Get out of your own way!

Dear readers,

I hope you all are faring well. Last week was filled with lots of activities for me and I must say I discovered myself in a new way.

There is no gain saying that I try my best to excel at whatever I do and I am of the opinion that whatever you put your mind in, you can do well. It has also been difficult for me to understand how people cannot get somethings done, UNTIL yesterday when for the first time in my life I “froze”. Those who know me might find this strange and so do I. So how did this all happen?

I have been an avid lover of things related to the arts; singing, dancing, composing songs, writing poems, acting, playing instruments etc. Some of these I have as innate abilities and others I have developed over the years. I am not a professional of any kind however I do my best to perform at a level above average in whatever I undertake. Having said that, I also have had issues in believing that someone could “freeze” doing something they like doing. In fact, I laugh at movie characters who get tongue tied at a speech or who find it difficult to do something “simple”. I guess nature was just waiting for the best time to teach me a very vital lesson. This blog is clearly not what I intended to share today, however the experience was just too real to not share.

In a gathering of say 15 people last night I was invited to sing, something I do every time without qualms and I enjoy doing it. I had just finished playing the drum and took the harmonium and started to sing, when I noticed my fingers and hands were all shaky. I couldn’t believe it. I sing every day and I have never had such an experience. I pulled myself together and somehow went through the session but my composure was totally off. Somewhere in between, I pumped the harmonium louder and sort of hid my apprehension in the high sound. It worked for a while, but a tune I knew so well, failed me. I was not only embarrassed but humbled beyond words. In that moment I began to imagine how hard it must have been for so many people who had to keep up with me at things they weren’t good at, and I had no idea. I began to see how it felt like to experience such temporary shock. Interestingly I have done singing sessions in front of hundreds of people for hours, and never had an issue, so what happened?

After thinking for some time, I could identify a few things; first and foremost I was too concerned about the outcome of my singing, as it was in front of a relatively new crowd. I was yet to connect with my audience on a more friendly term, and as such I was nervous. Yes, I said it, even I get nervous too. Second, which is probably the most important factor, is that I was standing in my own way. I was in my head telling myself, how people were watching me, how everyone wanted to see how well I could sing, I was literally breathing down my own neck, as such I was slowing myself down. In flashback, I just wonder why I was so disturbed over nothing. Did this experience disturb me? Yes it did. Am I going to try again? Definitely! What if it happens again? Then it means there is something I need to work on. If there is an anxiety, it means there is fear, if there is fear then naturally there is ignorance. Fear is born of ignorance. So what I need to figure out is what am I ignorant of, that is creating this fear in me that suddenly shuts me down while I do something I love doing?

The moment I can identify this, then there is a chance I can solve my sudden freeze and fear. One crucial point to note is that, even the audience was not as disturbed as I was. So there it is; I had created an expectation in my head, and because I was unable to meet that expectation, I had difficulty accepting the fact that I was consciously standing in my own way. No one was booing me to stop, no one laughed, no one even criticized me, and I was fighting demons I had created in my own head. The beautiful thing is that, these demons are only as strong as I allow them to be. If I continue to feed them, which is what they want, then they grow powerful. If I refuse to feed them with doubt and fear, then they die naturally.  In life we all, will face moments like I faced yesterday at one point in time or the other. In some cases, it will be due to genuine lack of expertise, in other cases, it will be due to our own internal dialogue. Whichever the case may be, we need to get out of our own way and give ourselves a chance. I know if I have to do this right, then I have to do it again, and focus on what I am doing rather than what my mind is telling me.

I know it is easier said than done, however the only way to improve, is to try. The Master is just a student who has failed so many times and has refused to quit. Failure is good, because it makes you humble, gives you instant feedback, and allows you room for progress. Success, sometimes doesn’t teach us as much as failure. So last night I didn’t do well, it means I am one step closer to doing it right. This should be our mindset and we will definitely achieve a lot more success in any aspect of our lives. I have no idea what will happen the next time I try to sing in front of the same “unfamiliar” audience, but I know for sure, I am not going to chicken out.

Till next week, do follow for more.

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Attraction to God’s Name 1

Dear readers,

It is a pleasure to be able to share with you all yet another blog today. I hope you all had an amazing week.

Last week I shared some beautiful lessons from the epic Ramayana and how we could apply them in our lives. I have always been an advocate of reflections and inner spiritual growth rather than a person of fanfare or show bottle spirituality. Thus this week I felt I share with you all some more realizations.

Just yesterday I was at a home program organized for University students and we were studying the scriptures together. I must say it was an amazing exchange and the mood in general felt very assuring especially for me. These new practitioners were spending a good deal of their time learning more about Vedic wisdom and knowledge, to be able to be part of that was inspiring for me. We spoke on various topics but one of the subject matters that lingered was a recap on the reasons why we are not attracted to the glorification of God’s holy name.

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur (a renowned scholar in the Vedic tradition) has listed four major reasons why we are not attracted to the holy name of God; 1. Weakness of heart, 2. Attraction to unwanted habits 3. Illusion of Spiritual Knowledge and 4. Offenses. Even though these four main obstacles have sub-divisions, I’ll like to say they pretty much summarize any reason/excuse we may have for not wanting to or not being able to take full shelter of God’s name. The first obstacle which is weakness of heart includes; fault finding, desire for fame, attachment to things not related to God and envy. As spiritual practitioners we can testify to the difficulty that these impediments pose in our spiritual life. If we spend a good deal of our time finding faults in what others are doing instead of being critical with our spiritual life then we are at a disservice to ourselves. If we engage in spiritual activities in other to be recognized and praised then we are also lacking a very basic requisite for chanting the holy name, which is being humble.

