The meaning of non-violence (ahimsa)

In the 1970s, my spiritual Teacher Sri Chinmoy met with Mohammad Ali. On one occasion the two meditated together. Although they outwardly had very different occupations (spiritual teacher vs boxer), there was a connection of spirit. After this meeting, Sri Chinmoy wanted to watch a boxing match in which Mohammad Ali was in. A student of Sri Chinmoy’s was a little surprised that Sri Chinmoy would watch the boxing because, according to his understanding boxing was seemingly quite un-spiritual.

Sri Chinmoy replied in a perhaps unexpected way. He said words to the effect that although yes, there was a lot of physical violence in a boxing match, there was often much more fighting on the inner plane between two people who were in inner conflict. The physical world is one reality, but the inner world of the mind and vital is also just as real. If we harbour very strong negative thoughts about somebody, it can be very damaging in an inner way. We may not always be aware – but this inner conflict can be like getting punched on the inner level, and eventually can manifest in different ways.

Non-violence – a timeless spiritual ideal.

Sri Chinmoy writes in The Vedas: Immortality’s First Call, Agni Press, 1972:

“The Vedic commandment for the human vital is ahimsa. Ahimsa means non-violence — non-violence in the vital and non-violence of the vital. It is from non-violence that man gets his greatest opportunity to feel that he does not belong to a small family, but to the largest family of all: the universe.”

However, non-violence isn’t just about restraining from physical violence, but also, just as important, is non-violence in our thought, motive and deed. We may assume we are being non-violent, but sometimes we have to check our thoughts and inner will to see our real attitude to other people – including our friends and family.

From a strict point of view, every time we powerfully hold a negative thought about somebody that thought can adversely affect them. If our will is strong and determined, it can cause significant suffering. If the thought is fleeting and not serious, it may have much less effect; though even from small thoughts, the idea can grow stronger and bigger.

Real non-violence means we have to constantly try to offer good will and seek the best outcome for others. We have to make sure we are not indirectly offering ill will – through the form of jealousy, envy, frustration or pride. Non-violence means we need to cultivate our own inner peace. Continue Reading →

How to avoid negativity

One of our great challenges in life is to avoid negativity – a negative attitude to ourselves and others. It is easy to become suspicious, critical, depressed, fearful, but, despite the prevailing attitudes of the world, there is no inevitability that we have to become a grumpy old man. It is quite possible to see the beautiful in the ordinary and bring to the fore the better side of human nature. If we avoid negativity we will see definitely see the positive in life, and enjoy life much more.

negativity-hearts-joy

Understand why we can cherish negativity

Sometimes we have a tendency to negativity, without fully realising it. This can occur if:

  • We want to appear clever. Sometimes we criticise or find fault because we sub-consciously want to display our greater knowledge. If we look hard enough we can always find some minor blemish on a flower. If we think hard enough, we can always think of some reason to be suspicious or critical. It is not necessarily bad to think deeply, but there are times when we can over-think and over-intellectualise issues and use our knowledge to try and prove our superiority. Sometimes negativity can occur because we wish to feel we have secret knowledge other people don’t know.
  • Low self-esteem. If we feel bad about ourself, we tend to be more critical of other people. This is because we start to see the same faults in others. Also, we may criticise others to try and improve our self-esteem.
  • Habit. Negativity can become a habit. Always expecting the worse; the problem is that if negativity is a habit it can become self-fulfilling. Other people are put off by our negativity. Our negativity brings out the worse in others.

If these are some reasons we may cherish negativity, these are some things we can do to overcome negativity.

Criticise not

Criticising others is a very pervasive bad habit we all have. Sometimes we can actually go out of our way to look for the failings and faults of others. It is as if we are blind to their good qualities but their mistakes stand out in our mind. Even worse we can often imagine faults that others might have. This is the height of stupidity, but the nature of the mind can easily turn to negativity and we have to be on guard.

It is a great exercise to try and think about the good aspects of people whom you frequently criticise. The important thing is that criticising others has an unmistakeable impact on ourselves. If we are permanently finding fault with the world it affects our self.

To deliberately criticise
Another individual
May cause an indelible stain
On the critic.

– Sri Chinmoy

The world will not collapse if we halt our self styled criticism. If we look to encourage and praise the good aspects of others, we will bring these qualities to the fore in ourself.

