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Spiritually Speaking

Guru Nanak’s teachings are more relevant today

According to Guru Nanak, Hindus and Muslims have forgotten the true spirit of their respective religions and lost it in the jungle of externals. He described the externals as involvement in frivolous rituals and ceremonies.

Ashok Vohra



The founder of the world’s youngest religion, Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev (1469-1539) was born in Punjab. ‘Sikhism is one-fourth as old as Christianity’ and ‘about one-third as old as Islam’. By the time Guru Nanak was born, Islam which had arrived in India in the 11th century had taken deep roots in the religious and political life in this part of India.

Hindus and Muslims had lived side by side for four centuries from eleventh century onwards. During this period the relationship between them was ‘sometimes in open conflict’, but was ‘always in uneasy tension’. According to David S. Noss, “the two traditions strongly influenced each other.” They had a deep impact on the culture, traditions, literature, art and architecture of each other. Though each of them borrowed and learnt from the other, they retained their distinctive characteristics in their methods of worship and the core doctrines.

Sikhism arose when various forms of Bhakti movement in Hinduism were at their peak, and Sufism was at its zenith in Islam. Though the Bhakti movement originated in southern parts of India, it soon spread to all parts of the country. Saint poets sang with intense devotion in praise of God and advocated complete and unquestioning surrender to Him. Islamic Sufism marked by mysticism ‘postulated the approach to God through love and voluntary suffering until a unity of will was reached’. Both accepted intuition as a source of knowing God.

Sufis in Islam, like saints in Hinduism, are regarded as ‘friends of God’. They have a direct experience of God. In both, the spiritual master—sant or guru in Hinduism, and the pir in Sufism—plays a key role in guiding one to realise God. According to Teja Singh, both agree that “the best way to approach God was to resign oneself to His will. The easiest way to find God’s will was by becoming a disciple and seeking the guidance of a guru or pir”.

Both were severe critics of religious formalism. They united in rejecting all kinds of ritualism and external forms of worship. Both believed that God is without shape and form. He is one without a second. He has to be reached by internal craving and intensive personal devotion to Him.

Guru Nanak was born in such a milieu in 1469 and at a time when religious pluralism pervaded the society. He learnt his native language from a Pandit and Persian and Arabic from a mullah. At the age of thirty he had his first revelation which changed the course and mission of his life. It is believed that he drowned in the river where he had gone for his morning ablutions. He remained under water for two days during which time it is believed that he had “in fact been raised to the presence of God. Been given a drink of nectar and charged with the duty of spreading God’s name”.

On the third day he emerged from the river. After he regained his consciousness the first words uttered by Guru Nanak were, “There is no Hindu, there is no Musalmaan.” So, Guru Nanak decided to “follow God’s path”. He argued that “God is neither a Hindu nor a Musalmaan and the path I shall follow is God’s path”.

To complete the mission allotted to him, Guru Nanak undertook several travels. Janam Saakhis give an account of Guru Nanak’s life. According to Puratan Janam Saakhi, he travelled to Assam in the east, Mecca, Madina and Baghdad in the west, in the Himalayan region in the north, and Sri Lanka in the south. The exact itineraries of his travel are not known. The attire he wore was a “mixture of Hindu and Muslim modes of dressing”.

After wandering and preaching his gospel for about twenty years, Guru Nanak finally settled down in Kartarpur, where he lived until his death in 1539. The purpose of his teachings was to ‘turn people from futility to truth’. He criticised the rituals of both Hindus and Muslims. In the Adi Granth, he described the Hindus as “having strayed from the primal lord” and as “going the wrong way”. He criticised several rituals of Hinduism which according to him were ceremoniously performed superficially and as a matter of routine, without realising their true spirit. For example, in the thread ceremony ‘the wearer despite wearing it… does wrong and therefore is not approved by God’.

About Hinduism, Guru Nanak says: “There are six Hindu schools of thought, each with its own founder and teacher. The Guru of gurus is One but with many manifestations. In whatever school the glories of the Creator is sung, accept it as your own. As there is one sun but time is divided into many seasons, hours and minutes so there is one God tough with many forms.”

