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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'.

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

Living Spiritually

Earlier I have written on Vital Signs of Spiritual Health. Here I am writing this article in the context of Unity of Humanity and Amity among Religions. God, our Father and Mother, wants all of us to take care of, thrive, and enhance the creation that we are part of. Spirituality guides every activity we engage in on this earth. All of us come from God and ultimately return to God in the level of consciousness and perfection we attain on the basis of conscious decisions and actions in God-given freedom. As we co-exist with others, we need to take into account their needs while we plan our lives, and utilize our resources. In an ideal world there will not be any private property. Native Americans or The original inhabitants of the Americas, whom Christopher Columbus wrongly described as Indians as he thought he reached India instead of the Americas, considered air, water, and land to be common for all. Problems began when the idea of private property, especially possessing, buying, and selling of land and the dwellings and resources on it began. It is important for everyone to get what one needs to actualize and be what one needs to be. As returning to the time when everything was held in common is not foreseen, we need to figure out a way to use the resources that we have in ways intended for all by God.This means we follow the will of God for us. This is imprinted in our conscience as principles or commandments of conduct. All religions have the basic Ten Commandments of the Judeo-Christian Religions in one form or another. Sanathan Dharma (eternal righteousness) also known as Hinduism has it. The Golden Rule (Matthew 7: 12) that commands us to do to others what we want them to do to us sums up all that is required for righteous living. This same principle can be beautifully expressed in another way: “You shall love your God with all your heart, mind, and soul, and love your neighbor (that is, every human) as yourself (John 22: 37-40)”. As we grow and develop from birth we receive from our parents and mentors at least a gist of these ethical and moral principles for practical living. Persons who live a righteous life are aware when they break this fundamental law or infringe on human rights. They are aware they are not living according to the dictates of their conscience.To make us keep on the right track, making an examination of conscience at the end of the day or before going to sleep is suggested. Saint Ignatius of Loyola, whom I consider to be the father of Cognitive Behavior Therapy widely popular in the US and elsewhere as an effective psychological therapeutic method, used this procedure for the religious order he founded. As a Jesuit I was required to examine my conscience twice a day at noon and at night for 15 minutes each. Needless to say I still practice this procedure with great benefit. Ignatius also recommended particular examination of conscience to help foster a special virtue or eliminate a defect that comes in the way of spiritual growth. As the New Year is fast approaching my suggestion is that all of us take sufficient time to thoroughly evaluate where we are with regard to our spiritual life, what are the qualities or virtues we need to acquire, and what are the short-comings in our life we need to get rid of. It will be important to clearly and practically identify and concretely state them and realistically put them into practice. Focusing on the positive, it may be better and more helpful to practice the opposite of the vice or bad habit we are trying to root out. 

By Swami Dr Snehananda Jyoti on 14-12-2016

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

God Realization

God communicated God’s Self to humans through creation. This communication of Self is God’s ultimate love for humanity. God created humans in the divine flow of love of God to enjoy the creation with humans. Through creation God made Self present in this world. God made God’s Self present in creatures in different degrees. God’s presence is manifested fully in humans. The Bible talks about God making humans in God’s image and likeness – male and female who complete each other. World’s theology treats God’s presence in creatures in terms of immanence and transcendence. Christian scriptures explain God’s presence as immanent and transcendent at the same time. Hindu scriptures, especially the Advaita interpretation, explains God’s presence in creatures in such an immanent way, that, through sadhana (spiritual exercises), culminates ultimately in the identity of the creator and the created.God’s very communication to humanity can be seen as God’s grace. Humans have devised sacraments in Christianity and sacred rituals (samskar) in Hinduism that are purported especially to effect or channel grace. In reality God pervades in the whole of creation, and as such God’s presence itself is grace. God is the life force in the core of every being. God’s grace as is easily available for humans’ spirit-life as water is available for the maintenance plant and animal life on earth. It requires only our freedom of choice to benefit from God’s grace. God realization can take place through faithfulness to conscience. Discerning God’s will in our daily life and faithfully following it will secure our life in union with God. Various spiritual exercises found in religions are very helpful in going through different stages of God realization. Many sages, seers, and holy men and women have modeled life for humans. Love and truth guided by justice, tolerance, compassion, and non-violence create the right climate for achieving God realization. Despite claims to the contrary, there is no magic formula, person, ritual, or practice is necessary to achieve God realization which is given us at birth and which is our natural destiny. God of freedom, love, mercy, and understanding does not force any human to follow God’s will. As we learn to walk, run, and learn other skills for material and physical well-being, we need to form our conscience and learn a value system and guidelines for living in a society. What about heaven and earth, mukti or nirvana (liberation from bondages)? For persons failing in the life’s work of attaining heaven or freeing from bondages, no hell or re-births are envisaged. For those who failed in God-realization at the end of their life, they return to God at the level of consciousness or awareness they were able to achieve on earth to continue their purification (purgatory?) to accomplish their goal before they achieve their perfect union or realization with God. Over two millennia things got very complex and confusing, and many grievous and fatal errors due to false doctrines and suppression of human freedom have taken place. We need to get back to the original charism, spirit, and teachings found in scriptures of persons who gave rise to various religions. Traditions are important only to the extent of their relevance in changed times.

