Thursday, August 12, 2010

Astikyam: The Big Picture

Hello Karyakars,

Let's start this week's ghosti off with a challenge. Can you guess what the following pictures are depicting (two left, one right)? (HINT: They are all from nature).

Each of these were recognized in 2008 by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History as a part of an annual photography contest... 

Ok, not quite. Honestly, how can three 100x100 pixel pictures be featured in such a top-level museum?

Truth be told, these pictures to the left are mere snapshots of the actual photographs (links below).

The top one is a waterfall from Milford Sound, New Zealand. The one on the right is the eye of an olive baboon. And the last one is a spotted dolphin photographed off the coast of Tokyo, Japan.

So what does this have to do with our ghosti? Well, when provided with the snapshots, we struggled with discerning a waterfall, a baboon, and a dolphin; however, once we recognized the bigger picture, we made sense of the snapshot.

Let's step back from this exercise, and let's think for a moment. We struggle in life when we get caught up in its details, yet Pramukh Swami Maharaj does not. 

Thus, in sabha this week, let's ask:
  1. What exactly does our guru see?  
  2. How is it that he is able to see it?
  3. How does that impact others?
We can turn to this week's divine virtue, Ãstikyam (આસ્તિક્યમ), to shed some light on the first question. By definition, “Astikta is the belief that God exists.  God influences astikta in the hearts of his devotees. God is the source from which an aspirant develops true conviction in God. You cannot form a sentence without a subject. Similarly, God is the sole basis of spirituality.”
Basically, Swamishri sees in every breath, every second, and every moment a chance to serve God. The prasangs from p. 238 to 245, shows us his astikta through his immense bhakti for Thakorji.  In essence, Swamishri’s each physical step follows the murti of Harikrishna Maharaj.  

As we see from the moments in his life, even in good times and bad, Swamishri never ceases to have anything but complete faith in God. Here are some words by Swamishri that give us a glimpse into his understanding/samjan.

  • “Faith is the key to success. Faith is the key to a happy life.”
  • “Always remember that that Bhagwan Swaminarayan never left and is never going to leave. He will be present through the Gunatit Sadhu forever...”
  • “...God, the Gunatit Sadhu and all the akshar muktas are always with us. We must keep that firm in our minds. They are with us while we eat, sleep, talk, and perform any other activity. If we don’t have that understanding we will always feel lonely. With that understanding you will be comfortable wherever you go...”
  • “Faith is the source of strength in life. The faith that God is always manifest. That he is always with us.”
So we have a basic understanding of what Swamishri sees along with what enables him to see it, so that brings us to the third question. One way that Swamishri inspires astikta in others is through mandirs - places where we can experience God and thus develop faith, as described by the prasangs from p. 245 to 248.  Mandirs are “havens for spiritual and cultural activities”, and instill astikta in all those around them.  Just ask Mahendradas Amin, Bipinbhai Kotak’s son, or architect Satish Gujral - they are all living embodiments of how astikta has transformed them.

Finally, as we close, we ask ourselves, “What thought process can we develop in our minds that will give us the stability that Swamishri has?”

Faith in God is first and foremost, but since we cannot develop that overnight, we can also look to the following to enhance our spiritual progress .

In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey gives us the qualities that prevail in successful people which are outlined for us below (click for full version).

TED speaker (biochemist-turned-Buddhist-monk) Matthieu Ricard also shares his views on happiness and distills “habits of happiness":
“...somehow, consciously or not, directly or indirectly, in the short or the long-term, whatever we do, whatever we hope, whatever we dream, somehow is related to a deep profound desire for well-being or happiness...”

What day-to-day positive habits do you employ to maintain true understanding and awareness necessary to maintain faith?  How do you increase your own connection with the Satpurush?  
Happy Presenting!

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