When we think of mercy, some related words come to mind, such as pity, sympathy and compassion. Pity is to feel sorry for someone but not do any- thing about it. We look at the poor or those who are suffering and we pity them, but are unable to offer succour.
Mercy is to go a step further and lend a helping hand — we sympathise and understand others’ feelings.
Compassion is a higher consciousness that includes sympathy and concern for the suffering of others. God, it is said, has compassion for all souls.
Pity can take the form of self-pity. We may be going through difficult times and think, “No one loves me. No one cares for me. I’m so poor”, and so on. This kind of self-absorbed unhappiness over one’s own troubles does not help anyone.
Mercy can also be futile, even damaging, if it is false mercy. We may think we are being merciful by helping others, but if we do it in such a way that the other person does not progress, they will become dependent on us.
Sometimes, those who have such mercy get trapped in the problems of others. Out of attachment or poor discernment, we may have mercy on some- one who may not have the capacity to change for the better. We fail to see the long-term consequences of our actions and rush in to help. The results may not be what we intended. In fact, we may end up suffering in the process. So one needs to be careful before getting involved in helping others.
The first mercy we need to have is on the self, by looking after our own spiritual and physical well-being.
This includes living by principles that will help me stay emotionally and physically healthy.
When we have mercy on others, we must watch our motives: Do I sincerely want to help the other per- son, or am I doing it because I have been asked to, or my role requires me to do it? If I am volunteering help, what is in my mind? Am I looking for acknowledgement, praise or some other return? Am I trying to show myself to be more merciful than others?
In a family, mercy born of attachment can cause parents to spoil their children. Where there is attachment we tend to ignore the other person’s weaknesses, and there is no effort to make the other person realise their faults and remove them. Here, what is needed is a balance of love and discipline.
Our mercy cannot be limited to those we know or like. Can I be merciful towards someone who criticises or insults me? Do I have merciful feelings for terrorists and criminals, or those who have harassed or cheated me? We tend to fear or hate such people.
These negative feelings can be transformed into a positive attitude through meditation, which helps us realise that every soul is on a unique journey, and there is a reason why people are the way they are and do the things they do. This is not condoning wrong actions, but understanding, with empathy and wisdom, how they came about. Only when we are positive towards such people can we help them live a better life.
Mercy also enables us to forgive others for their wrongs. Forgiveness is necessary to let go of the burden of an unhappy past and move on in life. Mercy and forgiveness are not merely virtues that benefit others — they do much more good to me by freeing me from harmful thoughts and feelings, making me a truly humane being who can serve the world.
B.K. Dr. Nirmala is the director of Brahma Kumaris Rajyoga centres in the Asia-Pacific region.
Enjoying the power of tolerance
We are more likely to remember experiences that caused suffering rather than enjoyment: They leave more of a mark. Yet we all have the key to leaving suffering behind. The more content and fulfilled we are, the more we are able to tolerate whatever life may bring.
You have to have tolerance, unless you are going to live in a cave, or surround yourselves with so many comforts that you are cushioned from the reality of life. But if you do that, think how many things you would miss!
It is important to change your attitude and awareness so that you see the positive side of life. Even if circumstances are not as you would wish and you are uncomfortable, if you deal with them by adjusting your perception, then you do not suffer.
Tolerance is required on many different levels. One is towards the elements and nature; another is towards challenges presented by the body; and then there is the level of other people, be they relatives, friends or strangers.
With the elements, it can be as simple as bringing an umbrella in case it rains. With physical challenges, it may mean making some practical adjustments to manage and keep on top of them.
Be careful not to pay too much attention to whatever irritates you. You realise that what you tolerate with some people or situations, with others you do not. If you give attention to a small thing, you feel it. But if you focus on the wider picture, you do not.
Find enjoyment in your experiences. Accept that some are good, some not so good; it is your approach that makes the difference, bringing either enjoyment or suffering — why choose to suffer?
Dadi Janki taught me that, to really tolerate, I have to be fulfilled, content. When I lack tolerance — and the signs of that are stress, complaining, irritation, lack of sleep — that means there is something within me that I have to fulfil. If I am content and full, then using the power of tolerance is not only easy, it is so natural that I do not even notice it.
