[Published in Vicharasetu – May-Jun 1991. The author Ma Gurupriya was then ‘Ratnadeepa’]
Saadhana of Being Open and Truthful
Right from the beginning of my spiritual journey, I had the deep feeling that I must be open before my Guru as wholesomely as possible. If he has to guide me, advise me, give relief and bring improvement in me, then he must know me completely, and I should open my mind without any reservation. I also knew that I must be prepared to accept his advice unconditionally, unquestioningly, and to act upon it with all sincerity.
With this attitude, I had placed all my burdens – the disinterestedness, the heaviness and the void of my heart – at Baba’s feet. And with the same faith I now looked up to Swamiji. How many times I would have read his letters trying to understand and contemplate upon every word! How much have I striven to abide by what he wanted me to do!
Apart from having Swamiji’s company through letters, we used to meet him in Jamshedpur every year during the Jnaana Yajna. We had his Satsang in Delhi also, during the Jnaana Yajna there. Every time Swamiji would ask if I had anything to say. And, always I had. Apart from not being able to be happy with deprivation, there were so many other gross and subtle conflicts of everyday life and behaviour, about which we used to discuss openly. He had solutions for all!
After each meeting, I felt so light – as if I could fly in the sky! Life would seem to be full of enthusiasm and interest. Every little thing would appear most endearing.
There was a notebook in which I used to express myself freely addressing my Lord, my Indweller, making Him the dearest companion. Through this writing, I learnt to express my thoughts truthfully without adding any colour. Also it helped introspection, bringing clarity to my understanding. In this notebook, I had written the details of the Satsangs with Swamiji right from the first meeting in Dakshinkhanda.
Whenever there was a spell of heaviness or cheerless-ness, I used to read again and again Swamiji’s letters and also the details of the Satsangs recorded in the notebook. I would try to remember and relive those moments of inspiration by contemplating on his words.
But, in spite of all tuition, wish and effort, it took quite a few years for me to get over the unhappiness and insufficiency from denial of motherhood. On the one hand, there was a basic disinterestedness and lingering void within – I knew for certain that the heart would ever remain empty unless I was able to feel and realize my Lord within, and that no object in the world could bring eternal happiness. On the other hand, the same mind suffered from the unfulfilled desire for a child. The conflict continued with varying intensity.
Often the mind behaved like a disobedient child. Sometimes I would pester Aroopji, saying: “Why don’t you explain to me all that Swamiji has written in his letters and advised on various occasions?” Aroopji would patiently withstand all my moods and readily discuss to clarify what had been Swamiji’s advice to me. His explanations used to make me sit near Swamiji’s feet and absorb the benefit of Satsang, which alone could lift me from the plight.
During one such depressive spell, I wrote to Swamiji: “…Last time in Jamshedpur, we had a brief conversation. After that I started reading Sreemad Bhaagavatam according to your instruction and that was giving me great joy. Throughout the day I would long to read Bhaagavatam. This enthusiasm or longing lasted for a few days and disappeared. Now, I do read the book, but words seldom strike me. Rarely do I get lost in the lofty thoughts. Consequently, the interest is dying; but still, I am not hopeless.
“For the past few days I am passing through a depressed mood. Although I have been pondering over everything trying to find out the cause of such depression, could not find any reason whatsoever. At the same time, there is no enthusiasm either. The best thing, I thought, would be to write to you, though I feel ashamed to bother you again and again with the same old trivial problem. Is it a problem at all?
“Not that I just sit and brood, without doing any work. I do everything that has to be done, including teaching and household work, with full sincerity. Also I read, do japa. Generally that helps. I wonder what you will say. I wish to hear something from you.”
Finding Harmony through Understanding
Soon came Swamiji’s reply: “Dear Deepa, you write and speak well. I think you teach the students equally well. In such a background, what incurable wrong or disorder can you have within you? If at all something inexplicable is there, that can only be treated by your own positive thinking and higher wisdom.
