Category Archives: Public Lectures
Talk for BK IT Professionals at Om Shanti Retreat Centre, Gurgaon, Delhi, 9 February, 2019
Is there a sleeping angel inside you? Our subject today is Awakening the Angel Within. So there must be a sleeping angel inside. Is there a sleeping angel, or a sleeping devil? You are working with information technology and artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence provides an extra dimension. Have you all seen Steven Spielberg’s film Ready Player One? It is a film about virtual reality – a reality that is not really there. The players are not interested in the reality that is there, so they hardly participate in it. They participate in another reality with other identities. How many identities do you have? Do you know all your births? You can calculate them by looking at your present sanskaras. You have enough information to calculate electronically what your births probably were by putting your details into the matrix Satopradhan, Sato, Rajo, Tamo, Tamopradhan.
How many films can you keep on a chip? A hundred, a thousand? In 1937 when the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University was established, the idea of an identically repeating series of many pre-recorded human births in one dot was unthinkable. Now it is conceivable. It is easy to imagine that everything you experience in what is called “the real world,” is actually going on in your mind. You know that you perceive the material world through your sense organs. But where you actually experience it is in your mind. That is a different dimension from “the real world.” Where is your mind? What is your mind? It is very subtle.
What actually is an angel?
It resembles an alternative identity. In Video Gaming, you create an identity and meet another person who has another created identity. You can have a relationship with someone through your other identity and their other identity, which you experience as more real than your actual identity. Then the question arises, what really is real? How do we determine what is real?
Technology is like a gift from God. Technology is very relevant for beneficial work today. How are we using it? There are so many possibilities. With animation techniques and virtual reality you can enable anyone to go through their births in such a way that it is experienced as a reality through video gaming masks. You are familiar with this. We have enough information that through animation software we can create a golden age in such a way that you can go there, get in your viman, press the button and go anywhere you can think of. All you need in a little creativity; you are limited only by your imagination. You can do all this electronically. Now the challenge is to work only with your mind.
An angel is a soul who functions independently of their physical body. You know how Steven Hawking was functioning. He had a body but it was not particularly usable, so he did everything through technology. He had a voice which was not his voice. He could go anywhere and do anything through technology. Normally when a body is not usable, you leave it and get another one. Now you can leave your body without getting another one. An angel uses a body made of white light. You can represent that with film technology and make a hologram. It looks like the shadow body of light. With your mind, you can travel anywhere. You just need focussed attention. As scientists you already have good power of concentration.
What is your mind?
The mind is an instrument of the soul for experiencing a reality which is non-visible, and intangible; it is the world of thoughts. It is also an instrument for communicating with other minds without out the use of telephones, directly mind to mind. There is the practice and study of Raja Yoga. Yoga can also be a form of telepathic communication between yourself and God. What makes us physical or bound by materialism is that the soul is not very pure. The more the soul is pure, the more you are able to function in the region of the mind. Everything in the material world is like a three dimensional movie that you can switch on or off at will. You know in Television Broadcasting there are at least 100 channels. You can switch to any channel you want with the flick of a button. Or you can turn it off. So this reality or that reality is effectively the same. It is said in spirituality that the definition of reality is something that remains beyond change: “It was, it is and it will be.” It is quite difficult to maintain pure thoughts. The instruction from God is: “Practice to create and sustain only pure thought. With your mind, produce no ordinary, no waste and no negative thought, only pure thought, then you will function as an angel.”
Something particular happens when a mind functions only with pure thought. When there is a mixture of one or two pure thoughts with quite a few ordinary thoughts and a few negative thoughts, you have no power and you are limited to the material reality. An angel does not have any ordinary or negative thoughts, only pure thoughts.
We have a little information about angels.
We know that there is such a thing as an angel. An angel resides somewhere in the dimension that we call the subtle region. The subtle region is powered by the energy of the mind. We have the possibility to do service through the mind – mansa seva. Mansa seva can be done when you have only pure thought. A profitable experiment is to try to have 24 hours with only pure thoughts. This is not so easy. There are two causes of ordinary or negative thoughts. One is that the soul is not yet satopradhan (completely pure). Secondly there are still some karmic accounts pulling the mind. When the mind is free, that is karmateet, nothing is pulling the mind. That means you are free to have only pure thoughts. Although we are in physical bodies we can practice functioning using the power of pure thought.
When you are working, you focus on your work. Your work is neutral. It is not a matter of doing action that is good or bad, you just get your work done. Your work does not usually involve directly harming people, although some people do harm through their job. Normally you are doing neutral technical work. It is not “ordinary” in the sense of day to day human interaction. You are interacting with machines. You are sitting at your terminal, at your screen, you are dealing with science and technology. In many ways it is neutral and you are doing it to earn your living, because you require food, shelter, clothing, and you have responsibilities. In many ways you can say your work action is neutral.
The important question is: “where does the mind go in between?” We practice Raja Yoga in our free time. When you have free time you do something that you do not have to do. Your mind gets pulled when you are free, when you lose concentration or get distracted from your work, or you take a break. When you are free your mind goes to wherever you are attached. Alternatively, while you are working, someone comes along and interrupts you. Then that becomes human interaction. This becomes a test of: “am I interacting in a way that keeps me free?” or “am I in material consciousness at that moment?” “Is a reaction, irritation, or any other negative emotion triggered?” You are under test when there is a provocation. It is difficult to function accurately under those conditions. The test comes suddenly and unexpectedly. Suddenly the power goes out, and you lose all your data. Then you get irritated. This is normal. But the test is: “Can you be neutral?” You have arrangements to back up your data every few seconds, minutes, or whatever. Then you don’t lose that much data. If you do everything in the best possible way, you are functioning as accurately as possible under the circumstances.
