Prostrations at your lotus feet. By now, you would have returned from your USA trip. Hope you, Ma and Naya Swamiji could take rest after the long journey. Very soon, you have to travel to Malaysia. I am awaiting keenly your arrival at Delhi.
Swamiji, I have no words to express my feelings regarding my stay at the Ashram during the Gurupoornima. Something has happened to me and I find myself a changed person, ever since I returned. My daughter tells me that she finds me more calm and poised than ever before. I am trying to keep to the routine of the Ashram as far as possible. I have bought a tape of Visnusahasranaama and I listen to it every morning. Then I do the morning prayer and mentally do puspa-samarpana at your lotus feet. In the evening, I read one chapter from the Bhagavadgita, and do the evening prayers.
While at the Ashram, I realized that there is so much to learn and imbibe. I am now trying to do things which earlier I didn’t like doing, and I am finding contentment in doing them.
Swamiji, I would like to share a happy occasion in my life. My eldest daughter has secured a scholarship for post graduation at the London School of Economics. A new phase in her life is starting and in mine too. Everyone around is quite surprised that I am not feeling the pangs of separation at my daughter leaving home.
Swamiji, I would like to seek your guidance about my work. These days my mind is in a dilemma. My senior has resigned, and everyone is now expecting me to take over from her. However, I do not wish to do so. Ever since I returned from the Ashram, I have been feeling a need for more time to be with myself. I foresee my taking up this position as an obstacle. But there is moral pressure from everyone. There are two others who can take up the post but they are not ready with their commitment. I am confused.
How are Ma and Naya Swamiji? How did Naya Swamiji’s back take the long flight? Hope it did not give him too much trouble. Please give them my fond love and pranams. Please also give my regards to everyone at the Ashram. I remember my time spent there with great fondness.
With love, I remain at your feet, K.
4th October 1999
Dear and blessed K,
Harih Om Tat Sat. Your fond letter of 1st September came here on the 6th, just after we had left for the Kochi airport on our way to Malaysia. We returned only on 29th Sept. It was quite a hectic tour. Both in Malaysia and Singapore, the programmes were well arranged and well attended. In Malaysia, once I had to give talks at five different locations in a day! Lot of travelling was involved, but the roads are very good and so the car journeys were comfortable and pleasant. But it was quite strenuous and we had to take it in our stride. Naya Swamiji, even with his back problem, stood the strain bravely. It is only on coming back that I have developed mild cold and cough. Let the great cause of Brahmavidya be rightly served. Some of us will have to be active and vocal for this purpose!
I felt that many people, particularly Hindus, are ill informed about Hinduism. Our religious life is in essence Self-based and Self-subsisting. Most Hindus don’t know this. By not knowing that the temple and ritualistic worship should relate to themselves first, rather than to the external gods, the worshipers make a mess of the whole affair. This ignorance creates conflict and repulsion in the minds of many well-meaning individuals. That is why I always take a forceful stand in explaining the temple practices, relating them to our own needs and compulsions.
No God has asked man to erect a temple or to install an idol. Nothing, in fact, in human life is made by God. If at all, man’s body and the elements of the world are the creations of God. All the rest have come from man himself, and none else.
The entire social structure with its laws and institutions for welfare, education, healthcare, food production, distribution of wealth, travel options and the like, are all man made. So too are the temples, where man expects to unload his mind and heart, and also imbibe cultural notes. These practices are meant to make his mind and heart strong, deep, stable and expansive. In fact, all the disciplines or refinements in the name of religious practices and worships, belong to man, and are meant to enrich, empower and enlighten man alone. The idol does not verily know or take note of what man does in and around it. At the same time the idol idolizes God whom man alone imagines and conceives. This idolization by an idol is also a device which man has made for his own specific religious purposes.
The temple science itself says that initially the idol is only a piece of rock taken from the earth. The sculptor carves a figure out of it. Only after a set of consecrating rites, which again are man’s own utterances and thoughts, the piece of rock assumes the alleged divinity and godliness. During the investiture, it is man, the priest, who invests the idol with all the organs and prana (life forces). Then only it becomes an object of worship. Till the prana-pratistha is done, the idol remains a stone.
The idols are always what we make of them, and do with them. They are, says Srimad Bhaagavata, like the mirrors that we make of glass to reflect our own faces. We alone keep them clean. We look at them and find our own reflections. What do the mirrors do except the task and purpose we design them for?
