Karma is like opening a bank account. We have choices on how much money we want to put in to add to our balance, or how much we want to withdraw. We can choose to put different investments that result in interest to increase what we have available in our account. We can also choose to use credit card in which we pay interest on what we spend. The choice is ours to make.
Similarly, we have a karmic account. Each day we can choose whether we want to engage in thoughts, words, and deeds that are going to result in good that comes back to us. We can also engage in thoughts, words, and deeds, for which we must pay the consequences. Beyond creating good and bad karmic accounts, we can also choose to do things that create a balance of zero so that we do not have to return to this world to either reap the benefits or pay the consequences.
We can reduce our karmas by living mindfully of the karmic law. That means doing things that do not incur good or bad Karma. However, if we are still not living life in a neh-karma or karma-less way, it is better to have good karma than bad karma. There are many examples of people who can directly see the rewards that came back to them from a deed of good karma. Many times, we cannot read the correlation between what we have done what we received in return. Sometimes the effects span several lifetimes. At other times, what happens to us is a result of something we set in motion years ago.
Everything we do is recorded in the karmic accounts. There is a strict accounting of our every thought, word, and deed. It is wise to make sure that we do not commit any actions, thoughts or words that can rebound to us with consequence. Instead we must have thoughts, words, and deeds that are good so that good can come back to us.
However, if we are on the spiritual path, we do not want to return to this world to reap the rewards of what we do. There is a better plan. We can do good, but do so without having to come back to reap the rewards. This means we are doing good in the world, but the credit is being passed on to God. We only want to accumulate spiritual benefits and the love and pleasure of God. These are termed acts that are neh-karma or karma-free.
How can this be done? We can have good thoughts, words, and deeds in life but we pass on the credit to God. We do good things because it is the right thing to do, not to make name for ourselves or earn money. We say good things to others because it is the kind and loving thing to do, just out of goodness of our heart, without expecting anything in return. We think good things about others as an expression of the spiritual love we are developing in which we recognise all people as members of the same family of God.
We still do good, but our deeds are selfless without us wanting any material rewards. We do get benefits, but they are of the spirit. These benefits come in the form of spiritual progress, the love of God, earning the pleasure of God, and the burning of our karmas without creating new ones.
Another activity in which we can spend our time without creating more karma is meditation. When we sit with a still mind, we are not creating more karma. Sitting in meditation but thinking critical and hurtful thoughts of others is not karma-less meditation. It is sitting and thinking thoughts that create more karma. That is why Simran or repetition of the name of God is an important helping factor in preventing karma in meditation.
If we repeat the name of God, our mind is focused and does not have a chance to create karma by thinking negative thoughts against anyone. Simran helps us forget the past hurt or future worries, helps us to focus on being in the present moment in which we are meditating to progress on the spiritual journey back to God. The analogy is like keeping our car in neutral at a red light. We are not using up our gas, but we also not moving in any direction.
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GREED BEGETS MORE GREED AND ONLY LEADS TO TROUBLES IN LIFE
Greed makes man run after profits in life but end up only with a sense of loss each time. In order to truly earn riches and live to the fullest, we must learn from Buddha and not be motivated by greed in life.
When man is born, he is born in the fullness of his own being. Size does not matter because it changes with time. But the very reason that man is born is because he lacks something. His desire wants him to live. His birth lends him the opportunity to accomplish what he yearns for. But most men end up creating more unfulfilled desires which keep on lending them new births, making them go in circles. Eventually, most men die unfulfilled and dissatisfied.
However, Buddha was different. Buddha was born to the wealthiest family in the land. His parents were warned that the boy would become an ascetic and all precautions were observed accordingly. But when Sidhartha Gautam saw an old, diseased man and a dead man, he left the kingdom in search of the truth and went on to be blessed with all that man desires.
Desires lead to thoughts. You become part of the rat race. You want money so you can fulfil desires in the future instantly, so that poverty does not create a gap between desire and its fulfilment. This makes you greedy. Greed becomes an innate state of the mind. One begins to look at everything in life with greed. Life becomes a game of profit and loss. You start thinking that life would be easy when your desires are fulfilled instantly, but this only aggravates your worries and suffering, causing a sense of loss. Thus, your greed will always land you in losses.
