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CREATION OF THE UNIVERSE

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

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The whole universe is spherical. It was never born, nor will it ever die. It is anadi (beginningless), and anantha (endless). Akasha (space) is described as all-permeating, all-pervading. Everything is contained in akasha, all the four elements are in akasha. The most gross is earth, then water, fire, air and space. Space is the subtlest. It is unimaginable to think of something that is beyond space. What is it that is beyond it? It is the mind, intellect, ego and the Mahatattva. This is tattva gyan—knowing the principle of the universe. Unless you know the principle of the universe, you cannot know the Self. When you go beyond the akasha, it is an experiential field. The whole realm begins beyond the akasha. The ancient seers have spoken about the relationship between the substance and its quality. There is a very interesting debate whether we can separate the quality from the substance and the conclusion was that you cannot. Can the sweetness in sugar be separated from sugar? Will it remain sugar still? Can heat and light be separated from fire? Will it still be fire? What brings the quality into the substance? What comes first—the quality or the substance? There are many questions like this. The subtler you go is the paramevyoman. All the devis and devtas reside there, in that space. Swarupa is the quality of that space. Swarupa is that consciousness. From the Swarupa happens the Sputa (explosion) from which Svarita (creation) flows and Sakaara manifests with name and form. All the millions of beings in the creation were formed from the Swarupa. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a humanitarian leader, spiritual teacher and an ambassador of peace.

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Spiritually Speaking

How to bridge the gap with your loved one

Openly communicating one’s needs is a fundamental step towards building a healthy relationship.

Rwituja Gomes Mookherjee

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Have you ever wondered, if the basic qualities and emotional connection you seek from your partner is similar to what they’re expecting from you, then why do you both continue to struggle to meet each other’s needs? 

The simple answer is that there’s a crucial distinction between talking about our needs and relating to them. The way we tend to give to our partner is different from how they receive it and vice versa. Alternatively, the way these qualities are understood, interpreted and expressed by our partner and us mean different things to us.

Let’s explore the basic qualities of Love, Honesty, Understanding and Respect, and while at it, think, reflect upon, and question yourself about what you’re seeking.

Lovecan be a sense of affection or care, a need to be with the person, know their world or to do things that will please them and physical attraction. Often, love is expressed as an intangible feeling. So, it’s worthwhile to reflect on what you mean by love, how you see, smell, taste, and feel love, how you experience it and when do you feel the most loved.

Even though you have your ways to show love it might not be the way that your partner wants or expects. You might understand it in your own way but not in the way that your partner would like you to. There are certain actions, thoughts, behaviours that might not be you or your style or be important to you. At this juncture, it’s important to explore how much you’re willing to make the effort to move out of your comfort zone to do something that matters to your partner? Often we’re not afraid to love but are afraid of not being loved back.

Honesty is to speak the truth. However, truth is not absolute. Understanding of the truth requires that you interpret it as a combination of how you see things and perceive them and the situational context. It’s important to note that no matter what the truth is, partners struggle to forget how they’re made to feel.

For example, think about how you feel when your partner expresses their honest opinion about your cooking. Their truth is that they don’t like it based on their sense of taste and likability but how open are you to receiving (hearing) that? Do you feel hurt and angry because you think that they’ve dismissed all your effort? If yes, then you might ask yourself, what did you want to hear? Were you looking for ‘honest feedback’ or an ‘acknowledgement for your hard work?’

Honesty involves being open to sharing emotions. How do you respond when your partner shares their feelings? Are you confident about how your sharing will be received or do you fear rejection? Alternatively, the fear of rejection exists because honesty isn’t received as expected. Here lies the challenge as honesty requires space and a mindset. Being honest (giving) is as important as receiving (accepting) honesty.

Understanding develops as you begin to know one another. It involves listening and empathy, recognition and realisation that being unique individuals you’re bringing into the relationship the differences in your outlook, upbringing, exposure, background, disposition, conditioning, and emotional baggage.

