The roses of St. Francis, in the garden of the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Assisi, Italy, have no thorns. Such is the power of spiritual love.
These days, as I follow and report on the UN climate talks (COP26) as they proceed in Scotland, I have been working on my own garden. Hours spent in front of a computer screen at my home in Egypt have been interspersed with moments of release outdoors, where I have planted and trans-planted, fed and watered, a new garden of love.
With time, it should grow into a beautiful, productive space, inviting to insects and birds: Perhaps this is a fitting tribute to the Conference.
And it should add to the variety and goodness of our table, no bad thing in these days of plastic-wrapped veg and fruit, in-season or out of season, with shocking carbon footprints and unproven claims to freshness.
Covering COP sessions has been demanding, with press conferences, protests, and so many presen-tations. Predictably, technical glitches have tried the nerves even as I give thanks to the internet for the extraordinary privilege of being able to take part without being physically present.
Whenever I slip out into the garden, I recharge, pausing in contemplation of the eternal cycle of nature before I work the soil, hoe and sow. Autumn/winter has been the main sowing season in Egypt since the time of the Pharaohs and—at least in the countryside—so little has changed that you may have a sense of déjà vu as you come across scenes familiar from four-thousand-year-old tomb reliefs and paintings.
Working intently and with love, I have planted herbs, salad leaves, carrots, chard and spinach; calendula for splashes of colour and for the pollinators, and tagetes (French marigold) as companion plants to deter pests. It is an organic garden, full of life and interest, where ‘volunteer’ plants rub shoulders with the ones I sow, and insects—including our honeybees—thrive.
These new plantings are my “COP flowers and veg.” In this garden, they will grow, flower and go to seed, reminders of nature’s ever-repeating cycle of growth, maturation and decline. They are also spiritual balm: The closer you come to Mother Nature, the more you tune into her rhythm because—in truth—human beings and nature have been entwined for almost all the time we have walked the earth.
All we need to do is to remember our true identity, our innate dignity, and our connection with the Supreme.
So, my COP26 has had its own rhythm and texture. On the one hand, observing meetings and demonstrations, passionate argument and protest. On the other, creating a new garden of love. For me, this will be a very personal and deeply spiritual memorial of the time.
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FINDING THE COURAGE TO BE
One thing that the pandemic has engendered for many people is a shift in focus from what I have or own, that is material things, to what I value in terms of relationships. They were put in the spotlight because everyone was cocooned with those relationships. For a smaller number perhaps, what came into even sharper focus was the primary relationship with the self. We discovered what resources we had to deal with a completely unprecedented set of circumstances. For some it heightened levels of stress, for others it highlighted abilities that had not been called on before. But for most, it required varying degrees of courage.
Courage is a quality of spirit and not a skill. It is easy to be courageous when I have wealth at my disposal, or a strong team of people around me, thinking in the same way. Real courage is the ability to face the self, deeply understand the self, which is the only way to be able to relate well with others. Without this knowledge of the self, we have expectations, demands, and a wish to control situations or other people, which is very violent energy. We need the courage to look at our attitude and see that the blame game is only a reflection of the pain we are feeling. We have to let go of the stories we tell ourselves to try and out-think and intellec-tualise what hurts us. The stories make us feel better for a time, but ultimately the stories will break down one day and we will have to face the uncertainty and instability at the root. Those stories are not who I am.
The first act of real courage is to open the door to the awareness of who I really am. To understand who I am at the core of my being. I am the extremely subtle, fluid life force, the soul. This is the energy that supports the functioning of the body. The more I meditate and experience the stream of this life force the more I experience the extremely subtle effect on my thinking. Thoughts are a component of the life force. The mind is only a function of the deeper life force of who I am. Real courage is to arrive at this quiet sense of consciousness. Such a soul is happier in their being, more relaxed and can conduct the affairs of their lives with no edge to their behaviour, no pushiness and with a quiet internal trust that makes things work out. It is like coming back home inside. Home in the sense of knowing the self, where there is clean stability, clear determination. Determination brings a sense of conviction to what I do, and that brings with it a successful conclusion. The more we meditate regularly, the simpler the journey becomes, until it is not a journey anymore. I am in that space, operat-ing from that space and then my life fundamentally changes — I am living from the inside out.
