Table of Contents

  About the Author
  Books by Bansi Pandit
  What is Hindu Dharma?
  Hindu View of God
  Why Hindus Worship Deities
  Hindu Scriptures
  Principal Hindu Doctrines
  Law of Karma
  Popular Systems 
  Moral & Ethical Ideals of Hindus
  Hindu View ...
  Hindu Reverence for Elders
  Daily Routine of a Devout Hindu
  Hindu Dharma
  Hindu View of Ecology
  Some Philosophical Aspects
  Hindu Response 
  Contribution of Hindus
  Practicing Hindu Dharma
  Timeless Wisdom 
  Swămi Vivekănanda's Address
  Works Cited
  Color Plates
  Download Book

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

Panun Kashmir


Symbol of Unity


Chapter 18: Timeless Wisdom for Today's Youth

As a youth, you are the architect of your own destiny. What you are today is in part the result of what you have been thinking and doing in the past. What you think and do today will determine your tomorrow. The following guidelines from ancient wisdom will inspire you to live a purposeful life.

Purpose of Human Life

The purpose of human life is to unfold one's inner potential. You are neither a body-mind apparatus nor a limited individual. You are in reality ătman living in a physical body. The body and mind are simply the media to manifest your inner potential in this lifetime. Your limitations are the limitations of the body and not of the ătman. The mind, being the reflection of the ătman, possesses tremendous power, which must be developed and manifested. Mahatma Gandhi is an example of what a person with even a weak physical body but a strong mind can achieve in one lifetime.

Set Goals

Always remember that a life without goals is akin to a journey without destination. The four ends (i.e. general goals) of human life are to develop virtue (dharma), acquire wealth (artha), fulfill desires (kama) and attain spiritual perfection (moksha). Therefore, acquiring diploma(s), becoming married, having children and supporting them through college, growing old, and dying are not really the goals; these are merely a few toll-booths on the highway of human life. You must establish specific goals to unfold your own inner potential.

Important Tools

The head, heart and hands are the three important tools needed to accomplish one's goals. These tools must be perfected during youthful years and properly coordinated later in adult life to achieve success. To sharpen the head, you must acquire education in arts and sciences and learn necessary technical skills to help you make a decent living in this world. As part of the overall education, you must learn the spiritual principles of life, read scriptures and study the lives of sages, saints, and great men and women of the world. To kindle the lamp of your heart, you need to develop qualities such as love, non-violence, kindness, and compassion. To strengthen hands, you must maintain a healthy body. Proper diet and regular exercises such as simple Hatha Yoga and Pranayama exercises can be used to permanently maintain the physical body in a healthy state. 30

Build Your Character

"What the world today needs is character," says Vivekănanda. A man without character is like a wild bull let loose in a cornfield. Every fool may become a hero at one time or another, but the people of good character are heroes all the time. Establishing good character means acquiring established wisdom (pratishthita prajna). Nothing great can be achieved in life without a good character.

The character of an individual is the aggregate of his mental tendencies. If good tendencies prevail, the character becomes good and if evil tendencies prevail, the character becomes evil. When an individual performs good work and continuously thinks virtuous thoughts, there is an irresistible force in him to be good and to do good. One's good character is said to be established when one is under complete control of his good tendencies.

We live by our habits and habit is the "second nature" of man. One's character is essentially a pattern of repeated habits. Therefore, develop good habits. Be aware of your habits at all times and counteract bad habits with better ones. Value time and be punctual. Never think, "It does not matter if I arrive on time when everyone else comes half-an-hour late." It does matter, since you are the one who can set an example for everyone else. As they say, "two wrongs don't make a right."

Time management is a critical factor for success in today's world. Since you cannot do everything that crosses your mind, prioritize your work. Develop the habit of using things-to-do lists to help you perform the daily chores around the house and at the work-place or wherever you may be.

Develop an Integrated Personality

To be successful in life, you must develop a well-balanced personality. Yoga, devotion, knowledge and action are the four components of an integrated personality. These are akin to the four wheels of an automobile. If one wheel loses air, the automobile cannot be driven too far with only three wheels in operation. A man with great intellect but no feelings cannot do much good to the world. Likewise, a man of great devotion but no action is not useful either. An ideal man would be the one who has the intellect of Shankara, the heart of Buddha, and the body of Arjuna.

Apply the Power of Positive Thinking

God has given us not only the mind and ability to think, but also the choice to create from our thoughts. Thought is the power of the mind that manifests in the things we create. For example, a beautiful statue is not the work of a hammer and chisel, but of the sculptor's thought. The hammer and chisel are the tools that merely remove the excess material so that the sculptor's ideas can be manifested.

Sages tell us that the mind is so powerful that if we think of a particular disease all the time, that disease will appear in the body. Similarly if we think of success all the time, then success will be achieved. Remember that constructive thoughts create our goals and destructive thoughts destroy them. Whatever you harbor in the inner-most chamber of your heart will shape itself sooner or later in the outward life. Since the state of doing comes from thinking, fill the mind with the highest ideals and divine thoughts.