When you finish work, you go home. There may be waste thoughts about your family members, neighbours, friends etc. But when you interact with your machine, that is neutral. At that time you are hardly connected with your body. Your brain, eyes and fingers are working, the rest is inactive. It is quite bodiless. That is an advantage. As soon as you come into the everyday world of interaction with people, places and things, you have choice as to whether you operate with pure karma or according to some pull of karma, some karmic bondage. This does not apply to playing games on your computer or mobile phone. That can be an addiction, which is a waste of time and causes loss of spiritual power.
Karmateet means to be free.
Because of spiritual knowledge, we can consider the occurrences in normal reality as just one more three dimensional movie. Whether you are wearing that gaming mask or not, it is basically not that different. What makes it different is your attachment. If you have no attachment then it is basically the same.
But then God speaks about love. Love is a very special thing. Because of love, God sustains the human family through angelic forms. When we want to awaken this angelic dimension of ourselves, we also can be motivated by pure love. What gets in the way? With our two eyes we perceive people’s faults. Then our stage of spiritual love is interfered with by the perception of someone’s faults. It is all about perception.
Information technology gives you a window through which to see physical reality differently. Spiritual study is about perception. To be soul conscious means that you see something physical through your eyes. You hear a sound through your ears. You taste some food through your tongue. You smell something through your nose, or touch something through your skin.
Our body is a living configuration of sense organs. What you perceive in the dimension of matter are the objects of sense perception, but you experience all this in your mind. You do not experience this glass of water out there. You experience it in your mind. You are so used to thinking that you experience it out there that you think it is actually out here that you experience it. In fact you experience the material world through your body. So you need to practice to be detached from the objects of sense perception, which are people, places and things. You can also practice to be detached from your sense organs. If you do that, you will be independent of the power of material reality to put you in karmic bondage.
Interacting with people who are unaware of this level of spiritual perception is a challenge. Raja Yoga is not very easy. It is called Easy Raja Yoga, but if you try it you will find that it is not easy because it is very subtle. In spite of these real challenges the effort is to cultivate the capacity of functioning independently of your sense organs and the objects of sense perception knowing that all of your experiences are taking place inside your soul. That includes your challenges and obstacles. You experience it in the same way as if it would be virtual reality. Your experience of the people who think there is something wrong with you, is also in your mind. The challenge is: how do you manage your mind, including all your feelings in such a way that you experience yourself as a master.
This is the practice.
You do this at a progressively subtle level. If you do not feel progress, you are not happy. The obstacles you experience tend to happen more powerfully than your progress. Then you feel disheartened or irritated with yourself. This is why you study, cultivate and develop this. In order to succeed you need to take more power from God.
When you want more computing power, what are you really talking about? You are interested in a better processor that can process data faster. What is your soul? It is a subtle phenomenon of human intelligence that can process data. Real intelligence and artificial intelligence are fairly similar because the people who created artificial intelligence tried to copy intelligence. That means there are intelligent people thinking about intelligence.
You want to make your intelligence work better. In terms of spiritual practice, you have a mind, an intellect and some sanskaras. When you say “intellect,” what do you mean? In English we use the word “intellect” for the Hindi word Buddhi. There is the expression Buddhi Yoga. So you have to figure out what is Buddhi Yoga. I consider it to mean focus of attention. I have an instrument in my soul which can focus attention. I have another instrument in my soul which can perceive either physical things through the organs of sense perception, or I can perceive atmosphere. I call that the sixth sense. You also have to perceive God, who is not human. It is quite a challenge to have a relationship with a non-human.
What is a non-human?
You have no clue about something higher than a human. God introduces himself. He says in comparison with your television system, mine is much better, because I can see with my TV camera what is going on in your mind. Your TV cameras can only see what is going on physically. Your cameras are copies of your eyes. His camera is a copy of his mind, and he is very fast. He is reciprocal, so as soon as someone remembers him, he remembers them back. There are around 8 billion souls and a few of them are remembering God.
There are about one million people who have the information as to how to develop the capacity to focus their intellect on God through the study and practice of Raja Yoga. Whenever they do that he has to respond. God has such an instrument of perception that he can feel what is happening in everyone’s mind, including all the many devotees in the different religions. He has very high speed computing capacity. So his intelligence is superior to ours. You want to exceed your normal capability. Slowly and gradually you exceed it. Mostly your progress is slow, because you are gross. You don’t understand spiritual knowledge deeply. You are high tech but he is a lot higher tech than you. You need to make your intellect considerably more functional. When thoughts are pure it changes the quality of the intellect. I also consider “intellect” to include “conscience”. In Hindi conscience is Vivek. This is an instrument or a function of the intellect or intelligence. Your conscience is a mechanism in the soul that can detect whether something is correct or incorrect, in terms of true or untrue, and whether morally it is right or wrong. We all have a conscience but it is not functioning well. I researched this and found that the reason is that most people go against the voice of conscience at least 6 or 7 times per day regarding small or big matters.
Every time you do something against the voice of conscience which is 6 – 7 times per day every day of your life since you were about the age of 4. If you are over 80 years old that is about 200,000 times. Every time you act against the voice of conscience it is similar to a virus in your computer which is messing up your system. Because of this the conscience is progressively losing functionality. It can even lose functionality altogether. This is why we are blocked in our ability to operate as an angel, or to maintain pure thought.
This happens because it costs you a lot to be truthful. People say it does not cost you anything to be truthful, but this is a lie. It is much cheaper to be dishonest than to be honest. There are many concepts that we have accepted as truth, but when you analyse them in a subtle way, you find that they are actually not true. One reason why you would go against your conscience is because you would not look good. Other people might comment, and you don’t want that. You want them to think that you are very good. You then do something against your conscience because of that. But the price you pay is that your conscience loses functionality. That is a very high price to pay just so that someone thinks that you are good. Your conscience would say that you are not as good as you want them to think you are. The word we use for this is Ego.