Likewise, in Islam referring to the obligatory five prayers that have to be performed five times a day, and have been assigned five different names, Guru Nanak made alternative suggestions. He said, “Let truthfulness be the first, honest living the second, and charity in the name of God the third. Let your fourth be purity of mind and good intentions, and the fifth the praise and adoration of God. Let good deeds be your article of faith. Thus, you may be called a true Muslim.”

Guru Nanak had an attitude of reverence towards the scriptures of all religions. He compared the religious scriptures with a lamp. According to him, “When a lamp is lit darkness is destroyed. Similarly, by reading the religious books evil mindedness is destroyed.” The foundation of Sikhism is Shabad (word). The manifestation of God as an eternal word is found in Vedas, Puranas and Quran. The Guru time and again says that ceremonial formalism and ritualism lead to distractions, resulting in the loss of its true meaning.

About the Vedas which are the foundations of Hinduism Guru Nanak said, “The Vedas preach the sermon of devotional service to God. Whoever continually hears and believes them beholds the divine light.” He would uphold the same view about other scriptures too.

In saying that there are no Hindus and no Muslims, Guru Nanak implied that both the faiths have forgotten the true spirit of their respective religions and lost it in the jungle of externals. He described the externals as involvement in frivolous rituals and ceremonies. These, he says, are the ‘chains of the mind’. The chains of mind cloud our vision and tempt us to confuse between the peripheral and the core. The peripherals may be different, rather radically different, but the core is the same namely being one with God. By drawing the attention of all to the hypocritical attitude of both Hindus and Muslims he was making a crucial distinction between Hindus and Hinduism on the one hand and Muslims and Islam on the other.

Despite his severe criticism of both Hinduism and Islam, Baba Nanak was dear to the adherents of both the religions as is clear from the following couplet: “Baba Nanak Shah Fakir/Hindu ka guru, Musalmaan ka pir (The sage Nanak, Prince of holy men/A guru of the Hindus and a pir of the Muslims).”

The writer is former professor of philosophy, University of Delhi. The views expressed are personal.

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Spiritually Speaking




What is true love? The love of a true heart makes others loving, and it is the foundation of a fulfilling life. One cannot have a blissful life without the experience of spiritual love. Such love can transform even the stone-hearted. Where there is love, there is a light and happy life; without love, life is dry and tedious.

God’s love is similar. When we love other people, our love is channelled in different directions as we try to fulfil the expectations of many. Loving God brings together the fragmented pieces of the heart. Loving the Father, from the heart, makes us cooperative with everyone because the Father is the seed. Just as when the seed is watered the leaves receive water and there is no need to water each leaf, forging love with the spiritual Father creates good wishes for everyone.

Love also makes tasks easy, as it frees us from labouring. When there is love for the task, we do not feel burdened by it. On the other hand, no matter how knowledgeable or skilled we are, if there is no love, the task feels tedious.

When love is missing, mere knowledge or intellectual understanding of a situation often gives rise to doubts and questions: “why”, “what”, “how”? Consequently, the mind is not in peace and there will be a battle with the self, and many waste thoughts. On the other hand, when our understanding is accompanied by love, there is no battle.

This has great significance on the spiritual path. Some people easily recognise spiritual truths, live by them and benefit therefrom. They lead peaceful, happy lives.

Some others, however, are racked by doubt. The reason is their intellectual approach devoid of love. They know many things, but there is little love for God. The result is that they are unable to experience his love.

We see this in everyday life too. A small gift of love brings great joy, but if the relationship is transactional, based on selfish motives, even if we receive a lot from someone, there is no contentment, and we may still find fault with the other person.

Love for God is the key to steady progress in spiritual life. In its absence, there is discontentment and fluctuation. This is because we would be like a hot air balloon: when it is full, it goes very high, but when it goes flat, it falls down. It appears to be very beautiful when it is flying, but that is temporary.

We can easily check whether we are truly loving with God and other people: our level of contentment is the proof.

