What's Love Got To Do With It?

There is no conflict that cannot be resolved through dialog. This belief of my mentor is at the heart of what I try to do with my life – in daily life, here on this blog, and elsewhere in the social media space. There, of course, are times when dialog leads to greater confusion and upheaval, but if the spirit of dialog is nurtured and kept alive, it leads to a clearer and more meaningful understanding of the issue at hand without fail.


The Right to be Wrong

A recent dinner table conversation got me agitated. We were talking about how one’s looks and dressing led to being discriminated against at establishments and institutions. As is the nature of mealtime talk at home, it went from Manipur to Modi and from Siachen almost to Sri Lanka. At a particularly heated point of the discussion, I was asked whether my writing was not a way of being judgmental of people’s lifestyles and beliefs. In what way was my attitude in endorsing minimalistic/frugalistic need-based lifestyles different from that behind the rants of religious fundamentalists or even the government’s insistence that we grin and bear it? I denied it with the vehemence that only married men can conjure, but it got me thinking. I respect people’s freedom to live their lives as they wish, and I expect the same from others. Yet most of my writing is centered on promoting what I believe in. The Rushdie’s and the Coelho’s of the world might need entire novels to say it, but for me it takes a short sentence. You have the right to call me wrong, but it is not wrong that I am right.


Difference Kya Hai?

This feeling of I am right and you are wrong is at the heart of all conflict we see around us. Yet, trying to address this conflict necessarily entails adopting a similar stance or using a similar logic. Like primary school teachers trying to teach kids how they should feel about racism, like bloggers participating in corporate marketing campaigns to promote sustainable strategies and ethical choices, like turning the poison of consumerism into the medicine of simplicity, this is one of the dichotomous realities of our times. There is a difference though.

Let me give you a concrete example. I love the aroma and the taste of coffee, but I no longer drink it since I do not like what it does to my body and mind. I like tea. Fanatically so. But I am not burning things down, assaulting people or putting hate-dripping videos out on youtube. Neither am I refusing to “consort” with or issue visas to those who drink coffee. And I am definitely not leaving threatening and provocative comments on blog posts that promote the love for coffee. Each one of us is an expression of universal intent, and this truth is unchanged by what we believe, who we dislike and why we moan in our sleep.


I am as deeply entrenched in an unfair exchange economy as anyone else, feed on the same pesticide-laden vegetables and corporate salt as my neighbor, and suffer the punishment meted out by the system to the common man with the same stoicism as those whom I write for. I am merely putting forward what I believe to be a more practical approach to living happier and more responsible lives. (I see my long time well-wishers shake their heads and hear them sigh, there he goes again, and now he has started calling it a practical approach) It is up to the reader to choose what he wants to do with what he reads. I know that at the end of the day, my struggle to live by my beliefs is in no way greater than that of any other thinking person.

Does Hate Have a Religion?

I am averse to religiosity though I try and live my life according precepts that are common to all religions. I have not reached this point without reflection. I have come to see, after study and application, that all religions are vehicles that take you to the same destination – your own mystic divinity. At the same time, I have found that, over time, A-L-L religions surrender their most important message – that of truth, beauty, worship, and humility - to the inevitable static of rituals, dogma and organization that are more a manifestation of man’s insecurity and greed than of any metaphysical principle.

I am against religion as a parameter for discrimination or inclusiveness, against claiming access to divinity and then turning that claim into a profession, and against using the quest for meaning as a weapon to control others. No religious construct that compels its believers to harm or abuse another human being for believing differently can be called a religion. When I posted a photo-essay on a recent trip to Tirupati, it was not from the perspective of religion or about a religious place. It was about what the journey revealed to me as a person and to my ancient point-and-shoot, also as a person, if I may. Of course, the discussion that ensued in the comments thread did bring in religious-spiritual ideas and I see nothing wrong with that. I have anonymous commenting enabled so that differences can be shared safely. I rarely moderate comments, even ones that are critical of what I am trying to do on the whole, but I was forced to come down heavily on some of the things that began showing up. The comments were not only directed at a particular religion and me, but also against those who had commented on the post. It brought the lessons of hate home to me once again.

