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The person on the end of the phone

There are some irritants of modern life – call centres, canvassers, getting a parking tickets e.t.c. But, before we take it out on the person at the end of the line, we should try and put ourselves in their shoes for a moment. Given different circumstances, it could easily be us.

be-kind-be-all-sympathy

It is easy to get frustrated when we have a valid complaint but are put on hold for a long time. However, before we speak in anger, we should try and bear in mind a few things.

Anger hurts ourselves. When we get angry, we lose our peace of mind and later we will feel a form of regret. Like a boomerang, anger comes back to haunt us.

Secondly, the person who receives our anger and frustration most likely doesn’t deserve it. They are doing a job; they are the front person for problems elsewhere. If we were in a job dealing with complaints, we would definitely appreciate people who are thoughtful and calm. Continue Reading →

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Economics and spirituality

As an economist and someone who practises spirituality, I haven’t often contemplated this combination of unlikely bedfellows – economics and spirituality

Economics or ‘the dismal science’ is a subject primarily limited to materialism and the wealth of nations; and so is rarely considered from any metaphysical perspective.

Self-interest theory

A compelling idea in economics is that of self-interest theory. Economists assume individuals seek to maximise their utility (happiness). This utility is primarily measured by consumption of goods, services and ‘leisure time’. The argument of classical economics is that by pursuing our self-interest, the invisible hand of the market helps create an efficient allocation of resources.

“It is not from the benevolence (kindness) of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”

– Adam Smith,(1776) Wealth of Nations, Chapter II, p. 19.

Adam Smith wasn’t quite the free market evangelist, he was later made out to be. He was a moral philosopher who hoped people would aspire to more than self-interest but gain happiness from altruism and thinking of others. He valued the golden rule of religious teachings.

“As to love our neighbour as we love ourselves is the great law of Christianity, so it is the great precept of nature to love ourselves only as we love our neighbour, or what comes to the same thing, as our neighbour is capable of loving us.”

– Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Section I, Chap. V. (1759)

However, his observation that self-interest could be mutually beneficial has become a powerful feature of economic theory. It is quite convenient for those who wish to justify their own pursuit of material self-interest. Continue Reading →

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Taking gold to Heaven

A very wealthy man is distressed that he can’t take his wealth to Heaven. So, in his retirement, he spends many years praying to God – beseeching God to make an exception and allow him to take his wealth with him when he dies.

heaven

Finally, God responds to the man’s fervent prayers and says. “OK, in your case, I will make an exception – you can bring one bag of wealth with you.”

The man is jubilant and, when he dies, he has a bag full of gold bars placed in his coffin.

When he arrives at the Pearly Gates, he has a bag of gold bars by his side.

St Peter stops him and says “Sorry, but you can’t bring anything from earth into Heaven.”

The man replies. “It’s OK; I’ve got a special exception”. St Peter goes and makes a few phone calls, and comes back to say. “OK, I can see you have an exception, but I still need to check all your hand-luggage.”

St Peter looks in the man’s bag, and says “very good, but why did you bring pavement with you?”

***** Continue Reading →

Different ways of looking at the situation

We have all heard the phrase ‘There is always two sides to the same story’. But, according to Jain wisdom, there are seven different ways of looking at the same situation.

Dispersive_Prism

When light enters a prism, it splits into a rainbow of seven distinct colours. Seven different aspects of the same light. From one perspective, you may see only indigo – but if you move to the other end of the spectrum, you will see red or green.

If we see the red light, our experience is true, but it doesn’t mean that is the whole story. Just because we see red light, doesn’t mean that others may not be seeing something else. Also, when we see red light, are we aware that its source is pure white light? Continue Reading →

The beauty that remains

rainbow-wharfedale

Over Christmas I saw quite a few beautiful rainbows. Their short-lived transience makes the thrill even greater.

However as a photographer, I was caught between living the moment and trying to capture on film. The momentary arrival of a rainbow can come with a tinge of sadness that everything soon passes on earth. Part of you wants to hold onto the rainbow’s beauty before it slips away.

The world is in a constant state of flux. Everything is fleeting – nothing lasts. The rainbow exemplifies this birth and death – all within a few minutes. It lifts our spirits, but then is gone.

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The sweet rainbow comes and goes,
But its beauty remains.

The dear sun comes and goes,
But its duty remains.

The faithful day comes and goes,
But its sound remains.

The restful night comes and goes,
But its silence remains.

Sri Chinmoy
– Wings of Light, part 11, WL-529

In this poem, Sri Chinmoy reminds us of the beauty which is everlasting. It echoes the immortal words of John Keats.

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever”

We love the outer rainbow, not just for its unique light, but because it also – consciously or unconsciously – reminds us of the soul’s world and the inner beauty.

