When life is born on earth, something embodies it. In the beginning, it is the body. But Buddha said that the body embodies nothingness. Compared to the vastness of the universe that inhabits thousands of suns and stars, the earth is just a small dot. And the universe is expanding. From eternal emptiness creation began and when the mass expanded, emptiness filled the space. Space between atoms became infinite. To travel between point A and point B, time was needed. So space and time defined creation. This is one point where physics and religion agree, where the West meets the East. Hindus say there is a universe, there is God, in every atom. In fact, the Big Bang Theory was conceived as an antithesis of the expanding universe. If the universe was expanding, it must certainly have begun expanding from one point, and if we go back to that point of origin, we would know how the universe was created.
Compared to the immense vastness of the universe, the earth is a small speck and the size of man is insignificant. It is said that man is a very small part of a very big thing. Like we it is astonishing to imagine that the atom exists, something that cannot be seen, something that is too small to exist. But even scientists who could not see it with their naked eye discovered it to be there. We denied the existence of the atom until its power was unleashed on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1942. Most developments that man has made are owed to the discovery of atoms and nuclear science.
In the overall scheme of things in the universe, it is not surprising to learn that man is also known in terms of cause and effect. The moment man learns how small a part he is, compared to the vastness of thousands of suns, he snaps out of the stupor of his ego. The universe is right next to man’s body but his ego makes him blind to that fact.
When you were conceived in the womb, your size was not as big as it is today. Back then your size was just like an atom’s. All of you, which you today call ‘yourself’, was conceived in the form of an atom. You did not have a body, you did not have a head, eyes or a spine. You were atom-like. But you were. You were there as a being. You existed in the beingness of it. And your being was nothing short of what it is now. Even today you exist in your beingness. But you seem to have forgotten it. Therefore, Buddha says that the body embodies nothingness. Your body grows by the rules of the universe and dies. But nothingness goes on.
Like the universe is expanding, man is also expanding. Man is carrying the seed of his potential within. One seed carries within it the potential of being millions of seeds. When the wind blows, the trees spread many seeds all over, which the wind carries afar. Millions of seeds are born but only a few take root. Man also produces millions of seeds to produce a baby. So, the universe is not frugal. The nature of the universe is abundant. That is also your real nature. Nature has given everything in abundance – rivers, water, air, winds, forests, flora, fauna, food – all are provided free of bondage. It is man that is frugal. Man not only lives in bondage but wants to keep everything under his control. No animal will make another animal his slave. Only man does it. Man is also born as free as anyone on earth. But man has adopted an unnatural way of living which he calls civilization. But thousands years of civilizations all over earth did not make man civilized as yet. In fact, he has become far more uncivil than his hunter-gatherer ancestors.
Man has the power of imagination. It is a very potent tool. When you imagine something at the source of your being, it comes true. To know your source of being is to live life. Whatever the body does, either it could be lived or imagined. But that which is the source and the one living in the being and the one who is the creator of life are all one. Hindus therefore say that the creator does things himself, not man. Man thinks he does everything and forgets the creator. In the Gita, when Arjuna dithers to kill the Kauravas, considering them to be brothers, and offers to become an ascetic, Krishna tells him, “By not killing, you are becoming the doer, thinking that you will save them.” Krishna tells Arjuna, “You think that by you not killing them, they will not be killed. But you have to give up being the doer and let the Doer in you do it, because you are not Him, only He is the Doer.”
Imagination can stimulate you and your body as much as reality does. You can also perform in your imagination all that you wish to do in reality. Like with yoga, you can perform it through your imagination. In Tibet, in the cold winters, bhikkus imagine that the cold winds cannot affect them and they begin sweating. It is through their imagination that they meet their reality. But reality is not the same as imagination. It is something as vast as the universe.
