"Devotion is a means as well as its true end when it grows into a full treasure. When devotion becomes a treasure, you will need nothing more for inner fullness or affluence. As devotion grows, it will begin to free you of all desire, hatred and fear. It will relieve poverty, either by making you amply resourceful or by taking away from you the very feeling of poverty. Devotion also will remove your weakness, generating untold strength and confidence."

The Guiding force of Narayanashrama Tapovanam & Center for Inner Resources Development

Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha

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[He had come from France. Shaven-headed and dressed like an Indian in pyjama-kurta. It was midday and he looked quite tired. But the devotees sitting in the front verandah felt hesitant. Because, no foreigner would generally come to stay in this Ashram without prior intimation. Any way, he was served lunch and was asked to wait for Poojya Swamiji. The devotees felt relieved when Poojya Swamiji came out and greeted him affectionately as if he was known to Swamiji since eternity. Shaven-headed P also felt at ease and sat at the feet of Poojya Swamiji.

Here is a summary of Swamiji's reply to P's enquiry on "Guilt & How to Overcome the Sense of Guilt". The discussions took place sometimes in the morning and sometimes in the Satsang after dinner, during P's stay at the Ashram.]

P: Swamiji, how to redeem oneself from a nagging sense of guilt ?

Swamiji : Dear P, since you have raised this subject of guilt, I shall explain. But see, there are some points which are typically oriental. I do not know how much relevant they will be to you because of your western culture and background. Moreover you say that you are not at home in English. Any way, try to grasp as deeply as possible.

See, there can be different kinds of sense of guilt. It can be a guilt about something done in the past. The action is over but you are suffering from the memory of it. It keeps on haunting you and you want to get rid of the mental pressure it creates. Another kind of guilt could burden your mind when you continue to do something that you feel is wrong. You know that a certain action or behaviour is wrong, yet you are unable to stop it because of a desire, greed or infatuation. Almost helplessly you continue with your wrong practice but get tormented by the sense of guilt it produces in your mind.

Then again, you may categorize guilt depending on the kind of wrong it involves: violent actions like murder, rape,  etc ; stealthy actions like speaking lies, concealing facts, etc; lack of restraint like over-eating, over-sleeping, disobedience to teachers and parents, etc. Some of the actions may involve you alone while some others will involve others around you. There could also be guilt which involves an impersonal body like the Government. For example, not paying the taxes due to the Government may cause a sense of guilt haunting your mind.

Now, how to get rid of these guilts that torment and weaken one's mind ?

First you must understand that if you are continuing to indulge in some wrong practice, then to get rid of the guilt you must first of all stop doing it. This has to be done and can surely be done if you really want to redeem your mind from the sense of guilt it is suffering from.

P: Yes Swamiji, I do understand. But how to stop indulging in a wrong practice ? One feels helplessly drawn to it again and again compelled by the mind and the senses. Is there any straightforward method by which one can come out of it ?

Swamiji : Yes, there is a way. Our Sastras do discuss the subject with a lot of importance. You do not want to do a certain thing, yet you do it helplessly : drinking, thieving, speaking lies, indulging in some perverted practices, etc.

In all these cases, what you should constantly do is to evaluate the cause and the consequences of the practice, its degrading and weakening effects on your mind and body. You must always weigh its deeper and longterm harmful effects against its immediate attraction or pleasure. Tell yourself : "This is wrong. Harmful to others as well as myself. I want to get rid of it. It must leave me the soonest."

Initially, you may at times allow it physically. But denounce it mentally. Denounce it sternly. No time you should permit it as the least desirable. Mentally register your decision to get rid of it. Every time you fail in your resolve you must feel bad about the failure. This repeated assertion and condemnation will strengthen the mind against the indulgence.

If you persist like this earnestly, after some time the mind will become sufficiently strong. The practice will also become proportionately weak. The process of withdrawal may take a few weeks or months. But, within a year or so, withdrawal from any wrong practice must be possible.

In our country, getting rid of passion is regarded as very important in spiritual life. Passion is even held to be a beastly instinct. Many seekers recognize it as a great hindrance and want to get rid of it early in life. Sometimes, due to age and heredity, the senses do not obey their command. So, for such earnest seekers, there are some prescriptions in our tradition. One way is to read devotionally the Raasa-panchaadhyaya of Sreemad Bhaagavatam. It is a vivid description of Sri Krishna's sport with the Vraja women. With every reading, in the background of the spirituo-devotional attitude and aim, the passion will grow weak. Very soon the seeker's passion gets sublimated. So also by repeated reading of Jayadeva's Geeta Govinda, passion gets sublimated.

