The Divine Virtues

Divine Virtue of Mother Teresa
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A mind that is free, open and present is the key to achieving harmony between spirit, mind, and body. The mind is the intermediary between the spirit and the body. It is the essential link needed in order for qualities of the spirit to be manifested in the physical world through emotions and actions. By spiritual qualities I mean things like love, compassion, forgiveness, and healing energy. These are the divine virtues that all human spirits have, but for many they remain untapped and overshadowed by physical desires.

Free expression of the divine virtues is characteristic of a truly spiritual life. The mind must make the decision to put aside any fears, insecurities or prejudice and let the divine virtues flow naturally to everyone we encounter in our everyday lives without favoritism.

You might also like to see the following related articles:

How is My Divine Self Revealed?

The Quintessence of Life

 

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Buddhism – Spirituality for Everyone Part 1

    Immeasurable Photo credit: sathyasaibaba.wordpress.comImmeasurable
    Photo credit: sathyasaibaba.wordpress.com

I have been curious about Buddhism ever since years ago reading Siddhartha, the story of the life of Buddha. As a spiritual practice, Buddhism seemed somewhat mysterious, esoteric, and complex. All this talk about oneness, meditation, and remaining unattached perplexed and confused me. At the same time, there was something about it that was very intriguing.

Now having done some reading about the teachings of Buddhism I would like to share with you what I took away as some of its central teachings that have informed my quest for a deeper and expanded understanding of how to live a spiritual life.

In my view, Buddhism is in many ways spiritual practice in its purest, most highly developed form. I say this in part because it is not a religion. Buddha is not a deity. Buddhism is a spiritual way of living, and of conceiving the world and existence. It does not exclude or renounce a higher being; rather, practice of the concepts of Buddhism can serve as an adjunct or complement to any religion or for the nonreligious. For example, Buddhist belief and practice centers around universal love and compassion for all living things.

Buddhism is a very deep and challenging practice with many elements and layers that takes many years of study to comprehend and master. What I share in this and the next article to follow are but two areas of Buddhist teaching that I found interesting and especially informative to living a spiritual life.

The Four Immeasurable Minds

The Four Immeasurable Minds also are called the Four Divine States of Mind or the Four Perfect Virtues. They are said to be purifying states of mind that can transform the world. This is an area of Buddhist teaching that immediately captured my interest because these four virtues embody what I believe to be key attributes of spirituality. The Immeasurables are:

1. Love
2. Compassion
3. Joy
4. Equanimity

These four states of mind and being are said to be at the core of an enlightened person. They guide and empower everything that an enlightened one does and their interplay and application create conditions for progression to the highest levels of spirituality. To practice these effectively one must go beyond self and extinguish the ego.

These divine virtues are meant to be applied not only locally in everyday life, but also to be radiated in all directions throughout the world in meditation and/or prayer. In doing so, one is in communion with God.

Love or Loving-Kindness

One must live in a way that radiates immeasurable love throughout the world to all living things, unconditionally without attachment or preference for one over another.

Compassion

Similarly, one’s compassion for all living things should be boundless and pervasive without discrimination or favor of one over another. It is a sincere desire that the suffering of all living things will diminish or end.

Joy or Sympathetic Joy

This is selfless, measureless joy in the happiness and good fortune of all living things.

Equanimity

Equanimity is a clear, tranquil, unselfish state of mind that is free from discrimination and prejudice and holds no enmity for any living thing. It is this state of mind that fosters, facilitates, and supports love, compassion, and sympathetic joy that are all pervasive.

In a world filled with selfishness, greed, self-aggrandizement, and racial, ethnic, and religious discrimination, the Four Immeasurables represent a major paradigm shift. Nevertheless, instilling in one’s self the Four Immeasurable Minds should be the goal of anyone who wishes to be an authentic spiritual person in communion with God. What a wonderful world it would be if everyone (or at least a majority) patterned their thinking and actions according to these four states of mind!

References

Brahmavihara. Wikipedia.org. Accessed February 6, 2016.

Hanh, Thich Nhat, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching. Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation. New York: Harmony Books. 2010. First published 1999.

The Four Immeasurables: Love, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity. Viewonbuddhism.org. Accessed February 6, 2016.

Rahula, Walpola. What the Buddha Taught. 2nd ed. enlarg. New York: Grove Press. 1974. First published 1959.

You might like to see the following related articles:

Buddhism – Spirituality for Everyone Part 2

The Quintessence of Life

Spirituality as a State of Being

Harmony and Health

Credit: WallpaperUp.com

Credit: WallpaperUp.com

I have said many times in my various writings that I believe that our true life is spiritual, not physical. Our spirit gives the body life, but when the body withers away, the spirit remains—eternal.

The spirit-self will never die, and there is nothing in this world that can cause it permanent injury. Only we can cause “injuries” to our spirit by our negative, selfish, and destructive mental attitudes, bad behavior, and neglect of those who need our help.

