Spiritual Essays #24

Meditation, Visualization and Your Emotions

Emotions

by Jayaram V

Emotions play an important role in life. They help you evaluate situations and respond to threats and opportunities. However, the mechanism is somewhat imperfect. Therefore, you do not always get the right results. Sometimes you overreact, sometimes under react, and in both cases you lose focus and balance. At times, you may also confront situations with inappropriate responses and expose yourself to further problems. On the positive side, emotions make you human. They help you feel things and experience the richness of life. It is one redeeming feature about emotions.

One of the common suggestions about controlling emotions is that when problems arise you should think rationally, rather than give in to your emotions by counting numbers or taking a deep breath. Theoretically, those responses are very appropriate, but you know that you cannot always do it. When emotions arise, you seem to lose control over your rationality and let them out. You may feel guilty afterwards for what happened, but it does not guarantee that it will not happen again.

In real life situations, emotions are common human experience. People do not feel peace until they let them out and say or do according to their bidding. It is certainly not a sign of weakness. It is what it is, human nature. We are wired that way. There are two parts in the human brain, the primitive brain, which is the seat of emotions and instincts, and the evolved one which is responsible for most executive functions.

In all situations, invariably it is the primitive brain which responds first. When a problem or a threat presents itself, your primitive brain reacts first and engages your whole attention to the perceived problem or threat by releasing chemicals into your bloodstream and invoking in you strong emotions. It does it with mechanical precision and most efficiently, and gives you little or no opportunity to think about the situation or process the information.

Therefore, it is practically impossible not to feel any emotions or to suppress them. Besides, it may not be wise to do, since they are vital to your survival. The best way to deal with your emotions is to feel them, know them, understand them, and become familiar with them. You should let them rise and fall, without damaging your inner poise. It is a tough call, but it can be practiced.

Think of the ocean. Can you imagine an ocean without waves? The same is true with your mind. You cannot imagine a mind without emotions, except in deep sleep. Waves disturb the surface of the ocean only. Deep inside, the ocean is calm. The same should be the case with your mind and emotions. Emotions may rise and fall in the surface of your mind, but deep inside you should remain calm. Here are a few suggestions to cultivate the oceanic inner poise, without suppressing your emotions.

1. Practice meditation. It gives you an opportunity to observe your own thoughts and emotions and become familiar with them. Regular practice will help you become more introspective, observant, mindful, and sensitive to your own thoughts and feelings and notice them when there are major shifts in your moods or how you feel about yourself or others in different situations.

2. Label your emotions. When emotions arise try to identify them and label them. Many times emotions linger in your consciousness, which you may not notice because you have grown accustomed to them. Many people do not pay attention to themselves and cannot identify their own emotions. They become so engrossed with the life outside or winning the approval and acceptance of others that they ignore their own feelings. It is important to know your emotions and acknowledge them when they arise.

3. Practice visualization. Visualize situations that trouble you or disturb you. Mentally play out various scenarios to see how you can deal with them so that you can gain control over your responses and remain undisturbed in situations that normally tend to destabilize you in real life. It will also help you break your habitual mental responses and routine behavior, and learn new ways to think and act, and correct your behavior and attitude.

4. Cultivate detachment. The things that you love most are the ones that can potentially cause much emotional turmoil. Your attachments make you vulnerable to emotions. Therefore practice detachment and learn to let go of things so that when you are drawn into unpleasant situations you can become a passive observer of your own mind and consciously experience your emotions without being disturbed by them. The best way to cultivate detachment is to know your likes and dislikes and maintain a healthy distance from both of them.

5. Broaden your thinking and outlook. An open mind helps you keep your negativity under control. Consider all viewpoints, possibilities and alternatives before rushing to judgment. When you view life from a broader perspective, you will learn to absorb a lot of information without being disturbed by it and grow comfortable with the conflicts, inconsistencies, instability, loss and gain, and contradictions of life.

6. Keep your mind clean. Your mind has many demons of hunger and thirst. If you are not disciplined, they will let all types of thoughts and intentions enter it and potentially disturb your peace. It is important to be true to yourself and be honest with yourself. You should be clear about your intentions and basic morality and stay away from wrong paths and questionable choices. Practice right thinking, right perception, right awareness, and right discernment, which will lead you in the right direction.

7. Keep smiling. A smile, even an artificial one, can change your moods. It can lift your mind and instantly change your emotional states. Bring cheer into your life by forcing yourself to smile frequently. Even if it is an artificial smile, do not mind. Keep smiling at every opportunity. People usually reciprocate a smile with a smile. When you smile, you will radiate a lot of positive energy and evoke similar emotions in others. It will create a very energetic and cheerful atmosphere around you.

Suppressing your emotions is not the right choice, neither ignoring them nor escaping from them. One can drown oneself in sorrow or drink oneself to numbness. They are destructive choices, which will create further emotional problems. The right way to deal with your emotions is to let them do their job and not feel disturbed by them. Accept your emotions as an integral part of your consciousness and behavior. Try to know them and become familiar with them. Express positive emotions as often as possible to experience the richness of life. Use the power of meditation to gain right knowledge about yourself and your emotions. Meditation is the art of thinking, or not thinking. With its practice you become self-aware, thoughtful, observant, stable and peaceful. It does not matter where you live, what you do, or which faith you practice. If you are not practicing it for any reason, you are probably missing a great opportunity to experience peace and stability.

*****

May God bless and protect you and…

May you always be

Healthy, Happy

Safe and Comfortable

Seth Kelly Curtis

Spiritual Essays #23

How to Bring Spirituality Into Your Life

Spiritual Practice

by Jayaram V

In western traditions, you will find a clear wedge between spiritualism and materialism. It is not so in eastern traditions, especially in Hinduism and Buddhism.

Hinduism is rightly called a way of life, because it advocates a God centric life in which we are expected to integrate our materialistic and spiritual aspirations around a central purpose, which is attaining liberation (moksha) from the cycle of births and deaths.

Although Buddhism does not believe in the existence of God, it projects a way of life in which the practice of Eightfold Path is an important and essential component.

Both the religions uphold a holistic way of life, in which you are slowly and gradually drawn to spiritual life, while performing your obligatory duties and your day to day responsibilities.

Both the religions agree that until you are ready for complete renunciation, you should lead a responsible and virtuous life, preparing yourself for the next stage of your liberation.

It is not difficult to lead a holistic way of life, which is complete and in which you will have ample opportunities to fulfill both your material and spiritual aspirations. It is not necessary that to lead a spiritual life you need to become a monk or an ascetic.

You can be whoever you want to be and yet spiritual, because you can with some practice make it your essential nature. You may think that you are a physical entity, but as every religion declares you are a spiritual being.

To lead a spiritual life, you do not have to seek salvation in a faraway place. Although seclusion helps you stabilize your mind, you can create opportunities to create your own spiritual zone.

For the same reasons, you do not have to go to a forest or a mountain cave to find peace in your heart or find God. You can experience them wherever you are, through the things that you seek and the actions that you perform.

To live a life that is wholesome, spiritual and peaceful, you need awareness, sincerity, commitment and sensitivity to the deeper and not so apparent aspects of life. You should remain mindful and attentive to what happens around you and inside you. You have to train your mind and senses and change your mindset, so that you can discern the reality beyond the illusions.

Cultivate the qualities that are essential to lead a divine and holistic life. Holistic means, you consider every aspect of your personality, not just your mind and body to resolve the problem of your life and work for your salvation. In this regard the following suggestions are helpful.

  1. Think deeply about your perceptions and experiences that matter to you most as they happen. It helps you to be reflective and cultivate deeper awareness.
  2. Observe life and people without letting your emotions and judgments interfere with it to develop understanding, insight, intuition, and empathy.
  3. Practice silence so that you can learn to use your speech wisely and remain secluded even amidst people and the world as and when needed.
  4. Keep your negative thoughts under check and do not allow them to influence your actions and decisions.
  5. Feel grateful for the very opportunity to be alive and experience life in all its colors.
  6. Learn from your negative experiences so that you will become wiser and better.

Spirituality is a deeply personal subject. The purpose or the aim of spiritual life is to become free from whatever that holds you in bondage and fear. Therefore, aim to free yourself from the illusions and shackles of the world and find freedom from them.

*****

May God bless and protect you and…

May you always be

Healthy, Happy

Safe and Comfortable

Seth Kelly Curtis

Spiritual Essays #22

To Be Like a Flower in the Winds of Life

Spiritual Practice

by Jayaram V

A flower has no purpose aim or motive in spreading its fragrance. It is its nature to be so and to do so. Be like a flower in the wind. Jayaram V


To be like a flower in the winds of life can mean many things, depending upon your thinking and expectations. To spiritual aspirants it may mean you have to be like a flower, sacrificing yourself with no expectations and with no clear advantage or benefit to you.

In many ways, it exemplifies the life of a renunciant (sanyasi). It is difficult, but not an impossible task to live that way. For over 6000 years it has been practiced in the Indian subcontinent by millions of ascetic people. The Buddha and Mahavira exemplified it in their teachings. So did numerous other ascetic traditions that originated in India. Their logic was simple. Desires made humans selfish. Selfish actions produced karma and suffering. The problem was therefore with desires. If you wanted to be free from suffering, first, you must be free from desires.

The renunciant path

For generations, people with spiritual inclinations and distaste for worldly life believed in this simple and straightforward approach to gain control over their lives and destinies. They went to great lengths to overcome their desires and escape from the problem of suffering. In extreme cases, some ascetic groups allowed their members to self-immolate themselves in fire to burn away the last remnants of their desires and attachments.

A true renunciant does not live with definite aims, intentions or purpose. He is a wanderer on the path of life, enjoying the moment, surrendering his will to God. He lives with deeper awareness, trying to make sense of God’s creation, and fully yields to the forces and elements of the world, giving up even the desire to live or the longing for life (abhinivesa). You can see in him how the five elements of creation come to life.

