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Spiritually Speaking

ONLY GOD CAN GET US OUT OF THIS MESS

NEVILLE HODGKINSON

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Forty years ago, I was very ambitious and driving myself hard as a reporter in the competitive environment of the UK’s daily newspapers. I was working as a medical and science correspondent, and had gradually become aware of how unsustainable my scoop-seeking way of life was. I learned from doctors about how exhaustion lies behind many illnesses.

At that time, however, I also believed that only human beings could sort out the problems we faced, especially through science, using the wonderful gift of the intellect. It never occurred to me that it is well-nigh impossible to do that on our own, because no one on the planet has any pure judgement remaining. Instead, to different degrees, our intellects are polluted by ambition, ego, self-interest and greed, which distort our perceptions and cause us to make one mistake after another, despite technological achievements.

Then I had an encounter that literally changed my mind. In my role as a journalist, I had attended a programme in which eastern and western spiritual leaders were discussing the concept of the soul. Soon afterwards, I heard about the Brahma Kumaris, who were carrying ideas about spiritual development from India to many countries across the world.

Although my materialistic intellect found it hard to understand these ideas, I received a strong feeling of spiritual power in the company of the BK sisters I had met in London. A pure, clean and clear sense of truth touched me. The encounters were enough for me to begin to practise the meditation the sisters taught, called Rajyoga. Through that, I eventually understood the concepts at a much deeper level.

The penny dropped that each of us really is a soul, and that our physical bodies are secondary to the spiritual being that runs them. Over time, through reincarnating many times, this being comes to identify more and more with the physical side of life, including our roles and responsibilities. Our intentions are good, but loss of spiritual awareness can cause us to lose sight of our true and essential nature – our humanity.

I have been taught to reconnect with this truth by practising the inner awareness that I am spirit, not matter, and that we come from a living source – God – who holds the template for all that is highest in me. This supreme being never forgets the truth, but remains as a pure blueprint or reference point for it.

When the world gets itself into a total mess — as many believe is fast-approaching now — God comes into the material world to explain what is happening, how we reached this point, and what we have to do about it. The Brahma Kumaris teach that this happened initially through their founder, Prajapita Brahma, in the early years of the movement. Those who were with him at that time then learned to pass on to others the love and wisdom they received.

So, only God can get us out of this mess! But he needs our help. By connecting our minds to the Supreme, we can draw on so much power of truth as to become free from ego and selfish motives. Happiness and wisdom fill our minds, and those vibrations start to uplift and change others. In time, as more and more people regain this true way of living and true state of mind, our world will change too.

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

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Spiritually Speaking

STOP STRESS FROM DAMAGING YOUR IMMUNITY

Dr Judith Kocken

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In most countries of the world, the majority of diseases are chronic instead of acute. Chronic diseases are called psychosomatic. A part of the cause is psychological – this means that the cause is generated by thoughts and emotions, and is therefore very difficult to examine. The other part is physical, visible and can be measured.

The brain absorbs the energy of thoughts and emotions. The energy is transported to the hormone system and lymph system. Together they form the immune system, which protects the body. A child develops an immune system that starts in the womb of the mother. The physical, mental, and emotional health of the parents have an impact on the immune system of an unborn child. When a child grows up, it then encounters antigens in the form of viruses, bacteria and other micro-organisms. In a healthy situation, the body makes antibodies so that the child does not become sick. The immune system develops through physical contact with other people, food, environment, and micro-organisms. A person deprived of this contact, say in situations of social isolation and/or excessive cleaning or no cleaning at all for a long period of time, may develop an unhealthy immune system. Thoughts and emotions have an impact on the functioning of the immune system. How to make thoughts and emotions so positive and strong so that they strengthen the immune system?

Stress is a physical reaction to something that is experienced as truth. A stress reaction can be acute or chronic. Most people experience one or more stressful events in their lives. There are several forms of stress:

1. Universal: absence of information or fake news. Every chronic or repetitive experience of not feeling in control, or helpless, gives stress.

