The Heart and Soul of Spiritual Practice
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 16: Parting Advice to Students

You have come to a very holy place, as you know very well. There are many holy places in India. In my opinion this is the most holy of all places, for various reasons. Great stalwarts in spiritual eminence lived here. Sometimes the name of this place is spelled as Hrishikesh, or sometimes as Rishikesh, for different reasons. Originally it was known as Hrishikesh, the name of Narayana Bhagavan, Sri Krishna – God Himself. Why is it called Hrishikesh? It is because this entire region – right from Haridwar up to Badrinath, between the rivers Ganga and Yamuna – is called Brahma-varta. In the Manu Smriti it is stated that the land between Ganga and Yamuna is dominated by the power of Brahman. Tradition goes that Narayana and Nara, or Nara-Narayana, are the presiding principles of this entire area – of the whole country, of course – and they are supposed to be invisibly present in Badrinath even now.

There are two mountains in Badrinath. These mountains are called Nara and Narayana. It is possible that for the mortal eye these great beings look like two hills, though they may be actual embodiments of the great masters. In the Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana it is said that in all creation, right from Brahma onwards, there is not one person who is not affected by desire; the only ones who are totally unaware of anything called desire are the Nara-Narayana rishis. This verse from the Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana says that not even the mightiest of people can resist the temptation of some particular kind of desire – and here, they have burnt their desire completely. It is believed that the total God, the divinity complete, is incarnate in this Narayana Bhumi.

It is also believed that Vyasa, the great master, is still, in an invisible form, living in Badrinath. Vasishtha is also there. Physically you can see nothing because the universal force that is present there cannot be seen by particular, physically bound individuals. It is Narayana's place. Deva Bhumi is this place. Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj was a great visionary endowed with insight, whose words cannot be taken casually. Whatever word he uttered has immense significance. He used to say, "Nobody can keep his or her foot on the platform of the railway station of Rishikesh unless he has performed some great good deeds in the previous life. Otherwise, up to Haridwar he will come, and he will have diarrhoea, and he will go back from there itself. He will not reach Rishikesh at all. That is his karma." Many people have had this experience. They would set out for Badrinath darshan but in Rourkee itself they would fall sick and go back. It is a great wonder that you have been able to come to this holy place and have stayed here for two months.

This area is also sometimes known as Rishi because so many rishis lived here. The name for this particular locality, Muni-ki-reti, is significant. Muni is a saint or a sage. Reti is the sand. The sands trodden by this group of great masters, here, is Muni-ki-reti. You will notice, if you are a little attentive, that when you come from Rishikesh and cross Kailash Gate or Brahmanand Ashram and reach this side, you will find a different atmosphere altogether. Rishikesh town has one atmosphere, and when you cross the Brahmanand Ashram area you will find that there is something quite different here. What is different? Only your heart can say what it is. The whole area is sanctified. And the breeze of this Ganga . . . People die for a bath in the Ganga, and you have the darshan of all this. From the Vedas onwards, Ganga has been praised. In the Vedas, from such ancient times, there is a record of the mighty Ganga. We are breathing, looking, seeing, touching, drinking this holy water. Is it not a blessing? And you have come to this place.

Apart from all this, you have the divine protection of this great stalwart master, Swami Sivananda himself. So my request to you all is that when you go back home, live up to this ideal of the dictum of The Divine Life Society which embodies the very personality of Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj. He was not merely a human being; he was impersonality incarnate. He was neither like a man nor like a woman. When we looked at him, we could not know what was coming. It was some 'thing' coming. It was like a thing that was coming, not a human being. Such was his stature. And here you are, under his umbrella. The essence of his teaching and the quintessence of the way in which he lived is to be lived always – a kind of integrated life. There should not be any kind of fractional thinking, and no partiality, either this side or that side. Everything has to be brought into a consensus of togetherness in some way or the other, whatever be the manner and proportion of this adjustment, so that you have the compassion and the cooperation of the forces of nature and of God Almighty.

