The Starfish Story – The Value Kindness

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“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”  ~  Mahatma Gandhi

A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement.
 
She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”
 
The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied,
 
“Well, I made a difference to that one!”
 
The old man looked at the girl inquisitively and thought about what she had done and said. Inspired, he joined the little girl in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved. – adapted from the Star Thrower by Loren C. Eiseley

Starfish-&-Underwater
 
Perseverance against great odds and against the criticism of others is the very hallmark of value-based idealism, as is refusing to accept failure. The understanding that we hold in our hands the power to change a life, a mind, or a circumstance today – right now – is a powerful insight and motivator.

Photos – Sathya Sai Memories

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Beautiful Reflection : A photo of Swami the way he used to look in Whitefield during Bhajans (1990-2001). This  photo sums up all my yesterdays with Him in India. The days of sunshine, the laughter, the joy, also to remember the many gifts of sweets that would fall into my lap, or on the ground under my shawl, or bounce off from my hair-band to fall often into my clothes during darshan, and of course,  kept forever or until I just had to eat one while remembering the moment.  Then the days of tears,  the learning, those tedious  days when he seemed so far away, and when life itself seemed so unforgiving.  

Keenly remembered are those days of magical mystery and the days that brought me moments to keep forever in my heart. … Gosh! would i do it all again? Those times of illness, bad  flu, the sitting in the sun for hours, the sweat, the burnt feet on hot concrete and  sharp sand and those sand flies, dirty toilets, the “sting” of the severest of all – the ” seva dals!” Would I do it all again? not sure – but I learned so much from my times spent there… I learned that we are not a body only, we are far greater than that piece of flesh we call ‘me’.. We are spiritual beings and our earthly clothes are mere garments of no real importance to that tiniest  spark of divinity within each one of us, which is eternal and forever… Sai Ram, eve

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Giving and Receiving – Value Of Kindness

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“Someone needs to tell those tales. When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift. Your sister may be able to see the future, but you yourself can shape it, boy. Do not forget that… there are many kinds of magic, after all.”

~ Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus

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The Tale:

Once upon a time it happened—where, then, was it? Yes, where indeed was it not? That is the correct beginning of a fairy tale,  and every myth must end with—”I once saw this; and if what happened in the spiritual world did not succumb to death, if it is not dead, it must still be alive to-day. Every story has a consequence.”

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The story of Psyche goes, she is fated to be married to a horrible monster. By day she lives in luxury in a glorious palace, and by night she shares her bed with an invisible bridegroom. All her wishes are granted as long as she does not seek to uncover her husband’s identity. When Psyche’s sisters come for a visit they are consumed with jealousy and give her bad advice. Their intentions are hateful and destructive. They convince her that her husband is a terrifying beast, that he will eventually consume her and that her only chance to save herself is to kill him.

Giving her an oil lamp and a dagger, they poison her mind against the one who, though invisible, has always been a gentle lover and a generous provider.

Once night comes and with it her unknown spouse, Psyche waits until he is asleep, takes up the oil lamp and the knife to kill him and to her shock finds a beautiful young man there, indeed the god of love himself. When a few drops of burning oil fall onto him, he wakes. As her punishment for doubting him, he flees from her and it is only after undergoing many arduous tasks for Cupid’s mother, Venus, that Psyche can finally redeem herself and be reunited with her husband. What began as a hostile gift from jealous donors ends happily with the gift of redemption and reunion. These are themes that have been repeated down through the centuries to our own times.

However, it is how we receive the gift that makes all the difference. As the tales remind us, we must approach mystery with respect, wait patiently for its gift, and accept with gratitude that which has been given. But we must also never forget to give thanks for our wits, whose sources lies somewhere between the domestic and the divine…

end on a quote:

“All you are unable to give, possesses you.”  ~ Andre Gide

~excerpted from Parabola Magazine. Theme:  Giving & Receiving.


Charity Begins at Home – The Story of Mrs.Tara Shah – Value Of Kindness

Mrs Tara Shah

A wise man discovers his duty and does it at all costs. It is the duty of all to be impartial and to abstain from causing injury to all living things.

– From Excellence in Jainism

Suffering Is Changeable

This touching story of Tara, known in the Jain community as ‘Taraben’ (sister Tara), brings again to light, the importance of service and sacrifice in our lives. Tara told me some time ago, “that to her Service is a joy, there is nothing as wonderful as giving.” Now some years on from this original story, Tara is still engaged in her charity work, and is once more set to visit India.