2. Physical: chronic disease, injury, operation.

3. Chemical: food, viruses, bacteria, pesticides, Wi-Fi, alcohol, tobacco, drugs, soft drinks

4. Emotional: family circumstances, secrets, debt, divorce, disease, death, trauma, abuse, manipulation, neglect, work problems.

Chronic stress suppresses the immune system. Scientific research shows that three in four people with heart problems, high blood pressure, Diabetes Type 2, gastric ulcers, rheumatic disease, skin problems, autoimmune diseases and cancer have a weakened immune system. Chronic stress symptoms, including extreme fatigue, anxiety, sleep disorders, chronic abdominal pain or palpitations may require a visit to a doctor in the first instance.

The immune system can be strengthened. The first step is to recognise and accept that you are in fact experiencing stress and it is uncomfortable. The next step is to acknowledge that you are not alone in this. Everyone feels stressed at one time or another. Then it is a matter of discovering what would be most helpful and being very kind to the self; wish peace for the self and be prepared for this state of peace to take a little time, and not search for a quick fix. Slow down, walk slower, speak less, do less instead of more—all this helps to reduce the feelings of stress in the immediate short term.

Before sleep each evening, there are some positive things you can reflect on or do to strengthen the immune system and write them down in a journal. Take a shower, listen to some music, listen to a guided meditation before you settle down to the reflections.

1. This is what I liked about today

2. This is what I did not like about today

3. This is what made me laugh out loud today

4. I feel grateful for …

5. I was kind to myself in this situation today

6. I practised taking a pause before reacting in this situation today

A human being has more than 70,000 thoughts a day, 90% of which we are not aware of. Meditation is a method to learn about who you are and what is going on in your mind. During meditation, we can create positive thoughts and create new neural pathways in the mind so that faith and trust in the self can become part of your life. Stress will diminish and the immune system will be strengthened.

Dr Judith M. Kocken MD, PhD, is a paediatrician and a paediatric gastroenterologist. A pioneer in holistic healthcare, she studies and practises Rajyoga with the Brahma Kumaris in The Netherlands.

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Spiritually Speaking

CLIMATE CHANGE FROM THE INSIDE OUT

Sylvia Ismail

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As we approach the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), 31 October to 12 November 2021, the eyes of the world are on Glasgow, a former industrial and shipbuilding city in Scotland. The talk is of mitigation, adaptation and climate finance, of limiting the rise in global temperatures and harmful emissions.

It is easy to feel confused, even lost, amid the jargon and the torrent of facts and figures. Climate anxiety is growing, especially among younger age groups: Notably, in a recent interview, Britain’s Prince William highlighted his concern for his young family.

And yet there is so much we can do, individually and collectively, to raise our thinking to a place of hope and to believe in action as a force for good.

The first step is to recognise that every single one of us can access an inner world that is far richer than any material possessions the external world has to offer. Once we recognise this, our acquisitiveness—the desire to possess material wealth and objects, the urge to achieve status in the world— diminishes.

Instead of measuring ourselves against others in a spirit of competition, straining to outdo their success, we choose to connect with our inner self and draw strength from the Supreme. The way to do this is through meditation, the quiet focusing of all our energy on the deeper consciousness that lies like a tranquil lake at the very core of our being.

With time and practice, our striving evaporates and we achieve a balance—calm, fulfilled, and genuinely, deeply happy. A little further down the road, we begin to stabilise in this state, so that, no matter what happens, we are able to maintain the balance.

The qualities we are rediscovering translate into a different way of living, and a new way of interacting with the world. No longer either needy or greedy, we are content with a simple lifestyle and grateful for what we have. Our inner transformation creates an outer balance between ourselves and others—and, indeed, all of nature.

