In our age, perhaps more than in any other, people live in terms of ego fulfillment. One of the unfortunate consequences is that more and more people are moving towards victim consciousness. People are obsessed with how others have treated them, and are increasingly apt to respond with anger and bitterness. They think: “Others have wronged me. I demand my rights.”
Victim consciousness puts the blame on other people. It’s the kind of thinking that says: “I have these difficulties and problems because of what people did to me. I am the product of my environment, of the way I was treated as a child, or of the way my boss treats me.” But this perspective is wrong. You’re the way you are because you made yourself that way—if not in this life, then in another.
Your consciousness creates your life
I saw this kind of thinking in one of my college friends. He had an unfortunate habit of excusing his personal weaknesses, whenever they were pointed out to him, by blaming them on his parents. “I know I’m weak,” he would cry, plaintively, “but how can I have more self-confidence? You see, I had a domineering mother. My father never shared my interests. Besides, my parents always favored my older brother.”
It is true that our outer circumstances are often the outcome, the “materialization,” of other people’s energies as well as our own. It is also true, however, that we attract those energies according to the quality of energy that we first manifest ourselves. An instructive instance of this involved Bernard, a brother disciple of mine at Mt. Washington, who was prone to getting involved in car accidents. Our guru would counsel him to be more careful.
“But Master,” protested Bernard, self-righteously, “none of these accidents has been my fault! One car crossed into my lane from behind, and hit me. Another hit me when it went through a red light. Twice my car was actually hit after I had parked it!”
“You must be more careful,” repeated the Master, unimpressed by these explanations.
Bernard thought the Master was simply being difficult. But one day it dawned on him that he did, at least, have a careless attitude. To his astonishment, once he had changed this attitude, his seemingly unrelated accidents ceased to occur.
Your life—in the last analysis, all of it—is the outward manifestation of your own consciousness, through the medium of the energy that you generate. Even the unexpected, the undesired, is drawn to you because of some attitude in your own mind. For it must be understood that our consciousness functions on various levels, many of them too deep for immediate, conscious recognition. This is, in fact, the greatest difficulty that we encounter in changing ourselves or our outer circumstances: We are not always aware of those deep currents of consciousness which have made our lives what they are.
How, then, can we change those currents? To become fully conscious of them, deep meditation is the surest and most direct method.
We want to pay for our mistakes
Suffering is familiar to all people but very few understand why they suffer. People’s natural tendency is to seek the cause of their suffering outside themselves. One often hears the cry, “I didn’t ask for this!” If people can find no one else to blame, they sometimes rage in anger against God Himself.
The truth is that on certain levels of our consciousness we actually do ask for the pain we experience in our lives. In some part of ourselves, we want to pay for our mistakes, and to be healed of our ignorance. On a soul level, we understand that no earthly suffering could approach the eons-old agony of exile from our true home in God. Human beings experience suffering because, although created as God’s children and welcome to dwell with Him forever, we have chosen to wander afar.
The wrongs we have done in life must sooner or later be paid for. Our mistakes must be righted. Isn’t it better that our mistakes be righted while we are still here on earth? For then, when the time comes for us to leave this world, we shall enter the other one in a state of freedom.
We need our difficulties
The truth is we need our difficulties, our trials. It’s only with opposition that we can grow. When we become strong enough in ourselves, we are able to transcend anything that comes to us.
There are people who have had tremendous adversity in life, and yet they have come out as heroes and heroines. Richard Wurmbrand is a good example. I first heard Wurmbrand lecture in Lugano, Switzerland. It was a deeply inspiring experience. Wurmbrand was an orthodox Christian, and a very spiritual man. He was arrested and thrown into prison because of his religion and his outspoken criticism of the communist regime in Rumania. He spent many years in prison where he was subjected to cruel punishment, and often torture.
Wurmbrand was able to endure and transcend such punishment because he took it with courage, faith, and love—love for God and love for God in his tormentors. Most people would be broken by that kind of experience but Wurmbrand came out stronger and more joyful than ever.
We need to learn to take responsibility for our lives. This understanding is one of the most important contributions that the yogic teachings of India are giving to the world. Not only do life’s trials help us to pay off old karmic debts, when accepted with understanding, they help us develop the inner strength to focus our love single-pointedly on the only reality where joy is never dimmed: union with God.
A way out of victim consciousness
Victim consciousness puts a person in a contractive mode. His perceptions turn inward on himself—he concentrates on how others treat him, not on what he can do for them. The way out of victim consciousness is to get into an expansive mode by affirming a more generous, giving attitude toward others.
When you are in a giving mode, you grow. But when you are focused on receiving egoically, with great concern over how people are treating you, you contract and suffer. Only after cultivating an expansive outlook can a person see himself accurately in his relation to others, and to the greater scheme of things.
Here’s a simple example: If at a party I see that there’s not enough cake for everybody, am I going to rush in there and get mine? Most people might think that way, and they may feel good in the short run. But there’s something inside that says, “It would have been nicer to share it, or to let somebody else have it.”
As we grow more sensitive, we reach the point where we find that happiness comes not from getting the cake for ourselves, but from seeing that somebody else got it. And as we grow spiritually, we want to include the happiness of other people in our own, even to the extent of not wanting the cake for ourselves, but wanting it for them. We discover that there’s real freedom in realizing that nothing outside ourselves makes us happy, but that our happiness is something that we can carry with us all the time.
Our allotted task
The world is God’s dream. Our allotted task is to wake from our own dreams within the cosmic dream, and to live in obedience to the Dreamer’s plan for us. Wise are we when we are able to perceive God as the hidden Doer behind His multifarious roles in creation.
Wise are we also if we give God the credit for anything we do well, and attribute any trials or misfortunes to a deficiency in our attunement with Him, if not in this life then in the past. To blame our upbringing, or to hurl accusations at others, is futile and self-defeating.