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Spiritually Speaking

Watch the film of life screened on you

Krishna says that you are not the doer. You are doing the same with your life. You are not the doer in this life. You are the watcher. Watch it by being it.

Arun Malhotra

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We are endowed with life. Life lends us a lifetime. A lifetime of walk. Distance between our embodiment and disembodiment is life. That distance we have to walk. That is the normal understanding that we all have. So life is the path. The path on which we are walking. We are walking on the path of life. Life is the only path. In fact, to say that path is not the goal is true because walking is the goal of life.

Lao Tzu says a thousand miles journey begins with one step. If life is the path, the step is most important because in that step you step. Step to step you complete the journey. Then the step is the goal. Stepping on the path of life is in fact reaching the goal of life.

Man always thinks in terms of reaching somewhere. He wants to follow a goal. People are engaged in all kinds of activities to reach somewhere. But the goal of life is in the step of life. In fact, life is the goal of life. Step is the heart of life, the path of life. We are on the path. Life is flowing. Flowing is the path of life and we flow with the flow of life that is the goal of life. Man is fragmented. He wants to go in all directions. All directions will take you to one path. That one path is life which is the goal of life.

Life gives you all types of experiences. It gives you fear it gives you joy. It gives you love it gives you ego. It gives you happiness. It gives you unhappiness. It gives you bliss. If there is unhappiness life will bring happiness next. Experiences shape you to be ripe in life. Life makes you ripe. That ripe so you understand your path. You need a path till you are not ripe. When ripe you don’t need a path. You are the path. Your life is the path. The path is not outside of you.

But we are conditioned to think that we have to pass this life. When a person dies it is said someone passed away. So whether the person has passed away or the life has passed away from that person. It is said that man has to pass a long life. Therefore, something needs to be done for passing this life. Because you don’t know. So you have to engage yourself in activity. Activity is very important. But all activities can happen on the canvas of inactivity. Inactivity is the mother of activity.

Lao Tzu is right that life is not a journey that you yourself walk up to death. That you have to carry your own cross to be crucified. Jesus did it. But Jesus carried the cross blissfully and when crucified Jesus said, ‘O Lord forgive them because they don’t know what they are doing’. This means that Jesus prayed to forgive them because they were ignorant ones who thought that one could be killed by crucifying and therefore, Jesus did resurrect on the third day. This tells us that the basic thing is not this life but the one who watches life embody and disembody. The one who is beyond embodiment and disembodiment both resurrects.

We keep searching and priests ask us to follow the path set out by organised religions. Rituals, dogmatic principles, morality becomes the path of life. In fact, society wants its subjects to be moral, and disciplined. Rituals make you disciplined so you don’t raise doubts or questions on the faith you are asked to follow. Because you are conditioned not to be blasphemous. Society has invented morality as a parameter of religiosity. Being moral is a flowering of the one who has given up the outer shell. Morality is a flowering of the inner being. But you are conditioned to practise morality and, therefore, morality does not flower in you as grace. Deep down you will not be moral by practising morality and religiosity.

Morality is the opposite of immorality. Morality is defined by immorality. The one who understands the path of life goes beyond morality and immorality. One becomes amoral—a state out of morality and immorality which have a society in them. Therefore you cannot define Krishna or Jesus in the parlance of morality. They are beyond morality and immorality and that state of flowering of morality will never happen by practice.

Life is not a journey and life is not a path. If the path was there one would have walked past it. Buddha realised that the path that he walked on was not the path. Six years of sitting under the tree revealed to him that meditation is not the goal. The moment he gave up the last desire meditation by which he wanted to be enlightened, Gautam became the Buddha. Buddha means the awakened one.

You have to begin living your life. Live in all its colours. Jump in all rainwaters of life. Travel in all boats of life. Live in the life. Be in the life. Be the exuberance of life. Drink all the wines of life. Smell all the fragrances of life. Rejoice in all songs of life. Dance all rhythms of life. Life is in the eyes of the beholder. Life is in the heart of the one who is throbbing. Let your heart say that what it wants to say. Let it be what it wants to be.

Let you be what you are ought to be. You are ought to be what you are to be. If you wish to be someone else. You wish to do something else. You wish to practise some path. Obsession of the path will make you miss life. If you are not being what you are to be then life becomes anxiety and pain.