  1. Like fire he burns his desires and attachments in the heat of detachment and renunciation.
  2. Like water he remains flexible, adaptable, and humble, finding comfort in whatever space, comfort or discomfort life offers to him.
  3. Like earth, he bears the burdens of life with incredible forbearance and allows himself to be trampled by the problems and difficulties of life.
  4. Like wind, he breathes freely with no encumbrances in whichever way the winds of fate move him.
  5. Like space, he extends his vision into the universe and embraces his identity as the infinite, invisible, universal, eternal Self.

However, living like a flower in the winds of life does not necessarily mean you have to live like a flower or a vegetable. You are a human, not a plant or a tree. Therefore, in a worldly sense it means you have to bring out the best of yourself and live accordingly. You have to manifest your essential human nature (manava dharma) or essential purpose, being genuine and authentic, honest to your core values, without being pretentious, and without leading a double life or trying to be what you are not.

Living and manifesting your dharma

In Nature most life forms live and act according to their dharma or natural, inborn instincts. They do not pretend or deceive, or try to be other than what they are, except as a natural instinct to survive or evade their predators. Even when they do it, they do so instinctually without being aware of its moral or spiritual ramifications.

Nature intends them to be natural and to manifest their natural behavior (prakriti svabhavam). A flower does not act like a tree or a tree does not act like an animal. It makes life somewhat predictable and bearable. Every living being strives to excel in being itself and fulfill the aims of natural evolution by being the fittest. If they do not fit into the pattern or fulfill their dharma, Nature will either discard them or evolve them into better species.

In case of human beings, the equation does not work the same way. Human beings can corrupt their essential nature by indulging in selfishness and desire driven actions. They can defy nature and serve their own ends. They can not only adapt to their environment but also manipulate it or modify it if necessary.

You have therefore a genuine problem with humans when it comes to their natural, human duties, which they are supposed to render in creation to ensure its order and regularity. As the Bhagavadgita declares, the self is the friend of the self and the self is the enemy of the self.

The triple alternatives

In humans, Nature manifests fully. They are endowed with both lower and higher natures. The gross, physical body and the senses constitute the lower nature. The mind, the ego, and the intelligence constitute the higher nature. Beyond them there is their spiritual nature or the eternal Self.

The lower nature is vulnerable to grossness, desires, passions, and natural instincts, while the higher nature gives them the ability to be self-aware, use their intelligence and exercise their discretion and judgment to control their thinking and actions. Depending upon circumstances, human beings have three major alternatives to choose from to shape their lives and destinies.

  1. They can strengthen their demonic nature by acting according to their baser instincts and indulge in the worst of human passions, immorality, cruelty, selfishness, evil and lustful behavior. It usually leads to their increased grossness (tamas) and spiritual downfall.
  2. They can strengthen their human nature by living responsibly according to their dharmas and playing their dutiful roles in creation to manifest the will of God and ensure the order and regularity of the world. It leads to increased happiness, peace and prosperity upon earth, while at the same time it may keep them worldly and bound to the mortal world.
  3. They can strengthen their divine nature by stabilizing their minds in the thoughts of the Self, cultivating divine qualities through self-purification, and living according to the best of moral and spiritual values. It leads to suppression of baser human nature, detachment, desirelessness and transcendental state of self-absorption.

Thus, human beings have the freedom, the privilege, and the discretion to manifest their essential nature (dharma) according to their interests, desires and inclinations or according to the will of god. They can live like the Asuras, humans or gods and manifest the best or the worst of human nature. They can be guided by their lower nature, indulging in desires and passions or by their higher nature inspired by their values and morals. They have to possess the right discretion (buddhi) to make right choices.

The lower human nature is driven by desires. As the Buddha declared, which is also affirmed in almost every scripture of Hinduism, it is responsible for human suffering. If people want to be free from it, they should take refuge in their higher nature and live accordingly, cultivating virtues, restraining themselves and living righteously as modelled in the Eightfold Path or Jnana, Karma and Sanyasa yogas, so that they can simultaneously manifest the will of God, the intent of Nature, and the ultimate purpose of life.

*****

May God bless and protect you and…

May you always be

Healthy, Happy

Safe and Comfortable

Seth Kelly Curtis

Spiritual Essays #20

Four Important Lessons of Life

life and freedom

by Jayaram V

Life teaches us many lessons. We learn some from experience and some from others. We learn them by intuition or observation. Sometimes, they also manifest in our lives from nowhere as a chance occurrence, subliminal message, a dream, a passing remark or a memorable experience. You may consider them the lessons taught by God or providence. They come to you in various guises, according to your knowledge, understanding and receptivity.

Even a painful experience, an adversity, or a serious illness can be a lesson. Think of a person who becomes habituated to a certain unhealthy lifestyle, ignoring all the warnings. At some stage, his body gives away and refuses to cooperate. It is a reminder that if we do not learn the lessons which life teaches us, we will end up paying a much bigger price.

It is what karma is. It is a great teacher who extracts both pain and pleasure in return. Karma is the sum of all the lessons we either learn or chose to ignore. As a perfecting mechanism, it helps you improve your life and overcome your weaknesses and past mistakes. You can benefit from your past deeds and establish a stronger foundation for your future, or you may waste away a lifetime learning nothing and letting life fall into an abyss of painful existence.

Learning is thus inherent in the process of living. It is by learning from your mistakes, weaknesses and failures that you progress in life. You are lucky if you learn from others and avoid the mistakes they make, or if you are proactive, anticipate problems and take care of them. By practicing mindfulness, paying close attention, and being sensitive to the world within and without, you can learn quickly and prevent many problems and mishaps.

All the lessons that you learn in your life are important. They can be specific to your situation. Learning may not always be a pleasant experience. Sometimes you may have to learn harsh lessons that involve lot of pain and suffering. Chances are if you do not learn from your lessons and keep repeating old mistakes or problem behavior, you may suffer even more. People become stuck in their lives because they do not learn from their experience or refuse to learn. How can you change, if you are not willing to change your ways which keep you unhappy and unfulfilled?

In the following discussion we will focus upon four important lessons, which I believe are universal and which are applicable to almost everyone and to every life situation. You may call them the lessons of life or the lessons for peace and happiness. There may be other such lessons which are foundational to a better life. However, here we will focus upon these four only.

Appreciate the value of your life and time

By this, it means one should not live frivolously or die for frivolous reasons. A lot of it depends upon your choices, discretion and decisions. Do you appreciate your life? Appreciation means whether you value the time and the opportunities you have to make yourself a better person and live with specific aims and purpose. Your life is the sum of your thoughts and deeds, and perhaps chance and providence. Do you appreciate what life offers to you to improve your knowledge, relationships or your financial wellbeing? Do you value the freedom you have to live consciously, enjoy your blessings or focus on what matters to you? Life offers you immense possibilities to be and to have. How you progress through that long journey of unexpected twists and turns and chance encounters enriching your life greatly depends upon which battles you pick and which ones you choose to ignore.

However, not many people really appreciate the very experience of being alive and here. They do not consider life a precious gift. Imagine how many random events must have conspired to make your random existence possible upon earth. In this vast universe, on this tiny planet, it is a miracle that you manifested and you have an opportunity to experience the greatest wonders called life and consciousness. This opportunity cannot be bought or sold to another. It is yours forever. It is non-transferable and non-negotiable.

The question is, are you appreciating and valuing what has been bestowed upon you by the forces of the universe? You may spend much of your time in public service or professional work, or debating some frivolous matter with total strangers on the Internet, while you may remain ignorant of what has been going on in your own life, career, your family or in the life of your children. It happens when you do not appreciate your time, sort out your priorities or chose right goals.

To appreciate life, you must value your time. You must respect the very process of living and the opportunity to be alive. Every moment is valuable and every breath. Every conscious moment which you spend here matters because they cannot be lived again. You must live with the awareness that your life is limited and in that limited lifespan certain opportunities, abilities and experiences are age specific and will never repeat once the time has passed. Life has its own rhythm. You cannot draw from it what cannot be repeated or recreated. You cannot have certain strengths, privileges, abilities and opportunities forever. They pass with time, like your youth or your looks or the opportunities to choose a profession, relationship or experience. If you wisely spend your time and make the best use of your resources to better your life, you will have fewer regrets later.

To appreciate your life, you must live in the present and be in touch with the reality around you. Since ages, Indian monks and ascetic groups devised a wonderful technique to ground themselves in the reality of the world and appreciate the current moment. They would meditate upon death. By reflecting upon it they would remember what were important to them, which in their case were peace, happiness and liberation. As a worldly person you may have other goals. What is important is to reflect upon death, so that you can avoid wasting your life, knowing what is important to you, where you want to focus your energies or in which direction you want to progress.

Free your ego bound consciousness

There are two fundamental aspects to your existence, you and your world. Your life is largely shaped by how you relate to the world, and with what attitude you will deal with it. If you are like most people, you will be primarily concerned about yourself, and your survival, success and wellbeing. You do so because you bind your whole consciousness to you and use it mainly to further your interests, agendas, desires, goals, relationships and possessions. You build walls around that consciousness to keep it bound, customized and personalized.

In other words, you treat your mind as if you are its master and it is your slave to ensure that it serves none but you. You keep it bound to your desires, expectations, likes and dislikes and curtail its freedom with restraints, dependence and conditioning. This is the “I” and “Me” approach, which is selfish in its intention and purpose and with which most of us are familiar. It is largely responsible for many of our problems, difficulties and conflicts in life.

In its original state your consciousness is pure, without any identity or personality. It is like a blank slate upon which you write your name and your story and thereby making it limited to you. To some extent it is justified because is necessary for your survival and wellbeing. However, you must know where to draw the line and keep your consciousness free from egoism and the limitations which you impose upon it.

If you are too preoccupied with fulfilling your desires and impose limits upon your thinking and vision or if you solely limit your energies to selfish pursuits, you lose the opportunity to see your existence from a broader perspective as part of a universal whole. You become a prisoner of your own mind, while your consciousness remains enslaved to you. It is evil to be selfish or live entirely in the pursuit of your own desires and dreams. The Vedas do proclaim this truth. It is why karma arises from your actions and why it leads to suffering and rebirth. Karma is caused by desire-ridden actions, which in turn produce the evil impurities of sin, egoism, delusion and ignorance.

