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Harih Om Tat Sat. Jai Guru. Jai Guru.
It was over sixty years back that as a youngster I left the professional life in Calcutta and with whatever deeksha sādhanā I had done very intensely, earnestly and wholesomely. After getting deeksha from my Gurudev on the one hand and reading practically the Prasthana-trayam... Prasthāna-trayam means primarily the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita which is a rendering in the way of a commentary on the Upanishads and Brahma Sūtrās. I have not read Brahma Sūtrās in full. Only the first four sūtrās are generally read; the others are referred to whenever it is necessary.
I am always a lover of poetry; prose literature I don’t like. So my inclination is always to read poetic presentation of our thoughts. I am given more to Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita. Whatever reading and therefore understanding I had, on the basis of that, the budding fascination I had for sannyāsa right from young age particularly, was reinforced by Shankaracharya’s life, the way we had heard about it. The young lad Sankara being the only child of his widowed mother decided to leave the mother and walk all the way to the Narmada bank. This one instance was speaking volumes to me.
Any good man will have a lot of love and fondness for the mother. There is an unwritten commitment on the part of any child, particularly a son, to look after the mother and make her comfortable. These pulsations cannot be questioned, invalidated or distanced or dismissed. In spite of it, this young lad of Sankara felt like leaving his mother and then proceeding towards the unknown.
The way I looked at it, I understood was this - there is something in this world higher than what we generally find, deal with and imbibe. We are all born in a family. That family is a blood relationship group. Then it grows into a marital relationship from which again when children are born, blood relationship comes to be. So we are primarily given to the blood relationship. There is an inseparable bond in that. In spite of it, how is it that one feels drawn to something different, something super-worldly and unworldly and when that ‘being drawn’ is felt, nothing stops him; whether it is the mother, the father, the wife or the husband? How is it that the little Sankara as a young boy, how did he feel like leaving the mother?
Nothing can take place in the world in a disorderly manner; so there must be some order. If we are drawn to the blood relationship, the very source of all relationships, that source which has instituted the ties of blood, what should be our relationship with that source? When that starts working on us, I think this blood relationship is nothing. There is no fight, there is no wrestling; it is a natural process. When one gets drawn into the higher note, automatically the lower will be left.
Imagine a new-born child. The mother was expecting. For a number of years, there was no child, pregnancy. Finally, she got pregnant and a child was born. You can imagine how fondly she would be looking at the child and rejoicing at the precious gift she has got. But maybe sometime late at night or late in the evening, the child would be playing, she would be looking at it. After some time, the child becomes tired and it goes to sleep, maybe it was on her lap. She gently takes the sleeping child, puts it on its own bed and then finally she also closes her eyes and goes to sleep.
What do you understand from this? Looking at the child in blissful union, who will exchange that except for something better? The same mind, the same intelligence, the same senses which are delighting on the new-born, all of them get withdrawn and we go into sleep. In going to such a sleep, is there any conflict, is there any doubt, is there any question, is there any resistance - no. Sankara leaving his mother and going in search of something of the unknown was exactly like this. There was no tussle, there was no conflict.
A girl having been in the birth house for a number of years, twenty years or so; marriage is fixed, she gets married, though crying she leaves with the husband to be identified with the husband’s family. It is a very natural development. Maybe the mother cries, the child also cries, but nevertheless the marriage takes place and the departure also takes place. Here there are no tears shed. A seeker is not violating anything. He is not indifferent to anything. He is only responding to the call of seeking in his heart. So throughout my sannyāsa life, I can say it is fairly old with the human calculations, I have never felt, never felt, (actually this should not be said) any kind of a rethinking about it.
When I compare notes with some of you, I am amazed, surprised and also disillusioned, though I have no illusion. I got into this life with all pleasantness, happiness, harmony, beauty and I still continue to be. There are ups and downs, challenges, persecutions, a number of sacrifices, questions, tussles, sometimes the dearest and the closest people also behave in a funny manner. In spite of all these things, I have never had any second feeling about this wonderful life called sannyāsa. Actually, I don’t call it a sannyāsa. Sannyāsa is the name given to it by tradition. For me, it is a life of goodness, it is a life of beauty, it is a life of sincerity and zeal; it is a life of fondness. Fondness for the creator, fondness for the preserver, fondness for the soul just like fondness for the body.
