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Spiritual growth depends on awareness

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Spiritual growth is a journey, and it is dependent on the experiences, either momentary or prolonged, of spiritual awareness, or it could be called enlightenment. These experiences are essential for growth and yet sometimes we do not even acknowledge them, or they pass us by, unexplored. Sometimes of course, they have an extraordinary impact, and instantly move us forward on our journey.

Spiritual enlightenment has a purpose; it is for the introduction to the soul, the real being, the loving and peaceful self. It is also for the union of the soul with the Supreme Soul. In this connection the soul is free from fear, darkness and pain. Finally, it is for the realisation of the role I play on this world stage, the drama of the circle of life.

So, we need to make ourselves open to and aware of the moments of spiritual enlightenment that come our way, often based on the efforts we make, but often like a powerful gift and message, unasked for.

When we are open and become aware of these moments, or even the sustained experiences in meditation, we need to be curious about what is happening. We need to explore the experience, initially on the level of thought.

For example, there may be the thought that I am experiencing deep peace of a kind different from that which I have been aware of before. Then I can absorb this thought into a deep feeling of peace and let it emanate from me, as this is what I really am. I become that experience.

Once the soul begins to have experiences of this kind and becomes aware of its own light and power, then there is a growing understanding of the source of all spiritual energy, the Supreme Soul, God.

This awareness deepens the connection, in meditation, with that being, the Parent, the Teacher, the Guide, and the deeper and more frequent the connection, the more the experiences of enlightenment and the more the spiritual growth.

Experiences of enlightenment then, bring the realisation of the soul, of God, the Supreme Soul, and the further, the understanding of the role the soul plays. I realise I am an actor on this world stage. The body is the costume, and the director is the Supreme Soul. Then I become a true star of light and peace.

Gayatri Naraine represents the Brahma Kumaris at the United Nations in New York.

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Spiritually Speaking

THE SUBTLE ART OF LIVING BEYOND YOUR NEEDS

Arun Malhotra

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The world is full of paradoxes. To understand them we have to learn the art of understanding life. Man wants to understand everything through logic, but logic is not understanding; it is the deception that something can be understood. 

Man has created a world around him and attached himself to it. He is like a spider which has spun a web and gotten caught in it. In fact, spiders are not so naïve, but man is. Man has spun this world around him over a thousand years of progress and become enamoured with it. It is like a cage he has created for safety and doesn’t have the courage to step out of it. It is like man digging his own grave.

A few have gotten out of the cage.  Like Buddha when he looked at the futility of a caged life. Man always wants to anchor his boat at the harbour to keep it safe, but boats aren’t made to be tied to the harbour.

Why is man incarnated? What does this entire existence want him to be? Man has to understand. Man is full of existence. He lives in it. No matter how he is embodied, he continues to be pure existence. He continues to live, which is what the Hindus call ‘sashvat jeevan’ (eternal life). But his mind thinks otherwise and that is when the world is created. There are as many worlds created as many men there are on earth.

The mind has created a very complex world around man. For thousands of years man has created such complexities which seem to have lent joy and colour to life but they have also brought him sorrow, misery and suffering. The body wants food, water, and shelter. Man is able to fulfil them easily. But in a complex world, needs become more complex – societal, psychological, emotional, and spiritual. Man seems to be running to fulfil his needs all his life but they are never fulfilled.

Man wants to fill himself up with money, buy things to prove himself. But he remains unfulfilled always. The actual need of man is his existential need. Man comes filled with it. But when he lives in his mind, he finds himself emptied and tries to fill himself with worldly things.

Things are utilitarian and it is useless to possess them beyond a point. Living a life full of madness to earn money so that others might call you a rich man is a life lived in vain. Deep down you will always know your poverty for money led you to be rich. You wish to live in the fullness of the things that you have filled your house with. But in fact one lives in the emptiness of the house. Young people these days are embracing minimalism as the art of life and that is a good way for being in existence, away from the madness.

