blame-game pointing fingers

The Blame Game

There is a general tendency to blame others for our difficulties. The ego experiences a sense of satisfaction by blaming others for our problems. It is challenging to think that we can be the cause of our own troubles because this thought hurts the ego. However, blaming others or finding fault in others does not help anyone, especially us, no matter how comforting it may feel. Instead, we remain stuck in our problems and continue to sow seeds for further trouble. Political leaders thrive on this trait—they have a penchant for blaming the opposite party; this is how they harness support. People who like to blame others are often influenced by such political leaders. Both the news media and social media are experts at the blame game.

The Enemy Within and Without

Śṛī Kṛṣṇa advises against this. Both to Arjuna and Uddhava, His two disciples, He pinpoints one’s own mind as the true culprit. In Bhagavad Gītā 6.5–6, He explains in two verses that our real enemy is within and not without:

uddhared ātmanātmānaṁ   nātmānam avasādayet
ātmaiva hy ātmano bandhur   ātmaiva ripur ātmanaḥ

bandhur ātmātmanas tasya   yenātmaivātmanā jitaḥ
anātmanas tu śatrutve   vartetātmaiva śatru-vat

“The self is to be uplifted through the mind and never to be degraded because the mind is indeed the friend of the self as well as its enemy. The mind is a friend specifically to that self by whom the mind is conquered, but for a person whose mind is not under the control of the self, his mind itself behaves adversely, like an enemy.”

The Real Culprit is the Mind

To Uddhava, Kṛṣṇa speaks an entire chapter on this point. He tells the story of a miserly brāhmaṇa who did not use his wealth, not even for his own self. Because of his miserliness, family members deserted him, and thieves plundered his wealth. Being forlorn and destitute, he took to the renounced life and wandered about, mistreated wherever he went. The brāhmaṇa, however, tolerated everything and did not blame anyone. Based on his own experience as well as knowledge from śāstra, he recited a song called Bhikṣū Gītā. The first verse summarizes the whole song: Do not blame others for your troubles. The real culprit is the mind. He sang:

nāyam jano me sukha-duḥkha-hetur na devatātmā graha-karma-kālāḥ
manaḥ paraṁ kāraṇam āmananti saṁsara-cakraṁ parivartayed yat

“These people, the devas, my own self, the stars and planets (graha), karma, or time—none of these are the cause of my happiness or distress. Śāstra teaches that only my mind is the ultimate cause [of my joy and suffering] and is instrumental in the cycle of my birth and death.” (SB 11.23.42)

In the rest of the song, the brāhmaṇa elaborates how none of the entities mentioned in this verse are the cause of his joy or suffering. Generally, we think that we suffer because of others, or because the devas are putting obstacles in our life, or our own self, i.e., the body, is giving us trouble, or we are suffering because of past karma or fate, or it is just the time (such as Kaliyuga or a particular astrological configuration) that is making us suffer. The Bhikṣū Gītā states that none of these are the cause of our suffering. They may appear to be the cause, but the real culprit is the mind. If the mind is not under our control, then any situation—good or bad—or any person—friend or foe —or any state of the body—healthy or sick—or any time—Kaliyuga or sāḍēsātī—can make us suffer. 

Our Experience in Deep Sleep

It is everyone’s experience that when we are in deep sleep, we do not suffer. At that time, the people whom we think are the source of our troubles are alive, but we do not experience difficulty from them. The devas also exist but do not cause us distress. The stars and planets are also in their positions but do not exercise any influence over us. Our fate is not erased, yet we are not influenced by it. Kaliyuga has also not disappeared, but we are not under its sway. The main reason none of these things can make us suffer is that we are not under the clutches of the mind. 

It is also our experience that when we are in deep sleep, we similarly do not experience happiness from any external source. At that time, the people, places, and things that we think are the source of our joy still exist, but we do not experience satisfaction from them. Our favorite chocolate is still there in the kitchen cupboard. Our lover remains next to us in bed. Our gorgeous new saree is hanging in the closet. But none of these things have any sway over our minds when we are in deep sleep. The main reason none of these things can make us feel happy is that we are not under the clutches of the mind. In deep sleep, we become liberated from the mind; thus, nothing external can make us happy.

The Solution

But when we move out of this state into the dream world or wakeful state, our mind takes charge, and we are absorbed in the duality of joy and suffering, friends and foes, health and sickness, good and bad karma, etc. Just take a minute to ponder—if the problem in your life is another person, then why doesn’t that person upset everyone the way they upset you? How is it that this person—who is so selfish, insensitive, or whatever it is that is bothering you about them—is loved by others and has good relationships with them? If the root of the problem is in the other person, wouldn’t everyone have a problem with him also? For example, if sugar is sweet, and sweetness is inherent in sugar, then everyone should have the same experience of its sweet taste when they put the sugar on their tongue. And that is what happens. So, going with that logic, if the person you dislike is the source of your unhappiness, should we all not have that same bitter experience with that person? But that is not how it works. Even for serial killers, there is always at least one person who still loves and cares for them. So, the problem is not with the other person. The suffering and pain lie in the mind, and the sooner we realize and act upon this realization, the sooner our spiritual lives become much easier. If we can transcend the mind, as happens in deep sleep, we will transcend all our problems. 

The Bhikṣū Gītā uses the adjective param or supreme while describing the mind as the cause. That means other things may be a cause but not the supreme cause. In the last verse of the song, the brāhmaṇa gives the solution as service to the feet of Kṛṣṇa, mukundāṅghri-niṣevayā. Therefore, it is better not to waste our time and energy blaming others but focus on engaging our minds in the service of Kṛṣṇa. The mind is listed as one of the vibhūtis in the Tenth Chapter of the Gītā (indriyāṇaṁ manaścāsmi, 10.22). Therefore, it can be controlled only by fixing it on Kṛṣṇa. Otherwise, it will engage in the blame game. That is not helpful. There is a proverb: 

“He who blames others has a long way to go on his journey. He who blames himself is halfway there. He who blames no one has arrived.” 

2 thoughts on “The Blame Game”

  1. Dear Maharaja,
    Is there a fundamental difference between the understanding of this brahmana from 11th Canto and Lord Brahma’s understanding in SB 10.14.8 tat te ‘nukampam… ?
    (in my English translations of SB 10.14.8 it says that our experiences are reactions to our past activities, but this brahmana seems to reject any such cause relationship)

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