In fact, you are not living life. Life is living you. You are that canvas on which the film of life is being screened. The film of life is screened before you. It is going on every moment. Moment to moment see the film of life screened. Happiness comes, be happy. Unhappiness comes, be unhappy. But don’t become one with that what is being screened. If you want to emote, then emote. But see yourself emote. If you become the film ego becomes the film. And you become ego. Because ego cannot be by itself. You are needed to be ego.

The film of life screened becomes you. In fact film of life screened on your canvas is passing you by. It begins when you see it as a small child, it goes on. You find the child that you were born as become youth and humble middle-aged to the oldie. In fact, film of life screens on your canvas. Your canvas is the screen. You are never child or youth or old. You are that which you are the same as you once were there as you are.

The film passes you by and you find stood there for years. This film is over in 80-90 years. Life is not the path to follow. Life is to watch a film of life. Enjoy it. Rejoice in it. Tap in it. Dance in every song of the film of life. Be the rhythm of life.

Krishna says that you are not the doer. You are doing the same with your life. You are not the doer in this life. You are the watcher. Watch it by being it. Life is the film that is being screened on your screen. You are the screen and not the film. If you thought you are the ego, you become the film actor. Understand you are neither the film actor nor the film you are the screen on which the film of life is being screened.

The author is a spiritual teacher and he can be contacted at arunavlokitta@gmail.com

Life is not the path to follow. Life is to watch a film of life. Enjoy it. Rejoice in it. Tap in it. Dance in every song of the film of life. Be the rhythm of life.

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Spiritually Speaking

What’s wrong with humanity?

Arun Malhotra

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Man has benevolently lent himself a tag of beautiful word ‘humanity’. But deep down man is a brutal animal who is insensitive, brutish, and ruthless. Man is worse than wild beast. But he considers himself much higher in evolution than animals. Even to equate men with animals will be a cruelty to animals. Animals are innocent and godly. Man is cunning, clever and deceptive. Animals don’t make wars and exterminate their own species. Man has created nuclear bombs to wipe out humanity and the living from the earth. Why man is so restless, agonised, fearful and insecure. Animals don’t make laws to prevent themselves from killing their own species as only a few carnivores kill for eating that too after weeks of fasting. Animals breed as per natural order. Man thinks of sexuality all the time twenty-four hours year-round. In reality, man is suffering from, neurosis, pain, anxieties, agony, anger, violence, conflicts and fears. It seems something is wrong with humanity.

Animal has fear anger and aggression. Man has fear anger and aggression too. Animals when confronted or attacked by others will be aggressive or fearful. Man is aggressive and fearful simply by running through stored memories without having confronted real aggression.

Mind is bred to be secure and protected. Human mind has been burdened to collect all kinds of securities but in the end, there will be insecurities. Therefore, when the mind confronts fear, anxiety, greed, or violence, it registers it forever in the memory. The memory trap will always make him fearful without the threat being there.

That is when the man has started to suffer. Man is frightened by the insecurities that are making him insecure. Insecurities that have not even been bred might hurt him in future because humanity is frightened of humanity. Animals have vulnerabilities and they accept them and go beyond them. Man doesn’t. Some 10000 years ago man was fearful of the wild beast. Scientists say that fight or flight mode was born then. Either he fought or ran away. Back then 99% was wildlife and man was less than 1% in the population. Today man along the animal man eats is 99% and wildlife is reduced to 1%. But man is frightened even more. Today man’s mind is searching to get over his artificial insecurities which are psychological sufferings. He lives in cities, away from wildlife but is frightened like never before.

Man has been living against nature. Man is living against his biological nature. Man’s society has bred a state of being which does not allow him to live naturally. Humanity has bred a complex society that has built complex habitats that do not let him live naturally on the earth. Animals live naturally. Therefore they are innocent, gullible, saintly and godly. Man is burdened by the conditioning that is destined to make him someone else than his natural being—not himself. Society has bred deep neurosis of comparisons that has bred a rat race and man is running for something that is not there.

Man did not want to be hurt or eaten by the wild beast. But today the wild beasts are not there but taken over by bosses, spouses, parents, teachers, and peers. Man has created an artificial perception of hurt which is not real. Adolf Hitler thought himself to be hurt and wrought havoc on humanity. Therefore, man wants to grab power so that others may not hurt him which means he can hurt others.

