Virtues for Awakening
Virtues for Awakening Virtues are the most precious treasure. Students take many classes from different teachers, related to various energy or spiritual methods, hoping that their psychic, manifestation and healing powers will increase. Without developing virtues though those classes are futile. It’s not sufficient to believe that we are virtuous, but when a situation arises, we need to be able to act virtuously. A virtuous person cannot be hurt. The person who has developed the largest number of virtues, and who renounces the transient pleasures of the world, for the eternal bliss- Ananda, performs the only miracle that can be called a miracle. This person can change the curses of karma into blessings. Neither fire, nor water, nor wind can destroy the blessing of a good deed, and these blessings can reform the whole world. The virtuous lets their mind pervade the four quarters of the world with thoughts for love.
Learn from a gentle breeze how to caress softly. Learn from sunlight how to transform gloom into brightness. Learn from water how to move gracefully. Learn from earth how to nurture life peacefully.
– GM Brana
Compassion vs. Empathy
Dr. Neal Burton, MD in his book Heaven and Hell, Psychology of Emotions explained the various terms in the following way:
Pity: I acknowledge your suffering;
Sympathy: I care about your suffering;
Empathy: I feel your suffering;
Compassion: I want to relieve your suffering;
While compassion is based on wishing for others to be relieved from suffering, loving-kindness is based on wishing well-being to others.
Compassion is defined as a “keen awareness of the suffering of another coupled with a desire to see it relieved.” At the Academy, we’re focused on a universal compassion towards all beings including ourselves, all people, animals, plants and the planet. Compassion does not include resonance with another person’s emotional body like empathy; we don’t start feeling sad when someone else is sad. The empathic distress resonance can cause a burn-out, and hence a helper is not able to help. In naturo-therapy we’re focused on respecting the divinity in each human and not feeling pity towards him or her. Pity carries an attitude of patronizing superiority. Instead, it’s about understanding another person’s pain and suffering caused by the impermanent nature of our physical universe, and a wilfully committed choice made upfront to radiate loving energy while taking a kind action to assist in the reduction of pain and suffering, even if we’re just a listener. When we radiate Agape, Divine Love energy, our desire to relieve others’ suffering becomes an act of healing and harmonizing. Tania Singer, PhD (social neuroscientist and psychologist) director of neuroscience at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Lepzig, Germany used MRI scanners to show that compassion and empathy “are two different phenomena associated with different brain activity patterns.” Singer said, “When we think compassionately we “light up” the same regions of the brain as love, but empathetic thinking lights up regions associated with pain. Our brain knows the difference between compassion and empathy even if we aren’t aware of it.
According to Singer, training people to be compassionate rather than empathic might help to solve problems such as depression, burnout and narcissism. In her interview with the Cognitive Neuroscience Society Singer said, “These studies have also shown that it is crucial to distinguish between empathy, which is in itself not necessarily a good thing, and compassion. When I empathize with the suffering of others, I feel the pain of others; I am suffering myself. This can become so intense that it produces empathic distress in me and in the long run could lead to burnout and withdrawal. In contrast, if we feel compassion for someone else’s suffering, we do not necessarily feel their pain, but we feel concern – a feeling of love and warmth – and we can develop a strong motivation to help the other. The neural networks underlying the effects of empathy and compassion training are very different. Whereas the former increases negative emotions, the latter is associated with positive feelings of warmth and increased activation in brain networks associated with affiliation and reward. This may have large implications for people working in care-giving professions, such as nurses, doctors, therapists, and even fire fighters. Teaching them to transform an initial empathic response when confronted with the deep suffering of their patients or clients into a compassionate stance could protect them from negative health consequences and burnout often associated with these jobs. At the same time, it could also help the patients, as compassion is not only rewarding for yourself, but obviously good for others too.”
