(Spoken on August 1, 1974)
Glorious Immortal Atman. Humble salutations and prostrations to all the divine devotees that are present here as veritable representatives of Gurudev Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, as sparks of the divine light, God the Almighty, the most compassionate, omnipresent Lord. May our obeisance be to that hidden presence which magnificently plays this drama of creation, secretly seated behind the screen of all this manifestation of the world but publicly present in this open enactment in the form of the universe of exquisite beauty, perfection and inscrutable grandeur. May our prostration be once again to this eternal infinite Absolute.
I am to remind you in a few words of the essential spirit that is behind the practice of sadhana apart from the outward form that it may take as japa and meditation, disciplined seatedness, punctuality in time, swadhaya, and so on. What eludes the grasp of the human mind is the spirit of sadhana, while it is possible that we may be complacent and satisfied in the feeling that we have been practising sadhana honestly from the bottom of our heart. We can be very honest and yet go wrong; therefore, honesty is not the whole of sadhana, though it is a very necessary part.
A very good person need not necessarily be a wise person. A very sincere person may miss the essential point in the practice of sadhana. So while in the eyes of people, to the viewpoint of humanity as a whole, and even to our own so-called conscience we may be perfectly all right for all practical purposes, we may not be all right from another point of view which always escapes our notice, and that is Bhagavan Sri Krishna being missing from the sight of the Gopis in spite of the fact that the Gopis were the most sincere devotees ever conceivable. Why should he vanish from their sight? No devotees were more honest and sincere than the devotees of Vraja, the Gopis, and Sri Krishna escaped their notice, so what to speak of the notice of other people.
This is a spiritual connotation behind the symbolic and historical anecdote to which I just made reference from the Srimad Bhagavata. Why is it we have not seen God up to this day, even if we have lived for more than sixty years? Can we put this question to our own selves? Why is it that we have not had even a glimpse of Him? Not even a ray of light is coming before us, notwithstanding the fact that we have been very honest, sweating and toiling and serving humanity from the bottom of our heart, and doing sadhana in every way. Why is it that we have not had a glimpse of God – not even a glimpse, let alone actual realisation? Is this not a travesty? Is this not a shame? Is this not a pity for which we have to cry day and night?
But are we not keeping ourselves very happy and jubilant, and feeling so glad that everything is all right? If everything is all right, why is it that we do not have a glimpse of Truth? That shows there is something not all right behind all that appears to be all right in the form of this wonderful activity, maybe humanitarian, maybe what not.
There is something missing. As Hamlet put it, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” What is it that is rotten? Somewhere the shoe pinches, and we do not want to be conscious of this fact. If we sometimes get awakened to the fact that somewhere something is wrong, we want to hush up that matter because that is a great satisfaction. We are after satisfaction and not after truth because truth does not always come in the form of a satisfaction to the human personality.
While truth is the greatest conceivable satisfaction – it is ananda, superabundance – when it comes as a medical antidote to all the ills of human life, it comes as a pricking pain of an injection and a bitter pill which we would like to avoid as far as possible. While God is the greatest of joys and satisfactions, He is the greatest of pains and terrors to the Duryodhana within us. Was he a joy to Duryodhana? He was a fear to Duryodhana, whom he would like to avoid to the fullest extent possible. How could a person like Bhagavan Sri Krishna be avoided? But that was what Duryodhana intended to do. He could not think of him, he could not look at him, he could not speak a word about him, and no word of praise in the name of Krishna would be tolerated by him.
The Mahabharata, the Ramayana, the great epics are the dramatic representations of the struggle of the human soul in its march to perfection. Why do we read the Ramayana and the Mahabharata? What is the purpose – merely to spend our time because we have no other work to do? What good has it done to us? What have we understood out of it? Is it not very pitiable that we seem to be happy and openly declare ourselves to be perfectly on the right path while the soul cries for something which neither the senses can see nor the intellect can understand? We have committed many mistakes, and we commit many mistakes even today. It is human to err, and it is divine to forgive. We know this. God is forgiving us.