Greed is an obsessive and excessive longing for the undesirable desire for money, power, fame, etc. The world has enough to satisfy everyone’s needs but our greed is what is making the world fall short of things now. A sense of saving up in a time of scarcity and spending in a state of abundance is natural. But the kind of greed which makes you feel like you can never have enough has become the biggest problem in the world. Humans have not learnt when to hit the pause button and that is taking a toll on our environment, their air and water around us, and everything else that is priceless, including our life. Greed is the reason for other problems in the world too, like climate change, poverty, resource gap, racism, discrimination, inflation, power struggle, corporate empires, high interest rates and terror.
A sense of greed is like a permanent sense of loss because one has already assumed profits in everything he does. The profits you earn out of greed will also run you into losses. And when you want to get rid of greed, you actually want to get rid of the sense of loss because greed has taught you to loathe loss. It is a very delicate situation. If greed had given you great peace and not worries, would you have wanted to give it up? But because of greed, which makes you fear losses, you end up never ridding yourself greed, instead clutching it firmly.
firmly. Greed can show you big dreams. It can create a dream world. But it can give you neither loss nor profit. You have to wake up to your greed. It is nothing but a state of intoxication, which leads to chaos. In greed you make new friends, family, bonds and networks which take a toll on existing friendships, family and social order. Greed thus brings only a sense of loss in life.
When you do some work or business, the obvious result is either profit or loss. It is natural. But your greed does not let that happen – it turns all profits into losses. In fact, a sense of greed cannot make you wealthier, more popular or more powerful. It can make you neither poor nor rich. It yields no profits or losses. It is an empty word.
In business, there is a motive of earning profit and reducing loss, but businesses should be run without being greedy. If you do it right, profit is likely to come. But greed has no place in business. Profits or losses do not come by greed—in fact, chances are that your worries will actually lead you to make more mistakes. And since greed is an assumption of profit earned in advance, chances of experiencing loss are the highest.
The greedy mind then wishes to change the definition of success. If in this momentary world, the greedy mind looks up to building permanent assets in the heavens, remember that those heavens will only be a creation of this greed.
A sense of greed indicates the absence of your being. Your arrival into your being should prompt the departure of greed. Greed is like darkness and the moment the light of your sense of being is lit, that darkness disappears.
But greed is precious to you. To understand greed, you have to look at greed in its naked state. Don’t think of ridding yourself of greed from the vision of avoiding losses or suffering. Greed does not give you worries—you are worried because of your thoughts which make you greedy. Greed itself is an empty shell. It cannot kill your ego. Your ego will keep on postponing life for tomorrow in the guise of greed. Then death will come to cut your long story short and you will blame it on greed. But it was not greed which wanted to win, it was your mind and your own ego.
So, don’t look at life with greed. It can deliver neither profit nor loss. It is an impotent desire. Understand that greed is nothing. Don’t give it any importance. If you do that, greed will change directions. Just accept greed for what it is. It is there—don’t fight it. See greed wakefully. One day when wakefulness emerges, you will find that greed was nothing but unconsciousness. Remember life is not made of greed. We should plan to earn as much as is required for us to lead a life as per our free will and learn to sense the danger of greed and hit pause.
The author is a spiritual teacher and an independent advisor on policy, governance and leadership. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SHIVARATRI: THE NIGHT OF BLISSFUL AWARENESS
Shivaratri is taking refuge in Shiva. And Shiva is peace, infinity, beauty and the non-dual one. You take refuge in Shiva for your true nature is Shiva as he is the meditative aspect of the entire universe.
Albert Einstein proved that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; it can only be changed from one form to another. That energy, which changes from one form to another, is called Shiva.
Shiva is that blissful and innocent consciousness which exists in every atom of the universe and also in us. Celebrating the “Shiva tattva” in oneself is called Shivaratri. Ratri means night, the time for rest and comfort. When all activities stop and everything becomes quiet and peaceful, the body goes to sleep. Shivaratri is a rest not only for the body, but also for the mind, intellect and ego.