If I am unable to tolerate a person or situation, then there is something in me that I need to work on. I should talk to myself deeply to see what is wrong, what I am missing. And let me try to be content. The more content I am, the more tolerance becomes a natural part of my life.
Dadi Janki described tolerance as an active power; It moves the energy, finds solutions. In contrast, patience is a passive acceptance of a situation that you cannot alter; best to sit and enjoy it until circumstances change. While patience works alongside tolerance, it is important to discern when you should be patient and accept things, and when you need to act and move them along.
Finally, tolerance brings individuals together in a process of creating unity. This cannot be forced. It is a natural outcome of the inner work you do to change your attitude and awareness.
Marcelo Bulk, a Brazilian coach and business consultant, is the National Coordinator of the Brahma Kumaris’ services in Colombia.
How to stay calm in a crisis
Crises are not caused by situations, but by our state of mind. In the face of adverse situations, some people become hopeless and even end their lives, but there are others who are endlessly hopeful. If we think right, we can turn a crisis into an opportunity. Instead of blaming or complaining about situations, we need to see what is in our control and act accordingly.
Experts have identified eighteen types of thoughts that create the feeling of a crisis.
One such way of thinking is called catastrophising — viewing a situation as considerably worse than it actually is. For example, if it is raining heavily, one will think it is a cloudburst; if one experiences a little pain in the chest, one will fear it is a heart attack.
Then there is overthinking, which leads to confusion and panic.
Another kind of thought that creates the feeling of a crisis is, ‘Why me?’ A lot of people are known to react in this way when they are diagnosed with a chronic illness.
One more factor that creates crises is having an all-ornothing approach — considering only the two extremes of a situation, with no middle position or compromise available. In life, things are not black and white, but of various shades in between.
Why do we need to be calm? How does it help? Staying calm has multiple benefits. You get the right thought at the right time, you can take the correct decision, and act quickly.
When we are nervous and flustered, our thinking becomes muddled, and that delays remedial action.
In nervous agitation one feels that one is doing a lot quickly, but in reality it is a calm mind that leads to early action. How does one remain calm in a difficult situation?
The world of seafaring offers a lesson. New sailors might try to flee a storm, but veteran seamen know that the best place to be in is the eye of the storm, where the sea is calm.
Similarly, we need to focus our attention inward, on our state of mind, instead of outside, on the situation, to resolve a crisis efficiently. At our core, we are souls, beings of peace. Turning inward and tapping into that peace helps to stabilize the mind.
At the same time, while hoping for the best, we should prepare ourself, mentally and otherwise, for the worst, as that will save us excessive trauma.
Some people tend to create anticipatory stress by imagining all sorts of negative ‘what if’ scenarios. Instead, we need to accept whatever life brings to us — acceptance solves half of our problems. Acceptance, watching your mind to recognise unhelpful thought patterns, and thinking about the possible solutions are the three practical steps to resolving a crisis.
Dr Girish Patel is a well-known psychiatrist based in Mumbai, and a student of Rajyoga with the Brahma Kumaris.
When knowledge and power don’t bring success
Many people feel they are powerful, they know their strong points, but success eludes them. They are knowledgeable and have agreeable qualities, such as being loving and peaceful, yet they are not always content. They are also disciplined and diligent, but they fall short of their goals.
The reason for this is that they do not know how to use their knowledge and abilities at the right time in the right manner. As a result, their sterling qualities produce ordinary achievements. They may have excellent resources, but since they cannot use them effectively, they fail to get the expected benefits.
How do we learn to use our resources? For that we need the power to discern. If we do not have good discernment, we jump into situations that are best avoided, or step back when it is time to act.
Accurate discernment requires a clean and clear mind – one that is free from ego or any other vice, and also from the burden of past mistakes, which can cause guilt, fear, and low self-esteem.
That which is pure is clear. In the absence of purity, there is clutter and confusion in the mind, arising from the pulls and pressures exerted by vices, which do not allow the intellect to become clean. This inner cleanliness is a prerequisite for greatness.
Knowing how to use one’s resources properly comes from practice. Merely having knowledge and appreciating its value is not enough. That is like acquiring something valuable and then locking it away. Accumulating resources and not using them, the way some old people keep a bundle of wealth hidden away while living in poverty, does not help. The satisfaction of knowing or having something pales in comparison to that which comes from using those resources for the self and others.
