Religious unity

Sri Chinmoy teaches that all religions and spiritual paths can lead to the same goal. Although they may differ in outer forms, they share the same underlying essence.

“Each individual seeker views the Creator and the creation according to his own aspiration and level of development. What we need is light to illumine our inner and outer differences. It is through our oneness-life that we will walk, march and run to the Supreme. We must have appreciation for and sympathetic oneness with all religions in order to create a harmony that will spread throughout the length and breadth of the world.”

– Sri Chinmoy [1]

Religious tolerance and religious oneness

Mill Hill Unitarian church Leeds

Tolerance for other religious paths is a good starting point. But, from a spiritual point of view, tolerance is only a first step, because grudging tolerance may still leave a sense of superiority. If a seeker feels his religion is superior to others, there is a sense of pride and separation. The best attitude is to feel that if the source of religious traditions is the same, there is no superiority and question of judgement. Let each go in his own way.

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Suspicion and truth

A suspicious mind can see problems where the truth is very different. If we always suspect the worst, there is a danger we will start to see a world which reflects our pre-conceived fears and beliefs.

A doubtful and suspicious mind
Must carry a very heavy load
On a very long journey.

Sri Chinmoy, No unreachable goal

When our default mode is suspicion and cynicism, we can never cultivate real happiness, because of the cloud of negative which hangs over us.

If we are suspicious, we will also alienate other people and, in turn, make people suspicious of our own motives.

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The alternative to a suspicious mind

If we live in the heart, we will try and see the good in other people. We will see others’ failings as only part of their being and not what they are striving to be.

Be kind, be all sympathy,
For each and every human being
Is forced to fight against himself.

– Sri Chinmoy, AP 12871

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Imagining a better world

There was a great inventor, Nikola Tesla. He played a key role in inventing AC electricity; this electric system genuinely revolutionised the material world and is now used across the world. It is said that when Tesla wanted to invent something, he would visualise with his mind’s eye the working model of what he wanted to invent. He did not test by trial and error, he just tried to visualise the working model. For Tesla this capacity for visualisation was very strong and very real. At the turn of the century many thought an AC motor couldn’t be created or AC electricity would be too dangerous. But, Tesla had the faith he could make it work. It is as if he willed the invention into this world.

In the completely different world of poetry, some poets have described an experience of seeing a poem already written down. It is like the poem already exists in another world, there is just a thin veil between this world of matter and a higher world of poetry. The Seer Poet merely brings the poem into our world by his will and poetic invocation.

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We may be neither poets nor inventors, but there is a lesson that the power of imagination, thought and will can bring things into our reality. All humans have this creative power. At the simplest level, it is often said by the great spiritual Teachers, that our thoughts will create our own reality. As the Buddha said very succinctly.

“All that we are is the result of our thoughts”

If our mind is constantly negative, then our experience of the world will be difficult, confusing and painful. If we harbour and cherish good thoughts, we will experience a much more positive and joyful life. Continue reading “Imagining a better world”

Overcoming negativity

It can feel the world is awash with negativity. If we are not careful we can allow this negativity into us and it will cloud our view of life. Never underestimate the power of negativity and positive thoughts.

Each positive thought
Has the atom-bomb-capacity
To destroy the negative in us.

Each negative thought
Has the atom-bomb-capacity
To destroy our whole world.

– Sri Chinmoy [1]

To overcome negativity in ourself, in other people, there are many things we can do.

negativitiy-poem

Don’t cherish negativity

Often we unconsciously cherish negativity. We get a subtle temptation to enjoy gossip and complain. This may start off as an innocent joke, but it can grow and we become more and more negative because we focus on it. Sometimes, we need to be aware that negativity is a trait we can consciously hold onto. If we first become aware, we can change.

The mind is like blotting paper

Sri Ramakrishna once observed that the human mind is like blotting paper – it absorbs whatever it is dipped into. If we surround ourselves with a negative environment, then this will seep into us. For example, if you find yourself reading newspaper comments section, internet forums, you expose yourself to vast quantities of negativity. This seeps into your mind, and you start subconsciously picking up on all the negativity yourself. It’s impossible not to be affected to some extent. However,  if you spend time in a very different environment, where there is a positive energy, you will definitely feel the difference – enabling you to feel positive about yourself and the world.

Get out of ruts

Negativity is often the result of getting stuck in a rut – getting stuck in a bad habit. If we have the same routine, the mind gets into a rhythm of complaining. Sometimes, we need to work hard to get out of a rut. Do something out of the ordinary, and break your old habits. This breaks the cycle of negativity and gives a sense of newness. In this newness, you can much more easily get out of your negativity.

