Yearly Archives: 2010

15Apr/10

Steps to self-Healing

Whatever may be the nature of the ill health or disorder from which we are suffering, we can heal ourselves through a proper use of our consciousness and calling down the healing power of peace.

Three Steps to Heal All Disorder
Now suppose that due to some illness or other you have some pain at a particular spot. At that moment all will depend, as I said at the beginning, on the approach most familiar to you. But we can give an example. You are in pain, in great pain; it hurts very much, you are suffering a lot.

First point: do not dwell on the pain by telling yourself, “Oh, how it hurts! Oh, this pain is unbearable! Oh, it is getting worse and worse, I will never be able to endure it”, etc. all that sort of thing. The more you go on thinking like that and feeling like that and the more your attention is concentrated on it, the more the pain increases remarkably.

So, the first point: to control yourself enough not to do that.

Second point: as I said, it depends on your habits. If you know how to concentrate, to be quiet, and if you can bring into yourself a certain peace of any kind – it may be a mental peace, it may be a vital peace, it may be a psychic peace; they have different values and qualities, that is an individual question – you try to realise within yourself a state of peace or you attempt to enter into conscious contact with a force of peace.

Suppose you succeed to a greater or less extent. Then, if you can draw the peace into yourself and bring it down into the solar plexus – for we are not talking about inner states we are talking about your physical body – and from there direct it very calmly, very slowly, so to speak, but very persistently, towards the place where the pain is more or less acute, and fix it there, this is very good.

This is not always enough.

But if by widening this movement you can add a sort of mental formation with a little life in it (not just cold, but with a little life in it) that the only reality is the divine Reality, and all the cells of this body are a more or less deformed expression of that divine Reality – there is only one reality, the Divine, and our body is a more or less deformed expression of that sole Reality – if by my aspiration, by my concentration, I can bring into the cells of the body the consciousness of that sole Reality, all disorder must necessarily cease.

If you can add to this a movement of trusting surrender to the Grace, I guarantee that within five minutes your suffering will disappear. If you know how to do it.

You may try and yet not succeed. You must know how to try again and again and again, until you do succeed. But if you do these three things at the same time, well, there is no pain that can resist.

How to Call Down Peace                                                                     

First of all, you must want it.

And then you must try, and you must persevere, keep trying…. You sit quietly, to begin with; and then, instead of thinking of fifty things, start saying to yourself, “Peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, calm, peace”. You imagine peace and calm. You aspire, ask it to come: “Peace, peace, calm.” And then, when something comes and tries to touch you and be active, you say quietly, like this: “Peace, peace, peace.” Do not look at the thoughts, do not listen to the thoughts, you understand. You must not pay attention to everything that comes. You know, when someone bores you terribly and you want to get rid of him, you don’t listen to him, do you? Good! You turn your head away and think of something else.

Well, you must do that: when thoughts come, you must not look at them, not listen to them, not pay any attention at all, you must behave as though they did not exist. And then, repeat all the time like a kind of… how shall I put it?… as an idiot does, who always repeats the same thing. Well, you must do the same; you must repeat, “Peace, peace, peace”. So you try this a few minutes and then do what you have to do; and then, other time, you begin again; you sit down again and then you try. Do this on getting up in the morning, when going to bed. You can do it… say you want to digest your food well, do this for a few minutes before eating. You cannot imagine how much it will help your digestion! Before beginning to eat, you sit quietly for a while and say, “Peace, peace, peace…” and everything becomes calm.

It is as if all the noises were going far, far, far away (Mother stretches out her arms on both sides) And then you must continue doing this; and there comes a time when you no longer need to sit down, and no matter what you are doing, no matter what you are saying, it is always “Peace, peace, peace.” Everything remains here, like this, it does not enter (gesture in front of the forehead), it remains like this. And then one is always in a perfect peace… after some years. But at the beginning, a very small beginning, two or three minutes; it is very simple. For something complicated you have to make an effort, and when you make an effort you are not quiet. It is hard to make an effort while remaining quiet. Very simple, very simple, one must be very simple in these things. It is as if you were learning to call a friend: he comes because he is called. Well, make peace and calm your friends and call them: “Come, peace, peace, peace, peace, come!”

