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The water of life

Water is an inseparable part of our lives. In fact, we are a body of water. Recognising it spiritually makes us aware of the significance and magical effects it can have on us.

Prashant Solomon

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We are inseparable from water. The first time we experience water is from within our mother’s womb when we are floating in the warm and dark amniotic fluid that gives us life and makes us grow into newborn human beings.

Every creation story of all major religions and myths begin with a water story. Life both in our individualistic way and life on the planet itself begins inside water.

We are 77% water at birth with our skin delineating the boundaries of our internal waters. This is a fact of our existence: We are a body of water.

The water that flows through our physical being is deeply connected to the rivers, lakes, streams, waterfalls, seas and oceans of our planet. We are all one in that sense. Their fate reflects upon us. When we pollute them through our careless acts, we are polluting and damaging ourselves. When we strive to clean and protect them, we are healing ourselves.

Waterfalls, rivers, lakes, streams and oceans have always had a deep impact on the human psyche. The sound of waves and waterfalls and even the falling rain provides an instant calming and relaxing effect. The touch and sound of water instantly communicates with the waters within us and reminds of us of our connection. We feel a sense of calmness and peace that transcends all of our distracting and anxious thoughts. It puts us into a meditative state of mind. It reminds us of our own spiritual self and its characteristic of being a wanderer.

The Biblical verse about the Spirit of God moving over the face of the waters is soothing as it gives an idea of the Creator’s closeness to this aspect of creation.

Water is able to purify and renew. The body needs at least eight glasses of water a day in order to keep our inwards ocean satisfied. 

Two exercises for healing and restorative aspects of even thinking about water are mentioned in Water, Wind, Earth and Fire: The Christian Practice of Praying with the Elements by Christine Valetrs Paintner.

• “Begin your time of prayer by finding your pulse and reflecting on the life-giving blood and water being pumped through your system.” 

• “Spend some time by a fountain, listening to the flow of the water and contemplating its invitation for your own life. Pay attention to those places where water wants to surge up and offer its refreshment. Make note of the streams, rivers, and other water sources near you as places for prayer.”

Watching the vast, mighty yet tranquil ocean with seemingly endless boundaries is one of the best therapies. The serenity it brings to the mind, body and soul is not less than the power of meditation. The rhythmic waves dancing on the shore, the radiant blue-green hue, the squealing birds, the solitude of the beach, everything is perfect to connect to nature which in turn makes one connect within.

Standing near a powerful waterfall and watching the myriads of water drops flowing over the rocky edge in a cascading volume is one of nature’s most wonderful gifts. The mighty roaring sound of the water crashing and the sight of the mist rising up is something that can be done for hours and hours. Just sitting near a waterfall and closing your eyes and hearing that sound is a form of meditation that brings bliss, joy, comfort, serenity and at the same time impresses upon the mind and soul of the power of nature.

So what is so mystical about water? The fact that it is life sustaining says much more than what we take for granted. 

Water is one of the five elements of life. It is a cleanser and healer. Water is the opposite element of fire and hence both of them balance each other. Metaphysically, water holds vibrations perfectly and for sustained periods of time. The element of water symbolises the ebb and flow of our complex emotions. Too much of this element in our life can ‘flood’ us; too little can ‘dry’ us up. Maintaining a sense of equilibrium is hence crucial.

We have used water for healing since ancient times. Every culture has the practice of purification through water. For example, baptism in Christianity and bathing in the Ganga river in Hinduism. Most ancient cultures uphold spiritual creation stories accepting water as the origin of life. 

Dr Masaru Emoto, the Japanese scientist who revolutionised the idea that our thoughts and intentions impact the physical realm, is one of the most important water researchers the world has known. For over 20 years until he passed away in 2014, he studied the scientific evidence of how the molecular structure in water transforms when it is exposed to human words, thoughts, sounds and intentions.

The extraordinary life work of Dr Emoto is documented in the New York Times Bestseller, The Hidden Messages in Water. In his book, Dr Emoto demonstrates how water exposed to loving, benevolent, and compassionate human intention results in aesthetically pleasing physical molecular formations in the water while water exposed to fearful and discordant human intentions results in disconnected, disfigured, and “unpleasant” physical molecular formations. He did this through Magnetic Resonance Analysis technology and high speed photographs.

