At a time when the world is witnessing distressing levels of violence, peace seems to be a distant, even impossible prospect. Economic woes, war or the threat of it, and the ravages of climate change ominously point to an uncertain and bleak future.
For millions of underprivileged people, even thinking of peace is a luxury, with their lives consumed by the daily struggle for survival in the face of poverty or violence. Most of them subsist on the fringes of society, with some resorting to criminal activity in order to get their daily bread. This is one example of how the conditions in the world are spawning more problems for societies and nations.
None of these facts inspire optimism for the future of mankind. However, when we look at our past, we find hope. There was a time in history when there was peace and prosperity in the world and man and nature existed in harmony. The memories of that era, referred to in some cultures as the Golden Age, are etched in human souls. This is why we yearn for peace.
Even in recorded history, different parts of the world have experienced periods of peace at various times, which saw the development of art, culture, the sciences, and trade. Almost every civilization and nation has progressed when it was not in conflict or threatened by it.
Studies have found that peaceful societies are more likely to achieve developmental goals, are more resilient when faced with crises, and have fewer grievances. They are also more likely to adapt and make concessions to reconcile grievances.
Why then, in spite of the dividends that peace brings, have we failed to achieve it globally?
The reason is the mismatch between our desire for peace and our actions. All people want peace, but their actions are often guided by other motives. Failure to understand and appreciate the uniqueness of each human being is a key reason for discord between men. Even where there is a clear understanding of individuals or nations that are different from us, peace becomes a victim of the desire to dominate, to control or gain better access to resources.
International institutions and mechanisms designed to ensure peace are often rendered ineffective because of the competing agendas of the stakeholders. When individuals and nations disregard the concerns of others and pursue their goals at the expense of others, they damage the fabric of mutual respect, goodwill, trust and cooperation that helps and protects men and nations far more than any self-serving actions.
Even peace treaties have often failed because while laying down rules and setting out mechanisms to ensure peace, they do not effectively address the mutual suspicion, hatred or grievances underlying conflicts.
Building true and lasting peace requires its defences to be built in the minds of men, as the Unesco charter says.
The root cause of conflict is that humans see those who are different from them — in appearance, beliefs, practices, or in other ways — as undesirable or as a threat. We can rise above such tribal thinking only when we realise that the human family we speak of is indeed one family, tied together by spiritual bonds.
People everywhere, regardless of the language they speak, the passport they hold, and their beliefs about God, want to live peaceful, happy and comfortable lives. That is because all souls are beings of peace, love and truth, and it is the nature of the soul to be happy. But when we forget our spiritual identity and look at and define each other by race, religion, nationality or gender, we begin to think in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’, ‘mine’ and ‘yours’.
We can begin to establish peace globally when we start to look inwards and know who we are. When we learn to see the light within us, we can also begin to see the light in others. This opening of the ‘eye’ of wisdom helps foster the bonds of spiritual kinship, helping people transcend social, political and racial boundaries and understand and appreciate each other as members of one global family. This spiritual dimension to peacemaking is the key to its success.
B.K. Mruthyunjaya is Executive Secretary of the Brahma Kumaris.
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The power of accepting and rejecting
In the study of Rajyoga, humility is seen as a state of self-respect. This may be a new concept for people who have previously thought that humility meant accepting everything and anything, whether it made them comfortable or not.
How can we define acceptance? Perhaps it is about being at peace with circumstances, people, and feelings, a place where we can be calm and not have unnecessary thoughts about it—”It is what it is,” as they say, or if thinking of the past, “It was what it was.” The past itself cannot be changed. However, my beliefs about the past can be changed. There really is no need for judgments. Thinking, ‘Why did that happen?’ or ‘It should have been like this’ or ‘Why were they like that and not like this?’, only shows resistance to accepting the reality. We come to understand that it is simply a choice to accept, or equally reject, old, no-longer-necessary beliefs about a whole range of ideas, attitudes, and understandings. In reality, whatever we experience is all our own creation, and no-one else’s ‘fault’. Thoughts are very powerful. To change our beliefs or attitude, we need to change our thoughts, that is, our perception. In other words, to reframe what happened through a new lens.
Rejection may sound negative, but actually it does not need to be. We can reject an old, outdated way of thinking about ourselves, a situation, or a person, and then have the space to accept a new way of seeing what the self, the situation, or person is, or could become. Equally, we do not need to accept everything that comes our way.
But when we blame other people or situations, we put ourselves in a subordinate position; one where we can feel victimised, and we have no sense of control. When someone is verbally rude to us, for example, or criticises us, then our sense of self-esteem can get distorted and we may become confused. There are questions we can consider when this happens.
l Do I accept it?
l Is it true?
l Should I ignore it, or say something?
l Why are they so rude?
l Why me?
l Why don’t they stop?/change?/go away?/ find someone else?
l What is the message for me in this?
