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"You are your own master; you make your own future."   - Dhammapada





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Holistic Life

The abstract of distinct visions and philosophies on 'Holistic Living' - (Swami (Dr) Snehananda Jyoti.

            Holistic Living relates to the totality of life comprising of spirit/soul, mind and body. The basis of holistic living is that each one of us is a unique human being and that each one of us needs to become what God or nature has placed in us to become. In other words, as unique human beings, we need to become what we are capable of becoming. A saying that I came across is very relevant: "What we are is God's gift to us, what we become is our gift to God". We are not here on earth to imitate others and become what they became, however admirable and great they became. Certainly we can learn from them; they can become our guides. We do have a great human heritage; we do have vast resources. Each human being has a mission. We need to find out who we are, what we are about, where we need to go, how we need to live, how we can make the best out of our life and ultimately how we can fulfill our mission. These are very important questions related to life that need definite, adequate and satisfying answers. You need to find your own answers. Besides, you may have other questions of your own. While we may not have right answers, it is important that at least we ask the right questions. But as someone who has lived in this world a long time and traversed a great deal of this earth, I would like to attempt to answer these questions. My sole intention is to get you seriously reflect on life if you are not already doing it. I hope my thoughts may challenge you on occasion. Certainly I can learn from your comments or feedback.
           Socrates, a great philosopher, is reported to have said that an unexamined life is not worth living. Some people end their lives because they do not have a real purpose or they do not have anything worth living for. I strongly believe that life is not mere existing and functioning, but living and loving. Ireneus, a great spiritual man of old is reported to have said: "Glory of God is man (human) fully alive". How can we be fully alive? Actually we are in different stages of sleep or in some kind of comatose state while we claim to be awake. Gautam became Siddhartha (searcher for realization)and became Buddha (awakened). I believe Jesus was a fully Awakened One; that is why He was about His Father's business; that is why He went about doing good. Do you want to be aware? awakened? This is going to be a difficult journey. Because, while there are guides, you have to take responsibility for your own life. You are going to be your sole authority. There will be that little dictator, as Gandhiji called it, within you; your own conscience. But then is your conscience fully formed in keeping with your value system? Have you come of age to use the most distinctive and distinguishing characteristic that separates a human from all other beings: freedom? If so, embark on the journey of holistic living with me. Let us all celebrate life, and enjoy life to the full.
           East-West Awakening incorporates all that is good on earth. In its rigorous search for truth it examines everything without fear or favor. Holistic living pervades the entire realm of life and endeavor. It deals with the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of human living. Eastern philosophy, especially Buddha, concerned itself with a life of integration, awareness, and enlightenment. Terrence, a Roman philosopher, stated that nothing human is alien to me (Nihil humanum a me alienum esse puto). The fact that a human being past or present in any part of the world did anything whatsoever that is good or evil means that I am capable of doing the same. That I do not do the evil that I am capable of means I am living a life of awareness making conscious choices or I am preserved from evil by God's grace as theistic religions claim. A religion like Buddhism, for instance, believes that a person can attain enlightenment (Nirvana) or become a buddha by one's own effort through constant practice of ever deepening awareness or mindfulness. Christianity, on the other hand, believes that a person can attain salvation only through the saving grace of God obtained through Christ. Seneca, another Roman philosopher, stated that I made a mistake means that I am wiser now than I was before; for if I had the knowlege that I have now, I would not have made the mistake I did make then. What does all this tell us? It tells us:

          1) We have all that we need to live a life that is worthwhile, exciting, challenging, purposeful,and enjoyable. We can draw from a rich treasury of human heritage from the East and the West.

          2) Life is a risk; we will get hurt; we can g row from our hurts; we will make mistakes; our mistakes can be our teachers; we can learn from our mistakes. As Paul (Saul) of Tarsus said each one of us has to work out our salvation with fear and trembling; no one has monopoly on truth, holiness, or the Holy Spirit. We respect every human being. As Rabindranath Tagore said we do not bend our knee before insolent might. We bow our head to all or none.

          3) All should strive to live in well-ordered democracies served by competent, effective, and ethical office holders elected solely on the basis of their merits and through public financing. Democracy with all its drawbacks is still the best form of government by the people for the people. For a society that has come of age there is no place for authoritarian governments, dictatorships, monarchies (kings or queens), or family dynasties. Office holders, truly representative of the populace elected for a certain number of years or terms, serve not special interests but the interests of all the people.