With the generosity of spirit, we are ready to put our abundant energy to positive use, doing whatever we can to care for the environment and for those around us. There is nothing forced or insincere about this: It comes naturally and surprisingly easily. As we repeat these actions, they become part of our own nature, ingrained habits of kindness and care for others.

Imagine what the world would be like if we joined together to apply these qualities at the community, national, or even international, level! Multilateral talks would go smoothly, agreements would follow quickly, and action would be taken unhesitatingly.

Sylvia Ismail is a writer and editor with a background in public affairs, radio broadcasting, and journalism.

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Spiritually Speaking

FAITH AND WISDOM

Dadi Janki

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Devotional feelings are pure ones consisting of sweetness and innocence. They are feelings of faith in God, but they can be shaken.

Faith, without some wisdom to back it up, may fail you in a moment of need. Both are needed for long-term spiritual attainment; like feeling close to God and close to others, too in an unshakeable way. Or having true feelings, no matter what, becoming spiritually accomplished.

If either faith or wisdom is lacking, your life cannot function right. It is like understanding your doctor’s prescription but somehow not trusting it anyway. It leaves you feeling unsure. So have a dialogue between your feelings and your understanding. They need to know each other and work together well!

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Spiritually Speaking

How to stop yourself from overthinking

Charlie Hogg

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Our world is no longer the same as it was. It has been turned upside down. The events took almost everyone by surprise and everyone’s thinking went into overdrive. The media bombarded us every day with information and a variety of experts gave their opinions on what might happen, and everywhere there has been uncertainty and anxiety. Where does all that information ultimately land?—in the mind!

Overthinking is one of the most damaging thought patterns of all. An overactive mind instigates rash and rushed actions, and we spend time with fast-moving technology, sound bites, video bites, and seem to move from phones to computers to TVs. The reason why many spend so much time doing this is that in a way it serves a purpose. It stops us from looking inside to contemplate what the purpose of life might really be. From time to time, we become aware of what we are doing, and we try to chill out, take time out, and if we manage some moments of peace, the feeling is so sweet. But sometimes we find emptiness inside, like a big deep sadness, a sense of meaninglessness to everything, and that is a very uncomfortable feeling, so we change gear into overdrive again and become busier and busier so that we do not have to think too deeply.

There are roughly about 70,000 thoughts created in a waking day of 16 hours. We can think at about 500 words a minute but only speak at about 125 words a minute, and our mind can be aware on seven different levels at any given moment. That is a lot of activity! Our lives are played out in our minds. Thoughts, reactions, feelings, memories all take place in our minds. The way we interpret anything depends on the quality of thinking we have been able to achieve and the wisdom we have been able to accumulate. The most important thing I can do at the present time is to learn more about who I am and what is the greatest influence on my thinking, and with love and wisdom take back the internal authority I have lost.

I have to take responsibility for my thoughts. Each thought is my creation. People may be difficult and situations will come and ultimately, I have the choice—I can overthink or not. If I do just this one thing, take responsibility for each thought in my mind, it will change my life. If I am complaining, criticising, blaming everyone around me for my feelings, then I completely disempower myself. Spirituality is empowering myself to choose the quality of thought that helps me remain peaceful and keeps me happy.

I can begin by reprogramming my understanding of who I really am. If I am a body, then either ego or a sense of superiority emerges or a lack of self-respect and a feeling of unworthiness or inferiority emerge. All actions are then based on that awareness. The 7.9 billion human beings are working on that premise and with the subsequent ego or lack of self-respect. It is time to look within at the real self, the soul. Then, with the awareness of the eternal qualities of the soul, of peace, love and joy, let those feelings calm and nourish the mind, slow down the thought patterns and be the foundation of my words and actions. Taking time each day to replenish this awareness in meditation and a connection with the Supreme Soul empowers the soul to regain internal authority and reclaim the mastery of the mind.

Charlie Hogg, based in Sydney, is the National Coordinator, Brahma Kumaris, Australia.

