We have all had difficulty in handling the negative energies of other people. Why do we feel that somebody is abusing us or being negative towards us? Why do we react? The main reason is that the expressions of other people affect and alter our self-image, and as a result we get hurt. When other people express themselves, we react. We are not concerned with whether they are positive or negative because we react anyway. Whatever the expression is, it alters our knowledge and concept of our self-image, and leads to feelings of rejection, negativity, abuse or maltreatment.
Let us look at the subject not from a traditional yogic viewpoint, but from a different angle. There is a word in Sanskrit, swabhava. Bhava means 'nature' or 'feeling' and swa means 'personal', 'self'. If one is aware of one's personal nature then situations of conflict, of mental and emotional disturbance, can be avoided. Swabhava goes much deeper than the normal understanding of attitudes, behaviours, interactions and reactions. Generally, we react. to and identify with the external expressions of an individual, not with their real nature or real expressions. In the external expressions there is a combination of ego, desires, ambitions and even strengths and weaknesses, and we are never actually able to observe the real state or the inner state of the individual.
I will give you an example. When Rama was sent into exile for fourteen years, his brother, Bharata, came to take him back to the kingdom of Ayodhya. He came with an entire army, and Rama's other brother, Lakshmana, thought that Bharata was coming to kill them and make sure that Rama would never be able to reclaim the kingdom. But Rama said, "Wait a minute. Before you prepare for war let us consider whether Bharata is capable of coming here with the desire to kill me." Rama analysed the whole pattern of Bharata's life, and said, "He is not coming here to kill us. Don't raise your arms. He has come here for a different purpose."
We have all encountered similar situations in our lives. Last year when I was in Australia, a swami asked me what was really a very straightforward question: "What is your purpose in coming here?" But the sentence carried a tonne of weight behind it because of the size of his body, the loudness of his voice and the direct manner in which he asked the question. Other swamis were taken aback by the question and I could see how they reacted by the looks of horror on their faces.
But something peculiar happened to my mind at that moment. That one moment went like one hour and during that period all the interactions that I have had with that swami since 1976 flashed across my mind like a picture. What came to my mind was the thought that he was not being negative. From my analysis of him in that split second, I was convinced that he still had the heart of a big baby. So, I just gave. him a big smile, and replied, "You will find out." Thinking about this interaction now I realise that I did not listen to his words; rather, I analysed his swabhava, his nature, and I did not feel there was anything negative or bad, any rejection or apprehension, deep inside him.
One has to realise that the external attitude or behaviour of an individual can always change; it does not reflect the person's real nature. I may rant and rave but by ranting and raving do I become that? You may rant and rave, but by expressing your anger do you become that? Does your inner being become that? Momentarily it may. But when the wind blows through the top of a tree making it really sway, the main trunk near the ground remains firm and solid. So, swabhava means becoming aware, observing and knowing what is happening at the deeper level of human nature. If we can have that kind of understanding then I am sure that many of the mental and emotional problems that we face when we encounter difficult situations in life, when we feel that somebody is attacking us in a negative way, can be avoided.
For this we have to train ourselves, to work hard upon ourselves. Definitely, no doubt while we are at the surface level, we can feel the intensity of the situations and circumstances, the projections of other people towards us. If we happen to climb that tree now, we will feel the intensity of the wind blowing and fear that we are going to fall. But if we climb down to the base of the tree the wind will not feel so intense. So what has to be done? We have to climb down from the surface and go towards the base. The same thing applies to our own nature. We live at the surface level all the time. An effort has to be made to see the reality behind the appearance.
If we look at the theories of Yoga as described in the Yoga Sutras, for example, we will observe something unique. The systems, concepts, theories and practices of pratyahara that have been described will give us the ability to discover our swabhava. The moment we are able to discover swabhava, we will be able to understand the swabhava of other people. This will definitely not happen with meditation, because even those people who have been practising meditation for many years tend to react very violently in certain situations, with some form of negativity. Why do they have such a reaction? It means that the meditation practice has not given them insight into their own projections and expressions. So what is the use of meditation?
There is a beautiful sequence in pratyahara which covers all these situations. Pratyahara is not withdrawing the mind. It is not concentration. Pratyahara is awareness. How do we become aware? First of all we have to extend our senses in order to become aware of the reach of the senses. That is how pratyahara actually begins. So, in the first stage of pratyahara, extend the physical senses into the environment. Be aware of the reactions that happen naturally and spontaneously due to the extension of the physical senses.
In the second stage of pratyahara there is harmonisation of the externalised physical senses of the body. In the third stage we do the same thing with the mental senses, the faculties of cognition, extending them externally and internally. Observing, understanding and harmonising occurs in the fourth stage. In the fifth stage of pratyahara we become aware of the instinctive reactions, and in the sixth stage, we harmonise them. In the seventh stage we begin to concentrate the faculties of the physical and mental senses and move into the stage of dharana.
So, in order to discover our nature, we harmonise the disturbances which are created within our nature due to external circumstances, conditions and situations and then experience or harmonise the states which create the imbalance within us. In this way we can gradually raise ourselves beyond the influences of negativity.
Mental conflict represents a state of mind which is not harmonised. If the mind is harmonised then there will be no form of mental conflict. Why does the mind become disturbed? The mind becomes disturbed because of the ambitions and aspirations which we all have and want to attain. The mind becomes disturbed because of the needs that we all have, whether physical mental, emotional or spiritual. The mind becomes disturbed when we encounter weak areas in our life, some form of mental or emotional disability, even lack of willpower or lack of mental clarity. So, we have to be very clear in seeing what actually happens, not only in terms of our feelings, desires and ambitions, needs and wants, likes and dislikes, but in relation to the total personality. Through pratyahara it is possible to overcome every kind of mental problem, no matter how impossible, simple or difficult it may seem. If we can make that continuous effort then definitely solutions will be there. The choice. is ours.
Another method of overcoming negativity and handling the negative energies is through faith. Please do not confuse faith with a mystical or religious concept. Faith is a strength in a human being. If we can recognise faith as a strength and not as something mystical and religious, then we will be able to handle the negative energies. Faith will then teach us how to flow and not struggle in life.
In the language of philosophy, negation is the outcome of our reaction to something. A rotten piece of flesh is put in front of us. We smell it and we react and that reaction creates a negation of that particular experience. That is known as dwesha, rejection, repulsion. We smell a nice perfume and like it. That liking is also a reaction to that smell. If it is a good thing we accept and enjoy it. That is known as raga, attraction, attachment. What is similar in both reactions? What happens in attraction, and what happens in rejection? A reaction happens in both of them. One is good, one is bad.
If we live by continuously reacting then life is definitely going to become hell. As human beings we must have the ability to discriminate between positive and negative reactions. To cling to either one of them will limit and bind the forces of the mind by creating a sense of attachment and not allowing the mind to experience total freedom.