Often for understanding to take place, it needs to manifest itself in the form of an agreement followed by an action confirming the same. And here’s where the struggle begins so it’s important to distinguish between understanding and agreeing. Reflect on how you would feel and how open you are to your partner saying, ‘I understand but I don’t agree.’

Understanding is further complicated by the difficulty we experience when communicating our needs. Cultural outlook tends to promote the notion, ‘if they love you, they will understand your silence or what you want?’ The inherent expectation being that the partner will hear the unspoken and respond to the expectation of the other. Considering how often you tend to change your mind, how can you expect that your partner will be able to anticipate your needs and respond to them?

Respect is largely about how we treat and interact with each other regularly. The most effective way to earn respect is by treating the partner with as much respect. Respect connects to our self-worth and influences our interpretation of our partner’s behaviour. Often a disagreement, loud voice or snappy tone can be interpreted as being dismissive. And when you’re dismissed or not acknowledged you feel disrespected. So it’s important to look at theactions or behaviour, which make you feel respected/disrespected and communicate that. Simultaneously, it’s equally essential to discuss that for you to feel respected, what is it that you would like your partner to do. For each of these qualities, sharing and openly communicating one’s needs is a fundamental step towards building a healthy relationship.

The writer is a mental health counsellor. The views expressed are personal.

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Spiritually Speaking

My very own suicide bombers

Prarthna Saran

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Years seem to have fled by before I could sit in my own company. I am by myself and have declutched  from the world of all relationships, even with my own usual self. The quiet calm  of the evening is unburdening my soul as the soft warm breeze  from the valley below gently changes its mood to a cool one as the sun glides behind the mountain cliff. How splendid is the light, untouched by a single cloud or bird flitting across it. Nearer me I hear the twitter  of the homing birds as they prepare to nestle snugly with their fledglings for the night. The gnarled trees have a bare beauty at this time of the year. They are all unleafing and some are laid quite bare with just a few lonely dry leaves still clinging on , unwilling they seem to depart from one who for a whole year gushed the sap of his being through their veins, nurturing them while he held them close to his bosom!

Far down in the valley below are temples with their saffron flags a flutter in the breeze. The conch and the tinkling of temple bells beckon the faithful to thank the Lord for this beautiful day. To thank Him for the health of this body, the nutritional food that Mother Earth provides and the garments that cover our nakedness! How mindlessly we consume the gift of the life-giving air that we breathe, the vital air that sustains us throughout life, even when in sound sleep we know not that we breathe! Do we ever stop by and wonder at the crystal water of the dancing streams that He provides! No, we are so obsessed by social media’s constant beeps to even enjoy consciously a baleful of fresh air! We live our lives in total disregard and unthankfulness for our blessings till some disease targets us and then the laws of nature turn us into lunch for the worms and dinner for the plants! Have we lived or have we just existed? Does it ever occur to us in this feverish rush of “I want” that ‘why’ do we want what we want? The joy of the race is yours to stay, the victory in time will stale. We run the race always with an eye on who is behind us and who has outstripped us. Cannot we enjoy the wind in our faces as we run, or the sunlight bathing us with its healthy warmth? And as we run, why don’t our hearts brim over with joy of each stride of a strong muscle and each baleful of oxygen rich air that our lungs draw in?

The music of the leaves in the trees, the glistening new copper colour of fresh sprouts, we fail to see it all! Self seeking individualistic values hold us by the throat and pin us down to the dark caves of self absorption. Ever dissatisfied we live in a barren wasteland with hearts shrivelled up on a measly diet of anxiety, neurosis and fear. Negativities gnaw at our very vitals rendering us incapable of unforced laughter. Even laughter is with some effort!

Lack of time is a common excuse. Have you ever met a lover who complains of lack of time to remember his beloved? Is not the thought of the beloved a constant undercurrent through every activity pursued through the day? The lover is joyous, even through the sick hurry of the work a day world. Let us be that lover of Him who cradles us constantly. If one is in tune with the overflowing beauty of this world that is His grace and expression, one feels as though one walks on air! The joy of self expansion that the Sufi saints sing about lifts their hearts from the mundane limited self to a realm with no borders. Total selflessness is the magic potion and the mystic, drunk on this unravelling joy, dances in total harmony with the beloved.

