As September approaches, Hindus all over the world begin to prepare for Sharad NavRatri – nine nights to honour and celebrate Ma Shakti, the Divine Mother in her many forms and to be grateful for her bountiful gifts. Shakti, this Divine Feminine creative power lies within each of us, within Mother Earth and all Her elements. Let’s use these nine nights to cultivate and awaken Shakti within so that we can respect and honour Shakti in all.
To cultivate and awaken Shakti, this feminine energy within each of us regardless of gender takes discipline and requires us to live consciously. The journey to discovering our inner Shakti and Her role in destroying that which is preventing us from living as Shakti is active and conscious.
During NavRatri we read the Chandi / Durga Saptshati also known as Devi Mahatmya and sing Durga bhajans depicting the vanquishing of various demons. We need to reflect and understand what these demons represent and the role of the Shakti energy in our lives. It is only when we make a conscious decision and effort to awaken Shakti that we can destroy the demons within, balance our gunas of tamas, rajas and sattva to live from the heart and flow with Shakti and love.
Shakti lives in each breath, each cell and each layer of who we are.
The teachings of the Spiritual Masters say our outer world reflects the inner world of everyone. Similarly, the outer world impacts our inner world. We may feel helpless to stop the war in Ukraine or conflicts in other parts of the world, but we have control of our inner world and can stop the conflict within ourselves. Mahatma Gandhiji said, ‘We must be the change we want to see in the world’. We must do what we can with what we have in our control to make the change we want for ourselves and our world. By changing our inner world, we can change our little piece of the world.
If we want peace in our world, we must make a conscious effort to bring peace into our hearts, minds, thoughts, words, and actions, and in so doing bring peace into our little piece of the world. Living consciously means stepping into our inner power and taking responsibility for our thoughts, words and actions. When we understand how to access this inner power within, we can co-create the life we desire for ourselves and our families. This inner power has been recognized in many ancient traditions as feminine with name and form.
On March 8th, annually we celebrate International Women’s Day globally – yet still there is gender inequity in the world.
Ahimsa, commonly referred to as “nonviolence” is more literally translated from Sanskrit as “absence of injury”. Ahimsa is an ancient concept originating in the Vedas, the oldest texts written nearly 4,000 years ago on spiritual and philosophical wisdom. To practice Ahimsa is ‘to not injure’, ‘to cause no injury’ and ‘do no harm’ to self, others, Mother Earth and Her inhabitants. Ahimsa has been researched and determined by the Canadian Museum of Human Rights as the oldest concept of Human Rights.
The concept of Ahimsa is found in Sanatan Dharma / Hinduism and all the religions that came out of Hinduism such as Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. It is found in the indigenous cultures and traditions of the Himalayan region.
The concept of Ahimsa was used in India by Mahatma Gandhiji, whose teachings influenced Dr Rev. Martin Luther King Jr & Cesar Chavez in the USA, and Nelson Mandela in South Africa to rebel against the injustices in their world. Mahatma Gandhiji held the view that without truth and nonviolence [Satya & Ahimsa] there can be nothing but destruction. Lao Tzu, the Chinese philosopher credited with founding the philosophical system of Taoism noted that if we must enter a battle of any kind, to do so with great compassion and sorrow. He said, ‘this is the way of ahimsa’. His Holiness, The Dalai Lama considers Ahimsa to be Compassion in Action.
In Yogic philosophy, Ahimsa is the first step of the first limb of the eight-fold traditional Ashtanga Yoga as codified by Sage Patanjali.
It is Chaitra NavRatri (April 6 to 14), a time when Hindus all over the world celebrate the Divine Feminine and read the Ramayana or Tulsikrit Raam Charit Manas in preparation of the birth of Shree Raam. This is an auspicious time for reflection. I’m at Parmarth Niketan Ashram in Rishikesh, India, observing silence for NavRatri. Each day, just before sunset at 6 p.m., I hurry to the holy banks of Ma Ganga to dip my toes into Her holy waters, offer my prayers, ceremoniously sprinkle Her waters on me and then take a sip of Her blessing. Then I participate in the evening Havan and Ganga Aarti, feeling the blessings of the universe flow gracefully into me. It is a magical time – a mystical time when we are in union with the universe. Just prior to NavRatri, I facilitated “Embrace Your Spirit with Chakradance,” and after NavRatri, I will be facilitating the workshop “BE the Peace in the Chaos.” The topics for this program are mostly based on the teaching of the saints and how to live in the world and with self according to yoga philosophy, with the last module being “Ahimsa in Action.”
In the Hindu male trinity – Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh [Shiva] – Lord Shiva is the Lord of Destruction. Some time ago i asked a pandit who is the Lord of Peace and he replied, “Lord Shiva”. How can the Lord of Destruction also be the Lord of Peace? It took a few years of sadhana [spiritual practice] and the guidance of Guruji, Pujya Swami Chidanandji Saraswati and the spiritual masters for me to consciously ‘destroy or let go that which was preventing me from discovering the Peace within’ to understand and know that Lord Shiva, the Lord of Destruction is also the Lord of Peace.
We pray to Lord Shiva to destroy, dissolve or transform all that is preventing us from being at peace and discovering the truth that we are. We prefer to stay in our comfort zone even though we want change. Lord Shiva’s destruction makes room for new creation and a new way of life.
Women during the early Vedic period enjoyed equal status with men in all aspects of life. Works by Sage Patanjali suggest that women were educated and could choose to marry or become sages or sants in this early Vedic period.In the Rig Veda, it is suggested that women married at a mature age and were free to select their own husbands who were deserving of them in a practice called Swayamvar. They were also allowed to have live-in relationships called Gandharva marriage.
In the great epic The Mahabharata, “Ahimsa Paramo Dharma” is mentioned several times. Simply translated, ‘Ahimsa Paramo Dharma’ means non-violence is the highest duty or way of life. Bhishma, [grand-uncle the Pandavas and the Kauravas cousins] states that ‘abstention from eating meat is a great sacrifice and provides many benefits. He explains “Ahimsa Paramo Dharma” as the highest religion; the highest self-control; the highest gift; the highest sacrifice; the highest friend; the highest happiness; the highest truth. Ahimsa is greater than gifts made in all sacrifices, ablutions performed in all sacred waters. The person that abstains from cruelty is the father and mother of all creatures’. Here ahimsa is translated as abstention from cruelty in relation to killing for the sake of eating the flesh of the killed animal for personal pleasure. In essence, Bhishma is stating that it is very beneficial to be vegetarian because thereby there is no cruelty to animals1.
I translate Ahimsa as ’cause no harm to self, others, Mother Earth and Her inhabitants’. Let’s take a look at how eating a plant based diet is beneficial to self, others, Mother Earth and her inhabitants.
On Oct. 24, we celebrated the 4th annual Global Oneness Day, which was created to recognize and celebrate the fundamental interconnection of all people and all of life. Why is this important? Oneness is the key to peace. Science is beginning to uncover what was revealed to the rishis and sages of ancient times – that ‘we are all One’ – Vasudaiva Kutumbakam. This concept allows each of us to realize that even though we may appear to be separate from each other in a physical sense, in ultimate reality everything in existence is made up of source energy that is in relationship to and interacts with all of life. We are all interconnected with and interdependent on all of existence. In Africa, the concept of uBuntu (‘I Am because We Are’) is being rediscovered. uBuntu points to the sacred inextricable interrelatedness, interconnectedness and interdependence of all of life. Ubu means ‘Be-coming’, and the African root-word ntu means ‘Highest Being/ Potential.’ uBuntu is becoming the highest being. This is the goal of the human birth.