Within our path of Kriya Yoga, we give great emphasis to balancing our lives: on the one side with the practice of meditation, deepening our inner life; on the other side, by doing service, spiritualizing our outward life.
We have many teachings and materials on how to develop our inner life, but what does it mean to serve within our path? What is Ananda Seva?
Ananda Seva is to infuse our daily lives with an attitude of selfless service, or to practice, in the words of Sri Krishna, “Niskam Karma” and to practically apply that attitude in whatever we do. It means to serve in a manner that deepens our discipleship and attunement with our Guru.
We want to act in such a way as to feel the Guru’s presence and being instruments for him. We act with the awareness of representing our Masters and their mission through our service.
The following points can help you deepen your understanding and practice of Ananda Seva. Read them carefully and, more importantly, implement them in your daily life so that you may experiment with them and experience how it effects you and those around you.
PRESENCE OF GOD
• Feel God to be within you and around you in all that you do, in every moment. Include Him in your minute-by-minute activities: washing dishes, cooking a meal, hanging the clothes, taking a walk.
• Direct your ongoing, inner, mental conversation toward God or Guru; by knowing he is listening, your thoughts will slowly start to change. Make it a point to also listen to His response; you’re having a conversation with God or Guru.
• Make God your companion, share all of your thoughts and impressions with Him.
• Ask God to guide your every thought and action.
• Pay attention and take time to listen to God’s response to your prayers.
• Remember the saying, “God doesn’t mind your faults, only your indifference.”
TRY TO SEE GOD IN ALL
• “The guest is God.” See that everyone is your guest. Try to see that “The Divine Mother is in all.”
• Try to see God or Master as standing before you, in others.
• See all according to their highest potential. Everybody is, in truth, a part of the Divine.
By looking through their veil of ignorance, we can feel God’s presence within them and help them attune with their own higher Self.
• Think, “How would I treat Master if he was standing here?”
‘IF YOU WANT TO BE IN TUNE WITH ME, SERVE MY WORK’
• Whatever we serve, we naturally attune to; by serving the Guru’s work, we attune to the Guru.
• We should try to convert our present activities into a way to serve God and Gurus.
• To strive to be a perfect reflection of Master in all that you do. Ask yourself, when faced with a choice, “What would Master do?”
• To serve Master “in His name” – in His consciousness, in His bliss, in His joy.
• To do Master’s work is to love God and be one with Him.
• To be creative and think, “What can I do to better express Master’s ideals?”
SERVE MASTER’S MISSION THROUGH ANANDA SANGHA
• By helping, we help Master in a way we could not by ourselves.
• By serving together, we generate greater magnetism to accomplish goals. Remember the story about the sticks; you can easily break one stick, but many sticks put together can’t be broken.
• By serving with others, we gain strength in our spiritual practices.
• By serving with others, we learn to cooperate and get along with others.
• Serving with others increases our own will, magnetism and energy.
• We can find joy in serving God and others.
No matter what’s going on in life, our home life improves when we look outward instead of inward.
GOD REMINDING ACTIVITIES
• Form a habit of thinking of God and/or meditating at regular intervals during the day.
• Practice Japa and inner prayer
• Thank God for everything that comes to you. “Thank you God. It comes from you.”
• Dedicate every action as an offering to God. “This is for you, Lord.” Then, do it well.
• Start activities with a prayer. Work, meetings, meals, bedtime, awakening, etc.
TRY EVERY DAY TO DO EVERY ACTION WITH AN ATTITUDE OF
• Begin your day with meditation and a self-offering to God.
• Carry peace forward into you activities and recall peace as often as possible.
• Check your attitude now. Are you thinking of yourself or of others? You can keep reminders such as post-its or an alarm on your phone to keep track of your attitudes.
• By thinking of God, we can change a routine action into an act of service.
• Act as much as possible from a position of conscious awareness. Be mindful.
• Keep your attention at the point between the eyebrows.
• Mental positivity and calmness strengthens others and is also a form of service. The vibrations you share are just as important as a service as your outward activities.