Likewise, the idols are also merely fulfilling the role we specifically assign to them . In the whole process man’s own needs, his own imaginations, actions, and interactions, alone count. The idol in the temple, to begin with, is an object of worship. Soon it should rise to the level of being made ‘a subject of worship’. That is when the worshiper begins to think about what the idol idolizes, and how exactly that idolized divinity can be thought of and approached.
Thus, the temples make the worshiper resort to some external practices, which when followed fervently, will make his mind evolve and get to the stage of being thoughtful and introspective. Acara is the first stage and Vicara is the next. The sooner a worshiper gets to the vichara stage leaving the acharas, the better for him and for others too. Yet, there is a place in society for acharas and temples. They are like the primary classes.
I take to this kind of aggressiveness to make people think, shed their misunderstanding and conflicts, if not aversion, and be self-responsible in the matter of religious life and pursuit. In Malaysia, as in many other advanced countries where Hindus live, the need and scope for such an enlightening effort is very much there. Many people felt illumined, convinced, and inspired, with a new clarity of thought.
Dear K, the entire Hindu Dharma, called Sanaatana Dharma (the eternal discipline), is at every point concerned about the individual and the society. It institutes disciplines to imbue qualities like flexibility, confidence, refinement and effectiveness. In the hands of a true religionist, a seemingly impossible task will become facile and easy, a hazardous venture will become stimulating and encouraging, a disappointment will become an inspiration – all constituting a beautiful process of unfoldment of the human personality. Everywhere, the human personality alone becomes the focus of our practices and introspection. To praise God is to unknowingly imbibe in oneself, the qualities attributed to God. Man is too weak and meek to straightaway cultivate these qualities. To circumvent the inherent fear and reluctance, we plant God and begin to praise Him.
God is a word formed from man’s own alphabet. The meaning of the word is also derived from man’s own conception. All the scriptures on God are written by us, humans alone. God has no mouth to utter a single word. Between God, man’s concept, and the conceiving mind of man, the conceiver comes first. Only then the concept can emerge! This is the plain truth and fact about God and every godly idea anywhere.
When I take such a vehement stand, which no doubt is fully true and scriptural, the listeners feel jolted out of their pet dreams and wake up to enlightenment. Somehow, I feel for the people, their inability to rightly assess the place of traditions and their hold on society. How to set right their thinking and take away their unknowing resistance and reluctance? This has been my thought and concern for decades, and whatever I say is the outcome of this abiding concern for the society.
For the first time I heard from a group of youngsters coming from Klang in Malaysia that they are disgusted listening to the many speakers explaining the temple worship and practices, not finding anything meaningful. Instead of knowledge, they said, they have gained only confusion. They crave to be properly guided into the right practices.
Hinduism has always depended upon individual and social practices, which represent the right understanding of life. The pursuit has always been rational, scientific, and rewarding to the individual. Such a great and eternal treasure is, alas, being spurned by the people in the name of their technological and industrial civilization! My heart bleeds at the tragedy and travesty.
When will the day come when at least one exponent of true Hindu Dharma will step into each village of our land and address our people, giving them hope and confidence, by exposing them to what human life must truly imbibe, radiate and spread, showing them as to wherein lie the real progress and fulfillment of the society as well as the individual ?
Neither the world elements have changed over the ages, nor has man’s personality the least. Both are the same today as they were in the pre-Vedic age! Is not the message of dharma thus eternal and inviolable?
I am happy that your exposure during Gurupoornima and Retreat here has been very enriching and that you are trying to consolidate some of the benefits by new routines at home. May this grow deeper and broader. It is indeed the best when your own daughter says you are calm. No greater approbation is needed. I compliment her and bless you both. Performing pushpa-samarpana mentally is even better than doing it physically.
Vishnusahasranaama is a great beginning. The first name itself describes Vishnu as ‘the universe’. By this alone, your concept and contemplation of the Lord must take its true shape! Every word of this great composition, though offered to the supreme Lord, is meant to inculcate strength, purity, confidence and enlightenment in the uttering individual. Keep this in mind. Go ahead lovingly. The fondness and absorption you are able to put into the process will determine the benefits that would accrue. There is no corruption possible in the process!