Likewise positive words and energy can have an impact on the water that is within us. That water energised with positive vibrations can heal us from and prevent us from getting negative vibrations which in turn cause diseases of the mind and body. 

Other practises involving water that can be used include salt water cleansing to cleanse off negativities from you and your house. Words yelled in anger, hatred, fights and negative emotions from people in our house can lower our energy. Spray the water mixed with lime and salt on your walls and windows. Wipe it off clean.

Take rock salt and mix it with warm water in a bucket. Put your legs in the bucket. Sit with focus on good intentions. You will feel lighter and relaxed after this therapy. Please throw the water in the sink as it contains the residue of your negativity.

You can also soak in a bathtub filled with lukewarm water mixed with Epsom salt and essential oils. Use candles instead of artificial light. The calm effect it will have on your body and mind is incredible.

By warming water, we are essentially inducing fire elements in water and hence using both to our use. Cold water can also be used if we want regenerative vibrations and cool off from tension.

Water is an inseparable part of our lives. Recognising it spiritually makes us aware of the significance and magical effects it can have on us. May we get cleansed and nourished by the magic of divine water, eternally!

Prashant Solomon is a Delhi-based author and businessman.

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Spiritually Speaking

A CREATIVE TWIST TO THE CHATTER ABOUT CHAAT

Manish Mehrotra, India’s most talented chef, has lifted the everyday chaat to the realms of fine dining in a celebration of the gentrification of street food.

Sourish Bhattacharyya

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A CREATIVE TWIST TO THE CHATTER ABOUT CHAAT

Inventive chefs are seeing in the slowdown caused by the resurgence of the Covid-19 pandemic a huge opportunity for creative explorations. With international travel ruled out and marriages becoming less celebratory because of social distancing norms, and footfalls to restaurants still not picking up because of anxieties, chefs now have plenty of time, provided they choose to cash in on it, for thinking out of the box. Indian Accent’s Manish Mehrotra, who’s not the one to rest on past laurels, is one such chef who’s distilling the experience he has gained from his extensive travels into two delicious projects.

At Indian Accent, Mehrotra is celebrating the Chaats of India by elevating them to the fine-dining experience with a 10-course menu priced, by his restaurant’s high standards, at the throwaway rate of Rs 1,950 plus GST and Service Charge. At his other culinary theatre, the hugely successful Comorin, which is at Two Horizon Centre, Golf Course Road, Gurgaon, he’s cobbling together an ambitious menu featuring 101 Sandwiches from across India. Little do we realise that ours has been a nation of consummate sandwich eaters ever since the Portuguese introduced us to the joys of the pao (or the double roti, as we started calling it). From the vada pao to the bread pakoda, to Delhi’s bun samosa, Indore’s Johny Hot Dogs and Mumbai’s Jain Sandwich, for a chef as creative as Mehrotra, there’s a world out there to tickle his grey cells.

How does one elevate the humble chaat to the realm of fine dining? The tamatar chaat of Benaras, for instance, is uplifted by the accompaniment of parmesan foam. Similarly, the bhel gets reinvented by combining Himalayan red rice, Mizoram black rice and quinoa puffs using avocado paste, nuts, chutneys and spices, and adding a slice of the sweet, sour and seasonal kamrakh (starfruit) as garnish. Even the humble white pea (matra) tikki looks as if it is straight out a piece of art because of the way it is juxtaposed with sashimi-like slivers of pickled kachalu (tapioca). Maradona had immortalised the ‘Hand of God’; Mehrotra lets his ‘Hand of Genius’ express itself in myriad ways.

The creative bursts just don’t stop. The dahi vada comes with ber, redcurrants and water chestnut (singhara) to give it an additional layer of texture. Delhi’s famous moonglet (an ‘omelette’ made with moong dal batter) is garnished with smoked paneer and gari, the sweetish Japanese pickled ginger. The gol gappas come with four different sweet-and-spicy liquid accompaniments. The aloo aur methi ki launji (sautéed potatoes layered with methi ki launji – dried fenugreek chutney) is as much a textbook case of perfect plating as the matra tikki. And the finale has to be Dal Moradabadi.

