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We are excited to announce the release of Prem Baba’s book, From Suffering to Joy: The Path of the Heart, published by SelectBooks.
“Prem Baba bridges universal truths and daily practices from the East and West. He weaves together rational analysis and physical expressions, emotional understanding and spiritual guidance to uncover a love for all the mysteries and complexities of life. In showing how to transform our suffering into joy, this is an essential guidebook for anyone who longs for a wholesome, more fulfilling life.”
-Dr. Jamil Mahuad, President of Ecuador 1998-2000
“Being in Prem Baba’s presence is a sacred blessing. So is reading this book.”
-Mark Gerzon, author of Global Citizens
“At last someone to practically guide you to a place beyond your imagining.”
-Susan McCrossin, founder of Crossinology Brain Integration Technique
From Suffering to Joy offers a method of self-discovery that can help bring harmony to your life and build truly intimate relationships by revealing yourself as you are. Prem Baba is a Brazilian master teacher of an ancient spiritual lineage in India who focuses on building a bridge between spirituality and psychology, East and West. In this book, he offers a practical methodology, called the Path of the Heart, which can help you learn to:
• Overcome limiting psychological patterns by recognizing and working with your inner child
• Take responsibility for and transform the negative conditioning that cause suffering to you and those around you
• Awaken your higher consciousness through daily practices of meditation and prayer
• Contribute to resolving global problems through practical changes in your life
By following the Path of the Heart, you will be able to move beyond the limitations of the ego and know the love and joy that are your essence.
Foreword by William Ury
Albert Einstein once asserted that the most important question in life facing any of us is to decide whether or not the universe is friendly. It is my privilege to introduce to the reader someone with whom I personally have learned to answer Einstein’s question in the affirmative. For that, and much more, I want to register my deep gratitude to Prem Baba.
Meeting Prem Baba
I have had the pleasure of knowing Prem Baba for over thirteen years. I met him first in São Paulo, Brazil, having just returned from a brief anthropological field trip to the Amazon. Prem Baba, or Janderson Fernandes, as he was known then, was a psychologist and yoga teacher with a keen interest in Amazonian shamanism. As an anthropologist, I was curious to learn more from him.
Two years later, on a return trip to Brazil, I renewed my acquaintance with Prem Baba. This time, my interest was deeply personal. Over the course of six months, I had experienced a series of personal shocks, losing my mother to cancer and my younger brother to drowning, and watching my infant daughter struggle for life and health through multiple surgeries. My wife Lizanne and I began to work with Prem Baba in a quest to understand what we could learn from these difficult life lessons and to begin to heal our emotional wounds. I was deeply touched, first by Lizanne’s remarkable recovery and then later by my own slowly dawning understanding.
Over time, I learned to integrate bit by bit these personal insights into my work life. I had long observed in my studies and practice of negotiation that perhaps the single biggest obstacle to success in negotiation is not the other, however difficult they might be. It is ourselves. The true difficulty lies within – in our all-too-human tendency to react – to react impulsively out of fear or anger. The foundation of successful negotiation, I have found, is learning how to ‘go to the balcony’ – to a mental and emotional place of perspective, calm, and self-control. How can you possibly hope to influence others if you cannot first influence yourself? While this concept may be easy to grasp, it is nonetheless difficult to put into practice. How exactly can you go to the balcony, with all the emotions and thoughts racing through your head and heart in the midst of heated negotiations?
It is here where I have learned a great deal from Prem Baba – a way to steady myself and to remember what truly matters, even in the midst of the conflicts and wars in which I occasionally became involved as a third party. In this sense, I have slowly come to appreciate just how much work on inner peace can facilitate work on outer peace.
