What Life Has Taught Me
Everyone has a sense of knowing which brings them, earlier or later in their lives, to the conclusion, that human life, with its observable activities, is not complete, and that there is something deeper than human perception controlling and directing all that is visible. Perceiving the realities behind what we call life on earth, the unrest and feverish anxiety that characterise a human being's ordinary existence here, indicate a higher goal that we have to reach one day or the other.
When human beings become entangled in selfishness, greed, hatred and lust, they naturally forget what is beneath their own skin. Materialism and scepticism reign supreme. They get irritated over little things and begin to fight and quarrel - in short, they become miserable, and consistently choose a karmic pattern that is self- destructive, one that arises from maintaining the 'self' instead of taking care of the human being. However, when we stop thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness.
Interactions with people as a yogi and ayurvedic practitioner has given me ample evidence of the great suffering in this world, blessing me with a new, compassionate vision and perspective. Deeply convinced that there must be a place, where absolute security, perfect peace and happiness can be enjoyed eternally, in conformity with the dictum of the Srutis, I renounced the petty aspects of the world, which left me feeling that although I was in the world, for the world, but not of the world, I realised that I belonged to the whole world. The massive light bulb that needs to go off is that you need to create a life that fits you, rather than you trying to fit into what you think a life should look like!
The stirring events of the past few centuries have had their effects upon all keen-minded people. The horrors of the past, wars and the consequent suffering, have touched people's minds and hearts. It is not difficult to see that so much of this human suffering was mostly brought about by our own deeds. To awaken human beings to their errors and follies, and to encourage them to change their ways, so that they can utilise their precious lives to attain worthier ends, was felt to be the urgent need of the time. As if in answer to this need, I saw the birth of Shanti Yoga education, with its task of rescuing human beings from the forces of their baser nature, and raising the consciousness of their true relationship with the cosmos. Shanti Yoga is thus the work of bringing human beings to an awareness of their essential divinity.
Spirituality cannot be taught or understood by mere argument or discussion. Neither can you make yourself spiritual by precepts or canons of teaching alone. It requires a peculiar affinity with one's vast environment, an ability to feel the depths as well as the vastness. It requires a genuine understanding, sympathy and love of creation, where spirituality is alive and living, not speaking or showing. Whatever your religion, whoever the prophet you adore, whatever your language or country, age or gender, you can be spiritual, provided the true implication of the hallowed term 'tapas', which essentially means any form of self-control, is made capable of being practised in daily life to the extent possible for you, in the environment and under the circumstances in which you are placed. The spiritual journey is individual and highly personal. It can not be organised or regulated. It isn’t true that everyone should follow one path. Listen to your own truth.
Truth, love and purity are the basis of real spirituality. Real spirituality is the religion of the heart. The heart must be purified first. Control over the baser nature, conquest of the mind, cultivation of virtues, service to humanity, goodwill, fellowship, and amity, constitute the fundamentals of true spirituality. These ideals are included in the principles of Shanti Yoga - Living Peace - and I try to teach them mostly by example, which I consider to be weightier than all precepts.
The beauty of spiritual life is its simplicity and applicability to the everyday affairs of an ordinary person. It is immaterial whether you go to a church, mosque, temple, or synagogue to offer your prayers, for all sincere prayers are divine.
The average seeker of Truth is very often deceived by the caprices of their mind. When a person who takes to the spiritual path is bewildered before they reach the end of their journey, they are tempted to relax their efforts part way. Many are the pitfalls, but those who plod on steadily are sure to reach the goal of life, which is universality of being, knowledge and joy (sat, chit, ananda).I have laid great emphasis in all my teachings and writings upon the understanding and discipline of the turbulent senses, conquest of the mind, purification of the heart, and attainment of inner peace and strength, suited to the different stages in a person's evolution.
It is the foremost duty of a human being to be generous…to learn to give, to give in charity, to give in plenty, to give with love and without expectation of any reward, because one does not lose anything by giving - on the contrary, it is the giver who receives. Charity is not merely an act of offering certain material goods, for charity is incomplete without charity of disposition, of feeling, and of understanding and knowledge that the greatest good one can do for others is not to share our riches with them, but to reveal their own. Charity is self-sacrifice at the different levels of one's being, and in the highest sense, is equivalent to Jnana Yajna, the sacrifice of wisdom.
