THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RELIGION AND SPIRITUALITY - The Daily Guardian
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THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RELIGION AND SPIRITUALITY

B.K. Surya

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When we see the external form of religion that people practice, such as rituals, prayer, reading scriptures and going on pilgrimage, we often comment that ‘this person is very religious.’ This usually means that we consider them to be humble, polite and kind. But religion without spirituality is like the skin of a fruit, with nothing inside — it lacks power.

Spirituality is that which enriches and strengthens the soul, makes it virtuous. Religion and rules governing its practice can make one fearful — people are afraid of committing sin by doing this or that, or they worry about divine retribution for something they have done in the past. Understanding spiritual principles, on the other hand, makes one wise, strong, and fearless.

But people take more easily to religious rather than spiritual practices. The former, with their ceremony, colour, and — in some religions — song and dance, seem more appealing. Moreover, spiritual knowledge has not been propagated as widely as religion.

Religious figures preach compassion, ethics, and charity, but it is all regarded as part of recommended behaviour, and little thought is given to the spiritual truths that lend them value. Even reading the Gita, a book that contains deep spiritual truths, has become a ritual. Reading a chapter of the book every day is considered a virtuous act. People are content to just read the book, and give no thought to living by its teachings.

Religious teachings benefit us and add value to our life only when we live by them. Once we recognise the fact that we are souls, children of the Supreme Soul, and relate to God with that awareness, we no longer feel the need to seek solace in religious rituals. The fulfilment the soul experiences through a direct and heartfelt connection with God ends the search for truth.

But the plurality of faiths in the world confuses many people as to which one to follow. The proof of the right path is that it is simple, purifies and strengthens the soul, and makes life easy and happy. It puts a stop to all our doubts.

B.K. Surya is a Rajyoga teacher at the Brahma Kumaris headquarters in Mount Abu, Rajasthan.

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Spiritually Speaking

HAS MAN STILL NOT LEARNT TO PRAY?

Arun Malhotra

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Man is searching for some dependence. Man needs dependence. He is frenetically searching for dependence. Someone takes to dependence in counting the beads and someone wants to find a path to God and someone wants to possess everything to lend him dependence. And someone gets ready to drink the whole ocean of life. 

Let some assumption of God give you dependence. Let some deities lend you dependence. Let possession of wealth lend you dependence. Dependence is in fact your insecurity. Your God becomes your insecurity. Your mantra becomes your dependence. Your religion becomes your dependence. That does not let you drink the ocean of life to make you independent.

Why man is searching for dependence? Because man is afraid of the unknown. Whatever pleasurable he has known he wants to replicate in future. The mind works in future. Whatever that you need now you can get now. But your mind makes planning not just this life but the next ones. You ask which one of the Gods, the deities should one believe and follow. Hindus have millions of Gods. You ask which one is the right one to believe and follow. You are asking which Guru you should believe and follow. 

You are walking on the path. In fact, you do not know where this path will lead you to. Because you don’t know where you are headed. Therefore you need dependence. You need maps if you wish to go. But your dependence on your mind is absolute. It does not need any external dependence. All external dependence call it wealth, kingdom, fame, and God are poor copies of mind. 

Have you noticed, during the pandemic, how the arrangement of Gods that mankind developed falls? You do not go to temples or places of worship when you need to worship God the most. Then it is said God is everywhere. Atheists believe that God is not there. And theists believe that God is there. But both have not encountered God. An atheist is far truthful than the so-called theist who believes first and wants an encounter with God later to believe.

Theists believe and repeat words written in the scriptures to believe in God. That’s dependence. When a man dies. Hindus chant ‘Ram Naam Satya Hai’-Thy name is the truth. If someone asks them whether they believe that ‘thy name is the truth’. They say yes without knowing and understanding ‘thy name is the truth’. Because to know ‘thy name is the truth’, an encounter with That-Which-Is is needed. Mere repetitions of words fall far short of an encounter. It’s like a picture of the universe vis-à-vis the universe. The picture is far different from the universe. 

