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CONTEMPLATING ETERNAL TRUTHS MAKES US WELL AGAIN

NEVILLE HODGKINSON

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The growth of interest in all types of meditation and other reflective practices is a sign of our need to restore balance between our inner and outer worlds. We are happiest when expressing positive attributes such as kindness and wisdom, and seeing those qualities in the lives of others. But today the currency of kindness is in increasingly short supply. When this is reflected in our actions, much suffering results.

An over-demanding ego makes us chase after illusory goals, of name or fame. If we meet those goals, the ego grows bigger and demands more. Then, to meet those fresh demands, we may find ourselves hardening our hearts to the harm we are causing to others, as well as to ourselves. When we fail to meet these ever-increasing expectations, as we ultimately must, a painful breakdown in our self-respect is likely, perhaps accompanied by a heart attack or other catastrophic illness.

With renewed awareness of the inner being, we become able to instruct the mind to let go, even briefly, of temporary, everyday interests and concerns. Meditation enables us to bypass stress-filled thoughts, feelings and perceptions that the brain puts before us, without recourse to drugs or austere religious practices. As we recover our true sense of identity, as souls or “conscious agents”, we loosen the hold of the limited ego. The more we die to the ego’s demands for transient “kicks”, pleasures and shortlived success, the better our chances of restoring a sense of the peace, love, integrity, compassion and fulfilment that are intrinsic to the inner being. We are at our happiest when experiencing and expressing these profound qualities in our work and relationships, and seeing the same in the lives of others.

Both science and spirituality are showing us that the immortal soul is not just a belief or concept, but a truth to be realised and lived. Every human spirit begins its journey with this inheritance of strength – the attributes that make us most human. We don’t have to try to become something we are not, but rather, to find ways of removing the accumulation of dust that prevents us from seeing clearly who we are.

From ‘Journey into Inner Space’, published by BK Publications, London (www. inspiredstillness.com).

Neville Hodgkinson is a UK-based author and journalist, and a long-time student of Rajyoga.

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Spiritually Speaking

Stop unrealistic expectations

While some expectations are natural, we must avoid unrealistic expectations from others and from ourselves and from life itself. Enjoy the journey.

Prashant Solomon

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We all expect things in life. Whether from other people, from ourselves, or from situations. It is normal to have hopes and expectations. However, giving too much importance to unrealistic expectations is a recipe for disaster and should be avoided to have a peaceful and happy life. There is a popular definition of expectations. It goes like this: “Expectations are premeditated resentments.” When we have expectations, it is like we are pre-planning the future resentments that are bound to occur. But whether it is expectations from others, from yourself or expectations others have from you or whether it is expectations from life and situations in general, the good news is you can learn to minimise them. Not having unrealistic expectations is a great way to grow spiritually and we will discover why.

We all have experienced it. You expect your loved one to say or do something that pleases you. It doesn’t happen and you feel dejected and disappointed! It starts from childhood. Kids expect parents to spend time with them. But parents are too busy. Disappointment. You expect your best friend to like something you do, but they don’t. Disappointment. You expect your spouse to like the same kind of food, TV shows and movies that you do. They don’t. Disappointment. Or you expect them to express their feelings more often and they don’t. Disappointment. You expect your children to always think the way you do and automatically think that they will live their lives the way you want them too. They don’t. Disappointment once again.

You are not alone. We all have had these moments in our lives and felt disappointed with other people. The reason is not about good or bad, or loving or less loving. The reason is because of unrealistic expectations. If you do not expect, you will not be disappointed. Unmet expectations can lead you down a very dangerous path of thinking that you are not loved or that you are unworthy in some way. But that is not the reality.

Every soul that is born has a history of multiple lives before. Each incarnation leaves certain imprints on our souls. Those imprints from previous lives and from this current life as well have an effect on the way we think about and perceive the world, ourselves and others. We often forget that even the ones we love the most have a spiritual and karmic history that is different from ours. We all have our own individual journeys. We cannot expect that anyone else will be exactly the way we expect them to be.

