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SAI BABA GITA

 

The Way to Self-Realization
and Liberation in this Age

Compiled and edited by Al Drucker
Published by Atma Press


Part One: Path of Devotion
Part Two: Path of Wisdom
Part Three: Path of Action

Part One - Path of Devotion

Foreword

I would like to give you, dear reader, some background on how this book came about. In August and September of 1984, there were extensive riots in South India. There were shootings not far from Sai Baba's ashram and the ashram gates were locked. Armed soldiers were patrolling outside and escorting the college students into the ashram for the evening meetings. For 34 days during the height of the tension, Sai Baba spoke in daily discourses to the students on the Gita. He spoke in Telugu, his native language. These talks form the chapters of this book.

I was living in Baba's ashram at the time and teaching in his university. With Baba's permission, I used these powerful Gita teachings over the years as the basis for my scheduled talks to visitors who came to the ashram from all over the world. It has been my good fortune to work with this material now for almost 9 years. Every moment spent on it has brought new light and depth of understanding, and, as has happened to many others, these teachings have unalterably transformed my life.

Five years ago, I had the chance to publish this Gita in India, from the edited translations of Baba's talks. 12,000 copies in English were printed and distributed, and translations were published in a number of European and Asian languages. The original manuscript was presented to Sai Baba on the stage of the auditorium during the Christmas function in 1987, and he graciously blessed it and signed the title page. That work contained extensive Sanskrit phrases and references to traditional Indian themes, which were familiar to Indian devotees.

In the intervening years, the Indian English edition has gone out of print. With the intention of making these teachings widely available without need for the reader to have an extensive background in Sanskrit or Indian philosophy or prior knowledge of the characters and stories that fill Baba's talks, this book was prepared in the present edition. Here, the majority of Sanskrit terms have been deleted and incorporated in their English equivalents into the body of the text. Also, the chapters have been freely edited to clarify any difficult passages or obscure references and to convert the spoken words into easily readable text. Every chapter has been arranged to stand on its own, with the effect that you can turn to any chapter whose subject matter particularly interests you, without first having to study all the previous chapters in the book.

In editing the text my primary focus was on clarity in conveying Baba's teachings to the Western reader, rather than on literal translation. I acknowledge the grave responsibility of editing the avatar's words and urge scholars to study the tapes of Baba's Gita discourses in Telugu.

Al Drucker,
Crestone, Colorado, October 1993

Messages

Suppose you are asked: "Who created all this multiplicity in the world; who is responsible for all this variety?" What will you answer?... The correct response is, "There is no multiplicity at all!"... The one divine self remains the one self forever. You mistake it as many. The fault is in you. Correct your vision. Remove your delusion. The divinity did not change into the world just as the rope did not change into a snake. In the dark you mistook the rope to be a snake but it remains a rope. So also, the divine self remains the divine self though your ignorance of this fact makes you see it as world... The world of diversity stands on one leg called delusion. Cut down that leg and the world falls... I often tell you not to identify even me with this particular body. You do not understand. You call me by only one name and believe I have only one form, but there is no name I do not bear and there is no form which is not mine.

After long searches here and there in temples and in churches, at last you come back completing the circle from where you started, and find that he for whom you have been seeking all over the world, for whom you have been weeping and praying in churches and temples, on whom you were looking as the mystery of all mysteries, is the nearest of the near... your very self... the reality of your life, body and soul. Assert it! Manifest it!

You as body, mind or soul are a dream. But what you really are is pure existence, knowledge, bliss. You are the God of this universe. You are creating this whole universe and drawing it in. To gain the Infinite, the miserable little prison individuality must go.... Follow the heart. A pure heart seeks beyond the intellect. It gets inspired.... Within you is the real happiness. Within you is the mighty ocean of nectar divine. Seek it within you. Feel it. Feel it. It is here, the self. It is not the body, the mind, the intellect. All these are simply manifestations. Above all these you are. You appear as the smiling flower, as the twinkling stars. What is there in the world which can make you desire anything?