• Serve mentally with kind thoughts and words of encouragement.
• Include others in your meditation and prayers.
• Be an instrument of blessings. Consciously bring peace to others.
• Realize that the instrument is blessed by that which flows through it.
• Try a walking meditation. This practice of combining an outward and inward activity will help you to be mindful in action.
• Service is not simply busyness. We mustn’t lose our inner peace.
• Cultivate an impulse to think first of the welfare of others over your own.
• True leadership is service. A true leader is aware, thinks first of the needs of others, and acts appropriately.
LEAD TO THE HIGHEST HAPPINESS
• Master said: “Making money honestly and industriously to serve Thy work is the next greatest art, after the art of realizing Thee. “
• Master once wrote to a businessman who was also a disciple, “God supports your business by giving you talent and health even though you have over-used your energy. So your business should support God’s work and if you do so His law will give you untold protection and helps you in every situation.
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LIVE LIFE ON PURPOSE OR LIVE LIFE BY ACCIDENT
If we do not live life on purpose, we live life by accident. People’s minds today are racing, so all they do is at breakneck speed. Accidents often happen because of haste and impatience. It is neither necessary nor desirable to rush. When our mind is at peace whilst we are driving, or in fact doing anything, we arrive at our destination or complete our tasks on time.
In the same way that a speeding car poses a safety threat, uncontrolled scattered thoughts can bring undesirable outcomes. We need to use the internal brake of mental control. Mental control helps us to slow down and steer our thoughts in the right direction before moving ahead on the journey of life. To practice controlling the speed of thoughts, pause several times during the day. Slow down. Observe the thought patterns. There is no knowing how long our physical life will last. But, by remembering that although the body is made of matter and is perishable, I the soul am imperishable, I never die; by becoming aware of this deepest inner space of the self, separate from the body, we can find this point of stillness which is always perfect and pure, and where an enriching experience of silence can be deeply experienced.
To experience this silence, there is no need to withdraw from daily life. To experience and maintain a calm, collected internal state, I simply need to allocate time each day to spaces of stillness and meditation. One pure and positive thought may look like a tiny spark, but if nurtured every day, it can change my whole life. When my eyes open in the morning, I sit for a moment and hold on to a peaceful thought and appreciate the gift of a new day. I need to think less, think slowly, but think powerful and enriching thoughts. I pay attention to each task and avoid multitasking. I eat with gratitude and appreciation. I notice my breathing and focus for a moment or two on the in breath and the out breath.
Nurturing the inner being in this way allows me to take care of my home, work and family affairs, and yet continue giving without depleting myself! I see each day as an opportunity to make each thought one of good wishes and each action one of benefit to the self and others.
Chirya Yvonne Risely is a Rajyoga meditation teacher, based at the Brahma Kumaris Peace Village Retreat Center, USA.
FORGIVENESS IS A PART OF NON-VIOLENCE
What is forgiveness? Forgiveness is maybe freedom. Because I am not doing the other person a favour, but rather I am doing myself a favour. I am unloading the burden that I have carried for however long that may be – a short time or a long time. However, once I decide that actually it is not in my jurisdiction, because whoever has been involved has been involved with a karmic connection with the Almighty, and so they are answerable to the Almighty, and I do not have to think about it. But if I carry the pain and sorrow in my heart, I carry that as a burden. So let me put God’s love between me and the other, and be able to forgive them with a big heart, a generous heart, so that I can find freedom, myself.
Forgiveness is also one aspect of non-violence. When I do not forgive, then there is a violence that I am inflicting on myself. I may also be inflicting a violence through my vibrations or my thoughts and in my attitude, towards the other. And so let me experience true non-violence, which also means being able to forgive.
In the 20th century we saw two amazing characters on the world stage in this unlimited drama of the world. One, of course, was Mahatma Gandhi, and the power of non-violence, and the liberation that came as a result of that. But we also saw President Mandela, and the power of forgiveness that was able to avert bloodshed, and bring about democracy, in a situation where people had thought it would never be possible. Through this, we understand how the power of forgiveness is incredibly effective. So let me try it, each day in my own life, and see how liberating it is and how it brings me closer to the Divine.
