It is possible to change your lifescript towards greater positivity and good fortune. Try to attain your highest potential in life. this calls for awareness, making the right decisions, detachment from the fruits of your karma, getting into the flow and aligning yourself with the divine
There is a statement in the Upanishads which says that through karma one can change one’s destiny, meaning that through proper performance of action in life, through the harmonious expression of action in life, it is possible to change the quality of nature. Once the quality of nature changes, the expression of that nature is different…. When through action, through karma, we are trying to channel the forces of our life, then destiny is definitely transformed. There can be no question about it. And this transformation of destiny leads to attainment of perfection in life.
-Paramahansa Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati, Bihar School of Yoga
Fate and Free Will
Amrita Sirur (name changed) of Mumbai, is a good looking woman scientist in her forties, single, now settled abroad. It was some 20 years ago, that her guru who was also an astrologer told her in all seriousness that sometime in the following two months she would meet with a fatal accident. The chances of her survival were very little, and it was only with a supreme effort of will on her part would she perhaps manage to scrape through alive.
He was an old and ailing man, who passed away within a few days after that. Amrita’s doting family, since she was the only daughter, was in an uproar over the grim prediction by a trusted mentor. They had planned a vacation in Chennai a few weeks later, and her brother canceled her train ticket to save her from a mishap on the journey. She continued to attend office while the rest of her family left on the scheduled trip.
Her office colleagues threw a minor celebration after work hours in the midst of Diwali and after it was over, Amrita walked on her way home alone, having fobbed off their offer to escort her.
She does not have any recollection of what happened, but a bus driver apparently lost control of his vehicle on the other side of the road. It jumped the divider to hurtle across the wrong side, ramming into her back and dragging her along for sometime until it finally came to a stop. When she regained consciousness, she was being wheeled into a hospital casualty ward, and she remembers giving the accompanying policeman her name, address and the details of how to contact her family in Chennai! She did not feel any pain until much later, when she realised that she was in a totally mangled state from behind, waist down, one foot dangling with just a little bit of skin and tendon.
Then followed a bitter struggle for survival, with repeated reconstructive surgeries so that her back and limbs could assume a semblance of functioning. Amrita was engaged to be married, and her fiancé spent long hours with her, holding her hand, reading to her, giving her hope and courage. She later sent him away to chart his own course independent of her.
Amrita started the physiotherapy sessions. The ward staff were uplifted by her light-hearted banter and her determination to stand on her own feet, be able to sit down unsupported, take the first tentative steps, and to walk at any cost. It was a rare miracle that they were privileged to witness on a daily basis, for more than two-odd years!
Amrita’s salary had continued in the meanwhile, mercifully, since the whole process of repeated surgeries and physiotherapy was terribly expensive. She resumed work on an on-and-off basis, since her work in the lab was too hard on her frame without adequate cushioning. More surgeries followed. The institute had a new director, who in his zeal for streamlining and downsizing, suggested to Amrita that she continue working in the grade of lab assistant! She flared up with a magnificent display of spirit to warn him that she took it as a personal challenge, and she would do her PhD from the same institute, to work on a higher grade than was presently hers!
She did it! All through that period, nerves had begun to fray at home, especially with her brother’s wife unable to take a charitable view of the immense toll Amrita’s recovery had taken of her family and its resources. Amrita quietly applied for a post-doctoral fellowship abroad, to eventually settle in the US. None other than her boss were ever privy to her disability, and that too only because she faced the prospect of future surgeries to prevent advancing decrepitude! She even managed to send money home on a regular basis. Those at work knew her as a responsible scientist and a jolly woman who loved music, cooked great Indian dishes, and kept to herself away from work.
