3. Questions about The Divine Life Society
(Darshan given on January 22nd, 1997.)
A visitor: When you try to make advances on the spiritual path, you have to fight against the lust and anger and greed, and so forth.
Swamiji: You need not have to fight against them. They will evaporate automatically before the blaze of your love for God. When the sun rises, there will be no darkness. What is important is not to drive the negative qualities but to develop positive qualities. When the positive comes, the negative vanishes. When your body is healthy, the diseases go automatically. Love of God is the greatest panacea for all negative qualities. You cannot have any bad quality in you if your heart loves God. God will see that everything is cleared up. So love God with heart and soul, and you will see your negative qualities vanish of their own accord. As I mentioned, you need not have to drive the night out with force. With sunrise, then the night goes. So I, for one, do not focus on the negative qualities – 'very bad, ugly, remove, don't, don't, don't, don't'. Instead of saying 'don't, don't, don't', I say 'do, do, do, do' – the positive thing.
The concept of God, the vision of the Universal Being, is such a powerful medical method of curing illness that you will be surprised how it works. It is a health-giving potential vitamin injection, I may say. The moment you close your eyes for a few minutes and conceive the all-pervading integrated universal omnipresence, you will feel a thrill in your heart, a joy that you cannot explain, and your negative qualities will not be there at that time.
You need not go on thinking of lust, anger, greed, and all that. They will not be there if you are able to develop this positive concentration of mind on Almighty God. We emphasise meditation first and foremost – meditation on God. This is pure spiritual life. This Ashram is mainly spiritual. All other social activities, etc., are secondary. Humanitarian activities are secondary for us, though they are important enough. But the main thing is spiritual. To revolutionise the very outlook of life and orient it in the light of the presence of God, Who is all pervading, with this concept of the vision of life, negative qualities will not find a place in the heart of the human being.
Visitor: It says in the New Testament that Jesus was tempted by the devil.
Swamiji: Everybody will be tempted by a devil. It is not only Jesus – everybody – but Jesus has the power to summon God's force, and then the devil vanishes completely. When you summon God to your aid, no devil will stand before you.
Another visitor: I don't quite follow what you're saying. You shared with us a lovely, inspiring vision of the sun rising and the darkness disappears. But when the sun sets, the darkness comes back again.
Swamiji: The sun of God will never set. That is the difference between that sun and this sun. The sun of God will never set. It is eternal bliss. It is eternal; therefore, no setting. That is the difference between our ordinary sun and this spiritual sun. It is a perpetual blaze which will illumine your heart and brain and keep you happy always, and you should not have any doubt about it.
Another visitor: How does marriage and procreation fit into the Ashram?
Swamiji: In the Ashram, nobody marries. But people who have already married, lived a householders' life, and afterwards decided to lead the life of renunciation, withdrawal and spiritual meditation are welcome to this Ashram. When a householder, a married person, comes to this Ashram, he does not live like an ordinary householder or a married person. There is detachment in his mind. The attachment that is characteristic of household life is removed here, though outwardly husband and wife can stay here. But they don't behave like husband and wife. They are like partners of the Spirit. Householders can come here, but they don't live here as usually people live in ordinary life. The outlook changes here.
Visitor: How about children?
Swamiji: Sometimes we don't encourage children here because of the disturbance that they can cause, but basically there is no objection. There are people who come, as I mentioned to you, householders. They stay here for one week, two weeks, three weeks, even one month. They have got some children. We don't raise any objection unless the children are a nuisance, making noise and all that. Basically there is no objection. They can bring their children.
Another visitor: Who furnishes all the food and the medicine and the…
Swamiji: We receive voluntary donations from people.
Visitor: I know. But somebody each day must cook and serve and clean…
Swamiji: We have got people.
Visitor: Who are they?
Swamiji: We are many residents in this Ashram. Some of them are sannyasins. Some of them are not initiated people, they are called brahmacharis, and there are others, laymen also, and we have got some servants also we employ where it is necessary. We have got a large number of people here who do the work of different departments. We are about three hundred permanent residents here – permanent. They do the work.
Visitor: So what is their level of spirituality – the servants and employees?
Swamiji: Different levels. The servants here are slightly polished persons. The atmosphere of the sannyasins and the spiritual seekers here has a great influence upon them. 'Hello' they won't say; they will say 'Om, Om' – like that. Even these servants, when they come and knock at your door giving you tea or anything: Om, Om. Hello, hello – they don't say like that. Even when we lift a telephone – hello, hello, we don't say hello. Om, Hari Om, Hari Om. There is a spiritual orientation even among servants. They behave very politely and very, very cooperatively, and they are good children. That is the influence of this atmosphere even on servants.
