How can we achieve true happiness and inner peace?

Abú-Jalál NJ Bridgewater

8 February 2017

 

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Your life can change now. That is not a matter of debate—it is a reality. And there is a clear path to change, but the question is: change how? What is my path in life? Where should I go and what should I do? Why is my life’s purpose? And what steps can I take right now to improve my life? Most people are complacent, willing to accept whatever state or condition they live in now. Many are lost, seeking a way to enlightenment, inner happiness or self-realization, but do not know where to find it or are too cynical to look for it. But rest assured, there are answers to all of these questions, and you can follow the path to true inner peace and happiness, to a state of mindfulness and equanimity. And there is really nothing to stop you, except you yourself. There is no barrier which will prevent you from achieving happiness, except the barrier you build within your own heart. There is nothing which can pollute the purity of your intentions, except the materialism which eats you from the inside out. I am not saying that I have all the answers. What I am saying is that you have all the answers within the essence of your heart and the key is free and available to all. There is nothing truly preventing you from finding the key and opening the door to limitless potential and boundless knowledge, wisdom and fulfillment.

 

That is the purpose of this blog. And it is my purpose in life to share these keys to happiness and true inner peace with others. Since I was a child, I have pondered the essence of reality and have investigated the scriptures of the world’s noble and ancient faiths, such as the Bhagavad-Gita, the Qur’ān and the Bible. From an early age, I was also fascinated by the Tao Teh Ching, Buddhism and the Analects of Confucius. I became interested in history, philosophy and spirituality. And, early on, I understood that that these great founts of wisdom and knowledge were all inspired by one and the same Source—a Power which exists beyond the realm of human comprehension. Not only did I realize that this Power is real, but I came to understand that we are all channels of that Power and can become recipients of infinite power, infinite wisdom, and infinite potentiality. We are all mines rich in gems of ancient wisdom, and oceans of profound insight and spirituality. We are all full of great and limitless gifts which we can give to our fellow human beings. And we are all full of an inner power and resolve, and an inner resource of happiness, peace and equanimity, which can never be exhausted. Not only can we fulfil our own lives completely, but we can share that same fulfilment, and that same state of balance with others. We are all noble and spiritual beings.

 

I have written a book which explains the gems of wisdom which I have found in these ancient scriptures, refined and distilled into what I call the ‘Five Ways to Be’, which lie at the heart of a philosophy of balance, which I call the philosophy of equanimity. Since the essence of the book relates to achieving a state of mindfulness and peace, I entitled the book ‘Mindfulness: Five Ways to Achieve Real Happiness, True Knowledge and Inner Peace’. This book has not yet been published, but will be soon (on Amazon Kindle), so watch this space. As soon as it is available, I will post a link on this blog. You can also sign up for my mailing list, here, to receive regular updates about my books. Now, while I am selling this book, which is about 191 pages long, and I do recommend that you buy it on Kindle and read it, I am also going to share with you the book’s key message for free. My main goal is not to make money, but to share awareness and true knowledge and wisdom. I want to help people to achieve their utmost potential and make a difference to the whole of mankind. I believe that, if we possess any key knowledge or wisdom, we should share it with our fellow human beings, especially those we love and are near and dear to us.

 

The Five Ways to Be are as follows: (1) Detachment and Virtue, (2) Radiant Acquiescence, (3) Magnanimity, (4) Contemplation, and (5) Enkindlement. Let us break these down, one-by-one, in the simplest way possible. The first is detachment and virtue. I could have referred to this first point as detachment alone, or to virtue alone, as detachment is a virtue, and the development of virtues depends on a solid foundation of detachment. Thomas Aquinas defines virtue as “that which both renders its possessor, as also his work, good. Hence we must say that every good act comes under virtue.”[1] In other words, a virtue is simply something one does which is good. If you are doing good things, you are actively practising virtue—at least on some level. To achieve a true state of virtue, however, we must focus on actively developing all of our virtues, so that we can live truly morally-sound, consistent and peaceful lives. Is detachment easy to develop, and can we really develop virtues? The answer to both of those question is yes. In fact, it is actually quite simple. Confucius said: “Is virtue a thing remote? I wish to be virtuous, and lo! virtue is at hand.”[2]

