By Shivi Verma
Innocence is power. All spirituality is about rediscovering the purity and the innocence we were born with, and which we lost in the trauma of growing up, says Shivi Verma.
Genius is the recovery of childhood at will.
Innocence is our purest state of being. It is the way each one of us is intrinsically created. Our essence is unblemished purity, with clear hearts and minds. In short, the soul is innocence personified. Children and animals attract us irresistibly because of the innocence that reflects from their eyes. The innocence with which tiny fledglings look at you, as you discover their hidden nest in the attic, mysteriously tug at your heart, and arouse the protector in you.
The innocent have no judgement since they have very little mind activity to overcast the clear crystal of the soul. A little baby wrapped in the arms of the mother peers out innocently at the world. He has no sense of getting hurt since he has only known protection.
Innocence arouses the softest, gentlest, most tender emotions in the heart of the onlooker. It provokes the Higher Self to force its way up through the rubble of negativity, despair and cynicism. Innocence means being totally in the moment. It means no judgement of oneself and of others.
On growing up, all of us look back longingly at those carefree times when we fought with our friends only to befriend them the next moment. When everything was full of wonderment, and we needed no special occasion to be happy. The sight of a flying aeroplane, a hurtling train, rising soap bubbles, a trail of ants on the wall could fill us with joy and ecstasy. We lived in the moment, and lived it fully.
Innocence is at its peak when we know that love, security and acceptance is unconditional. When we know we will never be rejected for committing mistakes and making errors. When we have no doubts about the abundance of everything we need.
Says Guru Mohanji, author of the book, Power of Purity, “Innocence is a state when purity overwhelms the heart. Purity is the basis of innocence. There is no manipulation, no private agenda, no urge to prove anything to the world, no expectations and corresponding disappointments. Just sheer love generated out of purity of the inner space. Only such a space creates the state of innocence. Innocence should not be confused with naivety. Naivety is a weakness. Innocence is strength. Innocence is a state close to godliness. Or godliness brings forth the state of innocence. True saints and small children are prime examples. A state of no ego, no expectations, no manipulation, and no agenda leaves the space for innocence. Animals and birds display innocence spontaneously.”
Keeping up pretences, outsmarting others, putting them down, wheeling and dealing, or turning cynical, may feed our egos, but starve our souls. Cleverness and craftiness often comes at the cost of losing our inner purity. We live in our minds…totally detached from the current of bliss running beneath in our hearts. Judgmentalism, cunningness, disconnect and separate, whereas innocence joins and connects people. All meaningful relationships in our life have their base in innocence. Innocence enables us to accept people in their totality, without judging or labelling them.
“Innocence is that utterly natural state of your being – free from all negativity, in which you came to this world, and which is still present inside you,” says Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of the Art of Living Foundation.
The power of innocence
Innocence is a state of power. It is a state of purity which is divine and infectious. Crusaders may or may not change the world, but innocence changes people. Says Rehana Mohammed Shakir, an avid cat lover, “I used to feel very intimidated by dogs, until one of them touched my life with love. This dog shared space with a young kitten in my office compound. I used to bring cat food for the kitten, and the building security guard requested that the dog be given a share of the food. He was most affectionate even when he knew I was mortally frightened of dogs. I would speak to him from a respectful distance, as he wagged his tail in joy. One day he was so happy to see me, he leaped onto me. A few days later at work, I couldn’t spot him, and when I asked they said he had died the evening before. He had been suffering from cancer. I was heartbroken. I still remember his gentle, loving eyes, his gratitude and affection. I believe he was an angel. It doesn’t matter if you are a cat person or a dog person. The language of love and compassion remains the same. That’s what he taught me.”
This innocence which may appears as ignorance in children or animals becomes a very powerful tool in the hands of the realised. Their choice to remain innocent despite the distrust and hostility of the world converts it into a weapon which disarms attackers and moves Providence to support them.