The Mother

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15Mar/10

Tale of the Light Beam-Rider

A wonderful, rounded portrait of the ever-inspiring Einstein personality.

                                                                                                                                                             – The New York Times

A Review of the Book “Einstein: His Life and Universe ” (2007) by Walter Isaccson, Simon and Schultzer.

Contents

Einstein saga; Intuitive rider; Natural theorist; Heart of a genius; Sage of science

The Einstein Saga

Most of us are driven by history and shaped by the environment. But there are a few who make history and shape the environment. Albert Einstein is one of them. There are many biographies of Einstein. But most of them are written by scientists and focus mainly on the scientific achievements of Einstein. Here comes the uniqueness of this biography under review, which brings out vividly the non-scientific dimensions of Einstein’s personality, the warm, creative and compassionate human being behind his formidable scientific reputation. The author of the book, Walter Isaccson, is not a scientist but a top media professional, a former chairman of CNN and the managing editor of Time magazine. So he knows how to communicate to the lay reader. Written in a simple, flowing and enjoyable language and style, Isaccson’s biography of Einstein is an example to show how history or a biography has to be written. This article is not an exhaustive review of the book by Isaccson. Its main purpose is to throw some indicators or pointers to the life and achievements of a great scientific mind who can be a role model for the knowledge-workers of the future.

The emerging paradigms of knowledge are moving beyond the narrow specializations of the left brain to a more intuitive and holistic perspective which can integrate the right and left brain thinking. The knowledge-worker of the future must be able to view his specialization in a larger interdisciplinary and holistic perspective and in a broader context of human values. He must also in his personal life maintain a certain balance between his mind, heart and soul. This requires an intuitive harmony between various faculties of our consciousness. Here comes the unique genius of Einstein. He had this broader vision and balance which may not be perfect, but among the great creatives, he is one of the most balanced with a certain harmony between the right and left side of his brain.

The Multi-faceted personality

Einstein is a pioneer of the new paradigm in science. After the early pioneers of modern science like Galileo and Newton, Einstein gave a new direction to science and technology. As Isaccson sums up briefly the scientific achievements of Einstein:

“His tale encompasses the vast sweep of modern science from the infinitesimal to the infinite, from the emission of photons to the explosion of the cosmos. A century after his great triumph, we are still living in Einstein’s universe, one defined on the macro scale by his theory of relativity and on the micro scale by a quantum mechanics that has proven durable even as it remains disconcerting. His fingerprints are all over today’s technologies. Photoelectric cells and lasers, nuclear power and fibreoptics, space travel and even semiconductors all trace back to his theories.”

However more than his monumental scientific achievements what is unique, special and interesting in Einstein’s life and thought is the dominant humanistic, mystical and artistic streak in his temperament and personality – his love for music, his passionate religious feeling and his warm humanism. Osho once remarked that Einstein is more of a mystic than a scientist and “more mystical than many mystics.” In one of the early biographies of Einstein, Alexandar Mozkovoski wrote, “Music, Nature and God became intermingled in him in a complex of feeling, a moral unity, the trace of which never vanished.” He never believed in the modern corporate mantra, “change is the only constant.” Like the old seers of the east he believed in an unchanging reality and an eternal harmony behind the changing panorama of Nature. Behind his theory of relativity, there is a firm faith in and a quest for the absolutes. As Isaccson remarks:

“Einstein however was not truly a relativist, even though that is how he was interpreted by many…. Beneath all of his theories, including relativity was a quest for invariants, certainties and absolutes. There was a harmonious reality underlying the law of the universe.”

The Intuitive Rider

The other unique feature of the personality of Einstein is that most of his scientific discoveries are not from the traditional methodology of science based on logical deduction from data, but the result of intuition and imagination. He was the sage and artist of science, more intuitive and imaginative than logical. He called this imaginative journey into the unknown as “thought-experiments”. One of his favourite thought-experiments, is to “imagine you are riding on a light-beam,” the “light-beam rider”. He once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” As Isaccson sums up this aspect of Einstein’s scientific genius:

“He made imaginative leaps and discerned great principles through thought-experiments rather than by methodical inductions based on experimental data – as a theorist his success came not from the brute strength of his mental processing power but from his imagination and creativity.”

