By Punya Srivastava
The new sangha is not just in your own home, but can be cradled in your own hand. With the staggering popularity of Whatsapp, more and more are finding kindred spirits, gyan, and succour through Whatsapp groups, says Punya Srivastava
While having breakfast with a friend and her family, I noticed that her mother, 65, was as busy with her phone as I was. When I asked her jokingly if she was on Whatsapp, she cheerfully assented,” shares Mumbai-based Madhuu Sahoo. Apparently, the lady was waiting for her daily dose of positive affirmations for the day through her Whatsapp group and buddies. What’s more, she is part of an interfaith group of people dedicated to the cause of praying for the sick.
A woman of 65 showing such enthusiasm for something considered a Gen-Y hotspot is not a surprise anymore since technology has become quite user-friendly. But what is evident is that Whatsapp is becoming a powerful purveyor of spirituality with every passing day. We all, that is all those who use a smart phone, have a Whatsapp icon on the screen of our phones, and are part of a number of groups. It is the communication tool of the hour: Easy to access, free of cost, easy to use, and a reach that cuts across borders, age, class, gender, and ethnicity.
People are not merely sharing meaningless jokes, videos and audios in the groups. They are also sharing profound messages which, when inadvertently accessed by someone in need, can revive their faith or hope. There are many groups using this medium to promote spirituality and spiritual growth. There are prayer groups, groups of healers, groups that exchange notes on their pilgrimages and their learnings. Even groups not exclusively dedicated to spirituality share inspirational messages and offer support to each other.
|Whatsapp groups bring people together in a personal yet non-intrusive manner|
My paternal uncle, Anupam Srivastava, who is based in the UK, is a follower of Swami Chinmayananda’s Vedanta teachings. He has formed a Whatsapp group of kids from both sides of his family, including me. He sends a daily morning message carrying a quote of Swami Chinmayananda’s. Mostly it happens that I come across similar thoughts or quotes which are in sync with that particular teaching a couple of times during the day. I have begun to identify the pattern that the universe weaves to reach out to me. I attract the very quotes as daily forwards which are in keeping with my state of mind for that day.
Similarly, and miraculously indeed, I am being presented with more learning opportunities through Whatsapp by the Divine. I am part of a writer’s group started by my editor where the participants hone their writing skills through daily exercises. The editor posts a new word every day and all the members then create sentences, or short stories using that word, applying the learnt principles of writing. Most of the time I come across certain words elsewhere too, as soon as they are posted in the group. On further pondering, I realised that these were the very words which I found difficult. I realised that I was being taught to drop my resistance to what I find hard. I see this as an opportunity to raise my level, to grow, not just professionally but personally too. And in this, Whatsapp becomes my learning platform.
Megha Bajaj, a regular columnist with Life Positive, and founder of Miraaya Centre, Mumbai, says, “Sometimes when a person is having a very stressful day in a corporate job, seeing such messages may be insightful and uplifting. Also, if one is a part of some really good groups where useless messages and jokes are not circulated, and the spiritual growth messages are truly sensible and profound, it often reflects one’s life at that given moment and may lead to a breakthrough or at least a realisation,” she says. Megha plans to form a group of 50 random strangers who truly want to reach out and perhaps do something for society but don’t know how to; a group of people who can travel together.
“A friend of mine got into a discussion with me on Whatsapp regarding a quote of Swami Chinmayananda which I had shared with her,” says Anupam. “We discussed the significance of forgiveness and how it benefits our own peace of mind.” This friend was already going through a difficult situation and was unable to forgive the person involved. A mere good morning forward had touched her at the right spot when she needed to hear those words the most. The next morning, this friend wrote him a gratitude message, “Thanks to the discussion yesterday, I decided to put everything behind and move forward. I could speak to the concerned person with much ease and without any negativity. I am feeling so relieved and happy. There is no tension and no body aches. In short, I am enjoying a shant chitta.”
Somewhat similar to this was Mumbai-based educationist Dr Kunti Nagwekar’s situation. She was going through a phase of indecisiveness regarding a financial issue in her business when she thought of seeking advice from one of the groups she was a part of. “I shared my problem in Brandon Bay’s The Journey, OSHO, and Team Management groups. The sharing which happened over there on that particular topic shifted something within me. Since then, I have been going within every single day. Apart from finding a solution, I also had an enlightening experience,” she says. Kunti was overwhelmed to see how quickly people responded to her query by actually taking out time to help her. “It felt wonderful to have that sort of comraderie, friendship and love from unknown members,” she enthuses.
