Spirituality

Connecting to the source of happiness

Whenever we do something for God, our effort becomes a means of bringing us closer to God — the source of all happiness. In other words, we can gain happiness from our simplest efforts by offering them to God.

Efforts that convert to fame and money may have their importance in the real world but are considered perishables in spirituality. On the other hand, if we read a prayer to God or light a candle in front an image of God, it may bring more permanent results in terms of happiness. Why? Because God, who dwells in every heart and is the real witness of all our karma, gives the fruits of every action according to his own wish. If we have done something that should attract happiness, God will eventually give it to us.

Even career-conscious human beings can gain permanent happiness by forming a relationship with God. One approach of connecting to happiness on the workplace is by forming a harmony with karma yoga. To trigger this yoga, we have to make sure that we trust God. By remembering God at times and by surrendering our actions to God, we can remain unmoved by success and failure. As we move forward, we will see that our trust on God makes God’s grace the source of our happiness, not material success.

Knowledge from scriptures and self-realized individuals has its importance in guiding us towards happiness. In fact, scriptures supposedly provide us with viewpoints of human beings, generally saints, who have already realized God.  Because God may directly guide a human being towards himself through inspirations and other means, personal experiences are equally important in spirituality. Personal spiritual experiences can range from chanting a name of God and listening to discourses to having a face-to-face meeting with God (darshan), where applicable. In our professional endeavours or our spiritual journey, whenever in doubt, we can always request God to guide us rather than making concrete assumptions about how the universe works or what our favourite scripture actually says.

God’s grace may be essential for liberation

No matter how focused and self-assured we happen to be in our spiritual pursuits, our own potential may not be adequate to give us deliverance from the universe. This is one reason why devotional saints have considered the grace of God so important in the context of liberation. Surrender of the self to the Divine makes us more worthy of His grace, which is our ticket to gaining eternal proximity to God.

Reflecting on the glory of God’s grace, Saint Tulasidasa has said, “Ja par kripa Rama ki hoi, ta par kripa kare sab koi,” which basically means, “Whoever is blessed by the grace of God wins the grace of every single being in the universe.” For human beings, it is the grace of God that transforms as guidance and blessings from mentors and saints, as guidance from scriptures, as positive energy from places of worship, and as the development of virtues like forgiveness and patience.

It is God’s grace that protects us from all kinds of sufferings, brings us in contact with true and spiritual friends, gets reflected as selflessness in our work, and provides us with food and other basic needs. God’s grace, in one of its highest forms, becomes bhakti (devotion), the basis of our spiritual connection to God. Once bhakti — the love of God — is granted to us, peace, bliss, and liberation always follow it.

Does Hinduism support free will?

Hinduism does not give a single answer that fits everyone; depending on whether the spiritual seeker believes in a non-dualistic or dualistic philosophy, the person’s stand on free will may be different.

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From the non-dualist’s perspective

The Advaitin or non-dualist believes that events of the physical universe are like waves rising from an ocean, symbolizing God. This viewpoint supports no free will. All human actions, in reality, find their source in God. If an egoistic feeling of free will is present, it is due to illusion or due to the absence of God-realization. For the God-realized saint who has experienced the oneness of the self and God, the question eventually becomes redundant.

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From the dualist’s perspective

Many believers of dualism support the existence of free will, even if they are not aware of this. It is even possible that free will was granted to human beings by God. The existence of free will does find some support in the early chapters of the Bhagavad Gita, depending upon which translation/interpretation is used. The scripture holds that karma of the past are responsible for our circumstances in the present moment. Supporting free will puts the blame of a human’s present circumstances (and of distress in the world) on the human being rather than on God. For most people, having some free will is a better answer for many purposes, even if it is not true. In spite of being an Advaitin, Sri Aurobindo (b. 1872), a famous Hindu philosopher, has stated, “The sense of free will, illusion or not, is a necessary machinery of the action of Nature, necessary for man during his progress, and it would be disastrous for him to lose it before he is ready for a higher truth [1].”

As for God-realized devotional saints (bhakti saints), their answer may not differ from that of the Advaitin. People in the refuge of God act in accordance with God’s wish, for they become God-inspired. Because most classical books on Hindu spirituality have been written by God-realized people, books generally discourage free will in Hinduism. The devotional, even if dualistic, generally discourage free will as they find it egoistical, in relation to God.