Unrealistic expectations aren’t always about other people. Sometimes we expect too much from ourselves. We always try to push ourselves too hard or are overly critical of ourselves. Often the cause of this is two-fold—comparison with others and understanding our own limitations.

It is natural to desire things that others have. We see someone in a fancy car or a fancy house and we start to compare ourselves to them. We start to expect things from ourselves in relation to that comparison. We need to remember that everybody has a different situation and looking at other people’s lives should not change our own life plan. You can learn lessons from the lives of others but remember that your goals in life, your dreams in life are yours only. Expect from yourself only what you think you can handle and not because someone else is living a lifestyle that you desire. When you compare yourself with others you will never be satisfied.

Learn to give time to your inner self through meditation and creativity. Take a breather and enjoy the moment! It is alright to take a break in life. Just because you expected your life to be a certain way which did not happen does not mean you have failed or that you need to be upset or disappointed. Remember no matter how much we plan, life has its own plans for us. There will always be some new opportunity for you to explore and always a new lesson to be learned.

The same applies to other people’s expectations from you. Remember that your thinking and actions should not depend on what other people expect from you. Your dreams and goals and the kind of life you want to live should be lived only because you want to live it like that. People have a tendency to want to control others. Many people must have experienced this in life. It could be a parent, spouse or boss. These people need to manage their own expectations and your life should never be about fulfilling the expectations of others.

We all expect things from life itself. As kids we probably expected to be millionaires by the age of 40. Some expected to be famous and powerful. Everyone must have had certain expectations in life. This is natural and normal. Having an expectation which is in the form of hope and desire is fine. It is when we allow our expectations to rule our happiness that problems are bound to occur. Remember that life has its own plan for us. We could call this karma or destiny. But the trick is to live in the moment. Strive to do the things you enjoy. Let the joy of doing it be its own reward. Once you do it, don’t expect people to praise you or don’t expect that you will suddenly become famous or powerful. Keep on doing what you want to do without expectations of the outcome or the accolades of achievement. Life is about the journey and not the destination. Take each day as it comes without expectation.

Acceptance is an important part of spiritual growth and not having unrealistic expectations is a great way to achieve this. Learn to let go. This does not mean that we have no boundaries. Not expecting things from others does not mean that you become a pushover. Self respect and self love is the most important thing. If you are not happy the way someone is treating you, voice it and do not accept. Communication is necessary. Do not expect that the other person will know your problems and what you do not like. Accept others for who they are. Everyone is different. That is what makes life so wonderful.

Not having unrealistic expectations helps you on the spiritual path. We are all on an infinite journey across multiple incarnations in a variety of dimensions and worlds. We should always be open to learning lessons and understanding that our happiness is within us and can never be gained by expecting anything that is beyond our control. We can only control ourselves and our reactions to external situations. This will teach us to accept and forgive ourselves and others. These are among the most spiritual of all virtues.

So while some expectations are natural, we must avoid unrealistic expectations from others and from ourselves and from life itself. Enjoy the journey. There is something waiting for you that is better than your wildest dreams or expectations!

Prashant Solomon is a Delhi-based author and businessman.

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Spiritually Speaking

Living in the here and now

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

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Are you hanging on to “wrong knowledge” of how things are? Looking for proof or debating within yourself? You do not know how things are because the world is fluid. There is nothing solid here. Nobody is solid. Nobody’s mind is solid. No thoughts are solid. Anything can change any time, in any way.

The world is filled with all sorts of possibilities. But your mind tries to fix everything — thought, people, ideas and places — into definite items or quantities. Your mind has set ideas of yourself, using proof, wrong knowledge or vikalpa, fantasies or fears or dwelling in the past. These are the four modulations of the mind along with sleep, which is another modulation. And often when the mind has wrong knowledge, it thinks it is has the right knowledge.

