A simple treatment for depression

In the treatment of depression, a new practise has emerged to help people overcome feelings of unworthiness and depression.

People are given 3D glasses, which give a virtual world. In this virtual world, people come across a person who is down on his luck – homeless and suffering. Usually, in response to seeing this person, people offer kind words to this stranger to help him feel better.

Later, the person undergoing treatment, experiences being the homeless person, who is then comforted by their own words of kindness and compassion. They hear the exact words, that they offered from the other perspective.

do-you-want-to-be-happyWhether it works or not, it raises quite a few interesting ideas about the nature of depression and how to try and overcome it.

What goes around comes around. The first interesting observation is that this simulation works by speeding up the law of karma. If we offer kindness to others, this kindness will come back to us. Similarly, if we offer hatred to others, that too will come back to haunt us. Sometimes, we can forget that we should always treat others, how we would wish to be treated ourself.

Bringing out our good qualities. A strong point of this treatment is that it puts us in a position where our natural good qualities – concern, compassion and kindness come to the fore. Everybody has a heart, but when we are stuck in the cycles of the minds depression, we can forget about our own heart’s good qualities. Continue reading “A simple treatment for depression”

Jewels of happiness blog

I haven’t blogged for a while. But, in the meantime, I can recommend the Jewels of Happiness  a blog – by Abhinabha. His most recent post is


“An inner hero is someone who struggles with his or her own imperfections and strives to become the best possible version of him- or herself. This is the path of true nobility and character building. Not everyone can become an outer hero. But all of us can become true inner heroes.”

How to become an inner hero

The Jewels of Happiness includes books by Sri Chinmoy and an articles on how to bring happiness into your daily life.

Don’t forget to smile

Sometimes, we get caught out by the simplicity of life. Our mind, which tend to prefer complexity, forgets that the simplest of things can make a big difference to our state of mind and happiness. Why is it so important to smile?

smiling people

Choosing happiness

Life throws many things at us – both good and bad. But, if we can respond by offering an outer smile, we are trying to respond in a positive way. Our smile is our conscious decision to try and remain happy, whatever the circumstance. From this initial positive choice, we can build upon this beginning to cultivate happiness. If we refuse to smile, we are more likely to cultivate emotions of self-pity, wounded pride and unhappiness. If we have difficulty cultivating happiness, then trying to smile at the world and our mind, is a positive step we can take.

Offering something positive

If we can sincerely smile at others, we can give something without even speaking.  When we smile, we are offering our good will to the world and other people. We don’t need to be a millionaire to give something to the world, in many circumstances, a soulful smile can be more beneficial than any amount of words or material aid. To make the effort to smile at a stranger or friend, is to sympathise with their plight and offer some encouragement.

We disarm our enemies

Our face can reflect the emotion and thoughts that we wish to share. If we wish to make enemies, we can scowl and look miserable. But, if we smile at anyone, it can create an atmosphere of goodwill and harmony. By smiling, we create a climate where others can feel more at ease. When people feel happier, they will be more inclined to be tolerant and open-minded. If we smile and put others in a good frame of mine, we will be more likely to get what we want.

Don’t forget to smile at your enemies – You can take the motivation from the wit of Oscar Wilde:

“Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.”

Or we can take the more spiritual approach of Abraham Lincoln:

“Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

Continue reading “Don’t forget to smile”

The importance of happiness


“Be happy
You will get what you like most. You will be what you like best.”

– Sri Chinmoy [1]

This is an extract from a poem by Sri Chinmoy on happiness. This particular line struck me as being quite revealing and informative.

Usually, with human nature, when we don’t get what we want, we feel unhappy. Then when we are unhappy, often – consciously or unconsciously – we make others unhappy. But, when we create this unhappiness vibration, it becomes hard to get what we want and it becomes impossible to be the person we want to be.

We need to break the cycle. We need to let go of our unhappiness and instead choose a very different approach. It is this approach of choosing happiness, which will help us to be the person we want to be. When we can create this good feeling, people are attracted to help and co-operate. It is this positive energy and infectious happiness, which will enable us to get want we want out of life.

