Youth and Spirituality
Life is not only about achieving –– it is about contribution
Life is made up of matter and spirit. Matter is amino acids, proteins, bones, blood, flesh and other things. The spirit is made up of enthusiasm, joy, love and beauty. You need food for the stomach, taste for the tongue, beauty for the eyes, and fun and celebration. All these are a part of one’s life, and spirituality is something that encompasses all these avenues: human values, compassion, caring. All are part of spirituality. Spirituality is not just sitting and doing some practice. It is a value system, a way of life. Today’s youths need a broadening of their vision about life and a deepening of their roots in their culture, tradition and value systems. Deepening their roots gives a sense of responsibility and ownership, while a broader vision gives a sense of relaxation. A broader vision and deeper roots really mean responsibility with ease, calmness and equanimity
Inhibition is a big problem amongst our youths. They worry about what the other person is going to think about them. Another problem is the tendency of the mind to cling more to negative than to positive aspect of things. This generates more stress within their own selves and within society at large. To break free from this, youths need to take responsibility for themselves and ensure that their minds are clear and not clogged. All spiritual practices and celebrations lead one to a more fulfilled and joyful life – more love and care. Taking a look into their own lives, they need to see life within a bigger context and not just look into immediate short-term benefits. Through this, they need to bring about a shift from “What can I have?” to “What can I give?” a shift from competition to contribution. This can happen when they attend to the four sources of energy: proper food, proper rest, a little attention to their breath and a few minutes for a calm collected, and meditative mind.
Youths complain of a lack of concentration. When do you need to concentrate? Do you really need to concentrate when you love the subject? You require concentration for something that you don’t like to do! So, just love everything you do! Only when we transcend the thinking level, settle down and calm the mind, do we access the wealth that we are! The young need to realize they have a huge potential and strength to achieve what they want. This is possible if they have some quiet moments to themselves.
Unfortunately, spirituality is often presented as something serious. Caring for life, recognizing life, uplifting life is spirituality, and by keeping it in its true spirit of celebration, joy and sincere love, youths come around to it. I think it is our expression that matters. Today’s youths are mature enough and they realize the need for spirituality in their lives. They experience the peak of material prosperity and comfort; so much so that life has become saturated with stimulations. Everyone is yearning for a sense of serenity, calmness, inner peace and sincere love. At the heart of each person is a longing for truth and love, and spirituality is able to open the lid that has been blocked for so many years.
Youths are always on the lookout for success, but the parameters of success are changing! A few years ago – maybe a couple of decades ago – wearing a lot of jewellery was considered a parameter of success. Today, this is less so. According to me, the sign of success is a lasting smile, a confidence in life and a sense of belonging with everybody around. This is what our youths should aim to develop in their lives – how secure they feel, and not how fragile. Set goals in life and then achieve them. What are the goals that you have set in life? There may be many obstacles, but don’t drop your highest goals in life — they bring direction to life. I don’t say life will always be smooth: it will not always be a bed of roses, but if your vision is large, and if you continue with the same zeal, you will be given the strength.
What stops you from taking responsibility?
Sheer laziness; or fear about whether it is right or wrong, or whether you will be able to complete it or not. You are afraid of failure. Even if there is no failure, just an indication of failure upsets you. If you can merely become aware of this, it is good. Suicide is more current among capable people. They feel a dryness inside, an emptiness. Support has to come from within. It’s not just food and water that is needed. Spiritual strength is something that can uplift you. It is spirituality that fills the vacuum in your life. In order to find satisfaction in life, you need to do some service and to sustain seva activities, you need sadhana (spiritual practices), otherwise you will experience a burn-out feeling.
Also, be ready to take criticisms. You need to be like a solid rock. Nothing can shake you! You should welcome criticism. Sometimes, criticism can come out of anger or jealousy, but no criticism should make you fade or shy away. When someone criticizes you, behave as if you are the third party. Then, you will be untouched. You will take something from it, but you will not fume; you will not burn inside. You should be able to offer criticisms as well. The purpose of criticism is to improve, adopt, and change. But if your mode of criticism is unpalatable, how will others accept it? An arrow should reach its mark. See that your criticism is not wasted.
When you want to do something, look at your strength. Your weakness is that you start looking at others’ strengths! When you are running, you can only look at the track below, not at who is next to you! Like a horse with blinders, look at your path only! Let anybody else do whatever he or she wants to. Also, any job that you do should be done with commitment. Otherwise, you will do the job when you enjoy it and stop doing it when you don’t. Our likes and dislikes change so often. Responsibility and commitment do generate some stress and worry. The best way to handle this is not to resist stress. It is okay to be stressed for a while, but don’t get distressed! Attention to spiritual matters like contemplating the truth in life will help; so will prayer. Nature has built you in such a way that the more you live in the present moment, the more your memory sharpens, and the less you worry and your vision for the future becomes clearer.Create a sense of belongingness by improving communication. If you like to be with people you already know, then you cannot multiply. When you stop being with your friends all the time, then you make new friends. Influence them with your smile and your inner wisdom, like a lit candle lights another! Just be with them.
Youths cannot get bored and they cannot bore others. In many affluent homes, children show such a lack of enthusiasm. A youth should be open to learning rather than be always criticizing. The sign of foolishness is thinking everybody else is a fool; everybody else is wrong. We need to make a shift — not to bog people down with our lack of enthusiasm, but to help them up. Just a couple of days of practising Sudarshan Kriya brings you back bubbling with enthusiasm! Smile more! A few minutes of humour can solve so many problems. The seed of this universe is deep inside you; the Self. In this human body, it is possible to realize it fully; to understand it. This is not difficult at all. It is possible, in this lifetime. One does not have to wait for a future lifetime. Allow your love to become devotion. Invoke the innocence that you are. You are only required to do what you can do. You simply have to know that and you will get the strength! Know that your life is more than your activity.
Life is not only about achieving – it is about contribution.
Excerpts from “Spirituality” – Talks by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
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