To be happy, accept both the ups and downs of life

01 Jan 2017, Amritapuri – New Year Message

Walking along our path of experiences, we have left the year 2016 behind. Now, here, is another new year to look forward to, filled with new hope and expectations. Every new year is like a fresh page in the book of our life. What we choose to write in it is up to us. If we want, we can fill it with letters of love, compassion, peace and knowledge. On the other hand, we can also fill it with letters of hatred, anger and darkness. May we fill the pen of viveka [discernment] with the ink of self-effort and begin these new pages writing something fresh.

This new year, may our face light up with the smile of love. May our mind become serene, free from fear and angst. May our hearts be filled with compassion. May the sun of viveka [discernment] illumine our mind. May our goal be to create a world of peace and harmony.

We hear many people saying that 2016 was not a good year. But we should reflect and think about who was to blame for this. Was it the year’s fault or our own? Did we use the year to make an effort to learn, to grow and ascend? Or did we waste it in trivial pursuits?

Just as, each night, an owner of a small business will take stock of his profit and loss, New Year’s is a good occasion to look back and reflect on the past year. On this day, we should do a little self-analysis. Looking at our actions and attitudes, we should ask ourselves, “Where I am profiting? Where am I taking losses?” We should make a sincere resolve to safeguard our spiritual advancements and to renounce our negativities.

During the past year, we witnessed many tragedies and troubles in the world. Thousands lost their lives in wars and riots. Many were victims of terrorist attacks. Many died in natural calamities, and so many people lost all their life’s savings. The refugee crisis peaked. Countless minds were filled with fear and hopelessness. In spite of all this, we should not drown in dejection and fear. The power to face such challenges is within us. If we all join hands, we can face even the greatest problems with serenity and optimism.

There is no need to worry about the future. Ups and downs are the very nature of life. Spirituality is the science that teaches us to happily accept everything. If we change our mental attitude, we can manage the changes that happen in external situations as well. If someone knows how to swim, then swimming in the ocean becomes a delightful game. But those who do not know how can easily drown. Understanding spirituality helps us to face everything with mental strength. When problems come in life, some collapse, unable to face them. The spiritual person, however, will be able to face such times of hardship with equanimity.

Atithi devo bhava. Indian culture teaches us to regard any atithi [guest] as God. By atithi, not just people are meant. Every situation we encounter by surprise is an atithi [literally, “one without a set time”]. We must be able to accept everything cheerfully. When we do so, every situation becomes a steppingstone to greater maturity.

When we encounter challenging situations, we may feel intimidated. Nevertheless, we must forge ahead with alertness, without losing our mental strength. Even if we fall or fail, we shouldn’t become disheartened, but should view that setback as a steppingstone to success.

It doesn’t matter if we cannot accomplish “big” things. It’s more than enough if we can speak a kind word, show a loving smile, and willingly and patiently listen to the problems of others.

Just because a new year is dawning doesn’t mean the sun will start rising in the west. Two plus two will remain four; it will not become five. Just by a turn of numbers, nothing will change. In our hands, we only have the present moment. Let us try to use it to be proactive, performing actions that will bring about a positive transformation. Let us make a resolve to not waste money on extravagant expenses. If that money can be used for helping sick children, it could mean so much. Of course, ultimately, death is inevitable. We may not be able to save everyone. But, if through our help, we could even just prolong the life one such child, it would mean so much for the parents.

Engaging in such compassionate actions is verily to live the truths expressed in the Upanishadic statements proclaiming our unity with God: tat tvam asi and aham brahmasmi—“You are that” and “I am Brahman.” For example, when we poke our eye with our finger, we never punish our finger. On the contrary, we use the same finger to rub the eye. This is because we know that both the finger and the eye are a part of our own body. In a similar way, when we see others as our True Self, then compassion will spontaneously  arise. Just as we forgive our own mistakes, let us be able to forgive and forget the mistakes of others as well. Let us try to transcend any feelings of anger that we have towards those who have harmed us. Let us try to write kind letters or emails to those who are angry with us. It may give them some happiness and help them get over their anger. Let us not forget to express gratitude to our near and dear ones. These are the new things we need to do to bring in the new year. Such actions will bring real rebirth—a new creation.

Let us learn from the failures of the previous year and enter the new year with greater awareness, enthusiasm and optimistic faith. At the same time, we must broaden the horizons of our knowledge. Let us make the new year a blessed one through actions that spread the fragrance of love and compassion.

Amma prays to the Paramatma that her children will be able to do so. Amma wishes all her children a very Happy 2017.

-Excerpts from Amma’s 2017 New Year’s Message