Be happy, you will get what you like most‘ – An interesting thing is that Sri Chinmoy says that if we are happy, we will get what we like most. On the first reading, I thought, it read ‘Be happy, you will get what you want‘. But, of course, there is a considerable difference between getting what we think we want, and getting what gives us joy.

For example, we may have a great desire for people to act and behave in a certain way. When they disappoint us, we feel miserable because they are making our lives difficult. We don’t get what we want, and we are unhappy because we feel others are making our life unpleasant. However, a different approach is to be detached about expecting how other people behave. Rather than vainly hoping others will be the person we want them to be, we should concentrate on being happy with the situation we are in. With this changed happiness, we get the opportunity to be happy. Rather than being miserable because outer circumstances are not to our expectation, we are happy.

It is this cheerful happiness which means we get what we like most. The goal is not the outer circumstances, the goal is our happiness. If we can cultivate happiness, we will get what we like.  What is the point in chasing false unrealistic goals if we don’t get happiness along the way?
Continue reading “The importance of happiness”

What is Happiness?

Happiness is a state of mind in which we have a positive outlook on life. When we are happy, we are at peace with ourself and the world. Happiness is the absence of depression, worry, fear, anxiety and boredom. Happiness is the presence of joy.

False happiness is gained from mental hallucination, temporary pleasure and ego gratification. This false happiness is accompanied by an underlying sense of unease; this false happiness always proves temporary. Real happiness is achieved when we wish to share our happiness with others. Real happiness is something that occurs with inner peace from the knowledge we are doing the right thing.

We gain false happiness at the expense of others, we gain real happiness from making others happy.


Happiness For No Reason

It is not by chance that we find ourselves happy or miserable. Over 2,500 years ago, the Lord Buddha left us this unmistakable truth:

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. 
If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him. 
If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, 
happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him. ”

These are the simple tips to cultivate happiness – a happiness that doesn’t depend on external circumstances.

Be Happy Where you Are.

We often talk about the importance of being in the ‘here and now’. But, what do we actually mean by this? The nature of our mind is that it is often planning for happiness in the future. If we get that degree, job, relationship, if we can only move to where reasonable people live e.t.c – then we will be happy. But, with this attitude of planning for future happiness, means it will always remain elusive – like chasing a shadow.

We need to be happy whereever we are. Even in the most difficult of situations there are opportunities to be a little more cheerful and a little less frustrated. Don’t allow small things to knock you off balance, as this frustration can spoil the rest of our day.

Be Happy with your work.

A problem is that we often associate happiness with pleasure, rest and lying on beach in some far off tropical paradise. Well, there’s nothing wrong with a tropical paradise. But, unless you happen to own an island in the Bahamas, your fate will place you in different circumstances. Work is necessary and  no matter how repetitive or difficult it maybe, take pride in it. Be conscious of the ability to gain satisfaction from doing a good job and serving other people.

There are times when we can be happy from a mundane activity such as washing dishes. It is such a simple task, but if we can do it cheerfully, (without complaining that someone else should have been doing it), then we will really be able to cultivate real happiness.

Part of the problem is just being aware that we can be happy even in mundane situations. Focusing entirely on the job at hand, can help us to forget the inevitable ruminations of the mind.

Society places a subtle pressure to compare ourselves with other people. When we compare we will never be satisfied. There will always be someone better off than us; there will always be someone who seems more successful. As soon as we start comparing, jealousy and frustration inevitably follow. Avoid comparing with others. Instead, learn the art of self confidence and self-respect.

Do not compare
If you want to be happy.
Do not blame
If you want to be happy.

– Sri Chinmoy

If you find yourself subject to jealousy, the best way to overcome it is by sincerely appreciating the good qualities / achievements of others. Appreciating the good qualities of others is the best way to learn them yourself

Smiling in the Face of Adversity

Life has a habit of putting is together with difficult people. Is there anyone who has the pleasure of just living with saints? – of course not … If you find your happiness challenged by other people, escaping from them will merely switch one problem for another. Keep smiling, and silently offer your good will. Don’t spend your time analysing and criticising their faults. Let the negative qualities have no impact on you.