If you want to be free, you must first liberate your consciousness from your egoistic hold. You must free your mind from selfishness and egoism. The best way to do it is by letting go of things to which you cling and practicing detachment. To be free, you must transcend your limited aim to live only for yourself. You must mold your consciousness to see yourself as a spiritual being rather than a physical being and view your current life from the broader perspective of a soul’s long journey through a succession of births and deaths.

Another effective way to do it is by showing consideration, compassion, empathy and friendliness to others and value your relationships as opportunities to learn and grow rather than to impress, control or dominate. Virtues such as nonviolence, truthfulness, contentment, charity, generosity, honesty and integrity also help you to free your consciousness from the shackles of egoism and selfishness.

Practice moderation to maintain balance

The essence of balance is staying the middle course by avoiding the extremes. A person who spends too much time or too little time in the pursuit of a goal is at the risk of losing peace and happiness. It is the same with those who starve their bodies to lose weight or eat too many unhealthy foods without any consideration for the consequences. Life exists upon earth because it is neither too far away nor too close to the sun and the temperatures upon earth are in the safe zone. If the earth loses the balance, life will be extinct forever.

There is an important lessons for us to learn from this. Our worlds will collapse if we ignore the importance of balance and moderation and resort to extreme lifestyles. Society should be neither too conservative nor too liberal. Otherwise life will be shackled, painful or chaotic. Over regulation kills our creativity and freedom while too much freedom lead to anarchy. Whenever the humanity plunges into the extremes of life, it leads to destruction and untold misery to millions of people.

In quantum physics we learn an important lesson. Reality arises from the interaction of particles in the atoms which may otherwise remain nonexistent. By that, probably the universe conserves its energies. Thus, at the quantum level, reality manifests only when necessary, when the particles interact or when they jump from one state to another. At other times, it is as if nothing exists and nothing happens.

Life is more enjoyable when we stay in the middle of things rather than becoming stuck with things. Extreme negation of life is as detrimental as over indulgence. Whether it is in material life or spiritual life, the ideal is to avoid the extreme and keep the balance. Our seers recognized this problem long ago. Hence, they prescribed the pursuit of four chief aims for the householders namely, dharma (duty), artha (wealth), kama (sexual pleasure) and moksha (liberation). The four aims ensure that a human being leads a balanced life. A person should resort to the extremes of ascetic life only when he wants to let go of his clinging and sacrifice his life for the ultimate liberation.

You will find a similar type of advice in the Isa Upanishad. The Buddha also suggested the same by recommending the middle path. Moderation in all aspects of life keeps you in balance. You may have challenging goals, and you may push yourself to achieve them. However, in doing so you should not subject your mind or body to extreme discomfort, pain or emotions. The same holds true in personal relationships. However good or intimate your relationships may be, you must know how to stay within your limits and let others live their lives. Many relationships are damaged when people do not keep their boundaries or respect other people’s opinions or privacy. Even when you communicate, you should know when to speak and when to remain silent, what to reveal and what to conceal. Creation itself is part manifestation and part concealment, part creation and part destruction. Without these dualities existence cannot continue.

Be yourself and express your individuality and uniqueness

There is certain honesty and satisfaction in being yourself and letting your life and experience shape your thinking and behavior. It is better than living according to unverified truths as learned from others or blindly follow them to win their approval or acceptance. You cannot be yourself without knowing who you truly are. It means you must observe your own thoughts, feelings, and attitude towards yourself and others and pay careful attention to how you feel in different situations without being too self-centered. It also means you should not try to be another person.

Being yourself does not mean you have to be defensive, rude, aggressive or demanding in your relationship with others or attitude towards them. It is not a question of whether you are in control or assertive, or whether you live a life of negation, but whether you respect your rights and boundaries and let others respect theirs. Your existence is not meaningless,. It is part of a larger sum. Its purpose is fulfilled only when you play your dutiful role and express your uniqueness and individuality. You may free your consciousness from the shackles of your ego as suggested before, but at the same time, you should do your part and fulfill your personal obligation as part of your essential Dharma.

In the pursuit of your goals and performing your actions, you must express your individuality, overcoming your fears and any resistance you may face from others, minimizing the conflicts to the extent possible, but never letting others unduly influence your mind. If necessary, you should avoid those who do not want you to be yourself. You should aim to enrich your life and relationships by knowing yourself, being yourself and letting others have the same freedom, without being a discordant note in the symphony of life. By cultivating an attitude of mindfulness, you will become even more sensitive and considerate to others as you understand their feelings and behavior just as you understand yours. A sage sees himself in everyone one. Hence, he is not disturbed, nor does he disturb others.

Life is a precious opportunity to be alive and part of the wonderful existence. It is indeed a miracle that we are born upon earth and have this great opportunity to consciously experience life and shape our destinies with our thoughts and actions. No one can take away that gift, which Nature has made possible through a random process. You cannot throw away the gift of individuality and inner freedom to keep other people happy or live according to their values, lessons, beliefs, priorities and preferences, unless you are honestly and genuinely in harmony with them and accept them out of genuine understanding and agreeableness rather than fear or coercion. Your life is the only precious thing which you can truly claim as yours. Everything that happens outside is not you but what happens to you. Therefore, honor thyself and live according to your best judgment, benefiting from the lessons you learn and the values that you find to be inspiring and harmonious.

*****

May God bless and protect you and…

May you always be

Healthy, Happy

Safe and Comfortable

Seth Kelly Curtis

Spiritual Essays #19

by Jayaram V

The essay is about the implications of the latest researches in quantum physics and their relevance to human life.

Probably the same mechanism that is responsible for our imagination is at work in the working of the universe also because our imagination knows no bounds just as the reality of the universe. In both spheres everything is possible, and nothing is stable or certain. Jayaram V


Modern research in quantum physics revealed many truths about the nature of existence, causality, probability and reality. Some of them are relevant to our lives since they give us an incredible perspective on the world and ourselves and help us dispel long standing irrational beliefs. In the following discussion we will focus upon a few principles and discoveries of quantum physics which can be applied to our lives to improve our thinking and attitude towards our current notions of reality, life and existence.

1. Life happens in interactions, relationships and perceptions

You have two states, a passive state and an active state, just as every elementary particle has a positive and negative charge. People do not notice you or know much about you when you are in a passive state. When you are passive and withdrawn, they may see you but cannot know what is going on in your mind. If you do not lead an active life or engage with the world, your opportunities to succeed in life or experience happiness and fulfillment remain limited.

You may live alone and prefer to be secluded, but life happens only when you engage in actions, pursue goals, relate to something, respond to something, or deal with some problem or situation. It is in interactions and relationships with people and things that life happens, which others can notice and know that you exist. It is by engaging with the world that you experience the beauty, richness, tragedy, diversity and immensity of life.

The same thing happens to the quanta or the subatomic particles, which make up an atom. You come to know about their existence only when they interact with other particles or jump from one orbit to another in the atom. In other words, they appear from nowhere when they are active only. Otherwise, you may not know whether they exist at all or where. In life, other people come to know about you only when you meet them or when you directly or indirectly interact with them. Otherwise, as in case of particles you do not exist for them.

If you are a quiet person, in that quietness also life happens only when you interact with the objects and the world that exist in you our outside you. Your awareness arises from the interaction between the duality of subject and object. In deep sleep, when the objects are missing, your mind goes into an inactive and restful state, and no one knows where your consciousness resides in that deep silence or whether it exists at all.

2. Reality exists in the moment of time not in Time as such

There is no continuity of experience or time as such in the universe or in life, just the illusion of it. Reality exists in the brief moment of interaction between the subject and object. You may experience the illusion of continuity in life, but in truth there is no continuity. There is also no timeline as such, just a series of random dots, that you connect in your consciousness to create the illusion of history and continuity.

Take for example, history. What is history? It is what we have decided to remember as part of our collective past, not everything that happened. The history that we know is just an illusion. Mathematically, it is not even sufficient to qualify as a viable sample of the past. You may perhaps need a million books worth of space to store all the information that happens upon earth in a single day. That is the reality compared to the illusion of history that we learn and study in schools and universities.

Same is true with your life. What you remember as your childhood, is but the minutest fraction of what you experienced each moment in your life as a child. Even that may be incomplete because several events might have happened in the background or in you without your knowledge. On the top of it, you might have consciously or unconsciously embellished it with confused memory, imagination, falsehood and distortion. Most biographies of great people are perfect examples of how the world creates the illusion of reality and greatness with selective information, exaggeration and distortion of facts. It is why the past always looks better than the present.

The moment that has gone has gone forever. You cannot bring it back, although you may remember parts of it. Future is also just a notion. It may exist as an idea or expectation, but not as a reality until it happens. The only reality that you can grasp, whether in your life or in the quantum field of atoms, is the reality of the moment. Once it passes, the reality associated with it passes too. It will never repeat in the same manner. What stays in you is a (not ‘the’) memory of the event or an after image, if that image is worth something to you. Otherwise, you may not even remember it.

There is also no continuity of time, just the illusion of it. There is no real continuity from one moment of perception to another. The continuity is an illusion of the mind, a construct or superimposition of your mind just as you conjure up a story when see some images. We may pair those disconnected points of experience together to create the sense of being in the flow or the illusion of life, or to relate to the world and its aspects. It is the same with time. We experience the illusion of past, present and future to make sense of our lives and to use our experiential knowledge and memory for our survival and wellbeing.

Quantum reality suggests that time is not continuous but bound to a particular location in space. There is really no “Now,” but only “Here.” The Now is inseparably connected to the Here. Without the one, the other does not exist. Quantum physics states that Time is made up of infinitesimal number of small units which are woven into the fabric of space, just as infinitesimal, isolated memories are woven into the fabric of consciousness, bound to specific neurons. Even the space is not continuous but made up of little units, which are bound to time. The illusion of time and space helps us keep our sanity and the illusion of order and regularity. At the same time our preoccupation with past or future also leads to mental and emotional problems, which prevent us from enjoying the moment.