Psychological sufferings are caused by the conditioning that mind has begotten for thousands of years. Conditioning is when you have begotten a system of life to follow without learning from life. Mind has been conditioned by cultures, civilisations, religions, Gods, regions, nationalities, and ethnicities. Therefore, you feel hurt when someone speaks against your culture, religion, region, nationality or against your conditioned appearance that you have created by your thoughts. Conditioning becomes your appearance which is not the real appearance but it hurts psychologically.

You belong to a big reputed family of an ethnicity. You may believe in a God that is described in Hebrew, English, German, Sanskrit, Chinese or Japanese. You may have beliefs in a set of religions or a region or another set of religions or a region. You may come from a background and environment. Your mind considers yourself far more superior as it is conditioned by factors that form your appearance in your mind. When someone talks against your beliefs, you feel hurt. All such divisions have led humanity to wars. As you think that you are your conditioning. Not that you know that you are your conditioning. But you are an accumulation of your thoughts. Your thoughts drive out of your memories. Thoughts of what you think of yourself are the thoughts that are what you think you are. Thus you often do self-pity and feel victimised psychologically. You have built a centre with your thoughts that you have been assigned a name. You believe in that thought of belief. The thought of belief in your name is your ego and you have knit your world around it. The self-image that you have created is attacked and you are hurt. Sufferings are there as we have created a centre which is outside us and it is a borrowed centre. Like you are living on an artificially assigned image of yourself that world identifies you with. And when the image is not accepted by others it pains you psychologically.

Different cultures assign names of Gods to newborns to build their self-image and man is known by that image. Society lends him a character and he creates the self-image of that character the type of boundaries that he is distinctly higher than others and conducts himself within the boundaries of the character. Thus he suffers psychologically. Although everyone is unique and no two humans or animals are similar but conditioning is a kind of software that blinds him by blind practices that does not let man learn from his fears, agony, anger, and anxieties to be able to transcend them.

Society wants him to become someone higher. His family wants him to become someone higher and he invests a lifetime into it to become what he is not and suffers. Society is a kind of escape from yourself when you are not able to learn from your observations so society rules and perceptions take over you. As many divisions of region, religion, ethnicity, gods, and nationalities as many wars, conflicts and violence would wreak on earth as mind wants division. Man is bred by division as mind is searching for security and division is security.

Animals don’t register as hurt and why do men register as hurt. Buddha had said, ‘there are sufferings and there is a way to go out of it.’ One has to learn to observe fears, agonies, anxieties and conflicts to be out of them. Hurts get accumulated as we don’t learn from them but follow them blindfolded which makes us suffer a lifetime. Whenever you are stuck in memories or beliefs or images or society you will be suffering tremendously.

Don’t invest in your self-image. Your self-image is not you and is artificial. You may need a code to be identified in the society that is good enough. But begin to learn and don’t throw your fears into dark corners. Buddha says to use your awareness like a guard to learn from every abnormality that enters you and that is the way to be out of that. That is the way not to be hurt.

The author is a spiritual teacher. He can be reached at arunavlokitta@gmail.com

Don’t invest in your self-image. Your self-image is not you and is artificial. You may need a code to be identified in the society that is good enough. But begin to learn and don’t throw your fears into dark corners. Buddha says to use your awareness like a guard to learn from every abnormality that enters you and that is the way to be out of that. That is the way not to be hurt.

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Spiritually Speaking

The anger and gentleness of Lord Narasimha

The form of Shri Narasimha shows us that even though the form of God may not always meet our expectations (even the gods and angels were bewildered at the sight of Narasimha) still He can come in any form He wishes, whether He conforms to our personal notions of God or not.

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There are many incarnations of God, what makes the Narasimha avatar so special? And why do the followers of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada always sing two songs about Narasimha after every aarti in every one of their temples all over the world?

Well, perhaps the most important reason is that the founder and spiritual master of the worldwide Hare Krishna movement asked them to, and in one sense, that is reason enough. As disciples, they did not get to choose which items of sadhana-bhakti were meant to be performed; rather they were given selected songs and rituals as part of the spiritual master’s instructions.

Very early on, he told them that these two songs are for the protection of the guru and for the protection of the guru’s mission, the movement he started to spread bhakti around the world. And ever since then, his followers sing those songs and worship Narasimha.

