Seeking God

It is the heart that is important

My Monday tips for my team this time were taken from a talk I’d given on one of my recent Buddhist discussion meetings. It was the concept of: ‘It is the heart that is important’. Happiness (the real, everlasting kind) doesn’t work outside-in; it works inside-out. So we need to work on our inner life state and on ‘polishing our hearts’.

To make it easy to remember, I had divided this concept into five parts, each of which corresponds with a letter in HEART. (A lot of this material is directly from Buddhist literature; I have simplified it.)

H stands for Happiness

Why is that, in the same situation, one person responds vibrantly while another grumbles? It is because happiness is an internal condition, something we feel in our hearts. Happiness is not found in ‘stuff’, nor does it matter how rich and famous you are. There are lots of people who do have these things but are still unhappy. And such external circumstances are changeable and impermanent; no one knows how long they will last. So the aim is to have an ‘unshakeable inner state of happiness’, one that nothing can destroy. One that nobody can violate. That’s what we have to work towards.

Our happiness is our own responsibility. There is no knight in shining armour who will come and hand it to us. We have to work on it every day, bit by bit. Do one thing every day that makes you happy. Spend time on yourself. Contribute to making a better world. Joy is in us; we just need to unleash it.

E is for Eternity

Eternity refers to the Buddhist concept of reincarnation. As Indians, we are all pretty familiar with this ancient theory that says our lives do not end with our current experience of it. Our thoughts, words and deeds are our karma all put together, and as we sow, so we reap. The aim to live life with such faith and joy that even at the time of death, one can say with a heartfelt smile: “What a wonderful life that was! Now, where shall I go next?”

A vast universe exists in our hearts, in our lives. But most of us invest time and effort only on enriching our current material reality, and just not enough on our spiritual practice. I once read a quote by Neale Donald Walsch that said, “Earthly possessions are not what you came here to gather. Do not worry about your earthly possessions. Place your attention on your heavenly goal–the evolution of your soul–and you will find peace even while on earth.”

A is for Attitude

Faith is not just a matter of praying or meditating a certain number of minutes a day. It is also a matter of our heart, or the attitude with which we live every aspect of our lives. The attitude in the depths of our being determines everything. Whether we are happy or wind up in a state of suffering, everything is the exact result of our attitude. What’s in our heart is communicated to the universe.

When we do something, do we approach it with a negative attitude – grumbling, “Oh, not again! I hate this!” – or a positive attitude, telling ourselves brightly, “All right, here’s a fresh opportunity to grow and learn!”?

This subtle difference in attitude can make a huge difference in our lives. It can change things 180 degrees. A proverb says, “Do not complain that the rosebush has thorns but rejoice that the thornbush has roses.” Our perception changes our reality.

R is for Radiance

‘I have decided to shine bright; it does not matter how dark the room is,’ says the candle. When we light up our hearts, we simultaneously light up our families, our societies and the land that we live in. No one is immune to life’s problems. The storms of karma appear in many unexpected ways – as problems at home, at work, with our children and so on. But every time we overcome a challenge, we change our destiny and that of our loved ones. Precisely when things are tough, that’s the time to encourage those around you with a bright smile. If the situation seems hopeless, create hope. Don’t depend on others. Ignite the flame of hope within your own heart.

When our hearts shine like the sun, everything seems to shine brightly. Rather, we can make everything shine. When we ourselves become the sun, all shadows disappear.

T is for Transformation

Until we do not feel a shift within ourselves, we have not progressed, really. Can we look back at our life and say, “Wow, I’ve come a long way”, or do we feel that we’re stuck where we were decades ago? That’s where the concept of transformation comes in. When our life state changes, the world around us changes. There’s a quote by Daisaku Ikeda that goes: “When the fundamental engine of our ‘one mind’ – our inner attitude or resolve – starts running, the gears of all phenomena of the 3000 realms are set into motion. Everything starts to change. We move in a bright and positive direction.” Like a bud blooming into a flower, a seed into a tree, and a caterpillar into a butterfly, transformation is the essence of progress.

H. E. A. R. T. It is the heart that is important.

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Seeking God

Three lessons

Last weekend, I found myself in not one but three different spiritual study classes. Here are selected notes:

Divinity 24/7: The first one I attended was a satsang at an amazing place in the middle of nowhere called the Temple of Inspiration. Peopled by smiling, silent, everyday folks with halos around their heads, the prayers, meditation and study lecture by an awesome doctor there left me with much peace for the whole week. A lasting lesson that stayed with me was when, after her talk about Kriya Yoga, the doctor responded to a query by the lady sitting next to me, who happened to share my name. “How do we keep our divine connection alive 24/7 despite hectic, busy lives?” my namesake asked.

The doctor replied with a question, her eyes closed: “Do you have to make any effort to be the mother of your child?”

Silence.

She continued: “You know it in every cell of your body. It is a deep and all-encompassing knowing that you are the mother of your child. In the same way, when your connection to divinity becomes a deep and all-encompassing knowing in every cell of your body, you will be connected 24/7. There will be no effort required.”

Oh mother: The second talk I attended was at my local Buddhist group, where a group of women’s division members were talking about lessons from a book by Daisaku Ikeda. Just before I had left for this meeting, I’d mourned on the phone to my dad: “I’m so caught up in life’s daily grind, I fear I am not spending enough time on my spiritual growth.”

At this meeting, God answered me through the group’s senior, who suddenly diverted from the topic at hand to say: “As women, wives and mothers, we’re constantly running about fulfilling our various roles. We get caught in the whirlwind of daily activities and go round and round, faster and faster, till it becomes impossible to get out. But we must.”

I stared so hard at her, she intuitively looked me straight in the face and asked, “Would you like to say something?”

“Yes. That’s what I needed to hear. How do we break out of the whirlwind?” I wondered aloud.

“If the whirlwind is leading to growth, there is no problem. But most times for working moms like us, it isn’t. You need to make a special effort initially to invest in your spiritual growth. But soon you will notice that everything else becomes easier, life becomes vaster, fresh energy flows into all the different areas of your life. It is worth it,” she twinkled at me.

Through all of the following week, I noticed.

Non-violent battles: The third talk I attended was a Gita lecture at the Aurobindo Ashram. Our teacher talked about why it’s important to have our sattvic tendencies control our raajsic and taamsic tendencies. “You do not have to completely suppress your negative taamsic emotions or raajsic desires (for then they only lay low until the moment is right for them to exert themselves), but you must control them through your sattvic qualities. Sattvic values are those pertaining to peace, balance, love, compassion, harmony, santulan.”

Preoccupied with events from my life, I asked, “But if we must operate from our sattvic values alone, then how does one stand up to a bully, for example? Isn’t some kind of aggression required sometimes?”

Our teacher removed his glasses before replying, “The entire Gita is about Krishna urging Arjuna to fight a battle that goes against his peaceful tendencies. Operating from your sattvic state does not mean suffering injustice. On the contrary, you have to fight it, it is your duty, said Krishna to Arjuna. The key is to do it without attachment to the reward, to do it not out of malice but out of neutrality and non-attachment to ego. If you must fight, do not fight with your anger or pride. Fight with fearlessness, detachment.”

***

Last weekend I took three steps towards God. And God sent three thousand love notes to guide me.