As ordinary people are feeling towards the blood and matrimonial relationships, I feel even more for those around me. They are all spiritually related to me. I have children, I have brothers, I have sisters, in one way I have elders also. All of them are just like for all of you people in their families, this is a spiritual family. It is part of this mission that I have been moving in India and also abroad. What will a knower of truth do? He will only speak about knowledge - knowledge of the soul. Will you remember this verse - Bhagavad Gita has put it in a slightly modified form; the original verse is from Kathopanishad.
Śravaṇāyāpi bahubhiryo na labhyaḥ. Even to hear about the indestructible soul is very very rare. Who will speak to you about it? First of all, somebody has to be fond of it and he must leave every other occupation in search of this. Where is that great or rare person who takes to this kind of exclusive devotion and renunciation? Only when one takes it up himself - he has his personal realization and fulfillment. Then he feels tom-tomming it and sharing it with the others. So very rare is the person who starts exposing the soul in its own manner without any adulteration or compromise. Even now, people will say, “Swamiji, you are speaking very forcefully or intimidatingly.” This is a new word I have heard from America. I thought - to speak forcefully and inspiringly is very rare! Now I get a different remark. ‘You should not speak like this.’ See, there also it is subject to differing opinions.
Śravaṇāyāpi bahubhiryo na labhyaḥ. Not many are given to the fortune of listening to an exposition of the soul by a really inspired person who had the testimony of realization himself.
Śṛṇvanto'pi bahavo yam na vidyuḥ. Even if such a man exposes, hundreds and thousands can hear, nowadays millions can hear through Science and Technology but they don’t understand. They hear; at least they hear.
Āścharyo vaktā kuśalosya labdhā. Wonderful indeed is the person who really speaks about the soul in its own manner.
Kuśalosya labdhā. Fortunate is the one who is able to listen to him and grasp it.
Āścharyo jñātā kuśalānuśiṣtaḥ. Very rare is the one who is able to realize the self being properly instructed by a knower of truth himself. When I read it maybe when I was in Calcutta, I was wondering - is it so very rare and āścharyah? Gita puts it:
If there is anything wonderful in this world, it is the self-knower delivering a knowledge message. I always was inspired by these statements, naturally my heart yearned to be one perhaps and I have been this. As a part of it, we have been going to different places - to Malaysia, America, U.K., Oman, Singapore and such places. So we have been going to America for eight years now. And this time there was a bigger event there – ‘Bhagavad Gita Global Convention’. I never thought we would be able to conduct one through our small group of devotees in America but it so happened that it has been done.
Sri Rama had a great vānara army. He did not have his own royal army. Everything he left and when he went to Dandakaranya, who will help him to trace the abducted Sita? Suddenly providence raised a pact with Sugreeva who had a huge army and it is Sugreeva’s army which went in search of Sita. Hanuman was part of Angada’s team. Somehow Sri Rama felt like calling Hanuman and giving him his own ring in case he was able to find out Sita, ‘Give her this identity so that she will know who you are.’ That single vānara Hanuman was the only person in the whole group who could fulfill the mission of finding Sita. Maybe Sugreeva had thousands and tens of thousands of his army. All the people who went in the four directions reached the end of the journey except Angada’s team. All of them returned to say, “We did this, we went there, we searched, re-searched and ultimately we did not find”.
Angada’s group having reached the sea shore had completed the mission. They said, “We will not go back and report that we have not found. Already we have transgressed the limit of one month. So why go back and break the news of failure and lead people to sorrow and suffering? Let us be here.”
Then suddenly Sampāti told them that Ravana has taken Sita in this direction. So they got a clue. My dear souls, nothing meaningful will be done in this world except with the direction and involvement of providence. Their story was one of failure though immense effort. Suddenly Sampāti gave them a clue. How to translate the clue to fulfill it - that was a job. Who will cross the ocean? Every vānara only know to jump. So every vānara who could jump, would fall in the sea, not reach the shore. By a human effort it was impossible to reach the shore. So Hanuman took up the divine means. He relied upon his devotion to Sri Rama. Though he was a servant of Sugreeva, Minister of Sugreeva, his object and subject of reliance was Sri Rama whom he met then very recently. He became a bhakta of Sri Rama and being a devotee, relying solely upon his devotional strength and resolve, he jumped and succeeded in discovering Sita.
Why I said it? Āścarya-vat-paśyati kaścid-enam. In the spirituo-devotional field, the real people are always very very few and they are the wonderful sight and the wonderful people in this world; not the seven wonders of the world. The real wonderful person is the knower of truth. The soul is interpenetrating the body at every point in every cell. We use the body and we use the bodily limbs but we miss the soul. We heat our articles of food but we miss the fire. We are swimming on the lake or river but we miss the water. It happens. Śravaṇāyāpi bahubhiryo na labhyaḥ. This is the truth.