One can overpower this vrutti through abhyasa and vairagya or the practice and de t ach m e nt o r self-centredness. The 12th yogasutra states—Abhyasa vairagyabhyam tannirodhaha, meaning: “They can be restrained by practice or dispassion.” That which you do to be in that state is called abhyasa or practice. Tatra sthithou yatnobhyasaha (Sutra 13) means, “practice is the effort made to steadily be there in the seer”. Abiding in the seer is abhyasa—that which you do to be right here this moment is abhyasa. A little effort is needed to relieve you from the five modulations and just be here, now, bringing the mind to the present and not dwelling on the past memories.

Let things be the way they are. You are not anxious to see, smell, touch, feel, understand anything. Be it right or wrong, there is no judgement. That means that you are freeing yourself from viparyayaya and vikalpa. If the mind is imagining or fantasizing, then you just become aware that it is imagination or fantasy. This is enough and it fades away. Just like when you realise that you are dreaming, the dream vanishes.

 Do the following practice. Close your eyes. You are not going to dwell on any logic now. That means you are free from pramana. You are not interested in proof of anything. You are not interested in any wrong knowledge or right knowledge. You just observe and relax.

The mind might try to go to the past, to smruti, or may try to go off to sleep and it can try to bring some logic and justification or some knowledge or fantasies. Just knowing that it is again getting into the five vruttis, without aversion or craving, come back to the centre, to the seer. Pleasant and unpleasant experiences are gone. The moment is free, fresh and full. Being here totally in this moment is abhyasa.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a humanitarian leader, spiritual teacher and an ambassador of peace.

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Spiritually Speaking

Never stop living your today’s life for tomorrow

Arun Malhotra

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Man is constantly searching for something. Search has added a new dimension to his life. Thousands of years of succession has lent a dilemma to his life but man perceives it as “progress”. Progress has given birth to modern faculties of knowledge like science, medicine, mathematics, engineering, economics, aesthetics, philosophies, theology and so on. Is man mired into the quagmire of these faculties? One wonders whether man lives off the economy, or he lives for the economy. Whether he invents for living or lives for inventing. Whether he thinks for living or he lives for thinking. Whether liberation will arrive in a fleet of Lamborghinis, private jets, or by being a monk. Whether a palatial bungalow is your salvation point or what if it is not.

 Meeting horizon adds another horizon to his misery. Thousands of years of progress has added more lumens of light that lit nights. Man has added more air cool days that comfort in scorching summer. Man has added more kilometres per hour travel that lets him travel faster. Man has added more gigabytes per hour communication that lets him communicate world-wide by not actually being there. All this progress has cost the world destruction of air, water, forest denudation, wildlife near-extinction, hotter climate and threats of pandemic, wars, famine.

But, man continues to be engaged in searching. He has forgotten to live. I remember a beautiful story. One young man went to Buddha and said that he wanted to devote his life to serve humanity. He thought Buddha would be happy. Buddha said compassionately, “Before doing any service, first you find out who wants to do service, who wants to serve the humanity”. This is the problem with all of us.

Man is in a state of deep dilemma. He has been postponing his life in search of a life that he has been postponing in his past. He is creating a future of known out of the known and postponing his present. He thinks as if he is searching for an unknown future for security. In postponement he creates new horizons that he defines in beautiful words as progress, position, prestige, prosperity. This lends him in predicament. Predicament of not living the life. A life lived is lived on the canvas of eternity. A life not lived is thought on the canvas of time. Either you make your life a thought. A thought of becoming somebody, or earning something or possessing something. Or you can live—by being here in existence. Not to be there in future. Being here. To experience life in totality not just by your eyes, ears, smell, touch, feel but by your whole being. Meeting life by being in life.

Someone asked Bhikku how to live life, what is the art of living. Bhikku replied, “Life is to live for right now what you will die for and to do that you have to die for it now what you will live for. That’s a faculty beyond faculties.”