Hate is all around, but then so is Love

Not only is it impossible to avoid dealing with hate in our world, it is sometimes difficult to recognize it for what it truly is. Discrimination of any sort against another human being is an expression of hate. The billboards that tempt you to “upgrade” to a “better” life are really playing on your inherent capacity to hate – hate your circumstances, hate your social standing, and at a more subliminal and surely unintended level, hate those who are in a better situation than you – and research shows that we fall for it more often than we don’t. Nations go to war against each other, firm in their conviction that the hate they can arouse in the minds of the people against a perceived enemy will more than justify the loss of human capital. Political parties promote hate in order to further their own, often very private and personal agendas. Religions, without exception, proclaim that theirs is the true way, and though we should tolerate all faiths, those who do not believe are assured of eternal damnation.

Another insidious form of hate is indifference - the type that lets us look through beggars at a traffic light, lets us see housekeeping staff at our workplaces as hands without bodies, names or faces, and lets us waste natural resources because we have "paid" for it. Psychologists claim that hate arises out of self loathing. I do not know that much about psychology but I do know that a person who hates others will surely find it difficult to love himself. Hate is reinforced by social messages that surround us. It is built into our beings from infancy. Science says it starts even earlier. That is what makes identifying and confronting it so difficult.


Along with this confusing nature of hate is the fact that in its healthier avatars - righteousness, constructive anger, and the desire to set wrongs right - it does have a lot of positive attributes. Hating injustice and exploitation is a good thing, isn't it? I guess the line that has to be drawn is in how this perception of "unfairness" disconnects us from our humanness. It is not something that is easy to sort out on a theoretical level, and a good idea at this point would be to try and relate what you are reading with an intense dislike that you can identify with, either as something you dislike or something about you that others dislike.

Witnessing hate from a safe distance is entirely different from being at the receiving end, and this is something that I have experienced a few times in the recent years. It shakes the firmest believer in the law of cause and effect, and begins to eat away at your will. Hate is not the same as disagreement or lack of love; it is a negation of your value as a human being based on externalities. Witnessing hate from up close is a hugely life transforming experience, since nothing can teach you true compassion better than experiencing hate or being hated. The mysticity of this lies in the fact that you cannot equip yourself with hate in order to deal with hate. It has to be responded to with acceptance and forgiveness. The nonsense that you hear about forgiving and forgetting is just that in the case of hatred. It is humanly impossible to forget being hated, and to overcome it, you have to remember fully and forgive. Trying to counter hate with hate is contrary to the need to survive, to be right, and to be acknowledged as right.

Say The Word - Love

Yes, it is like going round in circles and coming back to the same place. Let me share a personal example that will make this paradox a little more understandable. When I was confronted a few years back by persecution of the most heinous sort, I was encouraged by my environment to seek justice, redress, in other words revenge. My decision not to do so still does not make sense to many, especially those who know the truth. Yet, seeking redress and punishment would have wiped out all difference between me and those who were persecuting me. If I chose NOT to respond to hate with hate, it was out of my desire to be right, my desire for justice of a more enduring nature. Only if I were able to do it with unconditional compassion and totally free of malice, would my decision have measured up to my ideals. And even after that, there would be the question of the victor and the vanquished, which brings us back to where we began. The answer to hate is love, is forgiveness, is intent that the hater finds peace with himself. The nonduality of this duality is hard to understand and even harder to explain. As I said earlier, perhaps it is something that can only be experienced.

