On this auspicious day, Namadwaar is excited to start a series of articles - "Weekly Blossoms" - that will blossom on our website every week!
Sri Swamiji's messages on spirituality are always practical, clear and simple, easy enough for anyone to read, follow and practice. The blossoms that shall flower every week, shall carry the sweet scent of Sri Swamiji's message, for all of us to enjoy, relish and assimilate.
Many people wish to lead a balanced spiritual life by nurturing divine thoughts. The intent is excellent. But, practically speaking, how easy is it to actually focus the mind on spiritual matters? Honestly… not that easy, right?
Consider this: our minds have been accustomed to dwelling on worldly matters for millions and millions of janmas (births). How then—all of a sudden in this birth—can we easily focus the mind towards spirituality? It certainly isn’t a simple task!
When we make the mistake of taking a step in the wrong direction, away from dharma and spirituality, we are most often aware of it. In fact, we are almost always aware of any mistake that we commit in life. Yet we are unable to avoid it because it has become habitual. It’s like watching ourselves fall, yet be unable to pull ourselves back up.
Yes, habits are indeed that powerful! How do we break free from such a dead weight of 'dead' habits? Is there a way? Is there light in the end of the seemingly endless dark tunnel?
When we read about the beauty of the snow-capped Himalayas in a travel magazine we feel like visiting the Himalayas. When we see the picture of a gorgeous dress in a shopping catalog, we crave that dress. When we read about the thrill of riding the steepest roller coaster in the world, it fires the adventurous spirit in us. But what if we hear the vivid descriptions, not from a book, but from a friend who actually climbed the Himalayan heights, who is actually wearing that beautiful dress, or has actually experienced that spine-chilling roller-coaster ride? Now the desire is deeper, much deeper, right? So the answer is clear.
Constantly listening to spiritual matters and about the lives of Mahatmas is the simplest way to break free. But is it enough to listen just once? We forget about the Himalayas once we get back to the mundane reality of our lives. But in the case of spirituality, that is the true reality that we cannot afford to forget. It is not enough to read or hear about spirituality just once because the mind will indulge in sattvic (good) thoughts for a while and run back to worldly affairs at the slightest chance. So what should we do?
Just listen repeatedly!
We need to constantly listen to spiritual matters till the mind dwells on nothing but pure harmonious (saatvic) thoughts. Shravanam (listening) is one of the nine forms of Bhakti. We even have a shining example in King Parikshit who attained Moksha by doing only shravanam. We know, in our hearts, that listening to one who speaks superfluous worldly gossip is wrong. But in the same vein, failing to listen to one who speaks healthy spiritual matters is worse. God has bestowed on us the power of hearing and speech, just so that we will constantly hear and speak about Him and attain Him.
What an easy path this is, to inner transformation and spiritual awakening!
Everyone is aware that the Brahma Sutras, Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita are the three grantas (holy texts) that have to be read and followed by those who desire moksha (Liberation). These three holy texts together form what is popularly known asPrastaana traya. Sri Adi Sankara has blessed us with a Vedanta granta titled Viveka Choodamani. The erudite declare that Viveka Choodamani forms the very essence of the Prastaana traya.
In Viveka Choodamani, at the very outset, Sri Sankara says that human birth, desire for Liberation and the company of maha purushas (sages) is attained only due to punya (merits) earned over crores of births. The company of maha purushas can be deemed as satsang, as also Guru sang (the company/association of the Guru). Srimad Bhagavatam, which we always quote as the testimony for anything, also speaks only of the glory of sadhu sang (company of holy men). Therefore, should we not make full use of such ‘rare to find’ but ‘blessed to attain’ satsang or Guru? One must certainly attain the fruit of satsang.
What does attainment here mean? And how can we achieve it? We should by all means try to live in the shadow of our Guru’s Lotus Feet. If we do so, then we will become perfect very soon, i.e. attain Liberation!
When a just-born child is in a motionless state, the mother yearns for the child to come out of this coma-like state; she thinks it would suffice if only the child would open its eyes. Once this happens, she feels that even if the child were bedridden it would be okay if only he would speak. Once the child begins to speak, she thinks that it would be good if the child could sit. Once the child is able to sit, she hopes that the child would get up and walk. Once it begins to walk, she feels that it would be good if the child could learn to read and write. If this happens would she not desire the child to study well, earn well, earn fame like others, marry, beget children and run a family like others do? Do you see to what level the thought has grown though in the beginning the desire was only for the child to come out of the ‘coma-like’ state? The mother’s desires are justified as they are due to her love for her child.
