Blooming Stars

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We Are God

Each one of us is a spark of God’s consciousness.  All of us together are God. Christ told us to be as perfect as our heavenly Father is (Matthew 5:48). He at another time most solemnly said: “Whoever believes in me will perform the same works as I do myself, he will perform even greater works (John 14:12). Why would he say these things if we could not be as perfect as God, and if we could not perform the same works he performed? Of course he has also shown the ways to fulfill his promises. In the Psalms of the Old Testament we read: “I say, you are Gods, sons of the Most High, all of you” (Psalm 82: 6). Asked by Jesus for which work the Jews were getting ready to stone him, they replied: “for blasphemy”, for claiming to be God. Jesus told them that their own law said: “You are gods” (John 10: 31-34). Certainly these are difficult scripture passages. In Hinduism we have a very powerful saying: Aham Brahmasmi (I am God). Christ made us his friends. We are sons and daughters of God. In the greatest prayer that Jesus taught we call God Our Father (and Mother). With all these very positive affirmations, why do we hesitate in seeing us as God? Certainly, we are God only as we humans understand it, namely, in an anthropomorphic way.
We come from God; we go to God. That is our destiny. At least that is what we strongly believe. Whether we dissolve in God fully or retain our individuality in some way, we do not know; let God decide that. We are God only to the extent we realize and actualize our God-given Godliness. That is why God-men and women when asked if they are God say: “Yes I am God, so are you; but the difference between you and me is: I know I am, but you don’t”. This awareness, this consciousness, this insight, or enlightenment coming from sadhana (spiritual exercises) and deep union with God and the Universe is all that matters. An enlightened person faces the same powerful temptations or allurements or attractions or seductions as everyone else, but he or she is able to resist them because of his/her awareness of the mission destined for him or her. Being God is a terrible responsibility that cannot be borne by many as awareness of that responsibility comes only in stages after years of rigorous training through sadhana. Actually religions, that are supposed to be about God’s business, should train persons in the ways of God and prepare them for achieving God-status and mystic union with God. As parents cling to their grown-up children instead of letting them lose to be on their own, religions do not let their followers go, and keep them in their strangle-hold through ever-new customs, traditions, and rituals indicative of tight controls. Moreover, religions spend their precious time fighting with other religions about dogmas and doctrines and mere theological speculations that are only objects of belief or faith that God alone knows. They call those, who do not agree with them or toe their line, heretics and schismatics or pantheists worthy only of being ostracized. Holy men and women of all religions do not have time to waste for these fights as they have an urgency about their own role of witnessing to God’s presence and works in today’s world. They have great tolerance to let people be who they are. At least that is what God does with everyone.
In sum, we are all incarnations of God in various degrees. Some present God’s face better than others. We are spirit persons wrapped in our consciousness and awareness, and sheltered in our body-temple. We all have a mission, and that mission is to be an able instrument that unfolds God-happenings. Thus we become God-persons for those who come in contact with us. Our life that shows who we really are can deceive some for some time but cannot deceive all for all the time as a wise man said. When we realize we are God we need not run after God-men and women. So in deep humility and truth, let us celebrate our own God-status.

By Swami Dr Snehananda Jyoti on 09-09-2017
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Personality

