In the West today, more and more people are turning to Eastern religions and spirituality. What is the essential message of this tradition?
The essential message is the three-part map of life that unfolds in the Bhagavad Gita. It consists of first, devotion to duty; second, service to humanity; and third, daily practice of silence.
Can you expand on the importance of the daily practice of silence?
We live in a noisy world from which we need to detach ourselves time and again. I often say, even as the particles of dirt and dust that cling to our clothes need to be washed, so too do the particles of noise that cling to our hearts and souls. We need to cleanse these particles in the waters of silence. Each day, after you have done your duty or helped someone in need, come and sit in a corner for at least 20 minutes. Sitting in silence, you can repeat the name divine, you can engage in a loving and intimate conversation with God, or you can do your spiritual thinking.
How can we quiet the mind?
Either engage in a loving and intimate conversation with God or go over all the things that you have done in the past 24 hours in reverse order until you get to the first hour. You will see that there have been many acts of omission and commission you have committed. Ask for forgiveness, strength and wisdom. Before you can embark on an experiment in meditation, you need a concentrated mind. This is one way of cultivating concentration, a one-pointed mind.
I spend a number of hours in traffic each day. How can I use my time well?
This time is a great opportunity for you to cultivate a friendship with God. Talk to God when you are sitting in your car. You don’t have to concentrate. You just have to begin by making God real in your daily life. God is wherever we are. God is here. God is now.
What is happiness and how can we find it?
Happiness is a perfume. You cannot spray it on others without getting some on yourself. The source of happiness is not money, pleasure or sense gratification. All of these are temporary and ephemeral, like a bubble. Happiness is within you. The most important thing is this – we must develop the will to be happy.
What are some golden rules of life?
One golden rule given since time immemorial is: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Another golden rule is: Each person must do his or her own duty. Today people claim their rights but I ask you, what about your duties? If we all do our duty, then rights will unfold. The cosmic drama will be successful only if we each play our own roles. If I do my duty in the right way, the portals of perfection will be open to me. The last golden rule is: Do your duty and a little more. Humanity is one family. Therefore, help as many as you can as much as you can.
What is the difference between suppression and control of anger?
There are three ways of handling anger.
1. There is the way of expression, which so many of us follow.
We feel angry and we show it in our words and actions.
2. The second is the way of suppression. We suppress anger because
we don’t like to show people that we are angry. As psychologists
tell you, this creates complexes.
3. Then, there is the third, and the right way of handling anger.
That is the way of forgiveness. If we forgive, then we rise above anger.
Are we not all born equal?
We are told, that all men are created equal. No one can be so blind or foolish as to imagine that there is actual equality of ability or environment or conditions of birth for all. Why, in the same family, all children do not have equality of ability or intelligence.
There is a family of which the eldest son is an IAS officer and the younger is unable to pass the SSC examination. We have a proverb in Sindhi, which says, “ The mother gives birth to children, each brings with himself his own destiny.” In other words, each one brings his karma with himself.
In another family the youngest son is a multi millionaire; while the eldest is so poor that he and his children are virtually starving, literally begging for food.
Two questions arise:
1) Is this inequality the result of karma? 2) And if so, is it fair?
The answer to both, as the great teachers of India have taught us, is in the affirmative. You are the architect of your own destiny. You are the builder of your own fate. Every thought, emotion, wish, action, creates karma: we have been creating karma for thousands, perhaps millions of years. If our thoughts, emotions, actions are benevolent, so-called good karma results. If they are malevolent, evil or difficult, bad karma is created. The good or evil we generate attaches its effect to us and remains in our life-current until we have satisfied it by balancing it out.
Why do we succumb so easily to temptations?
A. Have you ever looked at a fly sipping honey? At first, it is very careful to see that its legs are free. It sits on the edge of the spoon containing honey, saying to itself that after just one wee little taste of honey, it would fly away. But once it gets the relish of honey, it forgets everything and goes all out for it. When it has had its fill, it finds that its legs are stuck in honey. It cannot fly away and it dies a tragic death in its sweet grave.
Such is the case with man. He is lured into temptation by the thought of a little pleasure that he expects to get. Once he has tasted pleasure, it draws him to itself, again and again, until he becomes the slave of a habit he cannot overcome. Pleasure leads a man astray.