What does conscious breathing achieve for us? And why has it become such an indispensable part of modern-day wellness literature? Can it help you deal with the dark depressive episodes, or calm your anxious nerves at a time when the whole world is getting depressed due to a long leave from the outer world, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic? What can it do to change your state of mind? What do the researchers have to say? Breathing forms the basis of a variety of relaxation and wellness techniques. Human ability to consciously regulate breathing has been explored for eons, especially in the yogic practices and tenets for its powerful effect on mind and body.
The functioning of most organs critical to survival and health, like heart, stomach, pancreas, and liver is involuntary. Breathing is unique as it is mostly involuntary, but can be controlled. The ability to switch between voluntary and involuntary function allows breathing to impact the body-mind complex, and gives us access to a slew of benefits that are now validated by scientific research.
Many people first got a taste of breathwork during their yoga or meditation session. Now, increasing numbers of people are seeking out full-fledged sessions on breathing for better health. How does breathwork help us have a sound mind? Let’s have a look…
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), depression will be one of the leading causes of global disease burden in 2020. This problem is further exacerbated by the current pandemic. Mental Health experts are warning about a historic wave of mental health disorders post-pandemic. In this scenario, it becomes even more important to provide safe, natural ways of preventing and managing depression. In, for example, one of the first research studies done on the Sudarshan Kriya (SKY) technique-a powerful rhythmic breathing practice known to eliminate stress toxins from body cells (taught in The Art of Living), researchers at NIMHANS, Bengaluru found that two-thirds of people, suffering from depression, who underwent SKY technique, had no symptoms of depression at the end of four weeks of practice. SKY was found to be as effective as taking an antidepressant medication, minus the side effects. Another study at the University of Pennsylvania looked at the people suffering from MDD (Major depressive disorder) who did not respond well to antidepressants. More than half (54%) of the population, who learnt and practised the breathing work, showed greater than 50% improvement in their symptoms.
Activates vagus nerve
Vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve in a human body. It serves as a crucial connection between the brain and the body, carrying information back and forth between them. A healthy vagus nerve is a necessary part for optimal functioning of several processes in our body, including digestion, fertility, cardiovascular health and stress response pathways. Due to poor lifestyle choices and chronic stress, vagus nerve functioning is suppressed in many, creating ill-health and lack of resilience. Rhythmic breathing is one of the most effective ways to enhance vagus nerve functioning. Research studies conducted on SKY show that it increases the vagus nerve activity even in diabetics. In one of the studies conducted at AIIMS, India, the practice was shown to modulate the vagus nerve function based on the person’s initial vagus nerve activity. If the vagus was too activated, Kriya lowered the activity, and if the vagus was not functioning well, it activated the vagus nerve, bringing the vagus nerve function to the same balance in both groups. This indicated that rhythmic breathing creates a customised effect that allows the most optimal functioning of vagus nerve in an individual.
Reduces stress & anxiety
Around 275 million people — 4% of the world’s population, suffer from anxiety. But owing to the pandemic and uncertainties arising from it, anxiety has become a universal experience. When we encounter a stressful situation, our brain triggers a cascade of neurochemical reactions that release cortisol, the primary stress hormone in our body. Overexposure to cortisol, like in chronic stress, can disrupt almost all of the essential processes in the body including digestion, immunity and sleep.A study conducted by Tata Institute of Social Sciences and NIMHANS, assessed the stress level of employees at Larsen and Turbo (L&T) Limited and found that the cortisol levels of employees, who underwent diaphragmatic breathing and SKY, reduced by 23% in 3 months and 37% over 6 months. Employees also reported higher levels of life satisfaction and emotional regulation with the practice. Another study conducted at the Department of Neuroscience, Fatebenefratelli e Oftalmico Hospital, Milano, Italy, measured the impact of breath work taught at The Art of Living on patients with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, a condition characterized by excessive anxiety and worry. Within 2 weeks of practice, the anxiety scores dropped by almost half (48%) in the population.
