Aaaah Christmas! A time of renewal, of unburdening holidays and seasides and food excesses! And for some, a carefree week or two en vacance on a sun drenched beach or island somewhere, laptop and phone abandoned for a few days of respite. Some years ago I had the good fortune to holiday in Brunei, a sovereign state on the island of Borneo – I was pleasantly surprised on the short flight from Malaysia, and prior to take-off, to be welcomed with a traveller’s prayer on our economy cabin video screen, an invocation to Allah and to a supreme Protector to safeguard our journey. The screening was received in a meditative, respectful silence, followed by a short incantation from our mainly Muslim fellow passengers. In our Western world one would be astonished by such an event, since God and religion for the most part are carefully excluded from the public domain – schools, airlines, company offices – and conversations about an all-governing Intelligence, or pre-flight meditations, would be rare and awkward.
Some of my agnostic fellow passengers were less impressed by the devoutness of our airline, but Albert Einstein’s remarks came to mind. Rebuking the ardor of those who rail against religion, Einstein once commented: “The fanatical atheists are like slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who—in their grudge against traditional religion as the ‘opium of the masses’—cannot hear the music of the spheres.”
Although the idea of God, of Allah, Brahma, a supreme creator, lies beyond the comprehension of the limited rational mind, we nevertheless have an intuitive intelligence that responds to life in a rather different way. Many truths lie over the horizon of the mind’s understanding and await discovery at a further point in time, but if one can quieten the chatter of the mind, silence and stillness are gateways and portals to a different kind of knowing.
The incoming energies of the New Year offer such a gateway, ushering in a time of renewal and fresh inspiration. Sri Chinmoy’s words urge us to discard the past and summon our resolve to try harder in an incarnation that is precious. He reminds us:
“From the spiritual point of view, the new year has a specific significance. On the eve of the new year, a new consciousness dawns on earth. …
There are many things that we want to do, that we want to achieve. But unfortunately we have not been able to achieve them. Why? Because our aspiration is not intense, our determination is not firm, our cry, our inner cry, is not genuine. Yet there is no end to the progress we can make, and each new year comes and stands in front of us to remind us of that very fact: that there is no end to our progress, both inner progress and outer progress. I always say, ‘The past is dust.’ Once again I repeat, ‘The past is dust.’ Why? The past has not given us what we have been striving for. So the past is of no use. It is the present, and the golden future which enters into the present, which make us feel what we are going to be—nay, what we truly are. We are not children of the past, but children of the glorious future.”