What I ultimately discovered, thanks to my studies with Prem Baba, is that I had a somewhat limited view of reality. My world revolved in good part around what might be called external reality – the material reality of objects and the social reality of human beings moving around and interacting on this planet. Then there was internal reality, of course, the world of thoughts and feelings, perceptions and beliefs. My life revolved around these two realities – external and internal, physical and psychological, body and mind. My sense of identity was captured pretty well by Descartes’ dictum, “I think therefore I am,” with a corollary, “I do therefore I am.” My time with Prem Baba helped convince me that I had radically underestimated reality and myself. There was yet another reality behind the other two realities, which might be called core reality. I had experienced glimpses of it many times before, mostly in nature, often on high mountaintops. My studies with Prem Baba helped me appreciate that these were not just evanescent moments of wonder, but that perhaps here lay my true enduring identity. “I think therefore I am” gradually gave way to a dawning recognition of “I am therefore I am.”
Prem Baba’s Journey
It may be useful for the reader to have a little understanding of Prem Baba’s personal journey that led him to the teachings he conveys through word and presence.
Janderson Fernandes – that was his given name – grew up in a simple family, modest in means, Christian in belief, raised by a grandmother with a deep faith and a powerful intuitive spirit. As a young boy, he recalls asking questions early on, seeking to understand the universe and God, not satisfied with the answers he received from those around him. In his early teens, he discovered yoga, became passionately interested, and studied until he became proficient enough to become a yoga teacher himself. He also studied healing and bodywork. His spiritual quest took him through many mystery schools, including gnosticism and the shamanism of the Amazon. More formally, he studied humanistic psychology and became a psychotherapist. Over time, he found himself with a dedicated group of regular students and clients, engaged in deep inner work. This work bridged psychology and spirituality, East and West.
Despite all his success as a teacher and therapist, Janderson felt a gnawing dissatisfaction. He had the courage to recognize that he himself was not fully congruent with his own teachings about love and freedom from fear. He was not able to sustain his connection with happiness and inner peace. So began the surrender of his pride and the quest for a teacher to whom he could entrust himself. After a considerable search, he found just such a wise teacher – Sri Sachcha Baba Maharajji – living in India along the banks of the Ganges in the foothills of the Himalayas. After three more years of internal struggle, Janderson was able to take responsibility and to recognize clearly that the real obstacle to ‘waking up’ and remembering his true identity was only himself.
The real reason he was unable to sustain happiness was that part of him did not want to. Part of him wanted to stay mired in the muck. Only when he realized this was he able to let go and wake up. In recognition of this inner awakening, Janderson began to be called by a new name ‘Prem Baba,’ which in Sanskrit, means ‘father of love.’
Love, in fact, is the essence of Prem Baba’s teaching. The only sin, as he likes to say, is not to love. Interestingly, the biblical word ‘sin’ comes from ancient Hebrew and Greek words that mean ‘to miss the mark,’ as when an archer misses the target with his arrow. Not to love means to miss the mark. Prem Baba does not deny the existence of evil in the world. On the contrary, he urges us to have the courage to look inside and see the bits of ‘evil’ that lurk within each of us – evil in the form of meanness, envy, revenge, jealousy, and bitter wrath – all ultimately rooted in fear. Evil is the absence of human empathy, the extreme lack of kindness and compassion. Just as darkness can be understood as the lack of light, so evil can be understood as the lack of love.
To help others make the journey from fear to love, Prem Baba has developed a methodology he calls ‘O Caminho do Coração,’ the Path of the Heart, which he discusses in this book. This method, derived from his personal quest, integrates the insights of Western psychology and Eastern spirituality and includes practices ranging from meditation and yoga to intensive psychological exploration of what Jung called the ‘shadow,’ the denied impulses that often govern human behavior. The greatest challenge facing human beings, says Prem Baba, is to sustain happiness.
I find myself sometimes called unduly idealistic for believing that it is possible for human beings, no matter how deep their differences, to get along and live in peace with one another. Yet here is Prem Baba having the audacity to go even further. While my studies have persuaded me of the possibility of outer peace, his studies have persuaded him of the possibility of inner peace. Like many teachers of old, Prem Baba holds out the perennial hope that all human beings have the potential to live in love together. He believes that our human essence is love.
