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Swami Dr Snehananda Jyoti

Dr. John K Thekkedam (Swami Snehananda Jyoti) spent most of his life as a clinical psychologist in USA. He began his public life as a Jesuit priest. Quite attracted in distinct philosophies, he left the society and founded 'East West Awakening'.

Eternal Life

BS 334 230317 ETERNAL LIFEIn a fast spreading consumer culture of death and destruction, power and pomp, eternal life is not on the mind of many people. Yet for those of who are not enamored by the fleeting nature of consumer life is very concerned about eternal life while we actively engage this world for what it is. Eternal life lies in this that there are certain self-evident realities from the beginning of the world. These are realities that you may already know as they have been told by sages years ago. In any case they need to be repeated time and again; we as humans need to be reminded of these truths. No one needs to belong to any religion; no one needs to go to a church, temple, or mosque to be saved. Yet it is good to attend these institutions, as humans by their very nature are social. We can certainly support and encourage one another. Though no rituals are essential, they, if meaningful, can help us to relate to one another.Three essential requirements for Eternal Life are:1. Ability to love others as oneself: Altruism and selflessness are very important. Loving others as one loves oneself is not easy. This is an ideal. It is not at all easy to achieve it. One has to be very vigilant to empty oneself of all selfishness that easily sneaks in and lurks in some dark corner. On-going examination of conscience is required to detect even subtle forms of selfish ways.2. Having a duly formed, clear conscience: One needs to understand morality, ethics, and regulations normative for a society. One needs to look for laws, customs, and age-old sayings or practices that may be legal or practiced but may be immoral or discriminatory. An empathic examination by placing oneself in the affected persons’ shoes will certainly reveal selfish interests. Generally, fairness in dealings that comes from the norm that one treats others the way one likes to be treated, will enlighten one’s conscience.3. A relentless search for truth: Truth alone can save us in all situations. For us humans truth alone is the visible God. One has to be constantly purified, reformed, unattached to attain finer truth. Nothing can replace the peace and satisfaction that come from rigorous devotion to truth. It is not that we are unduly concerned about after-life. It is not where we go from where we are. It is about engaging our present life fully, holistically, and spiritually. The abundant eternal life is guaranteed when we do all that we can with purity of intention. Eternal life is also continuous with this life.