One of the most important things that we could do in our life is to forgive. Forgiveness is a divine quality in a human, which alleviates suffering, brings freedom and creates peace within. At our group meditation, I give energy and empower our community to create a virtue of forgiveness. Your forgiveness brightens the world. Our act of forgiving others is helpful to us, as we release our inner pain and invite peace into our human relationships. On the other hand, if we do not forgive, vindictiveness and resentment can hurt our relationships and ourselves. Our grudges block the light of compassion from reaching our heart, and thus are obstacles to true healing. According to the universal principles of cause and effect, people “are going to reap what they sow”, or “what goes around comes around”. This does not mean, however, that if we forgive our wrongdoers, the laws of karma will. In other words, we don’t forgive on behalf of the Source, but we can lead by example and pray for others to be awakened in a compassionate way. My understanding of the universal principles is that it’s not enough for people to ask for divine forgiveness. Divine forgiveness is given to people who:
1-take responsibilities for their intents / thoughts / emotions / words / actions;
2-understand their errors and how they harmed others or self;
3-honestly regret causing harm;
4-have sincerely changed for the better and are not repeating the same errors;
5-are making amends by doing good and corrections; In this way, certain effects of causes are delayed to give a chance for correction.
The Source is not only forgiving and merciful, but It also keeps things in equilibrium and gives us feedback via the cause and effect principle. Not every event in our life, however, is determined by the cause and effect principle. In every present moment people are given possibilities to make different choices. In addition, there are accidents and randomness in the Universe, which we can see by observing black holes. Nevertheless, the act of forgiveness leads to freedom from this, whatever the cause. Saint Francis of Assisi, Lao Tzu, the Emperor Ashoka among others had to forgive to themselves for killing people, before they became spiritual. We invite you to forgive yourself and to forgive others. This message of the importance of forgiveness can be found in many sacred texts.
The ultimate act of forgiveness we can observe in the Bible is the story of Jesus, who said: “I am the Light of the World.” “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life”. He was hanging on the cross, bruised, falsely accused, convicted as a criminal and betrayed by his students. The humiliation that was put on Him is unimaginable. His mother Mary watched her son being tortured and ridiculed. He was beaten, mocked with the crown of thorns, while he was praying for his persecutors and students.
Luke 23:33-34 NIV: When they came to a place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals – one on his right, the other on his left, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Matthew 5:7-9: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Matthew 5:44 (Aramaic Bible): But I say to you, love your enemies and bless the one who curses you, and do what is beautiful to the one who hates you, and pray over those who take you by force and persecute you.
As the Talmud puts it: “All who act mercifully (forgivingly) toward their fellow creatures will be treated mercifully by Heaven, and all who do not act mercifully toward their fellow creatures will not be treated mercifully by Heaven” (Shab. 151b; see also RH, 17a; Meg. 28a). If the injured party refuses to forgive even when the sinner has come before him three times in the presence of others and asked for forgiveness, then he is in turn deemed to have sinned (see Tanh. Hukkat 19). He is called akhzari (“cruel”).
The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said: Verily, it is better for the leader to make a mistake forgiving the criminal than it is for him to make a mistake punishing the innocent. Source: Sunan At-Tirmidhi 1424
Whoever does not show mercy will not receive mercy. Whoever does not forgive others will not be forgiven. Whoever does not pardon others will not be pardoned. Whoever does not protect others will not be protected. Source: Al-Adab Al-Mufrad 366, Grade: Hasan
Oh gracious God Grant life to him Who harbours ill-will and malice Against us And against whom We harbour hatred; Let him prosper And let us also prosper; May we be blessed with Cattle, horses, sons, grand-sons, home, health and wealth. May all prosper! May we also prosper. – Atharva Veda 7/81/5
The Bhagavad Gita (16.3) mentions forgiveness as one of the divine qualities. In the Devi Mahatmyam (5.38-40) sages offer “repeated salutations to the Divine Mother who dwells in all beings as patience, forbearance, and forgiveness.” Krishna said in the Gita that forgiveness is one of the characteristics of one born for a divine state. It is noteworthy that he distinguishes those good traits from those he considered to be demoniac, such as pride, self-conceit and anger. – Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 16, verse 3
A healthy sense of gratitude is the predictor of a good life. I’m most grateful to be a part of our amazing spiritual community. Gratitude means learning to live our life as if everything were a miracle, and being aware on a continuous basis of how much we’ve been given. Thankfulness or gratitude can be understood as courtesy or as conscience, as social gesture or as sacred grace, as a way of being or as an aspect of character. Research has shown that daily gratitude exercises result in higher levels of positive attributes such as enthusiasm and energy, less stress and greater progress toward achieving personal goals. Giving thanks makes people happier and more resilient, it strengthens relationships and it improves health. We’ll remember all those that gave us life, helped us, taught us, inspired us, supported us, and were there for us. In order to cultivate gratitude, we can take out paper and pen and list all the good that has come into our life. We can start a “gratitude journal,” recording the daily gifts we commonly overlook: a friendly smile, a caring thought, a warm touch. We can be grateful for the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food that nourishes us, the presence in our lives of people who love us, and people that we love, that we are able to think and move. The desires for more can be endless and inevitably create great suffering and resentment towards that which is missed or lost. Living with gratitude raises the human consciousness, it gives energy to create harmony, allows us to bounce back more quickly from adversity, have a stronger immune system, and have stronger social relationships and live in the positive expectation of good things to come. We are invited to practice not taking things for granted and when giving, to give without expectations.