The form of Narasimha—the ‘man-lion’ or ‘one with the form of both man and lion’—came once only, and that for a very short time compared to other avatars. Narasimha outwitted Hiranyakashipu, who thought that he had been blessed to never die in each one of a series of eventualities. Thus His appearance shows us that the soul can never outwit God—even when that soul has been blessed to become the most powerful. Power has a distant origin in God Himself, and because God is completely free to do anything He likes, He can also strip a soul of all power too.

The form of Shri Narasimha shows us that even though the form of God may not always meet our expectations (even the gods and angels were bewildered at the sight of Narasimha) still He can come in any form He wishes, whether He conforms to our personal notions of God or not. He is always capable of surprising His dear devotees—and often at the most surprising times.

The timing was everything for the incarnation of Narasimha, since He appeared in the world just when His devotee needed Him the most. Hiranyakashipu had reached the end of his patience after all his attempts to kill his son Prahlada had been thwarted. In desperation, he shouted out to the boy the famous question: “Where is the God who protects you?” to which the lad replied: “He is everywhere, father.” “Is He in this pillar?” “Yes, father.”

In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna explains the vision of such a great devotee as Prahlada: “For one who sees Me everywhere, and sees everything in Me; I am never lost to Him, and he is never lost to Me.” Krishna is the protector of those who have adjusted their consciousness to that of being protected by Him. And when the same Lord comes as Narasimha, He is coming to fulfil His promise to His devotee who fully expected His protection.

The Vaishnava acaryas have commented that Narasimha is paradoxical, in that He is both the very personification of anger, yet the very emblem of gentleness. They have cited the natural example of the lioness, which can fight a maddened elephant with all the fury of a wild cat, yet the lioness can take a few minutes out in the middle of the battle to suckle her cubs. Therefore, say the saints, no one is as furious as Narasimha, yet there is none so gentle. When Lord Narasimha appears from the stone pillar, one of His eyes is filled with rage, while the other is looking with love towards His devotee Prahlada. The sharp nails on His hands are just like steel chisels, and they dispatch the demon very quickly, but the palms of the same hands are as soft as lotus flowers.

Through coming to save His devotee in this way, the Lord demonstrates that He is saulabhya or accessible, to even a child who loves Him; and by removing the cruel Hiranyakashipu He shows that there can be no obstacles on the path of bhakti for one who truly takes shelter of Him. Thus He is known as Bhakta-pala, the friend of the devotee, and Bhakti-vigna-vinasana, or one who removes all obstacles on the path of devotional service.

He appeared at twilight, neither day nor night, and therefore the Vaishnavas observe fasting up until this time.

“I offer my respectful obeisances unto Lord Narasimha, the source of all power. O my Lord who possesses nails and teeth just like thunderbolts, kindly vanquish our demon-like desires for fruitive activities in this material world. Please appear in our hearts and drive away our ignorance so that by Your mercy we may become fearless in the struggle for existence in this material world. May there be good fortune throughout the universe, and may all envious persons be pacified. May all living entities become calm by practising Bhakti Yoga, for by accepting devotional service they will think of each other’s welfare. Therefore let us all engage in the service of the supreme transcendence, Lord Krishna, and always remain absorbed in thought of Him.” Srimad Bhagavatam 5.18.8-10

The writer is Iskcon, Inc Communication Director and SM IT head.

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Spiritually Speaking

SOCIAL ACTIVISM AND SPIRITUALITY

Judy Johnson

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“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

—Lilla Watson

As a social activist I used to believe that I needed to name and confront the wrongs in the world. That if I did not agitate against wrongdoing, I was being complicit with power structures that oppressed and suppressed people. This belief was fueled by a strong dose of anger, outrage, and fear. And it often put me on the opposite side of the fence to many people I perceived as doing wrong. But I was comfortable there as I felt I had the moral high ground.

Current change movements tend to pit one side against another, heightening hyperbole with exaggerated claims to put one’s cause forward. The world does not need more of this. The willingness to stop taking sides is heroic.

Having found meditation with the Brahma Kumaris, my approach to changing the world has been transformed. I am no longer dependent on rumbling and agitating. Getting angry and outraged, opinionated, and polarized are no longer fuel for me. My focus has shifted to the human spirit with an understanding that a person’s state of consciousness and the behaviour it produces is at the root of the world’s problems.

