By Swami Nikhilananda Saraswati January 2012 A seeker can change life on all six levels – personal, work, family, society, nature and understanding of God – by integrating a few simple insights into everyday living, says Swami Nikhilananda Saraswati The New Year is a good time for introspection and making changes. When we take time to look within, we are able to focus on the areas that need attention. This deeper understanding of the workings of the mind leads us to question our goals and in some cases re-evaluate them. It is important to know what we want in life, so that we can achieve it. We all without exception want to improve our life. The quality of our lives can be enhanced either by improving the standard of living or by improving the standard of life. Generally, we focus more on our standard of living. We improve our living conditions according to standards prevalent in society. Everyone wants a bigger car, a bigger house, more wealth and better education. We focus our complete attention on such matters. Gradually, as we begin to understand the shortcomings of materialism and delve deeper, we notice the beauty of individuals. At this juncture we concentrate on improving the standard of life. Our life should be an expression of beauty both internally and externally. The quality of life is improved at six levels –personal, work, family, society, nature and understanding of God. Growth and wisdomAt the personal level, growth is very important. Quality of life improves if an individual progresses and evolves on a daily basis. Each one is born at a particular level of evolution and to remain at that level would mean wasting a life. Therefore, it is essential to continue evolving and growing as individuals. The degree of contentment is a good barometer for gauging one’s personal growth and evolution. One should grow from contentment to contentment. The secret to this lies in our attitude and vision of life. The world is made up of opposites. A half-filled glass of milk can be viewed as either half full or half empty. It all depends upon the angle of vision. If we focus on the empty portion we become discontented. However, if we look at the filled portion, we experience satisfaction. The Lord’s grace has blessed us all in plenty and the ability to see, acknowledge and appreciate this should be developed. The only alternative to contentment is discontentment. Many feel that discontentment is an impetus and a motivation to higher growth and progress. However, it is possible to work out of a sense of deep inner contentment. Such work becomes a source of joy. Observe a tree. It is perfect! It grows from contentment to contentment. The cause for contentment is wisdom. This is not a collection of knowledge that is information or data. But when knowledge becomes one’s own experience, it is experiential wisdom. This sparks a transformation within. Contentment and wisdom together contribute to immense personal growth. Most unhappy people are discontented people.Work satisfaction Swami Nikhilananda giving a lecture Work is an expression of our innermost thoughts and feelings. If we do not express what is within, we feel frustrated and discontented. We must work out of a sense of joy and deep satisfaction. Our parents, friends, peers, and society push us towards various work choices. One must feel useful to oneself and to society. Ultimately the choice lies with us. Job or work satisfaction can be achieved by following two simple rules of dedication and efficiency.Work, however simple, can be done efficiently. Every action can be a work of art! My teacher, Swami Chinmayananda went about the task of spreading the knowledge of Vedanta with joy and complete efficiency. People are chosen for a particular job according to their personality, not qualifications. Generally, we prefer the other person’s work to our own. If we work selfishly towards our own growth then there is neither satisfaction nor joy in the work. A flower can be plucked either with joy in the heart or pride in the mind. Great joy and efficiency arise when we dedicate the work to a higher cause or altar. The higher the altar, the greater the beauty and energy reflected in the work. Take the example of Tansen’s teacher. Tansen was a singer par excellence at Akbar’s court. The king was so impressed with Tansen’s singing that he expressed a desire to meet his teacher and asked for him to be brought to the palace. Tansen said that to meet his teacher, the king would have to go to him. King Akbar readily agreed and they both set off to meet Tansen’s teacher. They saw him seated in the temple in front of the deity, singing for the Lord. The music was most divine. Akbar was visibly moved and told Tansen, “He is really great! How come you, as his disciple don’t sing as well as him?” To this Tansen replied, “My dear king, my teacher sings for the Lord and I sing for you!” Similarly, Meera Bai sang exquisitely. All her songs were for the Lord alone. Our work gains in strength when it is dedicated to something higher and bigger. Tending to the family Swami Nikhilananda is the headof the Chinmaya Mission, NewDelhi. Swamiji will be deliveringthe valedictory address at the Life Positive Expo to be held onJanuary 27, 28 and 29,New Delhi. Family relationships should be strong, built on love and respect. Parents should invest not only on the child but in the child as well. Respect for the spouse is as important, as is the acceptance of other family members. Family tradition comes from generations. The right values and samskaras bind and unite the family unit. Rich and successful people have families that are scattered and torn apart. They remain as little dismantled units all living under one roof. Family life should be based on universal values, not worldly valuables.Harmonious society All around us we see life in all its variety and diversity. Every animal, bird and plant is different and unique. Human beings too are different. We have different religions, cultures, races, food habits and philosophies. In organisations and work places everyone is not similar. It is illogical and unnatural to create uniformity in individuals. In a society filled with such immense variety, it is very important to learn the art of accepting people as they are. A spirit of participation and service towards society should also be inculcated. This is a culture whereby each individual contributes and gives back to society in some form or the other. It could be by way of social work or by contributing a little of what we earn towards a cause. Honouring natureWe are related to everything in nature, to the mountains, rivers, birds and animals. Everything is interconnected. You cannot pluck a blade of grass without disturbing the distant star. Snowfall in the hills has the effect of cool weather down in the plains. A little pollution at one place has a tremendous effect at another. All of nature must be treated with kindness and reverence. Trees are cut indiscriminately in the name of development. Development must be carried out with responsibility and an expansive vision ensuring there is plenty for future generations. Man may harness nature but only while making sure to sustain the future. All this adds quality to our lives.Relationship with GodDeveloping a positive relationship with the Divine is fundamental to our growth and development. We must put our trust in God. Trust makes us secure and relieves us of stress and tension. We feel more at home in this world. There is then no fear of pain, sorrow, ill health or death. This fearlessness arises through devotion and surrender to God. All our actions must stem from a deep inner acceptance of a higher Reality. Our actions will then be responses, not reactions. By inculcating this six-point programme we can elevate and improve the standard of life and make our lives more rewarding and fulfilling.
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