How to Approach a Saint
Sri Swami Chidananda
Various Approaches to a Saint
The Correct Approach
Various Approaches to a Saint
The relationship between a person and a saint may be of different kinds. Some look upon the saint with distrust and mistrust. Some have no faith in divinity and the holiness of saints. They are the skeptics, the atheists, the unbelievers, the people of no faith, who are agnostic by temperament. A large section of present-day humanity tends to be in this group.
There are those who run after sadhus and saints just to gain their material ends. They are ever-expecting a pinch of vibhuti or a drop of kamandalu water or some magical formula which will miraculously solve all their problems and troubles. They are after the saints for promotion in service, increment in salary, success in business deals, passing of an examination, escape from the consequence of punishments for misdeed, favourable verdicts in law suits or in marriage of their daughter, I.A.S. (Indian Administrative Service) selection for a son or son-in-law, cure of disease, birth of a child, gain in speculations and similar such desires and fulfilment in material life … its personal, domestic, social, professional or even political aspects, such as winning an election. They seek saints because they seek to make use of the saints for petty purposes.
This is in my opinion, no better than a sort of sophisticated superstition only. They are deluded beings. They are irrational in spite of their selfish cleverness. They have no sense of true values or right proportion. Whether they like to admit it or not, they always want and expect some sort of magic and miracle for their own benefit in the worldly material life.
They even expect sadhus and sannyasins to study their palm or cast their horoscope or foretell their future and give them talismans or tabeez to wear. This is not a saint’s work. A sannyasin is not expected to do these things. For these things one does not approach a saint. Such people’s wrong approach to saints is, I feel, unfortunate, like the case of a person who succeeds in obtaining a personal interview with an emperor or a president and when he meets him, asks him for a pinch of snuff.
The saints can give you the key to Supreme Blessedness and Eternal Life. Instead you seek them and ask them to secure for you some small and petty thing of a temporal nature in this passing, unreal earthly life of short duration, characterized by pain, disease, old age and death. What a great blunder!
There are others who hold a position of neutrality. They are just not interested in saints or sadhus, or holy men. They say: “We have enough to keep our minds occupied. We are already completely engaged with pressing occupations. They may be holy persons, we do not know and we do not care, and we do not bother either.” They are indifferent. They have no interest in knowing anything about holy persons. This is another type.
There is still another section of people who take a testimony that comes their way that he is a great Siddha Purusha or Yogi. “Is that so? He is a saint? Well, if it becomes possible, I shall try.” They do not make a sankalpa to go and see him immediately. They hear about holy men. They say, “Yes, if it is possible we shall try. If we happen to go there we shall certainly drop in and try to pay a visit, but we cannot say definitely.” So, if they do get a chance, if they happen to go to that side, they do not mind visiting such a person, not to have his darshan, but to see him. Perhaps they also feel, because so many people say so many things about this holy man. “There may be something… perhaps some bit of it will benefit me also. I may get a promotion, or I may at least be saved from sacking for the mistake which I have committed. I may get an increment, or some desire which I have in my heart may be fulfilled.”
Then next class is slightly superior to them. They believe and they have faith. They think: “Saints are extraordinary people and not ordinary beings. Therefore it is worthwhile visiting them, worthwhile cultivating their company, worthwhile coming into orbit of their attention and becoming attached to them. In some way they are above ordinary people… they are capable of doing things which a normal man may not be capable of doing and therefore if their company is cultivated we may get many thing done which through the normal human agencies we will not be able to get done. Somehow, in some mysterious way, there is some power in these sadhus.”
So they have a deeper faith, a deeper recognition of something extraordinary or something great, but not the right appreciation of it. There is a recognition and awareness of it, but neither correct appreciation nor proper appraisal of its true nature. They are in a way, benefited by the saints, but I would class them as unfortunate, for when they would gain in a much higher way, they do not gain it. That means they are undergoing a loss in a negative way. When you can invest some money and earn 7% interest, if you invest it at 2%, you are getting 2% no doubt, but you are losing 5%. In the same way these people revere saints and think that they are extraordinary men… that they possess something unusual. They offer them flowers and gifts and revere them, but their relationship becomes one based upon the level of their own life and not in terms of a Higher Being whom the saint does contact in the higher experience. Rather they say: “What I cannot make God give, you can make Him give me, because you are nearer to Him; therefore please intercede.”
There is faith in them, but their lives are still caught up in the earthly way. They assiduously cultivate the company, proximity and association of yogis and saints, but miss the true purpose of it. They ask of them help in all secular affairs.
“Let him give success to my son in his competitive examination. Let my daughter get a good match, let my sons go to England, let me get success in the law suit in court, let my bank balance shoot up.”
In this way there is an endless list and the list keeps growing, just like Hanuman’s tail. Many of these things are fulfilled. As one thing is fulfilled another desire comes up. So, for their entire life they make contact on a level where the saint is not meant to be contacted.