Create relaxed awareness
Studies have also shown that long-term practitioners of breathing and meditation showed a high increase in alpha as well as beta waves, implying a state of relaxed awareness. Improved alpha waves in practitioners indicated that the person is relaxed and an increase in beta component implied alertness to the external world. About 90% of the subjects showed an increase in alpha and beta values after SKY. This is an optimal state where one can have an improved response to stressful situations in a relaxed state, and with increased efficiency.
Nurturing optimism in brain
When things are going well and in tandem to our expectations, we are happy, content and joyous. It is during the unexpected, unpleasant life experiences, that our brain goes into a tizzy. We experience negative emotions, and feel sad and isolated. In those moments, it becomes difficult to maintain a positive attitude. In a disease like cancer or AIDS, for example, a large determinant of the overall outcome and patient’s response is his own mind. A research study at National AIDS Research Institute, India found that regular breathing practices significantly increased the quality and outlook towards life amongst the population with AIDS. Another study on students of University of Wisconsin Madison, showed that within a week of practicing SKY, the life satisfaction reported by students increased by 21%. When experiencing untoward and difficult life circumstances, these techniques are known to provide resilience and strength to focus on the positive and respond effectively to the situation. The writer is Working Director, Standing Research Committee, Indian Yoga Association.
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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.
The art of leadership that leads to the path of success
Passion with peace of mind invokes the inner strength, compassion and communication through a clear conscience. That also helps enable consensus among people, tolerance to diversity and better bonding within teams.
In a recent conversation with a group of professionals, entrepreneurs and corporate trainers, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar brought forth some interesting perspectives on the Art of Leadership and Success. Something to contemplate on – In today’s times, is success measured only by income, position, strata and social networks? No doubt success is also measured by the wealth that one creates and the reachability of the entrepreneur, leader. But the true sign of success is an undying smile and a confidence that doesn’t wither away under any circumstance.
INNER STRENGTH PLAYS AN IMPORTANT ROLE
The resilience to be able to rise again even from the ashes keeps the dignity of the business high. The focus of a business strategy should be based both on a Long-term vision and a short term goal; Decisions can be made based on long term gain, yet a balance needs to be established to make sure things are not shaken much in the short term too. One need to strive to be Self-motivated at all times and improve upon performance with a competitive spirit, not to outrun somebody else, but to perform better than your past self. Acknowledge others; Good relationship is never a deterrent to competitive spirit when perceived in the right sense, but will make you better than the person that you once were and undeterred focus and an intuitive mind will help achieve this and meditation is the way to a stress-free energy-filled life, with a clear vision of where you want to go.
COMMUNICATION IS KEY AT ALL TIMES
Efficient communication with a sense of confidence is the outcome of a Meditative mind. It helps overcome all obstacles, grow and lead to the path of success. Communication is effective when it is not through emotions or impulsiveness, but through a calm clear mind and a holistic view. That forms the basis for happiness in abundance. The Goal of any kind of wealth is joy; Life cannot be such that you have amassed wealth, yet you feel miserable. That would be like saying, the operation is successful but the patient is no more. Passion with peace of mind invokes the inner strength, compassion and communication through a clear conscience. That also helps enable consensus amongst people, tolerance to diversity and better bonding within teams.
EARN TO SHARE
Contribution to society is not just to make billions, it is also to spend and give. Make, but not to break – have a work life balance. That is very important. The quality of life beyond work needs to be equally good to better the quality of life at work. Consider work as the source of your sustenance and attach sacredness to it. That makes a lot of difference. Earn for the Self and also to share to make everybody around happy. Many saints of our land considered work as worship. Similarly, professional and entrepreneurial spirit is like a shade giving tree that needs to be nurtured with a sense of belongingness, reverence and respect to enable sustenance.
Meditation, Spiritual knowledge and Wisdom help to blossom in this space of growth. The Gita was taught to Arjuna, a warrior, who had a huge sense of responsibility. Reading the Bhagavad Gita will put you in touch with all those aspects in life that can keep your spirits high. You will then see an unseen strength, power, that rises from within. With good hygiene, spiritual practices through conscious relaxation, meditation and spending time in knowledge, one can achieve the highest spiritual wisdom even while living a regular life with an ethical work routine.
