How To Develop Virtues?

As human beings we have tremendous qualities and virtues. You don’t have to look for virtues outside – you are the source of all virtues. But in the stress of day to day life, these virtues get hidden.

A seed has a membrane around it which doesn’t allow the seed to sprout, but when the membrane is soaked in water and it gets the right atmosphere, the membrane loosens and the seed sprouts. That is how the seed becomes a tree. Sadhana is a way to soak the seed; yoga is a way to manifest all the perfections that are already within you.

Virtues get covered by three things:

Mala or impurities. If there are toxins in your body, it reflects on your mind and affects your behavior. Impurities of the body and mind are called mala.

You get a lot of negative thoughts if your bowel movements are not okay. If you have constipation, the impact of it on the mind is sure negativity. Anyone who says I have constipation, know for sure that they are going to have negative thoughts sooner or later because the toxins in the body are increasing and it is going to affect the brain too. This is called mala, or the first sheath that covers your beautiful being.

Aparnaa veil of ignorance that surrounds you through identification. There is a saying in English that as you sow so shall you reap. You have sown the seeds. You have put the labels on you – I am so bad, or I am weak, or I am hopeless, or I am arrogant. Whatever label you put creates a sheath around you. Avarna is a veil which has come from many lifetimes.

Vikshepa: when you put wrong concepts about yourself in your mind, or form wrong concepts based on what you hear from others that causes disturbance in you is called vikshepa.

Your interaction with people can create mental disturbances. Just one person, whom you are friendly with, tells you some news and that news can disturb your mind. It can throw you off normal. And later, after 1 or 2 months, you come to know from your friend that what you heard is not true, but by that time it has already caused so much restlessness or agitation in your mind. So vikshepa is agitation getting created in your mind by hearsay or opinions of other people.

So these 3 things keep you shrouded and limited. Meditation and yoga can help you come out of all this, and that is when you have full enthusiasm, energy, joy and all virtues coming up.

Satsang can also help you come out of vikshepa and wrong indoctrination that gets into our head. Satsang brings positivity. Then when someone comes and tells you this guy is a hopeless guy and you say, “Ok, so what!” You don’t get affected by that. Otherwise if someone says this guy is a hopeless guy, you say, “Oh yes, he is a hopeless guy. I believed in this guy and I went to tea with him and gave him money…” and this way the mind goes on. So, satsang takes you out and gives you a positive attitude.

Effective communication - story of an astrologer and a king

I want to tell you a story!
Once, an astrologer went to visit a king. The king showed great reverence to the astrologer, made him sit down, and honored him with gifts. The king then showed his palm and the charts to astrologer. The astrologer examined everything and then said to the king, O King! You will lose your entire family. Everybody is going to die before you. You will be the last to die.”
The king got very upset upon hearing this and put the astrologer in the jail. 
When someone hears some negative prediction, they don’t like it. They obviously want to hear something nice and positive instead. And so it was for the king as well.
This news shook the entire community of astrologers. They thought, “We cannot tell the truth to the king. If we do so, he will simply put us in jail. What do we do?”
The king then called for another astrologer to appear before him. Many tried to escape this request but one senior astrologer agreed to meet the king. So, he went before the king, and the king welcomed him in the same way with gifts. The king then showed his palm to the astrologer.
The astrologer said, “Oh King! What a great fortune you are blessed with! You have a very good horoscope. Nobody in history has had such longevity of age as you are going to have. In fact, nobody in your dynasty has had such great longevity.”
The astrologer never said to the king that he was going to outlive everybody else in the royal family. Instead, he told the king that he was blessed with great longevity and that he had a great horoscope.
The king was so flattered upon hearing the news of his long life and good health. He told the astrologer, “Ask for whatever gift you want from me and I shall give.”
The astrologer said, “Please release my poor colleague who is in the jail.”

Moral of the story - skill in communication makes a huge differenceWith the right communication skills, we can turn any negative situation into a positive one

There is a couplet in Kannada which says, “It is through words that fun and laughter happen, and it is through words that enmity can also happen.” Speech creates conflict and also removes conflict.
Your speech should be so wonderful and sweet, that even Lord Shiva should simply listen and nod happily in agreement saying, “Oh yes, Oh yes”. That is how lovely your speech should be.

How to Reduce the Wavering of the Mind

The nature of the mind is to waver, similar to how the nature of water is to flow. Now how do you reduce this wavering nature of the mind? It is through spiritual practices (abhyaasa) and dispassion (vairagya).