Gopi Patel is a Rajyoga teacher based at the Brahma Kumaris National Coordinating Office, London.
TAKING A SPIRITUAL STEP TOWARDS HARMONY
The world is inhabited by more than seven billion people who belong to over 5,000 ethnic groups, follow about 4,200 religions, and speak more than 6,900 languages.
Differences of nationality, race, language and religion have given rise to conflicts over the ages. People of the same country quarrel over language; those who speak the same tongue fight over religion; those professing the same religion kill each other over sectarian differences; and those of the same race are riven by class or ideological conflicts.
People involved in such strife identify themselves by their nationality, religion, race or sect, forgetting who they really are.
We all have more than just physiology in common. Ancient Indian scriptures speak of the world being one family. The holy books are expressing a spiritual truth. It is the spirit or soul that animates a human being. Consciousness resides in the soul. Without the soul, the body is a corpse. The soul is an infinitesimally small sentient point of light. Souls take birth in different places and circumstances. Accordingly, they acquire labels of nationality, race, religion, and gender, and come to be identified as Arab, Chinese, or Indian; Christian, Hindu, or Muslim; white or black; rich or poor; male or female.
The soul is beyond these classifications, which apply to the body. Once we identify ourselves with such labels, we begin to think accordingly. Thus, if we see ourselves as citizens of a particular country, we tend to look at those from elsewhere as ‘others’ and focus on how they have a different attitude, culture, or physical appearance.
The same happens when we identify with any of the other labels we get from our physical circumstances — a mental divide is created between ‘us’ and ‘others’.
When we dwell too much on the differences between us and others, feelings of superiority, inferiority, like or dislike arise, often leading to hatred for those who are different from us. The negative feelings fuel religious, racial, and international conflicts.
The root cause of this is forgetting the fact that we are all souls, children of the same Father, who we call the Supreme Soul. All souls are innately peaceful, loving, and pure. That is why we all like these qualities. We naturally express these virtues — as babies and small children do, bringing joy to themselves and others. But once we start identifying with our physical circumstances, we begin to suppress these virtues.
Physical differences provide variety in this world. We can appreciate and enjoy the variety only if we see ourselves and others as souls and are aware that as children of God, we are part of one spiritual family. This awareness fosters love and respect for our fellow humans, which encourages cooperation and sharing. This is the first step towards global harmony.
B.K. Atam Prakash is a Rajyoga teacher at the Brahma Kumaris headquarters in Mount Abu, Rajasthan.
SERVING BY EXAMPLE BRINGS MANY REWARDS
When we move on the path of self-improvement, several challenges come along the way. Most of them stem from our ego, desires, fears, and ignorance. One way to protect the self and overcome the challenges is to engage in service.
Service, when done with the pure intention of bringing benefit to others, elevates our consciousness. We can serve by sharing inspiring ideas and thoughts that help others uplift the quality of their thinking and live a more meaningful life. Another way to serve is to be a living example of what we tell others; to inspire by our conduct, words and way of thinking. If our life helps others recognise that there is a better way to think, speak, behave, and live, that is perhaps the best way to serve.
Giving advice and expounding noble principles may give us some satisfaction, and the feeling of having done something good, but often this is just pleasing oneself. We can be truly of benefit to others when our life reflects what we say. Advice is best when it flows from benevolence and empathy arising out of a pure and powerful mind, and not from mere theoretical knowledge.