It took me a while to get down to writing about this, since I wanted to shine the light of reason on this episode, which kept getting clouded in a fog of self-righteousness and a feeling of having been victimized. As I read back on what I wrote, I see that there still are grey areas that remain open to interpretation and perhaps even disagreement. There are places where ideas have been stuffed like laundry, and others where doors have opened to brick walls. I hope you will not curse me as you try to make those doors and sort the laundry. I am neither an expert on religion nor am I in consonance with traditional psychology. I consider myself a human being first and last, knowing no greater religion, and whatever I have written is only from this point of view. However, going through this experience and then being able to write about it has made me a little more human, a little kinder towards psychologists, and perhaps a little more religious in my own way, warts and all.

This experience helped refine my understanding of this complex phenomenon and for this I am thankful to the person/s who initiated this process. I hope going through this post will have made you think about what role hate plays in your life and equipped you to deal with it in a more rational and compassionate manner. I am looking forward to the wisdom of my readers to give this discussion greater depth and perspective in the comments.

*****

A small list of useful resources for dealing with hate, whether within you or directed at you.

1. Daisaku Ikeda, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Bertrand Russell
2. Albert Ellis, Richard Bach, and Carlos Castaneda
3. Charlie Chaplin, Monty Python and Mad Magazine
4. The Beatles, John Coltrane and Beethoven or Mallikarjun Mansur, Kishori Amonkar and Parween Sultana
5. Watch prime time news on mute, roam the city on a holiday without spending any money, and have an adult conversation with a toddler who is yet to learn to speak.

37 comments:

  1. One of the saddest posts I have come across (even though it is well-argued and passionately written). I find that hatred of some person without knowing who he or she is some sort of illiteracy. Its a vicious cycle of self-hatred and lashing out against the world. I find it meaningless to argue with such people but only hope that with time they have greater understanding of things in general.

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    1. Thanks, Sandeep. I realize now that those who indulge in such behavior are really the victims of their own darkness, and the healthiest response is to send health their way.

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  2. True and pure love is always difficult to achieve... it is always laden with expectations, hurt and compromise. However, once we become mindful of that, it becomes much easier to deweed these feelings that often lead to conflict and feed hate... this journey from darkness to light forms the core of all religions, and yet is often reversed in the way we interpret and manifest it! Excellent thoughts... wonderful perspectives... and great analogies! Just what I needed to read...

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    1. Tipu, I can see exactly what you mean. It is so difficult to let go of expectations and meet each new experience as if it were the first. It is truly our interpretations that cast a shadow on the greatest of teachings. Thanks for this perspective. Just what I needed to read too. :) Am revisitng Miracle of Mindfulness, and thinking of you often.

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  3. Deep thought...wonderful article! I loved it. Thank you Subho:)

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  4. I have never had to experience hate like you did. I believe that it is not possible to completely forgive someone who hates you. Very few people can do that. People who are highly evolved can rise above such things.

    All we can do is not reciprocate hate with hate. But it is not possible for everyone to do that cause their own upbringing, culture and thought process sometimes cloud their judgement.

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    1. A recent post by Rachna very eloquently captures how we can keep from clouding the minds of young ones. I really wish people would not inflict stereotypes on their kids at an age where they cannot use their judgement and end up growing into rigidly biased people. This is specially true in the case of gender bias, socio-economic bias and of course, religious bias.

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  5. Subhorup, these situations have been felt by most of us( at my age), in life. To go through them, contemplate and face the consequences becomes a big burden on those days. It requires great courage and integrity to stay on course , and move on in life. You need family support , and lots of love , for self and others.

    My eyes are welling up, while reading this page. You are going from strength to strength. Your posts are very clear now, and it touches the heart.

    Agree with you on all the points, but what I admired was your honest opinion about religions. Wish there are may who think like you, making the world a better place.

    Aashirwad.

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    1. Thanks, Pattu, for your blessings and encouragement. I have been especially fortunate in having a family that understands and appreciates my compulsions even when they do not agree and even when it comes at a cost to their welfare. I trust I will have the good fortune of being able to repay this immense debt of gratitude.

