Remember to set apart at least one hour every day to do some service for others. While the food we eat nurtures our bodies, it is what we give in charity that nurtures our souls. If time is not available daily, reserve at least a few hours every week for some worthwhile act of charity.
Let our lives be firmly rooted in Truth. Abstain from lies. In this dark age of materialism, adherence to truth is the greatest austerity. We might have to tell lies now and then to protect somebody or to sustain dharma, but we must be careful not to speak lies for our own selfish purposes.
We should forgive and forget the faults of others. Anger is the enemy of every spiritual aspirant. Anger causes loss of power through every pore of our body. In circumstances when the mind is tempted to get angry, we should control ourselves and resolve firmly, 'No.' We can go to a secluded spot and chant our mantra. The mind will become quiet by itself.
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Children, daily practice of yoga or sun salutations (surya-namaskara) is very good for health and for spiritual practice. Lack of proper exercise is the cause of many of today's diseases. If we can get somewhere in time on foot, always walk instead of taking a vehicle. It is good exercise. Only if we have to go far should we depend on vehicles. Use a bicycle, whenever possible. This will save money, too.
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No matter who causes you grief, take your complaints to the meditation room, where your real friend is. In addition to your husband or wife, you should have a friend - and that friend should be God. Even if your husband or wife makes you unhappy, tell that to God, and not to anyone else. If your neighbor picks a fight with you, go to the meditation room and complain, 'Why did you let him treat me like that? Weren't you with me?' Open your heart and tell God everything. Then it becomes a satsang.
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Pure love is the best medicine for the modern world. This is what is lacking in all societies. The root cause of all problems, from personal problems to global problems is the absence of love. Love is the binding factor, the unifying factor. Love creates the feeling of oneness among people. It unifies a nation and its people. Love creates a sense of unity while hatred causes division. Egotism and hatred cuts people's minds into pieces. Love should rule. There is no problem which love cannot solve.
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We are not isolated islands, we are connected links in a chain. Each kind word, each smiling face, each good action, benefits our neighbor, nation, world. Let us pray and meditate together and we shall reach the shore of peace, spreading the sweet holy fragrance of love and vibrations of unity and harmony. Tuning our minds to the supreme consciousness, let us open our hearts and chant the words, "May everyone everywhere be happy."
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Children, set aside at least half an hour in the morning and in the evening for spiritual practices. After bathing in the morning, a family should sit together and worship. Archana may be performed by chanting the 108 or 1000 Names of Devi or our chosen deity. We can also chant our mantra, meditate or sing hymns at this time.
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What meaning do our lives have if we cannot set aside at least one hour a day out of 24 for thinking about God? Think how many hours we spend reading the newspaper, gossiping and doing various useless acts! Children we can definitely set aside an hour for sadhana if we really want it. That is our real wealth. If we cannot spare a whole hour at a stretch, keep apart half an hour in the morning and again in the evening.
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You can lead a truly spiritual life while remaining a householder. You will be able to enjoy the bliss of the Self, but your mind has to be on God all the time. Then you can easily attain bliss. A mother bird will be thinking of the young ones in the nest, even when she is out looking for food. Similarly, you have to keep your mind on God, while engaged in all worldly actions. The important thing is to be completely dedicated to God or the Guru. Once you have that dedication, the goal will not be far away.
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Religion is the secret of life. It teaches us to love, to serve, to forgive, to endure, and to interact with our brothers and sisters with empathy and compassion. Advaita (non-duality) is a purely subjective experience. But in daily life it may be expressed as love and compassion. This is the great lesson taught by the great saints and sages of India, the exponents of Sanatana Dharma.
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Mental purity will come through constant chanting of the divine name. This is the simplest way. You are trying to cross the ocean of transmigration, the cycle of birth and death. The mantra is the oar of the boat; it is the instrument you use to cross the samsara of your restless mind, with its unending thought waves. The mantra can also be compared to a ladder that you climb to reach the heights of God realization.
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Many of us may have watched the waves at sea. They rise, then fall, then rise again, then fall again... and this cycle continues endlessly. It is the same with our experience of the world and its objects and relationships. We may find happiness, but this happiness will soon turn to sorrow. The sorrow that we feel will subsequently turn back to happiness but this oscillation continues endlessly. In order to maintain inner balance, we need to find peace within instead of depending on the external world.
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Children, we are told to make an offering at the temple or at the feet of the guru, not because the Lord or guru is in need of wealth or anything else. Real offering is the act of surrendering the mind and the intellect. How can it be done? We cannot offer our minds as they are, but only the things to which our minds are attached. Today our minds are greatly attached to money and other worldly things. By placing such thoughts at the feet of the Lord, we are offering Him our heart. This is the principle behind giving charities.