SUCCESS COMES WHEN CENTERED
When steeped in Spiritual Wisdom, one gets to be composed and stable. Humility dawns. Such a state of mind gives rise to positive thoughts which in turn leads to Success.
ANCIENT SCRIPTURES QUOTE
“Kriyaa-siddhih satve bhavati mahataamnopakarane.” Success comes through Sattva, not through any other means. When in this state of Sattvic ego, you envelope everybody. Such is the state of a sattvicconsciousness that leads; a movement from the Apara to the Para, a journey to the inner Self – the Universal consciousness which says ‘AhamBrahmasmi, I am the Infinite!
‘Efficient communication with a sense of confidence is the outcome of a meditative mind. It helps overcome all obstacles, grow and lead to the path of success. Communication is effective when it is not through emotions or impulsiveness, but through a calm clear mind and a holistic view. That forms the basis for happiness in abundance. Life cannot be such that you have amassed wealth, yet you feel miserable’.
Divine omnipresent power showers grace and blessings
Better change your ways for I hate the things you do. A very familiar statement indeed, expressing disapproval over something we don’t like in someone. Many even lament existing situations in life and expect them to change, without ever pondering one’s deficiencies that may need correction. Thinking of changing other people or situations, however, only reflects the variety of woes that have darkened our hearts!
FIGHTING THE DEMONS
What goes on in the outer world, if unacceptable, creates waves of agitation and restlessness, causing the demon of wrath to raise its ugly head in most people, which invariably eats away their peace of mind in the same instant.
That’s exactly what Swami Sri Yukteshwar ji said, “An outburst of anger generally stems from a thwarted desire.” It is sometimes too difficult to quell such a rage as the seeds of those desires are embedded too deeply in us. Uncontrolled anger is the cause of many tumults that afflict relationships in a family or at the workplace. Memories of pain and suffering experienced by us and that inflicted on others, as offshoots of our anger, do prod us to exercise restraint on such impulsive outbursts, but Sad to say, each time our desires are thwarted, we forget all past lessons learned in the darkness that engulfs us, only to err again.
Such is the trauma of this vicious cycle that, due to lack of self-control, not only does the demon of anger, but also those of lust, greed, and attachment lash out at us repeatedly.
Trapped in delusive consciousness, as we are all to some degree, the grip of these demons tightens upon us each time we let go of our ego and indulge excessively in thoughts or acts of mere sense gratification.
At the root of ego, consciousness lies our passionate attachment to people and things that drives our mind to have many desires to enjoy the seeming pleasures associated with what we are attached to.
Look at the overly attached relationship of a mother and her child. Though a mother’s love is unconditional, her feelings of attachment may become the cause of expecting something in return, mistakenly pinning hopes that her child will behave in a certain way that she wants.
This completely overrides the basic fact that every person is unique and has an innate personality that does take shape with the environment conducive for growth, but is nonetheless, inimitable and deserves respect. A child may, therefore, blossom into a grown-up person with traits and mental ideology sometimes completely different from that of both parents.
In the same way, the over-tight bonds of attachment in other relationships cause much trouble due to the underlying, inevitable sheaths of expectations from those whom we supposedly love. Who needs to change in such situations? Though we demand that the other person change to accommodate our idiosyncrasies, it is indeed time that we change our ways by shedding attachments. That’s why P. Yogananda said, “Look at life with non-attachment. You will gradually free yourself from identification with this dream world. “
As we earnestly tread on a spiritual path, allowing our Guru to guide and discipline us, we grow in our understanding of the futility of sense-gratifying attitudes and behaviour, and slowly begin to develop the power of self-control and discipline. Yoganandaji said that “Self-control is not self-torture, but leads instead to soul happiness.” He further said that “Self-control must not be lost even at the greatest provocation.” Whatever life’s circumstances, the ability to exercise control on the way we react to them is the key to staying calm. Indeed, for all sincere truth seekers, the battlefield of life is all too real where they valiantly fight the foes of delusion by always keeping their armour of self-control ready for defense.
Such spiritual warriors make a conscious effort to remain non-attached from people and things, for all they are ardently seeking is the eternal happiness of the soul. This is not being indifferent, as in non-attachment there is togetherness and a feeling of being unified with the whole universe that makes the heart more understanding and compassionate to all. Thus, by practising self-control, what one indeed develops is the ability to make the right choices from a medley of life’s options as the power of discrimination sharpens.
