21 September is the International Day of Peace or World Peace Day. It is a holiday sanctioned by the United Nations and observed annually. The day is dedicated to the absence of war and violence, commemorating the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples.
The theme for 2020 is ‘Shaping Peace Together’. This year, it has been more evident than ever that we are not each other’s enemies, as a microscopic foe has brought the whole of humanity to its knees! Life as we knew it has been altered within a few months and we have been reminded that what happens in one part of the planet can impact all of us.
Peace — the word has inspired songs, speeches and even one of the most oft-used farewell wishes, rest in peace or RIP.
Peace means freedom from disturbance and a state in which there is no violence. ‘Is that not our natural state?’ you wonder. Have we moved so far away from our natural state of tranquility that we actually need a day to commemorate peace?
Why has this happened? As man evolved into a social animal, differences of opinion surfaced. Skirmishes between alphas of the species grew and from small tribal conflicts, we gradually grew into an animal that seemed to be bent upon destroying itself! We even smashed the atom in search of peace.
“Homo sapiens hold the record among all organisms for driving the most plant and animal species to extinction. We have the dubious distinction of being the deadliest species in the annals of life,” says Yuval Noah Harari in his book, From Animals into Gods: A Brief History of Humankind.
What is the cause behind this? What has distinguished us so dramatically from all other forms of life? What has brought about the massive shift from nature’s default state of tranquility?
One can argue that violence and wars have actually reduced and there is more peace in the physical world, but what about mental peace? Would it be true to say that ‘peace of mind’ has become more elusive now than ever before? We have law and order and it is enforced in the physical world to maintain peace but what are the deterrents to disturbances that arise in the mental space?
The answer lies in the human mind. Paradoxically, it is the same thing that has allowed us to flourish as a species, build railroads, airplanes, set foot on the moon and today, see each other virtually on our screens as we work from home. It is the same thing that makes us frantic on the metaphorical shores of life trying to hold on to the ‘good’ waves and fighting away ‘bad’ waves; the invisible force that makes us play this fruitless game for decades, only to make us simply sit down in the sand at the end and allow the waves to follow their natural rhythm as we finally rest in peace!
Now, not only do our minds trick us into this dysfunctional and relentless exercise in futility, but also forms alliances with minds that think alike. So the ‘like-minded’ come together in large numbers by believing in common myths they create, like a state or a nation, a religion, a sect, a caste or an ideology. And this collective dysfunction instinctively seeks to destroy other ‘xenophobic’ and ‘bigoted’ groups simply because ‘they’ are different from ‘us’.
So how then do we rise above the ravages of the mind — this brilliant tool that can be a savage master?
“We can never attain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves,” said the Dalai Lama.
The real reason for the loss of peace both internal and external is this never-ending and pointless pursuit of ephemeral feelings, causing us constant restlessness, tension and unhappiness. The mind tricks us into this pursuit without us realizing that even when the mind finally experiences the pleasure it seeks, it is not satisfied because it is afraid that the pleasant feeling might disappear and not last forever!
By staying in the present moment, the realization that nothing lasts forever comes to us and the pursuit stops. By simply sitting and breathing, the mind can become clear, relaxed and satisfied. Feelings arise and pass. While living in the moment, you see them for what they are — mere feelings. You stop your constant identification with them. You can shift from an existential state of mind, like ‘I am frustrated’, to an experiential state of mind, like ‘I am experiencing frustration’. The shackles start to fall away!
Just like courage is not the absence of fear but the mastery of it, peace does not mean an absence of conflict. Differences can be there. However, solving them in humane ways is what makes us human.
Through the simple practices of training the mind, we can overcome this mental dysfunction that destroys peace. By breathing in and breathing out, awareness rises, disturbances go away, and tranquility follows. We are able to see differences for what they are and the underlying aspect of common humanity starts to prevail.
And then, finally, something truly liberating starts to happen. Standing on the shores of life, you see that each wave is different — and that each wave is beautiful. And each can be observed in bliss, without feeling the need to control or change it. A shift happens from ‘doing’ to ‘being’. Now, you really are a human — a human being. Whole inside, with peace outside.