A clever mind and impressive oratory will earn us praise, but the satisfaction that brings is short-lived. When we serve by being an example for others, we often do so without being aware of it, as others take inspiration just by watching us, from our conduct and vibrations. “They are so good. I wish to be like them”, they think. Such thoughts, and the goodwill they carry, are like blessings for those who serve. The positive energy we receive from others in this way empowers us, making us fulfilled and content.
There is another aspect to service. Some people think that engaging with many different people in service is challenging due to differences of opinion, temperament, and habit. Such challenges disturb them. However, true service does not disturb anyone; rather it is a means for becoming free from disturbance. If any kind of service causes us to become upset, we can check if we are serving selflessly, with clean intentions.
When we rise above the desires, prejudices and fears that limit our way of thinking, we can serve everyone equally, with love and care. The return of that is a constant joy and a life of contentment. Success always follows such souls; they do not have to chase after it.
B.K. Sheilu is a Rajyoga teacher at the Brahma Kumaris headquarters in Mount Abu, Raja-sthan.
Wellness: Healthy soul, healthy body
The real blessing of being healthy is to get the blessings of being ever healthy. What is health? For physical health, we go to the doctor for a check-up and for help. But can the doctors real-ly diagnose the disease? Do the doctors diagnose the disease or do the machines do it? Whenever you go to the doctor, even if it is for a blood test, the doctors give diagnoses according to the results on the machines. So, the machine is diagnosing ‘the machine’ (the physical body). The machine does not diagnose the sickness of the person; the machine diagnoses matter.
We recognise that the cause of sickness is the weakness of the soul. Just like any effect of matter, when we do not follow the laws of nature, immediately the body gets affected. If we are in cold weather and are not following the laws of nature, our bodies will be affected. If we are careful and respect the laws of nature, we are protected. So, in the same way, when we are respecting the laws of spirituality, the soul remains healthy. According to the WHO, there is an increasing number of psychosomatic diseases. The symptoms come from the soul; they come from the mind. Psychology tries to provide the right awareness for this in order for patients to regain health.
The cure of the mind is possible with three medications to be taken daily:
1. Take the physical medicine — whichever type of medication suits the body. This could be via traditional medicine, or Ayurveda, homoeopathy or naturopathy. The body is a gift made up of the five elements, so harmony is needed between the five elements that make up the physical body.
2. The second medicine is having pure thoughts and good wishes, for the self and the healing of the self, and especially to create harmony in all our relationships. These good wishes and pure feelings create trust, self-respect and loving and honest respect for others, including the food and drink we consume throughout the day.
3. The most powerful medication is meditation. Meditation empowers the mind through having a sweet conversation with the self and the Supreme Being, the Supreme Soul. This conversation is at the heart of Rajyoga. Yoga power enables souls to regain their awareness of peace, love, and inner spiritual joy which stabilises the mind and brings inner and outer harmony.
Remember, in essence, I am a soul, the child of God. I am the child of the Almighty Authority. I am the child of the Purifier. The truth is, the soul is sick, and not the body. But because the soul becomes sick, the body also becomes sick. This is why it is important to heal the soul and the body, and not that because the soul is sick, I only take care of the soul. No. The body is also affected. So, both, the driver, the soul, and the car, the body, have to be looked after carefully.
B.K. Sudesh is the Director of the Brahma Kumaris’ services in Europe.
Why we should meditate
Meditation has become a mainstream activity in many parts of the world. Though the main reason to meditate is for spiritual awareness, there are additional benefits from learning to focus our attention within. One of these is the healing it brings about in our physical bodies. Over the past few decades, doctors and scientists have been studying the body-mind connection and its relationship to physical health. Medical research has indicated a link between certain illnesses and our state of mind and emotional condition. It has been found that when we undergo mental stress, emotional pain or depression, our physical resistance to disease drops. We become more susceptible to catching a disease as our ability to keep our immune system in top working order decreases.
Science has pinpointed that certain diseases such as digestive problems, breathing problems, heart disease, and migraine headaches, to name a few, may sometimes be caused due to stress. Thus, we arrive at the possibility that by reducing stress in our lives, we can improve our physical health and well-being. To begin to explore this possibility, it is imperative to understand the root cause of stress in our lives.