THE TREE OF LIFE
In the Bhagawad Gita, the Ashvattha tree (pipal or holy fig tree) is referred to symbolically as representing the worldly illusion. It sheds light on the composite existence of man in three bodies: physical, astral, and causal, representing a triple inverted tree with roots of cranial nerves, life force rays, and consciousness above the physical, astral, and causal spinal trunks and the triple branches hanging below.
This human tree of life, deeply rooted in habits of material living, is further described as having three kinds of leaves: sensations, life force, and thought perceptions, which connect the body with the outside world.
Only by felling this tree of material delusion by the axe of non-attachment can one raise one’s consciousness to reach cosmic consciousness and realise one’s own divinity. Meditation helps to develop this axe of non-attachment, the very moment one realises that the joy experienced in meditation is far greater and more enjoyable than all the pleasures of this world.
COUNSEL OF SISTER GYANAMATA
The most advanced woman disciple of P. Yogananda, Sister Gyanamata, counselled her students to daily practise meditation and follow these three instructions: God alone is the doer; Have unruffled patience and practise non-attachment. The practise of Kriya yoga, simple yet very powerful pranayama, helps to control the life force energy in the spine, which makes one less reactive and calmer to life’s situations by not allowing the demons of anger, lust, greed, and attachment to gain a foothold in our consciousness.
Having unwavering faith in God and waiting for His response to the many calls of our hearts is an attitude of living in humility.
To change our thought patterns to bring about transformative changes in our attitude and behavior, “affirmations” are very powerful tools. Yoganandaji has given many scientific healing affirmations that can help in uplifting our consciousness, pulling us out from delusive states of consciousness. Prayers are also very effective tools for bringing the Divine Light where it is needed, as a heartfelt, sincere prayer makes one accessible to the Divine omnipresent power that showers as grace or blessings. Sister Gyanmata says that we can ask the Guru to pray for us. In the book God Alone, she writes about Brother Lawrence, who in the face of failure prayed to God, saying, “That is the way I am; that is the way I shall always be unless You help me.”
Sure, the ability to dismiss, at will, the many demons of delusion comes through a spiritual understanding of the higher reality that life is a divine play and we are all here on the earthly plane only for our souls to learn some lessons before they can merge back into the Light of God. This understanding, however, does not dawn easily, for we are habituated, through incarnations, to living in the darkness of delusion. Just as a rope rubbed repeatedly against a rock leaves a mark on it, the assault by demons of delusion on our rocky unchanging self does at some point leave a mark on our consciousness, which is when we begin to seek Divine guidance.
The author is a science communicator, has authored seven popular science books and written many articles to popularise science among the masses.
Does God really exist?
God is the illusion that we worship, and the non-believer creates the illusion of another god which he worships-the State, or some utopia, or some book that he thinks contains all truth. So we are asking you whether you can be free of the word with its illusion.
Questioner: I really would like to know if there is a god. If there isn’t life has no meaning. Not knowing god, man has invented him in a thousand beliefs and images. The division and the fear bred by all these beliefs have divided him from his fellow men. To escape the pain and the mischief of this division he creates yet more beliefs, and the mounting misery and confusion have engulfed him. Not knowing, we believe. Can I know god? I’ve asked this question of many saints both in India and here and they’ve all emphasized belief. “Believe and then you will know; without belief, you can never know.” What do you think?
Krishnamurti: Is belief necessary to find out? To learn is far more important than to know. Learning about belief is the end of belief. When the mind is free of belief then it can look. It is belief, or disbelief, that binds; for disbelief and belief are the same: they are the opposite sides of the same coin. So we can completely put aside positive or negative beliefs; the believer and the non-believer are the same. When this takes place then the question, “Is there a god?” has quite a different meaning. The word god with all its tradition, its memory, its intellectual and sentimental connotations – all this is not god. The word is not real. So can the mind be free of the word?
Questioner: I don’t know what that means.
