Hindu Dharma: From Work To Worklessness
Outward Karma - Inward Meditation
I have, in the course of my talks, dealt with a large number of religious rites. It may seem that the rituals, the puja to Paramesvara and the service done to fellow men are meant for "others". But in truth they are meant for ourselves. By helping others, by serving them, by worshiping the Lord, we are rewarded with a sense of fullness. Others may really benefit from our help or may not. But when we serve them we experience inward peace and happiness- about this there is no doubt. What is called "paropakar"(helping others) is indeed upakara done to oneself(helping oneself).
In serving others we may have to undergo hardships, make sacrifices and exert ourselves physically. But the happiness and sense of fullness we obtain is far greater compared to the trouble taken by us. The Lord does not have to gain anything form the puja we perform. In worshipping him, in reading the sacred texts, in going on pilgrimages we find inward joy. Why do we perform puja and why do we help others? It is all our own satisfaction.
Our affection for our wife, children and others is in fact affection for ourselves. According to the Upanisadic teaching of Yajnavalkaya, it is for our own inner contentment that we love others. We perform puja to the Lord purportedly because of our devotion for him and we do social service presumably because of our love of mankind. But in truth the reason is we like ourselves and find happiness in such acts. For the sake of such happiness we do not mind encountering difficulties or making sacrifices.
If we spend money on ourselves or go seeking sensual pleasure, we do not obtain the same inner satisfaction. Work done for our own sake leads to disquiet and sorrow. We see our face in the mirror and note that there is no tilaka on our forehead. What happens if we apply a tilaka of dark unguent to the mirror[to the image]? It will be blackened. To apply a tilaka to the image means applying it to the one who is in front of the mirror. Doing things for ourselves[serving ourselves]is indeed like applying a dark spot to our mind- it is blackening ourselves. We take the image of the Paramatman reflected in the Maya mirror that is the mind to be ourselves. To bedeck the image in reality means adorning the Paramatman. This is the reason why serving humanity gives us a sense of fulfilment because humanity is a manifestation of the Paramatmam. Worshipping the Supreme Being the same. Only then will the black spot that we apply to ourselves will become an ornament. We decorate Amba to decorate ourselves. If we adorn ourselves we only enlarge our ego and feed our arrogance. When Amba is bedecked everybody will be happy about it. When we wear a well-laundered dupatta and preen ourselves, do others feel happy about it? They will speak scornfully of us: "See, how well-ironed he looks."
All of you give me heaps of garlands. You do so because you think I am great and want to express your devotion for me. You also feel that instead of wearing them yourselves the garlands would be an ornament for me. If I decorate myself with them thinking myself to be a great man, it would means that I am satisfying my ego. But you bring me garlands with devotion and would it be right for me to spurn them? So just as you want to see me decorated I want to see Amba adorned and so I offer the garlands to her.
To go in search of money, fame and sensual pleasure, thinking them to be good, is to blacken our minds. What is it that is good for us? That which is good for the world -- and it is but a form of Paramatmam. This truth is known to our inner being; we realise it deep in our mind. That is why we find greater fulfilment in doing good to others, unmindful of all the difficulties, than in finding comforts for ourselves.
The world is a manifestation of the Paramatman and so must we be too. We must remove the mirror called the mind and experience the truth within us that we are none other than the Paramatman. This is what called meditation. All the work we do ought to lead finally to worklessness, to the mediation of the Atman. The goal of all the sacraments I speak about is this.
Our actions make us happy in many ways. But in none of these actions do we find the peace that we enjoy during sleep. How we suffer if we lose even a single night's sleep? There is so much happiness in sleep. Do we not realise from this that the supreme "comfort"or happiness is worklessness. Dhyana or meditation is the state of being absorbed in the Paramatman, a state of non-doing.
In sleep we are not conscious that we are happy. It is only when we are awake that we realise that we are happy when we were asleep. The ultimate goal of meditation is samadhi in which we are fully conscious of the great bliss experienced by us. If we teach ourselves to remain in a state of non-doing within (inside ourselves) we will experience tranquillity even though we keep working outwardly. The inner peace will never be disturbed.
The quietude of Daksinamurti is the bliss of knowingness. It is not the same as the stilling of mind during sleep. In sleep there is no voluntary control of the mind; the mind becomes still because of exhaustion. Such stillness we are not capable of sustaining on our own. What becomes still during sleep, without being subject to our control, returns on our awakening again without being subject to our control.
Death too is a kind of sleep. In it, too, the mind is stilled. But with rebirth when the individual self becomes incarnate the mind starts to be active again. If we learn to control the mind voluntarily it will be able to remain in that state. Though Daksinamurti remains still without doing anything he is full of awareness. It is because he is inwardly a non-doer that he is able to do so much in an outward sense. The Daksinamurthi who remains still is the one who dances the dance of bliss, who destroys the demon Tripura and who keeps roaming as a mendicant. After granting boons to his devotees he goes from place to place. He is still inwardly but is in a frenzy outwardly. If we manage to still ourselves inwardly we will be able to do so much outwardly.
We are the opposite of Daksinamurti. We don the disguise of non-detachment in order to make others believe that we are at peace with ourselves, but inside we remain all the time agitated.
Outward calm is the first step towards inward stillness -- and this stillness is to be brought about in degrees and will not be gained at once. That is why the wise tell us:"Reduce all your sensual activities. Do not join the crowd. Try to disengage yourself from all work including that of doing good to the world. Keep away from money and dwell in the forest." But do we listen to that advice? We shall do so only when our mind is cleansed.
That is why so many rituals are prescribed to purify the mind, the consciousness. It means that, instead of asking us not to do this and that, we are asked to do(perform)this and that rite. It is natural for us to be involved in some work or other. So, without any regard for our personal likes and dislikes, we perform the rites laid down in the sastras. Even here our personal likes and dislikes will intrude but, unlike in the matter of meditation, we succeed to some extent at least in curbing them during the conduct of the rites. In due course, with the grace of the Lord, we will be able to perform good works without minding the discomfort and ignoring our personal likes and dislikes. Desire and hatred will be reduced and the mind will become pure. With the mind cleansed we will be able to perform one-pointed meditation. This is the time when we will be mature enough to forsake all works and become a forest recluse and practice meditation. If we are able to meditate with utter one-pointedness then everything will acquire the character of the Paramatman. There will be no need to leave everything and remain holding the nose with the hand. The forest, the village, solitude and crowd -- they are all the Paramatman. Both work and meditation are the Paramatman. Our inner peace will not be shaken by anything. Like Daksinamurti we can remain still and tranquil and yet be all bustle outwardly.
In the Gita, the Lord exhorts Arjuna to practise svadharma-in the case of Arjun it means waging war. The lord also propounds the yoga of meditation in which there is no"doing". He refers to the example of Janaka who was all the time working for the welfare of the people but at the same time remained in the ultimate meditation called Brahma-nistha. He himself, says the Lord, is like Janaka. There is apparently a contradiction in all this. But in reality no. The one arises from the other. In the beginning when it is not easy to control the mind and meditate on the Atman, performs rituals. Then gaining mental purity through them, that is the rituals fore sake karma and practise meditation and yoga, nothing will affect us. In this all is still inwardly and yet outwardly there will be much activity.
Briefly put, this is the concept of Bhagavatpada: ultimately everything(the phenomenal world) will be seen to be Maya. The One Object, the One and Only Reality, is the Brahman. We must be one with It, non-dualistically, without our having to do anything in the same way as the Brahman. I who bear the name of Sri Sankara, keep speaking about many rites, about puja, japa, service to fellow men, etc. It is because inour present predicament we have to make a start with rites. In this way, step-by-step, we will proceed to the liberation that is non-dualistic. It is this method of final release that is taught us by Sri Krsna Paramatman and by our Bhagavatpada. At first karma, works, then upasana or devotion and, finally, the enlightenment called jnana.
If we advance in this way, by degrees, with faith and devotion, we will obtain the wisdom and mellowness for Atmic meditation and inner control. Afterwards, we may keep doing any kind of work outwardly for the good of mankind.
What is the best means of Practising Atmic meditation? We must be imbued with the tranquillity that is Parasakti incarnate and remember every day Daksinamurti in his quiescence. Let alone the idea of forsaking all work and becoming plunged in meditation. Let us leave aside, for the time being, karma, which, itself is transformed into the high state of meditation. These are conditions to which we must arise at a later stage in our inward journey. But right now-at the beginning-let us train ourselves in the midst of our work to remain at peace and learn to meditate a little.
To start with, let karma, devotion and meditation be practised together. These are not supposed to one another but are complementary. In the end all will drop off one by one and the samadhi of dhyana alone will remain. When we start our inward journey we must keep this goal of samadhi before us. So every day, having aside all other work, we must practise meditation for some time. But all the same we must not dismiss rituals as meaningless or as a part of superstition. We must keep performing them. It is only when our impurities are washed away thus that we will realise the self-luminous Reality in us.