She called me in Berkeley from Stanford one day, asking if she could come and visit me. My first impression of her was that of a dignified, calm person with an aura of pink surrounding her. She came across as a beautiful, self-possessed young woman who was wise beyond her years.When I later went and stayed with her, I saw her sleep to the sound of soulful Italian love songs, played over and over again. Always, with a copy of Madame Marie Curie’s biography under her pillow, because she was her greatest source of inspiration. That, and her spirituality, her regular meditation and the Gayatri mantra. I am sure that the ether resonates with greater vibrancy every day when the universal prayer emanates from her heart.
Lessons of Amrita’s Story
Whether we believe in astrology or not, it is obvious that Amrita’s guru seemed to have given her the necessary spark that lingered somewhere in the subconscious, so that she could fight the grim battle for survival with strong determination. Amrita’s story is not only an inspiring example of mind over matter; we learn from her tragic experience how it is possible to rise above the harsh forces of karma and retribution and erase the prospect of failure and hopelessness from our lives.
In the words of Swami Vivekananda, ‘Stand up, be bold, be strong. Take the whole responsibility on your own shoulders, and know that you are the creator of your own destiny. All the strength and succor you want is within yourselves. Therefore, make your own future.’
The Dwellings We Build
In spite of the widespread use of words like karma, destiny and fate, people often tend to treat the three words interchangeably, without understanding that each is a very distinct concept.
Paramahansa Swami Niranjananda Saraswati explains, ‘Was it the destiny of a river to be converted into a dam where hydroelectric power is generated? No. The nature or the destiny of the river is to flow from the highest to the lowest point. In between there may be some barriers, some dams, some man-made lakes, but the river continues on its course.’
Destiny governs the broad framework within which we manifest our life script. It defines our genetic structure, or the place and family that we are born into, which is an immutable given at the time of birth. Fate, on the other hand, brings home to us the results of our past actions in an on going basis. Although fate confronts us in every moment of living with the challenge of taking the high road or the low one, as ordinary creatures of habit, we live out this fate along a seemingly pre-determined path, little realizing how our present actions impact upon our security and self-worth in the future.
Consider someone born to a rag picker in the streets of Mumbai, who would seemingly be destined to live a life of grueling poverty and deprivation. Fate may intervene to have the child attend a special school through sponsorship, to go on to get vocational training and a fair chance for breaking the vicious cycle of destiny. The child may drop out of school and take to crime, to live out the script of a failure. Or the child could work hard at a special talent that might take him or her totally out of the milieu of despair and hopelessness.
Anahita Sanjana is a yoga teacher at the J. B. Petit High School in Mumbai. She says that according to her teacher Jahangir Palkhiwala, karma is made of two syllables, ‘kar’ meaning action and ‘ma’ meaning me. Therefore, karma refers to all that is ‘done by me’. Similarly, ‘dhar’means to hold and dharma refers to that which is ‘held by me’, or in broad terms, it refers to the intrinsic nature of any entity. She adds, ‘Karma determines dharma, and as one acts, so shall be one’s innate tendencies. With our thoughts, words and deeds we are constantly building and rebuilding our minds and bodies -the houses in which we have to dwell, to experience blessings or curses we have incurred through our actions.’
Ms Sanjana explains, ‘Fate and free will co-exist side by side. While fate is something that is predetermined, every living moment offers us free choice, and although karma must be lived out, it is possible to convert it into grace through invoking the divine.’ A dedicated practitioner of Vipassana meditation, she adds, ‘Your reaction to thought is what emerges as free will!’
Embracing Change and Transformation
This perspective brings a strong element of personal responsibility in our everyday living, because our thoughts, words and deeds in each moment in the present have a strong influence on what we become and also on the events we will face in future. It shifts the emphasis from fate as something wholly unchangeable emerging out of the fog of the unknown past to create frustration and suffering with overtones of cosmic injustice. It also does away with the associated negative traps of blame and guilt from those who suffer, to be replaced with kindness, compassion and love. Karma thus becomes an aware and joyous enterprise undertaken with full knowledge of its consequences. This enables us to affirm our shared universal power to create destiny.