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Spiritually Speaking

DOES HUMANITY NEED A NEW RELIGION?

Arun Malhotra

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Humanity has been wrought many times over during the course of history. Humanity has been refashioned, reshaped, embellished and course-corrected. From being animals to being humans, humanity has achieved the ultimate attainment Sahastrar—the thousand-petalled lotus. That is what humanity ought to be. 

What is humanity? How humanity is different from animality? It is not an abstractism denoting crowds of humans. In fact, when someone thinks beyond one’s nature. To be able to do something beyond one’s own personal nature is empathy. It is said that one becomes human when one learns empathy and empathy becomes one’s nature. Empathy enters into the wounds of others and heals them. Buddha calls it compassion. Empathy and compassion are to be human, that is, the humble beginning of humanity. Humanity is a flowering of consciousness. Humanity carries the seed within. The seed of awakening.

When someone is awakened. Awakening brings course correction to humanity. History is replete of those who attained Godhood who showed the path to humanity. When humanity starts stinking, existence corrects the course and someone who is on the verge of awakening awakens. New love is born a new religion is born a new culture is born. When humanity is replete with Gods, religions, cultures, doctrines, rituals to cloud one’s vision leading to dogmatism, the need for a new contemporary religion arises. Humanity coins Gods for all purposes all seasons to make religion a burdensome dead affair. When Gods emanate out of the sermons of priests, religion becomes dead. Some 2500 years ago, a young prince Siddhartha left his young wife Yasodhara and his newly born son Rahula and declared that there was no God. Not in the sense that Siddhartha felt that there was no God. But Siddhartha felt that if there was a God, surely it was unlike the one which he has gotten by observing ritual practices spelt out by priests. Surely the God cannot be that mundane and unexciting routine affair. 

The young prince became an ascetic. He fell to the feet of all Masters who were available then who had been practising religion and Godhood. All proved a sham. To be one with That-Which-Is Siddhartha abandoned all dependences that he had then, the religion, the society, the culture, the God, the Master, the Dharma, the body, the spirit. Siddhartha Gautama became Gautama the Buddha—which means Gautama the Awakened. The flowering of awakening flowered in Siddhartha Gautama who has become the Buddha. The fragrance of Buddhahood circulated in all directions. Buddha said there is Dukkha and there is a way to go out of Dukkha and told humanity the path to go out of Dukkha. 

Religion is a personal flowering. It happens to humans. Religion does not happen to humanity. When the fragrance of religious flowering is sensed by those who are searching That-Which-Is it becomes milestones for them. But otherwise, it becomes mere words, rituals, ideas, thoughts, society, culture and dogmas. Humanity becomes conditioned by such rituals, words, thoughts, societal dogmas and follows robot-like existence. Religion is the experience of the experiencer who has experienced but those following robotic rituals, religion never becomes an experience to them. The true religion that is Dharma flowers in the experience. Dharma is something that we are born with. We are born Sat-Chitt-Anand (Truth-Consciousness-Bliss). Sat-Chitt-Anand(Truth-Consciousness-Bliss) is our Dharma. 

In dogma in culture, there is security. In robot-like existence there is security. Going to the temple to perform what the priest asks you to perform has the psychological security of being religious. It may not make you religious. It may make you irreligious. You may become a member of the organised religion which is not a religion but an organization of religion. Because religion is personal. It is a very personal affair. It has nothing to do with the crowds performing rituals. Crowds performing rituals have a society in them because humanity breeds a society, that is, dependence. But individual lives in individuality. A truly religious man says no to a dogmatic religious organisation that becomes his religion.

When Siddhartha Gautama left his kingdom he kept looking for dependences. In the end, he realised that what he is looking for in security is in fact dependence. Because society is conditioned by the past. You have to let go of society. It so happened that after a decade of awakening, Buddha went to his father’s house and met Yashodhara his estranged wife. Yashodhara asked him, ‘I don’t know what you got but whatever that you had gotten, whether you could not have attained that by being here being with us in this house. Buddha replied in the affirmation that ‘yes’ it could have been attained without leaving his wife and son also.