If the practitioner is not humble and doesn’t show respect to others how can he effectively chant the holy names of God? Humility isn’t just the absence of pride but the presence of real service to others. To be humble however doesn’t mean to become stupid, because often times some practitioners in the bid of trying to become “humble” become or act in ways which maybe stupid. To act in a way that is stupid is to allow others to use us for their personal agendas in the guise of being spiritual. We have to carefully guide against this.

This brings us to the third subdivision which is attachment to things that are not related to God; when a spiritual practitioner has too much affinity for material objects or matters and shows little interest in things that relate to God, then advancement is slow. When we exhibit attachment to things that do not remind us of God, it means we are purposely aligning ourselves with things that make us forget God. It is either we are trying to constantly remember God, or we are trying to forget him. Someone may ask at this point, that it is not so easy to draw a line, and that there has to be a “grey area”. Even though we may not say it out rightly that “I want to forget God”, our daily choices and activities speak differently. For example, if we are in a relationship with someone, it is expected that we try to communicate with them on a daily basis. We cannot claim to “love” someone and not keep in touch with them for weeks on end. If we love someone as we claim to, then our daily decisions should show that there is a conscious effort to bring that person into our lives more, or to make them have a significant place in our lives. Similarly, if our daily activities are connected to things we do or like, and these things do not remind us of God or increase our attachment for Him, then we are consciously choosing otherwise. Action speaks louder than words, so merely saying we love God is not a yardstick to measure our sincerity. We have to walk the talk. Thus when we place a lot of attachment to things that are not related to God that is; his name, form, quality and pastimes, then we are ultimately trying to forget all of these.

Last but not least is dealing with Envy. A heart that is full of envy cannot radiate love, thus how can we achieve love of God if we are incapable of loving to the fullest. We can exhibit envy towards people or towards God. In our daily life, we sometimes see that we have friends who are better than us at certain things, or even fellow spiritual practitioners who have good qualities we desire but do not currently possess. Whenever we see some good qualities we admire in someone, instead of being envious of them and trying to put them down or discredit what they do, we should rather glorify them sincerely and try to serve them. By rendering service to such people, we can also learn how to develop those good qualities and by their mercy and blessings we may also exhibit these good qualities.

Deeper than this is when we are envious of the Supreme Lord, and we may knowingly or even unknowingly express envy towards the Lord’s activities or glories. Unknowingly we may be envious of the Lord by refusing to cultivate proper understanding about his glories, or we may knowingly feel that the Lord is “exploiting us” and thus we cannot serve him or bow down to Him. Sometimes when people are new to the process of Loving devotional service to God, and they hear about the glories of God, they sometimes feel like “why does God have so much power?” As simple as it may sound, some people then try to acquire mystic powers in order to “play God”. This often times always leads to frustration and unfulfilled desires.

Till next week, when we will deliberate on the other factors, do remember to like, share and follow this blog for more.

21 lessons from Ramayana

Dear readers,

I hope you all are having a wonderful week. It is a great pleasure to be able to share with you all again yet another inspiring blog this week.

I wanted to post this on Rama Navami however I did another blog instead, so I felt this week would be a nice time. For those of you who are not familiar with the stories from the Vedas, I’ll be sharing 25 lessons today from the Epic story of Ramayana. This is the story of a young prince who is banished to the forest; a night before he is made king, due to the desires of a step mother. I definitely cannot tell the full story here however these lessons are great tips for everyone in life.

Without further ado, I present you 25 life lessons from the Epic Ramayana;

Power of Bad association: It was a known fact that Kaikeyi loved Lord Rama more than her own son, then how did she become so evil. It was due to her association with the maid Mantara.

Attachment to service and not to the position: Lord Ram was willing to become king as a service to Maharaj Dasarath, he was also willing to go to the forest as a service to his father.

Mission of Life should be to vanquish demoniac tendencies in our heart: Lord Rama’s purpose to kill the demons was fulfilled by his banishment to the forest.

Even extreme reversals if taken in the proper spirit will help us fulfill our mission in life: For example the law of gravity is only in effect in the Earth’s sphere and not beyond. So also laws of material nature act only when we are on the level of the modes of material consciousness and not in spiritual consciousness.

Rama or Aaram: A test for every seeker or spiritual practitioner, citizens of Ayodhya wanted to go with Lord Rama to the forest and leave behind the comforts (Aaram) of the city.

Alertness in Spiritual life: Lord Rama leaves the citizens when they are asleep. If one is inattentive or lazy, one will lose taste in Bhakti.

Sometimes saintly people may cause pain to others not to hurt them but to benefit them: Just as a Doctor may cause pain (operation) to cure a patient.

The Supreme Lord is the proprietor: Bharat ruled the kingdom on behalf of Lord Rama, keeping the Lord’s shoes on the throne. We are only caretakers, He is the real proprietor, he gives and can take away. The caretaker must act according to the will of the owner.

Anyone can make a show of greatness: The reversals tests who we really are. When laksmana cuts the nose of the witch demoness Surpanaka, her charming form disappeared and she assumed her real form which was ugly. One’s greatness is tested by one’s ability to tolerate provoking situations.

Bhakti (Sita) cannot be achieved by Deception: Ravana wanted to kidnap Sita by deception but all he got was the Maya Sita or illusory Sita. Greed and Lust never satiates, they lead to arrogance and envy. Attachments create traps and make us suffer. Marichi takes up a golden deer form which Sita develops attachment for. We should always see things through the eyes of the scriptures.  The spider web is very attractive to the fly, but it is also a trap.

