spouse will expect their partner to be a mind reader, but that is not likely. Each person has to take at least 50% responsibilty for the problem as this blog mentions. And each person has to be willing to make adjustments and compromises for the sake of the relationship.

Marriage can be a beautiful part of our spiritual life, but that doesn't happen by accident, but by design. We may have driven 10, 000 miles but as soon as we take our hands off the steering wheel we fall into a ditch. Good relationships require work and flexibility. People change and the relationship has to change with it.

You are still very new into the relationship, so hopefully you are both very committed to the relationships. One problem with many women is that they don't speak up soon enough, and take it, and take it, until it is too late. My wife and I obviously advocate stable and lasting relationships, but couples need to be proactive, before one person is determined to leave. If you have leverage you should use it. Don't drive off the cliff!! I can only give general guidance without knowing the particulars.

Let me know if I can be of any more assistance.

Your friend in Krishna,


Wed, 12/05/2007 - 02:19 — Navasi
Two Entangled

Dear Karnamrita Prabhu,
Well, you've done it again.... this is an excellent post!
Yes, you are right in everything you say here.
I like to think of it this way:
Every relationship we are in, we have attracted to us by our consciousness, our desires, our issues, etc...
It's a well known fact, both in psychology and in terms of karma, that we attract/are attracted to, the people that we have things to "work out" with.
If we didn't, we would never be in a relationship with them at all...
They would never have been interested in us in the first place, and we would never have been interested in them.
So, when this happens, and we're in the tango with them, as you said.... we have two choices....
We can either think we've been wronged, etc... or, we can look at what we need to learn from the experience, and also what ways we have benefited from the experience.
'There's a silver lining to every cloud' is a saying that I think works here too...
Meaning, you may think all of this is really difficult and you're struggling with it, but if you turn it around, and think of what good has come out of it, what you have learned from it, what ways it has actually helped you spiritually..... then you're going to be in a better state of mind about it.
I think it is really important to acknowledge your own responsibility, as you've said, and it helps us do that when we realize that things don't "just happen to us"..... that goes back to the point that we would not be in any relationship, with anyone, unless we had things that we personally needed to learn, or work out together with that person.
I think it would help couples to realize that. Actually, I think it would help in any relationship to realize that, whether it's couples, or friends, or business associates..... same thing.
However, the most intense and involved relationships are usually the couples, regardless if they are married or not, and the reason is that's the place we have the most to work out and the most we need to learn........ (and therefore, the most opportunity for growth, change, and spiritual advancement).
Thank you,


Wed, 12/05/2007 - 07:08 — Karnamrita.das
You know

A good number of us "mature" devotees understand the nature of relationships because we have worked through a lot of difficult ones and have searched out how to improve them and how to understand them. Some of course don't and repeat the same old patterns again and again, staying stuck and playing the blame game rather than looking at themselves.

As you say there are no accidents. People need to understand their patterns, otherwise just getting out of a bad relationship (or job, city etc) will not solve the problem. Karmic law is that you will keep having the same problem or issue with another person or thing until you learn the lesson. The ultimate lesson is that we can only be happy serving Krishna, so when we learn that or are in the process of learning that, our others lessons become clearer. Being in the mood of goodness helps, where our life becomes illuminated by knowledge.

Your friend in Krishna,



Fri, 12/07/2007 - 04:32 — Navasi
Repeating Patterns

Yes, Karnamrita Prabhu,
I agree, it's really important to understand the patterns (or problems, issues, attachments, desires, etc..) involved in the relationship....
Otherwise, as you said, we will just keep repeating the same thing with someone else....
People end one relationship to avoid having to deal with something that they think they can't deal with, and then turn right around and get involved in another relationship with the exact same agenda.
So, unless you learn something from the situation, and make some constructive changes in your consciousness, you're bound to keep repeating it over and over...
That's why I think it's a good idea to look at our relationships as opportunities.
Each one is a special opportunity for us to learn and understand something, and make progress.
When you look at it that way, even an argument can be seen as constructive, what to speak of the many other really complex involvements we get into in relationships.... :) :) :)
A while ago I was talking to someone about this actually.
We were discussing the concept that you can't always get out of a bad situation, sometimes we are "stuck" so to speak, so what do you do when that happens???
I said, when that happens, just Learn, Learn, Learn...
As long as you are there, and you can't change it, just start learning, and keep learning.... watch everything that goes on, not just what you do, but also what the other person does, watch all the dynamics at play in the external environment also, and just keep learning....
At the very least, you can add this to your "storehouse" of learning, then, like you were saying above .... you will achieve a degree of maturity about things.... one of the benefits of getting older I think.... :)
At the very most, you certainly won't repeat that relationship again.
Of course, that's the hard part, not repeating, because it's not so easy to overcome our patterns, our desires, etc.. or to change our consciousness, but it's a process.
It won't happen overnight, but if you keep working on the process, you will notice that you get better at managing it all.
Also, if you change your consciousness, then your relationships will change naturally, either the people you were involved with somehow won't be part of your life anymore, or they will change too.
Not to say you don't have to take constructive action about things, but generally speaking, most of the externals tend to take care of themselves if you take care of changing the internals.
:) :) :)
Lovely Topic, Prabhu,