When you go from here, you may find yourself in a different atmosphere altogether. When you enter the family, you have father, mother, sister, brother, relations and so on. They will not talk to you in the way we talk to you here. You may be studying, or you may have already completed your studies. You may be in search of a job, or you may already have a job. So, your circumstances will completely differ from the conditions and circumstances of this place. It is quite possible that everything that you studied here will be forgotten in one day when you go and find yourself in a different world altogether. Some of you work in the night shift and cannot find time to meditate. You are exhausted. Or, apart from night duty, even if it is daytime, oftentimes you have to work very hard. Officials or people who work in factories, whoever they are, sometimes have to work until very late in the night with papers, files and whatnot – on every kind of problem. With that fatigue they come back to the house with no thought except to take rest after having a little food. Even then, you must find a little time for breathing. Just as you have time for breathing – you do not say, "I am tired, I won't breathe" – in a similar manner, a little time should be devoted for your isolated psychological existence. Physically you cannot be isolated because you are in a family. Everybody is there in the office; so many are there in the family. But, psychologically, you can consider yourself alone.

You have come to this world as a single, isolated individual. You did not bring any family with you. You had no father-mother consciousness. Nothing was there. The totally helpless little baby that you were came to this world with no belongings, no sense of relation to anybody. And when the time comes for anyone to leave this world, the same situation – the second childhood – will come. The first childhood is over, and the second childhood will make you totally helpless; and in such a condition you will realise that, really speaking, you are the same thing even at the end of life that you were when you were born into this world.

When a person is departing, who wants that person? When people do not want you as they appeared to want you earlier, when the time comes for leaving this world, do you realise who it is that really wants you? The illusion of social relations, family circumstances, political conditions, etc. makes you feel that everything is all right, that all is secure. But all this security that you see in the outer world is a mechanical arrangement created by the give-and-take policy of ideas of people, and they are not reliable, finally. Empires fall, kingdoms perish. Great people, holding high power, go to dust. Such things are possible in this world. So who is your friend, and who is your relative, and who actually wants you? Who is your friend? Think over this matter. In spite of that, in spite of this conclusion that perhaps you are totally alone psychologically, you have to discharge your duties in this particular situation into which you were born – socially, personally, and so on.

You have, therefore, several kinds of duties. You have a duty to yourself as a lone individual who has to take care of himself or herself. You are totally alone, and you mind your business. As long as you are in human society, you have some duty to that also. Of course, when you were born and were helpless as a little child, through the goodwill of the parents you were cared for, educated, and protected in many ways; and whoever has given you something, to that person too you owe something. So there is also a social duty which you have to discharge.

You have a duty to God Himself in the form of the divinities. The sun that is shining in the sky is responsible for your eyes operating properly, and every limb of your body, every organ, is controlled by a divinity that is not known to you. This is called, in traditional language, yajna, or sacrifice. Sacrifice is a dedicated action of yours which pays due respect to different things in this world – what is called brahma-yajna. You have been educated very well. What is this knowledge that you have gained? From where has it come? The teachers and the professors have brought you to this level of understanding. The authors of books which helped you are also responsible for what you are today as intelligent, educated people. You have to pay respect, honour and regard to these great things. The textbook is a great divinity that has told you something wonderful. The author is a brilliant person, and he has given you knowledge. So is the professor, so is the teacher. The adoration that you offer and the respect that you show to the great literatures, the authors, professors and writers of scriptures is brahma-yajna, which is a sacrifice or a worship that you perform by the study of holy texts like the Bhagavadgita, Upanishad, Bible, or whatever it is.

God Himself is kind to you. You are breathing, you are digesting your food, and you are healthy because of the mercy of the Almighty. It is not possible to live in this world by one's personal effort only. With so many troubles and difficulties galore, you cannot handle the world singly. You require the cooperation and blessing of many forces of which you are not personally aware. This is deva-yajna, or the sacrifice that you have to offer to the gods. You have not seen the gods, but you can know that they are existing. Unknown things also have a great responsibility over you, and you have a responsibility over them.