To them, the saint becomes a sort of grandfather, a special more than normal grandfather, which is not a wrong or a bad relationship, but an unfortunate relationship. They expect of him the fulfilment of their secular desires. They expect from his prescriptions, remedy for all secular troubles and they expect from him lots of benedictions and benefits… all in terms of this world and its affairs and its needs. Are they not interested in the spiritual teaching? Yes, they are, but not primarily… you understand this distinction, “not primarily”? Then what are they interested in primarily… in themselves and in their lives? Are they aware of this? No, they are not aware of it. They think that this is how and why people should contact saints.
If we go to a great saint and discuss our earthly affairs, we waste our own time, and we waste the time of other devotees who may at least have had a chance of talking about God and of spiritual life and the Eternal Reality with the saint, if we had not taken up the time.
Yes, in sorrow or grief, or in tragedy, if a soul seeks solace from a saint, that is understandable, because he is there to give shanti. This is solace no one else can give… only a saint can give. So it is all right if a soul draws near a great saint in times of distress, in times of tragedy, in times of such darkness. But normally, we must not try to belong to any of these categories: the agnostic, the reviler, the indifferent man who is not interested, the other man who has faith and belief and is interested, but in a passing way, and the fourth, who is very much interested, who has great belief in the greatness of the saint, but has missed the point and the very purpose.
Saints are people who try to break your delusion, who try to destroy your ignorance and clinging. They try to give you something which is more than anything this universe can ever boast or claim to be able to give you. They give you something which no object in this universe, no person, no king, no experience, not even all the persons, experiences and objects of this universe put together can give or even approach… such a great grand and glorious thing. They live to give and so we must try to know this fact about holy people, the saints and the mahatmas. We go to them for that which the world cannot give and ask for the highest from a saint and seek to be related to him in the plane of spirit, in the place of the soul, but not in the place of this material world.
Do not make it the subject of your satsanga to relate earthly affairs, but always try to know from a saint the way one should live, the way to the goal, to know about Yoga, about Vedanta, about bhakti, about bhava (feeling towards God), about viveka (discrimination) and vichara (enquiry), about self-control, about the glory of the Divine Name, the power of prayer the importance of worship, the greatness of dharma, etc. These you should seek from a saint. Is it then wrong, is it then unethical and improper to seek for earthly blessing from the saints? It is not wrong, but it is a mistake and that means you have missed the way.
The Correct Approach
Did Sudama ever open his lips and say anything about himself to Lord Sri Krishna? No, he did not relate his woe even though his wife had specifically sent him for that purpose. He did not even say a single word about his own condition. Lord Jesus says: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of Heaven; all these shall be added unto you.” So seek association with the saint for that knowledge, vijnana. Saints have broken their connection with everything belonging to this world of Maya–the phenomenal world. So you should not try to involve them in this again.
Thus may we approach the Eternal Presence of Gurudev and ask to receive of his discrimination, dispassion, self-control, faith, devotion and inner spiritual strength. Seek from him light, guidance, experience and inspiration and not anything of this secular life. Do ask what you want and let it be distinctly put: “I shall not allow that to come in between you and me. I shall commune with you now in the spirit.” Such should be our approach to the Eternal Presence of this great Illumined Being and even to the other living saints. We should make up our mind that we shall not allow our secular life to come between us and them.
The saint is one who represents for you the highest path that leads you to supreme good, supreme culture and supreme welfare, which give you the Treasure of treasures and Wealth of wealths… which is nirupama (unequalled).
Therefore, seek that which ought to be sought after from a saint and a sadguru. Then alone will you be able to grow in spiritual awareness. Even if you approach the saint with your little awareness: “I am so-and-so; I have these problems; these are my immediate troubles; these are my earthly affairs.” You have to open your heart to him and present yourself before him as a spiritual being seeking emancipation from the trammels of ajnana or avidya (ignorance) and this bondage of samsara (the process of worldly life). To such a soul seeking the highest blessedness he has a ready material upon which he works his spiritual miracle. From this very awareness he tries to break and draw you out. But if you cling to this little awareness, what can the saint do?
Seek therefore, to reject your little self and bind yourself to him purely on the spiritual level. Then, immense blessedness will be yours. The highest Wealth, the Treasure of the saint’s life, will be shared with you. Hold on, therefore, to the great awareness of your spiritual identity when you draw into the presence of holy persons, of saints and satgurus. That way you are wise. That way you stand to gain in the highest way. That way, immense blessedness will flow into your life and that way, you will be shown the eternal path that leads to perennial blessedness, supreme bliss, immortal light. Saints embody for us an experience that transcends all other experiences, and that alone we should seek from them.
May we, upon this holy day, upon this sacred anniversary, take a look at ourselves, our hearts, and try to make an appraisal of our spiritual attitude towards our Satguru. May we try to make a proper estimate of our attitude and relationship with the Satguru. Is our relationship ideal, or is there also an admixture of avoidable error, whose absence or removal may benefit us?
Let us, this day, clarify our relationship with Satguru Swami Sivanandaji and form fresh ties of pure spiritual association, pure spiritual bonds with him, for that way alone we stand to gain in the highest and most blessed manner from this inner relationship with our Satguru, our Guide.
God Bless You!