Einstein was not only imaginative but also intuitive. He received his intuitions and inspiration from a region of wordless ideas beyond the thoughts and words of the ordinary mentality. The average mind cannot think without words. But Einstein thought in terms of wordless ideas, “I very rarely think in words at all” said Einstein, “A thought comes and I may try to express in words.”

Einstein asked a poet, Saint John Perse, “How does the idea of poem comes.” The poet spoke of the role of intuition and imagination. Einstein responded with delight: “It’s the same for a man of science – It is a sudden illumination, almost a rapture, later to be sure, intelligence analyses and experiments, conform or invalidates the intuition. But initially there is a great forward leap of the imagination.” This may not be the case with all scientists but Einstein pursued his science predominantly with intuition and imagination. Even as a child, Einstein was intuitive, with an ability to discern the hidden and the invisible behind the visible outer appearances. As a young student, he was fascinated by the pendulum and the compass which indicated to him. “Something deeply hidden has to be behind things.”

The Natural Theorist

Some of the Einstein’s observations regarding following natural inclination are revealing indicators to parents, teachers and also for managers. As a student in school in an essay on “My Plans for the future” for an exam, young Einstein wrote:

“If I am lucky and pass my exam, I will enroll in the Zurich Polytechnic. I will stay there four years to study mathematics and physics. I suppose I will become a teacher in these fields of science, opting for the theoretical part of these sciences. Here are the reasons that have led me to this plan. They are most of all my personal talent for abstract and mathematical thinking…. That is quite natural; everybody desires to do that for which he has talent.”

Einstein disliked practical sciences like engineering and the careers which seek only for monetary gains. In a letter to a friend, he wrote:

“I was originally supposed to become an engineer. But the thought of having to expend my creative energy on that which makes practical everyday life even more refined with bleak capital gain as the goal was unbearable to me. Thinking for its own sake, that is like music.”

What would have happened to Einstein had he taken to engineering according to his father’s wish? Speculating on this question, Issacson makes the following interesting observation:

“Had he made such a choice in 1900, Einstein would have likely become a good enough engineer but probably not a great one. Over the ensuring years he would dabble with inventions as hobby and come up with some good concepts for devices ranging from noiseless refrigerators to a machine that measured very low voltage electricity. But none resulted in a significant engineering breakthrough or marketplace success. Though he would be a more brilliant engineer than his father or uncle, it is not clear that he would have been more financially successful.”

Thoughtful comments which every parent who wants his son or daughter to be an engineer, doctor or MBA disregarding his or her natural bent, has to ponder over. However in a deeper perspective, pursuing our natural inclinations and talents, if it is done without seeking for any personal gains, with an aspiration for higher values like truth, beauty and goodness, leads to accelerated inner growth in the mental, moral and spiritual dimension. And when this inner growth expresses itself in the outer life, it may also result in worldly success but not always. Success and recognition in the world requires many other qualities besides natural talent, like for example, charisma, effective communication, practical adaptation and also a little bit of luck. So mundane success should not be held as the main aim of pursuing natural talents.

The Heart of a Genius

Einstein was not only a great mind but had a magnanimous and sensitive heart. He is a passionate lover of music, not merely an appreciative listener but a good player of violin. And music helped him to think. His son Hans Albert recalls, “whenever he felt that he had come to the end of the road and faced a difficult challenge in his work he would take refuge in music and that would solve all his difficulties.”

He got answers to his scientific problems in the midst of music. Einstein was also a keen connoisseur and critic of music and made interesting comments on the works of great musicians. On Mozan, he said, “Mozart’s music is so pure it seems to have been ever present in the universe.” Wagner had “lack of architectural structure, I see a decadence” and Straus was “gifted but without inner truth.”

