The Message of the New Year
Sri Swami Chidananda
Die to Live
Time is Fleeting
Take Time by the Forelock
The Greatest Wonder
What is Life?
Utilise Time Well
What Place Has Yoga in Life?
We are on the eve of the commencement of a fresh and a new period of time. We belong to a state of timeless eternity where it is all bliss indescribable, peace unfathomable and wisdom infinite; but due to a supreme inscrutable power which great sages have called by various names, Maya, the opposite of wisdom, we have somehow descended from that unparalleled supreme transcendent state of wisdom, peace, bliss and infinite consciousness, into a state of limited and trammelled existence when we are weighed down by the narrow consciousness of various states brought about by our limiting adjuncts or Upadhis. We come under the tyranny of space, time and causation.
Yet, there is perennial hope in the heart of man; for his essential nature is all-perfection, all-joy and all-freedom. This hope would not accept obstacles and even these are made stepping stones to success and glorious achievement. Thus, this very vexing factor of time which limits our Eternal Consciousness full of glory, splendour and grandeur, we make use of a means of reminding us once again of our true essential spiritual nature, to rise a step higher and bring us nearer to the consciousness of our Self.
Die to Live
Let us make use of the ending of the Old Year and the beginning of the New Year, to remind ourselves that we are beyond this time and that this very limitation of time has got a special message for us,–the message which Gurudev gives us in his “Song of Divine Life” and which Christ has said in his own beautiful and paradoxical words: Die to live, lead the divine life.
If we have to live a life in the Spirit, commence a new life in the consciousness of our higher nature, we have to die to the old inveterate habit of life of sensuousness and mere physical consciousness. “Unless ye be born again, ye cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven” said Christ.
Thus, this juncture of time–31st December–demonstrates this factor that if the New Year has to come, the old year has to pass away. Even so, if we are to partake of divine life where the dominant note will be the progressive aspiration of our spiritual being, our inward Atmic nature, then there should be a progressive dying out of the old consciousness in all its egoism and its Abhimana; and we should completely eradicate all the associations that have been allowed to gather round us in the form of the vicious life, surrounding the radiant light of our true nature.
This death of the undivine in us is a condition pre-requisite before we shall be born into a divine life, where we shall experience peace, bliss, serenity, life knowledge, selflessness, etc.
Time is Fleeting
Beside this, yet another truth this New Year effectively brings into focus is this. It is the supreme factor of the passage of time. It tells us: “O Man! Awake. Realise that you may be standing still due to your neglect; but life does not stand still. Life is rushing onward like a swift stream. Time is fleeting and it is passing away.” Even as these words are entering your ears and reaching your mind, time has passed. That is what the chime of every clock at the end of every hour reminds man so much of less time you have upon your hands, utilise it for your own welfare. Awake. Arise. Be up and doing. Do not stop until you have crossed time and made yourself timeless.
We should, therefore, alert ourselves to earnestly take to spiritual Sadhana, so that we may attain the Supreme Purpose for which the precious gift of human life has been bestowed upon us.
Once having become aware that time is passing, we will understand that every period in time is a thing not for rejoicing, but for very serious heart-searching repentance, new resolution, and enthusiastic onward progress. For, unlike the ignorant father or mother who, when they see their child growing up, rejoice that a new birthday has come and give the child lots of presents–what a depth of ignorance! They do not understand that the child’s growing up means it is one year nearer to the grave the Viveki-Purusha keeps before him, when he arrives at these periodical markings upon the field of time, this great factor of the passing away of time. When this factor is brought to our consciousness, we will realise that there is a very real reason why we should do something about it. This is brought about in the way in which the Westerners have depicted this elusive thing called Time.
Take Time by the Forelock
In the West, the imaginary conception of Time as personified is this. It is an old man with a huge flowing beard. Time is ancient. No one can stand before time. This old man has in his hand a sharp long scythe by which he cuts short everything. He is the disposer. In his hand, he has an hourglass where the sand is constantly dripping from the upper chamber to the lower one. The most peculiar feature of all in this funny old man is that he is absolutely bald in his head, but for a big tuft of hair in front. The whole significance of this conception lies in the forelock given to time. If you wish to catch hold of time, do not let it pass away; you have to catch time by the forelock. Then you may arrest him and make use of him. But, once time has passed, there is nothing by which you can catch him, because he is bald in the back.