What is Dispassion?

Sometimes, when you are disturbed, you say, “I don’t want anything. Enough is enough!”
This is one kind of dispassion, which you experience when you are disturbed. It is called Smashana (cemetery) Vairagya.
The second kind of dispassion is when you say with awareness, “I don’t want anything. I have had enough (contentment)! Everything in the world changes; nothing is permanent. I don’t mind if I have or don’t have something.”
This is the second type of dispassion, and is called Gyana (knowledge) Vairagya.
We need to have Gyana Vairagya and not Smashana Vairagya. The mind always moves towards pleasure. If we have knowledge and dispassion, then all the pleasures will come to us. It is also said that the pleasure that comes out of Abhyaasa (spiritual practice) is the highest.
Everyone has to experience at least one of the two types of dispassion. So it is better to say, “I have had enough,” out of awareness and contentment. That is the higher kind of dispassion!

Is Dispassion a Happening?

Dispassion is not a happening; I would say dispassion is what you invoke in yourself. When you widen your awareness, when you see everything is going to disappear and death is imminent, we are all going to die and everything is changing – when this knowledge comes, then dispassion is spontaneous.
Dispassion is the only way to make the mind stop chattering. Just realize that everything is a dream. It will all soon come to an end. The chattering of the mind is always with regard to a subject, a topic, or with a want. Worries and wants are responsible for the chattering of the mind. Drop your worries and your wants – that is what is called vairagya.

Dispassion and Contentment

Just be contented in your mind. You must keep evaluating yourself from time to time. Ask yourself, is what I am doing benefitting others? Even if something brings pain in the short run, but is beneficial to everyone in the long run, then that is the right thing to do. This is the test.
Before doing any work, you must ask yourself, “Am I only focusing on the small things or am I thinking from a larger perspective?” This is essential.

On Mahavir Jayanti

29th March 2018 was the birthday of a great saint called Mahavir, who propagated Jainism. He is one of the most adored enlightened saints of India and the 24th Tirthankara (the name given to an enlightened and realized soul in the Jain tradition).

Mahavir’s Philosophy and Teaching

Mahavira’s main principle is non-violence – ahimsa. He said that one has no right to be violent on anything in the world.

He spoke of Anekantvada, which means that there are so many possibilities. The world is full of possibilities. There is not just one way. This knowledge is really needed today. If people understand this, there will be no terrorism or fanaticism in the world.

He also spoke of Syadvada which is one of the most scientific approaches of dealing with the intellect. It says, “Perhaps there is something that I do not know.”
If someone says, “This is it, I know everything”, it is not correct. That is why he spoke of Syadvada – perhaps it could be some other way also. All is possible. That is a sign of a mature intellect; otherwise it is an immature intellect.
He would always add perhaps in every one of his expressions to indicate that there is always room for exploration. If you say, this is like this – you are making it so definite. In this world, nothing is definite, there is always a possibility.
He spoke of Swadhyaya – observing and studying of one's emotions, mind, and consciousness. Kayothsarga – rising above the body, and realize that we are not the body. Tapa – forbearance. Kshama – seeking forgiveness. ‘Knowingly or unknowingly, if I have done anything wrong through my action or inaction, I ask for your forgiveness’. This is the highest principle.

Mahavir Was a Contemporary of Buddha

I believe Buddha and Mahavir were from the same town. They knew about each other, but they never met.  Someone asked them, “Why you didn’t meet?”
They replied, “There is no need, as we are already connected.”
You know, in the state of enlightenment, even though the ways are different, the soul is the same. There is no distance.
There is another version in history that they met, but did not speak to each other at all. They just met and went their ways. Here too, it is said that there was no need for verbal communication.
When heart meets heart, and soul meets soul, there is no need to keep talking. When hearts meet, there is no language barrier, no words, nothing comes in between. When two people are in the head, they could be talking about the same thing, but it would appear like a fight.
Buddha spoke about emptiness, Mahavir spoke about the self. Buddha said there is no self, Mahavir said all that is, is self. Repose in the self; the nature of the soul is happiness.

How can yoga transform your life

Life always moves towards perfection. Just like how water flows down and fire goes up, the nature of life is to move towards perfection, to move towards something bigger and something higher.

Often people say that the mind is wavering, but the mind is not wavering. The mind is the wave. It is moving towards something. It is moving towards a higher joy.

