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Finding Peace and Contentment

Worried? Burdened? Frustrated? Here are some amazingly effective techniques that can bring shanti into your life.

Unedited Transcript:

Good morning, everyone!

This morning we have one in a series of articles we are doing for 'Vanakkam', in Mauritius. It is a monthly, Hindu newspaper produced by Dr. Pillai. We are getting three more ready. We did January, February, March. I read them all to you and now, we are trying to get April, May and June organized. We are very appreciative of this offer to include us in every issue and we are taking full advantage of it. We have a nice, attractive page that the Ganapati Kulam has designed for us. Doesn't stand out too much, or apart, you know. A typical informal layout, a beautifully made-out page right in the middle of 'Vanakkam', probably dominating it.

So, this one is on 'Peace and Contentment'. As we mentioned before, each of these articles is oriented in a practical way and ends in the last paragraph or two, with something to do or something to take home and practice for the month. We are also using it for the first Sunday of the month Homa at the Spiritual Park. They are using it to draw from it whatever they see fit to include in the talk they give at the Homa. The group is growing. They said that there were so many people there on the first Sunday of January, that even Kulapati couldn't find a parking place. That must probably be around four hundred, if they are up to that problem.

So, it begins ...

In Mauritius, our Spiritual Park -- along with all the country's many temples, large and small -- accomplishes the inner purpose of inspiring those who visit to uplift themselves and experience some of that inner peace, shanti, that is within each of us, that is our soul nature, that is our very essence. Individuals who experience peace at a temple carry it back into their home and make their home a more harmonious place. They also carry it out into the community and help the community be more tolerant of one another, and be more united.

My Guru was very direct in many of his statements. One of them regarding peace is : "For peace in the world, stop the war in the home." Certainly the most effective way for homes to become more peaceful, as we have been mentioning, is when husband and wife each take time to regularly visit Hindu temples and shrines.

Many people, when they think of world peace, think that it will come about because the United Nations or the leaders of the developed countries will somehow change the world and make it a peaceful place. In other words, they are doing nothing towards bring about world peace and are simply waiting for someone else to solve the problem. The perspective Gurudeva gives us is that each individual who becomes more peaceful in himself or herself creates a more peaceful planet and moves us a tiny step closer to world peace -- one person, one home, one community at a time.

Even though we manage to find peace when we go to a temple, it can be difficult to maintain that sense of peace and contentment when facing the duties and challenges of our daily life. Perhaps we manage to hold on to it for a day or two, but then it is gone.

Fortunately, Gurudeva gives some specific suggestions in this regard: "Maintaining joy and serenity in our life means being content with your surroundings, be they meager or lavish. Be content with your money, be it a small amount or a large amount. Be content with your health. Be content with your friends. Be loyal to those who are your long-time, trusted companions. Basically, contentment, santosha, is freedom from desire gained by redirecting the forces of desire and making a beautiful life within what one already has in life."

Here are some examples to illustrate maintaining peace and contentment. First example: A man is passed over at work for a promotion that he thought was a certainty. His first reaction is to feel discouraged and sad, but after a few days he pulls himself out of his mood by the decision to accept his current employment circumstances and be happy within them, but also to continue to strive for the desired promotion.

Second example: A wife feels the apartment they live in is too small and complains to her husband about this and expresses her discontent. Later in the day when playing with her young daughter, her mood changes into one of gratitude for the child and husband she has, and the feeling of discontent for the size of their apartment leaves.

Third example: An attorney has spent his day doing difficult research on a technical legal issue. He finds his intellect is over-stimulated as a result, and he is feeling somewhat agitated. On the way home he stops at a park and takes a walk, and observes the natural beauty of the place. This quiets his intellect down, and he is at peace within himself again.

Fourth example: A teenage boy tells a lie, about where he went this afternoon, to his mother. Afterwards, he finds that his mind is agitated as a result. He then, tells his mother the truth and soon finds himself peaceful again on the inside.

Here is a story to further illustrate contentment or santosha. If you have ever visited India, you may have noticed this as well. When traveling in the countryside, in the villages of India, you come across a family traveling together in a bullock cart, with only a few belongings. They are obviously quite poor. However, they are also quite happy, smiling and joking, really experiencing contentment. Their beliefs are such that the fact they are poor, is not preventing them from being content. The Tirukural in Chapter 37, 'Eradication of Desire', touches on the subject of contentment. In Verse 370, it states: "It is the nature of desire never to be fulfilled. He who utterly gives it up is eternally fulfilled at that very moment." This verse points out that it is unfulfilled desires that keep us from experiencing contentment.

