International Conference on World Peace, Ahmedabad/India
From December 28th, 2003, to January 2nd, 2004, an important conference titled "International Conference on World Peace" was held in Ahmedabad/India. It's venue was the Gujarat University, Department of Philosophy, and the main theme the achieving of peace in the world. Mahamandaleshwar Paramhans Swami Maheshwaranandaji was also invited, he took part in many discussions and enriched them with his wisdom and his love for all. His main contribution about spirituality, religion and world peace is presented below. During his stay in Ahmedabad, Swamiji was invited to several public functions and held many satsangs, among others at the Police Academy in Ahmedabad and in the local ashram of Swami Shivananda from Rishikesh.
World Peace Conference
Yoga in Daily Life
Spirituality, Religion and World Peace
Yoga means balance, harmony and unity. Universal balance, Harmony of body, mind and soul and Unity of the individual consciousness with the cosmic consciousness.
The ancient science of Yoga, readily equips humans to reinstate world peace, environmental sustainability, as well as harmony between individuals, communities, religions and nations. In modern times, Yoga has unfortunately come to mean only physical exercise or posture, however that is only one aspect of this ancient science, the others are neglected. The word Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Yog’ meaning union. Yoga is that single universal principle which balances the entire universe. All elements, visible and invisible, as well as all stars, moons and sun systems, are entirely sustained by the balancing principle of Yoga. How old is Yoga?
There is much evidence to attest to the age of Yoga. Over ten thousand years ago in the era of Lord Rama, the great Sage Valmiki wrote the renowned epic the Ramayana, in which is described the glory of Yoga. Also in that epic, many historic events were recorded, one of those being the construction of a bridge between India and Sri Lanka by Hanuman and other devotees of Lord Rama. Recent satellite photos taken by NASA clearly show from space remnants of a man-made bridge, submerged in the ocean between Sri Lanka and India, and scientists have dated this bridge at 1.75 million years old.
The origin of Yoga is explained in the Vedas, the oldest written scriptures known to man. In these, it is said, Ananta Brahmand Sahastra Suryas – this universe is endless – and the Vedas declare that within it are thousands of solar systems. We humans exist in just one of these. The word Ananta means endless and the Vedas call this endless universe Mahakasha – the great void of nothingness. Within Mahakasha is consciousness – Chaitanya – Cosmic Consciousness. This Cosmic Consciousness, Hiranayagarbha, can be likened to the ‘golden-womb’ of mother consciousness, and it is this ‘Yog’ or Yoga (the uniting or mother principle) that nourishes and sustains all of life.
In the beginning nothing was existent in Mahakasha, only the dormant potential for life - the principles of Universal Consciousness and Universal Energy. These two principles are always co-existent, there is never one without the other, but in order to manifest or create a third is required and that creative willpower is known as Iccha Shakti. Iccha Shakti is the divine will and all that happens in this universe is attributable to it. The cosmic Self began to act and express itself – Svayambhu.
Svayambhu is He who creates Himself, “I am one and now I will multiply”, and at the moment of this awakening the original sound of the universe began to resonate, and that is Om. The Vedas declare, Nada Rupa Parabrahma – the form of the Supreme is sound. Other religions also recognise this and in the Bible it is said, “In the beginning was the word, and that word was God”.
Om Dip Jyoti Parabrahma
Om is the light of God
Dipam Sarve Mohanam
It removes the darkness of ignorance
Dipam Na Sajate Sarvam Sandhya
Only this light banishes darkness
Om Deep is the light of wisdom and knowledge
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti
Om Peace Peace Peace
Without doubt, all religions do agree that God, Consciousness, the Cosmic Power is existent in every living being. Consciousness is never inert; it is existent in all things at all times – in the human, in the animal, in the plant and even the stone. We humans give this consciousness various names such as God, Truth, Light or Energy. But how did consciousness manifest itself?
In the fourth chapter of the holy book the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna is in dialogue with his most faithful disciple Arjuna. He says, “From time to time I manifest myself through the power of my Yog-Maya”. This then dates Yoga back to the origin of the universe and it is recorded in the Vedas that Yoga is older than the universe. Since Yoga is so ancient, then it is apparent that Yoga is not a branch of any religion, but is indeed the source and basis of all religions. It is Sanatana Dharma – the eternal universal principle – the one eternal religion that has neither beginning nor end, it always was existent and will always be. Therefore, since Yoga is the common inheritance of all religions of the world, there is no cause or justification for conflict or disharmony between the different faiths.
