The World is an Ashram

The world is what we make it. Our Saivite perspective is to make spiritual progress. Television: a tool for karmic cleansing, the softening of prarabdha karmas. School: an opportunity for earning good karma, punya. Principles of karma management: Forego Retaliation; Accept Responsibility; Forgive the Offender. Gurudeva's "grand quote" on karma.

Unedited Transcript:

In today's Master Course lesson, the Living With Siva lesson is about television and has an interesting slant on it. So I thought I'd read that, comment on it, and start with an introduction.

So, television is a lot like the world. Other words, the world is what we make it.

Yogaswami says: "The world is an ashram, a training ground for the achievement of moksha, liberation."

Well for that to be true you have to make it that way; you have to hold that perspective. In other words, depending on the perspective we have, that's what the world is to us. You know, so if you picture typical high school teenagers, what's the world? It's a place to go out and party, right? Place to have fun.

To some people the world, that's a place where we're going to get rich. This is offering us lots of money; that's our focus. Others are focused on fulfilling a profession. And some just like to go out in the world to make friends. You know, so the world is what we make it. It's not something unto itself that we all look at the same way.

So certainly, when it comes to looking at the world as an ashram, the idea is, when we're out in the world we're concerned about making spiritual progress as well as what else we're doing, be it shopping, making money or whatever. We're concerned that the way we do that furthers our spiritual progress. Doesn't make us stand still or go backwards by how we act.

So in that regard the world is a place where we face our karma. And as Gurudeva points out in this writing on television -- I forgot it was there -- our karma comes to us through individuals or groups of people normally. So, consequently, sometimes we get mistreated in life. Our situation isn't working out fairly. We're being treated in a way that's not justified. So, how we handle that of course relates to karma. Most instinctive response is to retaliate. Well, this person's mistreating me; I'm going to mistreat them in the same way. That idea of retaliation. So, of course, if we retaliate, then we're making a new karma. So that's not causing spiritual progress at all. So, in the karma management principles it talks about that and trying to not retaliate; trying to accept the karma as our creation and ideally even forgiving and forgetting the whole event, not just grabbing onto it and letting it gnaw at us. So we'll look at that at the end.

Another part of karma is the new karma we're creating. When we're mistreated by others it's our old karma coming back to us. New karma, we have an opportunity every time we're out in the world to help others. And it's something we're, you know, we want to instill in our children. Children that go to school, for example, quite often their parents are totally focused on their academics. You know, what grades did you get? But, school is also an opportunity to help others, to be of service. And in that way we're earning good karma, new punya.

So, as I said, television is the same as the world. In and of itself it isn't a one thing. It can be something different to many different people, depending on how they approach it. So, to read from the lesson:

"Television provides so much of the mental diet of so many people today that it deserves special attention, lest it become a deterrent to a balanced, contemplative life. Television at its best is storytelling. We used to sit around and tell stories. The best storyteller, who could paint pictures in people's minds, was the most popular person in town. Television is also the extension of the little theater, and as soon as it became popular, the little theater groups all over the country became unemployed. It is the extension of the standup comedian, of vaudeville, drama, opera, ballet, all of which have suffered since television has become a popular mode of entertainment. In every country, at every point in time, humans have sat down and been entertained, and entertainers have stood up and entertained them.

"Today, television has become an instrument to convey knowledge and bring the world together, set new standards of living, language, styles of dress and hair, ways of walking, ways of standing, attitudes about people, ethics, morality, political systems, religions and all sorts of other things, from ecology to pornography. This vast facility unifies the thinking -- and thus the actions -- of the peoples of the world. Today, at the flick of a finger with the magic wand, one can change the mental flow and emotional experience of everyone watching for the entire evening. "

So, here's the interesting part.

"Saivites know that our karmas are forces we send out from ourselves -- creative forces, preserving forces, destroying forces, and a mixture of either two or the three -- and they usually come back to us through other people or groups of people. Television has afforded us the ability to work through our karmas more quickly than we could in the agricultural age. On TV, the 'other people' who play our past experiences back to us, for us to understand in hindsight, are actors and actresses, newscasters and the people in the news they broadcast. Saivites know nothing can happen, physically, mentally or emotionally, but that it is seeded in our prarabdha karmas, the action-reaction patterns brought with us to this birth. Therefore, on the positive side, we look at television as a tool for karmic cleansing."