So, we may accept or reject their criticism. If we are still getting drawn to it hours later or the next day, then we can understand that we are still confused and upset. Then what is needed is powerful good wishes for the one who criticised us.
If it is difficult to do, then we know that we have not yet forgiven the person. With humility, though, we can send good wishes, and we will find that there is improvement in the relationship, just through the management of our thoughts.
Gopi Elton is a writer and retired health professional and is based at the Brahma Kumaris Retreat Centre in the Blue Mountains, Australia.
The right kind of happiness
Happiness can be of many kinds, such as that experienced when someone praises us or when we achieve something we wanted, or when we eat good food, listen to our favourite music or see something beautiful. Such experiences may surely make us happy, but for how long? The taste of good food may linger for a while after the meal, and the joy of being appreciated may vanish the moment we hear a critical remark about ourselves.
Such experiences are short-lived and, therefore, cannot be the basis of a constant feeling of happiness, which is more stable and lasting than exuberance or an emotional high.
Lasting happiness is a state of being in which we feel secure, content, and in harmony with the self, others, and nature. A person in such a state is also more likely than not to help others achieve happiness, in whatever way he can.
This state can also be described as bliss, which dictionaries define as perfect happiness, or as a state of spiritual blessedness.
How can we achieve this state? There are people who lead blissful lives and describe themselves as very happy. Their material circumstances may be ordinary, but they are content with what they have and enjoy life. Such people are usually active and have loving and supportive relationships in their family or community, and they live by certain values. One quality common to such people is a positive attitude, which enables them to remain optimistic and to take problems in their stride.
Experts have found that happiness depends on individual factors such as personality, income, health, and the freedom to make life choices. They say it also depends on social determinants such as the degree of trust in the community, and on political factors such as the rule of law. But these elements are sometimes in competition: for example, the pursuit of wealth may lead to loss of health, or involve limits to freedom. All these factors are no doubt important, but they are good only to the degree that they contribute to our happiness.
Empirical evidence suggests that the key constituents of happiness, which enable a person to remain happy even in the absence of other factors, may be character, values, and the right attitude. When these elements are present, we are likely to make the right choices and act in ways that ensure our happiness and that of others.
Conversely, in the absence of these ingredients, we may act selfishly to achieve individual happiness at the cost of others. In the process, we may alienate people, lose friends, and even make enemies. In addition, someone seen as selfish receives little goodwill or cooperation from others. If we create an unsympathetic environment around ourselves in this way, we are not likely to remain happy for long, no matter how many personal goals we manage to achieve.
The greatest happiness of the greatest number is said to be one measure by which we can know whether what we are doing is right or wrong. To be able to discern what is best for everyone, including myself, in a given situation, the mind needs to be free from the influence of ego and desires. Then the decisions taken will ensure everyone’s happiness.
Performing the balancing act of ensuring individual and collective happiness is the way to earn the good wishes, or blessings, of others, which, besides being a reward in itself, enriches our feeling of contentment and enables us to experience bliss, the ultimate happiness.
B.K. Dr. Savita is a Rajyoga teacher at the Brahma Kumaris headquarters in Abu Road, Rajasthan.
Letting go of ego
In philosophy, ‘ego’ refers to the consciously thinking entity, or in other words, the self. In the study of Rajyoga, we understand ‘ego’ to mean the sense of self-esteem or self-importance which, if based on an attachment to a false identity, causes great sorrow and is one of the main forces of obstruction on a spiritual journey. It can be destructive and painful, so we take our time to convert this energy into the opposite. We spend time letting go of the false identity, that of being the body, and nourishing our awareness of the real identity, that of being a spiritual consciousness, the soul.
Ego, based on the false identity of being the body, brings with it hidden, unseen pitfalls. The one thing we cannot see, on our physical body, is the face. It is invisible to the self and can only be seen in a mirror. In the same way, the expression of ego is often not realised by us – but is seen by everyone else. In identifying with just the body, we have a need to hold on to things that bolster the ‘ego’. The word ‘my’ is used ad infinitum – my idea, my story, my talents and skills, my job, my position, my superior understanding, my suffering, my success, my failure. In holding on to these reinforcements, we will be challenged endlessly. With that, other obstacles to spiritual growth, come into play. There will be anger when challenged, there will be a need to refine my physical appearance to present myself in the best light, there will be greed in accumulating possessions or trappings of superiority, and there will be attachments to anyone who can feed my ego.
There are five faces of ego:
The ego of the body. When we are influenced by anything, we become attached and then dependent on it. In the case of the body, it will bring vanity, narcissism, and pride; and when the body ages and becomes infirm, we feel lost and worthless.
The ego of the personality. If we have a personality, for example, of being entertaining and making others amused, we become attached to that facet, and become dependent on it in all social situations. When that is not recognised, we begin to doubt who we are or become angry. This applies to all aspects of our personalities on which we depend.
