Message from the book Forest Academy Lectures on Yoga.
In his famous and memorable Sloka Sri Sankaracharya says: “Slokardhena Pravakshyami Yaduktam Granthakotishu, Brahma Satyam Jaganmithya, Jiva Brahmaiva Naaparah”. This gives the very essence of all spiritual wisdom, and it is the last word in transcendental realisation expressed in the form of this great Sloka. He says in half a Sloka the wisdom that you will find if you ramble in thousands of scriptures–The transcendent alone is real, imperishable, unborn. Ajo Nityah Saswatoyam Purano. That alone is real which is beginningless and endless, which is eternal and imperishable. This phenomenal universe and countless millions of such universes are like passing moments, are like a flash of lightning. These will pass away soon and nothing more will be heard of them. These are unreal;–not that they do not actually exist, they are only illusive reality and in essence the seer which perceives this universe is the same as that ultimate Satchidananda (Existence-Knowledge-Bliss absolute). This is the gem in our cultural treasure that Sankara has left for us and it is a great precious treasure for the whole world. Wonderful peace and bliss is to be found in the spiritual Reality, the Bhuma which is within you. Realise this and be free.
Now this ultimate declaration has been given. But how to attain it? Because, we know that in our actual sensuous experience, our mental impressions are fortunately or unfortunately gathered through the instruments of the mind and the senses. So, when our entire sensuous experience gives us a perception of Asat, Achit and Duhkha (non-existence, insentience and sorrow), how can we find the Satchidananda Atman? Everything in this world is fleeting in character. We do not find Chit (consciousness) anywhere; we find Jada (insentience) everywhere. We do not find Ananda. Sarvam Duhkham Vivekinah. Anityam Asukham. All these declaration say that there is only pain to be experienced in this world. We only find Asat, Jada and Duhkha. If these are constantly experienced by us, how can we find Satchidananda? How to know “Deho naaham, Jivo naaham” (I am not the body, I am the soul)? That is the question.
And for that also, the same Sankaracharya, who was the most wonderful transcendentalist and at the same time a very practical realist, has given us the path. He has shown us the way by which we have to attain it step by step and gradually, and what he had to say he has given in a wonderful and precious book called the Viveka-Chudamani. In it there is a Sloka:
Durlabham tryamevaitaddevaanugraha hetukam manushyatvam mumukshutvam mahapurusha samsryaha.
These three things are very difficult to obtain. Only through the grace of the Gods that we, Jivas, obtain them. To be born as a human being is no small privilege. It is a very, very precious gift of the Gods to the Jiva. Having got human birth, to have an aspiration for Liberation is the next difficult thing to obtain. So, if we obtain both these, we are doubly blessed. Having been born as human beings, if we do not know what do, and yet even after knowing that if we do not know the way, we are not fully blessed. But if we get the shelter of the feet of a Mahapurusha, one who has known what has to be known, one who has attained what has to be attained, and one who is in a position to show us the way, we have to admit that all of us here are thrice blessed. This unique blessing that we have got has to be remembered by us in the morning, noon and evening. Then only will we know what a precious boon we have got. Then alone will we be careful not to waste the opportunity. When you know the real value of a thing, you take proper care of it. Otherwise you may waste it and may repent later on.
We are in this Punya Bhumi (holy land, i.e. India), ideal place for spiritual realisation, and we have got the unique blessing of having our Guru by the side of the Himalayas and by the side of the holy Ganges. Therefore, we have got everything perfect. And the only thing that stands in the way of our spiritual realisation is our own mind, the ego, or you call it by any name you like. It is precisely in order to see that this obstacle is removed and we get at the precious goal of human life that one comes to the Guru. Guru has destroyed his mind and he knows how one has to destroy it. Therefore, to such a man we surrender ourselves.
Now we come to the central point. If the Guru is to bestow his blessings upon us, and if we are to make the highest use of them, an important thing is needed. This will be best understood by taking an example. Suppose a man is afflicted with a disease. He goes to the doctor and then he tells him his condition. You have to tell your entire condition to the doctor, and then the doctor gives you a prescription and also a medicine. Thereafter the entire responsibility is shifted from the doctor to the patient. The moment you surrender yourself to the doctor, the prescription is given to you and then the entire responsibility is shifted from the doctor to the patient. The doctor has done his very best. He has diagnosed the disease and given you the medicine, but if you do not take the medicine in the manner instructed by the doctor, the medicine is as good as useless. If the doctor has asked you to take such and such a diet and you do not obey his instructions, then what will be your fate? Who is to be held responsible? Who is to blame? I hope that every sincere man who does not want to escape his responsibility will admit that the patient is responsible, and the entire fault lies in him, and he alone is to blame, if he does not obey the doctor. In the same way in the case of a seeker, when we come to the Guru and when we enter the spiritual life and tell him, “Please show us the way to attain the goal of life”, and he says, “Be good”, and we continue to be bad, and he says, “Do good”, and we continue to do evil, in what way can the Guru help us? Swamiji does not confuse your mind with a whole lot of Sastras (scriptures). He gives in a very simple manner what all the scriptures of the world have given. He gives it in a very easy, simple, direct and practical form. Serve, Love, Give, Purify, Meditate. And we want others to serve us! We want the spirit of service in everyone except ourselves. These are not fun. Man is Satchidananda in a sense and selfishness in fact.