Maya knows our weakness: She can make our strength a weakness and then force us to take shelter of learned souls. Ravana uses Sita’s knowledge of sastra to make her disobey Laksmana.

Always stand by what is right: Jatayu’s integrity is forever remembered. Real success is to please the Lord. Jatayu lost his life fighting for Lord Rama but achieved the purpose of life which is to please the Lord.

Patience, determination and enthusiasm:  Shabari was told by her Guru to wait and receive Lord Rama, while the Guru and others ascended to heaven. She waited for years and showed enthusiasm by cleaning the cottage everyday while waiting for the Lord to arrive. She had complete faith in the words of the Guru and waited patiently with determination.

The Lord reveals himself only when he wants: We cannot put a façade before the Lord. Hanuman tries to disguise himself before Lord Rama, but the Lord Knew who he was. The Lord knows us from within, who we really are and we have to be honest to receive the Lord’s mercy.

Obstacles on the path of Bhakti: The demons who tried to stop Hamunan as he crossed to Lanka are like obstacles on our path of bhakti. Mainaka (the golden Mountain) – Temptation to seek comfort before achieving our real purpose. Simhika (The Shadow catching demoness) – While striving for Bhakti people will chastise us, criticize us, we should be willing to tolerate. Surasa (The Serpent) – Being envious of people in higher positions and trying to stop their progress. By engaging in devotional service we can devour these demons.

Arrogance: The world is a mirror of our consciousness. Ravana thought Mandodari was envious of Sita, while he was actually envious of Rama. When we think we know, we are not willing to listen to good counsel. Spiritual progress means simplicity and humility.

Big or small we can swim the ocean of repeated birth and death: By chanting the names of the Lord we can stay afloat in the ocean of Samsara (repeated birth and death).

Hearing about the Lord: Revival of our dormant love for God is achieved by hearing about him. The Lord in the heart or Ravan knew his thought and could have killed him but he went through these ordeal to give us the opportunity to sing his pastimes.

Righteousness: Even though all the Monkey soldiers were against him, Vibhisan was willing to be misunderstood to take shelter of the Lord.

Counsel and Advice against the battel of illusion: In the battle against illusion, at every stage we need the association of devotees to put us straight, otherwise we will fall off. Even Lord Rama took counsel of Vibhisan.

The grace of a Saint is important: Agastya Muni had a divine arrow which he gave to Lord Rama to help kill Ravana, the arrow was used to pierce the heart of Ravana.

As we continue our daily battle with the darkness in our lives, may the Lord grant us the courage to fight the good fight. Till next week, read, share and follow for more.

Ill fate?

Dear readers,

I hope you all are faring well. It is a pleasure to be able to share with you all yet another interesting blog today.

Recently while responding to messages on my social media, I saw a video posted by a friend on my timeline and it basically addressed a very crucial topic about Karma. For those of us who are not familiar with the word Karma; this is the law of cause and effect. That is, for every action there is a reaction. Even though some people have a hard time accepting this law, we cannot negate the fact that it is scientific and thus has a lot more basis to it than just religion or faith.

Sir Isaac Newton postulated one of the laws of motion which states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, it is a universal proof to the law of Karma. In real life we will take “motion” to be Action. We as living beings are constantly engaged in one activity or another, and our daily interactions with the modes of material nature (goodness, passion and ignorance), bring about different results from our actions. When we act in the mode of goodness, we are sure to get a reaction that is in the mode of goodness. Similarly when one acts out of ignorance, then there is bound to be some suffering, because darkness is born out of ignorance. For example, a man who is sawing off the branch of a tree that he is sitting on, will definitely fall as soon as the last part of the branch is sawed off.

Now in life sometimes we go through various hurdles, ordeals, and trying times and the natural response is; “why me”? Why am I suffering so much in this life time, when I haven’t done anything to merit it? Why do bad things happen to good people? We curse, tear our clothes and feel so much injustice at Nature, God and everything we know. On the other hand, if we get some big raise at work, buy a brand new car, hit a business deal, make more money or travel to fancy holiday resorts, we never seem to ask “why me”? Rather we say, “It is all as a result of my hard work and effort. I deserve it all?” We can immediately see that there is an imbalance in this type of thought process, where we accept good things as our effort and hard work, but dispel bad things as ill fate or natures plan to punish us. Whenever someone is going through some setback and it is suggested that maybe it is as a result of past impious activities, many take offence at such a statement. Of course, we cannot callously attribute Karma to everything that happens without going through the motions of studying the very present situation. It is also worthy to note that, attributing Karma to peoples misery can be seen as cold and inconsiderate if not done properly, with knowledge and from a  space of compassion.

If our objective be to criticize, mock or humiliate those suffering, then even if we are correct about their suffering been due to Karma, they will not accept it. This is because the intention with which we point things out matters a lot. This is on one side of the spectrum when we have to deal with those who are not very philosophically inclined, or people who might take offence easily to the things we say. On the other side of the spectrum are those who are devotees or followers of a Theistic philosophy where there is a personal relationship with God. These set of people depending on their level of advancement see things differently too.

There is a verse from the Bhagavat Purana that says “My Dear Lord, one who earnestly awaits you to bestow your causeless mercy upon him, while all the while suffering the reactions of his past misdeeds, and offering you respectful obeisance with his heart, soul and body, is surely eligible for liberation, for it has become his rightful claim. (Srimad Bhagavatam 10. 14. 8). This verse is more than just a soothing for those in distress, because it is the absolute truth mentioned in the revealed scriptures. There is a similar passage in the Bible from the beatitudes, “blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 5; 3-12). Those who are servants of the Supreme Lord know that whatever trials and tribulation that they are going through in their life is nothing but a means to accelerate their union with the Lord. They know that the Lord being merciful shows his special grace by allowing such trials to show that his devotees will always be glorious in the end.