But many of us do not appreciate that service can be a joy in the way Tara experiences it. Often, we react by feeling quite helpless whenever faced with dire poverty and disease. We may point to the philosophy of ‘karma’- and say, “It’s the will of God.” Of course, this is one way to evade the issue of the down-trodden and suffering of others. ( Although, the question of Karma should not make people’s afflictions more acceptable). Another stand-point is to offer absent healing or engage in prayer which has it’s merits, for all good thought is positive and worthwhile. But there is no prayer, or healing like helping  hands that seek no name or reward.

Tara’s way is the path of action,known as Karma Yoga and, by so doing, she is not denying the philosophy of karma which is very much part of her Jain tradition. Instead, she does her best to eliminate the idea of ‘unchangeable’ karmic destiny by her positive and generous actions.

To my mind, the easiest way to accept karmic teachings is from a view that it is ‘collective’, and common to all. By helping each other, in whatever way we can, we are gradually eliminating the darkness of ignorance that engulfs our world.

Tara’s energy and goodwill also embraced our early production of InnerViews Magazine. She has supported us generously over the years with donations, encouraging words and letters. Tara is a Sai Baba devotee, although her visits to Swami’s ashrams are now rare because of her charitable duties. Nonetheless, she is spiritually in tune with all of his declarations; one which I believe suits this story and we present it here:

Make your heart soft, then success is quick in Sadhana (spiritual practice). Talk softly, talk sweetly, talk only of God – that is the process of softening the subsoil.  Develop  compassion, sympathy; engage in service, understand the agony of poverty and disease, distress and despair; share both tears and cheers with others. That is the way to soften the heart and help Sadhana to succeed.

– Sathya Sai Baba

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And So To India!

It was a warm day in May 1992 when many ordinary and distinguished Jains gathered together in a house in Hounslow, West London. The event was the loading of a huge container filled with clothes and foodstuffs destined for Gujarat, India.

The house belonged to Mr. Rajni and Mrs. Tara Shah, an Oshwal Jain couple who were born in Kenya and migrated to the U.K. some forty-seven years ago. For them, the event was a cherished dream come true – a dream to help the poor and the needy in their homeland. There was no expectation of reward, no desire for fame or status. Simply a wish to help others who are less fortunate than themselves in the best way possible.

This was to be the fourth such mission in as many years. By now, Tara had  developed some experience of handling the collection of clothes, the clearance through customs, and the final distribution of goods in remote Indian villages. The most distinguishing feature about the project was that the items were to be distributed by Tara herself. In this way, she could personally ensure that the charity reached its final destination.

Although, Tara’s project was not problem-free, she remained undeterred. For her, she had to look after her ‘extended family’ at whatever cost. Each year, she spent her money on fares, custom duties, wheelchairs, etc. in addition to spending six months of her time in organising the programme, and delivering the collection of goods to India.

In the four summer months of 1992, Tara went to three hundred and fifty villages in Gujarat state, often going to very remote and inaccessible areas. Using the Kuvarbaai Dharamsala in Jamnagar as her base, she would, every morning at 6. a.m set out with the lorry driver and the video cameraman. The journey to the first destitute village would normally take five hours of travelling in exhausting conditions of immense heat, dust and on bumpy dirt roads. There was no break in this journey, and the same distance was covered whilst returning in the evening – an average of ten hours travelling a day.

The  film captures the people vividly, and it is very difficult to express in words, the  conditions  these villagers endure. Usually, they lacked any education, health care or  sanitation. Often they had to walk several miles to collect water. Orphan children living  alone  were nothing unusual in the villages. Poor housing, with only the minimum of household  goods, was standard. Often villagers could be found living in tents; their dismal life-style frequently  left  them  with little to say. So much hardship had been experienced in  their  lives  that the  situation  could  not  get any worse. The clothes and foodstuffs  were a boon to their suffering, and the smiles on their faces needed to be seen to be believed.

A Timely Wheelchair

In  one  village,  there was a forty-two year old orphan called Babu. He  was  so  physically disabled  that the only thing he could do was to lie in bed all day and night. The  only  time he left his small hut was when the village children helped him to go to the toilet. This was a difficult  exercise,  for Babu had to be lifted and carried out of doors.  Babu’s  parents  died caring  for  him, and he never saw anything beyond his village.

When Tara  saw  his  plight, she  decided  to order a special wheelchair for his size and disabilities, and made  a  special trip back to the village to deliver it. This trip was captured on film. When Babu heard that a  wheelchair had arrived for him, he could not contain his joy. He wiggled out of bed  and rolled  his body out of the house, scraping his skin against the dry and stony ground. It  was like  a  young baby crawling without limbs and feet, and getting hurt in the  process.  When Babu  finally was lifted into his wheelchair, he felt like a king being enthroned, and for  the first time in his life, he was able to visit his village and the surrounding area.

