Nature and God

Daaji arrived at Ahmedabad airport to begin his trip to Mumbai. He was sitting with a small group in the lounge when the flight was delayed. He was remembering his travels with Babuji Maharaj. It was Babuji’s flight to Delhi after the Surat Birthday Celebrations. Babuji was at the airport waiting for a flight to Delhi. The flight was supposed to go to Jaipur first and then to Delhi, and Daaji was also travelling with him.

Daaji was waitlisted at number 136, so normally there would have been no chance of him getting on the flight. Soon the airline announced that there were sand storms around Jaipur area and the flight would not be landing there. Many cancelled their trip and so eventually Daaji got a seat. Babuji looked at him with a smile and said, “You are happy now!” Daaji happily recalled other incidents about Babuji. These small stories took everyone somewhere!

The spiritual life is about remembrance in the heart and love for the Beloved.

It was supposed to be a short flight to Mumbai, but it took a long time to land. During the flight, a lady walked up to Daaji and said, “You look like my son’s friend Marg!” She was happy and surprised by this unexpected meeting.

Later in Mumbai, at 5:45 p.m. in the evening, it was nice weather, so after finishing his work, Daaji went out to sit in the garden. A small group of industrialists had come to meet him. Daaji spoke to them about spirituality and how an experiential approach is the most practical one which leaves one with no ambiguity. He also spoke about the idea of being and non-being. Then he offered the guests the immediate experience of meditation with him. After meditation, there was a short informal interaction with newcomers about consciousness and Yoga. He encouraged them all to meditate and explore further.

Here are some snippets from the session:

“Quality of work drastically changes for good in the spiritual environment.”

“Meditation improves our moral and work ethics.”

“Evolution is not a matter of choice. It has to happen.”

“Many people argue: why can’t an all-powerful God change humanity for good? How can you change without willingness? One should invite change willingly.

If I have to become like my cherished personality,

“… I have to imbibe those qualities. If I have to become like that individual personality, I have to imbibe creativity in me if I dream to become like God – that is point number one.

“Then there are other qualities that can be observed in Nature: I have to become simple and in tune with Nature. What is Nature? Take trees, for example: they take the minimum and give out the maximum. So, am I able to receive the minimum, or nothing at all, and give the maximum? That is God-like. So, even though I may not have happiness, I have to give that. I then become that, and I don’t even care for it anymore. So the second principle, which comes from Nature, is efficiency – taking in the minimum and giving out the maximum.

“The third principle, also from Nature, can be seen when we observe the trees in the US, shedding their leaves just before the winter commences. They adjust themselves for the colder weather. The trees have to preserve all their energy and resources in their roots. They do not have the luxury of extra leaves on their branches. They shed them, sacrificing. In our case, are we able to adjust with the external in our relationships? To do so, we have to sacrifice some of our habits. It is better if we can adjust.

“The fourth thing is that Nature is its simplicity, NO complexities.

“The fifth thing that I find is automatism. For example, trees bear flowers automatically when the season comes. That automatic response is not there in us. Our response is, ‘What do I get out of this?’ Based on that we play with it.

“So these five things help us to be in tune with Nature and God.”

 

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

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Maxim X

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

 

The final of the Ten Maxims in Sahaj Marg helps us conclude our day. Fitting, considering the initial maxims helped us start the day.  “At bedtime, feeling the presence of God, repent for the wrongs committed. Beg forgiveness in a supplicant mood, resolving not to allow repetition of the same.” This is another maxim that I’d like to offer a twist of my own on as I break it into its parts.

“At bedtime, feeling the presence of God…” Many religious people, traditionally speaking, pray at bedtime. But that’s not exactly what’s being talked about here. Prayer is talking to God. Not listening. Not feeling. Prayer is a making of noise – and I plan to write about the Sahaj Marg daily prayer in a future post. Imagine, though, getting into bed at the very end of your day and FEELING the presence of God. What would That feel like? I hope it would feel like the you-est of you. You climb into bed and under the covers, on your back and facing the ceiling with your head on the pillow. And then you feel the presence of God. Really, what would it feel like? At that point in the day, and certainly depending on the day you experienced, you could potentially feel (or think) many different things. But the presence of God? I’ll suggest that you strip away the happenings of the day that ultimately led you back to your bed where you started many hours prior. (This could, in a round-about way, be related to our practice of cleaning.)