The ego of the intellect. This is very subtle and insidious. This dependence on our beliefs, ideas, and that our understanding is better than that of others, is complicated and hard to remove. It will manifest most obviously in argument and the proving of one’s self to be right.
The ego of the role. This causes dependence on what we do and are recognised for, our skills and abilities; our position in society; and our achievements. This colours our attitude and behaviour in all our relationships.
The ego of possessions. These define us. The house we buy, the car we drive, the clothes we wear, and the jewellery we use. All of this dependency creates the false impression that our possessions make us somehow a better person.
So, how do we let go of the ego? If the key word to the false identity is attachment, then to let go we need detachment. Detachment is not a cold and distant stance on life, but a gentle stepping back from the false self, and quietly watching what I am thinking, how I am behaving and what I am saying. This stepping back a little, allows me to experience my higher identity, that of being an eternal consciousness that has a higher personality of royalty, dignity, purity, and contentment, and I am able then to attach my intellect to God, the Supreme intellect and personality. It then becomes clear to me exactly what kind of a soul I want to be on earth, and that I am a caretaker and trustee of the body that I have.
When I become bodiless (detached from the ego of the body), I am able to become ‘egoless’, and then it is possible to become viceless and express only virtues in my relationships, and my life will have become truly valuable.
Eric Le Reste is a journalist and producer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and coordinates the activities of Brahma Kumaris centres in Canada.
Make something sacred in your life
Often, we are bogged down by rituals, rules, and regulations. Most people get caught up in the propriety of the rituals. In ritualistic worship, the priest is usually quite careful about not making mistakes. But authentic prayer is very personal and intimate. It cannot be ritualised, proclaimed or announced.
A fully realised soul’s actions and words are often beyond the comprehension of ordinary folks. A saint’s total immersion in divine ecstasy has often been misunderstood by the keepers of the faith and labelled as heresy and blasphemy.
Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa was the priest of the Kali temple at Dakshineswar. He never adhered to rituals in the worship of the divine mother. People were aghast at his apparent ‘blasphemies’ and sacrilege. Initially, he was ostracised and even beaten for insulting the divine mother by sleeping on the altar in unwashed clothes, giving her food he had already tasted, and at times even worshipping himself with the flowers, which he later put on the mother’s feet. In fact, it was not the people, but the benefactor of that region and temple, Rani Rasmani, who intervened and ordained that no one dare harm the saint.
Indeed, most people at Dakshineswar did not see Sri Ramakrishna as an enlightened soul right away. Rather, they saw that their means of livelihood would be lost, in case they angered the powerful queen. Thus, they indulged him and let him be. Of course, Sri Ramakrishna was a highly evolved soul. It is said that the divine mother presented herself in her glorious form in front of him. As time went by, people realised that his spontaneous worship was done out of intense bhava, or adoration.
However, ritualistic practices are important too. They pull the mind away from worldly activities. But it is very important that one learns to drop the practice once the aim has been achieved. You don’t continue carrying on your head the ladder you used to climb up, once you have reached the roof. That would be utterly foolish.
A silent mind is totally open to all possibilities. True prayer starts when the mind has reached silence. There need not be any words or practices in the silent mind’s prayer.
We must make something sacred in our lives. Sacredness brings gentleness and softness to you. When a practice becomes sacred, it becomes very intimate. This intimate and sacred practice can become our pathway to divinity. That can become the source of our prayer.
When we pray, we must segregate ourselves from the rest. What is sacred, must be kept secret. In the olden days, Gurus gave mantras to their chosen and deserving disciples. The mantras were to be revealed to no one. They were to be guarded and kept a secret. There was a solemn promise and a sacred bond between the guru and the disciple that was beyond the material world. Even today, this holy tradition is deeply honoured.
The power of the Guru-disciple bond is immutable because the respect for tradition is considered the most sacred and holy. This sacredness brings about a spiritual practice so intimate that it gradually purifies the consciousness of the seeker. Holy tradition is important. That which is sacred creates purified practices that raise the consciousness.
Traditions are important, but should they become more important than one’s own joyous freedom to express oneself? One needs to remember that traditions should not become so rigid that they hurt or harm others. Everyone is faithful to some ideal. We cannot force another person to believe in our gods, become faithful to our faith, and assent to our way of looking at divinity.
Captain Deepam Chatterjee (Retd.) is the author of The Millennial Yogi, Penguin India.
He teaches Meditation, Mysticism, Mythology & can be reached on Instagram @deepam.chatterjee.
CAN WE BRING ABOUT A TOTAL REVOLUTION?
All outward forms of change brought about by wars, revolutions, reformations, laws, and ideologies have failed completely to change the basic nature of man and therefore of society.
