In the midst of the traditional gift-giving season, we might begin to ask ourselves what is the spirit of giving? Why do we desire to give? What impels us to make something for someone or select something beautiful or practical to offer to a friend or relative? This season let us consider what and how we give.
There is an inscription on the Buland Darwaza, the grand gateway to the city Emperor Akbar built at Fatehpur Sikri in India. It says: "Isa (Jesus), Son of Mary, said: ‘The world is a bridge, pass over it but build no houses upon it. He who hopes for a day, may hope for eternity; the world endures but an hour. Spend it in prayer, for the rest is unseen.’”
With this expression this grand piece of Indian Muslim architecture offers us a message from the Holy Qur’an of the “straight way” — the noble path in life. The message that “the world endures but an hour. Spend it in prayer,” reminds us to keep the thought of God with us always.
The ungainly oyster lies in the muck beneath the waters, yet within that oyster is cultivated the pearl of exceeding beauty and value. Often our lives may seem to be as if in the “muck” of sadness, delusion and despair. Yet always know that the “pearl of great price” (the pearl of our soul) lies within, and that the wealth of great happiness and fulfillment lies in the cultivation of that pearl.
As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, our thoughts naturally turn to traditional gatherings and shared meals. We hope that a message of gratefulness will not only be uttered in our prayers but also expressed by our actions.
As the earth offers its harvest, we offer our worship and praise to that source of beauty and bounty of the earth. Not everyone experiences such beauty and bounty; this we know. And yet every soul has something for which to be thankful. Why?
What do we desire? What do we long to be? Our very notion of belonging has within it this two-fold nature of being and longing. If we look closely at that which we cherish and hold dear, we will come to know better the aspiration of our soul.
Look up to the sky. We see the source of our life. It is the light that shines from the heavens and dances about us. It comes from the very beginning of cosmic creation. From dust and gas in distant space, in total silence, new stars blink into life. From the billions of stars that compose the universe—billions of twinkling lights—we imagine the countless rows and circles of lights leading us ever onward in our journey of creation.
Now think of the simple earthenware diyas that alight the entrance to homes at Diwali and you have a symbol as wondrous as it is bright. The light we bring to each other in a dazzling splendor of joy, is the same light that burns brightly in the celestial flames of the sun, the same pure light reflected in the moon and the same light that illumines the soul.
When in our lives “boisterous storms of trials shriek, and worries howl at me,” as Swami Yogananda writes in his beautiful prayer God! God! God!, where may we find sanctuary and peace? When as William Wordsworth writes, “the world is too much with us; late and soon, getting and spending, we lay waste our powers,” where is solace to be found? Where and what is our refuge from all wrong?
Have you ever noticed how some individuals seem to be calm in a crisis? They have grace under fire. They stand firm in the face of fear? We might call that mental strength or fortitude. We might call it courage. It certainly appears to be a source of faith and self-confidence.
When such faith is absent, fear can overwhelm anyone. Our fear binds us to the world of limitation. How do we conquer our fears?
At every stage of life we are shaping and molding our personality by the habits we elect, by what we read, and by all we pursue. The 17th Chapter of the Bhagavad Gita offers us a prescription for self-examination in the light of all expressions of our personality. We may ask ourselves: Are my habits leading me to a richly inspired life? Are my decisions shaped by my emotions, by a restlessness or by self-direction? In this process of self-unfoldment, what guides me?
How utterly profound and complex is the law of karma. It proceeds as the constitution of all creation. All action is karma. Everything we do whether physical or mental is karma. Understanding the effects of our actions is the key to Karma Yoga. There are three aspects for us to know and appreciate about our karma. This awareness guides how we decide what we do and how we meditate.
Why are we here? Where are we going? Where did we come from? These are the impelling questions of science, religion and life itself. In search for their roots, or source, many turn to DNA testing. Does knowing the historic progression and dispersion of our DNA answer the question of our origin? The ancient and profound Kena Upanishad (Kena means “by whom?”) asks: “Inspired by whom does the primordial life seek objective manifestation?”
We all seek forgiveness at times—from ourselves, from others, from God. Why?
This week many participated in the fasting and prayer of Yom Kippur — The Day of Atonement, the last of the Ten Days of Awe. As we seek the perfection of God let us consider what is the ideal of perfection. With all our human failings how does a spiritual practice help us to arise in the consciousness of God?
When sorrow comes into our life it is as though we have entered a great darkness. We look for the light to come out of that darkness.
But where do we find that light? And how does that light bring us out of sorrow? What is the sorrow? We think we know what sorrow is but do we really?
By the practice of Yoga the mind becomes calm. In this calm and serene state we realize the peace of Soul.
There is a book within that we read in the silence of our hearts. It is there that we come to know the Self. It is where our devotion and dedication reveal pure consciousness. Therein lies a treasury of awareness and experience that will guide us through all the obstacles of life.
The great yogi, Henry David Thoreau, spent a vast amount of time observing, contemplating and writing about the transformations of nature. Even beyond his time at Walden he continued to study trees and plants and their interactions with the elements and animals. His descriptions provided a rich glimpse into the deeper consciousness of his being. Thoreau found “the very earth itself as a granary and a seminary.” He found “faith in a seed,” with a realization of its origin, path and destiny. Then he offered its story to inspire humanity.
Is our will separate from God’s will? Is the spiritual path that of renouncing our own will and submitting to God’s will? In truth, there is but one will, and that is God’s/our will. In human life that One pure will is often projected through the clouded lens of our acquired concepts of finitude (our sense identified ego) resulting in disturbing and negative expressions. Let us purify our minds and hearts so that the pure light of God’s/Our will may be expressed in all our thoughts, words and deeds.
The natural symbols of sublime devotion become to us mirrors of the Self. They reflect not only our inner revelations but inspire and guide us on the inmost path. The symbol of the crescent moon is certainly an image of beauty and reflection to the poet and the philosopher in us all.
There is a verse in the Vishnu Purana that includes the Sanskrit phrase: "Sa vidya ya vimuktaye”. It means: “knowledge is that which liberates.”
“Two little birds, linked by mutual friendly bonds, reside in the selfsame tree; one of them is engrossed in the enjoyment of sweet fruit, while the other looks on with perfect serenity.” This verse is found in the Mundaka and SvetasvataraUpanishads and in the Rig Veda. The two birds symbolize our dual nature: soul and senses, subjectivity and objectivity. Which “bird” guides our lives? Is our goal to renounce the objective “bird” and identify solely with the serene transcendental “bird”? Can these “birds” exist within us in harmony and synchronicity?