The 4 Skilful Means to Resolve Conflict

These past months of blog silence have been in response to a sustained ‘cyber attack’ by a gang of hell-and-damnation Bible quoters.

For all the unpleasantness, it has at least been a fascinating insight into how some people who profess “devout faith” are provoked by differences of understanding and experience. They have shown that any disparity in belief can be taken as a dangerous challenge to their own religious convictions. The resulting aggressive language and threats would certainly seem to arise from an anger born of fear.

This has prompted me to reflect on teachings of the Shaiva Tantra tradition of India’s north-eastern foothills called the Chatur Upaya [‘chat-oor oop-ah-ya’] – the Four Skilful Means to Resolve Conflict:

  • Saama – respectful negotiation by friendly means, with kind and gentle words
  • Daana – communication with tolerance and forgiveness: a liberality of heart
  • Bheda – an open mind to another’s point of view; willingness to modify one’s own stance to allow a ‘blossoming’ of the relationship
  • Nigraha – self-restraint, in order to heal rifts and ‘cure’ conflict

No surprise, then, that Upaya is also the Sanskrit term for ‘to join in with, or accompany, singing’. In essence, Harmony.

However, the Upayas are not exclusive to Shaiva Tantra. They are also found in orthodox Brahminism, although their rendering has a distinctly different interpretation and purpose:

  • Saama – Alliances; Pacts; Coalitions
  • Daana – Compensation; Gifts; Bribes
  • Bheda – Rupture; Betrayal; Sowing Dissension to ‘divide & rule’
  • Danda – Force; Armaments; Open Assault; Punishment

This priestly version, which endorses Machiavellian treachery, cunning and ultimately violence, is promoted by its adherents as being “useful in securing the submission of anyone”. It is even quoted as justification for the devastating wars that are at the heart of both the Mahabharata and Ramayana. (Neither of these texts plays a part in the mountain Shaiva Tantra tradition.)

If my detractors choose to continue reading my humble contributions, perhaps they will recognise in their threats the same belligerent language of the orthodox warmonger – and that, in the starkest of contrasts, the Shaiva version of the Chatur Upaya endorses the gentle compassion, selflessness, forgiveness and peacemaking promoted by the very Israelite they profess to follow.

As mountain Shaiva Tantra impresses, however irreconcilable any of our differences may initially appear, if we will only pause for thought – and traditionally share a brew of well-spiced tea – we will instead find an underlying concordance and a deep humanity that ultimately unites us all.

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3 Responses to The 4 Skilful Means to Resolve Conflict

  1. mariocanada says:

    How very true! Such wisdom! What a better world it could be, if only…

  2. Jacqui g says:

    THess examples articulate beautifully the joining together of people regardless of race, religion, colour or perspective
    The other divides and promotes fear and separateness

    Keep these posts coming

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