The principles of Yoga are universal, noble and divine, and Hindu monks and Rishis have adopted it as a way of life. It was not the Sage that made Yoga, it was Yoga that made the Sage. Hindus believe in one God, the Omnipresent and Omniscient, and recognise and worship Him in many forms.
Each faith has its doctrines firmly established in the principles of Yoga – belief in God, prayer to God, love all equally, protect life, live in harmony with nature and strive for God-Realisation or Oneness with the Supreme. Even a brief look at the teachings inherent in Islam, Judaism, Buddhism as well as the Christian traditions, will reveal this. The essence of all religions is Yoga, with spiritual development and Realisation of God the ultimate goal. Unfortunately religious dogmas have over-shadowed these similarities and that is why differences are seen. Yoga however is non-dogmatic and teaches that everyone can attain and realise God. There is of course no universal recipe and each person must find his or her own way. Yoga can help and guide us in our search as it offers each seeker, thousands of years of experience and living examples of holy men and sages who attained God Realisation.
The great Sage Maharishi Patanjali (800BC) modified the philosophy of Yoga into four main branches, according to the range of qualities existent in humans. These are Bhakti Yoga, the path of devotion, Karma Yoga the path of action, Jnana Yoga the path of philosophy and intellect, and Raja Yoga the path of self-discipline.
Bhakti Yoga is the path of devotion to the Divine. Devotion is of two types – devotion to a personal God, God with form is Saguna Bhakti; and an impersonal devotion to God, God without form is Nirguna Bhakti. Either way, Bhakti Yoga is pure selfless love from the heart and is the most safe path. It is not that one indiscriminately embraces everyone, but rather demonstrates their love with positive feelings, and is a well-wisher to all. To love one’s neighbours and all creatures, is to love God.
As it is said in Chapter 12 of the Bhagavad Gita, the Lord Krishna proclaims:
He who hates no being, who is friendly and compassionate to all, who is free from the feeling of “I” and “mine”, who is even-minded in pain and pleasure and who is forbearing, ever content, steady in meditation, self-controlled and possessed of firm conviction, with mind and intellect fixed on Me, that devotee is very dear to Me.
He who is the same to friend and foe, who is unmoved by honour or dishonour, who is the same in heat and cold, free from attachment, content with anything, full of devotion – that devotee is dear to Me.
As described by the great Sage Narada Rishi, there are nine principles to the path of Bhakti Yoga:
- Satsang – to keep good society, and spiritual gathering
- Hari Katha – to hear and read about God, to study the holy scriptures
- Shraddha – faith
- Ishvara Bhajan – to sing the praises of God
- Mantra Japa – repetition of God’s name
- Shama and Dama – to withdraw and control the senses with regard to worldly things
- Santo Ka Adar – to honour people who have dedicated their life to God – Sadhus
- Santosha – contentment
- Ishvara Pranidhana – surrender to God
These nine principles of Bhakti Yoga can be found in all the religions of this world. If one is practising these principles, one is practising Bhakti Yoga, the path of Love.
Karma Yoga is the path of action and there are two types of action, Sakama Karma, selfish and Nishkama Karma, selfless. The intent with which an action is carried out determines its outcome therefore a karma yogi considers the activities of human life an opportunity to serve God. “Helping hands have more value than folded hands” and in this way a karma yogi is always prepared to serve others above and beyond serving their own personal interests. Also, a karma yogi does not seek reward or the fruits of their actions.
In Chapter 3 of the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna asks Lord Krishna, “You say that knowledge is superior to action, why then do you ask me to do battle? Your words are causing me confusion, therefore tell me with certainty the path by which I may attain the Supreme?”
Krishna replies, “Oh sinless one, in the beginning I gave the two-fold path to the world – the path of knowledge to the discerning and the path of work to the active.
No one can ever remain actionless for even a moment; for everyone is helplessly driven to action by the Gunas, born of Prakriti.
That deluded man is called a hypocrite who sits controlling the organs of action, but dwells in his mind on the objects of the senses. But he excels, Oh Arjuna, who restrains the senses and directs his organs of action to the path of work.
Engage yourself in obligatory work, for action is superior to inaction, and if inactive, even the maintenance of your body would not be possible.
Surrender all your actions to Me with your thoughts resting on Self, freed from hope and selfishness, and cured of mental fever, engage in battle”.