Growth in self-awareness is of paramount importance in achieving this shift from apathy in bearing ‘the slings and arrows of misery’ to taking active control over our lives. It involves understanding ourselves with keen insight into our motives, attitude and behaviour and then seeking change towards greater positivity. Above all, it requires patience, hard work and unceasing effort. The results are so great in terms of self-awareness and power over oneself that it is the most rewarding endeavor for any human being to undertake!
In my own case, life has been a roller-coaster ride full of joy and repeated heartbreak; until I came to spiritual life and meditation, about 20 years back, out of strong inner conviction and without much preparedness or outer support at first. Then came the gurus, who unconventionally demanded that I cut off my moorings and start life afresh. It is twelve years now, of active and aware struggle to shut the door on circumstances that sought my annihilation no matter what I did. I fancy myself as a strong woman; even then, these bonds of fate had unseen tentacles that kept trying to drag me back. My gurus were very patient. But each time that the earth shook, I found myself on entirely new ground, with fresh hope. And every time I slipped on the edges of the chasm, I discovered that I was in the embrace of God.
Now I am on my own with a new name symbolic of a whole new cycle of spiritual growth, in a new environment with total commitment and dedication. I owe all that I am to these wise masters, so full of compassion and love. They have given me that extra motive to grow and to better myself with each new breath in my body, and I love them with my life, body and soul.
Today I live life one moment at a time, happy and at peace with myself. This is something that I want to share with the whole world. With the understanding that I owe it to myself to always give me that extra chance, that support, that one little hope, that will enable me to surmount the forces of negativity if they do return, no matter how hard the struggle.
Create Your Karma
Usha Banerji, retired teacher and active social worker in Mumbai, says that she firmly believes in reincarnation and destiny. ‘You have to answer your karma,’ she says, adding, ‘Otherwise, how can you explain the suffering of little children? But we must understand that the cycle of bad karma can be broken through prayer, and the blessings and positive vibes sent by loving people. Thus a deaf individual may suddenly find succor through hearing aids, or a hopeless case of illness may find access to a new medicinal remedy that heals completely.’ She concludes, ‘Spiritual practices like nama smaran and japa (repeating God’s name or a holy chant) can in fact alter the course of fate.’
At every crossroad in life, our conscious choice makes a world of difference to our life’s trajectory. Taking the higher course at each such stage, we begin to gradually change the evolutionary spirals, making room for higher vibrations, until there is a quantum leap that takes us on to an entirely different karmic cycle, full of renewed hope and discovery. It is important to understand that we are creating our future karma in this very moment of living!
Every conscious and thoughtful decision that takes our thinking to a higher level breaks the predestined patterns of our own behaviour from the negative to the highly positive. At each and every single one of these moments, our personal energy is active in rewriting the grooves on our brain, changing intracellular structures and patterns of interconnections so that over a period of time, we are entirely different beings! Our behaviour changes, habit patterns take on a more positive shape, our relationships change and our very aura contains greater light! How can we then be bound by the same old restrictive fate?
Future Lies in the Realms of Probability
The ‘Seth’ books contain transcriptions on the nature of reality, karma, reincarnation and evolution, discussed by an advanced spirit Seth channeled by Jane Roberts in the US. According to Seth, the future is entirely in the realms of probability. It is impossible to predict the final outcome of any event, and little changes that we institute in our attitudes and behaviour have the potential to change the future. Seth says, ‘All you have to do is realize your own freedom. You form the reality that you know… The personality is given the greatest gift of all; you get exactly what you want to get. You create from nothing the experience that is your own. If you do not like your experience, then look within yourself and change it.’
You can Script Your Future
The hallmark of the present era is of women in large numbers making a personal decision to break traditional moulds and walk new paths with great determination. This is not only in terms of seeking fulfilling careers, but also in bucking the trend to do what seems more right and authentic at the inner level. Gayatriben is one such woman who has come out of modest rural origins to shoulder great responsibility as senior Raja Yoga teacher belonging to the Brahma Kumaris’ organisation in Mumbai.