If you get a little joy, you want some more joy. This is because the mind always moves towards something bigger and something higher.

Right from school days, what is it that you want? You want to get a higher grade. Which student does not want to get a higher grade? Which artist does not want to perform better? Which scientist does not want to reach the peak? Which engineer does not want to build something beautiful? So wanting perfection is in the nature of human beings. The mind wants to move towards something higher, and the way to achieve it is Yoga.

Yoga Helps You Get Out Of Misery

If you are miserable, yoga helps you get out of your misery. If you are very restless or unhappy, yoga brings you that equanimity. It first relives you from misery and then brings you equanimity.

Yoga also helps you attain skills that you do not have. The word for qualification in Sanskrit is Yogyata, which means that which has come out of yoga. It is action that brings you happiness or sorrow. And if you are skillful in action, then your action will only bring you happiness, or less misery. So with yoga, one attains:
  • Relief from sorrow
  • Equanimity
  • Skill in action.
Yoga Helps You Expand Your Vision

There is a fourth step to Yoga, which is to take you to the ultimate knowledge.

Our misery is when we don't open our eyes and see the vastness of the life. Misery means short vision. Yoga is expanding your vision - taking your eyes to the higher truth. If your mind is filled with fog, then your perception of life is very foggy. If your mind is filled with anger, you will find that everybody is mocking you. You will find that everybody is against you.

You project yourself to people, situations, and the world around you. That is what you do. All the time we are projecting ourselves. Seldom are we able to see the reality the way it is. That is why Yoga is important.

Again, yoga is not just doing some exercises. Yoga has been mistaken as just asanas. It is not. It is the expansion of consciousness. It is an emotional integration, a spiritual elevation with a touch of mysticism, which gives you a glimpse of something which is beyond all imagination. It is the connection to what we are.

If you look at a baby, a baby does all the Yoga postures. But not only that, the attitude of a baby, the way it breathes, its perceptual ability or sharpness, and its ability to stay in the present moment (all the qualities of a Yogi), a baby expresses.
So, Yoga should not be limited or misunderstood as just some exercise. It is a holistic development, expression and connection of human life.
Yoga Brings You Peace

Yoga is a complete science. It unites body, mind, spirit and the universe. Yoga brings that much needed and longed for peace and ecstasy in every individual. Not only that, it also makes such a difference in one's behavioral pattern, thought pattern, and one's attitude. For a sane life these days, yoga is almost indispensable. If you want to be sane, sensitive, sensible, strong and intuitive, you have to follow Yoga.

What Are Signs of Intelligence?

Buddha means the enlightened, and also the super intelligent. Buddhi in Sanskrit means intelligence and there are four signs of intelligence.
The first sign of intelligence is being alert. You can’t say that I am intelligent but I am a little sleepy. Intelligence means alertness. When you are alert your perception and observation improves, and this helps your expression become perfect.
Many times people say, “Oh, nobody understands me.” Instead they should say, “I haven’t been able to express myself.” If you have the skill to express, then there can be no misunderstandings. Perception, observation and expression – all these come from being alert.
Now if you keep yourself very alert for long periods of time, what happens? You get tired and feel exhausted. So, it’s not in the nature of our brain to be alert all the time. We need is relaxation. And the type of relaxation we know is taking a pillow and going to sleep. That's it. Sleep is necessary, but there is another type of relaxation where you are alert and at the same time relaxed, and that is meditation.
The other sign of intelligence is the ability to resolve conflict! Fools create conflicts. An intelligent person knows how to resolve conflicts in oneself and in his surroundings. If someone is creative but creates a lot of conflicts, you say, “Oh my god, that's not an intelligent thing to do”, isn't it so?
If you put an intelligent person between a conflict, will there be more conflict or will he reduce it? He will reduce or resolve it! The tendency to bring harmony is a sign of intelligence. The ability to find a solution is a sign of intelligence.
The next sign of intelligence is humour. There is a story I would like to tell you.
Swami Vivekananda went to a restaurant and went and sat on the same table as his professor. The professor told Swami Vivekananda, “A pig and a bird can't sit on the same table and eat.”
Do you know what Swami Vivekananda said? He said, “Sir, whenever you tell me, I will fly away.”
Intelligence has the ability to turn every conflict into humor. Humor is another sign of intelligence. If you have humor, you will overcome any conflicting situation.
Another sign of intelligence is not getting stressed, and if you get stressed, to know how to get over stress. Intelligence is to know how much to use our minds and our bodies, and not overusing them. If we overuse our minds and our bodies, we get drained, exhausted and tired. Intelligence is walking the fine line of the middle path.