This conception brings us to the third important factor that you have to remember. Never lose opportunities. Make the best use of every opportunity that God gives to you in all His love and mercy. An opportunity once lost is lost for ever. When God has given us this great opportunity of opportunities–this human birth–of achieving the greatest thing that can be achieved, viz., the imperishable treasure of everlasting, eternal, infinite bliss and peace, it should not be lost. At the same time, life is fickle. Just as a drop of water put upon a white-hot piece of iron disappears even without leaving a trace behind, even so this life is just an appearance for a fleeting moment in Eternity and it at once disappears without any trace at all. This opportunity will not come again. Knowing this is an opportunity and that it is rushing towards its end, the sages cry out from house-tops: Awake, arise, stop not till the goal is reached: do not be ever immersed in this Samsara of pain, disappointment, grief, disease and death.
Therefore, these great ones with their heart throbbing with love for human beings, wish to share that experience with us. This is an opportunity for attaining Immortality, they say; and, therefore, “Be up and doing in Yogic Sadhana. You will attain Immortality, Kaivalya Moksha.” We should listen to this message of the New Year and make the best use of this rare human birth.
These thoughts do not arise in the ordinary mind which is outgoing. Only in that blessed mind, where the light of Lord’s Grace has reached and penetrated the darkness of grossness, that these thoughts arise. “Why have I taken birth here? What is the meaning of life? What is the purpose of life? And how to achieve that purpose? For I must achieve it.” As the great Sankara has said:
Dinamapi rajani saayam praatah: sisiravasantau punaraayaatah:
Kaalah: kridanti gacchatyayustadapi
Such is the great ignorance of the ordinary man of the world. Days and nights pass away; years pass away. Man’s life is passing away. Yet there is the clinging to life due to ignorance, due to our not knowing that this is transient. He laments, suffers yet he clings to it. Therefore this state of awakened Viveka itself is a mark of Grace. Let us not prove unworthy of this gift of Grace which the Lord has given to us in the form of Viveka. Let us harken to the message of the Lord in the form of fleeting time.
The Greatest Wonder
We offer our adorations for the Great Message Time has given us today and every day; with the sunrise it gives the message of the day that is born and with the sunset it gives the message of the day that is past. We should not be asleep; we should be alert and heed the message. The reason why people forget this is due to the power of Maya. How universal this power is we shall know from the pages of the Mahabharata.
When the Pandavas were living in the forest, the younger brothers were sent by Dharmaputra to fetch water. Seeing that they did not return, Arjuna was sent. He also failed to return. Draupadi was suffering from intense thirst. With great anxiety Dharmaputra sends Bhima. He, too, does not return.
They have come across a lake. As they were about to get into the water and slake their own thirst and also take some water for Dharmaputra, a Voice warns them: “Stop. You cannot drink the water. This lake belongs to me. There is a condition upon which alone all people can partake of these waters. I shall ask you some questions. They have to be answered by you. If you answer them successfully, only then can you drink the water.” The brothers were in a hurry; they did not listen to the Voice; but they got into the water and promptly fell into a death-swoon. Bhima finds all of them stretched on the banks of the lake. His anger is at once roused. When he is about to touch the water, the same Yaksha speaks the same warning. Bhima, too disobeys and falls dead.
This brings Dharmaputra himself to the spot. Herein comes the difference between the men of wisdom and others. When he hears the Voice, Dharmaputra thinks: “What is the use of my unnecessarily disregarding the Voice?” and says: “You are at liberty to ask your questions. I shall be pleased to satisfy you and with your permission I shall take the water.” The Yaksha is highly pleased. Then follows in the Mahabharata a wonderful chapter with marvellous wisdom.
Among the various questions, the Yaksha puts this one: “What is the most wonderful thing in this world?” The answer that Dharmaputra gives is wonderful. “This I think is most wonderful: that the man of the world, even though he is seeing before his eyes constantly creatures dying and passing away, never for a moment the idea enters him ‘I, too, have to fall; I am also a creature destined to be destroyed.’ Even if it is told to him, it never enters his mind. Only the surface-mind understands the language; but the actual sense never goes into his head.” Yaksha says: “Yes you have answered rightly.”
Because there is this mysterious power of the Lord that man runs after the material pleasures of life. And because of the Law of the Crowbar–the Law that inspires us to dig, dig, and dig ceaselessly, that Swamiji keeps hammering into our consciousness the truth about our life and its goal, so that whether we would have it or not, it enters into our mind and begins slowly to transform our life. Let this great blessing not go in vain. Let us, upon this solemn occasion remind ourselves of all these factors and of our great duty and necessity for vigilance and quick action, and attain the Supreme Bliss of Satchidananda.
What is Life?
In this connection, we may try to have a novel view of life. What is life: Some say life is a struggle. Some say life is worship. Others think life is a vale of tears. But what exactly is the basic definition of life? Life is nothing but Time. It is an existence between two terminals–coming into birth and shedding of the body. In whatever way this period is spent, this period is exhausted. This process of exhausting a period is life. What does it actually consist of? Time wasted or utilised?
