Archive for the ‘spirituality’ Category

Heaven on Earth: Shaker Aesthetic Philosophy

shaker barn

Shaker Barn

"Heaven on Earth: Shaker Aesthetic Philosophy" by Sumangali Morhall

"Hands to work and hearts to God" so the Shaker work ethic went. The term ‘Shaker’ is best known as a style of furniture, but how did it evolve? Where did the Shakers come from, and why did they start to disappear after 100 years?

In modern Europe and America, craftspeople are still reviving not just the Shaker style, but in some cases the Shaker dedication to integrity. A form of aesthetic Chinese Whispers has inevitably crept in over the years, and one may now even buy such anomalies as Shaker jewellery boxes. The simple and beautiful style can arguably be applied to anything, but the philosophy behind the style makes it all the more interesting as an art form.

The first Shakers came from Manchester, England, in the late 18th Century. They began as a small group of Quakers, but developed their own doctrines, based largely on a strong sense of community and self-sufficiency. Community tasks were clearly defined and rotated so that anyone could be replaced on any job if unable to work on a particular day. The day started early and ended late, and was punctuated by regular prayer sessions.


Shaker Hat

Purity?inner and outer?was a cornerstone of Shaker life. They led celibate lives, men and women living in separate quarters, entering buildings through separate doors, and sitting in separate areas of communal buildings. They created an almost completely egalitarian society, where work, respect and authority were divided fairly between men and women. This led to an interesting approach to beauty. Their way of dress was modest and simple so as not to attract attention from the opposite sex. They wore no adornment or pattern (certainly no jewellery), and although they stopped short of uniforms as such, their clothing was almost devoid of individuality.

So beauty was not sought in human form. Even objects, although fastidiously designed for human use, were not visually based on human features. Clock faces are no longer faces when they house maintenance knobs. Their bodies are no longer bodies when their shoulders and waist are replaced by straight lines. Symmetry itself though was seen as human narcissism, if asymmetry made for a more practical object.

Shaker perfection was in the ultimate usability of the object, but also in the process of its creation. "Do your work as though you had a thousand years to live and as if you were to die tomorrow" so they used to say. Work was an intrinsic part of their spiritual lives, thus its integrity was part of its appeal.

And they knew it had appeal. Commercial value was important to the Shakers’ survival. They did a roaring trade in such lines as vegetable seeds, fabric and leather, as well as furniture. The circular saw, the flat broom and the clothes peg are all Shaker inventions. The Shaker name became a household brand, synonymous with quality.

"Trifles make perfection, but perfection is no trifle." On the face of it this Shaker maxim seems to contradict itself, or hint at an underlying frivolity, but in fact it reveals a deeper understanding of their motivations. As The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik observes in "The Shining Tree of Life":

"The urge to make consumer goods is, after all, one of the keenest spiritual disciplines that an ascetic can face: it forces spirit to take form. An ascetic drinking tea from a cup decides not to care what kind of cup he’s drinking from; an ascetic forced to make a cup has to ask what kind of cup he ought to drink from."

Their dedication to perfection and to work was not only of benefit to themselves and their customers, but unfortunately left them open to abuse. However, as their practicality reached all aspects of life, the Shakers took it all in their stride. The homeless would sometimes come to them in winter, apparently wishing to convert to their branch of Christianity, only to leave in the spring with full bellies and warm clothes. The same would return and be accepted again the following year. Bountiful vegetable patches would fall prey to thieves. The Shaker solution? To plant extra so the thieves may eat well too.

The demise of the Shaker community came not from such abuse, but largely from the rise in mass production. The market for homespun fabrics, hand-picked vegetables and passionately hand-crafted wood diminished, and with it the Shaker population. The Shaker style’s popularity has survived though, and perhaps some still hold dear the Shaker spiritual work ethic, which can really be applied to anything (including jewellery boxes).

"Where is Heaven,
If not in the serenity of the mind,
Purity of the heart
And simplicity of the life?"

? Sri Chinmoy

Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees 18326


Sumangali Morhall has been a member of the Sri Chinmoy Meditation Centre for ten years. She enjoys discovering links between spirituality and art. She also edits, dedicated to the spirit of serendipity.

Poetry of the Sufi’s



Looking at my life
I see that only Love
Has been my soul?s companion
From deep inside
My soul cries out:
Do not wait, surrender
For the sake of Love.