Significance of the symbols of Lord Shiva

Crescent Moon
Shiva Tattva is where there is no mind and the moon signifies the mind. When there is no mind then how can this ‘no mindedness’ be expressed? You need a little bit of the mind to understand, experience and to express. The no-mind, infinite consciousness requires that little bit of mind to express itself in the manifest world. So, to express that inexpressible, that little mind (crescent moon) is on Shiva’s head. Wisdom is beyond the mind, but it needs to be expressed with a tinge of mind and this is symbolized by the crescent moon.
Damru symbolizes the Universe, always expanding and collapsing. From expansion, it collapses and then it re-expands; this is the process of creation. If you see your heartbeat, it is not just one straight line but it is a rhythm that goes up and down. The whole world is nothing but rhythm; energy rising and collapsing to rise again. So the damru signifies that.
Look at the shape of the damru, from expansion it collapses and again expands. The damru is also a symbol of sound. Sound is rhythm and sound is energy. The whole universe is nothing but a wave function, it is nothing but rhythm. The damru signifies non-dual nature of the universe.
The Serpent
A state of samadhi where there is nothing, just the inner sky of consciousness, that is Shiva; where there is alertness and no action. To describe this alertness, they put a snake around Shiva’s neck. So the serpent is a symbol of alertness. In the state of meditation, when the eyes are closed, it gives the impression that the person is sleeping, but he is not asleep, he is alert. To express this state of consciousness, a snake is shown around Shiva’s neck.
The Trident
Trishul or trident represents the three aspects of consciousness — waking, dreaming and sleeping, and it represents the three gunas — sattva, rajas and tamas. Holding a trishul signifies that Shiva, Divinity, is above all the three states — waking, dreaming and sleeping; yet is the upholder of these three states. Divinity is beyond the three gunas, but it holds the three gunas together. Shul means problems or suffering. Trishul means that which destroys all kinds of suffering.
River Ganga
Ganga means knowledge; knowledge that purifies your soul. Head is always the symbol of knowledge. Heart is the symbol of love. Hence, Ganga is shown flowing from Shiva’s locks. If Ganga were to be love, it should have come out of the heart of Shiva. It is coming out of the head, because it simply means knowledge. Knowledge is liberating, knowledge brings freedom, knowledge is purifying. All these are the characteristics of knowledge. Knowledge is also movement, motion. So Ganga (knowledge) has to come out of Shiva’s head.
Blue Body
Blue means infinite, like the sky. Blue signifies the all-pervading Infinity which has no limits. It has no shape. Shiva does not have a body. Shiva was never a person at all. To symbolize the unfathomable, the infinite Divinity and to make that Divinity comprehensible to people, ancient rishis made a form. Knowledge has no shape but it infiltrates each and every particle of the universe. The whole world is filled with Shiva, whose body is in the whole universe.
Shiva Linga
Linga means identification, a symbol through which you can identify what the truth is, what the reality is. What is not visible but yet can be identified by one thing; that is linga. When a baby is born, how do you know its gender? Only through one part of the body can you identify whether the baby is a boy or a girl. That’s why the genital is also called linga. How do you identify the Creator? He has no form! So then, they said that there should be a sign to identify Him. So the sign, by which you identify both the male and female forms, combining them both to form one single symbol to identify the Lord who has no form or identity; who is all-pervading in this entire Brahmanda (Creation), is Shiva Linga. Shiva Linga is ancient. From the form, you go to the formless, through the Shiva Linga. It is a symbol that is the representation of the cosmos and the creator of the cosmos, as one. It is the Shiva and the Shakti, the two principles in Creation. The silent unmanifest and the dynamic manifestation together are represented as Shiva Linga, which is not just Shiva, but the completion of total Supreme Consciousness.
The Bull
Bull has been used as a symbol of dharma (righteousness) for a long time, throughout the world. Shiva riding on the bull simply means that when you are righteous and truthful, the infinite consciousness, the innocent consciousness is with you.
The whole creation is the dance of one consciousness (Shiva). The one consciousness danced and manifested into a million species in the world. So this infinite creation is the dance of Shiva or Shiva Tandav. The whole world is a place of Shiva.
Mount Kailash
The abode of Shiva is in Mount Kailash, and the smashana, the cremation ground. Kailash means ‘where there is only celebration’, and smashana is where there is only void. Divinity dwells in the void as well as in celebration. And in you there is void, in you there is celebration.

