Passion polarizes positions and paralyzes discussions
When two parties quarrel bitterly, other people can frequently see that the differences are not all that big and that the issues are resolvable. But unfortunately the quarreling parties don’t seem to see this and keep fighting.
What causes their seeming blindness?
The mode of passion, which is the underlying generic cause of conflicts beyond their specific causes.
The modes are subtle psychological forces that shape our perceptions and actions. The mode of passion rivets our consciousness to material things and prevents us from seeing beyond to deeper realities. The Bhagavad-gita (18.21) states that knowledge in the mode of passion is characterized by reducing the soul to the body and by imagining that there’s no commonality beyond the evident dissimilarities of the body. Such erroneous equalization of essential nature with peripheral cover extends beyond the body to other things such as conflicts.
When people in passion quarrel, they give excessive importance to external differences. Being thus obsessed, they imagine that changing their stances amounts to accepting defeat, thereby polarizing positions. Being obsessed with what people will think about them, they make the conflict into a prestige issue, thereby paralyzing discussions.
The way through such conflict is not just negotiation but also elevation of consciousness. To the extent the conflicting parties rise from the mode of passion to goodness and transcendence, to that extent an amicable solution will become visible, acceptable and practicable. Even if one of the parties rises to goodness, that too can help prevent the escalation of hostilities and increase the chances of intelligent discussion and solution.
That’s why, at an individual level, when we find ourselves caught in a conflict, we can step back, take a few deep breaths, chant the holy names, calm ourselves by meditating on the temporality of everything material and then work our way to a solution.
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