The Heart – Mind and Meditation

As the first quote by Lord Buddha suggests, it is our thought and state of mind that determines our inner life. If we are subject to a negative train of thoughts, we will slowly but steadily become miserable. The art of happiness is to lessen the impact of our negative mind. It is not about just repeating positive mantras by rote; We are trying to bring the heart to the fore. This is just simply the more divine, peaceful part of our nature. There are times when our heart comes to the fore even without trying – this could be in the beauty of nature, listening to sublime music – But, at times we need to make the effort.

Try these simple exercises:

The great paradox is that by being aware of our state of mind, we can learn to be happy without reason – or at least happiness for no external reason.

True happiness
Is not a mental hallucination.
True happiness
Is not a complacent feeling.
True happiness
Is the spontaneous feeling of joy
That comes from knowing
You are doing the right thing
And leading a divine life.

– Sri Chinmoy


photo by Tejvan

Self Criticism and Self Encouragement


Do you want
To be happy,
Learn the beautiful art
Of self-encouragement.

– Sri Chinmoy

It is a fine balance between self encouragement and self-criticism. To honestly evaluate ourselves is a difficult task. We tend to either conveniently ignore our own faults or become too harsh on ourselves for small inconsequential things. We need a balance of self-encouragement and honest self-appraisal; getting the right balance is not so easy.

Tips for Self Criticism

Don’t Be Ashamed of your Faults.

If we can’t be honest with ourself who can we be honest with? The mind can be good at justifying our wrong actions and behaviour. But, clever self-justification is of no benefit in the long run. If we can be aware of our own pride, jealousy, insecurities then we have a chance to let go of them. But, if we always justify our wrong attitudes to ourself then we are lost.

Avoid Guilt

One of the reasons we may seek to ignore our faults is that we feel guilty. Rather than feeling guilty we avoid criticising ourself. However, it is better to be self-critical without feelings of guilt. Guilt is an emotion that doesn’t help but makes us feel more inadequate. Become aware of what you want to change and see it is a positive movement.

Not self-contempt
But self-improvement
Has to be
Our continuous choice.

– Sri Chinmoy

Don’t Judge By The Values of Others.

The biggest problem is that we start to judge ourselves by the standards of others. Our friends may have been put out because of something we did. Therefore, they try to make us feel guilty. Because others are critical of us, we feel obliged to feel guilty too. But, we have to be firm and reject others’ criticisms – if they are not justified. In the eyes of the world we may have done something wrong. But, only we know our inner attitude. We may have done something with the best of intentions and motivations, but, because of circumstances beyond our control, thing turn out badly. The world will criticise us, but, we know we did our best. How can we criticise ourselves for bad luck or circumstances beyond our control?

  • At the same time, we may get praise when we don’t deserve it.
  • Also, although we shouldn’t accept the misinformed critisims of others. We should be open to the suggestions of others. Often people can see things about ourselves that we can’t. Don’t be too proud to take advice / suggestions / criticism from others. It is not a sign of weakness to listen to other people. Our sincerity will know whether they are telling the truth or not.

Judge Motives rather than Outcome

As mentioned in the previous point it is our inner attitude which is important. A small action done selflessly without expectation of reward is worth more than egoistic selfish actions which may appear to have a better outcome. It is our inner attitude that we need to be aware of.

Remain Balanced.

When we start to criticise ourself it is easy to lose a sense of proportion and start beating ourselves up over a small issue.  This is a real mistake. We might make small mistakes but, making them into big problems just makes the situation worse. Never lose a sense of proportion and don’t magnify small problems. At the same time don’t be dismissive of actions that are causing pain to others.

Self Criticism and Self Encouragement.