Andre Comte-Sponville said:“ The egoist is ungrateful. Those who are incapable of gratitude live in vain; they can never be satisfied, fulfilled or happy: they do not live, they get ready to live, as Seneca puts it.”
“In the presence of gratitude ego fades away and joy enters your life.” – GM Brana
“When you are at the base of the mountain, Be grateful for any help that you can get. The trail is long and treacherous. When you are in the middle of the mountain, preserve your strength, you’ll need it. When you are at the top of the mountain, share everything you have, without expecting anything in return.” – GM Brana
Ancient scriptures cherish gratitude.
“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the world belongs to you.” Lao-Tzu
The Hebrew term for gratitude is hakarat hatov, which means, literally, “recognizing the good.” Practicing gratitude means recognizing the good that is already yours. It can be said that the word “Judaism” is connected to the name Yehudah (Genesis 29:35). The root-verb yada means to “praise, give thanks”. The name Yehuda also comes from this verb, and thus so do the masculine ethnonym yehudi, meaning Jewish. The noun hod, generally meaning awe or splendour, one of the Kabbalah Sefirot can also be referred to as Gratitude.
“Give thanks whatever happens.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
“The ungrateful never prosper” The Holy Qur’an Chapter 28, verse 83
There are many traditional festivals during which Hindus express gratitude. One example is Guru Purnima, when Hindus thank their spiritual and academic teachers. The Buddha taught that every human birth is precious and worthy of gratitude. It is said that he would often instruct his student to sit at the base of a tree, and reflect on the series of fortunate circumstances that had given the student the motivation and ability to seek liberation.
“Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life.”- Rumi
“When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the morning light, for your life and strength. Give thanks for your food, and the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies with yourself.” – Native American
“Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way.”- Native American
Self-discipline is self-regulation of our thoughts, emotions, desires, words and actions with the intention of improving oneself. Self-discipline is a pre-requisite to our spiritual growth. Learning self-discipline in the little things of life, like being on time or keeping our word prepares the way for larger spiritual achievements. On the other hand, those who are undisciplined in small matters will likely be undisciplined in more important issues. We can ask ourselves a question- is our conduct hurting ourselves or someone else? If it hurts anyone, could we decide to use our will and choose a different conduct that creates goodness for self and the community? Practicing the discipline of silence, and learning how not to offend others with words, will make it easier to gain self-control in every area of our lives. Imagine having the willpower to efficiently carry out tasks you deem challenging, boring, unpleasant or mundane. Your strong will enables you to apply yourself to whatever you wish, to become more focused, more adept, not give up, to see things through to completion. Self-discipline, the determination to stay the course until you reach your goals, is what separates the champions from the herd. Could we remain disciplined even when no one is watching? By practicing self-discipline, we develop greater respect towards self and others. Spiritual disciplines are like the muscles in our bodies, the more we use them, the stronger we become. Let’s make the most of the precious time with which we have been entrusted.