The ever dissatisfied individuality in us never sees the ‘carpet of flowers strewn at our feet,’ as Sharda Natarajan says, ‘but peer through binoculars at some misty far off flower fields’.  Then we reach those far off flower fields with much effort, and of course the flowers should naturally bliss us out, but, ‘we still have the binoculars and turn them to a third landscape that we deem more beautiful.’ Thus we chase dreams all our lives for a future that never dawns, for when you have walked up to the horizon it is already far beyond!

Happiness is here and now, and in the very house and office that the lord has placed you in. It is not the absence of shackles put on you by others but an unshackling from our own chains. The casting aside the ‘manacles of the mind’ is the only way to taste freedom. You are chasing a non-entity when you chase the future. You create a movie monster and breathe life into it and then fear the Frankenstein who threatens to devour you. You are the creator of your very own suicide bombers, who devastate your perfectly lovely present.

It is Suzuki who said, “All the shadows of the universe cannot put out the light of one candle… Foolish are they who turn their backs on the light and argue about the nature of the shadows in front.” So, if one wants the shadows to fall behind, one has to always face the sun, imbibe it’s golden luminosity and warmth and distribute them as selflessly and universally as he does.

The sound of the gong in the valley below is so pristine and so  whole  that it reverberates as an ever expanding peace in my soul. I could sit here for hours. As darkness envelopes the hill ,small dim lights begin to twinkle. A few stars now peep out from above to wink at me and nudge me to return to the hotel. It’s time.

The writer is president, Chinmaya Mission, Delhi.

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Spiritually Speaking

Religion is the ultimate flowering of the self

Don’t accept knowledge which comes from outside, even if it is from holy books. Believing in them will end your flowering. Accept and know only that which emerges out of your own consciousness.

Arun Malhotra

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Man is sleeping. He does not sleep only at night. And it is not night which makes him sleep. Rather, it is night because he sleeps. Similarly, he will not wake up because it is morning, but it is called morning when he wakes up. When Buddha woke up 2,500 years ago, he did not sleep thereafter. Buddha ‘the awakened’ never sleeps.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says that a yogi never sleeps. What does that mean? It means that in the state of being awakened, one goes beyond the physical acts of sleeping and waking up. One is seated on the temporal seat of their being, where they are totally awake and relaxed.

Man is not an island. Man is an ocean. The earth, the universe, the ocean and you are all one. In this oneness, there is existence. Man co-exists in this oneness of being. But his mind breeds his ego which makes him think he is distinct and makes him want to be more distinguished.

You are the synthesis of the body and the consciousness which is the most distinguished occurrence on earth. The earth and the entire existence want to nurture you to make you realize who you are, awaken you. It is said that when Buddha was awakened, trees bore unseasonal flowers. The whole existence welcomed Buddha on attaining Buddhahood.

When a flower opens itself to the light, it comes into its ‘flower-ness’. It declares its flowering. The flowering of Buddha was the ultimate flowering that the earth dreamt of. It is what endowed man with human consciousness. Man also has immense potential of flowering.

Krishna, Mahavira, Buddha, Christ, Mohammad, Nanak, Kabir and others achieved godhood when they flowered. Mankind made religions out of them then. Today all our holy books are our religions. Even though we are Hindus or Muslims, we are born into a family which follows a holy book.

But if you thought that God is dependent on your holy books, you are mistaken. You are not religious because you are following a particular holy book, but because you have understood your ignorance. That is the beginning of religion. Going to a temple or a church or a mosque does not make you religious. Everyone’s religion is a very personal affair. But when you understand your ignorance and suffering, it leads you to begin the real quest for Godhood. Buddha said that there is suffering and there is a way out of it. Although all types of holy books and scriptures were available then, Buddha did not keep on performing customs to be religious. Buddha said that there was no God. He said that there is no soul. But he attained Godhood. We don’t have to cling to the words written in scriptures and holy books. They are words by those who are enlightened and are indications which inspire us to attain our light.