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

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Spiritually Speaking


Yogesh Sharda



Everything we do is driven by a conscious or subconscious desire to experience happiness. It is part of the soul’s DNA – to be happy. Happiness has at its heart, a peaceful mind. In fact, what each one should be able to experience in life, is peace of mind and happiness, and the wherewithal to naturally share love, good wishes and kindness with others because a life of too much thinking is not a life. So why, when we look around is there stress, anxiety and unhappiness – what has gone wrong?

It starts when we are very young. Most newborn children have the blessings of good wishes upon them from their parents and relatives. We wish them happiness, love, peace of mind, security and contentment. Then we tell them that in order to get that they must aim to have a good education, the right, well-paid job, accumulate money, travel and buy a big house and car and then all the things that were wished for will come true. So, all the energy goes into the pursuit of the means, rather than the aim. If after all of that, there is some happiness or peace it is merely a bonus. The very common reality though, is that all of this acquisition comes at a cost of some of the very things we aim for. In the quest for the material supports people find they are stressed, have problems in relationships, live in unhappy marriages and have the disquieting sense of having in fact achieved nothing.

What has gone wrong is that all the energy has gone on the outer world rather than the inner world. This does not mean that we have to fail exams, or get a job where we are underachieving or in any way, hide our abilities and natural talents. I can express the best of myself and reach my full potential while, at the same time, being the owner of my peace of mind and happiness. It is all a question of making my mind my friend.

All I have to do is care for my mind, and then nothing in life will cause me any stress. When I understand that there is no single person or life event that I can, in fact, control, and that the people I find difficult are actually teaching me great lessons, then I can take control of my own mind.

It is a challenge because we have a deeply ingrained habit of trying to control life. We do not have to learn how to manage people or events, we have to learn how to make the mind stronger by the cultivation of greater tolerance, patience and understanding. If I am concerned more with how I would like to be and develop my inner strength, then life is unable to cause me stress.

Life is a mind game – conquer the mind and you can conquer your world. When we spend time in daily meditation and strengthen our natural and intrinsic spiritual strength, we are respecting and taking care of our mind for this journey we call life.

Yogesh Sharda is the National Coordinator of the Brahma Kumaris’ services in Turkey.

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Spiritually Speaking

10 principles for living in the spirit of silence

Those who use the inner, eternal principles as reference points work with enthusiasm and silence, and they radiate optimism into the darkest corners of the deepest negativity. They persevere because they believe ‘there is always a way’.

Anthony Strano



“Each of us has specialities. Each of us has our own individual part. Do not compare or compete; there is no point – you cannot become like anyone else. You are who you are – unique. Take whatever is good inside you and leave the rest. Now perform such a miracle that God is visible through your eyes and your heart.”

Dadi Janki

The universe runs on principles that maintain and sustain well-being. If we respect these principles, then everything – individuals, the community and the Earth – will flourish. Practising silence helps us to tune into these guiding principles. Here are ten guiding principles that help us to live in the spirit of silence.


There is little point in entertaining memories that stimulate guilt, regret or nostalgia. The past is past; it is over and we must move on.


We can always find reasons to complain about and blame external systems – religious, political or social – and thereby conveniently excuse our own inertia, frustration and negativity. However, often the problem itself is not the problem. The problem is the way we think about and approach difficult behaviour or harmful acts. When we practise silence, we never focus on a problem but instead consciously make room for alternatives and solutions.

Those who use the inner, eternal principles as reference points, work with enthusiasm and silence, and they radiate optimism into the darkest corners of the deepest negativity. They persevere because they believe ‘there is always a way’.


Generosity is our natural state. It comes with no obligations because it flows from a state of fullness, completion and freedom – of abundance. This flow of abundance comes when we free ourselves from the limited narrow viewpoint of ‘I’ and ‘my’. Practising silence encourages us to see beyond the limited ‘I’, inspiring us to share the abundance we endlessly receive.


To complete any task effectively, we need a team of values. We need to recognise not to focus solely on one value by ignoring the ‘opposite’ value. For example, determination encourages focus, concentration and the will to face obstacles. However, if we rely only on this quality, it may degenerate into rigidity, stubbornness, harshness or even obsession. When we practise silence, we are more likely to notice signals telling us to use the partner values to a quality. In the case of determination, that would be, patience and flexibility to maintain balance and flow in situations and relationships.