This aesthetic sensitivity is a vibrant part of Einstein’s personality. As Issacson points out: “there was an aesthetic to Einstein’s thinking, a sense of beauty” and quotes Nathan Rosen, Einstein’s assistant in the 1930s: “In building a theory his approach had something in common with that of an artist. He would aim at simplicity and beauty and beauty for him was, after all, essentially simplicity.”

In the depth of his heart, Einstein was a liberal humanist with a firm faith in individual freedom. Thomas Bucky, a close friend of Einstein, with whom he had long political discussion said, “Einstein was a humanist, socialist and a democrat. He was completely anti-authoritarian no matter whether it is Russian, German or South American. He approved a combination of capitalism and socialism. And he hated all dictatorship of the right or left.” In a speech given to Caltech student, Einstein reminded the budding technocrats that concern for making life better for the common man is the chief aim of science.“Never forget this when you are pondering over your diagrams and equations.”

Einstein was a passionate champion of individual freedom, political and intellectual. He said: “I believe that the most important mission of the state is to protect the individual and to make it possible for him to develop into a creative personality.” He said further, “Liberty is the necessary foundation for the development of all true values” and “only the individual can produce the new idea.” The fundamental requirement of education, he felt, was the “need for intellectual freedom” and “critical comments by students should be taken in a friendly spirit” “accumulation of material should not stifle the students independence.” Einstein had a humanistic and individualistic perspective on history. “In teaching history”, he said, “there should be extensive discussion of personalities who benefited mankind through independence of character and judgement.”

But Einstein’s idealism is not merely mental. He had a passionate heart which can bring intense emotional involvement in whatever it loved, whether it is science, ideas or woman. Isaccson deals in some detail with the love-life of Einstein. He devotes an entire chapter to Einstein’s relationship with a woman he loved and married, Mileva Marie. Einstein considered Marie as his active partner in his scientific work. In a letter to a friend, Einstein said, “I need my wife. She solves all my mathematical problems.” The role of Marie in Einstein’s scientific achievements is a matter of debate among Einstein scholars and researchers. Some consider it as substantial but others (including our biographer Isaccson), dismiss her role as marginal.

Einstein’s heart was not only passionate but also warm and benevolent with a detached kindness for people and a wide compassion for humanity as a whole. The genius was ready to help a young child in her homework in mathematics. Isaccson narrates the anecdote of an 8 year-old girl who rang his bell and asked for help with a maths problem. She carried a plate of fudge as a bribe. He helped explain the maths to her, but made her do her own work. In return for the fudge, he gave her a cookie. After that the girl kept reappearing. When her parents apologized to Einstein, he waved them off and said, “I am learning as much from your child as she is.” Isaccson’s description of this aspect of Einstein’s personality is delightful.

“He was kindly yet aloof, brilliant yet baffled. He floated around with a distracted air and a wry sensibility – cared passionately about humanity and sometimes about people…. He can be detached and aloof from those close to him but towards mankind in general he exuded a true kindness and gentle compassion.”

The Sage of Science

The scientific community in general is either atheistic or cautious, hesitant and secretive about their religious beliefs. But Einstein never hesitated to express his religious beliefs openly in public. Faith in the spiritual and the sacred is an important and intrinsic part of Einstein’s personality. In one of his conversations, he expressed his religious belief in the following words:

“Try and penetrate with our limited means the secret of nature and you will find that behind all the discernible laws and connections there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable. Veneration for this force beyond anything that we can comprehend is my religion.”

Einstein believed that a sense of awe and wonder and adoration for the might, beauty and mystery of the spirit within or behind Nature and the humility which comes from this perception is or has to be an integral part of scientific attitude. In a memorable passage quoted many times, Einstein said, “The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of all true art and science.” In a letter written to a young girl, Einstein further elaborates this connection between science and the sacred:

“Every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe-a spirit vastly superior to that of man and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble. In this way pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort.”

At the end of his life, Einstein said like all true sages:

“The strange thing about growing old is that the intimate identification with the here and now is slowly lost. One feels transposed into infinity, more or less alone.”

Nivas

The author is a student and practitioner in the path of integral yoga.