Raja Yoga is the eight-fold path of discipline and practice. Self-discipline is the key to success and in order to guide the spiritual seeker how to live life, certain moral and ethical principles are set down, known as the Yamas and Niyamas.
- Yama – is self control through the following:
- Ahimsa – non violence in thought, word and deed - “Thou shalt not kill” is the highest precept
- Satya – truthfulness
- Asteya – non-stealing
- Brahmacharya –one’s thoughts always established in Brahman, leading a pure way of life, or celibacy
- Aparigraha – non-accumulation of possessions
- Niyama – is discipline through the following:
- Saucha – purity, both within and without
- Santosha –contentment
- Tapas – endurance and self-control
- Svadhyaya – study of the holy scriptures
- Ishvara Pranidhana – surrender to God
The other limbs of Raja Yoga include:
- Asana – comfortable and steady posture, exercise
- Pranayama – regulation of the breath
- Pratyahara – withdrawal of the senses
- Dharana – concentration
- Dhyana – meditation
- Samadhi – realisation of the Self, oneness with God – where knowledge, knower and object have merged into one.
The fourth path is Jnana yoga, the path of knowledge. There are two types of knowledge, Apara Vidya – worldly knowledge and Para Vidya – knowledge of the Supreme. A Jnana Yogi seeks to understand the transcendental truth, to solve the mystery of birth, death and the purpose of life. Jnana Yoga serves to differentiate between what is permanent and impermanent and the spiritual seeker is trained to utilise their Viveka (discrimination) in order to progress from Avidya (ignorance) to Vidya (knowledge).
There are four elements to Jnana Yoga:
- Viveka – means the highest use of one’s intellect to discern or discriminate between right and wrong, reality and unreality. Viveka is the purest form of knowledge and is the supreme authority of our conscience.
- Vairagya – means renunciation. As Mahatma GandhiJi said, “Renounce and enjoy” and the great Saint, Bhagavan Sri Deep Narayan Mahaprabhuji of Bari Khatu said, “Enter the kingdom of God through the gate of sacrifice”. Liberate yourself from those inner impurities, negative states of mind, and do not become entangled by worldly pleasures. Vairagya means to renounce and endure.
- Shat Sampatthi – refers to our six inner treasures:
- Sama – withdrawal of the senses and the mind
- Dama – control of the senses and mind
- Uparati – to stand above things
- Titiksha – to remain steadfast, to endure
- Shraddha – to have faith, trust and confidence in the Holy scriptures and one’s master
- Samadhana – to have determination and purpose, never lose sight of the goal
- Mumukshtva – is the constant striving for God. A burning desire in the heart of a seeker to realise and unite with God.
The ultimate aim of Yoga is Samadhi - where knowledge, knower and the object, all merge into oneness - when the individual consciousness merges with the cosmic consciousness. In order to achieve this, there are four primary aims for each human to realise in their life – Dharma, Artha, Karma and Moksha.
Dharma is duty. Each person has certain obligations to fulfil and as such must live their life accordingly. As humans the highest dharma is Ahimsa, non-violence. The highest obligation for humans is to protect, not destroy. This means to protect all life, not only human life but animal life too. There is no greater sin than to kill or injure. If we have no feeling for the pain that an animal suffers when it is slaughtered, or close our eyes to its suffering, then it is no wonder that humans must suffer the consequence of terrible afflictions such as disease, environmental catastrophes and war. Therefore Yoga strongly advocates leading a vegetarian life.
Artha is wealth. However the best wealth to accumulate is spiritual wealth. Money and possessions should be distributed for the benefit of all, especially the poor and needy. “Wealth is the happiness found in joy, love and clarity of mind. Distribute wealth to all living beings and in this we will fulfil the purpose of life”.
Karma means any mental or physical act. As mentioned previously, always strive to be selfless in whatever we do. Selfless actions are also a way to resolve past negative actions, therefore always choose to act in such a way that all will benefit everyone and in doing so we will guide our own destiny towards the positive.
Moksha is liberation, liberation from the cycle of birth-death-rebirth. Moksha is not only the aim but the final destination of every being. Moksha can only be achieved when all impurities and negative qualities are dissolved and for this the guidance of a spiritual master is required.