Now, I consider meditation a form of inner activism. It is the single-minded focus to activate the qualities inside of me that are needed for a better world. True activism begins when I understand that the change we wish to create in our world must first begin inside human consciousness.

The inner activist has a benevolent and powerful desire for an outcome that benefits everyone. This prevents falling into the rhetoric of the polarizing energies of right and wrong. I am aware that we are all tied in the bonds of lower conscious energies such as greed, fear, and anger. What binds me also binds you.

Bringing God’s peaceful loving energy to co-create a community of cooperation, harmony and mutual respect is what the world needs now. The world needs us to sit together and look at the big picture view of our situation so we can see how each one’s liberation is intricately intertwined with another’s. With meditation, spiritual study and a connection to the Divine, the inner activist makes the valiant effort to be the kind of person who can sit next to anyone on a bench, and genuinely feel from the heart, this is my brother, no matter what they have done.

In a world of increasing diversity of ideas and opinions, inner activism is a way to create unity at the deepest level, a unity of intention. The energy of this unity will uplift humankind.

Together, side by side, we can envision a beautiful world that works for everyone and do the personal work to activate the inner qualities that befit a better world.

Let us move from protest to providing good wishes. And from the compulsion to comment on every wrong to offering a measure of calm, and caring cooperation.

When I change, the world changes.

Judy Johnson coordinates the activities of the Brahma Kumaris in Atlantic Canada.

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COMFORT AND HAPPINESS ARE NOT THE SAME

B.K. Dr Savita

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Are comfort and happiness the same? We may experience comfort when we are physically and mentally at ease. Such an experience makes us happy. And we are certainly comfortable with being happy, except when in the presence of those who are deeply unhappy or disapprove of our happiness.

Many material objects and facilities are a source of comfort—be it a cosy chair, air conditioning or comfort foods.

Comfort experienced through such things, being dependent on external factors, is short-lived. If these facilities or objects are no longer available, we may stop feeling comfortable. And if we become used to certain comforts, we suffer when we lose them.

Take the case of someone who is accustomed to having everything done for him by others. If such a person has to fend for himself one day, he will struggle to accomplish the simplest of tasks and may experience considerable grief as a result. Comforts can, in this way, make us complacent, incompetent and weak.

The same is true of mental comforts. We feel comfortable in the company of certain kinds of people or in certain places or situations. When we are not among those we like, or in an unfamiliar place or situation, we may become uneasy.

The feeling of comfort, thus, is dependent on a host of factors. And anything based on external things and conditions that are beyond our control cannot be experienced at will and will not be permanent.

Moreover, if we make the mistake of becoming dependent on such means of comfort, we are setting ourselves up for sorrow.

Happiness, which can be a product of comfort, is not so fickle. It is an experience of inner joy that has little to do with what is outside.

Happiness results from how we perceive people and situations. Unlike comfort, we can experience happiness by choice.

If we decide to be happy, we will see what is good in other people and in situations. Even if someone or something is not the way we want them to be, we can look at their positive side and stay content and happy.

Such an attitude comes easily if we recognise the fact that getting upset does not change anything. Instead, it only makes us feel bad and ruins our day.

Along with this, when we understand that staying happy is what we want anyway, and that it is the best way to deal with all that life throws at us, we will develop the ability to take tests, failures and losses in our stride with a smile.

Happiness is the best nourishment for the soul. A happy person makes light of the heaviest task, while one who is glum will make a mountain of a molehill and labour under its weight, ending up tired, frustrated, angry and disappointed.

Comforts may abandon us at any time, but happiness is our own property—something that we can generate from within, and which no one and nothing can take away from us.

It is up to us to choose whether we want to be content with just temporary feelings of comfort or to enjoy real happiness all the time.

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

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The dynamics of peace

B.K. Asha

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Peace is sought by all, individually as well as collectively. When people talk of peace, they do not just mean the absence of conflict, but a condition in which everyone is free from the fear of violence and there is harmony in society.

But in the world today, conflicts are so common that the mere cessation of hostilities is celebrated as an achievement. In some parts of the world, centuries-old prejudices, grievances, and hatred fuel intermittent conflict and have created such mindsets that people are not even interested in pursuing lasting peace. They are content to ensure that they have the means to deter their enemies and retaliate against their attacks.

On the other hand, there are countries that have not seen a military conflict for centuries. But do their citizens live in peace?