 

To achieve the First Way to Be, I recommend the First Practice, which is to follow the Eightfold Path of the Buddha. More on this will be discussed later but, for now, let me summarize it as follows: practise right understanding by making a conscious effort to notice and accept the impermanence of reality. Reflect on the fact that you are only here on earth temporarily and will soon move on to another realm of reality. Reflect on the fact that all beauty, all money, all wealth, all material things will break down, decay, be lost or destroyed. Nothing is permanent, except what me make of our own souls. At the end of the day, the knuckle-bone of the thief or the poor man is no different from that of the king or emperor.

 

Next, practise right thought by focusing all your intentions on doing good for others. Practise harmlessness by not hurting others and by reducing one’s consumption of meat, poultry, fish, insects and other products of the slaughterhouse industry. By reducing the impact of suffering that we cause to others, we can help to cleanse our own souls.

 

The third step is to practise right speech by avoiding improper speech. This includes avoiding gossip and backbiting, calumny and the promotion of hate. We can help to do this by reading spiritual writings every day and memorizing inspiring quotes, so that we can beautify our tongues.

 

The next step—right action—involves behaving in a morally-consistent way. This includes giving up bad habits, such as drinking alcohol, using drugs or engaging in sexual immorality. All religious and codes of moral conduct expect people to live pure and clean lives, and this involves embracing abstinence from that which corrodes our inner beings, corrupts our minds, or impurifies our bodies. This is not a negative pronouncement. Rather, it is an active and conscious decision to embrace what is good and eschew what is evil. Confucius said: If the will be set on virtue, there will be no practice of wickedness.”[3] In other words, if we strive to practise virtue, there will be no will or way for us to practise vice. We should be actively kind, actively chaste, actively compassionate and loving to others.

 

Next, we should practise right living or livelihood, which means having a morally-consistent means of earning a living. In other words, we should avoid jobs and occupations which involve practising immorality. Thus, for example, we should avoid working in a pub or bar, or supporting the sale and marketing of cigarettes. We should avoid selling drugs, or selling our bodies, and we should avoid working for companies which exploit others, which take advantage of human suffering, and which practise inhumanity, cruelty or environment degradation.

 

The sixth step, right effort, involves focusing our efforts on doing good and avoiding that which is evil. If we have any virtue, we should make an effort to cultivate it and gain a higher level of attainment in that virtue. If we are kind, we can try to be kinder. If we are generous, we can try to be more generous. If we are patient, we can try to become more patient. We should try to also develop virtues we do not yet possess, or only possess weakly, and we should try to prevent unwholesome behaviours and attitudes from developing within us.

 

Step 7 is right mindfulness, which involves attaining a higher awareness of what surrounds us, and our own inner beings, such that we recognize and remain aware of our whole bodies and what we are doing, our breathing, and the reality around us. We remain aware of the impermanence and insignificance of the material world and remember the essential nobility of man and our inner, spiritual nature. We are all created in the image of an Almighty Power and we are all possessed of limitless gems of divine wisdom and power. The final step is to practise right contemplation, which means attaining an awareness of our inner selves. We should practise meditation, reflect on the meaning of life, and become aware of the inner power within.

 

By becoming attached to the development of virtues, we can detach ourselves from the material world. By sacrificing that which is lower, we can achieve that which is higher. By embracing what is good, we overcome that which is bad. This practise of virtue, we may call piety, righteousness or good conduct. Krishna refers to this as ‘true wisdom’. He says: “Humbleness, truthfulness, and harmlessness, patience and honour, reverence for the wise; purity, constancy, control of self, contempt of sense-delights, self-sacrifice… detachment, lightly holding unto home, children, and wife, and all that bindeth men; an ever-tranquil heart in fortunes good and fortunes evil… So to attain,–this is true Wisdom, Prince!”[4] What is true wisdom, then? The answer is: the practice of detachment and virtue.