It is said that donation does not diminish wealth — the universe gives you even more. Similarly, one’s knowledge and powers grow with use, and one feels more fulfilled by the happiness that comes from doing something worthwhile.
The experience of using resources hones one’s power of discernment, and eventually one develops the ability to use the right power at the right time in the correct way. This saves us from being deceived at a time of need, which in turn saves us from sorrow.
B.K. Sheilu is a senior Rajyoga teacher at the Brahma Kumaris headquarters in Mount Abu, Rajasthan
Friendships should uplift
Friendships on the spiritual path require caution, if we are to enjoy them fully. Sometimes we get so involved in our relationships that our own individual spiritual progress is undermined. This is a mistake, because the very purpose of friendship is to uplift, and if I am remiss in my spiritual efforts, I will not be able to exert the positive influence of my own most elevated state. One should always maintain the intention of being of help to friends. But that help needs to be devoid of any desire for praise, and above any reactions of ill feeling or sorrow. Offering this kind of help will only further my spiritual growth.
To think better, find your life’s purpose
In our life we learn many things; to walk, to sing, ride a bicycle—but no one ever teaches us how to think. We have to learn that for ourselves. Our teachers and parents probably did not know how to think either.
The mind is a little like an airport. In an airport, planes are landing and taking off every few minutes or seconds, and our thoughts are like that. Emotions, impressions, memories all jumbled up and arriving and departing into and from the mind every few moments.
Our excess of thinking is related to our not understanding our true value. The value we have as human beings, as children of God, as embodiments of spiritual, divine qualities at a deeper level. We have forgotten them.
So, when we go out into the world each day, we really do not know who we are supposed to be. We have to be so many things to so many people, in so many different situations.
I believe it to be true that as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said, ‘we are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience’.
So, if I am this spiritual being going through this human experience, who am I? If I cannot see that, then definitely I will have to think more. If things become clearer, I will have to think less.
There are three limiting factors to a calm mind. Consciousness of the body, (its aches and pains and form and shape and gender), consciousness of my role (s) (parent, teacher, director, builder and so on), and my own story; the story of my life with the joys and traumas of what has happened to me, what I have made happen. The fact is, I am not a body, I am not my role(s), I am not my story! I have to widen my awareness; I am a soul, God’s child with divine qualities — these qualities are inherent within me. I have to go beyond my little roles because I have a bigger role — if these things become clear, I will certainly think less and think better.
What is my bigger role? What is my purpose? If I am a child of God, a peaceful being, what’s my purpose? If love is one of my deeper qualities, what’s my purpose?
Purpose is connected with identity. I have a bigger role.
I can be in peace, full of love and serve others. We feel best when we feel useful; when we are serving and giving benefit to others.
If I am giving benefit, I will think less. If we occupy ourselves with giving, we won’t have to think too much. When you give, the universe looks after you.
If I can calm myself, stop struggling and charging ahead and questioning so much, I will become still, and then I can reflect; just like the stillness of a lake reflects.
If I keep throwing rocks into my own mind, I cannot reflect any more; I am forced to interpret, conjecture, wonder—then my thinking increases. With clarity there is no need to think any more.
The real purpose of my life is not something I invent; it’s something I discover. It’s already there. When I discover that, I think less, think better and live well.
Ken O’Donnell, an author and international consultant on strategy and leadership, is the director of Brahma Kumaris’ services in South America.
You can’t sail if you never leave the harbour
Look at the vastness of the sky. Open your eyes; see the clear sky. It starts entering you immediately. You might have felt this many times during childhood. To children it mesmerizes. It can happen to you too. Try.
The universe is vast and it is naked right there in front of us. You see it as it is. One who can watch with clear eyes that which is, is called avlokitta — another name of Buddha the awakened. That which is, is staring at us. You can enter it right now. Where is the worry?
Worry is embedded in your thoughts. Thoughts fly you to dream world. You dream of possessions. Your
dreamt possessions make you poorer. Poverty begins. Poverty has nothing to do with physical poverty if you are not able to make efforts to earn as much as your body requires. But that is also psychological because no animal earns. But make effort. You never come across an animal whose life runs on your economy. But you think your life is run on economy. Economy was bred from barter. Barter was bred when we made abundant booty and exchanged with another for need, effort, charm, habits.