B.K. Jayanti is Additional Administrative Head of the Brahma Kumaris.
THE REWARDS OF AN ELEVATED MIND
An elevated mind, characterised by high thinking, is the foundation of a fulfilling life. When one’s thoughts and attitude are unselfish and charitable, the actions are naturally benevolent. The decisions that arise from such a mind are right in every situation, for the self and others. The key is having a clean mind and a compassionate vision.
One sign of an elevated mind is that the person will recognise their purpose in life – that they are in this world not just to live for themselves, but to serve and contribute in some way, using their talents and abilities. They can clearly discern what is of value and what is not; where they should invest their time and energy and what to avoid. When the mind is clean and the thinking is not muddied by the influence of any kind of negativity, the right choices are easily made. Weaknesses such as greed, ego, jealousy, or anger, if left unchecked, lead our thoughts astray and distort our judgment. Decisions then taken may look right to us from our skewed perspective, but they will not be the best. In the absence of honest introspection and course correction, such decisions feed our weakness. This is a slippery slope that may eventually lead to pettiness.
But when there is a genuine desire to be and do the best that we can, we feel the unease caused by vices, recognise their deceptions, and rise above them to do what we know in our heart is the right thing.
Souls with love for purity and honesty are also able to have a strong faith, because they have experienced that communion with the Divine nurtures and strengthens all that is good in them. Remembrance of God, and the relationship that thereby develops with Him, becomes a channel for such souls to receive divine love, power, and guidance. The soul is then able to overcome its weaknesses. Unfettered by the vices, free of the pain and agitation they cause, the soul can then have lasting peace and happiness. Their generosity of spirit then guides them to share these with others unselfishly. This is how an elevated mind makes life fulfilling and great.
B.K. Surya is a Rajyoga teacher at the Brahma Kumaris headquarters in Mount Abu, Rajasthan.
Peace and hope in difficult times
“Be a helper of God. Be loving and compassionate. Be a healer for the world. Be a guide to the Light.” Dadi Janki
Fifty years ago, scientists began alerting us all to the signs they were cataloguing, as they began to understand what was really happening, and the danger that the planet was in. Fifty years on and the crises they predicted are now more than looming on the horizon, they are being experienced, in one form or another, by every individual on earth. The statistics are alarming, and they come from across the globe, from the poles, from the ocean, from the land. The rise in temperature brings in its wake melting ice caps, diminishing rainfall, and massive forest fires. The repercussions are immense, because we are reaching the boundaries of what the resources on the planet can provide. We are using and taking resources from the earth faster than they can be replenished. Those in power thought that money and technology could fix the problem – they could not. Because we are all bound and connected to the weather patterns, this environmental crisis is also a crisis of humanity. So, humanity as a whole must begin to behave and think in a different way.
So, what can we do? Well, just as in our personal lives, when a crisis arrives, we can adopt a variety of attitudes towards it. We can panic, we can deny that it is happening, or we can see it as an opportunity, a chance, for changing the way we are living our lives. This crisis of humanity is sending signals, ringing alarm bells and saying that our lifestyle is not right, our economic model is not right, our mindset is not right – so we must change. Some have already heard these bells, recognised the signals, and so, change is already in the air and things are beginning to shift.
Practically there are five steps we can take:
1. Raise awareness and consciousness – talk about it
2. Drastically change our lifestyle – consume less
3. Reduce our carbon footprint – think before we travel
4. Use renewable energy sources – solar power and wind power
The fifth step is of a spiritual nature. Anyone who has attended a coaching session in a business setting knows very well that the first thing the coach says is that it is vital to stay positive and optimistic. The mindset of optimism is fundamental to a positive outcome. This basis for positive change is now backed up by scientific research. In quantum physics research, scientists, to their amazement, discovered that matter is affected by thought, and the kind of thoughts the mind thinks. They found that it is the intention in the mind that influences physical reality, in one direction or another. Our thoughts and vision create the shape of reality.
