Director of the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University, Sister Jayanti, truly represents the essence of inner peace and meditation. She is someone who believes in the power of consciousness and thought to positively influence the world around her. Having found and developed her own path of spirituality through meditation, she has been practicing for over 40 years.
Being invited to speak at several UN Climate Change Conferences, her commitment in helping to combat further Climate Change continues, as she reflects on the importance of inner silence to spark change within individuals…
“Our curiosity for knowledge is important, but what is more important is our understanding to piece it all together.” – Amerah Ahmed.
At the age 18, living in London, you began to recognise the possible directions of your life. Do you remember how you began to piece together the knowledge that has brought you onto this path of spirituality? And when growing up, did you have a sense of there being something bigger than yourself?
As a child, I came into contact with the Brahma Kumaris, because my mother and grandmother started to meditate at the centre in Pune in India in 1957. There was a feeling of warmth and safety being with the sisters. We then migrated to London a few months later. Through my teens I would visit India but I was never really interested to find out more. I was told there was a God but traditional religions didn’t really answer my questions about God, and so for a period of time I felt I didn’t need to explore that dimension. Again, meeting the Brahma Kumaris and the Founder, Brahma Baba, was an uplifting experience but I didn’t have the curiosity to actually study the teachings.
In November 1967, sitting at the back of a lecture theatre at the University of London, I remember watching the professor write chemical formulae on the board. I had this strange out of body experience, in which I was looking down from somewhere up above and I was asking myself the question: what am I doing here? I shook my head and jerked myself back to the physical awareness of my surroundings and told myself not to be silly.
In December I went back to India, having decided to spend time in India getting to know my roots. The crisis I was facing was one of choice: the traditional Eastern path, the traditional Western path and a very new, Western, modern path that was just beginning – the permissive society. None of them felt comfortable. After some months in India, I felt I needed to educate myself and start using my mind and intellect again, and so I went to the centre in Pune, where my grandmother lived, and a woman yogi called Dadi Janki opened the door. She had been seeing me since childhood and welcomed me in. She wanted to know if I had something to ask, something to say or if I wanted to hear her. I indicated that I had come to listen and she spoke about conscience and how conscience has become clouded with many influences – society, media, education, friends, etc. I felt she was describing my situation and I asked: “How can one clear this?” Her reply was: “Meditation”. I began lessons immediately, understanding the self, understanding the Divine – and meditation became a very powerful experience immediately. The rest of the teachings were not immediately so easy to grasp but the early experiences of meditation were evidence for me that I was on the right track and that I would be able to understand more as I moved along.
When you first joined the Bramah Kumaris, did you ever question yourself, where or not this was the correct path for you? And ultimately why did you choose this particular path of meditation and spirituality?
All the questions that I had about the self and God and the meaning of life were being answered through the teachings. More importantly, the meditation experiences continued to deepen and within six weeks I had decided that this was to be my life. A few months later I actually went to live in one of the ‘ashrams’ (meditation centres) of the Brahma Kumaris in India. It was this dual experience of the clarity of the teachings and the validation of the things I was hearing through meditation that made me feel that this was the right path for me. What made me question whether I was on the right path was not so much the teachings or the meditation, but very often through my journey I would find myself facing deep patterns of behaviour that were counter-productive to the path of peace, truth and love, and I wondered whether I would be able to stick to it. However, the experience of God’s love and the blessings that one receives through serving others once again gave me the courage and motivation to continue the journey. I was also very fortunate to have constant guidance from Dadi Janki, who by that time was living in London. Today Dadi is 101 and lives in India and continues to serve as the Head of the Brahma Kumaris.
From your perspective, how have you seen the world change from when you first started your spiritual journey to the present day?
There seem to be two opposing forces that are functioning in the world. One is the descending energy and the other is the ascending energy. In terms of the descending energy, it seems as if the decline in the world has been intense and rapid. There wasn’t so much of a drugs scene, when I returned from India in 1969 and started to teach meditation in London. The loss of adherence to family values – or even moral values, the growth of violence, terrorism and corruption, are all part of the world scenario today. The world wasn’t such a dangerous place to live in as it is today. There also seems to have been a loss of compassion and basic human kindness in many situations now. However, since 1969 and the opening of the first Brahma Kumaris centre outside India in London, I have also witnessed the Western world embrace the concept of meditation, mindfulness, yoga in its manifold forms, vegetarian diet, the ecological movement, organic farming, an understanding of holistic health, holistic education, and a greater awareness of gender equality. So, many good things have been happening. Admittedly, the ascending energy still seems to be something experienced by the minority but, whenever there has been a major shift in the history of the world, it started with a small group of committed individuals, who were able to move things to a critical mass, so that those novel ideas were then accepted by the majority. Especially in the last five years there has been a huge shift in people’s perspective in terms of looking at all those factors mentioned.
All of our actions, emotions, behavior, and words, stem from a single thought – which vibrates at different frequencies. You have spent over 40 years reflecting on the power of thoughts and meditation. But what would you say is the one secret to controlling your thoughts?
Understanding the self as a spiritual being, I become aware that thoughts and feelings are the creation of the self. When I am stable in the awareness of the spiritual identity, it’s as if I can actually ‘see’ thoughts and know what is the feeling they will create. With that understanding I learn how to discipline my thoughts and manage them, so that thoughts begin to move in a more peaceful way and also a pure, elevated way. I truly become the master of my own thoughts and feelings, the sovereign of the self – a Raja Yogi.
You were invited to speak at the UN Climate Change Conference. Only in recent years have religious spiritual leaders been cared to attend such summits. What was the one thing you learnt from the whole experience/ what did you take away?
The scientific information that I’ve learned from climate change conferences is that it’s only if we can control carbon emissions to the extent that there is only a 1.5 degrees celsius rise in temperature worldwide, that we will be able to save the small island states. Even though there was a lot of fanfare about The Paris Agreement at the UN Climate Change Conference COP21 in 2015, governments were talking about limiting temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius. But, even accepting that, there’s still a huge gap between the promises made by governments and the reality of what is going on in their countries. So, it feels as if we need to take personal responsibility and a change of lifestyle is high priority in order to contribute in a positive way. This is why religious and spiritual leaders have been called in, so that they can offer hope to people and through spiritual understanding enable them have the inner power to make the changes that are so desperately needed in the world.
If you had one message to give to the younger generation, what would it be?
The world is going through a very special time of transition and transformation. At such a time, young people are the hope for the future and, since the future of the planet is the future of young people, my message to the young would be to use time, money and inner, spiritual power in a creative and constructive way to serve the self but also serve the world.