Time to look back and introspect

This appeared in The Indian Express on December 25, 2019

Prashant Solomon

The last week of the year is heralded by Christmas. At this time next week, we will be in the year 2020 which is not just a new year but the beginning of a new decade. This is a perfect week for reflection. It is a great time to look back at not just the year but in this case, the last 10 years and take stock of our own lives. Are we happy with the way we have spent the last year or decade as the case may be. Is there something we could have done differently?                                                        

We are living in interesting and intriguing times. We are being faced with many challenges in our world today – environmental issues, economic slowdown and an atmosphere of tension in the world that is being caused by focusing too much on our differences instead of our similarities. 

The world of today has its challenges and risks  but also its opportunities and rewards. Christmas is a good time for us to look inwards and reflect what we truly are as human beings. For while today is a day of celebration, Christmas cakes and carols, it is also the day that we commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ.

Today’s theme for this Christmas message is community and peace. The world has always had divisions and mistrust among communities. Take the example from the time of Jesus more than 2000 years ago. The Jews and Samaritans lived side by side. They were two sects of people living in Israel. They both despised each other. In fact, the Jews did not even like to utter the word ‘Samaritan’. But Jesus often taught great truths in the form of stories which are called parables.

One of these is the Parable of the Good Samaritan-

 

Luke 10:25-37 New International Version (NIV)

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii (local currency)  and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expenses you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

What makes this story even more interesting is that the Samaritans were people who were hated by the Jews of that time. They were considered so low that Israelites did not even want to speak to them. But yet, this Samaritan was the only one who actually helped. On the other hand – the priest and Levite (both respected and high ranking people amongst the Jews) refused to help. This story conveyed a deeper message that despite our prejudices or differences against certain people, we must know that there is good in everyone and sometimes it is the ones who are considered different, the ones despised, who actually end up helping you at the end and sometimes the people who you consider as your own may not.

Jesus himself was a Jew and for him to tell a story where a Samaritan was actually the ‘hero’ of the story was very meaningful as it represents how important he considered it to love, respect and help people irrespective of their religion or background.

When people do that, there will be peace.

 

“Peace is not the absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition of benevolence, confidence, justice.”

Baruch Spinoza

 

As Spinoza said, peace is not just the absence of war but a state of mind where there is an atmosphere that makes it conducive to thrive. It is a state of mind where the creative spirit of humanity is encouraged to grow and prosper. 

As Jesus said at the end of the Biblical account – “Go and do likewise.”

This statement is interesting indeed. If we take the phrase – “O God” it can be considered as the simplest communication with God. But within that phrase is encapsulated in the form of anagrams the phrases “Go Do” and the word “good”. All we really need to do to please God irrespective of your religion or belief is this – “Go Do Good.”

That’s it. It is that simple. But doing good is not only about treating yourself and others with love. Doing good means doing creative and enterprising things to make the world and all life on it better for future generations. 

Doing good means making new inventions, new discoveries, creating art in any form, creating businesses, creating jobs, creating education and creating a wholesome environment. It is not enough for us to just sit and think good thoughts – but to “go DO good”.

“Go and do likewise,” said Jesus. Action is important and so is the type of action. We must do good in every way we can in a manner that will benefit the world.

Christmas 2019 is a perfect time to reflect on our past, present and future. Where do we want our world to be 10 years from now in the year 2030? Think about it and work towards that goal. Each one of us has the potential to be a spark of goodness that will make the world a better place.

But take this moment to let this thought sink in. Enjoy the Christmas spirit of love, joy and universal peace. Merry Christmas and wishing you a Happy new year 2020 and a happy new decade of the 2020s.

 

Stepping into Christhood

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, 
and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
— Matt. 5:14-16

.

There is a way, tried and true, that saints, adepts and avatars have walked. 

The way is universal and timeless and will reunite you to your higher self and when this happens, the most subtle consciousness of God realization will shine through you.

This is the path of individuated Christhood and Buddhahood that Jesus, Krishna, Gautam Buddh and Mahatavar Babaji and many others, even in civilizations long forgotten, helped forge.

As you follow in their footsteps, you will become one with Christ, the universal Christos, which in Greek means “anointed.”

You will discover, nurture and expand the spark of divinity within you. Gradually, you will become awakened and enlightened and this is the ultimate divine mission of every soul.

There is no division in God. The duality of the physical earth plane will be transformed to the Oneness full of love and light experienced by many who have had near death experiences and glimpses of the higher realms during meditation and out of body experiences. When you are set on this truth, you will taste the Water of Life promised by Jesus and other Masters.