Mehrotra can rightfully claim to have put Dal Moradabadi on the culinary map of the country. He says he was inspired by the dal he used to have at his maternal grandmother’s home in Moradabad. It consisted of boiled moong dal flavoured with smoked cloves (laung), with an assortment of chutneys added to it, spiked with the local duknu masala, and served with ajwain (carom seed)-sprinkled puff pastry. It’s like one umami smart bomb—a seamless interplay of flavours and textures!

As the sign-off offering, Mehrotra has Purani Dilli’s famous desi ghee-laden Nagori halwa (the name suggests it originated in the historic Rajasthani town of Nagaur located between Jodhpur and Bikaner). The halwa is usually served with a tangy aloo sabzi and crispy pooris. To add a dollop of drama, Mehrotra garnishes the halwa with a Monaco biscuit crumble. So, the next time you get chatty about chaat, you must not forget that it has just been elevated to fine-dining heaven.

The Chaat Tasting Menu is served during lunch at Indian Accent, The Lodhi. For reservations, call +91 9871117968 or 011-66175151, or email reservations.del@indianaccent.com.

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Spiritually Speaking

WHY ONE MUST KEEP THE MIND CALM

Dadi Janki

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WHY ONE MUST KEEP THE MIND CALM

Do not give your mind permission to get disturbed. A disturbed mind is easily influenced. This will cost you your peace. Learn to maintain your peace by freeing yourself from attachments. Competing or comparing yourself with others will not allow you to focus inwards. An inner focus allows you to keep your eye on your higher self and remember your original nature. It allows you to forge a link with the Divine. Then it becomes easy to recognise useless thoughts and replace them with a spiritual perspective. Introversion replaces inner sorrow with praise for God. You feel delight. You feel renewed. God is teaching us how to turn within, so listen very carefully. Keep a check on yourself and change. Do not wait for others to say something. A calm mind is not just peaceful, it is focused, self-directing and divine.

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Spiritually Speaking

CREATING PEACE IN OURSELVES AND THE WORLD

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CREATING PEACE IN OURSELVES AND THE WORLD

As the representative of the Brahma Kumaris at the UN in New York, I often get asked two salient questions: ‘What can I do?’ and ‘What difference can I make?’.

In answer to them, and with the desire to use the spiritual principle of simplicity, I reply with the question that the Secretary General asked when reaching out to the world in this year 2020, the 75th anniversary of the United Nations: “What kind of future do you want?”

The answer to what we can do and what difference we can make lies in the vision we have of our future.

There is a line in the UNESCO Constitution which says: “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.”

The UN is working hard for peace. Its Sustainable Development Agenda has been designed to this end, and the aim is for it to be reached by 2030 — that leaves just 10 more years.

The agenda is complex. I try to simplify this by encapsulating the process in five ‘Ps’ and three interconnecting landscapes.

The five ‘Ps’ are: Peace, Partnership, People, Planet and Prosperity.

The three landscapes are: Economic, Social and Environmental — but I add a fourth; Spiritual.

The ‘P’ of Prosperity fits with the Economic landscape.

The ‘P’ of People fits with the Social landscape.

The ‘P’ of Planet fits with the environmental landscape.

But then the remaining ‘Ps’, Peace and Partnership — fit with the Spiritual landscape.

So, looking through the lens of the spiritual principle of simplicity, in peace and with cooperation, we can see how to envision the future we would want, by considering what we can do, and how we can make a difference with these goals in mind.

If we look at the Economic landscape and Prosperity, we can see much anxiety in the world at the economic level, but if we look from the spiritual perspective, we would see abundance rather than scarcity.

As Mahatma Gandhi said: “There is enough on earth for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed”. Wealth is money, and money is sacred. Can I use money in a way that is life-generating, that brings dignity and worth to people’s life?

Can I use my assets of physical health, invest in my emotional health and in self-care and self-compassion? Can I use the currency of thoughts to help build resilience? Spiritual wealth is vital to the pursuit of happiness. I must first invest in my spiritual well-being, from which all else flows.

