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What kind of a ‘brave new world’ do we want to create?

Aruna Ladva

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“Oh, wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here!

How beauteous mankind is!

O brave new world that has such people in it!”

— William Shakespeare

Today, we all have a new canvas on which to draw and create our new “normal”. Let us take our time and breathe deeply as we pick up the brushes and start to paint! Are we happy in our “brave new world”? If not, it is not too late to change things.

We must ask ourselves are we happy with the world that we have created for our children? We must become very mindful of the legacy that we are leaving behind. A world where masks, gloves, social distancing, two-metre distance; handsanitisers, social isolation, lockdown and the virus of fear and suspicion become “normal”. Is this truly what we want? We are social beings, when we experience isolation and loneliness we do not fare well. Let us not forget that we are all connected.

These past few months must surely have given people time to reflect on what was, is, and will be… the new “normal”. Actually, it begs the question: How much was the past really “normal” at all?

Nature has had to step in and asked us to take a good look at ourselves. If we see it as an opportunity to rethink what is really important in life, then we will see it as a good thing. If we just want to get back to our old routines, not established by us in any thoughtful way really, then we will be meeting a lot of resistance to the new “normal” simply because the old way of life has been radically altered.

 Our waters were getting polluted, our skies were getting blacker and smog-filled, our society was becoming senseless and corrupt, our values were becoming empty and depleted. Now we have realised how precious life is, how lovely it feels to go out freely; to go to work; to chat to our neighbour and friends; to ‘see’ and interact with people; and to “be” of purpose; to have a meaningful life; and to “be” of service to others… Now that we have rested the body from its fatigue… Now that we have slowed down… Now we can think clearly and plan out the next steps… What are we going to do?

 As we start to return to what we were doing, let us take our time to think about how we wish to proceed in our new “normal” world. These are some thoughts to consider and to help us as we face our “brave new world”.

Breathe deeply

Make mindful choices

Show compassion to those around us

Choose purposeful living

Engage more consciously

Save up for that rainy day

Shape our attitude

Show our gratitude

Live from the heart

Pray and meditate more

Hope more

Love more

“Be” more

Let us choose what our “brave new world” will look like. We must be co-creators in this future because we are going to have to live there… whether we like it or not… So, let us create a world of resonance, not dissonance. Yes, technology has helped us during this time, but Facetime, Facebook, Zoom or whatever else are no substitute for human contact and connection.

It’s time to create a world of love, compassion and connection. Let us work together to make that the new normal.

Courtesy of itstimetomeditate.org Aruna Ladva, author of several books on self-development, is also a Rajyoga meditation teacher who has taught this ancient art of meditation in many countries.

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Spiritually Speaking

KEEP ON LIVING

We are all in this physical realm to live life, learn our lessons and love one another as you love yourself to create a better world for future generations of spiritual explorers.

Prashant Solomon

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L ife on earth is just a small chapter in the storybook of our soul. It will pass away as all things do eventually. But the good news is that our souls live for all eternity in our true home on the other side. That is where all our departed loved ones are today and you will meet them again. So do not worry. Keep on living.

We are living in challenging times. The Coronavirus is rampaging India and has caused many people to pass away. Those left behind are mourning the losses of their loved ones and those who survive should be thankful that they have been given some more time here on earth. But the irony of physical life is this – there is only one certainty in life and that is that everyone is going to eventually pass away and go onto the next part of our soul’s journey. Some call this the ‘afterlife’ but the term ‘other side’ seems more appropriate. Because ‘afterlife’ implies that life is only the ‘physical’ life which is just not the case. We need to understand that life itself is permanent. There is no end to life. It is just moving into another realm of existence and it is reportedly as painless as moving from one room to another. 