In the poem, Sri Chinmoy suggests we should not mourn the fading of the outer light because its Source is eternal. The outer beauty is a just reminder to seek the inner light.


Photo top: Tejvan (Wharfedale, Yorkshire, 25th December, 2016)

Spending less time online


My spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy is very keen on New Year’s Resolutions. He advocated both making a few personal resolutions and a few resolutions for achieving things outwardly.

In the past, I have been very poor at making New Year’s resolutions, but this year I am following one resolution, almost by accident.

In 2016, I spent a lot of the time wishing I didn’t waste so much time reading online news, opinion and comment. I would have a good meditation in the morning but, before I’d finished breakfast, I was back in the world of opinion and judgement.

It was like eating a healthy breakfast of fruit and oats, only to finish it off with a chocolate gateaux cake and cream. The point is you can’t lose weight by eating chocolate cake and cream, no matter how much fruit and vegetables you also eat. Similarly, if you want real inner peace, you need to meditate – but also be careful of where else you spend your time and energy.

The problem is that the easy accessibility of online news means there is a never ending stream of things to read. You start with the intention of just seeing the headlines, but then I found myself reading more than I intended. Time can pass by – you haven’t done anything productive, only filled your mind with more opinions.

There is an addictive quality to browsing the internet – a spare one minute appears in the day and, before you know it, 15 mins have passed. I noticed that it is usually when bored or unhappy that I often sought refuge in online browsing, but this didn’t help. Continue Reading →

Concentrating on good qualities

Concentrating on the good qualities of other people helps to bring forward these values in ourself, and also gives real encouragement to others.

sea-swim

Over the New Year I heard an audio talk from my spiritual teacher, Sri Chinmoy, which offered one simple suggestion for the New Year.

“In the New Year, instead of focusing on people’s bad qualities, concentrate only on their good qualities. For the New Year, make it your resolution to always see good qualities in others and forget about their bad qualities.”

This was the essence of the talk as I remember. A very simple message, but repeated several times, I felt the idea sinking into my mind.

The idea behind this message is highly relevant for everyone.

Whoever we are, it is the nature of the human mind to hold onto the flaws and failings of people around us. It is their undivine qualities – ego and jealousy, which irritate us. When we are displeased with someone, it becomes hard to value their good qualities, which may lie hidden underneath. But, even the most irritating acquaintances and work colleagues will have at least a few good qualities.

Why is it important?

The first benefit is that it will help us to be happier. If we concentrate on people’s bad qualities, we may gain a little feeling of superiority, but this does not give real happiness. If we can appreciate other people’s good qualities, it will give us a sense of satisfaction and self-giving. Continue Reading →

Dag Hammarskjold and Chou En-lai

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On Nov. 24, 1954, Radio Peking (in mainland China) announced that eleven US airmen, as well as two other Americans, both of whom were described as special agents of the CIA, had been convicted of espionage by a military tribunal in China and sentenced to prison terms from four years to life. The eleven US airmen, serving under the United Nation’s Unified Command in Korea, were crew members of a B-29 which had been shot down on January 12, 1953, while conducting leaflet-dropping operations over North Korea. The question before the US government was how to secure the release of the airmen imprisoned in China as Washington did not recognize ‘mainland China’ as a country and so did not have any diplomatic ties to Peking. “When in December 1954 the US – after trying many other approaches in vain – brought this question to the Ninth session of the United Nation’s General Assembly, the UN was faced with an apparently insoluble problem. It seemed unlikely, to say the least, that an organization that had excluded and rejected the government of the largest nation on earth would have much success in prevailing on that government to release hostile airmen who had landed in China and had already been convicted as spies.”(1)

On December 6 the permanent US representative to the UN, Henry Cabot Lodge, informed the United Nations Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjold, that Washington would like him to be personally involved in negotiating the release of the US airmen “since it was believed that he was more likely to get results than anyone else”…(2)

Hammarskjold had an all-night discussion with a trusted Swedish colleague, Sture Petren, before he made up his mind to accept the assignment if he was requested by the General Assembly to undertake a mission of this kind. He also decided that he would personally travel to Peking and approach the Chinese premier Chou En-lie directly. In doing this Hammarskjold was taking a very big diplomatic risk and putting himself in a very delicate position. As Lodge put it six months later, in offering to go to Peking Hammarskjold “put his life’s reputation as a diplomat on the chopping block”.(3) But Hammarskjold had come to the conclusion that only a bold move had any chance of success. “In the days just before passage of the General Assembly resolution on December 10th, he met with senior diplomats privately and saw to it that the resolution included language that gave him considerable latitude. Those key words authorized the secretary-general to undertake the mission “by the means most appropriate in his judgment””.(4) Continue Reading →

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