As Self-realisation expands, the thought of God as an outer deity to be worshiped or appeased releases its grip and you realise that God is in you and in everyone and everything else. We are all a part of God. We are all One.

The consciousness of being separate will be replaced by an unfailing guidance within your heart and soul. You will learn to engage in an inner conversation between your outer consciousness and your own Christ mind.

The path leading to Christhood and Buddhahood is a testing path of determination and testing, especially in a world that does not reward this calling. At times, you will feel uplifted in the joyous experience and bliss of divine union.

At others, you will feel empty, alone and unworthy as you pass through the shadows where God’s light within you has been eclipsed.

This is known as the dark night of the soul. All saints have passed through this, as did Jesus on the cross and Lord Buddha during his ministry.

The key to this mystical journey is to find your inner light, to expand it through love and to brighten life around you.

Love God with all our heart, soul and mind, keep on keeping on through the ups and downs of life and honor your neighbor with good works. In so doing, you will balance karma and fulfill your specific mission, the divine plan or dharma that can only succeed through you. Your reward lies beyond nirvana, unto your ascension—the permanent reunion with God that Jesus, Elijah, Enoch and many other Great Lights East and West so beautifully demonstrated.

Playing Earth Games

Recently Elon Musk said that he believes it is entirely possible that our physical world is a highly advanced virtual reality game being played by our advanced future selves. But what if it’s way more glorious than that?

Think about this. 20 years ago the video games we had were very primitive according to today’s standards. The graphics were cheesy, the experience of playing a video game still felt totally like a ‘game’. 

Fast forward to 2019. The video games of today have graphics that are very realistic. If you wear a VR headset and play a game you feel a lot more like you are a part of that game than you would 20 years ago.

Fast forward to 2119. Just 100 years from now, if we are still around, we should have made huge advances in technology. A VR game a century from now would probably be indistinguishable from ‘reality’.

But what if our true identity is that of spirit beings or souls and our true world is the spirit world? Perhaps our true spirit beings are highly advanced in technology and are able to make an entire universe that is like their version of virtual reality. 

If we have constructed a virtual world that runs on software, which is a part of the physical world, maybe they constructed a physical universe that runs on matter and energy, which is a part of a larger spiritual universe. 

So pixels and bytes of our software games in a universe made of atoms could be the same thing as atoms of our physical games in a universe made of lifetrons and spirit? 

Perhaps virtual reality games and software or the computer world in general (which is a construct of human beings) is a smaller version of a physical reality, which is just the construction of spiritual beings and a small part of a much larger spiritual universe.

Many of our holy books suggest this. The concept of multiple dimensional worlds is present in the Hindu writings with the concept of ‘loks’ and in the Holy Gayatri Mantra there is reference to ‘Bhur’ (physical) ‘Bhuvah’ (astral) ‘Svaha’ (causal), which are three different planes of existence. The Bible speaks of various heavens and worlds. Buddhism also talks about multitudes of levels of existence. Islam also speaks about seven heavens.

So it is entirely possible that our souls chose to enter, exit and re-enter their version of virtual reality into our physical universe in order to learn lessons of love, compassion and humility, which helps us grow as spiritual beings. Then we leave this physical world and re-enter our true home in the spirit planes where we absorb and reflect on the experiences and lessons we had on the earth plane. Then in time, we reincarnate into another earth body and play a new game as the same player but a different character.

Maybe death is nothing more than the moment we take off our VR headsets through we which we played the earth game and realize our true spiritual world and spiritual form that is our true home and our true nature. Many people who have had near death experiences (NDEs) claim that the spirit world where they briefly went to seemed more ‘real’ than the physical world. 

So bottom line is this – don’t take this life on earth SO seriously. Enjoy the game. Enjoy the ride, because someday this particular game will end and another new adventure, another new game will begin.

(Published in the Sunday Speaking Tree of The Times of India on February 10, 2019).

Click here for scanned article.

The Beloved – Part 1

It has been too long in terms of Earth time that we have seen each other in the flesh.

You have been gone too long.

Time is a strange illusion. At times it feels like just yesterday that I used to look into your eyes and joy leaped out from the depths of my heart.

And yet at times it seems like it has been eons since I saw your smile and heard your sweet laughter.

With each passing day it is one day further from the last time I saw you. But once again the illusion of time is a strange paradox. While each day is a step further from the time we met in the flesh, each day that passes is one day closer to the day we will meet again.

Just like each spring comes after the cold winter, followed by the harsh summer and then autumn followed again by winter; so the spring will come again.

Just as the seasons come and go, so do our journeys of the soul.