In the name of God, we have memorised words that were once spoken by seers who encountered That-Which-Is. But even after 5000 years, we keep repeating words without encountering God. Repetition of words does not denote any meanings to us that would once denote to seers. For us, they are dead words loaded with fear. A bird is singing and you rejoicing the birdsong is godliness than repeating dead words which have lost meanings in the temple is ungodliness.           

During a pandemic the one who is wealthy and powerful have access to hospitals, medical science does not survive. At the time of a pandemic, we have lost all trust in money, modern medicine, Ayurveda all kinds of occultism and we have nothing else in our hands to try on. We fall back upon God to help. The only link that we have with God is repeating words used by seers. Nothing helps. What is the reason?

Man has forgotten to make prayers, religious conditioning has lent man irreligious. Prayers that were once said to God or in the praise of existence by the seers of Vedas were the first-person account of prayerfulness. But in the name of teaching Vedas, scholars began to repeat them. Prayerfulness was slowly lost into the overwhelming language.

Buddha asks us for being prayerful. Buddha tells us what does prayer mean? How does one pray and to who does one pray to? You have made all kinds of rituals but you have forgotten to pray. Who is the one who wants to pray? Buddha says before making prayer understand the one who is the one who wants to pray. Because the one who wants to make prayer is fast asleep. How does the one who is asleep make prayer? To begin the prayer know who wants to pray.

Buddha asks you first to know the one who wants to pray. Then first trust the one who you want to pray. Don’t search for dependence on protocols of praying. You learn to be prayerful without knowing who you pray to. You keep asking which God to pray to and how to pray to that God because the organisation of religions have told you that God has books of protocols for making prayers without which you may antagonize that God. Buddha says first trust the one who wants to pray. And then trust the one who you want to pray to.

But man is crazy. After Buddha had gone. People turned Buddha into God and started to make prayers to Buddha as God and they started believing in Buddha and bred new theism out of Buddha. Buddha began his journey as an anti-thesis to God. But once gone, Buddha has been turned into a sanctuary for millions of fast asleep ones searching for dependence in Buddha. Buddham Shranam Gachchami means that ‘I go to the refuge of the awakening’.

What we call life is a pandemic. There is no bigger pandemic than life. It terminates everyone in the end. When you trust the one who wants to pray, your whole being is filled with prayerfulness. Your trust in existence disperses your doubts. And when it disperses all your doubts the ocean of existence comes to you and you can drink the whole ocean to be one with it.

But man has made his life death-like. Death has become our religion. Our belief is in a pandemic than in our own existence. Your being is the temple and all your prayers are the prayers made to the one who is seated in the temple. Without the one who is there in you, your temple will no more be a temple. This body is the temple in which your prayerfulness flowers. 

Remember our religious conditioning has set all types of protocols rituals for making prayers. But in them, we are not able to make a prayer. In the sanctum sanctorum of you, the temple of existence is abounding in prayerfulness. The whole universe is in deep prayerfulness. Oceans rise withdraws in prayerfulness. Sun, moon, stars lit in prayerfulness. Existence is pouring consciousness everywhere including you. When prayerfulness exists in that prime enormity, one who wants to pray can do nothing but express humble inability—‘how to pray’. That is when you become prayerful, that is when existence fills you up with prayerfulness. When you empty yourself in that total emptiness prayerfulness dawns on you. That is when you drink the ocean of life to be free from dependence.

The author is a spiritual teacher.

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Spiritually Speaking

YOGA KEEPS YOUR HEART HEALTHY

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For more than a decade now, every 29 September has been celebrated as ‘World Heart Day’ to raise awareness against heart-related diseases. But the latest survey conducted by a private company with a sample size of more than 1,12,000 over urban centres in India doesn’t portray an encouraging picture of Indians’ hearts. It says, 70% urban Indians are having a risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). 75% men between 30-34 have CVD risk followed by a similar percentage of men in the 35-39 age group, while among females 66% women are at CVD risk. 55% women in their 30s are at CVD risk. The survey mentions the following factors responsible for CVD risk:

• Diabetes/ Smoking / Cholesterol reading of 200 or more.

• HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein or good Cholesterol) reading of 50mg/dL or less.

• BMI of 23 or more (Overweight).

• BP reading of 140mmHG or more.

Earlier this year, Apollo Hospitals designed and IMRV surveyed heart diseases in India which covered 10 cities. The survey reveals that Indians are more prone to heart diseases due to their smaller calibrated arteries which are mostly responsible for the early deposition of lipids inside arteries and causing Atherosclerosis. While the size of the aorta for an Indian is 1 to 1.25mm, it is 2.5 to 3mm for those living in western countries. Thus, it is clear we Indians are genetically prone to heart diseases. The survey points out the following reasons for the same:

• Poor Stress Management

• Very little or no exercise

• Sedentary Lifestyle

• Consumption of Fat-rich food.

It also reveals that one-fifth of the deaths in India are from coronary heart disease. But by 2020, it will account for one third and a majority of them will be youngsters below the age of 40. WHO has identified India as the country which will have the largest cardiovascular disease burden in the world by 2020. Dr Bansal, head of cardiology department at JJ Hospital, says, “We Indians have bad genetics and we worsen it with our lifestyle that is becoming increasingly westernised and the diet is becoming too high in sodium and fat.”

But he added that it’s not too late to change the trend. Countries like Sweden have recorded lowered heart problems because of stringent efforts both by the state and individuals. He said that prevention of heart disease is as simple as consuming only cow’s milk, avoiding yolk of the egg, sticking to lean meat and eating many colourful fruits and vegetables. He opined “Indians have a wrong notion that only walks in the morning helps. Brisk walking at any time of the day is good exercise. People should at least take up yoga.

BENEFITS OF YOGA ON HEART DISEASE

A project carried for an year on 71 heart patients in a study group and 42 patients in a control group by Santacruz Yoga institute, Mumbai in 2004, with the aim of evaluating the role of lifestyle modification on yoga techniques, stress management, and dietary modification in retardation of coronary artery disease, concluded that yoga-based lifestyle modifications helped in regression of coronary lesions and in improving myocardial perfusion. The study group patients were given a family-based yoga program which included control of risk factors, dietary modifications, and stress management for an year. These were the results:

• Reduction of total cholesterol by 23.3% in study group patients as compared to 4.4% in the control group.

• Reduction of serum LDL cholesterol by 26% in study group patients as compared to 2.6% in the control group.

• Regression of heart disease by 43.7% of study group patients vs. 31% control group on MPI and 70.4% of study group vs. 28% of the control group on angiography.

•Arrest of progression

A good preventive program suggested by Dr P Namjoshi, preventive cardiologist, to tackle heart diseases includes:

• Education about the heart

• Effective Stress Management

• A healthy diet – high in antioxidants, low in fat and carbohydrates and high in fibre and quality protein

• Yoga for improved blood circulation and pranayama for better breathing

•Meditation for mental relaxation and rejuvenation.

• Exercises to improve collateral circulation and an annual heart check-up

Yoga assists in restoring equilibrium to the body and mind so that good health can flourish. It is particularly effective at dealing with stress-related disorders as it works at both physical and mental level. The asanas (body postures) works on the physical body and the meditation practices help to control and calm the mind. Regular yoga helps in preventing heart diseases and also assists in reducing the afflictions once heart disease is diagnosed. The benefits of regular yoga practices are many which have been understood by western countries also. Though yoga was invented in India, it is spreading rapidly in western countries in comparison to India. The estimated number of people in the US who practice yoga are sometimes as high as 20 million and it is a $6 billion industry there. Now the above surveys and available solutions should make the Indians wake up and embrace Yoga for better heart and health.

Arun Kumar Ghosh is Sri Sri Yoga Teacher.