 

A lot has been said about the First Practice, of the Five Practices mentioned in my book, which is the practical realization of the First Way to Be. This is because, without a solid foundation of virtue, no establishment of happiness and prosperity can be built. If you do not develop the structure of a moral framework, there is no way that you can ever truly be happy. You could achieve material wealth, true, or perhaps health and physical happiness, but you cannot achieve a true state of inner well-being, unless and until you embrace piety, and until you detach yourself from that which is lower. We must overcome our lower selves, which are material and motivated by animals lusts and passions, and embrace our higher selves, which are our souls. The soul is eternal and everlasting and, being a singular, individisible essence, is immortal. Only that which is composite can disintegrate and cease to exist as a composite entity, while that which is unitary, even if it had a beginning in the realm of causality, can have no end. We are, in reality, immortal. But our immortal selves cannot achieve a realization of their higher nature, without detaching oneself from the lower self.

 

The Second Way to Be is radiant acquiescence. This means to reach such a state of detachment, that one willingly and happily submits one’s very inner and outer being to that Primal Will which governs all things. The Primal Will is a Power of such magnificence, of such raw might and unbounded grace, that it literally brings all things into existence from a state of utter nothingness and sustains all created things at the very fibre of their being. It is literally the warp and woof of the entire created universe—the primordeal Force which generates and binds together all that is. Like light emanating from a Lamp, all that exists emanates from one Source which exists beyond the realms of time and space. This is the Primal Will, which is also called the Word of God, the Logos or the Word. It is also called the Tao, the Way of the universe, or the Primal Being. This Primal Being is itself generated by the Eternal Essence, the Higher Power which exists beyond the pale of human understanding. We have many names for this Ancient Being, including God, Allāh, YHWH, Jehovah, Bhagavan or, in Buddhism, the Uncreated, the Unborn, the Unformed.

 

 

When we submit ourselves radiantly and joyfully to the Will of that Primal Being—that Ancient Reality—then we cultivate radiant acquiescence. I am not trying here to convince you of the existence of God or a Higher Power. I could give a thousand rational arguments for the need for a Creator or First Cause, but, until you are willing to embrace a higher reality and the existence of a Higher Power, there is nothing I can do to convince you. At the end of the day, what matters is that you have faith in the power that Being has to sustain and move you, and the faith that you have that the Will of that Being is eternally wise and omniscient, as that faith will radiate throughout your consciousness and will shape your life from the inside out. The proof of the pudding, as they say, is always in the eating. And the proof of the existence of God or a Higher Power is, in reality, in the effect that Power has on your life, in shaping who you are, and in animating the fibre of your being. If you feel that God exists and believe that He has a purpose for your life, then all rational arguments fall to the wayside and are burned in the ashes of the fire of love. And when the fire of love burns, the harvest of reason and rationality is consumed.

 

Radiant acquiescence will help you to achieve new levels of mindfulness and wisdom which you never knew you were capable of attaining. Not only will you become truly free from fear and want, but you will also embrace adversity whenever it arises. There is nothing to fear, if you are being sustained and supported by the Maker of all that is. If you are submitted, completely and willingly, to the Most Ancient Will which moves and pulsates through the core of all reality, then where can you go wrong? You become an artery pumping the blood of life which issues forth from the beating Heart of all things. By being radiant, we overcome all darkness. By being fearless, we overcome all pain and suffering. There is no such thing as darkness, cold or evil. All of these are negatives. When we become filled with positivity, what room is left for negativity? When we become full of love, where is there any more room for hate? When we are filled with the warmth of the divine Light, where is there room for coldness and darkness? When we shine out through all eternity with the Fire that never dies, where is there room for extinction and non-existence? We are, at our very core, the recipients of God’s Light—if only we let it shine within the polished mirrors of our hearts.

 

The second practice, which allows us to cultivate radiant acquiescence, is prayer. Prayer means, simply put, communion with our Creator—that Higher Power which gave us being. It means making contact with our own souls, with our own higher selves, which are the mirrors of the Divine. By turning within, we can find that which is beyond all things. God is both immanent and remote. The Primal Will, which generates all things, has instilled all things with its attributes. As human beings, we, uniquely, are capable of mirroring forth all of God’s attributes. When we polish the mirrors of our hearts, naught can be seen therein but the Light of God. By praying, we turn to that eternal Source and embrace it. The only thing preventing us from tapping into the eternal ocean of power and might which God has vouchsafed us is our own unwillingness to embrace that power!