When  we  see these pictures, we can understand why Tara calls the villagers her extended family. Another factor that greatly concerns Tara is that when there is work in the summer months, villagers are only paid fifteen rupees a day to dig holes, and earthbanks. And out of that meagre amount, the government officials retain five rupees from each wage earned, leaving very little for the villagers to keep for themselves.

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Original story printed in ‘Young Jains’ Jan.-Mar. 1993

Thay Walks His Talk – The Value Of Kindness

Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh says a spiritual revolution is needed if we are going to confront the environmental challenges that face us.

Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh has been practising meditation and mindfulness for 70 years and radiates an extraordinary sense of calm and peace. This is a man who on a fundamental level walks his talk, and whom Buddhists revere as a Bodhisattva; seeking the highest level of being in order to help others.

Ever since being caught up in the horrors of the Vietnam war, the 86-year-old monk has committed his life to reconciling conflict and in 1967 Martin Luther King nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize, saying “his ideas for peace, if applied, would build a monument to ecumenism, to world brotherhood, to humanity.”

So it seems only natural that in recent years he has turned his attention towards not only addressing peoples’ disharmonious relationships with each other, but also with the planet on which all our lives depend.

Thay, as he is known to his many thousands of followers, sees the lack of meaning and connection in peoples’ lives as being the cause of our addiction to consumerism and that it is vital we recognise and respond to the stress we are putting on Earth if civilisation is to survive.

What Buddhism offers, he says, is the recognition that we all suffer and the way to overcome that pain is to directly confront it, rather than seeking to hide or bypass it through our obsession with shopping, entertainment, work or the beautification of our bodies. The craving for fame, wealth, power and sex serves to create only the illusion of happiness and ends up exacerbating feelings of disconnection and emptiness.

Thay refers to a billionaire chief executive of one of America’s largest companies, who came to one of his meditation courses and talked of his suffering, worries and doubts, of thinking everyone was coming to take advantage of him and that he had no friends.

In an interview at his home and retreat centre in Plum Village near Bordeaux, Thay outlines how a spiritual revolution is needed if we are going to confront the multitude of environmental challenges.

While many experts point to the enormous complexity and difficulty in addressing issues ranging from the destruction of ecosystems to the loss of millions of species, Thay sees a Gordian Knot that needs slicing through with a single strike of a sharp blade.

Move beyond concept of the “environment”

He believes we need to move beyond talking about the environment, as this leads people to experience themselves and Earth as two separate entities and to see the planet in terms only of what it can do for them.

Change is possible only if there is a recognition that people and planet are ultimately one and the same.

“You carry Mother Earth within you,” says Thay. “She is not outside of you. Mother Earth is not just your environment.

“In that insight of inter-being, it is possible to have real communication with the Earth, which is the highest form of prayer. In that kind of relationship you have enough love, strength and awakening in order to change your life.

“Changing is not just changing the things outside of us. First of all we need the right view that transcends all notions including of being and non-being, creator and creature, mind and spirit. That kind of insight is crucial for transformation and healing.

“Fear, separation, hate and anger come from the wrong view that you and the earth are two separate entities, the Earth is only the environment. You are in the centre and you want to do something for the Earth in order for you to survive. That is a dualistic way of seeing.

“So to breathe in and be aware of your body and look deeply into it and realise you are the Earth and your consciousness is also the consciousness of the earth. Not to cut the tree not to pollute the water, that is not enough.”

Putting an economic value on nature is not enough

Thay, who will this spring be in the UK to lead a five day retreat as well as a mindfulness in education conference, says the current vogue in economic and business circles that the best way to protect the planet is by putting an economic value on nature is akin to putting a plaster on a gaping wound.

“I don’t think it will work,” he says. “We need a real awakening, enlightenment, to change our way of thinking and seeing things.”

Rather than placing a price tag of our forests and coral reefs, Thay says change will happen on a fundamental level only if we fall back in love with the planet: “The Earth cannot be described either by the notion of matter or mind, which are just ideas, two faces of the same reality. That pine tree is not just matter as it possesses a sense of knowing. A dust particle is not just matter since each of its atoms has intelligence and is a living reality.

“When we recognise the virtues, the talent, the beauty of Mother Earth, something is born in us, some kind of connection, love is born.

“We want to be connected. That is the meaning of love, to be at one. When you love someone you want to say I need you, I take refuge in you. You do anything for the benefit of the Earth and the Earth will do anything for your wellbeing.”

In the world of business, Thay gives the example of Yvon Chouinard, founder and owner of outdoor clothing company Patagonia, who combined developing a successful business with the practice of mindfulness and compassion: “It’s possible to make money in a way that is not destructive, that promotes more social justice and more understanding and lessens the suffering that exists all around us,” says Thay.

“Looking deeply, we see that it’s possible to work in the corporate world in a way that brings a lot of happiness both to other people and to us … our work has meaning.”

