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Spiritual Import of Religious Festivals

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Chapter 7: Knowledge As a Means to Freedom (Continued)

It is difficult to be free in this sort of approach to things, because we have unfortunately been hypnotised or brainwashed, as it were, right from our childhood, into certain traditional ways of thinking by the society and the community in which we live. We are Brahmins, we are Kshatriyas, we are aristocrats, we are princes, we are of royal families, our father was an Inspector of Schools – such and similar ideas are introduced into the pattern of our thinking. Further, there is something which spoils every effort at learning, viz., the seeking for 'outcome' of this learning, "What will my knowledge bring?" This is what every student asks himself when he enters into a school or college. By this he expects some material output from the learning that he gains or the knowledge that he acquires. We are always accustomed to think in terms of human society and material gain, and much more than that – our egoistic satisfaction. It must bring applause and recognition. What do we mean by 'recognition'? It is recognition from people. We don't expect recognition from asses or donkeys. Well, we can imagine, we want recognition from the species to which we belong. That is our wisdom! So, this is a basic defect in the very approach to things. We are still humans, and we want to be applauded by human beings only. We do not bother as to what the gods in the heavens are thinking about us, or what a dog is thinking about us here. What man thinks about us, is the only important thing. It is like a frog thinking about the frogs' world. Under these conditions, we are not going to escape the clutches of Yama or death, which means there is no escape from the process of transformation, destruction and reincarnation unless we change our ways of thinking.

The de-hypnotisation of our mind is our first duty. It is difficult to believe that one would be easily successful in an attempt at such a kind of dehypnotisation. How can we forget such ideas as: "I belong to the Ramakrishna Mission", "I belong to the Divine Life Society", "I am of Sankaracharya's order", "I am of Ramanuja's order"? Even great thinkers are unable to extricate themselves from these parochial ways of thinking; and these are not going to cut ice before God. Yet, we care a hoot for what God thinks about us, if only mankind is going to support us! Now, this attitude that we are going to be happy only among human beings, irrespective of what God or Nature is thinking about us, is a great travesty of things. So it is that the wrath of Nature is coming upon us in the form of death, in spite of whatever humanity has been thinking about us. We might have been carried in palanquins, kept seated on thrones by the great men of the world. But, death is not going to spare us. What is death if not the anger of Nature that has come upon us on account of our disregard for her laws? And the laws of Nature are nothing but the fingers of God working in the world. We have to be introduced into these mysteries by people who have already trodden the path, who have seen the pitfalls on the way and the obstacles that may come upon us. And then, we should gird up our loins to tread the path which we will find to be a hard nut to crack when we actually try to enter.

If this ideal could be brought home into the minds of people, if this Academy can be a humble nursery of this lofty approach which is multifaceted and many-sided, excluding no aspect of approach to Truth, and free from a parochial approach of every kind, that would, of course, be the real satisfaction of the Founder. Hence, it becomes imperative on the part of both teachers and students of the path of the Spirit to place themselves in the atmosphere of that which they are seeking. This is a very important point to remember, again. We are always in the presence of the ideal which we are seeking and contemplating in our minds. Since God is that ideal, we are in His presence. And one could imagine what sort of psychological attitude one will have to develop and entertain in the presence of that Being which is our ideal. The ideal is not a future one. We always say that God is eternal; naturally, God is not in time. So, a thing that is not in time, cannot also be regarded as something in the future, because the future is a part of time. So it is a continuous present. It is just here. We are under the very nose of That which we are seeking. Wrongly we are under the impression that it is in a distant future, which means to say that it is far off even in space, which again implies that God is not seeing us. So, how many ways there are of deceiving oneself! The forces of Nature are very vigilant, active and intelligent. They are not sleeping, they are not closing their eyes, and they are not blind. As I have already mentioned to you, these are nothing but the ways in which God's fingers operate in this world. The awakening of oneself into this fact is perhaps the entry into the path of spiritual life. Spiritual life does not necessarily mean living in an Ashram. It does not also mean going to a church, nor does it mean living in a convent. It is not any kind of institutional rigidity that we introduce into our own personal lives. This kind of rigidity, however, becomes a necessity just as medicine becomes a necessity to a sick person. But it does not mean that a person should go on taking medicine throughout his life, even when he is healthy. Similarly, it does not mean that institutions are a necessity for all times. They are necessary even as schools and colleges are necessary. You know well that you will not be in a school or college throughout your lifetime. It is absurd to think like that.