When you value your uniqueness, you become strong and free, not bound by success or failure, by your talents and opinions, or by your relationships and past experiences. You are not overly lifted by words of praise, nor do you feel crushed by misunderstandings or dislike. When we practise silence, we step back from others’ images of us and are able to appreciate the value of our unique self. We learn that we have an original value that cannot be destroyed, damaged or copied, and when we get in touch with this inner blueprint, we feel the value of the real self so deeply that self-respect begins to flower. This, combined with humility allows us to give value to others and respect their uniqueness alongside our own.


Our inner world needs to connect with the outer world, or society – otherwise, it is like having a seed that is not planted and so can never flower. Creating and maintaining a bridge between the inner and outer worlds facilitates genuine communication with others and helps us to maintain balance and a happy life. The external world, with its variety of relationships and situations, stimulates us to renew and re-evaluate our internal world of thoughts, feelings and attitudes. Practising silence equips us to retreat from the outside world and use the lessons we meet there as opportunities for reflection and change.


We create happiness when we move according to moment-by-moment awareness, not according to a convenient formula, of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. By taking a moment to be still and silent during the day, we touch the moment and can see what has to be understood and done.


Whatever we throw out to the universe will rebound, sooner or later. Silence helps us to take a moment and tune in before we act.


When we recognise a thought, or a mistake, and without hesitation or fear, act on it, life gets better. Practising silence tunes us into our intuition and our better selves so that we recognise the thoughts we must act on and also clearly see mistakes.


Someone caught up in trivia, pettiness and drama lives in a state of constant complaint and they seek similar companions. While a group may glitter, criticism and the pleasure of putting others down, cancel our right to happiness. It is vital to keep company with truth and values to stay in freedom and happiness.

The late Anthony Strano was an author and Rajyoga teacher with the Brahma Kumaris.

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Spiritually Speaking

Jhankriti to celebrate unity via cultural diversity



For a long time, art has nurtured creativity, innovation, and cultural diversity for all and played an important role in knowledge sharing, encouraging curiosity and dialogue for a long time. These are qualities that art has always had & will remain if we continue to support environments where artists and artistic freedom are nurtured, promoted, and protected. What diversity stands for is a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. There has been an increasing amount of scientific evidence that shows art can change a person’s outlook and the way they experience the world and help them grow.

Art and culture are key to the blossoming of an individual and society at large. We reflect, rejoice, and rejuvenate in our beings through art and culture, reconnect with who we are, and move forward.

To keep the traditions of classical art and dance forms alive amongst youngsters, acknowledge talents and give artists a platform, the Art of Living’s World Forum for Art and Culture, in partnership with the Ministry of Culture as part of the Azaadi ka Amrit Mahotsav campaign, launched Jhankriti. It is a performance art festival and competition like no other. World Forum for Art and Culture’s quest for finding and promoting talent finds a beautiful expression in this exquisite festival called Kriti (a word born from the union of the words- Jhankaar and Sanskriti). While it is designed like a competition, it truly is a festival—a festival to celebrate the diversity of Indian classical art forms.

The concept of Jhankriti was first initiated in 2019 in Delhi-NCR with over 40 maestros and senior artists and more than 500 participants. A very well acknowledged and appreciated response to that 

elicited the idea to bring it on a national level. It is yet another an opportunity for young & old to take pride in the Indian heritage and an inspiration to carry forward these forms learnt from Gurus.

A unique feature of Jhankriti is that every participant also gets an opportunity to be mentored by extraordinary mentors with the goal to create a seamless transition from the temple and proscenium traditions to the online medium of performance while maintaining the purity and integrity of performing arts. Renowned artists like Prachee Shah Paandya and Sandhya Raju, academician Dr Sandhya Purecha, Harikatha exponent Sharat Prabhat along with music maestros Pt Ronu Mazumdar, Padmashri Sumitra Guha, Pt Jayatheerth Mevunde, Vidwan Sikkil Gurucharan, Pt Debashish Bhattacharya and Vidwan K U Jayachandra Rao will be the visionary mentors to the next generation of performers of India who participate in Jhankriti 2022.

