Today, relationships have become a big deal. Several people have problems in their relationships. Nowadays, it is very worrying to see people having difficulty getting along peacefully with each other. Our people are trained in physics, mathematics and several other sciences. However, they are not trained to live in harmony with others.
The fact that we are unable to live in harmony is apparent by the extent to which we pollute air, water, soil, food, everything. The culture of consumerism has led to unwanted desires and excess consumption. Every instance of excess consumption must be counted as sin. It amounts to destruction. Here, destruction does not refer to the destruction of natural resources alone. It is also destruction of oneself. Excess consumption creates desire and habit. It conditions the mind and make it very weak.
But we digress.
What does it mean to live in harmony?
Before answering this question, let us analyze the trend that many relationships take. Initially, the relationship starts wonderfully. Everyone is happy and looking forward to the strengthening of the relationship. But as time progresses, things start going bad. Then, everyone is looking forward to escape from the relationship. What is going wrong here?
There is no such thing as unconditional love or a relationship free of all considerations. If such thing exists, it exists only at very superficial level for a very short period of time. In all associations, we are always seeking something special in the other person. We want to enjoy happiness by coming into contact with some trait of the other. That is why Svāmī Nammāzvār says kaṇḍapōdu paṭṭadallāl kādhal maṭṛu yādumillai. Love is always conditional upon some trait or position of the individual. In the absence of the condition, the love would disappear. There is no other form of love that exists between people.
Artist: Carroll Zahn
However, the other person has no obligation to meet this expectation. We can implement constructs and when they struggle to survive, enforce them with law. We can make various forms of contracts. But, always remember! Those who sign that contract sign it because they have something to gain due to which they find the terms acceptable. Or, they at least think that they have something to gain. When that expectation is not met, people start seeking ways of escaping that setup. The association becomes one of torment, of abuse. This is not to discount instances of blatant abuse, but in several cases, it is apparent that people feel abused when their expectations are not met. "It is not fair!!!"
There is a deeper reason for the relationships or associations to break down. It is not just that there are bad people around us. The fundamental reason for relationships to struggle to survive is very simple: they are not natural. These relationships and associations are not part of our essence. They are artificial and created by us. Whatever is artificial must be defended and reinforced with great effort, and even then, if the circumstances are unsuitable, artificial constructs will fall apart. There is no actual bond that binds people together. The bond must be nurtured by the mind. Therefore, there must be no assumptions, no taking for granted. What is deemed advantageous at first, turns devastating later. The very same trait that was attractive once is boring or hazardous now.
We can come up with slogans like "be who you are", "associate with people who accept you as you are", etc. But, all this is just nonsense. A person keeps changing all the time, and people accept you as you are not because they are indifferent to who you are but they like some traits. There is no reason why they will continue to find the same traits favorable or that the traits will even remain the same. There is no necessity to retain the relationship or association.
In Śrīvaiṣṇava Viśiṣṭādvaita tradition, all forms of relationships and associations formed between individuals is called aupādhika or that which is resulting from upādhi or circumstance/condition. It is not the natural state of things.
The only natural relationship is that with Nārāyaṇa which is in the essence of things.
Now, someone can say that he/she don't believe in Nārāyaṇa who is uniquely understood in your tradition or the person is an atheist.
Even then, this point remains. Such a person can at best only discount the existence of the natural relationship. The fact of all other associations being artificial cannot be denied.
Also, such a person cannot deny that there is such a thing available to our experience which is called universe or nature at whatever level of description: immediate experience, mathematical representation, some universal spirit or being etc. It also cannot be denied that whoever we are, we are part of this universe. In fact, we are one particular configuration within the universe. We are born out of this universe, and we go into it. Therefore, the only relationship that is natural and necessary is definitely the one with the universe or universal being, and everything else is created in it through interactions between its different modes. These associations are not necessary and part of the essence. But our relationship with natural is not conditional or drawn from circumstance.
So, whatever one's ideas may be about the nature of reality, it is clear that there is only true relationship and everything else is artificial. The artificial ones are created and are prone to destruction.
The only way to nurture an artificial relationship is not to do plenty to maintain it. All the members in the association must awaken to the truth of reality. Then, there are no false expectations, no surprises, no disappointment, no illusions. There is only existence in truth and in harmony. Harmony is the both the functional state and goal of all relationships. Otherwise, there is only attachment.