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Harih Om Tat Sat. Harih Om Tat Sat. Jai Guru.
I have always wondered that spirituality and spiritual practice are absolutely necessary, unavoidable in human life. Only when people are able to understand that it is so, they will be able to take to it with fondness and inspiration. So my effort has always been to show how spirituality becomes an inevitable part of human life. How will you drive home this message to humanity - is something very tricky. I have attempted the subject from various angles.
Our personality is a composite one. The matter-energy aggregate called the body is only the external, gross counterpart of our personality. Equally, there is a subtle inner counterpart and that consists of mind, intelligence and ego. If we recognize the need for having food and nourishment for the body to keep it healthy and functional, we cannot be partial about it; we have to be equally concerned about providing food and nourishment to the inner counterpart, the inner personality. Whatever is offered, whatever constitutes food and nourishment to the mind, intelligence and ego, that exactly is spirituality and spiritual pursuit. When you understand it in this manner, will you not normally be inspired and compelled to take up the practice?
People generally try to become spiritual when they are hit in the world, hit by the worldly life. Generally, this happens when people grow old, when they have retired from their worldly life and to some extent youngsters do not like them, though they may not express it openly. But is that the time to take up spirituality? There is no harm if they take up, well and good. But can we not think of spirituality in a different manner as ornamental, enrichmental, empowermental to the mind, intelligence and ego? I think that is the way to be understood.
I have three examples before me. One is the middle-aged Arjuna who right in the battlefield of Kurukshetra felt suddenly enfeebled and wanted to escape from war saying that, “The war is sinful, I am very sympathetic, I cannot fight this war”. That was not a proper decision or a proper response. Krishna who was equally involved in the battle, particularly as charioteer to Arjuna, whatever Arjuna was doing he was a part of it. He instantly felt that Arjuna’s point of view was wrong and he started exhorting him beginning with an admonition for whatever wrong he was doing and saying. Arjuna was touched by what Krishna said. He left his sympathy but he still had some moral and ethical questions against fighting Bhishma and Drona. So he presented his problem and Krishna started answering his questions. Now this is a confrontation at the time of activity. Spirituality lends its horizon and influence when you are in the middle of activity, active life and there are challenges, problems and persecutions. This is one.
Parikshit, the Great Maharaja was fairly old. He had done a number of Ashwamedha yāgās also, thereby proving his holiness, religiosity and otherwise. He went hunting, got tired and thirsty, went to Sameeka Maharishi’s cottage expecting that he would get some water but Maharishi was completely lost in his meditation. That irritated Parikshit and he went to the extent of saying, “Is he really absorbed in himself or is it a fake sitting? We Maharajas rule the land well and that is why these ascetics are able to live peacefully at home in their hermitage. So I cannot get some water; this is not right. Maharishi has failed in his sense of hospitality as a host”.
Then he did the crime of bringing a dead cobra and putting it on his neck. It was a heinous crime, but somehow he happened to do it out of a fall. As he was repenting, he also got the news that Sameeka’s son had cursed him for death in the hands of a living cobra! What he had done was putting a dead cobra on the father’s neck. So the little son Shringi said he should die bitten by Takshaka on the seventh day. Now Parikshit was fairly grown up. This was a crime that he had already done and on the seventh day he was going to die.
Our country is great, our traditions are even more so. For any crime or sin we have a recompense. So Parikshit when he got to know that he will die on the seventh day, instantly he forestalled Takshaka’s arrival by taking Prāyopaveśa - fast unto death. People had only heard about it; never seen it. So the sin that Parikshit had committed was completely flooded by the austere vow that he had taken.
Many people came to see him, complimented him and Parikshit wanted, “You complement me alright. But feast my ears with the truths, glories and excellences of God for the remaining part of my life. I will have no distraction because I shall not take food or drink water”. They were surprised at what Parikshit wanted; they complimented him alright. Now it became their responsibility. Suddenly arrived there the sixteen-year-old Suka Maharishi unasked, uninvited. He was a totally nude ascetic. Parikshit clearly understood the greatness of the person, he fell prostate before him and placed before him his questions and needs.