The story of the Mahabharata to which I made reference, to repeat once again, is the story of the soul’s movement towards God, and it is the story of every one of us. It is the story of every person in this world. What is this story? It is the laying bare of the foibles of human nature which are mistaken for the glories of human character. Masters like Bhishma and Drona went the wrong way. We are not talking of people like Duryodhana who were openly evil. Great souls like Bhishma and Drona sided with a person like Duryodhana. What do we understand from this peculiar phenomenon? Great geniuses can go wrong. The best sadhaka can be on the wrong path. If Bhishma can go wrong, why not I, why not you? We cannot lift even the shoe of Bhishma; we are nowhere before him either in power or in knowledge, and he went wrong. And Arjuna said, “Krishna, can I meet this great soul in the war of bloodshed? This great Sire, vulnerable, the greatest man ever living at this moment, Bhishma whom even Parasurama could not meet, who learned all the vidyas from Vasishtha himself, whom even the gods have to adore, him I have to encounter. Is it not a sin?”
What was Sri Krishna’s answer? This is God’s answer to us. We are asking the same question. We are posing the same query before all people. How grand is this world, how beautiful are things before us, how nice is the work that we are doing. Is this not praiseworthy? Have we not near and dear relationships with people who we cannot meet, encounter, face or speak a word of disrespect before them? How can we speak before Bhishma?
We have a very peculiar scruple in our hearts, which is not pleasing to the Bhagavan Sri Krishna within us. That scruple is very logical, very scientific and legally presentable, as it was the argument of Arjuna in the first chapter of the Bhagavadgita. Who can say he was wrong? Arjuna was perfectly right. Everything will be in chaos if we take up this task of war with people like Bhishma, Drona, etc. “If I take to spiritual sadhana, what will happen to the world? What will happen to mankind?” That was one question of Arjuna. The second doubt was: Will I succeed? Am I fit? My strength is nowhere. The third doubt was: Is it justifiable, is it ethical, is it moral to face people like Bhishma and Drona?
We have a morality of our own, and we are caught by our own ethics and morality, which is the morality of the world, perfectly beautiful for all logical enunciation, but not in consonance with the ultimate truth which is the Sri Krishna within us. What was Sri Krishna’s answer? “Arjuna, you speak like this before me as if I don’t understand anything. Don’t I know that Bhishma is there? Can I not see him? Have I no eyes? Don’t I know the greatness of Bhishma?”
Yes, we know that the world is wonderful, but there is something more wonderful than the world. Legalistic approach is different from justice in the name of truth. We can be legally right but not be just in our approach.
Justice in the spiritual sense of the term is consonance with, agreement with, harmony with the true nature of things, which is inseparable from what we call the immanent presence of God; and spiritual sadhana cannot be regarded as rightly directed if it is not in consonance with the greatest justice of the supreme court of God. Sarvadharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja (Gita 18.66). How can we agree with this great dictum of sarvadharman parityajya? All codes of conduct should be abandoned. Everything that we regard as proper may be an object of sacrifice in the name of and for the sake of that which is the eternal ‘I’ present in all creation.
Now, this eternal I is different from the individual I. The Mr. and Mrs. I is not the real I, and when we mistake the apparently right for the really right, we are mistaking the individual’s approach for the true approach, which ought to be the approach of a spiritual seeker. When God’s call comes, nothing can stand in our way. It is like a summons from the court. We cannot give excuses and say our baby is sick, our child is in school, and so on. The summons has come, and we have to appear at ten a.m. in the court for some purpose. We have to go – no argument, no excuse. When the flute of Krishna blew the music of the eternal omkara, the souls gravitated towards that eternal centre like iron filings rushing towards the magnet, and nothing could stand before that aspiration. No law of the world, no system of human approach can be an excuse when that call comes.
The implementation of the meaning of this divine call in every activity of our life, in every feeling of our mind, in every type of understanding of our reason and intellect, is sadhana. The sadhana that we have to practice for the sake of the salvation of our soul from the thraldom of life is an internal readjustment of our personality and consciousness – not doing something, but a type of being which has to enter into us and take possession of us.
Again I shall repeat that sadhana, the spiritual approach to things, is not the practice of anything in the etymological or the grammatical sense of the term in the sense of doing something physically or acting in a particular manner temporarily, but being something quite different from what we are today. It is the rise of the lower being to the higher being. It is the efflorescence of the higher being in us from the seed of the lower that we are. It is the internal growth of our total personality to the universal perfection of the Absolute from the little seed which is implanted in us. The seed contains the vast banyan tree, as we know. Likewise, the eternity of the Absolute is present in the little cell of our body, which looks like almost nothing. Who can imagine that a huge banyan is contained in an insignificant seed which is not even properly visible to the naked eye?