Referring to the commonly held belief in the Sanskrit adage of vidhilikhita lalate (a person’s fate is written upon the forehead), she asks, ‘What do we understand by the phrase, vidhi ka vidhan? It is Brahma in his role as Creator, who writes our script upon our foreheads. Who is this Brahma? The highest, all-knowing creative faculty within our own selves plays the role of Brahma. We have the power to rewrite this script through the force of our present karma.’
She further adds, ‘It is important to understand that even bhagya (good fortune) is meaningless without purushartha, or taking positive and courageous action in the face of adversity. Fate does not lead to good fortune. What you need is purushartha, which alone results in meaningful change.’ She explains, ‘Fate serves as the brake on our life’s progress. It is purushartha that has a beneficial effect on our lives, serving as the accelerator in the course of spiritual evolution.’
In a fascinating book called Take Control of Your Life, Richard Shoup provides meaningful insights into overcoming the restrictions in life. He says that our ability in making the right decisions is what ultimately impacts on the dissolution of the hold of karma and fate upon our lives. Decisions are the tools that we use to create the lives we want.
He says, ‘One positive act attracts like acts, demonstrating the power of karma in action. When you’re stuck, doing one positive thing is sometimes all that is required to break the logjam and start positive things coming your way.’
Taking control of your life is a harmonious working together of the will and fate-a balance of ‘what I want’ and ‘what is possible.’ Achieving that balance is the very definition of maturity. It is an acceptance of life and its limits, without giving up the dream of the inner self.
Usha Thakore of Mumbai, teacher and author of a book on reiki says, ‘Ten per cent of our future is dictated by karma, ninety per cent is in our own hands. In my experience, alternative treatment methods like reiki are of great help in this regard, particularly in terms of growth in self-awareness. Once you become more aware, it creates the motive for initiating change in the way you live.’ She cites the example of how reiki has helped her achieve a balanced and harmonious relationship with her octogenarian mother-in-law. As she puts it, ‘We must not overlook the importance of health in matters of fate and karma.
‘Achieving good health or overcoming the debilitating effects of disease and illness are the first step in changing our future lives. Once our energies begin to flow without undue blockages, all else follows. Rhythm and harmony are our birthright, and as communication with the self and others improves, it serves to change all our lives in a positive manner.’
People misunderstand the theory of karma and reincarnation as something that is iron-clad and impossible to change. Every living moment in this life, our thoughts, deeds and actions impinge upon and interact with the web of karma, to not only change our destiny in future lives, but to alter the course of events in this life too.
Ms. Sanjana describes in the context of Vipassana meditation, how old karmic patterns are dissolved through detached observation. She says, ‘The physical body is born and dies every instant. Every moment the particles in our bodies are mutating and changing so that what we call this body is a process really rather than a static identity. The particles of our body come together to create sensations in every part of our body but under the spell of ordinary consciousness, we are not equipped to perceive and feel these sensations that in fact constitute our subconscious. These sensations lead to thought and emotions.
‘For example, a nameless fear we often experience could have its root as a trembling sensation in our belly. As the body sensations are watched equanimously, they dissolve. As they dissolve, the thought or emotion generated by them, also dissolves.’
New Age seers have remarked on how we tend to operate from a negative principle of scarcity, which serves to inhibit and narrow our options in life. It is noted that nature, on the other hand, seems to work on the principle of abundance. It is important to understand this concept and learn how to make it work for you.
Understanding how to actively take charge of your life also involves creating a positive core philosophy in your life, learning to be both firm and flexible, to work with the Tao, as delineated in the Chinese book of changes, Tao te Ching.