Life has become increasingly complicated. With competing priorities, family and social obligations, increasing responsibilities, and looming deadlines, people seem to have too much to do and not enough time to do it. We hold jobs that require long hours and too much responsibility. Some work two jobs and raise a family. Trying to keep up with it all can leave us overwhelmed, frustrated, and agitated. Too much pressure often causes people to snap—we become irritable and off-balance. We begin to act in ways that are not “us.” We may even take out our frustrations on our loved ones and hurt those we love the most. All of this causes stress and strain to build up in our lives.
Medical research has shown that meditation can help reduce stress in our lives. In doing so, it can reduce our chances of developing a stress-related illness. How does meditation work to reduce stress?
When we meditate on the inner Light and Sound of God, we come in contact with God’s love within us, which fills us with inner peace, joy, bliss and happiness. This experience takes our attention away from the stresses and pains of the outer world. As we spend time in meditation, we create a calm haven in which we restore equilibrium and peace to our mental functioning. Researchers have recorded that the brain activity in people who meditate reflects a state of deep relaxation. Their mind becomes calmer. The tranquil effect of meditation lasts beyond the time spent in meditation. We become more in control of our reactions and maintain an even keel in the face of conflict, or in the midst of turmoil and strife. It also gives us a private retreat of bliss and peace within us that we can retreat to anytime we wish. This refuge helps take our attention away from the pains of the world and gives us another mechanism by which we can reduce stress in our lives.
Another benefit is the change in our angle of vision. As we experience God’s love, we find there is more to our existence than what goes on in the physical world. We become more detached from events and problems that might have bothered us in the past and see life from a higher angle of vision. We see the larger picture of life, and over time, develop the equilibrium of mind to function more effectively and more peacefully in this world, which can further reduce stress and calm the body and mind. Thus, spending regular time to accurately meditate is an effective means to help reduce stress and increase a sense of calm, equilibrium and peace in our lives, which heals our mind and emotional state and in turn, can help us heal our physical body.
The author is the head of the Sawan Kirpal Ruhani Mission.
THINKING IS THE ABSENCE OF THE BEHOLDER
Buddha has said ‘every thought will be a thing, a thing was once a thought. All we are is the result of our thoughts.’ If I say that this world is a thought, it might surprise you. In fact, your world is your own thought. Your world is within your thoughts. You exist in thoughts. As many people as many worlds exist in this world. Everyone’s world is different. Because everyone’s thought is different. Everyone’s thinks differently. Everyone thinks from what one’s thoughts are. Everyone’s mind is different. Everyone views the world differently. Two persons looking at the same thing will give different definitions. Everyone pays attention to the world around them in one’s unique way and understanding.
Mind is the sum-total of the accumulated past that is not there and the fleeting future which is not there. Mind is the absence of your presence. Your absence in your presence has caused your mind. When you are your mind disappears.
This world is not a definition. Your mind cannot define this world. Nor does your mind define God. This world is a continuous flow that exists in flowing continuously in timelessness. This world is moving. You are flowing. Things around you are flowing. Nothing is inert and still. This is how the world has become the world. The world is continuously evolving.
When one looks at a flower. Someone finds it beautiful and another finds it monotonous. Someone finds birdsongs mesmerizing, the other boring. Our senses disclose different meanings for similar events. Life is a continuous flow, it is not an incident.
Our genes are evolving too. Genes are evolving continuously for billions of years. Genes birth new genes. Genes are programmed to license new genes to form new bodies. It is essential for them to spread genes for survival. Our body is also genetically programmed to spread genes. The anatomy of genes is different from our behaviour. They imperatively copy and make copies. From one copy to another. The copy that is made today is also a copy that was made a billion years ago. Genes are immortal. They renew. Like a one-celled amoeba splits into two one-celled amoebae to make a copy. The one-celled that you find today is derived from the one-celled that was 4 billion years ago. Like one-celled amoeba is immortal. Our genes are immortal too.