The traffic you fought. The conversations with coworkers. The lunch you had. The win / lose experienced by your child at their volley ball game. Whatever comes to mind about the day – let it out the window. Keep letting the thoughts and emotions of the day pass out of your mind as quickly as they enter. Even if the stream of thoughts is steady and seems not to end, you should soon notice the part of your awareness or consciousness that is present before, during, and after each mental object. The part of you that is watching all that movement within your mind. That is you, the Real You. And that is non-different, qualitatively, from God. It’s tough to see and feel and know – and most people hardly do more than get a small taste at any one time, but it’s there. Always. That presence has been with you the whole day and is now with you as you bring the day to a close. Feel that Presence.

“…, repent for the wrongs committed.” Be careful with this one. I’ll suggest to you that the habit of listing so-called sins is a dangerous one and one that too predictably does more damage than benefit. In order to repent for your wrongs, you have to be able to cite or list them. That’s generally an unproductive thing to do. However, there’s no harm in being a bit aware of shortcomings and specifically those of the day that is ending. I just think this activity warrants a personal assessment of what defines a wrong.

“Beg forgiveness in a supplicant mood, resolving not to allow repetition of the same.” Begging for forgiveness strikes me as odd. The Goal or our Center …. “God” doesn’t keep a list of our sins. The same Being doesn’t – at all – punish us for shortcomings. As such, who are we begging for forgiveness? Ponder that, if you will. The real meat of this part of the maxim, from where I sit, starts with the word supplicant. If you can manage an aware feeling of the Presence and also become aware of your shortcomings for that day, then I think you’ll find a natural response is humility and supplication. And gratitude. And once all of that is on the plate, the natural response – which really should come naturally – is to resolve that tomorrow would be better (aka: resolving not to allow repetition of the same.)

There’s no need (or benefit) to beating yourself up at this point. The day itself has probably done a fair enough job at that. As you wrap up your day, feel that Presence which has always been with you, accept your truth with humility and supplication, and go to sleep intending that tomorrow will be better than today was. I hope this series on the Sahaj Marg Maxims has been helpful in some way. And if not, that’s okay, too.  🙂

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

Maxim IX

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

 

 

“Mould your living so as to rouse a feeling of love and piety in others.” The ninth maxim. For anyone unfamiliar with the word, as it’s not a terribly common one these days, “piety” means a quality of being religious or reverent. Devoutness. Saintliness.

The first thing that struck me is that, by itself, this maxim could easily confuse people. On a number of levels it can tie into the things we’ve discussed in earlier maxims, but this feels like a maxim that would best be supplemented by commentary from the masters of our lineage. If it were a commandment or something in another religion it would likely come with lots of explanatory interpretations and guidelines on how to best implement it into the believer’s life.

In regard to the use of the word piety in this maxim I think there’s a new understanding that should apply. For one, the path of Heartfulness helps us see that religion is to be left behind just as kindergarten is. So I think to say that piety here means that we’re meant to invoke a feeling of religiosity in others is inaccurate. Reverence, though, is likely more applicable and more practical for today.

If you “mould your living” in a way that causes others to experience love and induces a feeling of reverence for who you are, how you conduct yourself, and the overall value of your life as a whole in relation to the lives of those witnessing your living.

I was recently talking with a friend. I’ve known this person for the better part of a couple years already and we were chatting about many things in life, including our respective significant others. We were both comfortable enough to share with each other things we think might be better in our own lives if they were maybe different. During this part of our discussion, although I forget the details of how it came about, it was said to me by this friend, “I think anyone would want to be your husband, but I feel like I’m not good enough.” It obviously gave me pause and then, as anyone who knows me can attest, I insisted a statement like that be explained immediately. I got my explanation and the conversation kept moving, but my heart broke right then with humility.

I’m never doing anything other than what feels natural and right and true to be “Joshua” right now. I try to conduct myself in the best and highest way I know to, given any circumstance I might find myself in. Never once, truly, have I thought to myself that I need to do this or that to be better person or to get more people to like me. Frankly, I don’t even try to inspire people. I guess that kind of thinking isn’t part of who I am. And yet, that’s what happens sometimes with my connections to others. People sometimes think I’m cool or talented or even wise…. too good for them, even. It baffles me and flatters me and humbles me and invariably surprises me.

It can be tough to accept that you’re setting some kind of example when that idea isn’t even on your radar – but that’s exactly what we’re called to do in this maxim. Readers, I would encourage you at this point in our study of the maxims to look back and assess. How much of the prior maxims do you incorporate into your life and what example does that mean you’re setting for others to witness? Do you feel the need to set more of an example? Less of an example?