So this time, this global convention had been thought about and it became a reality primarily because of one person. And once it is held, it became a wonder. I think it was the first event of its kind in United States. I am surprised as to why people speak so much about this convention. What is there for people to be attracted to or enamoured of - I still don’t understand. But so many people are allured by what we held. When we critically look at the presentations, we are not very happy with whatever delivery was made. But that all apart, it has created a stir and people are complimenting, complimenting, complimenting and they say more of such events should be held. And the people of Virginia have decided to hold a similar event in next September. They are almost decided on the venue - George Mason University and in a hall which can seat about 1900 people. This much they have decided. Some people have also contributed money to conduct the program. I am wondering what is there so much.
In the next event, the emphasis will be to make youth participate. I have written three letters to three college students saying that each student should bring a few people - minimum a group of eighteen students should chant one chapter each of Bhagavad Gita representing the eighteen chapters of Bhagavad Gita. I wrote the letters and came. Two of them I know, the mother of the third also I know.
But I want to tell you - throughout this life don’t think that it was always bouquet. For me, it was bouquet. Criticism was there; adverse factors were there. While listening to all these things, I never felt depressed or disappointed as some of you are having. If a little critical remark is made, your eyes start watering. I don’t know why. What do you expect from this world? Always praising you that you are great, great, great? Krishna was criticized severely during his time. Arjuna was reprimanded in the battlefield by Krishna - reprimanded in the strongest terms. And surviving the whole impact, Arjuna became fit for working.
Will there not be in my group one devotee at least who will be able to receive criticism and correction in a healthy manner? I find that I am not able to talk to you because “Swamiji, why did you speak then? People are all having a good mood, you cannot say”. Can I wait for occasions to speak to you? When I feel like talking, I will talk; when I don’t feel like talking, I will not talk. But apparently, I must have a rule, I must wait for a moment, speak this. This is what I tell the householders. I tell the wife, “You say to your husband that ‘I have something to tell you. If you are in a mood, please tell me or whenever you will be in a receptive mood, you let me know. I shall tell you.’”. Invariably the husband will say, “Tell me now.” But in the Ashram, what I hear is that I should look, speak, speak, speak.
The latest remark I got from America is that whenever I speak there is an intimidating note in my speech. For the first time I am hearing. Now they say they had said it earlier also but not to my attention. So after hearing, I am trying to understand what do they mean by intimidating and then what shall I do to take away this trait from my speech. I was not prepared to address the foreigners as such. I was always giving inspiring speech to the Indians. Maybe to the foreigners, it should be of a different nature. I am not so much exposed to them though a little exposed. I must live at least 2-3 months with a foreign group so that I can understand their pronunciation, their accent and also their ways and methods. Some intimate contact should be there; then only I can understand and speak in the manner they want. After all, I am a foreigner.
So there is criticism, sometimes ridicule, sometimes slighting approach, people will be defiant. All these I have taken and I have no problem; I don’t make it an issue at all! But I am wondering - will there not be some people at least in our group who will imbibe this spirit from me? I have not lived so many years with my Gurudev but whichever short period I have lived with him, I have always listened to him, observed him, heard him, and whatever little I have done, everything was a great reinforcement, insurance and an armour for me. Why don’t you understand that living in the Sannidhi of a Guru is of great value?
I don’t think you should approach the subject with tears. You should approach the subject with smiles, with confidence, with reliance. So I only wanted to tell you one thing that there is criticism, there was criticism, there is going to be further. After all, they are people and we are trying to deliver them something. We should deliver it in a manner which they find acceptable and they can receive fondly. If there is difficulty, where else will they say?
So one teacher has written a letter; you can read it. He says - in appearance, language and environment there should be a change. Then the Americans will be able to receive the message better. I have not replied him but I am going to reply expressing immense thanks for whatever he has said and then I want clarification. Appearance - what does he mean? We should change our dress or anything else? Then language - what are the niceties that we have to bring about and eliminations to be made? And in the environment - what does he meant by environmental change? I am going to ask him.
My idea was to tell you that there is criticism and it is good. Unless a critical evaluation is presented, how can we know? “Yes, what you are doing is good, good, good, good” - I don’t think we will be able to approach people better (in this manner). Their difficulties should be known to us. I just wanted to tell you this.
Harih Om Tat Sat. Jai Guru. Jai Guru.