Handling Problems

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

How can problems be avoided?

Problems can't be avoided because we don't want to avoid them. If we didn't care about problems, they wouldn't exist. But we like to take on problems because we are guided by our self-image. Our self-image says one has to be good, considerate and kind, and that is the front we always try to project. As long as we are consciously or unconsciously following the dictates of our self-image, we will never be free from problems.

What is a problem? A problem is something you take upon yourself which is not your natural inclination or expression. Other people imposing their difficulties can become a problem. Somebody offering to help can also be a problem if the help is not expressed in the right manner. Even musing over things can become a problem. Encountering situations that can affect, change and alter our self-perception can become a problem. A sudden influx of negative thoughts can become a problem. An influx of good thoughts is never a problem, but negative thoughts can always become problems. Desires can become problems.

The main reason why we are unable to cope with problems is that although our logic says “don't have problems” our nature says “keep on attracting problems”. Just as light will attract moths, similarly this body and this mind will attract difficulties and problems. You have to remember Murphy's Law – “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

However, you also have to remember that motion comes because of friction. If one wishes to have a pleasant, peaceful, quiet life, then it will become very dull. You may enjoy the peace for a day, you may enjoy the silence for a month, but there will come a time when you will reject that peace and silence for some dynamism, some activity, some motivation in life. So, friction, problems, difficulties and conflicts are to be accepted rather than shunned.

The right solution has to be found and to do this one needs to cultivate the faculty of viveka, discrimination. Discrimination becomes powerful and real only when it is combined with far-sightedness; otherwise discrimination is simply a word. Discrimination plus far-sightedness equals wisdom. Friction, conflicts, difficulties, fights and disagreements are not impediments to your development towards peace and growth, rather they bring to the surface a condition of mind, a condition of belief, a condition of life which is actually becoming a barrier to your growth. A mental thought which becomes a block is recognized as a problem, so why not work to remove it?

The best way to handle problems is to know beforehand whether or not you wish to involve yourself in the problem. If you can tackle that problem efficiently, effectively and creatively, then that opens the door of logic, intellect, intuition and emotion by making your search for the solution. If you feel a problem to be a burden, then it closes the mind furthermore and stops the creativity of the mind from discovering the right solution to the problem. So never avoid problems. If they come let them come, but just try not to attract them.

—Ganga Darshan, December 27, 2001