January 1, 2016 — Amritapuri (An excerpt from Amma’s 2016 New Year’s Message)
Another new year is here. When a child is born into a family, it makes everyone happy, but at the same time, it also makes everyone alert. The parents will be careful that the child doesn’t fall down. They will make sure that its clothes and surroundings are clean and properly dusted. They will watch the child’s each and every movement. With each day of the child’s growth, the family is filled with joy and delight. They eagerly watch as the child attempts to stand up and walk.They soon begin lookingexpectantly forward for the child to speak. This is how we should welcome the new year—with joy and alertness, living its every moment completely.
When each new year is born, our heart becomes filled with hope that the future has good times in store for us and that things will change for the better. However, things may not always happen as we expect. We may have to face obstacles and hardships. Spirituality teaches us to face everything with a smile. For one who knows swimming, the sea waves are delightful. Whereas for one who cannot swim, the sea and its waves are terrifying; one might even drown. Similarly, what helps us face the ups and downs of life are proper knowledge and the proper attitude. The smile that blossoms on our lips is God’s signature on our face. We should not permit sorrow or anger to wipe it off. My children should always have the awareness to sustain that smile and have faith in God.
Looking back at the year gone by, there have been many traumatizing events. Extremely cruel terrorist attacks in different parts of the world that claimed numerous lives, the heart-breaking refugee crises, earthquakes, disastrous floods in Chennai were some of them. In Chennai, people went happily to bed at night, and by morning the water had risen and washed away everything they had. This is the nature of life. That doesn’t mean we should not put in any effort. We need to do everything possible to avert such natural tragedies.
However, even in the midst of disasters like the Chennai floods, there was a silver lining–the men and women who forgot themselves and risked their own lives to wipe the tears and save the lives of others. They thought beyond barriers of caste, religion, and nationality. They showed us that compassionate people have not become extinct–that the language of selfless service continues to be spoken here. This inspires us with hope. Let us pray that the lamp of compassion continues to burn brightly in the at least some human hearts.
Natural disasters like the floods in Chennai warn us about how alert we need to be when it comes to protecting Nature’s harmony. Today we are seriously worried about global warming and its effects. If global temperatures continue to increase, the result will be disastrous. The planet earth may continue to exist, but not a single member of the human race will survive. In December, the leaders of 195 countries signed an agreement at the United Nations Climate Change Conference [COP 21] in Paris. Let us hope and pray that their efforts to solve global climate change are successful and that their decisions come to fruition.
If things continue to deteriorates they are, then by 2020 or 2022, the earth’s temperature will be soaring. We all know about the depletion of the ozone layer in the stratosphere and the ozone hole.
This year, let us put in more effort to plant trees and to do organic farming. It would be great if each household were to make their own compost. Even those who live in flats can collect the food waste in a separate container and make compost from it. They can also grow vegetables and trees in either buckets or plastic drums or pots.
Carpooling should be encouraged more. The numbers of vehicles on the road have increased, leading to more atmospheric pollution. If there are five people working in the same office, or in the same area, they can use one car instead of five. People can split the cost of the fuel. Thus, carpooling will help us to reduce our diesel expenses and reduce atmospheric pollution as well. It will also reduce the time it takes to reach our destination, as the number of vehicles on the road will decrease. Moreover, with the money saved, many poor people can be helped.
Normally we make a New Year’s resolution, but then, within a few days, we break it. For example, let’s say we made a resolution to stop smoking. First, we don’t inform anyone of our resolution because we think that it will be embarrassing if we cannot follow through. It is easy for this resolution to fail. Almost 99 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail. On the other hand, if we had informed our friends and relatives of our decision, our chances of success would have been at least 10 percent. If we also were to join an ex-smoker’s support group, our probability of success would leap even higher. Good company helps us to withstand the lure of temptations. Therefore, my children should try to cultivate good friendships
As far as spiritual aspirants are concerned, New Year’s is an opportunity to introspect, do some self-evaluation, and see how much further we have moved along the spiritual path. We have a long way to go and very little time remaining.
When compassion enters our actions, its waves begin to influence others as well. Such actions enable us to receive God’s grace. A mind that does not swell in arrogance at success, a mind that does not falter at failure, a mind that delights in giving, a mind that accepts criticism gracefully–we all should have such a mind. Those who have such a mind can never fail. And even if they do, those failures will not affect them within. The external situation may not always be favorable, but they will never internalize their disappointments or failures. They will be grateful towards everything in life. They will be true to their conscience.
Even the longest journey starts with the first small step. Let each of us welcome the New Year by starting to make small changes in our life. If each of us can do this–who knows–it may mark the beginning of a new age altogether! Let us surrender it to the Paramatman and move forward together with one mind towards a single goal.
Amma wishes all her children a very Happy New Year!