Sufism is the mystical branch of Islam. It has its roots in the Qu’ran and the Islamic tradition, but at the same times encompasses the universal mysticism that we see in other spiritual traditions

Despite the difficulties of describing their experiences, the words of the Sufi Seers still tease, cajole and inspire us to look beyond the page and into our own hearts. For those who love words, it is necessary to have poetry, which can take us beyond the domain of the intellect. Hafiz beautifully describes the purpose of a poet.

A poet is someone who can pour light into a cup, then raise it to nourish your beautiful parched, holy heart.”


The Ecstatic Poetry of the Sufi’s at

Photo by Unmesh Swanson Sri Chinmoy Centre galleries

Secrets of Happiness

The Secrets of Happiness by Jogyata Dallas

The quest for lasting happiness lies at the very heart of all human purpose and experience, though this much desired attainment is sought in many different ways. Among the ways that have proven successful a number of recurring themes are evident.

The perennial philosophies of our spiritual teachers urge self-perfecting, the inner way, while most of mankind is searching in the outer world ? right person, right possessions, right place.

Here are a few pointers that work:

Start Within

A huge wealth of highly credible literature and teachings concur that happiness is first of all an inner accomplishment, not just a series of circumstances. Prayer, contemplation, quiet time, simply sitting with peaceful music, the practice of inner stillness, all help in developing understanding, balance, an inner harmony and poise. Happiness arises out of these practices like the fragrance of a flower.

Visualise Your Day

Take five minutes at the start of each day to visualize what you intend to accomplish ? prepare the mind, your life energy, and burst into your day with vigour, intensity, calm resolve and joy. Every day we create our world with our mind ? our moods, emotions, attitudes and consciousness. Train the mind and fill it with inspiration and positive energies, self-faith, the bright colours of your heart and soul.

Be Healthy

Try to achieve excellent and enduring physical health through regular cardiovascular exercise and reasonable diet. The well-being of the body creates the foundations of a lasting happiness. Body, mind, heart, soul interconnect and impact on each other ? happiness is helped by physical well-being as well as by stress free living, simplicity, spiritual awakening. The body is the temple, the soul is the shrine, happiness the fragrance.

Compassion and Kindness

Practice kindness and acts of self-giving. When we use our good qualities to serve others, our good qualities multiply. When we neglect these and live only for ourselves, they wither. This is karma yoga, spirituality in action ? the ego is erased, the heart widens, our oneness with others expands and deepens. Happiness blossoms when we see and serve the divinity in everything around us.


Try not to feel burdened by life or see yourself as frail and vulnerable. See every trial and challenge as an opportunity to learn, grow, triumph, and see yourself as having much undiscovered strength and capacity. Feel gratitude for your life ? for what you have and what you do not have, who you are and who you are not. Feel your life perfection and your own blossoming perfection. You are the soul and your talents and capacities are boundless ? it?s really true.


Simplicity is the shedding of everything that prevents our enlightenment. Our world dazzles us with endless enchantments ? we will be happy if we have more, if we acquire this, that. But simplicity brings a happiness that comes through having less, achieving desirelessness. For desires do not diminish through fulfillment but deepen and multiply. The more we get, the more we want. Simplicity is an inner achievement ? ?simplicity is an advanced course? as Sri Chinmoy succinctly says.

“Desire is a cord that binds us to the world ? simplicity severs the cord and brings detachment and freedom. According to the spiritual masters, the ultimate simplicity is the surrender of one?s self-determination to God.”

Heart Not Mind

The mind plays a dominant role in our modern life and slowly fills up with the ambitions, ideas, hopes and expectations that eventually shape our lives. We superimpose upon the flowing stream of our life all the limiting impositions and plans of the mind, but often at the expense of our happiness. Learn to ?feel? your life?s direction rather than plan and change it; listen to the wisdom of the spiritual heart, not the cautious deliberations of the mind; and ?see? your way forward with intuition and instinct rather than create it with the mind?s limited intent. ?Living in the heart?, a gift earned through spiritual practice and simplicity, recognises our life?s deeper purpose and gives us the courage to follow this. The heart knows how to be happy.

Have a Sense of Humour

Although our strong sense of ?I? and ?me? makes each of us the epicentre of our universe, six billion other ?I?s? and ?mes? are also out there at the centre of their universe, all playing the leading role in their own private drama-comedy. A sense of humour gives us a light touch and reminds us that, like characters in a play, our role will be over very soon, the curtain will fall and we?ll go back to the changing room (the soul?s world) to prepare for another part. Like Groundhog Day, we wake up every day of our life (and every life in our many incarnations) and confront the same personal reality and unresolved issues until we at last get it right ? and what ?getting it right? really means is something you have to discover for yourself. Smiling about all this both unburdens us and gives us inner calm ? helpful benefits in the torrid battlefield of life.

