ADVICE TO SADHAKAS
(Sri Sri Anandamayi Maa)
The Samyam Saptah is a collective attempt at concentrated and uninterrupted sadhana and satsang for one week, which may serve as a model and give the taste of a dedicated life, to be continued to whatever degree possible by each one individually throughout the year.
The goal of this Mahavrata (great vow) is the realisation of the Self. It is a combined effort of all the sadhakas towards the One. Individually one may find the path too difficult. However, by a combined effort all the energies are motivated and sublimated towards the One End. The weak willed are inspired by the stronger.
"The Lord Himself appears in the form of a Mahavrata to bless and cleanse the devotee, so that He can lift him up on His lap. Just as the cow licks its young one, so God Himself cleans the devotee."
In a Samyam Saptah in Vrindavan, many interesting questions were put to Maa. One of them was: "Can God be realised without suffering? How?"
Maa replied: "To realise God is a different matter. One has no right to make the body suffer under any condition. There is a reason for this. To whom does the body belong? He Whose body it is, Who has created the body, Who has manifested in that shape, has given it to you that you may do service. The body is God's dwelling place. Keep your body clean, keep it pure, keep it undefiled. Regard the body as a temple of God. Seen from a certain position there is a veil of ignorance, a screen that hides Him. In order to remove that veil, you have to scrub the temple clean, purify it.
"What happens to the person who is bent on sense enjoyment? It acts as a slow poison; step by step it takes him towards death and he leaves with a return ticket to come back to this world to fulfil his longings... God has made certain laws. So long as you go on pursuing the objects of the senses, you can not be released from the wheel of birth and death.
"But if you proceed in the other direction, if having stilled with great patience and endurance the agitation of the senses, you take to the path of 'Who am I?-From where have I come?' so as to remove the veil of ignorance, then the realisation of your immortality will dawn. The problem of birth and death will disappear and death will die.
"Therefore, in order to reveal your immortality, to bring to light that you are the offspring of the immortal, that you are deathless in essence-you are practising sadhana and are taking part in the Samyam Vrata. Why is Samyam essential?
"Without leading a life of restraint the road to God-realisation does not open out when your desires are thwarted, when you are obstructed in what you want to do, then the enemies, egoism, passion, desires, come to the forefront and assert themselves. Even against your better judgement and will, they make their appearance. When this happens, you feel remorseful and unhappy. Through aversions and dislikes these enemies make their appearance. All this is but natural. It is the usual thing with everyone.
"If the understanding dawns in the aspirant that the practice he does for the sake of God is spoiled by giving way to the prompting of these enemies, and he conceives the desire to aspire after Supreme Knowledge (brahmavidya), then what is his endeavour? To lead a restrained disciplined life! If one does not abstain from self-indulgence, what happens? People come and participate in the Samyam Vrata. They are used to cater for the appetites of their senses, to behave as they feel like, to say what they please, to act according to their whims, to give full freedom to the ego. Their habit has been to eat what they fancy, to put on the clothes they feel like wearing, to behave according to their own sweet will. They have become accustomed to this kind of life. On no account are they prepared to forgo their worldly comforts. Driven as they are by desires for comforts and enjoyment, rather than aspiring after yoga, it is but natural that they should experience backache, pain in their legs, a burning sensation in the body, great restlessness of the mind. This is what one hears. Many have told this body about these things.
"You lack practice, you are not used to meditating. Consequently, when you are trying to practice yoga, to realise that you are eternally united with Reality, that you are a yogi, joined indissolubly to God, that you are a supremely great sadhaka, the offspring of a rishi, that rishihood is within you-when your mind turns in that direction and you are attempting to sit still, then the habit of doing what you please will pull you and make you feel ill at ease.
"Note this carefully, when you asked whether it is necessary to inflict suffering on the body in order to find God; you should remember that what seems painful to you, is endured in order to find the Beloved.
