I take materials in my hands, chant mantras, offer them to the fire or offer them in front of an idol. It is an external interaction. But what you want to touch up and improve is your mind and intelligence. How can an external act improve your mind? It can at best be a proxy. The proxy will work only when the mind is employed there. Suppose in the performance of a puja, how much is the mind getting involved? That will determine the salutary or sublime effect of the puja.
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Harih Om Tat Sat. Jai Guru. Jai Guru.
You know that I am speaking for Mukthisudhakaram. It is an all-world TV telecast program which I have been doing for the past nearly five years, everyday of the week except Sunday. The Asianet channel offered Sunday also which initially they did not. Then I said, let there be one day holiday in a week. I am told that it is a super hit program. This only tells us how much the modern world, the modern people are still hungry and very anxious to listen to true spiritual discourses and exposition. It goes to the credit of the country, the credit of the Hindu society.
My talks, as you know are very serious, substantial. They are in a way, very fundamental and ultimate as well. To listen to such a talk consistently for weeks, months and years is something very creditable of the people. After all, what is this? It is an absolutely inner, spiritual, lofty exposition. If anybody finds interest in it and also delight and fulfillment, it is a great fortune and they have to be ranked in a very high level in the order of devotees and devotional affinity. Many of them come here to see me and what they tell me, “Swamiji, it has become an addiction for us. If any day for electrical or other troubles we are not able to hear the program, see the program, we miss it very seriously.” I don’t think we can expect anything more from the society or more from the channel.
It is a very expensive program. We have spent so far 5 or 6 crores of rupees for the two telecast series that we are running. A sannyāsin or an ashram will not normally be able to run this program and such a great expense. Every day’s telecast program costs us something like 45000 Rupees or so for both. But somehow, a divine magic I should say, the program has been going on.
Initially I was discussing the eleventh Skandha of Srimad Bhagavatam primarily. It contains about 1000 Sanskrit verses. It is the last message that Krishna gives to Uddhava. Bhagavad Gita is far more popular but the last message of Krishna called Uddhava Gita, it is even more comprehensive and it covers every aspect of Hinduism and Hinduistic practices.
I sometimes find a lot of surprise that many of the things that Krishna, Srimad Bhagavatam and Vyasadeva have said are not merely deposits in the texts that they have written and they have made but they are also in practice in the country. This is where India distinguishes itself. These concepts, these philosophical points and these practices which are very much scientifically and logically and rationally discussed, how is it that the authors and the readers were able to follow them in their daily life to make it an inevitable culture of the land and the people? The manner in which people take to holy places, some of the practices which they are having, even now in vogue, all of them are mentioned there.
And Srimad Bhagavatam was written perhaps in the sixth century. The present version that we have, it is considered to have been written in the sixth century, 1400 years back. And over the 1400 years, how is it that these practices are in vogue? There are only two options before us. Either these practices were there and Srimad Bhagavata has put them in the course of the writing. Or, after writing and composing the text, people found them to be very relevant and useful and they started practicing them. The importance, religious and holy importance we find attached to many places, they are very clearly, specially mentioned there. The names of the places, the names of the practices and many things. Culturally also you will find some of the items are very, very lofty and refined but still people believe, understand and make reference to them.
I am always amazed at the way our scriptural propositions have found their place in the daily practice of the people. What was the methodology they adopted to educate the people and enlighten them about what was written? What was the leadership and model that they set?
Our country was ruled by a plurality of kings. At the time of independence, I am told we were having 600 kingdoms in the land. So the number of kingdoms should have been far more before British East India Company set their feet in this great land. Without having a uniform administration and perhaps interstate conferences, a central flag, a national flag and a national educational policy and the like, how is it that we have such a uniform practice prevalent right from Kashmir to Kanyakumari? I would like somebody to take up the mission of researching into this uniformity. How was it propagated, how was it achieved in actual life and practice? If we don’t do it, we will be losing something very great.
Why I mentioned all these things? I am discussing the twelfth chapter of Bhagavad Gita now which is a chapter on devotion. There are altogether only 20 verses. Perhaps this is the smallest chapter in the 18 chaptered Bhagavad Gita. There, Bhakti is explained in just one verse
मय्येव मन आधत्स्व मयि बुद्धिं निवेशय ।
निवसिष्यसि मय्येव अत ऊर्ध्वं न संशयः ।। १२.८ ।।
mayy-eva mana ādhatsva mayi buddhiṁ niveśaya ।
nivasiṣyasi mayy-eva ata ūrdhvaṁ na saṁśayaḥ ।। BG 12.8 ।।
“Establish your intelligence in me; equally fix your mind in me. If both of them are fixed in me, from the next moment onwards, you live in me.”
This is the literal translation of the verse. So the entire bhakti is centered on our mind and intelligence. Do people know it? In the name of bhakti we see a number of practices, some of them are clumsy, some of them are meaningless, some of them are misunderstood, some of them are perverse, even antagonistic to religion even, devotion even. Such wrong and perverted practices are there. To remove some of which, you know that we were trying in the 1985s, 1980s.
Then he says, Krishna, “If you are not able to fix your mind and intelligence in me...” then, He says “Do this. If you cannot do this, again try that. If you cannot try that, go for this.” Like that, He gives a number of alternates. And at one point He says:
अभ्यासयोगेन ततो मामिच्छाप्तुं धनञ्जय ।। १२.९ ।।
abhyāsa-yogena tato mām-icchāptuṁ dhanañ-jaya ।। BG 12.9 ।।
“Take to any kind of a practice and through that, try to attain me.”