If you are true it also makes others look bad. They don’t like that. They react and give you a hard time. This is why it is so expensive to be truthful. However, now that you know the price of not being truthful, you probably think it is too high. Being a good business person, you do not want to pay an unnecessarily high price. Once that awareness is clear, you are compelled to do things differently.
How do you repair a dysfunctional conscience?
It can be repaired. The soul gets into real trouble, but it is immortal, so there is no choice, you have to fix it. The remembrance of God is a frequency. When you have contact with God you experience that frequency. Contact with Maya (the deception of materialism) is a different frequency. For yoga we sometimes use the word “tuning.” Tuning your mind to God. When you tune a musical instrument you adjust that string or wind instrument, so that the frequency of the note is correct. In material consciousness, the frequency of your soul is dissonant. Therefore, it does not sound right and you are dissatisfied. When you tighten that string and make the frequency of your soul harmonic and in harmony with God this allows the energy to flow through. In this way, you can accumulate power in the soul.
When there is power in the soul, there is a change. From being unable, it changes to being able. You go against your conscience because of weakness. It is never because you are bad. The only reason for acting against your conscience is you are weak. When you are powerful there is nothing to stop you from following the voice of conscience. The problem is that your understanding is gross. So you only understand and appreciate half of the information. You are not able to process the other half of the information. But if you wanted to you could comprehend it. You study so that you process whatever you don’t understand, until you do understand it. This is the meaning of churning the ocean of knowledge. Churning means spinning. You have to spin information in order to extract meaning. Once you understand it, you can act on it because it makes sense. Even when you finally understand it, the biggest problem is that you do not have the power to do what you want to do.
Your will power is also in your intellect. But intelligence has become weak. You use various expressions such as: “I would if I could but I can’t.” Or you say “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” The force of negativity is nothing other than the energy of your past negative karma. Past negative karma pulls you into a dissonant frequency. Your will is a force that resists that pull, if it is strong enough. You want to increase the strength of your will by harmonising your frequency with God, and taking energy so that the power of the past karma is neutralised by your spiritual power. Do you understand? This is how you repair your conscience. But it is not easy.
Raja Yoga is for the highest quality souls.
Perhaps you think that you took many births, and somewhere inside you there is the potential to be the highest quality out of all the human souls. You have the capacity to make contact with God, which other people may not have. Recognition of God is rare. It is the capacity to connect your soul to God, to take power, and to fix your conscience to be able to function in a satopradhan (pure) energy field. Then you can actually be a conduit for God. God is immutable and does no karma. If he did, he would come into karmic bondage. He must continue to be free. The only way he can do this is to get you and me and anyone capable, to tune to him in such a way that his energy can not only pass into us but also pass through us and affect the force field in the world.
This is our special function. That is called being super intelligent. God gives spiritual information which makes it possible to have yoga. This makes it possible to alter destiny, to change the chaotic direction of the world to a paradisical direction. All this is accomplished by changing the frequency.
What is the difference between the angelic stage and the seed stage? The seed stage is when the mind is still. In English for Shanti we have three words. Peace, silence and stillness. When you make your mind still, it means you are completely detached from your body. That is more powerful, but it is not easy. As long as you are in your body, your mind is fluttering. The angelic stage is in between. In the angelic stage your thought is pure. Your mind is still functioning, thoughts are still running. In the seed stage your mind is stopped. You arrive at the stage of absolute stillness after a long period of time emerging only pure thoughts. Do not imagine that this is particularly easy raja yoga. This is difficult because it is subtle and precise. The only way we can do it practically is step by step.
It is a substantial shift to move from gross and ordinary to this level of subtlety. To become a divine human being is not ordinary. Ask yourself, what is possible for me? You do not know who you are. The only way you can find out about yourself is to see how far you can go in yoga.
In this practice, one thing is to really understand that I experience all things in my mind, not out here. I am experiencing material reality, which is people, places and things, through my sense organs. The Gita tells you this. This information has been there for thousands of years, but no one could figure it out practically. What is new is that God has become accessible and is now telling you how to access him and remember him as the incorporeal supreme being, also how to bring yourself into the consciousness of the soul by detaching from your body.
Unless you know what a soul is and that you are a soul, you cannot even begin to detach from the body. The information provided on the path of devotion is imprecise. There are a few mistakes. God corrects those mistakes. In the scriptures it is said that the soul is real, so devotees conclude that the soul is part of God. Because of that they conclude it is not possible for the soul to perform karma. This is faulty logic. God says, “You are not part of God, you do perform karma, and there is a big effect, so take care about what you are doing.”
Once you have that information you function differently. However, because of taking so many births in body consciousness, even if you know it, you cannot do it because you do not have enough power. Then you mix God’s ideas with human ideas. This mixture prevents you from achieving what you are trying to achieve. Then you have to separate this mixture.
A swan intellect can separate milk and water.
This is symbolic. What is this milk? What is this water? Water is ordinary thoughts, based in materialist ideas. You have to distinguish. In chemistry one way to separate things is to spin them. Then one element goes to one side and the other element goes to the other side. God uses the symbol of milk to represent knowledge. When you churn the milk, first it separates into butter milk and butter. Then to extract the remaining water, you have to cook the butter so that the water vaporises. Heat is also required in the process of separation. When there is no water remaining in the milk, you have Ghi. This is the process of removing the concepts that come from a human source. When you are working purely with concepts that originate in a divine source, your intelligence will work better.
