Our values, he said, should direct our actions. Our decisions are best driven by the universal values of love, peace, forgiveness and kindness. He stressed that each individual decides how he or she will react to any given event; that each of us is responsible for the state of our life, our society, our nation and our world.
The themes are not that different from those you might hear any day over the airwaves or read in printed editorials. But, if the themes are not unusual for the Brainerd lakes area, the speaker certainly is.
Swami Chidamananda has a law degree. He is also a philosopher from India who conducts workshops and gives presentations on stress, mind and self management. He is currently in the middle of a presentation tour that includes such cities as London, New Jersey, Washington, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Jose and Seattle.
Brainerd and Baxter are on that list thanks to the efforts of Vardhini Mohan and Mohan Radhakrishnan, both of Central Lakes College. They were instrumental in convincing Swami Chi, as he kindly suggests new acquaintances call him, to spend a week here. With Minneapolis recently playing host to the Dalai Lama and now Swami Chi presenting at Central Lakes College, Minnesota is fast becoming a hotbed of interfaith dialogue.
While in the Brainerd lakes area, Swami Chi will be making formal presentations at Central Lakes College, including a talk entitled, "The Power of Indian Mediation/Balancing the Mind," Friday at 8:30 in the Multipurpose Room at CLC. The presentation is open to all. He is also offering informal talks at local homes with people interested in Indian philosophy.
Sunday night, Swami Chi addressed a small gathering at the home of Nancy and Dennis Paulson in Nisswa. Monday, he held an interview session at Central Lakes College and followed that with a presentation on stress and time management. He is quick to discuss the message he is carrying to people on his tour.
"The basic philosophy," said Swami Chi, "is the world should be a place of good, progress, peace and joy. If the world is not like that, it is because of the individuals who are in the world, the societies and nations."
Reflecting on the world, himself, and the teachings of his guru, have given Chidamananda insights into some basic things he says we all have in common.
"What is common to each of us," said Swami Chi, "is that each individual wants to live and each individual wants to know. The third thing is that we want to live happily. These are the three basic things, to live, to know and to be happy."
Swami Chi is an advocate of personal responsibility. We choose, he says, which of our thoughts to act upon and which of our thoughts to let go.
"In any particular day," he said, "an individual takes around 21,600 breaths. If I use those breaths for unintelligent purposes-- for example, we breathe faster when we are angry-- I am wasting those breaths. I can use them instead for creative or progressive work; for loving people, for helping my society, family or nation. So, how I use my energy is purely my choice."
Over the course of the dinner party, interview and his opening presentation, Chidamananda shared more of his insights and distinctive views on a variety of topics. Over the course of the week, those who listen and have ears to hear, will be offered many more, including these:
Swami Chi on past, present and future -- "The future is nothing but the past modified in the present. Our preoccupation with the past may disturb our relationships in the present and future."
On people -- "There are people who make us happy by coming to us, and people who make us happy by leaving."
On nature and the divine -- "We can experience God in a bird chirping or in a beautiful garden, but if we are not ready to receive it, we will lose the beautiful opportunity."
On life -- "A life should be a life of joy. All of us are here just for a brief period of time."
On action and intellect -- "Peace, success, progress, health, knowledge, happiness are the results of my actions. Actions are possible only through the body. Thoughts give the push to the body to act. Which thoughts should be taken into action is decided by the intellect. Intellect is the discriminating faculty that distinguishes between the good and bad, right and wrong.
On values -- "As the value, so the thought; as the thought, so the action; as the action, so the result. The results that we want are achieved through action. How can actions achieve those results? Through decisions. How do we make the decisions to do that? Through values. Positive spiritual values are in all the religions. They are universal."
On different cultures -- "Every culture has something which is very beautiful. I learn that from them and I give out what I have. In this way, we become closer in the spirit of true understanding. As human beings, we have to become closer because there are no divisions except in our minds. All illusions are created by our own minds."
On the Brainerd lakes area -- "This is the place where I first had exposure to an all-American audience. I've been treated with so much love and attention and I will carry it forever in my mind."
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