Embrace a New You

By: Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji

In this world, it is easy to look around at the desperation and lose hope, lose faith, lose our sense of peace. So much in our lives, at times, feels overwhelming, frustrating and unmanageable. This is a good time to reflect upon our lives, our paths, and our progress towards the ultimate destination of Divine awakening and living in Divine peace.

The Buddha said that he was like a river. Even the strongest, raging fire cannot last a moment if it is placed into the deep waters of a river. Similarly, if someone came to him full of burning flames of anger, the flames were immediately extinguished by the flowing river of his love.

Peace – in our world, in our communities, in our families and within ourselves – has become the greatest need, a common catchphrase, and yet the scarcest commodity. Despite the proliferation of peace paraphernalia, we don’t seem to be any closer with each passing year.

So, where to start? Peace starts within each one of us. Lao-Tse, the founder of Taoism and one of the greatest spiritual philosophers said it beautifully:

“If there is to be peace in the world, there must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations, there must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities, there must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors, there must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home, there must be peace in the heart.”

When you are in peace, you exude peace, manifest peace, and spread peace. When you are in pieces, you exude pieces, manifest pieces, and spread pieces.

Peace, however, is not something for which we have to search. Peace is our basic, most fundamental nature. We are golden. We are divine. We are pure and holy. We are the embodiment of peace itself, at our core. However, that golden core has been covered by layer upon layer of greed, ego, attachment, anger, jealousy, illusion and desire such that we have come to believe that we are made of these emotions. We have forgotten our true nature.

When we get in touch with our internal divinity, we not only tap into the infinite well of peace with in us, but we also become instruments of peace for the world. By following the tips below, we will all be able to discover the peace that resides within us.

1. “I Want Peace” – Remove the “I,” remove the “Want,” all that remains is “Peace.”

The mantra of today seems to be, “I want peace. Tell me how to find it.” The obstacle and the solution are buried in the statement. What do we have in that statement? An “I,” a “want,” and a “peace.” If you remove the “I” and the “want,” what is left? Peace. You do not have to look for peace, find peace, or create peace. All you have to do is remove the “I” and remove the “want” and peace stands there, in its full glory, as divine nectar for the entire world to imbibe. It is the “I” and the “want” which obscure this treasure from our view and prevent us from reveling in the truth of our own peaceful natures.

The key to internal peace then is not to go out in search of it, but rather to quietly, sincerely, and devotedly work to remove the “I” and the “want” so that peace can be found. If we are peaceful inside, humble inside and sincere inside, then nothing outside can take away our peace.

So what to do? How to remove this “I”? The answer is surrender. Become humble. Realize everything is due only to God.

In India, in every village or on the outskirts of every village there is a temple. I remember when I was young (and it is still mostly true today), the first thing in the morning everyone would do was go to the temple.

Before beginning the day’s tasks, everyone went to the temple, and took three parikramas (performing a circumambulation around the deity of God). The point of this was not merely ritual. Walking around God three times signified, “God, I am about to go out and perform my duties, but I know that everything I do is only because of Your grace. So, let me always keep You in the center, let me remember that everything is for You and because of You.”

Then, in the evening, before returning home, everyone once again stopped at the temple. “God, if during the day I have forgotten that You are the center of everything, please forgive me. When I go home to my family, please help me remember to keep You in the center instead of trying to keep myself in the center.” This tradition still occurs in almost every village, especially the small ones, every day. People in these small villages have very little in terms of material possessions or comforts. Most of them live below Western standards of poverty. But, they are in peace. Why? Because they have God in the center of their lives.

We have everything these days. Everything is set. We have tea sets, TV sets, sofa sets, video sets; but we, ourselves, are upset. Everything is set and we are upset! Why? Because of this “I” that tries to keep us in the center of everything.

There is a beautiful mantra which is perfect for eliminating the ego and surrendering to God. The mantra says:

Kayena vaca mansendriyairva
Buddhyatmanava prakrteh svabhavat
Karomi yadyat sakalam parasmai
Narayanayeti samarpayami

This means, “Oh Lord, whatever I have done, whatever actions I have performed through my speech, through my mind (anything I’ve thought), through my intellect (anything I’ve planned, achieved, or understood), through my hands or body or through any of my senses – therefore anything at all that I have performed, perceived or thought – it is all due to Your divine grace and I lay it all humbly at Your holy feet.”