Mahans’ compassion for the jivas (souls: human beings and others) is also similar. When they see innumerable people living without any purpose as per their own whims and fancies, the Mahans yearn, “Will they not utter Hari Nama (the Divine Name of Lord Hari) at least once? Will they not visit a temple at least once and worship the Lord?”
When they see those who do these, they yearn, “Why can’t they do more Nama sankirtan (sing/chant the Divine Name and the Lord’s Lilas)? Can’t they visit the temple daily”’
Once the person begins to do Nama sankirtan in this manner and also begins to visit the temple daily, the Mahans yearn, “Will he not do all these with a clean physique (sarira shuddhi)?”
Then they yearn, “Along with physical cleanliness will he not shirk bad company and take up good habits and good company?”
They then yearn, “Will he not give up desires and hatred and do bhakti with a clean mind and heart (shuddha hrudaya)?”
They then yearn, “Will he not work towards attaining the vision of the Lord (Bhagavat darshan)?”
Don’t we sympathize with others in their sorrows? That very sympathy will do good to them. Mercy has got force. Likewise,compassion is verily the longing or the aching of the heart felt by Mahans that we should turn over a new leaf and be devoted to God. If the little sympathy felt by us—whose hearts and minds are filled with desires and hatred—has the power to work, then what to speak of the Mahans’ compassion? We will become perfect merely through the compassion of such Mahans. Hence all we have to do is to somehow attain the satsang of such a great Mahan.
“Where is God?”
This question was placed before a Jnani (Realized Soul).
Several people visit a jnani—the learned and the laymen, the rich and the poor. It is difficult to even get a glance of a jnani. We always find a stream of visitors before a jnani, as people believe that a visit to a man of wisdom will bestow all good things in life on them. Is this not true?
Thus, numerous people had come to see this man of wisdom.
It was in one of his satsangs that the question was asked:
“Where is God?”
One day, one of his devotees went to him, “Swami! There are so many problems in my family. Please bless me so that I am relieved of all these problems.”
The mahatma replied, “All right. I will pray to God for your sake.”
Some come to seek jnana (Supreme Knowledge) and mukti (Liberation); some come with prayers to cure afflictions; some to clear their doubts.
It was in this way that the devotee asked him, “Swami! Where is God?”
The mahan, with a faint smile in his lips and his whole face exuding compassion, looked at the people present there and said, “Our friend here asks, ‘Where is God?’. Before I answer this question, you all tell me first. All of you are bhaktas. Those who have an answer for this question can come out with it.”
Many of them came forward to give an answer to this question.
“God is up in the sky!” declared one.
“God is in the Temple!” quipped another.
“God is in Sri Vaikuntam!” opined another.
“Oh no! God is within everyone!” announced yet one.
So it went on. Each gave his opinion in the matter.
Then they all said in one voice “Swami! We have all given our opinion in the matter. You must now give us your answer. Is God in Vaikunta? Or is He in everyone? Or does He exist as verily all? Or is He in a Temple? Where is God?”
The Guru smiled, cleared his throat softly, straightened himself up and gently spoke, “Where your head bows down, there God is…”
Where your head bows down, there God is!
What does this mean?!
It means that God is where one’s ego is totally submissive.
Only when the ‘I’—
‘I should be revered’, that ‘I’
‘I should be placed on a high pedestal’, that ‘I’
‘I come first’, ‘I know everything’, that ‘I’
—becomes submissive, the head bows down.
Bowing our head down is symbolic. This gesture conveys the thought, “I am nothing. You are everything. It is verily Your Grace that works through me.”
Recognizing this is real namaskara (prostration) to God. If we bow down before God in this manner, He pours forth His compassion on us.
Where the head bows down, there God is…
“Joy and sorrow in this world are only the fruits of past choices and acts (prarabda)” is the now universally accepted tenet enshrined in our Sanatana Dharma. This implies that a present comfortable life is only the result of past punya (merits).
Who or what decides if a particular act is a punya (merit) or a papa (sin)?
The shastras! Only the shastras (scriptures) should be taken as the basis to determine what a merit is and what a sin is.
A question arises now. Why can't I decide this for myself independently? Can I not tell what is right and what is wrong.