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

Maxim VIII

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

 

“Be happy to eat in constant Divine thought whatever you get with due regard to honest and pious earnings.”

This is the eighth maxim in Sahaj Marg. At this point, I’m not concerned with whether it ties into the earlier maxims because, as discussed earlier, that’s not necessary. And besides, their practice and implementation will lead to a very natural connectivity anyway. I feel very strongly, though, that this maxim is one of the most important.

Today, most people who come to Sahaj Marg or Heartfulness will have at least a minimal interest in Eastern religion / philosophy / spirituality. If nothing else, they’re wanting to learn meditation. Many times when people are learning of Eastern practices, including those who are not Westerners, they get caught up in rules. Finite and concrete and rigid rules – which isn’t what they actually are, but are instead the manner in which the Western mind interprets them. This is likely in large part due to the influence of Judaism / Christianity / Islam.  Those rules are intended to help the aspirant reproduce results of someone who came before and attained a goal. At no time are they ever meant to be prohibitive of life in general or the living of it.

But, sadly, that’s exactly what’s happened with a lot of things. One area in particular is food or diet. To be clear – I do think there are “better” ways of getting nutrition. Ways that don’t involve suffering or such high levels of death. Ways that are more responsible with our planet and its available resources. Generally speaking, I also think most spiritual or philosophical people would agree that a meat-free way of eating is in line with these ideas. But that is not – in any way – to say that eating meat condemns a person to hell or to subsequent lives on the wheel of samsara.

The Sahaj Marg masters all advise us that a vegetarian mode of eating is optimal. Agreed. But it should be noted that nowhere (that I’m currently aware of) is it compulsory. Eating meat doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t doom you. It doesn’t mean you can’t be Heartful or spiritual or philosophical.

A good friend of mine recently posted to Facebook about how he’d gone somewhere to get some food (fast food-ish, I think) and after getting home he realized his order was only half complete. So he went back and got the rest of his food. Then came home and ate it … and then realized he’d consumed beef. I think he wasn’t happy about the slip (he’s vegetarian and might be vegan, or aspiring thereto), but it clearly wasn’t the end of the world to him. And it ought not to be.

There are a number of places throughout Hindu holy texts that reflect the truth and sentiment of this maxim. In all that I’ve read where this is concerned, the one’s being spoken of (the eaters) are holy people. And in every mention, the truth is that holy people have no aversion to specific foods. They eat what they are given or what is available. Not in the way a scavenger would, but in the way that someone who sees the Reality and Ultimate Truth – The Oneness – behind everything.

It’s really not that far removed from the idiocy that says the left hand is unclean while the right is clean. Ridiculous. They are attached to the same body! Be happy to eat whatever you get, the maxim says. Additionally, you’re to eat whatever you get “in constant Divine thought.” I’m here to tell you that ANYTHING – any action, thought, word – done in Divine thought, truly divine thought, is pure. Defining divine thought is a tough thing and not something for this post.

When you eat whatever you get, with regard to earnings, and do that eating with divine thought – you experience oneness and The Center and The Goal. You have no aversion. You cease adding layers of samskara which must later be peeled away. This is a part of our progression toward The Goal that is every bit as big as eating is in every day life.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

Maxim VII

Too many people feel entitled to right wrongs. I’m no exception. I usually have enough spine and spunk to assert myself from the start and it’s actually rare for me to be “wronged.” But when I hear about my loved ones being wronged, one of my first thoughts is to ask whose legs I need to break – which usually just makes my loved ones laugh or roll their eyes. I’m more cerebral than anything and even if I were capable of snapping femurs, I’m not actually inclined to. Whenever the news talks about a child molester or someone who’s killed a senior citizen for what was in their wallet or been particularly abusive to animals, not far behind it is talk of how that person deserves the electric chair or lethal injection – or bullet to the head. Often you hear people joke about the “fun” that person is likely to experience in prison when they’re made into someone else’s bitch. Whether we’re the dealer of revenge or we rely on the legal system to deliver it, we love seeing people get what we think they deserve.

The seventh maxim is, “Be not revengeful for the wrongs done by others. Take them with gratitude as heavenly gifts.”

In Hinduism (and other Dharmic religions) there’s the concept of karma. Most Western minds only understand karma as “bad.” We say, “Karma’s a bitch.” But karma isn’t. It’s an impartial force of balance that, like gravity, can apply everywhere. Karma alone is reason enough for us not to worry about nonsense like revenge. Karma makes sure that what goes up comes back down and vice verse. It makes sure that what is given is likewise taken and that those who take don’t go forever without giving in the same measure. Karma is always in our favor. Always. How can this be so? Because balance and negation are what it’s about. Karma is not – in any way – concerned with punishing or rewarding. As long as one carries a balance of ANY karma, he or she will be burdened with death and rebirth.