By Swami Dr Snehananda Jyoti on 24-11-2016

The Way of the World

In the wake of the US presidential elections, UK referendum to exist from the Europian Union (Brexit), and the general elections of India in May of 2014, certain trends of a return to conservatism, greater focus on national interests, a less enlightened electorate, a greater lack of moral and ethical standards, and above all, a set-back on unity of humanity are clearly evident. When dangerous and unscrupulous persons are voted into powerful positions, hope for a benign humanity suffers. National leaders fail to be models for righteous living. Toxicity in international relationships and cooperation increases. Powerful egos are less willing to accommodate others. The message one gets is: What really matters is economic strength and material prosperity. Principles and values are sacrificed for material gains.  Spirit recedes into the background. Yet we know spirit and spiritual values can only be suppressed temporarily, and truth shall finally triumph.
In the very recent US elections, it appears that mostly uneducated white voters chose  a man   who is a multi-billionaire, uncouth, ruthless, self-centered, and who does not even mind ridiculing a disabled person. It appears fear and economic frustration due to joblessness on account of companies going abroad for cheap labor may have also played a great role. I was in the US, and participated in the crucial elections, and voted for the first woman presidential candidate who had a history of service and needless suffering, and who had compassion for the disadvantaged. She did, however, have dubious financial dealings. It may be said in passing that multi-national corporations and their lobbyists in the US corrupt politicians, and unduly influence government direction and policies through their money power.
Everything happens for a reason, and every happening has a message. Great scientific and technological advances paving for material prosperity and hedonism are keeping progress in spirituality at bay. Humanity can advance toward its destination only with the realization and awareness that material prosperity needs to be guided by spirituality. When Christ speaks of this world rejecting him he is talking about persons in this world either rejecting or not being sufficiently concerned about the values of the Kingdom of God.

By Swami Dr Snehananda Jyoti on 10-11-2016

DEMOCRACY IN CRISIS

Abraham Lincoln, a great president of the United States of America, who successfully steered America during the very difficult civil war in the 19th century defined democracy very well as the “Government of the people, by the people, for the people”. It is the best form of government as the elected representatives chosen for a fixed term and responsible only to the people who elected them. While political freedom is of paramount importance, economic freedom, and other freedoms related to fundamental human rights such as equality, justice, freedom of speech and religions are essential for any democracy to thrive. Democracy is very weak where bribes, corruption and nepotism flourish. Especially in the modern times, democracy has been considerably weakened by wealthy donors, multinational corporations, and lobbyists representing vested interests to influence the outcome of elections. Infusion of enormous wealth, often unaccounted for, to influence elections has been of great concern. Great scandals involving unethical, immoral, and even criminal activities on the part of elected representatives who are supposed to model human values, cultural norms, courtesy, and civilized behaviors for ordinary citizens have inflicted in modern times severe wounds on democracy, and affected general morale negatively.Democracy is best known for the smooth, orderly, and peaceful transition of power from one government to another. The best democratic traditions and conventions call for the loser to accept defeat with grace and acknowledge and accept the legitimately elected winner as the leader of the whole nation. By publicly not accepting this wholesome and healthy convention recently by one of the two presidential contenders in the impending U. S. presidential election, for instance, has caused great concern in a democracy that is widely considered to be a model for the entire world.  The American Civil War, the bloodiest battle in US history involving the deaths of about 750,000 soldiers that started in 1861 had its origin in the forming of the Confederate States with the intention of seceding from the US after the election of Abraham Lincoln as the President. So the repeated statements of the Republican contender about a rigged electoral system without any credible evidence is very troublesome. Interestingly he is going against his own party leaders to cause doubts in the minds of ordinary people.  To make democracy safe and secure, every person taking part in elections needs to be aware of the necessity of democracy for human dignity. Civic education to develop an enlightened electorate needs to be part of any basic educational system. Candidates need to be screened for ethical and professional behaviors related to electoral process and civil discourse. Victory in election should not depend on the amount of money raised in election campaign. For that reason, campaigns, that acquaint the public with salient features of the candidates, need to be based on policies and facts, and must be financed by public funds in order to provide equal opportunities for all.

By Swami Dr Snehananda Jyoti on 27-10-2016