Reduce the physical involvement gradually, but sternly denounce the indulgence mentally – this is what our tradition says. And if you are earnest in your effort, very soon you will be able to get rid of the wrong practice.

Now, even after you stop indulging in the wrong practice, a sense of guilt may continue to haunt your mind. It is the memory of the action already done. It is like any other feeling of guilt for an action done in the past. Direct involvement is no more there, but the mind gets tormented by the memory – memory of one's own involvement in a wrong action. To redeem the mind from such a suffering, the treatment also must lie in the mind itself.

Are you able to follow, P, what I say ? I shall narrate to you a few incidents :

There was a District Collector, I think in Tamilnadu. He once had informed the police about the loss of a golden ring from his residence. The police came immediately and mauled up the domestic servants badly. Later on, the Collector himself found the lost ring which was obviously misplaced by himself. The police clearly had over-acted because the complainant was the Collector himself.

The Collector felt immensely penitent. His mind became restless. But what could be done now ? The crime had already been committed. He had heard that whenever one feels suffocated by one's own guilt, going incognito leaving everything would have great relieving effect on the mind. Renunciation, to him, was a remote idea till then. but now, compelled by the suffering of the mind, he took to Sannyasa, leaving all his officialdom and personal relationships. Dear P, can you imagine how deeply he was victimized by the sense of guilt ?

I shall tell you another instance. Two bosom friends had promised to each other that should one of them happen to die, the other too would end his life. A strange promise ! But they made it under the influence of their strong bond of friendship. Now, it so happened that one of them suddenly died in an accident. But the surviving friend discovered that he was not able to keep his promise ! He was unable to end his life. Nor could he reconcile to his continued living violating the solemn promise he had made to his friend. The guilt tormented his mind immensely. Unable to find any relief he went to a renowned Mahatma and confessed his heart before him.

The Mahatma heard him patiently. After a long silence he said, "Don't worry, my dear son. Solution to any problem of life is to be found in life itself. Death is not the answer. Do you know, my dear child, that Sannyasa is regarded as the virtual death of the body ? We perform all the obsequies for the parents as well as for ourselves before embracing Sannyasa. In fact, Sannyasa is the death for our ordinary worldly life and it is the gateway to the life eternal. Decide to embrace this great life. Live for others and get relieved of the guilt troubling your mind. That would more than fulfil the promise you had made to your friend."

Dear P, we speak about guilt only with reference to some wrong or sinful action. That is only a part of the real problem. In fact, our mind is constantly haunted by the thoughts and memories of so many actions and incidents involving us directly or indirectly. The event is no more there; but the memory keeps on troubling our mind. If you deeply look into your mind, you will find that the real trouble lies in our sense of 'doership' and 'enjoyership or sufferership'Kartrtva and bhoktrtva, as our Sastras say.

With regard to any action done by the body, we feel, "I have done it. I had willed it. " That means, we identify our 'ego' as the cause of the action. Imposing this causality on our own self is called kartrtva (doership). Consequently, we associate ourselves with the results of the action also. If something bad results, we feel penitent thinking that we are the cause for it. In the case of something good or great taking place, we feel similarly elated. This egoistic association with the results or fruits of an action is called bhoktrtva (enjoyership or sufferership).

Both these notions–kartrtva and bhoktrtva–will have to be dissolved. And that can take place only through enlightenment. Enlightenment is that stage where the ego drops and the bondages cease. You understand the role of Nature (prakrti) and the illusory role of the ego. Guilt is only a kind of kartrtva-bhoktrtva feeling. One free of kartrtva-bhoktrtva will be free of all affectations. Sri Krishna says in Bhagavadgeeta (18.17) :

 

"Even if he happens to kill the whole world, he does not verily kill; nor does he get bound by his action."

Of course, Krishna has put it in his own super dimension. You need not try to think of such a magnitude all of sudden. Understand this much for the time being that there does exist a redress for all senses of guilt. Not only for guilt, but for all bondages resulting from the notions of kartrtva and bhoktrtva. Also know very well that the ultimate full redress for all affectations of the mind must come from spiritual pursuit and enlightenment.