Let's look now at some specific suggestions on what we can do to experience the peaceful state of mind called contentment. Certainly the most basic requirement for experiencing contentment is avoiding adharmic or unvirtuous actions, such as dishonesty and lying, which will keep our mind and emotions stirred up and prevent us from being peaceful on the inside. Not allowing ourselves to let disagreements turn into arguments is very important in nurturing contentment. Disagreements are natural, but they need to be handled in an intelligent, cultured and harmonious way, always willing to compromise to keep the discussion from turning into an argument.

One of the major causes of arguments in the home is that the home is looked at as the right place to let off steam. The husband is frustrated with his boss, but of course, he can't talk to his boss about it. The daughter is upset with her teacher, who she thinks unfairly picks on her and embarrasses her to her classmates. Each brings their frustrations home and takes them out on other family members. Of course, this causes frequent arguments in the home and keeps everyone in the family inwardly disturbed.

Gurudeva has an interesting statement about the home. He says that we need to consider the home a sanctuary for the entire family and never look at it as a place where we can let off steam or vent our frustrations. He continues that we need the home to have an even higher standard of professional behavior than school or the workplace. In such a home, parents interrelate in a cultured, religious way, free from disharmony and arguments. Children are respectful, and all are inwardly at peace.

If we cannot let off steam at home, where, then, can we? If you were at work or school, before going home, you can stop at a temple or take a walk through a beautiful place, such as a park or botanical garden, or walk along the beach and let the beauty quiet your mind. Another method is stop at an exercise facility and swim, run and bicycle away your stress.

If you were at home all day, such as a housewife raising a young child, you can also become stressed. The same remedies apply. Leave the home for a while and visit a temple, a beautiful place or an exercise facility. Getting out of the house on a regular basis for stress-reducing activities is important.

Gurudeva also suggests that certain kinds of stress can best be handled at the temple. The temple is the special place where we can let our emotions pour out to the Deity. Whatever we feel, we can express it to God and the Gods and relieve ourselves of that burden without burdening others with it. This may result in our crying a lot, but that is acceptable behavior at a temple.

Another aspect of attaining contentment is by understanding the nature of desire. In our modern world we constantly encounter advertisements promising that we will be happier if we spend money and acquire what is being sold. Fancy new cars, faster computers, high-tech cellular phones, attractive clothes -- all promise the elusive state of mind called happiness. Of course, new possessions do make us happy, but that happiness is short-lived and we eventually end up in the same discontented state of mind we were in before we acquired the new possession.

The key is to rise above this cycle of unhappy, acquiring possession, happy and unhappy again. Instead, hold the perspective: "I am grateful for and content with what I currently have. I am acquiring something more not because it will make me happier but because my family will benefit in a meaningful way by having it." Being content with what you have, however, does not mean you cannot seek to progress in life. It doesn't mean you should not use your willpower and fulfill your plans. Rather, it means you should not become upset while you are striving toward your goals, frustrated or unhappy if you do not get what your goals wish you to achieve.

Another aspect of santosha, is captured in Gurudeva's statement: "Life is meant to be lived joyously." This attitude towards life is important in that it helps us not fall into the perspective that if we are serious about making spiritual progress and being regular in our sadhanas, we need to have a somber attitude toward life. We need to be strict with ourselves but joyous at the same time. Of course, if we are struggling with major difficulties in our life, this perspective may be temporarily lost. However, this statement reminds us of the need to work with ourselves to regain a joyful perspective as quickly as possible.

Gratitude is an important aspect of santosha. Gratitude is focussing on finding happiness with what we currently have, rather than focusing on what we lack and anticipating happiness, through acquiring something more. We are grateful for the people that comprise our family and friends, grateful for the job or school we now have, the home we live in, grateful for the wisdom and practices of our religion. We are content with our surroundings, meager or lavish, content with our income, small or large. We are striving to make a beautiful life within what we already have in life.

There is a metaphysical tool that Gurudeva gives to us in 'Merging with Siva' that is also helpful in experiencing contentment, which is living in the eternity of the moment. It produces the feeling that one has nothing to do, no future to work toward and no past to rely on. This excellent spiritual practice can be performed now and again, during the day by anyone. Gurudeva discovered this technique when he was seven years old and describes the experience in detail in 'Merging with Siva'. He was on his way home to Fallen Leaf Lake in a snowstorm, from nearby Lake Tahoe and found himself worried that he would be late and miss his favorite radio program, 'Captain Midnight'. He saw his mind go off into the future and brought it back by telling himself, "I'm all right, right now."