Dogma is status quo. Dogma and rituals are like you are getting God at the cost of enslaving your soul. Asking God look we are doing something. Priests go on preaching ancient languages as if God understood just those languages and not the ones in modern use. 

Buddha is a revolution. Buddha is a revolution against the dead religion. Buddha is moving beyond dogmas. Buddha is one man on earth who said that there was no God and finally attained Godhood. That was the ultimate that one can get. Like a scientist who doubts everything and begins his thesis assuming an anti-thesis to bring home the point that is exactly the opposite of what he perceived in the beginning.

The flowering of Buddha in the presence of Buddha is a contagion. It infects you. It infects all those infected by dogmas rituals scriptures. Dogmas and rituals are to make you copies of what man has been doing primitively. 

But you live today. You need a new religion of your own. Buddha births the new religion. He does not birth the new religion for others. But he births the new religion for himself so that dogmatic religions melt in the sheen of what Buddha births. 

It happened to Jesus when he overthrew the tables of moneychangers and few rebels saw in him the rebellion. Thus Jesus was crucified by the organised religion. But the presence of Jesus was infectious. Jesus was a contagion. Even long after Jesus had gone, Jesus lives. His presence lives among us. Buddha is as much alive today as he was 2500 years ago. It is a matter of understanding and be contagious. But those mired in dogmas of Buddhism or Christianity will never be able to know the Buddha or the Christ.

Whenever humanity is deep under slumber someone is awakened and the awakened one tends to awaken humanity. Those who are on the verge of awakening awaken. Those who are moving towards awakening get their feet reinforced. When someone awakens the seed sprouts without any reason. That which is lying in us as the seed of awakening sprouts. 

It happened to Nanak. When Nanak found Godhood, Nanak said Ek Omkar Sat Nam (There is One God and Thy name is the Truth). In those times belligerence between Islam and Hinduism was growing. Nanak would trash dogmas of both Hinduism and Islam to tell the world that dogmas are not religion. Don’t live in the status quo. Live in the real religion. Thy Name is the Truth. The real religion that was contemporary then is not contemporary now. The Truth that needs to be redefined. Awakened ones discard what that was once the truth to re-establish the truth to renew the truth. All religions are thus manifestations of renewal of the truth. New religion brings new consciousness. New flowers of consciousness flower and the man of religion are born who value the truth and freedom.

The author is a spiritual teacher.

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Spiritually Speaking

Healthiest foods for each season

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Autumn ends with the Diwali festival. Pitta gets calmer, less excited. People have cleansed their bodies by celebrating Diwali in the month of Ashvin in traditional ways. The earth is as if full of joy by the production of nutritious and tasty cereals and pulses and green vegetables. The season known as Hemant  begins after Diwali.

Hemant brings in cold. This cold excites the kapha (cough) in the body, which in unison with the outside cold contracts the limbs and makes the skin dry; and in the absence of proper nutrition, even the flesh and the glands dry up and deplete. The nutrition and heat, which a person needs for the sustenance of his or her physical strength, are to be obtained and stored up in Hemant. This has to be put to use in the ensuing three seasons, that is, six months. Our elders say that winter is the best season for acquiring and storing the energy needed to sustain the body. In the winter cold, the skin contracts. The pores get closed, preventing the necessary heat required for nourishment from being wasted. With the internal heat being preserved, the digestion process gets quicker and more intense. The body demands more food and nutrition. New Year day is the first day of Hemant. Our scriptures have ordered that this auspicious day should be begun by a body massage with oil.

In the winter, a sweet diet is crucial for replenishing deficiency and providing nourishment. A sweet diet produces kapha  which  nourishes the seven body constituents and increases strength. Kapha also calms down the Pitta excited during the Sharad as also the Vata disturbance created in the cold season. We know that the rich, as well as the poor, eat as many sweets as they can afford, Hemant being the season of accumulation of energy.

