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Spiritually Speaking

Let your light shine

The victory of light over darkness should be the story of our lives and this is one of the reasons we are incarnated here in the first place. Our souls are learning lessons every day and one of the most important lessons is to let light shine in and through our lives.

Prashant Solomon

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Darkness is not the opposite of light but the absence of it. We are all striving for light in our lives and this is the season of the year where we celebrate light. Dussehra and Diwali are both connected intrinsically to light.

But in the process of celebrating the victory of light over darkness, we tend to forget that these are not opposites of each other but one is the absence of the other. There is no light in darkness and there is no darkness in light. But yet for us human beings to live and experience life we need both of these things.

Light and darkness happen to all of us. Generally we associate light with goodness and knowledge and darkness is associated with evil and ignorance. Every religion in the world associates light with the divine creator. We celebrate the victory of light over darkness every year on Dussehra and Diwali (which is also referred to as the ‘Festival of Lights’). We celebrate the victory of deities over demons. But the most important lesson from these annual reminders is not about that event itself but how to incorporate these into our own daily lives.

The victory of light over darkness should also be the story of our own lives and this is one of the reasons we are incarnated here in the first place. Our souls are learning lessons every day and one of the most important of these lessons is this. Let light shine in and through your lives.

When bad things happen to us, we often question fate, destiny and even God. “Why me?” We often ask. But these are moments in our life that teach us the most. If it were not for the ‘dark’ moments in life we would never grow as human beings. Difficult situations happen to us and they happen to everyone. There is no point in blaming others or destiny. These moments are meant for us to experience and learn from.

Without darkness there would be only light and nothing else. No picture would form. There would be nothing to see. No contrast. We need various levels of light and shade for any image to form. The same is the case between darkness and light in the metaphysical or spiritual sense. They can exist without each other but it is in the mixing of them that our creation exists.

Instead of asking “Why me?” when bad things happen, a better question is: “Why not me?” Isn’t it more profitable spiritually for us to experience a ‘bad’ thing and grow from it then to just keep on living a life with no challenges? Life without challenges or conflict is like a poorly written novel. No conflict means no story.

Everyone has difficulties. Just because someone has more money, fame, power or relationships than you do doesn’t mean that they do not have problems. Everyone has their own problems but they are different.

But what does all of this have to do with how celebrating festivals of light should be about our lives? The darkness within us is doubt, fear, prejudice, greed, hatred and so on. We have all read this a million times perhaps. But here is the point. The light comes into our lives not when these things disappear but it is in our correct handling of them that light becomes more powerful.

No matter who you are, darkness can enter into you. It is in how you deal with that darkness that determines how much light comes into you to fight the darkness. Everyone can be tempted—Jesus and Buddha were both tempted by darkness. Their light shined brighter as they were able to overcome the temptations.

We all fight a daily battle within us. There is a constant battle between good and evil within us. It is always about fighting temptations. But temptation is not always what it seems to be.

Temptation isn’t always about controlling yourself from doing something. It is also about how you think about and deal with hardships. More subtle temptations exist that you may not even have ever realised or acknowledged before. For example, the temptation to blame others for your own perceived misfortune, the temptation to hate others before even knowing their background or circumstances, the temptation to procrastinate and be lazy, the temptation to think you are better than everyone, the temptation to think you are worse than everyone, the temptation to think it is someone else’s responsibility to help make the world better, the temptation to be lonely and have self pity and so on.

These subtler temptations are the darkness and many others like them. They are hidden and not seen. When the ‘light’ of awareness and realisation falls on darkness, the latter is revealed and exposed. That is when they can be dispelled.

The eternal battle between light and darkness is traditionally thought of a battle of good vs evil. But it can equally be between ignorance vs awareness, dependency vs independency, sadness vs happiness, doubt vs confidence, giving up vs trying again, loving yourself vs dependency on others, and so on.

This list could go on forever. But that is what light and darkness is about. It is about constantly discovering and realising things and learning how to overcome the negative thoughts and energy and replace them with positive thoughts and positive energy. It is about realising that everything happens for a reason and we are meant to learn from it.