How to Cultivate Character and Good Conduct
How do we acquire character, how do we come to possess good qualities? By living according to the precepts of the vedas and sastras and by following the good customs practised by our own forefathers as well as by performing the rites that have been passed down to us. Good conduct springs from a good mind. So the mind must be free from evil.
Everybody does not possess a good mind. Look at your child. It is all the time up to some mischief or other. It cuts paper with scissors or cuts down little plants and shrubs. It is naughty all the time. When the same child is sent to school it is brought under a discipline. It has fixed timings to go to school and return home, to read its lessons, etc. It is no longer found to be wayward.
In the same way if we have no opportunity of being involved in evils thoughts and activities, we will also come under a certain discipline. That is why the sastras lay down rules to keep us involved in good works. When we are conducting religious rites we must have no ego-feeling. The preceptors of the Vedic way have shown us the path to consecrate our karma to Isvara. The Lord has given us strength to perform them but also the intelligence and the means. Even a little ego-sense would be ruinous because it is capable of taking many disguises and of sizing us at an unwary moment.
Are we able to see ourselves in a soiled mirror? If we dust it and clean it well, we can see our reflection clearly. Even a clean mirror cannot produce a proper image if it keeps shaking. The mirror must both be clean and steady; only then will the reflection be true and clear. The mind, the consciousness, is like a mirror. The Supreme Being is the only Truth. When there are no evil thoughts in us, the mind-mirror will also be clean. If it is fixed on a single object it will remain steady-like a mirror that does not shake. Only than will the Paramathma be reflected in it.
Who created this world? Who gives us food, clothing and comforts? Who is an ocean of grace? If we wish to know it is we must keep our mind steady and free from impurities.
Suppose a copper pot has remained immersed in a well for ten years or so. How much rubbing will it have to take before it becomes clean? The more we rub it the cleaner and brighter it will be. If our mind has been made impure with evil actions over many years it can be made chaste only by the performance of many a good deed, many a good-work.
Is it enough to keep the copper vessel clean for today? What will happen to it tomorrow or the day after? It will become dirty again if it is not rubbed. Similarly, we must keep our mind ever pure by the daily performance of good works. In due course, atime will come when the citta, the consciousness, will vanish and Self alone will remain. Thereafter, there will be no need to cleansed. Until then we have to keep our mind pure through good actions and good conduct.
' Samsare Kim Saram ? '
n his Prasnottara-Ratnamalika, our Acarya asks: "Samsare kim saram? "(What is the meaning of worldly existence?) He responds to the question himself:" You asked the question thus. Keep asking again and again. That is the meaning of samsara. "("Bahusah abhi vicintyamanam idam eva.")
"What is the purpose of my birth? Why was I born? " You must ask yourself this question again and again. You must also have some concern about whether you will reach the goal of your birth. "Why do you keep sinning?" is a problem that always worries us. "Why do you get angry? And why do we desire this and that? Can't we remain always happy without sinning, without anger and desire?" We do not seem to know the answers to these questions.
The fruit is formed from the flowers, first in the tender unripe form and finally in the mellow form. The flowers smells fragrant to the nose and the ripe fruit tastes sweet to the palate. The mellow or ripe fruit is full of sweetness. How did the fruit taste before it became ripe and sweet? The flower was bitter, the tender fruit was astringent, the unripe fruit was sour and the fruit that is mellow now is sweet. Peace means sweetness. When the heart is all sweetness all attachments disappear. There is attachment only so long as there is sourness. When you pluck an unripe fruit from a tree there is sap in the stem as well as in the fruit. It means that the tree is not willing to part from the fruit and vice versa.
But when the sweetness is full, all the ties will be snapped and the fruit will drop to earth by itself. The tree releases the fruit or the fruit frees itself from the tree. The separation is without any tears and happy [there is no sap]. Similarly, step-step by step, a man must become wholly sweet like a mellow fruit and free himself happily from the tree of samsara, the cycle of births and deaths. Desire, anger, and so on, are necessary stages in out development like bitterness, astrigency, sourness and sweetness in the growth of a fruit.
When we are subiect to urges like desire and anger we will not be to free ourselves fully from them but we must keep asking ourselves why we become subject to these urges and passions. We must constantly wonder whether they serve any purpose. If we do not remain vigilant about them we will become victims of their deception.
There must be astringency when it is time for astringency and sourness when it is time for sourness. But neither astringency nor sourness must remain a permanent state. Just as a tender fruit becomes mellow, we too must become mellow and sweet. If we do so there is no need to seek liberation on our own. If we are as we should be in the different stages of our life, liberation shall come in the natural process. On the other hand, if we make and effort at an inappropriate time [if we force ourselves] it will be like making the fruit prematurely ripe. Such a fruit will not taste sweet.
We should not, however, remain always in the same state as the one in which we find ourselves today, indifferent to everything. At the same time, when our bag of sins still to be emptied, we cannot thirst for the supreme knowledge. Instead, let us keep doing our duty hoping that we will realise the supreme knowledge, if not now, after many a birth. Let us adhere to the dharma prescribed by the Vedas. If we do so, we will proceed gradually to the supreme jnana. Now we are aware only of outward matters and outward disguises. So let us start with the outward rites of our religion and the outward symbols and signs. By degrees then let us go to the inner reality through the different stages from that of the tender fruit to the fruit that is mellow and sweet.
Inward and Outward
I have stated again and again that the people must perform the rites handed down to them from forefathers, that they must adhere to the practices pertaining to the tradition to which they belong and they must wear the symbols appropriates to the same, like the holy ashes or Tiruman, the rudraksa, etc. Some people hold the view that all that is needed is conduct and character, that conduct is a matter of the mind, that religious customs are but part of the external life.
In truth, however, your outward actions and the symbols worn by you outwardly have an impact on the inner life. There is a relationship between bodily work and inner feelings. Let me illustrates this truth. One day, unexpectedly, a man comes to know he was won prize in a lottery, say, one lakh rupees. His joy knows no bounds, but it makes its own impact on his body. He becomes so excited that his breathing itself stops for a moment and he faints. "A particular feeling creates a specific change in the process of breathing". From this practical observation yoga develops lessons in breathing to create healthy and noble feeling and urges. Often the outward appearance reflects the inner feelings. When you are angry your eyes become red, your lips quiver. When you are sorrowful your eyes become moist and you shed tears. If you are happy you are agape, showing all your teeth. Thus there is a definite connection between the body and the mind, between the boy and the inner feelings. Based on this fact, the wise have devised yogic postures that are calculated to nurture particular Atmic qualities.
Will soldiers be less valorous if they do not wear their uniforms? All over the world members of the defence services wear uniforms and it is claimed that they keep them fighting fit and inspire courage in them.
The symbols worn outside, the samskaras performed outwardly, are inwardly beneficial. If you think that it is all a disguise so it will be. You must resolve to wear the symbols in all sincerity and perform the rites too. Then they will truly cause purity within. Outward action help you inwardly.
It perhaps natural that I should give importance to samskaras, to the custom of wearing symbols like the sacred ashes, rudraksa, etc. After all, I am the head of Matha and you will come to me only if I wear all these. You will give me money for the conduct of the Matha. So all these symbols that I wear serve a purpose in my case. But your case is different. You have your own means of livelihood and you may be able to perform samsakaras even more sincerely than I do and make yourself pure by wearing the symbols of our religion.
Let us wear the signs that remind us of the Supreme Truth. Let us perform the rites that keep us away from evil. Let us be of good conduct and character and cleans our consciousness. And let us meditate on the Ultimate Reality, experience It inwardly, realise bliss.
Do We Need Rituals ?
Some ask me whether religious functions, puja, etc, are not "mere" rituals. Atmic awareness is an inward experience. As for rituals they are outward actions. The question is how rituals will help in experiencing the Self.
Rituals are indeed not necessary for one who has realised the Self. But we must put the question to ourselves whether we have truly realised It, whether we are mature enough for realisation, whether we have become inwardly pure. Were we honest we would admit that we are far from having become mature for awareness of the Self. By taking many births, by performing many works and by the vasana of previous lives, we have concealed the bliss of knowing the Self. By conducting good rites, and by associating ourselves with noble objects, we have to banish the evil habits sticking to us from our past lives. Then there will be an end to karma itself and we will embark on Atmic inquiry. Until then we have to perform what are called "mere" rituals.
The proper thing for ordinary people is to conduct all the rites mentioned in the sastras. The benefits obtained from them may be seen in practice. When a person takes care to go through the rites strictly in the manner prescribed in the canonical texts, he will gain one-pointedness of mind. This should be of immense help to him in contemplating the Self later. And the desire to follow the sastras in all aspects of life will mean that he will be brought under a certain discipline. When we conduct rites according to the sastras our determination and will power will be strengthened. Since we subordinate our views to the injunctions of the scriptures, we will cultivate the qualities of humility and simplicity.