By Swami Dr Snehananda Jyoti on 23-03-2017

Married Priests in the Catholic Church

This is a very emotionally-charged, controversial topic. So I got up this morning at 5:30 and prayed so what I write here is specially approved by accounts given in the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit, and, above all, my conscience. I have briefly broached this topic in my writings and speeches elsewhere. But here I want to bring insights gleaned from scripture, theology, spirituality, psychology and my life experience in India and the USA as a married priest in an ashram to bear on this topic. Needless to say I had 25 years of religious life as a Jesuit before I left the Jesuits while I was a professor training priests in Papal Seminary and De Nobili College (Jesuits) and other religious institutions that comprise Jnana Deep Vidyapeeth (JDV), Pune, India. With profound gratitude to the Jesuits for the opportunities I received, I want to say I am who I am today due to the solid training I got from the loving and caring Jesuits.God created man and woman in his own image (Genesis, 1: 27). In the first and second chapter of Genesis the unique dynamics of the relationship between man and woman is described. God has put such yearning in man for the woman that he will leave even his father and mother, and will cleave to his woman (wife) to the point of both becoming one body (2: 24). The incomparable passion for each other from the beginning of creation is very clear. Now coming to the New Testament of the Bible, the first head of the Church, Peter, supposedly chosen by Christ, was a married man. The first Pope, Peter (Cephas) was a married Pope. Peter was such a timid weakling before Christ’s Resurrection that he even denied Christ thrice on the night of Christ’s passion. St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians, (9: 1-7) wrote that all Christ’s disciples including Peter were accompanied by their wives. And they were provided food and drink. Paul in fact is complaining about being questioned, examined, and discriminated against precisely because he and Barnabas were not married. Christ said that from the beginning God made humans male and female, and a man shall leave his parents, and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh (Matthew 19: 4-6). Writing to the Ephesians Paul repeated the same message (5: 31). Paul wrote in his first letter to Timothy (3: 2) that a bishop must be above reproach and the husband of one wife. Historically there were 7 married Popes of whom four are saints. There were three Popes who were sons of Popes. There were Popes who had illegitimate children. There were Popes who were sexually active during their pontificate. There was a teenager Pope who was elected Pope at 18, and died less than 9 years later of a stroke while in bed reportedly with a married woman. There was such gross immorality that some accused him of converting his Lateran palace residence into a brothel. The second Lateran Council in 1139 abolished married priesthood and made celibacy mandatory for all priests. Yet many priests continued their priestly ministry even though they were married. Some Popes in the 15th and 16th centuries were notorious for their sexual immorality. Pope Innocent VIII and Alexander VI are worthy of special mention. It is also good to remember here that there were also three laypersons who were selected to become Popes.With the conversion of the Roman Emperor Constantine in the fourth century, the horribly persecuted Church by the Roman Emperors became the Church triumphant. Slowly the Holy Spirit began to be replaced by the Worldly Spirit. Christ had cast out the ruler of this world (John, 12: 31); the ruler of this world had no power over him (John, 14: 30; 16: 11). With the worldly spirit coming in, the ruler of this world began to revive. And currently he has great influence over the priestly class and the hierarchy that exclusively rules the Church. He is organizing the ultra-conservative, status-quo bishops, and cardinals, making life very difficult even for a moderate and compassionate Pope Francis. Yet Christ was a layman whose death on the cross alone satisfied Caiphas (John, 18: 14), the Supreme High Priest or the Pope of that time, even though, Pilate, a pagan Roman Governor found no crime in Christ (John, 18: 38; 19: 6).Coming back to virginity or celibacy, the Council of Trent (1545-1563), largely a response to Protestant reformation, condemned anyone who held virginity or celibacy was not better than marriage (Canon 10). The belief that celibacy was considered to be superior to marriage continued till the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).The Second Vatican Council gave equal status to marriage and celibacy. After this Council there was a great exodus of priests to get married. Vocations to priesthood and religious life also continue to decline.Spiritually, sanctity depends totally on a life lived according to God’s will. A married or celibate person can become a saint. Surrendering to God’s will is the key to holiness. Psychologically living a life in freedom for all is essential. Marriage is a fundamental human right. A perpetual vow of celibacy is meaningless unless it becomes perpetual due to ongoing, continual discernment and choice. No vow is a fundamental human right. One can make a vow if it helps to do God’s will or live in a religious congregation. Only the freedom to make a vow is a fundamental right. A person can change in freedom a decision once made in freedom if there is a compelling reason for it. Any change of a serious decision should only be made after due discernment in prayerful reflection. A vow like the rule of keeping the Sabbath is for human and not human for the vow.It is interesting that a couple of days ago Pope Francis stated that a married person can become a priest. This is a welcome change in his thinking. This certainly can pave the way for married priests. This change, good as it is, is not good enough. But it is regrettable that he is not open to a priest currently in ministry getting married. He is gradual and cautious in his approach. So I will not be surprised about changing his mind on this. If he is not capable of making that decision, he needs to make way for someone who can. This decision is not at all easy. The entire Church needs to be gradually prepared for this decision. In the early Church elders presided at the Eucharist. And I do not have any difficulty in thinking that there were also some women elders who presided at the Eucharist. In any case there is no credible doctrinal objection to married priesthood or the priesthood of women. These changes are bound to happen in due time. No individual can stop them as long as the Holy Spirit is not against these changes. Due to rampant and widespread corrupt practices among the priests in the medieval times, powerful monastic orders arose as a corrective measure. Times have changed. Instead of keeping the Second Vatican Council in suspended animation, we need to revive it, and build on it with another Council long overdue. Imparting God-experience to all, this Council can usher the Church into the modern world, and can prepare the Church to deal with the materialistic spirit and challenges of this world.

By Swami Dr Snehananda Jyoti on 16-03-2017

MYSTICISM

The word mysticism has many meanings. For our purpose it is defined as
the union between the individual and the Absolute. This broad definition will
cover the understanding of mysticism in the East and the West. The Absolute may
be taken as God or the Cosmic Principle or the Universe. Mystical experiences are
extra-ordinary spiritual experiences. They are beyond the realm of ordinary
human and physical experiences that cannot be examined and established on the
basis of certain strict criteria. They are purely objects of faith. From the
life of mystics we can talk about certain characteristics. They are simple and
humble. They are immersed in God experience. Mysticism involves a deep yearning
of the individual for God. It pre-supposes morality and asceticism or sadhana
(spiritual exercises). The three major components essential to mysticism are
purification, enlightenment, and union in total and unconditional surrendering.