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Spiritually Speaking

FIVE TIPS TO GET RID OF ANGER AND ITS ‘COUSINS’

In today’s world, there are so many things that make us angry. And then anger is followed by guilt, violence, hurt, and hatred. It becomes difficult to break the cycle. Here are some tips for you to break this cycle, and become free and happy again.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

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In Hindu mythology, there is a story about Lord Vishnu and his battle with anger. Two demons, Madhu and Kaitabha, born from the dirt of Lord Vishnu’s ear, troubled the lord. Madhu means ‘anger’ and Kaitabha means ‘hatred’. Lord Vishnu fought for a thousand years, but he could not win over them.

How could he destroy the anger and hatred that he had himself created? So, he called Devi—Divine Consciousness. When consciousness arises, anger and hatred dissolve. With the help of water, Devi destroyed Madhu and Kaitabha. Here, water represents ‘love’. So, with the help of love, consciousness destroyed anger and hatred. When consciousness fills with love, neither anger nor hatred remains—only eternal love remains.

Anger and hatred arise from listening. Neither the Creator (Brahma) nor the Destroyer (Shiva) listens. Both just do their job and leave. But those who manage the world and its affairs (Vishnu) have to listen to everyone. That is when anger appears.

WHY PEOPLE ARE FIGHTING: THE ROOT CAUSE

People fight because they feel they are right. This feeling of righteousness gives them the strength to fight. If someone feels they are wrong, they do not have the strength to fight. 

This limited and narrow sense of righteousness has created the worst in the world. All the wars of the world have taken place because of it. 

If we broaden our vision and look at the truth impartially, we will see a different picture. Our sense of righteousness is a mental concept; beyond that, is the real cause of any effect. Wisdom is looking into that real and ultimate cause.

In today’s world, there are so many things that make us angry. And then anger is followed by guilt, violence, hurt, and hatred. It becomes difficult to break the cycle.  

Here are some tips for you to break this cycle, and become free and happy again:

1. TREAT ANGRY PEOPLE LIKE FIRECRACKERS

Look at an angry person like a firecracker. On Diwali, we light crackers, and then run away, enjoying it from a distance. After some time, it will fizzle out. An angry person is like that. 

But, we do not burn crackers inside the house or keep anything precious near it. So, just see that there are no precious things around angry people.

Without angry people, there is no fun in this world. So save yourself, and watch them from a distance. Do not get involved, and you will have fun! 

2. WIN OVER ANGER WITH CONSCIOUSNESS

When you get angry and do not express it, you suffocate. On the other hand, when you express it, you feel guilty. So, the key is to rise above both. See life from a different perspective.

Look at your emotions as a decoration – like icing on a cake of different colours and designs. This decoration doesn’t really matter to the substance. Similarly, these emotions should not bind you, or make you feel guilty. This will happen when you grow in your consciousness. 

During Navratri, we do Satsang and follow a diet, so that the mind dives into waves of devotion. In this way, we avoid all opportunities for anger and other vices. 

3. USE STRENGTH TO COPE WITH AGGRESSION

Why does aggression arise in you? When you think that somebody is bigger than you, you become aggressive, right? Think about it. When somebody is really bigger than you, or they are too small to count, you don’t become aggressive. But, when you think that somebody is on par with you, or only a little bit bigger or smaller than you, you become aggressive. This is because of your ignorance about your own strength. Wake up and see what you are, and with whom you are becoming aggressive.

You do not become aggressive when you want to kill a mosquito! You know that it is just a mosquito and that it doesn’t amount to much. Similarly, become aware of your strength.

4. A LITTLE IMPERFECTION IS HEALTHY FOR THE MIND

Too much expectation of perfection brings anger and violence in the mind. It becomes difficult to accept imperfection. Sometimes, things don’t go according to plan. One should be ready to handle that. 

Give a little space for imperfection; it is necessary. It will bring you more patience. With increased levels of patience, there is less anger, and, with less anger, there will be no violence. 

