What is dignity, and why is it important to us as human beings and our human experience? Rather than try to define dignity in physical terms, I feel it easier for me to define its experience. One such experience was the soft spoken-ness of my grandmother, which was inherited by her children, and perhaps by me to some extent. By lowering their voices and weighing their words, particularly in times of great stress, all my elders showed me that dignity can flow from speaking softly, kindly and with deliberation.
Why may we need dignity in speech? Perhaps because it isn’t even possible to have dignity in our actions if our speech is corrupted by indignities of the mind.
How may one develop dignity of thought? One way is to purify the heart, whence the mind’s layers of dirt get flushed with silence, beauty and awareness of the truth that we are.
Yes. We are back to the work of the heart’s purity. One way to purity is to work with an attitude of loving service, as we remind ourselves, and those we may be privileged to serve, of our shared human dignity. Every verdict that “bends the long arc of the moral universe a bit more toward justice”, every invitation by someone to break bread with them, every softly spoken word whispered to us in the hour of our awareness, seeds dignity within us.
It is with these new seeds of dignity that we find the courage to rise yet again, and continue our walk towards that permanent love and grace which is available to all. Our walk need not be complete or complex. In fact the simpler the better, the more dignified it usually is.
This reminds me. It’s time for a cup of tea. One join me. Namaste,
P.S. Join in our weekly chat on Twitter, Sunday April 25 at 9amET / 630pm India as we share some tea, fruit, flowers and cookies. Namaste – @AjmaniK
Monday, September 21 was the observance of the International Day of Peace (IDP) sponsored by the United Nations and celebrated with various events held by organizations across the world.
I became aware of IDP through the Heartfulness organization’s effort called “Connect for Peace”, whose goal was to connect 40 million people in meditation over a period of 24 hours on that day. In order to understand “what does peace mean?” to different people (kids, athletes, change makers, spiritual leaders and more), a video of responses was compiled and shared (see link in the footer… highly recommended)
So, what does peace mean to you? How and when and where do you best experience it? How often do you seemingly lose it and how do you restore it? How can we experience Supreme peace, and be established in its awareness in the majority of the moments of our daily lives?
Some of you may have heard the story of the monk getting ready to meditate by the river bank who sees a scorpion drowning in its effort to swim. The monk picks up the scorpion from the shallow water, and as she is about to put him down on dry land, the scorpion stings her. The monk is unperturbed, and gets ready to meditate again. The scorpion wades into the water again, starts drowning. The monk rescues it again, and gets stung again. When this happens a third time, an observer sitting by the bank cannot resist asking the monk – why do you keep rescuing the drowning scorpion when all it does is keep stinging you in return for your kindness?
The monk replied – the scorpion, one of apparently much lower awareness than me, is holding true to its nature, which is to sting. I, of higher awareness, ought to also hold true to my nature, and which is to be kind and perform kind actions, don’t you think? Why would I give up my peace, my serenity, my stillness, my Dharma (way of being) in response to the scorpion’s sting?
Such is the nature of our living in the world. The world stings us when we do kind things. Let us not forget that sometimes we may be the scorpions – maybe not in action, but with our thoughts and words. Often, the stings are unprovoked, undeserved, unexpected, unjust and unfair. How do we respond?
We respond to the stings of the world in accordance with our height of inner awareness and depth of inner peace. We are not all monks (yet), but some of us are on the path to becoming aware again, remembering again that supreme peace is our intrinsic nature. By associating with those people, places and practices that evoke peace within us, we connect with our peace within. Through regular connection with supreme peace, we raise our awareness to the point where we lose our sting, and the world, our mirror, loses its sting too.
Have you ever wondered why new born babies tend to make everyone around them happy? One reason is perhaps that the new born is still immersed in its connection with the peace supreme. The newborn hasn’t had an opportunity to forget that It is That or that That is all there Is. The newborn isn’t questioning whether it is the drop or the wave or the ocean. It is simply being peace.
That is the state of newborn peace which our spiritual practices can return us to. When you and I practice peace, we contribute to creating supreme peace for all of us. Why create peace? Peace creates a channel to convey natural justice based on natural law and order, which is indeed supreme.
Spirituality teaches me that peace supreme is above all and within all. There is no journey towards it, because I am already there. It is infinite, and that is enough for me. How about you?