And this process of spreading goodness is not just confined to individuals alone. Even spiritual organisations are reaching out to followers through this application. Islamic scholar and mentor, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan’s organisation, Centre for Peace and Spirituality International, broadcasts Maulana’s audios and quotes of wisdom every day. “We also have CPS Whatsapp groups in which we share activities and other updates regularly,” informs Sadia Khan, a CPS member. Sharing an example of Whatsapp’s might to transform people, Sadia says, “One of our members who uses Whatsapp said that when he started sending Maulana’s quotes of wisdom to a friend of his who was not spiritually inclined, he entered into a dialogue on spirituality and an interest in the Divine was kindled. So, Whatsapp is also helping forge new relationships and promote healthy dialogue.”
How does this work
Mumbai-based workshop facilitator Sunil Parekh forms a Whatsapp group after every workshop and sends daily reminders of the principles covered in the workshop to the participants. “This connection helps them stay connected with the learning which would otherwise get lost in a couple of days. We have groups which are running for over three years and not a single participant has left the group. It feels like a family of like-minded people,” he says, adding, “Having a group of people who are always there to listen to you, sharing their successes and difficulties is so empowering.” People often feel lost in a trying situation but being a part of such groups helps them counter the feelings of loneliness or helplessness in difficult times.
Positive energy, when shared, multiplies. Says Anupam, “When I share these positive thoughts, I get to read them multiple times. That gives me a sense of good karma. It means my own intellect has registered the thought, approved of it, and instructed me to spread it in the universe where it multiplies and becomes a global resonance.”
“Whatsapp works in real time. It is personal, without being intrusive. It is creating oneness. People from all walks of life, who are complete strangers to each other, bond with amazing bonhomie in these groups,” says Zohair Diwan, a Mumbai-based metal artist who is part of Whatsapp groups like The Journey, Landmark Forum, and Heal Yourself. He believes that Whatsapp has brought a significant change in his life vis-a -vis his personality. “I was an introvert earlier. However, Whatsapp made the presence of physical reality redundant. The background already gets created before the face-to-face meetings take place. This helps me open up.”
|Anupam Srivastava spreads goodness and inspiration through Whatsapp|
“I am part of a group called Friends for Growth where initially I knew only two members out of 80. However, over a period of time, we all have been having meaningful discussion about life and growth,” Kunti says, who has been part of at least 15 groups since the last two years and has received and sent lots of messages, stories, and teachings of spiritual masters. “These sharings impact the people who are open to receiving them,” says she. One of the Health and Fitness groups she is part of has gone one step further by inviting experts in the field to share valuable tips, every now and then.
Sunil Parekh shares how these Whatsapp groups have made a huge impact on both, his as well as his family’s life, especially his wife, Jasmine’s. Jasmine is the one who sends out the messages every day. This activity reinforces all the learning on a daily basis, and that helps them become better teachers. “Often, we get messages from our participants saying that a message changed their life and gave solutions to a problem they had been trying to resolve. That makes us feel very happy. It has become such a powerful routine that if we miss out sending a message on some day, we feel uncomfortable. It’s become a part of our life now,” he says.
Whatsapp groups – a family
These groups often become your virtual families and more often than not, come handy in moments of crisis. Santosh Joshi, SKY Healing therapist, Mumbai, recalls one such instance. “One of our woman group members suffered a heart attack. Her daughter put this message on our Whatsapp group stating that she knew that her mother was very close to the members of this group,” he says. The daughter requested everyone to pray for her mother who was in the ICU. “In no time, everyone was sending healing energies to her, even the members who were not active. It was so touching. This was like a close family praying for the speedy recovery of a member. And when she came back in action, the group was flooded with welcome messages. It was an excellent demonstration of how close we came because of Whatsapp and also became a support group,” Santosh shares.
Sunil also recalls similar instances where participants asked for group healings, and prayers from someone’s success. “A participant’s father was in ICU and he requested group healing. All group members immediately did so and after two hours we received a message that his father was completely stable and out of the ICU. It was almost like a miracle. The platform has helped people live happier and more peaceful lives. This gives us immense happiness and joy,” he says.
Whatsapp families also celebrate moments of joys together. Kunti, and her group members, go out for movies, theatre, dinners every once in a while. Zohair shares how he and group members from a group named ‘Chhoti Si Asha’ gather on weekends and visit underprivileged children to spend time with them. For many people, these visits are a first and they marvel at their own ability to share joy with these children with such ease. All thanks to Whatsapp and its creators – Jan Koum and Brian Acton. Kudos to you guys!
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