5. GIVE A SHIELD OF KNOWLEDGE TO LOVE

If someone you love does not behave according to your expectations, you get hurt. After all, you are not hurt by some random person walking on the road! But, if a person you love, or you feel close to, does not greet you or smile at you, you feel hurt. When people feel hurt, they close themselves up, become hard-hearted, and act cruelly. 

Love is a fine and delicate emotion; it is easily hurt, and can quickly turn into hatred, anger, blame, grudges, bitterness or jealousy.

How can you save this delicate emotion from getting distorted in our society? Knowledge. It is the right shield to safeguard this love. Knowledge maintains the purity of love and keeps it away from all sorts of vikaras. The love of saints is always pure because it has the shield of knowledge to protect it.

Also, when you go deep into sadhana, you can experience love at very subtle levels.

WHEN ANGER IS GOOD

Is it possible to never get angry? What has your experience been? As a child, when a toffee was taken away from you, you got angry. When you were in school, college, and office, you got angry with different people for different reasons. So, we all get angry. The point is how soon you come out of your anger. Three factors decide this:

1) The first factor is the frequency of your anger. This is inversely proportional to your strength. The weaker you are, the more you are prone to anger. The stronger you are, the less prone you are to anger. So, determine where your strength is. Why are you losing it?

2) The second factor is your vision. How in-depth is your understanding of the people around you?

3) The third is the degree of your attachment. Behind anger, if there is a desire for comfort, pleasure or ego, your reaction will be different from when your anger has a purpose. If your anger is to set things right, it is useful.

So, anger is not always bad. It can be good when it is sparingly used. If you use it every day, it has no value. Rather, it puts down your value. So, don’t allow anger to use you. Instead, you use it as an instrument of positive change.

Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a humanitarian leader, spiritual teacher and an ambassador of peace.

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Spiritually Speaking

INNER SILENCE, THE ANTIDOTE TO STRESS

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All of us have experienced stress at some point in our lives. Actually, stress visits everyone, independent of their age, gender, environment, nationality or religious background.

When we understand the ways in which stress manifests, we can boost and protect ourselves from it in the same way that we protect our physical health from different diseases.

Stress is merely a sign of pain, a symptom to notice right from the beginning if we wish to progress spiritually. We can cultivate spiritual antibodies and remove the seeds of stress as long as we maintain the understanding that stress is not something natural or normal.

We have come to consider it as normal, simply because as time passed by, we became exposed to more and more pain and so trained the self to accept the presence of stress and thus compromise our original peace. And now, we spend time wishing it away and planning how to remove it. We try to relax, go on holiday or as this usually does not take the pain away for long, we try ever more complicated means of reducing the stress. By thinking that the solution lies somewhere outside of us, and finding that whatever we try does not work, the soul becomes disoriented and dispirited.

When we deal with our physical health, we acquire knowledge for an effective treatment or solution, and then apply it. It is vital to understand what is causing the prob-lem, to be able prescribe the proper medicine. In the same way, internally, we need to acquire knowledge of our true identity, how the self operates and find the way back to optimum spiritual health.

The soul works on thoughts. If we have negative, critical thoughts of the self or others, we must find a way to change them, or we will continue to feel distressed. Or worse, we will try to justify our negativity and not recognise what our unhelpful thought patterns are causing. We will consider our worry to be just caring, or our anx-iety as only enquiry, our doubt as though it were simply exploration, or that the stress we are feeling is necessary in order to succeed in the world.

However, when we understand that the soul is intrinsically peaceful, full of love and joy, we can, by meditation and changing our attitude towards the self and others, begin to reduce and eliminate stress in a radical way. When we give instead of taking, and when we build up a reservoir of powerful mental energy, we become focused and filled with clarity about what to say and what to do. The time we spend in silence is a valuable investment which pays dividends in so many untold and unimagined ways. For a life well lived, free of stress and anxiety, it is an essential prerequisite.

BK Maria is an Olympian, and works as an architect. She is a member of the National Coordinating Team of the Brahma Kumaris in Greece.