The Power of Discrimination
(From a lecture at Brahma Kumaris, Buenos Aires, July 4, 2018)
Anxiety arises from a lifestyle where there is anguish and it is difficult to handle stress. Anxiety is connected with imbalance and occurs in environments that do not correspond to who and what you are in your essence. It arises in different ways for different people.
Children experience anxiety when there is violence in the home, and when their parents divorce. They experience anxiety when there is violence at their school. Students experience anxiety when graded in a way that makes them look bad. Many educators believe the system of exams is flawed because it neither proves nor disproves whether a student is intelligent or competent. Exams simply indicate whether or not a young person has been prepared to handle exams. This system of socialisation reveals that children are routinely trained and prepared to anticipate a life of pressure and varying degrees of violence. It also predisposes young people to rely on psychotropic drugs whether provided by the pharmaceutical industry through the health care system, or on the streets through illicit drug dealers. We have created a global social environment where most people are anxious most of the time. Anxiety is embedded in modern cultures and the levels are increasing as time goes by.
Anxiety is connected with over-population, the great problem of the modern world. Overpopulation has contributed to human driven climate change issues. The global economic system creates anxiety because it is antagonistic to human happiness. It is biased to benefit a few privileged ones and harm the many who are under privileged. People in general are progressively diminished in their personal spiritual power. Anxiety occurs within the human spirit as a response to what is occurring in the social and physical environment, and to being internally disempowered.
It is neither humanitarian nor realistic to euthanise half the population. Situations where large numbers of people die, have not resulted in a reduction of the population. For example, in the Second World War 80 million people were killed in six years. This is almost double the current population of Argentina, yet human population continues to increase exponentially. Ethnic cleansing and other efforts to remove or displace populations do not reduce the population.
Self-Empowerment in the face of Violations
Spiritual knowledge says that every person who dies also reincarnates. Following a violent death, the spirit reincarnates in a state of anxiety, because the soul carries the imprint of the experience. Individually, we can rarely influence external situations, but we can reinforce and empower the spirit within.
Anxiety is connected with how we think and feel. Confusion arises when we fail to use precise vocabulary to describe what we are feeling. Anxiety also depends on how we interpret external situations. We can strengthen the soul through meditation and cultivate various spiritual powers. A situation that triggers anxiety requires us to discern the subtle and hidden details and determine how and why the situation is causing anxiety. It could be a life situation of extreme change.
According to psychologists, the most stressful situation is to get married and the second most stressful is to get divorced. Getting forcibly displaced through war or climate change is even more stressful. These events change your circumstances dramatically, impacting financial and social responsibilities, and your sense of identity. They catapult you into unknown territory. This also happens when fired from your job, or you experience a sudden illness or accident. You had set up your life with the expectation of a certain income, then all of a sudden there is nothing. You suddenly find yourself with a debt that you cannot pay. Suddenly you are no longer in a high position, you are in no position. Your social identity is connected with your professional position.
Serious accidents can result in inability to return to work even after a long rehabilitation. It can take several months to recover from the injuries and, even if you can move around normally, you are no longer able to do that job. Your entire identity is affected, you no longer know who you are. You may think: I am the same person, yet the other people treat you differently. You may be a highly educated and competent person, yet suddenly you are in a situation where the people think you just imagined it and you are not really that. There are artists and intellectuals who are suddenly marginalised when the regime in their country changes. All of a sudden, your position is very ordinary or very low. This usually creates an internal reaction of anxiety.
You could be targeted by an enemy or competitor who is jealous of your competence and talent, and injures you physically or destroys your reputation through character assassination. You can do nothing to restore your reputation. You made no mistake, yet you have to deal with the resulting anxiety.
What spiritual powers are used to handle the situation? First evaluate the situation with precision. Experientially you would say: I am being ill-treated, and unjustly discriminated against. Look more deeply. OK, you are being mistreated, but why? Some wonder, what did I do to deserve this? Some think that such situations could not occur unless they did something bad to merit such punishment.
Detecting Devious Behaviour
Our culture declares that if you are good, then nothing bad can happen to you. It implies that if something bad is happening to you, then that must be correct. However, it may not be. It is possible that something bad happens to you that is not due to you having done something bad. If you discern the situation incorrectly you will also respond to it incorrectly. If something happens to you and you believe you deserve it, but you don’t deserve it, this will create anxiety and confusion. In that case the situation is not a karmic return but a test.
Discerning a violation where the perpetrator disguises it well, is subtle detective work. Those who attack you do it secretly because they do not want to get caught or exposed, and they wish to gain an unfair advantage. If they get caught they lose their advantage. You have to discern that their strategy is to avoid discovery and benefit from an unfair advantage, as well as by disadvantaging you. This is very common human behaviour. But our culture discourages analysis of such things, claiming this does not exist. Human behaviour is defined as simplistic. In reality, it is devious rather than simplistic. Many are clever at hiding unclean motivations and become expert in the art of intrigue. Do not expect the behaviour of competitors to be clean or according to your moral logic. Expecting people to be honest and clean is naïve. The social system is set up for victims and perpetrators. Perpetrators need victims. Victims experience anxiety. It is not necessary to be a victim. You must discern whether someone wants to victimise you and cut you down. First think, “I am OK. This is a subtle or disguised attack. The violation does not make me not OK.” Anxiety and confusion are greatly reduced when you change your thinking in this way.
In a situation of competition, anxiety is only one of your options. If someone is attacking you, create your defence. You need to discern all the many aspects of the situation so that you can see the exact nature of the field. You also need to discern many invisible aspects about yourself. First discern that the attack is not because you are weak or bad, but because you are very good and someone is jealous. Maybe everyone looks at you as bad, but you know inside that the reality is: I am good. It strengthens you to think: I am good. A person who is connected to God would also think that God can see that I am OK.