Focusing on the negative doesn’t help. The most effective self-criticism is to also learn the art of self-encouragement. Be aware of the good selfless deeds and thoughts you have and give these more importance. If we strengthen our good qualities then this will take care of most of our weaknesses. The positive approach is by far the best way to help our self-improvement.

photo by Pavitrata

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Values of Happiness

Recently, at a public lecture on the theme ‘blueprint for world peace’ I found myself sitting next to a very quiet African man  from Burundi. We both took a liking to each other and I gradually learned over the course of several subsequent encounters that he had been one of many refugee children, dispossessed by war and fleeing from murderous armies and tribal militias, that had been the subject of much media attention and outrage. Hounded and decimated by soldiers, killed by wild animals or dying of starvation, these many hundreds of children  had dwindled to only a handful of survivors and my new friend whispered of the terrible events that had filled his life and caused the death of his entire family.

Friendships bloom in the unlikeliest of manners and our life paths kept intersecting. On one amusing occasion I invited him to a hotel function that celebrated  a happy conclusion to a peace initiative I had been involved with. Nicholai had told me he would be a late arrival, and as his English language was not strong I promised to look out for him. After quite some time had passed I became concerned and began to look for him. Over in an adjacent huge ballroom, corporate types were hosting their own national get-together, a bacchanalian affair where hundreds of suited executives were dining, speech- making and almost climbing over each other to lay siege to a buffet table groaning under mountains of alluring food. A sudden possibility occurred and I scanned their ballroom from the open door – and sure enough there was our lost guest sitting merrily with a group of complete strangers, glass of champagne half-raised to his lips and blithely unaware that he had wandered in to the wrong function and invaded a Civil Engineers soiree. He looked so happy and I wondered whether I should leave him there with his whole new set of friends and dazzling new social possibilities. But I quietly retrieved him and brought him, both of us smiling at life’s vagaries, to our rather less glamorous function.

Nicholai’s heart-rending life had not made him forlorn or melancholy but filled him with gratitude and purpose and a resolve to offer all of himself back to the world to repay his own gift of life. All of the deaths he had seen had deepened him and awakened him spiritually…’death is as close as your breath’ he would tell me. He carried a battered copy of the Dhammapada, the Buddha’s teachings on impermanence, and would whisper to me solemnly : ‘Why are we born?  We are born so that we will not have to be born again’. He was speaking of the viewpoint that all life experience, if properly understood, offers us countless opportunities to learn equanimity and end suffering with it’s endless cycles of birth and rebirth.

How much joy we get in the company of those with whom we share an affinity of souls. Nicholai’s life had been stripped of everything that most people spend a lifetime accumulating – in return he had won the great spiritual treasures of desirelessness, simplicity, gratitude and spiritual awakening. He reminded me of a story I had heard from the life of Sri Krishna:

– stopping for a night at the simple cottage of a very poor devotee, whose only worldly possession was a cow, Krishna and his dear disciple Arjuna are treated with care and great kindness by the old lady who does not recognize who they are. In the morning Arjuna requests Krishna to reward their host for her selflessness and sacrifice and He agrees – he will take away the life of her cow! How can you be so cruel, asks Arjuna in dismay. Krishna replies, now she loves both me and her cow, but soon she will only have me and I will be the only thing left to her. She will rely solely on me, and in this way she will soon become one with me and live always in my heart. Then I will take care of her every need.

In our own quest for happiness we so often look to the impermanent and outer things of life – later we come to understand that happiness is not another person or place or circumstance or acquisition but a state of desirelessness, an inner achievement, a life of simplicity or devotion to God, the offering of oneself to a higher cause, egolessness and inner contentment. ‘Simplicity is an advanced course’ wrote my own teacher Sri Chinmoy. Indeed.

Nicholai’s wife died of gunshot wounds and whispered to him- ‘don’t be sad…go far away and start again…’ My own wife died of a lingering illness and I have only a last aphorism she wrote on a piece of paper, the handwriting spidery and wobbling with effort, a quotation by Sri Chinmoy: ‘Obstructions loom large, within, without. Yet, like a kite I shall rise without fail and fly against the wind’.

Death and sadness and loss teach us our life lessons and form an integral, indispensable part of our compassion for others and our own enlightenment. Nicholai makes me smile when he says to me: “I’m not sad any longer when someone dies – his suffering in this life is over. If you want to be sad, be sad when people are born: ’Oh, no, they’ve come again. They’re going to suffer and die again!’ “ He quotes the Thai master Ajanh Chah – “ we don’t meditate to see Heaven, but to end suffering”.