Paradoxically, ‘Shiva tattva’ also means to be awakened. Shivaratri is thus an occasion to awaken one’s self from all sorts of slumber. It is not a night to be slept through but one to remain awake in. It signifies being aware of everything you have and being grateful for it. Be grateful for the happiness which has led to growth and also for sadness which gives depth to life. This is the right way of observing Shivaratri.
The meaning of “Kailasa” (the abode of Shiva) is celebration. Whether in “Sanyasa” or “Samsara”, you cannot escape Shiva for wherever there is celebration there is Shiva. Feeling his presence all the time is the essence of Shivaratri. That is the real “Sanyasa”. No worship is complete without offering something to the deity. Shiva is a very simple lord; he is innocent—Bholenath. One just needs to offer bel-patra (bael leaves) to him. But in this simplicity is a deep message. Bel-patra offerings signify the surrender of all three aspects of one’s nature: Tamas, Rajas and Sattva. You have to surrender the positive and negative qualities of your life to Shiva and become free!
The greatest offering is yourself. To offer one’s self is the key to happiness in life. After all, why do you get sad? It is mainly because you are not able to achieve something in life. At such times you should surrender everything to the all-knowing God. The greatest power is in surrender to the Divine. It is like a drop owning the ocean. If a drop remains separate, it will perish. But when it becomes the ocean, it is eternal.
Shivam, Shantam, Advaitam: Shiva means your very Self, your innermost core, the purest Self. Shantam is quiet, peaceful, and very innocent. Advaitam is non-dual, where there is only One. So, Shiva means everything good and benevolent and Ratri means that which gives rest, which takes you into its lap and gives comfort. Shivaratri is a rest which is so deep, it is when the mind rests with the Divine.
Any meditation we do on this day has a manifold effect, for this is the day when spirit touches the earth. If you meditate on Shivaratri, then the power of meditation is 100 times more. That which is always (nitya) and which is (shashwat), that is ‘Shiva Tattva’.
It’s said beautifully in the shloka: “Namamishamishaan nirvana rupam, vibhumvyapakam brahma vedaswaroopam.”
Shiva is the transcendental, divine peace which brings solace to all layers of existence. Resting in “Shiva tattva” is Shivaratri. There are certain days and time-frames in a year that enhance one’s mental and spiritual faculties. In such times whatever one wishes, materialises. Shivaratri is one such precious day.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a humanitarian leader, spiritual teacher and an ambassador of peace.
CHILDHOOD SEXUAL ABUSE AFFECTS ADULT WELL-BEING IN MULTIPLE WAYS
Childhood sexual abuse (CSA) is a traumatic experience. The effects of this trauma get amplified by the severity of the trauma experienced, closeness to the abuser, duration of the abuse and more importantly, how people they shared this information with reacted to it.
The dynamics of CSA are unique and often very different from that of adult sexual abuse. Perpetrators are typically known to the child and therefore rarely use physical force or violence. Instead, they manipulate the child’s trust in them and encourage (or threaten) them to hide the abuse. Helplessness to protect themselves or even understand what is happening to them and why sometimes makes them feel as if they’re being punished for being ‘bad.’ Depending on the frequency of access, repeated abuse becomes invasive over time and sometimes, perpetrators gradually ‘groom’ them, i.e., sexualise their relationship.
CSA disclosures are usually a challenging process rather than a single event. Fearful of threats by the perpetrator makes them feel trapped. Self-blame, guilt and the fear that no one will believe them and will dismiss their claims leads them to accommodate the abuser. It can also lead to further sexual abuse by others strengthening the belief in their young minds that they’re responsible for bringing it on to themselves. Family dynamics play a huge role here and sometimes even if the child discloses the family and caregivers might fail to protect and support them thereby increasing their distress. Consent and confidentiality make disclosure problematic as the best interests of the child conflict with the family’s concerns about giving consent. Reporting abuse is difficult for fear that the child will be victimised again. Thus, the incident of CSA goes unreported and becomes a family secret. Ironically, the onus of the secrecy also rests on the survivor and it’s painful because now they constantly feel judged and ashamed. The inability to come out of this shame spiral in adulthood leads to attempts to self-harm, impulsive and risky behaviour.
