Just One Thought Away
Sister Shivani in conversation with Suresh Oberoi
An international daily TV talk show, Awakening with Brahma Kumaris, is changing people’s lives all over the world. The purpose of the show is to give an insight into how and why we think and behave in certain ways. This TV show, which is a household name airing in over 160 countries across five continents, has helped millions of people overcome mental stress, depression, addictions, low self esteem and unhappy relationships, as they take responsibility for their lives, alter their outlook towards challenges, and become solution-oriented.
The source of knowledge on the program is the Brahma Kumaris, an international NGO (non-governmental organization) in general consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. The Brahma Kumaris teaches Rajyoga Meditation as a way of experiencing peace of mind and a positive approach to life. With its global headquarters in Mt. Abu, Rajasthan, through more than 8,500 centers in over 133 countries, the Brahma Kumaris offer a wide range of courses and programs to people from all religious and cultural backgrounds to explore their own spirituality and learn skills of reflection and meditation. All courses, seminars and workshops are offered to the public free of charge, as a community service.
Sister Shivani is a world-renowned student and teacher of Rajyoga Meditation. Since 2008, she has become increasingly popular in India and among the Indian diaspora as the star of “Awakening with Brahma Kumaris.”
Suresh Oberoi is an internationally recognized Indian film actor with over 250 films to his credit. He has a keen interest in exploring and experiencing spirituality in practical life.
Together they create a daily touchstone of calm, focus and inspiration that anyone around the world can tune into. Happiness Unlimited: Awakening with the Brahma Kumaris is the first book released adapted from this acclaimed TV series. “Just One Thought Away” is a chapter excerpted from that book.
Suresh Oberoi: I read somewhere that peace and happiness almost go hand-in-hand. The writer says there is peace in the smile of a child, in the tender touch of one’s mother; it has got nothing to do with God or religion but everything to do with the state of one’s mind.
Sister Shivani: Absolutely. In both instances, the author is talking about the vibrations of the being. The smile of the child emanates vibrations of purity and innocence, and the touch of the mother has vibrations of love and unconditional acceptance. When we experience these gestures, more than the act, it is the vibration in the energy that we experience and that’s why there is peace. And wherever there is peace, there will be happiness.
Suresh Oberoi: So the mother and the child are so natural. For elders you have to make an effort.
Sister Shivani: That’s what it’s all about; about making it natural. The effort happens when you are trying to do it for the other person, while the natural is when you are just being yourself. If I am trying to do things according to what I think will make you happy, then it is an effort; but if I am just being myself, then it’s natural.
Suresh Oberoi: You mean to say being myself or being natural is peace, love and happiness.
Sister Shivani: Yes. I just have to be in that awareness that these are my natural qualities. These are not qualities that I will acquire when I do something; it’s my natural personality, my natural sanskar. It’s my original state of being; I just have to remember it and let it flow — not look for it outside.
Suresh Oberoi: All my life I have been hearing people say, “Look, I am a December born.” “I am a January born.” “I am a Leo.” “I am a so-and-so.” “I am a short-tempered person, my husband is so-and-so, my wife is sweet.” It’s so easy to attribute things to one’s birth and say “I am like this.” Now we have got to learn that all of this is wrong.
Sister Shivani: There’s a very beautiful word in Hindi — sanskars. It’s the personality trait. Every being carries five types of sanskars and that’s why it’s important to understand the being, because it is a package made up of these five types of sanskars. The first set of sanskars we get from the family. We are within the vibration of the family members, so that energy is automatically influencing us. The second set of sanskars comes from my environment, my country, my religion, caste, city, school and friends. We have always heard, “You will be colored by the company you keep.” The environment and the people around you, the energy around you, the belief systems around you, these create sanskars.
The third type of sanskar is sanskars of the past. When I understand that I am a spiritual being and so I don't die — I just change costumes and my journey is through each and every costume. Then there are certain sets of sanskars which I have created in my past costumes. Today I am in this costume, I am doing a lot of actions, it’s creating an impression, it’s creating a sanskar. It’s time to leave this body but the sanskars don’t get erased; it’s like a recording of songs on the CD which was created, and you take that CD and put it on another player, but you are still carrying those songs.