 

To pray, we must reach a ‘state of prayer’. This means becoming totally dependent on the Divine Will, on the supreme Energy of the universe, which pulsates through the core of all created things. We must willingly embrace that higher reality and allow it to flow through us. We should try to follow the example of prayer outlined in the religions and scriptures of the ages, such as the Lord’s prayer which was taught by Jesus Christ, and the Psalms of David. The Opening Chapter of the Qur’ān also contains a potent prayer. Further examples may be found in Chapter V of my book, entitled ‘The Second Practice – Prayer’.

 

The Third Way to Be is magnanimity. This means, simply put, sharing our time, our money and our knowledge with others. It means to be generous with what we have, because what we have was given to us for a purpose. We were not created to hoard money. Rather, we were each given the capacity to earn money so that we can use it to benefit the lives of others. We are trustees of everything that we have. There is nothing we have which is permanent or lasting. The things that we own today will belong to someone else tomorrow. They are not permanently ours. Even our own bodies are not permanently ours. They serve a function during this life, then they cease to work, die, decompose and return to the elements from which they were composed. They become food for insects and bacteria and provide nutrients for the soil, so that trees and grass may grow up fresh and verdant from our remains. So, what is there which is lasting? True immortality is obtained through what we give, not through what we keep. What we keep, we inevitably lose. And what we give, we gain for all eternity.

 

The Third Practice is generous giving. Have you ever felt like giving to charity is a waste of time, or that you simply do not have enough money to give away anything to anyone? What if, in reality, we are made to give? What if, in reality, we are given wealth and means so that we can extend that wealth and those means to others? What is money is not a possession, but a resource. As members of a world community, and as contingent parts of our local communities, are we not part of an interconnected web of resources, development and distribution? The farmer produces grain, which makes bread. The merchant buys products for a low price at a distant market and sells them for a profit in another market. The medical doctor distributes medicine and healthcare (for free, of course) to his local community, and people are healed. The medicine and care is paid for by the local community as a whole. The community provides public services to everyone who lives within the community, for free. There are thus both services which cost money and services which are freely provided by the community, but both involve an exchange of resources. At the level of resources, there is no difference between the free and the paid services, as they all involve distribution of resources which result in the welfare and well-being of the community. Money is simply a way of providing a means of exchange of resources. When we are generous with our money, we are helping to exchange resources, moving them from a state of inertness, or rest, to a state of activity. It is like pumping blood into the system of the world.

 

Our time is also a resource, which has value. Time is money, as they say. But what it really is, is a resource which has value. When we give time to others, we are sharing this vital resource with others, thereby helping others to feel better, feel happier and improve themselves. If we teach a child, we are exchanging our resource of time for the benefit of helping that child to develop as a human resource for society. It is a service to society which involves the exchange of time for development. We are all thus capable of changing the world, of helping to develop our communities, by exchanging money and time for the benefit of developing our societies and pumping blood into the system of the world. The world is like a body, and we are all cells within that body. If a cell is selfish, it will become inactive and die. If a cell gives and exchanges resources—time and energy—with others, it will live and give birth to new cells, and, moreover, it will help the body to live. The body is dependent on the cooperation of all the cells that exist within it.

 

Therefore, we must be generous and develop this sublime quality of magnanimity. In 2012, my wife and I founded a charitable organization called Msingi wa Tumaini, which is Swahili for ‘Foundation of Hope’. The vision of Msingi wa Tumaini is to help to create a world in which every child has access to food and shelter, physical and moral education, and in which orphans and vulnerable children can develop and fulfil their innate potential, and in which women are empowered to act as agents of change within their own local communities.[5] The purpose of Msingi wa Tumaini is to “foster communities whose ways will give hope to the world by empowering orphans and vulnerable children, junior youth and women to uphold a standard far above the low threshold by which the world measures itself.”[6] Practically speaking, what does Msingi wa Tumaini do?