While addressing the initiative, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said, “It is important to save and preserve our culture.” Many years ago, it was observed that our youth were moving away from Indian classical music and dance. That’s when we decided to create a platform. With larger programs, more and more people started coming together and realising the respect and honour they received. “

Meeting of the right minds for the right initiatives for the right purpose, God always helps, and since this is for the interest of culture and art and we all have a common goal, the people that are here, all the Gurus, legends in their respective art forms, are the ones who I admire in my heart, but there is no occasion to celebrate everyone, so, it filled my heart with gratitude and enthusiasm on seeing everyone for the event, said Meenakshi Lekhi, Minister of State for External Affairs and Culture. 

The competition will be conducted online, giving an opportunity to participants from every corner of the country. Jhankriti boasts of a Star Jury with luminaries like Padmavibhushan Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia, Padmavibhushan Pt Sajan Mishra, Padmabhushan Dr Padma Subrahmanyam, Padmabhushan Sudha Raghunathan, Padmashri Dr Puru Dadheech, and Sangeet Samrat Chitravina Ravikiran.

The event was launched on June 1, 2022 in the virtual presence of global humanitarian and spiritual master, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar; Meenakshi Lekhi, and Priyanka Chandra, Chief Director of Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, at the PhD Chamber of Commerce, New Delhi. The launch event was conducted in a blended format, where dignitaries from more than 90 countries joined live through Zoom. The Art of Living foundation broadcast the event to more than 156 countries. Vibrant performances in tribute to the motherland were presented by more than 50 young artists from Delhi, Bangalore, and Mumbai, each performing from their respective cities to create a seamless spectacle for both the live and online participants.

The Festival of Jhankriti celebrates three fields of art: Gayan (classical/semi-classical vocal (light/folk music, Hindustani and Carnatic), Vadan (instrumental/percussion), and Nritya (classical dance forms). This is structured into three broad age groups: under 8 years, 8 to 16 years, and 17 to 25 years.

The most important aspect of this event is that the registration is free. Anyone from any strata of society can participate. There is an easily accessible format through video submissions, which makes this an equal opportunity for everyone. Applications are still open and registration will close by August 15, 2022. With prize money amounting to more than 30 lakhs, Jhankriti has come at the right time to support the younger generation trying to find their footing after the pandemic.

Important dates –

Registration Closes – 15th August, 2022

Finals – 2nd & 3rd November, 2022

Award Ceremony in November/December in Art of Living International Centre, Bangalore

Interested participants can register on

The writer is Art of Living faculty.

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Spiritually Speaking

When Observer is the Observed, Creation Begins

Science says before the Big Bang, there was another Big Bang. If Science were to inquire as to why the Universe is expanding and what it is expanding into, a night is required to explain why, which is not a night but a day.

Arun Malhotra



Science means knowledge. Religion means an awakened experience—a flowering. For others, religion is a set of beliefs. In fact, science is pure religion and religion is pure science. But somehow, humanity is caught up in the understanding that science has found and religion is caught up in interpretations of what awakened ones have once said.

In knowing, emerges an understanding. Knowing happens through a state of deep learning when an unknown phenomenon about the nature of things around us is known. Learning happens when the unknown is known. In the quest for science, humanity has met a dead religion, and in the quest for religion, humanity has met a dead science.

J. Krishnamurti has said, “the observer is the observed.” Science in that parlance hypothesises that quanta respond to an observer and that the neutrons, electrons, and protons are conscious beings, otherwise the cell won’t have the actuality of itself.

Don’t get caught up in the words. Don’t become an observer of your consciousness that is being observed by you intellectually. That’s again the trick of the mind. The mind becomes the observer and the observed too. It says, “Yes, I want to be the observer of the observed.”

What it actually means to be the observer of the observed is to be in the being-ness of the being. Everything that you observe returns to you to reinforce your being-ness. The real observer is not observing himself. Observing by being the observer. Observer object observation is lost. Being in being-ness is revealed.