“He who has not controlled his mind and senses can have no reason; nor can such an undisciplined man think of God. The unthinking man can have no peace; and how can there be happiness for one lacking peace of mind?”- Bhagavad Gita, Ch.2, verse 66
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu
“For a man to conquer himself is the first and noblest of all victories.”- Plato
“What lies in our power to do, lies in our power not to do.” – Aristotle
“Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit” (Proverbs 25:28).
King Solomon informs us that the Creator has endowed human beings with a measure of self-control. Some people have more self-control, and some less.
“I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians. 9:26-27). (Matthew 25:14-30).
Jesus summed it up in verse 29: “To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.” Jesus had the discipline to fast for forty days, to bear insults of others, to abstain from wrongdoings and to resist evil.
According to the Holy Quran, people are expected to be in control of their behaviours, attitudes and thoughts at all times. This constant struggle over self-control is a process of self-purification, making all human interactions with the world as opportunities for spiritual improvement.
“One of the first things Seneca children learned was that they might create their own world, their own environment, by visualizing actions and desires in prayer. The Senecas believed that everything that made life important came from within. Prayer assisted in developing a guideline toward discipline and self control.” -Twylah Nitcsh
“Disciplined mind brings happiness.” – The Buddha
“You’ve mastered the selfie, now master thyself.”
“Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.” – Lao Tzu
Self-esteem is a result of experiencing and observing the self. A person who lives consciously with self-acceptance, responsibly, assertively, purposefully and with integrity has a healthy self-esteem. The root of our need for self-esteem is the need for a consciousness to learn to trust itself. Possessing low self-esteem can lead people to become depressed, to fall short of their potential, or to tolerate abusive relationships. Adults frequently report tolerating abusive adult relationships as a consequence of traumatic childhood experiences and as a result of very low self-esteem and feeling worthless or hopeless (Courtois, 1988). A healthy self-esteem gives us the confidence to make our independent choices and to be unique and original beings. Our experiences, intents, thoughts, emotions, words and actions affect how we think and feel about ourselves. If we tend to focus on our strengths while acknowledging realistically there are areas for improvement, we can learn to develop a more balanced, accurate view of ourselves. Our self-evaluation is key to our happiness. When we’re making our best effort to grow, we can live with a deep and abiding sense of satisfaction. Our achievements will build self-confidence, but not necessarily self-esteem. Self-esteem is affected by our choices when no one is watching, when the lights are off and we stay with the self only. Our personal integrity contributes to our healthy self-esteem: to live with integrity is to keep our promises and to honour our commitments, to walk the talk. Self-esteem comes not from what others think of us, but rather from what we think of ourselves. Being untruthful to ourselves ultimately leads to low self-esteem.
Realistic self-image results in continuous improvements, while unrealistic self-image can result in a sense of entitlement and an inability to learn from errors. Research has shown key differences between individuals with healthy and unhealthy self-esteem. For example, people with healthy self-esteem focus on growth and improvement, whereas people with unhealthy self-esteem focus on not making mistakes in life. People with low self-esteem are more troubled by failure and tend to exaggerate events as being negative. For example, they often interpret non-critical comments as critical. They are more likely to experience social anxiety and low levels of interpersonal confidence. Many celebrities have low self-esteem despite all fame, money and good looks. David Bowie confessed that while filling auditoriums with impassioned fans in the early 1970s, “I had enormous self-image problems and very low self-esteem, which I hid behind obsessive writing and performing.” What’s the point of the entire world approving of us, if we don’t approve of ourself? Material possessions, titles, status, fame, parenthood, sexual conquests or face-lifts don’t create our self-esteem. People use alcohol, drugs, sexual promiscuity, obsessing over eating disorders and other self-harmful behaviours as a crutch for low self-esteem issues. People with low self-esteem could exhibit signs of arrogance, such as not listening to others, while pretending that they know everything. They can’t bear to admit that they made mistakes or risk their entire mask crumbling to reveal the vulnerable bundle of insecurity beneath. People with low self-esteem can be easily scared with all sorts of superstitions. They tend to visit mediums and aggressive therapists who tell them what to do, as they have no trust in their own abilities to make decisions. If their low self-esteem results in psychosis, they will tend to look for people who’ll confirm that their hallucinations are real or worst for the black magic practitioners who supposedly remove imaginary “black entities” or “psychic attacks” for “only 10 sessions at $500 each”.