Shanti. Shalom. Salam.
Gopi Krishnaswamy is a mindfulness coach & regional lead at the Google-born Search Inside Yourself
Leadership Institute. He is also a Zen practitioner and an author.
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DASA MAHAVIDYAS: THE TEN FEMININE COSMIC POWERS
The Dasha Mahavidyas or Ten Wisdom Goddesses in Hindu mythology, cover the whole range of feminine divinity, from horrific goddesses to beautiful Devis.
Once, during a game of dice between Shiva and Parvati, Shiva lost, and Parvati asked for the crescent moon adorning his hair as payment. When he refused, she got angry. This in turn infuriated Shiva, who threatened to leave. No amount of cajoling by Parvati helped. Eventually, to block Shiva’s way, Parvati transformed herself into various forms, blocking all ten directions.
These are the Dasha Mahavidyas or Ten Wisdom Goddesses in Hindu mythology, covering the whole range of feminine divinity, from horrific goddesses to beautiful Devis. Each Goddess has her own cosmic function in universal harmony, and meditating upon her leads to realisation of the mysterious nature of the self.
Kali, the first Goddess symbolises time, death, and destruction. When one starts on the spiritual path, one will first have to transcend the fear of time and death and recognise the temporary nature of the world. The second Goddess Tara represents invoking the compassion of awakened masters to show us the right path.
One now seeks a wise and gentle Guru who will strengthen one in times of need and distress. The third is Shodashi, the sixteen-year-old. This reminds the seeker of the youthful exuberance and lightness of true knowledge, which is seen here as the realisation of the splendour of nature, the profound harmony, and principle in all things. The fourth, Bhuvaneswari represents the vastness of space. She implies an increase in one’s consciousness that appears by pursuing true knowledge. The seeker now realises that momentary realisations during meditation are of no consequence. Bhairavi, the fifth Goddess implies diligent spiritual practice, whereby the adept attains great focus and perseverance to succeed. With the arising of true knowledge, the ego is annihilated and the seeker acquires immense courage- seeing beyond duality. The sixth, Chinnamasta, represents this as the Goddess who cuts off her own head.
But here comes a great hazard.
The seeker is now suddenly attacked by a phase of emptiness, deep sorrow, and doubt. It has sometimes been called ‘The dark night of the Soul’. One is racked with doubt and wants to discard all practice- feeling that all that one has done so far is futile. Many seekers have become so depressed in this phase that they have even tried to commit suicide.
Their faith in their God, their practice, and their master is completely shaken. The seventh Goddess, Dhumavati, symbolises the power of this void. Perseverance and immense inner strength are needed to transcend this phase and to recognise the transience of even one’s faith and beliefs. On the passing of this great darkness, one experiences the dawn of true awakening. One is stunned into complete silence- not knowing how to relate to this new reality- since there is no ‘other’, thus no relating at all. One remains transfixed, hypnotised into silence. In such a state, the realised one moves through the world as if in a trance. It’s said that Gautama Buddha remained in such a state for several days after he awakened.
The eighth Goddess is Bagalamukhi, the Goddess who seizes the tongue. Once awakening occurs, nothing remains sacred or profane. All appear to be the same reality. One sees beauty in everything.
There is no duality-no right or wrong, good or bad. Often, the awakened one forgets to remain “clean and washed”. Often, such people lose body consciousness, whether they are naked or clothed. Matangi, the ninth Goddess, represents this phase, as’ one who is unmindful of pollution. Eventually, the self-realised soul begins to “play” in the world. The awakened ones playfully follow worldly customs and yet experience no bondage. Around such people, people experience joy, the vanishing of sorrows, abundance, natural creativity, and spontaneous solutions to their material problems. Miracles and occult powers are said to remain vassals to such realised souls- who have no use for them.