Change the Way You See The World

A seeker is one who knows that intrinsically, every human being is a spark of Divinity and so they cannot be bad. I tell you, there is no bad human being created by the Creator. Everyone has light in them.

Do you believe in the goodness of people?

There are basically two types of attitudes, or two kinds of people in the world.
  • Those who think that all people are intrinsically bad – inside they are very bad.
  • Those who think that basically everyone is good deep inside, even if their behavior is a little bad; it is only at the circumference. 
The first kind of people cannot trust anybody, and the second type of people does not doubt anyone too much. Do you see the difference? If you think intrinsically everyone is good, then your doubt is only superficial. You don’t deeply doubt anyone because you know there is goodness in everybody. You believe in the goodness of everybody.

The other set of people have this big issue of trust, because they think intrinsically everybody is bad. Even if they appear to be good outside, deep inside they are not good. This attitude, this assumption in your mind causes you to not trust anybody. Wisdom is to see that, that negativity is only at the circumference.

It is so interesting to see that if you find something wrong in a person, you think, that is the true nature of that person.

I want to share one incident with you. Last year, I went for a big satsang in one of the northern cities of India. At the satsang, there was this notorious person who came in, climbed onto the stage and started moving around. All the journalists and everyone else said, “This guy is a criminal, how did he get access to Gurudev? How is he standing with Gurudev?”

This man was so notorious; he would say, “I can make a call and stop any airplanes.” He would just tell any taxi driver to get off the car and he would take the taxi and go. He was someone with a big criminal record. So when he came to the stage everyone was wondering, “How did Gurudev allow this?”

You know, this same person, who has not done any course or anything, three months later came to the Bangalore Ashram on Shivratri to meet me. He took my picture out of his pocket, and said, “Gurudev, since I kept this picture in my pocket, I am not able to do my work. What has happened? What have you done? My life is all topsy-turvy; my whole life has changed. There is so much joy here! Now I want to take this joy to my state, and to every home.”

This is the same guy who was considered to be the most anti-social element by everyone. Even journalists are afraid of him. Journalists, usually, are not afraid of anybody. But they said, “This guy is horrible.” The world is as you see it.

You know, how we perceive people, is how the world becomes. In Sanskrit, there is a proverb that says, ‘Yatha Drishti, Tatha Srishti’. As you see the world, that is how the world becomes for you. If you see the world as full of horrible people, in your experience, only such type of things will happen. If you see the world as full of good people, even in the worst criminal, you will see there is a very nice person hiding deep inside him. You will recognize that.

So, don’t judge people, or label them as bad people, or good people. There is only one Divinity which expresses itself in so many ways, in so many people, in so many moods and in so many colors. It is one light. If we can recognize this, then we will have such deep peace in our hearts, such trust and faith that nothing whatsoever can shake us. Everyone has light in them.

A seeker is one who should know that, intrinsically, every human being is a spark of God, so they cannot be bad. There is no bad human being created by the Creator. Take it from me – no bad person at all. Everyone has light in them. Somewhere it is hidden, somewhere it is sleepy, and somewhere it is more in action.

So these are the two paths. See in your mind, which side are you going. Are you going towards trust, or towards doubt? If you are going on the side of disliking others or disliking yourself, then it is the time to give a shift to it, and say, ‘No, intrinsically everybody is good.’

