A Good Beginning
Sri Swami Chidananda
See also Ganesha by Swami Sivananda.
Ganesh Chaturthi by Swami Sivananda.
Lord Ganesa–The Remover of Obstacles by Swami Krishnananda.
Loving adorations to the spiritual presence of worshipful and beloved Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji who has graciously drawn us all together in a serene, holy spiritual fellowship at this early morning hour in his sacred Samadhi Shrine Hall! May his guru kripa be upon you all!
I had reason and occasion to dwell upon the plain truth that as the tangible fruit of his guru kripa, he has granted to all of us this holy ashram in Uttarakhand which is tapo bhumi–not bhogabhumi but tapo bhumi. It is a place for samyama, for tapasya and for titiksha (restraint, penance and endurance). As Mahatma Gandhi put it, it is a place for simple living and high thinking.
In such a place, if we do not utilise our time and life in the direction that this place provides for, then we do a great injustice towards Gurudev, his life work and his kripa. And if we fail to recognise the worth and value of his kripa, great will be our regret. Scriptures take a very serious note of such a lapse.
Worse still, if in this place one behaves unspiritually, in an undivine manner, contrary to the minimum requirements of the spiritual life, then one is courting disaster, one is inviting much sorrow in the future. There is a saying: “anyakshetre kritam papam, punyakshetre vinashyati; punyakshetre kritam papam, vajralepo bhavishyati (Sin committed at other places is destroyed in a holy place, but the sin committed in a holy place becomes firmly attached).” That means that it cannot be taken away, shed afterwards. It is a manner of speaking, a way of stressing a point, of focusing our attention upon what should be done and what should not be done.
Time should not be wasted–kalakshepo na kartavyah. It should not be wasted because time is precious. We have not come here to spend our time doing anything other than the practice of spiritual life–the practice of vairagya, viveka and bhratritva (brotherhood), the practice of tolerance, mutual goodwill, and paropakara (doing good to others), the practice of yoga, bhakti, Vedanta, Gita jnana upadesa and of Upanishad udbodhana (awakening by the Upanishad). We have come here for that. This is a place meant for that.
And today of all days is a great day for making all good beginnings. It is a day dedicated to Ganesha who removes all obstacles on the path of good undertakings. He is siddhidayaka (the bestower of success). He gives success if you work in the right direction. And, therefore, it is deemed to be a very auspicious day, a very appropriate day–just like Vijaya Dasami–for making good beginnings. Where shall we begin?
We shall begin by stopping all activities of thought, word and deed that are not good, all the activities of vyavahara that are not good. They say read the Vedas daily and engage in actions that have been laid down or declared in the Vedas as actions that are to be engaged in–taduditam karma suanusthiyatam (we must act according to the injunctions of the Vedas)–which means we must not act contrary to the injunctions of the Vedas. It is already implied in the declaration. Speak the truth means do not speak falsehood; it is implied. Practise ahimsa means do not practice himsa; it is implied. Be a vegetarian means do not eat meat or non-vegetarian food; it is implied. Be a brahmachari means do not be a vyabhichari; it is implied. Fast today means do not take food. It need not be told. It is already implied; one contains the other.
Divine, godly qualities lead you towards liberation–daivi sampad vimokshaya. And if the highest goal of life is moksha, then we must not only practise daivi sampada which will help us to obtain moksha, but we must also give up all asuri sampada, because it says that asuri sampada leads to greater bondage. Therefore we must not only cultivate daivi sampada but guardedly, with alert vigilance, avoid the contrary. It is implied in it.
In his book Satsanga Lectures, Gurudev said: “Today I will tell you of a simple path to God-realisation, three simple sadhanas that will grant you liberation. The first sadhana is to eradicate negative, unspiritual qualities and cultivate positive, spiritual qualities. Secondly, constantly remember God in the midst of all vyavaharic activities. And thirdly, dedicate all your activities at the feet of God.” So, the first sadhana is to eradicate negative, undivine qualities and cultivate positive, divine qualities.