The tao, or dao as the Chinese call it, means the path. It is based on the principle of impermanence. It underscores the perpetual, untiring effort required to rid oneself of the conditioned response, an artificial way of living that diminishes our humanity and takes us away from our dharma. It highlights the value of constant striving to centre ourselves in the original, authentic essence, positively attuned to the energies of nature, earth and heaven. Hence the disciple must be ever-watchful, and the process of growth and transformation is never complete. When yin culminates, yang arises, and vice versa, and it is of ultimate significance on the path to achieve balance and equanimity at all times. This also requires the ability to understand the true nature of reality and to cultivate the sense of discrimination between true yin and false yin, or true yang and false yang. The true is eternal and belongs to the heaven, while the false arises from the external, mundane, conditioned reality. It calls for the highest awareness of self and of the final truth that ‘it is change that is at work here…’.
How to Change Your Destiny
The book Liaofan’s Four Lessons was written in the sixteenth century in China by Liaofan Yuan with the hope that it would teach his son, Tianqi Yuan, about destiny, how to differentiate good from bad, how to correct his faults, and how to practice good deeds to cultivate both virtue and humility. According to this book, once we understand the fundamental principles, we will understand that everything in this world and beyond arises from the mind and changes according to our perceptions. By seeking within ourselves, we will not only attain the inner qualities of virtue, integrity, and kindness; we will also attain external benefits such as wealth, fame, and prestige. To do this, we need to seek from within, from the mind. The outside factor is a constant; it cannot change. The mind is a variable; it changes. In the end, the author says that humility and modesty are the foundation of good fortune.
Cultivating Good Fortune
According to Liaofan, there are ten categories of practicing goodness:
o Support the practice of kindness.
o Revere, love and respect.
o Help others succeed in practicing goodness.
o Persuade others to practice kindness.
o Help those in desperate need.
o Develop public projects for the greater benefit of people.
o Practice merits by giving wealth.
o Protect and maintain proper teachings.
o Respect elders.
o Love and cherish all living things.
The Legend of Savitri
People down the ages have sought out secret formulae, resorting to tantra, mantra and yantra to shield themselves from the harmful effects of negative karma and to avoid suffering. Oral traditions prescribe patience, fortitude and even surrender in the face of unyielding adversity. Yet the legend of Savitri tells of a woman’s extraordinary fight against the forces of limitation. She is the headstrong, rebellious princess who battles fate against all odds. She marries the man of her own choosing, unheeding of the advice of the priest and her father. And then, she pursues Yama-the final arbiter of death-to trick him and bring back her beloved Satyavan to life!
The lesson of Savitri on fate is expressed in the following words by Sri Aurobindo:
‘O man, the events that meet
thee on thy road,
Though they smite thy body and soul
with joy and grief,
Are not thy fate,-they touch
thee awhile and pass;
Even death can cut not short
thy spirit’s walk:
Thy goal, the road thou choosest
are thy fate.’
Use Positive Affirmations
Santosh Sachdeva, Mumbai, author and longtime practitioner of Brahma Vidya, mentions the power of affirmations in meditation that help align us with the harmonious universal flow, bringing positivity and grace in our lives. She says, ‘Whatever that we think or say in affirmation, we actualise in our lives.’
Of her own experience with affirmations in meditation, she says, ‘As I read each positive affirmation from the course book on Brahma Vidya, I saw the form in front of my eyes, which is illustrated in my books on spirituality. Through these potent visions, I was being shown the power of the word, even at the level of thought.’
Co-operate with your Highest Destiny
Seek to understand the best talent you have brought with you in this life, and make it work for you by aligning with the divine plan. In the words of Ms. Sanjana, ‘I completed my BE in bio-medical engineering and took up a job in industry on a fairly high salary. Yet I was very unhappy because I was doing what was not in keeping with my inner essence. I felt mediocre at work, and this badly affected my self-esteem, more so because I had always excelled through my student life. Then one day, I was in the fire temple, and a prayer emerged from the deepest core of my heart: ‘Give me the correct instrument to play in my life, because what I am doing is not the best music that I have to offer. It is not the best in me!’ At that time a thought arose spontaneously in my mind, ‘Go to school and apply for a job.’ I was right next to my old school where I had studied, so I went and spoke to the Principal, who appointed me as substitute teacher in place of a teacher who was leaving on a short two-month maternity leave. I have continued in that same job ever since.