Stress is very much a part of life for people in these countries, as it is with almost everyone today. Accidents, suicides, homicides and other crimes do take place in these countries and their citizens suffer from diseases just as people elsewhere.

Prosperity, political stability and other external factors do not bring peace. Peace can be experienced only when the mind is not disturbed, distracted or influenced in any way by anything, whether good or bad. In such a state, the mind becomes still, and one is able to observe how it works.

Silence enables one to look clearly into the deep recesses of the mind and watch the subtle mechanisms of thought and feeling work. On doing this, one realises that it is vices that rob us of peace. So long as one is under the influence of any vice, one cannot experience peace for long.

Greed, anger, hatred, lust, jealousy, ego, attachment… all pull the mind in various directions, creating desires, distorting our perspective and impairing our judgement. One can become a slave to vices without realising it, until one begins to wonder why one cannot experience lasting peace.

All the ills that plague the world can be traced to one or the other vice, or combinations of them. The constitution of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation states that “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed”.

Not only wars; crime, corruption, inequality, and even diseases begin in our minds.

These evils are the results of thoughts triggered by vices. For example, inequality exists, and is growing every year, because those who have far more wealth than they will ever need are unwilling to share it with the less fortunate. It may be because of greed, selfishness, miserliness, lack of compassion, or callous disregard for fellow humans. None of these reasons is counted as a virtue.

We can experience lasting peace only by freeing ourselves of the influence of vices. For that we have to first know, and remember, who we are. When we identify the self with the body, we see ourselves in terms of our nationality, race, gender, or socio-economic status. We get influenced by these aspects of our life and our thinking and behaviour become skewed. Just as an actor has an identity of his own that is separate from the roles he plays, we have a true, eternal identity that is beyond the labels by which we define ourselves.

We are spiritual beings, or souls, and peace, purity, love and truth are our innate qualities. The soul, in its original state, is pure, peaceful, loving, and truthful. When we keep remembering who we are and the qualities we possess, they begin to emerge from under the influences that had suppressed them. We then begin to experience these virtues and express them in our words and actions. This is how knowledge of the true self changes our life.

But since there are a lot of challenges in the world out there and many things pull the mind in different directions, it is not easy to remain focused on subtle spiritual truths. To acquire the inner strength to resist distractions, we need to connect with a source of power. The biggest such source is the Supreme Soul, the father of all souls. When souls remember Him, they receive His powers, and regular practice of such remembrance, which is called Rajyoga meditation, makes the souls immune to external influences.

Such souls naturally experience and spread peace. When more and more souls do this, peaceful communities are created. This is the basis for establishing a peaceful world order.

B.K. Asha is Director of the Brahma Kumaris’ Om Shanti Retreat Centre in Gurugram, Haryana.

Prosperity, political stability and other external factors do not bring peace. Peace can be experienced only when the mind is not disturbed, distracted or influenced in any way by anything, whether good or bad. In such a state, the mind becomes still, and one is able to observe how it works.

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The play of Gods

Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

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Life is a complex interplay between the seen and the unseen, the subtle and the gross. Nature has her own laws and nothing fructifies before its time.

As we invoke and celebrate the presence of the Divine Mother during Navratri, I am reminded of an incident related to the Ayodhya Ram Mandir.

Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and the devotees.

Back in 2001, when I returned to India after speaking at the World Economic Forum, Atal Behari Vajpayee ji requested me to step in and initiate talks with the stakeholders in the Ayodhya dispute. At his behest, I met a number of prominent Muslim leaders and other influential members of the community, including Saeed Naqvi, AIMPLB member Kamal Farooqui, Shabana Azmi and Javed Akhtar. Most of the leaders were supportive of resolving the conflict peacefully, outside the ambit of politics. Though we were engaged in seemingly fruitful discussions, I believed that the resolution of this issue would take longer than anticipated.

This led me to counsel Ashok Singhal ji, then President of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, to have patience and pray when we met on his visit to our ashram. He had come to Bangalore to meet me soon after the talks between the Kanchi Shankaracharya and Muslim leaders in New Delhi, had failed. Ashokji wanted Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to decisively clear the path for the Ram Mandir. This was his one-point agenda.