But, the problem is other people….

If you feel that the problem is always other people, you can be assured it isn’t. It is true, we need to avoid unnecessarily negative situations. But, ultimately, we have to be aware it is only ourself who can choose to be negative or positive. Other people will always have failings, limitations and degrees of negativity. But, that is not an excuse for us to accept their negativity. Just because other people are enjoying negativity, doesn’t mean we have to. Continue reading “Overcoming negativity”

How to be honest with yourself

Real happiness and genuine spiritual progress requires an ability and willingness to be honest with ourselves. We could call it self-criticism, but I prefer honesty. If we can be honest about our motives and actions, we will learn to cultivate a more self-giving attitude and keep our ego in check.

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This self-awareness and personal honesty, doesn’t mean we have to be overly critical of ourselves. We are not trying to make ourselves feel guilty; it is not about confessing sins, but a willingness to understand our true motivations and be aware of our shortcomings. If we always live with an attitude of self-justification and feel we are always right, we will struggle to make any real progress and will be more prone to pride and insecurity. But, if we can be honest and aware of our shortcomings, we can become the person we really want to. It may be a little hard work, but it will pay off in the long run!

These are some exercises we can take to make sure we are not living in a bubble.

1. Motive. Before undertaking an action what is the motive behind it? If we are undertaking an action, why are we doing it? Would we still do it if nobody was aware of it? It is not wrong to welcome appreciation of others. But, if our action is only motivated by the desire to please others or show off, then we are only feeding our ego and it can cause problems. A pure motive helps us to transcend the ego and we gain satisfaction from extending our sense of oneness.

2. Criticism? Do we put other people down to make us feel better? There is a part of us that tries to bolster our self-esteem by feeling better than others. This can make us critical of other people. We may not even be aware we are doing this, unless we can be really honest about our motives. Instead, we should feel our self-esteem can be built by encouraging and being sympathetic to others. It means avoiding the temptation to jump onto a train of gossip. It means we need to cultivate more self-belief and self-confidence.

3. Do we spend too much time making excuses?

It is human nature to try and blame our misfortune on other people and outer circumstances. But, shifting the blame onto other people is often a clever way of hiding our own shortcomings. Sometimes we think that only if we can move away from people who make life difficult for us, everything will be OK. But, when we do move somewhere else, we find the same problems are just as prominent. This is because the weakness is stemming from ourselves. We only see the our limitations reflected in other people.

“The only devils in this world are those running around in our own hearts, and that is where all our battles should be fought.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

If we are prone to anger, we can always blame the situation and the actual trigger for our anger. But, this will never deal with the underlying problem. Instead, we should make a conscious decision to overcome anger, and bring peace into our system. Here honesty is helping us to become aware of our shortcomings and helps us to realise that it is up to us to decide what will causes us to lose our inner peace. Continue reading “How to be honest with yourself”

How to overcome insecurity

We often cherish insecurity without being fully aware of it. Insecurity about what people think of us is quite common and it can lead to unnecessary problems. When we are insecure, it tends to make us more suspicious, it makes us try harder to impress. Because we are insecure about ourselves, we lose the self-confidence to be true to our real nature.

beach-jowan

A oneness-heart
Cures
Insecurity-fear.

– Sri Chinmoy [1]

These are some steps to overcoming insecurity.

Recognise the problem and make an effort to overcome

The first thing is that people may not realise a lot of their anxieties, worries and fears stem from a sense of insecurity about ourselves. We worry because we are insecure about our standing in society and amongst friends. When we are aware of a misplaced insecurity, it becomes much easier to try and overcome it. This requires an awareness and honesty about our motivations and actions.

Don’t be overly critical of other people.

If you spend time criticising and judging other people, you will subconsciously fear the same treatment yourself. Invariably highly critical people have a deep seated insecurity themselves. The motivation to criticise comes from a need to make themselves feel superior to other people. However, the attempt to make yourself feel better by putting other people down will never work. At best, we get a temporary false sense of security, but it never lasts. If we want to create a genuine sense of self-belief and self-confidence, never base it on being superior to others. In fact it is the opposite, if we can have a sympathetic and empathetic attitude, we will feel better ourselves. Continue reading “How to overcome insecurity”

The best time is now

When giving meditation classes, a common issue is people find it difficult to find the time to set aside 15 minutes of the day for meditation and a period of quiet reflection. We all know it would be good to meditate, but to actually make sure we do it can be quite a challenge. Similarly, we can have the best of intentions to change some of our bad habits and wrong attitudes, but we think maybe it will be easier or better at a later stage. For any progressive change in our nature or worthwhile practise, the best time to start is always now!