- From sayings and writings of Sai Baba

Sai Baba

For the countless millions of devotees who have come into his fold, Sai Baba is the avatar of this age. He is revered as the incarnation of the full power of divinity. Such an auspicious advent has not occurred since ancient days when the divinity came into human form 5000 years ago, in another major age of mankind. Then he came as Krishna, to enact the role of avatar of that particular age. Now, the divinity has come again in the role of world teacher, to guide and uplift mankind at this present critical time in human history.

Just as sweetness cannot be understood through words alone, but must be experienced directly through the taste, so also the Sai phenomenon cannot be understood by merely reading about him or studying his words or even experiencing him first-hand. His truth can be known only by fully living his teachings and practicing them in every thought, word and action of daily life. By transforming our lives in this way, we discover our own truth. This is the rarest of all jewels that this avatar has come to bestow on us. It is the deeper message of the mission for which he has incarnated, namely, that the divinity appears among us in order to remind us of our divinity. "I know who I am," he says. "I have come to help you to realize who you are." In essence, we are no less than he. We are God incarnate. That is the principal teaching of his Gita. He has come as the guide to help us realize our truth and return mankind to its divine source.

The three Incarnations of Sai

Like Allah of the Muslims, or Jahweh of the Jews, or Divine Father of the Christians, or the Buddha Nature of the Buddhists, or Ahura Mazda of the Parses, or the Supreme Self of the Vedantins, or the Great Spirit of the native Americans, Sai Baba is a name for the omnipresent, supreme reality, which in most religions is known as God. The one divinity takes on countless names and manifests itself in countless forms. It has chosen a 250 year period beginning in the early 19th century to manifest successively in three human forms as avatar for this kali age, to restore righteousness to floundering humanity. All three of these incarnations are called Sai Baba, which means divine mother-father.

The present Sai Baba, born in 1926, is the second in a succession of three incarnations of the Sai avatar. He is known as Sathya Sai Baba. The first incarnation was Shirdi Sai Baba, who left his mortal body eight years earlier in 1918. Shirdi Sai Baba lived his life exemplifying the unity of God and the brotherhood of man, by ministering to both the Hindu and Muslim communities of central India, each of which claimed him as their own. For many years, he would spend alternate days living in a Hindu temple and in a Muslim mosque.

The Sai avatar will remain in the present Sathya Sai form until his mid 90's, well into the 21st century. Then, shortly after leaving his physical body, he will be born again in the south of India, appearing as the third and final incarnation. At that time he will be known as Prema Sai Baba and will complete the mission of the Sai avatar to end this kali age and usher in the golden age for mankind.

Sai Baba's Ashram - Prashanti Nilayam

Sathya Sai Baba took birth in the little out-of-the-way hamlet of Puttaparthi in the south of India, near Bangalore. Now, a modern township has sprung up there, called Prashanti Nilayam, the abode of ultimate peace, which is his main ashram. It provides accommodations for thousands of pilgrims from all over India and from all parts of the globe, who come to experience Sai Baba's daily public contacts with the devotees and private interviews for those who are fortunate to be chosen.

The ashram houses a comprehensive educational complex where students come from all parts of India and abroad to live and study together. Small children can come into the residential program starting at the age of five in the primary school, then go on to the high school, college and university levels, and finally on to the postgraduate and doctoral levels, to complete their education twenty years later. The Sai educational system, with campuses in various states of India, is wholly non-denominational and completely cost-free. All the educational costs for thousands of students are borne directly by the Sathya Sai Baba Trust.

Also at Prashanti Nilayam is the central headquarters for the worldwide network of Sai service organizations, engaged in a wide range of community service projects and in bringing education in human values into government and private school systems throughout the world. Recently, the largest specialty hospital in Asia was inaugurated at the ashram. Here patients, no matter how poor, can come from all over the globe for open heart surgery. They stay at the hospital with no charge for doctors, medicine, hospital services, food or room.