Thay, who has written more than 100 books, suggests that the lost connection with Earth’s natural rhythm is behind many modern sicknesses and that, in a similar way to our psychological pattern of blaming our mother and father for our unhappiness, there is an even more hidden unconscious dynamic of blaming Mother Earth.

In a new essay, Intimate Conversation with Mother Earth, he writes: “Some of us resent you for giving birth to them, causing them to endure suffering, because they are not yet able to understand and appreciate you.”

How mindfulness can reconnect people to Mother Earth

He points to increasing evidence that mindfulness can help people to reconnect by slowing down and appreciating all the gifts that the earth can offer.

“Many people suffer deeply and they do not know they suffer,” he says. “They try to cover up the suffering by being busy. Many people get sick today because they get alienated from Mother Earth.

“The practice of mindfulness helps us to touch Mother Earth inside of the body and this practice can help heal people. So the healing of the people should go together with the healing of the Earth and this is the insight and it is possible for anyone to practice.

“This kind of enlightenment is very crucial to a collective awakening. In Buddhism we talk of meditation as an act of awakening, to be awake to the fact that the earth is in danger and living species are in danger.”

Thay gives the example of something as simple and ordinary as drinking a cup of tea. This can help transform a person’s life if he or she were truly to devote their attention to it.

“When I am mindful, I enjoy more my tea,” says Thay as he pours himself a cup and slowly savours the first sip. “I am fully present in the here and now, not carried away by my sorrow, my fear, my projects, the past and the future. I am here available to life.

“When I drink tea this is a wonderful moment. You do not need a lot of power or fame or money to be happy. Mindfulness can help you to be happy in the here and now. Every moment can be a happy moment. Set an example and help people to do the same. Take a few minutes in order to experiment to see the truth.”

Need to deal with ones own anger to be an effective social activist

Thay has over many years developed the notion of  applied Buddhism underpinned by a set of ethical practices known as the five mindful trainings, which are very clear on the importance of tackling social injustice.

However, if social and environmental activists are to be effective, Thay says they must first deal with their own anger. Only if people discover compassion for themselves will they be able to confront those they hold accountable for polluting our seas and cutting down our forests.

“In Buddhism we speak of collective action,” he says. “Sometimes something wrong is going on in the world and we think it is the other people who are doing it and we are not doing it.

“But you are part of the wrongdoing by the way you live your life. If you are able to understand that, not only you suffer but the other person suffers, that is also an insight.

“When you see the other person suffer you will not want to punish or blame but help that person to suffer less. If you are burdened with anger, fear, ignorance and you suffer too much, you cannot help another person. If you suffer less you are lighter more smiling, pleasant to be with, and in a position to help the person.

“Activists have to have a spiritual practice in order to help them to suffer less, to nourish the happiness and to handle the suffering so they will be effective in helping the world. With anger and frustration you cannot do much.”

Touching the “ultimate dimension”

Key to Thay’s teaching is the importance of understanding that while we need to live and operate in a dualistic world, it is also vital to understand that our peace and happiness lie in the recognition of the ultimate dimension: “If we are able to touch deeply the historical dimension – through a leaf, a flower, a pebble, a beam of light, a mountain, a river, a bird, or our own body – we touch at the same time the ultimate dimension. The ultimate dimension cannot be described as personal or impersonal, material or spiritual, object or subject of cognition – we say only that it is always shining, and shining on itself.

“Touching the ultimate dimension, we feel happy and comfortable, like the birds enjoying the blue sky, or the deer enjoying the green fields. We know that we do not have to look for the ultimate outside of ourselves – it is available within us, in this very moment.”

While Thay believes there is a way of creating a more harmonious relationship between humanity and the planet, he also recognises that there is a very real risk that we will continue on our destructive path and that civilisation may collapse.

He says all we need to do is see how nature has responded to other species that have got out of control: “When the need to survive is replaced with greed and pride, there is violence, which always brings about unnecessary devastation.

“We have learned the lesson that when we perpetrate violence towards our own and other species, we are violent towards ourselves; and when we know how to protect all beings, we are protecting ourselves.”

source: The Guardian On Line


The Benefits of Sharing: -The Value Of Kindness

“Kindness blooms from the hearts of the mature souls.”
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One Xmas I wanted to give a stranger a gift but wanted to remain anonymous, so I put $20.00 behind a picture of an angel at Wal-Mart’s. I let the angel in the picture decide to inspire whoever (rich or poor) to pick up the picture and thus get the $20.00.

I had so much fun just thinking of the surprise that person got that now every year, I place $20.00 behind an angel picture and give myself the gift of enjoying someone else’s good fortune and remain anonymous to them.