Choosing consciously

All the time we are faced with choices. Do I see the negative or the positive? Somebody at work might pass a thoughtless and disparaging comment. Our instinctive reaction may be to nurse a sense of grievance and think of many equally unpleasant things to say about the person in return. However, another way to look at this situation would be to think. They are unfortunately wrong, perhaps they are feeling insecure and so try to unfairly put others down. In the past there may have been times when I may have done something like that. I will make an effort to be kind to that person as this will be the best way to show they were mistaken and also to help them overcome their depressed state of mind.

The first response invites a tit for tat response which will encourage negativity. The second response is dignified and requires nobility of character. But, we lose nothing by avoiding negativity – we gain a tremendous amount. The point is we always have a choice about how we respond to situations; avoiding the negative and unpleasant just takes a conscious decision.

Self-belief

It is vital to cultivate a sense of self-worth and self-respect. If we do not have faith in ourselves how can we have faith in anyone else? Self-belief should not be equated with arrogance or pride. We are seeking to cultivate a sense of self respect so we are at peace with ourselves. We are often our worst critic, sometimes we ignore genuine faults but worry excessively over minor issues that aren’t really faults. We need to learn from our mistakes and be honest with our weaknesses but it should not be at a cost of putting ourselves down. If we make a mistake learn to let go, don’t keep the negative memory at the forefront of your mind. If we can have a good feeling about ourselves it will be very easy to have a good feeling about others and the rest of the world.

Service and dynamism

Idleness is the worst cultivator of negativity. If we sit mopping aimlessly around we will inevitable become bored and negative. Life will seem no fun. The easiest way to change our mindset is to become meaningfully busy. If we really want to serve others there will always be some way that we can find. If we are really busy we will not have time to criticise the world. If we don’t have work to do, we can also just take physical exercise. This is also an excellent way of shaking off the cobwebs of our mind.

Osmosis.

The nature of the human mind is that it consciously or unconsciously absorbs the vibrations from around us. If we spend time with negative people, watching 24 hour news, then we will be more prone to negativity ourselves. We have to choose our work, leisure time carefully. Don’t spend too much time in the company of those who cherish negativity and always want to share it with you. When we do spend time with negative people we need to be on our guard that we don’t share their world view.

Be young at heart.

I have already made two references to ‘grumpy old men’ this is not an ageist remark. You can be a grumpy old man when you are 20. You can be 80 years old but remain young at heart. Age is very much something of a mental attitude. We want to cultivate a childlike attitude which takes joy from small, simple, beautiful things. We want to avoid a great sophistication and mental dissection of everything. If we over analyse life we are living in the mind and unable to live in the heart.

Dealing with personal difficulties

sailor

There are times when we can get upset / angry with the behaviour of someone else. How to respond? Philosophy is easy, but the practical implementation is more difficult. The only certainty is that we will get plenty of opportunities to practise!

There was a recent occasion where I felt annoyed, I didn’t like the feeling of rising anger so sat down and read a book of short poems. Picking a couple at random, the first I came across where.

“From now on please try, all of you, to perfect your own nature instead of looking around to see who is obstructing you or standing in your way.”

– Sri Chinmoy [1]

It was a beautiful irony I picked this one first. Because all my unhappiness was due to feeling obstructed by someone else!

The second was:

“You have had an unpleasant experience, and you will not be happy until you stop thinking about it.”

– Sri Chinmoy [2]

The third was:

“Everything in life is a choice.”

– Sri Chinmoy [3]

Just reading these three poems was an excellent antidote and immediately took away the worst of my negative emotion. In that situation, I couldn’t think of anything better to calm myself down.

It also left a good incentive to try and implement the first aphorism to work on myself and change the way of reacting to certain situations. Continue Reading →

The art of change

It is said the one constant of life is that life is always changing. However, are we open to change or do we get stuck in bad habits?

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One of the great challenges is to strive to change our nature. Not surrender to our weaknesses but to constantly examine our life, and see if we can make it better.

We might be wrong. Changing your mind can be hard, if we hold onto misplaced placed feelings of pride or reluctance to appear wrong. Changing your mind in the face of evidence is not a sign of weakness, but strength. Clinging onto the wrong attitude will only hurt ourselves. We don’t change our mind because we just want to fit into societies expectations, we change because we listen to our own quiet inner conscience.