Our souls were on this ‘other side’ even before we were born. They chose the life experiences that they would have. They chose their parents, nationality, race and other things before they came here as they wanted to create a life that would help them overcome whatever pending karmic issues they had from their last life. They also chose particular situations to let them learn certain lessons that they still needed to learn. Life on planet earth is a much sought after destination in the spiritual material universe. There are unlimited and uncountable other planets that can be chosen and surely there are also other popular destinations to incarnate but earth offers a place where spiritual growth happens faster because of the immense challenging nature of this world. Many other planets are more advanced and therefore do not have wars, diseases, poverty, hunger and therefore life is a lot easier. While this sounds good, it does not offer much potential for spiritual growth as there are fewer challenges. 

Think of these physical incarnations whether on earth or other planets as like a complex package of experiences that the soul undertakes willfully. Like we can choose a location on earth to go for a vacation, the same way our souls choose which planet they want to have their next physical incarnation experience on. There is always more to learn and explore and physical death is just like getting onto a flight and going back home. It may be the end of that particular visit but not the end of the person concerned. When it’s your time to go back to the other side (which is our true home) you will meet your loved ones again. 

So how do we know this? Well, there are thousands upon thousands of accounts of NDEs (near-death experiences) where people have been declared physically dead for a few minutes. There is no heart or brain activity but they miraculously returned to life and claimed to have floated painlessly out of their bodies, entered a tunnel or vortex that took them to another realm or frequency. When they emerged from that tunnel they were in a room where they met loved ones that had passed on before them. Some of them emerged into a meadow with beautiful flowers and met their loved ones. They felt an overwhelming feeling of love, peace and well being. They had no desire to return because they then remembered that this was their true home and they had just returned. They also met people from other earlier lifetimes and their memories of other lives in physical worlds returned. But in addition to that, some of these people say they visited large libraries which contain the Akashic records, a record of every life lived by everyone who ever lived or will ever live, they visited healing chambers, they visited a council of elders and spirit guides where they had a life review, they visited a huge planetarium that contains information about every inhabited planet in the universe, they visited large concert halls, lakes, waterfalls, temples and many other things. 

The other side is a detailed world like our own but much better. The NDErs say that earth is like a bad photocopy of the other side. Something like how in a virtual reality video game the world within the video game looks kind of like the ‘real’ world but isn’t exactly. Same way, the physical earth plane is kind of like the other side but not exactly. The other side is more real and the experiences there seem more real in every way than on the physical earth plane. Some of the NDErs even say that many of the ideas that are there on earth have been sent into human minds from the other side to gradually improve the earth and make it more like the other side.

Situations like wars, pandemics, famines, earthquakes and other natural disasters keep happening from time to time. People do leave this physical realm in large numbers and sometimes we lose people we love to these situations. We feel hopeless, lonely and sad because we think the person has gone forever. But this is not the case. It is just like someone you love has returned home from a vacation before you. You can no longer see them physically but you know that they are safe and at home. This is the message that needs to be spread to everyone. Your loved ones still exist and are aware of the happenings on earth.

In life, nothing is permanent. This too shall pass and there will come better and brighter days. Until then, remember we have a true home where we will all return someday. Do not be in a hurry to get there. We are all in this physical realm for a reason. That reason is to live life, learn our lessons and love one another as you love yourself to create a better world for future generations of spiritual explorers who will invariably return to or come to earth for the first time. 

Know that we are all spiritual beings having a human experience and that life is not the opposite of death. Birth is the opposite of death. They are simply entry and exit points into incarnations. Life is eternal, therefore it has no opposite.

Prashant Solomon is a Delhi based author and businessman

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BREATH IS THE KEY TO FIGHTING COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Arun Malhotra

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When a man is born on this earth, the first thing that connects him to life is breath. Doctors tap at the back of a newborn to ensure that he cries. Once he breathes in only then he can cry. Breath is our first relationship with this life and it is also our last relationship with this life. Man is nothing more than a breath. Therefore, breathing is automatic. Once a newborn begins breathing, the body breathes by itself automatically to the last. Thinking is not needed. Then whatever activity you do, be it talking, walking, thinking, eating, running, and sleeping, breathing automatically continues all life. 