So that's a different way of looking at it, right? "Television is a tool for karmic cleansing."

"Saivites know that the object of life is to go through our experiences joyously and kindly, always forgiving and compassionately understanding, thus avoiding making unseemly kriyamana karmas in the current life which, if enough were accumulated and added to the karmas we did not bring into this life, would bring us back into another birth, and the process would start all over again. The great boon that television has given humanity, which is especially appreciated by Saivites, is that we can soften our prarabdha karmas very quickly by analyzing, forgiving and compassionately understanding the happenings on the screen, as our past is portrayed before us, and as we work with our nerve system, which laughs and cries, resents, reacts to and avoids experiences on the TV.

"Television can be very entertaining and helpful, or it can be insidiously detrimental, depending on how it is used. Therefore, fortify your mind with a thorough understanding of what you are watching. Television works on the subconscious mind. This is an area of the mind which we are not usually conscious of when it is functioning, but it is functioning nevertheless, constantly, twenty-four hours a day. Television works strongly on the subconscious minds of children. If they watch TV for long periods of time, they begin to think exactly as the programmers want them to think. Responsible parents have to choose just what goes into their children's minds, as well as into their own minds. It is advisable to pre-record the shows you wish to watch, avoiding sexual scenes, obscene language and excessive violence; and even then be ready to fast-forward through inappropriate scenes that are found today even on PG-rated programs."

So that's a very interesting idea, that television, when approached in the right way, as we talked about -- it's all in our approach, our attitude toward it -- is a tool for karmic cleansing. So next time someone criticizes you for watching too much television you can say: "Just cleaning my karmas, been cleaning them all day long."

So, and specifically, as Gurudeva says: "It's softening our prarabdha karmas," meaning we understand our pattern better and when the karma comes back to us, it comes in a gentler way; that's what soften means. So, the karma comes to us but we've been getting ready to receive it by understanding the nature of this kind of action and reaction, by watching it on television. So when it comes we don't react as strongly; it comes in a gentler way. And the whole process is as Gurudeva says, softened. It doesn't get rid of the karma but it softens it meaning it comes back in a gentler, less disruptive way.

So to remind us of the first three principles of karma management, which is what we're talking about.

The First Principle: Forego Retaliation. We mentioned that.

And Gurudeva's quote is: "As long as we react, we must repeat it. That is the law."

Second Principle is: Accept Responsibility.

And the quote from Gurudeva on that one is: "As long as we externalize the source of our successes and failures, we perpetuate the cycles of karma, good or bad. There is no one out there making it all happen. Our actions, thoughts and attitudes make it all happen. We must accept and bear our karma cheerfully."

And then the Third Principle is: Forgive the Offender.

And we don't have a quote from Gurudeva, we have the Tirukural quote there: If you return kindness for injuries received and forget both, those who harmed you will be punished by their own shame.

Now isn't that high minded? You retaliate, but you retaliate with kindness. Something they weren't anticipating, you know. And so they realize, you know, or sometimes they realize, that there's a better way of doing it, that's the point. "Punished by their own shame" means they realize their approach is not a high minded approach; it's an ordinary or low minded approach and there's a more cultured way of handling these kinds of things.

So one last quote. This is kind of the grand quote from Gurudeva on karma.

"Bhakti brings grace, and the sustaining grace melts and blends the karmas in the heart. In the heart chakra karmas are in a molten state. The throat chakra molds the karmas through sadhana, regular religious practices. The third eye chakra sees the karmas past, present and future as a singular oneness. (Meaning it sees them without a sense of time.) And the crown chakra absorbs, burns clean, enough of the karmas to open the gate, the door of Brahman, revealing the straight path to merging with Siva."

That's a great quote.

Aum Namah Sivaya. Have a wonderful phase.

[End of transcript]