What is time made up? Time is made up of seconds, hours, days, months and years. Life is an aggregate of moments. Therefore, it is a most important treasure that man has got in his possession. It is greater than a diamond. Without this, all the treasures of these worlds are nothing. Therefore, the most precious thing we have got is time. The proper utilisation of time is the best purpose of life.
Utilise Time Well
Therefore, the proper utilisation of this stuff of life, namely, moments, is of the utmost importance to one and all and infinitely more so to the spiritual aspirant for whom the highest purpose of life has become known. The greater the value of the thing, the more important is the prize of achievement. Time or life is therefore a gift from God. To him who utilises his life in the proper divine way, God gives His Eternal Treasures. To him who neglects to use it or misuse it, God is not so merciful and gracious a second time.
Jesus gave the Parable of the Faithful Servant. A master had three servants. He gave (Say) Rs. 100 to each of them and went away. After several years, he returns. One servant has carefully bundled the money, put it in a box and buried the box in the earth. The other man has squandered the money away in a few days. The third has made very careful investment of this money, bought some land, sown seed, and he has worked out a farm; thus while the Master was absent, he has multiplied the amount several times its original sum and he has also out some money in the reserve. The master returns. He meets his servants one by one. The man who had buried the money, digs it up. The master shakes his head in sorrow. “You have not known how to use it,” he says. The master turns out the man who has lost all the money, saying: “You do not deserve the treasure.” When the master sees the third one and knows how he had made good use of the money, he commends him, he makes him his own and rewards him. Thus, said Jesus, is our duty towards the Master Who has given us these things, and this precious human birth. Let life mean something more for you from tomorrow, from the New Year that is dawning. Let us be like the good servant who made good use of the money and got a rich reward in the form of the Master’s pleasure.
What Place Has Yoga in Life?
What is it that we have to do? What is Yoga? What place have we to give it in our life? People are always prone to say that this process of achieving our life’s goal encroaches upon man’s activity, the busy life with so many important duties in this world. This encroachment is very painful to them and they grudge to give more than the minimum of time to this encroaching factor of Sadhana. How absurd this is, can be known if we put this question side by side with two other parallel questions: What place should the ticking of the clock have in the existence of the clock? What place should breathing be given in your life? The meaning of a watch is a thing that ticks: if it does not, it is fit to be thrown into the dustbin. Life means effort for spiritual attainment. If this movement towards the attainment of Immortal Bliss ceases to have a part in life, then that life is no life at all. It is existence like the existence of stone or any other inert being. It is only when it is directed towards the attainment of higher consciousness that man can be called man, life can be called life. The question therefore is–not what place Sadhana should have in life, but–how far can we allow the other activities of life to interfere in this main flow of life? They should not be allowed to interfere even one moment in our life. Twenty-four hours’ life should be throbbing to the tune of this inward march from the perishable to the Imperishable from sorrow to Bliss.
When these factors come to encroach upon the main purpose of life, and we cannot completely eradicate them, we have to transform them; we have to bring them into contact with the philosopher’s stone of Atma-Bhava, Narayana-Bhava; transform all other activities of life in such a way that they also become in nature this inward movement towards eternal Bliss. The entire life has to be transformed by the proper attitude, into one Maha-Yoga. Indissoluble is the connection between life and Sadhana, as between life and breath.
In this case, what is the purpose of external forms of Sadhana–like sitting upon certain Asans, turning of beads, Pranayama, Sankirtan etc? What are they meant to achieve? They are meant to bring about a transformation in your life, so that life, from being an attachment towards these perishable objects, becomes one of detachment and consequently of increasing attachment to the ideal. The most important effect that all these Yogas bring about is a constant Pratyahara from the objective universe, complete giving up of desire for these names and forms, and an all-consuming aspiration for the Eternal which is beyond all names and forms. If they don’t bring about this, it means no Yoga is being done. Yoga must lessen our attachment to the world and increase the attachment to the Divine.
This is retarded due to certain elements in us; and they call these elements the Asuree-Sampatti in man. They are the main barriers and therefore you should completely eradicate all these elements and begin to develop those aspects of the higher self, the divine qualities in man the Daivee-Sampatti. We must lead a life of virtue, not only positive virtue, but active virtue. We should be good and do good. That is the important purpose of Yoga. We should try to eliminate from our life Rajas and Tamas. We must make our speech, desires, thoughts, actions, surrounds, food and literature, Sattwic. We should try to fill our life with Sattwa. This is the way of living the Yogic life. Everything should become Sattwic. If Sattwa is increased, it paves the way for the descent of the Divine. Even a single Mala of Japa by a Sattwic man full of compassion, mercy and love, will at once elevate him to spiritual heights.
Thus we shall make proper use of our time which God has given us in the form of human life. And thus we shall attain the highest, Spiritual Goal of human life.