In breathlessness one comes to know about one’s breathing. In extreme breathlessness, you come to realise the criticality of breathing in your life. Therefore, breathlessness becomes an extreme emergency to life. Other critical ailments can wait but with breathlessness, you are either alive or dead next moment.

Breath is unceasingly there with you. You are not needed in the activity of inhaling and exhaling. If there is no breathing. You would not be there. The most basic to life is breathing. Breath is an interrupted life. Your life is your breath. Breath is a connection you have with your body and it connects you to the body and on the other hand, it connects you to the universe. 

Breath is the source of life, the source of Prana, the vitality. Breath has two points. One where it touches your body and the other where it touches you which is the ‘nobody’ in the body. Nobody that you can call soul or atma is your gateway. Prana comes through the gateway into the body. Vitality and aliveness come from the gateway into your body. Prana reaches every cell in the body to each of the 90 trillion cells to make them alive. Each cell is made by atoms. Every atom is an individual and it manifests like matter. Human is nothing but a mass behaviour of cells and atoms. Every atom is part of the universe as much as you are part of it, as much as the earth, trees, air, and water are part of it.

Life is one. Existence is one. You are one. You touch any point of existence and the whole existence vibrates. Recently quantum scientists have discovered that atoms immerse into each other by vibrations. In this oneness, you become one with the existence. One part there is a body another part there is the universe. In between, you are there. This pendulum-like movement from the body to nobodiness from matter to non-matter is what you call life. Therefore, each coming breath is life and going breath is death.

Earth is one. The universe is one. It is all organic. Earth is organic. Earth is dependent on the universe and the universe is also dependent on the earth for being this earth-side part of the universe. Earth depends on the sun. Life on earth depends on the sun. Sun depends on other suns that we call the universe. If the sun goes off, life will immediately end on earth. It means we are part of the sun as much as sun is dependent on us for being parts of the sun. We breathe because of the environment as air is there. Air happened on earth as a backlash to breath. Therefore, this whole earth was oxygenated. We inhale and exhale. We receive and give back. Don’t think that we receive the breath as much and what if we don’t exhale. The environment of the earth also depends on our exhaling as much as we depend on inhaling. It is nothing in our hands. Oxygenation of the earth began as a backlash to the growth of life on earth and it took a billion years to oxygenate the earth naturally. And if it is to end by de-oxygenation it will take a billion years naturally to de-oxygenate. Then it might take a few billion years for organisms to use some other energy.

There is oxygen in the air that our body has evolved to inhale through our orifices. Everything that is precious on earth comes free. Nature gives that all to us in abundance. Like water, air and food. Air is free. Oxygen is free. It is 21% of the environment. One thing is clear, the oxygenation of the environment happened because of life. It is also a scientific mystery how oxygenation reached the present levels of 21% and how it sustains at that. But it is fast de-oxygenating.

The oxygen that we breathe in is our energy. Like a car runs on a combustible engine, our body also works on that model but more efficiently. We breathe oxygen that gets burned and produces energy to make our pistons throb the heart transporting oxygen to cells via red blood cells to keep the combustion of cells in operation. Cells do exhale waste gas carbon dioxide which is carried back through the bloodstream and removed by exhaling. This oxidisation happens when glucose comes from sugar. Therefore, food full of oxidants oxidises the body well so carbon dioxide is released and more oxygen is inhaled.

Mankind is making all-out efforts to de-oxygenate the earth unnaturally. Oxygen on earth comes for free. Compare this to the present-day pandemic. The pandemic has deoxygenated oxygen from our blood. 

Blood carrying arteries have low oxygen saturation relative to blood leaving the lungs. That which causes that is a virus. The human body is relative. We are also in a way little parts of the sun who are igniting the combustible engine of our bodies. We are dependent on this environment for oxygen. But if you look at rapid industrialisation and human greed have deoxygenated our environment. Denuding forests and destruction of water bodies amounts to deoxygenating the earth that means choking life on this earth. Humans are in a way choking themselves in the name of progress and de-oxygenating the earth.  