Though a student, Swami Vivekananda was skeptical of Ramakrishna Paramahansa’s spiritual achievements, and often made fun of him…Yet, pulled by his purity, he would still be found at his doorsteps every day. When Ramakrishna asked him why he came, Narendra replied, “I come to you because I love you…not to hear your sermons.” Very often, he would put Ramakrishna in doubt about his divine connection with his incisive, cutting logic. “All your visions are nothing but mental madness and hallucination,” he would say. Innocent Ramakrishna would seek shelter in his Divine mother at such times, and she would dispel his doubts. Steeped in his love for Narendra, once Ramakrishna made his way to his house in Calcutta calling ‘Naren, Naren’ only to be chided by Narendra for exposing his God-intoxication to his friends. However, Ramakrishna’s true love, childlike innocence, vulnerability, and pure devotion to Mother Kali finally won the rebellious disciple over, who later stormed the world with his spiritual prowess.
When a resentful woman dumped a heap of garbage everyday on Prophet Mohammed…he would not say a word. Instead, the one day she did not appear, he inquired solicitously after her well-being. The simplicity of his heart melted the woman’s angry heart. She sought his forgiveness, and became his follower.
Reflects Mohanji, “In the harsh world of profits, innocence is seen as a weakness. On the contrary, innocence is liberation. Innocence means inner richness while greed means inner poverty. Inner richness eventually leads to outer richness. Inner greed eventually leads to outer poverty. The world is reeling in manipulations and greed which ruthlessly crush the innocent. Yet, innocence is the flower that gives hope to humankind.”
According to Sanjiv Ranjan, healer, psychotherapist, and founder of the All India Institute of Body-Mind-Medicine, innocence is self-protective. Says Sanjiv Ranjan, “When you are aligned with innocence, you move into heart intelligence which is much more powerful and into the Universal Mind, which is supremely intelligent, infinitely resourceful. It is like being connected to www.universe.com.”
She herself, though not very fond of animals, could not stop her motherly heart from overflowing on seeing a litter of newly born puppies in our compound. Every day she would walk to them with a bagful of food for the new mother. “She needs energy to feed these infants,” she would say, teary-eyed. Bonfires were lit to keep the little ones warm in winter, and she would weep on seeing anyone of the litter crushed to death under a speeding bike.
“Look at Lord Shiva – the most popular and powerful deity, worshipped by most. It is his innocence and simplicity that makes him the most preferred god. He is also known as bhole baba. Bhole means innocent in English, and a child is fondly called baba in major parts of India. Baba also refers to someone with timeless wisdom. A father or grandfather are also called Baba. In innocence, there is timeless wisdom. When we stay innocent we stay protected,” Sanjiv adds.
Scriptures testify that the gods have often intervened to protect the innocent. Lord Krishna protected innocent gopis from the wrath of Indra and many other demons. When child Prahlada stood with folded hands before his father, ready to be killed for his faith in Vishnu, the Lord himself exploded from a pillar, in the form of the ferocious Lord Narsimha, and killed Hiranyakashyapu.
Till today the universe conspires to protect the innocent, the pure and those with no ulterior motive. Says Marian English, in a paper published in the Christian Science Journal, “If ever we’re tempted to compare childlike innocence with weakness, consider Malala Yousafzai. The teenage Pakistani insisted on the simple concept of a girl’s right to gain an education. The meekness with which she spoke was not timidity or fear, but the innocence of conviction and justice. When opponents radically opposed to women’s rights tried to stop the message by attacking the messenger, their action accomplished just the opposite. Violence against an unarmed child focussed worldwide attention on the very issue it was intended to suppress. It triggered a wave of support, prayer, and compassion. It swelled a rising tide of rebellion against oppression. Malala’s triumph is not the first time that innocence has had the last word.”
Says Mohanji, “Innocence brings forth hope and kindness. It expands hearts. In the current war-torn world of greed, innocence will help like fresh air. Innocence reflects the state of inner purity that the world should open its eyes to.”