“For any intelligent, creative individual, there are three kinds of needs – relating to the body, mind and intelligence. To fulfill any need, the body and its wholesome operation will be necessary. If the body has some irreparable defect, then the need may not be fulfilled. That would be a natural consequence. None should feel accursed about it or strive against fate.”
“In your case, even if the bodily disorder be incurable, what about the next phase – the disharmony your mind generates on this account? Can you not avoid this? Should you not reconcile with the fate at least gradually?”
“The process may be gradual. Did you not progress in your academic life step by step? Psychological and emotional growth is also similar. It takes place perhaps more unfailingly, but only when one strives for it. The education and viveka needed for this is of a different kind.”
“Fulfillment of motherhood depends upon the child, an entity separate from oneself. What about possessions like intelligence, courage, etc.? Many may feel they are not as intelligent as they wish to be. Again, what about those extremely intelligent or qualified ones who may feel that a proper field for their functioning is not available? For all of them too, there can be a strong sense of denial, misfortune or disharmony. How to find harmony in such circumstances?”
“Thus, Deepa, can you not find the play of an innate discordance between what one desires and what he is faced with? Do you then have anything exceptional? May be, a conventional feminine privilege is denied. Are there not other privileges that grace you exceptionally? Think of those blessed with children – they will surely be lamenting upon their own strange fate in some other field. They may refer to you as blessed!”
“Of course, conventional notions do have a strong hold on our mind. But a timely devout reflection on higher values and possibilities can always elevate the mind relieving it from the pressure of conventional thoughts. Otherwise, there will be nothing called evolution at all. A proper exposure followed by earnest effort will accomplish any spiritual attainment. The question is whether one wants it and also will strive heartily.”
“So I ask: Why not the wisdom in you begin to admonish, advise, guide and correct the disharmony the mind feels assailed by? It is possible, and you alone can do it. If you say that the effort does not succeed, I will not agree. I am here to make it succeed enviably. Why and how, you may wonder!”
“If you feel your buddhi is ineffective, then bestow on buddhi the might and splendor of the Self. Your spiritual initiation is meant for it. Can you not do this? And this is the most compulsive moment. Do you think that others who have children, are happy and cheerful? To preserve one’s cheer is the most serious challenge before a devout mind.”
“Generally, strong faith in some person, his words and appeal, is necessary to get oneself psychologically treated. The spiritual association is meant to promote this.”
“So Deepa, you have to rethink and re-assess matters about you as well as the world at large. To overcome the mind’s characteristic depression, treat it in the factory of devotion and piety – through reading, chanting, favourable associations; through hope, understanding, and beyond all, optimism and confidence. Optimism rewards instantly. If you are going to be a pauper in 1990, why not be rich till then? By fostering the fear of 1990, you are bringing the distress closer by ten years, and suffering the imaginary impact from right now.”
“To die disowning the fate of death is ‘immortality’. Can you grasp the point? I want you to accept the mind’s chaos as it is and then treat it confidently. Nothing has gone wrong. Nor anything will. May be, you are denied some conventional privilege. Well, accept it, and enjoy the bounties that are otherwise available. Am I to think that you are so impoverished by your education and research that this minimum demand of human life cannot be met by your refined wisdom and its influence? Well, I am unable to accept it as that.”
How compassionately does a Guru strive to relieve the disciples of their delusions! Slowly I was gaining confidence and clarity. Also the mind started picking up the right vichaara. What is the right vichaara for a seeker of Truth? A seeker should be able to discriminate and reject the thoughts, desires and actions that are not congenial to his saadhana for realizing the Truth. A seeker should be able to introspect constantly to find out whether his wholesomeness in seeking is increasing day by day.
The Discreet Course of Nature
Nature helps the seeker to grow inevitably. And thus the saadhaka is driven to such situations in life that give him enough opportunity to rise above all his imperfections and insufficiencies, to sublimate all his desires. No fate in one’s life is unnecessary or condemnable. Each has a place and relevance in leading the seeker to wholesomeness of pursuit and his final fulfillment. A seeker in an Ashram, a seeker who sits in a cave or wanders about, a seeker who pursues remaining in the house – for each, Nature has a distinct course of evolution suited to his specific psychological obstacles, insufficiencies and aspiration.