These are failures of character that prevent harmony between spirit, mind, and body. This can cause an imbalance that makes us susceptible to disease. The disharmony is the cause and illness is the resulting effect. Perhaps it is the widespread focus on materialism, rather than spirituality, that underlies the rise in poor health and disease worldwide.

God will always provide what is necessary for us to fulfill our life plan. With faith in this edict, what need have we for anxiety, worry, stress, or fear? Those who have achieved harmony between spirit, mind, and body are free of these negative states of mind that can contribute to poor health. They are happy and healthy individuals who have chosen a life of spirit over one of materialism.

As Silver Birch has often said, “If the spirit is aright, then the body will be aright.” There likely would be no illness if our spirit, mind, and body were in perfect harmony.

How does one achieve this hard to reach harmony? The anchor, the rock upon which this harmony is built is expression of the spirit. If we are not aware of (or acknowledge) our spirit and its purpose in our physical life, then harmony will remain elusive, and we will have missed the opportunity to have a truly vibrant, healthy, and (spiritually) rewarding life.

Expression of the spirit is one of the main themes of articles published on this web site. Selflessness and a strong desire to help others are the hallmarks of spiritual expression. If we strive to consistently live a life of goodness, virtue, love and compassion, our spirit will begin to express its innate divinity and we will not only achieve harmony between spirit, mind, and body, but also among our fellow human beings.

You may like the following related articles:

Harmony between Spirit, Mind, and Body
The Spiritual Mind

What Can We Learn About Spirituality from the Example of Others?

Hubble Captures View of 'Mystic Mountain' Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Livio and the Hubble 20th Anniversary Team (STScI)

Hubble Captures View of ‘Mystic Mountain’ Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Livio and the Hubble 20th Anniversary Team (STScI)

There are many people who provide examples of how to live a spiritual life. These include not only historical religious figures, but also ordinary people. They demonstrate in their everyday lives what it means to be a spiritual person.

When I heard that the new Pope decided to take on the namesake of Saint Francis, it brought back some childhood memories. I was attending Catholic school in second grade when the class went to the theater to see a movie about the life of Saint Francis of Assisi. I was very captivated by the movie. I remember saying to myself, “I want to be like him.“

I did not want to be a priest or friar, rather I wanted to emulate the way he lived. I wanted to put into action his unwavering humility, selflessness, self-sacrifice and devotion to God. He accepted any and all adversities that God threw at him willingly and without complaint.

Of course at that young age, I had no idea just how hard it would be to imitate Saint Francis. Nevertheless, it became a life goal.

Below is a favorite prayer attributed to Saint Francis that I believe sums up how he looked at spiritual life. This is not a prayer just for Catholics or Christians; it is an approach to spirituality and life that can benefit all of us.

Let us pray:

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.

Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.

Dear God, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.”

What really rang true to me about Saint Francis’ view of spirituality is looking past, and going beyond, oneself. He sought to attend to others without regard to his own needs. To me, the prayer above speaks volumes about what it means to be a spiritual person.

At the same time, there are many quiet, gracious, inconspicuous truly spiritual people with whom we come in contact in our everyday lives who may or may not subscribe to any particular religion. Make it a point to pay attention to what is going on around you and you will see them. We can learn much from watching them.

Doing good and helping others is second nature to them. When they see a need, they do their best to fulfill it. They do it without hesitation or having to think about it. Recognition or gain of any kind never crosses their mind even for a moment. It is who they are; they have found their spirit-self.

How wonderful it is that they have chosen to share their divine selves with us! How wonderful it will be for us to join their ranks!

Spirituality: A Life of Action

There are many attributes with which one can compare people. This is a murky business because things are rarely just black and white. It is more a question of which human attributes are more prominent than others in an individual. When it comes to exhibiting spirituality, it seems there are those who primarily talk and think about it, and others who mainly do things to help others.

Both are important and contribute to our understanding of what it means to be a spiritual person. However, I believe, like Lorraine Holloway-White, that one’s actions are far more important in defining one’s spirituality than simply talking about it. Spirituality is a way of living rather than a way of thinking or talking.

It may seem odd to say that actions such as going to one’s place of worship regularly, or reading the scriptures may or may not be indicators of a truly spiritual person. Some of you may know people who do these things, but whose behavior otherwise militates against their being spiritual.

I believe that love and compassion for others are the foundation for living a spiritual life, or as I prefer to say, living the life of spirit. But not as a concept; rather, as an expression or outlet for our spirituality. I believe these two attributes to be at the core of our divinity. If someone is unable, for whatever reason, to express these two attributes, then the path to expression of their spirit-self probably has not yet begun.

More likely is that we do not consistently exhibit love and compassion. We may have biases or prejudices through which we filter who is “deserving” of our love and compassion. This is wherein lies the challenge in trying to fully express our spirit. As hard as it may be, we should strive to have love and compassion for everyone.

It might help to remind ourselves that we do not know what demons others face in life. We do not know what experiences have shaped their current state of existence. We do not know the nature of the karma that brought them to where they are.

But whatever these unknowns may be, we need to try our best to give them the benefit of the doubt and extend a helping hand whenever we can, even though sometimes they might slap it away.