By chanting this mantra, sincerely, deeply and devotionally every night, we remove any vestiges of ego which may still be lingering, clinging and preventing us from being in peace.

The next step is to remove the “want.”

We have been hypnotized to believe that the key to life lies in the attainment of material possessions, professional success, external achievement, and status and sensual pleasures. We have been deluded, deceived and blinded by the power of Maya, Cosmic Illusion. It lures us into its trap, convincing us falsely that the world of possessions and pleasures is real, permanent, everlasting and significant.

Yet, if we are looking for deep and lasting joy, if we are yearning to be truly peaceful, we must tear off this veil of Maya and realize that possessions, pleasures and comfort are not the answer. It is the never-ending quest, the drive, and the craving for external comfort and ease which lead us to forsake all else and drive us straight into the waiting clutches of desire.

Whatever God gives us – our successes, our failures, our gains, our losses – and wherever God puts us we should be joyful and grateful, and we should accept it as His divine gift. As long as our hopes are pinned on material and sensual pleasures and achievements, we will be forever miserable. Only by attaching ourselves to God and God alone will we be able to attain the true divine state of bliss and joy.

2. Take a Daily Multivitamin for Spiritual Health

Spiritual health is measured by our state of equanimity in the face of trials and tribulations. It is measured by our ability to remain calm, focused, serene and loving when life throws failure, difficulty, insurmountable hurdles and betrayal on our path. It is easy to be peaceful, joyful and calm when everything is going according to our own plan. The true test comes when God’s plan runs contrary to our own. In order to maintain inner peace, calmness and stability regardless of the external circumstance, we need a daily multivitamin of meditation, no reaction, and introspection.

The first vitamin is meditation. Meditation truly calms the mind, fills the heart with joy and brings peace to the soul. Further, the serenity and joy last throughout the day and throughout your life. Meditation is not a simple diversion which works only as long as you are actively engaged in it. Meditation is not a pill which quickly wears off and carries unpleasant side effects. Rather, meditation brings you into contact with God; it changes the very nature of your being. It brings you back to the world from which you truly come: the realm of the Divine.

As you sit in meditation you will realize the insignificance of that which causes anxiety; you will realize the transient nature of all your troubles. You will realize the infinite joy and boundless peace that come from God and through union with your own divine nature.

Eventually, your life will become meditation. Then, you will become a torchbearer of peace, spreading the flames of serenity, love and brotherhood wherever you go.

After the vitamin of meditation, comes the vitamin of “no reaction.”

We should practice this all day. We need to learn to be calmer in our lives. We must learn to remain still and unaffected by all that happens around us. We must learn to be like the ocean. The waves come and go, but the ocean stays. Even a large rock, thrown from a great distance, with great force, will only cause temporary ripples in a small area on the surface. Most of the ocean, and particularly the depths of the ocean, will remain unaffected.

One of the best ways to learn “no reaction” is through silence. When we are anxious, angry, and tense or frustrated, we tend to say things which we later regret; we let our words fuel the reaction in our hearts.

So, let us learn the power of silence. Silence on the outside will lead to silence on the inside. Silence is a time of remembering that we are more than our reactions, a time of tuning in to the Divine Insurance Company, a time of charging our inner batteries.

If you become quiet and still, you will notice that between every thought and action there is a space, a brief moment of time, a gap. First, there is the thought that we want to act, then there is a space, then there is the action. The action may seem instantaneous if you are not aware. However, by practicing awareness, you will find that there is always a space after the thought or emotion and before the action. It may only be a split second. But it is there. Grab that space. In that space, you must find the restraint not to act.

The more you practice focusing on the space, the more you will be able to grab it. At first it will seem elusive, but with time you will see that the space becomes longer and more conscious. You will find that you really do have a choice about whether to spread pieces or spread peace.

The Buddha said that he was like a river. Even the strongest, raging fire cannot last a moment if it is placed into the deep waters of a river. Similarly, if someone came to him full of burning flames of anger, the flames were immediately extinguished by the flowing river of his love.

If we want to be torchbearers of peace, we must first become rivers of love, dousing all flames of discord in the waters of our own compassion and serenity.

Finally, at the end of the day, we must practice introspection.

At the end of the day, a good businessman always checks his balance sheet to see how much he has earned and how much he has spent. By looking at his successes and failures, he is able to assess how well he is doing.

