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'.

Celebrating Life Today

Most people just exist and function; but life is to be lived, loved, and celebrated. Every moment is precious. Life is to be lived from the perspective of eternity. If I were to view my entire life on a large screen a few minutes before my death, what things would I change? Well, I have that chance since I am alive. I have the choice to live my life just the way I want taking into account all my limitations and external restrictions. Often I do not have a choice about my life situation. The Prophet of Nazareth said: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul (Mat. 10, 28). Mahatma Gandhi is reported to have said something to this effect: “The British can imprison my body, but cannot imprison my mind and spirit”. He used the time in jail to have the much-needed rest, catch up with reading, and write.
Life is to be lived in the here and now. All I have is now, this present moment. The next moment is not promised. The eleven persons so far killed in one of the most heinous terrorist acts in Pune a few days ago (February 13, 2010) never thought that morning that they would not see another day. So I have to live
every moment as if it were my last moment. When I was training graduate students in counselling and psychotherapy I used to tell them that people who are not ready to face death have not really started living. People need to live the way they want to die. They really need to be prepared to die at any time.
The kind of one’s end is determined by the quality of one’s life. Yesterday is gone forever. Tomorrow never comes. Tomorrow comes only in terms of today. So what we have is only today. The tomorrow we worried about yesterday is today. We can waste today worrying about tomorrow; or we can live today to the full. The Prophet of Nazareth said: “Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day” (Mat.) The best way to prepare
for tomorrow is to learn from yesterday and to live today well facing today’s problems and challenges and making the best possible decisions.
Wasting today worrying about tomorrow or trying to control things that we have no control over I am reminded of the two kids who were given three ladoos (sweets)each. One kid looked intently at the other kid’s ladoos wishing to have them also for himself. Meanwhile a cat came and ran away with his. An inspirational message under the heading Living Life to the Fullest a friend of mine from the USA sent to me recently via e-mail had this to say: “First, I was dying to finish my high school and start college. And then I was dying to finish college and start working. Then I was dying to marry and have children. And then I was dying for my children to grow old enough so I could go back to work. But then I was dying to retire. And now I am dying… And suddenly I realized I forgot to live. Please don’t let this happen to you. Appreciate your current situation and enjoy each day… old friend.
To make money we lose our health, and then to restore our health we lose our money…We live as if we are
never going to die, and we die as if we never lived.   Life is not measured by the number of
breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away. “It is not how much time we have on this earth that matters; it is how we live the time that we actually have. So seize the day (cape
diem); celebrate each moment.

By Swami Dr Snehananda Jyoti on 28-12-2017

Why Worry?

A great deal of our precious energy is wasted throughout life by worrying. This energy is not available for our constructive and creative life. Psychologists think that our worrying begins around the age of three. It can lead to many psychogenic and functional diseases such as ulcers, tension headaches, hypertension, panic and anxiety attacks. It negatively affects our immune system. Worry is a form of anxiety related to a future outcome. We have a desired outcome. But we do not know what is going to happen, and we have no control over it. The Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebhur can be a remedy for worrying. The first part of it says: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference”. Nishkamakarmavruti (not being attached to the fruits of one’s actions) taught by Bhagwad Gita can also be of great help. Doing what one is supposed to do without being concerned about success or failure. Ignatius of Loyola, a great saint and the founder of the Jesuits, spoke about holy indifference in his Spiritual Exercises. He advised
his followers to have equanimity in short life or long life, in sickness or health, in poverty or wealth. Worry is related to our desires and expectations.
Gautam who became Siddhartha (seeker of realization) and finally Buddha (the enlightened one) stated that desiring what we cannot have or obtain leads to unhappiness (worry, anxiety, emotional pain). To eliminate unhappiness (worry) we need to stop desiring. But desiring not to desire is itself a desire. Therefore desire only what can be obtained: not any more, not any less. But how can that be achieved? Buddha proposes the eight fold path: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. The Prophet of Nazareth warns against
anxiety (worry) (Matthew 6, 25-34) asking us to seek always the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. He says that we will be given all that we need. He asks us to live in the here and now, and not to worry about the future.

I used to tell my clients to worry only if worrying helps them. And I cannot think of anyone who was helped by worrying. Philosophy from the trenches told by a wise man can help all of us. The story goes this way: “Either you are selected for the army or you are not. If you are not, you do not need to worry. If you are, you are sent to fight or not. If you are not, you do not need to worry. If you are, you are sent to the front line or not. If you are not, you do not need to worry. If you are, you are wounded or not. If you are not wounded, you do not need to worry. If you are, you are lightly or seriously
wounded. If you are lightly wounded, you do not need to worry. If you are seriously wounded, you either get well or you die. If you get well, you do not need to worry; if you die, you cannot worry. So why worry?