Try Meditation

I?m serious. One day, probably too late, you?ll wake up and realise that your lifelong pursuit of material things and nest building isn?t really working ? you?ve had some fun, done pretty well, but you?re feeling unfulfilled and a bit empty inside. That?s because this isn?t really what it?s all about and real happiness, permanent happiness, is instead about personal enlightenment, freedom from suffering and egotism, discarding the ignorance that hides our true nature. So life will keep hitting you hard until you realise this ultimately liberating truth. Meditation will awaken this inner knowledge, reconnect you with your essential spiritual nature, show you a ?way out? of the discontent of your life. If you are ready and sincerely willing to try, your inner progress will be your life?s true accomplishment and finally the measure of it?s real worth.

Test these guidelines in your own life – see for yourself if they work. But make a start, for as the Latin proverb goes – Aut tunc, aut nunquam – it was then or never?.

More articles on Self Improvement and Happiness

Seven Steps to Inner Peace at Sri Chinmoy Inspiration

Jogyata Dallas.

Jogyata Dallas is a meditation Student of Sri Chinmoy and lives in Auckland New Zealand, where he gives free meditation classes on behalf of the Sri Chinmoy Centre

 Poems on Happiness at Sri Chinmoy Poetry

Swami Satchinanda – Breaking Bad Habits


Swami Satchindananda

Swami Satchidananda is a respected yoga teacher, who studied under the Spiritual Master Swami Sivananda. In this short extract Swami Satchidanada offers a spiritual approach to breaking bad habits

How can you trick your mind into breaking a bad habit?

How can you trick your baby so you can take away something that would hurt it? Suppose the baby is playing with something sharp. What kind of trick would you use? You would give her something nice to distract her.

In the same way, find some nice positive habits. Present them to the mind. Admire them ?Oh, look how terrific this habit is. So useful. Something to be proud of.? Certainly your little baby mind will jump to grab it. As soon as it jumps for the good habit, take away the bad one.

If you want to be rid of bad company, what should you do? Just get into good company; the bad company will automatically stay away. It?s simple. You won?t be available to the bad people because you will always be mingling with good people. That?s a very good beginning toward a very high goal. Sir Patanjali calls it pratipaksha bhavanam ? substituting positive thoughts for negative ones. Think of the opposite, develop the opposite. If you have hatred, develop love. That is the trick. You cannot simply beat the darkness, telling it to get out. Instead, just bring in a candle. Without even saying goodbye, the darkness will run away.

By: Swami Satchidananda

Dilip Kumar Roy

dilip kumar roy

Dilip Kuamar Roy was a rare combination of the a keen intellect and the devotion of a Bhakti. After a certain amount of deliberation, he forsook a materially prosperous life, to enter under the guidance of Spiritual Master, Sri Aurobindo. In his book ?Sri Aurobindo Came to Me? He recalls with great humility and openness his joys and trials of being a spiritual aspirant. Dilip was a supreme singer and musician. His soul stirring songs transport the listener to a realm of heavenly delight, far beyond the domain of worldly thoughts. As Mahatma Gandhi said of him.

?I may make bold to claim that very few persons in India ? or rather in the world ? have a voice like his, so rich and sweet and intense.?

View: Dilip Kumar Roy biography

Poem: Live Your Life



Live Your Life


Live your life that the fear of death
can never enter your heart.
Trouble no one about his religion.
Respect others in their views
and demand that they respect yours.
Love your life, perfect your life,
beautify all things in your life.
Seek to make your life long
and of service to your people.
Prepare a noble death song for the day
when you go over the great divide.

Always give a word or sign of salute when meeting
or passing a friend, or even a stranger, if in a lonely place.
Show respect to all people, but grovel to none.
When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light,
for your life, for your strength.
Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living.
If you see no reason to give thanks,
the fault lies in yourself.
Touch not the poisonous firewater that makes wise ones turn to fools
and robs the spirit of its vision.
When your time comes to die, be not like those
whose hearts are filled with fear of death,
so that when their time comes they weep and pray
for a little more time to live their lives over again
in a different way.
Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.