Man stands in the middle of the universe. Imagination is just one direction. There are as many directions available to him as there exist in the universe. Man can take any of them and go on a journey. But in the end, he will find himself standing right in the middle of the universe. Understand it like this: man is like the atom that is expanding and the universe is created. Man stands right at the point of the Big Bang. The Big Bang is the source of mankind. Man is like the source that goes on creating around him in all directions. To come back to the source, man has to realize that there is nowhere to go. If you begin going in any direction, there is infinite space. But when you come back to the source, you suddenly realize that there is nowhere to go. In fact, all space and distance and time is within man. Man is not a small part of the universe. Man is the universe itself.
The author is a spiritual teacher and an advisor on policy, governance and leadership. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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SELF-ESTEEM AND SELF-RESPECT
A lot of unhappiness is experienced in life, and often on a spiritual journey, because of the lack of self-esteem and self-respect. Many people think that these are one and the same, but they are distinctly different, and both are required for a happy and stable life.
There is always someone to look up to in life. Many of us put other people on pedestals, like teachers and parents, or famous artists, and use them as reference points on how to be. On the spiritual path, the same thing can happen. Then, what if the ‘idol’ has feet of clay? There can be disappointment, disheartenment, and sometimes on the spiritual path, faith can be shaken very badly.
We need to understand that the spiritual journey is to let go of ego and return to our own self-respect. To experience being our own master, the master of the mind and have ruling power over old habit patterns and ways of thinking. We need not put power in the hands of others by being influenced this way and that way by what others say and think. We can still remain open, and listen with humility to others, but have so much belief in what we are doing, that we are doing what is the best for our own development, that we maintain total stability.
Self-respect is connected to what we really are, the soul. Each soul is perfect and on its own journey and has its own story. However, self-respect is not about the story, it is about before the story. It is about understanding the full potential of the eternal being within. Unless a person makes the journey towards the real self in this way, self-respect and self-esteem cannot develop.
In the consciousness of the eternal beautiful being, there comes a deep acceptance and value of the self, and the more we love ourselves, the more we are able to love others. Self-respect is about you with yourself and with God. Self-esteem is about the way you behave with others.
Self-esteem springs from the understanding that everything is beneficial, not by chance and not without cause. In self-esteem I am able to take 100 per cent responsibility for how I behave and respond to people and situations.
For this awareness to develop, we need introversion, to go inside and see what we really are, then introspection to reflect deeply on what we find in silence. The highest task of life is to develop the self, the real self, and make that inner world manifest through our behaviour.
Luciana Ferraz is a sociologist and the national coordinator of the Brahma Kumaris in Brazil.
WHY WE NEED TO BE QUIETLY GOOD
Most of us want to be and do, good. However, in everyday life, it’s not so straightforward! We continually do or say things we wish we had not. Or, worse, we may very well say and do the right thing, but inside there are the very unrighteous feelings of dislike, irritability, and every other sort of negativity. We are one thing on the outside, something else on the inside. This reduces the benefits of ‘being good’ to almost nothing, leaving us wondering if ‘being good’ is worth all the trouble.
Being good should make us happy, fulfilled individuals. Being good should make others happy to be with us. Yet so often, even while doing our best to be good, we still get hurt. Others don’t appreciate our efforts; they disapprove of us. They keep their distance.
There is however, a very powerful way to be good, one that guarantees all the benefits, and that is to be ‘quietly’ good. This kind of goodness is not the same as that which most of us have been working with. It is an internal goodness that is based on a constant, elevated awareness that the original nature of the self, and God, is one of supreme and divine goodness. This awareness greatly increases confidence in the value of goodness. It also creates a lot of enthusiasm for personal transformation; we long for a goodness that flows, unstoppably, from the inside, out.
If we fail to recharge the battery of our cell phone, how well will it function? In the same way, if we fail to keep the soul — our innermost self — ‘charged’, how effective will be our goodness? It will be goodness filled with neediness, making us into takers rather than givers. Trying to give while running on empty is the real reason our good intentions still cause so much unhappiness.