So, Freedom is the final word of this entire approach. And institutional training and discipline in an Academy of the kind in this Ashram is a preparatory step in the achievement of the final aim of personal freedom, which cannot be isolated from universal freedom. You are not going to be always a teacher of spirituality, nor are you going to be also a perpetual student in the Academy. You are going to be a child of God, in the end. We cannot forget the ideal that was in the mind of Gurudev. Those who had the opportunity of living with him for a protracted period and had an insight into his ways of thinking would be able to gather as to what was the ideal before him. It was not name and fame that made him establish this institution. He needed nothing of that kind. What could one gain by others' saying that one is great? Certainly, it was not money either. It was something else which always escapes the notice of onlookers, because they look at the body of the institution and the personality of the individual. They cannot look at the mind of a person and cannot see the spirit of things, because these always elude their grasp.

Therefore, it is absolutely necessary to be cautious in our daily thinking to see that the purpose for which we began our initial enterprise does not escape our notice later on, due to the clamour of the social atmosphere or even the demands of personal instincts. Towards this great aim, we have to move slowly, gradually, missing not a single step in the long path of development. There is no double promotion here. It is a compulsory movement from one step to the next step – one step only at a time, and not two steps. This is because no unnecessary thing exists in this world. An unnecessary step can be stepped over, but such a one does not exist. Every atom in the universe is a necessary thing for the development of the whole universe. And so, we have to pass through all the stages. We have passed through eighty-four Lakhs of Yonis, as the scriptures tell us. Scientists also tell us that we have passed through the stage of inanimate matter, the vegetable kingdom, the animal world and human life, etc. All these are different ways of saying that we can advance only gradually, stage by stage, and there is no jump from a stone to a man, for example. It has always been a gradual and systematic ascent. Likewise, from mankind to God is not going to be a sudden jump, unless there is an inward refinement of personality through the various levels that we have to ascend. This requires knowledge as to what are these further levels. This is the type of knowledge that we have to acquire in an Academy of this kind.

So, we require experienced people to teach. We do not want professors. They are not going to teach anything, because they are only bookworms. The teachers in the Academy should have insight into the nature of what they are going to teach, and naturally it is a difficult task. We know this very well. If everything had been so easy, everybody would have attained Freedom. There would have been liberation for all and paradise in this world, as people have been vainly expecting. Ramarajya would have been here. That is not going to be so easy on account of the very nature of things. It is a hard job and difficult indeed in every respect, externally as well as internally, because to think in terms of the requirements of the laws of God is not given to ordinary laymen. Therefore it is that people find it not easy to gain success in spiritual life as they imagine in the early stages of enthusiasm. The laws of God alone operate in the world, and nothing else operates. An acquaintance with the nature of these laws is a primary necessity. But we are acquainted with only social laws, political laws, personal laws and communal laws, rules and regulations of our own making, all of which may not have much relevance. But they assume relevance when they are tuned up to the higher purpose in the mould of which they have to be cast. Human laws, regulations and discipline are supposed to be reflections of the higher ideals that we are going to aspire for. It does not mean that there is any gulf between God and the world. There is a gradual ascent from the world to God. It is a process of evolution. So the studies in academies of this kind are going to be absolutely novel. From the point of view of this envisagement that is in my mind, I doubt very much whether it can function in this manner so easily. It requires a strong foundation, hard efforts and a body of thinkers along these lines, and it also requires real and sincere interest in the whole affair. It is not a slipshod matter.

All these considered, it requires serious thinking by each and every one of us. We are not going to study books merely. We are going to enlighten ourselves in the art of living which is the preparation for God-life that we are aspiring, for the purpose of which people are coming here. Many sincere students come from abroad as seekers. They seek enlightenment into the nature of divine living. Naturally it is difficult to contemplate all at once all the aspects of the approach to the final goal of the Academy. But let us remember the words of Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj who said, "Well, I have put the seed; let it take its own shape. It will sprout into a tendril, grow into a plant and become a tree. It may take fifty years, or it may take three lives. It does not matter." A gardener does not think that he himself will eat the mangoes from the plant that he plants on the soil. He knows that he may not live for so many years. Similarly, it does not mean that we, as individuals seated here, will reap the fruit of this effort. It is a cosmic endeavour in the interest of God's ideal itself, and with the blessings of the Almighty, success has to be there where sincerity is at its background. This is my humble belief.