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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 →

Revisiting the Upanishads

I have been browsing through the Upanishads of late, enjoying their perennial wisdom and marvelling at the common ground they share with 21st century revelations about the primary nature of the universe and with modern quantum theory. The Upanishads are a summation of the knowledge, insights and sacred wisdom of the Vedic sages and seers and date back some 4,000 years.

Tormalet

In his introduction to selected translations from the Upanishads, Alistair Shearer writes that the Vedic teachings propose ‘the ground of all being is an infinite and unified field of Consciousness, eternal and self-luminous. This Consciousness creates the universe from its own depths, by reverberating within itself….Thus, Veda is said to be the source of creation; it is the DNA of the universe, containing all manifest possibilities in seed form.’ The Upanishadic teachings also reflect the ancient Greek understanding of philosophy or ‘gnosis’ – the cultivation of true and sacred wisdom. Plato described such a philosopher as one who would ‘live in constant companionship with the divine order of the world’. Continue Reading →

What is Happiness?

The happiest man in God’s creation.

Make yourself known to humanity:
Its dark jealousy will make you unhappy.
Make yourself known to yourself:
You will unquestionably be
The happiest man in God’s entire creation.

Sri Chinmoy [1]

It might be interesting to have a look at the philosophical development of happiness in a historical context. A good place to begin a search for happiness might not be in Europe during the middle ages where life must have been pretty hard for most people, with seemingly constant wars, the threat of disease, hunger and religious superstitions all rife. Especially it would seem for women. (Please don’t burn that witch, before she cooks me my dinner) For many the idea of dying and going to a beautiful heaven was all that was worth living for! The Renaissance began a new chapter in western history and the development of perhaps a new meaning of happiness.

Take for instance Francis Hutcheson, who was born in 1694 in Ireland, to Scottish parents and later moved back to Glasgow. He is generally regarded as the founding father of the Scottish Enlightenment. He believed that man universally carried within himself the means to learn how to be virtuous and helpful to others. Men served others not because they had no choice in it, if they wanted to get along with others, but because they realized they actually enjoyed doing it. (By the way, women still really had no choice in it!) He believed that helping others suffused us with a sense of well-being and pleasure. Being good meant doing good to others. Virtue (and to some extent the ten commandments!) required it, but our feelings confirmed it.

The link between feelings and happiness was important. Man was born to make other’s lives more pleasant, and to be wicked or vicious was to be miserable and unhappy. A delight in the good of others becomes the basis of our sense of right and wrong. We decided that what helps and pleases a person, is good, because it gives us pleasure. What injures him is bad, because it causes us pain. Men begin to realize that the happiness of others is also their own happiness. Some vulgar people assumed, mistakenly, that happiness meant the gratification of the physical desires: food, drink, and sex. But for Hutcheson the highest form of happiness was making others happy. The desire to be moral and virtuous, to treat others with kindness, and the desire to be free were universal, and human beings wanted them because it made them happy.
Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence in 1776 enshrined these same ideals in writing for the American people. Jefferson believed that happiness was the aim of life, and that virtue was the foundation of happiness. He wrote that, all men are endowed by their creator with inherent and inalienable rights; among these, are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Continue Reading →

How Yama and Niyama Affect Daily Life and Yoga Practise

This is a guest post by Manatita

In this essay, the writer will first show the essentials of Yama and Niyama and its relation to Yoga, and will conclude with the practical aspect of how these two ?abstinences?, has affected his daily life and Yoga practice.

Yama and Niyama are the first steps in Yoga practice. They are considered the foundations of Yoga. They are the first two limbs of the eight-fold Path of Patanjali – the ancient sage – the rest being:-

  • Asana – bodily postures. They combine a series of exhaustive exercises, widely known in the West as Hatha Yoga, for the health and discipline of the physical. They are also useful for the movement of the life-force and the attainment of the Higher Yoga.
  • Pranayama – control of the life-force. It involves the inhaling, retention and exhaling of breath.
  • Pratyahara – withdrawal of the senses from the external world
  • Dharana – concentration – control of or steadying of the mind on a particular object to the exclusion of everything else.
  • Dhyana – the gazing or fixing of the mind on a Higher Consciousness. Sri Chinmoy, in his book The Silent teaching, 1985, refers to it as conscious self-expansion?.?silence, energizing and fulfilling?the eloquent expression of the inexpressible?
  • Samadhi – profound contemplation or the tuning of the inner self with the Universal Self. This is a profound state and achieved by only a few. (Gibson, WB: The Key to Yoga, 1958)

The Spiritual Significance of the Great Pyramids

pyramids

The Great Pyramids – Egypt

Within man, there are two aspects. There is his real inner, divine self. There is also the body and intellect which, at his present stage of evolution, consider himself to be a separate egoist entity. However, there comes a time when man realises that he is not the body and intellect. His real existence is a state of being; a consciousness at one with the Universal consciousness.

The great pyramids of Egypt hold a real significance in this great spiritual quest.

