2 november 1997

The road of sensitivity

Katinka Hesselink

Mother Teresa helped write a book called "A simple path". It is a remarkable book full of a simple dedication. There is no doubt in my mind that it describes the road of Bhakti-yoga, the way of Love in service of humanity.

I have long had the strong suspicion that the capacity to be vulnerable is the same as to have real inner power. It is the power to mourn ones way through pain and loneliness instead of running away from them by reading books, listening to lectures, doing your work, having a hobby or simple television. That capacity is very essential. Mother Teresa seems to be saying the same thing in a very different way:

ANYWAY

People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered; forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies, succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you, be honest anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous, be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow, do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough, give the world the best you've got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God; it was never between you and them anyway. (note)

Find in vulnerability the capacity to give. The one who can live by that token, without building up defenses, has real inner strength.

In daily life we do have defenses. That is the most visible part of our personality in most cases. If the wall around our weakness is strong enough, it seems as though there is strength, but meanwhile we often don't even know what is behind the wall ourselves. We often fear the biggest disasters if the wall should fall.

Still, the student of life, the (lay-)chela, will have to break through those defenses if he/she really wants to live and work in service to mankind. Actually that wall around the inner man, will be broken. It will begin to crack because of the strong will of the chela and by the necessity to be tested for inner purity that follows from that. The (lay) chela should be prepared to see the following happen when the student is accepted as chela:

"The first is the throwing outward of everything latent in the nature of the man; his faults, habits, qualities or subdued desires, whether good, bad or indifferent."

So all good tendencies as well as tempting daydreams, the talents but also the egoistic urges will come out in the open. The natural advice in such cases is of course : investigate and keep the good. But before all this can happen, there has to be the sensitivity that makes it possible to investigate everything that lives inside us. The sensitivity that Krishnamurti talks about includes vulnerability in my opinion. I think vulnerability goes hand in hand with the selfless Love we talk about so often. If the love is there, vulnerability is there, if there is vulnerability love cannot be far.

The deeper and all-pervading the love is, out of itself comes (automatically) vulnerability. But from that vulnerability grows an inner strength that is a protection : exactly when the I is no longer there to protect itself. That strength is also the energy that can be used to look inside and thereby comes into being even more sensitivity for everything that is hidden there. It is like a snake biting its tail:

Looking inside takes energy. The one who has the courage to look, discovers vulnerability. From that comes sensitivity which carries within itself Love for the Whole. For instance because the knowing of ones own vulnerability means that that vulnerability is also recognized and accepted in someone else. The acceptance of vulnerability also means that less time needs to me spent searching security's in different fields of life. Love and sensitivity are the ground in which the strength can grow, so that there is the energy to look even deeper, at even more vulnerability. In this way the freedom of even deeper Love can grow. This cirkel goes on and on, just as long as we have the courage to look inside. I think in the end vulnerability, strength and love merge together.

Our personality is like a shield, made to protect us from that vulnerability. The person that can face that vulnerability in the depth where selfless Love grows, will see in the process that the personality becomes less powerful. In its place comes the emptiness in which there is the freedom to be full of love for the All. Because at that point there is the capacity to be sensitive to the people around us, whether we liked them in the past or not. So then there is a feeling of oneness with all of mankind. In that feeling of oneness there is strength, because when we feel Love, action becomes possible and problems can be dealt with.

Mother Teresa showed that in a unique way, I feel. Her approach did not need the support of endless, complicated theories about the nature of the universe. She lived her Love for the poorest in a way that made her an example to many people around the world. Her nuns live in the same poverty as the people they reach out to, counting on the help of God if something goes wrong. This goes to the point where they don't take everything that they are being offered. Their oath of poverty must remain intact. They eat what the poor people eat: they live in the same vulnerable position as they do and that is where they get their strength. I hope that the going of Mother Teresa does not mean that that spirit of self-sacrifice and vulnerability will be lost. Our search for security has the downside that an essential vulnerability is lost.


(Note) : She may not have thought this up herself, or adapted it from Kent M. Keith's book: The Silent Revolution: Dynamic Leadership in the Student Council. see: The Paradoxical Commandments.