We are born, we live, we love, we cry, we laugh, we celebrate, we make love, we mourn and then we die.

But just like spring is born again, we shall return again.

When we are born we have no idea what is in store for us in this world.

We dream, we hope, we fear and we love.

But we do not know with our limited human minds, who we will meet, what will we fear and whom we will love.

But the creator knows it all from the beginning of the illusion of time.

It was not obvious until later in life that we would find each other.

Finding you was like finding a pin in a labyrinth of hay. We do not really ever know whom we will find on this journey. Sometimes we seek and yet not find. But sometimes we find even though we did not seek.

It is the love of the creator that leads us to find the beloved.

One grows up, falls in love, gets married and has a family and all of this is good.

But when one finds the beloved, it goes beyond.

When you find the beloved, you never fall in love with them. You rise in love with them. Why should love ever be fallen into?

If it is the love of the creator, it is risen into. Not fallen.

We love many with our minds and our hearts and this is good.

But when we love the beloved, we love them with our souls.

They may not be family, spouse or friends in this world. But the beloved are the ones that we know without knowing, who we recognize at first sight.

They may be strangers on earth, but they are our soul mates and twin souls with whom we share Heaven.

There is a lot to be thankful for

Each morning when we wake up, we have no idea what the day will have in store for us. Not just that, we actually don’t know if this will be our last day on planet Earth. The only thing we do know for sure is that we are still alive at this moment.

As we go about our daily life, we often complain either silently or expressly about the things that we lack in life. Not enough money or not enough happiness or not enough free time or not enough this or that. Life is something that is not meant by design to be easy. But it doesn’t have to be a burden either.

There are many things in life that remind us of joy and happiness. There are many things in life for which we should be thankful. A few moments everyday of looking inwards will bring peace and a certain amount of perspective to our minds.

The next time you feel down or unhappy or unfortunate, just take a breather and start making a list of everything to be thankful for. Your health, your family, your job or career, your education, your ideas, your friends, your life itself. Surely everyone has something to be thankful for. Focus on these things and be thankful. Doing this, will create a ripple of positive energy that flows outwards from you. In time, when you realize how much you have to be thankful, you will start to feel positive and happy and this will spread to those around you.

Do not ever worry about things. If you have power over them, correct them and if you have no power over them, there is no point in worrying. But remember this, prayer and faith in God can and does change things many times. When you focus on what is possible and believe it will come to pass, chances are it will.

A Spiritual Butterfly’s Caterpillar Experience

(Published in the Speaking Tree, The Times of India April 12, 2018)

Sometimes we don’t understand life – the things that happen to us or in some cases, that don’t happen to us. But the important thing to remember is that life on earth is about evolving spiritually, and this is not only about meditation and prayer.

Life itself is a property of the Spirit. Life is about growth, experience and learning. Life is eternal. Sometimes we don’t understand why “bad” things happen to us. Whether this refers to relationship problems or breakups, finances, career confusion, health issues, addictions, depression or any other predicament, we need to be aware that no matter how dark it may seem, there is always light somewhere. We only have to find it and if that seems too hard, we only have to sincerely ask the light to find us. When this happens, we will begin to change our outlook. We will understand that “bad” things are only lessons that we have to lear n and experience, to grow spiritually.

Consider the physical body. If you want to build or strengthen your muscles, you have to overcome resistance in the form of weights. It is only when your muscles are stressed, they become stronger. Similarly, life’s difficulties are the resistance that our souls need to overcome, in order to grow and become stronger. So the nature of life itself is a spiritual enterprise, happening through a human experience.
We have divided our lives into so many little pockets that we fail to realise that everything we do is a spiritual event. We have personal, private, professional, social, religious and spiritual lives. All these things are a part of a greater whole.

When we go to school, college or office, it is spiritual. When we eat food, exercise or sleep, it is spiritual. When we have love relationships it is spiritual. When we spend time with family, it is spiritual. We cannot separate spirituality from our lives any more than we can separate ourselves from our breath. No matter what we do, we breathe. No matter what we do, we think. No matter what we do, we feel. Whether those thoughts and feelings are positive or negative, determines the outcome of the experience as a whole.

Some people say that life and death are opposites. That’s not true. It is birth and death that are opposites. They are entry and exit points to various worlds. Life is eternal and therefore, has no opposite. When one door closes, another opens. When we are born on Planet Earth, we in a sense, die in the world we came from. When we die on Earth, we are once again born in the world that we go to. This is the Spirit realm that has infinite levels and dimensions.

