Everyone knows what he should be. What someone is and what he should be are never the same. There is always a gap. When someone is not what he should be, he becomes miserable and angry; and he feels jealous when he sees someone else where he thinks he himself should be.
Acceptance, both of ourselves and of our circumstances, quiets the mind. Acceptance is not about becoming a doormat, but accepting that everything comes in twos—joy and sorrow. The moment we understand life as it is, without putting our likes and dislikes into it, we understand that it comes in a beautiful, perfect package.
With acceptance, inner transformation begins. Stress is the time limit between facing a problem and our acceptance of it; not the time between the problem and finding its solution. Let’s say I am stuck in traffic. As long as I keep thinking “Oh why should this happen exactly when I’m in a hurry!” or “I should have taken the other route. Why didn’t I do that!” etc., I am extremely stressed. Until I accept that I am stuck in traffic, I can’t even ask the question “What next?” But once I realize and accept that I AM stuck in traffic, then the stress is gone! I can now calmly think about what to do next. Maybe I can use the time to make some long-pending phone calls, listen to some music or a lecture, or chant the Divine Names. Perhaps I can take a detour and find a different route to my destination. The minute I “accept” the situation, the mind is clear, stress-free and “what next” becomes the natural next-step.
This is the power of acceptance. Acceptance is not necessarily equal to agreement.
When I first started working in the corporate world, I was given a raise at the end of my first year, even though I did not do anything outstanding. The next year, I really worked hard. But then they said I was not good at communication and was denied a promotion! The first thought in my head was “Why? Why did they do this to me?” But then I immediately wondered, “Why didn’t I ask this question last year?”
Everything comes as a package. There are always ups and downs. Rewards will not come in the same timeline that we think. But it will come when it should. Our mind expects a timeline. But our mental timeline and the universal timeline may not match. It is simpler to accept instead.
What is acceptance? When my manager said he was not promoting me, I didn’t question why he did it to me. He had already done it to me! It did not matter WHY he did it. He already did. But instead I asked him what factors I should improve on. I showed him the areas I had performed well in and explained why I thought I deserved a promotion. Finally he admitted that the decision was already made and that he couldn’t change it. Then I said okay and that I understood the situation. We ended up becoming good friends.
Acceptance does not mean agreeing, but simply not questioning “why did this happen to me?” Acceptance is simply not brooding on what “could have, should have, would have” happened. Once acceptance comes in, it is easy to understand the choices you have before you.
Acceptance prepares the intelligence to find the solution. When you ‘accept’, the mind loses a whole lot of its negative power. Any complaining or grumbling is non-acceptance. If we keep complaining about so-called justifiable things, it will become a habit, and habit will find an excuse for complaining.
But if we make a conscious effort to “accept” situations, over time, acceptance too becomes a habit. The time between realizing there is a problem and accepting it narrows, and finally it is immediate. “What next” comes naturally. Great leaders have this sense of acceptance. When we accept, we respect and care for people. We may not agree with them, but when we cease to even accept people we have a big problem; we cease to be humans ourselves. Acceptance brings in a wonderful flowering of love and care. In the bhakti tradition, it matures as sharanagati. What is sharanagati? Accepting life second by second.
This is the secret of life. Inner transformation has to start with the realization of how we do not accept situations and instead complain about them. When there is a big pillar in front of me, I should find a way to go around it, but if I instead go on banging against it, is it not simply insanity? Imagine the pillar to be a mental construct. You want a situation to play out in a particular way. But it doesn’t happen that way. If you continue to question “Why did it happen like this! Why should this happen to me?” is it not banging your head on reality? A physical wound will at least heal, but a mental wound will not go. It will only become bigger. The sooner we are aware of our mental non-acceptance, the quicker will we be on the path towards inner transformation and towards having a better quality of inner life. With inner life in order, the quality of outer life also improves. If you really want to help or serve someone, it has to start with yourself. A surgeon needs to first sanitize himself, right? Likewise, the first step in the process of reaching out, is for yourself to expand, to transform yourself.
Excerpts from the lectures of Sri M. K. Ramanujam, disciple of His Holiness Maharanyam Sri Sri Muralidhara Swamiji
Sri M. K. Ramanujam is visiting the USA in Fall 2012. He will be speaking at several public locations, universities, and will also conduct many youth, adult and corporate workshops. Click here to read his brief profile.