[This article appeared in the July 2014 issue of The Theosophical Movement. For more articles published in this excellent magazine follow this link: http://www.ultindia.org/previous_issues.html ]
If we are observant and reflective enough we have a chance to convert ordinary moments of life into Eureka moments, like Archimedes, who jumped out of his bath naked, to propound the Theory of Displacement, or like Newton, who arrived at the Law of Gravitation when an apple fell on his head. We can find inspiration in smaller things of life, if we have an observant eye and a mind that is questioning, reflecting, discussing and understanding. A movement of random acts of kindness and generosity was triggered, when a lady in Boston started anonymously leaving blankets for the poor on benches, on cold nights.
At times, the will to fight big battles comes from small things. For instance, German Communist, Alois Pfaller, persistently struggled against the Nazis, and stood up against them despite merciless beatings, for eleven years in concentration camps. He said that the necessary courage and determination came from having competed with his step-sister to win the attention of his step-mother. Though he failed in his attempt, he swore that when he grew up he will always fight against injustice, thus converting his deeply ingrained sense of hurt into something positive. Likewise, Gandhiji experienced racial discrimination in South Africa, when he was thrown off a train, and that motivated him to fight against injustice.
In 1871, noted Indian industrialist Jamsetji Tata was denied entry into the all-whites Watson Hotel in Mumbai, and that triggered him to build the Taj Mahal Hotel down the same road. “That is the sign of a great individual, one who is able to elevate himself above present and personal circumstances and rather than avenge personal slights in a narrow, vindictive manner, or allow them to stigmatise him, decides to lock horns with the evil itself. … The ability to take on negativity and turn it to a positive learning, to be able to look at little positives and use them to spur you on to greater goodness, and to observe everyday phenomena and find deeper, scientific or spiritual meanings in them—this is the stuff greatness is made of,” writes Vinita Dawra Nangia. (Times Life, Sunday Times of India, June 1, 2014)
A poet or a dramatist going down the street sees much more than an ordinary man. He seems to “see” men’s thoughts, emotions, failings, limitations and puts them together in his poem or a play. We can attain to inspiration by developing intuition. It is only when we are able to appreciate things impersonally, transcending the pairs of opposites, that inspiration can reflect itself in us as in a deep, tranquil lake. Inspiration is a matter of being able to exercise higher faculties of the mind, and being able to see and think about the most trifling things from the higher plane of thought. Thus:
“The higher part of the mind is connected with the Spiritual soul or Buddhi, the lower with the animal soul, the Kama principle. There are persons who never think with the higher faculties of their mind at all; those who do so are the minority … and are … beyond the average human kind. These will think even upon ordinary matters on the higher plane. Certainly it [the habit of thinking on a higher plane] can be developed with great difficulty, a firm determination, and through much self-sacrifice … Why is it that one person sees poetry in a cabbage or a pig with her little ones, while another perceives in the loftiest things only their lowest and most material aspect …? The difference depends simply on the innate power of the mind to think on the higher or on the lower plane.” (Raja Yoga or Occultism, pp. 205-6)
We must labour to acquire a little inspiration within ourselves by seeing through the sordidness of life, by the control of desires of the flesh, and by the conquest of laziness of body and mind. Coleridge mentioned “esemplastic” or unifying power of the imagination. It is the ability to shape diverse elements or concepts into a unified whole. It is this esemplastic power of imagination which enables a scientist to reduce diverse observations to a guiding principle.
What makes us happy? Why some people are happier than others? Landmark twins research from University of Minnesota, USA found that roughly fifty per cent of differences in happiness from one person to another is genetically determined. We are always going through hills and valleys, but our DNA is responsible for our overall general attitude or what is called “happiness set point.” Ten per cent of difference in happiness levels is influenced by life circumstances and environmental factors which keep changing, says Sonja Lyubomirsky, happiness researcher at the University of California, Riverside. The remaining forty per cent of difference in happiness levels can be taken care of by intentional change in four key areas: family, community, work and faith.
The still-ongoing Grant Study launched at Harvard University in the year 1938 confirmed that having a loving childhood predicts happiness in adulthood. “The secret of happiness is giving and accepting love” because people need to establish meaningful connections with other people in order to truly feel joy, says George Vaillant, director of the Grant Study from 1972 to 2004. He observes that it is not possible to feel any of the positive emotions such as joy, faith, hope, love, awe, gratitude, which lead to happiness, without establishing connection.
The community that one builds around oneself, primarily one’s friends, can help boost one’s happiness. “All the happiest people have close relationships—at least a few people you can really count on,” says Ed Diener, psychology professor at University of Illinois. But research has also shown that happiest people tend to think of others, not just themselves. Lonely people with no confidante tend to be unhappy, but surprisingly, it has been found that today, with increased dependence on technology and telecommuting, more people are isolated. To be happy, Diener suggests that one should focus on the good in other people and in one’s life.