Where we end up depends on how much we learned and evolved during our lives on earth. So when things seem difficult, take it as an opportunity to lear n a lesson. The caterpillar thought it was the end of the world until it became a butterfly. We are spiritual butterflies having a caterpillar experience. So while meditation and prayer are great ways to develop spiritually, every experience we have – every human interaction – is a spiritual event that makes our spiritual state change. The more these events bring us closer to love and compassion, the more spiritually advanced we become.

Read the scanned version of this article

Read this on The Speaking Tree (Times of India) website

 

Another new website design

So throughout most of the month of March 2018, I have been learning a lot of technical stuff about web hosting, web servers and setting them up. I am now hosting and managing all my sites myself. Plus, I also learned about a great new plugin for Word Press called Elementor in which I have made both this site and the new site for my company – Chintels.

It has been a very interesting and educational process.

Don’t worry be happy

‘Here’s a little song I wrote.. You might want to sing it note for note, don’t worry.. be happy!’ This is the opening line of the famous song by Bobby McFerrin back in the 1980s called ‘Don’t worry, be happy.’ Now more than ever, people should heed the words of this song.

The times we live in are stressful indeed, but when stress begins to control us, it can lead to fatal consequences. We have all heard about the things that are bad for us – smoking, drinking, obesity, etc. but the real killer is stress. The bad news is that we live in a world full of stress. But the good news is that stress can be managed. When we realise this, we can take control of our lives and overcome the stress. How?

‘Don’t worry, be happy!’

Happiness is a hidden gem that often remains hidden. But yet, the irony is that it can be achieved rather easily if we change our approach and attitude towards life.
Always remember that worrying never solves anything. If there is something that is in our control, we can control it. If not in our control, then worrying will not make any difference. So in either case, don’t worry!

There are many ways that we can make adjustments in our lives – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually that can lead to us being happy.

Physically

Let’s start with breathing. Breathing is something that we all do without really noticing it. As you read this article, you are breathing. Notice it. Feel the air coming through your nostrils, feel it going into your lungs and be aware of it as it is exhaled. Simply focusing on your breathing is relaxing and regularly doing this is perhaps the easiest form of meditation. It reduces stress and will make you more centred in your thoughts.
Exercising is also a great way to reduce stress and make you happy. One can start with taking a daily walk for minimum 30 minutes. While you are doing this, try to think of something pleasant or funny. Try not to think about work or other stresses while walking. Going to a gym and exercising is also great and remember that you can start with lighter exercises. The feeling you get after exercising is the reward itself. Generally, one feels very relaxed and happier after a workout.

Mentally

Browse the Internet and read something that interests you. There is a whole world of information and knowledge that is waiting to be discovered. Read something online or watch some interesting videos on YouTube. Watch something funny on TV. Humour is a great stress reliever and puts things into perspective. Life is not meant to be always serious and humour is a great way to remind yourself about the balance needed in life.
Read books. Take out the time to read a good book. It will teach you something and at the same time, it will transport your mind into another world of sorts. Imagination and wonder is a great way to be happy and reduce stress.
Writing is also a great way to relieve stress. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to write an article or a book (although that would be great) even just jotting down your thoughts in a notebook or writing a diary is a great way to let out vented up stress and energy and express yourself. You never know what comes out of you when you write. Every bestseller began with a single word.

Emotionally

In our daily relationships, there are good days and bad days. Sometimes we have fights, arguments, and disagreements with people whom we love. Sometimes we suffer from breakups, separation or divorce. These situations can lead to major emotional trauma and stress.

But the good news is – don’t worry be happy! Believe it or not, you are the only one person responsible for your own happiness. We tend to become emotionally dependent on others. We have this feeling that we can only be happy if we are with so and so. Be it a spouse, a friend, a child, a parent, a sibling, etc. But this is false. This is only a mental construct. We are the only ones responsible for our own happiness. In order to do this, we must become friends with our selves. We must love ourselves. This is not a selfish kind of love. It is not saying that we don’t love others, but it is saying that we love ourselves just as we love others.

So, in case there is a breakup or an argument or a fight, etc. we will also be content with having our own self to keep us company. This might seem funny, but try it. If you are alone or feeling lonely, talk to yourself and not just random babbling, but have an actual conversation with yourself. Trust me, in time you will feel the stress and loneliness melt away and happiness will flow towards you.

Watching a nice movie, play or reading a good book can also lead to an emotional charge that will not only entertain you, but also teach you some new perspective about life. It will help you to get rid of emotional stress.

Spiritually

‘We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.’ – Pierre Teilhard De Chardin

 

We are spiritual beings currently on planet earth to learn, explore and grow. The sooner we realise this, the soon happiness will come.