Well, the truth is that we cannot be totally free and unbiased in our judgments because our mind is influenced by our own likes and dislikes (raga-dwesha). Our mind cannot, therefore, be held as the basis for judging what is punya and what is paapa. Moreover, dharma (righteousness and ethical values), being very subtle and not always obvious, can be known only through shastras.
Don’t we say that one is blessed with good parents due to his punya? Likewise, it is only as a result of one’s punya that a person is blessed with good education, job, spouse and children. In the same breath, it is only due to one’s paapa that a person is placed in unfavorable situations with regard to his parents, spouse, children or education.
If punya is the basis for a person to attain even worldly comforts, what then to speak of attainment of a Sadguru who is the atma bandhu (soul mate)? How many meritorious deeds must one have done to attain a Sadguru? One must have, therefore, performed meritorious deeds over crores of births to attain a genuine Mahatma as his Guru.
Today, there are many who call themselves a ‘Guru’. These self proclaimed ‘Gurus’, some of who even label themselves as Avatars (incarnations of God), spread false faiths that have no support in the shastras. They exhibit no discipline, astound the public with occult powers or tricky illusions, wax eloquent on incomprehensible philosophies to create awe in the minds of people and thus take their poor followers for a ride. This is probably the dosha (defect) of Kali Yuga.
One finds that even such imitators having a large following. What is the reason for this? The world consists of more number of sinners than the virtuous. It is only due to the effect of their sins do people go behind such imitators. Just as merit is the cause for attaining a Sadguru, it is verily past sin that is the cause for one to get caught in the nets of such deceitful gurus.
So then who are Mahatmas? How can we identify them? Mahatmas always perform Nama Sankirtan (a sign of true devotion), follow the Sanatana Maarga (path), are very humble, are friendly with all and most important of all, their lives are an open book for everyone to see. They have nothing to hide from people. They are full of compassion, ever pouring forth their Grace. They are verily prema swaroopa (complete form of Divine Love). All this is possible for them only because they are jivan muktas (those who have attained Self Realization even while living in this world).
Hence we attain a Sadguru only due to the effect of punyas earned over crores of births, indeed!
It is truly surprising that many people in the world reserve bhakti (devotion) for old age. As if bhakti marga (path of divine love) is a retirement plan!
Think about it. No one postpones the act of eating to old age. Fair enough, because health deteriorates and the body becomes weak if one does not consume food. Likewise, the soul weakens if one does not do bhakti. Moreover, without bhakti, our karma vasanas (accumulated latent tendencies) increase multifold pushing us into millions of deaths and births. Therefore, it is clearly evident that bhakti should also be done right from childhood!
There is yet another misconception about bhakti—that it is done only for attaining comforts in life, like wealth, position, a good spouse, children, health, etc. This is a typical case of mixing up the means and the end. Like putting the cart before the horse!
‘Comforts’ in life, in fact, should be all utilized and channelized to the path of divine love. He who enjoys all comforts in life but has no bhakti is akin to a dead body that is anointed with sandal paste, fragrant oil and adorned with jewels! A mind filled with desires would completely miss this simple fact due to infatuation.
It is human nature to exhibit his love to some person. Why does a childless couple adopt a child? Is it done with the selfish motive of having someone to look after them in their old age? Do they expect him/her to take care of them physically and financially later in their lives? Would people deceive themselves with such false notions when they find even one’s own biological children being indifferent to their parents? Why then do they adopt a child? Seeing a mother pour love on her child, they also adopt a child so that they can pour all their love on him/her. It is only for this reason and such an act has no other expectations!
If one knows to place this love, that gushes naturally within him, on God, it is called bhakti. Bhakti is a blissful feeling (rasa). This deep sentiment of divine love for God is bhakti.
Why is the retirement age from employment fixed at 58 or 60 years? It is because when one reaches that age the ears do not function as well as they had earlier, the vision is not as sharp as it used to be, the body gets tired quickly and one is not as active as before. Is that not so? It is also a fact that only because mental work is tougher than physical labor, that High Court judges, ministers and top government officials are given higher status and salary.
Bhakti can be done only by a firm mind. When a man is retired from service because he is found to be unfit even for discharging physical duties how can one expect him to be fit to perform mental sadhana? It is just not possible!
Some may say, “I am very happy in this world. Why should I do bhakti? I don’t care for heaven (swarga) or Liberation (moksha) or the Abode of Lord Vishnu (Sri Vaikunta).”
This is sheer arrogance. If our lives truly end with death we can lead our lives as we please. But the truth is, it is not so!