Says Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, “Cunningness and manipulation do not let you have peace of mind because eventually, they turn into guilt, creating so much turbulence in the mind that it cannot settle down. It is only through innocence and simplicity that you can go deep within yourself and be peaceful.”
Though each one of us is born pure and innocent, the pangs of growing up take its toll. Fear of parents, the angst of survival, betrayals, desires, guilt, and anxiety create infinite layers of judgments in our minds, and the fount of innocence dries up.
Why we lose innocence
Dents begin to happen when parenting and schooling starts. Classification of children as good or bad on the basis of their obedience, compliance and class performance begins to affect their psyche. Confusion, competition begins to set in, and the mind comes into play. These judgments made during formative years stick like a label. No wonder the good continue to perform better, and the poor keep struggling to improve their grades and gain respect. Innocence gradually begins to peter out. Peer and parental pressure, rejections and judgements all divorce us from our inner child. We stop believing in our hearts and put undue premium on our minds. Says Burra Gopala Christina, a Secunderabad-based astrologer, “A child is innocent by birth, and therefore is called a reflection of God. Sadly, the influence of modern parents and teachers causes them to lose this natural shine. Very few are able to develop this quality again by simple and spiritual living.”
“The desire to earn the approval of teachers made me compete with other children. I stopped valuing people for their inner worth and saw them through the prism of their mark sheets. I think my innocence bade farewell from that time,” says Nimisha Gupta, 34, lawyer from Allahabad. Adulthood brings responsibilities, struggles, and innocence either appears foolish, or dangerous. With time we begin to believe that innocence is a childhood luxury. We become afraid of exposing our softness for fear of ridicule or manipulation.
Says Amit Jayein, an event manager from Mumbai, “Being the only son and youngest in my family, I was highly pampered at home. I loved dancing, drawing, playing the piano, or just enjoying everything like a free bird. But I was also very innocent, naïve and gullible, and unexposed to the ways of the world. My parents often told me, “It’s time you acted like a mature person… it’s time you got serious in life”. Initially, I shrugged it off, but with time, I thought it was imperative to get serious. I got married, and started taking everything more seriously. I dressed more formally, spoke little, thought a lot, and gave up dance, music and other passions completely, thinking I would look stupid to carry on a hobby at an adult age.”
He laments, “I slowly lost contact with my inner self. I became depressed. I was sleepless at night and confused during the day.”
Comments Sanjiv, “Look around yourself, how innocence is killed with the burden of knowledge, and in the name of intelligence how intuitiveness is killed. Spontaneity is killed in the garb of tried and tested formulae. The age of lost innocence varies for each person. Some lose it when they learn that their childhood fantasies are merely myth, while others lose theirs due to trauma.”
With the death of innocence dies everything beautiful in the world. The sun rises, the birds chirp, the wind blows, the flowers blossom, people love and give, but you walk by without noticing the marvels…because the beholder is not there anymore.
How to return to innocence
Once we reconnect with innocence, we connect with the universal flow of love and bounty. But it requires us to give up on our conditionings, beliefs and ego. It requires us to surrender to the oneness, goodness and justice of God. It asks us to let go of the baggage of self-important achievements.
Osho, the maverick guru, says that renunciation of knowledge is the key to returning to innocence. He says, “Only innocent people can be blissful. The more you know, the less is the possibility of being blissful. That is the meaning of the Biblical story where Adam was turned out of the garden of Eden – because he ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge. He became knowledgeable, he became a knower. He lost his innocence. He was no more a child… the ego entered. The ego always enters through knowledge. Knowledge is a very subtle possession, and knowledge separates you from existence. So if you can understand there is no need to renounce anything if you can renounce knowledge. And that is the irony: people renounce everything, but they never renounce knowledge.”
He adds, “That’s why Jesus goes on insisting: ‘Unless you become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of God’. And how can one become like a child? One becomes like a child when one renounces knowledge.”