Suresh Oberoi: Let’s forget about past life since we don’t know how many of us believe in it.
Sister Shivani: It’s not about believing in it; it’s because we don’t understand it that we have a lot of conflicts today. You know, the biggest conflict today in a family is that parents expect all their children to be the same. “Oh, I have given the same upbringing to both my children, then why are they so different?” The parents are the same, the family is the same, the environment is the same, so they naturally expect the sanskars of all the children to be the same. Yet, two children can be twins, born under the same zodiac sign, on the same date and at the same place, and they may go to the same school, grow up in the same environment, but their personalities will be different. Because few years back when they were in two different costumes, they were not in the same family, they were not in the same country, and they were not in the same environment. They have had a different past, and they are carrying their pasts. We cannot ignore the fact of the past life’s sanskars because they are a dominant factor in determining the present. We are not able to understand people because we are only seeing them in their present costume; we are unable to see that they are carrying a past.
Suresh Oberoi: It’s a nice way for parents to understand their child.
Sister Shivani: We keep saying, “Look at your brother; you should be like him.” We don’t understand that they are two different personalities like the two CDs with two different recordings, which have come to our house and we are trying to make one similar to the other.
Suresh Oberoi: I have heard mothers telling their children, “Look at the other boy and look at you. I often doubt that you are my child. You may have been replaced in the hospital.” How hurting these words must be.
Sister Shivani: She fails to understand from where her child has gotten the sanskars that she hasn’t given to the child. It’s tough for the child, too, because even he doesn’t know why he has these sanskars. For example, a child could have a sanskar of stealing. He comes from a wealthy family and has everything at home, yet when he goes to school he will pick up another child’s pencil. It’s something that comes instinctively to him; he doesn’t do it logically. That’s because the being, the spiritual energy, the soul has carried some sanskars. When we are unaware, the sanskars will come into play automatically.
Suresh Oberoi: Sister Shivani, it’s difficult to reach this level of awareness. Often there is such a small gap between a thing happening and my reaction. In that split second how will I remember that I should not react like this? I used to see many gurus, there would be a huge explosion during Diwali and his eye would not even blink. How do we reach that stage?
Sister Shivani: It comes with attention and practice. Earlier if I was conducting a workshop and somebody’s mobile phone rang, I would get disturbed. There I was talking to the gathering about stability, but inside I was disturbed.
Suresh Oberoi: So it was one step leading to another? Earlier you were disturbed, another time you must have said, “It’s okay; they are like that.” Next time you are not even bothered if they are “like that” or not; it really doesn’t matter to you. It doesn’t distract you anymore. Aren’t these the stages then? One has to go through stages; one cannot go straight to your stage.
Sister Shivani: Some people will say, “It’s going to take years and years.” No, it doesn’t take years; it’s just one thought of awareness — otherwise I can get irritated by a mobile phone for a lifetime. We can live our lives getting irritated by the mobiles that are ringing around us.
Suresh Oberoi: What is the meaning of one thought of awareness?
Sister Shivani: One thought is: “How can I allow one unimportant ringtone to disturb my mind?” This is just one thought.
I don’t think about the opposite person because it is not the ringtone that disturbs us; it’s the thoughts that I create after listening to the ringtone. Why did they not switch off their mobiles? Don’t they know that they are in a public program? It’s courtesy that you switch off your mobile. So it’s not the ringtone that irritates me; it’s the thoughts that I create in response to the ringtone that irritate me. The ringtone is just a trigger. I have to realize what is disturbing me. It is my own thoughts. My thought is that they should be polite enough to switch off the phone. Now I change my thought; it’s their choice whether they want to switch it off or not, and I respect their choice.
Suresh Oberoi: I used to get disturbed even if somebody walked in front of me while I was acting my scene. Now I can see so many people moving around, and now I am learning to accept it.
Sister Shivani: Now this is where we are creating the fourth type of sanskar. Getting irritated was one of the past sanskars, whether it came from the past birth, or from the current environment. With awareness we can change our sanskar. This is creating sanskars with our own will power. So we cannot keep blaming — oh, I can’t help it; this must be a past sanskar. It’s all about awareness.
Suresh Oberoi: You are saying that awareness will bring will power.