We have to face a ‘life’ after the death of this physical body! None can escape this! One should do bhakti for this very reason. Due to merits (punya) earned through good deeds done in the past one may lead a happy life now. But can one be assured of everlasting happiness? Sorrow can befall anyone at any time. One should do bhakti at least for this reason.
Man takes pride in his intelligence, enterprise and long-term plans.
“Oh intelligent ones! The state that you now experience is not your real state. There is great Bliss (Ananda) within you. Intelligent that you are should you not try to ‘know’ that?
Oh enterprising men! Let all your endeavors be directed towards the Atman!
Oh long-term planners! Let your plans cover even the births that have to be faced after your death.”
One may say, “Well, all these apply to me only if I believe in such things.”
But the stark fact is that universe does not work on the sanction of anyone’s belief. Disbelief does not alter Truth! One is not spared from hell just because he or she does not believe in sins.
Still, to satisfy such questioners, let us hypothetically consider the counterpoint of disbelief in life after death. A man carries an umbrella on seeing that the sky is overcast. The umbrella comes of use if it rains. If it does not rain, it does not matter. However, if you do not carry the umbrella you will get drenched if it happens to rain. Thus, if there is hell just as the scriptures say, one will suffer there if one does not exercise caution. Even there I would sympathize with you!
Bhakti is deeply enjoyable; it is full of rasa. When it is so, some people perform puja without a deity. Will such people attain the desired phala (result)? Certainly, the expected phala will be attained. But bhakti is filled with anubhava (spiritual experience). Therefore, there is great joy (ananda) in performing puja to archavataras (deities), taking them in procession, performing Thirukalyanam (marriage) for them. This can be explained through the following example.
Man requires a certain amount of calories of food every day. We can also tell the exact quantity of different vitamins required by the body on a daily basis. But a person cannot consume just the requisite amount of vitamins everyday instead of the food. If a person does that, he may remain healthy but he will be hungry. Moreover, the vitamins do not please the palate. But food makes one healthy as well as appeases one’s hunger. It is also tasty. Similarly, one cannot worship some yantra or stone. There has to be a beautiful Form for worship. Then not only does bhakti serve its purpose, but only then can it be enjoyed!
Moksha is the endpoint of bhakti. But bhakti is so beautiful and joyful that it attracts even a jnãni who has attained Liberation!
This can be illustrated through an example. When a child suffers from diarrhea the mother gives sugar mixed with ghee. Even after the child returns to normal health, it bluffs that it is still suffering from diarrhea simply to eat the tasty concoction of sugar mixed with ghee. Likewise, even if the goal of bhakti is moksha (Liberation) the joy of performing bhakti attracts one even after the attainment of the goal.
Bhakti is so deeply enjoyable! Uttering HARI NAMA even once earns moksha. Surrender leads one to Vaikunta. One who questions, "Why should I do bhakti?” even after this, is simply not a rasika (enjoyer)!
A man first aspires for a small employment. Once this is achieved he aspires for a higher position. When the daily needs of his family are met with, he desires to save some money for his children's education and marriage. He then earns to provide for his children's future. He then earns for the sake of his grandchildren. Thus he continues to earn for future generations. Why? This is because the very earning of wealth itself is enjoyable to him. Even after his needs have been met with, he goes around day and night earning money through various means till his old age. Why does he not stop when his needs have been met? He possesses a deep desire and greed, and wealth tastes so good to him!
Similarly, there is no doubt that uttering HARI NAMA even once earns moksha. Just as the greed and taste for wealth does not subside, the taste for bhakti and Nama does not subside. Any amount does not suffice. Just as wealth accrued by a man is useful to the world and for future generations, a man's bhakti and the power of Nama gives strength to innumerable people.
“I have absolutely no peace! I wonder why I ever got married!”
The lines of aging and strife are written all over his temple. His mouth has a permanent downward curve like it has been etched that way. He is probably only in his early forties. Yet he constantly complains:
“I have absolutely no peace!”
One may think, poor fellow, he must have had a big financial crunch and is unable to manage a family. Perhaps he is pestered by loan sharks. Or maybe he has lost his job and is struggling to make ends meet? But no, he is quite well off with ample financial security. Yet the words are clear:
“I have absolutely no peace!”
After marriage a couple would naturally long for a child. If childless some may feel sad, no doubt. This man though has two wonderful children and yet laments:
“I have absolutely no peace!”
No peace? Why?
“I wonder why I ever got married! There are constant quarrels in the family!" he adds.