The devotee rather than curse the Lord, says “Lord thank you for reducing my suffering. I should be suffering a lot more than this, but due to your causeless mercy, you have so kindly reduced my bad karma.” There are many examples of great saints and servants of God who went through a lot of trial and tribulation and at the time, people asked them to curse God and even deny his existence. In the Vedic scriptures we have the Pandavas, who lost everything from their kingdom to their wife, escaped close calls with death on several occasions but eventually were crowned kings in the same kingdom they lost.

Job in the Bible lost everything he had, was inflicted with a terrible skin disease, friends and family left him, but he was fixed in his faith, for he knew that the Lord would never forsake him. In the end not only were his afflictions removed and his body restored to perfect health, but he was also rewarded with 7 times more riches than he had lost. In the Psalm of David (Ps 30) he says …”weeping may endure for a night but Joy cometh in the morning”. So dear spiritual warriors, slowly yet gracefully pick yourselves up by the boot strap, look up to the Lord and know that he is sure to respond to our call.

Till next week, do have a great week ahead. Kindly share, like and follow for more.

Dreams

Dear readers,

It is a pleasure to be able to share with you all once again, yet another interesting blog this week. I hope you all are faring well. As a break to the last series of blogs I uploaded which were quite philosophical in nature, I decided to write on a more mainstream topic today. Today’s topic is one that almost everyone is conversant with and not much philosophy is needed to explain what it is. However we are going to be looking at the subject matter a few steps away from the physical aspect.

Today I shall be writing on dreams. So what are dreams? This word or concept is very interesting because it can be both a noun and a verb. Many of us are conversant with Martin Luther’s famous speech “I have a dream”. When we speak of dream as a verb we usually talk about the possibility of doing something. However when we speak of dream as a noun then we are referring to a series of thoughts, images etc. that occur in a person’s mind when they are asleep. We all have had dreams at one point in time or another and most of us do every night when we go to bed. In fact only a very few percentage of people go to sleep and do not recall having dreams. This could be for various reasons. The beauty of having dreams is that we are introduced to a world where we are not limited by time, space, nor our bodies.

At one point in time or another, some of us must have had a dream where we were flying, had special abilities, could speak different languages or had immense strength. We were able to do things that defied the laws of nature and the abilities of our physical bodies. Then we wake up in the morning and all that is gone. So what happened to all that we saw in our dreams? To understand this let us analyze a few basic concepts. We have the sleeping state and the wakeful state. In between these two states we have a third which allows for occurrences such as hypnosis, but that is another topic entirely. In our wakeful state, we do things with the help of our physical body. We walk, dance, talk, laugh, and eat, all with the help of our physical body. Thus we are limited by the capacity of what our physical bodies can do. We also have another body called the subtle body, some call it the astral body and those who practice astral travels tend to use this body more. Astral travelling is one practice that allows people to experience for a fact that they are actually more than just their physical bodies. We will not dwell much on this subject either.

In the dream, when our physical bodies are in their sleeping state, the subtle body is in its waking/wakeful state. It is safe to say that for those who are not very spiritually in tune with their subtle bodies, it remains dormant or asleep when the physical body is awake. So at night when the physical body goes to sleep, it becomes active. This body begins to engage in various activities, based on our desires, thoughts, imaginations or share dictates of the mind. Sometimes, information that is stored in our subconscious mind make it to our dreams and it develops form or shape. If we spent an entire day dealing with say flight bookings for people to a holiday resort, it won’t come as a surprise if at night we see ourselves swimming with dolphins in a breathtaking resort. Even though we might not have had a direct contact with a resort, but information of this place builds up in our subconscious mind as we were working throughout the day. Dreams could also be more than just thoughts or replays from our subconscious minds. Dreams could provide us with visions into events that are yet to happen, or even better clarity to things that have happened.

Some people have been able to testify to seeing things in their dreams and sometime later these things manifest in the real world. This ability if properly harnessed becomes some sort of clairvoyance and can be used to help people. Another interesting phenomena which we can get from dreams is that when one is very spiritually advanced, dreams could be a contact point for association with higher beings who may not be able to present themselves before us physically due to various reasons. In fact my spiritual mentor used to say that, whenever any of his disciples has any difficulty we should just speak to him and he would definitely give guidance. Many of my god brothers have recorded many occasions where our spiritual mentor would appear to them in a dream and give clarification to things.

The possibilities that are present in our dreams are endless and when we can access these properly, we begin to operate on a different dimension. Many of us might have seen the movie Inception, where the famous Actor Leonardo DiCaprio uses the sleeping state of dreams to implant ideas and thoughts into the minds of people. Even though many people might wave this off as just a movie, the idea of mind control via several methods is not new or alien in our society today.  The most popular form of mind control we all know is the Television or nowadays social media. There are however more subtle forms of mind control which are not easily accessible to the masses that is been used currently by many powerful countries in the world. These techniques are used to control, manipulate and even access information from competing countries via spy agents.

It is thus very important to try to keep track of our dreams every day, this way we can monitor the thought process of our subconscious mind. When we keep track of our dreams then we can also influence the outcome of the type of dreams we want to have. Yes, it is possible to influence the dreams we have. We can write down or dreams daily as soon as we wake up before we get off the bed. This allows us to fully recollect the dreams we had at night. Initially this might be difficult especially if we are not used to remembering our dreams. However with time and conscious practice, we will gradually begin to recollect more.

Till next week, do read, share and follow for more.