“Repent ye, for the hour has come,” said Christ. The hour has come for us to repent for what we have done – not merely outwardly, but inwardly in our conduct and character. It is the time for us to repent wholeheartedly and weep that we have committed blunders sometimes knowingly, sometimes unknowingly. We may commit a blunder not knowing the existence of or the operation of a particular law, but merely because we do not know the operation of a law, it does not mean that it will pardon us. So we can commit mistakes knowingly, and also unknowingly. Both will be taken into cognisance by the Supreme Judge. It is not that we can be excused merely because we did a wrong unknowingly.
The law of God is a little different from the law that operates in a family, the law that a parent would like to exercise in respect of his or her children. There is tremendous impartiality of approach from the part of God, and that impartiality is intolerable to the human individual. That is the fear that we have even when we take the name of God and truly try to comprehend what it is.
The spirit of sadhana is not the religious approach as it is known in common parlance. It is not Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, or any kind of faith that is called spiritual sadhana. It is the necessary and compulsive attitude that is required of us by the very nature and the structure of things in general, and for that we need not be a Hindu or a Christian or a Buddhist or a Muslim or any such follower of a faith. The compulsive attitude, as I put it, is obligatory on our part, and we are not merely given a chance to follow this attitude of life. It is demanded of us, and we are expected to have this attitude in respect of things. What is that attitude? The attitude of perfect obedience to the law operating in every core of creation – obedience to God, if we would like to call it – and for the sake of that purpose we have to abandon all other so-called laws of our family life, personal life, and emotional life. That is the meaning of this great calling of God: sarvadharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja. We may even have to forget that we are human beings in this internal attitude that is called upon us.
It is very, very difficult to understand the various shades of difference which this attitude may have to take in the course of living our life in this world. The interpretation of law is more difficult than the enactment of law. The legislative assembly can pass an act, but the judge has to exercise a very great discretion in understanding the meaning of what it is actually.
While it is very easy to study the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Bhagavadgita – we can commit to memory all the scriptures, and we can think that we are great souls, living saints trodding on this Earth as representatives of God – but we may not be in a position to adjust ourselves from moment to moment in terms of the requisition of that law which differently manifests itself in different moments of time, in different levels of evolution, in stages of the growth of the soul to God. Every moment we change because at every moment there is a change of personality towards a higher growth; therefore, it is necessary that every moment we have to understand the nature of the attitude subtly requisite of us, though generally the attitude may be clear to our eyes.
We have to love God, and love nothing else. This is a general attitude which everyone knows. But there are subtle shades of difference. Every minute and every hour there is a change taking place within us, change taking place without us, and that change is called the evolutionary process of the world. Not for a single moment does the world exist in a single condition. The world changes every moment of time, and together with the change we also change. We have to change because we are a part of the world. And when we change because of the change of the world in the evolutionary process, the subtle requirement of our attitude towards God also changes in a very mysterious manner. So we have to be vigilant and cautious continuously throughout our life.
To love God does not mean abandoning the world because one truth appears in four phases. Please remember this point very well. One truth appears in four phases, and we are likely to commit the error of emphasising one phase to the neglect of the other. From one phase of its manifestation it appears as God, the Creator of the world. That is the aim and ideal of all religions. On account of emphasis on this aspect alone, religion may become otherworldly to the neglect of the needs of life in the world, etc. That is a partial approach to truth: to emphasise a God as a Creator, Sustainer, Dissolver, whatever He is, of the world, as if He is a little different in constitution from the structure of the world. On the other hand, we may commit the mistake of emphasising the world to the neglect of the existence of a transcendent Creator. Then we become utterly socialistic and humanitarian and so on, look very beautiful before the eyes of people, but the wrath of God may be upon us because while the manifested aspect is emphasised, the unmanifested aspect is ignored.
The third phase in which the One Truth appears is our own personality, our individuality. We may emphasise that aspect more than the transcendent Creator and even the world outside. Then we become egoistic, arrogant, self-assertive, and begin to say that everything we think and say is correct and others are wrong. And then we wage war with people, and there is a tension of our nerves and emotions. We are psychologically morbid personalities because of the overemphasis that we lay on our own personality to the neglect of the other two aspects I mentioned.