 

My wife and I have quite a broad vision for Msingi wa Tumaini but, of course, what we can achieve is limited by our organization’s access to resources. The more resources we receive, the greater the impact we can have. Our focus so far has been on orphans and other vulnerable children in the village of Uyoma, in the Western part of Kenya. Uyoma is a predominantly Luo area, located near Bondo and Kisumu, on the coast of Lake Victoria. Even though it is quite close to a lake, there is little access to clean water, and there is no running water in the village. Many people simply rely on muddy water from a ditch. Those who can afford it rely on rainwater preserved in plastic tanks. Children walk to school without shoes or proper school uniforms. Many suffer from health problems or malnutrition, and none of the children have their own pencils, pens, workbooks or other resources. They simply have to memorize whatever they learn in school. Many children live so far from home that they cannot go home for lunch, so they must go hungry. Many girls cannot access school due to the lack of availability of sanitary towels.

 

As such, we have set up a feeding program to provide maize porridge to children. We have also sent sanitary towels to the village, along with toys, books and other resources. Child sexual abuse is a big problem in the area, so we have had multiple child protection training projects, where experts in child protection go to the village and train schoolteachers and stakeholders in the community to protect the interests of children and keep them safe from harm. Many children suffer from HIV and other health problems, such as ringworm and malnutrition. It is amazing that this is only one village, in one part of the world, yet the resources are simply not there to help them to live a normal life and achieve the potential that they innately possess. Is this not a tragedy? We can, in the West, forget about such things and live our own day-to-day humdrum lives, without focusing on the needs of others in other parts of the world. But, the reality is, these children exist and they are suffering right now, and there is something you can do about it. Therefore, if you want to practise generous giving and are not sure what to do about it, spare a moment for the children of Uyoma, and send a small donation to Msingi wa Tumaini. You can give to any charity you want, but most people are not sure what to give money to and where their resources can best be directed. In reality, we should focus on those who need help the most.

 

If you are interested in helping Msingi wa Tumaini, or want to find out more information, please visit mwtumaini.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. There are also a few videos you can see online, both on YouTube and Vimeo. For example, here is a video about our Kitchen of Hope project, and here is a general video introduction to Msingi wa Tumaini. Here is a video showing children from Monmouthshire (in Wales) donating clothing and other gifts for children in the village. If you want to see the children and how enthusiastic and dedicated they are to learning, here is a video of some of them singing in Welsh, and the following is a video of me teaching them English. You can donate via PayPal here, or via our JustGiving page here. [Note: Msingi wa Tumaini has no affiliation with Equanimity Blog, and all the ideas expressed here are the personal ideas of NJ Bridgewater].

 

The Fourth Way to Be described in my book is contemplation. Contemplation means, in its essence, focus on reality. It is a higher state of mindfulness which involves awareness of and focus on the essence of reality and our own souls. As Gautama Buddha has stated: “The subject on which I meditate is truth. The practice to which I devote myself is truth. The topic of my conversation is truth. My thoughts are always in the truth. For lo! my self has become the truth.”[7] That which we should focus on, then, is the reality of things—the Truth which exists behind, within and beyond all things. Truth does not mean mere scientific, or objective truth. Truth means the essence of reality, which is behind the existence of all things, both physical and spiritual. This truth can be found in all religions and is the essence of true philosophy. As the Persian poet, Rumi, has stated: “All the vessels are emptied into one ewer, because He that is praised is, in fact, only One.”[8]

 

The Fourth Practice is meditation. This can take many forms. In the book, I describe a few of these, including: (1) Mindfulness of breathing, (2) Focus on Loving-Kindness, (3) Mantra Meditation, (4) Meditation on the Word, and (5) Meditation on the Divine. Each of these is useful and one may decide to practise one or more of these methods of meditation on a daily basis. There are other methods of meditation, as well, which I have not mentioned and which are also useful. I am the first to admit that I am no expert on the subject of meditation and need to increase my knowledge and skill in its practice. We are all learners on the path of Truth, which is the Straight Path or Middle Way, and we can all increase in knowledge and attainment as we strive to follow the Path. I cannot go into detail regarding each of the methods above here in this blogpost, but I hope to provide more details in later posts. Alternatively, you can also buy the book, Mindfulness: Five Ways to Achieve Real Happiness, True Knowledge and Inner Peace, as soon as it is released.