Sister Shivani: Yes. It’s will power that I will use to create a new sanskar. See, every time I say “This is because of you;” “I’m getting irritated because of this;” I imply that I am not powerful and others can overpower me. Will power means I have the power to choose, to think and be and do what I want. Every time I use that power, it’s will power. Many times we feel we don’t have will power. Everyone has will power, everyone has the same amount of will power; it just depends on how much we are going to use it. It depends on how we are going to sit back and stop blaming others. We disempower ourselves by not using our will power.
Suresh Oberoi: I met someone who took two days to quit his habit of drinking of 30 years. You mean to say I have the same amount of will power as him? If yes, then why is it that I am unable to see that I have will power, or what is it that’s stopping me from using it?
Sister Shivani: It’s simple: I am not using it. A human quality is useful only if it is being used.
Suresh Oberoi: But what if I don’t know whether I have a quality or not? I don’t know how to see or use this quality.
Sister Shivani: That’s why we are learning. It’s that area of life on which we now start focusing attention. If we say we don’t have time for spirituality, we don’t have time to meditate, then we are choosing not to use the powers that we have. We are choosing not to apply the tools that are there.
It’s like I have a whole lot of property in my locker but I refuse to open it and use it for myself and helping others; rather, I go around begging people for love, peace and happiness because I don’t want to use the time to go into my own locker, open it and use it from there.
Suresh Oberoi: So your locker is meditation?
Sister Shivani: It’s here in the mind and the key is with us, and only we know how to open it.
Suresh Oberoi: So there is no need to go to anyone for getting my locker opened, for developing my powers.
Sister Shivani: If we go somewhere, somebody out there could be instrumental in telling us how to open it, but finally no one else can open it for us. No one can activate the will power for us; that someone can only help us realize that we have this power. A simple example is when we want to give up our addiction. Someone may want to give up alcohol, or cut down on their TV watching time, or Internet surfing. We create a powerful positive thought: “Today I will watch TV for only an hour.” We are aware of this positive thought we create, but we are not aware of so many negative thoughts we create immediately. “It is difficult for me…I love watching TV…I have tried many times but I always fail…It’s my habit…Can’t go in one day…Obviously it will take time.” Now we created one positive thought to empower ourselves, and then followed by so many negative thoughts that will disempower us. Once you have decided to do something, just create one single thought and start working on it.
Suresh Oberoi: If we all have the same will power, then how is it that some are able to give up their addictions sooner than others?
Sister Shivani: Everyone has equal will power because everyone is a powerful being; realizing my own will power depends on how much I am aware that I am a powerful being and how much I use it. Of course, the people around me also make a difference.
You know, we are largely responsible for reducing the will power of those around us, especially our children. Let’s say your child spends too much time on the Internet and you tell him that from tomorrow he is going to be on it only for an hour. Your words are affirmative, but your thoughts are of doubt and failure in giving up the addiction.
Suresh Oberoi: Internally I am so sure that my child will not be able to do it.
Sister Shivani: Every thought that I create is the energy that I am showing or radiating to the child.
Suresh Oberoi: But why should the child get disturbed by the energy of the parent?
Sister Shivani: We get influenced by the thoughts, words and actions of other people. We have to be very strong and protected and that can happen if we practice not getting influenced by the energy around us. Right now we are quite vulnerable. So everything that’s happening around us creates an impact. We should take care of ourselves and the people around us; if someone is trying to do something, do not create a single thought of doubt or negativity. If we create thoughts of doubt and fear for the child, we disempower the child. Let us create only powerful thoughts: “You can do it, we have faith in you.” Even if the child does not have the power, he will get empowered by the parents and succeed. Today in the corporate sector they are saying we motivate our people. Motivation will not happen with words. Your subordinate is late every day; you motivate him by saying, “I am sure you will do it.” But your thinking is, “I know him. He is not going to come on time; he will always be like this.”
Thoughts and words are different. So when we say we are family and we are friends and we are there for each other, let it not be just words. There should be harmony between thoughts and words, and that’s the simplest thing to take care of in relationships. Let there be no conflict between what we are thinking and what we are saying. When there is a difference, there is also a conflict in the energy that the opposite person receives. Remember that the thought energy travels faster.