So what do we gain by performing "mere" rituals? We will acquire one-pointedness of mind, discipline, non-attachment, will power, humility. On the whole it will help us to live a moral life. Without moral conduct there can never be Atmic inquiry and Atmic experience.
The Buddha did not prescribe any Vedic rites. But he too laid stress on morality and discipline. The Pancasila that Nehru often spoke about is of the utmost importance to the Buddhists. The Buddha points to the value of morality without the performance of Vedic rites. What about the Purvamimamsakas? They believe that Vedic rites are of the utmost importance and that is no need to worry about God. In our sanatana dharma, however, there is a weaving together of rites, the good conduct and discipline arising out of them, devotion to Isvara and finally knowledge of the Self.
Morality does not arise by itself. If you want milk you must keep a cow. If you keep a cow you will get not only milk but also cow dung. Then there will come up a haystack. When you keep the cow called karma you will not only derive not only morality and good conduct from it but also something that you feel is not wanted, that is cow dung. When you keep a cow must keep the place free from cow dung - that is a part of commonsense or wisdom. It is in this manner that you must obtain the real benefits from religious rites.
If rituals are not necessary for true Atmic knowledge, even the murti called Isvara is not necessary for the same. But we can dispense with rituals and Isvara only when we reach a high plane of knowledge. At first Isvara is very much necessary for our inward journey and there are so many reasons for it. I will tell you one. We need an entity that exemplifies all that is good. Have we not for ages together thought of Isvara as such a one, one who represents all virtues and all auspicious qualities. When we mention the word "Isvara" we at once think of him as one without any evil. If anything or anyone combines beauty, compassion, power and enlightenment to the full it must be Isvara. It is a psychological principle that we become that which we keep thinking of. By meditating on Isvara's manifold auspicious qualities our own undesirable qualities will give place to good ones.
There are many benefits that flow from rituals, puja, etc. One of them is that they help to make us good. They are also of value in taking us to the path of workless yoga and the inward quest.
Karma is the Starting Point of Yoga
People usually think that yoga means no more than controlling the breath and sitting stone-like. The literal meaning of the word is "joining", "uniting". All through our life's journey we have to join ourselves to various objects. But such joining is no permanent. That is why the mind remains unsteady. If we are joined to an object without the least possibility of being seperated from it, it is yoga in the true sense. The root of the minds of all of us is the one Paramatman. Yogins control their breath to turn their mind to this prime root object. The root that gives rise to thoughts is the same as the root that gives rise to the breath. So if the breath is fixed on the root, the mind too will be absorbed in it.
The opposite of yoga is "viyoga". When the man dies we say that he has attained viyoga. The Lord says in the Gita that a particular kind of viyoga is itself yoga. What is it? If you keep away sorrow, that is if sorrow does not attach itself to you, you have the yoga of disconnection(Tam viyad dukha-samyoga-viyogam yoga-samjnitam. )
What we normally understand to be pleasure in a worldly sense is truly sorrow. All experiences that creates separation from the Paramatman are sorrow. It is because the citta or consciousness is unstill that we undergo sorrow and happiness. These disappear when the mind is still. To make the mind pure it to train it in one-pointedness. This is the mean of yogic perfection. To start with, all will be able to control their breath like yogins. If we are absorbed in a worthy subject, in some good work, our mind will remain untainted to some extent. If we try to control our mind in one go, so to speak, it will free itself and wander in all directions. If we keep doing some noble work or take an interest in some noble subject the mind is less likely to become unstill.
In the old days they used to wear what is called an arikandam, that is an iron ring, round the neck to keep themselves disciplined and live according to the sastras. In the same way we must wear an arikandam to keep the mind from going astray. To be involved in good actions is itself a kind of arikandam.
Performing sacrifices, observing fasts and vows, building great temple towers, digging ponds, etc, were a means in the past to cleanse the mind by making it one-pointed. In the midst of such good work also one experiences difficulties, even humiliation, but one should not be daunted by criticism or obstacles. This itself becomes the means of mental purification. Then come pranayama, meditation, etc.
The kazhakkodi keeps rolling without gathering any dirt. If you smear some ashes on it they will not stick to it. Like the kazhakkodi we too must not be affected by pain or pleasure and keep journeying towards the Paramatman and becoming one with It. Such union is called yoga - it is our original as well as ultimate state. In between we somehow become different. That is why we do not understand that ultimate and original state now. To reach that state we must make a beginning with the performance of rites.
Arjuna asks [Krsna] whether it is not a sin to wage war and slay friends and relatives in battle. It seems to us a natural and reasonable question. Sri Krsna Paramatman gives an answer in the Bhagvadgita. An action that outwardly seems to be bad and cruel need not necessarily be sinful. Acts that apparently cause pain to others may have to be committed for the good of the world and there is no sin in them. Then what action is sinful and what is meritorious? The Lord answers this question also. Only such deeds as are motivated by desire and hatred can be sin. Those performed for the well being of the world without being impelled by desire and hatred are meritorious even though they may seen to be cruel.
The question arises: Is there any action that does not spring from desire or hatred? I will give an example. When a judge awards punishment to a man found guilty of crime is he driven by desire or hatred? His sentence may seem cruel but it is indeed for the Atmic well-being of the accused himself. If one's son is suffering from advanced insanity does one not keep him in chains? Is that sinful? It is for the son's good as well for the good of others who might come to harm by him.
It is this manner that the sastras have kept us bound, ordering us to do this and that. It is for our benefit as well as the world's, says Sri Krsna, that we must live according to the tenets of the sastras: "Tasmatcchastram prmanam te karyakarya-vyvasthitau" (the sastras are the authority as to what you must do and must not). The Gita today enjoys wide esteem. Even people who have no respect for our religious customs and traditions - researchers, Western scholars, etc - speak in praise of it. They interpret variously the Gita's teaching on the svadharma. There is no room for doubt about what the Gita says about svadharma: It is the karma allotted to a man by the sastras.
When there is neither selfish desire nor hatred, there will be nothing unpleasant about any kind of work. One can then be always happy doing one's allotted work.
The reason for desire and hatred is ego-feeling, ahamkara. When there is no ego-sense, considerations of high and low, or inferior or superior, will be found meaningless. We will kept doing our work happily as a matter of duty and thus also contribute to the world's happiness. The Karmayoga taught by the Gita is doing one's work without ahamkara, in a spirit of dedications to the Lord. This tradition of desireless action that purifies our inner being has existed in this land from the Vedic period. Sri Krsna Paramatman presents it to us as a boon encased in a handy casket.
We must keep applying this teaching with ardour in every work and action of our life. Every time we do a work we must ask ourselves: "How do we benefit from this work? Will it bring us fame? Are we moved by desire or hatred? Are we being partial to somebody in carrying it out?" If there is any of these elements associated with our action it must be considered sinful even if it seems exalted to the outside world. If we do something on our own, dictated by our own desire, there will be much wrong-doing in accomplishing it. So, as Sri Krsna says, all our actions must be founded on the sastras. If everybody acts with equal love for all and with a pure heart there will be neither any rivalry nor any quarrel in society. The world then will be filled with joy.
Hindu Dharma: Dharmas Common To All
How to Control the Mind
What is the obstacle to one-pointed meditation? The answer is the unstill mind. All problems are caused by the mind, by the desires arising in it. It is not easy to control the mind and keep it away effectively from desire. If we ask the mind to think of an object, it seems to obey us for a moment, but soon it takes its own course, wandering off. When I speak to you about meditation and tranquillity, for a moment your mind will perhaps become still and you will be happy. But in a trice it will go astray and the calm you experienced for a few seconds will give place to unquietness.
If you bid your mouth to keep shut, it obeys you for a brief moment. Similarly, if you close your eyes asking them not to see anything, they shut themselves off from the outside world for some moments. But try as you might to tell your mind not to think of anything, it will not listen to you.
The mind must be kept under control. Thinking and non-thinking must be governed by your will. Only then can we claim that it is under our control, that we are masters of our own consciousness.
Lunatics are usually referred to as people with no control over their minds. In fact none of us have any control over the mind. A madman keeps blabbering. But what about us? We let the mind go freely to keep blabbering inwardly.
Do you know what it means to have mental control? Suppose you are suffering from a severe pain. If you ask your mind not to feel the pain, it shall not feel it in obedience to you [that is you will not feel the pain]. Even if a tiger comes face to face with you and growls you will feel no fear if you ask your mind not to be afraid of the beast. Now we keep crying for no reason. If the mind is under control we will keep smiling even if there is cause for much sorrow. And under the gravest of provocations it will not be roused to anger and will remain calm.
First we must train our mind not to keep wandering. One way of doing it is to apply it to good activities. When oil falls in a steady flow, without spraying, it is called "tailadhara". The mind must be gathered together and made steady. It must be accustomed to think of noble and exalted objects like the Lord. Eventually, the very act of "thinking" will cease and we will dissolve in Isvara to become Isvara.
