T o make the most out of life, we need to know what the greatest achievement possible in life is. If we were to ask the average person what the greatest thing he could achieve in his life was, the answers would almost all centre around increasing material facilities for the gratification of his, or his family’s material senses. People would like to become very wealthy, very beautiful, very powerful, very famous, etc. It is all self-centred. In this materialistic, selfish, self-centred world we have come to think a successful life means providing a sense of gratification.
The truth is that this concept of sense gratification is only an illusion. We can’t enjoy the material world. The actual enjoyable substance is not present in the material world. This material world is called maya, it means “that which is not”. We have the idea of pleasure, the idea of love, etc. But the actual pleasure, the actual love, is not to be found in the material world. This material world is a perverted reflection of the spiritual world. The spiritual world is the Kingdom of God. The place where Krishna lives is in association with His devotees. The real pleasure is in the spiritual world. Trying to enjoy the material world is like trying to enjoy the taste of the mangoes on a tree that is reflected in the water of a lake. We can’t taste the mangoes in the reflection of the tree. We can get the idea of the mangoes from the reflection but to taste them, we need the actual tree, not the reflection
Although we strive to be the master, the reality is we are all eternally servants. We have no choice but to serve. That is our nature. You can study any person in this world, even the so-called greatest man, and you will find he is a servant. The President is the servant of his countrymen and if they are not happy with his service, they will drag him down from office. So in this way, everyone is a servant. No one is independent. But serving in the material world is not satisfying. We can only be happy by serving Krishna.
Before spiritual life is possible, we have to realise that this material world is not our home. We are in a very hostile foreign country and we can never be happy here. To be happy, we have to go back home, back to Godhead. So there is no point in trying to make a comfortable arrangement here in the material world. It is not possible. We can never be happy in the material world. That is like a fish trying to be happy out of the water. It is not possible. The fish needs to live in a watery atmosphere. The fish can never be happy on the land. Similarly, we are spiritual entities and we can only be happy in the spiritual atmosphere. We can never be happy in the material atmosphere.
We all have our karma, our destiny. It is already fixed, we can’t change how much we will enjoy and suffer in the material world. So once we understand this, we can “make the best use of a bad bargain” and use our lives as a way to elevate our consciousness to Krishna consciousness. The human life is a very valuable boat and we can use this boat to cross over this material world, which is likened to an ocean of darkness and reach the spiritual world on the other side.
Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 8, Text 5): “And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this, there is no doubt.”
In this verse, the importance of Krishna consciousness is stressed. Anyone who quits his body in Krishna consciousness is at once transferred to the transcendental abode of the Supreme Lord. The word “remembering” is important. Remembrance of Krishna is not possible for the impure soul, who has not practised Krishna consciousness in devotional service. To remember Krishna, one should chant the maha-mantra, Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, incessantly, following in the footsteps of Lord Caitanya, being more tolerant than the tree, humbler than the grass, and offering all respect to others without requiring respect in return. In such a way, one will be able to depart from the body successfully remembering Krishna and attain the supreme goal.
So here we have the key to understanding the perfection of the human life. Our human life is perfect if we can remember Krishna at the time of death. We should never forget this. And we will not be able to remember Krishna at the time of death unless we practice remembering Krishna during our lives. The purpose of Krishna consciousness is to live in such a way that we always, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, are constantly remembering Krishna. Death can come at any moment. We do not know if we will still be living in this body in one hour. At any moment we can die. So the devotee is very careful to fill every moment of his life with Krishna consciousness. We need to adjust our lives so our every action is performed for Krishna under the direction of a pure devotee of Krishna.
This art of living for Krishna, working for Krishna, doing everything for Krishna, this is the science of Krishna consciousness, and Srila Prabhupada has given us all the secrets as to how to easily practice Krishna consciousness in his books. We need to read Srila Prabhupada’s books and put the instructions into practice in our day-to-day lives. That will lead to a very blissful and ecstatic existence for us in the material world and will cause us to remember Krishna at the time of death which will guarantee that at the time of quitting this material body, we will go back home, back to Godhead to serve Krishna there in the association of the pure devotees of Krishna. Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!