Like a prior maxim where we talked about turning poison into medicine, this maxim advises us to see wrongs done by others as “heavenly gifts.” Sadly, my first thought is of the Westboro Baptist Church. Their spokespeople can be heard as saying things like, “Thank God for 9-11” and “Thank god for IEDs.” They’re known for being so negative, but from where they sit they are celebrating what they see as God’s punishment to the USA for growing into an unrighteous nation. To be clear – that’s total shit from a bull’s ass. But in their understanding they are grateful for these atrocities because they see them as opportunities – god is telling us we’ve gone off the right path and the punishments are alerts to steer us back.

I think you REALLY have to be careful with that kind of logic.

For me, this maxim breaks down quite cleanly into two parts and each part has a very clean focus. In the first part, pay attention to the “be not revengeful.” The part about wrongs done by others is so wide open for interpretation that it can get messy really fast, just because of ego and individual perspective. You and I may have very different ideas on what constitutes a wrong. For instance, if you’re a Christian it’s (probably) not at all wrong for you to consider the idea of others converting to your religion. For me, as a practicing Hindu, the idea of conversion is nearly repulsive, and is certainly offensive. Regardless of the definition of “wrong,” we can all take the same approach to our responses – be not revengeful. The second part, for me, should focus on the word gratitude. Like defining what wrong might mean to one person or another, defining a gift is also pretty open to interpretation. For some winning the lottery is a fantastic gift – but to those who have won and whose life fell to ruin afterward (just because of the misuse of the money) it’s not much of a gift, after all. But the notion of gratitude is easily settled on. Be mindfully thankful for your life experiences – no matter the filter through which you chose to see them.

It’s a tall order to fill when we’re in the middle of the householder life. We do the best we can to make life good and to protect and provide for ourselves and our loved ones. It seems natural to defend those parts of our existence. Protecting our life is normal and fine, but not to the point of being revengeful. Preventing wrongs, in my understanding, is being responsible. If you use your spine now to stand tall, you may well prevent being stepped on later. Revenge and retaliation, though, are going to far. They go beyond doing something unnecessary and reach into being detrimental. No further proof is needed outside of watching the Middle East. Pick any two groups who are fighting each other – the fighting goes so far back and is perpetuated by the need for revenge. A truly sad thing.

Don’t give energy to righting wrongs and be mindfully grateful of the unique life experience that is yours alone. This maxim communicates truth that can transform one’s life and touch the lives of others.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

Maxim VI

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

 

“Know all people as thy brethren and treat them as such.” This is the sixth maxim in Sahaj Marg. This seems to be our equivalent of “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you,” or “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Personally, I’ve always loved the “love your neighbor” verse in the Bible. It’s too often too quickly glossed over. Ultimately, to truly put that into effect you have to first realize your own Self and also recognize that Sameness in others. The Sahaj Marg version of this is actually a bit more digestible. It’s a tough thing for most people to reach realization of their true Center, let alone recognize the same in others that they meet – others who cut them off in traffic or vandalize their home.

But to see someone else as your brother is more doable. I don’t have to see you as non-different from my Self, but I get to start at a more comfortable and doable place which is knowing that we come from the same Parent – as brothers would. As one grows and deepens their personal evolution, of course, the natural revelation is that your brother IS not different from you – at all. Loving your brother (or neighbor) as yourself is literally loving yourself.

From a linguistic standpoint, I see a big difference between “like” and “as.” Most of the time, in the English language, the two words are fairly interchangeable. But the meatier parts of them are actually significant. Let’s contrast the two. If I love you LIKE myself, then it could be said that I’m loving you similarly to myself… as in, in a similar way. Similar does not mean the same. However, if I love you AS myself, then it could be said that I am loving you “in place of” myself. As if you were / are actually me – which is the ultimate Reality. Nondifference. If you go to a dance AS someone’s date, you are literally in the place of that person’s date. You’re not faking going as their date – you’re really in the place of their date. When that level of understanding is applied to this maxim, things really take on a new meaning.

The part of this I think many people are most likely to struggle with is the last four words: treat them as such.