If we look at the Social landscape and People, through the spiritual lens, then how do I see the tapestry of my community? For the world to be as I want it to be, I would need to invest in inclusive communities, especially at a time of social distancing and lockdowns, when communities are essential. I would like to see an awareness of safety, respect, freedom to be oneself, acceptance. Communities that build high levels of trust and where differences are used to enrich the lives of everyone.

When we turn our attention to the environmental landscape and the Planet, what do I notice that Mother Earth is showing us? She is surely calling us to have a different relationship with her.

So, with the spiritual lens, I would look at the deeper meaning of ‘eco-friendly’. I would recognise the fragility of our whole planet and the need for a change in lifestyle, in order to live in harmony with Mother Nature.

I would choose a plant-based diet and products that conserve the environment. I would also develop an attitude of gratitude, take time to smell the roses and rekindle my awareness, that the oxygen I breathe comes from the trees, an offering of nature. I would make sure that with the same gratitude that I breathe in, I breathe out peace in return.

So, let me start constructing the inner landscape of peace in the soul. Then, with the wisdom and strength that accumulate through that, I can cooperate for a common cause; to conserve together that which will be beneficial to all. Spiritually speaking, at the core of cooperation is love. That spiritual love attracts, and cooperation becomes natural.

We begin to see the whole entity, the whole system, and offer our strengths, skills, talents, expertise, and, of course, our resources. This is coming together for the greater good. This is love.

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

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Honesty is the main aspect of purity

B.K. Mruthyunjaya

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Honesty is the main aspect of purity

Honesty is a universally appreciated virtue, and, along with purity, is a measure of the quality of a soul. One who seeks to become a better person — someone who is valued and respected — aims to be honest and trustworthy in their relationships. However, the degree of honesty varies among people.

We are pure to the extent that we are honest. Honesty is the main aspect of purity. Simply being celibate is not the highest stage of purity. To be pure means to be noble, authentic, or honest. Those with an honest heart win the hearts of others, including God, who is known as the comforter of hearts, and in return are blessed with contentment.

Honest and trustworthy souls are virtuous in their thoughts, words and deeds. If we act wilfully, according to our whims or under the influence of bad company, and waste our time or energy, we cannot claim to be honest or trustworthy.

If we keep thinking of others — dwelling on their faults or being attracted by someone – instead of being introspective, or take our arrogance to be our self-respect, we are far from being honest or trustworthy.

Our talents, virtues and other resources are meant for serving the world, and when we use them otherwise, it is as though we are misappropriating something entrusted to us. Being honest is the pinnacle of purity. Each of us can check to what extent we are honest.

Another quality of an honest soul is that they have good wishes and elevated feelings for everyone. They live to serve, and are humble.

Because of their virtues, honest souls are strong within and constantly progress in life. Such a person is free of pretence, because of which they remain free of many kinds of mental burdens. Sincerity facilitates self-improvement, but sometimes we hide our weaknesses and true intentions from others. Driven by a selfish motive, we present our case before them with clever embellishments.

We think we are being smart, but this is naivety. Why? Because such dishonesty may bring some temporary gain, but it scars the soul for all time by corroding our character. As a result, we will never be able to attain complete peace of mind.

Being honest also means that our state of mind, our idea of our self, our attitudes and beliefs, are based on lived truth, which is the experience acquired by practising spiritual principles in one’s life.

If that is not the case, we will fluctuate with changing situations, racked by doubt and troubled by trivial matters. This will not allow us to become stable.

B.K. Mruthyunjaya is Executive Secretary of the Brahma Kumaris.

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How to handle kids in pandemic times

Rwituja Gomes Mookherjee

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Children enjoy school, especially in their early years. Their lives revolve around the travel, friendships, eating together, sharing stories, creating things, playing, interacting with teachers, class participation, etc. There’s a lot more that children do in school other than learning.

The pandemic changed everything. Parents realised that with no clear end date in sight, children needed to quickly adapt to online schooling. But children’s initial excitement soon turned to boredom. What felt like a relief for most parents that their children could continue schooling within the safety of the home, gradually became a struggle.

Schooling from ‘home’

Unlike parents, with earlier experiences of working from home, most children had nothing to build on this novel experience. Besides, from their perspective, home and school are completely different physical structures, location and spaces. They represent different things and expectations from them are also distinct. This posed a hindrance to juxtapose life in school with schooling from home.

