In spiritual life, all our attempts are directed towards the realisation of God and all our spiritual pursuits are centred around remembrance of God. An ordinary mind moves in different directions and so, is disturbed. The concentrated mind is one-pointed but its object may be a worldly one. Such a concentration will not help us spiritually. And so, the mind should be concentrated on God. It is an enormous task. However, we can practice it remembering God more often.
The world we live in is always a mystery to us. There are several questions about the origin of this universe. The humankind is trying to find answers to them in the course of its history. Cosmology constitutes investigations of eminent philosophers, theologians, and scientists in this regard.
In India, we find two streams of spiritual traditions: one emphasising jñāna, knowledge of one’s eternal Self, which is the immanent reality; and the other, which stresses bhakti, the loving devotion to a personal God. Each tradition claims that its path is the only royal path to liberation.
We can distil the complex impact of the pandemic on the entire world in a single word: uncertainty. An uncertain future is looming large over the entire world. Even after the number of newly affected cases reduces, the virus will still leave indelible evil marks on the peoples’ psyche. Many articles in reputed journals point out to the dreadful impact, the pandemic will make, on society, economy, lifestyle, and the very thinking pattern of the individuals. The one central theme in these studies is uncertainty, the fear of the unknown.
The feeling of ‘I’ is the problem. The more one feels one’s ‘I’ the more one is entangled in the complex web of agency and possession. The notions of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ are at the root of all suffering. They propel one to do all actions, good and bad, and consume one’s entire being with a devastating power. Both the notions are in reality the obverse and reverse of the same coin, the sense of ego. Attaching everything to one’s sense of identity or ego is an existential survivalist technique of an individual. The net of this attachment is increased more and more. All the sense organs under the direction of the mind operate in different ways to extend one’s identity everywhere. A person feels great when an object, person, place, or event is linked to one’s identity. We see so many things in the market, on shop windows, but the moment a particular thing is bought, it becomes one’s own and one has a special relationship, a special connection with that thing. For example, if you want to buy a mobile phone, you go to the mobile store, mostly on the Internet, and go through various models and select one that suits your requirements and pocket. Till then, all the various models are just so many alternatives, so many choices before you. The moment you select a particular model and buy it, it becomes ‘your’ mobile phone. Now, you are attached to that mobile phone. If something happens to that mobile phone, if it is lost or damaged, you become disturbed. Here, the problem is not in the thing, the mobile phone itself, but in your attachment to it.
When you walk by the rows of books in a library, you feel that the wisdom of the world across ages is looking down upon you. It could be a well-classified library. The collection might start with encyclopaedias, dictionaries, and other collations of knowledge. Looking at these massive tomes one realises that there is so much to know. One realises that the known is not even a drop from the ocean of knowledge. Things, objects, events, and persons from the human past invite you to a conversation with them. When you respond to this invitation, you start talking with books.
These are testing times. Everything around us has suddenly become uncertain. The certainty of human fatality has never been more palpable. The only thing certain in our lives is that we have an expiry date as human bodies and that is being reminded to us in all its unpleasant starkness. Panic is eating into our comfortable lives. A virus, the Corona Covid-19 virus, which is an infinitesimally less complex and fine organism than the human being, has become the cause of disease, distress, and death. This virus has compelled us to question our aims and priorities in life. It is high time and an opportune moment for serious soul-searching.
Humour is not funny business. Only a person who can laugh away one’s failings and face the challenges of life with a smile, can even begin to understand true humour. It is difficult to write humour. Making fun of something or somebody is not humour. Humour has as its bedrock the pains of human life. It is like the rose that has to be touched only after tackling the thorns. Humour is not frivolous. It is not just making a joke or writing satire. Joke and satire are dependent on something. They are commentaries on a particular situation. Humour could be something that is neither a joke nor a satire. It could be something independent of any situation, object, or person.
Once, a monk of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission asked the Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi how to deal with wealthy people who came for free treatment at a dispensary run for the poor. The Holy Mother answered that these wealthy people should also be treated as poor because anyone who begs is a poor person. This is a succinct description of the poverty mindset. Anyone who thinks that one does not have enough wealth, learning, wisdom, influence, or other resource, in spite of having these things on an above average level, is a person who is suffering from the poverty mindset.
One of the unique teachings of Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Sarada Devi, and Swami Vivekananda is their emphasis on the practice of religion. They, like many mystical saints across religions, stressed on experiencing religion. Religion was not to be seen as a mere web of theories, doctrines, and philosophies, but religion had to be made palpable, living, and dynamic in every aspect of human life.