Science agrees that everyone understands differently and everyone has free will by which one understands. Science agrees that free will is formed by one’s genes, one’s brain order, and one’s society. But factors determining to understand are not similar, no two persons give similar answers for one question. Science finds this indefinable. Because science is defining. You can define only the dead. The definition is limiting something in the periphery of words that which is continuously flowing. The world is a continuous flow. It is an uninterrupted mystery. Genes do what they ought to do as per the code embedded in them but a mind is influenced by genes but is not an independent thinker. Therefore, one finds genes more accurate, able and perform brilliantly. But a mind only thinks. A mind thinks like a machine.
Mind is a complex thinking machine. It is unlike the psychological theories. Neither is it like explanations taught by society. A mind is a psychological thing and the brain is the mind’s physical body. Mind is a non-entity. In thinking, the mind functions. The brain functions the body.
Why does a man think? Psychology says a mind works with beliefs that are innately embedded which is the result of many factors. But a mind thinks it is the beholder of this body organism. But who is the beholder of this organism? When a house is on fire would you run out or think and wait for flames to douse since you are the beholder of this body organism. You run out without thinking. When driving a car you are about to hit another car, you simply act to put breaks and don’t think of acting. Your whole being acts in the spur of the moment to stop the car. Thinking is your absence. Thinking is the absence of the beholder.
Our brain does not think but stores all information. Like hardware that has RAM, processor to access information. Mind is like a screen with a camera, speaker, microphone and sensors. You can build a machine that can think. A mind is a machine that we have built by ourselves. A mind is programmed to keep information in memory storage and to retrieve it at any moment.
Language is a set of information that we have learnt by assigning meanings to the words to denote things of the world. Meanings that the mind interprets as things. Assigned meanings are not real cannot be real. It is said that every spoken word is a lie. It has to essentially be a lie. Language is to define one’s understanding of the real in unreal terms. Language has made the human mind intelligent and complex.
For knowing one does not need to be articulate about knowing. The knowledge that came by seeing, hearing through all senses was our primary knowledge. We grew to store knowledge in symbols. To walk on the load path, we would store the knowledge of milestones. To understand our siblings we stored knowledge of our parents.
Language changed the development of the human mind. Our language depends on relative terms. This world is one. Night turns into day and day into night. To define day we have to understand that which is not night. To define light we have to understand that which is not dark. We dissect one knowledge into two to define the defined by its opposite understanding. We isolate the world by definition. Our mind works with symbols. Computation is also symbols. What the beholder sees is stored into symbols. Language is also stored in symbols. Your name is the code or symbol assigned to you.
Whole life man keeps writing coding programs in one’s mind. Beliefs and desires are stored and retrieved, while the brain plays the part of the hardware, computation is done by thinking.
Are you the brain? Are you the mind? Are you the mind of the beholder? Mind is beholding you or you are the beholder of mind.
The mind has obviously become intelligent by logic language and computation. It is like your hand is holding a tool to hold an object. The tool cannot be picked without your hand. Without you, your hand also cannot pick. Your intelligence, logic, language and computation is nothing but software programs of your intellect. Intellect alone cannot pick the tool to hold the object. You can think or do anything with intellect. But you cannot hold the beholder with intellect. Because the intellect is a tool in the hands of the beholder. And you are the beholder.
Obviously, neither could your intelligence nor logic or thinking define the world. Whatever it defines is defined in thoughts. Perception of mind about the God is not the God. Therefore, Buddha has said every thought will become a thing. In the flowing universe, to know That-Which-Is is worth knowing. It is known when you are still, thoughtless, and ready to empty your mind. Ready to throw away all computation, logic, beliefs, theories and conditioning. You are ready to be still. Be still to know.
The author is a spiritual teacher. He can be contacted at email@example.com
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