There isn’t a better example than the year we are living in today: 2020. It has been a game-changing year. The global pandemic has changed our lives, forced us into quarantine, kept us in one place pretty much, economies have shut down temporarily, many have fallen sick and unfortunately died. It seems like a dark year.

But let some light into the picture please!

For every one person who died, 95 or so have recovered. For every day that you were locked indoors you must have had some time to contemplate. For every moment away from office was a moment with your family. For every moment lost in travelling the world was a moment that you could have looked inwards into your soul. Lost business and job revenues plenty, but also new opportunities for a new world. For every day that pollution could have grown, clean air emerged, twinkling stars and snow clad mountains could be seen from the plains. So suddenly it seems like a year full of promise, a year full of light.

Let your light always dispel your darkness. Wishing you all a happy Diwali.

Prashant Solomon is a Delhi-based businessman and author.

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Spiritually Speaking

The abundance of gratitude

Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

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We all have experienced the joy and peace of gratitude. Life flows smoother and your outlook is brighter when you feel grateful. Gratitude comes when you feel full. When you don’t feel any sense of lack, then you feel gratitude. You cannot be grateful and feel lack—the two cannot co-exist at the same time. Certainly, you’ve experienced both, but only at different times. When you feel grateful, you also feel full. When you feel any lack, grumbling begins in some corner. With knowledge, you experience gratitude and become grateful. And when you are grateful, the law of nature ensures that the gratefulness increases and that you are given more. If you are grateful, more positive things will flow to you. If you are grumbling, the grumbling and negativity will increase. For those who do not have the knowledge, there is no way out of their grumblings, because grumbling becomes their nature. And once they start grumbling, demand arises, and when the demand arises, everything is taken away from them. Even what little joy, peace, or love they have in this world will be lost. This is all in accordance with the law of nature. Whatever seed(s) you sow, such fruit you will personally bear. If you sow the seed of lack, only lack will grow. Conversely, if you sow the seed of plenty and the seed of gratitude in your life, these elements will blossom in your world. Open your eyes and see what surrounds you. When you recognise through this knowledge what you have been given, then you become grateful. And in that gratefulness, everything grows. This is the reason why grandmothers in India have a habit of saying, “Everything is full.” If something is less than full, or empty, they never say, “This is empty, we don’t have this.” Instead, they say, “We have a lot of this.” It is an attitude of “plentitude” in the mind. When you feel that you have plenty in the consciousness, the ‘plenty-ness’ grows.

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

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Spiritually Speaking

Turning theory into practice

Once we go within and we do the experiments in this laboratory that God has given us, then we can see for ourselves the benefits of meditation. We can see that we are progressing on the way back to God.

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We all know that when we want to study something in this world we go to a teacher who is proficient in that subject. When we are young, we go to a nursery school. As we get older, we go to middle school and high school and then on to college. If we want to learn physics or chemistry we go to a teacher or a professor. The teacher will explain to us the theory of the subject.

Whenever we have any problems, we can ask our teachers questions and they will sit down and spend the time to make sure the fundamentals of the subject are very clear to us. If the basics are clear, then we can build our whole knowledge on those strong fundamentals.

Along with the theory, teachers also show us how we can perform different experiments so that we can have total knowledge of the subject. They show us how we can perform the experiments ourselves under their guidance so that, from a practical point of view, we can see what the theory is trying to teach to us.

Thus, to get a total picture and to fully understand the whole subject, we not only need the theory but we also need the practical aspect.

The subject of spirituality is not complicated if you learn it in the right manner. Just as physics or chemistry could be complicated if the teacher is not very sure of the fundamentals and cannot properly teach us, with spirituality, which is an age-old science, we need to go to someone who knows the subject very clearly, who has done the experiments, who is very familiar with the ways beyond, so that they can guide us past all the pitfalls which are along the way. How far teachers can take us depends on how far they have gone.