Krishnamurti: The word is the tradition, the hope, the desire to find the absolute, the striving after the ultimate, the movement which gives vitality to existence. So the word itself becomes the ultimate, yet we can see that the word is not the thing. The mind is the word, and the word is thought.
Questioner: And you’re asking me to strip myself of the word? How can I do that? The word is the past; it is memory. The wife is the word, and the house is the word. In the beginning, was the word. Also, the word is the means of communication and identification. Your name is not you, and yet without your name, I can’t ask about you. And you’re asking me if the mind can be free of the word – that is, can the mind be free of its activity?
Krishnamurti: In the case of the tree the object is before our eyes, and the word refers to the tree by universal agreement. Now with the word god, there is nothing to which it refers, so each man can create his image of that for which there is no reference. The theologian does it in one way, the intellectual in another, and the believer and the non-believer in their different ways. Hope generates this belief, and then seeking. This hope is the outcome of despair – the despair of all we see around us in the world. From despair hope is born, they also are two sides of the same coin. When there is no hope there is hell, and this fear of hell gives us the vitality of hope. The illusion begins. So the word has led us to illusion and not to god at all. God is the illusion that we worship, and the non-believer creates the illusion of another god which he worships – the State, or some utopia, or some book that he thinks contains all truth. So we are asking you whether you can be free of the word with its illusion.
Questioner: I must meditate on this.
Krishnamurti: If there is no illusion, what is left?
Questioner: Only what is.
Krishnamurti: The “what is” is the most holy.
Questioner: If the “what is” is the most holy then war is most holy, and hatred, disorder, pain, avarice, and plunder. Then we must not speak of any change at all. If “what is” is sacred, then every murderer and plunderer and exploiter can say, “Don’t touch me, what I’m doing is sacred”.
Krishnamurti: The very simplicity of that statement, “ ‘what is the most sacred”, leads to great misunderstanding, because we don’t see the truth of it. If you see that what is is sacred, you do not murder, you do not make war, you do not hope, you do not exploit. Having done these things you cannot claim immunity from a truth that you have violated. The white man who says to the black rioter, “What is is sacred, do not interfere, do not burn”, has not seen, for if he had, the Negro would be sacred to him, and there would be no need to burn. So if each one of us sees this truth there must be change. This seeing of the truth is change.
Questioner: I came here to find out if there is a god, and you have completely confused me.
Krishnamurti: You came to ask if there is god. We said: the word leads to the illusion which we worship, and for this illusion, we destroy each other willingly. When there is no illusion the “what is” is most sacred. Now let’s look at what is. At a given moment the “what is” may be fear, utter despair, or a fleeting joy. These things are constantly changing. And also there is the observer who says, “These things all change around me, but I remain permanent”. Is that a fact, is that what is? Is he not also changing, adding to and taking away from himself, modifying, adjusting himself, becoming or not becoming? So both the observer and the observed are constantly changing. What is change? That is a fact. That is what is.
Questioner: Then is love changeable? If everything is a movement of change, isn’t love also part of that movement? And if love is changeable, then I can love one woman today and sleep with another tomorrow.
Krishnamurti: Is that love? Or are you saying that love is different from its expression? Or are you giving expression greater importance than love, and therefore making a contradiction and a conflict? Can love ever be caught in the wheel of change? If so then it can also be hate; then love is hate. It is only when there is no illusion that “what is” is most sacred. When there is no illusion “what is” is a god or any other name that can be used. So god, or whatever name you give it, is when you are not. When you are, it is not. When you are not, love is. When you are, love is not.
‘When the mind is free of belief then it can look. It is belief, or disbelief, that binds; for disbelief and belief are the same: they are the opposite sides of the same coin. So we can completely put aside positive or negative beliefs; the believer and the non-believer are the same. When this takes place then the question, “Is there a god?” has quite a different meaning. The word god with all its tradition, its memory, its intellectual and sentimental connotations – all this is not god. The word is not real’.
How saints are made
Many people find themselves pulled emotionally downward, into the pain and grief of the people they are praying for. Effective prayer is inspiring, uplifting, and even joy-awakening.