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  6. Hate is a very strong emotion ,difficult to get rid of but Love is an even more powerful emotion to erase hate. It was a thought provoking post and gave me the opportunity to look within and decide to go on increasing the feeling of love till it totally eradicates the seeds of hatred within me . Thanks Subho.

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    1. You will recall, Ma, that when I was in Kolkata this time, I found a book lying on the roadside. It was mystical in that the book spoke about filling our thoughts with love and compassion, and showed how that can overcome even the most negative of energies around you. Thanks, Ma, for teaching us how to love.

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  7. So from new-age Thoreau to post-modern Jesus now, is it?

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    1. What would I ever do without your reality checks, Rahul?

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  8. Phew ... a hard hitting post that i have read for a long time now and i have no more comments further...have been nodding my head quite few times for i have encountered such situations.

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  9. Crap of the finest calibre.

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    1. Getting finer, I hope. After all, personal growth is the bottomline of what I try to do out here.

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  10. I usually chose to remove myself from the negative surroundings, as much as I can. It is very politically incorrect in these times of fighting for everything. But, I know that all I seek is within me and engaging with negativity takes me farther away from the Self.

    Organised religion has its place. Not everyone will be a thinker. It is easier to follower rituals. The original purpose of rituals must have been to create that discipline. Like wearing suit and tie for formal occasions. Neither contributes to the real purpose, but helps you get into a frame of mind.

    The purpose of living itself is evolution of the soul. All activity should ideally contribute to that. It is unfortunate that very few people realise that.

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    1. Totally agree with you on the original purpose of rituals and norms. It is our interpretation and value-assignment to the ritual (rather than the purpose) that lies at the root of our troubles. If only people see beyond the obvious and imbibe the true message that lies within, all will be well. Thanks, Shankari.

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  11. I think those who hate must be having their own reasons of which the target may not be aware. Who knows which association of thought or memory propels A to hate B.Perhaps those who hate without rhyme or reason are immature or have been persecuted so bad that they begin to view others through tinted glasses.
    It is best to not take such incidents seriously or personally.
    Did i hurt anybody's feelings?I hope not!!!!!!

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    1. Thanks, Indu. Your insight into this is very valuable, since the only way to respond to hate with love is by trying to understand what you have said. Perhaps the pain from which they are coming is much greater than we can ever imagine.

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  12. I can relate to so many things in your post. Your thoughts about religion are uncannily similar to what I feel on the subject. You have expressed them much more eloquently than I ever could have. About hate, it is an all-consuming emotion. And, I agree it is very difficult to forgive and move on though I know in my heart that that is the only way of moving forward. But sometimes we cannot do it. It could be something very small but very hurtful. I seek closure as a human being. I cannot do things unidimensionally. It is my failing in that sense. And,I have been a victim of hate and spam commenting personally. Some were so mean going to the extent of wishing death upon me and my loved ones. But those I can ignore because I don't know those people. But, the ones that really hurt are the ones by friends. Those who have known me and yet come down brutally and sometimes are so mean. That hurts bad especially when all they needed to do was write to me directly. Very thought provoking post.

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    1. Thanks, Rachna. One of the reasons that this was so saddening was that the person/s behind it were obviously people who knew me, who followed my blog, and who were perhaps part of discussions earlier. I have come to understand the reason for their hatred, and I can only imagine how much they must have been tortured by their beliefs. I am a firm believer in the law of cause and effect, and I know that they environment around me is a reflection of what I think, say and do, so I cannot absolve myself of any of that responsibility. I can only pray that they heal from what bothers them and experience the happiness that each of us are born to experience.

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  13. Hi Subhorup

    This post has so much of depth and a whole lot of thought in it...I am not able to read it in one go...Its like a good book and hence I am going to keep coming back trying to absorb a little in every visit...It is an amazing read and I will comment more once I am done reading :) Thanks for a wonderful post!

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    1. Thanks, Jayashree. Will look forward to it.