Just as we can perform some of our experiments in a physics or chemistry laboratory in school, similarly this human body is the laboratory that has been provided to us by God. A spiritual guide teaches us the way to do experiments inside our bodies. They help us connect with the inner Light and Sound so that we can go within, experiment for ourselves, and watch our progress. They can give us not only the theory but also the practical aspect of self-realisation and God-realisation so that we can experience God.

 A spiritual guide wants us to know who we really are. They want us to know who God is. They want us to know the way back to God. They help us realise that we are not the body; that the real thing in the body is the soul. They want us to realise that the soul in each one of us is a part of God, and we have to love and respect every human being, and not only every human being but each form of creation in this world.

If we can get to a stage where we realise that the soul in each form of creation is a part of God, then we will have no trouble seeing the Light of God in everyone. As soon as we get to that state where we see the Light of God in everyone, then the connection of our soul with God happens immediately.

A spiritual guide encourages people to try the experiment of meditation themselves after they have been given the spark. Once we go within and we do the experiments in this laboratory that God has given us then we can see for ourselves the benefits of meditation. We can see that we are progressing on the way back to God.

The author is the head of the Sawan Kirpal Ruhani Mission.

A spiritual guide wants us to know who we really are. They want us to know who God is. They want us to know the way back to God. They help us realise that we are not the body; that the real thing in the body is the soul. They want us to realise that the soul in each one of us is a part of God, and we have to love and respect every human being, and not only every human being but each form of creation in this world.

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Spiritually Speaking

Living beyond the thoughts of life

Arun Malhotra

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What is this life? Who are we? What is being human? To look at this life from the perspective of man, a question arises whether a man is merely a thought. A thought that is thought by man. Whatever that is there around man are either thoughts or things that look illusory. Things were once thoughts. Thoughts made them into things. You are a thought that you are born to your parents. Your mother conceived you in the womb. Your father’s thought named you. You are expected to become that thought and, nay, you also begin thinking that you are that thought. And you want to truly become that thought and you frustrate yourself and your family if you try to become who you are. Buddha, Mahavira, Jesus, Nanak, Meera, Kabir-awakened ones-exasperated expectations of others. 

You are expected to bring prestige, honour, goodwill, wealth to your parents, when you want to do that a chain gets started. One day your father’s thought lives in you as for him and your thoughts in your child. We begin living our life on thoughts lent by others. We begin to look at ourselves depending on others. 

We begin depending on the eyes of others to know ourselves. A beautiful woman needs the eyes of others to be beautiful. Therefore you want to be what others want you to be. Others want you to be honest, erudite, correct, and cunning. You become what others want you to be. It is a chain reaction. To know yourself is the most precious thing in life. But to know what others think of you is the primary reaction. Whether beautiful or wealthy or celebrated all are thoughts depending on the perception of others. 

Thoughts are nothing but the perception of things. Thoughts make everything into things. All things around you are in fact thoughts. Thoughts of others make you into things. Your thoughts make other persons into things. Your education, faculties, universities, religions are thoughts of others that make you into things. That makes you into commodities. They don’t begin the basic lesson of life because they don’t understand that basic lesson. They propagate confusion. You must learn knowledge but knowledge that makes you virtuous. Because knowledge is a virtue in that parlance as Socrates had said. But all knowledge that is making you into tagged commodities is not virtuous it is the disguise of knowledge. 

Therefore, everyone wants to influence others with disguised knowledge. People have written books ‘how to influence others’. You keep on pouring thoughts forcefully on others because you are fearful that your ignorance may be known if you don’t do that. You know that you yourself don’t know exactly what you are actually depending upon. You believe because others believe you. In fact, one who knows never tries to influence others with knowledge. One who knows does not depend on others. If your knowledge depends on the ignorance of others, it means you are disguising yourself to be knowledgeable and seeking asylum to hide your ignorance. The knowledge that does not depend on the ignorance of others is your own experience.