Benefits of having a Guru

Every human being comes to this planet with subconscious, unconscious and conscious mind. As the conscious mind starts becoming more active, learning begins. The presence of a Guru is essential for any learning to happen. The Guru’s presence continues throughout the life because the learning continues throughout the life.
What are the benefits of having the Guru in life?  When you consciously acknowledge the Guru, that is when you learn more. You also might have experienced, that in life sometimes you feel stuck and the Guru’s presence moves you through, so that you don’t get stuck. Events, situations, concepts can all make one feel stuck. Firstly, one does not even know that one is stuck. Guru’s presence makes you realize that you are stuck, and helps you move.
First step in learning is knowledge. Of all the different types of knowledge that you learn, from whomsoever you may learn, that “who” is part of the Guru. Mother is the first Guru. From the mother you learn first level of learning – alphabets or this is a cat, this is a banana etc. This also applies to the various other disciplines that we learn.
Moving from where we are stuck to having the flow in life towards its ultimate goal is the second benefit of having a Guru.
Third benefit of having a Guru is when you have a desire for something. In order to get it you need guidance. You need someone to give you what you want. But then there is no end to desires and sometimes you are not even sure of your own desire. That is where the Guru comes into play. The Guru principle or Guru Tattva will give you that which is good for you and not everything that you want.
The fourth benefit is liberation or inner freedom.  Guru does not let you remain in an illusory world but helps you wake up and look at what is the ultimate reality of the universe. That is freedom or liberation.
Knowledge, movement, achievement and freedom : these are the 4 aspects that one gains by having a Guru.
Self-effort is only in the conscious mind. For the subconscious mind you cannot put an effort. You need someone else or some other higher power to influence that. In fact to turn the unconscious mind into the super-conscious mind one definitely needs help and therefore nature has provided tradition of masters. Time and again the human society has been guided by holding hands towards oneself, towards the light that one is. In fact if you see from the context of mind and intellect, or emotion and intellect they go in completely opposite direction. 
Moon is associated with the mind. Someone who goes crazy is called a lunatic. Moon is associated with feelings, emotions, craziness whereas Guru is associated with wisdom, knowledge and rational thinking. Guru Purnima is the strange combination of the rational and emotional. Guru stands for rationality or wisdom and moon stands for emotions. This combination is an oxymoron – fullness of the emptiness or emptiness of the fullness. Life has place for both and the Guru does both. Guru brings the fullness in emotions or strength in the emotions and sharpness in the intellect.
Rational thinking appears to be in opposition to emotional ecstasy or emotional elevation but with spiritual wisdom it doesn’t. It unites them very well. In fact it brings us to the first point in Art of Living – opposite values are complimentary. It makes you realize that you can be sensitive and sensible in life. This is the skill and the art in life. It’s easy to be sensitive and it’s easy to be sensible. There are some who are very sensible but not sensitive and there are some who are very sensitive but not sensible. That wisdom which brings the balance in life is the Guru principle.
Everyone is a student and everyone is a teacher as well. By default you are teaching something. Whether you want to or not, whether you acknowledge it or not, either by showing people what you should do or by showing what you should not do. Someone learns from you even though you may not deliberately want to teach. From just the way you walk your life, someone can learn from you.
The smallness in human psyche or human attitude and tendency can only be gotten rid of through wisdom. Wisdom comes from Guru and so is the celebration of Guru Purnima. The wisdom does not find its fulfillment unless and until there is gratitude and recognition of progress, achievement, freedom and wisdom in life. It is there, but it needs recognition. It is called Pratyabhijna in Sanskrit.
The principle by which the internet is working today was there even hundred of years ago, but no one recognized it. They did not know how cellphone could work without wires. Science is a recognition of that which is and spirituality is also a recognition of that which is. So they go together very well. That’s why fulfillment in life comes when you have both science and spirituality. Contentment comes when knowledge of who am I (the subjective knowledge and the knowledge of what-is-this-all-about) is present. In both realms Guru is essential. Leading from darkness to light, from known to unknown, the manifest appearance to the un-manifest reality, the journey can only happen with a Guru.
From darkness to light, from the seen world around us to the unseen world within us, from the conscious mind to the super-conscious mind, the journey is possible only with a Guru and Guru’s energy or grace.
So everyone is playing the role of The Guru in a small way or big way in some field or the other. When it comes to the totality or the ultimate then you say Jai Gurudev. That is very sacred and so Guru Purnima is one of the sacred moments where one feels how blessed one is, how enlightened one is and how fortunate one is. It is a moment where we realize what a big blessing or possibility has been opened up for us on this planet.
Two things that manifests in Guru’s presence – Emotional fullness and Intellectual sharpness.

What is Freedom? What Does It Mean to be Truly Free?

