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October - November 2008


Devotion - Divinity

by Padma Prakash Chennai

Neville Cardus, a renowned English author, once described the game of cricket as a game of glorious uncertainties. The smile on the face of Mona Lisa, painted by Leonardo Da Vinci, the legendary artist, is described as an enigmatic smile. These beautiful words – “glorious uncertainties” and “enigma” are very apt to describe human behaviour as observed in the recent past, especially in India. The advent of British rule, modern education and scientific advances has pulled our country and society out of the superstitious mire in which it was engulfed until the middle of the last century. While this has been a welcome and heartening change, yet another subtle change has become apparent. This perceptible change is the proliferation of god-men, places of worship and paths to spirituality. On the one hand, we are seeing a tremendous progress in science and on the other hand a surprising spurt in spirituality.

This situation sets us thinking as to why we have such a mutually contradictory situation. The clear answer which emerges is that while scientific advancements have been taking care of our material needs, we are still unable to find tranquillity in our lives and hence turn to spirituality for solace. So much so that visiting temples, undertaking pilgrimages and taking refuge under godmen and astrologers has become very popular. As a consequence we find a proliferation of various institutions offering various wares to satisfy this thirst.

All of us by nature seek and want to have the best, whether it is a material object or spirituality. Lionel Robbins, a famous economist, defined economics as a science that studies human behaviour in relation to unlimited wants and scarce resources. This definition opens our eyes to the fact that material needs are always unlimited and a sense of insufficiency always prevails at all levels. Consequently, happiness by way of material possessions has a limit and does not ensure total happiness.

When we observe multitudes of people flocking to the place of worship or godmen, we find that they do it with (i) a desire to get something, (ii) to ward off some problem, (iii) offer gratitude for some favours obtained or some problem solved or (iv) for no serious reason and simply as a matter of routine. Devotion termed as Bhakti in our language centres to a large extent around these reasons. Devotion is manifested in various forms, namely, single-minded focus and adoration towards some particular deity, praising the deity by various names by way of pooja – making offerings, etc.

Is there any facet to spirituality other than devotion as described above? Is spirituality confined to satisfying material wants and seeking mere solace? Is there any path other than that of the path of devotion which keeps us in a state of tranquillity and equilibrium where we are above material needs and base fears that turn us towards devotion? The answers to these questions are given by a simple yet noble person fondly referred to as Brahma Baba. This noble person, after a very substantial achievement as a successful diamond merchant and after meticulously treading the path of Bhakti, found that any amount of material progress or devotion does not give real bliss. Contrary to this, he realised that spirituality lies in realising our inner self, our creator and in freeing ourselves from negative attributes like desire, anger, greed, attachment ego, etc. The path that he set towards this end is so unique and unparalleled that it is apt to describe it as the royal path.

Brahma Baba asks a profound question to humanity. “Why do you want to be a worshipper when you can become worship-worthy yourself?” He asserts categorically that we can become worship-worthy by getting rid of negative attributes like desire, anger, greed, attachment and ego. He declares that the path to become worship-worthy or being divine is to free ourselves from these negative attributes by remembering our creator and inculcating the inherent qualities such as purity, peace, bliss, joy, power and many more virtues. He exhorts us to visualise a state of world where peace and prosperity are a natural order and to join hands in building such a world. Her further reminds us that destruction on a large scale is an eventuality due to lack of clarity and negative attributes among humanity. Let us, therefore, make efforts to inculcate divine virtues and join hands with him and create a better world abundant with peace and prosperity where angels tread.

My Association with the Brahma Kumaris

In October 2006 I had gone to London and had the privilege and pleasure of meeting Brahma Kumari, Sister Jayanti at Global Co-operation House, London. My colleague in the Haryana government, Raj Rup Fuliya, a Brahma Kumar, had sent a message about me but I was extremely diffident. As the Brahma Kumaris organisation was being run and managed by women, I should have expected a larger input of love and affection and caring in their public dealings, but I could have never imagined it functioned with such clockwork efficiency! Within minutes of my reaching the Willesden underground station, a smiling English woman, wearing a spotless white dress, as befitted their Order, came to take me to the Centre in her car. She introduced herself as Sister Rosemary. I was delighted to know that she too was a Brahma Kumari. There were so many others like her, she me, in the UK and all over the world, belonging to all nationalities, who had taken a vow of celibacy and were cheerfully spreading the message of inner peace and harmony in every nook and corner of the world. She took me to the newly constructed impressive Diamond House, adjacent to their old campus, and made me sit comfortably in a plush room with all white, austere décor and left saying: ‘Sister Jayanti will see you here in a minute’.

I saw her come in, a petite, winsome figure in white, with a sweet and serene face, her eyes sparkling with a loving smile, enveloping me in her gentle light. There was an aura of peace around her. I was filled with happiness, just looking at her. She gestured me to sit and I told her how happy I was to meet her. She said she came only last night from Madhuban, their International Headquarters at Mt Abu, and asked if I had been there. From her fair complexion and immaculate speech one could take her to be English, but I sensed an indefinable Indian-ness about her. I told her that some years ago, just after my retirement, I had spent a wonderful week at Madhuban attending a seminar on ‘Values in Public Administration’, designed for people in government, like me. This gladdened her and she enquired what had brought me to London now, and how much time would I like to spend with them. I told her I wanted to see the Lake District in Cumbria and would be going to a friend in Birmingham after two days and that I was free for these two days and would be happy to participate in their on-going programmes. I added: ‘I believe you have a palatial country home called Global Retreat Centre, near Oxford which I would like to see tomorrow, if it is possible’.

She smiled and said that for the present she was just going to speak about her recent experiences in Madhuban to other sisters in the Centre and if I so wished, I might also attend this lecture and thereafter join them for lunch in the dining hall.

So saying, she flashed an infectious smile at me and went into a small lecture room. Her gait was so brisk that in her frail body, wrapped in a flowing snow-white sari, she appeared like an angel sailing through space. I followed her into the room where about a dozen ladies in white sat in a semicircle, facing her. She talked about Dadi Janki whom she had met in Madhuban but her speech mainly centred on what she called Baba’s murli. I was mystified, for I associated murli with Sri Krishna – the bewitching tunes that he used to play on his flute luring the gopis from their homes on the banks of the Jamuna in Vrindavana. She talked in an impassioned but intimate manner about how Brahma Baba was watching their spiritual development and how through the murli he guided their path at every step, throwing light on the dark areas of their minds. The way she described her experience, it appeared as if she had had a tête-a-tête with Brahma Baba in person. Indeed it was not a lecture but sharing a soul experience of enlightenment and bliss in a conversational tone with fellow Brahma Kumaris who were her companions in the crusade, transmitting the message, allaying their doubts. Her face radiated the light of faith and words flowed from her mouth in a sweet symphony, like the newborn wavelets of Ganga softly gurgling out of the Gomukh. They seemed to emanate straight from the depths of her heart, touched by the inner peace that prevailed there. A thought flashed into my mind – Buddha must have spoken like this, with the same intensity and compassion.

I was almost in a trance when she led me to the dining hall after the lecture and I was telling her how greatly I enjoyed her talk. I asked her what she meant by Baba’s murli? She explained that once in a while they had a visitation from Brahma Baba through a medium and one could ask questions or seek clarifications on spiritual matters.

The sisters had lined up in the dining hall near the buffet table and I too moved towards them to pick up a plate. But Sister Jayanti made me sit at her table where lunch was served by a sister. It wasn’t a high table in the centre, just a small table by the wall, but I felt special, like one supping with Jesus Christ! The food was simple but delicious, cooked and served by BK sisters with loving care. She ate very little herself, but loaded up my plate. She asked me if I would like to have an informal introductory discourse on meditation after lunch. I readily agreed and she asked the sister who served us lunch to act as my guru – that is, to provide nourishment not only to my body but also to my mind and spirit. The sister smiled with joy at her commission.

Sister Jayanti informed me that there was a lecture in the evening by a celebrated speaker, Brian Bacon, an international management guru, who had long been associated with the Brahma Kumaris and had just come from the US and perhaps I might like to listen to him. I hesitated, thinking it might get very late. She sensed my difficulty and said a gentleman who lived in Wembley like me would drop me at my place after the lecture. ‘In that case I would certainly like to listen to Mr Bacon’s lecture’, I said. Finally, she told me that as it happened she was going to the Retreat Centre the next morning to deliver a talk to a group of health workers and would be staying there overnight and I was welcome to accompany her in the car and participate in the on-going programme and also to spend the night. I was overwhelmed! I had never met a person who showered such loving care and consideration total strangers!

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