 

By the way, one may ask, why am I selling this book on Amazon instead of giving it away for free. The answer to that is simple. First of all, I am giving away this knowledge for free, as you can find a summary of the essence of the book on this blog. Secondly, and most importantly, when we pay for something, we attach value to it. There are many examples of this in our day-to-day lives. When we sign up a free MOOC or other online course, most people do not follow through and complete the course. However, when we pay for a certificate at the end of the course, we are motivated to complete it, because we have attached value to the course by investing money in it. Similarly, all the knowledge I refer to in my book is freely available online, in various sources. What I have done is to combine and distil that knowledge in one volume, which people attach value to when they buy it. If they invest in the product, they are more willing to read it to the end and put its teachings into practice. By buying the book, you are investing in your own development of mindfulness. Counter-intuitively, if the book is sold for money, people attach value to its contents and are more likely to read it, share it, and pass on its value to others.

 

Back to our theme: one simple method of meditation shared in the book is to, first of all practise silence. We should find a quiet setting where we can sit in silence and contemplate reality. It should be free from any distraction and noise. The next step is to focus on a concept or idea, such as impermanence or loving-kindness. It could also be a quotation, such as one of the many quotations contained in my book. By focusing on one verse or concept, we can deepen our understanding of that idea and gain new insights which we had never previously anticipated. As we are seated, it is useful to focus our attention on a physical object, as this allows us to focus our attention away from our own lower selves and enables us to concentrate more fully on our goal. When we thus remain, concentrated on our objective, our mind begins to commune with our higher self—or reality—which is the soul. This soul, being a mirror of the Divine, communicates, in turn, with the Higher Power—the Divine Word—which brought all of creation into existence and which continually generates all created things, like light emanating from a lamp.

 

The Fifth Way to Be is enkindlement. What does that mean? The word ‘kindle’ is no longer a part of our common parlance, due to the fact that we now live mostly in cities or industrialized societies where kindling fire is no longer necessary on a daily basis. We simply turn on our gas or electric heaters and our electric cookers and only experience fire when we light a candle for relaxation. The word kindle is now becoming popular again, but only as the name for a device marketed by Amazon for reading ebooks. Enkindlement means, literally, becoming enkindled. This means kindling the fire of the love of God within our hearts, so that it burns away all passion and selfishness and enables us to embrace the Light of God within the innermost essence of our souls.

 

Sounds complicated? It is simply the act of feeling a burning love for God within. This may seem foreign or strange to those who have not yet experienced this feeling and who have never tried to actively love God. For many people, God is merely an abstract idea, or they do not believe that He exists. For yet others, He is simply a source of wrath and vengeance, who must be placated by ritualistic prayers which prevent Him from striking us down or sending us to a realm of burning pitch and sulphur. These are mere misconceptions. The reality is, even though God is utterly transcendent, His Word has breathed life into the innermost essence of all things, and His attributes are mirrored forth in all created things. Human beings are uniquely endowed with the potential to develop and attain all the attributes of God, to a limited degree. We cannot achieve perfection, but we can strive for perfection. It’s a never-ending path.

 

To become enkindled, we can practice the Fifth Practice, which is fasting of the heart. This is a term which I have adopted from Confucius, in a dialogue recorded by Zhuang Zhou—also known as Zhuangzi. His work was translated by Herbert Allen Giles in a volume entitled Chuang Tzu, Mystic, Moralist, and Social Reformer, published in 1889 and available online on the Internet Archive. According to Zhuanzi, when Confucius was asked how one could attain to this state of true spiritual enkindlement, he replied that one should fast. When he was asked to clarify this, he said that this does not necessarily mean physical fasting. He instead urged his disciples to practise ‘fasting of the heart’. When asked to clarify what this, in turn, means, he replied:

 

“Cultivate unity. You hear not with the ears, but with the mind; not with the mind, but with your soul. But let hearing stop with the ears. Let the working of the mind stop with itself. Then the soul will be a negative existence, passively responsive to externals. In such a negative existence, only TAO can abide. And that negative state is the fasting of the heart.”[9]

 

Confucius’s disciple, Yen Hui, who was the one who had asked about this topic, then came to a realization—the reason he could not previously achieve this state was because he needed to get rid of his own individuality, i.e. his own lower self, and cultivate his higher self, which is the soul. This state of being is extensively described in Persian mystical literature, where one is advised to empty oneself of all things and embrace the Divine Light within. That is the essence of Sufism, which is the mystical element within the Islamic tradition. It is also described in the journals of George Fox, the founder of the Religious Society of Friends, also known as Quakers. It is also the practise of bhakti described in the Vaishnava tradition of Hinduism, where worship is defined as ecstatic devotion to Lord Vishnu (the aspect of God as the Preserver and Maintainer of the universe), especially in the form of Krishna as His supreme Avatar. Krishna, of course, is a pure Mirror of the Divine, just as Abraham, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad are, likewise. Achieving a state of enkindlement is referred to as ‘attaining enlightenment’ in Buddhism.

 

The Muslim philosopher and Sufi mystic, Al-Ghazali, writes: “Human perfection resides in this, that the love of God should conquer a man’s heart and possess it wholly, and even if it does not possess it wholly it should predominate in the heart over the love of all other things.”[10] Krishna, likewise, in the Bhagavad-Gita, declares: “As the kindled flame feeds on the fuel till it sinks to ash, the flame of Knowledge wastes works’ dross away! There is no purifier like thereto in all this world, and he who seeketh it shall find it—being grown perfect—in himself. Believing, he receives it when the soul masters itself, and cleaves to Truth, and comes—possessing knowledge—to the higher peace, the uttermost repose.”[11]

 

Some practical steps which can be taken include: (1) Fasting regularly, (2) Recognizing the Divine Attributes in all things, (3) Practising Dhikr (mentioning the names of God), (4) Studying the Lives of the Prophets & Great Teachers of the world, and (5) Embracing the Teachings of the Great Teachers. The first of these is physical fasting, as this helps us to control our senses and refine the strength of our inner will. It allows us to dominate and control our lower selves in order to develop and refine our higher selves. This can take many forms, but usually informs abstaining from food and drink from sunrise to sunset on a particular day or days.

 

The second step is to recognize the attributes of the Divine in all things. Thus, for example, one can recognise patient in the chameleon and loyalty in the hound, or steadfastness in the mountain and boundless grace in the vineyard. All things mirror forth these divine attributes.

 

The practice of dhikr, usually associated with Sufism, involves remembrance of God at all times by mentioning His names and attributes. There are many different names of God in all scriptures and religions. Sufis repeat these names in order to get into a state of trance. While we do not need to do quite this, it is useful to remember the various attributes and names of God, and mentioning them with our tongues helps to reinforce that remembrance. For example, we can mention the name ‘O Almighty One’, which helps us to focus on the might and power of God, or ‘O Merciful Lord’.

 

Another step we can take is to remember the lives of the Great Prophets and Great Teachers who have appeared throughout history. To truly set out upon the Middle Way mentioned by the Buddha, or the Straight Path as it is called in other traditions, we must have some guidance on how to follow the way, how to develop virtues, how to live our lives, and what behaviours to adopt or avoid. By so doing, we can embrace a divine pattern of living and follow the divine prescription. We should become lovers of the truth, rather than the vessel of truth. Whether we find truth in an encyclopedia or in someone’s handwritten notebook, or from a stranger we meet in the street, it is still truth. Likewise, we should love the light and not the vessel of the light, or its instrument. If we love the Light, then we will accept the Lamp which contains that Light. Therefore, if we see the Light in Buddha, we can recognize that same Light in Krishna, or vice versa. Likewise, if we see the Light in Moses, we must also recognize it in Jesus. If we see the Light in Jesus, we can recognize the same Light in Muhammad. Each of these are vessels and instruments of the same Light. The Lamps are different, but the Light is one and the same. As such, we should investigate the lives of these Divine Lamps, so that we can mirror their example and learn from their wisdom.