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04Mar/10

Building Inner Peace and Equanimity for Stress Management

Self Management – The Right Attitude to Work and Life.
Building an inner temple made of peace and equanimity is the lasting solution to the problem of stress.

The modern corporate world is enanamoured of change. But the new corporate mantra “change is the only constant” is not entirely true. Change is undoubtedly one of the constants of life, but it is not the “only constant”. Deep behind the flowing and changing panorama of life, there are anchors of silence and stability, which support and uphold the whirls of change, imaged so beautifully in the Indian mythology by the figure of Kali dancing in the prone and still bosom of Shiva. For the well being and progress of our individual and collective life especially in the fast-changing and hyper-competitive corporate life, we must also create anchors of stability to uphold change. Without such points of inner and outer stability, mere fast change will lead to galloping stress and disorder. Inner peace and equanimity is such an anchor, which can bring stability and well-being to corporate life. This article presents a path for building inner peace based on the principles and methods of Indian Yoga.

Philosophy of Peace

One of the greatest healers and a potent source of well-being is inner Peace. Peace is the gate through which higher forces of healing and creativity enter freely and bring harmony and well-being to human consciousness and life. Peace is the most effective remedy for some of the most pressing problems of the corporate life like stress, tension and conflict. As the Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram points out: “To relieve tension, minutes of real calm, inner and outer, are more effective than all the remedies of the world”. (1) Wherever and whatever may be the conflict or ill health, in the body or mind, in the inner being or outer life, if we can infuse and establish calm and peace in the spot of trouble, then slowly or swiftly things get straightened out and balance is restored.

The rationale behind the effectiveness of inner Peace is simple. Peace acts like a broom or vacuum cleaner; it sweeps away all the dust, debris and filth in our mind and keeps it clean and pure. Cleanliness and Purity, inner or outer, invites and attracts positive healing and constructive forces, which are within our own body and consciousness and also in universal Nature. As long as the mind is restless, agitated and turbid, the higher forces of healing and creativity, which lies within the deeper layers of our consciousness, have no scope to come forward and act. Peace clears the way for this higher force to do their work unhindered within us. Now the question is how to get this peace.

Building the Temple of Peace

To be peaceful, calm and undisturbed under all circumstances is considered as one of the qualities of a saint or sage. But we need not be great saints or sages to be calm and peaceful. Any one with a certain minimum amount of self control, who is not entirely a slave of his negative feelings and passions, can with a little bit of persistent and regular practice can establish a settled calm and peace in his mind and heart. There are many methods and practices in the spiritual traditions and teachings of the world for realizing inner peace. One of the methods is that well-known art of the East: Meditation. But it is not enough to be peaceful for a few minutes or hours in a day in our meditation rooms. We must remember that nothing much is achieved in terms of inner growth or well-being when we are peaceful and holy during meditation but again angry, violent or disturbed when we are out of meditation. As J. Krishnamurthy said: “Don’t sit in a little corner for a few minutes and come out and be a butcher.”(2)

So the peace that is felt or achieved in the minutes or hours of meditation has to be maintained and extended to the whole day. In other words peace and undisturbed calm has to become an integral part of our inner nature or if that is too high an ideal for average folks like us, a settled peace has to be established in some deeper parts of our inner being, so that whenever there is a disturbance within or without we can step back immediately to that inner ashram of peace within us. To achieve this settled peace we have to supplement the traditional cross-legged and close-eyed meditations with other methods, which can be practiced in the midst of work, life and action.

Here also there are many methods, which are available in our Indian Yogic tradition. A simple method is slow breathing. Indian Yogis found that there is a close connection between mind and breath, more specifically rate of breathing and mental activity. When the mind becomes too active or restless, if we can consciously slow down the rate of breathing and practice slow, rhythmic breathing for a few minutes, it helps to bring calm and peace to the mind.

The other method is the witness-poise. To step back from the spot of disturbance, disidentify our centre of consciousness from the disturbance and take the attitude of a detached witness. For example when we are angry, step back from the wave of anger and try to see and feel, “anger is happening in me, but I am not in it; I am untouched by it. I watch it raise, fall and pass away like waves at the surface of my being.”