By Swami Dr Snehananda Jyoti on 20-11-2017

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 fulfil 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 04-11-2017

Living Spiritually

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 31-10-2017

Doing God’s Will

Doing God’s Will is what is on my mind. Holiness consists in doing God’s will. To DO God’s will one needs to KNOW God’s will. All that is required to know God’s will is to have a well-formed conscience based on basic human rights and values, and union with God. To use a metaphor of Christ, branches apart from a tree cannot live and bear fruits. God is that tree and we are the branches. We are in union with God when we are truly altruistic and live for others.Then we are connected to God as branches to a tree. Our CONSCIENCE that clearly tells us what is right and wrong, and our UNION with God will reveal God’s will for us.
To simplify matters even further, we may also understand union with God as faithfulness to our own conscience that represents God’s voice within us.The Golden Rule that, Christ said, sums up the Scriptures, namely, DOING FOR OTHERS WHAT WE WANT THEM TO DO FOR US, confirms also God’s will for us in our daily life. Slowly nearing the brink of ecologic disaster, these days we are required to reverse that trend, and preserve and enhance God’s creation as an important aspect of God’s will. Additionally, any kind of ADDICTION to alcohol, nicotine, sex, any substance, inordinate affection that spiritually or physically harms us and dehumanizes us, renders us less capable of doing God’s will. The consumeristic, market economy – this world – that makes us objects and goods for others, solely catering to the indulgence of our senses, is hostile to God.
In other words, knowing God’s will is simple for a detached, spiritual person; but doing God’s will is very difficult for an undisciplined person without a strong will.

By Swami Dr Snehananda Jyoti on 26-10-2017

Our Attitude

All of us have an attitude toward life based on our life experiences. If we have had overwhelmingly positive experiences, we would have a positive, optimistic, friendly, benign, and trusting attitude. On the other hand, if our experiences were predominantly negative, our attitude toward and approach to life would likely be negative, pessimistic, cautious, cynical, and distrusting.  Our experiences, especially the early ones during our formative years, will determine our view of the world and our philosophy of life whether we are conscious of them or not. In my over forty years of mental health work with clients, I would reassure them at the end of each session saying: “Things will work out”. What am I really meaning by this?
Things will work out one way or the other, and the one way is not necessarily better than the other in the long run. In other words, things may not work out the way we would like but the way they work out can be to our advantage if we have the right kind of and accepting attitude toward life. Often things happen the way they happen, and we have little choice. The way we take them makes the whole difference. For instance, I have seen two women of comparable looks, education, accomplishments, and socio-economic and mental status have been brutally sexually assaulted. One of them is going from one mental hospital to another, and the other one is on national television (USA) immensely popular with incredible wealth. The personal factor that made the difference was their attitude. The bad thing that we think is happening to us may turn out to be a great blessing. This is what we call blessings in disguise. Take, for instance, the story of one of my clients. He was very emotionally upset, distraught, and
inconsolable about a plane that was going to take him to a fortune, and that he missed due to no fault of his own. He was driving to the airport. On the way close to the airport there was a huge tanker truck carrying oil met with an accident, and turned over spilling thousands of liters of oil making the only road to the airport impassable and also tying up traffic for miles. Meanwhile he saw the plane that he was to be in flying overhead. He cursed and cussed, and mourned his misfortune, finally turned around and went home. After half an hour close to home he heard on the radio in his car that the plane that he was supposed to be in crashed due to bad weather, and all perished. He got out of the car and danced for joy,
There is a popular saying in the USA: “When you get a lemon (standing for a used bad car bought or more generally for a bad situation) make lemonade”. We have to play the hands that we are dealt with. Often we have to take what we are meted out and make the best of it. Epictetus, a Roman philosopher, who lived around the time of Christ, made a very wise observation: “It is not what happens to you that matters, but it is what you make of what happens to you that matters”. This observation is one of the great principles of Cognitive Behavior Therapy as well as Rational Emotive Therapy in psychology. When we know we are going to fall, do not resist the fall, but fall and roll so the impact is spread over many points, and the fall becomes less hurting. What is our attitude?  Do we waste our precious energy fretting over things that we cannot do anything about? Are we stuck in the rut cursing our current situation/predicament? On account of our negative attitude, do we become our own worst enemies, our own worst nightmares?  Life is full of problems. Are we creative in problem-solving? Everything that happens to us in life, no matter how costly and painful, contains a message for own growth and development if we with resignation, acceptance, and patience are able to decipher that message. Is our attitude positive; one of accepting and celebrating life on life’s own terms, one of gratitude? Do we need an attitudinal adjustment?

By Swami Dr Snehananda Jyoti on 08-10-2017


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


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


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

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 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