According to the sages when the Master detonates the knowledge-fed ego of his disciple, or when the disciple himself surrenders to the Divine, his walk back to purity begins.
Says Dada Vaswani, “If, at the inner core of my being, I cherish love and devotion to God or my guru, my innocence (freedom from taint of evil) is still intact! Redirect your love, longing and all desire away from the pleasures of the world, and focus them on the Lord who is all Beauty, all Wisdom and true Wealth. Seek the guidance of a guru, a spiritual mentor. Spending time in the presence of an evolved soul is the most powerful source of purity, peace, inner joy and wisdom. Like you switch on coils and insect repellants to keep away mosquitoes at night, switch on Ishwara bhakti and guru bhakti, and you will keep away all thoughts of evil and sin.”
Often this walk back to innocence happens when difficulties become insurmountable, and human efforts fail. We give up on our skills and acquired knowledge. Desperately, we trek back to our Source. Through the help of healers and wise souls, layers of conditioning begin to fall apart, and we discover that life is not a serious matter…it is a cosmic playground, and all of us are innocent children. That God is non-judgemental. That we need not judge ourselves and others so harshly. Spirituality helps people to get faith back in life. It opens up the clogged pores of innocence. It removes doubts, pride and self-deprecation responsible for attracting experiences that shake our faith and destroy innocence. Surrendering to the Divine and knowing that we are loved and cherished beyond our wildest dreams melts away doubts, fears and anxiety. Knowing that in the eyes of God there are no sinners, purges the heart of the guilt of craftiness. Knowing that unawareness is the only sin, and awareness the biggest liberation, brings back joy and innocence.
Says Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, “Just realise that innocence is already there in you. Mistakes happen in unawareness. As soon as you become aware of a mistake, you are already out of it. In the present moment, we are all innocent.”
Says writer Satish Purohit, “Innocence in my opinion is the absence of conscious crafting of expression. I felt inspired to write one such article after attending a workshop. Something opened up for me within and without. I felt okay to be myself, and felt strongly that I should write on the subject.”
This article, Losing it, which was published in Life Positive, happened after Satish discovered his spiritual mentor Sri Radhe Maa and attended a workshop on self-healing. Many of his judgments fell away. The possibility of touching another human being in a pure, non-sexual, innocent way – something he had lost in his childhood due to unpleasant experiences – embraced his heart. “I was hugged by so many participants that I felt reborn…in some ways the sharing rehabilitated some of the innocence I lost very early on in my life,” he says in his article.
“That piece was read by a professional in her dentist’s waiting hall, and moved her so much that she wrote to me and we became friends. I count her as one of my closest friends today, and her friendship would not have come to be had I not allowed my art to embrace innocence,” he adds.
Mitra Suta, a consultant doctor in a Mumbai hospital, was a student of Vedanta. “After a certain period, I felt stuck in my spiritual progress. I met my guru Dadashreeji at that point. When I heard him I felt that his teachings were in sync with the age-old scriptures but also 100 times more simplified. It was the experience of inherent bliss and peace that I returned with after meeting him, that baffled me. This experience led to an intense surrender and helped me regain my innocence.”
Today, he devotes himself to serving humanity and spreading the message of his master.
As awareness of our inherent purity and divine origin sets in, we realise that no matter where we go and what we do, we are perennially protected and unconditionally loved by our Divine father. As gratitude fills our heart…innocence returns. When we forgive ourselves as well as others, we break open the prison walls of karma, and run joyfully in the field of bliss and innocence.
Now life acquires a new meaning. The events are still the same. People still hurt, but we do not let a grudge soil our consciousness. This return to innocence is now armed with awareness. We expect people to be no better, yet we have greater faith in our and their Higher Self.
Innocence with awareness
Yet trying to maintain inner purity does not mean becoming blind to the instinct for self-preservation. While we must be willing to trust the inherent goodwill of the universe we must also fine-tune our intuition that tells us to take flight in the face of danger.