Ah! Quarrels in the family. Sighhh… don’t we see that everywhere? But the answer to this is quite simple. It’s nothing but the Ego at work!
He agrees whole heartedly. “You are exactly right!” he concurs.
He knows absolutely. “I get the picture,” he acknowledges.
He understands totally. “It is such a big problem!” he accepts.
Yet, he suffers miserably! “But I cannot do anything about it,” he admits.
Why not set it right?
Well, it is the very ego which does not permit this! That is verily the problem.
So what can we do?
Seek first to understand before we are understood.
In another family the couple blamed the children. They said, “These children are the real problem. Our daughter and son do not listen to us. They are grown-ups. We do not know what to do.”
There is only one reason behind any complaint that there is no unity between husband and wife or between parents and children: they do not see eye to eye.
What does this mean? Their line of thinking is different.
A family, though only small consisting of husband and wife or parents and children, faces problems and disharmony prevails if each holds a different point of view and refuses to see the other's view point. None in the family then enjoys peace of mind. The son and daughter complain “Our parents do not understand us.” Parents complain, “These children do not pay heed to our words.”
The line of thinking of both husband and wife should be the same. The line of thinking of parents and children should be the same. Of course, all do not think alike. But what I mean here is that each should seek first to understand what the other thinks. Each should respect the other's line of thinking.
The husband should understand that his wife only wishes him well and the wife should understand that her husband wishes only her welfare. The same applies to parents and children.
This practice will certainly bring unity in the family. The family where each member realizes that the other wishes well for him enjoys peace and happiness.
And just as misunderstanding leads to disharmony in a small family, the individual loses his peace of mind when he does not unite in mind with God, who is the power above us. Only in unity is peace enjoyed.
How can we attain peace? All that happens in our life should be accepted positively – “Whatever God does with my life is only for my good.”
Our intellect is limited. It is not capable of comprehending everything. Is it possible for me to discern what will happen tomorrow? Or do I know what is going on in the next room? Do I know what had taken place some thirty or forty years back? Therefore, how can I claim that my intellect can discern everything? When I know not what will happen to me the next moment or what is going on in the next room how can I claim to comprehend everything through my intellect?
So the moment we understand that God, who knows everything, does everything (in our life) only for our welfare we will enjoy peace.
Until we understand this, our life will only be one big conflict. The mind will get dissipated and we will lose our peace of mindunless we are able to hold this one thought, “This problem has been bestowed on me for some good. I certainly need this. If only I am able to face this problem I will certainly benefit from it.”
If we can get ourselves to think—and eventually live—this thought every time we face something negative, then we ordinary folks too can relish that peace of mind, that deep tranquility that is untainted by ripples of sorrow or fear!
“Maatru devo bhava, Pitru devo bhava, Aachaarya devo bhava, Atithi devo bhava”
(Mother is verily god, Father is verily god, Master is verily god, the Guest is verily God) is the clarion call of our Upanishads!
Those who are in the southern states of India, especially Tamil Nadu, would be very familiar with a proverb: “Mata, Pita, Guru,Deivam” – Mother, Father, Master and God!
It is similar to the Vedic injunction but for the last part where God is directly substituted for guest (atithi).
Mother – Father – Master – Guest: so goes the hierarchy. See the beauty of this order!
The journey starts with the mother. It is the mother who shows the child the father. And the father, in turn, takes the child to the Master (Guru). Then comes the guest – atithi.
But guest? Here? Even after the Guru? Seems a tad out of place…doesn’t it?
The logical question then would be, “Can an ordinary man who comes home as a guest* be greater than the spiritual Master who offers spiritual knowledge?” A good question indeed. This certainly needs deeper thought! Intelligence would demand then, “What do we really mean by atithi– guest?” It is now obvious that it cannot refer to any person who knocks at the door for food. Most people who oft repeat this proverb do not seem to realize the deeper import of this.
It is sad that in modern times a father does not guide the child to a Guru. Why? An average man fears his child visiting temples or satsang (company of holy men). He desires his son to lead a ‘normal’ (worldly) life. He wishes his son to limit his prayers to worldly ambitions only.
“Oh, yes, let him be devoted to God. But it should be within limits,” says the father.
So what about satsang? It is a big ‘NO’ without doubt!
Now, let us look into the real significance of ‘Maatru devo bhava, Pitru devo bhava, Aachaarya devo bhava, Atithi devo bhava’, in the light of satsang and Guru krupa.