Any kind of a practice. It is under this clause that we have a variety of astounding practices in the name of religion. Now, I am taking a lot of time and then I was asking ‘A’ all the verses on devotion and devotional practices, I have culled from my memory and from the books, primarily from my own memory. And then I am reciting them with a lot of fervor and explaining. And it runs into something like seven to eight pages. That means, it may be something like 40 or 50 verses on devotion and devotional practice. The type of puja that you find, the various selective flowers that you collect, suppose you collect any flower, it does not require, it does not involve any discipline or reformation.
So, in the course, I was saying that in our ashram, possibly it was ‘U’’s wife ‘R’ who started the practice of arranging flowers in a plate in a very beautiful, ornamental manner. Today, Swamiji showed me that flower pot in which all the flower petals are beautifully arranged in a circular manner, one behind the other and at the center there is a star flower, the central flower. It is so nice to look at. It is so beautiful that you don’t like to disturb it for doing puja. Looking at it itself is the puja purpose.
So I was mentioning that in the ashram for Gurupoornima and such other functions, this kind of a decorative arrangement whereby flower petals are collected in a plate or two, and all the flowers are, one after the other, one behind the other, one close to the other, beautifully arranged. Then I said, “Today Nutan Swamiji showed me how it has been arranged. It was so beautiful.”
Normally what do you do? You take all the flowers. We are told to clean them, detach them in such a manner that the thorny and uncomfortable parts are removed, the bad and the spoiled petals are away and you take them in such a nice manner that the whole flower will be really flowery and very soft and smooth to touch. In this case, what further? Instead of keeping them in one pot which takes only seconds, somebody has taken, I was told it was ‘G’ who has done it. She has taken, and one after the other, one after the other. May be it is hundreds of petals. Can you imagine the time spent on it? This is called abhyasa.
Abhyasa is that when you do the same practice over and over again. You get in the driver’s seat and start holding the steering, placing your feet on the accelerator, clutch or otherwise, also operating the gear. The same thing you go on doing, over and over again until you become an adept in it.
Here also, unlike keeping the flowers which will take only seconds, here, many minutes are required to arrange them in a certain order and then you will look at it, whether the placement is all right or not, symmetrical, whether any petal has gone either upward or below, whether they look nice. Now, what you do is a physical exercise but the impact is in your mind because without the mind’s involvement no action can be done, no organ can move. Though it is a physical practice, the impact is directly and wholesomely in the mind.
Today you must have seen, after ‘X’ went away, I took the towel. He is generally a very hurried person, fast moving worker. So, he took the towel. So, that is not the way it is done. So I took it, and folded it better and gave it to ‘Y’.
Why this pushpa samarpanam itself is done? So that you will come here, spend some time, listen to the songs, chant them yourself, walk gently and slowly without delaying the process, receive the flowers. How you receive it, how tenderly, how feelingfully you receive it, then walk forward, bend yourself, offer it, do the pranam. It is an exercise where the body is used but the impact is on the mind!
The body does not have anything like a devotional touch. There, blood is circulating, air is circulating, the skin is perspiring. There, no effect of devotion normally will be there. But what is supposed to be achieved is, we have only the means. Body is the only means for experience and for attainment. Even for attainment of God, your body has to be intact.
So, keep the body fit and use the bodily exercises. Here, in the name of devotion, how much time is spent? We listen to beautiful soul stirring verses. You chant them yourself, see whether the pronunciation is okay. Are you hearing them well? Do the words get absorbed into your system? If these things take place, instantly it produces an ecstasy, a freedom and a release. This abhyasa is very important. So, under the abhyasa, I am presenting number of verses.
I say that the best abhyasa is using your voice. Voice can be generated only by a living body. It is not materials like flowers and other things you get from the garden or buy from the market. You produce the product by your own wish and will. So, ideas are formulated by the mind, they are transmitted to the vocal system and you produce the sound, listen to the sound and see whether it is well produced, whether it is orderly, and when you offer it to God, God has to instantly come and receive it, because it will not remain there like a pudding that you have made and presented in front of the idol. It is a material product. This is an energy product. It is produced by the living body.
So I composed a poem saying that unlike the materials which you get from the market by buying, voice is something you produce in your own living body and as it is produced, it will also disappear. So when you offer your voice to God, God will have to be very sensitive and be present very attentively. Otherwise, He will miss the offer. So, offering the voice, it is much much more effective than offering any of the materials either cooked or uncooked. And all this come under practice.
You can roll on the ground – ‘śayana pradakṣina’, you go around the temple. You can put any kind of a religious insignia. We are all wearing a tilak here scrupulously. Wherever I go, whatever I do, I put a tilak. I also have a māla. Because I was missing my sacred thread, I was feeling very bad. Whenever I looked at the mirror, I found my body was missing. So my one devotee, ‘M’ came and said ‘This is a garland which Swamiji, I would like you to put”. So that suited me. Ever since she gave me a rudraksha garland, I have been wearing it. These are some of the insignia. We wear a particular type of dress. I cannot think of any other dress on my body. I can only think of this dress. Wherever I go, the table is covered with this, the chair is covered with this. Very rarely I go to the hotels to address corporate people. There, my devotees go there, prepare the seat, prepare the table and then I talk. And very strangely, corporate people have accepted it. Apparently they like it also. So it is something very good.
I don’t sit unless our people have spread a gerua cloth on the chair. If nobody has brought and it is delayed, then I take my second cloth, I carry a towel. I spread it and then sit. I am so very happy doing it, very happy. I am not rigid about it.
So, all these are practices which have their sole effect on your mind. So these practices spiritualize you, divinize you, God-ize you, soul-ize you. These practices are like that. Why don’t you take to them and be sublimated, enriched, elevated and enhanced by them?
So, what I wanted to tell you was, in Muktisudhakaram I was referring the previous day that Swamiji brought me the flower pot and I found the flower petals arranged so beautifully, it was very nice. That is also a practice.
Harih Om Tat Sat. Jai Guru. Jai Guru.