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There is a lot of difference between offering a garland of flowers bought from a shop and one that we make out of flowers picked from our home garden. When we plant the flowers, water them, pick the flowers, make the garland and take it to the temple, thoughts of God alone live in our minds. The Lord accepts anything offered to Him with intense Love. When we buy a garland at a store and place it on the deity it is only a ceremonial act while the other is a garland of pure devotion and an act of love.
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Children, when we go to the temple, do not hurry to have darshan, then make some offering and return home in a hurry. We should stand there patiently in silence for some time and try to visualize the beloved deity in our hearts. If possible, we should sit down and meditate. At each step, remember to do japa. Amma doesn't say that the offerings and worship are not necessary, but of all the offerings we make, what the Lord wants most is our hearts!
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Children, we may go to the temple, reverently circumambulate the sanctum sanctorum and put our offering in the charity box, but on our way out if we kick the beggar at the door, where is our devotion? Compassion towards the poor is our duty to God. Mother is not saying that we should give money to every beggar that sits in front of a temple, but do not despise them. Pray for them as well. When we hate others, it is our own mind that becomes impure. Equality of vision is God.
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Renovating temples does not mean building great gate towers or receptacles for offerings. What we should focus on is the regular conduct of worship according to tradition, regular satsang, devotional singing, and so forth. Our devotion and faith give life to temples, not rituals and ceremonies. Children, we should remember this when we are involved in temple matters.
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It is always advisable to obtain a mantra from a self-realized master. Until then we may use one of the mantras of our beloved deity like 'Om Namah Shivaya', 'Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya', 'Om Namo Narayanaya', 'Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare', 'Om Shivashaktyaikya Rupinyai Namaha' or even the names of Christ, Allah or Buddha.
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Children, we should consider every name as the name of our beloved deity. Imagine that He is the one that appears in all the different forms. If our beloved deity is Krishna, then while chanting the names of the Divine Mother, imagine that Krishna has come before us as Devi. We should not think that since we are chanting Devi's names, Krishna might not like it. These differences exist only in our world, not in His.
Do not get up immediately at the end of the archana. The beloved deity should be brought from the seat in front of us back into our hearts and re-installed there. Seeing the form of the deity seated in the heart, meditate for a little longer. If it is possible, it is good to sing 2 or 3 kirtans. After taking an injection, a patient is asked to rest for a few minutes to let the medicine spread throughout the body. Similarly, to obtain the full benefit of the mantras, we should keep the mind calm for a while after worship.
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To Amma, all are Her children. In Amma's eyes no defect of Her children is serious. But when She is considered as the guru, it is essential for the growth of the disciples that they conduct themselves according to the tradition. Amma will pardon all the mistakes of Her children, but nature has certain laws. That is what brings punishment for our sins. Children, we should be able to take any sorrow or suffering as conducive for our growth.
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With the exception of very few who have gained higher spiritual tendencies in prior lives, Self-realization is not possible for anyone without the blessings of a guru. Think of the guru as the manifestation of God in this world. Take even the most insignificant word of the guru as an order and obey it. That is the real service to the guru. There is no greater austerity. The guru's blessings flow automatically to any obedient disciple. That is the real service to the guru.
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The heart sends blood to every cell of the body, and in this way the cells are nourished. The same blood then flows back to the heart. If the flow is obstructed, the person will die. We need to learn this process of give and take from the heart. For the benefit of others, and also for ourselves, we should have the attitude of caring and sharing. We are all links in the chain of life. If one link is weakened, it will affect the strength of the whole chain.
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Many priests and employees at temples work for pay. No one should judge religion on the basis of the shortcomings of such workers. We should frame suitable rules and regulations for preventing them from falling prey to material temptations. The true guiding spirits of religion are those who engage in selfless service while dedicating their entire lives to attaining the vision of God.
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Children, don't waste a single second. Serve others, above all the poor, expecting nothing in return. Just as the person who offers God flowers is the first to enjoy their fragrance, the person who offers compassion is the first to receive its blessing. Wherever a heart beats with compassion: God is there.
Children, we should visit homes of the poor, orphanages and hospitals from time to time. We should take our family members along and offer assistance and look after the welfare of inmates. A word spoken with love and concern will give them more comfort than any amount of money. That will lead to the expansion of our hearts as well.
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If we lose our money while traveling, think how frantically we search for it! In the same way, if we are unable to do japa even for a brief moment, we should grieve: 'Alas, Lord, I have lost so much time!' If there is such anguish, even the time we spend sleeping will not be wasted.
Changing the world is like trying to straighten a dog's tail. However much you may try, you won't succeed. But although the tail won't straighten, if you keep trying every day, at least you will put on some muscle. Similarly, even though it is difficult to make a change, our effort to do so in itself brings positive results. It will help us change. Without waiting for others to change,if we change ourselves first, that will make a difference. Instead of worrying about results, focus on doing our best in what we are engaged in.
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It's like pouring oil from one glass to another down a line - in the end, you don't have any oil left; it is all stuck to the inside of the glasses. This way, 1,000 dollars become 100 dollars by the time it reaches the people. Whereas if we get 10 dollars, we add our effort to it and the money multiplies.
Isn't it human beings who impart vitality to the image in the temple? If no one sculpts the stone, it doesn't become an image. If no one installs it in the temple, it does not acquire any sanctity. If no worship is done, it does not acquire any power. Without human effort there cannot be any temples. What is wrong then in saying that we should view great masters as equal to God? Temples installed by such spiritual masters have a special energy of their own.
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Children, not a grain of the food we eat is made purely by our own effort. What comes to us in the form of food is the work of others, the bounty of Nature and God's compassion. Even if we have millions of dollars, we still need food to satisfy our hunger. Can we eat dollars? Therefore, never eat anything without first praying with humility.
If the goal is to realize the Supreme Being, you should become egoless. That requires self-effort. The sadhak should work hard. He should pray sincerely for the removal of the negative tendencies. This prayer is not to achieve anything or to fulfill any desires. It is to go beyond all achievements. It is to transcend all desires.
There is no short cut to God; sadhana must be performed regularly and with devotion. It is our own effort which will enable us to experience the grace of God which is being showered on us all the time. Therefore, whatever spare time you get, use it to seek God. If you create peace in your own heart by doing sadhana, then that will have a positive effect on your family, your work and so on. The peace and love of God will overflow out of your heart and encourage others to move on the right path.
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Everyone in the world should sleep without fear at least for one night, sleep without fear. Everyone in the world should eat to their fill, at least for one day, eat to their fill. There should be one day when there is no violence, no one is injured, no one is harmed. All people young and old should serve the poor and needy, at least for one day serve selflessly. This is my dream....this is my prayer. Love is the answer, love is the way. Love is the answer, love is the way.
Society is made up of individuals. The thoughts and actions of each individual influence the culture of that society. Instead of waiting for others to improve, we should try to improve ourselves. Once our attitude has changed, we will be able to perceive goodness throughout world. If there is a positive change in us, it will also be reflected in others. It is only what we give that we can hope to get back.
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It is never a good practice to continue to sleep after sunrise. We should not think of staying in bed once we are awake; it increases laziness and dullness. Those who cannot decrease the amount of sleep quickly may do it in gradual stages. Those who do regular spiritual practice do not need much sleep.
Writing a diary every evening before going to bed is a good habit. We can record in the diary how much time we have devoted to our spiritual practice. The diary should be written in a way that helps us see our mistakes and correct them. It should not be a mere document of other peoples' faults or our daily transactions.
Children, pray for the good of everyone. We should pray to God to give a good mind even to those who harm us. One cannot sleep peacefully when there is a theif in the neighborhood. Likewise, when we pray for the well-being of others, it is we who gain peace and quietude. Children, the mantra 'Loka samasta sukhino bhavantu' should be chanted at least once daily.
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Whatever action we are doing, we should be sure to keep the thought of God alive within. Whenever we sit or get up, we should prostrate in that place. It is good to cultivate the habit of considering our pen, books, clothes, vessels, and the tools of our job as imbued with divine presence and use them with care and respect. This will help keep the thought of God alive throughout our body, mind and atmosphere.
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Deciding to chant the mantra a certain number of times daily will help foster the japa habit. We should always keep a rosary with us for doing japa. A rosary can be made of 108, 54, 27 or 18 beads of rudraksha, tulsi, crystal, sandalwood, gems, etc, with one 'guru bead'. We should resolve to chant a certain number of rosaries (rounds) daily.
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It is a good practice to write at least on page of mantra daily. Many people get better concentration by writing than by chanting. Try also to inculcate in children the habit of chanting and neatly writing the mantra. This will help to improve their handwriting, too. The book in which the mantra is written should not be thrown around; it should be carefully kept in our meditation or shrine room.
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Children, those who are unmarried should conserve their vital energy by maintaining celibacy. To turn what we gain by this in to ojas (vitality), we also need to do spiritual practice. With increase in ojas, our intelligence, memory, health and beauty will also increase. We will gain lasting mental quietude.
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Do not use intoxicants of any sort. We who should be serving the world should not ruin our health by smoking and drinking. The money we waste on these things can be used for so many useful things. With the money we smoke away, we can buy an artificial leg for one who has lost a leg, pay for an eye operation for someone with a cataract, or buy a wheelchair for a polio victim. Or, if nothing else, we can buy some spiritual books for the local library.
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