Whatever is needed by existence is the real need. Whatever that man has invented is merely for purposes of utility. Thanks to science, we have invented electricity, fast travel, light at night, and more information in megabytes. Suppose there is a calamity now and this fast travel, electricity and information and your condominiums and banks are lost. Will you live? Yes. Your body lives on food and water; they are priceless. Every person can find shelter; earth is a huge space. What else will you need then? Money and things have values ascribed to them by man but in a difficult situation, will such value remain?

The mind and the body are one. You exist in this body-mind as one. When you fear, you run, which is in fact your mind fears and your body runs. But both activities become one activity for the body-mind. Psychologists say that most diseases are psychological. When your mind begins thinking your body begins acquiring it. 

Both physics and religion agree that this world is made of time and space and the world is expanding, and that is how this world has come into being. We as the body-mind exist in space and time is the comprehension of the human mind. One type of time is that which is experienced psychologically, and the second type is calendar time, which humans use to calculate days, nights, months and years.

You exist and there is nothing to be done. When you become one with your existence and are fully conscious, your psychological and bodily needs become less prominent. Your whole body-mind and consciousness become a part of existence.

Buddha became one with existence for six years. Silently. His needs died out. Human needs are relative. Life is relative. You are neither body nor mind. But man is living under the false ‘ego’ created by his mind, which has created needs which will continue to make him miserable.

Sitting silently in existence, being one with it, that is the art of life. It happens when you understand the futility of your needs. But all your life you keep on trying to fulfil the hopes that have created this world. The wish that you want to acquire this world. But in the end, nothing comes into your hands. So, sit silently, beyond body, beyond mind, beyond breath, beyond everything around you. Sit silently to know that you are not only part of existence but you are the existence itself.

The author is a spiritual teacher and advisor on policy, governance and leadership. He can be contacted at arunavlokitta@gmail.com

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Analysing dharma and religion

Prarthna Saran

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There are a lot of misconceptions about these two words—dharma and religion. They are used very carelessly and therefore can, and do, invoke wrong meanings and even dangerous ideas. A misinterpretation of these words can completely change perceptions. On deep thinking one realises very clearly that any religion is not about God really, it is an institutionalised set of beliefs only meant for human beings to practice. For what? Exactly, this is the question. If these beliefs are meant for the betterment of all human beings, then they should necessarily be the same universally! But we sadly notice that there is something in the very nature of man-made religion that is divisive. A religion excludes all that it is not, while dharma includes every form of life. Noted scholar Badrinath Chaturvedi in his book Dharma, India and the World Order, writes, “All social disorders originate primarily in the minds of men… The real problem is that of conveying a fundamental concept of one culture to another.” And in doing that some loss of meaning always occurs due to differences in languages and cultural beliefs.

The range of ideas that this word dharma represents is not conveyed accurately by any word in English. There is an absence of any intelligible term in English that could in essence cover the entire range of ideas in all the subtle nuances in the gambit of this word Dharma.   Any Sanskrit dictionary gives meanings running into pages. Marco Pallis, a scholar on Buddhism, states in his essay on ‘A Buddhist Spectrum’, “The word ‘dharma’ which the Indian traditions have rendered familiar has no really adequate counterpart in the terminologies of the European languages.” This is a huge drawback we face in trying to convey to the Western world the range of nuances this word evokes in the Hindu mind. There is stree dharma, pati dharma, Rajya dharma, putra dharma, Sachiv dharma, Purohit dharma, and oh, the list seems endless. Roughly translated as whatever is the best possible noble duty for the benefit of all that one should indulge in, open to interpretations and modifications according to time, place, person and situations. Notice the pliability and the freedom of choice given to man, the openness of mind and the magnanimity of acceptance. This is dharma. It is not a set of unchangeable, hard and fast set of rules. One can’t paint all with the same brush.

The religions of the world stick to their self-created ideologies, condemning those held by any other belief systems, and try deception, seduction, allurements and even violence to impose their beliefs on others. Some even profess to have a religious sanction for doing so. The concept of dharma is universal and never mandated. It is not given out by somebody as compulsory dictates or prohibitory orders. There is no programming. You live according to your own understood set of values, without imposing the same on anyone. In dharma a high value is placed on respecting the dignity and free will of the human intellect.