3. Reality is a creation of random events and largely uncertain

Reality is largely a matter of probabilities and statistical possibilities, so is life. According to quantum physics, there is no blue print for the universe. There is no hidden plan, but unstable structures and systems that facilitate the possibility and the probability of certain events or effects that may or may not always happen with the same precision. No one can predict when two electrons will collide in space, but you may conclude that if a large of number of them are present in the same space, they may most likely interact and produce an effect that may fall within a probable range of possibility. The same is true with our lives. We never know with certainty what may happen, but only the possibility or probability of something happening.

Even the known laws of physics can be reversed or manipulated by changing the factors that facilitate their probable occurrence. There are no universal constants which can happen, without the factors that may precipitate them. For example, one plus one is two, but not necessarily always (1 x 0 + 1 x 0 = 0). In other words, in the universe nothing is constant or permanent. Reality is contextual, event driven, and a product of probabilities and possibilities. It is always relative to the factors that make it possible.

Chance and randomness are the undercurrents of existence. The universe came into existence purely by chance because a number of facilitating factors manifested together in time and space to make it possible. Probably, life upon earth too happened in a similar manner. Life evolves upon earth through random genetic mutations to increase the probability of better species replacing the weaker ones. However, no one can accurately predict such happenings. You can see the play of chance or randomness in our lives too. No one can predict your birth until you are conceived. No one can accurately predict your death until it happens or unless the factors that precipitate it appear. While you may take credit for your successes, the truth is chance plays a significant role in shaping your life. The people you meet, the events that happen are mostly random events which are beyond your control and which you may later attribute to certain causes to create the story of your life.

Our lives are unstable, uncertain and depend upon many factors to thrive. No one knows what will happen or how our plans and actions will eventually take shape. One may know the probability of something happening, like eating your lunch or attending a meeting, but not with 100% certainty. No one can be 100% sure when and whether one will succeed or fail in one’s life or actions. However, one can improve the probability of chance by taking necessary measures and creating right conditions.

Even the simplest actions such as eating or breathing can go wrong. The causes do not always produce the same results, because a lot need to happen between them for the effect to manifest. This truth should help us to approach the problems of life with caution and an open mind, not to take anything for granted and not to view every failure as a personal failure. Instead, we must set realistic goals, prepare realistic plans and intelligently use our resources to increase the possibilities and probabilities of achieving success and fulfillment.

How can the knowledge of Quantum Reality help us in real life?

If we are the random products of the universe, why are we here? Is there any purpose to our existence at all? Are we even relevant or important to the universe? We may give probable answers to these question, using our knowledge or speculation, but no one can answer them with certainty. It is the truth. We learn from quantum physics that the reality of the universe is more like water or air rather than stone. Any answer to its riddles is just a possibility. Just as you can travel from one point to another in the universe in numerous ways, there are numerous answers to the riddles of life and numerous ways to approach any problem. Hence, there are no definite answers to anything in this universe. Every question regarding its principles, functions or mechanism may lead us in several directions.

It is probably part of the mechanism and the principles by which the universe exists and reality manifests. Plasticity and flexibility give the universe incredible freedom and opportunity to manifest realty in diverse ways without limiting itself. It is the same with your imagination, which is very flexible and has no limits. You can push it in any way you want. You can create whatever you want with it. Probably the same mechanism which precipitates reality in the universe is also at work in our imagination. Interestingly, imagination is what shaped our civilization and made all the scientific progress possible upon earth.

This knowledge should help us to keep our minds open and flexible and maximize our chances of survival, success, peace and happiness. Without becoming prisoners of our assumptions, rigid beliefs and opinions, we can open ourselves to immense possibilities. Without worrying about the past or the present, we can be attentive to the reality of the moment, here and now, and live with greater awareness, mindfulness, knowledge and understanding.

The universe probably has its own intelligence or a mechanism like our imagination, or perhaps not. No one can tell. What we can do is to put the principles of the quantum universe to work, knowing that we are alive when we are active, and we can precipitate reality by creating favorable circumstances. While we cannot be sure of future, we can always depend upon possibilities and probabilities to plan our lives and engage in actions. It is better to understand the underlying mechanism and laws of the universe and live in harmony with them, keeping our minds open to truth and letting our imagination and creativity find solutions to our problems in life. In this regard the following suggestion are useful.

  1. One should not avoid his or her duties and responsibilities. To be active means to be alive. It is through actions that we express ourselves and experience the richness and diversity of life. To remain engaged with the processes of life is therefore important.
  2. There is nothing certain in the world. Life flows in all directions. Therefore, keep your mind open and flexible, free from judgments, assumptions and preconceived notions. Consider all scenarios and possibilities before making any important decision. People whose minds are flexible and open and who are not afraid to take risks and experiment, like Nature, have greater chances of achieving success and fulfillment in their lives.
  3. Life is uncertain. No one can predict what may happen. You have little or no control over the random events and the play of chance in your life. However, you can increase the probability of chance or the possibility of certain events happening by creating necessary conditions and taking right actions.
  4. You may learn from others, but you should go by your own experience because what happened to others do not necessarily happen to you. You may learn the lessons of life from others but you should customize them and plan your life according to your own experience, circumstances and reality.
  5. Bring spontaneity into your life rather than living rigidly according to the conditioning and mental programming that influence your thinking, behavior and perceptions. Understand how society and various institutions and authority figures take away your freedom to think for yourself or think clearly without prejudice and preconceived notions. You can be spontaneous only when you pay attention to the present moment or the current reality, here and now.
  6. Human imagination seems to be very similar or identical to the mechanism that makes the universe precipitate reality in whichever way possible without limiting itself. Therefore, use the power of visualization and creative imagination to break free from the shackles of your mind, see newer possibilities, play out different scenarios, learn new skills, solve your problems and overcome challenges.
  7. Focus on the possibilities and probabilities when you begin a new course of action, set your goals or plan your actions. While the result is not in your hands, you can certainly improve your chances of success by focusing your skills, knowledge, methods, techniques and proper use of other resources. Since causes do not always produce the same results, you should focus on creating necessary conditions for increasing their probability.

We are products of Nature. We are part of the universe. The same atoms and subatomic particles that make up the universe, billions of stars, galaxies and planets also make up our bodies, minds, and consciousness. The same principles of quantum reality are at operation at the subatomic level in our bodies. As we have been indoctrinated beyond redemption for centuries by false doctrines and unfounded beliefs, we need a paradigm shift in our thinking and approach to understand how precarious our existence is and how it can all vanish in no time if we change even a little of the probabilities and statistical possibilities that favor our existence and that of our planet. We may live under the illusion that miraculous help will come from above, but who can tell with certainty? We may live and act as if we are going to be here forever, but at some point reality may sound the boom of doom in the heart of our existence.

Even if the Supreme Being is behind all this, he may remain a passive witness and let chance and probability, which are part of natural existence, take care of the essential and existential reality. It is highly doubtful whether like our imaginative, free flowing, highly unstable and curious minds, the universe will produce only limited results or particular realities. Probably, it will be more inclined to work freely producing probabilities and possibilities that would manifest innumerable realities in the macrocosm of the stars, galaxies and interstellar spaces as well as in the microcosm of living entities and in their limited field of experience and consciousness. If you look at the night sky and watch those stars, and imagine the invisible planets that circle around them, you will realize that perhaps it has already been going on for billions of years.

The truth of our existential reality is that it is always qualified by perhaps, may be, probably, and possibly. The Buddha was aware of the indeterminate nature of existence. Therefore, he remained silent about it and urged his followers not to speculate upon it.

*****

May God bless and protect you and…

May you always be

Healthy, Happy

Safe and Comfortable

Seth Kelly Curtis

Spiritual Essays #18

by Jayaram V

Summary: This is about the essential principles of your basic spirituality and how you can put them to practice in worldly life.


Every religion has a political, social, cultural and personal dimension. The first three depend upon the last, since a religion is strong and popular only when it is practiced by its people. The personal dimension of any religion has two aspects, the ritual and spiritual. The ritual dimension makes it popular while the spiritual dimension gives it depth and sustaining power. The spiritual dimension is far more important in the long run because it builds inner strength and helps its adherents stay strong and resolute amidst problems and difficulties.

When you practice your religion, you breathe life into it, which in turn elevates your character and conduct and illuminates your life. When a large number of people practice their faith, it becomes a powerful force of change both within and without. Religions have transformed communities and helped in the advancement of civilizations, although at times they failed to unite people or prevent wars and bloodshed. They have no value, unless they elevate human consciousness and change our thinking and attitude for individual and common good. It is possible only when they are put to right use. In other words, the onus of making any religion good or bad eventually depends upon us. Since religions are such powerful forces of change, it is essential that we bring their spiritual teachings into focus and use them for our own good.

The principles of basic spirituality

Hinduism survived these millenniums not because of any particular institution or political power but because of the will of its people and the strength of their faith. Caste played an important role in keeping the community and preserving the family traditions, although it also contributed to internal divisions, inequality and social injustice.

More importantly, Hinduism survived because of its spiritual base, and the wide range of solutions or alternatives it offers to people to practice their faith and cope with their problems. It also provides a vision of life that stretches beyond the current life of each living being into eternity through numerous births and rebirths with liberation as the final resort and ultimate solution to the problem of suffering.

A religion has better chances of surviving the ravages of time, when it has a strong spiritual side and when people practise it without any external motivation. In this discussion we will focus upon the principles of basic spirituality for worldly people from the modern perspective, which are an integral part of the Hindu way of life, and how anyone can use them or express them in his or her daily life.

Faith

Faith means faith in your essential spirituality and your spiritual destiny. The scriptures say that you are an eternal being, but do you sincerely believe in it? The first step in practicing spirituality is to acknowledge that you are a spiritual entity and identify yourself with it rather than with your body, name, fame, status, linguistic group, region, profession, caste and so on. Most of the time we confuse the ego for the Self. The ego is the outer crust on the Self. It needs to be dissolved before you can truly be your spiritual Self. The idea that you are an eternal, indestructible Self, must be firmly implanted in your mind, without which you cannot truly practise your faith or adhere to its values. If you think that you are a human, you will remain a human. If you think you are a divine entity, you will gradually be so, and your thinking and attitude will also change in proportion to the strength of your conviction. Hence, our scriptures suggest that we must constantly think about the Self and become fixed in that thought. For that faith is important.