The Brahma Nishta Shrotriya Sataguru, is that Master who is fully established in non-duality - they have achieved Moksha, the ultimate goal of human life and live in oneness with God. Only such a spiritual master is able to guide us from the darkness of ignorance to the light of knowledge. Within each and every human being is the ability to realise that we are part of that universal God. Our physical presence in this world is solely attributed to the power of Yoga. There is immense energy stored in the human body, but unfortunately in most people it is dormant. Humans have such immense wealth that they can be likened to sack full of diamonds.
Every individual is on Ananta Yatra – an endless journey. Since the creation of this universe our individual soul has been travelling. But where? Everyone is in a hurry running here and there, but where are you going? Ask yourself these questions:
Where do I come from?
Where am I going?
Why am I here?
Where will I go?
Until we have truly realised the answers to these questions from the depths of our own meditation experience, we will continue to run. “Know thy Self” is the solution to all our problems and the answer to all our questions.
The human soul has experienced much good and bad, pleasant and unpleasant karmic reactions, and untold suffering. Desire, pride, ego and greed constantly delay us from reaching the final destination. We continue to live in the darkness of ignorance, with anger, hatred and duality separating us from each other. As a result humans are not able to live together as they should. Today there is not enough tolerance amongst religions, little respect amongst cultures and an absence of love between nations.
It is high time to demonstrate love to our fellow humans, to all of mankind, and to pray for them. Perhaps we don’t feel inclined to show love because we are not personally related to another. As the saying goes, “blood is thicker than water” and when that is the case, we experience more pain or sadness when a blood-relative suffers. However, we should show our love and kindness even if there is no blood relationship. Great is that one who has equal empathy and compassion for all.
In today’s world situation we should pray for those who are involved in war – for all the soldiers from the different countries. No one is to be blamed. We can only say that it is our bad destiny, a bad destiny for humans. Mahatma GandhiJi said, “We don’t hate the person, we hate the action”. Our prayers should be for the whole world and for all those who live on this planet. We ask God to please listen to our prayers.
It is the human condition that is responsible for the critical situation of our world – both in terms of both war and environmental catastrophe. Mother Earth is seriously suffering because day-by-day humans are destroying her. Our rivers, lakes, oceans and seas are polluted. Our fields, mountains and skies are polluted. The whole environment is poisoned due to human greed. Indeed the most dangerous pollution is mental pollution. How can we hope to achieve lasting world peace and sustainable development without first correcting the state of the human mind?
The first step that we must take is to bring Love and Respect into our consciousness in order to heal the wounds that have existed for such a long time. Peace and happiness cannot be bought in the market, it can only be developed within. A Yogi would say, “renounce and limit your needs”. Renounce all those things that give us trouble and open our heart and hands in order to give. Renounce greed, renounce anger, renounce duality and narrow-thinking. Open the heart and give understanding. Understand another’s feelings, understand another’s life situation and grant them their rights. Give them happiness and forgiveness. Do not violate anyone physically, mentally or emotionally. Never be the cause of another’s tears, since all creatures are the embodiment of God and He is the Father of All. All comes from Him, He is the ultimate. As Bhagavan Sri Deep Narayan Mahaprabhuji said, “Love each and every living being as least as much as you love yourself”. God is one, and dwells in all. We gave Him different names and images - we call Him Father, Allah, Ishwara, Divine Will, Love, the highest Self, Truth and so on. There are as many images of God as there are people on the face of the earth.
Since Yoga is the balancing principle that sustains all of life, it is Yoga that will restore harmony to our world. Take this example - a wall is made of bricks, mortar and water. If the wall breaks we must repair it with exactly the same materials – bricks, mortar and water. Similarly, leading a Yogic life will remove dualism from an individual’s mind and restore their inner peace. The result will automatically be demonstrated in the outer world. There will be peace between individuals and communities, and humans will live in harmony with nature. The human family must be deeply established in tolerance, respect and understanding, towards religions, cultures and nations.
Through the practice of "Yoga in Daily Life" we learn our human responsibility towards the world and the environment in which we live. We cultivate compassion for all living beings, and develop the hidden forces that are dormant within us and learn how to utilise these for the benefit of the whole world.
Yoga in Daily Life® is a comprehensive system of Yoga and lifestyle management that can and should be practised in everyday life. It was developed 30 years ago and is currently taught in every continent around the world. There are five aspects to the system of Yoga in Daily Life® - Physical Heatlh, Mental Heatlh, Social Health, Spiritual Health, and God Realisation.