Life is relative. We are part of the environment as much as it is part of us. And if you look at the way this virus works. This virus attacks our capacity to breathe oxygen. The origin of such viruses in nature is the end result of the rapid destruction of lungs of nature. We have denuded forests and permanently contaminated water bodies. Life is choking on the planet. The virus that attacks the body exactly chokes the body-paralysing and infecting lungs integration. The virus replicates an act that humans are performing otherwise the rapid cutting of trees destruction of nature in the name of progress. Organically this type of virus has emerged as a result of our desire to get ourselves choked. Nature and oxygen have evolved as part of living beings. When living beings needed oxygen, the earth was oxygenated and now de-oxygenation of the environment, as a result, ought to reduce our capacity to consume oxygen and nature has its own ways to do that. Today it is a virus. Tomorrow by evolving into shorter lungs sizes and so on. It all depends on the environment we are evolving into.  

We should improve the availability of fresh air on the earth by planting more trees and cleaning our water bodies. Pandemic such as these is the offshoots of the destruction of the planet that is making our plant de-oxygenated. Let’s oxygenate ourselves by oxygenating the planet.

And to oxygenate our bodies, Yoga can help systematise breathing to improve strength, health and longevity—as much as this relates to the body. But if you wish to reach that nobody that forms the body then again breath becomes a medium to touch that nobody. Breath is the only connection with the universe. 

Your breath is here and now. Watching one’s breath come and go is the technique used by Buddha. You can improve your breathing by correcting your posture by 30%. People sitting on a chair for a long time or on computers, the mobile phones often bend their ribs and neck and don’t breathe as much as they can. Take a walk and breathe fully. Second just lie down on a bed. Inhale slowly and deeply to let the breath touch the point of the navel. Exhale with your full strength. When you don’t exhale with full strength, your capacity to inhale goes down. Focus on exhaling with full strength, it will build your capacity to inhale automatically. 

The writer is a spiritual teacher and an advisor on policy, governance and leadership. He can be contacted at arunavalokitta@gmail.com

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TIME TO UPLIFT DHARMA

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

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yada yada hi dharmasya

glanir bhavati bharata

abhyutthanam adharmasya

tadatmanam srjamy aham (4.7)

“Whenever righteousness goes down or there is harm to dharma, when unlawfulness, unrighteousness or ignorance rises on the planet and knowledge goes down, I come back again and again, to uplift knowledge, to uplift dharma, righteousness. ” 

That one consciousness that has been the guiding force, which has been bringing up the knowledge, time and again, is Krishna. “In every age, I am born, to uplift the knowledge again.”This is the whole concept of avatar. It means ‘descending of the supreme consciousness’. That one consciousness which was a Guru to Vivasvan, which was Sri Ram, Sri Krishna, the same consciousness in various places, in various forms, has come to the planet to uplift people from time to time.

paritranaya sadhunam

vinasaya ca duskrtam

dharma-samsthapanarthaya

sambhavami yuge yuge (4.8)

“In every age, I come back again on the planet to establish dharma, to establish righteousness, to establish the good, to show the path and to uplift good people and to destroy the bad ones.” In these few sentences, Krishna gave two ideas. First is the importance of tradition. Tradition is important. Whether you accept it or not, tradition is continuous in every field. In music, there is a tradition, you always refer to somebody; you are always dependent on somebody from whom to learn. No one can say, “I want to learn physics, but I don’t want to depend on anybody.” Is it possible? Nobody can become a doctor and say, “I don’t want to depend on any previous researcher or previous books. I want to start medicine all by myself.” He cannot become a doctor, he has to depend on case studies, research, and so many books, which are already there. The books are the tradition. In every field, the knowledge that you want to acquire is from the past. That tradition is so important. You cannot discard tradition.