Perhaps most important, Prem Baba, in my experience of him, embodies his own teachings. He radiates the love of which he speaks. Prem Baba’s teaching is integral to his life, and that, in my view, makes all the difference.
Making the Most of This Book
In your hands is an organized and edited collection of talks (called satsangs in Sanskrit) given by Prem Baba during his 2009 and 2010 sojourns in the Sachcha Dham Ashram in Lakshman Jhula, India. I hope that they will give you a good sense of the remarkable teachings of this remarkable man.
Imagine yourself for a moment in this setting midst the foothills of the Himalayas, right along the shores of the Ganges, a wide rushing river filled with boulders and rapids. It is a place where hermits and seekers have gathered for millennia to sit quietly, meditate, and pray. From the room, you can hear the sound of the river and the prayers of a dozen temples and ashrams. There are several hundred people sitting on cushions on the floor, drawn from all over the world, with perhaps half from Prem Baba’s native country of Brazil. Prem Baba sits in a chair and speaks in his native Portuguese in a clear and resonant voice, with an English translation provided. He uses no notes, speaks spontaneously whatever comes to him in the moment, often in response to questions from the audience.
These talks, ably translated and edited by Christian Modern, Alegria Demeestere and Abraham Gutmann, are organized so as to introduce you to the Path of the Heart. The sequence of chapters leads you generally from the inside world to the outside world of relationships, society, and nature, and from the ‘lower self ’ of egoic struggles to the ‘higher self’ of altruistic service.
If I may offer a word of counsel to the reader of these pages, do not take any of these teachings at face value. Try them out and see for yourself if they help you. Don’t accept them as beliefs – that would not do justice to them. Treat them rather as working hypotheses to be tested out in your daily life. Have the courage to try, to fail, and to try again until you find something that works for you.
This book calls for a different kind of reading than perhaps what is usual. It helps to read it slowly, put the book down often, and ruminate. The words may seem strange – as if you were visiting a foreign land. You may not understand every word. You may not agree with all that is said. You may find some concepts strange. I certainly did at first, but then gradually came to appreciate that it was not about agreement but about welcoming whatever was useful for my own understanding and inner work. If there is one gem in here that serves you, that helps you on the path from suffering to joy, that helps you understand who you truly are, then it is more than worthwhile.
I encourage you to listen to what is behind the words. Listen to what the words point to. They are signs to a world that is inside you. Let them, if you will, inform the path that is yours alone to travel. These teachings are intended to awaken your own inner guide. For in the end, the teacher is inside you.
I wish you peace.
PART ONE: Introducing the Path of the Heart
1. Eight Keys to Inner Peace
Inner peace is the most elevated of virtues, and the secret yearning of all beings is to be at peace. Inner peace is a deep acceptance of what is. It can be attained only by letting go of the ego, by not opposing anything or anyone.
2. Realizing Truth by Recognizing Illusion
We look at the world and at ourselves through tinted lenses. We need to remove these colored glasses to perceive spiritual reality. Spiritual reality is what truly exists, without distortion, without any interpretation of our minds, which are loaded down with acquired knowledge.
3. The Yogas of Knowledge, Devotion and Action
Each person brings certain gifts and talents to this world. You have to give what you came here to give. You brought the gifts – are you going to hide them away in the closet? Karma yoga, the path of service, means giving your gifts away with love and tenderness.
PART TWO: The ABC of Spirituality
4. Stages in the Transformation of the Lower Self
Through this questioning process you liberate the repressed feelings that sustain negative patterns. An alchemical transmutation occurs: pride transforms into humility, lust into devotion, and fear into trust. The transmutation and integration of these personality distortions is the meaning of the word purification.