 A life not lived is a thought that has no potential to live. A life lived is lived in eternity and is part of the eternal that which is. In that which is there is absolute bliss. Man comes out of eternity and goes back into eternity and between two points man lives in eternity. But, in between, the mind creates a false imaginary man, a by-product of the thought. Between two points man wastes his life in searching. Searching is meaningful if done with awareness and alertness.

Understand, the basic parameter of life lived is bliss. Hindus call it Ananda (bliss). The Upanishads call it Sat-Chitt-Ananda (that which is always beyond is the truth being in the state of bliss). Nanak calls it Naam Khumari (eternal blissfulness). Existence is full of Ananda (bliss). Every atom is dancing. Planets, sun, universe, galaxies are dancing. They are dancing on the drum beat. Upnishads call it Anahad Nada (the beat produced by itself). The sound of all sounds. Ordinarily any sound or Nada is produced by friction between the two objects but Anahad Nada is produced by itself. Hindus call it Aum which is not a word but the symbol sound of that which is. Nanak calls it Ek Omkar Satnam (Truth has only one name, Omkar). The word Amen is also derived from that sound. English words Omnipresent, Omnipotent, Omniscient are also derived from the word Aum.

Science says the world is made of electricity, Hindus say that electricity is also a type of sound only. Electricity comes with friction between the two. All sounds of the world and the universe are produced out of the soundless sound Aum. Aum is the total silence and the total sound. The sound that holds all particles together and particles appear as such they are. Sound does the ultimate communication in matter. Quantum biology, which means quantum physics meeting the real world, have recently discovered that subatomic particles converge into each other in acoustics resonance. Photons converge into plant bodies as vibrations. Smell of Jasmine that touches one’s nostrils enters the skin, converging into the body particle cells by hearing the sound of fragrance.

Scientists say that human ears can hear loudness from 0 decibel to 120-130 decibel and pitch from frequency range of 20 to 20,000 hertz. What humans cannot hear could be heard by dogs, cats, and a host of other animals. Dogs can smell afar. Smell travels in sound vibrations.

Hindus perceive God in the soundless sound Aum. Shiva dances on Anahad Naad (the beatless beat) performing Tandava (the dance of all dances) and Shiva is Nataraja (the Lord of dancing). The world was created in this soundless sound of Damru (glass hour-shaped drum) played by Shiva. Theoretical physicists are enamoured with the mystical hum sound of the earth. They argue that sound is first manifested on the planet when bony fishes appeared around 400 million years ago and developed the ability to sense vibrations by adapting the organ they would balance with in water. Later the organ evolved into cochlea.

For sound to be, silence is needed. All sounds are evolved out of soundless silence. Sounds are like vibrations in a sea of soundlessness. Sounds course through the body as vibrations to enter each and every living cell.

In Tibet, they cure critical illnesses cancer, Alzheimer’s and others through sound waves and miracles happen. When you play a guitar, the sound vibrates you. Sound is vibration. Singing Bowls of Tibet emit the sound of void they are known as symbol of unknowable. In India, mantras are used as sound waves to cure energies around. Matter is vibrating energy. Sound of Tibetan Bowls, Hindu Mantras and sound coming from music bring harmony to the vibrating energy. Great musician Tansen would light up lamps by singing. These days they use ultrasound not just for imagery but for changing brain waves and curing.

Silence is the song of emptiness. When vibrating energies meet soundlessness, healing happens. Hindus say everything is held together in sound. Shiva says enter the soundlessness of all sounds to know it. Let’s know it. Carefully listen to all sounds around you. In all sounds you would find a sound that remains constant with or without all the sounds. Focus on it to begin with. That’s the anti-sound of all sounds. That comes out of the silence the soundlessness.

At home listen to Gong music let the gong enter in you. Be the gong, and let it vibrate each cell of your being. On windy days listen to the leafy gongs of trees around. Listen to flowing water enter the silence of the water. You will be blissful.

The author is a spiritual teacher and independent advisor on policy, governance, strategy, and leadership. He can be reached at arunavlokitta@gmail.com.

