Joy in the Face of Adversity?

I know joy quite well; I’ve experienced its ecstasy, I’ve written many poems about joy and happiness but when the Book of Joy was recommended to me, I was intrigued by it, as it is based on the conversation of two renowned spiritual masters and friends – the Dalai Lama XIV and Desmond Tutu, (and reported by Douglas Carlton Abrams.)

So I am reading ‘The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World’ and must share my thoughts about it. When I started reading this book, I thought I know all this – I know suffering ennobles us, I know pain is essential for our emotional and mental growth, I know struggles make us stronger but this book made me ponder, followed me at my walks, haunted me with a number of questions and humbled me beyond words. The hubris of knowing and only knowing, not practicing, melted like thin air around me.

Living with joy even in the face of adversity! Doesn’t it seem outrageous? Only exalted souls can make such a statement and I read with added interest how one could find joy in difficult situations. 

Is it possible to be joyful in the face of our daily troubles? The answer lies within us, says the Dalai Lama, “The ultimate source of happiness is inside, not outside. Even the source of physical health is inside, not outside.”
We know that happiness is a state of mind, an attitude that needs to be cultivated but the “source of physical health too is inside?” I was bewildered by this thought and have been trying to figure out the ways to understand this.

When asked that “nothing can be more devastating than being exiled from your home, from the things that are really precious to you and yet to have wonderful serenity on your face and wonderful compassion in your heart,” the Nobel Peace Laureate enlightens us that fleeing from Tibet gave him “more opportunity to learn, to experience life.” He further says, “If you look from one angle, you feel, oh how bad, how sad. But if you look from another angle at the same tragedy, that same event, you see that it gave me more opportunities.” 

Perspective matters.
This book inspires us to “ take a holistic view” of a problem or a situation to respond to it in a more constructive manner. When we have a wider perspective, we have a natural understanding of our place in the situation. “We must look at any given situation or problem from the front and from the back, from the sides, from the top and the bottom, so from at least six different angles,” says the global spiritual leader. “One need not depend on religious faith to educate our inner values.” 

The conversation between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu is most light-hearted, exuding with love and friendship; realistic and humorous at places yet it touches the core of your heart. I was stunned by the positivity of these observations: 
“When you become a refugee, you get closer to life.” 
“Torture and hard labor tests your inner strength. Some lose hope, some keep going, education has very little to do with survival in such circumstances. It is the inner spirit that matters.”

Personal experiences are cited to emphasize that “the depth of our suffering can also result in the height of our joy.” If there is no way to overcome the tragedy, there is no use worrying too much about it. We cannot control the inevitability of occurrences but we could influence their effect in our life by adjusting our attitude toward them. So it is all about the perspective.

You must remember that “there are eight pillars of joy: four are the qualities of mind – perspective, humor, humility and acceptance.
Four are the qualities of heart – forgiveness, gratitude, compassion and generosity.”

This book is neither religious nor spiritual yet it could be a life-changing book for those who wallow in self-pity, who can’t think beyond self, who seek happiness in material things, who chase success and contentment. It is not about some “abstract or aspirational theory of joy;” it talks about life in a simple way. It discusses fear, grief, frustration, anger, loneliness, envy and self-centered attitude, which create most of our suffering. Don’t forget, says the Archbishop “you are a masterpiece in the making. You are not yet perfect.”

Joy in the face of adversity comes with resilience, it comes when we learn to move beyond our suffering, when we train our mind and develop “mental immunity,” when we learn to “avoid the destructive emotions and develop the positive ones.”

Have you trained your mind to this level?

One reading of this book may not be enough!

Thank you.
Balroop Singh.

Earth and Sky

Misty Mountains
Pixabay image by fermiart

Misty mountains beckon
Slippery stones scare
Where clouds adorn the valley
Illusionary world comes alive here

Rivulets dance with abandon
Sunbeams play a dazzling game
Songs of nature mystify you
Tricky pathways meander

Dew never dries here
Fragrance floats forever
Positive vibes permeate around
Seeping within your soul

Where we could touch the mist,
Inhale tranquility of waning light
Be one with the dreamy duo –
Earth and sky

Heaven below our feet, grandeur above
Purging all our doubts
Silence speaks in thousand dialects
Concert only senses could hear!
© Balroop Singh, June 2019

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Religion Or Spirituality – What is Your Choice?

