My mother was a fervent Buddhist and would patiently practice the Five Precepts of Buddhism*. She had been left a young widow, and her inner peace, courage and resilience in hard times inspired me deeply.
In my teenage years I longed for something greater to guide me. I was very independent, and rather extreme by nature. I would seriously ponder on the heartwarming, wise thoughts of senior Buddhist monks, or those found in books and magazines. Thanks to these preparatory developments I was ready to take the next step forward on my spiritual journey.
The ‘absolute’ word before the four values of honesty, purity, unselfishness and love taught by Moral Re-Armament (MRA) founder Frank Buchman fulfilled my search for an inner compass at a crucial time in my life. I was also attracted to the secret of listening to ‘the inner voice.’ In my view, this practice leads to one of life’s most miraculous discoveries for anyone who tries it. For Buddhists, I think it is the supreme wisdom and light of Dhamma. For Christians, it is the voice of God.
My first exposure to MRA [now known as Initiatives of Change] was in 1957 at a world conference on Mackinac Island in Michigan, USA. This is where I learnt how to listen to ‘the inner voice.’ I can vividly remember the sacred voice urging me to put right wrongs, do things differently and steer towards a new direction in my life.
Being relentless in life pursuits, I used to work non-stop, taking on many public responsibilities, labouring long hours to the detriment of relations with my wife and family. Involved in many social and humanitarian activities, I was blind to the excesses I was addicted to, thinking my behaviour was ‘virtuous’, not realising such extreme ways would lead in time to some disaster.
The inner voice shook me up, made me face the stark reality of my life. The long neglect of my fundamental responsibilities had created disquiet, loneliness and tears in my family, whom I said I loved the most. So, I sincerely apologised to my wife. When I told her all I’d kept hidden from her, she began laughing. I chided her, ‘Other women cry when husbands tell all.’ She replied, ‘I am just relieved. I thought the truth would be far worse than you have shared!’
Ever since I decided to deal with my problems by exercising moderation, my life has changed. My priority was to have harmony in my own family. The worldview I held became broader. Through MRA, I met outstanding leaders in different aspects of my life, activities and responsibilities. I have great admiration for their honesty, humility and deep sense of mutual trust. This sense of ‘one-ness’ is still vibrant in IofC events and homes in the world today.
My purpose in life is to achieve Nirvana on this Earth. Nirvana is this feeling of coolness of heart, inner peace and inner freedom. To achieve this bliss, I meditate on a regular basis, followed by listening to my inner voice. I try my best to accumulate good merits, being mindful of the presence of selfish cravings and attachments. I also work to harbour no bad thoughts toward friend or foe, to withhold judgment or let it go. This self-purification leads to a deep-souled feeling of coolness.
Since IofC helped in deepening my inner life and knowing myself more, I am better at understanding others - their strengths and weaknesses. IofC has also helped deepen my religious beliefs, making me realise that it is a very long way for me to fathom the supreme wisdom of the Teachings of the Buddha.
I apply the secret of listening to the inner voice as a daily discipline in my life, and with the family. Sharing after these quiet times promotes honesty and democracy in the family, respecting differences of opinions and approaches to life. It helps improve communication, tolerance and understanding between generations, all exceptionally valuable in today’s world.
Now I see the world through new eyes. I count my blessings every day and am grateful to have time to laugh with the people I love, without taking myself too seriously. I encourage the youth in IofC to be mindful, to avoid selfish cravings and to be ‘aware’ at all times. This gives solid foundations on which anyone can build their lives.
If individuals like myself and many others of my age - stubborn as we were - have changed the direction of our lives, there is great hope for our world. Wherever I am, I do whatever I can to promote inner freedom and inner peace.
Now, I feel especially uplifted in the company of people with various religious beliefs as it widens my perception of the world. This helps me appreciate the richness in their beliefs, and respect them even more by the way they live their lives.
This is the most soul-awakening beauty I have ever bathed in.
- This story was first published in ‘Beyond Walls,’ ed. Suresh Khatri, by the Friends of Moral Re-Armament (India) Trust, 2018.
* The Five Precepts are commitments to abstain from killing living beings, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and intoxication, so as to develop mind and character to make progress on the path to enlightenment.