This is a guest post by Jogyata Dallas. Jogyata lives in Auckland, where he frequently gives meditation classes for the Sri Chinmoy Centre. see: Auckland Meditation

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Photo by Unmesh Swanson, Sri Chinmoy Centre gallery

Changing yourself by accepting yourself

The very notion of ‘self-improvement’ can often imply a deep dissatisfaction with ourselves and with life. This is rather unfortunate, because such an attitude can be pretty counterproductive if we want to change ourselves! Let’s first explain how accepting ourselves does not mean giving up on improving ourselves; in fact it makes the whole process of self improvement much more joyful:

  • We get to set our own standards for self-improvement: Often we are unhappy because we judge ourselves by some unrealistic standard, which has often to do the expectations set by other people and society. By accepting some external guideline for what constitutes self-improvement, you are in effect comparing yourself to others.  Accepting ourselves allows us to judge our self improvement not by criteria set by others, but by our own previous marks.
  • We get to focus on the positive: Often we spend so much time poring over our faults and failings that they occupy our entire mental space, leaving no room for us to appreciate our good qualities. By constantly ruminating on our weaknesses we give them a kind of power and we feel more and more helpless to overcome them. However by accepting yourself as you are, warts and all, you can then focus on increasing and expanding your good qualities – you will notice that your weaknesses will decrease in strength as well. Indeed, the most effective way of reducing your weaknesses is not by focusing on them, but by invoking its opposite positive quality instead.
  • We live in the moment: Self acceptance means accepting whatever you did in the past, no matter how deplorable, is done and there is nothing you can do to change it now. Any time and energy spent wondering what might have been is therefore pointless. You have to start from where you are, here and now, at your current state of development, with what you have at your disposal.
  • We change our attitude to the world: A poor self image leads to problems relating to other people, and excessive time wondering how others perceive us. However if we are happy in our own skin, then we begin caring less about what people think about us, and more time caring about people.

So how do we go about cultivating a philosophy of self acceptance? Here are a few tips:

  • Create space to acknowledge your good qualities. Our mind often seems automatically geared to think of only the bad about ourselves, you have to consciously shift the focus to the good.  Even a simple five minute daily exercise of writing down the good things you did (no matter how small), or positive thoughts and inspirations you have had helps enormously.
  • Don’t identify with the mind. We often see our minds as the final arbiter over our behaviour, and take anything it tells us very seriously, especially when it tells us something bad about ourselves. However a practice of meditation can help you access a deeper part of your nature, and take your thoughts much less seriously.
  • Compete with yourself rather than others. Whether it be work, sports or any other field of endeavour, try to set your challenges not so much as achieving a fixed goal or competing with others, but more about transcending your own personal best. This relieves the pressure of outside expectation, and you will get tremendous joy from knowing that you have gone beyond anything you have previously done.

Photo: Jowan Guthier, Sri Chinmoy Centre galleries

The Power of Humility

Last week I wrote about gratitude, sharing my experience of how contrary to its associations with meekness, it can in fact be a form of unexpected power. Humility, if anything, is a quality that has even more of those mild saintly associations, leading us to think of doormats who turn the other cheek no matter what who is trampling all over them. And yet (surprise, surprise) nothing could be further than the truth, and here’s why….

First of all we need exactly to define what humility is. Because our ego often gives rise to excessive overpromotion, we feel that humility therefore involves the opposite extreme – publicly castigating ourselves and laying on excessive lashings of forced modesty. Yet the underlying feeling behind this kind of behaviour is insecurity and a desire to have others think better of us, and as such is just as much a manifestation of ego as excessive aggrandisement.

Humility is, quite simply, what happens when we go beyond the ego – a sincere and genuine self-appraisal, taking into account the entire being, all the faults and good points alike. As meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy points out “When you take a back seat consciously and deliberately in order to show others how humble you are, you are not being humble at all. True humility is something different; it is the feeling of oneness. Humility means giving joy to others. When we allow others to get joy, we feel our joy is more complete, more perfect, more divine.”

Continue reading “The Power of Humility”