Kamala, the tenth Wisdom Goddess, implies abundance and spiritual perfection. Kamala represents the full unfolding of the power of self-realisation in the material sphere. Meditations on the Goddesses are forms of self-inquiry, representing the secret and subtle. Their forms are often disturbing; not just meant for idle ‘idol’ worship, but also to shock one into higher awareness. Unless one is willing to look beyond the apparent, it’s easy to remain entangled in the outer forms of the Goddesses. The Dasha Mahavidyas reveal the inner workings of both the cosmos and one’s psyche. They represent the deeper truths of life—beyond attachment to name and form.
Deepam Chatterjee teaches meditation and lectures on mysticism and mythology.
The ten Mahavidyas, or Wisdom Goddesses, represent distinct aspects of divinity intent on guiding the spiritual seeker toward liberation. Each Goddess has her own cosmic function in universal harmony, and meditating upon her leads to realisation of the mysterious nature of the self. The Dasha Mahavidyas reveal the inner workings of both the cosmos and one’s psyche. They represent the deeper truths of life beyond attachment to name and form.
LIVE LIFE ON PURPOSE OR LIVE LIFE BY ACCIDENT
If we do not live life on purpose, we live life by accident. People’s minds today are racing, so all they do is at breakneck speed. Accidents often happen because of haste and impatience. It is neither necessary nor desirable to rush. When our mind is at peace whilst we are driving, or in fact doing anything, we arrive at our destination or complete our tasks on time.
In the same way that a speeding car poses a safety threat, uncontrolled scattered thoughts can bring undesirable outcomes. We need to use the internal brake of mental control. Mental control helps us to slow down and steer our thoughts in the right direction before moving ahead on the journey of life. To practice controlling the speed of thoughts, pause several times during the day. Slow down. Observe the thought patterns. There is no knowing how long our physical life will last. But, by remembering that although the body is made of matter and is perishable, I the soul am imperishable, I never die; by becoming aware of this deepest inner space of the self, separate from the body, we can find this point of stillness which is always perfect and pure, and where an enriching experience of silence can be deeply experienced.
To experience this silence, there is no need to withdraw from daily life. To experience and maintain a calm, collected internal state, I simply need to allocate time each day to spaces of stillness and meditation. One pure and positive thought may look like a tiny spark, but if nurtured every day, it can change my whole life. When my eyes open in the morning, I sit for a moment and hold on to a peaceful thought and appreciate the gift of a new day. I need to think less, think slowly, but think powerful and enriching thoughts. I pay attention to each task and avoid multitasking. I eat with gratitude and appreciation. I notice my breathing and focus for a moment or two on the in breath and the out breath.
Nurturing the inner being in this way allows me to take care of my home, work and family affairs, and yet continue giving without depleting myself! I see each day as an opportunity to make each thought one of good wishes and each action one of benefit to the self and others.
Chirya Yvonne Risely is a Rajyoga meditation teacher, based at the Brahma Kumaris Peace Village Retreat Center, USA.
FORGIVENESS IS A PART OF NON-VIOLENCE
What is forgiveness? Forgiveness is maybe freedom. Because I am not doing the other person a favour, but rather I am doing myself a favour. I am unloading the burden that I have carried for however long that may be – a short time or a long time. However, once I decide that actually it is not in my jurisdiction, because whoever has been involved has been involved with a karmic connection with the Almighty, and so they are answerable to the Almighty, and I do not have to think about it. But if I carry the pain and sorrow in my heart, I carry that as a burden. So let me put God’s love between me and the other, and be able to forgive them with a big heart, a generous heart, so that I can find freedom, myself.
Forgiveness is also one aspect of non-violence. When I do not forgive, then there is a violence that I am inflicting on myself. I may also be inflicting a violence through my vibrations or my thoughts and in my attitude, towards the other. And so let me experience true non-violence, which also means being able to forgive.
In the 20th century we saw two amazing characters on the world stage in this unlimited drama of the world. One, of course, was Mahatma Gandhi, and the power of non-violence, and the liberation that came as a result of that. But we also saw President Mandela, and the power of forgiveness that was able to avert bloodshed, and bring about democracy, in a situation where people had thought it would never be possible. Through this, we understand how the power of forgiveness is incredibly effective. So let me try it, each day in my own life, and see how liberating it is and how it brings me closer to the Divine.