This is what typically happens: A young man who has no knowledge of even the term ‘Guru’ visits a Guru on the invitation of his friend. The Sadguru gives him a warm welcome. Very kindly the Guru enquires of this new visitor, “Have you had your lunch, my son? You have come here in the hot sun!”
These kind motherly words of the Guru touch the heart of the young man. He thinks, “Oh, as a loving mother he is concerned about my health.”
On his subsequent visits, too, the Guru speaks to him in such tender motherly fashion. He now starts visiting the Guru more often, drawn by the genuine and yet mysterious motherly affection of the Guru.
He looks upon him verily as a mother – Maatru devo bhava!
Days pass and one day the Guru enquires of this young man, “My son, what do you do for your living?”…“Oh, you run a business! Well, what sort of a business? Is it doing well? How much do you earn out of your business? Is it adequate to take care of your needs?”
Hearing these words of the Master the young man feels, “Oh, he is like a father!”
It is the father who is concerned about the son’s income. These words touch the young man’s heart. He begins to frequent the Master’s place.
He now looks upon the Guru verily as a father too – Pitru devo bhava!
Days pass. Drawn by the kindly, affectionate treatment of the Master the young man visits him regularly. One day the Guru points out to the young man, “Oh, my son, time is flying. You have lots of relatives and friends. You possess good health. You are intelligent and capable. You earn quite a lot and are leading a comfortable life. But have you thought of the day which everyone has to face? Everybody who has taken birth in this world has to face that day – that final day. And on that day none of these – relatives and friends, good physique, wealth, intelligence – will help you. You will realize this at that final hour. It will then be too late. Should you not give it a thought now?”
The young man now sees that loving parent as the guiding light also – Aachaarya devo bhava!
The young man asks at once, “Oh, Gurudev! What should I do? Please show me the way. What is the qualification required to tread on the path that you will show me?”
(The young man thinks, “Oh God! So this is what I have been missing all my life—the way to peace, happiness and abundance...”)
The kind Master says, “My son, I will show you the way. To walk on this path one needs only one qualification.”
(The Master smiles, happy that this youth is going to be led to a glorious, joyous path of love and fulfillment)
The young man asks anxiously, “What is that qualification, Gurudev?”
(The young man suddenly finds a prayer running in him, “Please, please somehow let me be qualified for this grand path,whatever that qualification may be!”)
The Guru says, “Nothing! Nothing at all! Having no qualification whatsoever is the only qualification!”
The Guru smiles at the young man who is dumbfounded!
Wondering if he had heard the Guru right, the young man exclaims, “Gurudev!”
(While he thinks, “Thank God… this qualification I possess in abundance! What a relief!)
The Guru, “Yes, son, incapability is the only qualification required to tread on this path!
The humble realization that you are incapable (of treading any spiritual path) IS THE ONLY QUALIFICATION REQUIRED. If you feel that you are capable of practicing some other path you fail to qualify for this path that I shall show you.”
The Master was softly chanting trunadapi suneechena, tarorapi sahishnuna… (humble like the grass, forbearing like the tree)
The young man says humbly, “Gurudev! Please show me the path that you speak of.”
(He thinks, “A few months back, I would have fooled myself into thinking that I am qualified for ALL paths! But that delusion is now gone. Is this what is known as ‘the grace’ of this loving Master? Jai Gurunath Maharaj!”)
“HARE RAMA HARE RAMA RAMA RAMA HARE HARE,
HARE KRISHNA HARE KRISHNA KRISHNA KRISHNA HARE HARE!”
This is the way, my son! Chant this Divine Mahamantra that has been advocated by our Shastras. It is the easiest way to attaining the Supreme Lord. Just chant this always. You can chant this anywhere and at any time.”
…and then, Bhagavan Sri Krishna smiled broadly at the young man…
All of us who are in satsang are fortunate and blessed indeed!
The world is very large with crores of jivas (souls). But our life is totally different from that of others. What is the reason for this? It is simply because Lord Krishna has taken us into His fold; taken us as His very own! This is the reason that we have entered a satsang.
What a great fortune!
But can we remain complacent about this? When we see someone without hands we heave a sigh of relief over our own fortune. We think,
“What a great Fortune! Ah! We have been blessed with hands. We must safeguard these hands.” This is true. But that’s not enough. A truly intelligent person will go beyond this and perform good deeds with those hands, won’t he?