Now compare the two - the fairly old Parikshit and the middle-aged Arjuna. Arjuna was confronted by the army and battle but Parikshit had only to confront the curse of Sameeka Maharishi’s son. He did not have to fight anybody; all that was over. Suka Maharishi narrated to him the great Srimad Bhagavatam and before Takshaka came, Parikshit had completely withdrawn his senses, mind and intelligence from the outside world and he had dissolved himself into the Self within.
I call Srimad Bhagavatam the mighty weapon that conquers death. So before death came, Parikshit had already left the body. He remained absorbed within. Takshaka’s biting and his body getting burnt into ashes due to the poison from the snake, he did not know; others were reporting. Suka Maharishi left the scene even before that. So here are two instances - one is middle aged, another is advanced age. Maybe those of you who are retired are like that.
Now we have the young Rama. He was only sixteen years old. After a pilgrimage of India, he was totally dejected. The world was not as he perhaps thought it to be. He had not lived his life. He had not sat on the throne. He was too young. Nevertheless, he thought about the nature and ways of the world, ways of people and he had ample ground to feel dejected and disappointed. The plight was too severe. The parents or the others of the palace could not do anything for him. So Dasaratha was helpless. That was the time Vishwamitra came and wanted to take Rama and Lakshmana along with him to contend Ravana’s men and perform his yāga well. Dasaratha initially was baffled. At the advice of Vasishtha he said, “Okay, I shall send. But this is the plight of Rama. How can I send him and how will he listen to me?” Then Vasishtha after enquiring and finding that it was after his pilgrimage, he said, “This is for me to treat. Call him”. And the eighteen-day morning to evening dialogue took place between the teacher and the student. This is our Yoga Vasishtha Ramayana consisting of 32,000 Sanskrit verses as against 24,000 which Valmiki had written on the life and growth and achievement of Sri Rama.
Now you tell me - the same spirituality resolved Arjuna’s problem, redressed Parikshit’s plight and now prepares Sri Rama to live his life of challenges and sacrifices. If you put all the three together, do you want anything more to say that spirituality is a full fold application into our life? You may apply it any time, the earlier, the better.
Yoga Vasishtha Ramayana discusses the subject of the mind, its delusion, its likes and dislikes, presents the philosophy of the soul and in the way of a dialogue between the wise intelligence and the enfeebled and deluded mind. It presents the truth of the soul, truth of the world, truth of everything. Halfway through, Vasishtha’s dialogue impacted Sri Rama so much that he closed his eyes and remained absorbed in the Self. Not only Rama, many people in the assembly and Vasishtha had to stop his narration. He waited until Rama and the others revived themselves, then continued the dialogue.
Now tell me, you should be wise enough to understand and relate all the three. Arjuna said, “My confusion is gone. I shall fight a dozen Mahabharata war”. Parikshit had already got absorbed into his within and he did not know about the arrival of Takshaka, the serpent. And Sri Rama, the best of the three, right in his young age sought spirituality in the hands of Vasishthadev and then he got into the zenith of it in the way of absorption. Then Vasishtha woke him up and said, “The time has not come for you to be totally so still. Live and move in this world.”
So the last part of Yoga Vasishtha is dealing with the question of - with the knowledge of the Self, without allowing to diminish, how can we still be interactive in this world, enjoying the same benefits of Self-knowledge as the ascetics and the others do? What is that secret - that is explained. When you understand spirituality to be applicable in all these three ways, I believe you will find it very dear, very near, very pleasing, very delightful, very fulfilling. I think you should take the trouble of understanding what is this spirituality and how it has to be applied and what happens to us when it is applied well.
Harih Om Tat Sat. Jai Guru.