By: The Teaching of Tecumseh

Photo by Pranlobha Sri Chinmoy Centre Galleries

Quotes on Death

The Growth of Religious Tolerance

Despite the continued presence of religious fanaticism and bigotry in the word, the twentieth century has witnessed a significant growth in religious tolerance. The idea that different religions and spiritual traditions have a valid approach is more widespread than at any time. To a large extent up until the 19th Century a defining feature of religion was the idea of the one true religion, and through its adherence you were either saved or damned. There was little if any ecumenical tradition and views of other religions were often clouded in myth, superstition or even contempt.

However the ideal of religious harmony is however increasingly shared by many. A crucial event in shaping a more pluralistic, tolerant view of religions was the inaugural World Parliament of Religions in 1893.

As part of the Chicago exhibition it was decided to invite participants from all the main religions. Some suggest the Parliament was founded in the expectation of proving the superiority of Christianity over the other religions. This may or may not have been a partial motive, but the idea of inviting representative from different religions was a relative novel concept and an outreach towards greater tolerance.

The World Parliament of Religions could possibly have passed into relative anonymity had it not been for the participation of the young Hindu monk Swami Vivekananda. Vivekananda was a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna a great saint from Bengal, India. Under his guidance Vivekananda had learnt, practised and embodied the ancient ideals of Vedanta. Foremost Sri Ramakrishna was a devotee of Mother Kali, but after realising the highest spiritual experience in his own sadhana (spiritual discipline) he was inspired to practise with great devotion, the religious and spiritual disciplines of other religions and sects. Thus Ramakrishna was able to proclaim with the inner certainty of direct experience that all religions led to the same goal. For Ramakrishna the unity of all religions was not just a philosophical idea it was something he had realised and experienced himself.

As the spiritual successor to Ramakrishna it was fitting that Vivekananda would be able to make such a positive impression on the Parliament of World Religions.

In Vivekananda the audience felt a sincere spirituality a religious feeling that was not confrontational but all-inclusive. At his inaugural address Vivekananda began his immortal address with the words

?sisters and brothers of America?? [1]

Spontaneously the 4,000 audience rose to their feet in appreciation for the sentiments and spirit of his lofty message. Vivekananda continued.

?It fills my heart with joy unspeakable to rise in response to the warm and cordial welcome which you have given us…?

Swami Vivekananda was chosen to represent Hinduism however he did not try to prove the superiority of his religion. Instead Vivekananda spoke with great sincerity about the harmony of world religions and the common spirituality of humanity. It was this universal message of oneness which captivated the audience.

?As different streams, having their sources in different places, all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee.?

Vivekananda proved to be an eloquent exponent of Vedanta and the ideals of all religions. In addition people felt in this handsome and striking Monk a calm detachment, a luminous personality and genuine spirituality. Unexpectedly Vivekananda proved to be the star of the World Parliament of Religions

100 years later another World Parliament of Religions was held in Chicago. The aim was to commemorate the historic Parliament 100 years ago and also to renew the commitment to interfaith dialogue. Since then there have also been Parliaments convened in Cape Town 1999 and Barcelona 2004. In Chicago and Barcelona the opening meditation [2] was led by Sri Chinmoy. Speaking of his meditations Sri Chinmoy said

?During my Opening Meditation I am praying for the oneness of all religions.?

Like Vivekananda, Sri Chinmoy comes from India and since his arrival in United States in 1964 he has sought to spread a message of unity and oneness between people of different faiths. Sri Chinmoy is also the founder of the World Harmony Run; a global relay run seeking to offer a dynamic way of bringing people together in harmony and oneness.

To Sri Chinmoy religious tolerance is of great importance but also suggests tolerance is not the highest ideal, we can go beyond tolerance to feel a oneness and sympathy with other religions in the knowledge all religions are a reflection of the Ultimate Truth

?? I fully agree that all religions lead to one truth, the Absolute truth. There is One truth. There is only one Goal, but there are various paths. Each religion is right in its own way.?

  • Sri Chinmoy
[1] Video of Vivekananda’s Speech at World Parliament of Religions
[2] Opening Meditation at World Parliament of Religions 2004 by Sri Chinmoy

Start your day with Love



Quotes from Swami Atmachaithanya


Start your day with love
Spend your day with love
Love everyone you meet
Show love and compassion to all
Love is the sole purpose of your being
And is the key to the inner vision of God.

God is always with us
But we are not always with God
That is why we suffer.



By: Swami Atmachaithanya


Via: Inspirations and Creative Thoughts – blog of Sadiq

Photo by Pranlobha Sri Chinmoy Centre Galleries