The Doorva grass is especially worshipped in Hemant as there are many nutritious elements in it, which give strength. It purifies the blood and nourishes the foetus. Women who often miscarry are advised to take the juice of this grass.

The use of gourd is recommended in this season. From the point of view of Ayurveda, gourd destroys Vata and normalises Pitta. It also quickens the digestive process and removes intestinal congestion. It strengthens the nervous tissues of the brain and cures mental disease. Its use cures hysteria, insanity, and nervous diseases dominated by Vata. Gourd has been included in our diet to curb diseases engendered by the excitement of Vayu.

Great importance has been given to tulsi in worship and religious rites. Just as, in the month of Ashvin, dry sticks of the Pipla tree are used as fuel in yajnas for creating and maintaining a healthy atmosphere. Tulsi is recommended in Karthik. Tulsi removes Kapha and Vayu and being hot (like chillies) and bitter (like quinine) gives energy. The seeds of tulsi are also used to a considerable extent as nutritive. The use of tulsi is suitable in winter promoting digestion. Tulsi destroys worms and germs. If in this season there has been an overdose of sweet dishes, these foods are likely to remain undigested and decayed providing a ground for worms. Tulsi is recommended in balancing these bad effects.

When we are discussing nutrition and health, we can’t forget fruits and vegetables available in winter: Jujubes, amlas, sugarcanes, tomatoes, carrots etc. Nature provides iron in all these in large proportions as the body is in need of new blood and maximum nourishment. These are rich in iron, Vitamins B and C, and help purify blood and strengthen bowels. Just as sour things are given a dominant place in the monsoon and salt in autumn, so also sweet is dominant in winter. If there is an excessive intake of sweets in Hemant, instead of quieting  pitta and getting heat and nourishment, it causes more harm. To be saved from this trouble, sour and salty diets are recommended as subsidiary flavours. Sourness helps in the digestion of sweets and salt prevents kapha from being produced and accumulated by the intake of sweets. Thus, sweet followed by sour and sour followed by salt in this season maintains good health.

CARROT HALWA

Ingredients: Carrots 500 g, Rock Sugar 200 g, Cardamom powder 1/2 tsp, Milk cream 11/2 tbsp, Raisins 5-6 pieces, Almonds 2-3 pieces, and Cow ghee 1 tsp

Procedure: Wash and peel carrots, grate them. Mix rock sugar powder and stem it for 8-10 minutes. Heat a pan add 1 tsp ghee and steamed carrot. Add milk cream, cardamom powder, and mix well cook it for 2 minutes.Garnish it with almonds and raisins and serve it.

SALAD

Ingredients: Tomatoes 4, Carrot 1, Tulsi leaves 1 1/2 tbsp, Crushed Black pepper 1/2 tsp, Black Salt 1 tsp, and Rock Salt 1/2 tsp

Procedure: Wash tomatoes and chop them into small pieces. Wash and peel carrot, grate it. Finely chop tulsi leaves. Mix tomatoes, carrot, tulsi leaves, black pepper, black salt and rock salt. Stir it well and serve it. One can add 1/2 tsp lemon juice if required.

AMLA SUBJI

Ingredients: Amla (Indian Gooseberry) 250 g, Ginger 5 g, Coriander seeds 1/4 tsp, Onion seeds (Kalounji) 1 tsp, Fennel seeds(Saunf) 1/2 tsp, Rock salt 1/2 tsp or as per taste, and Oil 1 tsp

Procedure: Cut into pieces, mix salt and steam it, grate ginger into thin slices. Heat oil add coriander seeds, onion seeds, fennel seeds and ginger. Add steamed amla stir it well turn off the gas and serve it.

With inputs from Art of Living’s Sri Sri Tattva Panchakarma experts.

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