Gaurangasundar Das is Director, Iskcon Inc Communication and SM IT head.
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HOW TO REMAIN CALM AT WORK
At work, the anger we feel not only upsets us emotionally but has a deleterious effect on our physical body. It causes stress, which in turn contributes to stress-related ailments. This can affect us by increasing our risk for heart disease, cancer, stroke, high blood pressure, and other diseases.
It takes a great amount of strength to withstand the temptations to overcome anger. We may think the angry person is strong, but actually, they are succumbing out of weakness to their own temper. It takes one who is brave of heart to say no to anger.
If someone at work has hurt us, we can choose to forgive and forget or we can choose to retaliate. The choice is ours to make.
There is physical harm we do to ourselves when we are caught up in the opposite of forgiveness: anger, hatred, and vengeance. These feelings cause damage to the physical body.
Doctors and medical researchers are realizing that anger and hatred have detrimental effects on our bodies. Let us analyse the reason.
First, there are certain responses in the physical body designed to help protect itself to preserve the species. When a living creature senses danger, certain hormonal and chemical reactions within the body help it respond to danger. These hormones cause one to fight or take flight. They are useful for giving the body strength and quick physical responses, such as running or protecting one’s self. But if one interprets it as life-threatening problems of daily life that are not a threat to survival, then one is responding with the fight or flight hormones for no reason.
The result is that we do not see a need to flee or fight but feel threatened. This converts into anger or rage. Thus, we become angry over situations that don’t threaten our life. This causes the body to circulate hormones needed to run or protect one’s self over minor situations that are part of daily life. Because these hormones, such as cortisol, are circulating through us when we do not need them to, they end up causing damage to the physical body.
We know for example that real cortisone has side effects on the body, so doctors recommend them cautiously. However, the body’s natural cortisol when we are angry or under stress ends up circulating through us causing stress-related ailments. If one is continually in that state of fear, anger, or stress, those hormones cause a breakdown of other body tissues. This is what causes stress-related ailments such as digestive problems, headaches, heart problems, skin problems, and breathing problems.
The solution for protecting the body against the hormones released by hatred, anger, and vengeance is simple: forgiveness. It is only through forgiveness that we can calm ourselves down and avoid the reactions of hatred and violence. A majority of the time at our jobs we are responding to minor problems with the same intensity as if our lives were threatened. Think about all the things that make us angry. How many of them threaten our lives? How many are just minor annoyances?
We can learn how to stay calm at work by practising forgiveness when someone hurts us. In this way, we can protect our bodies from the damage of hormones released because of anger. We will see a reduction in stress-related ailments.
One of the keys is to let go. When we forgive and forget we are letting go of the past and what has happened. We are saying, “I forgive the person for what has happened. Then I am going to forget about it.” In this way, we are letting it go.
One technique to develop forgiveness so we can stay calm at work is meditation. The problems of life will not end. However, through meditation, we can focus our attention on the peace within so we can rise above life’s difficulties.
Through meditation, we are in touch with a place of calm within us that gives us the strength to forgive others, overcome anger, and stay calm at work. We cannot control others at our job, but we can control ourselves. At work, we can choose peace and calm which will help improve our physical and mental health and make for a happier life.
The author is the head of the Sawan Kirpal Ruhani Mission.
BEING IN THE ABSOLUTENESS OF YOUR BEING
Our senses are evolved as an extension of our body-mind. Body and mind are not two things. Body-mind is in fact one thing. Our body has its own mind and our mind is in fact evolved as the sense of time. Senses were desired by man. They are extensions of the body-mind.
Whole life man keeps on overfeeding senses. Senses that give him pleasures. He keeps racing after the senses. What are senses? Senses in fact are tools. They are nothing but tools. Like you are going in a car. A car becomes a tool that is an arrangement to travel faster. It becomes an extension of your body to travel faster. You cannot travel 100 miles, 200 miles, 500 miles but a car travels that distance in a matter of hours. Car lends an extension to your body to travel faster. Senses lend extension to your body.