Firstly, there is great significance in an equilateral triangle. The three sides refer to the tri-natured aspect of God: God the creator, God the preserver and God the transformer. This tri-natured aspect of God, can also be seen in the analogy of a seeker’s journey. There is the starting point, which represents his birth in the matter of creation, there is then the long journey of evolution and inner discovery; finally ending in the seeker’s realisation of his true identity. At this point, the seeker loses his identity and re-submerges in his original divine consciousness. Thus there are 3 aspects to a seeker’s journey. This tri-natured aspect is perfectly reflected in an equilateral triangle, which boasts a perfect symmetry. Within the 3 lines of the triangle, there is the area within. Thus we can say that the one is in the three and the three encompasses the one. This is the nature of God, 3 in 1 and 1 in 3. Thus it is said that God has four faces. Like points on the Compass; the four aspects of God, represent a different aspect of his nature.

The shape of the pyramids is chosen very carefully to reflect these underlying aspects of the divine unity. The pyramid has 4 faces. Three faces to the heavens, and one face to the earth. The pyramid is composed of 4 equilatoral triangles, which all manifest the cosmic nature of God 3 in 1 and 1 in 3. The pyramids were built with the greatest precision. It was not built by slaves, but by adepts who had mastery over nature. They used their understanding of sacred laws to make stones weightless. They could reduce the gravitational pull on huge blocks of stone, thus enabling them to be effortlessly used. The idea of a huge army of slaves building the pyramid, has only been created because many modern egyptologists cannot conceive that the ancient Egyptians may have had technology not available to modern man.

The primary purpose of the great pyramids was a place for spiritual initiation. It was in the sacred confines of the great pyramids that initiates would undergo the process of attaining real illumination. The pyramids were chosen because they are an outer symbolism of man’s inner quest. The spirituality of ancient Egypt was concerned with initiates seeking the Divine within themselves. Unfortunately, over time, the spiritual initiates who guarded the secrets of realisation, lost influence and over time, the pyramids became used for different purposes. This is why it is hard to find evidence of these early spiritual practices.

Two Books which throw much light on the spiritual significance of the great Pyramids include:

  • A Search in Secret Egypy by Paul Brunton – who spent a night alone in the Great Pyramid itself.
  • Initiation by Elizabeth Haich. In her books she recounts memories of a former incarnation in Ancient Egypt.

Photo by: Unmesh Swanson, Sri Chinmoy Centre Galleries.

Spirituality and Philosophy

Philosophy and spirituality share some common ideas, but also differ in their approach and practise of the truth. To some people there is a wide divergence between philosophy and spirituality. However, to some extent, they share some similarities and both have their role to play in the discovery of truth.

1. Mind and Heart.

Philosophy deals primarily with the mind. It tries to understand, solve and explain problems through mental clarity and written explanation. Philosophy can seek to prove the existence of God, but this proof is always through the medium of the human intellect. In philosophy, it is the mind that is predominant.

"Philosophy is in the thinking mind. Philosophy is of the searching mind. Philosophy is for the illumining mind."

[1] – Sri Chinmoy

Spirituality accepts the mind can have a role to play; but, at the same time it can never be satisfied solely with the reasoning of the mind. Spirituality wishes to experience the heart of reality, and not just examine life from the fringes. Spirituality is not so much concerned with proving God’s existence; spirituality teaches us to make the God a living presence in our consciousness.

"Spirituality is in the aspiring heart. Spirituality is of the liberating soul. Spirituality is for the fulfilling and immortalising God."

[1] – Sri Chinmoy

2. Proof vs Experience.

Philosophy seeks to prove and convince others. For example, philosophers seek to prove either the existence or non existence of God. A philosopher can enlighten others to a limited extent. But, in practise, few are converted by the philosophy of others. Even the most persuasive and convincing explanations of God’s existence leave us unsatisfied. Spirituality is not concerned with convincing others; spirituality is primarily a matter of personal experience. Spirituality is not something to be talked about, but, lived. It may be impossible to explain our spiritual experiences to others, but this does not matter. The belief or disbelief of other people does not impact on our experience. Practising spirituality can give us a genuine feeling of inner peace and connection with our source. When we develop this connection we have good feeling towards others, but, we do not feel responsible for their beliefs.

3. The Role of Consciousness.

The essence of spirituality is consciousness. A spiritual seeker seeks to bring to the fore his divine qualities of peace and light. These are not mere words, but, become a living presence. Philosophy can talk about these states of consciousness, but on its own it cannot bring them into the consciousness of the reader. The highest philosophy can lead a seeker along the right path; but, ultimately philosophy has limitations in moving the reader from a mental understanding to a direct experience.

4. Complexity and Simplicity

Spirituality loves simplicity. Philosophy loves complexity. Both have their roles to play; but, it is often through simplicity that we can most easily reach the goal. Philosophy takes delight in pursuing multiple lines of inquiry. Hypotheses are tested against the strictures of logic and the most developed reasoning of the mind. Spirituality does not criticize the path of the mind, but, says to the aspiring seeker. "Dive Deep within. All questions can be answered in your silent mind and aspiring heart."

Philosophy takes us along the path to our destination. It can remove the ignorance and prejudices of the mind. By illumining the mind it can aspire us to understand and grow into the truth. Spirituality urges us to make the truth a living reality. Spirituality and philosophy need not be at loggerheads. Spirituality informs philosophy, it gives added meaning to the illumination of the mind.

[1] Philosophy, Religion and Spirituality by Sri Chinmoy

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