P.S. Join us in our weekly community gathering on Twitter with #SpiritChat folks – Sunday, Sep 27 at 9amET. We will gather in peace and play with some questions and answers. Namaste – @AjmaniK
A beautiful cool breeze is flowing this morning before the heat rises. The blackbirds are practicing their landings on the fence — the young ones are learning how to land on top of cattails. I notice at least four or five new bushes lining the forest side with their white flowers now blooming.
The sun crests the roof from behind me and starts to warm the left side of my head behind the ear. Flap, flap, flap goes the edge of my sleep shorts as I sit cross legged clutching my cup of tea, The back of my right knee is cradled on top of the left, both of them supported by the toes of my left foot, heel suspended in mid air, lifted by the wooden rail of the deck running crossways. The bullfrog announces his presence by blaring out a morning song. As if in cue, a skirmish breaks out among some blackbirds — perhaps a heated conversation about ownership of a particularly fruited bush.
My thoughts shift. The world has destroyed itself and reconstructed itself, over and over again, for centuries. My hometown of the city of Delhi, the center of many an Indian empire, is said to have been razed to the ground seven times by invaders, and been built again. So, I sit here watching the birds go about their morning routine, which is rarely if ever interrupted unless there happens to be a roaring thunderstorm that forces them to take shelter in their nests and ride it out. Unlike humans, they don’t construct permanent walls or roofs or tenements or try to brave the storm by driving through standing waters.
Yes, the younger, more impetuous ones do fly a bit faster than their parents, and seemingly a bit more recklessly in between the bushes and trees, and occasionally miss their landings atop the cattails to end up closer to the water than their mothers would like to see. But what would you do if you woke up one fine morning of your young life and realized that you had been given wings, and one of your parents, knowing that you were ready, brought you to the edge and gave your quivering young body — that is shaking with fear at the prospect of falling to your death to the earth below — a final push with a prayer beneath her breath and said, fly!
She knows that if she has misjudged the strength of your wings, you may end up on the storm soaked ground below and the earth will either gently catch you so that you may try again, or embrace you forever, orange and yellow flecked wings and all — such is the nature of life, of discernment. We try, we fail, we learn, we adjust, and we try again. No progress, at any level, from the march of an ant to the launching of a new rocket to carry humans into space, has ever been made possible by simply sitting in our nests with the fear of flying or learning to fly.
When compared to birds and bullfrogs and geese and spiders and ants and willows and roses and pine trees and even rocks, we humans are mere fledgelings in the lifespan of the earth, let alone the universe. So, the creator has endowed us with Nature as a playground and observation space where we can learn some valuable lessons that can help humanity either rise and soar, or plummet and destroy itself. The laws of time, space and causation cannot be circumvented without first understanding the basics of cause and effect. Natural laws always takes precedence over human laws, for the wisdom of the One who created the former far exceeds the ones who created the latter.
However, we humans have been given one extraordinary faculty that distinguishes us from the rest of Nature.
And that is the faculty called ‘free will’ by some and ‘discernment’ or ‘viveka’ by others. As I arrive at writing this section, the wind has shifted. A cloud has temporarily come over the Sun behind me. The blackbirds are starting to retreat and the geese have left the pond momentarily to take shelter on land. Discernment on display, and yet it is a cause and effect response to nature’s stimulus. A bit like a child touching a hot stove and learning, forming a memory that it isn’t a good idea to challenge the laws of fire and heat.
So, yes, ‘viveka’ is a faculty and a facility granted to us to convert our learning into experience and then into wisdom. When Arjuna, the aggrieved Prince of the Bhagavad Gita, refused to fight to restore the justice due to him because he did not want to kill his own half-brothers who had connived to cheat him of his rightful inheritance to the kingdom of Indraprastha — the city razed and built seven times — his teacher Krishna said to him: you have been given the duty of a warrior, so you are bound by the laws of Dharma (natural justice and truthful living) to act in the cause of its restoration; rise up and discard this despondency; stand up and fight or else an entire race of good people shall be decimated at the hands of the promulgators of evil or adharma; do not let emotion cloud your discernment, for ‘viveka’ is your greatest faculty — the ability and courage to do what is right for the greatest good; action with love produces detachment to the outcome, and yet detachment does not mean that you be attached to inaction.
It is the restoration of the good, of goodness through the use of discernment that elevates us within.