CSA significantly affects adult well-being. If one had a close relationship to the abuser, then it impairs the ability to feel safe and trust others. Often, survivors blame themselves for the abuse, even though it wasn’t their fault. This makes it difficult for them to feel good about themselves. They experience anger and struggle to deal with everyday stresses.
The struggle to cope with such overwhelming and conflicting feelings impacts the way they live their lives, what they expect from others and how they behave in relationships and their understanding of trust, control and boundaries. Other effects include a higher risk of depression, anxiety disorders and in extreme cases personality disorders. In an attempt to protect themselves, sometimes they find it difficult to remember what happened. It’s a way to dissociate the experience from themselves to lessen the pain and fear. Low self-esteem, body image issues, loss of social competence can lead to increased or inappropriate sexual behaviour. As CSA is a traumatic experience sometimes adults can exhibit symptoms (avoidance, numbing, hyperarousal, etc) that are associated with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Along with these psychological problems, physical health problems like eating disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic abdominal or pelvic pain, dysmenorrhea, menstrual irregularities can be elicited. Substance abuse can also become unsuitable coping behaviour.
The notion that talking about CSA is taboo is still prevalent. Survivors fear being cut off support from family and friends when they talk about their experiences. Feelings of abandonment and isolation make it even harder so they continue to struggle alone. But survivors must seek help and support to heal from this trauma. Yes, revisiting memories and suppressed feelings are scary and can make them feel vulnerable. The same helplessness and vulnerability they felt as children are felt as is in adulthood too. Inability to breakthrough keeps them bound by using the same coping strategies that helped them in childhood. It’s almost like their lives are stuck at that moment with no way out.
Thus, sharing their experience with another is powerful and can help dispel the shame of remaining a victim, let go of the intense feeling of being dirty, understand that it wasn’t their fault and place the blame of the abuse on the perpetrators. There might be moments when they doubt their own perceptions but coming to terms with the fact that the abuse happened and it hurt them is critical to the healing process. It allows them to reach out to the child within, console them and grieve for their loss and pain. They’re permitted to feel anger at the abuser and take the decision to express it either symbolically or by confronting.
Healing is a gradual process. It allows survivors to take back control of their lives, create newer coping strategies, feel compassion for themselves and slowly learn to trust themselves again.
The writer is a mental health counsellor.
QUALITY THOUGHTS KEY TO SUCCESSFUL DECISION-MAKING
The power to make decisions helps us to integrate our values and principles into a sustainable framework for living. Often it is asked, ‘what do I need to trust when making decisions?’ There are two elements to base decisions on. One is the facts, that is, the human state of affairs, and the other is our core instincts, or in other words the conscience. We need both to make a decision, but if one were to win, it would have to be the human conscience.
It is also important to understand that there is no such thing as a ‘right’ decision. A decision is an act. We have to keep performing small acts to reach the aim or destination we want. The aim opens up a pathway, so it is important.
For example, a satnav device will not give me any directions unless I key in the destination I am travelling to. If I take a wrong turn on the way, the satnav will recalculate the route and bring me back on track. It is alright if I go left instead of right, and then realise that I have gone the wrong way, because I can turn around and go back in the right direction.
Many people get paralysed about making the ‘right’ decision. This depletes our energy, and we end up doing nothing and avoid making the decisions we need to make, and we feel ‘stuck’.
We also need to remember that decision-making is not simply problem-solving. Problems may simply be predicaments. Using spirituality to make a decision means we look at what needs to be empowered and what needs to grow within the self and others in the situation.
For this we need to carefully check the quality of our thoughts before we make those decisions. There are four categories of thought.
1. Negative thoughts come fast and flood the mind, draining us of energy. They need a ‘No Entry’ sign in our minds.
2. Waste thoughts of unnecessary worry and doubt, letting our imagination wander. They become a burden and we lose focus.
3. Ordinary thoughts connected to our everyday role and duties. We know what we have to do, so just do it and not overthink it, otherwise balance is lost.