Being quietly good means that our attention is on keeping ourselves ‘plugged in’. We fill ourselves with the pure peace and love coming from God. This creates fulfilment — yes! Fulfilment exists! — and being good starts becoming natural and easy. We radiate what we are. When we ourselves are full and happy, those are the vibrations we share.
The world today needs us to be quietly good; it needs the peace, love and happiness that God is just waiting for us to claim, as an inheritance. We only need to make that connection.
Sharona Stillerman coordinates the activities of the Brahma Kumaris in Israel.
RIGHT REMEMBRANCE BRINGS GREAT TREASURES
What if someone were to forget that they had received a huge inheritance from their father and lived in penury, begging and borrowing money to survive? They would bemoan their fate and vent their anger on all who appeared to them to be selfish and unhelpful, ignorant of the fact that they owned a fortune. This seems to be the condition of many people today.
Our experiences in life depend, to a considerable extent, on our self-image, which determines how we feel about ourselves and relate to the world. If we see ourselves as lacking one, or many, things and are focused on our shortcomings, we are likely to feel weak, unworthy or plain unlucky. We will then perceive everything from that position.
This is apparent from the way people relate to each other and God. The Supreme is the Father of all souls: He is the Almighty, the Benefactor, the Merciful. But the children have forgotten who their father is, and they beg Him for help, for wealth, love, happiness, comfort, and even death, in order to escape their sorrows.
Do children need to beg for their inheritance? It is theirs by right. But when we forget our relationship with the Divine, we no longer remember what we have received from Him. This tragic amnesia leads to a lot of suffering.
What we remember determines how we feel. Think of irritating things and you will soon feel irritated. Similarly, dwelling on the Divine — deliberately, quietly, without prejudging — begins to fill us with His qualities of peace, love, and strength. The soul starts to recognise that these virtues are very much a part of them. They only need to turn their attention inward to discover and experience them. And if they want to fill themselves with more, they just have to connect with the ocean of virtues, their Father.
Once souls have acquired abundant peace and happiness, these qualities radiate from them the way fragrance naturally spreads from a flower. Those around them will feel peaceful and happy in their presence. This is the wonder of remembrance – remember who you are, whose child you are, and from a beggar you can turn into a benefactor.
The moment we find ourselves expecting, desiring or longing for something, we can check if we are remembering who we are. Knowing that one belongs to the Supreme brings contentment, joy and strength. Where there is the right remembrance, there are no complaints.
B.K. Atam Prakash is a Rajyoga teacher at the Brahma Kumaris headquarters in Mount Abu, Rajasthan.
LEARNING SHOULD MAKE US SENSIBLE
Some things facilitate learning, and other things destroy it. Arrogance destroys it — “I know this already” — have this thought and learning will stop. Also, being tied up in a million things will not help you get to the depth of a thing.
You cannot really change until you get to the depth of something. When learning stops there is no more change, there is no more progress and the soul, whose task it is to learn and change, is bereft.
“This much I have understood, but tomorrow, I will understand even more” — this is a thought of appreciation for what has already been received. It is a good way to ensure that more will be received in the future.
There will always be the opportunity to learn for those who desire it. Learn in such a way so as to absorb the new and live it. That is being sensible, which is the aim of learning.
To have the right attitude, be inclusive
Our attitude is a combination of our thoughts, feelings, opinions and beliefs. This is manifested in three basic ways: emotional, behavioural and underlying beliefs. Attitude is the pivotal point of balance between awareness and action. As is our awareness, so is our attitude, and as is our attitude, so is our vision, and as is our vision, so is our action. Our attitude shapes our behaviour and also the way we face the challenges that life presents.
Attitude can also be said to create an atmosphere which can be positive or negative and can be a magnet that attracts others or that drives them away from us. For example, if we are caring and loving, accepting and understanding, people will enjoy our company. If we are always critical, sad or hopeless, then others will find being with us to be difficult.