Personality generally means those qualities that describe an individual. Gordon Allport, a well-known personality psychologist, who extensively studied personality of individuals, their traits and characteristics, defined personality as “the dynamic organization within the individual of those psychophysical systems that determine his characteristic behavior and thought”. When we generally talk about a person as having a good or bad personality, we are talking about how a person makes a good or bad impression on us. We look at the characteristics of a person that stand out. Persons in our interactions with them are making positive or negative impressions on us and we make quick decisions on how we like them and can easily get along or not with them. We often observe their ease, gait, mannerisms, friendliness, and warmth. In a consumerist culture making impressions has become an art in itself as impressions in presentations, advertisements, and commercials sell products to be bought and consumed. Needless to say,  most persons are affected by superficial impressions rather than substance. The word, persona, is a Latin word, that originally meant a mask whereby a person played different roles or characters on the stage.
And from very early on in life we are playing different roles on our stage that is the whole world. Personality then is our unique adjustment, that we think is helpful for us, and that stands invariably between us and our world. Our personality is formed by our fears and anxieties, domination or submission, aggression or suffering of aggression, and superstitions and rituals to deal with anxieties or unknown, often primitive, forces and elements. When various tensions   arise within us, they motivate us to act in healthy ways to reduce those tensions, and our personality comes to a healthy and benign adjustment. A way of adjusting or responding to violence, for instance, changed the whole world in a positive way when Christ taught humanity to suffer violence rather than to respond to violence in kind. Non-violent civil disobedience, certainly rooted in the view of St. Thomas Aquinas that unjust laws did not bind the citizen in conscience, effectively developed by Henry Thoreau deeply influenced Mahatma Gandhi in developing the practical art of fighting tyranny and achieving legitimate human rights.  Obviously responding to violence in two diametrically opposed ways forms two different kinds of personalities. Really who we are is what we do.
Generally Eastern personalities are considered to be passive-aggressive personality-wise. They try to hold unpleasant stuff within, and then try to release in small explosions or in one big bang. In other words, they are aggressive even when they are passive. Western personalities in general are less likely to have the tolerance or patience in enduring suffering, and more likely to strike out and be aggressive faster than their eastern counterparts. Of course, there is the danger of stereotyping, and the personality characteristics that differentiate the eastern and the western personalities are disappearing over time as the world is becoming one due to increased intercourse and migrations.
Actually I should have high-lighted love and truth more than violence and aggression. However, violence and corruption seem to be gaining more ground, at least in the short run, than truth and love. Ultimately truth and love will win. As the New Year is near, it is good to take stock of our own personality traits and dispositions that will determine the success of truth and love.

By Swami Dr Snehananda Jyoti on 22-06-2017
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WE CAN CHANGE THE WORLD FOR BETTER

I can change the world for better if I am willing to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. Actually I start this writing after reflection and meditation on the events that took place on one day last week. I drove from the hills of Munnar to Kochi to be at the bedside of someone with severe heart failure in the intensive care unit of a hospital. I went there at the earnest request of his daughter who was flying from Mumbai so she could provide the needed hospital care as well as after discharge care. He was totally alienated from his family including this daughter. The father had written a book about the mistreatment he had received from his family. The daughter was devastated by this book, and told me in conversations how she was terrorized while growing up, and how she and her family suffered mistreatment from him. Obviously both father and daughter had deep hurts. Daughter was grateful that I allowed her father to stay in the ashram for three years. After meeting with the cardiologist, I was present while father and daughter exchanged their thoughts and feelings in the intensive care unit after a long period of estrangement. While I facilitated focusing on the immediate care needed for the father irrespective of what happened in the past or whose version was right, I also tried to help generate hope for constructive future engagement. Both were extremely happy that things worked out well for them. Needless to say, their present was the past that really shut out the present and the future.
Returning from Kochi to Munnar on the same day around 5 p.m., there was a traffic jam caused by a truck laden with logs and a mini-truck trying to pass each other on the Neriamangalam bridge over Periyar river. The bridge was not broad enough, so the vehicles were stuck. Seeing what was happening, I stopped my vehicle before the bridge. One of the drivers was asked to back off the bridge. While backing, the vehicle got on the very wet mud on the shoulder just off the bridge, and was asked to stop before falling off the road and, possibly, into the river. Interestingly impatient drivers from both sides got into the bridge putting everyone’s life in jeopardy. Noteworthy is the fact that not even enlightened self-interest came into play.
The two situations described above occur in one form or other almost daily in my last 11 of years of stay in Kerala. Many people lose their cool and get into verbal and physical violence. The persons causing the problems, needless to say, do not follow their own basic intelligence. We can all fret, fume, and feud and make a bad situation even worse. Each one of us can change the world for better only by being part of the solution.