Research and revival are and should be a part of every tradition. When tradition loses these two things – research and revival or rejuvenation, it dies. Reform, rejuvenation, revival and research are all part of the tradition. That is how science stands up because science acknowledges all this. If science is slowing down somewhere, it is because scientists are becoming fanatics;

they are becoming religious scientists. Religious scientists are stuck in a paradigm; it takes them a generation to get over that.

They apply a brake on the advancement of science. Similarly, there are scientific-minded, religious people, they have a scientific temperament. They are a boon to the world because they view even religions through reason and science. We need people who see religion from the scientific perspective, otherwise, they get stuck and stagnate. Scientific religion is good for the world but Religious scientists are not. They are stumbling blocks for future generations, for future research work. So, tradition is important for furthering knowledge and for authentic knowledge, because it is the work of several generations. Second is the concept of one consciousness, which is moving through it all. That one Divine voice is within every one of us. Don’t sit and think an avatar is some prophet who will come in some distant future. All over the world in all traditions, people have mistaken words like this and they sit and wait for someone to drop in one day. Even if they come, they keep waiting for the future, they can’t recognize it. They wait forever. Krishna promises, “I come in every generation, I am available everywhere, wherever righteousness stands up, there I am. Wherever things are in a hopeless state, don’t lose your heart; I’ll be there.

I’ll come and uplift the whole situation. I’ll be there for you; I’ll be there to protect the good and to destroy the evil.” This assurance Lord Krishna gave again and again. If you see, these words have been repeated by Moses, by Jesus, by Mohammed, by Buddha, by all those who came later. Everyone had said, “I have come to establish dharma.” When you are connected to the spirit deep within you, when you realise who you are, you will feel the same, you will see, “My job here is to help the good, to uplift the dharma, to uplift the righteousness.” This is an innate feeling in everybody. Like every mother has the feeling, “My job is to nurture the children.” Is there any mother on this planet who says, “I don’t care, I have just given birth to the children. Let them go to hell!” She will never ever say that. She says, “My job is to nurture these children and to bring them up.” In the same way, Lord Krishna played the role of a Guru, a friend, and a companion to Arjuna. He said, “My job is to nurture dharma. It is natural.” The same consciousness takes birth again and again and again — whenever, wherever there is a need.

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SELF-ESTEEM AND SELF-RESPECT

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A lot of unhappiness is experienced in life, and often on a spiritual journey, because of the lack of self-esteem and self-respect. Many people think that these are one and the same, but they are distinctly different, and both are required for a happy and stable life.

There is always someone to look up to in life. Many of us put other people on pedestals, like teachers and parents, or famous artists, and use them as reference points on how to be. On the spiritual path, the same thing can happen. Then, what if the ‘idol’ has feet of clay? There can be disappointment, disheartenment, and sometimes on the spiritual path, faith can be shaken very badly.

We need to understand that the spiritual journey is to let go of ego and return to our own self-respect. To experience being our own master, the master of the mind and have ruling power over old habit patterns and ways of thinking. We need not put power in the hands of others by being influenced this way and that way by what others say and think. We can still remain open, and listen with humility to others, but have so much belief in what we are doing, that we are doing what is the best for our own development, that we maintain total stability.

Self-respect is connected to what we really are, the soul. Each soul is perfect and on its own journey and has its own story. However, self-respect is not about the story, it is about before the story. It is about understanding the full potential of the eternal being within. Unless a person makes the journey towards the real self in this way, self-respect and self-esteem cannot develop.

In the consciousness of the eternal beautiful being, there comes a deep acceptance and value of the self, and the more we love ourselves, the more we are able to love others. Self-respect is about you with yourself and with God. Self-esteem is about the way you behave with others.

Self-esteem springs from the understanding that everything is beneficial, not by chance and not without cause. In self-esteem I am able to take 100 per cent responsibility for how I behave and respond to people and situations.

For this awareness to develop, we need introversion, to go inside and see what we really are, then introspection to reflect deeply on what we find in silence. The highest task of life is to develop the self, the real self, and make that inner world manifest through our behaviour.