What began as an idea of absolute knowledge becoming a virtue has become an unprovable set of scientific theories aping scriptures today. This is sacrilegious to science. Science cannot explain what was before the Big Bang, therefore it cannot explain what was after the Big Bang. Science has become exactly like religion. Like who made God? So, God made God.

Science says before the Big Bang, there was another Big Bang. If Science were to inquire as to why the Universe is expanding and what it is expanding into, A night is required to explain why what is not a night is a day. So, science invented a reverse theory of the Big Bang. The Big Bang: If something is expanding, it must have started, and the beginning is the Big Bang. Bang is the theory invented by the scientists who believed in religious thought that the universe was expanding like Brahma and science had superimposed the theoretical physicists’ vision on them as if they were expanding into their own expansion. God? But no one is able to answer that.

Science has so far known which part of the brain does what and what the architecture of the brain is. Science might know which part of the brain is a repository of optical neurons which create vision. But science does not know how an observer observes the beauty of the world through vision. When asked, one gets an absurd answer like chemicals and matter in certain mathematical proportions may mean beauty. How do droplets of rain on the scorched soil produce an earthy fragrance experience? No scientist in the world can explain how neurons in the brain signal beauty or how one feels the experience of fragrance. How does one feel ecstasy? “Science here is a blindfolded religious belief.

But religion is an absolute science. When you live your life according to the doctrines of some priests or philosophers, the names of Gods and beliefs paralyse and blind you.

Beliefs are like an inevitability. Your mind thinks you will die at the average human age. That’s a trick of the mind. You may believe that you may not die at 100, and believe me, you will not. The age that you are in is your own belief. You are not 20 or 50 or 70. You live the age you believe in. You will die at the age you want to die at. That’s what Jesus has ordained. Jesus knew that he would be resurrected, and he did. Beliefs are in your mind. Belief works like hypnosis that seals the mind from outside stimuli. When you are free from the known past, you are free from beliefs too.

For centuries, the mind has been observing the universe. Science agrees that without an observer, the cosmos would not exist. Like without ears, sound won’t last and without light, eyes won’t. All our senses are drawn out of our consciousness and the physical body that shaped them. An observer observes an observation. The observer observes the observation and finds that the observation that he observes is not the observation. But it meets his consciousness alone.

Consciousness is the biggest dilemma of science that remains unexplainable. What is consciousness? Science avoids this question. Neuroscience has dissected the brain, and psychologists have dissected the mind. How does a brain, which is a physical entity, and a mind, which is a psychological entity, create an experience which is experienced by someone who is not the brain and the mind?

The days of artificial intelligence (AI) are here. People believe that computing machines will be conscious like humans because of the Singularity. We are not far but light years far from that era. Of course, in films and thoughts, it is discussed.

Our minds and our senses are the result of billions of years of existence. The human mind created its own existence in time and space. mind is grown to produce experiences of time and space. When we interact with the physical world, it produces sensations. Our minds produce experiences out of sensations. When you see a new car, you touch it. Your mind comes in. It imagines you in the car. A desire is birthed by it. And you want to buy the car. Desire creates an artificial need.

The mind serves as your interface for generating natural experiences. Consciousness is the observer of the experience produced by the mind. When the observer becomes the observed-mind, the lost pure consciousness flowers. A religion is birthed as a pure science. It happened to Buddha-the awakened one. Buddha observed the mind for six years. If the observer is free from the mind’s accumulated past, that’s when the observer is the ‘observed’.

A computer is governed by the thoughts of its owner. The human mind is a kind of aircraft black box that registers all movements in space and time through the senses. Even if a computer far away apes the human mind and is directed to produce uninterrupted random thoughts and to act on them, it will be a mind. But it will continue to act according to the mind that directed it.

But consciousness is something beyond the human mind. “Mind cannot happen without consciousness. Because the mind draws its existence on the canvas of consciousness, The mind is a psychological entity, and the brain is physical. The mind is built by time and space.