By Swami Dr Snehananda Jyoti on 18-05-2017
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BS 337 200417 LIVING IN TRUTH

Living in truth here means living truthfully, authentically in our everyday practical life. I have often heard expressions such as “my life is a search for truth; I am a searcher after truth”. Mahatma Gandhi’s well-known auto-biography is called “My Experiments with Truth”. The fact of the matter is that we do not need to search for truth; truth is always searching for us. We are born into the reality of truth; our life ends in the reality of death. As fish is surrounded by water we are surrounded by truth everywhere. All mental disorders, all problems of adjustment to life situations arise due to one’s inability in facing truth. We have a guilty conscience because we did not say or do what was true for us. We pretend to be someone we are not because we do not feel comfortable in letting people know who we really are. We do not want to tell people what we really think about them because we want to “protect” them, because we do not want to “hurt” them. In reality we do not want to lose their “good feelings” toward us. So we all keep on playing various games to protect one another while we all live a life of lie. Thus we lose our authenticity and genuineness. We lose the authority of our own being, in effect, our own integrity.The other day in a long phone conversation with a significant person who had some serious problems with his son, I took the risk of telling him that his son was doing to him in a more vicious way what he himself had done to a third party. He got upset with what I said, and cut the phone off. I reflected on what happened. After some time I called him back since he had approached me for some guidance. Soon after I called him, he started blurting things that I was not willing to hear. I told him that it was rude of him to cut the phone off, and that I wanted to give him a few suggestions related to handling his son positively, and that if he wanted to talk to me, he could call me back after I hang up the phone. He interrupted me rudely several times before I finished what I had to say. What does one do in such situations? Truth demands that one assertively sticks to one’s plan even though it would be too tempting to accommodate and placate. There is only one thing that we need to be concerned about: we respond out of empathy, and compassion, and not react impulsively out of our own hurts. I have often experienced in group therapy and other group meetings that some persons would not say what was own their minds for fear of not being in others’ good books.Whether we want to be open to the truth of our life, whether we want to accept the truth that stares in our face, and whether we want to break out of the deep programming that distorts reality/truth for us in many different ways is the most important question in our life. We do not need to search for truth as truth is always in us and with us. We need to live it joyously

By Swami Dr Snehananda Jyoti on 20-04-2017
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Salvation for All

For about the last 11 years I have been back in India to specially focus on my mission of service to promote Unity of Humanity and Amity among Religions, I have been building structures for the Ashram inmates and those who, with similar visions, visit us and stay with us. While I work with an architect for the soundness of the structures, I modify the flexible aspects of the designs for functionality, Vastu (law of nature for health and prosperity), and aestheticism. The basics of salvation for all humans have been designed by the Great Architect (God) right from the beginning of creation. We humans can work on the non-essential, flexible elements to suit us. Anyone can reach God and God-realization. Only honesty, sincerity, and rigorous and faithful following of one’s conscience are needed. That means no religion is needed to reach God. The basics that we all need to keep in mind are: There is only one God for humanity; we are all brothers and sisters and sons and daughters of this one God. God created all to be saved, and to enjoy the beatific vision of God. The most precious gift of freedom that God gave us can create problems that can come in the way of salvation. But then the remedy of repentance and reconciliation is given to us.to make reparation and amends. God also asks us to love God whole-heartedly and to love all humans as we love ourselves. Loving God is easy; loving humans is difficult. But loving humans is easy if we keep in mind that we do not have to like them to love them.Flexible elements of our salvation that can certainly help and facilitate our spiritual and social well-being are healthy religions, sound cultures, good rituals and traditions. We need to thoroughly scrutinize them all for helpfulness, usefulness, promotion of good will, peace, friendship, and overall efficacy. All the sages, seers, and prophets like Buddha, Christ, and Sankaracharya (the great organizer of Hinduism, the Sanatan Dharma), around whom great religions originated and developed had great faith in God, were non-violent, and promoted inner conversion (metanoia) and God-realization.or self-realiztion They modeled life for humanity. The teachings of Buddha, Christ, and Sankaracharya cover the entire spectrum of human thinking and life, namely, atheism, theism, immanence, transcendence, and oneness of God and human). We need to take our own religions seriously and examine them thoroughly and impartially. We need to take good elements from other religions. All good elements anywhere come from the Holy Spirit who is the spirit of God. We need to change our religions if our religions do not help us to live morally and spiritually. We may need to change our religions if they violate basic human rights or interfere with our life that is lived according to our conscience, and our consciously adopted value system. Some paths and directions are easier, more practical, more meaningful and more pleasing. All that is required on our part is determined effort (sadhana), ceaseless and intense devotion, a sharpened conscience, affective detachment, and purity of intention.