It is a natural tendency of every human being to want to be free. Freedom is not luxury, it is a necessity. Not just human beings, but even animals want freedom.
Babies want freedom. If you tie a scarf on the neck of a baby, it just wants to remove it. You put a chain on a baby’s neck and the baby will want to pull it out. It is the adults who put jewelry around their neck, but children want freedom, they don’t want any restriction. That is why they throw their hands up and down… free!
Wanting freedom is innate to human beings as well as animals. Every living being wants freedom, and liberation or moksha is nothing but freedom.
Freedom is a natural desire in every human being but when the mind gets so muddled up in unnecessary day to day things, it forgets that it wants freedom. It is as good as someone who wants to sleep but has forgotten how to sleep.
Freedom is not running away from situations and circumstance. Sometimes a situation is stifling or unpleasant, and we run away from it and think this is what freedom is, but that is not so. Freedom means:
  • Being unfazed by circumstances, situations and the people around you
  • Being free from your own emotional garbage
  • Being free from the jungle of your thoughts that bother you
  • Being free from all the entanglement that you harbor in your head
  • Being free from fear and anxiety
Anything that stifles you and makes you feel small, being free from that, is what freedom is.
How does one move towards freedom?
  • Let go of cravings and aversions
Whether you accept it or not, watch it or not, life is an act of letting go. It started the moment you were born. You let go of the womb and came into this world. As soon as you came here, you started breathing in and breathing out and you are taking food in and letting it out. It is a constant exchange. You cannot hold on to anything here.
As a child you were holding onto many toys, and as you grew up, you let go of all those toys. Are you still holding on to your little toys and bells? No! As you grow older, you obviously let go of many things. Similarly, let go of cravings and aversion. When you feel free from all the cravings and aversions, that is freedom. 
  • Meditate
Meditation is food for the soul, it nurtures the core of your existence. It keeps you physically fit, healthy and mentally focused. Intellectually, it brings you sharpness, keenness of attention, awareness and observation. Emotionally, you feel lighter, softer and purer and you feel able to let go of the past garbage. It creates positive vibrations around you, influencing your behaviour with others, and others behaviour towards you. There is nothing better than meditation to bring calmness to the mind!
  • Reduce your wants
If you want freedom, your wants should be minimum. Minimum wants will give you more freedom. If the wants are too many, they go on and on and on.

Now, when the wants arise in you, what do you do? You can't keep on wanting things. This is where wisdom comes to help. See life with a bigger context.
  • Develop a sense of contentment
When the mind is not stuck in desires of either respect, money, position, and the mind goes beyond these things, then you can say you are free.

Before you let go of the body, if a point comes when you are so fulfilled, and you are ready to let go of everything – that is the infinite freedom that you experience.

You need not even physically let go of things. It may not be possible practically to let go of everything but at least in the mind if you let go of everything, you will find there is enormous freedom, and lots of happiness and connectivity towards everything will come.
  • Have Faith 
One very important thing we need is the faith that only the right thing will happen! There is a great power in the universe that has maintained this universe from billions of years. Have faith in that power. It will take care.

Why Does the Mind Get Attracted to Negativity?

What is Negativity?

The mind does not always get attracted to negativity! Let us understand what negativity is. When would you call something negative?
  • When it does not give you pleasure
  • When it gives you a lot of pain
  • When it appears to give you pleasure, but in fact it gives you pain
Let us take for example, smoking. Smoking appears to give you pleasure, but it does not really give you pleasure. Look at the face of all those people who smoke. Are they in bliss and serenity? Are they happy and content? No! There is stress and anger. Now, why is it that they are unable to give up? It is because it promises you pleasure but gives you pain – that is negativity.
So, what is the definition of negativity? It is that which appears to give you pleasure, but in fact gives you pain and suffering.
I will tell you a small story to illustrate this. A gentleman went to a magic fare which has many magical things. There were magical flowers, a magical pond, etc. Amongst the different items, there was this magical conch, which was priced very high. The other items had low prices, but the attractive conch had a price tag of $50,000. You know, when things cost a lot of money, then people think – there must be something to it, otherwise why would someone pay $50,000 for a shell.
So, this gentleman went and asked, “What is this?”
The shopkeeper said, “This is a magical speaking conch. If you ask this conch for something, it will double it for you. That is why it is for $50,000.”
Very greedy people go for such offers. And so, this man bought the conch and took it home.
At home, this man said to the conch, “Give me one million dollars”.
The conch said, “Why ask for one million? Ask for two million dollars.”
Then the man said, “Oh, okay, two million.”
The conch said, “Why two million, ask for four million.”
The man said, “Okay, give me four million.”
The conch said, “Why four million, ask for eight million.”
At this point, the man got frustrated and said, “Fine, give me eight million.”
The conch said, “Why ask for eight million, ask for 16 million.”
The man said, “Okay, give me 16 million.”
The conch simply kept multiplying but did not give him anything.
So, negativity is like this – empty promises of giving some joy sometime, but it simply does not give you anything. That is why it is called negative things.