Yes, dharmic actions and adharmic actions are based on disciplines and values imposed on oneself. There are boundaries to keep unruly acts in check. Of course, these follow a universal matrix of values where the cardinal rule is: ‘I do not want to get hurt, nor do I want to hurt others.’ There is no indoctrination in dharma, it follows the simple logic of whatever is beneficial to mankind universally. It is open to independent interpretation according to the needs of the hour and the given situation. Unless there is a universal ease of application how can it be open to interpretation? Dharma doesn’t come loaded with software. It doesn’t have any Windows. Almost all religions rest on non-confirmed, non-verifiable beliefs. So, what is the ongoing shooting match about? A fight for that which may or may not be true!

Dharma gives freedom to all, to believe in or discard with impunity what his or her intellect judges as wrong or right, without imposing it on others. It is not a preset glove of values, one size fits all. Whether it is one God or twenty, whether it is a form or formless, man, woman, child, animal, half-man and half-animal, river, hill, plant or tree, stone or wood, dharma should encompass and embrace all ideas of divinity universally. Prayer in any language, by anyone, done in any place, to any form one considers as holy, is acceptable to the universal idea of dharma.

Dharma of anything is its essence or its essential quality without which that thing loses all meaning, in fact ceases to exist as itself. For example, any white translucent cubical crystals could be anything else but not sugar if they do not taste sweet. So, sweetness is the dharma of sugar. Similarly, the essential life force that pervades the entire world of cognitive life in the whole universe is the dharma of all existence, and it is to that divine factor that makes life possible, that we owe obeisance. It may take any form of our man-made fancy, but is in effect that sacred power, that supreme intelligence because of which existence exists, call him Ishwar or Allah, Buddha or Mahaveer, it is the true dharma of all beings.

Prarthna Saran is president, Chinmaya Mission, Delhi.

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TRUTH BRINGS VICTORY, AND ALSO HAPPINESS

B.K. RAJNI

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What is truth and what is victory?

There are two criteria against which one can discern truth. Truth must be eternal, and truth must be imperishable. If either of these two criteria are missing, then it is not truth. There are three eternal and imperishable truths: The identity of the self, the existence and identity of God, and the philosophy of Karma.

The identity of the self is consciousness, or spirit or soul. The soul is an indestructible, infinitesimal point of light energy, composed of thought. God is also an almighty point of immense energy, light and power. The philosophy of karma is based on the return of actions. However, what many fail to recognise is that karma is based on thought, and that is why our thoughts matter immensely.

We are living in a world of matter, of atoms in constant motion. A world of physical forms, all of which are perishable. A world of relationships and roles, all of which are transient. If I fail to hold the awareness of the three eternal truths in my consciousness, I am carried away into this world of impermanence and at the mercy of my own weaknesses, the opinions and directions of others, the expectations of my particular culture, and my own desires.

To reach a stage of being able to have constant awareness of these truths, I need silence. I need the silence that is only possible in deep meditation. With the power of concentration and the experience of deep silence and peace in meditation, these truths become crystal clear. With this clarity I can return to my responsibilities and roles in the physical world with the realisation of exactly what I need to do to live a life in freedom, no longer a slave to temporary desires and worries.

Meditation is the key to this kind of victory and happiness. It is worth devoting time each day to experience the truth of being a soul, and to connect to the Supreme Soul in the experience of meditation. In this experience I become aware of the quality of my thoughts, the seeds of all action. Truth, experienced in this way, brings victory over the senses, and therefore, happiness.

B.K. Rajni is the National Coordinator for the Brahma Kumaris in the Philippines and Japan.

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THE IMPORTANCE OF DETACHMENT

B.K. Geeta

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From time to time, life confronts us with tests of tolerance — it may be in the form of a difficult person, or an adverse situation. Regardless of how we fare, if we learn from the experience, it leaves us wiser and stronger, and we are able to deal better with similar tests in future.

If we remain mentally strong, the test may even feel like a game. For example, when we fall ill, how we see the illness determines how we feel. If we repeatedly think, “I am ill! My body is aching,” we magnify our suffering. On the other hand, if we see it as a minor issue that will soon pass, the state of the body will not affect our state of mind.