"Why do we experience pain and suffering, sorrow and trouble? Because we have not yet found the Beloved-Him Who is the eternal fountain of all goodness and well being, Who is all merciful and gracious-we are not experiencing Him as such. If those who are sitting here felt desperately eager for the bliss of God-realisation, they would not feel what you call suffering, the sensation of physical discomfort or pain. To inflict suffering on the body is not right.
"To sit down comfortably and indulge in easy familiar talk will nourish one's personal desire and ego. Now discover for yourself where the suffering lies. If it were really irksome you would not come and sit here. You come because you do aspire after God-realisation each according to his own line of approach. You long for His touch, His revelation, His vision; that is why you have taken recourse to the Samyam Vrata. Now say how is there suffering or hardship?"
Maa further stated:
"It is right to perform Samyam Vrata. Without observing Samyam Vrata you will never attain supreme peace. He is responsible for whatever comes to pass. If He puts an impediment in your way, it is as it should be. And if He grants you success, that again is proper You cannot get peace of mind by indulging in the pleasures of this world, by eating and drinking, by merely catering to your senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and so forth. If you want to calm your mind-child, then take recourse to satsang. The mahatmas (great realised souls) provide you with counsel on how to realise your true Self. Go forward in the company of Him alone. Choose the company of the travellers on the path, that is, associate with mahatmas. Seek satsanga."
THE KEY TO TRANSFORMATION
(Sri Swami Chidananda)
Two hundred years ago, a baby girl was born in the family of a very renowned Japanese warrior, a samurai. The baby girl was beautiful and grew up to be a maiden of such exceptional and unusual beauty that the family offered her to the empress as a handmaiden or servant.
The empress and the entire royal family were struck by the beauty of this girl. She was found to be very intelligent, very active and very perceptive. So she soon became a favourite and an important part of the empress's retinue.
Unfortunately, within a few years, while the girl was still in her teens, the empress, whose health had been apparently perfectly normal, suddenly passed away. This had such a profound impact upon the young girl, that something stirred deep within her and a sudden change came over her. She said: "What is this life? Everything is vain. Everything passes away. There is no stability; nothing can be relied upon. Nothing is real. Everything is evanescent, transitory, ephemeral, perishable and passing."
So profound was this conviction that she lost all interest in life and determined then and there, "I must pursue the path of meditation and enlightenment. I should become a Zen nun, a seeker and a meditator."
Everyone was shocked. Her whole family was in an uproar. They said: "Impossible! It is against our family tradition. You are too young for this; you are unprepared. You must marry. Moreover, it will not be possible for you to be a nun having such great beauty."
She yielded to them upon one strict condition-that after she had mothered three children, the marriage agreement would be at an end and she would then become a nun. No one believed that such a thing would happen and so they readily agreed and arranged a match for her. She also told her future husband and in-laws the same thing-that only on this condition would she be willing to enter into wedlock.
All agreed and so she was married. Dutifully she served her husband and in-laws, took full interest in family affairs, looked after the household and behaved in a one hundred per cent normal way. But, at the same time she was a keen student of Zen literature and practised meditation. Still, in all ways she was an efficient housewife, a good wife, an obedient daughter-in-law and a good mother.
However, after the third child had been born and reared for a few months, she suddenly announced that her promise had been fulfilled. She would no longer continue in the family life and instead would take to the life of a Zen nun. In spite of all protests, she shaved her head and silenced them with a reminder of their promise.
She left everything, put on a nun's robe and wandered away in search of a Zen master. She went to a famous master and asked to be taken in discipleship. She was refused due to her beauty. She went to another master where she was also refused on ground of her beauty.
Thereupon, she determined that this obstacle must be removed. So, one day, she made a big fire, put an iron rod into it and branded her face. She made her face ugly beyond recognition and thus lost her beauty forever. She then went back to the second master, who immediately accepted her as a disciple. She was a very earnest and sincere practitioner of the Zen way of life and advanced spiritually in an amazing manner.
It is only when metal is touched by a philosopher's stone that it becomes gold. If clay or wood comes into contact with it, it will remain clay or wood. If a person of metal comes in contact with even day-to-day experiences, he or she will be transformed.