To get rid of selfishness is most difficult. Only if a man makes a firm, fiery determination to uproot selfishness and follows this determination by constant grinding, then alone selfishness will go by the grace of the Guru. Otherwise it will be dogging your footsteps even after you become a great spiritual figure. Therefore, obey the orders of the Guru and be very persevering in it. Obedience should be very practical, whole-hearted and actively persevering. Then only the prescription of the Guru for attaining Moksha will be fruitful. Serve, love, give. Gurudev has said how you should give and how you should not give. There are three kinds of tea–to cite an example. If a man wants tea for himself, he orders for the best tea. For relatives and others second class tea is given, and for servants third class tea. Swamiji says, “To servants give the best fruits you have got.” and he demonstrates here this precept. As soon as he receives a basketful of fruits, the best fruits will be given to servants like us.
Adaptability also is very important. We want the whole world to be adaptable, but we ourselves are not. Charity begins at home, Yoga must begin in oneself. Sadhana, discipleship and Yoga should begin in oneself, and if each individual tries to fulfil the dictates of the Guru in the fullest possible practical manner with perseverance and determination, then the declaration that our nature is Satchidananda will come out of the book and illumine our self in actual experience, and we will be in an ocean of bliss.
Just as in Poornima the Moon is the fullest reflection of the Sun, we should also take advantage of the Guru Poornima and should fully reflect the light of knowledge of the Sun-Guru. And therefore, of all the virtues which a disciples must have, the greatest virtue is obedience. Why is it so? It is a very precious virtue, because if you try to develop the virtue of obedience, the ego, the arch enemy on the path of Self-realisation, slowly gets rooted out. The greatest slayer of Atma is the mind in the form of ego, and the greatest slayer of ego is obedience to the Guru. It is like a flaming shell, and before that the ego cannot stand. And if we make just this one virtue the central fact of our being as disciples, then we will find that the ego recedes to the background, and the Guru’s grace fills the entire being. To have complete obedience is a difficult task and by trying with sincerity all things will be fulfilled, and even the difficult virtue of obedience will shine in all its fullness one day or other. All things are got by trouble, self-denial, self-sacrifice, without which nothing is achieved. Even ordinary action requires great pain. So in the spiritual path, we must be prepared to subject ourselves to some sort of discipline and try to cultivate obedience. Far more than worship, garlanding, and other outward manifestations of our inner Bhav of adorations and worshipfulness, obedience is greater. Swamiji has told sometimes that obedience is better than reverence. Reverence is very good. But obedience is very, very good. Because, obedience shows true reverence. In obedience we show the highest reverence, because, a man who tries to follow what a saint says is the true disciple. Therefore, on this day, let us all sincerely resolve that we will not confine our Guru bhakti to Puja and external worship alone, but let us try to manifest our Guru Bhakti in the form of obedience and all that obedience connotes, and each one has to think for himself in what way he has to be a true and sincere disciple and try to manifest that obedience in his practical life.
Obedience means trying to act in the way in which the Guru would like us to act. Supposing you find that Swamiji will not like a certain thing, then you must not do it. It is also obedience. Obedience also consists in our trying to mould ourselves upon the lofty ideal that he represents, because, when he shines in all his ideal personality, it is a silent command to us, “Be like me. See how I am. This is the ideal life.” This is a silent, unuttered command, and if we are obedient, we must meditate upon his personality, and we must try in our own humble way to emulate his personality. Suppose there is an image made of gold and you have got only clay. You cannot make a golden image out of the clay, but you can make an image with the clay that you have got. So also, with what material we have got we must try to make ourselves in his likeliness in our own humble way, and try always to do that which we believe Swamiji likes and not to do that which he may not like. The other corollary is that we should do what he actually asks us to do. It is very simple, but it is what we fail to do. We are no doubt respectful towards Swamiji, but at the same time we are very, very respectfully disobedient. That is why we do not reach where we should reach. Therefore, let us resolve that we will try to be real disciples in the sense that we will be obedient seekers at his Lotus feet, and let us pray to his Divine Feet that they may help us in trying to increase this virtue of obedience to the maximum extent within our imperfect personality, so that we may find ourselves on the threshold of discipleship. Remember, obedience is far, far greater than reverence.
May this humble flower-offering in the form of a few words at the feet of saints, past and present, be acceptable to them. Crores and crores of prostrations to the dust of the hallowed feet, the divine dust of the blessed feet of saints, of all races and climes, that dust which has made our life holy and pure. By thinking of these great souls who appear upon earth as dazzling rays of that Great Light of lights, the Almighty Lord, we make ourselves blessed. To think even for a minute of the pure, divine, life of saints and men of God is to at once draw forth upon ourselves a shower of purity, inspiration and divine consciousness. The very thought of saints ennobles the thinker and comes as a powerful, refreshing breeze blowing away all traces of earthliness, pettiness and gross thought, and lifts us up to the heights of sublimity, purity and spirituality. Blessed indeed was the one who conceived of such a day as the All-Saints’ Day thereby giving us an opportunity by which we may thus think of the Great Ones and with this privileged exercise of devotion, we may be purified and filled with spiritual power to proceed upon the path of our goal, to realise our own essential divine nature.