Pseudo Quintessential Spiritualism

Dear readers,

I hope you all are faring well. It is always a pleasure to be able to share with you all yet another exciting blog every week.

This week I’ll like to harp on a topic that is quite interesting and a source of concern for neophytes on the path of spiritualism. Often times either by false perception or transferred thoughts of misconstrued idealism, many newbies on the path of spirituality create a utopia of what they seem as the quintessential circle of spiritualist. In their minds and activities they wonder about from faith to faith, religion to religion waiting to find that sphere of the above described spiritualism, all to little or no avail. This reminds me of the famous novel “Animal Farm” by George Orwell, wherein he uses the perfect allegory to pass across the situations of a trouble State and the results therein.

A lot of people new to the path of conscious spirituality, (and I mean one that has for focus the concept of a personal relationship with God), often get caught in the web of differentiating pseudo spiritualists from the real ones. The externals are not an issue, as many people can easily figure their way through this part. The difficulty starts when the philosophy meets practice and practice meets the everyday way of life. It is at this junction the pillars that hold the faith of many start to wobble and eventually collapse. When the exciting “conscious chants” are over and the mind starts its rampage and reality sets in, the new spiritualist begins to wonder what happened to the promise of “eternal high”. When the delicious communion of cruelty free meal is over and the newbie sees that the seasoned practitioners and old timers are not so free from violence in their discussions, his doubts seem to crawl back.

Many newbies will play ostrich at this point and bury their heads in the sand of hero/mentor worship, self-denial, misinterpretation of the philosophy, and “adaptation according to circumstances”. The pseudo spiritualists in such a religion who is but a quintessence of Napoleon from the Animal Farm will usually try to fake the practice of the philosophy with the hope that someday they make it. This may work for a while for some people, for some time for most people but not every time for everyone. Truth be told, many people are not ready for the truth because it disrupts the reality of their ignorance. So what could the truth be? Why is it so difficult for the newbie spiritualist to figure it out? It takes intelligence to be able to separate grain from chaff. As easy as it may sound in real life, many neophytes and even seasoned spiritualists find it difficult to make this separation. The reason could be varied however when the basics are not learned properly, then it is hard to even grab intermediate matters talk less of the advanced stuff.

It is apparently cool and flashy to put up a show of being “woke”, filled with the spirit or being on the platform of spontaneous love of God, however what is not cool is having to deal with the reality that sets in after these imposters see that their charade is not getting them anywhere. Let’s take an example of someone who attends a party of world class swimmers held on a cruise ship. At high sea, the ship starts to sink and then he sees all of the “seasoned swimmers” panicking. Only to find out that they can’t really swim.  There is a mixed feeling of anger, betrayal, and even amusement when such a guest has to witness the pseudo swimmers struggle for their lives in water. The neophyte in spirituality is sure to witness such scenarios at some point in their journey into spirituality. The choice is theirs however what they want to do with such a lesson.

The best recourse will be to take the path seriously, to train body, mind and spirit in the true tenets of whatever spiritual practice they are into. It will be in the interest of this practitioner to look for a real seasoned practitioner that understands the theory and practice of the path they are on. The neophyte must also make sure that the seasoned practitioner lives a life that reflects a balance of both theoretical understanding and practical application. When that is done, then he has to address the most difficult part; himself. Like it or not the larger percentage of work to be done in order to progress in spirituality, is the effort we put in when there is no one looking. Those things that we do when we are alone with our minds and the Lord in our heart.

Amidst this rubble is a few percent of those who are “woke” or say aware of the feeble phantasmagoria presented by these charlatans who parade as God conscious people. This few understand that in every spiritual circle there is bound to be the struggle of light over darkness and both never coexist. This few “woke” individuals know that sometimes there is joy in celebrating small private victories as opposed to the general opinion of making a show of advancement. They understand that spirituality is a silent inner journey where the aim is to go as deep as possible, way beyond the superficial flowery externals; floating on the surface that people confuse as the real thing. We can say they have surmounted the tendency to be distracted by the byproducts of spirituality. As it is with every endeavor that exposes the malignant nature of darkness, these few individuals will face their portion of the soul’s dark night. In their purification the neophyte will be deceived to think of it as tribulations and as such ridicule them. However just like the proverbial phoenix, they eventually rise from the same ashes they were reduced to.

The secret lies not in personal prowess, expertise, erudition nor deceit, but in sincerity that cannot be purchased by anything besides genuine intent and perfect understanding of who and what God really is.

Till next week, do read, share and follow for more.

Abhishek (Bathing the Lord)

Dear readers,

It is a pleasure to be able to share with you all yet another interesting blog this week. I hope you all are faring well. A few days back we had a grand celebration of the Lord’s advent and there were many rites and activities during the course of the day. One of the ceremony is to bathe the Lord or to perform what is known as Abishek. For many this is a totally foreign concept and to even think that the Lord can have his bath is mind bugging. Not to worry, soon we shall look at this ancient tradition together and see what merits are there to it.

Abhishek has its root in the Sanskrit word abhiseka; the conceptual meaning related to cleansing or purification and it is symbolized by the actual rites in the process of puja or worship. It is also defined as a bathing ceremony. To understand the concept of engaging in worship of the Lord let us begin with a few basics. In gaudiya Vaishnavism, the Supreme Lord is worshipped on a much personal level and as such this mood reflects in our service, prayers and worship. Adoration of the Lord on a personal level is not something new to the Vedic scriptures, as we see the same been hinted in other scriptures like the Bible and Koran. For instance, in the Bible; Abraham was described as the Friend of God, Moses as his Servant and Solomon composed verses which were in the mood of a lover for God. In modern times, Priests such as Father Francis of assisi, Saint Josemaria and others were known to have had an inclination towards the worship of Jesus as a baby, thus imbibing the mood of a parent.