Your body-mind has limitations and senses are evolved to lend extension to your body-mind. In fact, in the beginning, senses were not needed. But for growth of body-mind, senses grew. This world is racing fast and growing. Senses are racing fast and growing. Man has learnt to see long distances and has learnt to make sense of the world around him. Man has learnt to hear the slightest of the sound and learnt to speak and listen in complex languages. Man has learnt to evolve senses beyond sensory perception.
The world that is racing fast, together with that man is racing fast. Man has created a society around him to live. He is caught up in the complexities of the systems that he is yet to understand that systems are merely a tool. An artificial tool created by man. The man continues to perceive that the artificiality of the system is the truth of life. Society is an artificial system and it is not the truth, it is an artificiality in which we continue to live. In which we continue to get ourselves mired. Society has a utility nothing beyond it. Society has defined laws, rules, ethics and it makes one follow. But society has its own limits. Even if you have followed the rules of society it does not make you meet who you are. If if you followed the ethics or commandments set by religion like ten commandments, but they will make you moral or if you didn’t immoral. But it does not make you amoral. Beyond that.
Like we have a great history of philosophies that continue to define things. At best they can be called theorists. Philosophies have created logical thoughts. The dilemma is that gripped into this artificiality man thinks that this artificiality is the life and man has to live—the real life of artificiality.
Life is not artificial. Life is like rivers that are gushing and flowing in the joy of life. Life is birds flying in the joy of life.
That which is existence, that existence is absolute. In absoluteness existence exists. Upanishads say that which is absolute births the absolute. Man is born in that absoluteness. One who is birthed into this world is born from absoluteness and he is to attain that absoluteness in his life. He is born to strive for what he is already is. That is the joke of life at which Buddha laughs.
Man is going to be what he already is born with because the man never becomes one who he already set to be but he always wants to be what he is not.
Life is simple. A seed grows into the tree and the tree grows into seeds. Man thinks that he is going to be something. He is not going to be someone. Man is destined to be what he is set to be but his mind does not accept that absoluteness. Because mind too is an artificiality. And artificiality is the absence of absoluteness.
Mind is the gross artificiality of knowledge that makes man think thoughts of being. Without being in the being. If you ask a man who is he. He would read out the whole history of knowledge of existentialism but he would not know who is he. Because to know who is he has to be. And the mind is not to be. Mind mires one into the artificiality of knowledge.
Man has covered himself with a robe of artificiality in the mind. He has identified himself with that robe. Senses make perception. The one who is deep-seeded within us at the seat of our being is absolute. That is the one you is beyond perception. Because perception that senses make is created in the mind.
To go beyond your senses is when you drown into that absolute into its absoluteness. That is what we are that is what we have become that which is our journey is leading us to be who we are. Senses, systems, society are temporary utilities.
Being is knowing that which is you and knowing that which is you is to be that which is the absolute being.
That which is your mind is your not being when you are not is your mind. A mind does not experience but doubts the experience. A mind simply collects data about experiences. When you have not experienced something and you get to know about it. An experiencer does not doubt his experience but a mind who is a non-experiencer doubts an experience.
So begin to doubt your doubt to release the grip of the mind. Mind is the absence of your being. All logical thoughts, definitions arise because you were not and your mind makes a proxy of your being in the real world that Hindus call maya. When you are present in your presence then the mind does not work. Being in the beingness of your being if someone says something, shastras (scriptures) are birthed.
When you are in the mind you are the ego. Life is not the journey of the ego because the ego is not. Neither life is a journey in society. Which again is an ego. Life exists in the absoluteness and being in the absoluteness of your being.
The author is a spiritual teacher. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
KRISHNA RESPONDS TO ALL AS PER THEIR DESIRES
Krishna is revealing Himself to everyone in the way they want to see Him or if someone does not want to see Him, Krishna is hiding Himself from them.