Similarly, goodness of being and doing, constitute the bedrock and foundations for charity. By goodness I mean the capacity to feel empathy with others, and to live and feel as others do, and be in a position to act so that no one is hurt by the act. Goodness is the face of Godness. To be good in reality, in the innermost recesses of one's heart, is not easy, though it may appear to be simple in it's teaching. It is amongst the most challenging aspects on earth, if we are be honest with ourselves.
There is no physical world for us when we see what we see as the glorious manifestation of the divine. Thus we can rejoice and behold Brahman with thousands of heads and thousands of eyes and feet, the Sahasrarasirsha Purusha. When you serve a human being, see beyond that person, see from who, or what, they are a limb. Thus we learn to be humble before the universe, whose breath we breathe and whose joy we enjoy. I do not think there is anything more to teach or to learn. Here is the cream of spirituality, the quintessence of philosophy that anyone really needs.
The philosophy I hold is neither a dreamy, subjective, world-negating doctrine of illusion, nor a crude world-affirming theory of sense-ridden humanism. It is the fact of the divinity of the universe, the immortality of the presence within all beings, the unity of creation with the Absolute, which to me, is the only doctrine worth considering. As the one all-pervading Brahman appears as the diverse universe in all the planes of its manifestation, the aspirant has to pay homage to the lower manifestations before he or she steps into the higher ones. Robust health, clear understanding, deep knowledge, a pure, powerful will, and moral integrity are all necessary parts of the process of the realisation of the ideal of humanity as a whole.
To adjust, adapt and accommodate yourself, towards seeing good in everything, and bringing to effective use all the principles of nature in the process of evolution towards Self-realisation following the path of integrated adjustment of the human powers and faculties, are some of the main factors that go towards building up a philosophy of life. To me, philosophy is not merely a love of wisdom, but the actual possession of it. In all my teachings and writings I have prescribed methods for overcoming and mastering the physical, intellectual, mental and vital layers of consciousness in order to be able to proceed with the sadhana for Self actualisation. To behold the divine in every being or form, to feel the presence everywhere, at all times, and in all conditions of life, to see, hear, taste and feel everything as divine, is my creed. To live in this Presence, to melt into it, and to dissolve in the Presence is my creed. By dwelling in such union, to utilise these hands, mind, senses and body in the service of humanity, to sing divine praise, to elevate aspirants, to give instructions to sincere students and disseminate knowledge throughout the world is my creed, if you can call it one.
To be a cosmic friend and cosmic benefactor, a friend of the poor, the forlorn, the helpless and the lost, is important to me. It is my sacred committment to serve the suffering and sick, to nurse them with care, sympathy and love, to cheer up the depressed, to infuse power and joy in all, to feel oneness with each and everyone of you, and to treat all with equal vision. In the spiritual world, there are neither peasants nor kings, beggars nor politicians, males nor females, teachers nor students. I love to live, move and have my being in this indescribable realm. To wish is the fulfillment.
The first step is often the most difficult one. But once it is taken, the rest becomes easier. There is a need for more courage and patience. People usually shirk away, hesitate and are frightened. All this arises from ignorance of one's true duty. When you have fears, the motivational circuits in your brain go dim and it causes you to have doubts, procrastinate and not take action. But you can turn off the fear circuits in your brain and build new circuits of chronic optimism, self-confidence, and divine presence. A certain amount of education and culture is necessary to have a sufficiently clear grasp of one's position in this world. Our educational system needs an overhaul, for it is now floating on the surface without touching the depths of humanity. To achieve this, cooperation should come not only from society but also from the government.
Success is difficult without mutual help. The head and heart must go hand in hand, and the ideal and reality should have a close relationship. To work with this knowledge is karma yoga. Krishna declared this truth in the Gita. I pray that this supreme ideal be actualised in the daily lives of every individual. I pray that there be heaven on earth. This is not merely a wish - this is a possibility and a fact that cannot be grandstanded. It is to be realised, if life is to mean what it ought to mean. Your spiritual mission is your reason for being, your life's purpose. It is your calling in life, for you to feel called to be and do. Mission is an energy that flows through you, a drive, voice, or passion that you cannot ignore. It is what you know in your heart you must live if you are to experience inner peace and harmony.
Shanti Gowans is the globally recognised author and founder of Shanti Yoga™, Meditation and Ayurveda for the self, family and community.
Shantiji has brought the concepts and practices of a healthy body and a still mind to thousands of Australians through her Yoga and Meditation programs on national television... Read more about Shantiji's biography
Travel with Shanti & Peter Gowans this November for a trip of a lifetime.