Physical health is an important basis for life. "Health is not everything, but everything is nothing without health". Yoga offers the practices of Asanas (physical postures) and Pranayama (breath exerices) to improve and maintain a healthy body. These practices not only provide flexibility and mobility of the muscles, spine and joints, but also improve the function of all bodily systems as well as enhancing mental function and clarity of mind. Yoga exercise is psychosomatic for the practitioner – harmonising both body and mind.
The system of Yoga in Daily Life® is divided into eight steps, starting with Sarva Hitta Asanas, which are postures that are beneficial for all. Sarva Hitta Asanas provide easy access to Yoga, regardless of one’s age or condition of health. Additional practices have also been developed for specific conditions such as "Yoga for the Back", "Yoga for Joints", "Yoga for Children", "Yoga for Seniors", "Yoga for Managers".
Good health is also dependent on the type of food we eat. What we eat has a great influence on our body, as well as our mind. Food is a source of energy and vitality therefore only pure, sattvic, vegetarian nourishment should be taken. Fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, milk, honey, spices and herbs provide the body with all the essential vitamins and minerals. At all costs avoid the consumption of meat, fish, eggs as well as alcohol and nicotine – these things gravely reduce the condition of our health. Scientific research clearly shows that the risk of cancer is related to the consumption of meat, alcohol and nicotine, whereas the consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables helps to prevent cancer and many other diseases.
Mental health means a clear consciousness. The practices of Yoga in Daily Life® brings clarity of mind and helps one to become a master of their inner thoughts. Negative thoughts, emotions, anxiety, worry and stress, severely disrupt the balance of the nervous system, whereas positive thoughts and inner contentment always maintain a calm and healthy nervous system. The following techniques in Yoga in Daily Life® help to achieve mental clarity: Mantra-Japa, Prayer, Satsang and living life according to the ethic and moral principles as stated in Raja Yoga (the Yamas and Niyamas).
One of the unique features of the Yoga in Daily Life® system is the Self-Enquiry Meditation Technique, which is a step-by-step analysis of one’s own mind and thought processes. Self-Enquiry Meditation provides an in-depth understanding of our inner qualities and complexes, and provides clear instruction how to purify these and overcome our suffering. It is an anti-stress technique and it develops an individual’s inner confidence. Self-Enquiry Meditation gives one a clear life vision, and cultivates an individual’s ability to master their own life.
Social health is an individual’s ability to communicate without conflict - to live in harmony with other people and creatures, and to maintain a deep respect for nature and the environment. It should be the aim of every individual to create a responsible and caring society in order to experience the beauty of life and realise God. And it should be a primary aim of all political and community leaders to emphasise ethic and moral education in schools.
YOGA KARMA SUKHOSHALAM - Yoga is fulfiled through work - is a guiding principle for all people. Work for the benefit of all and you yourself will benefit. Drug and alcohol use are a sign that our modern society has failed to uphold its social health. At all costs keep good company and avoid the influence of bad characters. Satsang is of great importance for spiritual development. Regularly visit spiritual centres where the soul will be uplifted by the presence of Holy personalities. As Bhagwan Sri Deep Narayan Mahaprabhuji said, “Always hold onto the truth and remember God”.
Spiritual health is to awaken and realise the true essence of human nature – our Self. God-Realization is the highest goal of life - unity of the Atma with Paramatma.
Yoga in Daily Life® is based on the ancient authentic literature of Yoga Vedanta philosophy - non-duality. Vedanta declares that one God has created this world. All creatures are children of one creator and all living beings are part of one universal family. The highest precept of Yoga is to protect all living creatures in all forms and manifestations of existence. To understand this, it is necessary to adopt a holistic way of thinking and acting in life.
Yoga is the source of spirituality and wisdom, yet Yoga itself is not a religion – it is the origin of all religions. Every religion on this globe has its roots in Yoga, since Yoga represents the wholeness of all cosmic principles. Yoga is the common inheritance of all humans. Therefore all religions should sincerely unite in their efforts for sustainable world peace.
World peace is possible only when all religious and political leaders of this globe practice tolerance, recognition and respect for all other cultures, traditions, languages, races, nationalities and religions. Their prime duty is to guide humanity towards forgiveness and brotherhood, and preach that we are all children of one God. There is only religion to which we all belong on this Earth, and that is Humanity.
I wish to express my appreciation to the organisers of this conference, for their tireless work and efforts. I pray to the Almighty God for the Divine protection and success of this event.
With the Blessing of the Almighty,
Mahamandaleshwar Paramhans Swami Maheshwarananda