Practice of detachment—seeing things as a detached observer—helps in such situations. Instead, if we are attached to a person, or our own body, there is turmoil in the mind if everything is not well with them. Rather than worry about “my body, my wife, my husband”, if we take a step back and remember that we are souls and the body is an instrument we are using to express ourselves, and that the relations are also souls, with whom we are playing a particular role in life, we will not be influenced so much by them.

A lot of people worry about “my son” or “my daughter”. This feeling of “my” creates a bondage and their mind remains stuck on those they regard as “mine”. This stops them from seeing the larger picture—that many others may be going through challenges similar to what “my” folks are facing—and having good wishes for every soul.

It is natural to feel concern for our family, but if we are caught up in attachment, we fail to notice that there are others who are equally in need of our attention and help.

The consciousness of “mine” keeps our thoughts and feelings engaged in a limited number of people, which does not allow us to serve the wider society. Once we have a genuine desire to serve the world, we are able to step out of the boundaries of “my” and “mine” that we have created for ourselves.

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A NEW DIMENSION IN HEALTHY LIVING

Dr Girish Patel

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Two of the most important things in life are peace of mind and health. If one has both of these and little else, one can still be happy.

Up to 70 per cent of all diseases today are caused by psychological factors. In recent years, researchers have been able to establish a clear link between certain kinds of emotion and the ailments they trigger or magnify. For example, those who are jealous are more likely to suffer from acidity and skin disorders. Perfectionists, who get upset if everything is not exactly the way they want it to be, are at a greater risk of suffering from migraine and heart disease. Those who are chronically unhappy have stomach ailments, and those who suppress their feelings, or are unable to forgive others, develop cancer.

Just as our emotions can make us sick, the right kind of emotions can make us healthy. Contented, loving, happy and carefree people are less likely to fall ill.

If we wish to remain healthy, we need to become totally positive. Some people complain that this is easier said than done. That is true, but every situation has a silver lining, and we should try to identify that. Sometimes, it may not be immediately visible, and in such a case we can tell ourselves that there will surely be some benefit from it in future.

If we find it impossible to think positive, we can at least think right. For example, if we are unwell, we can think, “I have to get well soon at any cost”. It has been found that hopeless patients, who take no responsibility for their health and leave everything to their doctor, do not recover quickly.

We need to work on our emotions, as they carry a lot of energy. If we cannot avoid negative thinking in an adverse situation, we can at least accept that fact, understand why we are doing so, and then change our thoughts.

In order to have thoughts that make us healthy, we need to change our subconscious mind, which contains our belief systems and has the greatest influence on our thinking. We can create some healthy belief systems, for example, “I am healthy”, or “I am calm and relaxed, and I will be healthy all my life.” Of course, we will have to adopt a healthy lifestyle too.

The way to heal the body with one’s thoughts is to start with appreciating the affected organ, thanking it for serving us thus far in life. Secondly, apologise to the organ for having harmed it. If we have a heart problem, surely our diet has not been very healthy, or we have neglected exercise. Then visualise the affected part of the body healing and becoming whole again. The more powerfully we visualise this, the better will be the results.

Dr Girish Patel is a well-known psychiatrist based in Mumbai, and a student of Rajyoga with the Brahma Kumaris.

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INTEGRITY MAKES THE SOUL POWERFUL

Dadi Janki

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Anybody who wants to be instrumental in serving the world needs to know how to work with integrity. Integrity elevates character and brings internal power. It reveals a pure attitude.

Those with integrity maintain great humility, even while holding positions of high status and commanding a lot of respect. They do not alter their character or virtues according to whom they are with. They have pride in themselves.

Integrity over a long period of time makes the soul powerful. The intellect is clear and does not mix truth with falsehood. A person with integrity is able to reveal truth through words spoken with wisdom. They never feel the need to prove truth.

Because a clear conscience is the reward of such honesty, a person with integrity considers the consequences of every action and is never drawn mindlessly into anything. To behave in any lesser way is to deceive people.

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