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  14. i am speechless...... :)

    http://sushmita-smile.blogspot.in/

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    1. Me too. Much of the time. :)

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  15. Subhorup, I totally loved this post though I have few things to say. Hate is too strong a word for me to even write or utter. I have never hated anyone (except the rapists, murderers I see on TV and the molesters that we find on UP's roads) and nor I have been hated by anyone. Even when I was abroad, my friends faced racism but I can not recall a moment where I was harshly discriminated against. And one reason for this is that maybe I choose to ignore the bad behavior and pick the good ones.

    Point I am trying to drive here is that this world needs all kinds of people and so there are. Many a times, we see what a person does to us but fail to see why! I generally tend to look beyond the whys and mostly when I do so, I get the reason behind their particular hatred. BUT having said this, I am not justifying people's hate comments or fanatic behavior. I am totally against any kind of strong negative opinions.

    And like your mom said, love is more a powerful emotion that can erase hatred. Infact this got me thinking that maybe people who hate others havent experienced love at a personal level. They have been devoid of it since the beginning. So, I cant help pitying them.

    All in all, I would call it my fav post on SJD and hats off to you for writing about it.

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    1. You are a true Bodhisattva, Surabhi. I have been striving to develop the kind of mindset you speak of, and though I am getting there slowly, I dwell in anger and ignorance more often than I would like to. So glad that you liked this post.

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  16. Lot of big thoughts sir.. I feel love and hate are just two sides of the same coin.. for some we show love and for some hate..

    end of the day its also depends on the individual how or who they are to get that reaction.. there is a asaying that you got to be lovable to be loved .. and I guess the same goes the other way round too..

    we all say love this and that but do we really reall know what LOVE is , because i think love means different things to different people .. I might hate someone but i ight still love them tooo :)

    Bikram's

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    1. Very interesting perspective, Bikram, and one that I can identify with though I was not able to verbalize it while writing the post. Thanks for adding it to the discussion.

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  17. Great post, Subhorup .... I would like to say that the only way to get out of this conflict of love and hate and other similar paradoxes is to do things that we normally take it to be other peoples job like cooking, doing the dishes and similar chores .... I have been doing this for a while .... You have to experience the feeling to believe it .... Let's not bother about others but do what we have to do ....This is the key .... It ain't easy and it ain't quick .... But it is worth it .... I have started getting results .... I feel so much at peace now .... Have stopped talking about how others should do things .... I now do things that I should be doing .... Things start to fall in place sans the struggle as was the case earlier .... :)

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    1. Nice to see your comment, and welcome to SJD, Govind. What you have said is really very true. Being focused on yourself actually ends up generating change in your surrounding. Like you said, not easy, and not quick, but certain.

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  18. hmhm.... I am glad to have followed you. loved your argument. I think, that hate is but our own insecurities sweeping off our feet. And I honestly think that- nobody wants such a weight such as hate to carry around in their hearts. They just pick it up unknowingly and after a while, start to believe that hate to be a part of their identity.

    That's where the problem starts. great read.

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  19. Anonymous9:21 PM

    Thank you for sharing the link!
    I'm enlightened. Such analysis! Such depth!
    I really hope to be able to write like you someday with increasing age and maturity. As of your post, I wouldn't make any comment as of now, because I've just read the whole thing in one reading. And there's so much to re-read, absorb, analyse, and learn. Felt overwhelmed, hence thought that I would leave a comment first. Thank you.

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  20. Well written and argued. Fundamentalist beliefs whether are political, religious, social, idealistic or even dietary as you quote in one of your examples are dangerous. How often do we see the two extreme sides of one topic being so far apart on a 360˚ scale that they merge with one another int heir extremism?
    Tolerance and respect are more powerful socially than love and acceptance. It is a mature society and a civilised one that can instil in all of its members those simple value of: "Do to others what you would expect them to do to you; respect and tolerate their opposing views; allow each person the freedom to do and believe what they like as long as they don;t harm others..."

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Dialog is the path to peace, and this blog is all about dialog, peace and love. Go ahead and join in.

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