Luciana Ferraz is a sociologist and the national coordinator of the Brahma Kumaris in Brazil.

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WHY WE NEED TO BE QUIETLY GOOD

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Most of us want to be and do, good. However, in everyday life, it’s not so straightforward! We continually do or say things we wish we had not. Or, worse, we may very well say and do the right thing, but inside there are the very unrighteous feelings of dislike, irritability, and every other sort of negativity. We are one thing on the outside, something else on the inside. This reduces the benefits of ‘being good’ to almost nothing, leaving us wondering if ‘being good’ is worth all the trouble.

Being good should make us happy, fulfilled individuals. Being good should make others happy to be with us. Yet so often, even while doing our best to be good, we still get hurt. Others don’t appreciate our efforts; they disapprove of us. They keep their distance.

There is however, a very powerful way to be good, one that guarantees all the benefits, and that is to be ‘quietly’ good. This kind of goodness is not the same as that which most of us have been working with. It is an internal goodness that is based on a constant, elevated awareness that the original nature of the self, and God, is one of supreme and divine goodness. This awareness greatly increases confidence in the value of goodness. It also creates a lot of enthusiasm for personal transformation; we long for a goodness that flows, unstoppably, from the inside, out.

If we fail to recharge the battery of our cell phone, how well will it function? In the same way, if we fail to keep the soul — our innermost self — ‘charged’, how effective will be our goodness? It will be goodness filled with neediness, making us into takers rather than givers. Trying to give while running on empty is the real reason our good intentions still cause so much unhappiness.

Being quietly good means that our attention is on keeping ourselves ‘plugged in’. We fill ourselves with the pure peace and love coming from God. This creates fulfilment — yes! Fulfilment exists! — and being good starts becoming natural and easy. We radiate what we are. When we ourselves are full and happy, those are the vibrations we share.

The world today needs us to be quietly good; it needs the peace, love and happiness that God is just waiting for us to claim, as an inheritance. We only need to make that connection.

Sharona Stillerman coordinates the activities of the Brahma Kumaris in Israel.

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RIGHT REMEMBRANCE BRINGS GREAT TREASURES

B.K. Atam Prakash

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What if someone were to forget that they had received a huge inheritance from their father and lived in penury, begging and borrowing money to survive? They would bemoan their fate and vent their anger on all who appeared to them to be selfish and unhelpful, ignorant of the fact that they owned a fortune. This seems to be the condition of many people today.

Our experiences in life depend, to a considerable extent, on our self-image, which determines how we feel about ourselves and relate to the world. If we see ourselves as lacking one, or many, things and are focused on our shortcomings, we are likely to feel weak, unworthy or plain unlucky. We will then perceive everything from that position.

This is apparent from the way people relate to each other and God. The Supreme is the Father of all souls: He is the Almighty, the Benefactor, the Merciful. But the children have forgotten who their father is, and they beg Him for help, for wealth, love, happiness, comfort, and even death, in order to escape their sorrows.

Do children need to beg for their inheritance? It is theirs by right. But when we forget our relationship with the Divine, we no longer remember what we have received from Him. This tragic amnesia leads to a lot of suffering.

What we remember determines how we feel. Think of irritating things and you will soon feel irritated. Similarly, dwelling on the Divine — deliberately, quietly, without prejudging — begins to fill us with His qualities of peace, love, and strength. The soul starts to recognise that these virtues are very much a part of them. They only need to turn their attention inward to discover and experience them. And if they want to fill themselves with more, they just have to connect with the ocean of virtues, their Father.

Once souls have acquired abundant peace and happiness, these qualities radiate from them the way fragrance naturally spreads from a flower. Those around them will feel peaceful and happy in their presence. This is the wonder of remembrance – remember who you are, whose child you are, and from a beggar you can turn into a benefactor.

The moment we find ourselves expecting, desiring or longing for something, we can check if we are remembering who we are. Knowing that one belongs to the Supreme brings contentment, joy and strength. Where there is the right remembrance, there are no complaints.

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

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