Work provides meaning and purpose to life and hence is very closely tied with happiness. People can rely on religion (faith) and spirituality to become happier people, partly because following spirituality often involves belonging to a like-minded group, and thus connection with people. Hope, trust, forgiveness and awe, are the emotions which lead to well-being or happiness, and are generally associated with religion and spirituality. Lasting contentment can be ours if we look in the right places, writes Lisa Fields. (Reader’s Digest, June 2014)
All of us desire happiness, and we work very hard to get all that the world considers necessary for a happy life, yet none of these things can make us happy. There is increasing realization that getting the desired object or reaching desired goal, or much wealth or gadgets, may give us only temporary happiness, but lasting happiness still eludes us. We must admit that human relationship has changed radically. In the ultimate analysis one finds that today more people are unhappy due to lack of meaningful human relationship than due to any other reason. Social connectedness is directly related to health and happiness. In the consumerist culture, some of us try to fill the void by turning to objects that would define one’s identity through possessions, while others turn to drinks and drugs. It is our self-centredness that has alienated us from the others. The key lies in not being dependent on others, and yet continuing to remain connected with other human beings – achieving a balance between independence and interdependence.
True happiness results when even for a few moments we forget ourselves, because then we are able to establish contact with our higher nature—God within. When we are admiring a painting or listening to a piece of music or observing a sunset, we do forget ourselves for those moments. We sometimes experience this bliss when we become successful in meditation. We also experience this happiness when we forget ourselves in helping someone or in doing good works without any self-interest. So long as we are searching for happiness, we are bound to be unhappy. But when we cease to make happiness our goal, we shall definitely have it as a kind of by-product.
According to the Kula Armava Tantra, it is impossible to get liberated without diksha or initiation.Yogic diksha is primarily a form of sancara or spiritual transmission, by which the disciple’s bodily, mental and spiritual conditions are changed through the adept’s transference of spiritual “energy” or “consciousness.” In the informal initiation, the spiritual process is either awakened or magnified in the practitioner, which involves change in consciousness and conversion from ordinary worldliness to a sacred life. Initiation creates a spiritual connection between the guru and the devotee, which represents a unique responsibility on the teacher’s part and a significant challenge for the practitioner.
In another sense, by virtue of great spiritual advancement, the adept-teacher becomes a locus of concentrated psycho-spiritual energy and his body-mind is like a powerful radio beacon. In Plato’s works there is a conversation recorded between Socrates and his pupil Aristeides, and the latter confesses that his philosophical understanding increased whenever he was in association with Socrates, and that this effect was most pronounced when he sat close to him and touched him. In Aristotle’s case, it was intellectual insight that was deepened by the sheer proximity to Socrates. However, during yogic initiation the initiate is inducted into secret dimensions of existence and he becomes aware that the apparent material cosmos and his body is a vast sea of psycho-spiritual energy. Under the impact of the God-realised adept’s spontaneous transmission, the practitioner undergoes spiritual crisis after crisis and gradually awakens, and finds that his egoic impulses, and obsessions have become increasingly obsolete, writes Georg Feuerstein. (The Speaking Tree, Sunday Times of India, June 22, 2014)
Initiation may be described as a trial or a test, which every earnest spiritual aspirant has to pass through and which helps to determine if the aspirant is ready to take the next step on the Path. In Raja-Yoga tradition, when one aspires to reach perfection and enlightenment, one is faced with strange and awesome trials of initiation, before he can be accepted as a disciple by the guru. There are levels and levels of initiation, wherein the aspirant is subjected to progressively difficult trials, through which he proves his strength and readiness for spiritual rebirth. But before coming to that stage, writes Mr. Judge, each aspirant has to learn to face “daily initiations,” which come from moment to moment. They are met in our relation with our fellows, and in the way we react to all circumstances of life. And if we fail in these, we never get to the point where greater ones are offered. Further,
“When we have learnt to encounter every vexation absolutely without complaint, either internally or externally — if it disturbs us in the slightest degree within, it is just as bad as if we expressed it in words or action — then, and not till then, can we expect to be given the opportunity to take a decided step forwards. For the secret of advancement is the development of the will through its union with the Divine Will. By meeting the ordinary ills of life with unvexed soul we educate and strengthen our will, fitting us for further advancement. Humbleness, Patience and Content are the first three steps that lead to the door.”
In Raja-Yoga tradition, there is no “transferring” and “receiving.” For, every step of the ladder of spiritual progress is climbed by one’s own efforts. It is true that great and powerful forces are playing around spiritually advanced beings and when one goes in their presence one’s whole nature would be stirred up. It is said of T. Subba Row, F.T.S., that he showed no early signs of possessing mystical knowledge, but after he contacted H. P. Blavatsky, it was as if a storehouse of occult experience, long forgotten, had been suddenly opened to him. The contact thus, working as some sort of catalyst. Mr. Judge assures the earnest student-seekers, saying, “we may already be initiated into some higher degree than our present attainment would suggest, and are undergoing a new trial unknown to ourselves.”