Reality may be perceived differently by a commoner in comparison to a saint; it is possible that reality is dynamic, and it changes for the spiritual seeker as he or she evolves spiritually. Even if free will is initially present and has been granted by God (while creating the universe), it may get renounced on our path towards God.

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Free will and predeterminism

If a group of 50 people are requested to select between vanilla ice cream and chocolate ice cream, would God know the outcome beforehand? Would he know how many people would choose vanilla and how many would choose chocolate? Yes, he should; every choice will depend on one’s disposition, which, in turn, depends upon samskaras or karmic impressions. Choices made within the karmic field, if present, are in accordance with the laws of nature [2], defined by God. This does not mean that free will is not present; God can still figure out the future and stop an act if He wants to.

God may have hidden some answers from us while creating the universe; the existence of free will may be one of them. But devotional spirituality aims at recognizing the God-centricity of the universe, working in accordance with God’s wish, and aspiring to eventually reach God.

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[1] Essays on the Gita by Sri Aurobindo

[2] According to Hindu philosophy, Nature binds all eternal souls to the material world through her three modes – goodness, passion, and darkness. Please check out this article for an introduction to these modes of nature.

God is our real guru

Given below is my article on God being our real guru from the Inner Voice column of the Hindustan Times (November 23, 2019).

God starts guiding us personally as soon as we start looking up to him

Devotional Spirituality: Our feelings matter to God

How are our feelings related to how we see God? Do we have a full choice in deciding how we approach God? To find out, please read my new article from the Deccan Herald titled “Our feelings matter to God” (Panorama Page; Sept 25, 2019).

You can right click on the image below and select “View Image” to read the article.

Workplace spirituality: Following our passion

Most human beings would like to select a career that fulfils their passion and also pays well. But what if you have a dream that does not align with big earnings? What if your aspiration for being an artist or a writer has a lower professional success rate? Should you still follow your dreams? Or should you select the job that pays more? This question has been answered by many professionals, including counsellors and spiritual gurus, and is not easy to answer. A single answer may not fit everyone.

For many individuals, circumstances may not provide the freedom to choose a career of their choice. They may need to maximize their earnings to pay their bills and postpone their dreams for later. For individuals who have a choice in selecting a career, following their dreams may be the way to go. Let us take a look at this dilemma in the background of Hindu spirituality.

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The more righteous option

Following our dreams may be more in line with dharma. Simply having a dream or aspiration in life implies that we have spent time thinking about what we want to do in life (besides earning money) and is a spiritual achievement. Because having a passion or dream is more selfless, it may be more righteous. Accordingly, it may be well supported by God.

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What does Nature want?

By choosing a career that is righteous and tunes well with our aptitude, we may be developing a more harmonious relationship with nature. If God has a plan for us and he wants someone to follow his or her dream, not following it will simply waste time. Just like it is difficult to own a dream, it is difficult to let go of a dream if we possess one.

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Finding Happiness

Even if our passion has unveiled itself late in life, if our responsibilities do not allow us to follow our dreams full time, or if our affinity to profits is very strong, we can begin by spending a few moments from our lucrative job towards our passion. Because dreams in life are guided by our true nature, following them triggers a simultaneous search for happiness, which is a permanent attribute of our inner nature. On the other hand, if we do not feel delighted in following our dreams, we probably have not connected to a dream.

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The Perishability Principle

Contribution to the world is a vague concept in the context of spirituality. While exertion in selected professions may be labeled more significant by the onlooker depending upon one’s preferences, all results, including all commercial products and most discoveries, are equally perishable in time.

Alternatively, after nurturing some happiness within by following our dreams, we can opt to transfer the energy of optimism from our heart to others. This propagation of positive vibrations through the universe may be as good as material achievements. At the same time, if someone is less interested in Science and Technology but participates in these areas to take society forward, their efforts may categorize as being selfless; God may reward selflessness with permanent happiness.

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Connecting to God

While God is the real doer, we take too long to understand this. Because following our inner voice teaches us to place aptitude above profits, following our passion can better our chances of spiritual connectivity to God. By being true to our self, we can allow our inner inspirations to guide us to the stage where all karma, including profession, are no longer significant — it may create ways for gaining permanent proximity to God.

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