Don’t give up. The most important thing is to have faith that things can change for the better. If we have the attitude “I can’t help it” or “I’m doomed to disappointment” that will tend to be our experience. However, if we always feel that we have the capacity to mould our life and inner attitude, then we have a good fighting chance. Don’t surrender to fate and circumstance, but always persevere. Continue Reading →

Children of the Himalayan caves

A commentary on a poem by Sri Chinmoy and what it means to be a spiritual seeker. This poem suggests for long-term spiritual progress, we need to retain the ability and willingness to change – retaining a sense of newness and enthusiasm, but also with a self-giving spirit which transcends the need for outer praise and attention.


Continue Reading →

How to boost self-esteem

eastern-sky-simple

If you struggle with low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy, these are some suggestions to gain self confidence and increased self-esteem.

Remember the good, forget the bad

If we are honest with ourselves we will notice that all humans are a mixture of bad qualities and good qualities. However, perhaps out of a sense of false modesty, we are more prone to remember our mistakes and weaknesses. It is this that makes us feel guilty and worthless. But, in this situation, we are doing ourself a disservice; true we have made some mistakes, but, we have also done many good things. We should make a conscious effort to remember our good qualities and selfless actions to others. If we have made mistakes, learn from them, but, don’t allow them to drag you down with feelings of guilt. – Let go and move on.

Detach from criticism

You can’t avoid getting criticised, but, it is up to you whether you let it disturb your peace of mind. It is no one other than yourself who can rob you of inner peace. If you receive criticism, don’t let it disturb your peace of mind. Feel it is criticising only an aspect of your character – an aspect you can easily improve. If the criticism is unjust, pay no attention to it. Just leave it with the other person.

Stop procrastinating

Often feelings of inadequacy occur during periods of great procrastination. Rather than doing anything positive, we just think of all the things we haven’t done. Here it is easy to get into a negative frame of mind, thinking of all the things we should be doing, but haven’t. The cure for this is quite simple. – Stop procrastinating and start to achieve certain targets. As soon as we are actively working towards something we will have much greater self confidence. Continue Reading →

How to be kind to yourself

crocus

We all know we should be kind to animals and considerate of other people. But, are we actually kind to ourself? If you regularly find that you are beating yourself up or are plagued by guilt, it is worth making an effort to be a bit kinder to yourself. Here are some ideas so that you offer a bit of support for your good self.

The Past is Dust

It is often the past, that we carry like a heavy chain around our neck. If we spend time regretting the past, then we bring yesterday’s problems into our present as well.

“I always say the past is dust. By thinking of it and brooding over it we cannot change the past or free ourselves from guilt. If we have done something wrong, it is past. Let us think of the immediate future and allow it to grow into the immediacy of today.”

– Sri Chinmoy

When we live in the past, we become plagued by regrets and guilt. By constantly reliving the past, we cannot change what has gone before. If we have made mistakes in the past, we should not feel that this is our permanent reality. Focus instead, on the present moment and see how you can improve and go forward. It is only by focusing on the present and doing the right thing, that we can learn from the past.

Don’t feel bad for what you can’t control

It is easy to look at the world and be upset by the injustices and problems of the world. But, we shouldn’t allow ourself to become depressed over things we have no control over. This doesn’t mean we are indifferent to the world’s problems. If we feel the motivation, we should do something positive to promote the truth, kindness and goodness; but we also have to know our limits, we are not responsible for the direction of the world. A feeling of indispensability puts too much pressure on ourself.
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The spiritual significance of trees

Firstly, I have a new location for blog at Write Sprit. This post is a look at the spiritual significance of trees including aspiration, strength from flexibility, service, and patience.

trees

Many spiritual devotees have had spiritual experiences with trees. Perhaps most famously Siddhartha Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree for 7 days, until he attained Liberation and Nirvana. Descendants of that Bodhi tree are still revered today as an auspicious place of spiritual significance.

Trees and the connectedness of life

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Trees play a vital role in creating a harmonious eco-system. Trees absorb excess water, provide oxygen, help reduce pollution and provide many raw materials, such as wood, nuts and fruits. Continue Reading →

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