But instead of flowering and awakening, man has followed a shortcut to God. Man seems to have outsourced the tasks to organised religion. Man has buried God in the graveyard of holy books and scriptures. Organised religion keeps on hampering character development, cultivating us to be God-fearing and to follow one particular set of rituals, customs, procedures and traditions. And to be an ardent follower of one type of rituals or scriptures makes you religious for one group and an infidel in the eyes of others.

In fact, an atheist has more potential because he challenges the customs set by priests. Buddha, Nanak and Jesus challenged them too. The one who doubts what is being taught by priests as the truth is the one who wants to know the truth by understanding it. It is a scientific approach. Thus, it is better to be an atheist who doubts God than to be a pseudo-theist who follows rituals all his life and never flowers. He who is afraid of doubting will never be able to get close to God.

The priest who knows about God through scriptures knows about your weaknesses and insecurities too. He knows that your weaknesses are fear, death and greed. So, he tells you that the soul is immortal and you get a slogan to hide your fears behind. Being an ‘agent of God’, he knows that if you believe in the immortality of the soul, you will repose your faith in the continuation of your hopes in the kingdom of God or heaven once they end here when you die. Aren’t there stories of the kalpavriksha or the tree of heaven which fulfils desires instantly? Therefore, going to temples, chanting mantras or making donations to reserve a place for yourself in heaven have nothing to do with God. They only make the priest thrive.

Man knows nothing. All knowledgeable ones know nothing. Ask them if they know why they breathe. Do they know how they are born and why their breath is going on and why they are going to die? We gain much of our knowledge through our comprehension of the world, but the knowledge that we collect through scriptures and holy books is more for adding to religious entertainment than for freedom from bondage.

Your self-knowledge will flower in you when your whole being thirsts to know about ‘That Which Is’, even at the cost of your life or being. Going to temples every day and performing formal customs may make you be perceived as a religious person, but you will in fact remain pseudo-religious.

Ponder over your ignorance. You may not know that it is the beginning of a journey towards God. Don’t accept knowledge which comes from outside, even if it is from holy books. Believing in them will end your flowering. Accept and know only that which emerges out of your own consciousness. It is the scripture that is born out of you. You will be surprised to see then how your understanding of all holy books and scriptures is deepened.

The author is a spiritual teacher and advisor for policy, governance and leadership. He can be contacted at arunavlokitta@gmail.com

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Spiritually Speaking

WHY IT IS GOOD TO TAKE THE SPIRITUAL PATH

B.K. DR. Nirmala

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There are many reasons why it is desirable to follow a path of spirituality. Spirituality in one’s life brings a multitude of benefits; a sense of calm, an ability to manage adversity that each one has to face, and more harmonious relationships. However, the ultimate aim of spirituality is to return to the purest state of being, the original state of being of the soul.

We know if we are coming close to that original state if we can truthfully say that we see no evil in anyone or anything, we speak no evil of anyone, we do no evil deed to anyone, including the self, and ultimately, we think no evil — our thoughts are of the most elevated kind.

It is quite easy to check. The most impure behaviour is of those who have so much anger and animosity that it is directed to everyone, not only those close to them. Those who only want to harm and demonstrate some misguided understanding of what power is.

The middling kind of behaviour is of those who deal in good for good and evil for evil. Like a spiritual businessman they give tit for tat; return good deeds with good deeds and bad deeds with bad deeds and feel justified in doing so. Their lives are often full of hypocrisy; they smile sweetly and sometimes behave well, but in their hearts are animosity, anger, jealousy, dislike, criticism and judgement and condemnation.

The purest kind of behaviour is of those with a natural sweet and loving nature towards all. They only see the good in everyone and everything, while understanding that those who behave differently simply lack spiritual power. Their thoughts are elevated, they have good wishes for all and have no fear, because they are a friend to all.