By Swami Dr Snehananda Jyoti on 13-04-2017
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A NEW THEOLOGY OF HOPE AND LOVE

Theology is the knowledge about God. Since God is the object of faith, theology presupposes faith. Faith, hope, and love are the three prime theological virtues. Any theology is sheer speculation and anthropomorphic as God is beyond human understanding. The new theology is built on the good elements of the old theology. The old theology developed according to the needs of the time. For instance, the divine right of kings was developed to protect monarchs; infallibility and primacy were proclaimed to protect the power and authority of popes; the dogmas of immaculate conception and assumption of Mary, the earthly mother of Jesus, were defined to show the unique intercessory and mediatory power of Mary in salvation.as well as the importance of virginity and celibacy; the original sin was conceived to indicate the status of fallen humanity through disobedience and sin of first parents and the need for a redeemer; eternal damnation into hell indicates the punishment that altogether cuts out one’s relationship with God due to the gravity of even one mortal sin. The Yahweh (God) of the Old Testament who had Jews as the chosen people was a jealous God who had to evolve to be the God and Father of Christ.It is important to vigorously examine the old ways, simplify life, and keep only what is essential and good. Most of the concepts of the old theology arose in certain historical contexts, and are not needed for salvation. God does not discriminate against any human being, and does not create a chosen people. God gives what is necessary for life including salvation right from the moment of creation. God has provided the corrective interventions required through prophets, seers, and sages right from the beginning. Human beings cannot ultimately thwart God’s plan. All-loving, compassionate, and merciful God will not subject any of God’s children to eternal condemnation and damnation. Original sin comes only from our ability to choose good and evil because the most precious gift of freedom God has given us. This freedom is what makes us humans. What is construed as original sin is nothing but original limitation only for those who choose evil. In creation it is important to know good and evil through trial and error. For instance, some people have died in the beginning by eating inedible or poisonous mushrooms (toadstools) before distinguishing the good, edible mushrooms. Nobody wanted to die, but it just happened. God has put within us a powerful God’s presence that we can call conscience, and that, once trained, can guide us to do the right thing, and to follow God’s will. Only knowingly abusing or misusing our freedom will get us into evil. There is repentance to correct our ways. Our sincerity will determine the kind of our repentance. Even when we viciously follow our evil ways, God looks for us and wait for us to repent, and return to God and the human family as in the case of the Prodigal Son. It is unthinkable that God will sever our connection with him eternally. There could be some center of purification for any sin (a modified purgatory?) or a chain of re-births until one reaches the level of perfection necessary for release from rebirths.Divine right of kings is gone. Kings and queens are signs of undeveloped humanity and will be gone forever as humanity develops. The least the power is used, even in a legally constituted authority in a democracy, the better. Paradise on earth truly begins when democracy grows to its perfection. We have this one planet that we need to save it for ourselves and our posterity. We can do it for humanity without the interference of narcissistic, immoral autocrats. They are like Hitler trying to manipulate, exploit, and bend the will of weak, fragile, and undiscerning humanity to their self-centered hedonistic endsOur Savior, Christ, can be the Model Par Excellence. The Holy Spirit who is the Spirit of God and Christ is also our own spirit, and guides us through our own conscience. The rest can be taken care of by a generous amount of deep faith, hope, and love. Pope is a human being, represents Christ, and is selected for holiness. He does not need infallibility or primacy. He does not need power and pelf. He is the servant of servants in the Kingdom of God. He does not figure in the power structure of this world as he model power, that is holiness, for the Kingdom of God. A pope can also be a woman. It is high time that we dismantle the hierarchical power structure inherited from the Roman Empire after the conversion of Emperor Constantine to Christianity in the fourth century. Men and women can be priests; celibates, married men and women can be priests. Priests coming from among people are not a special class. Their authority comes from within from the spirit of service of the community. They should be chosen for their willingness to serve selflessly and their ability to model God experience. Mary is the mother of historical Jesus, and we venerate her as our own mother as we are brothers and sisters of Jesus. She is not the mother of God or Christ the Logos. We are not sinners but children of God.In the context of this new theology I want to comment briefly, especially, on what is happening with regard to demonic possessions. Many Protestants and Catholics are enamored by demonic possession. Many popular Catholic retreat preachers in Kerala (India), who are priests and lay persons, are ill-trained in theology, and go about “delivering” naïve Catholic followers from the power and sway of Demon (bandhanam). Their worldly eloquence and long-winded preaching stir up and win over unenlightened persons with borderline mental adjustment. They do disservice to the solid teachings of Christ; they themselves need to be delivered from demons. Christ has said that the power of this world has no influence over him (John 14: 30). The consumer culture is the mighty power (demon) that has such controlling influence over humans in the modern age. But the one who truly follows the teachings of Christ does not have to be concerned about any demonic power. A new theology of hope and love will take care of all one’s needs with regard to salvation