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Spiritually Speaking

To cope with change, we must look within

It is lack of inner power that results in wrong ways of thinking and behaviour, which are at the root of the problems we see in the world.

B.K. Shivani

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When we hear the word ‘change’, where does our attention go? Towards the world outside, other people, or towards the self? Change is happening everywhere — in the world, in the people around you, and within you. Change is taking place constantly, and we are told that change is the law of the universe.

But where do we focus? Most importantly, of all the changes that are occurring, which one is in our control, and where we can exercise our choice?

The change occurring outside involves situations, the forces of nature, people, and their behaviour. The change that takes place in our inner world includes change in our way of thinking, speaking, behaving and working, as also change in our food habits and way of life.

We often believe that the change occurring outside affects us. When things out there are not going the way we want, a big change or a crisis suddenly disrupts the life we had become accustomed to, and the crisis persists for months, as is happening now, and we do not know how long it will last, it affects the behaviour of some people. Those who used to be calm earlier have become unstable — someone loses his temper very quickly, another one easily breaks down.

When this started happening, what was our reaction? We thought that we had to set things right — the people and the situations. Our intention was good, we meant to help others, but while we went about doing so, we did not pay attention to our thoughts and feelings, because we believed that we were simply being affected by whatever was happening around us.

We did not realise that this inner change was something we could control, that the direction of change was my choice. Since we did not pay attention to our inner world amidst all the changes taking place outside, we began thinking that it was natural to experience fear, worry and anger. This is how we changed within.

While earlier we rarely used to get angry or worry, and felt afraid only if it was a really serious situation, now we experience these emotions more frequently. Fear has become a ‘natural’ emotion for us. When this change occurred in our inner world, it started influencing our external situations.

We need to be aware of some spiritual equations which tell us what affects what: It is humans who influence nature, and our thoughts shape the world. In other words, our inner world influences the world outside, but we thought that it was natural to be affected by a change in situations.

When there is a change outside, we need to change in response, but we must remember that the change within us will influence the situation outside. It is our sanskars, or traits and habits, that create our world, not the other way round.

For example, if a close friend begins to behave in a disagreeable way, I have the choice of feeling hurt, angry and responding in kind, or understanding that he or she is going through some difficulty and offering them support. The way I choose to respond will determine the future course of my relationship with that person.

Similarly, if we want to change a situation, we have to first bring about change within. We have the power to do that, but when we do not use that power, we change in the wrong direction.

We need to remember that change begins in the mind, and ensure that the change happens consciously and in the right direction.

For that we need to pay attention to our thoughts, feelings, the way we speak, and our behaviour. None of these things are dependent on external situations or other people. They should be of the highest quality we are capable of. When we think and act according to our highest potential, we begin to exist on a higher plane where our mind becomes more positive. That, in turn, increases our inner power.

It is lack of this inner power that results in wrong ways of thinking and behaviour, which are at the root of the problems we see in the world. The vices in human minds have created the hell the world has become today. But if we have turned the world into hell, we also have the power to create heaven on earth, by using our innate virtues of purity, peace, love and truth. When more and more of us begin to live by these virtues, the world will begin to change, and a time will come when a critical mass of positive energy will transform this world into paradise.

 B.K. Shivani is a well-known motivational speaker and Rajyoga teacher.

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Spiritually Speaking

HOW TO MAKE YOUR MIND QUALIFIED TO SERVE OTHERS

Dadi Janki

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At this time, when we see the condition of the world, many of us want to serve the world. But when our own minds are affected by the conditions of the world, we cannot really serve. A mind that is filled with anger or sadness cannot serve.

I often have used the analogy of the boat moving through the water. For the boat to reach its destination, the water must remain outside the boat. For our minds to be able to serve, the atmosphere of the world must remain outside of our minds. It is not that the outside atmosphere leaks into the boat of our mind, but rather that the vibrations of a powerful and clean mind affect the atmosphere outside, bringing strength to those who are living in the world.