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We might think there will be a better time in the future, but in the spiritual life, the best time is always this present moment. If we wait for outer circumstances to be more favourable, we will always be delaying and procrastinating. And before we know it, we will have given up completely.

These are some tips to value the present moment and take each opportunity.

Valuing meditation

The first thing is we need to always remember the value of meditation and spiritual practise. If we see meditation as some hard discipline we need to endure, our mind will always find an excuse to avoid doing it. However, if we can focus on the benefits and joy that we will get from the practise, we will always be motivated to keep trying. Here we need to use our wisdom, we need to convince our mind that we get more joy from meditation than we would wasting our time on some inconsequential other activity. Don’t feel when we meditate we are making a great sacrifice. Our reward will not be in heaven, it will be from cultivating a genuine sense of happiness here and now.

Change attitude to difficulties

If we wish to start a practise of meditation, there will be innumerable obstacles. For example, we may find it is much noiser than we like. One option is to say, ‘it’s too noisy’ let’s wait until its quieter. The other option is to say, “I’ll take this outer noise as a part of the meditation practise. I shall try incorporate the noise into the meditation – learning to allow the sound to wash away.” If we can meditate with noise, it will make our meditation practise much stronger. It’s like a runner training on hilly terrain. When he finally reaches the flat terrain, the challenging hills made him stronger.

Learn to say no!

Sometimes, other people can take advantage of our good nature and encourage us to take on more jobs and responsibility. But, we have to learn to say no, and put our spiritual practise first. If we can lose our feeling of indispensability, we find the world doesn’t end, just because we spend 20 minutes early in the morning learning to meditate.

Live as if it was your last day on earth

If it was your last day on earth, how would you spend it? Would you really worry about paying some telephone bill? Would you waste it in meaningless gossip and chat? If it was our last day, we would concentrate on the important things in  life. We would suddenly be very clear what is important to us. Material possessions lose all meaning – they are merely passing things; but our inner practise, our inner faith and inner peace become all important.

If we don’t take this opportunity, we won’t have it again

A spiritual life means:
It is now
Or never.

Sri Chinmoy (1)

Every moment is an opportunity – either we take it or lose it. In one sense, we have eternity to achieve realisation. But, if this is our laid back attitude, we will progress with the speed of an Indian bullock cart. If we get an opportunity to meditate or change our attitude – then we should take it now, whilst we have the aspiration. If we miss out, perhaps in a few days, we will lose any enthusiasm or willingness to change.

Continue reading “The best time is now”

Humility means giving joy to others

Humility is a wonderful quality. People are definitely attracted to humility and often repelled by the opposite. If we can learn to value humility, we will gain real joy and improve our relationships with others tremendously. But, what is humility? What does it mean to be humble?

Jai-Ganga-Ma

Giving joy to others. This is a striking definition of humility. We simply choose and attitude that helps to give joy to other people. It means avoiding meanness and jealousy, but seeking to help others to be happy.

“…True humility is something totally different; it is the feeling of oneness. Humility means giving joy to others. If you have not established or cannot establish your inner oneness with others, then you can try to make them feel that they are as important as you, if not more so. “

– Sri Chinmoy “Does humility mean taking a back seat” – A God-lover heaven-life part 1

Bringing others forward. Real humility will make others feel good. It requires us to always value the achievements and contributions of others. Even if they have unfortunate experiences or less talent, we will still try to bring them forward and make them feel valued. This is very important because when we try to sincerely value others, we reduce our own feelings of self-importance and ego.

Modesty. Taking a back seat is not necessary humility. Sometimes, we make a big fuss of taking the back seat – almost unconsciously, we are wanting to show others that we are being humble; we try to make a display of our humility. But, sometimes, it might be necessary to stand in the limelight. The important thing is not to see it as a show of superiority. We can feel part of an integral team,  but with someone having to be the figurehead. Humility means we are willing to play many different roles, each role with the same detachment and modesty.

Real tests of humility

  • Be equal in your affection. It is easy to bring people we like to the fore, but humility means we need to be equally fair in our treatment. We need to be willing to bring anyone to the fore, even those who we may not instinctively like. Remember the test of humility – can you give joy to others – that includes those whom you really might not want to. Continue reading “Humility means giving joy to others”

Dealing with criticism

It’s easy to be critical of the world, but it’s much more difficult to deal with criticism directed at ourselves. Criticism is something we often like to give, but not really receive. However, no matter how saintly we might or might not be, we will get plenty of practise for dealing with criticism at some stage of our lives. When we are faced with criticism it can be an unpleasant experience, but equally if we take it with the right spirit, we can use it all for our advantage.