Purification:  Purification follows
a careful examination of conscience. In this thorough examination of conscience,
attention needs to be paid to the following questions: Am I at peace with
myself and the world? There are all sorts of immoral, unethical, unjust, and
unfair things happening around me and in the world. Am I doing all that I can
to correct the situations? Do I have any ill feelings toward anyone even though
others may have hostile feelings toward me? Do I spend time and energy to
clarify misunderstandings when they arise? Do I take initiative in working
through conflicts? Am I sincere and rigorous in my approach to people? Am I
free of prejudices and discriminations of any kind? Am I sincere in my search for
truth? Do I spare any effort in finding out the truth? Am I free of my own
selfish interests? I have started this process of purification not because I am
better or more accomplished, or more self-righteous than others. I have
willfully accepted the invitation of God and the Universe to embark on this process.
I have surrendered to this eternal energy flowing in me. One needs to be
indifferent to pain and pleasure, good times and bad times. With a great love
for humanity, one devotes oneself to humans in selfless love. One needs to be free
from inordinate affections and attachments. One needs to have an
even-mindedness.

Enlightenment:  One needs to
have available information needed for conscience formation and holistic living.
Enlightenment comes from examination of facts, arduous reflection, and meditation.
Awareness of oneself, others, and the surroundings leads to greater insight and
wisdom. Mysticism is the interface between one’s consciousness and God-(Cosmic)
consciousness. It is heavenly bliss on earth; it is a preview, so to speak, of
beatific vision, moksha or nirvana.

Union in Surrendering:  Union is
to a Higher Power; surrendering is unconditional and total. The union is
grace-filled. There is no human calculation, no bargaining. One has done
everything one humanly could. It is a time of grace and deep Faith coming out
of Hope and Love.

Mysticism is for all; it is not a prerogative of a few chosen ones. It
happens when one chooses to do what can be done. It is adjusted to everyone’s
unique circumstances and potential.

By Swami Dr Snehananda Jyoti on 02-03-2017

TAO OM LOGOS

Tao is everything; Om is everything; Logos is everything. Tao is the eternal source and substance of everything. Om is the consciousness of the world. Logos is the divine wisdom manifest in the world. All three are different perspectives from different parts of the world denoting the same reality. We can from our studies, readings, and life experience come to our own interpretation. Only we all need to stand behind what we say. We become authorities to the extent we appropriate and assimilate this universe and all within it. Our mind can be as vast as the sky or as small as a key-hole.
TAO is the Way to the Universal Principle that guides the whole creation to unfold its destiny. Tao is simple, spontaneous, natural, and effortless Action. Tao is detached from desires and actions. In Tao deeds, not words, matter. Tao does what needs to be done unconcerned about results. Tao does not calculate risk factors; Tao possesses nothing; loses nothing. There is recognition of the identity of spirit and matter, subject and object. There is no sacred or profane, spiritual or sensual. Everything is pure in its own way. There is complete attention and absorption in everything one does. Tao is entirely wholesome.
OM is the Primordial Sound associated with the creation of the Universe from nothing. It is the creative energy; it is the essence of breath and life of everything that exists. It is the liberating Principle, and Cause of the Universe. It is also the essence of Brahman, atman, and self-knowledge. Om is the past, present, and the future; it is beyond time. Om is pure Consciousness. Containing atman and Brahman, it includes all knowledge and everything that is to be known. Om strengthens, calms, reassures and supports everything.LOGOS is the Principle of order and knowledge, and science of everything. It is the Divine animating energy pervading the Universe. The Gospel of St. John begins with the placing of the Logos right in the beginning of time, and identifies Logos as God through whom all things were made. John further identifies Christ as the incarnate Logos. The term “Logos” is widely used in Christianity in this sense. In Greek philosophy the Logos spermaticos (the seminal Word) is the generative Principle of the Universe. Logos as the Living Word is the world’s rational substratum. All came into being in accordance with the Logos. Logos as Cosmic Order is Wisdom (Sophia). Logos and Sophia are well connected. Sophia being feminine was not given as much importance as Logos. The rational discourse that discriminates between good and evil, just and unjust is due to Wisdom. Sophia is the active Reason that pervades and animates the Universe. Sophia is also identified with God or Nature. Logos as the Spirit of the World (Anima Mundi) is the Operating Principle of the world. According to Philo, a Hellenized Jewish philosopher, who lived during the time of Christ used the term Logos to mean an intermediary divine being. According to Philo, Logos of the Living God is the bond of everything, holding all things together, and binding all the parts. Logos was the God’s instrument in the creation of the Universe. For early Christian thinkers, profoundly influenced by Greek philosophy, Logos as Word was God. “O Logos sarx egeneto” (The Word was made flesh; this Word was Christ). For St. Augustine Logos was the Divine Eternal Word. He stated that veritas (truth) or sapientia (wisdom) was present in Christ as in no other human. In Sufism Logos (the uncreated) serves as a link between the human and the divine; Logos as a “Universal Human” mediates between individual human beings and divine essence.
The more I study about Tao, Om, and Logos, the more similar I find these concepts to be, depending, of course, on who and from what perspective writes about each one of these three concepts. The most important thing is that these three are very rich and meaningful concepts full of nuances that we can benefit from especially from the point of view of Unity of Humanity and friendship among religions.

