April 2015 By Suma Varughese Sr Shivani, the young and popular spiritual teacher of the Brahma Kumaris, says that she is nothing but an instrument in the hands of the Supreme Power, says Suma Varughese I have been enormously privileged to have met Sr Shivani on many occasions. For the last several years, Sr Shivani has been inseparable from the inaugural address of the Life Positive Expo in Delhi. And each time, my respect for her has only increased. Tall and slender, dressed in pristine white, hair in an unassuming plait, her pretty face glows with peace, calm and purity. Being in her presence is as refreshing as having a glass of the purest water. She slakes your thirst with her life-giving insights. Although only 43, Sr Shivani’s wisdom and penetrating clarity have supported and transformed millions of viewers through her popular TV programme, Awakening with the Brahma Kumaris, which is aired every night on Aastha TV at 10.30 pm and every morning on Headlines Today. She broadcasts the highest truths – everyone is a soul on a journey with sanskars inherited from another life. How then can we expect them to be like us? Instead, can we accept them and through that acceptance influence them to change, she asks. From supposedly agreeing with the listeners on the inevitability of judging or criticising or expecting, she gradually turns the tables on us as she proves that there is nothing more natural than accepting and embracing the other. An engineering graduate with a gold medal to her credit, Sr Shivani joined the Brahma Kumaris at the age of 25. She is married and lives with her businessman husband in Gurgaon. At the recent Delhi Expo, she was mobbed by the participants, including a rather garrulous old lady who cornered her repeatedly, even when she was in conversation with others. Even though she tested my patience, Sr Shivani smiled with unflappable calm, listening and soothing in her own gentle way. After her inaugural address at the Expo, I spent an hour with Sr Shivani for the purpose of the interview. Excerpts: Your TV programme happened inadvertently, I hear. I was doing ground work, production, scripting, for the Brahma Kumaris’ TV show. The brother who was in charge of the studio pushed me into it. He said, ‘No one is there. You do it.’ I didn’t feel I was right for it. One because of my age – 35 – in an organisation where everyone was my senior, and secondly, you are representing the thoughts of an organization. But he really pushed me into doing it. He said, ‘You are an instrument, just do it.’ We looked around for an anchor and invited Kanupriya. We sat on two chairs. She said, ‘What should we talk about?’ I said, ‘I don’t know. You choose.’ She said, ‘People are looking for happiness. Shall we talk about that?’ It was so unprepared and you could even say, unprofessional. The only thing I did then was to connect to the Supreme Power. I said, ‘I have no idea what is going to happen. You can get done whatever you want.’ That is the first time I experienced the meaning of complete surrender. Where your own mind and intellect is doing nothing. That day, we shot about eight episodes. And when those eight episodes went on air, they got a very good response. Wow! Because they got a good response, this brother said, ‘Let’s do it again.’ I said, ‘You don’t know what happened last time. It does not happen every day.’ For me it was like a miracle. He said, ‘It will happen again.’ So I sat a second time and did the same thing. And the same thing happened very beautifully. When we did it two three times like that, I spoke to Kanupriya and said, ‘It’s not right that we are not preparing. Let us prepare and sit down.’ We chose the topic of relationships and I prepared on the points to share. When we sat, we did not use a single point that we had prepared. That is when I realised that this is something very different. I told Kanupriya, ‘It has nothing to do with you and with me. The Supreme Power is using us, so we better just sit with a silent mind and not use our intellect on it.’ Now it is seven years and more than 600 episodes later. Each one is a very beautiful learning. I get to learn a lot. Are you surprised yourself with what you have said? A lot! In a day we shoot about five, six episodes so all the content does not sink in. But when I sit and watch on TV, there have been times when I hear the question, and even though it has already been shot, I don’t know the answer. Then I see myself giving the answer and I say, ‘Makes sense. Good answer!’ (laughs). I met a sister the other day, and she said, ‘You know what, I listen to your CD and I learn.’ I told her, ‘I do the same.’ But you live this understanding, right? I learn only when it comes out. Even today, if I have to learn anything new, I have to go and shoot! Do you still feel that what you say is representative of the Brahma Kumaris, or is it something that comes from you? Completely representative of the Brahma Kumaris. Brahma Kumaris is about Raja Yoga. Raja Yoga is about the soul, God, the supreme soul, karma and time. These are the four dimensions of the BK philosophy. And the entire Awakening series discusses these four things. When you talk about soul, you talk about the qualities, the sanskars of the soul, then come qualities like acceptance, relationships. It is basically a practical extension of the core philosophy. Spiritually, we know we are souls, but when we come back to work and family, we have the same mindset – my husband, my child. We are not able to bring the word ‘soul’ home. It remains a concept. We cannot look at our colleagues or juniors or seniors as a soul on the journey with sanskars. That is the only thing this TV programme has done. It took the spiritual principle to your home or work life in an absolutely simple way. The only other thing is that spirituality is often very profound. Very deep. I look at myself as a student or as a kindergarten teacher. That is the reason why it becomes easy for people to understand. But do you ever feel restricted by the fact that you are representing an organization? Whatever is coming out of me is only what I have learned there. It is giving me the highest understanding, and answers up till now of all the questions I have had. Actually organisations are nothing. No religious founder, Jesus Christ, or Gautam Buddha, came down to establish a religion. They were only sharing. Instead of connecting to the teachings, we got connected to the teacher. The teachings were the same. I looked at you and said, ‘You listen to Gautam Buddha and I listen to Jesus Christ, so you and I are different.’ Had I said, ‘You follow Buddha’s teachings and I follow Christ’s teachings, and since both the teachings are the same, you and I are the same,’ religion would have united us. Teachings unite us, but if we connect to the teacher we get separated. Similarly, organizations are nothing. They teach what every religion taught. I take the teaching from the organization. I take a healthy way of living from there. I like the way I have changed myself in terms of the time I sleep, the time I wake up. I wake up by four in the morning and sleep by 10. I loved to eat out. Today, I would not eat out because I have understood that vibrations affect food, so let’s eat food that is cooked in a state of peace and calm. But Shivaniji, sometimes you can hurt people by refusing food they offer with love… The way it’s been taught is that vibrations affect food. So if you eat in a restaurant, you are eating food cooked with the intention of earning money. The result is that most of us have money as a priority in our lives. That is an interesting perspective. Why is it said that the way to a man’s heart is through the food? If you cook for him, your vibrations go into his food, your mind goes into his mind, and your mind and his mind get connected. When a mother cooks for her children, her love, her patience, create a bonding in the family. If a cook makes the food, he is cooking as an employee, for money. Not if he loves the family… Then he has to look at it as his family. Someone who used to come to the BK centre once said, ‘For the last one week I have been having dreams that I am looking for a house in a slum area. Is this my future?’ He was a very rich person. After about 10 days the lady who cooked for him came and asked for a loan of Rs 25,000 to buy a room. After that, his dreams stopped. And then we understood. The lady said, ‘I have been so worried for the last 10 days because I did not have a room in which to live.’ Her anxiety was on her mind… If you go to someone else’s house and if they give you food cooked with love, you can eat it, right? What happens is, over time, you will have to keep yourself a little stricter, or else you will land up having food almost everywhere. I don’t know who has cooked in the house. If you have cooked, it is one thing, but if a staff member has cooked, then it is a different thing. It is not only about money. Let’s say I have a sanskar of anger, and I am working hard at it. If I eat food cooked by somebody with a very strong sanskar of anger, all my efforts will go waste. But how powerful is food as compared to other factors…like will? Food is very powerful because it is taken three to four times a day. That is why tamasic food has an effect. On the body and the mind. But you hurt people when you do this… Once they understand, then they don’t get hurt. If I have high cholesterol and I don’t eat fried food, people will not get hurt about it. So now every
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