The other method is to visualize and invoke peace. The Indian Yogis, in their inner search have discovered that there is a universal Peace and Silence, which pervades the inner and outer space, which creates a Zone of Peace behind our mind and heart. We can visualize and imagine these realms of Peace within us or around us and invoke it with a simple, gentle and friendly call, as if calling a friend we love or offering our self to this Peace. In the Indian spiritual tradition there are powerful mantras of Peace used by innumerable yogis and seeker and therefore charged with an inner force and effective even now. One of them is the peace chant, well-known in India, “Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti”.

If we are of the religious type and believe in God, surrender to God can be a very effective method for achieving peace of mind. The discipline of constant self-giving to God, offering all our activities, problems and difficulties to Him with a total faith and trust in His Grace and Wisdom, handing over the responsibility of our Life to Him, if it is done with sincerity, devotion and persistence, can lead not only to peace of mind but also can bring the guidance and direction of a higher divine power to our life.

However from a deeper psychological perspective, the true foundation of everlasting peace is a certain inner freedom from the compulsive drive of ego and desire and enslavement to negative feelings like anger, violence, greed, jealousy. For this total subjection to ego and desire is the source of all unhealthy disturbances in our inner being and outer life. Most of us are not fully conscious of this subjection.

When we observe ourselves carefully we will find most of the inner disturbances come from either a hurt ego or an unsatisfied desire or unfulfilled expectation. So the extent to which we are able to reduce, minimize or eliminate the potentiality to get hurt in the ego or unsatisfied in desire, to that extent we are in peace. So when we become more and more conscious of our selves with a vigilant and constant self-observation, we will become aware of our subjection to our ego and desire and how it is the source of every kind of “unpeace”.

But to achieve this spiritual peace which comes as a result of freedom from ego and desire requires a long and arduous inner discipline. However we can make a beginning by becoming more and more conscious of the nature and structure of our ego and desire and acquiring a certain amount of inner detachment and control over them, especially their grosser and more violent form.

These are some of the methods and practices for attaining inner peace, which have to be taught to all the members of the corporate community, and have to become an integral part of the training programme for the work-force.

Poise of Equanimity

The other factor, which is a major source of stress and tension, is the unequal reactions to the dualities of life like pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow, praise and blame, failure and success. The wild swing of moods and emotions created by these dual strokes of life is a source of unpeace, ashanti. The antidote to this disturbance is Equanimity, which mean to remain calm, undisturbed and equal to the pleasant as well as the painful strokes of fate. But it is easy to preach and say “have equanimity”. How to do it?

There are two stages in the path to equanimity. The first stage is Endurance. Here again you may say, “After all we do endure the strokes of fate. What is the fun in telling to endure?” But do we really endure? We simply succumb to the lashes of life and bear it groaning and wailing. Endurance means to bear and experience the assaults of life with full consciousness, without succumbing or yielding to them, and with a will to raise beyond them.

This can be achieved either by philosophic indifference of the sage or by the firm will for mastery of the warrior or by devout resignation and surrender to the Will of God or of the saint. We can use any one of these attitudes according to our temperament or inclination. The second stage is detachment. As our capacity and power to bear and endure grows, it creates a bifurcation in our consciousness. While at the surface levels of our consciousness, we are still subject to the disturbance created by the dualities, some deeper, inner part in us remains free and undisturbed and detached from the surface reactions and disturbances. Once we have achieved this inner calm, equanimity and detachment, then the next step is to slowly and patiently educate the surface being, like you educate a child, to take the right attitude. This is possible because, once a deeper or higher part in us has achieved a settled inner state of consciousness like peace or equanimity; it can communicate this state to other parts.

Another important factor or principle we have to keep in mind in achieving equanimity is that the dualities of life are interlinked. They are not opposites, but like the two sides of the same coin. So if we are too much attached to the pleasant fondlings of life like joy, success or praise, we cannot bear or be equal to the unpleasant strokes of fate like pain, sorrow or blame. For example, if we are very much flattered by the praise and complements of others, we cannot also bear criticism. So we should not cling to or be overwhelmed by the “pleasantries” of life, if we have to bear or remain undisturbed by the hard knocks of life. In most of the wisdom-teachings of the world, Life is imaged as a flowing river, which purifies. If we do not cling to anything in or offered by life, either with a negative obsession or positive attachment, the river of life washes off all negativities and disturbances and leaves us with the purity of peace.