The fourth aspect is human society. We may emphasise that aspect and think, as ordinary people usually say, “Mankind is God, humanity is God, I serve people. That is religion for me.” That is good. To serve mankind is wonderful, but that is not the whole truth of the matter because then we have ignored certain other aspects which are necessary for the maintenance, existence and the operation of the various personal functions of individuals. To take a total view is almost impossible, and therefore, sadhana is almost an impossibility. How can we take a total view of things? Something is missing, forgotten. Even though we may be sorry, we have to pay the price. If in the composition of a medical prescription the doctor forgets to include one essential element, we know the consequence. The medicine will not work. Sadhana is the total approach of our total personality to the totality of the reality of the universe. It is the whole of our being longing for the whole that is there. A part cannot be satisfied because God is not a part, we are not a part, the world is not a part, society is not a part. Everything is integrally connected with everything else.
This is to place before you the basic and foundational structure of the sadhana that is required of you as a seeker of the Absolute. You can imagine how difficult it is even to conceive it, but once you are able to comprehend it in its right comprehensiveness, it is like striking a match, and in a minute you know the consequence of it. The result of sadhana can be known in a minute; it does not require years, provided the match is struck properly.
Therefore, almost the whole of your life goes in the right preparation towards this striking of the match, though the actual striking of the match is only a minute’s or second’s work. How much time does it take for you to get up from sleep? You are fast asleep knowing nothing as if the world does not exist, you do not exist, God does not exist, nothing exists. Such is your condition in sleep. How much time do you take to become conscious that so many things exist? You require a second; that is all. So it is a second’s work that is spiritual sadhana, if it is properly understood. But if it is not properly understood, you will be sleeping like Kumbhakarna for months and months, and you will not know what is happening.
To sum up and to conclude, my prayer at this holy hour is that you may strive hard to awaken the right understanding that is necessary for the comprehension of the total perspective of things. Otherwise, you will be unhappy for some reason or the other in spite of your being very, very sincere and honest. As I told you in the beginning, you may be honest and still be wrong.
Human beings are ordinarily incapable of standing on their own legs. It requires the help of a Master, a Guru, who will watch you from moment to moment, help you from time to time, and tell you where you are wrong though you may think that you are right. A spiritual guide is essential, a guide who is already treading the path and knows the pitfalls on the way, having directly experienced all these things.
And I may add one more satisfying word that though all this that I told you may look so terrifying, it is also a happy process when you realise that God’s help comes instantaneously when you sincerely ask for it. “Oh, how difficult is God. He may not look at me. He may not think of me. He may be not even aware of my struggles,” may be your complaint. Not so. It may require some time for people to hear your voice, but God does not require time to hear your voice. He is non-temporal. That is, He is timeless being and therefore, He does not require time, not even a second, because a second is time. He does not require even a second to listen to your call, provided the call is from the soul, which alone has kinship with His being. The body and the senses cannot call Him. The call of God is instantaneous, timeless manifestation, and every one of your needs shall be fulfilled. Ananyāś cintayanto māṁ ye janāḥ paryupāsate, teṣāṁ nityābhiyuktānāṁ yogakṣemaṁ vahāmy aham (Gita 9.22). This is the gospel of Bharatvarsha, India, of God to mankind as a whole.
God does not help you merely for the salvation of your soul as moksha; He helps you even in your office work, in leading a good family life, and in the little troubles and pinpricks that you have in your private life also. Do you think God is only in Vaikuntha, that He is a transcendent being? Again you mistake the partial for the total. I told you, you must have a total perspective of things, inasmuch as His totality is present just here and just now. Spaceless and timeless is the action of God, and therefore, spiritual sadhana can be a very, very blissful, exuberant and enthusiastic practice, and you will be dancing in joy in your practice of sadhana instead of feeling desolate, disconsolate, diffident and helpless, which is not the truth of the matter.
Thus, I have placed before you various aspects of the practice of spiritual sadhana – its philosophical aspect, its scientific aspect, its psychological aspect, its social aspect. All these things I have tried to place before you, and spiritual sadhana is inclusive of all these aspects. May God bless you with His divine grace. May Gurudev Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj’s blessings be upon you. May Mother Ganga bless you. God bless you.