In the same way, each night we must examine the balance sheet of our day: what were our successes, what were our failures? For all the successes, all our “plus points,” we must give credit to God. We have truly done nothing but let Him work through us. All credit goes to Him. He is the one who saves us, who maintains our dignity and our success.

We must also give our failures to God. The fault is ours, definitely. Yet, He is so forgiving and so compassionate that He insists we turn these over to Him as well. We must say, “God, please take these minus points. You know that I am weak; You know that I am nothing. Look at all my failures, all my minus points for even just one day. But, still You love me. Still You protect me from having the world see all my minus points.”

In this way, each night we check our balance sheet, and we pray to God to help us have fewer minus points, to make us stronger, to make us better hands doing His work, to give us more faith and more devotion.

3. Just Accept and You’ll be Guided to the Destination

One of the greatest sources of depression and discontent is our inability to accept that which befalls us. We try to impose our will onto every situation. We try to sculpt the world into our own preconceived image of what is right, as though we were appointed as the great Divine Sculptor, given the task of ensuring that everything conformed to the correct mold. However, we were not appointed as such, nor has anyone been given the divine vision to know the Divine Plan. Thus, for us to take on the task of trying to make the world conform to our will is not only futile, but it also ensures that our lives will be frustrating and unfruitful.

I always say, “Expectation is the mother of frustration and acceptance is the mother of peace and joy.” If we live without expectations we will always be in peace. We must accept everything that comes in life as God’s prasad (divine gift and blessing). We must cultivate a spirit of true, deep acceptance of all those around us, not only for their sake, but for our sake as well. Living in an environment of acceptance gives everyone the freedom and the space to grow, to live and to behave according to their own destiny, their own beliefs and their own nature.

Therefore, the only way to live peacefully, with joy and bliss, and to fulfill your individual dharma here on Earth is to allow God’s will rather than your own will to guide you.

These days in the West all the new cars have “GPS” navigation systems where the computer in the car gives directions to your destination. After you’ve entered the destination address, you must press the “Accept” button on the screen. If the button is not pushed, the guided route will not begin and you will be left to your own device to reach the destination.

In our lives, it is the same. There is a divine source, a power, a supercomputer ready to guide us every step of the way. We must simply push the “Accept” button!

GPS stands for “Global Positioning System,” but I also think it stands for “God’s Perfect System.” He knows the way to the destination of our life, to the fulfillment of our unique, special and divine mission. He has designed the map. He has laid the roads. He knows every turn, every corner, every one-way street. He never loses His way.

If we “accept” God’s will, if we allow Him to guide us along the path, our lives will be filled with inspiration rather than perspiration, and we will certainly reach the destination in the shortest amount of time.

4. Practice Forgiveness

One of the greatest abilities given to human beings, and one of the most important on the spiritual path and the path to peace is the ability to forgive.

Forgiveness is not condoning someone else’s hurtful behavior. Forgiveness means that we, as human beings looking for peace, must release the pain, anger and grudges which act like a vice on our heart, squeezing our vital energy and life force, suffocating us in their grip. Forgiveness removes the vices from our hearts and allows us to breathe, live, and love freely.

The way to release the pain is to honestly and deeply forgive the person who has wronged you. By seeing the perpetrator as a fallible human being, by allowing the love in our heart to flow towards him, by feeling compassion for the situation (either physical or mental) that he must have been in to commit this mistake, the chains that bind us are loosened and we are free to take a step forward into today and tomorrow.

It is not an easy task, but it is an essential task if we want to have any peace in our lives and especially if we want to help spread peace to others. Those who are hanging onto old wounds, whose behavior is shaped by events of the past, whose identities are marked by wrongs that have been perpetrated upon them, can never be agents of positive change. Only by first forgiving those who have wronged us can we help others forgive those who have wronged them.

In this New Year, let us surrender ourselves to God, becoming selfless, and practice acceptance of God’s will. Let us fill our cup from that infinite ocean of compassion and forgiveness so that we too can step freely, peacefully and joyfully into the future, leaving the shackles of the past behind. Let us fulfill our unique purpose, our Divine mission here on Earth – rising to our greatest potential – so that this year will be a truly Divine New Year, a Divine New You.

Sarve bhavantu sukhinah              May all be happy
Sarve santu niramayah                   May all be healthy
Sarve bhadrani pasyantu               May all see the divinity in everything
Ma kascit dukhabhag bhavet         May there be no unhappiness or sorrow
Om shanti shanti shanti                Om Peace Peace Peace

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