The Veda’s however have given more detailed exposition on these relations with the Lord and how to develop them. It is natural that when a new child is born we want to bathe and clean it up nicely and dress it in the best of clothes. This is also same with the Lord when he appears. The difference is that unlike an ordinary human being, the Supreme Lord doesn’t take birth, because he is Unborn. He appears or manifest himself, and when he does he is also welcomed with different rites and ceremonies, of which bathing him is one. The underlying principle is that of showing and expressing Love to the Lord, and He also reciprocates accordingly.  The Lord doesn’t require any of these things from us because he is self-sufficient and as such he is complete in himself. When we offer our service and Love to him in various ways, he reciprocates and we benefit and make spiritual advancement from his reciprocation.

Just as every spiritual practice has certain rites, gaudiya Vaishnavism also has its share of rites that are meant to create a personal relationship between the practitioner and the Lord and not merely for show or as routine activities. Understanding why we engage in these rites, is the first step and executing them with the right mindset is the key to getting the real benefit from them. When we have our bath, the general idea is to become clean, however when the Lord does, he does so to give pleasure to his devotees and to satisfy our desire to serve him in that capacity. At this point, some of you might begin to ask, “But how can God bathe?” The response is quite simple if we look at the question closely. If we think that there is something that God cannot do, then how is he God? If God the creator, maintainer and destroyer of the entire Universe is incapable of doing certain things then how is he God? The next understanding will be to see that we are made in the image of God or we are his replica and as such whatever tendency we have, he also has in a pure, spiritual and magnificent way.

He is not limited by time or space and as such he can do whatever he pleases. We as human can only eat with our mouth, but the Lord can decide to eat with his eye or his mind, because his body is not material like ours and it is above the laws of material nature. Similarly when the Lord bathes, it is not because he is dirty or sweaty, but because he wants to give pleasure to his devotees who want to serve him in this manner.  Furthermore, when the Lord bathes he does so in five kinds of liquid; Milk, Curd, Ghee (clarified butter), Honey and Rose water. These combination is described as Amrta or nectar. Bathing the Lord in these liquids is an expression of our love and service to Him, and he reciprocates by in turn giving us this nectar back for us to relish.  Partaking of this sweet nectar that has been used to bathe the Lord is said to have the power to deliver one from diseases and untimely death.

The principle behind this ancient tradition cannot be fully appreciated if one’s knowledge of the Supreme Lord is impersonal or formless. For those who think the Lord has no form, then it is difficult to fully understand the logic behind this. However those who worship the Lord in a personal approach can easily appreciate this practice. The Supreme Lord is sound, energy, Light etc., but he is also more than these. He is the source of the sound, the source of the light and the energetic from whom all energy emanates. In other scriptures such as the Bible we can see where God clearly says that Man should be made in his image and likeness. Moses was said to have seen the back of God, Jacob (Israel) was said to have wrestled with God. So God as a person with a form is not a new concept that is being promoted, however understanding how to relate with him in one or more ways is relatively new to many people.

I hope this brief dissertation sheds some light on this topic. Till next week; read share and follow for more.

Time, Attention and Experience

Dear readers,

It is my pleasure to be able to share with you all once again another interesting blog this week. I hope you all are faring well.

Today I will be sharing with you all some brief insights on a very spiritual topic and hopefully we all can learn a thing or two from it.  Recently I saw a video on Facebook of a young kid that went viral for good reasons. In the video, the kid tells us that whatever we practice we become good at it. If we practice kindness we become good at it, if we practice complaining, we become so good at it that we will complain about anything. I drew a few more lessons besides what he said and tried to extrapolate his ideas to spirituality.

When people join a path of spirituality, generally the idea is to be enlightened or become better persons by cultivating higher values. Thus it is natural that every new practitioner should adopt those practices that enable him/her to become a better spiritualist. In the beginning of our journey we would naturally want to know what to do, what to say, what to eat, what to avoid and what to embrace. We then give time to does things which are favorable and avoid those things which are not. When we give time to something, we invest our energy into it and thus we become versatile in it. The time that we invest into our spiritual lives is directly proportional to the amount of attention we pay to these matters. There is a saying that “whatever we give our time, becomes our experience.” Similarly, the time and attention we give to spiritual matters, translates into our experience in spirituality.

As a martial artists, there is an old saying by traditional Japanese Instructors, that to master a technique, one has to practice it at least 10,000 times. Now many people think the number is just figurative and others actually take it literally. Irrespective of which side we choose to follow, we can at least agree on one fact; in order to master anything we must give it sufficient attention. So naturally this brings me to spirituality. People join the path and initially have the desire to become enlightened or advanced and the process stipulates that they must engage in certain practices. Many people start off with a blast and with time they slow down, for a myriad of reasons. The irony is when we don’t give time to those things which we want to be good at and yet expect to miraculously become good at them.  Life doesn’t work that way and never will. A good example in our gaudiya line is Hari Das Thakur who is celebrated as the Nama-acarya; because he chanted over 300,000 names of the Lord daily.

He certainly gave a lot of time and attention to a practice his chanting and subsequently he gained a lot of experience in it and became renowned for it. So the question then arises; we all claim to want to achieve Love of Godhead, are we giving time and energy to those things that enable to become full lovers of God or are we giving time and energy to those things that enable us to become lovers of the material energy? We claim we want to become pure devotees, or at least that is why we joined the path, are we giving our time and energy to those things that will help us become pure devotees?