Sai Baba, the Human Being and the God-Man

The hub of all this activity is Sai Baba, who from his earliest days has attracted large numbers of people to him through his unique personal presence. He can only be described as the personification of pure, selfless love, the embodiment of perfect peace and bliss, the essence of all goodness. He manifests every noble human quality that mankind admires and he incorporates every divine quality that is characteristic of the avatar. He has the full power of nature in his hand. He has all knowledge at his command. He knows the past, present and future of everyone who comes to him. He manifests himself in many parts of the world for the sake of his devotees. These characteristics, namely omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence, are the mark of a full incarnation of the divinity.

In his teachings he befriends all faiths and emphasizes the unity of all religions in the oneness of divinity. In his personal manner, Sai Baba displays a majestic grace, and at the same time, an exquisite joyfulness. In the midst of a splendorous temple and ashram, he lives in a small, simple room, and maintains an austere life style, completely committing his time from early morning to late at night to ministering to the needs of those who come to him.

Not being limited to the physical plane, Sai Baba works in all dimensions, gross and subtle, appearing through visions and dreams and inner experiences, as well as in his physical form. As the divine teacher guiding the spiritual unfoldment of his devotees, he inspires from within and directs from without. He illuminates the heart and transforms the mind and reveals the greatest of all treasures, the immortal atma, the universal self abiding in every heart.

The Sai Advent

These two and a half centuries encompassing the Sai advent are a unique time of great spiritual significance in the history of the world. During this period, many saints and sages are also appearing on the earth in order to advance the divine mission of revitalizing spiritual values and reversing the present downward trend of moral degeneration which is engulfing the world. In the millenia to come, generations will look back with great awe at those of us who lived during this sacred time, much as we might look back at those fortunate ones in other ages, who were the contemporaries of Rama or Krishna, or of Moses, Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed or Zoroaster, and who had the unique chance to experience their sacred presence directly.

Very rarely in the long span of human existence, has the divinity taken a human form on earth and allowed itself to be widely recognized by many. And even more rarely has the divinity come in all its fullness and glory as avatar of the age, as is true today in the form of Sai Baba. Now, the full power of God can be directly approached and experienced by all, and his teachings, which have the authority of the source of all wisdom, can be understood by everyone, for he speaks to us in the language and the idiom of our present time.

Introduction to the Gita

Gita means song. But the Gita is no ordinary song. It is the divine song of emancipation. It is given by God to free us of the illusions that have kept us bound. The Gita celebrates our highest truth, the atma.

Atma means self. But atma also means God. Atma is our god-self, our true self. And since God is always one, atma is the one true self of everyone and everything. Illusion makes it appear as the many. Our destiny is to dispel the clouds of illusion so that our truth is revealed and the atma is realized. That is selfknowledge.

When self-knowledge comes, the illusion of separate beings and separate objects goes, and is replaced by unity consciousness. Self-knowledge is the only knowledge that has truly eternal and lasting value, for it enables us to transcend all limitations of time and space, and be immersed in the bliss of the atma.

In every major age, God comes as avatar and teaches the Gita to initiate us into self-knowledge and dispel the veils which hide our divine nature. 5000 years ago, God came as Krishna, to render this song of truth at a time of great moral decline. At that time, he gave the Gita in order to rescue Arjuna, and through him all of mankind, from the fog of illusion and attachment. In this age, he has come again as Sai Baba, to give this sacred teaching at another time of great turmoil and deteriorating values. The malady he is treating is the same, and the remedy he prescribes is also the same, stemming from the same ancient wisdom. But, being the very source of eternal wisdom, he knows how to transmit it in a way which makes it come alive today and be meaningful in this present age.

In his Gita teachings, Baba shows us how to transcend the false perception of our senses and mind, which constantly support the illusion of separate existence. Step by step, he directs us onto the inner path to discover who we truly are. When all illusion is stripped away, we realize that we are not these bodies and personalities, we are not separate beings individualized into name and form. The truth is, and he emphasizes it over and over again, that we are not different from God. Our unchanging reality, which was the same before we took on the limitations of these bodies, and which is the same after we let go of these bodies, is the one divine self, the atma. Inexplicably, atma has become cloaked with the changing names and forms which make up the covering veil of maya, or illusion. But, under the layers of obscuration, hidden from view, atma shines in everyone as the unvarying radiance of divine light.