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I am veering toward the thought: “Religion is the opium of masses.” Not that I didn’t try to explore its depths. I approached it with an open mind, I have observed its nuances from a closer angle and have even discussed it with devout followers and youngsters.

Religion is confusing. I have tried to understand it in many ways, most interesting being asking the young and the free minds who thought they were religious. Why – “because they were told to believe in it and follow its rituals.” Why – because “their parents told them to.” But some of them spoke honestly and admitted that they were confused.

To begin with religion may provide emotional security, unknown anchoring may ease angst and promote hope. It may inspire to live a meaningful life. I agree that it offers solace but all that is transitory.

Let’s nor forget the real face of religion:

  • It imposes arbitrary rules and rituals
  • It thrives on fear
  • It tries to control you
  • It encourages you to follow illogical path
  • It blocks freethinking and tries to condition your mind
  • It creates divide and polarizes communities
  • It has been used for accomplishing selfish goals

Religion may be confusing but easier to follow, as it doesn’t demand any understanding.

Spirituality is easier to understand but spiritual awakening dawns slowly; it is connected with our psychological growth, which is quite natural. Within us lies a light, a light of thoughts, a light of sanity, of ethereal happiness the light that liberates, which may become divine at some point of time, if we make an effort.

Spiritual awakening starts unfolding itself when we learn to look within; sometimes it astonishes us with its presence in some unknown crevices of our heart.

Spirituality is just being in harmony with yourself, exploring your thoughts and empowering them, delving deep into what you want and not being led by the so called Gurus. It only comes with understanding people and the world. You can’t expect a teenager to be spiritual, as it is developing your intuitive power and listening to your inner voice.

When we start discarding negative thoughts, when we begin to understand the feelings and emotions of people around us, when we adapt to changes without any grunts, when we adopt a positive approach to life, when self-healing becomes our goal – we may be gearing towards spiritualism.

Spirituality

It is an accomplishment as…

  • It leads us to emotional maturity and a deeper understanding of self.
  • It acquaints us with the darker aspects of our personality.
  • We can recognize the emotions that weaken us.
  • We develop the ability to embrace pain.
  • We learn to bridge the gap between pain and pleasure.
  • We cultivate the resilience to face inner demons, which we flee from.
  • We become sensitive to disparities around us.

Spirituality, as we know today has detached itself from religion and centers around values and humanistic ideas. It concentrates on personal wellbeing and inner peace.

It emphasizes on meditation, mindfulness, tolerance and ethics.

Yes, it matures us; it keeps us grounded but it doesn’t compel us to become another Buddha or his follower.

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© Balroop Singh.

Could You Please Guide Me?

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A long road…Empty!
As I walk through the road
Strange fears confuse me
I stare into wilderness
Straining my eyes,
Full of expectations….
I trudge on.
Is this journey endless?
Is there no destination?

I took this path
I knew it was thorny
I stumbled, I moved on…
Enduring all the pricks, the pain
Undeterred, hoping….
We’ll surely meet…One day….
You will recognize my face
You will acknowledge my contribution
You will welcome me to my destination.

I reached…I waited…
When will I enter?
I wondered…
‘Keep the baggage out!’
I looked around
‘But I don’t have any!’
Confounded, I looked around
The door didn’t open.
I waited………
When will I enter?
‘Have patience’,
A fleeting thought…

So I stood at His door.
I looked around
Why am I alone?
I couldn’t find anyone familiar
A sea of faces,
A whirlpool…kept pulling me
‘Calm down’
I told myself.
Could you please guide me?
I asked a stranger
A smile, a pat…
The only reassurance!
© Balroop Singh
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One of my earliest poems, this is an excerpt from my book Sublime Shadows of Life by Balroop Singh. Please click on the link to read more such poems.

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