          4) We need to form our conscience carefully; we need to develop a strong value system, a world-view, and a philosophy of life. We all have a philosophy of life whether we know it or not. The Ten Commandments of the Judeo-Christian tradition (needless to say the gist of these commandments is found in all cultures and traditions), the Golden Rule ( Do to others what you like others to do to you), and the great universal maxims or principles (for instance, "Do good and avoid evil; give everyone his/her due; always tell the truth."), and the United Nations Charter on Human Rights can form the essential bases for forming our conscience. A person with a well-formed conscience based essentially on truth, justice, equality, and fairness is a sovereign subject and as such enjoys the glorious liberty of God's children and subjects himself/herself to no authority on earth but to a higher power (as he/she understands it) or God. In the Old Testament (Jewish section) of the Bible, God did not want a king for the Jewish people; but God reluctantly made a concession for a king due to the immaturity of the people. In the New Testament (Christian section) of the Bible, Jesus explicity forbade His followers to call anybody lord and master but His Father in heaven. Religious and spiritual leaders, wise persons, and experts can provide guidance and information. No person including any head of any religious body can arrogate to himself the right to represent God on earth. While all should be grateful and indebted to their parents, families, benefactors, religious congregations, and charitable institutions for their up-bringing, training, and formation, no one should feel guilty for the decision made in accordance with one's well-formed conscience. Each human being is responsible for the decision he or she makes in inner freedom and according to a well-formed conscience. Some people can judge other persons' decisions to be misguided or disillusioned. People can debate the criteria for a well-formed conscience. But in the final analysis, what constitutes a well-formed conscience has to be left to each individual. No human being can compromise one's freedom and still remain a human being when that freedom, the fundamental and the predominant right that makes a human human, is sacrificed at the altar of blind obedience, misguided loyalty, fear of rejection, financial security, or long term conditioning/programming.

          5) We live in a pluralistic, multi-cultural society; while we have our own beliefs and convictions, we need to tolerate others' beliefs; we need to accept and sometimes celebrate differences; while we do not compromise with our values, we may have to live with others who do not have the same values. We need to realize that while God wills the good of all, God permits evil to take place. There is no place for any kind of discrimination. When I diminish another human being I diminish myself in some way. Tolerance, non-violent conflict resolution, and compassionate relating need to be the distinctive characteristics of the 21st century.

          6) No one is any better or worse than anyone else in the entire world as a human being. One's thoughts, Intentionality, and behaviors make one good or evil.The well-being of the world is affected by my well-being. Change in the world is brought about by changes in the individual being. When I change, the world changes; when a person, for instance, becomes less depressed, the world becomes less depressed. No person can really change another person; persons change because they want to; often change in others in whom we desire change is a response to change within us. Changes brought about by fear or threat do not last. One's deep love or admiration for another person may also lead to emulation and eventual change. Knowledge does not necessarily lead to change. For example, an alcoholic knows drinking alcohol is bad; but is unable to change. Forchange to take place, knowledge needs to be converted into wisdom or insight.

          7) Sages and seers all over the world lived and still live a life marked by humility, detachment, discernment, contemplation, meditation, altruism, and a search for truth in their quest for enlightenment or union with God. Each and every one of us has the potential to become the sage or seer or the prophet the modern world needs. While we are making undreamt of material and technological progress, it is highly regrettable that we do not, in proportion, have the self-denying sages, visionaries, and prophets of high caliber to guide nations and the world. While we are extremely proficient in exploring the outer space, we have been very inadequate in exploring our own inner space where dark secrets lie. Clues to those secrets will throw light on why we do the things that we should not do, and do not do the things that we should do. Elimination of this principle of double law enunciated well by Paul of Tarsus leads to perfection. While perfection is not possible in this world, the near- elimination of this double law amply operating in all of us paving the way to do what we need to do needs to be our first priority in our inner exploration to save the world. There is no dearth of egomaniacal politicians, dictators, chieftains, kings/queens, war-lords, and fanatic, fundamentalist, and blind followers of religions who, in their ignorance, are willing to plunge the universe into utter destruction, devastation, and darkness.There is no reason to despair. The dark sky is always illuminated by unfailing stars such as Buddha, Confucius, Socrates, and Christ as eminent guides or corrections for humanity. We also have lesser but recent luminaries such as Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, and Nelson Mandela from the fields of politics, science, and religion representing the best of human spirit and illuminating the whole world.