4. Good and positive thoughts come slowly, in ones or twos. When we have a good wish or a pure thought for someone or a situation, we feel enriched and content inside.
We can tell how powerful our decisions will be by checking the amount of time we spend in each category of thought. Ultimately, the key word in making a decision is benevolence. Decisions should be benevolent for the self and others, and this is only possible when we spend a great deal of time having good and positive thoughts for the self, others and the situations we find ourselves in.
Meditation helps decision-making at a very deep level. First of all, it heals the soul, and then it has access to the very core of peace and truth inside us. It also creates stillness for discernment to become clearer, which is the basis of making a decision. That is why thousands of people across the world meditate every day.
The image of weighing scales is a pertinent one when we talk about the power of making decisions. Scales do not work well because of what is being balanced, but by the still, correct setting of the centre point. Meditation helps us to return to the centre of who we are, and at the same time the healing quietens something inside the soul, and it becomes filled with peace and love, with God’s power, and each decision is powerful and takes us to our destination, step by step.
Gopi Patel is a spiritual educator and senior Rajyogi meditator with the Brahma Kumaris, specialising in spiritual pragmatism in all areas of life.
HOW WE CAN TURN FEAR INTO LIGHT AND LOVE
How we deal with changing circumstances and challenges in life largely depends on how we look at them. It is a matter of our consciousness.
Negative feelings such as fear seem to bring us down. We may try to run away, or avoid the situations that give rise to the feelings. I say ‘seem’ because we need to understand that we have a choice. If we are truly aware, we can choose to convert any negativity into something more healing and positive.
It takes courage to do this, but — like many other qualities — courage can be developed with practice. One way to strengthen ourselves is to be resolute that nothing should make our lives shrink: As we get older, we are determined to expand and grow!
But first there is work to be done in understanding ourselves at a profound level. Through meditation — the deep exploration of our inner story — we come to find the essence of the self and what makes us who we are.
In part, this is a quest to rediscover our essential simplicity. Meditation is a wonderful tool to do this. An uncomplicated method to journey within, it brings a gradual understanding of the self, and a humble acceptance of what we do not know or understand. Fundamentally it is the means to help us reconnect with our inner essence, and with the Source of everything.
As a teenager, this began for me with a near death experience (NDE). Seriously ill after an operation, I had the extraordinary sensation of being at one with my own consciousness and light as I viewed the physical body that I called ‘me’ from a distance. I remember feeling completely at one with myself, and I had the thought: “Why do we complicate everything so much?”
Finding the light is central to the spiritual journey. I think the greatest loneliness is our separation from the self, and it is through meditation that we find this self again and connect with the Divine. Rather like my NDE, this is the way to find the light we are searching for. Connecting with the high frequency of the Divine, we fill with radiance and clarity.
This powerful light of love brings reassurance, security, and a feeling of being protected. Whenever I begin to feel fearful, I envisage the Divine presence holding my hand on one side, and my higher consciousness taking the other hand. This allows the small child within me to feel safe.
Even when faced with difficult situations, such as the current pandemic and the consequences of global warming, if we take time to sit and remember who we are, then we will find the power and strength within ourselves to rise to the challenges. We do this by reconnecting with our innate qualities of light, love, peace, and power. Far from being fearful, we choose to be capable and strong.
Christine Mahoney is an actor, mediator and conflict resolution professional based in Melbourne, Australia. She has been a student and teacher of meditation with the Brahma Kumaris for more than 35 years.
GOD’S LOVE OPENS UP HEARTS
People have experienced a lot of deception in their lives. There has been a lot of exchange of everything that is false, so feelings have been destroyed. This is why some people have stopped feeling altogether, and have rejected the world.
However, when a soul starts receiving something from God, the heart opens up.
So, let us take God’s love and have pure feelings. Let us experience what pure feelings are.
Let us have trust in each other and faith in ourselves. Let us learn to love ourselves. Let there be purity in our feelings, so that we can then experience love.
Let us take from God and give to others. When we have very powerful good wishes and feelings for others, those feelings reach them. We can help each other through the power of our good feelings.
Deep in my heart there is just this one feeling: just as I have received so much from God, may all God’s children receive the same from our One and only Father.
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