To realize this requires a purification of consciousness, until only pure awareness, unbefogged by illusory mind-stuff, remains. Baba tells us that when we give up our outer vision and our fascination for the world and, instead, turn our mind inwards to gain the integral vision, we become steeped in unity consciousness. When we give up body-consciousness we gain God consciousness. When we expand beyond our limited human awareness into the fullness of our potential, we become who we truly are. We transcend the illusion of separation of God, man and world and merge into the one divine principle. That is the essential teaching of the Gita.

The Gita is the very heart of the ancient wisdom making up the perennial philosophy of the East. It is the basis of all spirituality. We are told that it had a profound influence on Jesus, as well as on the Buddha, not to speak of the countless spiritual lights who have graced this planet in the millenia since the Gita was given by Krishna on the battlefield.

The Gita has something for everyone at every level of the spiritual path. Baba talks to each of us at the level at which we are ready, pointing us from wherever we are, to our final destination. If we incorporate this Gita into our daily lives, we will never need to read another book nor study another teaching. By following the directions given here, we will be led home to our own unchanging truth. First, however, there are a number of stages we must go through. They are best spoken of in terms of the yogas. The Sanskrit word yoga speaks of union, referring to union with God.

There are three principal yogas which Baba takes up here. They are karma yoga, the path of selfless service; bhakti yoga, the path of devotion wherein we see the divinity in everything we see; and jnana yoga, the path of wisdom, the culmination of the spiritual journey, wherein we dwell constantly on our highest truth. These yogas are the soap which purifies us and strips away the layers of unreality that have covered the atma. For too long, illusion and unreality have posed, bizarrely, but totally convincingly, as the only true reality and kept the bona fide reality, the atma, hidden. These yogas help return us to unity consciousness.

A question may arise as to why, when the verses of Krishna's Bhagavad Gita are freely available, Baba has elaborated this new version of the Gita. Baba explains that this present age is different from Krishna's time and different from Rama's time, as well. In the age of Rama, the forces of darkness were embodied as demonic hordes, external enemies that disturbed the inner peace and tranquillity of the people. Rama, God incarnated as avatar, personally took up arms and went into the forest to destroy this evil. Tens of thousands of years later, in the age of Krishna, the forces of evil were not outside in the forest, but right at home in the same family. Now the avatar did not take up arms directly. Instead, he drove the chariot and galvanized Arjuna to fight the battle and win the victory.

In truth, the divinity had already decided the outcome. To make it clear to Arjuna that he was merely an actor in this drama, Krishna gave Arjuna a vision of the cosmic form of God. Suddenly, Arjuna could see all of time, past, present and future. He saw all the combatants on both sides, engulfed in their inescapable destiny, following the play orchestrated by the Lord. Though he was engaged in fighting all the battles, Arjuna saw that he was merely the instrument carrying out the will of the Lord, and that the ultimate conclusion of the war, the triumph of righteousness over evil, had been decided even before the first battle commenced.

In those days people lived much longer than they do now. Baba mentioned that at the time of the Mahabharata war, Krishna and Arjuna were both in their eighties. Krishna and Arjuna had known each other for over 70 years. They were the closest of friends, spent most of their time together, and were related as brothers-in-law. In all this time spent together, the Gita never came up. For years, Arjuna, along with the other Pandava brothers, had nobly borne every insult and indignity perpetrated by their wicked cousins. But, the forces of evil were unrelenting. The conflict was destined to culminate in war. Preparations for the battle commenced. Now, on the eve of the war, when Arjuna saw his beloved grandfather and his revered teacher ready to fight on the opposing side, and all his other close relations arrayed for battle, he threw down his bow in despondency.

