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Question: What should be done in a situation when you approach someone who is sick, and who glorifies his or her sickness, and thinks that you are sick? How to make the right judgement? How to know who is really sick?
Acharya Prashant: You see, thinking of it, one can never be fully sure, never. And in terms of thought, it is not even advisable that one is too sure; because that would be a kind of arrogance. So just as one has all the rights, rather the responsibility, to approach the other and say that the other might be sick – of course not in a way of accusing, but in a way of loving – similarly the other one too has a right to turn around and say, “Well I think there is a bug here, and a little bit of sickness might lie with you as well.”
One has to accept it and enquire for the fact. There might be some fact in what the other is saying. And it is possible that the other is exaggerating beyond the fact, that the other is not just stating a fact, rather turning around to attack you because s/he does not like that you are calling his bluff. That is also possible.
Listener: That is the main critical situation.
AP: Yes, but before we come to that conclusion, it is first of all necessary to examine, without bias, without self-centered prejudice, the extent of factualness in what the other has to say about us, because we hardly have a right to go and declare the other sick, if we cannot tolerate the same thing being said by the other towards us.
So first of all, there has to be a healthy acceptance of what the other has to say. And after that, if it really, clearly comes out that the other is just trying to be vengeful, that the other is just trying to extract a kind of a petty revenge, then one has to test his own mettle. That is the test of love: you have gone out and opened your heart, and you want to do good to the other.
L1: The situation becomes gruesome when the other fellow uses it as a tool to impose his or her thinking on you.
AP: Or at least, protect his own thinking.
AP: Obviously. And that has to be expected. After all, you are attacking somebody’s very foundations. To the other person, his ego is his world. To the other person, there is only one way that exists of looking at the world, which is his own, personal way. And you are attacking that way.
L1: That is also what his sickness is.
AP: But remember, sickness can be healed only by the touch of health.
Those who are interested in helping and healing others must be extremely cautious about their own health. Otherwise, in spite of all the good intentions, the sickness of the world would take possession of the healer as well.
The same thing that you want to dissolve, to attack, to get rid of, you would find that the same thing has dominated your mind. Now instead of one sick person, you have two sick persons. So it is a great motivation. In fact, it is, in some sense, a kind of temptation, to be a do-gooder: “I am trying to help the world.”
And yes, we do require a lot of people who go out there, who can step beyond their limited self-interest. But the responsibility of such people is far greater than the responsibility of those who are living within themselves. Now you have the responsibility of others, and the responsibility to protect your own health also.
And sickness has its own ways. Rest assured, you attack sickness, and sickness will attack your health. That is necessarily going to happen. And that is, just as we said, what is going to test your mettle – the depth of your health.
L1: Problem is: how to handle it?
AP: Only health can handle it. It is not a battle that is fought once and for all. It is an ongoing thing. You approach sickness and sickness responds with a cruel lash, a backlash. It is only when you face that kind of backlash, or a retort, that you come to know the fact about your own health, that how strong you really are.
If it does not destroy you, then stay put. Keep fighting. And if you feel that it has exposed a particular vulnerability within you, then recede. First take care of your own vulnerability, your own sickness, and then go back again. It is an ongoing thing. One cannot make it an ego issue. One cannot say, “Now that I have jumped into the battle, how can I make a retreat?” You will have to retreat a thousand times. You will have to return to your own shelters, to nurse your wounds.
AP: And wounds you will get aplenty, rest assured.
L1: Even if one tries to accept it all and move along with it, it becomes problematic again, because the other person has started treating you as a sick person. Again the situation comes back to square one.
AP: And the worst thing that can happen is, when the perceptions of the world become your own perception.
“I went out towards the world, thinking of myself as a healthy being with all the noble intentions to help the world. And what happened instead? The world succeeded in convincing me that I am sick.”
And it happens very often, very frequently.
L1: Very true.
L2: Sir, in this situation, one can only live a life of conviction, because the moment one tries to tell someone that he or she is doing something incorrectly, one leaves the impression that one is smarter than the other.
L2: There is no point, it is a vicious circle. I can’t even blame the other person because what they are a part of, they got it from someone who is considered a higher authority. And I being no one to this person, can be easily asked to not to interfere in their personal matters.
AP: Yes. You are very right. To the other person, it is like an interference in something that is very personal and intimate to him, especially if your advice comes unsolicited. And such advice has to come unsolicited. Nobody is ever going to say, “I need advice on the most central matters of living.”
Nobody is ever going to say, “I do not know what love is. I do not know what relationships are. I do not know what is the place of joy and compassion in life”; because these are such shameful things to accept.
L2: They are oblivious to the fact that they have intermingled words together. They do not know the difference between joy, happiness, love, attachment etc. For them, they are all the same.
The problem is that these words are used in one breath across all cultures.
AP: They are going to be used in some way or the other because one has to continue with the business of living. Nobody can come to a point and just stop dead there saying, “How do I proceed with living? I do not know what love is, how can I continue to live lovelessly?” So people will continue living, and they have no option but to continue to tell themselves that there is nothing terribly wrong with them.
Everybody feels that a little bit here and there is missing, in his or her life, right? To that, everybody agrees. And that is taken as the ‘spice of life’ – a two percent here, a five percent there, is missing. One says, “Well, perfection must not be there. Something must always be left to achieve.”
So two percent, five percent kind of a thing is missing, everybody would admit and agree to. They would say, “Yes, a little bit is missing, otherwise I am alright. Life is just perfect. You know, I am waiting for my next million. I am waiting for my son to get his job.”
But nobody is ever going to be very agreeable to accepting that the fundamentals of life are missing. And when you go and say that, then do not expect kind words from anybody. Essentially you are telling them that they are wasting their life.
Hence, you have to have a deep humility in the heart when you approach somebody. And hence, there has to be great strength in your resolve and compassion. If you have an expectation that you are going to be felicitated, rewarded, that the world is going to raise temples in your honor, it is not going to happen.
~ Excerpts from a Shabd-Yoga session. Edited for clarity.
Watch the session at: Sickness can be cured only by the touch of Health
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