Today economy has become a source of our poverty. We keep on thinking economy is going down. How would our government cope with it? Economic situation has gone down because of a pandemic. Can economy survive? These questions we keep on asking each other and blame the pandemic, governments, etc. Becoming poorer is our biggest worry. Yet we keep on becoming poorer ourselves through dreaming.
Humans think economy is some sort of a system that brings prosperity. That prosperity gives humans
power to dream more. That undreamt possessions could be possessed by prosperity without which humans become poorer. This is a big dilemma and a vicious cycle. This takes man far from life.
Those who knew say that it is not what you saw in dreams is true or what you saw in reality is true. Truth is what you saw with open eyes yourself, and not what others saw and you believed in it or you dreamt. Socrates said knowledge is a virtue. But being knowledgeable by borrowed knowledge is a
sin. The borrowed knowledge from scriptures that pastors, maulvis, pandits, granthis, rabbis keep on telling does not make one enlightened. Like Nanak who attained Godhood and sang the song of that which is. But those who read knowledge became knowledgeable but not enlightened. The incarnation
of Nanak from man to Godhood happened by knowing the truth that which is as it is.
The teaching that Nanak gave is that he asked us to sing our own song like Nanak sang his own song — the song of his being. It is true to all religions — Hindus, Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism,
Krishna, Buddha, Mahavira, Nanak attained to Godhood. Buddhists, Jains, Hindus and Muslims are all
followers. If followers would have known the Godhood, they would have attained Godhood themselves. But by not doing so they believe that they were ordained to the order of the God. God is not an order. But for those who believe they believe in Godhood in the orderliness of the God. Those who know they know it and their knowledge becomes a virtue.
We keep on asking intellectual questions. We don’t ask our fundamental questions of being that would
bring transformation. To be knowledgeable one has to go beyond knowledge. Life is like living in flames. We are set to be ablaze. What we call our house is our funeral pyre.To go out of flames you need eyes and you have been blinded by borrowed knowledge. Life is ours. We need eyes of our own that is what enlightenment means. We need the eyes of knowledge. You are into darkness and memorizing light of the enlightened ones that is written in scriptures will not make you light unto yourself.
Borrowed knowledge creates an illusion. Illusion of knowledge. You are filled with false knowledge. Knowledge that does not take you from darkness to light, from ignorance to wakefulness is not knowledge. Asatomasadgamaya, tamasomajyotirgamaya, mtyorma’mtagamaya — we can keep repeating
these words without following the real meaning these words mean.
Knowledge that does not make us virtuous is borrowed knowledge, in fact ignorance. Instead of believing about knowledge of others, knowing our own ignorance is the beginning towards the truth or gyana. By following or memorizing the borrowed knowledge an illusion gets created that we know God.
This type of borrowed theism is the biggest burden and hindrance in knowing that which is or attaining
to Godhood. Whole life revolves around an illusion of God that covers ignorance in the garb of knowledge.
Theists have bled the world, not atheists. One who had eyes, he saw as it is that which is. Religions,
teachings, rituals we keep on repeating. We say we practise our religions. Gyan cannot be transferred or one cannot become gyani by repeating words by memory. You could memorise Veda, Purana, Gita, scriptures, but that does not enlighten you. Gyan is like eyes of light. What you have memorized is
not your light. Will not help you become enlightened. Does it enlighten you or will it make you enlightened or will it make you light.
Scriptures are there to tell you that you have to become a light unto yourself. They are asking you to sail in the unknown waters and to go into their depth in your own light or go in the search of light. Scriptures are indicating towards the truth. Vedas, Quran, Gita, Dhammapada all are born out of those who saw that which is. They point towards the truth that which is — they are directions to us to go. We start memorizing the directions without going anywhere and call it knowledge and wisdom. Sail your
boats. Sail your boat into the unknown water and dive deep into it. Believe in the Truth. Make it ultimate motto of your life.
When we die, we go to an unknown place. The time that we have between now and death we should use it for awakening. That’s the life. We have harboured our boats on the beach of beliefs. Boats are meant for sailing.
The author is a spiritual coach and an independent advisor on policy, governance and leadership. He could be reached at email@example.com.
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