Character

Character is the sum of mental and moral qualities that are approved by society at large. It is your essential nature, personality, or the sum of what you are and what you think you are. Character comes from the purity of thought and intention. You must be inherently good to have the right character and attitude. Your character is well reflected in your thinking and behavior, and in your responses and attitudes. It is built on the foundation of virtues such as compassion, truthfulness, honesty, humility, etc. You should avoid causing hurt or harm to others with your words or actions, or taking what does not truly belong to you. You should be truthful to those who are closest to you and who matter to you, keep your promises and honor your commitments. Whatever values your faith upholds as aspects of God, you must uphold them too. You must also show respect for your tradition and values, which arise from it. Our tradition says that one must respect gods, elders, seers, teachers, parents, ancestors, morality, duty, sacrifice, the Self within and the God above. If you see God in all, you will inherently respect everything. The Bhagavadgita says that the self is both the friend and enemy of the self. Hence, you should avoid sabotaging your life with self-destructive behavior.

Judgment

Judgment is the ability to make intelligent and thoughtful decisions. Your destiny and the course of your life depend upon the decisions you make or do not make. In a sense, your opinions, assumptions, notions, beliefs and conclusions are also judgments only, and they too influence your thinking, behavior and your judgment. Your judgment depends upon your discernment or the ability to separate things from one another and know them as they are. Our scriptures say that if you are pure, your mind will be pure and your discernment will also be pure. For that, you must practise atma-samyama or self-control. This is true even from the perspective of modern psychology. To cultivate the purity of mind, you must practise detachment, sameness, equanimity and self-restraint. In silence, you become a better observer. Hence, spiritual people regularly practise silence. When you have these, you will use your judgment to know people and discern things. It is also important that you use your judgment to make wise decisions rather than to criticize people or judge them from a high moral ground.

Duty

Duty is the sum of your responsibilities and obligations as a human being, as a member of your family, society or the world, and as a practitioner of your faith. In life you have many duties and obligations. You cannot neglect them, ignore them or avoid them, however difficult they may and whatever the consequences may be. From the Bhagavadgita we learn that if you have faith and inclination, it will be much easier to perform difficult tasks without fear or doubt and stay on course. Since actions have consequences, you must be careful with what attitude you engage in actions. It is better to perform them as a service to others or as an obligation to God or as part of your spiritual practice, whether you like them or not. If you strengthen your faith in your spiritual identity, and perform your actions as a spiritual entity, your actions will not bind you. Therefore, whatever you do, do them with the awareness that you are an eternal Self and you have a higher spiritual destiny.

Vision

Your vision is the sum of your knowledge, beliefs and expectations. It is what you want to see ahead of you, what you want to achieve in life and where you would like to focus your mind and energies. If your vision is broader, you will have more opportunities to improve yourself and cultivate qualities that make you an exceptional person and lead you to excellence. It also gives you fortitude and tolerance to absorb suffering and sustain your faith and strength in difficulties. On the path of spirituality, your ultimate aim should be to cultivate the vision of God, to see all in yourself and yourself in all. The first step towards that goal is to instill in your mind qualities such as empathy and compassion, so that you can feel other people’s pain and suffering and either help them or avoid causing them further hurt. You may begin it with regard to those who matter to you and whose happiness you cherish.

Service

We are by nature selfish. Unfortunately, selfishness and spirituality do not go together. You are either selfish or spiritual but cannot be both at the same time. You may practise spirituality for selfish reasons, but it has its own negative repercussions which will do you more harm than good. Our scriptures equate selfishness with evil and consider it the source of all evil in creation. According to them any actions which you perform with selfish desires are sinful and lead to increased suffering and negative karma. They also suggest that egoism is the cause of selfishness. Hence, if you identify yourself with your mind and body or name and form, you will be selfish, but if you identify yourself with the eternal Self in you, you will gradually transcend your egoism and selfishness. Selfless service and charity are two other virtues, which open your mind to the idea of selflessness. Selfishness exists as long as individuality exists. It cannot be wished away. However, through service and charitable activities and by showing genuine concern for others and their happiness, you can make a beginning and strengthen the idea.

Freedom

Freedom or liberation is our ultimate goal. However, that path is not easy, nor it is for everyone. The first step is to understand what freedom truly means. It is to be free from anything that controls you, limits you, keeps you bound, prevents you, disturbs you, restricts you or incapacitates you. It is freedom from all limitations, fears, desires, expectations and attachments which hold you back from being yourself. That freedom is almost impossible to achieve in worldly life. In worldly life we cannot achieve total freedom, but we can achieve limited mental freedom from worries and anxieties and self-imposed limitations by thinking through problems, resolving our fears, and overcoming our mental blocks. On the spiritual side, one can cultivate detachment and dispassion and learn to let go of things that disturb the mind.

Renunciation

Any religion is just a raft or a boat. It is a means not an end in itself. You should be careful not to let your faith strengthen your ego and give you an air of superiority. Many people become stuck in their religious identities as they begin to enjoy the privileges that come with it. There is a reason why Hinduism is not a religion. We are not supposed to become stuck in religious labels and identities. We should not practice it because of the social or personal privileges it extends to us.

On the spiritual path the social dimension of any religion is a potential obstacle. At some point on the path of liberation we have to leave behind our religious identities and our attachment to it and move on. The purpose of renunciation is essentially the same. We have to leave behind all the excess baggage which we accumulate in our lives and which can potentially interfere with our progress, including our attachment to our religious identities and social privileges such as caste, status or family name. Basic spirituality helps us prepare for such a transition. It helps us live responsibly and pursue the four aims of human life, without compromising our spiritual values or our chances of liberation.

Spiritual Essays #17

Dealing With Unnecessary Suffering

by Jayaram V

Summary: This essay is about how we create unnecessary suffering by our thinking, behavior and actions which is avoidable, and how we may overcome it.


Suffering is inherent in life. Who does not suffer? Even when you are happy, a part of you may still be suffering subconsciously. The seers of ancient India knew it. It formed the core of many ascetic traditions of the subcontinent, who suggested different solutions and approaches to the problem of suffering. The Buddha echoed the same sentiment when he declared that birth was suffering, aging was suffering, sickness was suffering, death was suffering, feeling sorrow, pain, grief and despair was suffering, association with what you disliked or separation from what you liked was suffering, and in short the whole life was full of suffering.

Arthur Schopenhauer, the German philosopher, believed that all life forms suffered, but humans suffered even more because they were self-aware and endowed with reason and at some point they would realize how meaningless and purposeless the whole existence was. According to him the ability to contemplate the past and anticipate the future made humans subject to new forms of suffering since they could be haunted by the past and have feelings of remorse and regret.

Unnecessary suffering

This discussion is not about resolving the existential suffering which the Buddha or Schopenhauer talked about, but about unnecessary suffering, or the suffering which is avoidable, which we unnecessarily create or aggravate with our faults and falings and which we can resolve through careful planning and preparation. The idea of unnecessary suffering is mainly used in the context of animal welfare legislation and in animal care to prevent unnecessary cruelty to them. However, it is not just animals which are subject to unnecessary suffering by humans. We inflict unnecessary suffering upon ourselves and upon others by our actions.

There are essentially three main causes for suffering namely the acts of god or accidental causes (adhi-daivika), external causes or those caused by others (adhibhautika), and internal causes or those caused by oneself (adhyatmika). The last one is again of two types, physical causes and mental causes. We have little control over the first, since chance plays an important role in creating them. We have some control over the second type since we can learn from experience and take preventive measures to deal with them. With regard to the third type, we have greater control over them because we can identify the causes and learn to deal with them. It is where we have an opportunity to reduce unnecessary suffering which arises from our actions and those of others. The following are a few examples of how people may subject themselves to avoidable and needless suffering.

Worrying about things that do not matter

People often become emotionally involved with matters that should not concern them at all. Yet, millions of people become involved with social or political issues, which do not help them at all but cause them unnecessary stress and emotional disturbance. For example, some people in India commit suicide for a political cause or when a popular leader dies. It is unnecessary, yet they do. People spend sleepless nights when their favorite sports team loses a game, or when a movie of their favorite film star fails at the box-office. People also resort to violence and fistfights over petty matters and silly arguments. These are a few awful examples of how people become involved with unnecessary problems, which do not directly affect them and which create avoidable suffering.

Exaggerating our fears

People tend to be excessively pessimistic about the outcome of negative situations. They imagine worst case scenarios, think negatively and expect the worst to happen, rather than thinking through situations and estimating probabilities. It leaves many people constantly worried and anxious about their problems and insecurities. According to many studies people experience acute anxiety when they feel threatened due to exaggerated fears as their perception and thinking become distorted and as the repressed fears and insecurities of their past resurface. We also live in difficult times, where our fears are fueled by attention catching news stories and headlines that inflame public opinion with negative news and worst case scenarios. One cannot totally eliminate fear. However, we can reduce a lot of suffering by being realistic and objective about the threats we face and keeping our emotions under control.

Ignoring problems

When a problem is not resolved in time it becomes a crisis. Some people are proactive. They anticipate problems and resolve them before they even arise. However, many do not pay attention until a problem become serious and stares in their face. They ignore early warning signs and let problems simmer until they reach the boiling point, be it a health issue, a child’s aggressive behavior, a deteriorating relationship, a pending house repair, a letter or a complaint received from someone or growing debt. They do it because of fear and anxiety, or because they believe that it is too stressful to deal with such problems. Problems cannot be wished away. They do not disappear if you ignore them or delay your response. Pending matters mentally exhaust you as they create vague anxiety and sap your energy. Some problem may disappear with time but many persist and gather intensity. It is better to deal with your problems in time so that when new problems arise you are fresh and ready to deal with them.

Pessimism

Negative thinking makes people lower their expectations and expect bad things to happen. Negative people also more likely experience depression, low self-esteem, fear, anger, aggression, insecurity, and anxiety which may lead to many health issues, besides preventing them from seeing things clearly or thinking rationally. Therefore, pessimistic people are more vulnerable to unnecessary suffering, which can be avoided if they learn to think realistically and carefully analyze and consider all probable outcomes rather than fixating upon the worst. According to some studies, pessimism also lowers the life expectancy of people. Fortunately, pessimism can be overcome by changing our thinking and responses and by becoming actively involved in problem solving and goal oriented actions.