We human beings are what we have been for millions of years—colossally greedy, envious, aggressive, jealous, anxious and despairing, with occasional flashes of joy and affection. We are a strange mixture of hate, fear, and gentle-ness; we are both violence and peace. There has been outward progress from the bullock cart to the jet plane, but psychologically, the individual has not changed at all, and the structure of society throughout the world has been created by individuals. The outward social structure is the result of the inward psychological structure of our human relationships, for the individual is the result of the total experience, knowledge, and conduct of man. Each one of us is the storehouse of all the past. The individual is the human who is all mankind. The whole history of man is written in ourselves.
Do observe what is actually taking place within yourself and outside yourself in the competitive culture in which you live with its desire for power, position, prestige, name, success, and all the rest of it—observe the achievements of which you are so proud, this whole field you call living in which there is conflict in every form of relationship, breeding hatred, antagonism, brutality, and endless wars. This field, this life, is all we know, and being unable to understand the enormous battle of existence, we are naturally afraid of it and find escape from it in all sorts of subtle ways. And we are also frightened of the unknown—frightened of death, frightened of what lies beyond tomorrow. So we are afraid of the known and afraid of the unknown. That is our daily life, and in that there is no hope, so every form of philosophy, every form of theological concept, is merely an escape from the actual reality of what is.
All outward forms of change brought about by wars, revolutions, reformations, laws, and ideologies have failed completely to change the basic nature of man and therefore of society. As human beings living in this monstrously ugly world, let us ask ourselves: can this society, based on competition, brutality, and fear, come to an end? Not as an intellectual conception, not as a hope, but as an actual fact, so that the mind is made fresh, new and innocent and can bring about a different world altogether? It can only happen, I think, if each one of us recognises the central fact that we, as individuals, as human beings, in whatever part of the world we happen to live in or whatever culture we happen to belong to, are totally responsible for the whole state of the world.
We are each one of us responsible for every war because of the aggressiveness of our own lives, because of our nationalism, our selfishness, our gods, our prejudices, our ideals, all of which divide us. And only when we realize, not intellectually but actually, as if we were hungry or in pain, that you and I are responsible for all the existing chaos, for all the misery throughout the entire world because we have contributed to it in our daily lives and are part of this monstrous society with its wars, divisions, ugliness, brutality, and greed, will we act.
But what can a human being do—what can you and I do—to create a completely different society? We are asking ourselves a very serious question. Is there anything to be done at all? What can we do? Will somebody tell us? People have told us. The so-called spiritual leaders, who are supposed to understand these things better than we do, have told us by trying to twist and mould us into a new pattern, and that hasn’t led us very far; sophisticated and learned men have told us, and that has led us no further.
We have been told that all paths lead to truth—you have your path as a Hindu, and someone else has his path as a Christian, and another as a Muslim, and they all meet at the same door—which is, when you look at it, so obviously absurd. Truth has no path, and that is the beauty of truth; it is living. A dead thing has a path to it because it is static, but when you see that truth is something living, moving, which has no resting place, which is in no temple, mosque, or church, which no religion, no teacher, no philosopher, nobody can lead you to—then you will also see that this living thing is what you actually are—your anger, your brutality, your violence, your despair, the agony and sorrow you live in. In the understanding of all this is the truth, and you can understand it only if you know how to look at those things in your life. And you cannot look through an ideology, through a screen of words, through hopes and fears.
Can you and I, then, bring about in ourselves, without any outside influence, without any persuasion, without any fear of punishment—can we bring about in the very essence of our being a total revolution, a psychological mutation, so that we are no longer brutal, violent, competitive, anxious, fearful, greedy, envious, and all the rest of the manifestations of our nature which have built up the rotten society in which we live our daily lives?
Kashmiri ASHA worker serves as inspiration by donating blood 28 times
A 32-year-old woman named Bilqees Ara, an ASHA worker, has donated blood 28 times since 2012. She has served as an inspiration to others across the nation.
Bilqees, who is from the Handwara Tehsil in the Kupwara area of North Kashmir, stated that she understands the “importance of blood”.
She said that by donating a pint of blood, she not only saves a precious life but an entire family.
She began donating blood in 2012 and has since given 28 pints.
She expressed her gratitude and pride at being the saviour of so many patients in the Kashmir valley.
I’ve seen people cry helplessly as they try to get blood to save their loved ones, but I’m proud of myself because I’ve arranged blood for them as well. “I felt an inner joy after that,” she said.
In Kashmir, she is known as the “Blood Woman of Kashmir”.
She is a registered blood donor. Whenever a need arises, the officials at the Blood Bank at Handwara hospital call her and, within the shortest span of time, she makes herself available to donate blood.
Women should come forward and do this as there is nothing to be afraid of. This is to be done for society, she said. She also said that she wondered who else would do it if she refused.
If a person has blood and courage, why can’t he give it to someone else in a time of need? She asked.
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