5. The Mask of Withdrawal
The tendency to shy away from others is a distortion of the divine attribute of serenity. When we aren’t yet ready to manifest real serenity we end up falling into this repetitive pattern of withdrawing from people as an accessible substitute for authentic serene non-attachment.
6. The Nine Matrices of the Lower Self
There is a specific reason why we do not want to critically examine the ways we fool ourselves. We may be getting some pleasure out of it. Even though this is negatively-oriented pleasure, it is pleasure nonetheless. It makes us continue to hold onto the self-deceit even though it brings us tremendous suffering to do so, for this may be the only kind of pleasure we know.
7. Pride and Humility
Unchecked vanity travels with his henchmen, stubborn self-will and fear, and this troika conspires to sustain a false self-image. The commander is vanity, the favorite son of pride. Vanity is distraction. Maybe that is why it is ‘so dear to the devil’: because it prevents us from reaching that seventh chakra, the center of enlightenment.
8. Adversity: The Forgotten Guest
If this challenge is on your doorstep, it was surely addressed to you. This gift is personal and non-transferable. If you try to get rid of it, it will come back with a vengeance… then the troubles will only increase in kind, frequency and degree until you accept your responsibility and accept the challenge.
9. Gratitude through Forgiveness
Gratitude brings about the re-orientation from suffering to joy – but this kind of gratitude needs to be heartfelt. This teaching will be fulfilled when we can not only honor, but truly be thankful for our birth and our parents. Such gratitude emerges when we are able to forgive them.
PART THREE: Transforming Relationships
10. The Quest for Exclusive Love
The need for exclusive love distorts our perception. It prevents us from recognizing the gifts and talents we have brought to this world. However, it is only when we feel ourselves to be occupying our rightful place in the world that we start taking delight in giving, instead of only wanting to receive.
11. On Intimacy
If life is a school, relationships are a university. One of the major subjects in the curriculum is intimacy and mutual revelation. This class is a prerequisite for advanced courses in life. As we reveal ourselves to a partner, we also overcome our own defense mechanisms.
12. Spirituality and Sex
Sex is like a thermometer to measure our inner state. Don’t hold a grudge towards the thermometer because it told you the real temperature! Why sex? Because there is no other such thermometer available. This is the measuring tool. To avoid using this thermometer is to avoid evolution.
13. Marriage for a New Era
In the new kind of marriage there is no lying and there are no secrets. Rather, there is a constant intention of transparency. You are open to receiving both the gifts and the truth that the other has to offer – even if some of those truths may be hard to swallow. Love includes the ability to see the sleeping potential in the other, and to awaken it.
PART FOUR: Transforming the World
14. Finding Yourself in these Times of Change
If your conditioning leads you to treat pleasure as an enemy, you are probably having a tough time and are feeling severely threatened with the changes in the world. These times are easier for us if we are attuned to freedom and ecstasy.
15. Money and Spirituality
Money is not in any way anti-spiritual. What is anti-spiritual is attachment to money, and the misperception of money’s appropriate role as the ends rather than the means. As we mature spiritually, we discover that learning how to deal with money is a key teaching in this great school of life.
16. Raising Children to Become Conscious Adults
We can be of particular service to the world by working with children, by giving them an education based on humane spiritual values. Such child-rearing could prevent children from acquiring the deeply entrenched conditioning from which it takes adults so much effort to free themselves.
17. Honoring the Feminine and Mother Earth
If you really want to know how a nation is doing, observe its relationship with the Mother, with the sacred feminine. The sacred feminine manifests in many ways: in the mother who gave us life, in all women, in our physical bodies, in nature itself. Do you revere the sacred feminine from the core of your being?
18. Selfless Service and the Promise of Our Lineage
When we practice seva, or selfless service, we make ourselves a link in the chain of happiness. We do all we possibly can to help make others shine. When we rise to this practice we become a channel for the fulfillment of a higher mission. Here, our purpose is to fulfill the sankalpa, the spiritual promise of this lineage.