By Swami Dr Snehananda Jyoti on 09-02-2017

WHITHER DEMOCRACY?

Democracy is in trouble. Democracy and Unity of Humanity received serious blows in UK and USA in 2016. The referendum in UK to pull out (Brexit) of the European Union on the basis of narrow national interests does not bode well for unity of humanity and the advance of true democracy. Even though full-fledged democracy is incompatible with constitutional monarchy in UK, the citizens of that country have the power to abolish monarchy through referendum or electoral vote when they choose. The election of Trump as president of the USA poses many questions. His utter disregard for truth, his disrespect for women, minorities, and the handicapped, his lack of civil discourse with his opponents, and his war with the press (media) are of serious concern. USA, the oldest democracy, survived a civil war (1861-1865) and prolonged civil rights struggles and fights in the 1960’s. The political grid-lock that on occasions paralyzed the US government during the last 6 years of Obama administration needs to be also taken note of seriously.Trump stated that his Tower in New York had 68 stories while it had only 58. He justified the lie calling it a “truthful hyperbole”. He both defends and praises “truthful hyperbole” in the Art of the Deal, the phenomenally successful book his ghostwriter wrote for him, “as an innocent form of exaggeration and a very effective form of promotion”. The ghostwriter, Tony Schwarts, regretted writing the book and felt “deep remorse” saying “I put a lipstick on a pig” as Trump took credit for writing the book. Schwats said: “If he (Trump) could lie on that, he is likely to lie about anything.” As a promoter Trump is reported to have made extensive use of truthful hyperbole as an effective technique. In 1973 US Justice Department charged Trump of violating Fair Housing Act by denying access to African Americans. His mentor, Roy Cohn, was charged for professional misconduct three times by Federal Investigations during the 1970’s and 1980’s In 1986 Cohn was disbarred by a five judge panel of the New York Supreme Court for unethical and unprofessional misconduct. Interestingly Cohn also was the chief counsel for discredited senator Joseph McCarthy who created horror for many innocent citizens during his senate hearings and communist witch-hunt in the 1950’s. Trump when asked before the elections if he would accept the election results, he did not answer since he openly talked about election fraud. Another person who greatly influenced Trump was Aaron Banks, Godfather of Brexit, who visited Trump’s campaign rallies giving advice on campaign tactics. Banks did not mind playing dirty tricks. He told Trump: “Never apologize, Facts are white noise.” Trump might have thought truthful facts related to the inauguration crowd, mere whit noise. But the media would not let him get away with it.In India the biggest democracy, that started gloriously at mid-night of August 15, 1947 with a speech of Nehru talking about “India’s tryst with destiny”. What has happened? Democracy has deteriorated into caste and clan politics, political horse-trading and opportunistic political and religious alliances, political dynasties, and finally even into murder politics. Rampant nepotism and corruption are the order of the day.What is needed for democracy to set it back on the right course? We need civil and respectful discourse, tolerance, election of persons on the basis of their merits and proven qualities to take care of everyone’s needs. Persons of integrity who do not sacrifice truths for their personal gains, vested interests, and propaganda are also of paramount importance.Brexit and the election of Trump might be temporary roadblocks on humanity’s march to democracy and unity of humanity. The messages that we get from these events can energize us to fight vigorously for the genuine rights of humanity while we wish everyone including Trump and Banks the very best including a chance to repent. 