We claim we want to go back home back to Godhead, are we engaging in activities that show we are really keen on going back to the spiritual world, or are we giving our time and energy to trivial things that bind us here? We claim we want to serve the Lord in the different mellows when we get back to Him, but are we engaging our time and energy in his service here on earth or are we engaging our time and energy in trivial matters and discouraging others who are trying to serve? These are soul searching questions we need to ask ourselves every day. If we say one thing and cannot match it with our actions then what are we really practicing? At the end of the day, everyone carries their cross, everyone is responsible for the advancement or deviation they make. If we are not engaging our time and energy in those things that make us better Devotees, Christians, Muslims, etc. then let us be kind enough not to distract those who are sincerely trying to make this effort.

There is no doubt that we all are advancing in different rates and pace, however just like driving on the high way, slow vehicles keep right and allow fast vehicles the left lane to move faster. If you know you want to drive slowly in your spiritual life then it is only fair that we allow those who want to move at a quicker rate to do so. In this light it is mentioned that every spiritual practitioner should associate with colleagues of similar interest. An English adage says “show me your friends and I’ll tell you whom you are”. If your association is full of people who criticize, blaspheme, deviate from principles, sooner or later we will give our time and energy to such activities and gain experience in it. If we associate with people who chant the Lord’s name regularly, pray intensely, avoid trivial talks, serve with a proper mind, study the scriptures, then we will also give our time and energy to these things and with time they become our experience.

In summary ask yourself daily, what I am giving my time and energy to, because it will become my experience. If you see it is contrary to what you say you want then change and give less time to those things that slow your progress down. We are the designers of our spiritual lives and we are responsible ultimately.

Till next week, do read, share and follow for more.

Happiness; It is here not there!

Dear readers,

I hope you are faring well. It is a pleasure to be able to share with you all today yet another blog. I had some interesting experience two weeks, after I had posted my weekly blog a day late. Surprisingly the following week I noticed it had quite a lot of views as compared to some of my other blogs. So jokingly I said to myself, “You know, maybe late is sometimes good”. Lol

Anyways, this week I’ll like to share with you all something I guess we all crave in one way or form, and that is Happiness. First, what is Happiness? It is a state of being Happy. What does it mean to be happy? Well the Dictionary doesn’t really help, because it defines happiness again as a state of pleasure or contentment. We can go on and on trying to find the meaning of these words, but we will end in an endless circle of new words, all in the search of the meaning of happiness.

How many of you have seen the Movie “The pursuit of HappYness”. (Yes, Happiness is spelt that way in the title). In a nut shell it is a movie about a single Father who has to go through a lot of difficulty including having no place to sleep, while trying to juggle finding a job and being a father to his son. Well at the end of the movie, things fall into place. The movie though very emotional teaches a lot of things. Today I am not here to talk about the movie but about the concept of Happiness and life generally. From a metaphysical perspective or a spiritual understanding, happiness is more than just being happy. What we define as happiness in the material world is but the absence of sorrow. In other words, happiness and distress are but different sides of the same coin.

When one is absent then the other is present. Happiness from a deeper point of view will be the absence of those things which cause us real misery. These things are Birth, Disease, old age and finally death. We all know how painful the process of giving birth can be for mothers, and even from the early stages of conception to the end, mothers have to put up with a lot of discomfort. No one likes to fall ill and as such diseases are also a source of misery. Old age comes with its highlights and also its constraints. There are a lot of things we can no longer do as we grow old, because our bodies no longer have the vigor it had when we were younger. Yet despite these changes, sometimes you hear people say “I am happy” and the next minute “I am not happy”.  The ancient scriptures like the Bhagavad Gita explain to us that the temporary appearance of happiness and distress are like the manifestation of winter and summer or heat and cold, both are temporary and as such one must learn to tolerate these dualities.

That we tolerate these dualities doesn’t mean they don’t exist, as some pseudo-spiritual groups like to teach, however it does mean we know it is there but we detach ourselves from the experience that comes with it. One may wonder, I still haven’t given a clear definition of what Happiness is? Happiness is that which gives lasting contentment to the real self. When we engage in activities that give satisfaction to the soul, only then can we experience real happiness. My Father always use to tell me “Son, happiness is not in a place, person or country. It is inside of you. If you are not happy with yourself, even if you go to the Moon, you will still not be happy”. I’ll jokingly reply him saying “but at least the moon is a place where there are demigods and the environment surely is different and as such I will be happy there”. To this his reply was “If you haven’t found happiness within yourself, you will definitely carry whatever misery is inside of you to the Moon planet too”.

In brief what he meant was that happiness is not in the next car we are dreaming of buying, it is not in the house we want to buy, or the beautiful spouse we hope to marry someday etc. Happiness is not in any of these things and it will never be. If we tie our happiness to any of these things we see, feel or experience, we are definitely bound to suffer misery sooner or later. This is because none of these material items are made to give eternal happiness. Our new car gives us “happiness” as long as it doesn’t develop a fault, as soon as it does, the happiness becomes worry and expenses.

The new spouse we are dreaming of, gives us happiness until we get into an argument and see that we have differences that are difficult to reconcile. Suddenly we begin to question what happened to the “butterflies we felt in our stomach”. If all these things could guarantee happiness, wealthy people would be the happiest people on Earth, sadly the narrative is different. While wealth and material opulence can give some level of comfort, which is definitely desirable, it doesn’t give real happiness that lasts. Another puzzling factor about material happiness is that, the more we strive to achieve it, the quicker it slips from our grips. Thus we are caught in a rat race trying to catch or hold on to happiness and happiness constantly trying to elude us.