As a teenager, I spent some months working in a paint factory, where paint was mass produced. Today I feel like I’m living in a saint factory in India, as I hear first-hand accounts every day of heroic love and selfless giving. Of course, one can’t mass produce saints like paint. But we are now seeing so many souls rising to the spiritual heights. I’m starting to understand how India has been the source of so much spiritual greatness over the centuries. The present looks difficult—the spiritual future looks very bright. Growing up in America, there was a beautiful children’s show called Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. In his humble way, the saintly Mister Rogers taught children how to be better human beings. When I was a kid and saw something scary in the news, my mother would tell me, “Look for the helpers.” You will always find people who are helping. “
During my years in India, I’ve heard Indians and Americans complain, “Where are the saints nowadays?” There used to be so many, now they can’t be found! “ My response has been some variation of, “Just look around you! They are here! “ They are becoming easier to see now, all around us even. There is a great light coming into the world at this moment, as hard as that is to believe. Every day, I hear stories proving it. A dentist (the wife of an Ananda member) who has dropped her dental practise for now, so that she can serve on the Covid front lines. A girl, the youngest in the family, recovering from Covid herself, who can barely get up at times, yet is lovingly visiting her family members in the hospital every day. A doctor who wryly but joyfully shared that ‘I don’t even need a bed to fall asleep anymore,’ because of endless hospital shifts. There are many others. These are not people who are already perfect. How do you think saints are made? These souls are simply willing to give, serve, and love, ignoring the all-too common feeling of unworthiness or insignificance.
To paraphrase Mister Rogers, “Look for the saints.” You will always find them. “ Right now, look for the light. It is there. It is all around us. Better yet, become one of those helper saints yourself. Be the light that is needed in the world. Jump onto the saint-making assembly line. You might ask, “What can I do if I’m in lockdown or quarantine?” You can pray for others. Pray for those who suffer. Pray for those who grieve. Pray for the helpers. You can also give financial help to the many who can’t pay for their own medical needs. Prayer is one clear path to God and to saintliness. Read the lives of the great saints and you will see the common thread of prayer. If you like, you can follow the example of our Ananda Centre in Chennai, India. They have been holding a pray-a-thon last week and this week. Every weekday hour, on the hour, they gather together on Zoom. First, they listen to some music or other inspiration. Then they launch into healing prayers. Fifty people have been taking part, with fifty new prayer requests coming in each day. What is the best way to pray? In an upcoming blog, I’ll share some tips on how to pray more effectively during this time. Many people find themselves pulled emotionally downward, into the pain and grief of the people they are praying for. Effective prayer is inspiring, uplifting, and even joy-awakening.
The author is a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda.
Enlightenment is the very core of our being
We all came into this world gifted with innocence, but gradually as we became more intelligent, we lost our innocence. We were born with silence and as we grew up, we lost the silence and were filled with words.
Once upon a time, there was a congregation of fish, who got together to discuss who among them had seen the ocean. None of them could say they had actually seen the ocean. Then one fish said, ‘‘I think my great grandfather had seen the ocean!’’ A second fish said, ‘‘Yes, yes, I have also heard about this.’’ A third fish said, ‘‘Yes, certainly, his great grandfather had seen the ocean.’’ So they built a huge temple and made a statue of the great grandfather of that particular fish! They said, ‘‘He had seen the ocean. He had been connected with the ocean.’’
The same is the case with seekers on the spiritual path who are curious about enlightenment. What is Enlightenment? I tell you, enlightenment is like a joke! It is like a fish in the ocean searching for the ocean. Enlightenment is the very core of our being; going to the core of our Self and living our life from there.We all came into this world gifted with innocence, but gradually as we became more intelligent, we lost our innocence. We were born with silence and as we grew up, we lost the silence and were filled with words. We lived in our hearts and as time passed, we moved into our heads. The reversal of this journey is enlightenment. It is the journey from the head back to the heart, from words back to silence; getting back to our innocence in spite of our intelligence. Although very simple, this is a great achievement.Enlightenment is that state of being mature and unshakeable under any circumstances. Come what may, nothing can rob the smile from your heart. Going beyond the limited boundaries, and feeling ‘‘all that exists in this universe belongs to me,’’ is enlightenment.
Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a humanitarian, spiritual leader and an ambassador of peace and human values.
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