B.K. Jayanti is Additional Administrative Head of the Brahma Kumaris.
THE REWARDS OF AN ELEVATED MIND
An elevated mind, characterised by high thinking, is the foundation of a fulfilling life. When one’s thoughts and attitude are unselfish and charitable, the actions are naturally benevolent. The decisions that arise from such a mind are right in every situation, for the self and others. The key is having a clean mind and a compassionate vision.
One sign of an elevated mind is that the person will recognise their purpose in life – that they are in this world not just to live for themselves, but to serve and contribute in some way, using their talents and abilities. They can clearly discern what is of value and what is not; where they should invest their time and energy and what to avoid. When the mind is clean and the thinking is not muddied by the influence of any kind of negativity, the right choices are easily made. Weaknesses such as greed, ego, jealousy, or anger, if left unchecked, lead our thoughts astray and distort our judgment. Decisions then taken may look right to us from our skewed perspective, but they will not be the best. In the absence of honest introspection and course correction, such decisions feed our weakness. This is a slippery slope that may eventually lead to pettiness.
But when there is a genuine desire to be and do the best that we can, we feel the unease caused by vices, recognise their deceptions, and rise above them to do what we know in our heart is the right thing.
Souls with love for purity and honesty are also able to have a strong faith, because they have experienced that communion with the Divine nurtures and strengthens all that is good in them. Remembrance of God, and the relationship that thereby develops with Him, becomes a channel for such souls to receive divine love, power, and guidance. The soul is then able to overcome its weaknesses. Unfettered by the vices, free of the pain and agitation they cause, the soul can then have lasting peace and happiness. Their generosity of spirit then guides them to share these with others unselfishly. This is how an elevated mind makes life fulfilling and great.
B.K. Surya is a Rajyoga teacher at the Brahma Kumaris headquarters in Mount Abu, Rajasthan.
Peace and hope in difficult times
“Be a helper of God. Be loving and compassionate. Be a healer for the world. Be a guide to the Light.” Dadi Janki
Fifty years ago, scientists began alerting us all to the signs they were cataloguing, as they began to understand what was really happening, and the danger that the planet was in. Fifty years on and the crises they predicted are now more than looming on the horizon, they are being experienced, in one form or another, by every individual on earth. The statistics are alarming, and they come from across the globe, from the poles, from the ocean, from the land. The rise in temperature brings in its wake melting ice caps, diminishing rainfall, and massive forest fires. The repercussions are immense, because we are reaching the boundaries of what the resources on the planet can provide. We are using and taking resources from the earth faster than they can be replenished. Those in power thought that money and technology could fix the problem – they could not. Because we are all bound and connected to the weather patterns, this environmental crisis is also a crisis of humanity. So, humanity as a whole must begin to behave and think in a different way.
So, what can we do? Well, just as in our personal lives, when a crisis arrives, we can adopt a variety of attitudes towards it. We can panic, we can deny that it is happening, or we can see it as an opportunity, a chance, for changing the way we are living our lives. This crisis of humanity is sending signals, ringing alarm bells and saying that our lifestyle is not right, our economic model is not right, our mindset is not right – so we must change. Some have already heard these bells, recognised the signals, and so, change is already in the air and things are beginning to shift.
Practically there are five steps we can take:
1. Raise awareness and consciousness – talk about it
2. Drastically change our lifestyle – consume less
3. Reduce our carbon footprint – think before we travel
4. Use renewable energy sources – solar power and wind power
The fifth step is of a spiritual nature. Anyone who has attended a coaching session in a business setting knows very well that the first thing the coach says is that it is vital to stay positive and optimistic. The mindset of optimism is fundamental to a positive outcome. This basis for positive change is now backed up by scientific research. In quantum physics research, scientists, to their amazement, discovered that matter is affected by thought, and the kind of thoughts the mind thinks. They found that it is the intention in the mind that influences physical reality, in one direction or another. Our thoughts and vision create the shape of reality.