Similarly, realizing our fortune in having obtained “Sat sang” (Sadguru’s association) we must make the best use of it.
So what does ‘making best use of satsang’ mean?
Let’s think about our lives for a minute.
Are we, who are in a satsang, any different from the rest, in spite of the satsang Are we continuing to nurture desire and hatred, remain lethargic and fail to conduct our lives in a dharmic (righteous) way?
Instead, how should our life be?
Should it not be an exemplary one?
Our life should be an enviable and wondrous one, and not an object of ridicule by others. Others should look at a Satsang person’s life and remark:
What a great Fortune!
We may proudly declare that we have come to the fold of a Guru and that we have been in the satsang for long but we should not fail to observe our own progress.
What purpose does mere advancement in age serve if there is no spiritual progress and peace of mind?
Some people begin a work very enthusiastically initially, but after a while just drop it because of the arduous labor involved. A person tries to keep his newly constructed house clean and tidy. But as time passes he becomes indifferent and the house is filled with cobwebs and dust. Anything obtained newly enjoys great value and attention. But as it grows old it ceases to hold the same degree of attention. One becomes indifferent to it.
Sadly, we do the same with our sadhana too! How will we benefit if we follow our sadhana scrupulously initially—right after receiving the upadesa (initiation) from the Guru or entering a satsang or listening to/reading about the ways of sadhana from a book—but drop it after some time?
The performance of sadhana should grow in intensity with time. We should not rest until we attain the goal!
Manas (mind) is vacillating by nature. Many a time the indriyas (senses) pull us away from our goal. At such times we should not feel dejected but face and handle the situation very courageously. Whenever the mind wavers we should pray intensely.
Such prayers are always answered!
What I mean here is that when we pray for the removal of an obstacle in the way of our sadhana, it is surely taken care of. We can then find our mind getting one pointed when we sit for Nama japa or dhyana. Bhakti or Jnana is easily acquired in the mind that has become one pointed.
One desiring spiritual progress should not talk much unnessarily.
No work can be done by one who keeps chatting dime a dozen. Such a person’s mind will also be very fickle.
Only clean clothes should be worn. Good food should be consumed in right quantity and on time. We should be pleasant-faced and majestic. We should never get bogged down by anything. Abuses should not worry us. Instead, we should realize that this is the way of the world and learn to ignore it. We should never get angry.
We should be humble and be affectionate to all.
We should be forgiving. We should never waste our time. We should have a positive attitude and see only the positive aspect in everything.
There is no violence worse than using offensive language that hurts others.
If we truly desire Lord Krishna our behavior should be like this. If we lead such a life we will become gentle like the cow or the deer. We should not behave like the wild tiger or the lion that creates fear in others. We should never criticize others.
If we spend our time only joking around or being playful without any seriousness at all, our life will also pass away playfully without any purpose. Seriousness in everything is a must.
We should not develop negative attitudes like “I am a sinner, I do not enjoy good luck, I cannot do this work, etc.” Instead, “I can accomplish everything” – should be the thought we should hold on to. We should possess this confidence and courage. We should not run away from problems. We should act with courage and maturity (viveka).
I always say, “Everything happens as per the Will of the Lord and He bears the burden of our family!” If you do not understand this in the right perspective you will only become lazy! God waits to bear the burden of only that bhakta who leads his life ever in the thought of Him and has totally forgotten the world.
In books narrating the lives of Mahans we may find that Mahans have cured the diseases of or solved the problems of many. This is indeed true. But there is another side to it. What is that? Don’t we see many of their close devotees suffering? It is sheer waste to feel attracted to ‘kamya bhakti’ (devotion with a worldly end in mind) bereft of any ‘tattva’ (philosophy). Bhakti should be done knowing the ‘tattva’. I do not feel proud of having a large following of fools but feel it is great indeed to transform even if only a handful for the better.
I am involved in many activities (Brahmotsav, Temple renovations, running Veda/Agama Patasalas, discoursing, Nama prachar, etc.).
But all these do not make me as happy as when I succeed in making a person chant Hari Nama (the Divine Name of the Lord). I consider only this as a great feat!
I have taken the vow of helping all, even if they abuse me or cause me trouble, in all possible ways. I desire all of you to be like this.
All those who are involved in this satsang should live a dharmic life. They should perform Nama japa and Nama kirtan daily. You should be generous and sacrificing. You should be disciplined and exercise self-control. Only if we lead such a life, God will lend us all the help needed. I do not desire you all to do great work.