To see yourself, you need others’ eyes. To know yourself, you need others’ thoughts because you have no experience of yourself. You have not experienced who you are. When you have not experienced being wealthy or being worldly, and you become an ascetic, you will keep coming back to the wealth and the world. Because an experience could only lend you knowledge on which you can depend that throws light on the darkness of your ignorance.

We depend on others. All depend on each other. We depend on thoughts. Thoughts define us. Thoughts, be that ours or others, thoughts are not your experiences. Thoughts may be the second-hand explanation of experiences. Thoughts may be the experience of others. Words can be transferred, thoughts can be transferred to others but the experience cannot be transferred to others. Experience has to be lived in one’s own being-ness. One experiences that experience that becomes the personal experience of the experiencer that elevates you from darkness to light is the real experience.

Society depends on language to shape thoughts and things around you. If language is lost society and thoughts are lost too. All thoughts that shape up man’s worldly destiny depend on society and language. Every thought that shape your life depends on other thoughts. If you want to be brave it depends on your cowardice. To cover your cowardice and fear you cover it up with bravery. Some cover up fear with anger and some with swagger. Some feel if you feel that you are being attacked then the best way to thwart an attack is to attack first. The attack becomes a shield to cover your fear of being attacked. Without being immensely fearful no one can become a great warrior. Because fear is inside your and being brave is being unfearful artificially, so you become fearless artificially. Bravery is in proportionate to fear. But there is a dimension of bravery that flowers into ultimate fearlessness but that does not depend on fear. We will talk about that later.

All thoughts are dichotomous. They depend on others. They have made your life dichotomous. You are living life in a life of relative thoughts. What you call your wealth depends on the poverty of others. You cannot be wealthy without the poor being around you. Your big palatial house is worth nothing if the poverty of slums is not around you. You feel that living in a small house is being miserable when you lived in a big house. You winning something depends on the defeat of others without which you cannot win. Your scholarly knowledge depends on the ignorance of others. Your beauty depends on the ugliness of others.

Life is not dichotomous. You have created a dichotomy. Living in a small house for someone may be blissful. But because you have a big house, for you to live in a small house will be miserable. When you lived wealth optimally, you have lived being wealthy and rich, you can also enjoy the joy of living with lesser money. You can also experience the joy of poverty. But if you are caught up with your thoughts of being rich and moneyed, you will only experience miseries of poverty not the joy of poverty. Money buys and controls everything. But if you become rich and wealthy in real terms, it will make you understand that money is worthless. 

Richness is a thought, poverty is a thought too. Bravery and fear are two extremes of the same thought. Success is a thought failure is a thought too. Life is a thought and God is a thought too.

Your society, religion, language lend you thoughts to make you conditioned. Conditioning is a mere thought but you get caught up with it. You begin believing in it as if it is the truth. Conditioning is a dichotomy of thoughts. The understanding dichotomy is to go out of the dichotomy of conditioning. To go out of dichotomy is to go back to your own nature. To go back to the existence that exists in you like existence. Hindus call it ‘Akhand’ that which is not fragmented. When you fall back to your own nature you fall back to existence and you become like an uncarved stone. You become childlike as you were born today. That is what Kabir says, ‘Jyo kee Tyo Dhar Deenee Chadriya’ the shell that you got to live here in life, you give it back in the same condition as you received it.

The author is a spiritual teacher and he can be contacted at arunavalokitta@gmail.com

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Spiritually Speaking

AVOIDING A TRAFFIC JAM OF THOUGHTS

B.K. Mruthyunjaya

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Traffic jams are a fact of life in most cities. Almost everyone who has lived in a city or visited one has experienced being stuck in the middle of vehicles inching along at a snail’s pace.

How do we feel in a traffic jam? We are powerless to get out of it or move as fast as we would like to. The helplessness causes impatience, irritation, frustration or despair, espe-cially if we are going to an important meeting or to catch a train or a flight.

A common reaction to such a situation is to blame others. We may blame the government for not building wider roads, dismiss the traffic police as incompetent for letting the jam occur or even wonder why the other motorists do not use public transport. We may also rue having taken that route or chosen that hour to travel. The result of all this is upheaval in the mind.