However, Ashok ji was not on talking terms with the Prime Minister at the time, especially resentful after Vajpayee ji had coerced him into eating during his fast unto death over the Ayodhya issue. Therefore, he was in Bangalore to persuade me to convince Vajpayeeji to bring in legislation and end the Ram Janmabhoomi conflict once and for all. He was 76 then, with a sharp mind, and a spark of passion and determination in his eyes.

Some of his demands seemed impractical given that the government at the time depended on coalition support and not everyone was on the same page on the issue. “I don’t care even if it leads to the collapse of the government,” he said. I replied saying, “Pray for it. With your commitment, all is possible.” Ashok ji left unconvinced. At that point, I intuitively felt it would take more like 14 years to build but I didn’t share my thoughts with anyone.

The next morning during meditation, I had a vision of an old Devi temple with a pond that needed to be resurrected. At the time, I didn’t give it much importance. A few days later a Nadi astrologer from Chennai happened to visit the ashram. This elderly gentleman hailed from a family that for many generations had guarded the ancient scriptures and palm leaves containing the future of humans as foreseen by the sages of yore.

The Nadi reader said, “Gurudev, you will have to play a role in bringing both the communities together for the Ram Janmabhoomi matter to be resolved once and for all.” He then added that the Kuladevi of Shri Rama, Devkali, has a temple in Ayodhya and that the temple was in a highly dilapidated state. Unless the Devi was propitiated and the temple fully restored, the Ayodhya dispute would not end and violence would continue.

 As none of those present was aware of such a Devkali mandir, a few local people were asked to find out whether such a temple even existed in Ayodhya. It was soon discovered that there were indeed two Kali mandirs in the area—one in the heart of the city called the Chhoti Devkali Mandir and the other a little further away called the Devkali Mandir. The latter was in a ruinous state. It had a central pond that had become a dumping ground. We decided to renovate the Devi temple and rejuvenate the pond.

At that time, Ayodhya was a severely neglected city with unclean narrow lanes. A sense of fear prevailed as the place abounded with stories of killings of sadhus and sants over the long-standing conflict. Nobody dared to speak up for these renunciates who had no designated ashrams, no family and no social standing.

The restoration work of Devi temple was completed in a few months and we went in a large group to Ayodhya for the reconsecration ceremony. Several pandits from our Bangalore ashram conducted the reconsecration of the temple deity and a Chandi Homa was performed on 19 September 2002. B.K. Modi and Ashok Ji also took part in the event. From time immemorial the Devatas have been worshipped in every part of India because of their influence on the affairs on this plane of existence.

Later that evening the temple hosted a large congregation of saints, including Ramchandra Das Paramhans Ji, Mahanta of the Digambar Akhada and head of the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas. A few Sufi saints were also invited. The Muslim leaders presented me with a copy of Ramcharitmanas and spoke of their deep reverence for Lord Shri Rama.

Enough lives had been lost in this age-old conflict and we needed a resolution that would stand the test of time. Keeping this in mind I proposed an out-of-court settlement where the Muslim community would gift the Ram Janmabhoomi to the Hindus as a goodwill gesture and the Hindus in return would gift a 5-acre land for the construction of a mosque that they would help build. This would send a clear message of brotherhood between both communities.

The next day I was invited by Ashok Ji to his ancestral home in Allahabad where his brothers, their families and his friends had gathered. After I conducted a group meditation for them, I told Ashok Ji that it is not human effort alone, but the Divine Will too, that plays a role in the fructification of any action. And for that, one needs patience. I hinted to him that he should not do anything in haste. By the end of the evening, Ashok Ji seemed much more relaxed and reassured, and he softened in his stand against the Vajpayee government.

Years went by, in 2017, at the request of leaders from both communities, I renewed my efforts to mediate in the Ram Janmabhoomi matter. From then on, one thing led to another and today Ayodhya is on the way to reclaiming its lost glory. Thanks to the efforts of our Prime Minister Narendra Modi Ji and the government of Yogi Adityanath ji, the once gloomy temple town is getting a vibrant and shining makeover of progress, prosperity and spiritual elevation.

It is said, Daivadheenam Jagat Sarvam, the entire world is governed by Gods. All the elements in life that we think to be in our control are, in fact, guided by the devas. Navratri is the time to invoke the infallible and compassionate Daivi Shakti.

Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a humanitarian leader, spiritual teacher and an ambassador of peace. You can follow him on Twitter @SriSri

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