Meditation and charity are great ways to develop spiritually and as this happens, stress is bound to be relieved and happiness is sure to come.

Meditating increases our awareness and leads to a state of bliss that relaxes us and decreases stress and also gives us a glimpse into a larger peaceful world of energy and love. There is a field of spiritual energy that surrounds us and binds us. Meditation helps us gain access to this field. Soon we realise that we are on a spiritual journey and the only thing we take with us back to our spiritual home after we leave our bodies is our thoughts, feelings and karma. Not one paisa or square millimetre of land! If we only strive for material things, we are wasting our time. Material things are important, but as a means to an end and not the end itself.

In the end, all is good.

So once again, don’t worry, be happy!

(Published in Double Helical Magazine September 2017)

The Man From Yamuna Pushta

(Published in The Speaking Tree column of The Times of India Edit Page May 22, 2017)

Yamuna Pushta is an embankment of jhuggis (hutments) behind Raj Ghat, Delhi, on the banks of the Yamuna River. I had gone there in 1995, as a reporter for a Delhi-based evening newspaper, to cover a story about drug trafficking that was allegedly taking place there.

When I got to the Pushta, I visited the jhuggi of a man who had been a drug addict since childhood. I sat in his 8 feet by 8 feet jhuggi. His wife and two kids had been sent by him to beg in Connaught Place. The proceedings from their daily begging activities would help them survive and also cater to his ongoing drug addiction.

He offered me a glass of tea and we started talking. For a man who lived in Yamuna Pushta, he was surprisingly serene. He spoke to me in a calm, composed and collected manner. He confessed he regretted his habit, but doubted if he would be able to survive without his daily dose of drugs. “When I was a kid, a bad man injected me with drugs and I became a drug addict – it was not out of choice,” he told me.

He also told me that what he really wanted in life was for his children to study, be healthy and hopefully some day by a gift of destiny, become educated and get good jobs and eventually marry and have their own families. At that moment I realised that we both wanted the same things in life. I also realised the connection that exists between all human beings on Earth and all beings in the universe.

It struck me that though a man could be a drug addict living in Yamuna Pushta who had to resort to sending his family out to beg, he is not just a ‘statistic’ or just a ‘story’, but a human being who wants what all people want – the well being of family.
That day, I left Yamuna Pushta a little wiser and a lot more aware of the connection between beings – the love of God that binds us all though we may look different, have different ways of living even if of a completely different level in the social spectrum.

The story doesn’t end there. By a strange twist of irony, that same evening, I went to cover an event that then Prime Minister, P V Narasimha Rao, was attending. I waited in the media area, heard the sirens of the PM’s motorcade, listened to his speech and went home.

That day I had seen two men who were perhaps from completely opposite end of the social spectrum. On the one hand, a man living in a 64 sq. feet jhuggi, a drug addict — a man who sends his family to beg in order to survive, but yet a man who wanted something nice for his family; on the other hand, the Prime Minister of India, who had everything possible within reach. I don’t think there can be any more extreme levels on the social spectrum than these two men.

The man from Yamuna Pushta and I connected that morning at a mental and spiritual level. Oddly, I didn’t feel that when I heard the PM address the gathering in a meticulously prepared speech.

I returned home wiser and felt touched at the level of the soul. The man at the ‘lowest’ level of the social spectrum affected my heart more than the man at the ‘highest’ level.

 

Click here to see the scanned version of this that came in The Speaking Tree column Edit Page Times of India May 22, 2017

Giving children with autism the recognition they deserve

World Autism Awareness Day

I had the privilege of being invited as the chief guest to present children with autism certificates and awards at a function organised at Nora Niwas, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi.

Had a wonderful time with the lovely children and staff at Parivartan School being run by Pordac NGO at Nora Niwas on World Autism Day! God bless the kids and the people running it! I am very happy with the work being done by Manjir Gupta and her team.

It is so important for people to become aware and sensitised towards the needs of children with autism and other conditions. They are God’s precious gifts to humankind and we must do our best to love them and improve their conditions and try our best to integrate them into society.

Manjir Gupta started Pordac (Protection of the Rights of Differently Abled Children) after her son Aranya had problems in mainstream education because of his autism. When she realised that the schools in Delhi did not seem to be either equipped or sensitised towards the needs and requirements of Differently Abled children, she quit her job at a bank and formed Pordac. Now, the Parivartan school is giving hope to many more children with autism. Great job and God bless!

You can learn more about Manjir and Pordac by visiting their website.

Visit the website of PORDAC