PART FIVE: Higher Consciousness
19. The Transition from Lower to Higher Self
In the second stage, after some progress, we direct our will towards establishing a connection with the spiritual realm. Our prayer becomes: “May our connection never be broken; may I eternally be a channel of your light.” Then duality may disappear so that you have no more need for words in your prayers, because you and God are One.
20. Four Keys to Sustaining Ecstasy
When we start noticing synchronicity pointing the way forward towards fulfilling our destiny through various “mysterious coincidences,” we may rescue our long-lost faith. You are in awe as you behold a higher intelligence that guides you and guides everything in the world.
21. Putting God in First Place
Always remember that awareness of the divine presence is your real goal; so do not waste your life simply attempting to ac- cumulate a lot of stuff. When we die, we will not be able to take our bodies, nor one grain of dust with us. All that we take will be our consciousness, and the net weight of our positive and negative karmas.
22. Sanatana Dharma: The Path of Enlightenment
When you feel touched by the Divine, there is no going back. As much as karma may dictate that you work for a corporation and dedicate yourself exclusively to your family, if you have been touched by the mystery, you will be driven to solve this difficult equation. This happens to everyone in their own time. It’s a natural phenomenon.
PART SIX: Master Teachers
23. Rama, Sita, and Commitment to the Truth
Rama represents commitment to the truth, whatever the truth may be. In the face of this greater truth we have to confront lesser, disagreeable truths about ourselves. Rama is the quintessence of integrity. He is the personification of dharma, of complete faithfulness to the truth. If you emulate him you too will experience inner peace and love.
24. The Inner Mysteries of Shiva, Ganga and Durga Devi
Shiva is inside and outside – he is everywhere. Shiva is cosmic consciousness itself, which deliberately chooses to manifest itself in a specific form out of compassion. Shiva is the transformational power of the universe alongside Brahma, the creative power, and Vishnu, the power of preservation. Shiva means grace, good fortune, and prosperity.
25. The Bhagavad Gita on the Struggle between the Higher and the Lower Self
The higher self has triumphed when you, the person in evolution, finally realize who you really are. Until then you continue battling in an ascending spiral: in other words, your enemies become ever fiercer, and your victories ever bigger. If you persevere, at some point you will be able to recognize your inner divine being.
26. The Essence of the Teachings of Jesus Christ
In my view, Jesus Christ is the power of forgiveness. He is the power that cures us of all negative characteristics that we carry in our psyches and hearts. He unties the knots that bind us to our karmic loads. Forgiveness and gratitude give us access to this healing; and we can only open our heart once we are healed.
PART SEVEN: Challenging Questions
27. Is this Religion?
My religion is love. My religion is the path of enlightenment. If you let me, I can guide you to free yourself from all dogmas and concepts, from all acquired knowledge. I can water the seed of real openness until the purest truth blossoms from your heart.
28. What about all this Devotion?
The way to the heart is the simplest of all paths. The children of God dance in divine madness, for they know that God takes care of everything in their lives. I know it’s scary to lose control. Isn’t this how it goes on a personal level too, when you fall in love: don’t you melt like ice cream? So just try to imagine divine love!
29. What about the Guru-Disciple Relationship?
The guru is an oasis in the desert, a window to the heavens, and a bridge to eternity. The emergence of a true guru is a rare occurrence, but the same can be said about true disciples: they are hard to find. A true disciple is that extraordinary being who has developed authentic spiritual receptivity.
PART EIGHT: Concluding Meditations
30. Redefining Enlightenment
Maybe we need to re-define the goal: if enlightenment means realizing our true nature – which is love and light – it’s a sign that we are nowhere near our goal when we behave with disrespect or indifference.
31. Becoming a Channel of Light
Back in your daily life, when you go to the bank and notice the tormented look on the face of the teller, try smiling at her rather than complaining; or simply pray for her in your heart. Only by truly empathizing with others can you rise above suffering, and so ease the suffering of others.