A few years ago I met a man who had been born in a Communist regime. He loved to talk and freely shared his story with me: As a boy, he had loved and admired his jovial father who was devoted to his wife and kids. Although those were hard times for millions of others, this man made sure that no expense and care was spared to ensure the comfort of his loved ones. As far as this lad knew, daddy held a high position in government and was the beneficiary of many perks, which would account for their privileged lifestyle.
Then, out of the blue, at his eighteenth birthday party, his uncle (who had drunk a bit too much vodka) spilled the beans that his father headed a KGB unit that specialized in the torture and brainwashing of political prisoners. Shocked, for instinctively he knew this to be true, the teenager turned irrevocably against his father; although young and sheltered, he knew more than enough about what went on in the dreaded secret prisons and gulags to be appalled. The mere thought that he had sprung from a monster who, backed by a cruel state machine, had probably broken the bodies, minds and spirits of hundreds of dissenters in return for a luxurious lifestyle and power was too dreadful for him to digest. He also intuited that to confront his father would be a desperate and futile act.
Unable to continue living in the family dacha, he slipped away soon after, not just from his native land but right across the ocean, knowing he would never be safe in the Communist world as long as his father was alive. His wanderings eventually brought him to India, and here he lived for many decades, teaching yoga for his living. He also discovered a genius for mystical artwork, and this brought him a certain amount of fame as well as the income he needed to establish himself in quiet comfort.
I thought of him this morning as I read yet another report on how a certain politician (who is currently engaged in selfish and cruel machinations to enrich himself and his cohorts) is being staunchly supported by his own children. The man who confided in me that he fled Communist Russia because he could not come to terms with a sadistic father (who was probably both a schizophrenic and a psychopath) was incredibly brave to follow his heart. But these American kids appear to have no independent thoughts or a moral backbone, are nauseatingly arrogant and exude an annoying air of entitlement. They have been spoiled all their lives, and it is daddy’s money that has enabled them to strut about the world like royalty. But what if overnight daddy went bankrupt? How then would they react to his heartless shenanigans?
This train of thought led me to recall yet another friend whose brilliant father became notorious for embezzling his upscale firm of millions of dollars. Despite mounting evidence proving his guilt, and many law suits filed against him for corruption, my friend adamantly refused to admit that his father had done anything wrong. His denial shocked me, because for me it is a relentless investigation into relative truth that frees us up to follow a higher path to lasting peace and bliss. True love enables us to confront close ones; if the bond is real, then everyone can evolve from the interaction.
Besides, Eastern teachings inform us we have incarnated a million times if not more; if this is true, then we have had millions of families and intimate relationships—so why cling to the toxic relationships of this current life as if they are all we have?
So what do we do when someone close to us reveals a relentlessly dark, perhaps even a demonic side? Since we are all fashioned differently, the answer will naturally vary. For me, it is a matter of principle above all mundane considerations. While I was blessed to have ethical parents (which does not mean they were perfect), I feel sure that had I a corrupt parent, sibling, lover or friend, I would first do all I could to help them transform; if that does not work (it rarely does), then only would I decide to disconnect, and with love.
If we are so scared of the consequences of breaking free that we continue to proclaim the innocence of a close one against all evidence to the contrary, then drop by drop we ourselves turn evil, for energy is invisible and it spreads. If, on the other hand, we follow the guidance of our heart and cut poisonous ties despite the hassles and the terrific pain that generally follows such abrupt partings, then we have a shot at experiencing our true nature, which is nothing less than blazing light. As always, the choice is ours.
Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva the Destroyer in the form of a hill of fire and light, who forces us to grow through all the dilemmas and vicissitudes He hurls at us!