To inspire the mind with divine thoughts anytime and anywhere, imagine yourself soaring high in the sky like a bird and sing the following song mentally or loudly (as birds sing, without caring who listens or what the listeners think):

No birth, no death, no caste, Have I;
limitations have I none.
I am He, I am He, blessed spirit I am He. Freedom I don't care, bondage I don't fear
I am free, ever free, I am He, I am He.
I am He, I am He, blessed spirit I am He.

According to sages, regular divine affirmations eliminate physical and mental restlessness, worries and anger, and provide inner strength to face the challenges of life. The following affirmations have been recommended by Paramahansa Yogănanda for daily use. Deep and persistent repetition of these affirmations will help you to express the power of positive thinking to overcome physical, mental and spiritual obstacles.

"God's perfect health permeates the dark nooks of my bodily sickness. In all my cells His healing light is shining. They are entirely well, for His perfection is in them." 24

"I possess the creative power of Spirit. The infinite intelligence will guide me and solve every problem." 24

Have Faith in Yourself

One of the most important prerequisites for success is to have faith in oneself. If you don't have faith in your own self, you are essentially denying expression to the soul-power that is hidden within you. "Not believing in the glory of our own soul is what Vedanta calls atheism....The old religion said that he was an atheist who did not believe in God. The new religion says that he is an atheist who does not believe in himself," declares Swămî Vivekănanda.

Whatever you think is what you are. If you think you are weak and helpless, that is exactly what you are. If you think yourself to be strong, strong you are. No good can possibly come out of a person who thinks himself to be helpless, incompetent or incapable.

The history of the world is the history of a few men and women who had faith in themselves. We cannot blame the sun for not giving us light if we choose to shut the doors and windows in a room and live in darkness. Faith in yourself and faith (shraddhă) in God is the secret of success, happiness, and greatness in this world.

Be Moderate in Thoughts and Actions

If you want to live a harmonious life, you must learn to be moderate in whatever you do. Extremism of any kind is dangerous to the body, mind and soul. The Bhagavad Gîtă declares (BG 6.16-17):

"[success in] Yoga is not for one who eats too much or eats too little, nor for one who sleeps too much or sleeps too little. To one who is moderate in eating, in recreation, in his efforts in work, and sleep and wakefulness, yoga is the destroyer of miseries."

Eat Foods that Revitalize the Mind

In Hindu view, the mind is a material entity and attains intelligence by its proximity with ătman. Being material, the mind consists of a substance which is the essence of the food consumed. According to the Chăndogya Upanishad 6.5.1, the food, when eaten, becomes divided into three parts.12 The grossest portion of the food consumed is eliminated as waste matter by the organism. The middle portion is transformed into bodily structure, and the subtlest portion serves to build up the mind. "We are what we eat," is the common adage. "Our food and eating habits determine in no small measure our environs and general outlook on life," says Dr. Rajendra Prasad, first president of India. "A man who wants to control his passions does so easily if he controls his palate," says Mahatma Gandhi.

According to the Bhagavad Gîtă 17.7-10, foods are of three kinds, săttvic, răjasic, and tămasic. Săttvic foods are sweet, soft and nouri-shing. They promote life, vitality, strength, health, joy, cheerfulness, and render the mind calm and thoughtful. The săttvic foods include whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, and milk products. Răjasic foods are bitter, sour, saltish, hot, pungent, and very spicy. They produce pain, grief, disease and make the mind restless, unsteady and uncontrollable. The răjasic foods include fish and chicken, spices, tea, coffee, soft drinks, beer and wine. The tămasic foods are those which are stale, putrid, impure, require lot of energy to digest, and are made of the lifeless matter. They fill the mind with anger, inertia and dullness. The tămasic foods include red meat (such as beef and veal), deep fried foods, and hard liquor.

Honor Parents, Teachers and Elders

According to Hindu scriptures, God loves, nourishes and cares for you through your parents. He provides knowledge to you through your teachers. He sends blessings to you through elders. In Hindu culture, the elders will always bless you when you approach them. Sometimes they even put their hands on your head as a gesture of blessing (refer to Chapter 10 for a discussion of the Hindu reverence for elders). Worshipping God without first revering one's parents, teachers and elders is impossible, the sages explain. The Taittiriya Upanishad 1.11 thus declares:

"Matri devo bhava." - "Let your mother be God."
"Pitri devo bhava." - "Let your father be God."
"Ăchărya devo bhava." - "Let your teacher be God."

Be Respectful of Others

You cannot succeed in life if you don't have good relationships with others around you. Respect is the basis for all human relationships. One of the reasons that the world is in turmoil today is that the sense of respect for one another, for authority, for parents, teachers and others is missing among individuals, families and nations. Everyone seems to do what he (or she) thinks will best serve his interest without giving much thought to how his conduct may affect others.

You must be respectful of others, since respect brings out the best in our relationships with others. Being casual and informal is alright, but you must never step down to the level of overfamiliarity. Familiarity breeds contempt and becoming too familiar is the death of respect.