The following could be indictors of low self-esteem:
-Negative view of life;
-Fear and anxiety of making a mistake, being rejected, looking foolish or inadequate;
-Taking constructive criticism too personally, very defensive;
-Mistrusting others, even those who show signs of affection;
-Feelings of being unloved and unlovable;
-Dependence, letting others make decisions;
-Comparing self to others with extensive self-criticism;
-Giving up too soon;
-Checking phone desperately in social situations;
-Feeling unsafe in safe environments;
In a much publicized research paper by Roy F. Baumeister, Joseph M. Boden, and Laura Smart, entitled “Relation of Threatened Egotism to Violence and Aggression: The Dark Side of High Self-Esteem,” published in the “Psychological Review” (1996, Vol. 103, 5-33) the authors write: “By self-esteem we mean simply a favorable global evaluation of oneself. The term self-esteem has acquired highly positive connotations, but it has simple synonyms the connotations of which are more mixed, including egotism, arrogance, conceitedness, narcissism, and sense of superiority, which share the fundamental meaning of favorable self-evaluation.”
Healthy self-esteem is an inner job, and can master it by our inner quest. Unhealthy self-esteem is a spiritual issue. We can’t only be told that we are Divine, we need to experience our connection with the Source. Judaism and Christianity start with the premise that each human being is created in the image of God. This creates challenges and opportunities for our self-esteem.
Genesis 1:27 (NKJV): “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God. He created him; male and female. He created them.”
Quran:”There is nothing whatever like unto Him, and He hears and sees [all things].” It also talks about man having the attributes of God, which help us know God. In that sense, Quran’s impersonal and abstract explanation of God is similar to Hindu descriptions of God in Vedas and Upanishads. Let’s improve a virtue of healthy self-esteem! See and experience your own shining light to know your self-worth and your golden potential.
Patience is the ability to tolerate waiting without becoming upset. It’s the ability to be able to manage our impulses and act calmly when faced with challenges. Patience comes from the Latin word “pati” which means to suffer, to endure, to bear. In today’s world of ‘instant everything’ caused by technological advancements we are seeking to obtain, experience and consume everything almost immediately. This has trained and conditioned our minds to feel entitled to immediate responses. Experience often shows that a patient person will make better decisions and see more favourable outcomes in life than a very intelligent person who doesn’t have the patience to wait for the right time and conditions. Patience can close the gate on harmful impulses that are based on habits or patterns. Reactive, mindless behaviours try to take over and are sure to bring harm to our relationships and our health. Patience is a virtue that is worth developing as it results in happier responses to life’s little jams. Patience is related to self-discipline, humility and generosity, all of which are themselves virtues. Patience with others comes from a love and respect for other people.
In Corinthians 13:4 we are told that love is patient. The passage goes on to describe how love is not selfish, prideful or rude, because it is thinking about the welfare of someone else. Love is the basis, and patience is part of that process. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”
Leonardo da Vinci is credited with saying, “Patience serves as protection against wrongs as clothes do against cold. For if you put on more clothes as the cold increases, it will have no power to hurt you. So in like manner you must grow in patience when you meet with great wrongs, and they will then be powerless to vex your mind.” We can practice thinking, meditating, changing our breathing rhythm and detoxing our body with organic plant-based nutrition before speaking or acting. We can set our intention about increasing our patience, by using mental exercises and by practicing the spiritual disciplines. We can train ourselves to visit an inner place of compassion before damaging our relationships. If we squash a paper in anguish, we’ll never be able to bring this paper in its original state. Instead of breaking trust by impulsive actions, we can start developing the virtue of patience, plant the seeds of love, and wait for them to grow. If we give a proper environment to the seeds, they will come out and blossom one day. May we plant the seeds of loving-kindness wherever we go!