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THE WAY TO BECOME CAREFREE

B.K. Geeta

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Is it possible to lead a carefree life in today’s world? What does one need to be carefree? Most people would say that one must have enough money for financial security, without which it is well-nigh impossible to be free from worry.

In a world of economic uncertainties, providing for oneself and one’s family is the prime concern of nearly everyone. There are countless people who do not know how or from where, they will get their next meal. Grinding poverty is a fact of their life. The fate of those who live from hand to mouth is little better, as the fear of an unexpected adversity always lurks at the back of their minds.

Does this mean that the wealthy are carefree? That is hardly the case. They may not have financial worries but unhappy relationships, social pressures, and discontent and stress from trying to keep up with more ‘successful’ peers can drive them to misery, even suicide.

Almost everyone has one form of worry or another—from the moment they wake up, they worry about themselves, their family, their job or business, their friends, and relatives. Even children, who are supposedly in the happiest period of their life, complain of stress from their studies.

A major factor behind such anxiety is the thought, ‘I have to do this, that, and the other….’ We pit ourselves against circumstances, which we see as somehow stacked against us. This sows the seeds of stress in all our efforts to “overcome” and “cope with” situations and peo-ple. Life seems like a struggle or a burden. The result is despondence, tiredness, anger, and in some cases, a willingness to stray from the straight and narrow in order to get what one considers one’s due.

Acceptance and faith can change all of this. Why not accept situations, learn from them, and move on? If we see life as a struggle, we are likely to end up struggling all the time. Instead, if we see it as a game, we enjoy the experiences it offers. This difference in perspective is the reason some people laugh off their problems while others get upset.

Having the faith that things will eventually turn out good save us from unnecessary worry. Creating positive thoughts is the first step towards achieving a good outcome.

Such thoughts create the right attitude, leading to the right actions, which in turn produce favourable results.

To be truly carefree, it helps to have faith in a benevolent higher power. Have you ever noticed how babies sleep soundly in the arms of their parents? They have complete faith that they will be loved, protected, and cared for.

Similarly, the Supreme Soul, the Father of all souls, offers to relieve His children of all their burdens. But doubt, fear, and cynicism fostered by the hurt caused by other people stops us from believing Him.

The Father says that when we take responsibilities upon ourselves, we become heavy. So, think of yourself as an instrument, a trustee, a server. We are just playing our role in the world.

Other people are not our rivals, but fellow travellers in the journey of life. Our fulfilment will come not from outwitting or outdoing anyone, but from being the best that we can be. When we maintain an elevated awareness, we function on the basis of our best qualities, of peace, love, and truth. That can only bring joy and contentment. This is the key to becoming carefree.

B.K. Geeta is a Rajyoga teacher at the Brahma Kumaris headquarters in Abu Road, Rajasthan.

If we see life as a struggle, we are likely to end up struggling all the time. Instead, if we see it as a game, we enjoy the experiences it offers. This difference in perspective is the reason some people laugh off their problems while others get upset.

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HOW TO CREATE PEACE

Dadi Janki

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There is something that you can do to help create peace in the world and that is to make yourself peaceful.

The first step in this is doing some real soul-searching to find out what has made you peaceless in the first place. Turning your mind within allows you to discover, underneath the many surface emotions of everyday life, a deep, undisturbed pool of spiritual well-being. You need to explore that part of the self, not just to understand it but to experience it, again and again.

This is a very satisfying experience, one that refreshes the soul and fills it with peace. From this vantage point, it becomes easy to recognise the kind of thoughts and feelings which are self-destructive. The power of self-realisation will work wonders in transforming these destructive mental habits. You will stop blaming others for your peacelessness, and get on with the work of culti-vating your truth.

Peace is made up of many things: love, patience, wisdom. You should not be content with just a little of it but fill yourself completely. As you practise putting these into your interactions with others, your very nature will become peaceful. This proves to be of benefit not only to yourself but to all those around you as well.

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