P: Swamiji, I understand that spiritual knowledge makes one free of all affectations. But what about ordinary people ? Is there no way by which one can get rid of some nagging thoughts, some persisting memory, victimizing the mind frequently ? What about some strong sense of guilt regarding some past mistake ? or, the tormenting thoughts of a tragic event ? Can we not get rid of them without getting spiritually illumined ?

Swamiji : Yes, P, surely we can. Our mind has got unlimited power to assimilate any input. About tragic developments or happenings, generally people say "time heals". But think well P. Is there anything like time that can heal your mind ? What verily heals is the mind itself, by virtue of its own healing power. You can always treat the mind by intelligently using its own healing power.

A few years back, a lady from South America was brought to me in Delhi. She had been ill–treated by her husband and children. Memory of some incidents haunted her mind. She looked shattered and depressed. After listening to her story, I told her : "After the morning ablutions, sit alone in a place, closing your eyes. Recall to the mind whatever stifles you. Let the memory come with its full force – at your invitation. Spend about 20 minutes with it reacting in whatever manner you like. Weep, sob, shout, condemn or laugh. Do whatever you feel like, except hurting yourself physically.

"If you deliberately call the memory to storm your mind for some time, reacting to it freely, you will find that within about 20 or 25 minutes the mind will become light and clear.  Get up, wash your face, and get to your usual routine. Repeat the exercise religiously everyday the same time, for a few days or weeks. The drowning power of the memory will gradually become weak and the mind will grow strong enough to bear it peacefully without any agitation or sway."

After a week, the lady rang me up from America to say that her mind had become light and peaceful. Of course, she added that her mind felt empty and she was not used to this emptiness ! Can you imagine, P, that this happened just within a week ? In this case, the lady has kept contact with us. She looks quite light and cheerful now.

The same prescription I had suggested to another lady who came to me with a seriously disturbed mind. Her son who had fallen into bad company was suddenly missing for days. One day a police van arrived and asked her to come to the police station. Her husband and other family members were not at home. Without telling her any details the police people took her with them. Opening the door of a room they suddenly asked her to identify the deadbody lying there. It was her son's !

The impact was sudden and traumatic. It disturbed her mind badly. She was unable to outlive the emotional shock and wanted to get rid of the haunting memory of the sight. Following sincerely what I instructed, she was also able to win over the trauma within a few weeks. Her mind became light and peaceful.

There are so many instances, dear P, which prove how assimilative our mind is. Because of ignorance we fail to utilize the mind's potential for gaining inner strength and poise.

To a Bengali lady of Jamshedpur, I had suggested mental chanting of "Asango'ham" ("unattached am I") along with the same practice to relieve her from the sorrow of her son's tragic death on his birthday. The mother was waiting with the special meal prepared for the day. The son had gone out somewhere and did not come back. Later they came to know that seeing somebody sinking in water, the boy had jumped to save him, but both of them died ! The lady remained depressed, haunted by the sorrowful memory. Following the practice along with the mantra, she could get relief, she told me after a week. Last year when we met her, she was all smiles and with a radiant face.

Dear P, it is ignorance that puts man to untold suffering. You suffer unduly because you do not know what lies within you. The Self within you – which you constantly refer to as 'I' – is the supreme power that has created this entire universe. The more and more you dwell upon the magnificence of this
'I' – your true identity – more and more you will imbibe its brilliance, strength and vastness.

Whenever you are assailed by some wrong thoughts or constrictions you would like to overcome, whenever you fail to imbibe some virtues or qualities you would like to have, sit in a place, close your eyes and contemplate upon the supreme power within you. Whenever the senses become turbulent, moderate them by the application of your mind. If the mind is confused, treat and direct it with your intelligence. When everything fails, close your eyes and dive within. Infinite is the reservoir within you – beyond mind, beyond intelligence. All that you have to do is to fold yourself inward, like folding an umbrella...

[Swamiji closes his eyes. A vast silence descends all around giving one a touch of the silence within. His voice fades into near whisper : ]

You will find the whole body getting soaked in a brilliance, in a self-generated current. ... The whole body will become like a flame. ...

Harih Om Tat Sat

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