Dubai: When he speaks, they listen. The nonagenarian holds his audience captive with his soft, yet authoritative voice, that has an undertone of finality. He speaks so convincingly that there is little space for doubts to creep in. A Parthasarathy, the 92-year-old Indian philosopher-thinker, Vedanta exponent and a world-renowned speaker who is also known as the ‘Living Wisdom’ held his audience of 2,000 people spellbound at the World Trade Centre in Dubai on Friday.
Speaking on the topic of ‘Making Relationships Work’, he peppered his talk with anecdotes to drive home the point that any society that is built on duties flourishes, while that which is built on rights perishes.
Swamiji, as he is also endearingly called, stresses that it is how we relate to a certain situation that strengthens relationships.
“It’s not whom you meet that matters, it’s how you meet that matters. All your life, you are learning to make this world a better place for yourself — you want a better home, a better family, a better environment, a better vehicle, a better everything.”
But while you are in that pursuit, do you know how to relate to a particular situation? It is important to understand how to relate to the world, he said.
One of the most important aspects of relating is in the bond of marriage. Quoting Khalil Gibran he said, “Marriage is like a temple resting on two pillars. If they come too close to each other, the temple will collapse”. Swamiji explained that “marriage is a wonderful institution providing you the know-how to relate to your partner.”
The common problem, according to him, in the world today is the issue of attachment. Attachment, he said, leads to possessiveness, which in turn leads to suffering.
In a marriage, a husband and wife are attached to each other. And when problems arise, these attachments lead to separations and divorces, he says, expressing concern over the growing divorce rates in Western societies.
“Many people do not know how to relate to their partners; either they separate or they tolerate. In the Western world, the divorce rate is reaching 70 per cent. It concerns me, because they are our brothers. The main problem is they don’t understand that no two minds are the same. There’s no such thing as compatibility and we also strive to find a partner who is more compatible. It doesn’t work. Any society that is built on duties flourishes, any society that is built on rights perishes. It’s a law. You can’t change it, I can’t change it. If you make your demands — rightly perhaps you are insisting on your rights — it doesn’t work. But anybody who does his duties, that relationship flourishes. Just perform your duties, never insist on rights.”
But the fragmenting of relationships does not induce in him any pessimism. “I’m extreme optimist,” he says. “I have been going around the world and talking for 60 years, but nobody is listening to me, including now,” he said as the auditorium rang with laughter. “Nobody is listening, they are merely hearing.” What’s worse is that at the end of his talk, people compliment him and say it was a “very good lecture”.
Speaking about the cultural shifts in the concepts of attachment, he says Eastern societies are afflicted with a deadly attachment to their children. “You do not know what you are doing to your children. What you call love is attachment and attachment kills, destroys relationships. Children are totally estranged because of attachment.”
Speaking on the true expansive nature of love and affection, Parthasarathy says, “Your home should be the centre, not the boundary of your affection. You are not expanding your affection beyond your family. Love should go beyond.” And this problem is beyond social strata and economic status. Everybody, from the rich to the poor, think that love and affection is only about extending it to their family, he said.
“Everything that is attached, repels. If it is detached, it cements, there’s a bonding.”
How to make relationships work? It boils down to how do you relate to people.
First, assess the person you are in a relationship with. Assessment is not being judgemental.
When you don’t assess, you get into unreasonable expectations, and unreasonable expectations lead to disappointment.
“Assess the persons you are in contact with every day — your colleagues, partner, neighbours. What you can’t correct, learn to endure. An irritable person will be irritable, a hysterical person will be hysterical. Why are you trying to correct others? Are you perfect? For example, you may say you want to exercise every day, but the truth is that you do not exercise even one day in a month. So, if you are not able to correct yourself, why do you want to correct others?”
Second, there should be no confrontation. “Pay attention to the thought that your spouse could be right and you could be wrong, instead of thinking that you are always right,” he said adding this makes the marriage work.
Parthasarathy recounts an experience that occurred 83 years ago
“I was in school, and I was nine years old. It was during our English class. It was midsummer and every one hot under the collar. Our teacher called us out under the scorching sun and said ‘Boys, isn’t this a beautiful summer’?
We scoffed at him. We then returned indoors, he went back to his seat and said, ‘Boys, the beauty of the summer is its heat, the beauty of the winter is its biting cold, the beauty of the monsoon is that it must pour and pour and pour. But you want the summer to be cold, you want the winter to be warm, you want the monsoon to be dry.
“You learn this and your life will change.
“Nothing is wrong with the world, everything is wrong with you people. Nothing in the world can trouble you except yourself. You are not able to handle the world and all that you want to do to your children is build external paraphernalia. ‘I gave my daughter a house, I gave my son a business but have you taught them how to live their life? You may choose the best girl for your son to get married to, but have you taught him how to relate to her? I don’t blame you because your parents didn’t teach you and their parents didn’t teach them and therefore, this knowledge is not known at all.”
PROFILE: A. Parthasarathy
• World renowned speaker and author of 11 books
• Founder and chief lecturer of Vedanta Academy, an educational institution designed to develop the intellect.
• An ardent cricketer, he won the man of the match awards with players a third his age.
• Over the last 50 years, Swamiji has been addressing organisations and corporations in the US, UK, Canada, Europe, Russia, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, India and the UAE.