Another visitor: I believe that among our group most of them are Christians of many different beliefs. Some may have no belief in God whatsoever.
Swamiji: Can I ask you if there is a Christian who does not believe in God? Are you saying that Christians do not believe in God?
Visitor: There may be some among us who do not believe in God.
Swamiji: It doesn't matter. But do you mean to say they are not Christians?
Visitor: They have no belief. They do not believe in a God.
Swamiji: Let them not believe in anything, but they must be believing in something else.
Visitor: But most of us are Christians.
Swamiji: According to my idea, no Christian can be an atheist. It is not possible.
Visitor: I say that most of us are Christians with various beliefs. We do not all believe the same, we do not all follow the same religion even though we basically are Christians. Some are Catholic, some are Protestants, some may be something else, and some may be nothing. They don't believe in anything. That's the truth. Some of them may not believe in a God. Is there any hope for the rest of our society?
Swamiji: There is hope for everybody. Nobody can be rejected.
Visitor: We can be saved?
Swamiji: Yes. Even a person who does not believe in God is welcome to this place. Even if a person does not believe in spiritual life, he is welcome to this place. But when he comes here, he changes his mind. He becomes a different person.
Visitor: But if we don't change our mind?
Swamiji: He will automatically change by the power of this place. I have seen any number of people coming here with hundreds of doubts, and they go joyfully, being satisfied. There is a special power in this place. Even a person who does not believe in God believes afterwards. Even a person who is an out-and-out communist, who hates everything except violence, that also changes here.
This is a powerful place, my dear friend. This is not an ordinary place. When they come and sit here and speak to us, in a few minutes the mind changes. There is the power of the founder, Swami Sivananda, I should say, or God Almighty Himself. And we are honest in this, and we believe in it, and everything shall be all right.
Another visitor: This gentleman used the term 'saved'. Do you have a concept of that?
Swamiji: Even if a person does not believe in God, God believes in this person.
Visitor: But do you have a concept of salvation?
Swamiji: What is your concept?
Visitor: I don't have one. This gentleman used it, and I just want to know if it's part of your goal.
Swamiji: Popularly, without going into the deep mystical aspect of it, popularly it means 'attainment of God'. You came from God, and you return to God. The return to God is the salvation. That's a simple answer.
Another visitor: If I wanted to come here, how long could I stay?
Swamiji: It depends upon your requirement. You tell me what are your needs, and I will decide how long it is necessary for you to stay. What are your requirements? What do you expect from us?
Visitor: Well… Does The Divine Life Society exist outside Rishikesh?
Swamiji: We have several branches of The Divine Life Society outside also. There are a few hundred in India, and a very few outside India – in Malaysia, in South Africa, and one or two in Europe and America. We have got centres, yes.
Visitor: Well, I'm almost 74, so therefore I'm going into the last stage, so that would be, I guess, my need: to know what to do.
Swamiji: What would you like us to do for you? What are you expecting from us?
Visitor: Well, I don't know how long I'm going to live. What will be my needs?
Swamiji: You may live for any number of years. That is not in anybody's hands. But you always believe that you are going to live long. Nobody says, “I am quitting tomorrow.” Nobody says that, and it is not necessary to go on saying all those things. For the length of time that God has permitted you to stay in this world, live a good life of divine thoughts.
Visitor: I thought I did that already.
Swamiji: No, you must do it again. There is no end for it. The thought of God is not only for some days; it is for all time. That is sufficient for you. Okay?
Visitor: Thank you.
Another visitor: The importance of meditation I understand. You also alluded to a little bit of socialisation. In addition to that, do you conduct within the house sessions, learning sessions, spirituality sessions so that those of us who would be…
Swamiji: Throughout the country we are doing that, throughout the country, and our people go and conduct classes and lectures in many places in India. Even now many are outside, touring for this purpose.
Visitor: How does one continually evaluate whether you're on the right road to spirituality?
Swamiji: From the deep satisfaction that you feel inside. Your satisfaction and your feeling of betterment, comprehensiveness and power, will tell you that you are on the right path.
Visitor: Is it then for the good of the whole Ashram, or is it for the good of mine only?
Swamiji: It is for the good of the whole universe. We don't believe in individual salvation; it is cosmic salvation.
Another visitor: Could you give us a general idea of what a typical day would be like?
Swamiji: A typical day of people like us? We have a prayer session in the early morning, recitation of holy formulae called mantras, and a few minutes of meditation. After that, people go for their breakfast. They take bath and breakfast, and all that.