Yoga is controlling the mind in this manner.
Before we pass on, we must find a way to control the mind. Otherwise, we will be born again and we will be subject to the constant unquietness of the mind again. So we must use the opportunity of this birth itself to subdue the mind even while we are in the midst of so much that can rouse our desire or anger. A man who has succeeded in bridling his mind thus is called a "yukta" by the yogins. He is a "sukhin", one who truly experiences bliss, so says Sri Krsna
You must not turn away from yoga thinking that it is meant only for people like the sages. Who needs medicine? The sick. We suffer from manovyadhi, mental sickness. So we must take the medicine that cures it.
There are two different ways of mastering the mind- the first is outward(bahiranga) and the second is inward(antaranga). We must have recourse to both. The Matha has a cartman and a cook. Their work is outward in nature. Then there are those who prepare the wicks of the lamps, gather flowers for the puja - they are "inward" workers. Both types are needed for the functioning of the Matha. By employing both the outward and inward means, the mind must first be applied to good things one-pointedly and eventually lead to a state in which it does not think of anything at all.
The outward means consists, for example, of sandhyavandana, sacrifices, charity and so on. The best inward means is meditation. There are five inward(or antaranga) means to aid meditation. They are ahimsa(non-violence), satya(truthfulness), asteyam(non-stealing), sauca(cleanliness) and indriya-nigraha[subduing the senses, if not obliterating them]. To practise ahimsa is to imbue the mind with love for all and not even think of harming others. Asteyam means not coveting other people's goods. For satya, or truthfulness, to be complete one's entire being, including body, mind and speech, must be involved in its practice. Sauca is hygiene, observing cleanliness by bathing, maintaining ritual purity, etc. Indriya-nigraha implies limits placed on sensual enjoyment. "The eyes must not see certain things, the ears must not hear certain things and the mouth must not eat certain things"- restrictions with regard to what you can see, listen to, eat and do with your body. The body is meant for sadhana, for Atmic discipline. The senses must be "fed" only to the extent necessary to keep the body alive. These five dharmas are to be practiced by all Hindus without any distinction of caste or community.
According to the Manusmriti, ahimsa is the foremost among the dharmas that are common to all. It is included in the yoga of mind control. Ahimsa means much more than non-injury; it implies not doing harm to others even by thought or word.
By nature none of us wants to cause any hurt to other people. But if others do us harm we want to retaliate in anger. Suppose one of our children sets fire to our house in all innocence. We do not punish it but try to extinguish the fire and thereafter take care to see that the child is kept away from fire and other dangerous objects. We must learn to think that all those who cause us pain are like this child. If a person tries to hurt us, we must lovingly prevent him from doing so. We must not bear any ill-will against him nor think of retaliating. This is true ahimsa.
The practice of ahimsa contributes greatly to the yoga of mind control. The mind is like a demon. But see what wonders the demon- the vetala- accomplished for Vikramaditya after he had been brought under control. The mind will do us unlimited good if it is made subservient to us. Anjaneya [Hanuman] acquired his immense strength and was able to perform so many great and good deeds only because he had conquered his mind. The mind's power is immeasurable. All the cosmos is the work of the Supreme Goddess and in this creation of hers even the mind of a tiny ant pervades the entire universe.
Many great men, many yogins, have stated that they were able to control their minds by adhering to true ahimsa. When we practise ahimsa, anger will naturally give way, the mind will become clear and will easily be controlled.
Though the chief aim of non-violence the control of the mind, there is another unexpected benefit that it brings. It is called "avantara prayojana". All of you came to the Matha to see the puja. But with that you listened to the nagasvaram music and saw persons whom you had not seen for long - and now you listen to my discourse. All these belong to the category of avantara prayojana. Thus if a man practises true non-violence (by body, mind and speech), he will be rewarded with a benefit that he had not expected. In his presence all creatures will forget their ill-will and cease to cause hurt to any other creature.
tatsannidhau vairatyagah -yogasutra.
-- Yogasutra, 2. 35
The minds of even cruel people will be transformed in the presence of men practising utter ahimsa: in other words when a man is full of love he can make other people also loving and this is an avantara prayojana.
A sannyasin must observe total non-violence. He must not even pluck a leaf from a tree and must not do violence to plants by cooking them. It is because of the rule of absolute non-violence enjoined on him that there is an interdiction on his performing rites in the sacred fire. Tending a fire for the conduct of a ritual might unwittingly make us responsible for the destruction of some insects. It is because the sannyasin has no Agni ceremony that when he dies his body is not cremated but interred. When he is initiated into sannyasa he takes a vow that he shall never be the cause of fear to any creature.
"Ahimsa paramo dharmah" (Non- violence is the supreme dharma). Buddhism and Jainism impose total non- violence on their followers. Not so our religion except in the case of ascetics. In Hinduism an exception to the general dharma of non-violence is made in the case of a righteous or just war and in a sacrifice in which sometimes animals are killed. It is to fetch the divine powers to earth and to appease them that animals are sacrificed in yajnas. It is our belief that the animals so sacrificed will attain to a high state that they cannot otherwise through their own efforts. Altogether it means the good of the animals and the welfare of the world.
In a war, heroes of the army sacrifice themselves in the cause of the nation. Is it not better to lay down one's life for the sake of others than fatten oneself doing nothing?
It is easy to claim oral allegiance to the principle of non- injury but difficult to practise the same. Quarrels and disputes are inevitable in the workaday world. In dealing with them action that is apparently violent may have to be taken. In reality such action is not regarded as violent. The intention or purpose is important here, not the action itself. Certain types of violence are justified according to the sastras and not considered sinful, because such violence is committed not for our personal delight but in pursuance of our duty towards the society: the offering of an animal in sacrifice, sentencing a murderer to death, killing an enemy in war.
If a religion makes the practice of non-violence universally applicable, there will be problems. Obviously, all cannot practise it at all times. So those who find it not practicable to follow these rule of ahimsa are made liable to sin. Our religion has taken a more realistic view on the question. As we have seen, Buddhism imposes total non- violence on its followers. But what do we see in practice? In all those lands where Buddhism has a hold there are armies that take part in fighting. Besides, almost without exception, everybody is a meat-eater there.
If a great dharma or principle is made common to all, in the end it is likely to lead to a situation in which no one will respect it in practice. In our religion- to repeat- the rule of absolute non- violence is meant only for sannyasins. Following their example, Brahmins, Vaisnavas in regions like Gujarat and Sivas in the South like the Vellalas and Komutti Cettis practise ahimsa. Without being bound by any sastric injunction they have voluntarily adopted the principle and practised it from generation to generation. Influenced by the example of the sattva guna of ascetics these communities have become vegetarians on their own. And, following their example and without being compelled to do so, other castes too abstain from meat on days likes the new moon, on the day of a sraddha, and days sacred to the various deities. When a principle is imposed only on a few, since it is difficult to make it universal it becomes an ideal for others to whom it may not formally apply: they try to practise it as far as they can. Non-violence is a samanya dharma( a dharma common to all) in Hinduism. It is kept as an ideal though, on occasion, adherence to it is not practicable.
In the Vedic dharma the definition of ahimsa is the absence of ill-feeling in all action.
Truthfulness means mind and speech being well integrated. The wise say that speech being at variance with the mind is untruthfulness.
Vangmanasyoh aikarupyam satyam
God has given man the gift of speech so that he may give expression to his thoughts and feelings. If what we speak is at variance with what we think (with our mind) God will take away the faculty of speech from us in our next birth- that is we will be born in the animal kingdom.
There are, as we have seen before, exceptions made in our sastras to the rule of absolute non-violence: in waging a war to preserve dharma, in offering animals in sacrifice. Are there similar exceptions to the rule of truthfulness? You will perhaps say none. But, as a matter of fact, there are.
In a locality there must be a number of undesirable characters. Let us suppose that a certain citizen is annoyed with such characters and gives open expression to his anger. "He committed this outrage. That other man is guilty of such and such a crime, " he keeps recounting the misdeeds of the bad elements. In doing so he is being truthful, that is his speech and mind are in accord. But by giving expression to his feelings no purpose is served for neither he not the community is benefited. It is a futile kind of accord - that of his speech and mind - and it cannot be called truthfulness.
Take the example of another person. He is full of evil thoughts and, if he gives expression to them, can he be called truthful? No.
So truthfulness, now we see, is not merely accord between mind and speech. It means voicing good thoughts, thoughts that are beneficial and are liked by people: "Satyr bhuahitam priyam."
Doing good through thought, word and deed is truthfulness. All that does ill is untruthfulness. It is not enough that you speak to a man what is good for him. You must speak with affection and the one to whom your words are addressed must find them acceptable. If you speak harshly nobody will listen to you even if you mean well. Thus words that serve no purpose do not constitute a truth. Your speech must be beneficial and, at the same time, capable of bringing happiness to the man to whom it is addressed. This is truthfulness.
