Illuminations Newsletter 54
In this issue of Insights, we’re going to talk about responsibility. Responsibility means the ability to respond to a problem with a solution rather than blame. Srila Prabhupada said that if we see something wrong in the temple, we should think that we are responsible for the existence of the problem, and therefore we should do our best to correct the situation.
The lecture is available for download at this link http://www.tstrain.com/Illuminations/Illuminations_54_Responsibility.mp3
By taking more responsibility for our lives, we become more successful. While taking full responsibility for everything we have done in the past, are doing in the present, and will do in the future may seem like a burden, it actually brings freedom and inner peace. How is this possible? By taking responsibility, we no longer make others responsible for our happiness or success. Instead, we take responsibility for our actions and results. We don’t give reasons why we can’t do something but instead focus on what we can do.
Unpleasant events that occurred in the past in some ISKCON places and caused disturbance caused many devotees to leave the movement. Naturally, many of the remaining devotees were discouraged, and so much of their energy was spent thinking about how bad things were. A more responsible approach would be to focus on what can be done to improve the situation. As one American president said, “Do what you can, with what you have, right where you are.”
Recognizing the detrimental effects of accusations and complaints, one church launched a “don’t complain” campaign that changed its community. Complaining is like digging your own grave because with every complaint you convince yourself that you can’t move forward. All complaints are habits of self-harm, and it is in our own interest to abandon them. Accepting responsibility frees you, but complaining binds you.
No matter how much we feel like victims, there is always another side to the story. One devotee said that her husband took money from their joint account, ran away with it, and left her with nothing. The counselor asked the woman to tell the same story again, but this time to state the facts from the point of view that she was responsible for what had happened. Having recounted the events from this position, she realized that it was foolish of her to trust her husband and open a joint account with him since past experience showed that he was not trustworthy in financial matters. This shows that we often believe that the problem is outside of us, when in fact it is inside of us.
One way to get into accountability mode is to ask yourself the right questions. Instead of asking “Why did they do this?” ask “How can I…?”
Another question we can ask when faced with a difficult situation is: “If I were the world’s expert on… (fill in the blank according to the problem – anger, self-control, management, communication) and trained someone with exactly the same problem that I myself have encountered, what would I say to him or her? The purpose of this question is to achieve objectivity in our situation and give us an idea of the possibilities we have that we can use to respond to a particular challenge.
To learn to look at the situation more broadly, ask yourself, “How would someone stronger, more determined, more intelligent or more Krishna conscious react to this situation?” Sometimes we think there is only one way to respond. But not everyone does the same in the same situation.
Sometimes accepting responsibility can feel overwhelming. Things go wrong from time to time and we don’t always have the capacity or the qualifications to handle the situation. We can use this as an opportunity provided by Krishna to learn how to overcome these difficulties. We may think that Krishna is giving us the opportunity to become stronger.
Responsibility also means that when we have little control over a situation, we must do what we want others to do.
Again, the bottom line is that we shouldn’t look at what can’t be done; we should look at what steps we can take to move forward.
I wish you always think of Krishna. Mahatma das.