The Neurons That Shaped Civilization

Neuroscientist V Ramachandran outlines the fascinating functions of mirror neurons. Only recently discovered, these neurons allow us to learn complex social behaviors, some of which formed the foundations of human civilization as we know it. His talk explores the thin boundary that separates us from others and shows how flimsy is our identification with our mind-body system.

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How To Escape Suffering

How To End Suffering

To understand suffering we have to first answer the question: “Who suffers?”

We must keep in mind that we have an ego-identity. This is what we call as the self. But Yogis say that this is not our true identity. Underneath our ego-identity there is our true identity that is known as the Self with the capital “S”.

Ramana Maharshi often said that since there was no suffering in the Self, all suffering must inevitably be a product of the mind. The ego-identity is the one that experiences suffering.

When somebody asked him, “Is there no way to escape from worldly suffering?” He gave a typical reply: “The only remedy is to remain in the state of Self without losing awareness of it.”

When our awareness resides with the Self, we are in a state of Yoga. So to answer the question on how to escape suffering, the answer is to practice Yoga and remain as close to the Self as possible.

To clarify, Yoga is not just about practicing Yoga postures. This is just one limb of Yoga and a great starting point. The full practice of Yoga consists of 8 limbs and the primary limbs are the ones that are related to meditation. Since it is not easy to practice meditation it is important to practice all 8 limbs of yoga to gradually deepen your meditation experience. The full practice of yoga leads to the gradual reduction of the ego-self. Our awareness is increasingly expressed through the Self rather than the ego-self. This leads to a great flowering of love and happiness in our lives and a sharp reduction in suffering.

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Credits:This has been written by Raj Shah and edited by Ketna Shah.

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The Lion And The Herd Of Goats

Lion And Goats

Once upon a time, a shepherd found the newly born lion’s cub. He took it home, fed it with goat’s milk, and bred it with his herd of goats. Consequently, though it was a lion, it always moved, ate, and drank like a goat. The cub thought he was a goat.

One day, the cub went to the forest with the goats. At the forest, a lion appeared who roared at the goats. All the goats got scared and ran away. The cub also began to run. The lion saw the cub running away and said, “Hello son, goats flee when I roar, but why do you run away? You are like me, a lion.”

The cub who was brought up with the goats said, “You are lying. I am not a lion. I am a goat. I am afraid of you and I want to run away.”

The lion realized that the cub had stayed with the goats and thought he was a goat. The lion said, “Friend, am I wrong ? If my gigantic body makes you think that way, then you are mistaken. Your face is also round like mine. It is not long like a goat’s. Your waist is as slender as my waist, and your feet have paws not hoofs like those of a goat. Look at your beautiful tail! The goat has a very tiny, ugly tail. The goat and the lion are two entirely different animals. Cast aside your false impression and roar like me. Then you will be sure that you are a lion and not a goat.”

These words clarified the cub’s doubt. He roared and began to think of himself as a lion. He started living the life of a lion.

Like the cub we have been wrongly identifying ourselves with our mind-body and ego-self. We should remember that the physical body does not constitute our true “Self.” We are the soul with infinite capacity. We should develop and manifest our capabilities with this idea in mind. It is time for the lion to roar once more.

Credit: We found this story here and have modified it slightly.

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A Boy And His Dog

“The day that Haachi met Owen was utterly incredible. It was electric. It was spiritual… they immediately understood they were going to work together as a team.” ~ Colleen Drummond, Owen’s stepmother. Owen is a 7-year old boy with a rare syndrome that leaves his muscles in a constant state of tension. Haatchi is an Anatolian Shepherd that was left to die on the railroad tracks, but managed to escape with a severed leg and tail. The shy little boy and the giant three-legged dog have been best friends since the day they met. “Everything changed in my life with him,” says Owen of Haatchi. Drummond adds: “Owen and Haatchi simplify everything with pure love.”

Credit: Karma Yoga.

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Breaking A Bad Habit

Breaking A Bad Habit
It is never easy to break a bad habit. Here is a story from the life of the younger brother of Yogananda, Sananda Lal Gosh, that throws some light on this subject. It is from the time when they were both in their teens. Sananda refers to his older brother affectionately as “Mejda” or “middle brother”. Though still young, Yogananda already was aready a spiritual stalwart and was held in high esteem by his younger brother. Here is his account:

While I was a student in Sermapore College, I succumbed to the influence of some of my friends and developed a strong liking for cigarettes. In India it is considered a discourtesy to some in the presence of one’s elders or superiors, so our relatives did not know that I had acquired this noisome habit. I soon realized that I was a slave to smoking, so I tried several times to quit. But the habit had such a pernicious hold; I could not give it up.

I am sure Mejda knew of my inner struggle. One day while we were together and waiting for somebody, Mejda suddenly said, “You should realize that anyone who accomplishes something great in his life does so only through the power of his will. The potential strength of the mind is unlimited; it can do anything. Those who are addicted to harmful habits such as smoking, chewing betel leaf with tobacco, taking snuff, or drinking alcohol, do not use sufficient will power to stop. If one’s mental strength is exercised to control little habits, he will have increased power to do greater things.”

His words struck a deep chord in my mind. I realized he was trying to help me break my hidden habit of smoking. “If I can’t even control the desire to smoke,” I thought, “how will I accomplish anything worthwhile in my life?” That day promised myself I would never smoke again, even if it killed me. It was difficult; the withdrawal symptoms were painful. For several days I experienced digestive problems. A little soda water and some digestive medicine helped. And after some days I knew the habit had been broken. When I next saw Mejda, I bowed at his feet. He just smiled, and said nothing. We understood each other.

The key takeaway from this story is that Yogananda helped his younger brother by encouraging him, while at the same time he was not judgmental. This applies for us too. Once we find ourselves in the grip of a bad habit, it does not help if we are judgmental on ourselves. It does us no good to beat ourselves up. Rather focus your energy at the task at hand and use your will power to overcome your habit.

Credit: This account is provided in the book Mejda written by Sananda Lal Ghosh.

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