The wise say: "May he speak the truth. May his speech be pleasing. May he not speak the truth that is unpleasing. And may he not speak an untruth that is pleasing."
Satyam brutapriyam bruyan-
Priyam ca nanrtam bruyad-
A mind that is subject to desire and anger will not give rise to words that bespeak affection and cause well-being. Truthful words that create good are the product of a mind free from desire and anger.
What is truth then? Thought and speech must be in accord; the mind must be serene; and the words spoken must do good to the speaker as well as the listener.
For a man rooted in truth there is an avantara prayojana, an incidental benefit, gained from his speech. Since such a person habitually speaks the truth, his words will become the truth. Such a man will never deliberately utter a lie. But, if unwittingly or out of ignorance, he commits an error while speaking, that error will turn out to be the truth. I will tell you a story to illustrate this.
In Tirukkadavur, in Tanjavur district, there was a great devotee of Amba called Abhiramibhatta. He would often go into an ecstasy of devotion to the goddess. During such times he would speak like one mad. Someone poisoned the ears of the raja Sarabhoji against him. "Abhiramibhatta is a drunkard," he told the ruler. "His devotion is a mere pretence." Sarabhoji wanted to find out the truth. So he went to see Abhiramibhatta in Tirukkadavur and asked him: "What day of the moon is it today?" The Bhatta was then lost in devotional joy and, thinking only of the radiant face of Amba which was like the moon, said that it was a full moon day. Actually it was the new moon. The raja concluded that what he had heard about the Bhatta must be true and said scornfully: "Is that so? Let us look up and see whether the full moon has risen."
At that very moment the full moon did appear in the sky. Abhiramibhatta was steeped in truthfulness. By mistake he had spoken an untruth but Amba made it the truth by hurling her ear stud into the sky causing it to shine like the full moon. The blessings as well as the curses of great men come true because of the force of their innate and habitual truthfulness. This is the "incidental benefit" they derive from their habit of truthfulness. But truthfulness must not be practised with the deliberate intention that what one speaks must come true. Power such as this is earned unintentionally and unconsciously.
A man will purify himself completely if he performs the forty samskaras and adheres to principles like non-violence, truthfulness, non-covetousness, cleanliness and also controls his senses. He will then develop the maturity and wisdom to find out who in truth he is, who Isvara is and what the Ultimate Reality is.
Sesame And Water: Where Do They Go?
All human beings must express their gratitude to their fathers (pitrs) and to the gods- they have a debt to pay their fathers, rites to perform for the gods. We must serve our fellow creatures to the best of our ability and extend hospitality at least to one guest a day. This is atithya or what Thiruvalluvar calls "virundu", also known as manusyayajna. Then there is Brahmayajna to perform, the word "Brahma" here denoting the Vedas. Brahmayajna means chanting the Vedas and making others chant them. This is a duty carried out by a few on behalf of all. One of the rites common to all is bhutayajna, demonstrating our love to all creatures, feeding them etc. Pitryajna, devayajna, manusyayajna, bhutayajana are rites all are duty-bound to perform in one way or. If each individual does his work according to the Vedic dharma and does it in a spirit of dedication to Isvara he may be said to be performing Brahmayajna. Thiruvalluvar has said more or less the same thing as the Vedas say:
Tenpulattar, deivam, virundu, okkal, tan enru angu
aimbulattaru ombal talai.
Tenpulattar are the pitrs, the fathers. All are duty-bound to pay their debt to them. Mother Veda says: "Matr-devo bhava, pitr-devo bhava. " (Be one to whom the mother is a deity. Be one to whom the father is a deity. ) Auvvai, who brings us the essence of the Vedas, observes: Annayum pitavum munnari deivam" [Mother and Father are the deities first known. ]
We must treat our parents with respect and do all we can to keep them in comfort. We cannot make sufficient recompense for all the sacrifices they make on our behalf. After they depart from this world we must without fail offer libations to them and perform the sraddha ceremony, all in the sastric manner. Though they ridicule the idea of performing sraddha, even reformers have agreed that we must care for our parents.
"The sesame you offer, the water, the balls of rice, the plantains and other items of food remain here," point out the reformists. "Or we see someone removing them before our own eyes, or eating them. You say that the departed parents are born again in this world. If that is true, is it not madness to claim that what is offered here will reach them?" Some of you must be harbouring similar doubts.
Let me tell you a story.
A certain man had sent his son to college in a distant town. One day the boy woke up to the fact that he had to pay his examination fee in a few days. So he wrote to his father: "Please send such and such a sum by telegraphic money order. " The father was a little perplexed. All the same he went to the telegraph office and handed the clerk at the counter the money that had to be sent to his son. "Please send it by telegraphic money order," he told the clerk. He had thought that the clerk would make holes in the notes, put a length of wire through them and send the whole thing to his son. Moments later the clerk said to the man: "Your son will get your money. It has already been sent. " The villager was again puzzled. He saw the money still in the cash box without the notes strung together. He told the clerk:"My money is still here. You haven't made holes in the notes yet." The clerk assured him: "It will reach your son." Now he turned to his work of sending messages: "Ka-tu-katu-katu." The poor village was still not satisfied.
But the money of course reached his son.
Offering libations to one's fathers is similar. If this rite is performed according to the sastras, the deities concerned will convey them to those for whom they are meant. If the fathers are reborn as cows the offering made to them will be taken to them in the form of grass or hay. The deities in charge carry out the orders of the Paramatman. So the father of the mother whose sraddha is performed need not personally come to receive the offering.
Does not the telegraphic money order reach the addressee? If the addressee resides in a foreign country our currency will not be valid there. If rupees are paid here arrangements are made to pay the money in dollars, pounds of whatever. The things offered to the fathers according to the sastras are conveyed in a form suitable to them.
What is important is a sense of gratitude to our fathers and faith in the sastras. At parties a toast is proposed to somebody and all the guests drink or eat to his health. They do so in the belief that by virtue of the mental power the man toasted will become healthy. Sraddha means that which is done in faith. Faith is of the utmost importance. If we do something we must do it according to the rules laid down for it. When you write a letter how do you make sure that it reaches the addressee? "I will write the address as I like. Why should I drop the letter in that letterbox over there? I have a better box at home." would you speak thus?
In the state of worklessness, love, devotion, and jnana are not bound by any rules. But when an action has a purpose behind it you have to respect the rules pertaining to it.
Every family must perform puja to Isvara. Those who find it convenient to do so may conduct elaborate types of puja after receiving proper initiation into them. Others need perform only a brief puja, not lasting more than ten minutes or so. Office goers must offer at least this brief worship. The sacred bell must ring in every home.
Images must be installed to worship Siva, Amba, Visnu, Vinayaka, and Surya. This is called "pancayatana puja". According to one custom, no graven images [images with limbs] are used but instead natural objects to represent the five deities. The "bana-linga" for Siva is obtained from the Omkara -kunda of the Narmada river. The svarnamukhi stone for Ambika (it has a golden streak on it) is to be taken from the bed of the Svarnamukhi river in Andhra Prades. The symbol of Vishnu, salagrama, is obtained from the Gandaki river in Nepal. The crystal stone for surya is got from Vallam, near Tanjavur. The sonabhadra stone for Vinayaka is obtained from the Sone river, a tributary of the Ganga. These five stones are symbolic of the unity of India.
None of these five stones has eyes, nose, ears, etc. Since they have no corners that become untidy, they are easy to bathe and dry. Being small they do not occupy much space. No big puja hall or room is necessary. A small casket is enough.
Pancayatana puja was revived by Sankara Bhagavatpada. As the creator of the Sanmata system (the worship of six deities)he added Subrahmanya to the five. So with the five stones we may add a small spear to represent Velayadah (Subrahmanya) who bears the spear.
Not much effort is needed for the puja. If you have the will, it could be performed wherever you happen to be.
At home when you do the puja you have to present to the deities cooked rice called "maha-naivedya". The Lord has created the entire cosmos for our sake. Our sense organs take delight in the various objects in creation. All that gives us joy, all that is beneficial in creation, must be offered to the Lord [symbolically] before being partaken of by us. When we offer any food as naivedya to Him, do we really give it away to Him? We just place it before Him and then partake of it ourselves.
Some ask, scornfully, whether the Lord himself eats what is offered to Him. "Nivedana"does not mean making the Lord really "eat" what is offered. He does not have to eat. Puja is meant to make us inwardly pure and the Lord does not have anything to gain from it. "Nivedayami" means " I am making it know to you (informing you) " and does not mean "I am feeding you". You must speak thus to Isvara :"O Lord, in your compassion you have given us this food." Then you must eat the food thus offered, thinking of Him. Without His grace how does the rice grow? Experts may conduct research and write big tomes on rice. But are they capable of making one grain of rice? What is called synthetic rice is made out of materials already created by Isvara. So all that seems to be made of man must be finally traced to God's creation. To enjoy what he has given us without first presenting it to Him would be tantamount to thieving.