Let the work be small. But all that I say is - “Do it with total commitment and love!”
Heaven is not anywhere else. If only we could learn to lead our lives properly then this world itself will become heaven! Otherwise, this will be hell indeed! If there were no life after death we could live as we fancy. But there is life after death. Of this there is no doubt at all. Unless we live as per the wish of God we cannot reach His Lotus Feet.
Only then, truly we can say:
What a great fortune!
Srimad Bhagavata Mahatmyam, at the very outset, says:
Chintaamanir-loka-sukham suradruhu swargasampadam
prayacchati guruhu preeto Vaikuntam yogidurlabham'
-- Chintamani bestows worldly desires; Kalpakavruksha even the comforts of heaven but Vaikuntam, rare even for Yogis, is attained by one who has earned the affection of the Guru!
There is a stone known as Chintamani. No one knows where it can be found. It has the special power to fulfill the desire of one who holds it in his hand and makes a wish. But Saunaka Maharishi here says loka sukham (worldly desires). Holding Chintamani in your hand can you attain Krishna, if you so desire? No. You can only attain things of the world.
There is a tree called the Kalpakavruksha. If you sit below this tree and desire even heaven you will attain it. But if you desire Krishna while sitting under this tree, can you attain Him? No.
But Saunaka Maharishi says the abode of Lord Vishnu, which is rare even for the Yogis, is attained. By who? By one who has earned the Guru’s affection: prayacchati guruhu preeto.
The Upanishads speak of the glory of the Guru. Shouldn’t the Maharishi have said "Take refuge in a Guru. Attain a Guru, serve him and earn his love. Do paada seva to the Guru, wash his clothes, eat Guru's ucchishtam (left over food), receive upadesafrom the Guru, have unflinching faith in the Guru, surrender to the Guru"?
Instead, the sloka reads differently. It does not speak of your love for the Guru; it speaks of the Guru’s love for you!
You may be the worst sinner, highly undisciplined; you may have committed all kinds of atrocities; yet, if a mahatma declares, “Oh, he is my child”, that will suffice for you to attain even Liberation! -- prayacchati guruhu preeto Vaikuntam yogidurlabham.
We have an illusion that study of the shastras, of Vedanta and the performance of yagnas, will lead us to moksha. But they will not. By such studies we are only trying to sharpen our brain and it does not come down to the heart.
In Sri Ramanasramam in Tiruvannamalai, adjacent to Sri Ramana Maharshi's samadhi you will find a samadhi for a deer called Valli. Did Valli study the shastras? Did she receive upadesa of Brahmavaakya? Prayacchati guruhu preeto—the deer had simply earned Bhagavan Ramana's love.
There is a samadhi for a dog called Jackie in Ramanasramam. There is also a samadhi for a crow there. Have you ever found a samadhi for a crow anywhere? Prayacchati guruhu preeto!
There is a samadhi for a cow called Lakshmi, also in Ramanasramam. Prayacchati guruhu preeto!
At Shirdi just as puja is done for Shirdi Mahatma, so too is puja done to the samadhi of Shyamsundar, a horse. What is the reason? Prayacchati guruhu preeto!
At Alandi, here is a samadhi for a buffalo and puja is done there just like puja is done at Sant Jnaneshwar’s samadhi. Why?Prayacchati guruhu preeto!
When Maha Periyava became the head of the Kanchi Mutt, there was an attendant who was very old. He sincerely served Maha Periyava. When he passed away, Maha Periyava fasted for ten days, did japa, gave all his tapas to him and sent him to a highloka. Maha Periyava told the Mutt people that he had attained moksha. How did this happen? Prayacchati guruhu preeto!
Once Yogi Ramsuratkumar was sitting on the steps outside his Sannidhi Street house in Tiruvannamalai and talking to a devotee. He was talking happily to him, when suddenly he became serious. He went inside the house and began walking up and down. He moved his hands, doing something. He continued to do this for a while. After half-an-hour he came out again and sat down. After 2-3 hours a telegram arrived. A devotee had passed away. Yogi Ramsuratkumar had known about it. Do you know what reply he asked to send? "He is safe!" Prayacchati guruhu preeto!
Somehow earn the pleasure of a mahatma and make him believe that you are his devotee! If that mahan considers you his bhakta, it becomes his responsibility to take you ashore, doesn’t it?
Hence Srimad Bhagavata Mahatmyam says at the very beginning, "Become a vessel for the Grace of such a Guru."