Negligence

In simple terms, negligence means failure to do what you are supposed to do, or act as responsibly as you should, or failure to honor your duties and responsibilities. In life you have many duties and obligations towards yourself, your family, others and the world in general. Failure to honor them can lead to many problems and suffering not only to you but also to others. It is the same as ignoring your problems. However, negligence may be either intentional or unintentional, which is not the case with the other. Intentional negligence may arise from inertia, lack of interest or motivation, wrong priorities, or unwillingness to take risks or deal with the problems of life. One can minimize such problems through self-discipline, attentive actions, proper checks and balances, committing oneself to one’s duties and responsibilities.

Lack of preparation

Failure creates a lot of suffering for most of us. Most of the time we fail because we do not try enough, prepare well or take care of the basics. If you want to succeed in any endeavor, you must prepare well in advance and put your heart and soul in it. There is no better alternative to success than knowing what needs to be done and execute it with complete resolve. To succeed in life, you must prepare yourself for success and be ready to manage it when you reach the goal. You must be willing to work hard, organize your resources and make necessary sacrifices. If you do not do it, you will end up facing failure, disappointment, shame and guilt, which in turn increase your suffering and feelings of inadequacy and inferiority. It is true even with regard to simple tasks such as giving a speech or making a presentation or negotiating for a pay rise.

Lack of control and discipline

Self-control is the ability to control your desires and natural urges or delay immediate gratification. It is also the ability to stick to a chosen course of action to achieve desired ends. Using discipline and control to regulate your life does produce some suffering since it requires effort to control your desires, craving and need for gratification. However, their absence is even more problematic and leads to many problems and disappointments in life. When people lack discipline, they fail to reach their goals or desired ends as they become easily distracted or fail to persevere. They may also succumb to selfishness, bad habits and unhealthy behaviors, which lead to unnecessary suffering.

Repeating the same mistakes

Failure is inevitable in many aspects of life. Since we are imperfect, we do not necessarily complete every task in the first attempt. Hence, we must learn from our failures to make progress and avoid being stuck. Suffering is a sign that some aspects of our lives, behavior or actions need improvement. Its essential purpose is to teach us lessons. When we do not learn from our failures and mistakes, we continue to repeat them and continue to suffer. You can avoid a lot of suffering by learning from your past, and not repeating the mistakes which caused you pain and suffering in the first place.

Irrational beliefs

We continue to entertain many irrational beliefs, prejudices and assumptions, which we might have inherited in the past from our parents, teachers, elders, peers and society in general. They lead to rigidity, narrow-mindedness, flawed opinions, self-fulfilling prophecies, selective perception, immature behavior, over generalizations, assumptive thinking, unrealistic responses, maladjustment and defensive behavior, which in turn create a number of problems and unnecessary suffering. It is therefore necessary to subject your beliefs to reality check according to your own experience, reason, knowledge and observation. You should also verify the assumptions that are hidden in your decisions, opinions and conclusions.

Becoming stuck in the past

Your past can be a source of unnecessary suffering if you become stuck in it and refuse to live your present moment. Life is never static. So is the world. They keep moving on, whether you move with them or not. Some people cannot get over their past failures, failed relationships or past pains. They keep repeating the old tapes in their minds and wallow in misery, feeling the same old pain, unresolved conflicts, and negative emotions such as fear or anger, even though the rest of the world moved on, and circumstances have changed. Simply because certain events happened in the past, it does not mean that they will happen again. Wisdom teaches that one should adapt to changing times and move on.

Not letting go

To avoid being stuck in the past, you should let go of it by cultivating an attitude of detachment and understanding. Know that we are all imperfect and we all make mistakes. There is no point in hanging on to your past memories and unnecessarily suffering from it. Whatever you cling to is a potential source of suffering, which includes your past and your memories associated with past events, especially those which are painful. Hence, you can avoid a lot of unnecessary suffering in life by learning to forgive and forget. If you keep accumulating grievances, frustrations, complaints, anger and bitterness, you will be subjecting yourself to a lot of negativity, stress, and unresolved anguish. You can overcome it by changing your thinking, perspective and attitude, realizing that it happened in the past and it is no more relevant to your current situation. You can also leave behind your painful past, by acknowledging your mistakes, forgiving yourself and others, cultivating compassion and focusing on current goals. If you refocus your mind on present happenings, you can make peace with yourself and with your past. You can also reduce suffering by removing all the clutter from your life and simplifying it. Give away whatever you do not need instead of hoarding things.

Conclusion

When we examine our lives, thinking and actions, it becomes clear that we create a lot of unnecessary suffering, which can be avoided with careful planning, discipline and effort. If you want to lighten up and make amends with yourself, you should examine your life to see how you create your own suffering and make yourself vulnerable to negativity, a lot of which can be avoided. You cannot remove all suffering from your life, but you can mitigate a lot of superfluous suffering, which arises from your thinking and behavior or your internal causes.

You can also identity the external causes such as your friends or relations who complicate your life or cause your pain and suffering with their actions or their behavior and attitude so that you can appropriately deal with it. By removing negative attitudes, beliefs and habits, thinking through your problems, learning from your experience, staying in the present, dealing with your negativity, anger and hatred, letting go of your past, adapting to the changing times, freeing your mind from assumptive behavior and irrational thinking, focusing upon what you can do rather than what you cannot do and being realistic, you can reduce a lot of unnecessary and avoidable suffering that directly arises from your own actions and those of others.

*****

May God bless and protect you and…

May you always be

Healthy, Happy

Safe and Comfortable

Seth Kelly Curtis

Spiritual Essays #16

The Higher Purpose of Your Life

Faith and Spirituality

by Jayaram V

Sacrifice is the way of life. Sacrifice is the means to overcome Nature and realize God. Sacrifice in essence means to be like God and live like God in a mortal body, renouncing your own identity and individuality. It is the culmination of all the progress we ever achieve in this world. Jayaram V


Nature is a self-supporting mechanism in which its different components are programmed to further themselves and in the process help each other in their survival. Even in the midst of struggle for survival, the impulse to preserve and sustain life upon earth through collective effort is inbuilt in the living embodiments of Nature.

The altruism of Nature

If there is any hidden purpose to a tree or a stone, it is to be part of a holistic system and perform certain functions for the preservation of life upon earth. While each living being has a certain role and importance in Nature, they also contribute to the survival of others. We may not consciously pay attention to this unique aspect of Nature, but life upon earth cannot be sustained for long unless Nature acts as an integral and unified system in which living beings help each other in their survival.

Much of it happens spontaneously. A flower does not make a conscious choice to spread its fragrance. It automatically happens when certain conditions are present. Without being consciously forced, a honeybee proactively collects honey for the community of bees and in the process helps others such as plants, animals and humans in their survival. They are not the only examples where individual actions contribute to the collective Wellbeing of others. There are countless others, which actively participate in the process of life to survive and help others in their survival.

However, Nature’s altruism is not without a purpose. It is primarily meant to further its evolution and fulfill the aims of creation. As life evolves, intelligence manifests in the gross bodies, followed by selfishness, egoism and the desire for self-preservation and self-promotion. At this stage, each being lives for itself and furthers its own survival and Wellbeing. If any collective good arises from it, it is secondary or an unintended consequence. However, ultimately intelligence leads to wisdom and wisdom to transcendence.

Intelligence and its implications

Initially, all intelligent life forms are motivated by selfish desires and natural urges to live for themselves or for their groups. These tendencies reach their culmination in humans, who are inherently selfish and naturally inclined to live for themselves even at the expense of others. As a human being, if you want to be altruistic, benevolent or selfless, you have to make a conscious and intentional effort to rise above your basic instinct to be selfish or egoistic. The effort is not easy, nor always successful.

Fortunately, Nature has given us a choice to use our intelligence and exercise our will according to our discretion, knowledge and wisdom. Depending upon the circumstances, we can exercise our will and resolve to be different and selfless, other than what Nature intends us to be at the most primitive level. We may come to that choice through an awakening, learning or knowing, or through the enfoldment of our intelligence and discernment. As wisdom grows, selfishness yields place to selflessness and egoism to universality and non-dualistic oneness.

The importance of human life

Nature has endowed us with such abilities that we can take responsibility for our own, spiritual evolution and further our higher aims. Perhaps, it is the highest and ultimate aim of Nature also, which remains hidden until the light of God projects far into the field of Nature and penetrates the deepest core of our bodies. Until intelligent life forms manifest upon earth, Nature remains in control and directs its evolution. When more evolved beings emerge on the scene, it gradually recedes into the background to let the light of soul shine upon the intelligence (Buddha). When intelligence becomes pure with the predominance of sattva, Nature weakens its hold and leaves the further course of evolution largely to the beings themselves.

Of all the species upon earth, we are the highest, most intelligent and most evolved. As the gifted creations of Nature and voices of the universe, we have a choice. We can follow the ways of Nature, maintain the status quo and remain subservient to its aims, which is what many do, or we may rise above our natural urges and primitive instincts to be different and better as spiritually advanced and self-aware human beings. The latter is possible only when we subject our minds and bodies to intense purification and transformation through self-discipline and austerities.

Nature manifests its full potential, intelligence and consciousness in us more than in any other life form upon earth, so that we can consciously and actively represent Nature and fulfill its ultimate purpose. According to Hinduism if you have a purpose, if that purpose is greater than you, if it stretches across your life and beyond it and if it includes others, then that purpose is going to create a more eventful and fulfilling life for you than any purpose that is limited to your own enjoyment and your personal goals. It is why we are endowed with intelligence and why we have to live responsibly upon earth, serving the aims of God’s creation rather than our own. It also why we consider liberation (moksha) as the highest and ultimate goal and purpose of human life.