‘All of them–As they surrender unto Me–I reward accordingly. Everyone follows My path in all respects, O son of Prtha [Arjuna].” (Bhagavad Gita 4.11)
Krishna is responding to everyone, devotee or non-devotee. He is revealing Himself or not revealing Himself according to the desire of the individual person. In another place in the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says: “I am within everyone’s heart and I am giving remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness.” So one may ask why would Krishna give anyone the ability to forget Him? He states here clearly that He gives remembrance and knowledge — but He also gives forgetfulness. Krishna helps the devotees by giving them remembrance and knowledge so they can worship and serve Him–because that is what the devotees want, they want to remember Krishna, so Krishna helps them. But the demons do not want to remember Krishna. They want to become the supreme lord themselves, they want others to serve them, they want to be the master–they do not want to surrender to Krishna, they do not want to even know that there is a Supreme Personality of Godhead above them. So it is Krishna’s mercy to the demons that from within their hearts He gives them the ability to forget Him.
In reality, everyone is searching for Krishna in the different aspects of His manifestations. Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and is fully realised by His pure devotees but everyone is realising different aspects of Krishna according to their desires and their surrender to Krishna. The jnanis or the philosophers partially realise Krishna in the form of His impersonal brahmajyoti effulgence that is spread everywhere in an all-pervasive way,
the yogis or meditators realise the paramatma or super soul feature of Krishna within their hearts. In this way, Krishna is the object of everyone’s realisation and He reveals Himself according to one’s desire to have Him.
In the transcendental world also Krishna reciprocates with His pure devotees just as the devotee wants Him. One devotee may want Krishna as his supreme master, another as his personal friend, another as his son and still another as his lover. Krishna responds to all the devotees equally, according to their different intensities of love for Him. In the material world also the same reciprocations of feelings are there, and they are equally exchanged by the Lord with the different types of worshipers.
The pure devotees both here in the material world and in the spiritual world associate with Krishna in person and are able to render personal service to Him and in this way they derive transcendental bliss from His loving service. Also, Krishna helps the impersonalists who desire to commit spiritual suicide by annihilating the individual existence of the living entity—Krishna helps them by absorbing them into His effulgence. Because the impersonalists do not agree to accept the eternal, blissful Personality of Godhead they can not enjoy the bliss of personal service to the Lord, having extinguished their individuality. So Krishna is rewarding the impersonalists in the way they want to be rewarded, by absorbing them into His impersonal effulgence and He is rewarding the devotees also by manifesting Himself before them in the way they want to see Him.
Krishna directly states that for the non-devotees—because they do not want to see Him—He does not manifest Himself before them:
“I am never manifest to the foolish and unintelligent. For them I am covered by My eternal creative potency [yoga-maya]; and so the deluded world knows Me not, who am unborn and infallible.” (Bhagavad Gita 7.25)
This whole material world is created by Krishna for us, the rebellious living entities who want to try to enjoy separately from Him. In reality, there is no enjoyment separate from Krishna because He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead the sole enjoyer and we are His servants. We are constitutionally servants. We have no alternative, we must render service. The devotees’ enjoyment comes from seeing Krishna happy. So when Krishna is happy because of his service the devotee enjoys.
The materialists, also, can not avoid this service. Even if you look at the greatest and most powerful men on the planet—they all have to render service. If you take the President of the United States—a very big post—still he has to serve the country. He is elected because he promises to serve the country and if he does not serve the people will demand that he be removed from the post of president.
Every one of us is serving. Some are serving their family and to get the money they have to serve the boss and serve the customers. Even if one is alone he is still serving his senses. In every field of life, this service is the most prominent thing for everyone. Many have heard the term ‘sanatana dharma‘ but very few realise what this is. Sanatana means ‘eternal’ and dharma means ‘occupation’ so sanatana dharma means the eternal occupation of the living entity. People tend to think that this sanatana dharma is religion but that is not a very good understanding of the word because religion can change. One day I can be a Christian then I can change to be a Hindu so this ‘Christian’ or ‘Hindu’ can not be sanatana dhrama because it can not be changed.