So, how do we adjust our attitude? A benevolent attitude is very powerful. Benevolence is the source of kindness, compassion, inclusivity and acceptance. One of the ways to strengthen a benevolent attitude is to ‘find the silver lining’. A very good practice for this is to start, and maintain, a daily gratitude journal. We can look back over the day and write down events, moments or encounters that filled us with joy and appreciation. A small act of kindness, perhaps, or moments of deep peace.
Start with small things and watch them grow. Another practice is to make sure that we spend time with as many optimists as possible. Optimists notice the beautiful moments and like to share them.
These activities, small as they are, help us to look more closely at the self. I may then notice that I have the habit of viewing situations and perhaps even people, with a tendency to hold prejudices or have a biased attitude towards one set of people, or even discriminate against another set of people.
These observations will make me realise that if I want to emanate benevolence, I need to shift perspective. This requires great honesty and great courage. To strengthen a benevolent attitude, I need to consider looking at those who hold different beliefs through a lens of inclusivity and equality.
Adjustments to our attitude serve to imbue our lives with optimism, and this builds inner strength. This strength is sustained through contemplative and reflective practices. We may not be able to change situations or circumstances, but we can change our attitude towards them.
For this we need spiritual growth, and this is the primary and fundamental reason to adopt the daily assimilation, in meditation, of light and strength developed through a deepening relationship with the source of all benevolence, God.
Gayatri Naraine represents the Brahma Kumaris at the United Nations in New York.
Acting Without Action
Behind every action, there is always a motivation to get a specific result. As we do every action with an eye on the end result, a specific goal, the expectation of the result affects the process of our action. Put it another way, the means of achieving the end often becomes bigger than the end itself. But when we do some actions as an expression of joy, not bothered about the result, we don’t get lost in the means. When we do some actions expecting joy out of them, it makes the action inferior. For example, when you want to spread happiness, but are keen on finding out whether the other person has become happy or not, you get entangled in a vicious circle and lose your happiness in the process.
The concern about the outcome of your action is what pulls you down and dampens your enthusiasm. Suppose you want to take up a project, but you start it by worrying whether it will happen or not, then your whole enthusiasm for the project gets dampened. When you are aware of your potential, just jump into the action you want to do without bothering about the result.
When you are in doubt, any activity you do will bring more doubts. When you have a choice, the grass on the other side will look greener and this will prevent you from enjoying what you have in your hand. It will not allow you to focus on what is right now. So when you are bothered by a choice, relax. The choice is never between good and bad; it’s always between bad and worse or good or better. There is no choice between a plate of rice and a plate of sand. The choice is between whether you should have rice or roti. Never mind, today you have rice and tomorrow roti. Choices bring conflict and there is freedom in ‘choicelessness’.
How can you be centred when there is conflict? In Chinese, there is a saying that when you are in doubt, take a pillow and go to bed. In Narada Bhakti Sutras, Narada says, “Karmanyapi Sanyasyati”. Take a break, not just from activity, but also from the fruit of the activity. You can take a break from the fruit of the action when you let go of the result and become totally centred in the action itself. It will bring deep rest from doubts and conflicts in the mind. One who is not concerned about the outcome is centred in the action itself and reposes in the Self and goes beyond the dualities, beyond conflicts.
This doesn’t mean that you should stop acting. Though one who is wise, who has attained knowledge, divine love, is beyond all actions yet he continues to engage himself in action. You can transcend only what you have gone through. You can only let go only what you have. So to let go of the fruit of the action, you need to have the fruit and to have the fruit, you need to act! This is so beautiful. If you have never acted, then how can you drop neither the action nor the fruit of action? So be active.
Keep doing your work, and drop the fruit of action. All the fruit of action is there as the motivation for you to start acting. Shri Krishna used the fruit of action to motivate Arjuna to fight. He told Arjuna that if you die in battle, you will attain heaven and if you win, you will rule the world. Jesus also did the same.
When you are bogged down with laziness, you need motivation to do something and the expected fruit of action acts as the motivating factor. But once you start acting, let go off the expected result. Just focus on the work at hand. This is the way of the wise!
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