Kshanti Shankara says, is remaining unchanged when one is wronged by another. Whether verbally or by an action, which is against dharma, when one is harmed in any manner, there is an impulse to retaliate. This reaction is called vikriya. It first occurs as a mental modification and then is expressed in the form of either an oral or a physical action. The absence of such a reaction is kshanti.
How can anybody remain without a reaction when he has been wronged in his perception? Psychology will say a reaction is legitimate. It is true in one way; but here we are going one step further. We do not say that you should suppress anger but look into how you can get past the reaction.
This is possible only when you have an intimate understanding of the other person. What has prompted him to act in this way? Each person acts or reacts in a given way because he cannot act differently. If he could, he certainly would have. Generally we avoid people whose behaviour we find difficult to handle. But that does not solve the problem of my reaction. I have to look into myself and see why I am not able to allow the other person to be what he or she is. Reaction happens only because of intolerance or, looking at it in another way, internalisation.
When I feel hurt because of someone's action I internalise that behaviour as though I had some responsibility for it. The reality is that as an adult I am responsible only for my own emotions and actions. If they are wrong I can always correct them. But I cannot afford to take responsibility for the emotions and actions of others. The only thing I can do is accept each person with whom I am required to relate exactly as he or she is. Every person comes from a given background. With the same background, I would do the same thing. That consideration of another's background as the basis of his or her responses is maturity.
There are laws governing the behaviour of the human mind. That is why it is possible to have a discipline of knowledge called psychology. Certain backgrounds result in certain types of behaviour. Who is responsible for that? If I can appreciate that, I will have compassion, understanding, and a capacity to listen. Any action on my part in response to what has happened will be born of an understanding of the person. This requires great patience because it is not easy to understand another person. Sometimes it takes years. People married for twenty years separate because there is a failure in understanding. To understand another person we must be open to him and most of us are not able to be so because of our own fears and anxieties. As a result, the communication is not totally honest and consequently, neither is the relationship.
Each one remains closed in some areas and the behaviour is based on an anxiety to maintain the relationship. Instead of making you mature, an intimate relationship causes further problems unless you are able to be open and understand the other person. That openness is what is called accommodation, kÀ¡nti. If you give that a very important place in your value structure, you will find that you are open and easily able to understand people.
Then your action will be appropriate. If, for want of data, it proves to be wrong, you can always correct it, but in a reaction there is no correction because there is no learning, It just happens even against your understanding. In action, however, we can learn. We cannot count on being informed enough to make every action successful but we can always learn. With great intention I may deliberately act out of sympathy but the other person need not take it as an act of sympathy. He can always misinterpret and think that I am patronising. At this level, further communication is not easy. Even the most communicative people find it difficult to communicate in this situation. But you have to try. I can perfect the action or change the course of it as long as I am ready to understand another person. And understanding another person is possible only when I have accommodation, kshanti.
The example I always give for kshanti is the baby kicking his father. The father not only does not complain, he is so proud that he shares with his wife, the joy of being kicked. But if the child were to kick him fifteen years later, he would have an entirely different response. There was no reaction to the baby kicking him because there was an appreciation of the background from, which a baby kicks. The background is innocence. Even when the older boy kicks there is a background. He may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs; there may be a hundred different reasons but if I do not have accommodation, I can never understand that background; I only react.
This value is not an ordinary one. I would say it should occupy the most important place in the value structure. If a person has kshanti, he is a saint. All other values—amanitva, adambhitva, ahimsa, etc., will follow because that person tries to understand and not make judgments about others or himself. If you are not critical of yourself, you can understand others without being critical and if you can be kind to yourself, you can be kind to others. To be kind to yourself you just have to enjoy yourself as a person. There is nothing wrong with you as you are. Then, when Vedanta says that in spite of the limitations of your body, mind, senses, you are p£r¸a, totally acceptable, it is meaningful because psychologically you do not oppose that fact. If that vision is understood thoroughly there is no problem. Any correction required in the behaviour pattern is possible without self‑condemnation.
Saint becomes a very big word because we give a saint an exalted stature so that we can continue to be what we are. Everyone has to become a saint in as much as a saintly person is a mature person. I have to take responsibility for my actions and emotions and acknowledge that there is no outside force that influences me any more than what I allow it to. I am the devil and I am the angel impelling my actions. I am responsible for all my emotions and actions and others are responsible for theirs. If I think their behaviour can be better, it is because I have not understood their background. Seeing that is the only way to become mature.
If you go to a doctor with a headache, he does not treat you as a good person or a bad person. He treats a problem. Even if you are an alcoholic he cannot sit in judgement of your diseased liver. Or, if a person in the delirium of a high fever insults the doctor, he cannot take offence and refuse to treat the patient.
In exactly the same way a saint responds to a person who has some behavioural problems. He does not judge because he understands very clearly that nobody is bad or good. Everybody is a mixture of countless different things—neither good nor bad. There are certain behaviour patterns based on given backgrounds, which are highly predictable. With a certain kind of father, mother, society, schooling, there will be a certain behaviour. But one great thing about a human being is that this programming can be undone. As an adult I can create an antidote to habitual behaviour patterns rooted in my childhood. That antidote is my value structure. Understanding it intimately, I give priority to a value like kshanti, accommodation. I consider this the most important value in the modern world where there is so much tension and competition and therefore, rancour. The only answer is to have a primary value like kshanti. That is the way to become mature.
Om Tat Sat