Question: When anyone criticizes me or gets annoyed with me, it disturbs me to no end; so much so, that sometimes the whole day is spent in brooding. How can I insulate my mood from fluctuations based on the behavior of others?
Answer: The solution is to develop a better understanding of the world, based on scriptural knowledge. The Vedas say that this material energy, Maya, consists of three guṇas: sattva guṇa, or the mode of goodness, rajo guṇa, or the mode of passion, and tamo guṇa, or the mode of ignorance.
Everyone’s mind too is made from Maya, and so the three modes of Maya exist in the mind as well. Depending upon the environment and where we focus our thoughts, one of the guṇas becomes prominent and our mind takes on that quality. If sattva guṇa dominates, one becomes peaceful, contented, generous, kind, helpful and serene. When rajo guṇa gains prominence, one becomes passionate, agitated, ambitious, envious of others success, and desirous for sense pleasures. When tamo guṇa becomes prominent, one is overcome by sleep, laziness, hatred, anger, resentment, violence, and doubt.
For example, let us suppose you are sitting in your library, engaged in study. There is no worldly disturbance, and your mind has become sāttvic. After finishing your study, you sit in your drawing room and switch on the television. Seeing all the imagery makes your mind rājasic, and increases your hankering for sense pleasures. While you are watching your favorite channel, your family member comes and changes the channel to her liking. This disturbance causes tamo guṇa to develop in your mind, and you are filled with anger. In this way, the mind sways between the three guṇas, and takes on the corresponding qualities.
This fluctuation takes place constantly in everyone’s minds, altering their thoughts amongst the three modes. When two people’s guṇas are divergent, their ideas, interests, desires and tastes also become divergent, and that causes strife. This strife exists everywhere, between husband-wife, father-son, brother-sister, friend-companion, and so on. Congruence can happen only when two people have the same guṇas. However, since everyone’s guṇas are fluctuating, it is unreasonable to expect that the other person’s guṇas will constantly match ours.
The reason for our anxiety is that we have unreasonable expectations. We want others to always think in the same manner as we do. And when this does not happen, we get disturbed. Instead if we could realize that invariably people will have views differing from ours, and this is very natural due to the three modes of material nature, we will not be disturbed when they oppose us or criticize us.
So by increasing our understanding of the world, we can insulate ourselves from the fluctuating moods of others.