This beautiful Japanese girl had the right stuff in her. There was something ready to absorb, to react, to get transformed. And, therefore, a transformation took place.
So, it is not what the jiva keeps experiencing in this life that really enriches it or transforms it and lifts it up to sublime heights, rather it is actively exercised vichara and viveka. More than that, even this is not sufficient. It is how one reacts in a vital manner to experiences. That becomes the transforming factor in the life of a true seeker.
GARGI-THE VIRGIN PHILOSOPHER
(Sri Swami Sivananda)
The importance of the discussion in the Sixth and the Eighth Brahmana of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad lies in the fact, that women capable of carrying on religious discussions were admitted into these assemblies. When Yajnavalkya was in the court of Janaka, Gargi came to him and questioned him about the nature of Brahman. She came there merely to know from Yajnavalkya about the Supreme Reality and not to vanquish him or to examine his knowledge.
Then Gargi, daughter of Vachaknu said: "Yajnavalkya, all this (earth) here is woven, like warp and woof, in water. Upon what, then, are the waters woven and re-woven?"
"In air, O Gargi," he replied.
"In what then, is air woven, like warp and woof?"
"In the worlds of the sky, O Gargi," he replied.
"In what then, are the worlds of the sky woven, like warp and woof?"
"In the worlds of aditya (sun), O Gargi," he replied.
"In what then, are the worlds of aditya woven, like warp and woof?"
"In the worlds of chandra (moon), O Gargi," he replied.
"In what then, are the worlds of chandra woven, like warp and woof?"
"In the worlds of nakshatras (stars), O Gargi," he replied.
"In what then, are the worlds of nakshatras woven, like warp and woof?"
"In the worlds of gods, O Gargi," he replied.
"In what then, are the worlds of gods woven, like warp and woof?"
"In the worlds of Indra, O Gargi," he replied.
"In what then, are the worlds of Indra woven, like warp and woof?"
"In the worlds of Prajapati, O Gargi," he replied.
"In what then, are the worlds of Prajapati woven, like warp and woof?"
"In the worlds of Brahma, O Gargi," he replied.
"In what then, are the worlds of Brahma woven, like warp and woof?"
Yajnavalkya said: "O Gargi, do not ask too much (improper questions) lest thy head should fall off. Thou askest the Deity about which we are not to ask too much. Do not ask too much, O Gargi."
After that Gargi, daughter of Vachaknu, became silent.
Then Gargi, daughter of Vachaknu said: "Venerable Brahmanas, I shall ask him two questions. If he answers them, then indeed none of you can ever defeat him in any argument concerning Brahman."
Yajnavalkya said: "Ask, O Gargi!"
She said: "Yajnavalkya, as the son of a warrior from Kasi or Videha might string his loosened bow, take two pointed foe-piercing arrows in his hand and rise to do battle, so I will rise before thee with two questions. Will you answer me these questions?"
Yajnavalkya said: "Ask, O Gargi!"
She said: "O Yajnavalkya, that of which they say that it is above the heavens, beneath the earth, embracing heaven and earth, past, present and future, tell me in what is it, woven like warp and woof?"
Yajnavalkya replied: "That of which they say that it is above the heavens, beneath the earth, embracing heaven and earth, past, present and future, that is woven, like warp and woof, is the ether (akasa)."
She said: "I bow to thee, O Yajnavalkya, who hast explained this question to me. Be prepared for the other."
Yajnavalkya said: "Ask, O Gargi!"
She said: "O Yajnavalkya, what is above the heavens, what is beneath the earth, what is between, and what is these two, heaven and earth, and what is called past, present and future, upon what is all this woven and rewoven like warp and woof?"
Yajnavalkya replied: "What is above the heavens, O Gargi, and what is beneath the earth, what is between, and what is these two, heaven and earth, and what is called past, present and future, is woven and rewoven on the ether like warp and woof."
Gargi said: "In what then is the ether woven, like warp and woof?"