By Swami Dr Snehananda Jyoti on 06-04-2017
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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
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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
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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
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MEDITATION IN DAILY LIFE

I was introduced to a life of prayer and meditation at the age of 17. Ever since there was meditation in my daily life. In the beginning, meditation was based on some points taken especially from scriptures. It often involved inculcating some virtues or rooting out some defects. A daily examination of conscience at noon and another before bed time gave information about the status of my spiritual life. This spiritual status guided my spirit/soul providing goals. Systematic meditations were done in the morning and in the evening. Spiritual exercises, especially meditations were used to break my worldly ways. Ascetic practices were also set in place to help achieve spiritual goals. Bodily mortifications to tame my senses.were also practised. When one has acquired general indifference to pleasure or pain, success or failure, one would be better tuned to God’s will, and disposed to do what is conducive to God’s glory. These meditations were mostly modeled on Western understanding of achieving holiness and sanctity. As years passed I got interested in Eastern, especially Hindu and Buddhist meditative experiences. According to Hinduism, each one of us is pure consciousness, and we together are the Supreme Consciousnes of which each one is a spark. Raja Yogic meditations can help to develop yogic (unitive) relationships with God and fellow human beings, and achieve self-realization. According to Buddhism our unattainable desires lead to unhappiness, which is the cause of all misery. The solution is to desire only what can be attained. For this, Buddha proposed the eight-fold path of right knowledge, aspiration, speech, action, living, effort, thought (mindfulness), concentration. Shoonyata (emptiness) and Vipassana (seeing reality as it is) meditations help one attain the needed awareness to see things for what they are to obtain liberation. What then is meditation? It is a means to come to terms with oneself and the universe. It is a gradual journey to the beyond where being and non-being, illusion and reality, darkness erased by light, and hearing of one hand clapping happen. It is being a spectator of an effortless flow of things even as the witnessing self is flowing. Meditation is capturing the great rhythm of life in awareness of universal harmony marked by love, compassion, forgiveness, surrendering, and tolerance. It is being in harmony with nature and all that there is. The goal of meditation is love and welfare of the entire humanity. 

By Acharya Sachidananda on 23-02-2017