Therefore, on this auspicious day of the worship of Lord Ganesha, the remover of obstacles and the bestower of success, let us begin by eradicating wrong qualities and cultivating sublime, noble, spiritual qualities and divine virtues. In his “Universal Prayer” Gurudev says: “Fill our hearts with divine virtues.” If we pray to the Lord to do this, then we must assist God by ourselves also trying to fill our heart with divine virtues. Then He will help us and make it a success.
What quality to eradicate? What divine virtue to cultivate? The great Holy Mother Saradamani Devi, the divine consort of Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsadev of Dakshinesvar, giving advice said: “My dear child, take away doshadrishti (looking at the faults of others), take away this negative habit of picking upon the faults of others. Life is too short; there is not enough time to remove our own faults. We have so many faults that if we will start introspecting, trying to analyse and recognise our own negative qualities, we will have a full-time work to do. Even a whole lifetime will not be sufficient to get rid of all the faults that each one of us has. So, if instead of doing your own house cleaning, you start picking on the faults of others, you will remain what you are.”
Perhaps it may be worse still, because if you focus on negative things, on the defects of others, trying to pick holes in their svabhava (nature) instead of focusing upon God, your ishta devata or guru charana (the feet of the guru), then you are doing a great injustice to yourself, an injustice to God, an injustice to Gurudev and an injustice to this wonderful ashram that he has created for you and offered to you as his parting gift, complete with all the facilities required for self-unfoldment. You ignore all this and make your vision low-down by dwelling upon the defects of others. This is a still greater blunder.
And it is also a very serious thing. God is offering you facilities for becoming divine and you are ignoring that and focusing upon things which are unnecessary for you, which waste your life and create negative samskaras within you. It will retard your spiritual progress. Your sadhana will go down the drain because it is one of the chhidras through which spirituality can go away.
That which you focus upon, that you become. If you think upon the silly, negative qualities of others instead of improving yourself, you draw upon yourself negative qualities. You make your drishti alpa (vision petty) instead of making it mahat (lofty, great). It is a great blunder.
And so Holy Mother Saradamani Devi said: “Better start by minding your own spiritual welfare. It is too important to be neglected by thinking of other things. Mind your own highest good. Be mindful of your own supreme welfare, for which a human birth has been bestowed upon you. Do not divert your mind here and there in petty things. Life is short; time flies away. Before you know it, the time of departure will come. If you have made a mess of your life by allowing your mind to be diverted to miscellaneous, unnecessary things, then you will regret bitterly, you will weep bitterly.”
Therefore, save yourself from such a fate. Be sincere and serious. Let your entire mind, heart, thought and intellect be focused upon God and the sadhana for which you have come into this sacred Uttarakhand. Do not be a “Nosey Parker,” do not poke your nose into affairs that are of no concern to you or your spiritual life. Some people cannot remain without doing this and thus creating trouble. What is still worse, they have a warped sense of enjoyment and even enjoy creating trouble. It is a spiritual blunder of the first magnitude. It is a great harm that you are doing to yourself and your spiritual life, quite apart from the himsa that you may cause in the minds of other people or the agitation that you may cause in their hearts. The harm that you are doing to yourself is tenfold.
Therefore, today, on this sacred Vinayaka Chaturthi day, why not take a cue from the blessed Holy Mother Saradamani Devi and say, “O Lord, I have been made to see. Until now I did not realise that this was an obstacle, because it has become part of my own nature, svabhava. I must change this habit of mind, change my second nature and be established in my essential divine nature. Therefore, from today I will begin by not finding fault with anyone; I will not allow my mind to be diverted away from the central purpose of my human existence. I must not succumb to this old, inveterate habit of the mind. Henceforward I shall not commit this blunder. I shall not allow maya to direct my mind to anything that is not part of my spiritual evolution. O Lord, help me in this task.”
Therefore, every day you must awaken yourself and be concerned with the main purpose of your life, with the central objective with which you have come here and the reason why Gurudev brought into being this sadhana kshetra, this great facility for Yoga-Vedanta, for spiritual unfoldment, for the attainment of divine perfection and fulfilling the purpose of life. May Lord Ganesha help you and remove all obstacles in your way!”