He who is present everywhere must be present where we want Him to be present so that He may be grasped by us. Whatever the material out of which His image of symbol is made-stone, earth, copper- he will come to us in that material and in that image or symbol. He will do so out of His compassion and He has the power to do so. We would have no need for him otherwise.
The Lord must be worshipped in every home. He must be invoked and it must be made known to Him that we are using nothing but what he has made over as a gift to us. If we keep doing so, we will in due course have the wisdom not to use in puja things not fit to be offered to Him. We ourselves will come to possess good qualities.
[In the chapter entitled, "Sesame and Water: Where do They Go?", the Paramaguru spoke of the debt to be paid to our fathers, our duty to worship Paramesvara as well as to feed the creatures of the earth. He stated that Tiruvalluvar also spoke of the same dharma in his "Kural": "Tenpulattar deivam, virundu, okkal tan enru angu aimbulattaru ombal talai."]
Here (in the foregoing quotation)is one good proof that Tiruvalluvar respected the authority of the Vedas. Some suggest that he did not belong to the Vedic religion and that he was a Jaina or a Buddhist. And some claim that he transcended all religions. It is also suggested that he openly condemned sacrifices in which animals are killed. In support of their view they quote a stanza from the Kural.
[The Paramaguru's comment on the Kural passage is contained in Chapter 23, Part Five.]
Tiruvalluvar who composed his Kural, with its universal appeal, was not an atheist opposed to the Vedic dharma. What he refers to as virundu is the same as the Vedic manusyayajna.
Every morning a handful of rice(uncooked) must be set apart for the poor. All the families must do this without fail every day. The rice thus kept must be collected from house to house, from quarter to quarter, cooked offered to the deity of the local temple as naivedya and then distributed among the poor. With the handful of rice set apart for the poor, keep just one paisa also. The paisa collected from each family would be sufficient to buy salt, chilli powder, etc, to mix with the rice to make it more palatable. It would also serve to buy firewood and to pay the rent for the vessels. To carry out such a scheme is to do a great service to the poor - and to the Lord. Charity like this should encourage temple going, not to speak of devotion. Since the food is first offered as naivedya, it would mean that the poor will take it as prasada which will impart them inner purity.
Annadan or the gift of food is one kind of service of paropakara. We talk of service to the poor, social service and so on. Today all this is done with much fanfare and publicity. In the past the needy were served naturally, without making any noise. Service comes under "purta- dharma" and it includes digging wells and ponds for the public, feeding the poor, building temples for the spiritual well-being of people, laying our gardens. Excavating wells and ponds has been mentioned first. The importance of this word may be gauged from such remarks in ordinary conversation: "What 's he doing? Digging a well or something?"It is extremely meritorious to excavate pond outside the village to slake the thirst of cattle. All the people in a village must join together without the distinction of poor and rich, high or low - work involving physical effort. It will incidentally contribute to greater social harmony.
With education we purify our intelligence, with meditation we cleanse our mind, with sloka or poetry we clarify our speech. How do we purify our body? By exerting ourselves in the service of others. As we keep serving people in this way we will obtain inward purity. When all take part in the work of digging a pond or well, without any differences, without one man feeling superior to another or inferior to him, our ego too will be dug away. More important than the water welling up in the pond is the love welling up from our hearts. No outward show is needed in social service; we must not make an exhibition of our work. Collect pieces of glass scattered on the footpath and keep them away in a safe place; even this service to people and a means of cleansing ourselves. We must try to please the Lord with the very hands and feet that he has given us - we must do so by serving others and by looking upon all as himself.
To Serve Others Is To Feel Blessed
A man can be fortunate in many ways. But there is nothing that makes him more fortunate than the opportunity he has of serving others.
When we serve our family we are not conscious of how we help it. We must learn to help people who are not our kin - other families, our village or home town, our nation, indeed all mankind. We have so many problems ourselves, we suffer so many hardships, and we have so many worries and cares. We must not, however, mind serving others in the midst of all our difficulties. We will forget our problems when we are immersed in the work of helping others. There is a saying :"Feed milk to your neighbour's child, your child will be nourished." The Lord will raise us up from our troubles as we do good to others. However, it is not with such considerations of profit that we must try to help people in difficulties. We must not worry about how others will benefit from our work, but consider how we will become naturally pure. Also, we must think of the happiness we will experience by serving our fellow men.
Service should not be confined to mankind but must be extended to the animal kingdom. In the olden days ponds were dug exclusively for cattle and stone pillars were installed here and there for them to scratch themselves. Everyone must feed at least one cow every day with a handful of grass. This is called "go-grasam" and this act is extolled in the sastras, "Grasam" means a mouthful and the English word "grass" is derived from it.
Conducting sacrifices, offering oblations to the fathers and performing sraddha must be regarded as an extension of the service we do in this world to the denizens of other worlds. These rites must be gone through with the intoning of mantras.
There must be many others like us, many groups, who want to be engaged in social work. It should be ideal if the efforts of all were brought together under one body of like-minded members. Care must be taken that associations so formed do not break up; they must be managed honestly with a proper enforcement of discipline. Those who do philanthropic work must be men of courage and enthusiasm who take praise and blame equally.
You ought not to waste your time in eating places displaying appetizing fare nor in establishments where alluring objects are exhibited. Instead, you must spend your time in helping others. You will ask whether it is wrong to spend a little time in gaiety in the midst of life's worries and hardships. I should like to impress on you that the happiness you find in helping others is not to be found in anything else.
Krsna Paramatman was playful, wasn't he? But all his playfulness was an outward phenomenon for inwardly he served others all the time. How sportingly did he save people from trouble and how many were the men who were helped by him. To protect the cowherds the child Krsna lifted up the big Govardhana mountain. And, again, as a little child he danced on the hoods of the dreaded Kalinga(Kaliya) that poisoned the Yamuna. It all seemed play, all the heroic acts he performed to save the people of Gokula. Nobody sported like Krsna but at the same time nobody served mankind like him. It was not worldly service alone that he did. He served mankind by imparting jnana. As a preceptor of Arjuna and Uddhava alike he taught great truths. All this he did with a smile, spreading serenity everywhere. What he did he did with utmost ease. Those who have taken up the work of serving humanity must be inspired by his example.
Among the various incarnations of the Lord, the service rendered to humanity was the greatest in that of Krsna. During the avatara of Rama, Anjaneya appeared as seva (service) personified. We must be inspired by their example [of Krsna and Hanuman] as we work for others; we must be unselfish like them and shun publicity.
We keep aloof from the outside world when we are ritually impure. We must regard any day on which we fail to do any service to others as a day of impurity. Paramesvara is the father of all creatures. By serving our fellow men we serve the Lord. This is the message of Tirumular in his Tirumantiram;
It means: Serving people is worshipping the Lord.
Making All Creatures Happy
We must not fail to perform sacrifices to the celestials, offer libations to our fathers and perform sraddha. In the past, apart from these, our ancestors did puja to the gods, fed guests and performed vaisvadeva which rite is meant for all creatures. You must have some idea of these rites even if you do not perform them. I will speak to you about vaisvadeva.
To sustain ourselves, we cause hurt to so many creatures, don't we? We take pride in keeping our house clean but we forget that every household is a butchery. According to dharmasastras it is not one butchery but five butcheries together. What are these five?
Pancasuna grhasthasya vartante harahah sada
Khandani pesani culli jalkumbha upaskarah
Khandani is used to cut vegetables- it stands for one type of butchery. Vegetables also do have life. The second butchery is represented by the grinding our pounding stone. We mercilessly grind corn, pulses, etc, in it.
Here an answer must be given to objections raised by meat-eaters about vegetarian food. They tell us:"Like the goats, cows and fowl that we eat, vegetables and cereals also have life." True. Though there is no difference in kind between them, there is a difference in the degree of violence done to vegetables and animals. Plants have life and feelings like humans but they do not have the sensation of pain to the same degree as animals and birds have. This has been scientifically established. Also, but for certain leafy vegetables which we uproot to be prepared as food, most other vegetables are obtained from plants without killing them: it is like removing our nails or hair. The plant suffers only a little pain. Pain even to this degree will not be caused if we eat the fruits of these plants after they drop ripe. As for the cereals they are harvested only after the crop is ripe and dry.
There is one more argument in favour of vegetarianism. Now only certain types of meat like beef are eaten. Horsemeat is not usually eaten. During World War I or II, when the question arose as to whether the soldiers could be fed horsemeat, the non-vegetarians themselves opposed the idea. People who think it civilized to eat birds and animals condemn tribes in some remote land who eat human flesh as barbarous and call them cannibals. We must tell meat-eaters who remind us that vegetables also have life. "Yes, but when it comes to violence, are all creatures the same? Why do you make a difference between animal flesh and human flesh? Similarly, we make a distinction between plants and animals. Vegetarianism also promotes sattvic qualities. "Unavoidably, for the sake of existence, we have to keep at home instruments of butchery like the khandani, pesani, etc.