 

The fifth step, which is the logical conclusion of the fourth, is to embrace the Teachings of the Great Teachers. If we come to accept that these Lamps are all one and the same, and all bestow the same Light in abundance, then we must also fully embrace that Light. What is the Light? It is the Word and Teachings which those Teachers bring. All of these Teachers teach love and loving-kindness for our fellow man. They all teach love for God and love for one’s inner soul and inner being. They all teach us how to transcend materiality and enter the Kingdom of God, which is the pattern of life laid out by these Teachers. When we fully embrace these Teachings, and then put them into practice, we can attain a true state of equilibrium—a  state of equanimity and oneness with reality.

 

That, in short, is the essence of the Five Ways to Be. Why are there five ways, and not seven, or eight, or nine? Well, these are five key ways which I identified as being particularly significant, and I also identified five practices which relate to how to perform or develop these ways to be. If you have found another way of quantifying or delimiting different ways to lead a life of mindfulness and equanimity, then that’s great. I have found these Five Ways to Be useful, which is why I have decided to share them with the world, as a service to each and everyone one of you. I hope you find them useful too. If you find this blogpost useful, please consider buying my book, ‘Mindfulness: Five Ways to Achieve Real Happiness, True Knowledge and Inner Peace’, on Amazon Kindle.

 

If you feel in a giving mood, please consider donating a fixed amount to Msingi wa Tumaini. When you go to the website, click on the DONATE button to specify the amount and donate now. Recurring donations are most appreciated to support the smooth running of Msingi wa Tumaini and its programs. However, if you want to donate a one-off amount, e.g. to support one of our projects, that would also be appreciated. To get in touch with the organization, e-mail us at msingiwatumaini@gmail.com [Note: Msingi wa Tumaini is not affiliated with this blog and the opinions expressed here are those of the author].

 

Abú-Jalál NJ Bridgewater

 

References:

 

[1] St. Thomas Aquinas, The Very Rev. Hugh Pope (translator) (1914) On Prayer and the Contemplative Life, Question LXXXI, II.

[2] Confucius (author), James Legge (translator) (1861) The Chinese Classics — Volume 1: Confucian Analects, Book VII, Chapter XXIX.

[3] Confucius, Confucian Analects, Book IV, Chapter IV.

[4] Krishna (author), Sir Edwin Arnold (translator) (1900) The Song Celestial; Or, Bhagavad-Gîtâ (from the Mahâbhârata): Being a Discourse Between Arjuna, Prince of India, and the Supreme Being, Under the Form of Krishna, Chapter XIII.

[5] See: Msingi wa Tumaini, About Us. URL: http://mwtumaini.org/index.php/about-us (accessed 16/01/2017).

[6] See: Msingi wa Tumaini, Mission Statement. URL: http://mwtumaini.org/index.php/about-us/mission-statement (accessed 16/01/2017).

[7] Paul Carus (author), Olga Kopetzky (illustrator) (1915) The Gospel of Buddha, Compiled from Ancient Records, LIV., pp. 160 – 163.

[8] Rumi, The Masnawī, quoted in F. Hadland Davis (1920) Jalálu’d-Dín Rúmí, p. 102.

[9] Zhuangzi (author), Herbert Allen Giles (translator) (1889) Chuang Tzu, Mystic, Moralist, and Social Reformer, Ch. IV, pp. 38 – 45.

[10] Abū Hāmid Muhammad ibn Muhammad Al-Ghazālī (author), Claud Field (translator) The Alchemy of Happiness by Al Ghazzali, Translated from the Hindustani, Ch. VIII.

[11] Veda-Vyāsa (author), Sir Edwin Arnold (translator) (1900) The Song Celestial; Or, Bhagavad-Gîtâ (from the Mahâbhârata): Being a Discourse Between Arjuna, Prince of India, and the Supreme Being, Under the Form of Krishna, Ch. IV.

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