Gurudeva suggests we practice being in the eternal now by asking ourselves the question "Am I not all right, right now, right this instant?" and answering, "I'm all right, right now."

This is an aside. It is not going in the article. Anyway, while I was writing this, I was remembering that Gurudeva had the practice of coming in to the Temple in the morning and first thing he would say, "becee". "becee" is a Shum word, which relates to the eternity of the moment. I looked at Gurudeva's definition of "becee". One - The eternity of the moment felt in the middle of three days in the past and three in the future. Two - I am aware of the unreality of time and the eternity of the moment. Three - Have you noticed any concern you might carry always bears upon the past or the future? Four - To dissolve any concern therefore, all one has to do is guide awareness to the present. Five - Living in the moment in the center of three days in the past and three days in the future, is the spirit of 'becee'.

The point he is focussing on is the problem of going too far into the past or too far into the future. It takes us out of the state of contentment. So, we can watch our mind and see if it is tending to do that. If you are going long into the past, we will find we are thinking of the same thing or things, which means it is not fully resolved in our mind. That is the reason the mind goes into the past. Something is there that is unresolved. So, the subconscious keeps throwing it up. The subconscious is throwing something up and we are remembering it. Why are we remembering it? Well, it is the mechanism of the mind, which shows what is unresolved. That is why we remember something, it means it is unresolved.

So, we have lots of paper and lots of pens. We know what to do. Vasana Daha Tantra. Write it down. How do you know if it becomes resolved? You won't think about it regularly. Very simple. If you stop thinking about it regularly, it means you have resolved it. Whatever was bothering you about it, you have managed to figure it out in your mind.

Similarly, if we are worried about the future, we can tell because we are always thinking about the same things in the future. If it is just a worry, "I don't want a tsunami in my house" - that is a worry, right? Then, "I am all right, right now." That is just the remedy for that. It is not likely to happen. It is not a real issue. Solve it by this simple practice, asking, "Am I all right, right now?" and answering, "I am all right, right now.", really feeling that we are all right, right now.

It could be something that we are planning for the future. If we think about it regularly, maybe it needs more thought. In other words, we are thinking it through partially and then stopping thinking about it. That is a very common practice. Why do we think about something in the future? Because we are not thinking it through. We are thinking it through partially and we are jumping back to the present. "Maybe I will do this. Maybe I will do that ..." Then we jump off of it. So, it is unresolved in the sense that we haven't decided what to do. We have created something in the future that is unresolved, by not thinking it through in a systematic way. So, Gurudeva's suggestion is to sit down - you don't need a lighter this time, pencil and paper will do - and write it out. If there are options, write down the options and think about them. Write down the pros and cons of all the options. You know, think about it in a systematic way and then make a decision, either right then or, make notes and decide a few days later but be firm with your mind. Analyze the options, make a decision, and move on. Then, you won't find your mind thinking about it because you have faced it. You have made a decision between the options and therefore, it goes away.

So, if you can handle your thoughts about the past and the future in a systematic way, then we end up in 'becee' and in the moment, content. So, we just need to watch our mind and see what parts it throws up to us and then handle them in a proper way.

This is just an aside, not in the article. Continuing with the article ...

Summarizing the various ideas we have covered in this article, santosha is to nurture contentment, seeking joy and serenity in life. Be happy, smile and uplift others. Live in constant gratitude for your health, for your friends and your belongings. Don't complain about what you don't possess. Identify with the eternal You, rather than mind, body or emotion. Keep the mountain-top view that life is an opportunity for spiritual progress. Live in the eternal now. Visit temples regularly to be uplifted and experience inner peace.

Then, it goes in to the practice, which is one of those we just talked about.

The idea for us to put into practice is that whenever you find your mind wandering into the future and worrying about what might happen, bring it back to the present by asking yourself the question, "Am I not all right, right now, right this instant?" And, answer "I am all right, right now." Keep asking and answering until you strongly feel positive, self-assured and fine ... and not worried about tsunami!

Thank you very much.

Photo of  Gurudeva
After death, we continue to exist in unseen worlds, enjoying or suffering the harvest of earthly deeds until it comes time for yet another physical birth.