The more I empower myself, the more successful I am. Those who believe that the more they achieve, the more successful they are, can deplete themselves, says Sister BK Shivani in this interview with Suma Varughese
Sister BK Shivani is surely among the flag-bearers of holistic success. A gold medallist in electronic engineering from Pune University (1994), she could easily have stridden down the golden path of an MBA, a cushy corporate job and a fancy lifestyle. But she chose instead the road less travelled. Having been exposed to spirituality through her mother’s involvement with the Mount Abu-based spiritual organisation, the Brahma Kumaris (BKs), she began to explore its tenets in her student days. Although married and even helping in her husband’s business, her priority is her role as a Raj Yoga meditation teacher with the Brahma Kumaris. Over the years, thanks to her programme called Awakening With Brahma Kumaris, presently channelled on Aastha, Sanskar and India Today, she has become one of the most popular speakers not just from the BK stable but in the field of spirituality itself. She is a regular speaker at our Life Positive Expos in Delhi, and I have seen the powerful impact her presence and words have on the listener. Tall and slender, dressed invariably in a white sari, her hair worn in a simple plait, her face radiant though free of make-up, she emanates an unmistakeable air of peace and purity. Blessed with a rare clarity, Sister Shivani can penetrate to the depths of any subject you invite her to speak on, with a perspective that is both profound and fresh. Despite her phenomenal popularity, which keeps increasing with time – I have seen how the public jostles to get anywhere near her, and how much adulation she receives – she remains simple, unaffected and herself. Her focus is unmistakeably on contributing. If that isn’t success, what is? Excerpts from a recent interview with her:
What is holistic success?
Holistic success has the same dimensions as holistic health: it has physical, emotional, social and spiritual components. If we are physically healthy, emotionally stable, have harmonious relationships, the foundation of all of which is the practice of spiritual principles, then we can experience holistic success. When we forget the first basic spiritual principle that we are souls, our definitions change. When we believe that we are the body then everything we acquire becomes the basis of our success – our marks, knowledge, wealth, position, and achievements. When we remember that we are a soul then who we are becomes the basis of our success. For a student, success is getting the highest marks in the class. For a housewife, it is taking good care of her family and home. For a professional, success revolves around achievements and wealth. However, if I get good marks but am stressed, or go into a depression when I don’t come first, is that success? Today, children who top their exams are also stressed, because they have a personal and parental expectation of performing the same always. Constant stress, fear or anxiety will then become a habit. The child will go on to create fear around his job, or his family. Fear becomes his sanskar. Comparison and competition emerge from the belief that only those who come first are successful. Once the soul creates this sanskar, it is difficult to be happy. We start competing in all spheres of our life, be it profession, family, friends, social work or even religious and spiritual practices, because we cannot separate our sanskars from what we do. If parents would start teaching that my performance is commensurate with my capacity, then I will be truly successful. I will love and care for others if I am not in competition with them. That’s where the social dimension comes in. Today, in companies, competition is not just external, it is also internal, within the organisation. Co-operation is destroyed. This is very depleting, and it cannot create true success. A successful person cares for others and helps them to move ahead, happily sharing all that he knows. In the process, he also moves ahead, often even more than his capacity. But if we are in competition, then we create insecurity, jealousy and even try to slow down the journey of people around us. Can this be called success? In a holistic space, the successful person is one who earns the maximum blessings. The CEO who earns the blessings of his colleagues and client, is successful. If you earn blessings, your soul power increases, your behaviour will be compassionate; you will be emotionally and physically healthy and will perform well. Only if you possess all this, will you enjoy what you achieve and earn.
Should not safeguarding the environment through what you make and how you make it, be part of holistic success?
The environment is all about the collective consciousness of people. Our thoughts radiate vibrations which influence the air, water, nature, animals, birds, and of course, people. Purity in thoughts will create a pure environment. When we understand that success is not about accumulating more, then greed will come down and that will be a blessing for the environment. Successful parents can create emotionally strong children. If parents are emotionally stable with the right thought process, then so will the children be. The thought process of parents will automatically transfer to the children. We need to teach children what is the real definition of success. They are given a prize for coming first in the exams or at a sport. We need to give prizes to children who are honest and sincere. If the child honestly confesses that he did not do his homework because he went for a picnic, we need to appreciate his honesty even while disciplining him for his performance. Children get appreciation only for marks. Hence success revolves around performance. But if they were appreciated for the right values, they would learn to focus on that. After all, we all want appreciation. Success has become only what we have achieved, which is why we strive to achieve at any cost, even if it means trampling over someone, or being unethical. On the other hand, someone may not have achieved much materially, but is truly successful, because he or she is healthy, loved, emotionally strong, socially connected and contented with life. Spiritually speaking, the biggest success is the creation of beautiful sanskars and good karmas, which are the only things you take with you. Everything you achieve outside this are all left behind when you leave the body. We need to look at the success of the soul. People need to look at their lives through a bigger dimension. Material success depends on what you have. Success of the self depends on what you give, not just materially, but emotionally such as happiness, love, compassion and empathy. You are successful because you have these things in abundance and therefore can give. When we are emotionally and spiritually depleted, we ask for love, for understanding. We tell the other, “You be like this or that, so I can be happy.” If our emotional state gets easily affected by situations and people, it is a sign that the soul is weak and this cannot be success.
How do you measure up, sister, to these parameters?
(Laughs): Am on the journey of achieving this success. Spiritually, when your mind is stable no matter what anyone says or does, or no matter what the circumstances are, that is success.
How easy is this?
It is very easy, provided our priority is clear. Once we know what gives us a feeling of fulfilment, we will keep that as the priority. Whether we are studying, working, looking after family or even doing social service, we need to remember that the feeling of happiness, contentment and love does not come from what we achieve or get from others, but is experienced based on the quality of our intentions and karmas. Once I understand that the more I empower myself, the more successful I am, I start moving on that path. Otherwise, all of us are on the road of achievement. Those who believe that the more they achieve, the more successful they are, deplete themselves if they do not take care of themselves. Life is supposed to be beautiful. We are meant to lead lives of sharing and caring. It is not meant to be competitive. Twenty to 30 years ago, people used to do so much for each other. Today, neighbours don’t know each other. This means we have moved away from success. Our soul power is depleted, which is why we are in Kaliyug. All that we have achieved is not giving us happiness. Once the definition of success is clear, then it is easy to walk the path.
How much has society moved towards this definition of success?
A lot of people are moving towards spirituality, towards well-being. But that is not considered to be successful by society. It’s time such people were called successful. That is very important. We see so many people from IIT and other prestigious institutions leaving everything to do social work in remote places. But which magazine are they on the cover of? When society starts seeing that people who do other types of work are recognised as successful, more people will strive to emulate them. If someone is working for the environment, call him successful. It is important that society creates the right role models for success, and thereby teaches us what success truly means. Then we will create more and more such people.
What kind of world will we see if this becomes the reality?
If purity of intention and karma becomes our purpose of life, if increasing soul power becomes our priority, then we will create a world where: Peace is the religion, love is the language, compassion is the relationship, truth is in action and happiness is a way of living. This is the New World which everyone desires. It cannot be a miracle; it has to be created by all of us. Our sanskars create our sansar.
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