So now consider the way we look at and think about the world. Sometimes we are angry and feel hopeless, negative, pessimistic, upset, and we continue to complain and criticise. Therefore, we create that kind of an energy field around us, and we are emanating that into the plants, the air, everything around us – transmitting our ‘intention’. The world we have today is the one we have had in our consciousness transmitting our intention. That is how powerful our consciousness is.
So, the question remains, what kind of world do we want? Because science is telling us that we can have the world we want, by changing our mindset. By changing our emotions and feelings, by making our intent based on love, and peace and harmony – this will affect our physical reality. Our inner world and the outer world are interconnected.
The most powerful thoughts are created in meditation. Science considers meditation to be almost miraculous! A great deal of research has been done into the effects of meditation. Not only have they done a multitude of brain scans, but also documented changes in behaviour and habits. Meditation has been shown to increase social competence, deepen relaxation and improve health, increase brains cells and brain cell activity, and has demonstrated changes in habits and awareness. Love will play a fundamental role in the transition the world is to go through. Love and compassion are the key components of all of the changes we need to make. What you think matters – imagine your perfect world, and it will materialise.
Golo J. Pilz is Advisor, Renewable Energy, to the Brahma Kumaris, and President of India Care Trust, Germany.
THE JOURNEY TO TRUE ENLIGHTENMENT
The soul, even on the threshold of enlightenment, must stand firm in its determination to merge in God. Where there is ego, there is separation from God. To realize our oneness with God, we must surrender the ego itself. By our own free choice we must say, “I want the infinite Self, not the little self.” It’s not easy.
That highest and final test is the most challenging of them all. At that moment the ego recoils and says, “No, no—wait!” All those who have attained enlightenment have experienced it. Buddha told how, on the eve of his enlightenment, suddenly Satan appeared in tempting forms to try to draw him back into ego consciousness. Buddha, with one supreme effort, rapped on the ground and said, “Mara—Death—I have defeated you!” And Satan disappeared.
THE DOORWAY TO THE HIGHEST ATTAINMENT
Ramakrishna, a great saint of the 19th century in India, was faced with the difficulty of giving up the lower self. His guru, Totapuri, wanted to give him the experience of samadhi, complete absorption of the self in the Infinite, but Ramakrishna was a devotee of God in the form of the Divine Mother, and every time he reached the doorway of samadhi, he would suddenly see the Divine Mother.
And he would feel such love – the love of the devotee for God – that he couldn’t go through that doorway in to the impersonal consciousness of the Infinite. Finally Totapuri took a piece of glass from the ground and rammed it into Ramakrishna’s forehead at the point between the eyebrows, crying, “Concentrate there!” Ramakrishna then mentally took a sword and, slicing Divine Mother in half, he realized the highest state of consciousness.
Rajarshi Janakananda, Paramhansa Yogananda’s chief disciple, was just at the point before he attained the highest enlightenment, when suddenly his meditations became filled with darkness. For years his meditations had been filled with the light and bliss of God contact, but suddenly it was all gone. He felt strongly tempted to give into doubts and disbelief, but he nonetheless kept trying, and continued to meditate.
After days of darkness, suddenly Rajarshi saw a little point of light. Gradually that point of light came closer and closer until it became Paramhansa Yogananda, then Sri Yukteswar, then Lahiri Mahasaya, then Babaji. And then, finally, Rajarshi merged into the Infinite.
SABIKALPA SAMADHI: A FULFILMENT AND A TEMPTATION
Liberation from the ego does not come with the first glimpses of cosmic consciousness. Samadhi comes in two stages: sabikalpa and nirbikalpa. The first stage, sabikalpa samadhi, is conditional and temporary. In sabikalpa samadhi, the body is in a trance state and immobile, but the ego remains subconsciously present and returns in full force after one leaves his meditation. From this state it is still possible to fall spiritually, for one has not yet overcome ego-consciousness completely.