By Swami Dr Snehananda Jyoti on 26-01-2017

Emotional Dishonesty

Emotional dishonesty is a frequently used defense mechanism to defend oneself from revealing one’s real motives. It is different from moral or unethical dishonesty. In moral dishonesty one is aware that one is dishonest. One is aware that one is intentionally hiding one’s real motives. In emotional dishonesty one is not aware that one is not telling the true motive for doing what one is doing. The true motive, though not immoral or unethical, is not socially acceptable or agreeable to oneself or one’s partner or others. Emotional dishonesty often involves convenient excuses or justifications for one’s behavior. Interestingly, the one who engages in emotional dishonesty will not accept the same kind of excuses in others.An emotionally dishonest person wants to please others. He or she is very sensitive to any criticism; he/she feels not appreciated by the one who constructively criticizes or even offers helpful suggestions; and is likely to repeat the same mistakes. This person can be often very committed and helpful; is led by likes and dislikes; emotions are not generally modulated by reason; can be impulsive and aggressive; does not mutually reciprocate; rarely apologizes, and does often think that he or she is the one who suffers rather than the one who causes the suffering. He or she is likely to use projection as a defense mechanism. If you were to tell this person, for instance, that he or is not aware of what is going on within, he or she will likely shoot right back: “You are the one who is not aware.” It will be difficult to carry on a rational conversation with this person or even agree to disagree in an agreeable way.An emotionally dishonest person has no time for introspection, self-reflection, and meditation; keeps self very busy often engaging in valuable and helpful activities; and can be very caring and loving. This person spends time listening to the so-called experts; is less likely to have own considered opinion; and is unlikely to be creative and experimenting. In marriage if one partner is well-intentioned but emotionally dishonest, the other partner tries to adjust in great tolerance and love without rocking the boat too much while not compromising one’s own truth. It is a difficult balancing indeed.

By Swami Dr Snehananda Jyoti on 12-01-2017

EGO OR IGNORANCE

Christ and Buddha asked humanity to get rid of our ego or egotism. It is a very difficult proposition. Our ego expresses itself in one form or another ever so imperceptively. The fact that we are body-bound, it is very difficult for our mind, without great discipline (sadhana), to exercise control over body and bodily wants. In a way we are on a constant ego-trip. Deep awareness alone can keep vigilant watch over our ego so that we are not detracted from our spiritual goal.  In psychoanalytic psychology, ego carries out the executive function that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious, and anchors the person in reality testing, giving also a sense of personal identity. In philosophy, ego can be considered to be the conscious, thinking subject or the self. In ordinary life it may mean a person’s self-esteem or even self-importance. But the problem begins when a person is said to have a big ego and there is no place for any other ego. This is when a person is obsessed with oneself or is ego-centric; this person does not have a balanced ego. This kind of ego is frequently seen in politics and religion.It is often difficult to discern between ego in the sense of undue self-importance and ignorance. Ego that is generally supposed to be conscious is not adequately conscious, and is clouded or even blinded by one’s ambition and self-inflation in this age of consumerism and materialism. Persons not having sufficient self-worth look for models to be led, and end up in the nets of narcissistic politicians or self-worshipping god-men and women. Even with the explosion of knowledge and communication persons in general are not secure enough to chart their own course in their God-given freedom to achieve their unique destiny of God-realization.Characteristic of this age is the unwillingness of propagandists of consumer goods and self-aggrandized politicians and religionists to listen to simple messages given to them by ordinary persons. They interpret things in their own way that suits them. These misguided leaders often misinterpret the signs of the times because they are only in touch with their own ego swimming as it is in adulation and acclamation given them by the uncritical general populace. We can forgive the blind followers and their blinder leaders giving them the benefit of the doubt following one of the last statements of Christ before he died on the cross: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”. But we cannot absolve ourselves of our grave responsibility in expressing our views received from insights as a result of relentless sadhana (spiritual exercise) and search for truth.