It’s too easy to sit around and philosophize and ponder the deep intricacies of life and say, among friends, “We’re all One.” It’s another thing entirely to be out in the world living that oneness – to recognize your essential connection to the person who just cut you off in traffic or the person who transmitted HIV to your sister. Sadly, Christians come to mind with this. The Abrahamic religions come with hypocrisy built in – from the foundation up. It’s unavoidable, unfortunately, because of the structure of their belief system. But the reality is that the Christians, Muslims, and Jews aren’t alone – all people are guilty of this, even the godless. Our default is laziness and greed. We’re fine playing nice as long as things go our way – but the whole time we’re really just playing and really only for so long as things benefit us. To live life as though you truly see and know others to be your siblings – if not your Self – takes truthfulness mentioned in an earlier post.

What a profound and tough maxim this short one is!

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

Maxim V

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

 

 

The fifth maxim advises, “Be truthful. Take miseries as Divine Blessings for your own good and be thankful.” The first thought that comes to mind is one from my days of dabbling in Buddhism. For a brief moment I tried on a form of Japanese Buddhism founded by the monk Nichiren. Nichiren Buddhism is a practice founded on chanting of a mantra which is actually the title of a book – a sutra. I won’t go into that here now, but something that is often talked about in the SGI (Sokka Gakkai International – Nichiren Buddhist organization) is turning poison into medicine. To turn poison into medicine requires an elevated state. An internal adjustment. It required being able to see past the sting of the poison. The substance (poison) is not different – doesn’t change. And one’s individual essence is also unchanging. In basic terms, the perspective can really make a difference. Be able to separate the temporal from that which will remain.

Being able to separate and recognize the difference in perception / perspective is where the truth stays put. This is being truthful. Yeah, it means being honest – but truthfulness isn’t that shallow. I’ll try to provide an example: Years ago, I was shopping in a Marshall’s store. It’s been long enough ago now that I forget all of the details, but I was called over to the counter – a non-register line. And as I arrived and placed my items on the counter, the employee helping me pretty well thrashed my things around. She was huffing and puffing, rolling her eyes, not smiling or even making normal small talk with me. She slammed clothing around as she removed the anti-theft tags, etc… She was actually being quite rude to me. But was she?

I was separate enough from the situation to realize, quite easily, that I’d literally done nothing to elicit this behavior from her and so I just watched. Anyone who knows me, knows I probably had an expression on my face that would have clearly communicated to this young lady that I wasn’t about to have any of that from her. At some point, she made eye contact with me, and her expression softened instantly. So did her other behaviors. She then sighed softly, paused for just a second, and then quietly said to me, “I’m sorry.” Without breaking eye contact, I gently replied to her, “You’re okay. I promise.” The rest of my time in the checkout was quick and peaceful. And that was that.

Someone else might have gotten pissed because she was roughly handling things they intended to buy and the situation would maybe have gone from bad to worse. I was briefly able to discern the truth of the situation – which had nothing to do with me – and then extend grace to her as a result. And much needed grace, so it seemed! This is what truthfulness means to me in this maxim – setting ego aside and turning a poisonous circumstance into something medicinal.

When we talk about taking miseries as Divine Blessings for your own good and then being thankful, we usually think of bad karma. I get a flat tire. Labs come back from my doctor’s visit all wonky. My child breaks her arm playing at school. I lose my job. I lose my spouse. All miseries, surely. But usually when we try to consider these occurrences we resign ourselves to an understanding that we simply don’t possess. We blindly assume that God has a higher purpose for our misery or perhaps that we’ve transgressed God’s holy will in some way and are being punished – which then forces us into trying to be glad god is spanking us. Again … kindergartner’s notepad. God doesn’t have an opinion and also doesn’t punish us. Those are human traits alone. Seeing miseries as divine blessings requires the truthfulness I mentioned earlier. It requires a higher awareness – even if only temporarily. It’s based on the heart full of love and devotion and also harmony with Nature from the earlier maxims.

The natural response in all of this is gratitude – which is what this maxim ends with. What are we thankful for at this point? That’s easy – realization. Of what? The Self, Nature, our Center and Source. These first five maxims really could be it. If these are followed one morning, then they can apply to the next morning and the one after that. The foundation for a productive and peaceful life has been set. And with practice and even the smallest amount of dedication these become so easy! Think about summarizing these five and you will see how effective the Sahaj Marg Heartfulness practice can be at stripping away the baggage that keeps us bogged down, un-integrated, perpetually on the wheel of death and rebirth. These five alone are fairly complete. Luckily we have five more. We’re half way through!

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti