The old nurse looked at her radiant Queen, Maya Devi. She still had the same sweet smile on her face, and nothing seemed to have changed since the day she was born, the day the old nurse picked her up as an infant. Pregnancy only made her glow more like the full moon. She still insisted doing things her way in that same charming captivating way like now, when she went bathing all by herself in the Puskarini pool, even though she was about to give birth in a fortnight. Her nurse watched helplessly as Maya played in the pool, with her friends amidst the pink and white lotus flowers. The nurse sighed, and got up to ready the sleeping arrangements for Maya. Maya had wanted to leave for her father’s home for birthing her child as was the custom of those times. But instead of leaving earlier by a month, she spent more time with her affectionate husband, King Suddodhana, the leader of the Shakya clan. On the way to her father’s place, she wanted to spend the night at the beautiful garden in Lumbini, which meant ‘the lovely.’
Just as the nurse was about to walk away towards the tents, she could sense something waswrong. She turned to see Maya’s face contorting in pain for just a moment. Or did she imagine it? She squinted her near-sighted eyes, and watched intently for a longer moment, and noticed the same expression again. Maya met her gaze, and the nurse knew it was time. She waded mid-pool and quickly helped her out of the water. Maya insisted on walking all the way to the tent without support, wincing during every contraction, supporting her hips with her arms. She did not reach the tent. She took a quick detour and halted below a strong and sturdy sal tree, under the full and bright moon of the first lunar month Vesak, of the New Year. She rested for a moment, as her womb contracted in divine agony. Her nurse held out her hand, but the all-time-self-sufficient Maya supported herself by clutching a branch, and birthed her handsome Prince, whom she named Siddhārtha, the one who achieves his goal. The Gods from heaven showered a stream of lukewarm water to clean the baby, and then another cooler shower. She thanked the Gods silently. As she gazed lovingly at her just born beautiful new baby boy, Siddhārtha walked seven steps on the lotus in the pond, as the lore goes.
Nativity Scene: The Birth of the Buddha
Maya passed away 11 days later, leaving Siddhārthain the hands of her sister Prajapati, who was also the second wife of her husband. Prajapati’s motherly love for Siddhārtha never made him realize the absence of his birth mother. The court astrologers predicted that the Prince would either become a great saint of modern times or a mighty Monarch.
As the story of the Buddha goes, Prince Siddhārtha abandoned the palace and the kingly riches in search of meaning for life and wandered away to the forests, at the age of 29. Through the strictest of penance, he eventually attained Nirvana or enlightenment at the age of 35.
Just before passing away at the age of 80, Buddha told his primary disciple and cousin, Ananda, that Lumbini his birth place would be one of the 4 holiest places which would attract Buddhists for all time.
LUMBINI, BIRTH PLACE OF BUDDHA, UNESCO World Heritage site
2500 years later today, the Lumbini garden remains so, as predicted by Buddha. In my eternal quest for all things Buddhist, I was taken to the serene land of Nepal, which is adorned by the whitest and most beautiful Himalayan Range to the north, and by the rather nondescript town of Lumbini to the South. I won’t go into details of how to reach Lumbini by road/air, where to stay once you reach there, or the best things to do there. You can find all of that in travel websites and travelogues written by travelers and tourists who have visited the place before me and who would visit after me.
UNESCO World Heritage Site
For the travel-lusting curios, however, I am going to briefly share my experiences of visiting the Maya Devi temple in Lumbini. This temple is housed inside the Lumbini development complex which also has the Monastic zone and a Lumbini village zone. In 1978, many nations came forward to build monasteries depicting the evolution of Buddhist culture in their countries and I am going to share a few pictures of those different monasteries below. To confuse you further, when you visit, there are many gates to this complex, depending on how you plan to enter. Whichever of the 9 gates you choose, be sure to cover all the monasteries. They are absolutely lovely and unique and give you a flavour of their own respective countries.
A few of the monasteries below …
The Thailand Monastery
One of my favorite monasteries. It stands magnificent in snowy, pristine white glory; embodying purity. It is very well maintained with manicured lawns and neatly trimmed trees.
The insides of the Thai monastery is also very beautiful. The decorations of the Buddha, the culture reflecting in the ornate decorations, information on neat bulletin boards, and so on – all gave a very nicely organized monastery.
Insides of the Thai Monastery
The Cambodian Monastery
This monastery reminded me very much of the Angkor Wat temple in its looks and structure. It is still work in progress with construction work going on, and dust billowing towards us, in the heat. We were forced to make a hasty retreat to the other monasteries, though this breath-taking beauty did not stop beckoning us…
The Myanmar Monastery
The Golden monastery from Myanmar decorated with green and gold paint, and a maroon balustrade to match, was a splendid sight from outside and inside too. It is a replica of the monastery in Yangon. My husband’s bucket list grew, with Myanmar as one of the places to visit, before the end of this year, as we breathed in the sight of this beautiful monastery.
The German Monastery
As we kept walking, we came across a circular lake, and on one side there is this beautiful German monastery called, ‘The Great Drigung Kagyud Lotus Stupa’. Do not let this humble, yet beautiful monastery mislead you, for you are about to witness wonder inside it.
As we entered this monastery, we were slowed down. There was not enough time in the world, to complete admiring the beautiful murals on the walls. There was a prayerful atmosphere which the monks tried hard to maintain inside the prayer room. It was simply splendid. I recommend, you sit down for a few minutes to meditate here. No photography is allowed inside, for which I am thankful, because our senses were already assaulted enough, just admiring the murals inside.
Inside the German Monastery
At times, I was so glad for these “No photography” signs because Nature was giving us a chance to just sit, allow the beauty to descend into you, both in a way of the senses and also into the heart. No more thinking about Portrait mode or Normal mode or other modes, light exposure, and all those umpteen photography things which my husband and son keep discussing about, but just a mind which needs to calm down, and a heart which needs to look inward.
Colorful Murals Inside the German Monastery
And we moved on, because a noisy group of tourist arrived and were discussing with the care taker, as to how they could seek permission to take pictures inside the prayer room.
The International Nuns Temple of Nepal
On the right side of the International Nuns Temple, you can see that there is a place of stay for the nuns from Nepal, and is maintained by the Government of Nepal. It has a long courtyard where footwear was not allowed, and as our feet were getting burnt, we were reminded of childhood memories of playing hide and seek with our cousins, during summer break, on the hot terrace at midday. We had to make a hasty retreat this time too, because we could not bear the burning of the hot grounds on our naked feet.
(*If I did not tell you earlier, you are requested to leave your footwear outside most of the monasteries, as a sign of respect and cleanliness.*)
International Nuns Temple in Nepal
The Singapore Monastery
This was closed and we could not learn much about it. So we resorted to taking pictures of it and us.
The Author and her son in front of the Singapore Monastery
The Chinese Monastery
The Chinese have built the biggest monastery in the complex. It is very well maintained and organized with a lot of information displayed. There was so much to assimilate about the culture and history of Buddhism in China and about the monastery itself.
The entrance of the Chinese monastery is guarded by their traditional ‘Four Heavenly Kings’ and other deities. There was even a Maitreya Buddha at the entrance. This is a very beautiful and colorful monastery.
Guardians of the Chinese Monastery
Though the entrance looks not so huge, the courtyard was heavenly. The visitors who entered never felt like leaving. You would also notice that the entry and exit of the monastery is structured such that it makes you circumambulate in clockwise around the Buddha which is a holy practice of Hindus and Buddhists.
Courtyard of the Chinese Monastery
World Peace Pagoda
We were then directed towards a path by one of the tourists, saying it led to the Eternal Flame, The World Peace Pagoda and the Maya Devi temple. They are all in a straight line.
Inside The World Peace Pagoda
As you walk on this path, you can find the golden Bodhisattva statue glistening in the sun. It is a fairly recent addition, in 2012. It is supposed to personify that image of the infant Buddha when he took the seven steps on the lotus, as soon as he was born.
Golden Bodhisattva statue
The Maya Devi Temple
Our walk brought us to the Sacred Zone at the Maya Devi Temple. There was an ambience of tranquility in the atmosphere. But something else was also missing. I couldn’t quite sense what, yet. There is a pond beyond which the temple stands tall and majestic, in white serenity. It felt that the temple was celebrating Buddha’s mother rather than the Buddha.
Maya Devi Temple
There are rows of small stupas outside the temple. Excavations seemed to be happening continuously since the discovery of the Ashoka pillar in 1896.
King Ashoka in the 249 BC is supposed to have originally discovered Buddha’s birth place and built this iconic pillar with detailed inscriptions and the various stupas around it.
Details – The Ashoka Pillar
Around the temple building, there are numerous small stupas and they have been archaeologically dated back to the second century BC.
Archaeological Ruins Around the Temple
We entered the temple, and began walking on the wooden floor, following the signs. People were throwing coins below into the ruins, as offerings for good luck. We stood above and gazed from the railings, there were coins from different countries. As we kept walking, we finally reached the Marker Stone which marks the exact spot where Buddha was born. Devotees were praying, some tourists were gazing intently trying to capture everything in their memory, as you see, photography is prohibited inside the Maya Devi Temple. The path further leads to the Nativity sculpture where you can see mother Maya Devi holding the branch of a Sal tree and Buddha standing on a lotus. As we walked beyond, the path led to the exit of the temple.
The sun was very bright and almost scorching, and glared my eyes, because the temple was very dimly lit, like the insides of a movie theatre. I waited for a moment, for everything to sink in. Everything seemed like nothing.
I noticed the colorful prayer flags in the garden outside. There was a small pond, and a few monks were sitting around a tree, chatting. There were benches for tourists, and some were meditating on it.
I got the feeling that perhaps it was time to leave.
What did I seek in Lumbini?
As we made our way towards the exit, we halted for a drink of water at the watering pool. A few monks were filling up their plastic bottles too, and we waited patiently for them to move. It gave me a moment to reflect.
When we made this journey, all the way from Chennai, South India, what did I anticipate to find? I was allured to Buddha’s birthplace, but I couldn’t find him here. Lumbini is no doubt a very important and holiest of sites for followers of Buddhism and even followers of other religions and I appreciate the beauty of the Lumbini development zone and commend the effort of the Government to preserve this as place of value and heritage.
However, as I fill up my bottle, with the cool water from the tap, I wonder, “What did I get, which I sought from this visit to the birth place of Buddha?”
Did I get enlightenment like Buddha? But did I seek that? I don’t even know what that means…
Did I seek to find Buddha somewhere hidden in the beautiful monasteries constructed by various countries? Or somewhere near the Marker Stone, which claims he was birthed there?
I was not seeking his physical presence – surely not!
Was I seeking to find some meaning to the strong presence he left behind in this world? Perhaps…! But what of it?
Well, whatever I was seeking or not, I surely was trying to find some essence of Divinity in all of this. One could call it peace, or bliss or a meditative calm or any other word… and it all can be identified with something akin to Divine. But I was vaguely disappointed. I felt generally at peace at a superficial level in some of the monasteries, but I still was trying to figure out what I was searching, assuming that I would know once I found it. And here I was experiencing an anti-climax of having found nothing at all.
My water bottle overflowed and I sensed an impatient monk behind me who was being fidgety with his bottle, tapping it against the railing of the water taps. I closed my bottle and allowed him to use it. He smiled his thanks but I did not have the energy to smile back. I was drained by the heat and my own contemplation.
We walked back along the long path leading to one of the exit gates, each of us silent in our hearts and in our own world.
Long after I came home to India, and decided to write about my experience in Lumbini, I felt emotional about not having experienced Buddha’s presence. I just did not feel him or find him anywhere in Lumbini. It felt like ‘time’ had trapped all of Buddha back in the 6th century BC.
It just felt like memories of Buddha lost in time, accentuated by celebrated tales, and an active humanity in the future which tried to relive the enlightenment of a single man (or God) of the past.
The Ethos of the Heart
As I was wondering about my experience, my friend texted me and offered to have a Heartfulness meditation session, where one meditates on the source of light in the heart. I could not say no. After the session, I felt lighter and peaceful in a general way. Later, I remembered something I read long ago, written by Daaji, the Global Guide of Heartfulness. This seemed to be a fitting climax to my experience.
“Imagine for a moment that we don’t have to go anywhere, or to do anything, except simply sit wherever we are, and allow ourselves to be found? Imagine that heavens are waiting to enter our heart, right here and now! What a powerful concept! How do we make this a reality and allow ourselves to be found? How do we create such a state where the higher presence naturally settles within our hearts?”
He goes on to explain as below …
“The answer possibly lies in cultivating the seeds of contentment within our hearts…
It starts with a simple suggestion that everything we need is already present within us. All the love of the world, the beauty of life, the seed of perfection is present in our heart represented as a source of light. This suggestion is strengthened through actual experience in meditation, as the idea of light leads to a feeling of an inner presence. This inner presence becomes a reality as our consciousness expands, and we become aware of a wholeness of being. When we begin to experience this state of wholeness and perfection at our core, the clouds of discontent and ignorance start to dissolve. The heart regains its light and innocent nature.
Under such circumstances, the egoless heart, the humble heart, automatically draws the heavens towards itself. Such a heart is perfectly adjusted to its external circumstances. It creates heaven around itself.”
I felt light instantly. This seemed to be the missing puzzle to my experience-jigsaw. I had read this article almost 2 years ago, more or less agreed with it, and swiped away to the next article, devouring words and ideas. But the joy of the pudding is not merely in the eating, but in the conscious experiencing of the taste, or the sweet of it. The Universe is so vast, and the world of learning and experiencing is also as broad as the Universe and perhaps even more so. As the human soul tries to imbibe everything or parts of the universe in a quest which is directed external – to new places, new understanding of the senses, and new knowledge, there is something limiting to that, as the façade never fully lifts.
As I try to understand what he meant in the article, I also realize that perhaps humanity is unconsciously seeking an ethos of that content heart, which satisfies itself with everything within, which knows with confidence that indeed the Universe is present within.
What do you look for, when you visit holy lands? Tell me, your experiences …
Purnima Ramakrishnan is an UNCA award winning journalist and the recipient of the fellowship in Journalism by International Reporting Project, John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Her International reports from Brazil are found here .
She is also the recipient of the BlogHer '13 International Activist Scholarship Award .
She is a Senior Editor at World Moms Blog who writes passionately about social and other causes in India. Her parental journey is documented both here at World Moms Blog and also at her personal Blog, The Alchemist's Blog. She can be reached through this page .
She also contributes to Huffington Post .
Purnima was once a tech-savvy gal who lived in the corporate world of sleek vehicles and their electronics. She has a Master's degree in Electronics Engineering, but after working for 6 years as a Design Engineer, she decided to quit it all to become a Stay-At-Home-Mom to be with her son!
This smart mom was born and raised in India, and she has moved to live in coastal India with her husband, who is a physician, and her son who is in primary grade school.
She is a practitioner and trainer of Heartfulness Meditation.
Giving Tuesday was created to transform how people think about, talk about and participate in the giving season. It has become an international movement around the holidays dedicated to giving, in the same way that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are now synonymous with holiday shopping.
After the frenzied commercialism of Black Friday sales (that now last through the weekend) and the inundation of Cyber Monday e-mails, Giving Tuesday provides a way to make sure we give as good as we get.
Giving Tuesday has become an international phenomenon, and for North Americans it’s an opportunity to harness all of the grateful energy amassed over Thanksgiving and transform it directly into the spirit of helping others. It feels like this year more than ever we are reminded that family, good health, a place to call home, security, access to clean water, and food to eat are not things to be taken for granted. If you are reading this chances are that you have the good fortune to live in a place where food security, education, and housing are the norm. It is basic humanity to extend a hand if we can and there are so many positive ways to give back, and celebrate the true meaning of “The Giving Season”.
Here are a few organizations doubling donations today and working to make the world a better place on #GivingTuesday:
Shot At Life – UNF, Honduras, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012. Photo Credit: Stuart Ramson
One of the greatest investments we can make in global health is to vaccinate children against vaccine preventable diseases. The impact is undeniable as demonstrated in this Impact Report by Shot@life.
MAM, has agreed to match all donations dollar-for-dollar to shot@life this #GivingTuesday and Facebook and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have teamed up to match up to $2 million in funds for nonprofits. To have your donation to Shot@Life matched, donate through Shot@Life’s Facebook Page.
Water is life, plain and simple. This #GivingTuesday is an opportunity to double your impact an provide clean water to families and villages around the world who do not have something most of us take for granted. Clean water.
Elizabeth Atalay is a Digital Media Producer, Managing Editor at World Moms Network, and a Social Media Manager. She was a 2015 United Nations Foundation Social Good Fellow, and traveled to Ethiopia as an International Reporting Project New Media Fellow to report on newborn health in 2014. On her personal blog, Documama.org, she uses digital media as a new medium for her background as a documentarian. After having worked on Feature Films and Television series for FOX, NBC, MGM, Columbia Pictures, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, and Castle Rock Pictures, she studied documentary filmmaking and anthropology earning a Masters degree in Media Studies from The New School in New York. Since becoming a Digital Media Producer she has worked on social media campaigns for non-profits such as Save The Children, WaterAid, ONE.org, UNICEF, United Nations Foundation, Edesia, World Pulse, American Heart Association, and The Gates Foundation. Her writing has also been featured on ONE.org, Johnson & Johnson’s BabyCenter.com, EnoughProject.org, GaviAlliance.org, and Worldmomsnetwork.com. Elizabeth has traveled to 70 countries around the world, most recently to Haiti with Artisan Business Network to visit artisans in partnership with Macy’s Heart of Haiti line, which provides sustainable income to Haitian artisans. Elizabeth lives in New England with her husband and four children.
My daughters and I recently started watching a new Netflix series called “The Kindness Diaries”. This documentary-style series follows a man, Leon, who travels around the world simply relying on the kindness of strangers. And, he finds kindness in the most desperate of circumstances. Families who can barely feed their children, provide him with food and shelter. Homeless men living on the streets, share their space and offer him the clothes off their backs. Time and time again, it is those with the least (financially) in life, who offer Leon the most. And they offer kindness entirely out of the goodness of their hearts, without any expectation of repayment.
Today, my girls and I visited a beautiful family, new to Canada. They fled Syria and then Lebanon, and arrived in Canada less than one year ago. They showed us pictures of their life in Lebanon. Beirut was flourishing, beautiful and peaceful…and their pictures showed the young family loving life. We had never met, but they welcomed us with wide open arms, into their home, and provided us with a beautiful and delicious meal. Despite the significant language barrier, we learned Arabic and experienced parts of their rich culture. The kindness they showed us was so touching. And this young family has been through so much, in fact, more than most of us could likely endure. Despite it all, their kindness was overflowing.
As we hugged and left, we were in awe of their resilience, but most of all, we were inspired by their kindness. And what we all learned, is that kindness is free and is the most valuable gift one human can give to another. If we all showed just a little bit more kindness towards each other, despite our differences, what would the world look like? What we experienced today, and what is featured on the Kindness Diaries, shows us that kindness can prevail and kindness can change the world.
So, thank you to the wonderful Helal family who showed my family kindness today. Thank you to the families in Tanzania, who have so little, but insisted on giving me gifts of eggs and soda when I visited them. Thank you to the man in Nicaragua who saw me ill and shared his only bottle of water with me at the end of a volcano hike. Thank you to Leon Logothetis for showing us all that kindness is powerful and abundant, in a world so shaken with instability and cruelty.
Your kindness matters!
Share with us an experience you are reminded of, after reading this post. Please let us know through the comments.
Alison Fraser is the mother of three young girls ranging in age from 5 to 9 years old. She lives with her family in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada. Alison works as an Environmental Toxicologist with a human environment consulting company and is an active member of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC). She is also the founder and director of the Canadian Not for Profit Organization, Mom2Mom Africa, which serves to fund the school fees of children and young women in rural Tanzania. Recently recognized and awarded a "Women of Waterloo Region" award, Alison is very involved in charitable events within her community including Christmas Toy and School Backpack Drives for the local foodbank.
This is part II of the two-part interview with Victor Kannan. Part I is also on World Moms Network’s blog, and some of Mr. Kannan’s own written work can be found HereandHere.
S: When you observe today’s youth, from a child of about 8 years to early 20s, what are some of the traits you’ve noticed that seem ‘new school’ that are good and different from traditions we have had before? I know that’s a wide spectrum, but based on your own experience, what are some of the new traits you’ve seen that are good and some that seem to be detrimental to spiritual growth?
V: You know, they have to be looked at in the context of their environment. If I take a broad stroke, I’d say that on average families are smaller. On average the continuity of flow between grandparents, parents and children is getting weak, if you think of it as a river, where the water flows, where the whole thing has the flow of love and life, of knowledge, of caring relationships. There would be four grandparents present for every grandkid and maybe 15 grandchildren for every grandparent. That kind of a breadth of continuity is becoming thinner and thinner.
If you take this river as the flow of energy, of love, of knowledge from grandparents to grandchildren, that river contains less water today than it did before. And naturally what happens is the children have to look externally for their emotional fulfillment. Both of the parents work these days, and many of them are single parents; it’s like a river with very little water.
So somewhere this generational flow of the river of knowledge and love seems to have dwindled. No single person can take the blame, but it is ,unfortunately, the generation that is evolving, because of our value system and because of our excessive materialistic orientation. So, I think that these children are really starved for love and togetherness with their grandparents, and if the parents are both working, the quality of their time with the children is also limited.
Naturally, they are looking for external things and, unfortunately, or fortunately, there are plenty of them. Now, what does that mean? They get lured by the things that gave them company when parents were not available.
The children are with their parents because they are dependent. They can be from a wealthy family, where they may be hanging around for inheritance or expanding the family business. However, if they are born in a poor family, the modern generation will leave the house. There is nothing in the house for them to hang on to. So, under the circumstances, children are struggling to find their groove.
Suppose you take the so-called typical middle-class family: the children go to school, both parents work, and there is not much time, right? The time spent with the children is also compartmentalized with vacation and programs and schedules. There is no free time singing in the garden together on a Tuesday evening. So, I think the children are becoming more and more isolated. Their behavior is not rooted in some kind of value system, whether of a material ambition, or a family where they have given and taken and sacrificed; look at parents having sacrificed, the grandparents sacrificed, the wealth of upbringing, the richness of upbringing… If the children do not see these sacrifices, they take life for granted and become more materialistic in their orientation.
I am thinking that even though today’s children are isolated and feel lonely, and they are more responsive to the senses and the world around them, the situation can be changed around, by parents and schools adopting a value-oriented education system and a value-oriented relationship system, where you begin with spiritual values. You highlight the spiritual values, and not the material success as what you talk about at the dinner table. Then it will slowly change. So the children can be reoriented and possibilities exist because the 30/ 40/ 50-year-old parents today are more exposed to the science and spirituality combination. Not the religious dogmatic type of thing, or rituals without meaning.
In the modern era, due to stress in life, more and more people are adopting meditation. More and more people are beginning to realize that there is neuroplasticity; that it is never too late to grow. It is never too late to change. These kinds of established new scientific facts are giving hope to people. And again, many of these processes are trans-generational in nature, so it will take 20, 30 years before it changes the society.
So the trend for the youth today, is, that they go after what satisfies them sensorily. They lack a depth in their goals that they want to achieve for themselves. There is also a lack of a properly meshed fabric of love, care, duty, responsibility, and relationship in their lives. They are in a very nebulous, tricky situation, But the families that have spiritual values and can inculcate them into the children should be able to quickly reverse course and become stronger individuals in the future.
S: The analogy of the river was quite impressive, I must say. It helped to visualize what you were saying in a very tangible way. Thank you for putting it that way.
V: I do feel worried and anxious for them. They need direction and inspiration to sustain them. Love and care are the roots of such inspiration from parents, teachers, and role models. So when moms embrace spiritual values and spiritualized material existence, including putting meaning behind activities, and have one or two aspirational goals to shoot for and a few practical positive values they can adopt, they will create a solid foundation for their future and hence the future of any society.
S: You said you have a daughter. Does she practice heartfulness meditation?
V: Yes she does. She is also a trainer. We never forced anything on her, but she was part of what we did. When she didn’t like it, we didn’t force her, and fortunately she came back with a lot of interest, and she has expressed some of her thought and experience in articles on meditation.
S: Where could we find them?
V: If you go to heartfulness magazine, you can look for Dr. Swati Kannan. She has written two articles for the Heartfulness Magazine. So, we are quite happy. But again, I take everything with gratitude. Not with expectation. See, the other thing in our association with any type of meditation system is that expecting an outcome is a seed for disappointment. Especially when it is not rational. What I mean by that is if I go to the gym and if I have a trainer, and if I do the routine I am supposed to do, I will see results in myself. That is the correct expectation. But if I go to the gym and do exercise, and then think that I am going to find a star to marry, or that I will swim across the Amazon, that is not a realistic expectation. So in many systems, including the heartfulness system, you will come across people who say that thanks to the meditation system, or the teacher, or their blessings, “my child became a valedictorian” or similar things. I cringe when I hear that. I cringe when I hear that, because we also know that tragedies happen. In any association or group of people. Things we don’t like happen. Right? If we don’t take these things as milestones in our journey, then we have a wrong understanding of life.
Let’s think about the day. The day starts cool, it gets hot, then it becomes cool again. It starts dark, it becomes light and it gets dark again. But if we don’t accept the seasonality of a day, seasonality of life, the ups and downs, we have a wrong understanding of life, a wrong understanding of the systems that we follow to expand our consciousness. So, I don’t know which question I have answered right now, but it’s very important that we don’t have dogmatic, religious overtones to our expectations from a meditation system. In some way, as our consciousness expands we shoot ourselves in the foot less often, and that is a tangible benefit. As our consciousness expands we develop a 360 degree–vision – a wider view of life in its wholeness. This makes us less volatile and reactive and calmer and better responsive. And this alone will make for growth, progress, happiness and joy in life.
S: I can see how what you just said also translates in how we raise our kids or however we live our lives, whatever practices we have and our expectations in what we want our children to do.
V: It’s like saying that if you go to temple, or a church, or a synagogue, you are a better person. But if you make that statement to the children, and they take it seriously, they will either look at others who are not doing that as bad, or they will look at parents and say, “Hey, it doesn’t work.” So it’s a problem.
S: Switching gears a bit, again: Being that you are in finance, what are three things you would tell a child, that could help a child be financially aware, or money aware. For instance, I wasn’t told anything about money. I was given a piggy bank but didn’t know about managing money.
V: Sure. Money is a means of exchange. Exchange things. Sometimes time is measured in money, and the value of products and services is measured in money. So a child needs to know that the things that they use cost money, and that to make money, one has to put in energy. If they waste things, they waste money, and they waste energy. And suppose you say that if the parents go out and put in the energy to make the money to bring in the things that they enjoy, then if they waste that money, they are wasting their parents’ energy. Then you can say that if you don’t waste, the parent can save that energy, spend that energy with the child, going out for a football game, or you know, going out to a movie, or otherwise spend time together. This is how some level of appreciation of what the parents do is inculcated in them that will, in turn, help them when they grow up. The child can tell the parents to spend more time with them and make less money for both require energy to be spent! Energy spent with the children is the greatest investment parents can make. So automatically everything gets balanced with that perspective. So saying money is energy. Save money, save energy. Spend it wisely where it is needed.
S: If you could tell your younger self, anything, what would it be?
V: I don’t know. I am quite content today as I am where I am. But if I were to go back and tell myself anything, I’d say “just think twice before doing anything”. It’s not that I have wasted a lot of time doing this, that, or the other, but I think that would be a general statement that I could make to myself. I could have avoided a few mistakes, and I could have definitely saved time, money, and energy, and that could have been put for my own personal growth, my family’s happiness as well. So that’s what I would tell myself. Think twice before doing anything. Not to procrastinate, but to pause; have a reasonable awareness of the decision that we are making. After doing the best, we accept what comes afterward.
End of Interview.
This is a post for World Moms Network by Sophi at ThinkSayBe. Photo used with permission from Victor Kannan.
I am a mom amongst some other titles life has fortunately given me. I love photography & the reward of someone being really happy about a photo I took of her/him. I work, I study, I try to pay attention to life. I like writing. I don't understand many things...especially why humans treat each other & other living & inanimate things so vilely sometimes. I like to be an idealist, but when most fails, I do my best to not be a pessimist: Life itself is entirely too beautiful, amazing & inspiring to forget that it is!
2017. My, how time flies! In 2010 in the office of an amazing human being, I read a sign that said: ‘Time flies like arrows; fruit flies like bananas’. I didn’t get it when I read it, but when I did it stuck with me. I was reminded of this when thinking over my interview with Victor Kannan; Director of the Heartfulness Institute. Firstly, I will mention that it was an absolute pleasure listening to Mr. Kannan. His sincerity, love, and humble self-confidence was refreshing and I don’t think any listener could have listened without a smile in his/her heart and face. Secondly, as I re-read his transcript I saw that there were concepts I hadn’t quite looked at in the way I could see them in this new moment. I believe it was important for me, personally, to hear certain things explained in a certain way, and they have stuck with me since!
This is Part I of the interview. I thought of truncating it to make it fit one post, but I do not want to deprive anyone of hearing Mr. Kannan’s voice in the way in which he spoke. I wish for you to hear, even if it is in text, and feel what Victor was speaking about.
S: How long have you practiced heartfulness meditation?
V: I started in ’82. So how many years ago was it?
S: Let’s see: 34
V: Yes, 34 years and 8 months.
S: Were there times during the 30 years when you were more or less consistent, and why do you think that was the case?
V: I have been pretty consistent with it for the most part; of course, I have missed a lot of it. Still, I have tried to be consistent with my practice.
When I started, I was a bachelor and working at a bank. I was more consistent then. Between the ages of 22 and 25, I was consistent. Then I came to the US, got married and started a family. I wanted to build stability for my family, so I began to focus more on my career. Even though I understood that this practice of meditation would help me even materially, I found it difficult to be disciplined. I would try to incorporate it as much as possible. I was a heartfulness trainer and wanted to make sure I was available to people. But my personal practice suffered a bit. Now my daughter is on her own, and we are in good health, physically and materially, and even though I spend enormous amounts of time volunteering, I am able to spend sufficient time with personal meditation. Now I am very consistent.
S: I don’t want to assume… is the majority of your volunteering involved with heartfulness meditation?
V: All of it.
S: Okay. So have you, or do you practice any other type of meditation? And if not, why have you chosen heartfulness meditation as opposed to any other type?
V: I think I stumbled into it, and so far, it makes me feel that I am continuing to grow. So far I haven’t felt the need to look for anything else. It’s not that I don’t read books or that I am not open to others, but in a nice way, this practice has continued to enrich me and I am satisfied with it.
It’s a very important question, actually. How do you know we are on the best route for us? Somewhere along the line, if you make a habit of searching, you may not appreciate what you have found. So it is a thing of the heart. If you trust your heart, you will know. You will have ‘come home.’ Now make the best of what that offers.
I feel lucky and content. After many years of practice, I know that I am on the fastest and best route for me.
S: I see. Okay, thank you! Switching gears just a little bit, what is your career?
V: I work as a CFO, and have been since the early 90s. I am currently working for a gaming company, which is basically a technology application company.
S: In connection to that, I’d like to ask you: what is your take on the place of material things and spiritual things, and is it okay to have both?
V: I think so. I don’t think you can have one without the other. I think it is the material plane that gives you the possibility of spiritual progress, spiritual growth, spiritual engagement, and also spiritual adventure. If you ask a hungry man which he would prefer, bread or God, he is going to ask for bread. Bread represents the material life that we live; the basic needs of life, including financial needs, have to be taken care of first. One of our teachers of the Heartfulness system, Babuji, used to say: “Don’t let the dogs bark when you meditate”. So what does it mean? When you are consistent with your spiritual endeavor at the core of your existence, that consistency expands the consciousness to feel unconditional love. And at the end of the day, that expanded consciousness is going to give you the freedom to enjoy life the way in which it should be enjoyed. It also gives you access to knowledge, as it is more intuitive, and all of your faculties that are externally oriented will act as a filter. When the consciousness is expanded, the right filters will kick in and so you will obtain the right knowledge, which Babuji calls “Real Knowledge” versus just plain knowledge. Real knowledge is defined as the knowledge of one’s soul, spirit or the universe, whereas knowledge as we commonly understand it is about how to live well.
I also got this revelation that at times knowledge is nothing more than a layer of ignorance. Right? That is one of the reasons why in science sometimes, they keep on disproving what someone thought was the truth before. That is how we advance. But to hang on to something, even if it is scientific, is equally dogmatic.
This material life is necessary because we are made of matter. Matter interacts with energy to produce something else, and in the field of manifestation of life, it produces the base of consciousness. Consciousness is like a big canvas, with your faculties, such as ego, intellect and mind, acting as paint and brush on this big canvas. Your mind and soul, which are the seeds of life, make you creative, and then you paint with those tools on that canvas, creating the life you desire.
In some way, then, that life becomes beautiful, not because others say so, but because you feel it to be real inside yourself.
That’s the tricky part about spirituality. It has to be self-realized. That’s why it’s called self-realization. So material life is necessary, but if we live for the sake of material life, then we are becoming slaves of our lower desires and lower tendencies. For a lack of a better term, I use ‘lower’ because anything that shackles you, to my mind is lower. Anything that frees you is higher.
Again, we have to be careful in terms of temporary fixes people have, to feel free. So, material life is necessary, but what I think we should do somewhere along the line, is spiritualize the material life. How do we do that? Make sure that our material circumstances, occupation, and relationships become more conducive to this overarching purpose of the spiritual pursuit or the spiritual life.
The saying is that ‘you are judged by the company you keep.’ Now forget the judgment part. You are going to be helped by the company you keep. So we should carefully choose the people and circumstances around us (as best as possible, knowing we cannot control everything). Simultaneously we should accept responsibility for the past. When I say the past, I mean that we cannot change the minute that just passed. But we can embrace it, spiritualize it, not fight it, and accept it and ‘make lemonade’ out of it. And not all these moments are lemons, as so many of these past events are good and we are grateful for them.
Today, we are more composed. Today, we have tools that will help us realize the core of our own existence. When our center is disturbed, when we lose our equilibrium, we have tools to achieve that equilibrium. These are spiritual tools like meditation. Meditate with a teacher, or with a trainer, or read a book that is conducive to reestablishing the equilibrium. Call a friend that will help you reestablish the equilibrium. And strengthen yourself. Go within yourself. Self-help is the best help. Or, when we are not able to help ourselves, we seek outside ourselves.
So we accept the past with gratitude, for the past brought us to the present, to where and what we are. And we use everything we have in the present to propel ourselves to a beautiful future. We don’t have to continue the same trajectory from the past to go to the future. We can choose things that are conducive and complimentary to our spiritual endeavor. And we can change the trajectory of our past.
Life, unfortunately, is what it is. We find ourselves in the middle of our lives when we are awake in awareness. And the responsible thing to do is to say: ‘Okay if I have taken 20, 30, 40 years to come here, I can easily change it in the next 5 years to go where I want to go’. Sometimes we want things instantaneously. But if we change that perspective, it will be helpful.
S: Okay, thank you. Now, what is your view on detachment? Is it more your thought as Victor, or has heartfulness meditation helped you form your idea of what detachment means?
V: I don’t know. I try to understand these words in a manner that make sense to me. So as far as detachment, as a word, goes, it has to be understood properly. What do you want to be detached from? You want to be detached from everything that is not conducive to your goal. So suppose you set a goal of having a spiritually expanding consciousness, and to me that means that I want to have unconditional love for myself and others, I want to accept my weaknesses in a manner that I can let go instead of fighting them, and I want to have real knowledge of what is important in life and what the goals in life should be. Also, I recognize that I am on a planet, in an environment, in a situation, which I want to embrace and make the best out of. So where is detachment coming in? The detachment comes in to reinforce the attachment. You cannot say that I am attached to everything, or that I am detached from everything. We are attached to life because we are living. When we become detached from life, we do stupid things. We do irresponsible things. Right?
So detachment or attachment, they go back to the same idea: What is the goal in life, what are my responsibilities, and how do I fulfill my responsibilities that help me achieve my goal? So you know, I think that it requires a proper understanding of the word ‘detachment’. Attaching ourselves to things that are unnecessary is a process, right? Detachment is also a process. Giving freedom to the things you are attached to, for the purposes of those things to flourish, can also be called a detachment. Giving freedom to your children to grow, while giving them love, is detachment, but when we expect them to be a doctor or a musician, or a billionaire, that is attachment. So how can you be detached from the duties that you’re in the middle of, and how can you do your duty without love?
So these concepts of attachment and detachment, renunciation, and annihilation, negation, I think all of them have to be understood in the proper context. They have a purpose, of course. They are going to define a situation. But the wrong understanding of any of it will not be productive. Especially in the heartfulness system of meditation: it says that detachment is basically the sense of discernment. In Sanskrit, it is called viveka. It is a sense of discernment, progressive knowledge of what is right and wrong, what should be done, and what should be ignored, how much to do, and how much not.
End of Part I
If you would like to know view more of Victor Kannan’s virtual written works, please Click Here
Please stay tuned for Part II, in which Mr. Kannan speaks of the state of children in this age of readily accessible technology, among other topics.
This is a post for World Moms Network by Sophia of ThinkSayBe. Photo used with the permission of Victor Kannan.
I am a mom amongst some other titles life has fortunately given me. I love photography & the reward of someone being really happy about a photo I took of her/him. I work, I study, I try to pay attention to life. I like writing. I don't understand many things...especially why humans treat each other & other living & inanimate things so vilely sometimes. I like to be an idealist, but when most fails, I do my best to not be a pessimist: Life itself is entirely too beautiful, amazing & inspiring to forget that it is!
World Moms Network and the Heartfulness Institute have partnered to bring forth a series of online monthly webinar workshops for women called GLOW which stands for ‘Genuine Loving Outstanding Women’. This helps women everywhere to learn and practice Heartfulness meditation from the comfort of their homes or workplace. The aim is to help women integrate meditation into their daily lives to achieve a more peaceful and balanced life, and a better environment. Each webinar will also feature an expert speaker, chosen from women who are outstanding in their fields, and are influencers and change makers.
Taking Time for Ourselves:
Today’s women take on multiple roles, in the family, and in the society. And to fulfill all these myriad responsibilities which a woman takes on, she needs more and more of time, energy and giving-of-her to it. Her role as a nurturer is predominant in today’s society, more than ever.
Taking Time for Ourselves
While meeting all these external demands, women need their inner strength to steady the mind, and calm the senses. None of the world cultures or education explicitly teaches a person how to go within, take time to nourish the soul, and feed the spirit.
The poet, Mary Sarton said, “women need open time, with no obligations except toward the inner world and what is going on there”.
Only in these serene moments of prayer and meditation can we balance the pace, competition, and rigors of today’s modern world. As women, more than anything we need to find that beautiful space within ourselves, and bask in those moments of bliss and peace, to come back to this world to play our own balancing act, and while at it, try to retain that pristine condition.
Lorraine McLoughlin, Ireland
Lorraine is a Project Archivist living and working in Dublin, Ireland. She is currently working at the National Gallery of Ireland on a collection relating to the study of seventeenth century Italian baroque painting. Previous projects include work for the Abbey Theatre (Ireland’s National Theatre), the cataloguing of medical paintings in collaboration with the Wellcome Institute, and a stint as a senior manager in Ireland’s largest law firm. She has her own Archive Management Company and is constantly broadening her experience by taking up varied and interesting projects. Prior to obtaining a Masters in Archive Management, her academic background was in Fine Art, Cultural Anthropology and Spanish.
Due to the nature of her work, Lorraine has moved around a lot. As a result, she found that she needed to find a practice that would help her feel grounded. Heartfulness meditation has helped her in retaining a sense of stability and confidence. Lorraine began practising Heartfulness meditation just under two years ago. During the webinar, she is going to speak about the importance of making time for meditation, and how it benefits women, and those around us, to turn our attention from the external to the internal.
The hosts for this webinar are our very own #WorldMom, Purnima Ramakrishnan, from Chennai, India and Judith Nelson from Scotland.
World Moms Network is an award winning website whose mission statement is "Connecting mothers; empowering women around the globe." With over 70 contributors who write from over 30 countries, the site covered the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good.
Most recently, our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan was awarded "Best Reporting on the UN" form the UNCA. The site has also been named a "Top Website for Women" by FORBES Woman and recommended by the NY Times Motherlode and the Times of India. Follow our hashtags: #worldmom and #worldmoms
Formerly, our site was known as World Moms Blog.