By Swami Dr Snehananda Jyoti on 05-01-2017

This World and Our Purpose

God created this world. This world with everything in it is a marvelous and fascinating world.  This world is good. It has come to the stage it has come at the moment because of the gross abuse and misuse of the most precious gift of freedom God has given to humans who have been assigned the responsibility and the task of taking care of this world. For freedom many humans over the years have given up their own lives. The abuse and misuse of freedom happen when self-centered leaders of nations with narrow and limited vision cater to the sensual pleasures of humans. We are spiritual persons bound in body with its senses that are driven by pleasures. For instance, men and women are naturally and seemingly irresistibly attracted to one another for completion, fulfillment, and perpetuation of the species; there is no relationship that is more intense and pleasurable than a marriage relationship. Yet this relationship is frequently abused due to lack of respect for each other and violation of trust, human rights, and freedom. The simple reality is that our spirit has to compete with the body directed by the powerful pleasure-seeking senses. In this competition often the spirit loses. Because overwhelming majority of persons is guided by bodily comforts; the spirit governed by principles and values suffers. That is why Christ said that he was rejected by this world; he also said similarly his disciples will also be rejected by this world.  James an apostle of Christ said friendship with this world is enmity with God. Yet we know that truth will finally triumph, that light will put out darkness, and that good will win over evil. This means we who are guided by the spirit will have to be brave against all odds to stand for truth and justice, for love and altruism. God sent from time to time prophets and sages to correct the course of humanity led astray by the world’s evil forces. Christ by giving us the Golden Rule: “Always treat as you would like them to treat you” gave predominance to the law of unconditional love that should guide all our thoughts and actions. Buddha found through his sadhana (spiritual exercises) that our unrealistic desires lead us to unhappiness, frustration, and aggression. So he wanted us to regulate our desires in such a way that we desire only what we can attain. To reach this goal he proposed the eight-fold path where all the eight factors (paths) of belief, aspiration, speech, action, living, effort, thought, and concentration need to be right. Gandhi’s experiments with truth in practical life led to non-violence understood as perfect love. All spiritual masters focus on fellow human beings and altruism.
The world goes astray when the world is dominated by narcissistic, self-centered persons who seek pleasures at others’ cost. The world does right when it is altruistic and is concerned about the pleasure and happiness of all. Well-being of all is the true destiny of this world. Since the world is often dominated by evil forces arising out of the bodily senses and baser elements, some persons have wrongly concluded that the world is ruled by these forces. The true purpose and destiny of the world is spiritual. The rational and spiritual forces can never be subdued for long by forces such as power and control related to the irrational, animal forces coming from our body. Our task in this world is to move from awareness to further awareness until we reach enlightenment that does not need to be all that difficult, as many think it to be, once we figure out our true goal in this world. For this we need discipline guided by our strong will.