M.S. Srinivasan

The author is a Research Associate at Sri Aurobindo Society and on the editorial board of Fourth Dimension Inc. His major areas of interest are Management and Indian Culture.

 

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20Feb/10

Interpersonal Harmony: A Psychological Perspective

The foundations of collective living and sources of inner harmony in a community.

Key Perspectives

The Problem of Harmony; integrating diversity; cause of conflict; sources of harmony; non-judgemental understanding; inner fraternity; unity of consciousness.

Unity, Harmony and Solidarity are the ideals of Collective living. It is relatively easy to achieve a semblance of outer harmony but much more difficult to achieve inner harmony among people. But without this inner harmony, outer harmony is uncertain and unsustainable. This article examines the problem of interpersonal harmony with an emphasis on the psychological dimension.

The Problem of Harmony

An interesting episode from a Sufi lore:

A Sufi disciple asks his Master: “Sir, why there is so much conflict in our community.” The Master does not reply directly. First he says “what is the use of sweet words when there is a frown in your face.” After a pause, Master adds, “what is the use of a smiling face when there is a frown in your mind and heart.”

This story sums up the essence of the problem of harmony.

Integrating Diversity

Imposing uniformity can create some form of outer harmony but such a harmony will be not only short-lived but also uncreative. Individual uniqueness in terms of viewpoints, attitudes, inclination, temperament and capacities is a rich source of creativity and should not be suppressed but has to be actively encouraged and harnessed for the realization of organizational goals. But at the same time there should be an equally strong collective solidarity, which can weld together this rich diversity into a harmonious whole.

There is a vague sense of subconscious unity among people who live or work together. It becomes a little more conscious when people work together for a common purpose or for some shared values. It can be made still more conscious by collective disciplines like group exercises, singing company songs and social and cultural gathering like picnics, retreats and celebrations, collective studies, meditations or prayers. But all these, though helpful, cannot bring enduring inner and outer harmony among people, nor can they eliminate or even minimize wasteful conflict among individuals. To achieve this integral harmony we have to understand the major causes of conflict among individuals and also the factors, which lead to inner and outer harmony.

The Causes of Conflict

The causes of conflict are many and varied. The first cause of conflict is the conflict within the individual. Someone who is in a state of conflict within him cannot live in harmony with others. Unity and harmony within the individual is the foundation of unity and harmony in the collectivity. When the individuals in a community are at peace and harmony with themselves, it leads to a spontaneous harmony in the community. So to bring unity and harmony in the community, every individual in the community has to make a conscious effort to integrate his body, mind and heart and his thought, feeling, will and action around some life-enriching values which unite people.

The other source of conflict at the mental level is the clash of opposing viewpoints, attitudes and ways of thinking or the friction caused by pride, arrogance, scorn or the sense of superiority. In the emotional level it can be due to negative feelings like anger, jealously or hurt feelings created by insult or failed expectations. At the root of all these negativities and conflicts lies the hurt or self-assertive ego. Sometimes the conflict may be due to psychological incompatibilities. When two persons think and feel differently or in the opposite directions, it creates an inner friction, which translates itself in the emotional level as an irrational dislike. In the moral level self-righteous judgments based on personal moral or spiritual notions can be a source of inner conflict. If someone behaves in a way contrary to my ideals of truth and goodness, then I feel a sense of disapproval and dislike. Not all of these negative feelings and conflicts express themselves externally in the form of open quarrels. Much of them remain suppressed and simmering within, while outwardly there is a deceptive appearance of smiling or impassive faces or a hypocritical and superficial camaraderie.

