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Understanding Scriptures

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 Blooming Stars


            Misunderstanding results when someone says or does something that is not understood by the other party in the way it was intended. It can often happen because no two persons think or act alike even in the same family or culture. It frequently happens when persons are not willing to give others the benefit of the doubt even though they themselves want others to give them the same. They want others to look at them in a positive light and give them benign interpretation to their words. When persons do not like someone, then that someone cannot do anything right or good. I have seen this again and again in my interventions in clinical practice and everyday life. The other day I wrote to a relative of mine in an e-mail: “How come you do not remember or talk about some bad things your son or daughter did but you would not forget and repeat again and again some very mild and debatable bad stuff done by some relatives or spouse’s folks you do not like?!

            In a phone conversation I asked another relative: “How come you are readily willing to forgive your son and want others to forgive him pleading his ignorance, but have no difficulty holding a nephew responsible for the behavior of his father who is your own brother? These kinds of things do not make sense. But they are not infrequent. There is a saying that “blood is thicker than water”. This saying means that if a relative is pitted against a non-relative, the person is likely to be with one’s relative even though the relative is in the wrong. This does not have to be. This is a denial of God as our Father/Mother, and of the fact that we are all brothers and sisters. This way we cannot have unity of humanity that is essential for wholesome human survival. Clinging to our relatives and defending them whether they are right or wrong does not bode well for humanity. For the greatest models of humanity (Christ, Buddha, Gandhi), relatives did not figure much in their mission. Christ and Buddha left their relatives. Gandhi’s wife, devoted as she was to him, stayed by his side inconspicuously until death

            Religious congregations in the Catholic Church and the sanyasis (monks) in the Hindu and Buddhist religions systematically break their ties with their families. When I officially joined the Jesuits at the age of 18, I was allowed to visit my mother and close relatives after eight long years for three days only, at the age of 26, and that too because my mother was on the verge of death. I could not recognize my little nephews and nieces who had grown big after 8 years. I remember on the first night sitting at the side of my mother’s hospital bed, half-asleep, talking to her in Gujarati after a long, tedious and exhausting journey from Ahmedabad to Pala in Kerala. From the bewildered looks on her face I knew there was something wrong. Most probably she wondered what happened to her dear, long separated, youngest child!

            I soon realized I was talking to her in a language she did not know. I for one was coming from a year of intense training in the Gujarati language in a language school, and further three months’ resident practice in speaking Gujarati at Gujarat Vidyapeeth. Besides, during those 8 years I had used my mother tongue (Malayalam) very rarely as I was strongly discouraged from using it for the sake of mastering other languages for my studies. Things have changed since. Even though I do not advocate such a rigorous discipline now, it certainly helped me to acquire a broad world-view and a universal, all-inclusive perspective on humanity. I attribute my passion for acceptance of all human beings as they are and unity of humanity to such a rigorous training. We were trained to think in international settings that we are on this earth to serve the whole of humanity. This idea was drilled into our system.

            I consider selfishness and self-centeredness, which we all have in varying degrees, as the original sin, if there is such a thing. Our selfishness creates distance and separation. Our large, inflated egos slowly destroy us. We easily get slighted by any little adverse comment. We all suffer from the fly-horse syndrome. This syndrome comes from the fly sitting on the nose of the horse thinking that it is pulling the cart. All need to stop their self-promotion blowing their own loud trumpets. It looks like we have lost all modesty and moderation. Women need to stop bearing their bodies and displaying their endowments for commercial exploitation and advertising.

            Men need to get real and stop chasing women for the ever-elusive sexual gratifications. Of course Albert Einstein’s very simple explanation of relativity is very relevant. He said: “When you are courting a nice girl, an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That is relativity.” Men and women need to realize their purpose in life, and spend their energy in self-realization – the only lasting pleasure. We need to be generous in understanding. We need to be slow in taking offense and getting hurt. Misunderstanding takes place where the will to understand is slow, where the questioning others’ motives and passing unfair judgments are plenty, and where there is little empathy and compassionate relating. When we look at others the way God looks at them there is very little chance for misunderstanding that leads to negative outcome.


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