To attain this level of purity requires the understanding of truth, through spiritual study, great cleanliness of mind through a daily connection in meditation with the Supreme Being, and a dedication to the eradication of all the vices; anger, greed, lust, attachment and ego. It is not a path for everyone, it is not everyone who desires to return to that level of purity, but anyone can walk along it — it just takes the first step and then wonders are revealed.

B.K. Dr Nirmala is the director of Brahma Kumaris Rajyoga centres in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Spiritually Speaking

FREE YOURSELF, DITCH AN ILLUSION OR TWO

Anthony Strano

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“Be aware that you are a traveller and a guest in this life. There must be no selfishness. Any desire for respect, name, or fame is selfishness. When a person gets stuck in such selfishness, he or she cannot be truly generous.”

Dadi Janki

An illusion is a false belief that we take to be real — so real that we have faith in it and live by it. Illusions deceive us into believing they can make us happy and bring meaning to life. For example, many people believe ‘the more I have, the more I am’ — that achieving prestige, wealth or position creates value, especially in the eyes of others. Such illusions ‘drug’ us into dependence, especially on the need for approval, which if not realised, can lead to fear, jealousy, depression and feelings of rejection. Such illusions impair our capacity to reach the authentic roots of our being.

Reaching our spiritual roots, or original identity, is the aim of silence. By practising concentrated silence, we can see illusions for what they are and be liberated from them. As we sit in the quiet concentration of silence, we can begin to see what illusions we are harbouring that stop our minds from being in peace.

The greatest barrier to freedom is we ourselves. Someone else does not make us angry, does not appreciate us or oppose us. How we choose to react to what others do or say determines whether we remain caged or become free. The bars on the cage are our own responses, not the incidents themselves.

We find this idea difficult to accept because we have learned to escape responsibility by blaming ‘the other’. If we sincerely want to become free from this pattern, we will quickly begin to perceive these patterns and use the third eye, the intellect, to observe the mind and work out what is happening, and then decide what to do. In this way, the intellect checks and then changes the direction of thoughts.

First, we need to decide this is what we want to do, to become free, to change and then take a moment in silence to bring it about. Learning to be quiet is the first practical step in freeing the self from the illusions that are blocking the spiritual journey to self-realisation.

Excerpt from Seeking Silence by Anthony Strano © 2011 by Brahma Kumaris Information Services, Ltd. Visit www.inspiredstillness.com for further details.

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Spiritually Speaking

SERVING WITH THE POWER OF SILENCE

B.K. Dr Savita

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One of the most effective tools we can use in our efforts for self-transformation is the power of silence. In silence we can reflect, meditate, go deep into ourselves and see what kind of thought processes are going on in our mind. With honest and careful observation we can know where the thoughts and feeling are coming from. We learn what we need to change if we want to grow spiritually — the attitudes and beliefs that lead to unworthy behaviour and take us away from our elevated goals. When our mind is calm and the ‘noise’ of unnecessary thoughts has died down, we can even discern what others expect from us and how we should relate to them in order to have harmonious relationships.

When we are able to change our way of thinking, the vibrations emanating from us also change, as a result of which the atmosphere around us is transformed. This is something others can sense.

The proof of our application of the power of silence is that those who come in contact with us will feel peace radiating from us. They will be calmed and relaxed in our company.

Just as messages are transmitted clearly over long distances in telecoms networks when there is no static, the power of silence enables our thoughts and feelings to reach others easily, making communication accurate.

We can start with applying the power of silence on the self. When there is any illness, for example, instead of worrying about it, if we silence the mind and choose to see it in a light and positive manner, as an interesting experience that will pass, we will not be agitated. Weakness of the mind compounds the weakness of the body, causing unnecessary suffering.

One hurdle to such experimentation is looking at others: whether they have done anything similar and how successful they have been. Silencing the mind is an internal effort, not a matter of copying or making comparisons with others.

Once we have filled ourselves with the power of silence, we can become embodiments of peace whose mere presence spreads peace even in a turbulent atmosphere.

This is a very elevated way of serving the world spiritually.

B.K. Dr Savita is a Rajyoga teacher at the Brahma Kumaris headquarters in Abu Road, Rajasthan.

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