A culture where people believe that nothing bad can happen to you unless you first did something bad, would also believe that God is also part of that equation. In spiritual practice, the relationship with God is not like that of people in conventional religions. You make God your ally. God is capable, intelligent and strong. You are not alone.
The feeling of isolation creates a state of anxiety. Someone who targets you will also isolate you. They destroy your reputation so that the people around you dislike you and withdraw their support from you. This weakens you and increases your anxiety. Then you can say to yourself: OK everyone dislikes me, but God likes me, so I am OK. You need strong faith in yourself. The basis of your faith in yourself is that you know yourself and what kind of person you are. You do no action against your principles.
The people who target you want to break your spirit. It is up to you whether you allow it or not. If you are strong in your spirit, you will understand that no one can break your spirit unless you give them permission. They also try to corrupt you. They come along and say: Aha, I can help you. This is a traitor, and you must also discern treachery. Say: Thanks very much, but no thanks. Have a good day. God plus one, is a lot more powerful than another person minus God.
When you orient yourself this way and position your opponent with precision, you prevent anxiety from arising. Anxiety is a position you adopt in your mind. It depends on your thinking. This is subtle and can neither be proven nor disproven. If you know and believe in yourself and you have a connection with God, it changes the game.
In a state of anxiety, confusion gives way to the emotion of fear and mitigates against making good decisions. In a state of fear and anxiety you are less likely to make a decision that is favourable for you. Positioning yourself as good, with pure intention and supported by God, gives you distance from the situation, a broader overview, and more options are available for you. With courage, you can discern what action or strategy to adopt for the most favourable outcome.
You have to take a risk. When anxious, it is hard to take a risk. Create an attitude in your mind where you are ready to take a risk, you feel good about yourself and you take that step. You may succeed or fail, but if you are anxious you will not even try. If you are courageous and you try, and it succeeds that is good. If it fails, then you try something else. If you fail, you can analyse the details of what happened. Play it like a game of football or tennis. It is a competition that requires good strategy.
People in positions of power declare that competition is bad and discourage you from being competitive. This mentality is taught to people in weak positions to prevent them from asserting their rights. It is propaganda. Do not be deceived. Be competitive, there is nothing wrong or unspiritual about it. It would be unspiritual to cheat at the competition, but expect your opponents to cheat. Obviously, other people will cheat, but don’t be afraid of them cheating, otherwise you will get anxious. It does not matter if someone lies to you. It matters that you discern that they are lying. Then you are not deceived. Much depends on how you feel about yourself – be creative, and take courageous steps.
You can replace the word competition with competence. If you say competence that is considered very good. If you are competent you can cooperate, you have no issues.
In a marriage, if one is dominant and the other is dominated, the partnership will not endure. You need to be collaborative. The relationship must be made equal. For that you must achieve competence in maintaining the balance of both collaboration and competition. Our culture tries to make one party dominant and the other subservient. It is a power struggle that involves weakening and controlling the other party. Another way is to maintain a balance of power and thus live together effectively. It is political. You keep your self-respect, you command the respect of the other one. You respect the other one, and you can live together for a long time. Otherwise your life resembles a Tom and Jerry cartoon. It’s amusing but that is not how you want to live. It is very important to be competent to live well.
What arises in your mind depends on your perception, and on how you interpret what you perceive. You have more jurisdiction over what happens in your mind than you may believe. Your mind is fed by your sense perceptions, also by your subconscious. How you feel is dictated by the thoughts that arise. Within your consciousness you have the intellectual capacity to evaluate your thoughts and select which ones to act on. Most people have a certain amount of trauma, and this trauma resides in your subconscious. It engenders thoughts and drives how you feel. Because the origins are subconscious, you can neither identify why you feel or think this way, nor recognise where it comes from. In addition, your personality and character are created by acting in particular ways in certain situations over a long period of time. These patterns of character influence your thoughts.
Perform a SWOT analysis. Identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It is useful to know where you are weak. Your enemies will find out where you are weak and strike you there. They are unlikely to vanquish you if they strike you where you are strong. They will plan to win by striking you where you are weak. Have you thought about your relationship with your weaknesses? Some deceive themselves, thinking that by hiding their weaknesses, no one will notice them.
You frequently encounter people with ego problems, and have to deal with them. False ego is a mask that covers character weakness. They present their ego mask as something very strong, but it is just plastic. You can break it easily, but then they get angry. Weakness and violence are connected. People use violence because it is effective to control other people. We must not be afraid of their violence because behind it is weakness. If they threaten you and you don’t feel threatened, they are ineffective. This puts you in a more powerful position. If you don’t know your weaknesses and they do, then you are vulnerable.
Through spiritual practice, you learn that your relationship with your weaknesses needs to be neutral. If you think your weaknesses are bad, you will become anxious and even weaker. Any weakness you have is due to some valid cause, or injury to your psyche. When you go deeply into your weakness you can transform it into a strength. The process of transforming your weakness into a strength is part of spiritual practice. If you understand your weakness and reinforce yourself in that area, then your overall position is not bad. Your conclusion about yourself is positive and respectful to the self. When you face a situation of conflict, you enter into it strong, not weak. You feel good about yourself and you can take risks. If you face the risk of death it does not phase you because you consider yourself, your spirit, to be immortal. When you think you are a spirit you are not afraid of death. This changes your response and your attitude. If someone threatens to kill you, you can think: “Watch out because I will come and haunt you.” You play the game with a positive attitude of courage. You do not perceive your condition as a weakness. Your position may be weak, but you are strong. You have greater self-respect and you command the respect of others.