Earlier children had limited access to their parents’ devices. They used them judiciously for entertainment. With online classes, most children were given personal devices with the intent that they’re used exclusively for learning purposes. This shift from entertainment devices to learning devices was conflicting. Thus, parents occasionally found their children watching videos or playing games during online sessions.

Structure and discipline

Children need discipline and structure in their lives. Structure helps them understand what is expected of them, predict how adults will react to them and in turn how they should behave. Clear and consistent structure creates helpful boundaries.

Both the school and home provide these but differently. There’s flexibility at home and discipline changes form depending on each family member. At school, structures are rigorous, and they’re treated similarly based on established protocol.

Roles and responsibilities

Parents and teachers play different roles in children’s lives. Teachers prepare them to learn academic skills by creating lesson plans and assignments. Parents ensure children complete them timely and sometimes enrich their experience with tutoring and learning games. Schools were more responsible for the child’s education with parental support. Post pandemic, parental roles have increased significantly due to paucity of class timings and the need to safeguard them from excessive exposure to devices.

Anxiety

Children emotionally express themselves before developing the language to articulate their feelings. They quickly learn to manipulate emotions to strategically cope and manage their parents and environment. E.g., crying might work with one parent while whining works with another.

Teachers have a uniformed teaching style. Parents’ are emotionally lenient, and their personal styles are reflected when teaching. This difference confuses children so they inherently pick-up cues from teachers as they spend a significant amount of time at school. With online classes, parents have had to take the lead, while balancing work from home. This anxiety-provoking environment leads to conflict. Parenting role emphasises on being right and disagreements discourage them from giving in. This makes children feel compelled with no right to exercise their choice.

Parents equate this pandemic year as losing a year of schooling. They’re unable to demarcate between its short-term and long-term impact. Worries about the future overwhelm them and they resist sharing their fears and anxieties.

Social Skills

School participation and social gatherings build camaraderie and essential life skills. Children feel upset, lonely when isolated from their peers. During online sessions, their need to be heard aren’t satisfactorily met. Some push ahead while self-doubt of being judged make others apprehensive of class participation. Curiosity and experimentation help develop a thinking mindset. Also, building on each other’s competencies encourages teamwork. With restricted access to peers, children feel insecure and struggle under stress.

How can parents help? 1. Routine gives children direction and encourages independent behaviour. Parents should redefine schedules and routine. Children shouldn’t be allowed to wake up or go to bed late because they’re attending online classes. 2. Involve kids to create a comfortable and personalised desk space for school. With siblings and parents vying for room and space, children struggle to create boundary and ownership. 3. Set timings for gaming and TV. Restrictions and inability to participate in outdoor activities have forced kids to withdraw and create outlets online. 4. Children don’t think like adults. For them, gratification is mostly instantaneous. The language and tone used are important. What is said and what children hear can be very different. “Finish work now and play later,” may sound like their playtime is being restricted making the time to finish work seem longer. Be flexible and encourage children to define their future rewards. 5. When angry, parents exhibit certain patterns of behaviour or tend to repeat arguments. It’s important to choose one’s battles to retain the potency of an argument. 6. Conversations about behaviour change should happen when children are satiated, rested and attentive. It’s imperative to focus on the problem rather than being right. Too often parents believe that when children misbehave, it reflects their failure as “good” parents.

The writer is a mental health counsellor and blogger.

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Spiritually Speaking

Parroting won’t help, incarnate your own scripture

Arun Malhotra

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We think we live; in fact, in thoughts we live. Thinker thinks that he lives and thought thinks that it is the thought that lives the thinker. Because thinker is the thought. Thinker is lost in the thought. It is impossible to bring both of them on table to observe. You may find when thinker is, thought is not, when thought is, thinker is not. Only thinking goes on. This is how we think we live our life in thinking.

In thinking we live. But life is far different than thinking. Thinking is old and not new. Thinking is extension of the past memory. If we wish to live, we have to die first. To die to whatever we know. To be free from the past memory. To die means that this thought that we are living has to die first. The moment this thought disappears from you. When you die now you are born to the new. It means all your past dies; you become a person who can live in the beauty of life. Death may become a moment of life. When you think that you are living so your ego thinks that it is living but it is continuation of memory. To live you have to die to everything within you.