Yajnavalkya replied: "O Gargi, the Brahmanas call this the akshara (the Imperishable). It is neither coarse nor subtle, neither short nor long, neither red nor white; it is not shadow, not darkness, not air, not ether, without adhesion, without smell, without eyes, without ears, without speech, without mind, without light, without breath, without a mouth or door, without measure, having no within and no without. It does not consume anything, nor does anyone consume it.
"By the command of this indestructible Being, O Gargi, sun and moon stand apart. By the command of this akshara, O Gargi, heaven and earth stand upheld in their places. By the command of that akshara, O Gargi, minutes, hours, days and nights, half-months, months, seasons, years, all stand apart. By the command of that akshara, O Gargi, some rivers flow to the east from the snowy mountains, others to the west and others to the quarters (ordained for them). By the command of that akshara (indestructible Being), O Gargi, men praise those who give, the gods follow the sacrifices, and forefathers the oblations.
"Whosoever, O Gargi, ignorant of this indestructible Being, offers oblations in this world, sacrifices, adores the gods and practises austerities even for a thousand years, his work will have an end. Whosoever, O Gargi, without knowing this akshara, departs from this world, becomes a miser. But he, O Gargi, who departs from this world, knowing this indestructible Being, is a true Brahmana.
"That Brahman, O Gargi, although unseen but sees, unheard but hears, unthought but thinks, unknown but knows. There is none that sees but He, there is none that hears but He, there is none that thinks but He, there is none that knows but He. In that akshara, then, O Gargi, the ether is woven and rewoven like warp and woof."
Then said Gargi: "O Venerable Brahmins, highly respect my word and acquaint yourself towards Yajnavalkya by bowing before him. None among you can defeat him in any argument concerning Brahman." After that the daughter of Vachaknu became silent.
THE TRUE MEANING OF BRAHMACHARYA
(Sri Swami Krishnananda)
Together with the insistence on the necessity of a guru in the imparting of knowledge, the Upanishads are also never tired of hammering upon another qualification of the student of this knowledge: brahmacharya. In many places it appears that brahmacharya and Brahman are almost identified. Wherever there is brahmacharya, there is also Brahman-knowledge. Very significant is this word,-brahmacharya. It is the conduct of Brahman that is actually called brahmacharya. Charya is conduct, behaviour, attitude, disposition, demeanour, and Brahma is the Truth. The conduct of reality is brahmacharya.
So, when you conduct yourself in a manner not in contradiction to the nature of Truth, you are supposed to be observing brahmacharya. And what is the nature of Truth which you should not contradict in your day-to-day conduct and which is supposed to be brahmacharya? The nature of Truth is non-sensory existence. Truth is not a sensible object. It is not seen, it is not heard, it is not tasted, it is not touched, it is not contacted by any of the senses of our individual personality. Therefore, to desire for the objects of sense would be a contradiction of the nature of Truth. Brahmacharya is sensory non-indulgence. The opposite of sensory indulgence is the attitude of brahmacharya. Our present-day activities are mostly a refutation of the principles of brahmacharya, and so we are weak in every respect. We are unable to see, unable to hear, unable to touch, unable to walk, unable to speak, unable to digest our daily meal. Everything has been weakened, because our senses refute the existence of God. When you see an object you deny God, because the denial of God and the perception of an object are one and the same thing. When you hear a sound, you deny God. When you taste, when you touch, when you have any kind of sensory activity there is an unconscious refutation of the indivisibility of the existence of God. Brahmacharya has thus been, by an extension of its meaning, regarded as sense-control. But sense-control is not the whole meaning of brahmacharya. It is a spiritual attitude to things that is called brahmacharya, which implies, of course, automatically, sense-control. When it is day-light, when the sun is up above our heads, it is understood that darkness has gone. But day is not merely the absence of darkness. It is a positive kind of enlivening and energising phenomenon, a power that we receive from the sun, including light.
So, brahmacharya is not merely a withdrawal of the senses from contacts with objects, though it implies that also. It is an inward positivity of attitude. In brahmacharya, you become a positive person, with a content of your own, independent of any kind of external aid. You have a stuff of your own, as they call it. That is brahmacharya.