The Laws of Nature
People speak of the law of the jungle. Nature has its laws. There is a natural balance, and it includes violence. Animals must be vigilant always. Just recently we were in Paraiso, our retreat place near Buenos Aires. There are many owls. This is the season when they get their young. The owl can rotate its head all round. Very few creatures can do that. In nature, there is always someone looking at you as lunch. You have to watch out for predators. It is normal for there to be predators.
Humans have propagated the idea that there should not be any predators. To deal with the reality that there are human predators, some are criminalised and others are legitimised. Usually the weaker ones are criminalised and the stronger ones are legitimised. This is an incoherent way to handle society. We are in trouble because we do not understand the natural laws. Violence in modern humans is often gratuitous, which puts us outside the law of the jungle.
They look at it differently in traditional societies. For example, I spent a little time with the people of the Masai Mara in Kenya, Africa. They live with lions and other dangerous creatures. A lioness is a strong, fast predator with big teeth and big claws.
Humans are traditionally considered the stewards of the earth. In primitive societies, to assert their superiority, they must be knowledgeable and skilful. The environment is hostile and you will only survive if you truly understand, love and respect the environment. You must understand the law of the jungle, which is merciless. I have a friend who is initiated as an aboriginal in Australia. He knows how to swim through a river full of crocodiles and not get eaten, but there is a risk at every second. He described his training to me. It is a very good training for any kind of human situation. In conventional modern cultures, you get no training on how to handle human crocodiles.
Flawed moral philosophy
By declaring that modern humans are by nature non-predatory, and disguising the reality by legitimising the big predators and criminalising the small ones, the dominant culture of the modern world has created a flawed moral and legal philosophy. This is because the concept and definition of a human being is erroneous.
The social rules we have created have led us to our social problems. The root causes of anxiety lie in our definitions of what a human being is and the consequent social rules. We need to re-think our moral and legal philosophy. This is a big challenge and a lot of work. In the face of such a huge problem when people ask what is the answer, generally we will say, “well, God knows.” When we say God knows, we mean no one knows. And we do not expect to find a solution.
If God knows then perhaps we would also want to know what God knows. Knowing that information would be very convenient. At least we could evaluate it and experiment with it. We could evaluate what happens when it is applied, and if it looks effective then we could use it. Compare two definitions of a human being. Consider us as spiritual beings functioning through physical forms governed by the laws of spirituality on one hand. On the other hand, consider us as physical forms operating according to the laws of physics. Human generated moral laws were devised to address social problems; however, these have ultimately failed us. The implications and consequences of the second option are the intractable problems we face in the world today.
It is time to take a look at our negative feelings. What is worse, self doubt or anxiety?
I use the word Angst. Angst is a very difficult emotion to manage. Anxiety sounds similar to angst and has a similar meaning. I believe that most people most of the time live in low grade anxiety which makes them feel heavier than they actually are. Angst or anxiety is a background feeling, like a background noise or electronic pollution.
When you are alone at home you start hearing the slightly grating sound of the fridge, some clocks etc. You just want peace and quiet, and you think of it as physical peace and quiet. You may decide to go into nature to experience peace and quiet there, but then you hear the rumbling sounds of distant tractors or airplanes etc. These mechanical, technical or electronic sounds are not generally harmonious. If in nature you are away from those mechanical sounds, you begin to hear the sound of birds, insects, or maybe even you can hear the grass growing. When we hear natural sounds, we include them in the feeling of peace, but when we hear artificial mechanical or electronic sounds we associate them with disturbance. This is why music is often played during meditation, to simply cover the background noise, with something more harmonious.
In spirituality the self is considered as the combination of body and soul. The component parts of our human body are comparable to those of the planet earth. Your body is about 60 – 70% water, like the earth. When we are drawn to nature we are also drawn to a natural harmony that is intrinsic in nature. The natural world is a world of cycles, the seasons, different life cycles. It is part of our human nature to come into harmony with the larger movements and rhythms of nature and the earth. We can feel whether circumstances are natural or unnatural. For example, if a person dies at the end of a long life, we say it is a natural death, but if it happens early in life we say it is unnatural and it disturbs more. We are affected to some extent because life has the ups and downs, good and bad, success and failure, this is part of life. But there is a difference between a natural movement of good and bad, and when it becomes unacceptable, and we really don’t want or like it. It becomes too extreme. Our freedom or state of being in prison has to do with our relationship between what we feel is acceptable and what is unacceptable.
It is common for young people to hold certain ideals. We have many more options available to us at the beginning of our lives. With age our options and freedom of choice diminish. You must have experienced the unpleasant emotion of disillusionment. People generally consider the state of being disillusioned to be very negative. But it is useful to position ourselves in regard to the phenomenon of disillusionment by considering this question. “Would you rather live under illusions, or without illusions?”
We don’t like the experience of disillusionment, but yet we consider that anyone living under an illusion is in an unhappy state. Another question we also have to face is: “Would you rather be a powerful soul in a weak position, or a weak soul in a powerful position?” These are the options. Do you want to be powerful even though you are in a weak position? Or do you want to be in a powerful position even though you may be internally weak? Philosophically, the better choices are to be a powerful soul regardless of the circumstances, and to be a person who is not living under any illusions.
When we put these questions to ourselves, it forces us to position ourselves vis-à-vis negative emotions in a different way. Many, consciously or subconsciously, believe that “if it feels good, then it is good, and if it feels bad then it is bad.” Here we find ourselves facing questions which oblige us to adopt the opposite position. This means we put our understanding in a higher position and give it higher priority than our feelings. We are therefore saying to ourselves: “Even if the experience of being disillusioned is bad, it is still preferable to being in a state of illusion or deluded.”