Something similar happens when we experience a traffic jam in our minds. Such a jam occurs when we think too much and have little control over our thoughts. The thoughts come fast and the mind is swept along in their flow, seemingly incapable of stopping the thoughts or changing their direction. When this ordeal ends, much time and mental ener-gy have been lost and we feel exhausted.

A traffic jam in the mind occurs when we have waste or negative thoughts. One example of this is worrying about the future. We start creating all sorts of negative scenarios we might possibly face, and get stressed by merely thinking about them. When the mind is mired in such thoughts, we feel as if one is actually experiencing those negative situations even though they are just a figment of the imagination.

Even in the face of a difficult situation in real life, if one gets overwhelmed by it, one may get drawn into a whirlpool of negative thinking that will rob one of the ability to dis-cern correctly, think rationally, and arrive at the right judgment. One would be left con-fused, weak, angry or despondent.

What is needed at such times is the ability to see things as they are, decide on the best course of action, and take the necessary steps calmly, without being upset or upsetting others. Faced properly, no situation can really cause distress. It is when we get on the track of negative thinking that we are carried away by our thoughts and make matters worse. Positive thoughts, by their very nature, are slow, few in number, and empowering.

To avoid creating a traffic jam of thoughts, we need to learn the art of positive thinking, which will steer us away from the mental track that leads to negativity.

Rajyoga meditation teaches us to create healthy thoughts and channel our mental energies in the right direction. The basis of Rajyoga is remembering that we are spiritual beings or souls, not bodies. All souls are children of the Supreme Soul, who is supremely peaceful, loving, benevolent, and almighty. As His children, we have a claim on His powers and virtues. When we remember Him with the awareness of who we are and our relationship with Him, we are able to connect with Him mentally. Through this mental link flow His love, peace, purity, and power, cleansing and empowering the soul. Regular practice of Rajyoga makes the soul capable of facing anything undauntedly, without creating a traf-fic jam in the mind.

B.K. Mruthyunjaya is Executive Secretary of the Brahma Kumaris.

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Spiritually Speaking

SEIZING THE REINS OF YOUR LIFE

NEVILLE HODGKINSON

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In today’s world, most of us are led to think of ourselves as material, physical beings, with no soul. Science has claimed to explain how everything—even the utter miracle of a single living cell of our bodies, which is like a city in its complexity—arrived here through chance events taking place over billions of years. I used to subscribe to this belief myself.

Even most people with a spiritual or religious practice, such as meditation or prayer, think of themselves in primarily physical terms. There may be an idea of some kind of afterlife, but it is often rather vague and does not protect against the fear of death.

I went to church as a child, but in my teenage years came to the view that religion did not make much sense. Although not a scientist, I felt for many years that science offered our best hope for a better future.

Now I see things very differently. I have come to the conclusion that materialistic science, which purports to explain everything in physical terms, is deeply unscientific. It misses out on the most important creative energy of all, which is spirit or consciousness.

A few years ago, the author and spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra co-authored an article with a Harvard medical school professor complaining that although we live in a golden age of brain research, 99% of neuroscientists believe we are our brains.

They wrote: “In this scheme, the brain is in charge, having evolved to control certain fixed behaviours. We are flooded with articles and books reinforcing the same assumption: the brain is using you, not the other way round.” The real glory of human existence is the mind, they said, and not the brain that serves it.

But what is the mind, if not a product of the brain?

An answer emerging at the frontiers in science is that behind the physical world, constantly putting it in place, there lies a consciousness of almost infinite power and complexity.

We can call it the mind of nature. It is a living, non-physical energy that creates and shapes the reality in which we live.

It contains within it the blueprints for everything we see in the world around us including our own being. It is as though each individual human self or soul splits away from the universal mind in order to enact its own part on the stage of the world, but ultimately all are connected in this web of life. And we are immortal.

