Saturday, 10 December 2016

Is adversity really bad?

Who actually wants pain and suffering in life? Everybody prays for their happiness, wealth and prosperity. Is that always possible? Do we ever experience pleasures or happiness in the absence of pain or suffering? Impossible. Our life flows between two banks of favourable and adverse situations. Even if we try our best to avoid unfavourable situations, they are inevitable. But the good news is that all life crises throw us precious learning opportunities if we are keen to learn from every mistake we make and every misfortune we confront. In contrast, such opportunities are rarely provided by pleasant events. Usually, we are so busy enjoying being in the moment that the happiness goes by before we fully take notice of it.

Whether they like it or not, people encounter different ‘losses’ throughout their lives. These include losing a loved one, name and fame, job, business, success, relationship, and many more. The uninvited adversities give us a golden chance to stop and reflect upon ourselves and our life situations, re-evaluate our lives and re-prioritise. The first step to cope with any sort of loss is to realise and accept that it has occurred. After this, our mind becomes clear, making it easier to implement other necessary coping measures to move on.

Obviously, by going through painful experiences we understand how much positive energy we have inside us. We grow emotionally. We start perceiving the world more deeply and openly. We develop better coping mechanisms for the future. Adversity helps people to uncover capabilities that may not have been apparent before. Sometimes it can bring out the best in us.

We would never have gotten a masterpiece epic like ‘Gauri’ in Nepali literature if the national poet, Madhav Prasad Ghimire, had not experienced the intense pain of his wife’s untimely death. This pain took his creativity to its highest point, so ‘Gauri’ was born. Similarly, if Anuradha Koirala, an ordinary middle class woman, had not gone through several adverse life situations -- her husband’s abusiveness, three miscarriages and divorce -- she would not have emerged as a real humanitarian ‘hero’. These are two popular examples of how adversity can positively influence people, but if we look around, we can find such success stories even in our own families, neighbourhoods and communities.

For instance, one of my husband’s cousins lost her husband at quite a young age. On top of that sudden blow, she had four small children to raise all by herself. She faced the unexpected cruelty with courage. She stood up against adversity like a tigress mustering every bit of strength she had inside her to protect her children. The lady raised them successfully. Now, all four of them are well-educated, well-mannered and well-settled.

Bad things happen. They look ugly on the surface. They have immediate and negative consequences such as denial, depression, and sleeplessness. However, once we are able to accept our losses, we can begin to try and use such experiences to improve ourselves. Nietzsche was absolutely correct when he stated, “What does not kill us makes us stronger.”

(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, December 9, 2016) 

[The pictures on this blog are posted here with permission from their owners or have been gathered from various sources on the Internet. If you are the copyright-holder to any of the photographs herein do not hesitate to contact me. They will be swiftly removed if desired so.]

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Spiritual Materialism

These days the term ‘spiritualism’ has become a buzzword around the world. However, its meaning is taken lightly in most cases. For example, the term is tagged as a ‘brand’ according to an Indian spiritual master, Sadhguru. He said that once when he was in the United States, he encountered a “spiritual expo” where people were selling “spiritual bath-soap”, “spiritual toothpaste” and things like that. Similarly, spiritualism is attached to a feeling of ‘ecstasy’ according to an American Guru, Sri Acharyaji.

Likewise, the so-called gurus of mushrooming ‘Satsanghas’ claim to “enlighten” people in one sitting; and enlightenment is the ultimate destination of spiritual progress. Once one is enlightened, nothing more is needed. Another remarkable thing is the growing fashion of ‘yoga’ and ‘meditation’. These are simply formal practices where people are unable to integrate their principles into their development as a spiritual being. In fact Satsangha, yoga and meditation are important aspects of spirituality, but their essential purpose is seemed to be completely submerged under the material gains people chase these days.

A general mass understanding of yoga and meditation is that they help in keeping yourself physically and mentally fit. One cannot deny this fact, however, their real purpose is to help unite our ‘Self’ with the ‘Super Self’ or ‘God’. It is clear that when your primary focus is on ‘self realisation’ or ‘god realisation’, you automatically get the secondary benefits of yoga and meditation, i.e. physical and mental fitness. Unfortunately, a particular group of people is madly after slim and sexy bodies to impress the external world, so they rigorously practise yoga to fulfil this desire.

In his book ‘Enlightenment: The path through the jungle’, Dennis Waite clearly divides the world we live in into the material world and the spiritual world. The material world is the day-to-day reality or “Vyavahara”, whereas the spiritual world is the absolute reality or “Paramartha.” But the neo-advaita gurus, who claim ‘immediate enlightenment’ are keen to address the problems related to“Vyavahara” such as people’s depression, worldly happiness, dysfunctional relationships, cluttered mind and so on in their ‘Satsanghas; “Paramartha” is beyond all these issues.

‘Self’ does not need anything to be illuminated, and all of us have this ‘Self’ within us. Dwelling in the materialistic world, however, we are not aware of this fact. As a result, in order to complete a journey from self-ignorance to self-knowledge, interventions in the form of scriptures are needed.

There is no short-cut to spiritualism. There are numerous time-tested scriptures available, e.g., Vedas, Upanishads or Bhagavat Gita (in the case of Hinduism). If we are to explore ‘self-knowledge’ we must go through the systematic scriptural route, using our reason, referring to our personal experience and asking gurus for clarification when necessary, since the scriptures do not ask us to follow everything blindly. Satsangha, yoga and meditation are all used to reach the ‘Paramarthik’ goal of ‘self realisation.’ One should not be fooled by the idea that only attending the ‘Satsangha’ classes run for publicity will lead them to enlightenment. If this was the case, the world would be full of enlightened people, but there are very few real ‘spiritual people’. What is happening is that the majority of people are using ‘spiritualism’ as a ‘business’ like they do with everything else in this materialistic world. 

(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, December 2, 2016) 

[The pictures on this blog are posted here with permission from their owners or have been gathered from various sources on the Internet. If you are the copyright-holder to any of the photographs herein do not hesitate to contact me. They will be swiftly removed if desired so.]