When it comes to power, I would not choose to be weak, I would chose to be powerful, but then I have to deal with being in a weak position. What would be the use of being a powerful soul in a weak position? We are all aware of the saying: “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This puts us in a dilemma, because it is good to be powerful but not good to be corrupt. Obviously if one is a weak soul in a powerful position, then one would easily get corrupted. The proof that one is a weak soul is that you are easily corrupted by power. When you are in a position of power, then people believe what you say. When you are in a powerful position, people will do whatever you tell them to do. It is therefore easy to abuse your power. But if you are in a weak position you are very limited in terms of what you can do, people don’t pay much attention to what you say, and they certainly don’t do what you tell them.
A deeper question: “is the person that I am, pure or impure?” What would I say about myself? Here is where the question of self-doubt comes in.
Very few can truthfully say they have a completely clear, clean conscience. We all could say, “yes, I have made mistakes.” All of us have hurt someone’s feelings at some time. We have all lied in order to protect ourselves. We have all been arrogant and aggressive. Any time we have done any action which is against the voice of our conscience, it disturbs our conscience. This also confirms that, “if I do find myself in a position of power it is very possible that I would misuse it.” There is a doubt.
It is a little difficult for us to be completely in our self respect when we know there is something that we would be ashamed of, if it were exposed. Anything that a person has done in the past is in their memory. We live in the world of morality which says, “this is good, this is bad.” Also, “this was bad.” You can’t actually change the past and say: “well, it wasn’t really bad, it was good.” We can justify, and find out many ways to explain why it was necessary, but we can’t actually say: “it was morally good.” Having a guilty conscience weakens a person. A big issue to resolve is: “can I clean a guilty conscience?”
Some people raise the issue of forgiveness. However, the concept of forgiveness puts us in an ambivalent relationship with ourselves. It is reasonable for us to say to another who has wronged us: “OK I forgive you, don’t worry, it’s alright.” We can reach a position of acceptance and say, it’s alright. But it is more difficult regarding one’s own self. I can say I forgive myself, but then the other part of myself will say, “well, who do you think you are? God or something?” So forgiving the self is difficult. Even if I say I forgive myself, I still did that thing. We might think that: “well, with time, I will forget what I did,” but you may be 95 and still remember: “when I was 15 I did such and such an act.” It does not go away just like that. Therefore, it is important to discover the solution to this problem.
Spirituality offers an approach which does actually resolve the problem. In spirituality we would not look at goodness and badness through the lens of conventional morality, but through a different lens. The word: “Morality” comes from the Latin, and “Ethics” comes from the Greek. They both mean the majority of people’s opinion about what is right and wrong. The foundation of morality and ethics is public opinion. When we say that something is right or wrong, it therefore is not absolute, but an opinion. However, most people who adhere to conventional morality and ethics also think that it is absolute, because we don’t analyze it critically. We usually learn about right and wrong through reward and punishment. In Western Culture, we also learn that “the best possible is for me to become perfect.” Of course we can’t be perfect, but maximum 99%, 90% or 80%. Thus we find ourselves in an impossible situation. On the one hand, it is impossible to be perfect. On the other hand, if I am not perfect I have a bad conscience. If I have a bad conscience, I have self doubt. Therefore it is impossible to have self respect. This is a very uncomfortable way to exist.
The foundation of this discomfort is the illusion that public opinion is some sort of absolute. Public opinion is created by imperfect people. Imperfect people make each other crazy in this way. You can never be comfortable inside your skin, and that is called angst. Therefore one lives in this feeling that “I am fundamentally not OK.” Then we create the idea that “God who is perfect sees us in terms of our imperfections.” So you always feel a bit embarrassed if you want to get close to God. This is also uncomfortable. This is a prison. This self doubt, anxiety and philosophical suffering.
My question is: if there would be an approach you could adopt whereby you would not be in that prison, would you adopt it? This is a very difficult question, but I am asking it anyway. It is not dangerous, but it is disturbing because it goes to a very deep place in our thinking. The title of this talk implies that it is possible to come out of this prison. But if I am the only person who is not in prison and everyone else is in prison, will I feel isolated? I think it is an important part of human nature, we don’t want to be different, marginalized or ostracized. Aristotle said, “Man is a social animal.” So if we are uncomfortable in our skins, we can fit socially, but if we make ourselves comfortable, then we are socially unacceptable. It is a very difficult question to deal with. Because whichever position we take, will make us uncomfortable.
If I say: “OK, I will compromise my soul,” then I can’t really respect myself, and then if I adopt a truth which is unconventional I will be marginalized, and that is very uncomfortable. There is a very helpful saying which comes from Schopenhauer. He said, “If you want to do something different, then first everyone will ridicule you. If you can survive that and still insist on your different way of looking at things, they will give you severe punishment. If you can survive this difficult step then everyone starts saying, well everyone always knew that.” He must have thought very deeply about human nature and how it operates. In order to bring about change you are going against a huge force of inertia. That is much more powerful than just one individual or a few individuals.
Sometimes people speak of a critical mass or a critical number. The idea is that once you reach this number then a shift happens. I think this idea of a critical number or mass is very relevant. For how long will we be able to live in the situation of being uncomfortable in one’s skin because it is impossible to be perfect, while it is impossible to have self respect if you are not perfect? Sooner or later, people will question the conventional basis of morality. It is very easy to say this or that is not OK, but then what is OK?
In spirituality we are presented with concepts for our consideration which are very unconventional. For example one concept is: You are an eternal immortal soul. You are eternal, immortal, you always exist, you have never not existed, you never will not exist.
This is a very simple little sentence but it has huge implications. Ultimately, I have to decide whether I want to exist eternally in a state of philosophical discomfort. I think that would be eternal damnation or eternally intolerable. A person who hears such an idea may say, “yes, it seems right, but then there are implications and questions.”