By Swami Dr Snehananda Jyoti on 29-12-2016

INTEGRITY VERSUS DESPAIR

This is the final stage of Erik Erikson’s eight stages of growth for humans. Those who are not able to achieve integrity at the last stage end up in despair. As I am in my own final stage I closely examine where I am; I do reflect and meditate a great deal about it not only in terms of my own self but also in view of humanity. One statement of a man, Mahatma Gandhi, knocked Richard Attenborough, an Englishman, off his feet. This sentence struck him so forcibly that there and then he committed to make a film, “Gandhi”, that involved 20 years of research on Gandhi using his own considerable financial resources. This statement uttered by Gandhi in South Africa when he was 23 is this: “It has always been a mystery to me how men can feel themselves honored by the humiliation of their fellow human beings”. This statement was made in the context of Gandhi’s witnessing Indians being forced to walk in the gutter so that whites could pass unimpeded along the sidewalk. I have watched the movie, Gandhi, about five times. The movie won the best picture Oscar award of the year besides many Oscars for the film. Needless to say, the film is very inspiring.
Walking in the gutters is nothing compared to the humiliations humanity goes through in different parts of the world every moment especially in the context of the senseless and horrible terrorism. Fear rather than hope is in the minds of most people involved in air travels. News of a steady menu of horror crimes on a daily basis lead to greater precautions and paralyzing fears. What does that mean for humanity’s stage of growth? Where are we after Buddha spreading non-violence about 2500 years ago? Where are we after Christ modeling a non-violent life about 2000 years ago? These are questions that any person of peace and good will anywhere needs to ponder. Humanity seems to be at the brink of despair especially when we look at electoral choices or referendum made in leading democracies in the world or when dictators are still ruling in the world unimpeded or when men with narrow selfish interests are elected to high offices.
When we are about to give way to despair, we cannot afford to forget the eternal words of Gandhi: “The force generated by nonviolence is infinitely greater than the force of all the arms invented by man’s (human’s) ingenuity.” Three other quotes of Gandhi specially brought to our attention by Attenborough through a calendar in 1985 may be helpful in these difficult times. “Strengths does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” “It is because we have at the present moment everybody claiming the right of conscience without going through any discipline whatsoever that there is so untruth being delivered to a bewildered world.” “I have not the shadow of a doubt that any man or woman can achieve what I have, if he or she would make the same effort and cultivate the same hope and faith”. 
To end on a lighter and, perhaps, humorous note: Queen Elizabeth of UK completed her 90 years of age recently. At her marriage to Philip Mountbatten in 1947, Philip’s uncle, Louis Mountbatten, the last viceroy of India, under whom India got independence, and the first governor-general of India, got a piece of cloth made from yarn specially spun by Gandhi at the viceroy’s request to give to Philip, his nephew, as a special wedding gift. The queen’s mother was appalled as she thought the cloth was Gandhi’s under garment. That’s the way life is. Everything gets into the spice of life.

By Swami Dr Snehananda Jyoti on 22-12-2016

SHANTISADAN SIDDHASHRAM

After leaving the United States in 2006, my wife and I spent a few months in Kuriako Siddhashram at Palaruvi Waterfalls, Kollam District. Then we proceeded to Shantisadan Siddhashram near Munnar, surrounded by lovely hills and beautiful climate. Shantisadan Siddhashram  in Sanskrit mean Abode of Peace Center for Realization. Here we strive for Unity of Humanity (Sarvaloka Aykyam) and Friendship among all Religions (Sarvamatha Sauhrudam). As we believe all religions chart their course to God in their particular way, and as we believe all humans are children of the One God who is our Father and Mother, we seek cooperation with all persons of good will in achieving as harmonious and joyful a living as possible on our earth, and finally end in God Realization conceived differently as Salvation or Liberation (Moksham or Mukti or Nirvana). Regarding all God’s children as equal we follow in our daily living a spirituality beyond religions (Mathaatheetha Aatmiyatthwam) a relationship beyond blood ties (Raktaatheetha Bandham), and a life beyond political parties. Freedom of worship and of expression of ideas is encouraged. Respectful tolerance for disagreements is necessary as we are all bound by love, truth, and compassion as children of God. In the ashram we have vegetarian food, an atmosphere free of drugs and alcohol, and a general climate conducive for meditation, contemplation, and relaxation. Day begins officially at 7 AM with Satsang (coming together of saints/inmates) and ends with Satsang beginning at 8 PM. Great Silence is followed between 10 PM and 7 AM during which time all are recommended to rest, relax, and prepare for the following day. Discrimination or abuse of any kind is strictly forbidden.
As we complete 10 years perched in the foothills of Chokramudi, I would like to mention some significant developments. Building construction taking into account the lay of the land is mostly over. Statues of some significant persons in religions and history as models of humanity have been erected on the main road at the entrance of the ashram. These statues are meant to convey unity, humanity, service, and great ideals for all. There is on-going landscaping and planting of flowers. Growing organic vegetables and fruits are in the process. Currently we produce sufficient milk for the ashram needs and the needs of a few neighbors. The ashram is modeled on the teachings of Christ according to which the early disciples came together, held things in common, contributed according to their ability, and partook of the good life according to their need. The ashram is striving to approximate that ideal. Gandhian spirit is evidenced in that all work is respected and no job is below anyone’s dignity. All ashramites are encouraged to do some manual work and also to keep the premises clean. Currently visitors to the ashram seeking spiritual or psychological help spend a few hours or few days according to their need. We have a long way to go. All in all, hospitality and an atmosphere for all to grow and to become what they are capable of are distinguishing marks of the ashram.

By Swami Dr Snehananda Jyoti on 01-12-2016