          8) We need a healthy mix of work and play; moderation in everything is extremely important; we need to find time to take care of our body, mind and spirit through nutritional eating, physical exercise, relaxation and fun, keeping up with scientific advances, world events, and meditation. Through our work we need to generate the wealth and resources necessary for a comfortable life. As trustees of this beautiful earth it is not right to waste any resource or hoard wealth above and beyond what we reasonably need for our lifetime. Rich persons need to be held in high esteem and admiration only if they as good stewards spend their wealth for the well-being of the maximum number of human-beings. No responsible and well-balanced society can allow some members to acquire unlimited material wealth while others live in dire poverty. Earth's land and resources are limited; there needs to be a reasonable limit on the wealth an individual or family can acquire. There is a great imbalance among nations and peoples due to land mass and resources acquired especially through colonization. occupation, or conquest. It is not right that nations with vast populations are cramped in relatively small and congested areas while nations with small populations can enjoy exceedingly large territories. Outside of towns every individual or family should have access to at least a small house and a small piece of land as a garden to grow some food/ vegetables. A special department of the United Nations needs to study population density in the world and develop standards for migration of people to achieve optimum balance. By the way the world population is increasing at the present exponential rate, the whole earth may need to be a global park where all can live, work, play, enjoy without owning. A culture that fosters any sign of greed, possession, and possessiveness needs to be eradicated. We need to work toward a world where all are wanted, loved and cared for, and can move without a passport or visa. Graduating into being a citizen of the Kingdom of God will be mighty difficult indeed without graduating into being a citizen of this world. National boundaries, walls, and fences have only contributed to our worst fears, paranoia, and sleeplessness. Currently humanity stands stunned and regressed. All the domination, bullying, injstice, and humiliation creates only fertile soil for terrorism and destrucive activities It is high time to think of a World Government comprising of all the nations in the world as member states. While we may provide for our children so that they can have a good start in life, we also have a social responsibility to share our resources with our less fortunate brothers and sisters who share our earth. We play our part in creation living our life to the full even as we co-create.

          9) We are all called to love. Most people exist and function going through various routines and motions rather than live and love. We need to bloom where we are. It is not important whether we are recognised or appreciated or rewarded for who we are. The only thing that really matters is that we are aware who we are. Our worth does not depend on others' recognition or appreciation of us. A beautiful flower in a dense forest does not cease to bloom because there is nobody to enjoy its beauty or fragrance. We are going to be remembered by our contribution to improving the general quality of life in the world, but most of all, by our capacity to care for and love others.

          10) Our spirituality needs to be positive based more on edification than on mortification. An essential element of asceticism and spirituality in the previous centuries involved not only renunciation and denial of ordinary pleasures but also deliberate whipping or wearing hair shirts or chains with sharp points that tore into the flesh to discipline one's body. Life is difficult in today's world, and there is more than enough pain and suffering for someone who is trying to live a conscious and healthy life. There is no one who has not suffered from misunderstanding, ridicule, mistreatment, prejudice, discrimination, false accusation, neglect or abuse. One has ample opportunity to develop one's spiritual life by going through a life of suffering with acceptance and equanimity while also endeavoring to alleviate the sufferings of fellow human beings. Our spirituality needs to encompass the whole planet.

          11). Life is very short. It is like a bubble in a stream; it is there momentarily; we are pilgrims at a way station with our luggage/belongings; our sojourn is brief; even ninety or a hundred years pass quickly. We are sometimes in a little boat buffetted and tossed about by storms in a turbulent ocean; but we do have shining star/s in the sky beckoning us to the shore. We need to live each day as if it is our last day. Spiritual guides have suggested that we look at our life from the perspective of eternity; that we look at our whole life from the last moments in our coffin. In our last moment if we were given a chance to live our life all over again, how would we live? One who has not come to terms with his/her own death and finality has not started really living. Morbid introspection on death is not what is suggested, but a real grappling with life in its own terms. We have to play the hands we are dealt; we have to bloom where we are planted or happen to be. That is why changing what can be and needs to be changed before it is too late is so very important. One is ever ready for any eventuality. One has come to terms with one's past. One embraces one's whole past; no unfinished business. One lives purposefully in the here and now embracing and enjoying life fully with love, hope, and faith. One experiences real calmness, serenity, inner peace.

          12) In a world of enormous stress, suffering, and pain caused by various diseases, natural catastrophes, crimes, terrorism, human greed, power struggle for domination, and wars, what is most needed is compassionate relating. Understanding coming from empathic listening paves the way for compassionate relating. We may not be able to provide material help or expertise; but there is no one who will not be able to relate to another human being with love and compassion. What the world needs most is compassionate relating so a great deal of suffering caused by humans can be avoided. Training in compassionate relating needs to be given priority in every school curriculum everywhere.

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