Non-judgemental Understanding

The remedy for mental and moral conflict is to understand and accept the fact of individual uniqueness. Each individual is a world in itself and looks at the world and experiences it in a different way from others. The nature, temperament, attitudes, values, inclinations and the stage of mental, moral and spiritual development differs among individuals. It would be unwise and immature to insist that everyone should think, feel, behave or act in the same way I do or according to my moral or spiritual notions. We must learn to understand the other person’s point of view however different or even opposite it may be to that of my own angle of vision. We must also try to understand why a person thinks, feels or behaves in the way he does.

This requires a non-judgmental attitude to people. This doesn’t mean approval or acceptance of thoughts, feelings or actions, which are detrimental to the well being of others or for the collective purpose, harmony or order. It means, as long as the individual is not willfully hurting others or causing disturbance to the collective order or hampering the realization of collective values, ideals or purpose, he or she should be given the freedom of thought, feeling, speech and self-expression within the constraints of collective discipline. We must refrain from unnecessary moral judgments of the harsh kind based on our personal values.

We must remember that our thoughts and feelings are not mere abstractions but psychological forces and they are contagious. An uncharitable thought and feeling, even when it is not expressed outwardly, hits the other person in his mind or heart, which will induce a similar reaction in him. As the Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram points out: “When we meet a person, our criticizing thoughts give to him, so to say, a blow on the nose which naturally creates a revolt in him.” So to achieve harmony in communal life, we have to put into practice the biblical dictum “do onto others what you want other to do onto you” not only outwardly in speech, behavior and actions, but also in our thoughts and feelings.

The Inner Fraternity

At the emotional level the healing balm for all conflicts is a positive state of the heart, which is variously called as benevolence, compassion, trust, goodwill. In a general way we may say, to achieve a deeper and more enduring condition of harmony than the one achieved by external methods, what is needed is an inner psychological fraternity made of mutual goodwill or in other words, goodwill for all and goodwill from all is the basis of peace and harmony in a community. When there is a deep feeling of inner fraternity and mutual goodwill in the heart and mind, then friction created by individual uniqueness or variation do not lead to painful or lasting conflict, and the harmony is quickly restored. But for this to happen, goodwill should be not only mutual but also integral which means it must be present in thought, feeling and will. In the will this positive state of consciousness manifests as a constant and persistent urge for the well being of others. In the feeling it expresses itself as kindness, compassion, generosity, trust, forgiveness. In thought it is understanding, tolerance, non-judgmental attitude and benevolence. All these qualities of the mind and heart have to be consciously cultivated and their opposites have to be firmly and persistently rejected. In yoga this inner discipline is called Chitta-shuddhi, which means purification of the mind.

Unity of Consciousness

However even this inner fraternity created by human love, goodwill and compassion is not the highest state of unity and harmony. This inner fraternity prepares our individual consciousness to rise beyond human fraternities to the true and everlasting unity of the spirit in which we can feel our oneness not only with all human being but also with all creation, human and non-human. As we have indicated earlier to realize this spiritual unity, we have to enter into inner depth of our being and come into some form of direct or reflected contact with our inner most spiritual self in the stillness of our mind or heart.

This inner unity of consciousness expressing itself at the outer life as perfect mutuality and unity is the spiritual ideal of collective living. As Sri Aurobindo explains:

“Unity is the basis of the Gnostic consciousness, mutuality the natural result of its direct awareness of oneness in diversity, harmony the inevitable power of its force, unity, mutuality and harmony must therefore be the inescapable law of a common and collective Gnostic life.”

This inner realization of unity is an ideal far away for most of us, individually and collectively. But we can grow towards it through a process of progressive inner evolution. The first stage of this growth is the psychological unity, which we have discussed earlier. This prepares the inner being of the individual and collectivity for moving forward towards this spiritual unity. The next stage of the discipline is an introversion of consciousness by which we can shift our consciousness from the surface level to the deeper subliminal and spiritual level where we can feel unity as a concrete experiential unity. This can be achieved only through the psychological and spiritual disciplines of yoga.

M.S. Srinivasan

The author is a Research Associate at Sri Aurobindo Society and on the editorial board of Fourth Dimension Inc. His major areas of interest are Management and Indian Culture.

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