There is manush-yajna – taking care of human beings. You have the power to give something. No one can be considered as so poor that he has nothing to give to anybody. Something is there. Even a good word, a cup of water when someone is thirsty – any little thing that you have, whatever it is – is the respect that you show to other human beings. This is called manush-yajna. And, you have a duty to be compassionate to those who are helpless – like animals, for instance. You cannot kill them. You should not think that they are unwanted things. The consideration that you bestow upon subhuman beings is called bhuta-yajna.

Brahma-yajna, deva-yajna, manush-yajna and bhuta-yajna - in all ways you become a charitable person. Give and it shall be given. Whatever you have given, that will be given back to you in proportion, in an appropriate manner. You will never get anything which you have not given. This is very important to remember. Do not say, "I want this. I want that." You will get it if you also, equally, have a share in this participation which is mutual and cooperative. Be a good person. This is the first and foremost of all your requirements. Let people say, "He is a good man." You should also feel that there is nothing wrong with you.

Then, if possible, you can cooperate with the spiritual activities of the branches of The Divine Life Society which may be near you. There are hundreds of branches of The Divine Life Society throughout India and you may be near one of them, and you can render your assistance and be benefited by those activities. But if you are so capable and have such energy and power of understanding, you yourself can start a study circle. I am not saying that you should start a branch – just a study circle. Call your friends. You may be working in an office. You may have friends in the office, or anywhere. Wherever you are working, you must have colleagues around. Make friendship with them. Bring them together. "Let us have a good talk. Let us study this. What do you say? How do you feel?" Like school children talk together, and just as co-educationists compare notes with one another for the purpose of exams and other things, you can have a study group. It is not that you do not have any friends at all. There must be somebody. Even in the midst of colleagues in the office you will find some people who are like you; and you may do some good to them, and they will also do some good to you. Start a study circle. If no one is there, even members of your family will be sufficient. You have a capacity, by the impact of your knowledge and cooperating power, to bring some sense into your family setup also. This is one of the things that you can do.

As you have come now as students in a specified manner, you may also come as an individual student – as a visitor, you may say – and stay here for some time. Refresh your memory and stay here for some time – once in a year or twice in a year – and make this place a centre of attraction for your educational career. Your education is not over. You may have some academic qualification or degree; that is one type of education. The knowledge of how to live in this world – that is a new education altogether. After all the study in college, you will find that you are helpless and you do not know how to get on in this world. You have to live in this world; you cannot run to another world. Therefore, you have to be fully equipped with the methods and ways of adjusting yourself to the conditions of life which are there to help you, to cooperate with you. They are not your opponents. These are some of the little titbits of ideas that I have in my mind.

These things that you have heard from the teachers here can be gathered once again, for the purpose of retaining in your memory, by reading these textbooks. What you have heard here can also be found, in a concentrated form, in certain scriptures – like Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. Read them again and again with a commentary, because even though you have heard so many lectures, certain things may not be clear to you. Read them again with a good commentary. Read the Bhagavadgita with a good commentary; read the Upanishads, read the Bible, or whatever it is.

Every day you may keep a program of three things: meditation, japa of the Divine Name and svadhyaya, or study of a holy text. Japa of a holy mantra, meditation and study of a holy scripture – these three things are perhaps the ways of actual spiritual practice, or sadhana. You are not merely a man of God, but you are a man of the world also. You have to combine these two things at the same time. The world and God should sit together and shake hands in your personality, which is actually the outcome of your education in the manner that has been indicated here.

All things are well. You will be blessed. I have concluded, and I pray to the Almighty:

Om tryambakam yajamahe
sugandhim pushtivardhanam
urvarukamiva bandhanan
mrityor mukshiya maamritat.

Hari om tat sat.