So now consider the way we look at and think about the world. Sometimes we are angry and feel hopeless, negative, pessimistic, upset, and we continue to complain and criticise. Therefore, we create that kind of an energy field around us, and we are emanating that into the plants, the air, everything around us – transmitting our ‘intention’. The world we have today is the one we have had in our consciousness transmitting our intention. That is how powerful our consciousness is.
So, the question remains, what kind of world do we want? Because science is telling us that we can have the world we want, by changing our mindset. By changing our emotions and feelings, by making our intent based on love, and peace and harmony – this will affect our physical reality. Our inner world and the outer world are interconnected.
The most powerful thoughts are created in meditation. Science considers meditation to be almost miraculous! A great deal of research has been done into the effects of meditation. Not only have they done a multitude of brain scans, but also documented changes in behaviour and habits. Meditation has been shown to increase social competence, deepen relaxation and improve health, increase brains cells and brain cell activity, and has demonstrated changes in habits and awareness. Love will play a fundamental role in the transition the world is to go through. Love and compassion are the key components of all of the changes we need to make. What you think matters – imagine your perfect world, and it will materialise.
Golo J. Pilz is Advisor, Renewable Energy, to the Brahma Kumaris, and President of India Care Trust, Germany.
THE JOURNEY TO TRUE ENLIGHTENMENT
The soul, even on the threshold of enlightenment, must stand firm in its determination to merge in God. Where there is ego, there is separation from God. To realize our oneness with God, we must surrender the ego itself. By our own free choice we must say, “I want the infinite Self, not the little self.” It’s not easy.
That highest and final test is the most challenging of them all. At that moment the ego recoils and says, “No, no—wait!” All those who have attained enlightenment have experienced it. Buddha told how, on the eve of his enlightenment, suddenly Satan appeared in tempting forms to try to draw him back into ego consciousness. Buddha, with one supreme effort, rapped on the ground and said, “Mara—Death—I have defeated you!” And Satan disappeared.
THE DOORWAY TO THE HIGHEST ATTAINMENT
Ramakrishna, a great saint of the 19th century in India, was faced with the difficulty of giving up the lower self. His guru, Totapuri, wanted to give him the experience of samadhi, complete absorption of the self in the Infinite, but Ramakrishna was a devotee of God in the form of the Divine Mother, and every time he reached the doorway of samadhi, he would suddenly see the Divine Mother.
And he would feel such love – the love of the devotee for God – that he couldn’t go through that doorway in to the impersonal consciousness of the Infinite. Finally Totapuri took a piece of glass from the ground and rammed it into Ramakrishna’s forehead at the point between the eyebrows, crying, “Concentrate there!” Ramakrishna then mentally took a sword and, slicing Divine Mother in half, he realized the highest state of consciousness.
Rajarshi Janakananda, Paramhansa Yogananda’s chief disciple, was just at the point before he attained the highest enlightenment, when suddenly his meditations became filled with darkness. For years his meditations had been filled with the light and bliss of God contact, but suddenly it was all gone. He felt strongly tempted to give into doubts and disbelief, but he nonetheless kept trying, and continued to meditate.
After days of darkness, suddenly Rajarshi saw a little point of light. Gradually that point of light came closer and closer until it became Paramhansa Yogananda, then Sri Yukteswar, then Lahiri Mahasaya, then Babaji. And then, finally, Rajarshi merged into the Infinite.
SABIKALPA SAMADHI: A FULFILMENT AND A TEMPTATION
Liberation from the ego does not come with the first glimpses of cosmic consciousness. Samadhi comes in two stages: sabikalpa and nirbikalpa. The first stage, sabikalpa samadhi, is conditional and temporary. In sabikalpa samadhi, the body is in a trance state and immobile, but the ego remains subconsciously present and returns in full force after one leaves his meditation. From this state it is still possible to fall spiritually, for one has not yet overcome ego-consciousness completely.