FOOT NOTE: Taken from "The Secret of the Katha Upanishad"
THINK OF GOD ALONE
(Sri Swami Chidananda)
Time is indeed most precious. It can never come back.
It is rolling on with tremendous speed.
Every second must be well utilised for
The achievement of God-Realisation, the goal of life.
(This saying on the wall of the Samadhi Mandir was read carefully by Sri Swami Chidananda before giving the following talk.)
The essential point for all of you to ponder is that time is flying away. Days turn into weeks, weeks into months, months into years. Day by day our life span decreases, various distractions take our mind away from the goal. How do you expect or hope that your life will be crowned with God-realisation, illumination, liberation, bliss, peace, perfection? How do you expect?
It is only when one thinks ceaselessly of God and God alone, when one thinks of God alone to the exclusion of all thoughts other than God. To such a person there is not only the possibility, we may almost say, taking into consideration the factor of God's grace, that there is the certainty of attaining God-experience in this very life, even now and here.
For a person who has one's mind, one's inner gaze, steadily fixed upon God and God alone, ceaselessly without break, who does not allow any other thought to intrude-one who is totally fixed in God, one hundred per cent, without the intrusion of any other thought- the interior of such a person is not human, it is no more mental, the interior of such a person is God. For God dwells, infills totally the inner firmament of that being's consciousness. That being is in a state of God-consciousness, not human consciousness.
For this we should pray. For this we should ceaselessly make effort-with humility, without egoism-aware that even this movement is being initiated by God, carried on by the power of His grace-where I am nowhere and He alone is. And we pray to the Almighty, the transcendental Being, we pray to Holy Master that they may vouchsafe this blessing and boon upon one and all of you! Amen.
REALISE THE TRUTH
(Sri Swami Sivananda)
Thou art Divine! Live up to it! Feel and realise thy Divine nature. Thou art the master of thy destiny. Do not be discouraged when sorrows, difficulties and tribulations manifest in the daily battle of life. Draw up courage and spiritual strength from within. There is a vast inexhaustible magazine of power and knowledge within. Learn the ways to tap the source. Dive deep within. Sink down. Plunge into the sacred waters of Immortality, the Holy Triveni within. You will be quite refreshed, renovated and vivified when you realise: "I AM THE IMMORTAL SELF".
Understand the laws of the universe. Move tactfully in this world. Learn the secrets of nature. Try to know the best ways to control the mind. Conquer this mind. Conquest of mind is really conquest of nature and the world. Conquest of mind will enable you to go to the source of the soul-power and you can realise: "I AM THE IMMORTAL SELF".
Do not murmur. Do not grumble when troubles and sorrows descend upon you. Every difficulty is an opportunity for you to develop your will and to grow strong. Welcome it. Difficulties strengthen your will, augment your power of endurance and turn your mind towards God. Face them with a smile. In your weakness lies real strength. Thou art invincible. Nothing can harm you. Conquer the difficulties one by one. This is the beginning of a new life, a life of expansion, glory and divine splendour. Aspire and draw. Grow. Expand. Build up all positive virtuous qualities, the daivi sampat, viz., fortitude, patience and courage that are dormant in you. Tread the spiritual path and realise: "I AM THE IMMORTAL SELF".
Destiny is your own creation. You have created your destiny through thoughts and actions. You can undo the same by right thinking and action. Even if there is an evil or a dark antagonistic force to attack you, you can diminish its force by resolutely denying the existence of evil or resolutely turning your mind away from it. Thus you can disarm destiny. The one thought: "I am the Immortal Self" will neutralise all evil forces, the evil influences of all malevolent planets and will infuse in you courage and inner spiritual strength. Wrong thinking is the root cause for human sufferings. Cultivate right action. Work unselfishly in terms of unity with atma bhava. This is right action. The right thinking is when you constantly think: "I AM THE IMMORTAL SELF".
There is no such thing as sin. Sin is only a mistake. Sin is a mental creation. The baby soul must commit some mistake during the process of evolution. Mistakes are your best teachers. The idea of sin will be blown in the air if you think: "I AM THE IMMORTAL SELF".