These are some tips for dealing with criticism.

how-to-overcome-criticism

1. Take a deep breath and don’t react. The problem with criticism is that we can feel an instinctive need to defend ourselves and argue. Often this is not necessary. Remember to separate your ego from the real self. If you are hurt by criticism, just remind yourself that it is only your ego that is hurt. Who you are really are – the soul – is not affected in anyway. With time, you will be able to respond in a more measured, positive way.

2. Separate emotion and substance What can you learn from the criticism? Sometimes, useful suggestions are given in the form of criticism. If we strip away the other persons’ emotion and unfortunate choice of words, there may be some suggestions and advice that we can usefully take on board. It is a good lesson to let go of our pride and see wisdom, even in a disguised form.

3. Life isn’t about immediate perfection. Sometimes we set up a false goal of perfection, but life isn’t like this. It is impossible to get things 100% right all the time. The real perfection is making continued progress throughout life. To make progress, mistakes and faults are an inevitability. We should see criticism in this light of the necessary process of transformation and progress. Here we are simply changing our perspective to criticism. Rather than seeing criticism as a bad thing, we see it is part of our journey.

4. Tough love. There are many stories of spiritual Masters who seek to perfect their disciples through tough love. If they only praised their disciples, their ego would just grow and they would fail to make spiritual progress. However, through criticising their weaknesses, it gives a chance for the aspirant to break down their ego and bring their higher self to the fore. A realised soul will be completely unaffected by criticism because he is secure in knowing who he is. He doesn’t feel the need to defend himself because he has attained a state of consciousness that is unaffected by the world. This is what we can also strive to aim for – the equanimity and inner poise to deal with any criticism of the ego.

5. Don’t feel guilty. A deep and often misplaced sense of guilt is the worst way to take criticism. When we feel guilty, we feel unhappy and it is like placing a large stone around our neck. If we avoid feelings of guilt, it is much easier to take a positive and constructive approach. If we can remain happy and detached, then we will have the inspiration to make a better effort. But, if we react to criticism with guilt and misery, it will compound any problem. (overcoming guilt)

6. Keep a sense of balance. It is human nature to focus on the faults of other people and what is wrong. Unfortunately, people often criticise the 1% of things that are done wrong, but fail to mention the 99% of things that you do well. If you find yourself criticised, don’t forget to remember the positive things that you have done. Perhaps you might even be able to mention that when responding politely to their criticism. But, equally, don’t instantly dismiss criticism. It is unhelpful to feel useless or invincible and always right. In reality, it is always somewhere in between.

7. Criticism can be beneficial. Every time people criticise you outwardly, you can guarantee that silently they have been criticising you inwardly a lot more. Sometimes it is better to be open to criticism (or lets call it constructive advice)  If people feel there is a forum for airing grievances, this will help improve relationships. If you can’t take criticism in any form, people may stop outwardly criticising you, but they will build up inner resentment, which is even worse.

Related

Photo top: Menaka, Sri Chinmoy Centre galleries

Poem: To-Morrow’s Dawn, Sri Chinmoy

Who do you want to be?

When I was young, I was often asked – what do you want to be when you grow up? The answer people were looking for was something along the lines of – stockbroker or management consultant.  This is what we can grow up thinking life is all about – what can we become? how will we be perceived by society? Because of these subtle pressures, we can unconsciously start to define ourselves by the job we hold or our status in society.

what-i-want-to-be

But, imagine we could start with a clean sheet of paper and we had the opportunity to create the person we really want to be. What do we consider important? What qualities would we like to have? What aspects of ourselves would we want to transform?

This exercise is not about creating outer circumstances and outer status, it is about thinking about the person we want to be.

In the spiritual life, transformation is not easy. But, if we don’t have a clear idea of where we want to go, it is nearly impossible. If we can challenge ourselves to keep asking – what do we want to be? then we can at least have a clear idea of where we want to go.

Here is a simple exercise we can all do. Imagine that our thoughts had 100% power to manifest themselves. Suppose that whatever we wanted, we would get. If we wanted to be perfectly forgiving whatever other people did, we could become that. If we wanted to be happy whatever our outer circumstances, we could have that. For the moment, leave aside whether it’s feasible. Just feel anything is possible and imagine yourself as you really want to be. There are no limits, if you want to have a deep and abiding sense of peace all the time, why not choose that?

Factors that can help us in knowing what we want to be.

  • Appreciate good qualities in others. It is good to be inspired by the positive qualities of other people. This is not imitation. This is seeing good qualities and feeling that they can become part of ourself. If someone else can be resolutely cheerful, we can make this part of ourself. Continue reading “Who do you want to be?”