‘Even then, that whole year was one of great turmoil, including negative social criticism because I had left a plum job to work as a school teacher! But it was the same Principal who introduced me to meditation, and that brought me to this beautiful stage of awareness and the unfoldment of my life’s true purpose as a seeker.’
Once you learn to cooperate with your highest destiny, all existence becomes a series of present moments, spontaneously and creatively lived from a centered perspective within yourself. This brings magic, and life is full of surprises and gifts. Change becomes possible at every gap between thought and thought and thought and action.This leads to transformation
Spiritual change and transformation involves developing a heightened aesthetic sense so that there is an experience of beauty, love and closeness to divinity even in moments of deep pain.
Cultivation of detachment from one’s immediate circumstances also creates an enhanced sense of humor and the appreciation of existence in all its wondrous forms. Eventually, the hold of destiny and the accompanying fear or insecurity loses its grip over your living consciousness. Life becomes a joyous pilgrimage, destination unknown, and even though the path is still full of twists and turns, one experiences the bliss of oneness and being in flow in each moment of living!
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Shoup helps us understand how recognizing luck for what it is-an illusion, nearly a trick of the mind-is liberating and empowering, so that we learn to take responsibility in many areas of life where we might have previously felt hindered or stalled. He delineates how to get the power of luck working for us.o Have faith, since there is always a direct connection between positive expectations and receiving good things in our lives.
o Develop a sense of appreciation for life. This attracts more positive things in our lives and brightens our outlook.
o Learn to get in flow, a state in which you can accomplish prodigious things and reap wonderful rewards from many activities in your life.
o Position yourself where good things are happening, which involves making changes to put ourselves in good luck’s way.
o Put more trust in your intuition. The author explains that insights are not born ‘out of thin air.’ They well up from many small, unconscious messages we have received and stored up-until the point of readiness.
o Make choices. Like intuition, choices often present themselves as opportunities to claim positive outcomes and good luck.
o Be passionate about life, being involved in activities that bring real joy, so that we live luckier and reap greater rewards.
o Gather knowledge wherever you can. This means that you absorb, observe and learn before you act, and you also find ways to minimise the risk, gathering knowledge from people who’ve ‘been there.’ This improves the odds of a ‘lucky’ outcome.
o Take action. The author says, ‘And if good luck doesn’t answer, kick the door down!’
Good Luck, Bad Luck
People associate good fortune and prosperity with luck, but as many have pointed out, luck is mainly a matter of perception. What is important is to understand that every adversity or seeming bad luck contains a hidden opportunity that can be used to advantage. This is best illustrated in this Zen story:
A farmer had a horse but one day, the horse ran away and so the farmer and his son had to plough their fields themselves. Their neighbors said, ‘Oh, what bad luck that your horse ran away!’ But the farmer replied, ‘Bad luck, good luck, who knows?’ The next week, the horse returned to the farm, bringing a herd of wild horses with him. ‘What wonderful luck!’ cried the neighbors, but the farmer responded, ‘Good luck, bad luck, who knows?’ Then, the farmer’s son was thrown as he tried to ride one of the wild horses, and he broke his leg. ‘Ah, such bad luck,’ sympathized the neighbors. Once again, the farmer responded, ‘Bad luck, good luck, who knows?’ A short time later, the ruler of the country recruited all young men to join his army for battle. The son, with his broken leg, was left at home. ‘What good luck that your son was not forced into battle!’ celebrated the neighbors. And the farmer remarked, ‘Good luck, bad luck, who knows?’
The Power of Affirmations
These are the Nine Positives (affirmations) that are taught by Justice M. L. Dudhat in his course on Brahma Vidya as a part of the exercises, meditation and affirmations regimen:
o I am Whole
o I am Perfect
o I am Strong
o I am Powerful
o I am Loving
o I am Harmonious
o I am Rich
o I am Young
o I am Happy