Then everyone is doing some service here in the departments of the Ashram. We have got some 22-23 departments of service, and each one is working in some capacity or the other, in one or the other departments till about 11:00. This work goes on from 8:30 till 11:00, say. Then afterwards there is a lunch break. After that, again about 1:00 or something like that people go to their work till about 3:30 or 4:00. Then after that they are free.
Now here, in this particular instance, I conduct a meditation class here at about 5:00 in the evening. In the summer I do it another time; in winter it is 5:00. Just as you are sitting now here, people come and sit here at 5:00, and from 5:00 to 6:00, one hour, we sit calmly, quietly, without speaking, closing the eyes, doing meditation. That is one thing here.
After that there is a little dinner. We have got a simple dinner; people go for that. Then again we have a spiritual session, we call it satsanga, which is similar in the pattern of the early morning prayer, with an additional discourse by a swami or some competent guest. After that people retire to their rooms, do a little meditation, then go to bed. Then the day starts the next morning in the same way. This is briefly a day.
Visitor: Are there moments that people are in silence other than times that they might be doing their administrative work? Do you spend a day of silence?
Swamiji: Very important. It is a very, very important item in one's life. Everybody should find time to be silent and alone to oneself either in the early morning before starting work or before going to bed in the night. It is a must for everybody to go into one's own self and find time to be one's own self. It is a very important matter. Everybody should have time for that morning and evening, both times.
Another visitor: We understand that the Hindu religion emphasises particular images of God – Siva, Ganesha, and so forth. Do you have particular images of God?
Swamiji: We have no objection to anything. We never object to anything. We always include, absorb, harmonise and set in order. We never criticise, condemn and hate. This is not our policy. Everything should be in its proper place. Ugly things look beautiful when you put it in the proper place. If I splash a bottle of ink on your body, it is ugly, but if I splash it on a canvas it becomes a beautiful painting, and you look at it and enjoy it. What do you say? Everything in its own place. Anything in its proper place and in the proper context is beautiful. Anything out of context looks ugly.
So our duty is to see that things are kept in proper context. Whether it is a child or a sick man, a man or a woman, saint or sinner, whatever it is, he must be placed in a proper perspective, and ugly things become beautiful, corners become rounded up, and we believe finally that God does not create evil things in the world. It is a wrong perception of the human mind that sees ugliness and corners, and all that. Everything is okay in the kingdom of God. This is what we want to bring to the practical life in this world.
Another visitor: How do you regard those who give up the Hindu religion? How are they regarded, and what do you foresee for them in the life after that?
Swamiji: There is no necessity to become a Hindu. He need not become anything at all. He must be a human being first. And what will happen to a person after death will be the same thing that will happen to any human being. We are to look upon people as human beings, not as Hindus, Christians, Muslims. These are all fundamentalist-created ideas by human beings. When you are born into this world you are not born as a Hindu. You are born as a little child. And whether he is a child of a king or a beggar, it makes no difference. When God beholds you, I don't think He will think that you are a Christian or a Hindu. He will see that you are a little part of Himself.
Visitor: Based on what you're saying, you can be anything that you want to be.
Swamiji: We don't insist on anything. There is no need for religion at all. Let there not be talk of religion. We want only aspiration for God, and this can be entertained without any religion. Let all religion vanish in the world, still there will be spirituality. This is our view.
Another visitor: Would you make some comments about reincarnation and your thoughts about reincarnation?
Swamiji: This is another thing which, in modern days, is called the evolutionary process. You know what is evolution? There is organic evolution, biological evolution, natural evolution, social evolution, political evolution, etc., which simply means the outgrowing of the earlier condition, giving birth to a new condition. You have been a very little child, a small baby, once upon a time. You have become now a very adult, mature person. You have grown. This process of growth from babyhood to this adult condition of yours involves a destruction of the cellular constitution of the baby and a new constructive activity of a positive type of cellular constitution which makes you look like an elderly person. So birth and death are taking place every day. Every minute it takes place, and it is said after seven years the whole personality changes. And the only thing is, because the consciousness continues unremittingly, we cannot know that we are dying every minute. But when the consciousness withdraws itself from a particular pattern of human existence, we think it is birth and death. Actually, it is a cosmic necessity arisen on account of the aspiration of the whole universe for God. When the universe asks for God, it transforms itself from the lower condition to a higher condition until it becomes divine. So birth and death are neither good nor bad. They are scientific processes which cannot be denied. It is nothing but another name for growth, decay, destruction and reconstitution.