One implication is that in order for me to endure my eternity, I must act according to my conscience. If I act according to my conscience, it may not be according to conventional morality. There would be a conflict. You probably have tried to ask yourself, “what is the right thing to do in this very difficult situation?” There are occasions when, if you ‘do the right thing’, you will lose everything. So then is that the right thing? We can find ourselves in extremely difficult positions. I think we look for a reference point.
If your reference point is perfection, and you can never be perfect, then even if you have that reference point, you can never apply it. Another problem with the reference point of perfection is that the definition of perfection is determined by imperfect people. Now, It is said, for example, that the movement of the planets around the sun is perfect. Right? The planets move around the sun, everything is circling in perfect balance. One description of perfection is an extreme decided on by imperfect people. And another definition of perfection is more like balance.
If you want to make a good decision about something, you must take everything into consideration. In spirituality they say to us: “when you want to decide, you have to consider the past, the present and the future.” You don’t know the total past, or future, and only some of the present. But someone who does their best to take into consideration all the factors, and looks at the past, the present and the future of that situation, has a good chance of making a good decision. You make a decision, and say that is the best that I can do in the circumstances.
In the creation of art there is a point where you say it is right. If you are a writer, you want to write a perfect piece. With computers, you can refine your written piece and reach an optimum point. At that point you need the discernment and the courage to say, “now I will not work on my text any more, it is good enough right there.” This requires a decision from within to say, “this is it, from here I let go.” There may be others who disagree, but you decided, “this is it for me, and leave it there.” The film of Henri-Georges Clouzot “Le Mystère de Picasso”, shows how Picasso paints a picture and decides the point at which the painting is done, ready. In terms of art, we might determine whether a person is a great artist partly on the basis of technique, as well as on the basis of vision, but also because of knowing the right point of optimum perfection.
Your life is also a piece of art. Each day we do something in our lives with the internal impulsion to improve ourselves. If we live with the idea of perfection being impossible to reach then we cannot work with our lives to achieve success. I think we are more imprisoned by the idea of the impossible unattainable perfection, than our daily worries or anxieties.
We need to look at balance as perfection rather than perfection as an extreme. We must therefore accept and work with our imperfections in order to be balanced. Then we can bring ourselves to an attainable point, and permit ourselves to determine that as the optimum. Many things are within our control, and others are not. We cannot control other people’s behavior, but we can manage our emotions in the face of someone’s unacceptable behavior. We need to position ourselves such that our actions and words correspond with our conscience. We must be able to identify the point of diminishing returns, and refrain from the compulsion to go beyond it.
Another emotion we must give up is the sense of being obliged to prove that I am right. In spiritual study of Raja Yoga it is mentioned that, “your only problem is that you are caught up in right and wrong.” We worry about the possibility of somebody finding out that we are not OK. Not OK means not perfect. It is important to be able to express oneself, and to say that “I live according to my conscience and that is good enough for me. I have a policy, I will not worry about your opinion of me as long as I act according to my conscience. In that way I can have self respect.” (This idea is brilliantly analyzed in the novel Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, first published in 1962.) I give others full permission to have their own opinions. Then ultimately we come to terms with the fact that there is both positive and negative within us, we pay attention to go with the positive in spite of the existence of negativity within us.
The person who is a powerful soul in a weak position, must work on this until it has become managed. “If I am alright with me, then that’s it, I am OK.” Then there is no more anxiety. I really don’t have to worry about anything. What else? Is there any concern for self doubt? When I go according to my conscience, there is no room for self doubt.
I can go in front of God and say Hi! and God would say: “yes OK you’re fine.” Then I have a good relationship with God. This is how I would deal with this self created prison. It does require the courage to face other people’s disapproval. But since I am eternal, it makes it all the more important. Other people come and go and change their opinions. Fundamentally, we cannot allow ourselves to be driven by public opinion. Therefore we need to create our own morality. What do you think? Is that workable? Think about it?
Sitting with the self and really thinking about creating one’s own personal ethical policy is a form of meditation. Let us spend a few minutes in silent introspection considering our personal ethical position.
Turn your attention within… Sit with the self, with the idea that I am an eternal immortal spiritual being… I must live with myself forever… To respect myself is the most important thing… I listen carefully to the voice of my conscience… I begin to trust that voice… It is a very quiet voice… It is the voice of my soul… The silence brings inner clarity… I do not act on impulse… I act according to my deep inner truth… The purest part of my humanity… I make myself free from external influences… I make contact with my deep inner purity and the heart of my being which is essentially loving, I trust myself… And I allow myself to be close to that higher being, the Supreme Soul… That being is indeed truth… This is my reference point… I seek to stay in harmony with this… Then I act, whether it is a thought or a feeling, a word or a deed… And when it is right there is harmony, and when it is wrong there is disturbance… In this way I know… Then there is no anxiety, no worry, no fear… Then I trust myself…
Retreats are conducted regularly at Global Retreat Centre, Nuneham Park, near Oxford. A group from Germany met on this occasion. This talk explains how to build your stage. Your stage is the fortified and stable state of consciousness that is accumulated over time.
- Every day challenges arise. These help us to develop our stage.
- Good practices to set your daily routine that include your spiritual development.
- How to be more efficient so that you can do more with less, in less time.
- Good practices to work through troubles in human relationships.
- Techniques and methods for self-respect.
- How to be free from feeling guilty.
- The powerful energy of trust.
- Every soul is originally pure, peaceful, powerful, loveful and blissful, but the impact of the world today moves us away from that, therefore we have to remember that state.
- When you are looking out through your eyes, it’s the soul looking out.
- Distinguish between love and attachment and be free from that confusion.
To Listen to the talk, just press the play button on the icon below.