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May 03, 2006

Light, Love and Life

Notes by Vijay, elaborated by Prasad.


Kamala Mami started the session with a beautiful invocation by Annie Besant:

O hidden life, vibrant in every atom;

O hidden light, shining in every creature;

O hidden love, embracing all in Oneness;

May each, who feels himself as one with Thee,

Know he is also one with every other.

Manisha checked-in with a parable about egg, carrot, and coffee. When faced with adversity (i.e., boiling water), egg becomes hard, carrot become soft, but coffee mixes with the water and imparts its own unique aroma to the mixture.

Jags wondered about the relationship between guilt and consciousness. Conflict and fear often dominate our consciousness and we had deep dialogues about them. Where does guilt fit in and what is its relationship with consciousness?

Manju has recently joined a class called "Sanskrit for the Study of Scriptures." She said that she enjoyed pursuing knowledge (and other "serious things") in a lighter vein, often to the chagrin of her friends. Jags commented that this goalless pursuit of knowledge is fundamentally different (and perhaps more interesting) than a goal-oriented pursuit.

Jitendra and his wife are expecting their first baby, and are getting a lot of invitations from friends for dinners, baby showers, etc. They feel guilty about accepting all these invitations. Yet it is often hard to say no.

Prasad is giving driving practice to his daughter Vidya. He is wondering how to create a context of safe learning for her while keeping his anxieties under control. He mentioned how Boeing experimented with training some pilots under "fearful/stressful" circumstances and creating safe and appropriate routines (autopilot responses) for the fearful situations increased safety dramatically.

Prasad also wondered how many of his decisions are influenced more by guilt than by the merits of the case in question. How he operates out of guilt and even thinking about that makes him guilty!

Manju responded that she did not feel guilty about her parenting decisions. While she is responsible for taking care of her children's needs, the children also need to ensure that she feels comfortable about their activities/decisions.

Vijay said that his parenting decisions are made in the best interests of his children and family. Therefore, he sees no reason to feel guilty about such decisions.

Jags said that if he made/influenced a decision which had some unintended (and undesirable) consequences for someone else, he would have reasons to feel guilty. He said that guilt also resulted from failure to fulfill someone's "reasonable" expectations. Manisha said that, after her mother passed away, she felt guilty about not measuring up to her father's expectations.

Prasad said that guilt and confession are very important elements of Christianity. Everybody is considered a born sinner, and the only path to redemption lies through faith in Jesus. In Hinduism, people are not born sinners, but Chitragupta (According to mythology, Yama Dharma Raja�s accountant) keeps an account of everyone's good and bad deeds. You "pay" for all your misdeeds after your death.

Prasad elaborated on three related feelings: guilt, pride, and shame. If he did not measure up to his own standards (i.e., his own self-image) he would feel guilty. If he exceeded his standards, he would feel pride. If he cheated on his standards, he would feel shame. All the three are connected with ego and certain limited perspective focused on identity.

Prasad felt that one loses objective decision-making ability in areas where one has guilt, pride or shame. Guilt leads to capitulation (black and white mentality), pride leads to complacency (and ultimately core incompetence), and shame leads to avoidance of the issue altogether or become a victim. Moreover, if somebody invoked his guilt (by referring to his "obligation" or "hypocrisy"), he felt "emotionally blackmailed." Perhaps his temper and anger also resulted from these three emotions, he wondered.

These deep and honest reflections of participants resulted in lively dialogue. We explored whether there are better ways to working with these emotions and how we go beyond them.

Prasad felt that, amazingly, Annie Besant's invocation above provided an answer. When you are feeling guilty, don't capitulate, or feel like a victim. Instead, bring life, light, and love to the "party."

Elaborating further, Prasad felt that bringing life to a party or group means, being sensitive to the energy in the group and enlivening the group by tapping into the vibrancy of the group and focusing on what makes people energized, excited and lively. Similarly, when one focuses on bringing light to others, not by shining their own light but serving others in such a way that they see their own light, the group gets �lighter� and has more �light� to work with. In other words, enlightening does not have to do with somebody bringing their own wisdom but allowing the light that is already shining in each of us to be seen by us and others around us. Finally, bringing love through acceptance and appreciation of what is present instead of focusing on what is missing and what is shameful, one inspires the group.

Interestingly, all the three enlivening, enlightening and inspiring have to do with service. When one focuses on serving others and assists others to bring more life, light and love into their lives, that person serves himself/herself. Why? Because such selfless service takes away the external barriers and connects one with every other and brings that light, love and life into everyone connected.

That reminded Prasad of the interview with Mr. MBN Rao, Chairman and Managing Director of Canara Bank, India who said that self development only occurs through developing others. The same way, you don�t work on guilt, pride and shame in your mind. You serve others and help them to go beyond them by bringing love, light and life, and during that process, you recognize that your own barriers and issues melt away.

It was an amazing conversation that touched each of us deeply...

Posted by Ragu at May 3, 2006 12:31 PM