This understanding is empowering. If the mind itself shapes material reality including the brain, it means we do not have to submit to negative patterns imprinted within our brain cir-cuits linked with such conditions as depression, addictions, and phobias.

We can identify these patterns, reflect on them, and remove them. We can reprogramme as-pects of instinctive behaviour that we are finding unhelpful including habits such as being gloomy and judgmental.

In my own experience, the practice of positive mental states can bring quick and useful re-sults. But sustaining them over time is not so simple.

I think this is largely related to the degree to which we really make the shift into knowing the inner being as a soul or spirit. This awareness allows you to seize the reins of your life, instead of being pushed here and there by factors outside of you. It carries an intrinsic power because the human soul has intrinsic virtues—love, peace, happiness, wisdom—which illuminates your life when you become more soul-conscious.

In my case, because of my previous materialistic beliefs, getting this deep awareness and the power to change that comes with it has involved a long spiritual pilgrimage.

A breakthrough came when I realised that not only am I at the root of my being a peaceful soul but that I can also connect my mind to a Supreme Being. I understand this Supreme Soul as being an ever-pure source of all that is highest in me.

I am now learning to keep that One with me in everything I do, and this is allowing me to move faster on my spiritual journey.

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

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Spiritually Speaking

Be free from worry and illness

inside

Dadi Janki

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Whenever we speak of the mind and body, it is the mind that comes first. If we suppress the mind, it causes mischief. The mind cannot bear to be suppressed. Being suppressed, subservient or dependent are habits that have developed in the mind and do not allow us to see inside and who we are. Become free of ‘I’ and ‘mine’. The feelings of ego and attachments, the ego of ‘I’ and attachment of ‘mine’ both have a big effect on the body.

There are various illnesses of the mind, yet these are the main ones that affect the mind and body a great deal. Ego is false pride in everything in the materialistic world. It does not allow me to stay in awareness of what is real. With attachment, we hold on to situations and things. It is a subtle and deep feeling within to become free of ego and attachment.

For example, do not think what is going to happen to everyone around me if I die? Learn to meditate and create a beautiful atmosphere in the home. Develop courage. Meditation helps us to face situations. Anything can happen suddenly, so remain ever-ready in such situations. It is possible to go beyond worry, fear and sorrow. I may not be ill but if we have these three habits then I cannot help anyone in any way.

Honesty, faith and courage are the antidotes. Look at your purpose in life. I should have so much truth, faith and courage in the self that I am able to empower those that come in front of me. Remain free of tension and instead have total attention. Have good wishes and pure feelings for all. Go deep inside and see what type of feelings there are. Remove any negative ones. With good wishes, we can help others as these works from deep inside. Good wishes really empower and encourage people and they feel that they are OK.

What medicines are not able to do, courage and faith can achieve, and Inner strength develops. Illnesses develop due to disheartenment. So do not allow the self to become hopeless in any situation and do not allow others to become disheartened. The main reason for illnesses arising is due to the ill-feeling inside. So free the self from these and then you will be able to help others too. When there is tiredness inside this also does not help. In today’s world, young and old will say they are tired. If a car has a tyre puncture, imagine the condition of the car. In the same way, when human beings get ‘tyred’, what is our condition? We do not work very well. If someone realises the reasons for the illness and removes these reasons they will become well again.

Take three tablets each morning—patience, peace and love—and the whole day will be empowered. When there is the pain of the body, I the soul can still remain free from sorrow. Then we are able to move through it. Have patience and it will go away. To make a big thing into something small is the act of someone who has sense. When we make something big from small, there is no cure. Do not give sorrow to anyone or take it. Do not accept sorrow from anyone. Another cause of illness is from taking and giving sorrow. Constantly remain smiling and you will find nothing is difficult. Rehearse this and see. The situations are external, so feel the power of the smile inside. Let go of everything and move forward. God is my companion and in playing my role I am a hero actor. The Almighty Authority is my father, teacher and true guide and He tells me, do not worry.

The late Dadi Janki was the Administrative Head of the Brahma Kumaris.

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