Our higher purpose

Human life is a precious opportunity to experience consciousness and will. It is through humans the universe experiences duality and speaks to itself. Although we are created to be selfish for the purpose of preserving life upon earth and ensuring the continuation of the world, we are meant to become selfless through self-effort to fulfill the aims of God. Although we are subject to the cycle of births and deaths in our physical bodies, at some point in our journey upon earth we are meant to become aware of our spirituality and realize our true nature. This is believed to be the essential purpose of human beings and the evolution of life and intelligence upon earth.

From ignorance to awareness, materiality to spirituality, darkness to light and mortality to immortality, this is the order of our expected progress in the corporeal world. To progress from selfishness to selflessness to universal oneness, this is the aim of our spiritual practice and self-transformation. Nature is self-regulated. At the lower levels, it is guided by the force of Nature. At the higher levels, it is guided by the force of will and intelligence. A tree has no apparent purpose, other than serving the aims of Nature. A flower has no purpose other than being part of a larger system or process. It is not so with human beings. They can have a higher purpose, if they choose to have one, without the compulsion to follow Nature blindly or remain bound to it.

The Hindu Law Books stipulate that the primary purpose (artha) of human life is to perform obligatory duties and uphold Dharma according to the scriptural injunctions. The higher purpose (paramartha) is to live for God and work for our salvation. However, that purpose does not easily manifest in us. We live in a world of duality, delusion and deception where we cannot clearly discern truths or identify our true purpose. Therefore, our basic instinct is always to live for ourselves and further our interests, if necessary at the expense of others and by whatever means. Individually, a few people may manage to transcend their lower nature, but most remain within its control, bound to their natural instincts. In their search for security, comfort and happiness, they sacrifice their ideals and higher thinking and serve either their own interests or those of others to whom they willfully submit.

The consequences of selfishness

Egoism and selfishness go together. Both are aspects of Nature only and responsible for our selfish desires, actions and karma. Because of them in the name of progress, humanity has laid waste vast resources and driven many life forms into extinction. In their quest for survival, security and worldly freedom, people sacrifice their values and higher wisdom, without considering their moral and karmic implications. Through mindless actions, they leave so many scars upon the earth and their own souls that they descend into increasingly difficult choices and circumstances.

We have proved beyond doubt that although we are intelligent and rational and live on a unique planet in a very inhospitable universe we have been taking the world on a self-destructive path. It is the result of our selfishness and lack of discretion, which arise when we act under the influence of lower Nature. As intelligent beings, we have the twin responsibility of preserving and protecting nature and promoting our spiritual evolution. So far, we have lagged behind in both.09

Selfishness has a certain role and purpose in our lives. However, like many other things it needs to be subjected to moderation and the principles of Dharma or the laws of God. In worldly life, selfishness is unavoidable. However, at some stage it has to be tempered by higher Nature and spiritual wisdom. When people solely live for themselves they become vulnerable to many problems, which culminate in suffering and karma.

When you are preoccupied with your selfish interests, you become a small person, with limited intent and vision. By indulging in selfish actions, you harm yourself and others. As the Bhagavad-Gita states, when you are selfish, you become an enemy of yourself and delay your liberation. However, when you are selfless and serve God or others, you become your true friend and quickly progress. Animals are driven by instincts, but as human beings we can rise above our natural instincts and show our humanity. With our knowledge and wisdom, we can strive to not only advance on the path of liberation but also avoid hurting and harming others for our selfish ends.

Life as a sacrifice

The purpose of human life is to be a friend of the Self not its enemy. It is to go beyond our narrow interests and selfishness and serve the aims of God or his law (Dharma). In Hinduism, we consider it an obligatory duty. A householder (grihasta) is considered superior to a renunciant (sanyasi) because he contributes to the order and regularity of the world by his actions and obligatory duties towards others and the world. Only he can achieve the four aims of human life and lead a complete life. However, householders also run the risk of falling into the trap of selfish desires and bondage. Hence, they are advised to avoid selfish or desire-ridden actions by performing their duties as a service to God and see him in all as their very selves.

Your life’s main purpose is to be like God upon earth and radiate his benevolence and divine qualities. It is to go beyond your narrow interests and serve your higher purpose, leading your life as a sacrifice or an offering so that you serve the aims of God rather than Nature. Having become part of a larger purpose for which you are meant and living your life as a sacrificial offering, you manifest God in your being and experience oneness amidst duality and diversity.

Our scriptures affirm that you are a divine being. Your beingness is part of the vast pool of life upon earth. As an aspect of God, you are here to serve him and express him as the creator, preserver and destroyer and fulfill the aims of Dharma. You are meant to live with self-awareness, fulfill the aims of God in the mortal world and ensure its order and regularity. To live like God, to be like God and express him through your thoughts and actions, this is what we consider practicing the Dharma and manifesting the will of God, or following the Divine Way of Life.

Interdependence and selfless service

Life is all about interdependence. Without support from others, things cannot exist on their own. This is true even in case of gods, who have to depend upon humans for their nourishment, just as humans have to depend upon plants and animals for theirs. Whoever you are, or whatever your circumstances may be, you cannot survive on your own, without the help of others. Your individuality and independence are illusions. You are a dependent reality with limited abilities. Whatever you enjoy here is made possible by the actions of countless others. All things that exist around you are but the numerous manifestation of the same reality, which is the ultimate support of all. In essence, they are one. Selfishness yields to oneness when you realize this truth by transcending your individuality and experiencing oneness with your Self or the Supreme Self. In this regard, sacrifice is the means to transcend your selflessness and realize your oneness with the universe.

If you can consciously make that choice and extend your vision beyond your selfish and narrow interests, you become a force of God upon earth. Transcending your selfishness, narrow mindedness, egoism and petty thinking, you become part of the divine purpose for which you are born. If you acknowledge that you are part of a universal reality and have a duty and an obligation to participate in it as a divine entity, representing and personifying the highest of the values which the humanity collectively cherish, then you have largely succeeded in being and becoming more than a selfish human.

*****

May God bless and protect you and…

May you always be

Healthy, Happy

Safe and Comfortable

Seth Kelly Curtis

Spiritual Essays #15

The Powers of God

God Power

by Jayaram V

Summary: The essay is about the powers that are commonly associated with the idea of God and invoked by a majority of people during worship.


When a million people think of the same thought, that thought will have an awesome power. That thought reigns supremely in the subtle world of consciousness. It connects all those who entertain that one thought and moves them in the same direction for which it is intended. Thoughts have power. We know it because all actions arise from thoughts only. You live and act according to the sum of your thoughts. When the same thought is entertained by many people, its power becomes exponentially multiplied.

The same holds true with the idea of God, which we entertain in our minds. When we all think alike about the same God, that thought becomes omnipotent and omniscient. It gains momentum and energy in our consciousness and guides our destinies. No one can see God with naked eyes. No one knows how he actually looks like, but one can envision God and pour life into it through devotion and faith.

The idea of God

The God we worship or the gods to whom we make rituals offerings are the ones we create in our minds with our knowledge and awareness, using our imagination and aspiration. Faith, therefore, is important to our spiritual Wellbeing. When you have faith in God, that faith drives your world. When other people join you in their thoughts and prayers envisioning the same God in their consciousness, it gains momentum and credibility.

A guru becomes a demigod or a divine person by the same process. Divinities gain or lose their importance according to the beliefs and the faith of the people who worship them. A place become sacred in a similar manner as people for several generations revere it and sanctify it with their thoughts and prayers. It is we who pour life into the images of God and into the stone from which we create his forms and install them in the temples and our homes.

The same is true with regard to numerous other thoughts, which we entertain in our minds. With our thoughts we empower ideologies, political leaders, national heroes, spiritual masters, divinities, social norms, governments, scientific innovations, cultural trends, celebrities, and even dictators and evil people. We give them the power to influence our lives and destinies and set the norms for our civilization. We give them the power to control our lives and destinies by surrendering our will to them or by becoming deluded by their promise and appeal or own ambition and desires

Thought power and God power

We do not recognize how strongly we influence our lives and the world with our individual and collective thoughts. A thought gains momentum when it is thought by several others. It faces a lot of resistance when it is thought by one individual or by a few only. As it gains support and acceptance, it gain momentum. Each war is essentially a conflict between two equally powerful and opposing armies of thoughts. When they clash with great intensity, numerous people die in the war that breaks out. Whether it is yoga, social unrest, civil war or terrorism, they enter public awareness and gain importance when a large number of people accept them and give them power to influence their lives and destinies for the better or worse.

No one has physically seen the true form of God. They may have seen aspects of him or symbols of him but not his infinite form. Indeed, it is physically impossible also to envision the infinite form of God because that which is finite cannot envision an infinite reality. Therefore, each of us creates our own vision of God according to our faith, beliefs and knowledge. Some believe that he does not exist at all. Even that is a belief too. When millions of people think that there is no God, the idea of nonexistent God gains ground and the power of God diminishes for them and the world to that extent.

The power of faith

The power of God works for you according to your faith. If you want it to work for you, you must believe in your idea of God and intensify that power through faith so that it can gain strength and become a powerful force of change and inspiration for you. If you let that idea of God manifest in your thoughts first, he will later manifest in other aspects of your life also and become part of your journey. It is why having a pure mind and pure faith is important in spiritual life and devotional worship.

Although people differently think about God and approach him in different ways, still they entertain many identical thoughts about God across all traditions and belief systems. Their collective thoughts and aspirations combined with the sustaining power of their faith make God a powerful undercurrent in their lives and consciousness. Those thoughts have a power of their own. When you join them in the internal ritual of manifesting God in your consciousness and align your mind with that stream of collective consciousness, you richly draw from that flow and open yourself to his incredible powers, with which you can help yourself and others.

God as an incredible, universal force

In Hinduism the powers of God are symbolically represented as the numerous hands and feet of God, his aspects and manifestations, skills, strands of hair, weapons, vehicles, emanations, incarnations, qualities, perfections, names and forms, associate energies or Shaktis, and so on. We worship them individually as divinities or parts of his universal form.

These powers exists in all of us, but do not fully manifest. They manifest in you when you think of them and project them into your idea of God. If you sustain them with faith and conviction and make them an integral part of your consciousness, they gain further strength and momentum and become powerful forces of transformation and purification. The following are some such powers which a majority of people entertain in their minds as part of their faith and vision of God.