The dharma of an object is that thing that can not be separated from the object. The thing that can not be changed, the eternal characteristic of that object. For example, if we speak of sugar it must be sweet. Sweetness is the dharma of sugar. If it is not sweet it is not sugar. The dharma of water is to be wet, the dharma of salt is to be salty… So what is our dharma? What is the characteristic that we have that can not be changed and without it, we have no meaning? Actually, that characteristic is service. We have no meaning without service. There is no way we can escape from service. Even to simply maintain the body we have to work, we have to render service. So our dharma is service and there are so many different types of service that we can be occupied with. But what is sanatana dharma, our eternal occupation? That is service to Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead so that is our eternal occupation, serving Krishna, and really there is nothing else but service to Krishna.
However, Krishna has given us all a limited amount of independence. Our relationship with Krishna is based on love and love can not be forced. So if we are to love Krishna voluntarily then there has to be some other option for the rebellious living entities who decide not to love Krishna. That is this material world and because Krishna reciprocates with all the living entities in the way they want to see Him then it is His great mercy for the demons who have rebelled against Him the He creates this material world as a place where the demons can forget Krishna and try to be happy separately from serving Krishna. Actually, there is no question of us ever being separate from Krishna but to create this illusion for the demons who want it Krishna has created maha maya. It is only by the power of maya that the demons are bewildered into thinking that they can be happy separately from Krishna, it is only by the spell of maya that they think they can turn this material world into a happy place where they can live forever.
So the summary is Krishna reveals Himself to the living entities in the way they want to see Him. So for a devotee, Krishna appears as Krishna in a relationship like a son, friend or lover, and for the demon, Krishna appears as maya and by the illusions generated by maya the demon can believe that Krishna does not exist.
Therefore, Krishna is revealing Himself to everyone in the way they want to see Him or if someone does not want to see Him, Krishna is hiding Himself from them.
Gauranga Sundar das is Iskcon, Inc Communication Director and SM IT head.
THE BEAUTY OF A QUIET MIND
When my mind becomes quiet, the whole of my life will have an upgrade. We spend a lot of time every day trying to communicate and assuming that our message is being understood. In fact, most people are actually listening to themselves, to the inner dialogue that is going on while someone is speaking to us; ‘Am I being respected?’, ‘What does this person think of me?’ ‘What shall I say as soon as I get the chance to speak?’
This is why there is so much miscommunication, misunderstanding, confusion, chaos and conflict. It happens in the office, in organisations and in the home. We all try to be ‘efficient’ that is, doing things right. In fact, we need to be ‘effective’, which means doing the right things, which is the result of a steady and calm mind, acquired from deep understanding. A quiet mind can understand what is being said and can clearly see priorities; what needs to be done or said, and what does need to be done or said that can wait for later or a more appropriate time. This is one of the attributes of a good leader.
We have been brought up in a competitive and aggressive world where we all try to control others for our own agenda. However, the more we control the less influence is actually exerted. People put up defences when they are being controlled. Those who influence make people feel safe and open and then they offer all the help they can. Those who reach the top through control and aggression and by hurting others are never secure. They know deep down that they are not liked, and they live with underlying fear.
Those who are the greatest among us carry a natural influence, and demonstrate by their behaviour what needs to be done and how it should be done. These are leaders who serve and uplift others, and they actually achieve the greatest of all achievements, they win the hearts and minds of others; that is real power.
In times of upheaval people often say, ‘Don’t just sit there, do something!’ It is much better to say, ‘Don’t just do something, please first sit there, and make your mind quiet; be at peace and whatever you do then, will be meaningful and effective.’
Quiet minds become quiet by spending time in introversion and meditation. A little time spent in this, each and every day, brings a mind that is full of quiet, clarity and power.