The denial of motherhood was one such opportunity given to me by my Lord. Through this, he pointed out that my seeking was not yet wholesome. With a severe jolt he made me realize that all along I had developed an ego that I was a sincere seeker whose only aim was to seek and realize God, while, in practice, I was yearning for a child and also many more objects of the world. Again and again my Lord raised in me the question: “Do you really consider me the supreme in life? Do you think you will get eternal happiness from worldly objects – be it a child or anything else?” I knew the answer! And I wept because in spite of knowing, I could not rise to the occasion. At times I would remember the story of Maitreyi and Yaajnavalkya in Brihadaaranyaka Upanishad.
Rishi Yaajnavalkya wanted to renounce his household. He called his wives Maitreyi and Kaatyaayani and said he would divide the property between them. At this, Maitreyi asked her husband: “Even if this whole earth with all its bounties is given to me, will it make me immortal? What shall I do with anything that will not make me immortal?”
One day, I wrote about Maitreyi’s statement in my notebook and added: “I realize the truth of the statement, but why is it that I keep seeking things which will not make me amrta?” My constant prayer became: “ O Lord lift me above all the desires, all inadequacies, and all my sense of denial – not only about motherhood, but in every sphere of life.”
But, can only prayer achieve what we aspire for? No; I came to know through Guru’s grace, through his untiring effort, that I must strive hard; I must constantly guide my mind using intelligence and wisdom it provides, to get over the obsession, Self-pity and insufficiency. The constant striving towards this goal, I accepted as a significant aspect of my saadhana, my austerity; it proved to be a long and hard austerity indeed! Through this austerity my mind became more and more indrawn.
With pain and shame, I found I had given enough indulgence to my mind in running after petty things and thoughts and did not try sincerely enough to bring it back to His remembrance. I understood that the mind must always be given deep and noble thoughts so that it remains lofty, undisturbed by the trifling interactions.
Withdrawal or Expansion ?
The problem was to gain more time from the busy routine. I used to discuss with Aroopji how to arrange the daily chores so that I would regularly get some time of my own. Soon we found that most of our works could be simplified and a great deal of time saved. We simplified our lifestyle, simplified our food. I had to spend less time in the kitchen. I even made a chart of my daily work to avoid waste of time.
Whenever possible I used to read books. Mostly I was reading Sreemad Bhaagavata, the tenth Skandha which depicts Sri Krishna’s life and glory. Also I was reading Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa’s gospel and a few other books – mainly the volumes of “Pather Saathee (The co-traveler)” by Sreemat Anirvaan. I was particularly interested in writings that depicted sincerity, austerity, unwavering aspiration, faith, confidence and firm determination of a seeker. These qualities used to inspire me a great deal.
Slowly and naturally, our social interactions started declining. We found no interest in attending marriage or feasts and started keeping away from most social functions and visits. To do so, without displeasing anybody, was not at all easy. Initially we had to face many unpleasant situations and remarks. Relatives and friends used to get hurt or pained by our alienation. Some felt ignored; others were annoyed. But all this was necessary then to make my mind more indrawn. Except for the associations that would keep the mind elevated, everything became insipid. In a very slow but natural process, my Lord pulled me away from attractions that used to keep my mind away from him.
Was my Lord wrong in turning my mind exclusively towards him – away from everything else? Did this act of his make me Self-centered and devoid of love and concern for others? No; on the other hand, as the mind turned towards him exclusively, as love and devotion for him grew purer and purer, my mind got filled with a universal nectarine love – a non-expectant, spontaneous love towards everything human or animal, sentient or insentient. Love for him blossomed forth as the love for his creation.
Disinterestedness – A Misplaced Attitude
It began to dawn in me that my earlier disinterestedness was only shallow and superficial, and a wrong understanding of matters alone was responsible for it. Otherwise, why should the plight of denial (of motherhood) victimize my heart so much? Can a disinterested mind ever grow such a sense of denial? Are not the two notes contradictory? The denial thus became a clear pointer to re-evaluate my position and attitude in general.