The third butchery is represented by the culli or the kitchen fire. Many insects perish in the cooking fire. An ant crawls about the oven or fireplace and is burnt. Sometimes when we keep a pot on the floor or the shelf an insect or two get crushed. In the summer insects come seeking wet places, places for example where vessels are kept. The water-pot is also included among the objects of butchery. Then there is the upaskara, the broomstick. Aren't many tiny insects killed as we sweep the floor? Thus there are five instruments or objects of butchery in our home.
We must not cause harm even to those creatures that hurt us. But what do we do? We cause pain to, or kill, even harmless creatures. It is sad to think that to live, to sustain ourselves, we have to keep hurting so many living things. But it all seems unavoidable. We do not kill deliberately. There is an expiation for the sin committed unwittingly. It is the prayascitta of the "vaisvadeva". We perform this function to ask the Lord to forgive us our sin of having caused the destruction of various creatures and to pray for their happiness in afterlife. Vaisvadeva is meant for the excommunicated and for all creatures of earth like dogs, crows, insects, all. This rite absolves us of many a sin.
The pancha-mahayajnas were conducted for eons by the sages, by the children of Brahma. All performed them from the hoary past until the time of our grandfathers. The five great sacrifices are to be performed uninterruptedly until the deluge. But we have had the "good fortune" of having broken this tradition. Worse, we have deprived future generations of the benefits to be derived from them.
I have dealt with a variety of rites. Perform at least those you can without prejudice to your office or professional work. If you fail to do so you must be regretful and make amends for the same.
Towards Mental Purity
There are a number of simple rites the performance of which will free you from inner impurities. From generation to generation our forefathers performed them and earned happiness and contentment. We must follow in their footsteps. We do not have to go in search of any new way of life, any new doctrine or belief.
We can learn from the great men of our past who have left us lessons not only in Atmic matters but in the conduct of family and social life. For instance, kinship and friendship in their time were based on high principles. When there was a marriage or obsequial ceremony all friends and relatives came forward to help. It was cultured behaviour at its best and it was not based on any empty outward show. People then were truly and sincerely interested in helping the needy and the poor. At weddings they gave a little cash to the bride's parents, five or ten rupees, and the burden of those who conducted the marriage was lightened.
When everybody pays a little to the needy. The donor does not feel the pinch but the donee has a tidy sum with which to celebrate a marriage or perform an obsequial ceremony. Among relatives in the past there was not much gap between the rich and the poor. And the rich man helped his poor relatives. All this is part of dharma. The man who helps purifies himself more than the man who is helped.
Now things have changed. The well-to-do do not help their poor relatives. Annadana(gift of food) was part of the noble tradition of the past. How is it today? At present too the well-to-do feed people, but with this difference that those fed are also well-to-do like them. When they give parties, banquets, etc, a great deal of money and material is spent in this manner. Where is the room for dharma or mental purity in all this? A party is given not with any noble intention but to promote one's selfish interests. The man who gives it thinks that he is practicing deception on the invitees. But the invitees, however, knew that the host has no true feelings of affection for them. The host and the guest thus deceive one another. Altogether parties and toasts are nothing but part of modern art of deception and have nothing to do with the cleansing of mind.
If you help a poor man with food or material, you and he are equally happy: there is affection on both sides. In parties, on the contrary, there is even ill-will. Hatred and resentment are caused in the hearts of have-nots by the parties given by the haves[for the haves]. Among relatives there should be no distinction between the rich and the poor.
You must not think that only the affluent can help the poor and earn merit. If you are not well off you may serve others by helping them physically. All of you in a locality may join together to dig a pond. All this contributes to inner purity. How do you deserve the grace of Isvara? By constantly serving others, by being compassionate to all creatures. Your mind, your consciousness, will also become clear. In this pure consciousness of yours, in this pure citta, you will see the image of the Lord. Do you see any image in turbid water? We have made our minds muddy with impurities. We must make them limpid by being devoted to the Lord and by serving mankind. Then Isvara will be within our grasp.
To live a life inspired by dharma means coming under a certain discipline and following certain rules of conduct. It is important for people to acquaint themselves with these rules. It would be ideal if they lived according to them on their own because to abide by them out of compulsion is not a matter of pride. "Sampradaya" or tradition is something that has evolved naturally and it is natural that people adhere to them. The customs and rules making up a sampradaya are not all of them written down in the sastras. Anything laid down as a law becomes a matter of compulsion. Nowadays everywhere people are asked to "Do this" and "not to do that." Notices are displayed about this and that. They are displayed even where I perform the puja(in the Matha), notices that say, "Don't keep talking", "Don't wear shirts", etc.
When I speak thus and ask you not to do this or to do that, I myself am guilty if offending against the good rule I just spoke about. When I say, "Don't do", it becomes a law. I should speak to you thus: "You think about it yourselves whether it is right to have such notices."
"Do not magnify the faults of others," say the wise. "But if there is something good about a man speak appreciatively about it." I myself, however, am bringing your faults into the open. But, to repeat, you must not bring to light the drawbacks of others but only their good qualities. See, even the crescent moon is cool and radiant. That is why Siva wears it in his matted hair, makes its beauty known to the world. The same Siva swallowed the terrible halahala poison concealing it from everyone, so says Dandin in one of his poems.
Pointing a finger at the faults of others or exaggerating them in speech and writing has become the practice today. The more learned a man is, the more eager he is to find fault with others. "Finding fault is indeed the work of a vidvan," it is said. "The word vidvan itself is said to mean a dosajna." But a dosajna is one who knows the faults of something or somebody, not one who reveals them to the world or exaggerates them. If you think a person has any drawbacks you must speak to him about them in a friendly manner [so that he may correct himself] but not constantly harp on them and expose them to the outside world.
We must be worthy enough to speak about the faults of others and we cannot take upon ourselves the role of an adviser when we need to correct ourselves. Advice given by us then would be counterproductive. If we tell a man what is wrong about him he might even feel boastful about it. When are we fit to advise others? When we are worthy enough and when we know that our word will have the desired effect.
If we praise a person for his good qualities he will have greater enthusiasm to cultivate them further. But there should be restraint in praise too- praise indeed is a tricky thing. That is why the wise say: "Isvara and the guru alone may be praised directly. Friends and relatives, instead of being praised to their face, must be spoken of well to others. You may praise a servant only after he has carried out the job entrusted to him. (It is like patting a horse after a ride). You may never praise your son."
Pratyakse guravah stutyah
Na svaputrah kadacana
I have been finding fault with you all the while. As I said fault -finding is not an exercise to be welcomed but the stanza just quoted frees me from any blame because it says that children should not be praised and that you must tell them what is wrong with them. So no fault can be ascribed to me for my having found fault with you.
It is customary to speak of kama(desire) and krodha(anger) together. Krsna Paramatman says in the Gita that desire and anger goad a man into sinful action.
When we intensely desire an object we try to get it by fair means or foul. It is a deadly enemy, desire: it eggs us on to commit sin. Equally deadly is anger. When we fail to get the object of our desire we turn our anger against the man who, we believe was an obstacle. Unfulfilled desire becomes anger.
If we throw a rubber against the wall, it bounces- in other words it returns to us. The ball thrown is desire and it is the same ball that becomes anger as it bounces. The attack we believe we make on others in our anger is actually an attack we make on ourselves- and we are hurt more than those we wanted to hurt. When we are angry our whole body shakes. Anger indeed causes pain both to the body and the mind and we make ourselves ugly when we are angry. You will know the truth of this if you see a photograph taken when you are in foul mood.
Hunger is appeased by eating. But is fire assuaged in the same way? You keep feeding it and it keeps devouring everything. Fire is bright but it chars all that it consumes. Or, in other words, it turns everything black. That is why it is called "krsnavartman". Kama or desire is similar. It flares up like fire. The more it is fed the more it becomes hungry. Indeed kama blackens our mind. When a desire is gratified there is joy for the moment, but soon it goes in search of more "food" and the process we lose our peace of mind and happiness and become victims of sorrow and anger.
Sorrow and anger are two forms of unrequited desire. If we think that those who are a hindrance to the gratification of our desire are inferior to us, we turn our anger against them, and if we think they are superior, all we do is to grieve within ourselves. Anger is packed with more evil power than even desire. Naisadham, the story of Nala, illustrates this truth beautifully. As King Kali makes his appearance, desire and anger (kama and krodha) accompany him as his two army commanders. The herald sings their praises. "There is no place that kama cannot gain entry to. No, there is a place he cannot enter. It is the fortress in which anger resides. This fortress is the heart of Durvasas. " Durvasas does not know desire but he is subject to fits of anger.