Back to my morning by the lake. When the mighty hawks stray and soar too close to the blackbirds and their young, the much smaller but deft in flight blackbirds do not hesitate to guide them back to their nests. Order is swiftly restored. The blackbirds’ size isn’t a disadvantage – they are much more flexible in changing speed and direction as compared to the hawks, because of their size. Each of us, as individuals, may be smaller than the big machinery that wants to endanger our young, and yet, with the exercise of ‘viveka’, with consistent action that works towards the restoration of ‘dharma’, we can engage in reconstruction of truth, kindness, empathy, friendship, and bliss.
Our greatest faculty and facility is the divine’s love that we carry in our heart. Let us wield that love with courage in all that we do, even if it means that we run the risk of being thought of as weak and ignorant. The evil and unjust are the ones who are weak, lacking in ‘viveka’ —and it is their hubris and heart calcification that will be their destruction. We, the wielders of love, will be the agents, the dispensers of that justice.
Natural justice is dispensed by the natural laws of time, space and causation. It is the law of karma charioted by the holders of ‘viveka’, that has for eons and civilizations, ensured victory for those committed to action for the restoration of Dharma — truth and justice.
For when the storm of natural justice arrives, it restores equality among all, regardless of size, strength, power, status or color — the hawk, the blackbird, the finch, all respond to the storm by taking refuge in their nests. Their use of discernment is in full display. Maybe we humans can observe, learn and use natural wisdom to restore ‘viveka’ in our lives too. I believe we can. How about you?
Epilogue: Written mid-week during my week-long ‘virtual retreat’ to effect some inner restoration. A lot of wandering threads here, so feel free to take what appeals or relates to you. Namaste.
P.S. Join our weekly twitter #spiritchat on twitter – Sunday, June 7 at 9amET / 1pm GMT / 630pm India. We will talk about restoration, dharma, karma and more over tea, fruit and maybe even some cookies. Bring a story to share. Namaste – @AjmaniK
The letter came in the mail while I was on an overseas vacation over Christmas break. It was a summons from the county courthouse. My first thought was – oh my, I must have messed up really bad this time! As it turns out, all it was was a summons to be “on call” for Jury Duty over a period of three weeks. Well, this should be interesting, I thought. I had never done Jury Duty before – so, perhaps this was my turn to do my civic duty and learn a little bit about the Justice system and how it works.
As it turns out, I was called to report for Jury Duty for only one case in the entire three week period. Most of the day was spent waiting, with other potential jurors (about thirty of them), as the Justice system did its thing and the two sides tried to work things out without going to trial. I spent most of my time reading – Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. My first time reading this cult classic – but that’s another story 🙂
Eventually, we were told to standby as the Judge and was going to come and speak to all of us. So, this very elegant, white-haired gentleman, came in the room accompanied by the bailiff (who was probably half his age) and spoke to us for five to ten minutes. He summarized that the case had been “settled” and that there would be no trial. So, as it turns out, our services would not be required after all. He went on to thank us for our service – for it was the Judge’s belief that if folks were not willing to serve as Jurists, the Justice system would not or could not function.
“It is the selflessness of those who are willing to serve that preserves the integrity of the Justice system” – Judge C.K.
If you have read this far, you are perhaps wondering – what does all of this have to do with #SpiritChat? Well, it does. I started researching this topic and found that there are two broad forms of Justice – divine and societal. Societal justice perhaps came into play because somewhere along the way, people stopped paying attention to divine justice.
“The Western notion of justice is a concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion or equity.” – Wikipedia
The above quote casts a wide net by using ethics, law, and even religion, as a basis for Justice. A lot of food for thought. So, what does justice look like to you? Do you believe that natural law supersedes the laws made by man? If so, what is the need for man-made laws? Are they there to “keep us safe” (in the words of the Judge)? Of course, if we include ethics and religion and morality in our line of questioning, the sky is the limit for discussion. And what about the three tenets of Justice – enforcement (by man or the divine), the “two sides of the story’, and, impartiality or fairness – how do they contribute to our sense of Justice? Can our spiritual practice and related growth change our view of Justice?
"Each person possesses an inviolability founded on justice that even the welfare of society as a whole cannot override.” – John Rawls in A Theory of Justice
Well, I think I’ve said enough for now. As always, I invite join us in #SpiritChat on Sunday February 3rd at 9amET to discuss some of these questions, and share your views on “why Justice matters”. Thank you!
Questions asked during the live chat on Justice. Please use the link next to each question to respond, and add #SpiritChat to your response so the entire community can see your reply. Thank you! (You can respond in the comments below too, if you prefer. Thanks!).