Yes, likes and dislikes victimize even the most intelligent people. In true religion and spirituality, all likes and dislikes are to be treated and sublimated. To do what you like, no human rationality or civilization is called for. All animals and birds do so. Many of them have lived on this earth as long as we humans have. But, for man the code of enrichment and evolution is different. Not to do always what you simply like, and to do often or whenever necessary what you dislike, is the only way of de-deluding yourself and strengthening and sublimating your mind.
It is good that your daughter has got the selection she so much desired to avail of and pursue. Let her go. But before her departure, spend some time with her and share with her some of your knowledge, emotions, care and concern. Words spoken in affection revealing your heart and reflecting your concern will have the most desired effects. In fact, the parents do not generally do this. They hesitate to embrace the children when they have grown up, and do not share with them their heart, mind, memory and lessons. Even the old men and women need affection. Affection gives them the best of strength and fulfillment.
Yes. I understand your ‘dilemma’. But, is not change a routine feature in any one’s life? To stop a practice, to get away from an association, to leave a residence you have lived in for long – all these are changes that occur in one’s life at some time or the other. I am very clear that in this case where there are other candidates who can take the chair and function, you need not and should not rethink. Just leave it to them and be busy with your own higher needs and pursuits.
Dear K, spiritual life is not for the lazy, irresponsible or the unmindful. It is on the other hand for the most responsible and dutiful. All duties veer round the Self-duty, and they also lead to this end. A devotee or a seeker in search of God, devotion or the Self, is authorized, nay, even encouraged, to give up other duties. That is called a timely and wholesome resignation. In fact, Sreemad Bhaagavata emphasizes such a step, calling it the most laudable and ultimate in human life. Listen:
When a beloved, leaving all other considerations and fascinations, takes to the Lord’s feet in full worship and adoration, the Supreme Lord lodges intimately in that devotee’s heart, and watchfully washes away any ill effects that befall due to any wrong actions or slips.
At one point in life, one must outlive scrupulously whatever he has been holding on to. This outliving is the very nature of life. So you need not and should not have any doubts or delusions in this matter. The chair in any office is meant to be occupied by many.
About your friends expressing surprise that you do not have any pangs in your daughter leaving for UK, dear K, I wish that you understood your response truly and wholesomely. You bring up a child right from its entry into the world. The child grows to become an adult. Before the adult responses of the grown up child, the parental maturity should shine with better and timely lustre. It should not be lacking, instead it should be leading. When the grownup daughter is set to go for higher education, and she proposes to leave for a foreign country, you too, like Kausalya before Rama, though in different circumstances, must gracefully let her go with your good wishes and blessings. To be able to do it alone will fulfill and justify your motherly role. This is not an occasion for lamentation. This is a significant phase of the progressive and maturing human relationship.
I am reminded of an episode in my purvasrama life. My parents, in their sixties and seventies, lived in our farm house, with agricultural operations, in a place away from the village cluster. At that time, I was the only child staying with them. Finally it was decided that I would go to Calcutta and join my brothers to take up my further life. One day I asked my mother fondly, “Mother, I am leaving. Will you not find it difficult here? Who will be there by your side to help and assist ?”
Without a moment’s hesitation my mother said calmly, “Do not worry my dear son. A grownup son is not supposed to be sitting on the lap of the mother. You should go to the wide world and live your life and pursuits. Here things will move. The sun will rise everyday and also set in the evening. With that the day will pass. Leave matters to themselves. Go without any undue worry. It is enough if you live and move with responsibility, truthfulness and concern . ...”
So, I do not find anything disorderly or unconventional in your attitude. And finally, K, dispassion and the sense of renunciation that follows it, is the culmination of a worthy human life. Unfortunately, people do not live up to this spirit. Also, they do not get the right opportunity to understand and imbibe this crowning spirit. Life is a course of living and outliving. Every moment if you live well, you also outlive that moment. The child lives through its playthings only to outlive them gradually. So too the adults have to live and outlive all their youthful indulgences and associations. Parents have to mature in their parental ties and bonds.
Assimilate whatever comes. Be spatial in your heart and mind. Encourage the mind to be like this and it will. What you think, you become. Stomach digests all the food and converts it into blood involuntarily. Mind too will do similarly, but only when sought, willed and encouraged. Do this and be a good, noble and great person. You have my blessings to this end.
Naya Swamiji and Ma send you good wishes with love. The same to your children and their father also.
Your own Antaratma,
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