How Does Complaining Make You Feel?

You sit and gossip about somebody, it appears to give you some pleasure, but what does it leave you with? Have you noticed? Your body feels odd, and your mind feels awkward.
When you sit and just complain and complain, sometimes you find that it gives you some sort of pleasure, but in fact, it leads you to a state where you get so disgusted with yourself and your own mind. You feel like running away from your own mind. Running away is not going to help, because wherever you go, your mind is going to go along with you. It is like trying to run away from your shadow.

Why Does The Mind Tend to Cling to Negativity?

The nature of mind clinging to negativity is because it has moved away from its own true nature. A child does not do that – so it is not our innate born nature to cling towards negativity. It has become our second nature.
10 positive things and one negative thing – and the mind clings onto the negative. So, it is wrong to say that negativity is our innate nature, no! It appears as though it is our nature – it has become our second nature because of stress.
Mind craves for something and is averse to something. That’s alright. But at least for some time, the pendulum of the mind can stop. When it stops, it feels so nice and that is why the practices of Yoga, Pranayama and Meditation are important. These practices change the tendency of the mind from clinging onto the negativity.
The mind swings between craving and aversions, and it needs some rest sometimes, and doing all this will bring that calmness to the mind.
Also wisdom gradually helps one to get rid of all the cravings and aversions in the mind.

At the International Women's Conference,

February 23, 2018, Bengaluru

Spirituality Transcends Gender

You wonder, what has spirituality got to do with gender? Really, it has nothing to do with gender because spirituality transcends gender.
What is spirituality? Is it something that is not normal or natural? No! We are made up of matter and spirit. Our body has amino acids, proteins, carbohydrates and all that. And our spirit is made up of love, compassion and peace. All that which enhances the value of spirit is spirituality, and women need it all the more because women are the greatest influencers.
A woman influences her children, influences her spouse, influences her parents, and the society. A woman is very gentle and soft so she needs the strength. Spirituality is what gives her that strength and inner peace. If you don’t have inner peace, you can’t have peace in the family.

A Peaceful Woman Can Remove Conflicts

A woman is a woman’s best friend and worst enemy as well. Many conflicts arise between two women. If families are splitting, mostly the cause of it would be a woman because a woman is emotional. This is why it is important for women to find inner strength and peace. If she is peaceful, she can manage all other conflicts at home. But if she is disturbed, and has tears in her eyes, it keeps everyone on their toes.
Having said this, I would also like to say to all the women here today:
  • Women don’t need to go and ask someone to empower them. They already have the power.
    In this country, from ancient times and in mythology, all the power has been kept with the goddesses. The ministry of wealth is Devi Lakshmi, the ministry of education is Devi Saraswati, and the ministry of defense is with Devi Durga. What is left? Nothing much is left with the man actually. So, the main power is with Devi, and so is the same with woman.
    In India, we don’t say ‘Mr. and Mrs.’, we say ‘Shrimati and Shriman’. So women empowerment is already there. Take it for granted.
  • Don’t take things too seriously, have fun.
    If you have fun, you can create fun all around. If you are uptight, you create such an uptight atmosphere around you. So, humor, entertainment, wisdom – all these qualities help you be your natural self.
    You know, in this country, women have created 56,000 types of food. You go to Tripura, which is a small province near Myanmar and Bangladesh border, this little state alone has some 180 types of food varieties. People do not know this.
    Similarly, music and dance, without all this life is so dry. And creating an atmosphere where people talk about wisdom rather than complain about each other or create problems is natural to women. Creating an atmosphere of celebration is inbuilt in women. You have to make use of this tendency, this strengths that you have.
    If there were more women religious leaders, perhaps there wouldn’t be so much conflict in the world today. Either there would be no conflict or there would be much worse conflict.
  • Don’t listen to people who say that women cannot lead religious or spiritual areas. 
    Gender equality is to be honored in every country, and if religious leaders take up gender equality, we can move forward very fast.
    So, there are areas for women to take a lead in. Don’t wait for someone to invite you. Just jump in and take the lead, like the wonderful women present here have already done.
Innovation and inspiration will come when we have inner peace. A peaceful individual only can make peaceful families. And peaceful families can make peaceful localities and communities. And if communities are peaceful, only then can the nation be peaceful. So the root cause is to find the inner strength, inner peace and that you can do through meditation, yoga, selfless service, and music. There are so many ways to find inner peace.