Yogesh Sharda is the National Coordinator of the Brahma Kumaris’ services in Turkey.
WHAT I LEARNT FROM SURVIVING 9/11
I am 69 years old, and have been studying Rajyoga with the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University for over 47 years. On 11 September 2001, I was working on the 64th floor of The World Trade Center, in the north tower. The north tower was the first to be hit by the terrorist attack.
We started to move down the building using the staircase. As we were moving down slowly, the second plane hit the second tower and then we realised we were under attack. After some time, the other tower collapsed. The debris from the collapsed tower blocked our stairs and we needed to change the staircase we were using. After some time, water started gushing down these stairs with great force. We were told to change our staircase again, as this one was broken and impassable further down. We had to go into a pitch-dark corridor with falling water and dangling electrical wires. It was like a scene from a horror movie. We finally reached the ground and within five minutes the tower began to collapse, and we had to run from the area to escape the falling debris.
I have been asked many times about how afraid I was. I tried to recall but could not remember any moment of fear. When I wondered about this, I tried to work out why that was so. I do think that my practice of meditation over many years helped me focus on my inner ability to think clearly, but there were other factors. The smoke was not affecting me for some reason, while it was affecting others. I had a severe knee problem as I was recovering from surgery. None of this bothered me because, and I think this is the key, I began helping others. When I heard screams of fear from ladies on the way down, I stepped back to reassure them, and let them pass in front of me. They called me an angel, which I found made me smile; all I had done was go back a few steps, and that earned me the accolade of being an angel!
If I had died that day, some of those people would have remembered me as an angel. But I would have been a dead angel! I lost 10 co-workers in our division. This made me question the fact that I had survived. After a long period of reflection, I made a silent promise to myself. I would consider that I had in fact died that day. The life I have now is a new life given to me by a higher being. So, this life is not for myself, it is a life of service of the world. I could become a real, tiny, living angel. Angels appear in times of crisis, help, and then disappear before anyone notices. I would do something to make a difference.
In 2012, with the help of young people, I started a global initiative called ‘7 Billion Acts of Goodness’. The initiative is to create a global environment of care, compassion and generosity by inspiring people to collectively perform seven billion acts of goodness, one each for the seven billion people on Earth. To further the aims of the initiative I have travelled to more than 700 cities in 20 countries and delivered more than 2,500 presentations, mainly in schools and colleges.
When faced with extreme situations like the 9/11 terrorist attacks, you are completely on your own. It makes no difference whether you are rich or poor, the boss or an employee. You are the sum total of what you have been up until that moment. You have no time to analyse or use logic, your destiny turns on a moment. Stay where I am? Go down the staircase? Destiny!
I believe that real healing comes from forgiveness. The cycle of revenge and counter revenge has to stop somewhere. Forgiveness brings freedom and acceptance. Forgiveness starts within my own self. Forget the negative, replace it with positive—positive thoughts, wishes, words and actions. Learning how to see the self in all its wonder is something that can be done through meditation. Can we together build a world of goodness and happiness? Yes, we can!
Ram Singal is a civil engineer and owns a consulting firm in New York, USA. He is also the founder and international director of a worldwide initiative called ‘7 Billion Acts of Goodness’.
WALKING THE SPIRITUAL PATH
We, who walk the spiritual path, are those who have enrolled themselves in the school of spirituality. Our aim should be to pass all subjects, with honour.
This means that spiritual understanding and power from God have been so well assimilated that not one of life’s many challenges is faced without equanimity and truth. The heart is merciful and altruistic, never giving or taking sorrow. Feelings are pure, that is, devoid of any needs or expectations, and these pure feelings are shared abundantly with others.
And we will not have achieved this by becoming a hermit and leaving the world of everyday life. Rather, we will have remained completely in the world, yet distanced ourselves from all its vice and negativity.
Now is the time to become such a successful student of life; I should never doubt myself in this. Trust in God brings His assistance. This plus my own determination will increase the strength to move forward and progress.
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