Bandhu & Bandhanam: The Vedic Wisdom on Relationships

Relationships are bondage, indeed. But not all bondages are bad. Relationships that can give us peace, help us pursue our paths with limited distractions are always welcome.

The word Bandhu in Vedic Sanskrit stands for Relatives as well as Friends. The word Bandhanam, which comes from the root word Bandha, means Bondage.

Sama Veda declares:

अयं बन्धुरयंनेति गणना लघुचेतसाम् |
उदारचरितानां तु वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम् ॥

‘This person is mine, and this one is not’ is a false perception of ignorant and selfish individuals. For those who have realized and live in the abundance of knowledge and wisdom, the entire world is their family.

Relationships are natural. According to Vedic Rishis and Rishikas, we all are related to one other. Irrespective of whether or not we know each other, the fact that we all dwell in this one home called Vasundhara or Earth makes us relatives. Therefore, we cannot escape relationships. We have to accept people for what they are and try to live in a way that is least hurtful to others.

Relationships are bondage, indeed. But not all bondages are bad. Those relationships which can give us peace, help us pursue our paths with limited distractions are always welcome.

Relationships are not always by blood or even species. We cannot choose our blood relatives; our “immediate” family. We are never born into the family of our choice. But friendships we make with fellow humans, as well as other beings from other species, are of our selection. That bonding is of Compassion.

Relationships we build with people out of respect and admiration with a desire to learn and benefit from their wisdom is what Rishis call Sattvic. Relationships we get by default, as well as the relationship we endure for the sake of our survival, is Rajasic. The relationships we make for our meeting our sensual desires, no matter how long or short, is branded as Tamasic.

Relationships we build with people out of respect and admiration with a desire to learn and benefit from their wisdom is what Rishis call Sattvic. Relationships we get by default, as well as the relationship we endure for the sake of our survival, is Rajasic. The relationships we make for our meeting our sensual desires, no matter how long or short, is branded as Tamasic.

Rajasic and Tamasic relationships yield momentary pleasure and perpetual pain. People living such relationships tend to endure such pains owing to some irrational logic termed as Mohamaya or delusion through infatuation.

A painful relationship is often endured owing to fears. Fear is a driving force behind Rajasic and Tamasic relationships. The idea such as “What will happen if I am to lose this person? Who is going to pay for my sustenance? Where will I go? Who will feed me?” mostly come from, and leads, to absolute fear are the foundations of Rajasic and Tamasic relationships.

Fear, the most dominant of human emotions, is the key for people to manipulate and get manipulated. And if it is a fear that which is holding your relationship, then you can rest assured that you are alleviating all possibilities of happiness.

Fear stems from ignorance. It is about losing. But what did you get along when you get into this world to lose? And who is that person who will never fail? Why suffer pain, which is only because of that fear? Why not liberate yourself and venture out into the world full of possibilities?

Fear is of the ignorant mind. And until the day fear dominates your life – you are bound to suffer irrespective of your status, achievements or wealth. And there is no medicine or exercise for anxiety except knowledge and wisdom.

“Mind is the cause of Liberation as well as Bondage…” says Krishna in Bhagavad Geetha.

There is always a difference between Knowing, Understanding, and Realizing. We all know that Life is transient that we came with nothing, and, that, when we die, we take nothing. Once we understand this truth, we realize that everything is bound to end someday. So, there is no point in worrying about the end; however, it will always help if you stay prepared. That preparation best happens when you realize that everything is bound to pass. So, if a relationship is hurting you badly and bringing out the worst in you, it is only wise to let it go.

A long time ago, there lived a feared dacoit by the name Ratnakar. It happened such that he had a rendezvous with a Rishi named Narada who asked him as to why he was in such a heinous profession.  “What will I do if I don’t steal? I got to feed my family!” retorted Ratnakar. “Why don’t you ask your blood relatives if they will also bear the consequences of your actions?” suggested Narada. When Ratnakar did ask, they all said that it was his duty to take care of them and that they will take no part of the consequences of his actions. Each one of his relatives turned to be demanding and thankless. Disillusioned, remorseful, and lonely he went back to Narada, who in turn inspired him to embrace the whole world as his family and do whatever the best for their welfare. And that is how the feared bandit Ratnakar became Valmiki the revered sage-author of the epic Ramayana.

Just by relinquishing his Tamasic relatives Ratnakar not just found peace but through relating with Narada found a purpose. Relationships between Narada and Ratnakar is the epitome of a Sattvic relationship. Narada got nothing for himself. He desired nothing. He created a sage author out of a feared bandit. By meeting Narada, Ratnakar was shocked, but the sage also delivered him to bliss.

Should you seek eternal happiness, then find Sattvic relationships. Tamasic and Rajasic relationships will only yield pain — the only way to endure such relationships by living detached and without expectations.

Krishna of Vyasa’s Mahabharata teaches that it is possible to sustain bliss even while pursuing Tamasic and Rajasic relationships provided you are living without expectations. He says it clearly that if you expect; you will suffer.

Living without expectations doesn’t imply living without an objective or purpose — quite the contrary. When you live without expectations, you live without worrying about the past nor fearful about the future,  which gives you only the present. You focus only on the moment, do any good you can, with all the energy you have.

By living in the moment, your Happiness isn’t some false promise of the future. It is an instant reality. You appreciate all that you have and work for your wants by working without stress or stain. You accept people for what they are; you deal with them appropriately without any baggage of emotions. You reward or punish people as your conscience deem appropriate. You live without regrets and remorse. You live in bliss.

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