The birth of the universe is mentioned in the Rig Veda’s hymn ‘Nisadiya Sukta’ 5000 years ago. Neither non-existence nor existence existed. Neither the realm of space nor the sky. A different kind of darkness. Like a primal seed, heat generates light. And creation began.’

The cosmos is made by the observer. Without an observer, there is no comprehension. Without comprehension, there is no existence. Consciousness is existence. The Universe came into existence from consciousness. Hindus believe in a Triune God. Brahma is the creator. Vishnu, the preserver. Shiva, the destroyer. A creator, a preserver, and a destroyer are all entwined in the same body. all three denote the creation. It is creation that is creating, preserving, and destroying. Consciousness pervades the whole of the universe. The Universe is the body of an absolute mind of creation. When the universe meets consciousness, creation begins.

The author is a spiritual teacher. He can be reached at

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Spiritually Speaking




Overthinking means obsessing over the details and nuances that have occurred in our interactions with others, and in the situations we find ourselves in. We are usually thinking about the past, even just this morning, or overthinking about what is to happen; all our emails, our ‘to do’ list. Each of us generates 35,000 to 50,000 thoughts a day and most of those are the same thoughts that we had yesterday or even a year ago. Yet each of us is longing for peace. But because we have created these deep grooves or patterns of thinking, these neural pathways, because we have allowed ourselves to just think any old thing, we are now reaping the repercussions of an uncontrolled mind.

In fact, the greatest work any of us can do to bring benefit to the world around us, is to stop this overthinking. We need to create new, powerful pathways and patterns. Because each thought we have has its own energy. The first person to feel the impact of that energy is us. We can all feel the difference of holding a happy thought and holding a jealous, critical thought. The contrast of lightness and joy and the heavy, sluggish feeling of meanness. There is no easy, quick fix. But every step towards creating new grooves of peaceful thought patterns is beneficial to me and everyone around me.

There are three ways in which we overthink. The first is about the self—self-talk. The second is about the behaviour and character of others, and the third is about the situations in our life. When we talk to the self, we need to have self-empowering thoughts that bring inner strength. What usually happens is that because of low self-esteem, we think in an arrogant way and exhibit controlling behaviour, or we obsess over our most vulnerable weak points, and pile on the guilt and criticism. We need to understand that our thinking mind has been programmed by our family, culture, education system, workplace and society in general. We need to step back and see that behind this thinking mind is an inner space of peace that is me. As we learn to do this the mind begins to quieten down.

When we identify with this ‘me’ that is behind the mind, we can feel the intrinsic peace there, and can operate from that place of peace. We can learn to become more aware of the things we are telling ourselves, and make sure it is kind and supportive, the way we would talk to our friends. The starting point is, ‘I am a peaceful being.’

In thinking about others, we can see that we expect everyone to think the way we do, behave the way we believe is the right way to behave. Once we understand that we have our own unhelpful thought patterns, we will be able to accept other people just as they are. It is an act of graciousness. When we feel ‘upset’ by another, the reaction is to blame them for how we are feeling. This is an illusion. It is my own thoughts that are creating the pain. The other is not responsible. It takes great courage to recognise this and stop projecting and take responsibility for each thought I create.

Situations are the same. Some of us can cope with all the big dramatic happenings in life, but trip over the trivia. But the small things have long tentacles reaching back into a long-forgotten past. The most common questions that arise in an uncomfortable, or sudden situation, are ‘what?’ and ‘why?’. We need to work with an acceptance of what is happening and who is involved. Otherwise, we are in overdrive, overthinking, responding from anxiety or irrationality. When we move from, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ to ‘What do I have to learn from this?’ everything shifts—we go from the external to the internal and then we can see how to contribute in a very beautiful way, with deep good wishes. Then we can let it all melt into the past, the place where it belongs.

Taking this inner journey and connecting to the Divine, the Higher Source, God—the One behind all the scenes, who is the source of all power and peace, is the way to change the self, and subsequently, the world.

Margaret Barron has a BA in Adult Education and Training and helps co-ordinate the Education Department at the Brahma Kumaris International centre in London.

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