When you die to the known, you become new. Everything becomes new to you. If you look at the moon. You look at the moon into the absolute moon-ness of being from your absolute-ness of being. When you look at a flower you look into the absolute flower-ness of being from your absolute-ness of being. That moment is the beauty of life; that is the beauty of being. Because you become one with the flower and your energy that is looking at the flower returns to you and that is the moment when it is said that observer is the observed. When you look at the clear sky it enters you and you enter in it. When you look at the vast presence into the sky-ness you find yourself one with it. In that togetherness you know that you are part of that-which-is.

When you begin to evolve the understanding in you that you are living and the body shall wither away, that is the moment when meditation begins dawning on you automatically.

When we think that we live, in that thinking we live in forgetfulness. We forget who we are and what we ought to be. We forget the code that is imprinted on our seed which has to flower into the tree of intelligence to flower into the awakening that blooms into a thousand petalled lotus of consciousness. That is the possibility that we have but we are instead living in state of deep slumber. In thinking thoughts go all around you and as thinker it is difficult for you to understand who you are because every thought takes you miles away from you-from the state of consciousness, from the state of who you are. From absolute stillness of your being, thought creates ripples in your mind and those ripples resonate creating a whirlwind sea of thoughts. Thought means your mind has taken control of your being.

When you become unhappy, miserable. In fact, you don’t get unhappy. It is the thought of unhappiness that traumatizes you. It is the dream of being unhappy in the hope of happiness makes you unhappy.

You can learn a few words by gaining the knowledge but knowing the knowledge by your being is different than learning. In fact, to know something by your being is to unlearn your knowledge because that knowledge becomes hindrance in knowing the truth. Your knowledge is your thoughts. Then you gain religious knowledge and hordes of religious thoughts. You memorise religious scriptures and may recite them with clarity and you begin thinking that you are religious and thoughts of enlightenment are bred in your mind.

You have to start unlearning and you have to die to your knowledge. In that unlearning you will tend to learn who you are and you could realise self-actualisation. When truth is bound in words, words do not convey the truth. The words are limited. Vocabulary is limited. Truth is vast. When you look at the morning sun coming out from the horizon you get mesmerised in experiencing the experience. But when you turn to write the experience, it already turns into memory. Or when you take a picture of the moment, you get a shadow of limitless enormity which remains always short of experience.

When you give meanings to your words. Everyone attaches one’s own meaning and as many meanings get created as many readers. This is what has become of our religious scripture.

The seers who saw that-which-is who saw the truth naked they spoke the truth, howsoever difficult it was to speak, which is captured in words so that these words could become guiding maps for you to reach the truth that-which-is. But seers have not created those maps for you to memorise them and repeat them daily in pursuit of some sort of ritualistic theism. These words are the milestones in your journey to reassure you that you are on the right path to know the truth. But if you cling to the milestones recite odes to milestones you tend to create knowledge that brings you back into the world of thoughts.

Life is a prayer. Life is a blessing. Life is a flow. Life is not a flight of the ego to make you addicted to the ego. You better get de-addicted from ego. The moment you leave yourself aside, God will enter right there in you. Let the flow of river take you wherever it takes you. Let you be flown into those gushes that life brings to you—that’s benediction. Don’t fall into the trap of ego that you have to win. But become the one who is not ready to win so that there is no cause left for others to make you lose.

Life is a journey to go find the maps and explore the treasure that is hidden within you. All these Vedas, Dhammapadas are expressions of experience of the self-remembering and self-actualisation. They are there to help you stimulate to take up that journey. But don’t cling to the words. Cling to the goal of self-actualisation.

One has to create one’s own Dhammapada, the Gita, the Vedas; nothing short of that will work for you. There is no shortcut to truth. There is no shortcut that you can memorise words of Buddha or Mahavira and think about enlightenment. You have to create your own scripture. Your scripture would get incarnated into your being and manifest to the world as love and compassion. When the one that-which-is is the one who is already you, the flower of self-actualisation will blossom. And you will say “Ahm-Brahsmi” (I am Brahma) or “Ana-al-Haqq” (I am the Truth I am the God).

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

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