In English there is only one word "you" to address a person. In many other languages there are two words, one for addressing with respect and the other for addressing with familiarity. In Hindi, we use the word "ăp," to express respect and "tum" to express familiarity. Thus being disrespectful to a person is impossible when you address him as "ăp." This point may not be appreciated by people who speak only English. Flexibility in language does help to reinforce the awareness of respect and thoughtfulness toward others.

Tradition says that in a person's accomplishments and growth, only parents and teachers are more delighted than the person himself. Regarding respect for guru (teacher), Kabir, a mystic poet of India, once remarked, "When God and guru are both standing at the same place, to whom should I pay my respect first? To the guru, who introduced me to God."

Sexual Freedom is an Illusion

In modern societies uncontrolled sex is called sexual freedom and is considered a splendid trait of the modern civilization. Sages tell us that sex is a sacred activity and must be practiced only in marriage. For this reason, Hindu scriptures hold marriage as a sacrament, and marriage is performed as a religious function in Hindu culture. Hindu culture demands strict celibacy (Brahmachărya) before marriage and strict loyalty to the spouse in marriage. Sex outside one's marriage is degrading physically, psychologically, morally and spiritually, and is the source of many social ills, such as teenage pregnancy, abused and neglected children, children with single parents, and children with no parents.

Drugs Destroy the Body and Mind

Drugs do not solve any of our problems or eliminate our worries. They simply alter our consciousness so that we experience temporary relief from the worries or stresses associated with the problems of daily life. At the same time, drugs destroy our bodies and minds and prevent us from leading a normal life. Using drugs to escape from the problems of daily life is akin to choosing to die for a couple of days so that worries cannot touch us as long as we remain dead.

No drug can give long lasting physical and mental relaxation that one can derive from japa (repetition of a mantra or any Divine name), meditation, yoga exercises, satsangh (association with pure and holy persons) and prayers. Do not destroy the mind with drugs-"The human mind is a terrible thing to waste."

Learn to Pray

Prayer is a very powerful tool available to man to purify the mind and gain spiritual strength. Prayer is the foundation of success. Science has not yet recognized the power of prayer. The current attitude of science towards prayer is somewhat the same as Galileo had towards Johannes Kepler's views on gravity. "Galileo condemned Kepler's views as the 'ravings of a madman' when the latter proposed that invisible forces from the moon, acting across gigantic distances, were causing the earth's tides." 27

In the most carefully controlled scientific study ever performed on the effects of prayer on healing, cardiologist Randolph Byrd, formerly a University of California professor, showed that prayer is a powerful force in healing and that sometimes it can make the difference between life and death for the sick person. 27

The sages tell us that for a prayer to be effective, faith in the Divine, concentration of the mind, and positive thinking are necessary prerequisites before, during and after the prayer. If one prays for success and at the same time holds thoughts of failure within, the prayer will not be answered. Sages tell us that the mind is the transmitter of prayers. Thus, a prayer transmitted by a restless mind is akin to broadcasting over a broken transmitter. To receive God's answer to our prayers, sages provide the following instructions for prayers:

  • Meditate before praying to calm restless thoughts. Keep the body still throughout meditation. "Be still and know you are God."
  • According to yogic literature, the nerve center between the eye-brows (ajna chakra) is the transmitter of prayer and the heart is the receiver of God's answer to the prayer. If a prayer is properly transmitted, God's answer appears in the form of subtle feeling(s) arising in the heart following the prayer.
  • To pray, focus attention at the center between the eyebrows and say the prayer mentally with the deepest devotion of your heart. Repeat the prayer until it becomes one with your consciousness.
  • Always pray to God as His child, who demands the rightful share of all God's bounties. Never pray to God as a beggar.
  • Only genuine prayers are fulfilled. "If you pray five hours daily that you might become a Henry Ford, that prayer will not be granted," explains Paramahansa Yogănanda. 23

Meditate Daily

Meditation provides the ability to silence the mind and experience the inner self. Meditation restores natural power to the mind just as charging restores power to a worn out battery. Meditation destroys worries, fear, and stress that people experience in the "cut-throat" competitive environment of modern societies. When the mind becomes quiet, the body becomes quiet too and knows how to repair itself. The following simple technique may be used to meditate daily:

  • Sit in a cross-legged pose on the floor or on a chair with feet flat on the ground. Keep the spine straight and fully relax the body and mind. Your overall feeling should be as if you are sitting on the beach of a calm ocean, on a starry cool night of the summer. Close the eyes and gently focus attention at the center
    between the eyebrows (ajna chakra).
  • Breathe normally (don't force breathing in any way) and say mentally (ă as in father) while inhaling and (ă as in father) while exhaling. Practice this meditation technique 20 to 30 minutes twice daily, in the mornings and evenings, before meals.
  • At the end of the meditation, with the eyes closed and attention focused at the center between the eyebrows, say the following prayer, as recommended by Paramahansa Yogănanda:

"I will reason, I will create, I will do everything I set my mind to do, but Oh Lord, guide my creative abilities to do the right thing that I should do." 24



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