Suresh Oberoi: Don’t you think today’s world is like this? We say, “Wow, you are wearing such a nice shirt!” Inside we are thinking, “He doesn’t have taste.”
Sister Shivani: Why did we say, “Wow, you are wearing a nice shirt?”
Suresh Oberoi: A lot of people talk like that. We pick it up from everyone around us.
Sister Shivani: But why do I say to you that your shirt is very nice?
Suresh Oberoi: To please people.
Sister Shivani: To please people. This is extremely important. We are saying it to make people happy. Now, happiness is not words; happiness is energy, it is vibrations, it is feelings. I am sending a word out by paying a compliment to your shirt, and I am also sending other thoughts saying horrible shirt, horrible choice, no taste at all. So what’s the total energy that comes to you? In fact, vibration reaches faster and is much more powerful than words.
Suresh Oberoi: He will know that I did not like his shirt.
Sister Shivani: He won’t be able to catch your thoughts. We can’t catch people’s thoughts. The mind needs to be really very silent to be able to catch people’s thoughts, but we can catch the feelings, the vibrations. That is why sometimes after meeting people and having a polite conversation, we still feel, “I don’t feel they really meant what they said. They were nice to talk to but I don’t feel anything nice after they left.” The foundation of this relationship is false, so it’s no relationship at all. If I send this conflicting energy to you, you will doubt my intentions and then you will always doubt my intention. Then there is no trust in this relationship; one word and the relationship is over because there was no foundation. So we need to ask ourselves what are we doing.
One option is: I don’t say that you are wearing a nice shirt if I am not convinced that it is nice. If I don’t feel it’s nice, I shouldn’t say it’s nice; it’s integrity. If at all I still want to say it’s nice, first let “me” understand that it’s nice by creating a thought: Okay, I might not like a white shirt but that’s just my choice; your choice is nice for you. Create this thought and then say it. I keep working on myself until my thought and words are in harmony and then I communicate. That is communication.
Suresh Oberoi: If I say you are wearing something nice and actually I do not mean it, what happens to me? What am I doing to myself, to my soul, to my personality?
Sister Shivani: I am cheating myself. I am not honest to myself; what I think, I don’t do. There is disharmony between my thoughts, words and actions. I think something else, I say something else, and I do something else. There is disharmony and this disharmony will then continue. Again I will think I have to do this, but my words and actions will not follow, which will reduce my will power. It’s going to be damaging for us and that is why our will power is low today.
Suresh Oberoi: We understood the four types of sanskars; which is the fifth type?
Sister Shivani: The fifth sanskars are the original sanskars. When I understand my original sanskar, it is easy to take care of the other four. Past birth sanskars — not in my control; sanskars from family — not in my control; sanskars from the environment — not in my control; will power — in my control. I can create new sanskars through my will power, but even will power gets activated when I understand my original sanskar, my original nature, and that’s the original natural of every human soul on this planet. Every being is originally pure, affectionate, peaceful, blissful and powerful. Every being has this nature and we are looking for it outside because we have forgotten that this is my nature. Spirituality shifts our belief from I want happiness and peace to the truth that I am a peaceful being; I am a blissful being; I am a powerful being.
And then it becomes natural and the whole perspective will change. If I want peace, then I am always seeking outside. If I understand I am peace, then I become a giver. So it ends our looking for happiness, asking for love, and we start sharing our peace, love and happiness with all. It automatically flows from us to the people around us. Like when we are stressed, we don’t have to consciously give it to others. All who come in our energy field automatically receive it and are influenced by us. Similarly, by being in our natural state of peace and happiness, we don’t have to give it. It will naturally radiate and will be felt by family and friends. Energy is like an infection — we catch it from the people around us.
Suresh Oberoi: Thank you, Sister Shivani. You have told us something beautiful: I am peace. I am love. I am knowledge. I am bliss.
Reprinted with permission of the publishers from Happiness Unlimited: Sister Shivani in conversation with Suresh Oberoi. ©2015 God Media. Published by Pentagon Press in association with Manjul Publishing House, Bhopal, India. All rights reserved.
For more information or to find a local Brahma Kumaris center visit www.brahmakumaris.org.
Visit the Brahma Kumaris Experience Meditation Room at the Natural Living Expo, November 11-12, 2017 in Marlboro, MA.