This first stage, then, constitutes not only a fulfillment but also a serious temptation. It is by no means unheard of for devotees to fall back into delusion after reaching this point. For upon returning to ego-awareness, the devotee can use the memory of the consciousness of infinity to reinforce the power of the ego. Backed by the memory of oneness with the whole universe, he can easily imagine himself to need no further help or guidance. “I’m as great as my guru!” he may tell himself. “I am omniscient and infallible. I am supreme!”
Paramhansa Yogananda once said to Rajarshi Janakananda, “Never forget where your power comes from.” With a sweet smile Rajarshi answered, “I won’t Master. It comes from you.” Yogananda once said to me, “Remember, you will not be safe until you have attained nirbikalpa samadhi.” He told me about various saints who had fallen after they had attained the lower samadhi.
The other, and positive, side of sabikalpa samadhi is that meditators normally return from it, not tempted to strengthen their egos, but eager to reject ego-consciousness altogether after the experience of the absolute bliss of cosmic consciousness. For most who attain this high level of soul-refinement, the temptation to return to their egos no longer exists.
The only thing that “tempts” them is their memory of the paradise to which they have not yet been granted full admittance. In the highest samadhi, nirbikalpa samadhi, there is no longer any danger of slipping spiritually. The ego no longer exists. At this point the soul is no longer aware of the ego in human terms, but knows it solely as a manifestation of the Infinite Reality. Every moment of one’s life, and every atom of one’s body, is permeated throughout with divine bliss.
LIBERATING SHOCK OF OMNIPRESENCE
The real work on the spiritual path is to prepare the mind for this ultimate transformation. Were cosmic consciousness to come without prior preparation, the mind would be unable to contain it. It would receive a shock comparable to high-voltage electricity in the wiring of a house.
A science-fiction story appeared years ago about a planet that received its illumination from several suns. Together, the suns kept it constantly bathed in daylight. Once in every thousand years, however, these suns became so disposed that the inhabitants of the planet could briefly see the stars beyond the suns. Many people, overwhelmed by such a sudden and extraordinary event, went mad.. Their reaction was not, perhaps, wholly believable, but spiritually speaking, the point of the story is both clear and valid. Human consciousness, conditioned as it is by ordinary, worldly experience, is unable to accept what Yogananda called “the liberating shock of omnipresence.” It isn’t that omnipresence is devastating. The ego, however, must be conditioned by long and deep meditation to surrender itself into a greater self-awareness. Too sudden an expansion from its customary, though limited, perspective might only bewilder it with its sweeping panorama of things as they really are.
A young disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda’s once asked another, who was highly advanced, to give him a taste of divine ecstasy. The older one demurred, saying, “If I did so, your bliss, which you haven’t yet earned, would be temporary. Later on, you would be unable to bear your life any longer.”
WHEN EFFORTS END IN EASE
Truth seekers must understand that finding God is not like the supreme effort required, say, to climb Mount Everest, the accomplishment of which is more arduous at the end than at the beginning. Finding God is the simplest, most obvious, and most supremely natural thing to do in the world. At the end, one doesn’t find himself straining with desperate, heroic zeal to merge in Him. Rather, one relaxes, supremely, into perfect Bliss. Strain, tension, ardor, heroic zeal: these end forever for the soul. What is left is Satchidananda: ever-existing, ever-conscious, ever-new bliss.
What happens is that in your meditations you reach a point where you’ve gotten rid of all self-definitions. There’s nothing to cling to anymore. You’re not a woman or a man. You’re not American or Indian or French. You’re not rich or poor. You’re not young or old. You’re not beautiful or ugly. You’re none of these things.
Ramakrishna gave us a beautiful illustration with the onion. He said that spiritual progress is like peeling an onion. You get rid of peel after peel of self-definition until, what’s left? Nothing. The onion is made of these peels. The magnetism emanated by a true master lifts his disciples above their egos. What the guru does for us is primarily on a level of consciousness. He works from within, on our thoughts and feelings. Our job, above all, is to offer our hearts and minds up to him, that he may transform us.
The author is a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda.
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