1. God as the beneficent power

The reason we pray to God is primarily because we believe him to be a generous and benevolent being, who helps those who pray to him and seek his help. Our scriptures reinforce the belief that God responds to our calls for help. It keeps alive our hopes and faith in a difficult world. Chanting God’s names or contemplating upon him has a beneficial effect upon all. Hence, it is strongly encouraged in all traditions.

2. God as the purifying power

God is the purest being. He is symbolically represented as pure light and consciousness. He is incorruptible. Even when he is surrounded by evil, he remains pure, which is the case with the Self in the mortal world. People pray to him for healing because his very thought can have a purifying and soothing effect upon their minds and bodies. God manifests in us, to the extent we are pure. Hence, devotees practice austerities to cultivate purity and manifest their divine nature.

3. God as the uniting power

When a number of people entertain the same idea of God, it unites them around a common purpose and values and helps them work in harmony for common good or a greater good. Religions have such power and influence over our lives for the same reason. They unite people under a common religious identity and inspire them to serve others. When a group of people put their mind together and pray to God, it makes them feel closer to God and feel oneness.

4. God as the uplifting power

Nothing uplifts our falling spirits more than a prayer, especially so when we are in distress or going through difficult times. People feel refreshed and energized when they pray to God or meditate on him. People who visit temples or sacred places because it gives them the feeling of assurance, hope and courage. The uplifting power of God keeps us going when our efforts fail, and we feel helpless.

5. God as the protective power

God is the greatest protector we have. As part of his Dharma, he protects the worlds and beings from evil. He also protects us from harm and danger. We live in an uncertain and dangerous world. Therefore, the idea that God is protecting us is greatly assuring to most of us. Our scriptures affirm that those who worship God and take refuge in him with devotion are forever protected.

6. God as the blessing and consecrating power

Whatever is touched by God becomes God. People seek the blessing of God so that they become infused with is power and remain free from impurities and suffering. We see the consecrating power of God not only in him but also in all those saintly people, who reflect his divine qualities and remain absorbed in his thoughts. Hence, people seek their blessings and treat them as if they are living forms of God.

7. God as the awakening and enlightening power

God is the highest awakening and enlightening power. Hence, we revere all teachers of wisdom as God only. All sacred knowledge flows from him. He dispels our doubts, delusion and ignorance, and grants us enlightenment. When you become aware of the presence of God in you, you become awakened to the idea of liberation. The inspiration to pursue it arises from God only, who is both the Concealer and Revealer.

8. God as the loving and forgiving power

God is the epitome of compassion and universal love. He loves his devotees and forgives their sins. He forgives the transgressions of even the most sinful ones if they pray to him and show repentance. The world in which we live is an impure world, where no one can escape from desire-ridden actions and their sinful consequences. We look to God because we know his forgiving and compassionate nature.

9. God as the punishing and reformative power

As the enforcer of the Divine Law (Dharma), God is also the Ultimate Judge. He punishes those who violate his laws or disrupt the order and regularity of the worlds through their selfish actions. However, his punishment is a blessing because it helps people overcome their shortcomings and achieve perfection and purity. Even his punishment is an expression of love only and is part of his eternal Dharma.

10. God as the creative and regenerative power

Creativity is a divine quality. The source of all creativity is God only. It becomes reflected in us also. All the creative, regenerative and reproductive power in the universe arises from God only. In Hinduism we personify it as the Goddess or Devi. It manifests in us to the extent God manifests his power in us. In enlightened beings it reaches its highest perfection. Hence, whatever they say becomes true.

11. God as the destructive and transformative power

Whatever that manifests in the transient world has an end. The destructive power of God manifests in creation as both positive and negative forces. Hence, in several traditions God is considered both creator and destroyer and worshipped as such. People invoke his destructive power against their enemies, misfortune and evil forces. The Upanishads personify him as the all devouring Death (kala).

12. God as the preserving and supporting power

God is the raft in the sea of suffering. He is the ultimate support of all things in creation, while he is fully independent. He is the source and support of all in creation. In the body he is the life-supporting breath (Prana). In external world he is the all-pervading universal Self. As the upholder of the Dharma he performs his duties without desires to ensure the order and regularity of the worlds and beings.

13. God as the liberator and rescuer

We look to God not only for peace and prosperity but also for the ultimate freedom. Our scriptures portray him as the goal as well as the means of liberation. He liberates beings from the cycle of births and deaths according to their merit, faith and devotion. Those who worship him with single-minded devotion and cultivate spiritual purity (sattva) attain immortality and earn the right to enter the highest heaven.

Conclusion

God exists in us as an idea. We pour life into it and infuse it with sacred power with our thoughts, emotions and aspirations. We may envision God according to our knowledge and wisdom. However, the God who lives in our minds and hearts is shaped mostly by our collective wisdom and knowledge of the scriptures. The idea of God becomes a transformative force if you have the strength of faith, conviction and devotion. It is this God, whom you must allow to grow in your thoughts and pervade your whole consciousness, so that at some stage, you become absorbed into it without any duality and become a living embodiment of his essential nature.

*****

May God bless and protect you and…

May you always be

Healthy, Happy

Safe and Comfortable

Seth Kelly Curtis

Spiritual Essays #13

Finding Your Dream And Creating Your Miracles

Journey to Pyramids

by Jayaram V

This essay is about the symbolism and the transformative wisdom contained in the book, the Alchemist by Paulo Coelho


The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, is about the journey of an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago from his native place in Spain to the desert in Egypt in search of treasures hidden in the pyramids. Throughout the story you will be presented with many allegories, metaphors and hidden gems of wisdom which suggest that if you have a dream or desire and it is strong enough, you will find help along the way in various forms and guises.

The book has become so popular that it is one of the most translated books in the history of the world. Its main theme is summarized in the words of an old man who tells Santiago, the main character, “To realize one’s Personal Legend is a person’s only obligation.” He further adds, “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

In other words, you must find your true calling according to your deepest yearning or predominant desire. Once you find it, you must set yourself on a journey of a lifetime to achieve it with single-minded determination, putting your heart and soul into it, and fine tuning yourself and your decisions according to the lessons you learn and the messages you receive from the universe. It is your mission. It is all you are meant to do, why you are born and exist here.

Life is a journey in a world that is never the same and in which nothing is ever the same. We all are pilgrims in this sacred journey of life. We may be different and unique but we all seek personal legends and hidden treasures in the world of opportunities according to our upbringing and circumstances, amidst distractions and events that seem to be beyond our control. Most people may not find all the treasures they seek or may give up even seeking. Yet, life goes on rewarding those who strive and ignoring those who do not.

Paulo Coelho himself led a tumultuous life. He did not achieve instant success and suffered from many setbacks and personal failures, starting from his childhood. Yet, his life is the proof that if you have faith, courage and conviction and if you pursue the path of your own greatness or uniqueness, you too will find “meaningful treasures” along the journey “that are at once natural and magical.” Sometimes, you may be reluctant to continue the journey or become distracted, but help comes in the form of a friend or a well wisher, who reminds you of your duty or obligation and help you return to your journey.

The path is never easy. The book does not give any illusions about it. It is a perilous, unpredictable and uncertain path which requires that you keep your mind wide awake and eyes wide open so that you can look for signs from the universe to guide yourself or find yourself. Sometimes, you may be duped, distracted or compelled by people and circumstances to delay your journey or make difficult choices and sacrifices.

Yet, you must not lose heart or stop your search. You must accept life as it is given to you and persist in your effort to find your treasures, drawing strength, hope and courage from within and centering yourself in the present reality. Along the way, you will also learn many lessons about the journey, about yourself and the mysteries of life. You have to actively seek them and learn from them to achieve the required transformation or the alchemy and thereby your cherished goals.

Realistically speaking, Paulo Coelho’s principal argument that the universe conspires to help you is a possibility, but not a certainty because nothing is certain in this universe, including the uncertainty itself. The outcome of your journey entirely depends upon your convictions and your determination or perseverance. The journey of transformation and self-discovery is neither smooth nor easy. You will make mistakes along the way, from which you must be willing to learn and recover. Every failure has a purpose and a hidden message, and you must be intelligent enough to understand them.

Understanding your relationship with the world and its role in shaping your life and destiny is another important aspect which you learn from the book. You have an inseparable connection with the universe. It manifests in your life as people, things, events and circumstances. Everything in it is interconnected, arises from it and forms a part of it. We all exist in it and are never separate from it, nor can we ever be.

The universe plays its role with precision to ensure the orderly progression of life. It does not discriminate in the application of its laws, while people may approach it differently with different attitudes and mindsets. It is your silent witness and active partner in all that you do and seek. In the journey of your life and in search of your dreams, you must learn to communicate with it and decipher its cryptic language in which it constantly keeps sending hints of possibilities and opportunities and the decisions that need to be made.

As Santiago learns during the journey, the universe does its best to communicate with us through omens, signs, coincidences, chance happenings and mysterious events, which conspire to create the miracles of our lives. They constitute the language of the universe. One must learn to read it and understand it by paying attention and listening to one’s heart or intuition. Paulo Coelho said, “Following your dream is like learning a new language.” To follow your dream, you must learn the language.

The idea that the universe mysteriously and miraculously works for you to help you manifest your strongest thoughts and desire is not new. Many people in the past spoke about it. They recognized the power of thought in manifesting our dreams and desires through inner alchemy and believed in the possibility of positive outcomes by summoning the powers of the mind. The Vedas also affirm similar ideas.

They envision God as the personification of the universe and each being as a replica of the universe itself, and suggest that to seek the help of God, you must make him your inseparable Self and serve him with your mind, heart and soul. Similar ideas were echoed in the past by many wise men from different traditions and cultures who spoke about the material and spiritual rewards of flowing with the flow, being in harmony with oneself and others, living with mindful awareness, seeing God in all and all in God, knowing oneself, being true to oneself and so on.

May God bless and protect you and…

May you always be

Healthy, Happy

Safe and Comfortable

Seth Kelly Curtis