When regular folks here spiritual practitioners speak like this, they begin to think; “How can people be so negative that they don’t even wish themselves happiness?” As if to say that merely wishing ourselves happiness was a guarantee to get it. We definitely do believe in happiness, however we seek happiness that truly lasts. In that light, we do not bother ourselves with those temporary absence of sorrow that many confuse for “happiness”. The happiness that we seek as spiritualists is that which brings eternal happiness to all living beings, and nothing else but reconnecting with the absolute can give this in full.

Till next week, do read, share and follow for more.

Spiritual Stereotypes

Dear readers,

It is a pleasure to be here with you all today, sharing insights on various topics from a metaphysical perspective. I hope you all are faring well. I have been en route travelling hence my late post, kindly excuse me.

Today’s topic is one that drives home with many, especially those of us who have been either lifelong practitioners of some spiritual practices, or at least long time practitioners. I must say this topic was inspired by an incident that occurred a few days back, however before I begin to describe what happened, I felt I give a brief background of my University days. During my sophomore year I was involved in quite a lot of stage acting and as such would have regular rehearsals with other students in our drama group. During this time I was known as the “court jester” as I would always make everyone laugh.

In fact whenever we had meetings, the coordinator would specifically tell me, right after reading the agenda, “Please we have a lot to cover today, don’t make us laugh”. As soon as I replied, the entire crew would reel in laughter. Why am I recalling all of this? So fast forward a couple of years, we all graduate and fate takes every one of us to various parts of the world. I keep in contact with some of my friends from University days and some from my drama group. Somehow or the other many of them also follow my posts on Facebook and my blog, and a few have written to share their sincere appreciation of my blogs and writing. However there was more that they didn’t share, and a few days back I got to know.

So my friend posts a video, which is funny and I comment with a remark. She replies back saying “This is the you that I know. For a while I felt you had become cold because of your religion, since you hardly crack jokes like you used to. I am happy you are still the same person”. I was somewhat surprised and it did trigger a lot of thoughts. First and foremost, back while we were on campus, she and many of my friends who cared to know, were all aware of my faith, religion and practices, so it is not as if they just found out. The question is, what has changed? I decided to look deeply and some thoughts began to fall into place.

First theory: I must have unconsciously passed across an air of being “too spiritual” and probably because my timeline is full of blogs of spiritual subject matters, my friend felt I was no longer the funny guy she knew.

Second theory: She must have assumed that I was overly spiritual because I didn’t keep much contact and also due to the nature of my posts after we graduated.

Third theory: I must have unknowingly become a boring guy and lost all sense of humour because I wanted to come across as a grave student of spirituality.

Fourth theory: Spiritual life has taken its toll on me, and the effects are people see me as boring.

To be fair and unbiased I decided to look at each theory that I had jotted down, with as little bias as possible. In all fairness to her observation I must say that often times many people who follow some spiritual practice usually become “too serious” for their colleagues and it comes as a natural stereotype that most religious people are fanatical about their practice. The first theory might hold some weight, considering the fact that I did keep little contact with my friends from campus days and it is not surprising if they felt that way. The second theory might also hold some weight because my timeline is covered in practically just esoteric/spiritual posts and a few occasional comic posts. Thus it is natural for someone to once again assume that I had become too serious to share a joke. The third theory is one that I’ll like to probably harp on a little bit. Even though I know for certain that it doesn’t describe me, it does actually describe some spiritual practitioners. In our quest to look the part or to be serious students of spiritual life, sometimes we tend to become too strict for our counterparts and as such help them solidify their stereotypes about spiritually inclined people being fanatical. In my case I think what happened was that as soon as I graduated from campus,  I “forgot” to connect more. While on campus I was a lot more conscious of my interaction as the last image I wanted to portray was that I was a recluse because of my religion.

I made friends and people connected with me on various levels not even worrying about what I didn’t eat or what I didn’t do. With time I guess because a large percentage of those around me share the same faith and beliefs, I have probably lost touch with my jovial side. The fourth theory is true for a lot of spiritual practitioners and to an extent true for me. Let me explain. When we live in a spiritual community we come across many people from different walks of life. As such we have to be careful how we interact with others due to differences in our backgrounds and above all keeping in mind the rules and regulation in that community. For someone who is sanguine in temperament, jokes and being chatty is a normal attribute. The general mood of most spiritual communities is that everyone should be Melancholic (emotionally sensitive  and perfectionist introverts), and as such many people either hide their true nature or try to repress it while putting up the “required or expected mood”. In simpler words, people live a double life. One, they show in the spiritual community and another in a setting they feel more comfortable.

I have had personal experiences where I have shared jokes with people but instead of having a laugh, it rubbed them the wrong way. That been said, many spiritual practitioners then take the defensive and as such try to become or adapt the “mood” that is expected. The result is shallow and many people either get fried out or just abandon the process after a while. It is of little wonder why many people do not feel at ease in most spiritual gathering because they feel they cannot be themselves. Now should we allow the fake mood of such a place affect our real temperament and stop of us from being real? No. For how can we claim to be on a path of personal relationship with God or the Supreme, if our actions are all superficial and impersonal?

That been said, to all my friends who were with me during my campus days or who do not share the same spiritual path as I do, I want to say a few words.

“I have changed positively since we last connected or spoke and I am trying to be a better person. I have made considerable progress in my realization of the absolute truth and as such my circle of friends has been influenced. This much has changed about me. However I am still the loving, joke cracking and fun to be with person that you all know, and nothing can change that. If you ever feel the need to connect with me on a personal level, share a joke or catch up on campus days, please feel free to send me a message. I look forward to it.”

Till next week, do share, like and follow for more.