An attempt to stay innocent can become counter to human growth if people do not learn from their setbacks and continue to remain naive. An aunt of mine who is extolled greatly for virtues like generosity, forbearance and trusting others, has nobody by her side in the dusk of her life as she lies helplessly in bed. Her fault was that she did not discriminate between the deserving and the undeserving while giving away and trusting. As a result people took advantage, and now she is penniless. A goodness which aids wrongdoers is no goodness at all. Goodness helps and transforms people only when it is done with awareness. When we know where to put our foot down to avoid exploitation. When we trust and give with the awareness of acting in the highest interest of people. When we know that our boundaries and resources are not being challenged. If your attempt at not judging people has earned you a few gashes…use it not to recoil from innocence but to grow in awareness. Obey your instincts and learn to politely decline an offer which you sense is fraught with bad intentions. The choice of staying innocent must be armed with awareness and self-responsibility. An innocent person is not foolish. He is intelligent enough to gauge the intentions of those who approach him. Yet his choice to act differently is powered by the desire for a higher good.
Says Siddharth Sthalekar, a former investment banker and volunteer at Seva cafe, “Innocence means having awe towards everything you see. The capacity to learn, absorb and assimilate is rooted in innocence. You keep one foot in the unknown, while keeping one foot in the known. Having both feet firmly planted on either of the two sides is foolishness. In Seva cafe where food is served as a gift and people are asked to pay for the next guest’s meal, many people often try to take advantage by paying a paltry sum. This used to disturb us. On brainstorming we felt that the aim of Seva cafe was to spread compassion. We decided not to judge such people and get angry. Instead, we started out by giving them more attention and showing them the contribution, love and labour of those voluntarily offering their sevices to Seva cafe. We learnt to empathise with such people. Several such people were so moved by our work that they became volunteers. Of course it is still not easy but we choose to be simple knowing that people can take us for a ride. The possibility of transformation is always thrilling. We are also learning to be polite but firm.”
Says Alok Meher Srivastava, a Delhi-based IT professional and devotee of the late Meher Baba, “Maintaining my inner purity was of greater importance than any material achievements for me. Earlier, the slights of the world would break my heart. But upon entering spirituality and becoming Meher Baba’s disciple I became stronger in my commitment to doing the right thing, and not judging wrongdoers. In Delhi, I used to teach in a computer training institute. The owner did not pay me my salary for three months. That money used to pay for my fees in a Masters in Computer Application (MCA) course, and so I lost a semester. I resigned from the institute. Later, the very same man asked me to present a paper in computer education. He told me that he would pay me Rs 1,500. I knew that he was likely to cheat me again…but I also knew that his centre was closing down, and he needed help. I obliged willingly. I presented the paper and he walked away with the credit. He paid me nothing. But I was able to move on because he did what he was capable of, and I did what I was wont to do. I trusted him with the awareness that he may not change. I feel more blissful today since I have faith in my heart, and the divine protection of Meher Baba. I know that in every situation I have a choice and power to do what I want.”
Seconds writer and Life Positive website editor, Jamuna Rangachari, “At one point, I used to think I trusted people too much, and therefore got fooled. I tried being smart in the worldly sense but that created more stress and confusion in my life. It was then that I decided to go back to my former self, and embraced vulnerability and innocence, I found people and providence supported me. “I once gave money to a young girl who said she needed to pay fees urgently. I did not really know her but helped her anyway. Much later, when I was getting transferred, she was instrumental in getting many people to help me shift and pack. There was no negotiation of costs; they just told me I could pay whatever I felt was appropriate.”
Such an innocence is God’s grace upon the receiver. We connect, fight and make up quickly knowing the malleability of the human heart. Events of all magnitude come and pass leaving our pure core untouched. We know that the playground has expanded, and the rules have become slightly tough but it is for us to improve our skills of the game. Now life with all its vagaries is one sweet song. We revel in our innocence, because ultimately, life is nothing but a game.
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