This first stage, then, constitutes not only a fulfillment but also a serious temptation. It is by no means unheard of for devotees to fall back into delusion after reaching this point. For upon returning to ego-awareness, the devotee can use the memory of the consciousness of infinity to reinforce the power of the ego. Backed by the memory of oneness with the whole universe, he can easily imagine himself to need no further help or guidance. “I’m as great as my guru!” he may tell himself. “I am omniscient and infallible. I am supreme!”
Paramhansa Yogananda once said to Rajarshi Janakananda, “Never forget where your power comes from.” With a sweet smile Rajarshi answered, “I won’t Master. It comes from you.” Yogananda once said to me, “Remember, you will not be safe until you have attained nirbikalpa samadhi.” He told me about various saints who had fallen after they had attained the lower samadhi.
The other, and positive, side of sabikalpa samadhi is that meditators normally return from it, not tempted to strengthen their egos, but eager to reject ego-consciousness altogether after the experience of the absolute bliss of cosmic consciousness. For most who attain this high level of soul-refinement, the temptation to return to their egos no longer exists.
The only thing that “tempts” them is their memory of the paradise to which they have not yet been granted full admittance. In the highest samadhi, nirbikalpa samadhi, there is no longer any danger of slipping spiritually. The ego no longer exists. At this point the soul is no longer aware of the ego in human terms, but knows it solely as a manifestation of the Infinite Reality. Every moment of one’s life, and every atom of one’s body, is permeated throughout with divine bliss.
LIBERATING SHOCK OF OMNIPRESENCE
The real work on the spiritual path is to prepare the mind for this ultimate transformation. Were cosmic consciousness to come without prior preparation, the mind would be unable to contain it. It would receive a shock comparable to high-voltage electricity in the wiring of a house.
A science-fiction story appeared years ago about a planet that received its illumination from several suns. Together, the suns kept it constantly bathed in daylight. Once in every thousand years, however, these suns became so disposed that the inhabitants of the planet could briefly see the stars beyond the suns. Many people, overwhelmed by such a sudden and extraordinary event, went mad.. Their reaction was not, perhaps, wholly believable, but spiritually speaking, the point of the story is both clear and valid. Human consciousness, conditioned as it is by ordinary, worldly experience, is unable to accept what Yogananda called “the liberating shock of omnipresence.” It isn’t that omnipresence is devastating. The ego, however, must be conditioned by long and deep meditation to surrender itself into a greater self-awareness. Too sudden an expansion from its customary, though limited, perspective might only bewilder it with its sweeping panorama of things as they really are.
A young disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda’s once asked another, who was highly advanced, to give him a taste of divine ecstasy. The older one demurred, saying, “If I did so, your bliss, which you haven’t yet earned, would be temporary. Later on, you would be unable to bear your life any longer.”
WHEN EFFORTS END IN EASE
Truth seekers must understand that finding God is not like the supreme effort required, say, to climb Mount Everest, the accomplishment of which is more arduous at the end than at the beginning. Finding God is the simplest, most obvious, and most supremely natural thing to do in the world. At the end, one doesn’t find himself straining with desperate, heroic zeal to merge in Him. Rather, one relaxes, supremely, into perfect Bliss. Strain, tension, ardor, heroic zeal: these end forever for the soul. What is left is Satchidananda: ever-existing, ever-conscious, ever-new bliss.
What happens is that in your meditations you reach a point where you’ve gotten rid of all self-definitions. There’s nothing to cling to anymore. You’re not a woman or a man. You’re not American or Indian or French. You’re not rich or poor. You’re not young or old. You’re not beautiful or ugly. You’re none of these things.
Ramakrishna gave us a beautiful illustration with the onion. He said that spiritual progress is like peeling an onion. You get rid of peel after peel of self-definition until, what’s left? Nothing. The onion is made of these peels. The magnetism emanated by a true master lifts his disciples above their egos. What the guru does for us is primarily on a level of consciousness. He works from within, on our thoughts and feelings. Our job, above all, is to offer our hearts and minds up to him, that he may transform us.
The author is a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda.
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’.
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