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Weekly Blog

Monday, October 19, 2009

Dr. Ariyaratne's talk

On Thursday, Oct 15, 2009, we had a deeply inspiring talk given by a man who has spent six decades in active service and meditation. The talk was featured prominently by the Stanford Daily.

Dr. Ariyaratne started off by sharing the secret of meditation - that of becoming a scientist of the mind. By observing what goes on in the mind, we can go toward developing equanimity. He warned us against reacting - it is always better to respond after contemplation from a space of silence than to react from a space of anxiety and confusion.

He shared the incredible story of Swami Vivekananda and Rockefeller in his own special style and reiterated Swami Vivekananda's message of trusteeship of wealth, not ownership. As he spoke about the foundation of Sarvodaya, Dr. Ari lay emphasis on spirituality and morality. This brought an excellent question from the audience - "What is the difference between spirituality and morality?" Dr. Ari said that spirituality is the space where all distinctions and labels ceased to exist. That is where we just are. Morality is a much lower idea than spirituality, where distinctions do come in. It just has been seen that those who pursue spirituality naturally follow the rules of morality. For example, a spiritual person would find it very hard to tell a lie or deceive others. His idea of morality seemed to be much larger than the dictums of any creed - they were based on universal ideas of "truth-telling" and "right action."

He made a clarion call toward developing "purushatva" or personality (or strength of character). People with a strong character and willpower can do a lot of good for themselves and society, and therefore, Sarvodaya's aim is to help develop such character and willpower.

Next, here are a few reflections that have been shared by some of those who attended the talk.
"I can relate to Dr. Ari's comment that learning doesn't happen in the universities, it happens when you're out in the field trying to put things into practice. Some of my biggest life lessons I learned from a bunch of 7 year olds as I was trying to teach them to play soccer. The 45 minute meditation was tough and totally awesome ..."
"I am very thankful for a once in a lifetime experience of meeting such a spiritual person, a true Karma Yogi, a person who took spiritual and moral principles with a deep conviction and empowered people through service and kindness. My main take away from Dr. Ariyaratne's talk is inspiration - inspiration to pursue noble silence, inspiration to follow the path that I feel is right, inspiration to pursue service with the realization that "self-belief" is very important in such endeavors - this self or I should not be limited to the physical me but should be ever expanded to include more and more people and living beings into the "I".

Dr. Ariyaratne's description of the fundamental ideas on which Sarvodaya are based provides an excellent, proven, and working model for how grassroots-level community development can occur with the right spiritual and moral focus. The existence and functioning of such an organization provides a lot of hope for the future. At the same time, I realized during the talk that I need to become actively part of such a change. I should not limit such ideas to just thoughts but convert it into action. This was another take away that I got from the wonderful talk."
"He started his talk quoting a phrase from the Dhammachakkapawattana sutta which was the Buddha's first sermon-"Chakkung udapadi----"- meaning "Vision arose, knowledge arose, wisdom arose, science arose, and light arose in me". Dr. Ari said (something like) he was inspired by these five (attributes?) of the Buddha.
He said that he would call the meditation we did at the beginning "Noble silence" because during that time we were free from the things we were accustomed to do with our six senses. Instead we were either just looking or trying to look at the constant process of breathing in and out which were are doing since our birth, or thinking of well being of others if we were doing something like loving kindness meditation.
He said that "Love is love" and there are no barriers from religion, race, etc., meaning that it is universal.
On his basic principles, he mentioned that he has adopted the gradual development at six phases-self awakening, family awakening, village awakening, city awakening, country awakening, and the world awakening - throughout his Sarvodaya movement. They all lead to the next, seems very logical."

Thanks to Christine for taking photos (note the art in the background - that was Project Love's contribution). If anyone else has photos, please do share them with us. You can also check some thought-provoking questions on Michael's blog.

Looking at the gifts that were left in the Gift Room at the end of the day, it was awesome that all the meditation handbooks are gone. We should get more at the next event. The Art Room raised some interesting questions, and Michael should be sharing the resulting art soon.

Here is the video of Dr. Ari's talk:

It was an awesome opportunity to be part of this event and we were just inspired by this great man's simplicity. It has inspired us to simplify our lives even more all the way doing good and being in service to the needy and spreading the true joy among all. It has made the seeds of service in our heart stronger than ever before... Just do it and always put your words to action.
I loved the idea of noble silence. I feel that in our busy lives, we do not have time to spend with ourselves in silence. I understand now that this is an important time to figure out one's thoughts and feelings. When a group of people spend time in silence, willing their minds to be calm, it is so powerful. Until we find out what we really are we cannot dedicate ourselves to service.

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