We must be extremely wary of this terrible sinner called anger. A little thought will convince us that we are not in the least qualified to be angry with anybody or to shout at anybody. We are even more guilty than those against whom we turn in our anger. We know this in our heart of hearts. Even if we are guiltless, before we rush to find fault with someone, we must ask ourselves whether we would not have committed the offence we think he is guilty of were we placed in the same circumstances as he.
We must try our best to keep anger always at a distance.
Are We Worthy of Being Angry?
Often we find ourselves angry with some person or other. Anger is provoked in two ways. When we see a man guilty of an offence we lose our temper. But we do not pause to think whether we too are not like him. Even if we have not been guilty of sinful deeds we must have had sinful thoughts. Perhaps we have reason to think that we have sinned less than others. This must be because we are a little more mature. Even so, how difficult do we find it to correct ourselves. Would it not be more difficult for a habitual sinner to retrieve himself? We need not associate ourselves with him. The sastras proclaim that the first step towards Atmic improvement is to sever ourselves from evil people and to seek the company of virtuous men. But there is no point in looking upon sinners with hatred or anger. All we can and must do is to pray that they turn to the path of virtue. If, by the grace of the Lord, we acquire a little grace ourselves we must use it to take them to the right path.
Our opponent is not likely to change his attitude towards us simply because we are angry with him. Instead, he might turn against us with greater venom. Hatred thus will be kept fuelled on either side. One must realise one's mistakes and try to reform oneself. We cannot congratulate ourselves if a person corrects himself fearing our anger. Also the change thus brought about in him will not be enduring. If we think that there is something wrong with a man we must try to correct him with love.
Why do people sin? The reason must be their mental condition and the circumstances in which they are placed. If we happen to be free from any guilt, it must be because we are more favoured by circumstances. When you see a sinner you must pray: "O Ambika, I too might have sinned like him. But in your mercy you do not give me the occasion to do so. Be merciful to him in the same way."
We must not be angry with a man even if he bears ill-will against us. Our innermost mind knows how far we deserve to be spoken ill of. It may be that the man who nurses bad feelings against us is doing so not because of any wrong done by us. We know, however, in our heart of hearts that the sins we have committed are indeed great. Such is our predicament that we must shed tears before Amba, atone for our sins and pray that they are washed away. In that way are we qualified to point accusing finger at others?
The question arises: may we direct our anger against others when we are free from all sin? Were we truly sinless, we would be all love and affection. Where is then the question of our being angry with anyone? Even towards a sinner we should have then no feeling other than that of love. On the other hand, if we are guilty of wrongs ourselves we have no right to be angry with those we think are sinners. In the state of utter sinlessness we realise it all to be the sport of Amba. In her sport who merits praise, who deserves blame? Anger, in any case has no place in our life.
As I said earlier, according to Krsna Paramatman the two great forces inciting man to sin are desire and anger. In other words we hurt ourselves with our anger. Our opponent may ignore our anger but then we hurt ourselves with it-both our body and mind suffer. The natural dharma of man is to be loving and affectionate. And to be loving and affectionate is to be ever in bliss. Love is Sivam, it is said. We must always learn to attain the condition of love that is Sivam.
Love and Sorrow
The purpose of human birth is to live a life full of love for all. No joy is greater than that of loving others. Amassing wealth, acquiring property, earning fame, bedecking oneself give but transient pleasure, not any sense of fullness. The happiness that permeates our inner being is the happiness of loving others. When we love others we are not conscious of our suffering, the physical exertion we make and the money we spend: indeed the joy of loving gives us a transcendent feeling. A life in which there is no love for others is a life lived in vain.
I said that when we love a person we forget our sorrows. But one day, at last, it may be that the object of our love itself becomes the cause of great sorrow. One day the person we love leaves us forever-or one day we will leave him forever. "O he has left me forever"-"O I am leaving him for ever": we lament in this manner. We feel disturbed when we realise that all the happiness that love gave us has at last proved to be a lie and ended in sorrow. "Is the final outcome of love then sorrow? "we ask ourselves in agitation. The greater our love for a person the more intense our grief when he or she is separated from us forever. We may then even wonder whether a life without love, a life of selfishness or a life of insensibility would be better. One leading such a life will not be affected by being separated from the object of his affection.
A selfish or self-centred man, however, gathers only sin. Is it not a life lived without joy- a life lived without a sense of fullness- a life lived in vain, a life like that of a log of wood or stone?
[The problem then is]: Our love for others ends in sorrow. However, if there is no love there is no meaning in life. What is the solution to this problem? We must create such love as will never change, love that will be enduring. The object of our love must never become separated from us, never desert us. If there were such an object and if we devoted all our love to it we would never be separated from one another- there would be eternal bliss, everlasting fullness.
To explain, we must love the One Object that never changes. What is that Object? The Paramatman. The Paramatman will never be separated from us. Even if our life departs it will dissolve in the Paramatman and become one with him. Only that love is everlasting which is dedicated to him.
The question arises: If one is to love the Paramatman that never perishes, does it mean that we must not love anyone else, that we must not love others because they will perish one day? If our love for the Supreme Being keeps growing the truth will dawn on us that there is no one or nothing other than He. All those whom we loved, all those who caused us sorrow by being separated from us, they too will seem to us the imperishable Supreme Being. We must learn to look upon the entire universe as the Paramatman and love it as such. Our love then shall never be a cause of sorrow.
Even if it be that our love is not such as to embrace the universe with all its creatures as an expression of the Paramatman, we can learn to love with ease all those great men of Atmic qualities as the Paramatman, so also our sadguru who is full of wisdom and grace. Sufficient it would be to love them and surrender to them. Through them the Paramatman will give us his blessings. When someone we love dies we should not grieve for him. We must console ourselves that only the body which was the disguise of the Paramatman has perished, that the one who was in that disguise has become united with the Paramatman. Our love then will be everlasting. We must first learn to have such love for Isvara and for people of goodness, for men of God. Then step by step, we must enlarge it to embrace all creation. In this way the purpose of our life will be fulfilled.
What is called love may be divided into three categories. We love great men for their high qualities, I mean distinguished men, men of truth, philanthropists, jnanins, men of grace. We mix with our friends and relatives intimately and affection develops between them and us. Then we love people- love them ostensibly for a specific purpose, for the reason that we stand to gain from them. For instance, we may seem to love a rich man hoping that he would help us in our business or some other enterprise. We may love our employer because he pays us our wages.
These three types of love are neither true nor everlasting. If our employer sacks us we will cease to have either respect or affection for him. If people with whom we have had close contacts leave for a distant place or die or if we lose touch with them, we are likely in due course to forget them. All the sorrow we felt in the beginning because of being separated from them will eventually be forgotten. Were it true love the grief also should be enduring. Even our love for a great man is not lasting. If there happens to be a diminution in his qualities- or if he seems to us not as great as we thought he was- we will love him in correspondingly lesser measure.
All three categories of love have some reason [or motive] behind them. That is why they are not everlasting. We love great men because they possess certain qualities: there is an element of selfish interest in our feelings for them: because we think they will be helpful in our advancement.
True love knows neither reason nor motive. When do we love a man truly? When our affection for him is unchanging and unwavering- we love him even if he does not apparently move closely with us or does not seem to possess inward qualities or the capacity to bless us; we love him even when we do not have any selfish interest to be served by him. Does anyone possess such love? Yes, only One. It is Isvara- he alone has such love.
God loves us for no reason. If he needed a reason he would not give us even a morsel of food. It is Paramesvara who forgives all our misdeeds and protects us- and he is all love. It is his love that is manifested in the three categories mentioned earlier.
We must learn to have such love as is revealed through Paramesvara; that is love that is universal, love that is not based on any reason or interest. Why should we dislike a man because we think he is guilty of certain wrongs? Are we not similarly guilty ourselves? Do we then discard ourselves? We must have the same attitude towards others as we have towards ourselves. There is nothing remarkable about our love for a great man; the remarkable thing is to love a sinner also. If you ask me, you must have greater concern and affection for him. "He commits wrongs like us," we must tell ourselves. "His mind goads him into doing them. We must have sympathy for him and try to correct him". There may be a few whom Isvara, out of his compassion, has given the gift of blessing others. Such men must take it upon themselves the task of freeing others from sinful actions.
We must, to start with, learn to have disinterested love for an individual, that is love that is not tainted by self-interest. Eventually, this love will permeate us, inspire our inner being, and we will then be able to enlarge it to embrace all. It is the teaching of the wise that we must have such love for our guru, love without any consideration of the fruits thereof. We must not look for any reason to love our preceptor. If we constantly "practise" to have such love for our guru we will be the recipients of his blessings. Our love for him will eventually grow into love that will encompass all. If our love is manifested in this manner there will be fullness, tranquility and bliss.
Om Tat Sat
(My humble salutations to the lotus feet of Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi Mahaswami ji and my humble greatulness to Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and great Devotees , Philosophic Scholars, for the collection)