So, how do we create a mind that is filled with spiritual power? How do we cultivate a mind that is qualified to serve? There are three understandings that we must have in order to cultivate such a powerful mind. First is the recognition that my innate nature is intrinsically good. We may have forgotten that this is our original nature, but we have not lost that innate goodness. This goodness embodies love, peace, happiness, truth, and purity. When I am in touch with this goodness, I become aware that I am a spiritual being, a soul. It is this link back to my original qualities that gives me the further realization that I am a child of God.

Our minds open in a new way to receive spiritual gifts. These spiritual gifts, such as inner peace, spiritual love, and power allow us to use the treasures of this time in a worthwhile way. We can only give to others when we have reclaimed our spiritual power.

Once we begin to gain spiritual power, what is it that we must do? We must use everything we have in a worthwhile way. We must use time, breath, resources, thoughts, words, and actions for benefit. We must elevate our relationships with others. It is not that we connect with others for efficiencies in the physical world, but that we meet them as our spiritual brothers and sisters, as souls who are as weary as we were and who are thirsty for peace, for spiritual love, for compassion, and for understanding.

No one who comes in front of us should leave empty-handed. Everyone who comes in front of me should receive something – a virtue, a power, sweet words of encouragement. At the end of the day we should take the time to reflect on the day to see if each moment, each breath, each thought, word, and deed were imbued with purity and goodness. We should check to remember whether each one who came in front of us left lighter, easier, and filled with hope.

This is the true meaning of serving through the mind. It is not only that when someone needs special support, we send our good wishes. We, of course, would do that anyway. It is something more. We become so filled with the pure power of spirituality that we continuously emanate that. We become those who are filled with light and with goodness, making each thought and each feeling we have beneficial. When the world accumulates enough souls of this quality, then a new golden age naturally follows, bringing peace and light to the world.

Excerpt from a talk given in Mount Abu.

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Spiritually Speaking

Two things that hinder our efforts towards progress

B.K. Sheilu

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Two major defects hinder our efforts towards self-improvement:

Arrogance and ignorance. Arrogance can be very subtle. It makes us intolerant of even the most innocuous suggestion offered by someone for our progress. Any such suggestion leads to the thought: “Why did this one say this?” This is subtle arrogance.

When someone gives us a suggestion for our own good, it should be seen as a means for our progress not just in the present but also in future. It is in our interest to accept the suggestion and put it into practice. But when arrogance stops us from doing so, there is upheaval in our minds and a chain of thoughts begins: “Why did this happen? How did this happen?”

When someone appreciates or praises us, we have a loving attitude towards that person, but if someone gives us well-meaning but unsolicited advice, do we have the same feeling of love and consider that person to be our well-wisher? We will do so if we have an elevated awareness, otherwise our arrogance will stop us from doing so. This is also the reason why we are not able to tolerate any insult.

We also become ignorant and are deceived in many ways. Some people pretend to be ignorant in order to save themselves, while some others are really ignorant.

To end arrogance and ignorance we need to have self-respect and humility. When we have a sense of self-respect in our thoughts and humility in our words and behaviour, arrogance will end.

It is one thing to be a philosopher and quite another to be spiritual. Those who remain aware of being a soul are called spiritual. In the absence of this awareness one is just a philosopher, and such individuals have little spiritual power.

 Those who are spiritual attain success in every thought and deed. Success means attainment. Simply acquiring knowledge and repeating those words is known as philosophy, which has a temporary effect on others. In contrast, spirituality makes a lasting impact. Being ignorant means not using in our daily lives the knowledge we have.

 A worthy teacher is one who teaches through the example of their life and is an embodiment of what they teach. Their behaviour will be a lesson to others.

Teaching others through instruction is common, but now people want to learn by experience. We can uplift such souls with the power of our elevated thoughts and deeds.

B.K. Sheilu is a senior Rajyoga teacher at the Brahma Kumaris headquarters in Mount Abu, Rajasthan.

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