In speaking of this, Baba said that Arjuna had faced many worldly dilemmas in his life and knew how to deal with them. But, at that point, Arjuna was facing a spiritual dilemma. He was overwhelmed with a feeling of helplessness that stemmed from the onslaught of his inner enemies, attachment, infatuation, deluded vision, and the rest, which had made him forget his own truth and his commitment to preserve righteousness at all cost. Now, in desperation, he turned to Krishna, knowing that Krishna alone could rescue him from this quagmire. He declared, "Lord, command me. I will do as you say." At that moment, their relationship changed from chums and co-equals to master and disciple. And it was at this point, Baba tells us, that Krishna chose to teach Arjuna the Gita. Surrender of the individual will to the divine will was the key to proper preparation in receiving this age-old wisdom.

Baba said that the sage Vyasa tuned in on their dialogue with his yogic powers of subtle hearing. Vyasa elaborated Krishna's teachings into 700 verses in the Sanskrit poetic form, which have been preserved through time as the Bhagavad Gita. But, Baba said that in the 20 minutes or so, when Krishna spoke to Arjuna on the battlefield, he did not actually expound all these verses or render them in poetic meter. Krishna's goal was very specific.

Krishna who was the divinity incarnate was always unremittingly happy. Arjuna, like the rest of humanity, experienced periods of joy and sorrow. Here, on the eve of the battle, Arjuna was deeply depressed, but earlier that day, Arjuna had been highly elated, eager to fight. Krishna knew that all of these changes of mood were caused by illusion. Arjuna was out of touch with his true nature, the atma, which is synonymous with eternal delight. Krishna resolved to dispel Arjuna's confusion and bolster his courage by teaching him the knowledge of the atma, so that Arjuna would discover his own divine truth and be forever immersed in unchanging inner joy.

In these chapters, Baba gives us an insight into the main points of Lord Krishna's Gita. Since this present book is the Gita for this present age, Baba gives many additional directions for our spiritual advancement, which are particularly applicable to these troubled times and our needs. His goal is the same as Krishna's, namely to establish us in ananda, the eternal delight which is our true nature.

This age is different in many ways from Krishna's age. In this age, the forces of good and evil are not only battling in the same family, but they are battling inside of every being. Baba tells us that if the Lord were to come today, sword in hand, to stamp out all traces of evil, no one alive would escape or survive. He comes, instead, as the inner director. Following his guidance, we must fight our own inner battles, conquer our own inner enemies, and gain the ultimate victory of salvation and awakening.

This kali age, in which we are now living, wherein gross materialism and lawlessness have run rampant and spiritual values have declined, is, in many ways the worst of all ages. But, from the spiritual point of view, this age is the best of all ages for the transformation of the individual. In this age we can most readily throw off the bonds of illusion and realize the atma. But, it requires swimming up-stream against the powerful current and rapids of worldly life, which try to sweep us into the abyss and keep us locked onto the endless cycle of birth and death. Now, the avatar of this age, through his teachings, shows us how to navigate these rapids. He works internally as the indweller in every being, directing us how to confront our own inner enemies and win this war of good and evil inside.

In ages past, Baba points out, the spiritual path was primarily devoted to rituals and religious practices, such as meditation, penances, chanting of mantras, prayers and other worshipful activities. These practices are still important, but they are not enough. Baba often says, "Hands that work in the service of society are much holier than lips that pray." He wants us to do karma yoga and engage in selfless service to mankind. All our work must be pure and done to the full extent of our capacity for excellence. At the same time, we must have no attachment to the fruits of our labors, but instead, offer up all our actions and their results to God.

When we see the divinity everywhere, installed as the indweller in every being, and we serve that omni-present divinity in all we do, then karma yoga automatically becomes bhakti yoga. Our work becomes worship. But in this there is still some separation between ourselves and God; there is still some duality. Baba is not satisfied with our spiritual progress until we become totally immersed in non-duality and reach our highest truth, the realization of the immortal self. That is the final stage.

Baba tells a little story of an old woman who was sewing in her home at night. She was working on her tapestry when she lost her needle. The light being very dim in her house, she went out to the street lamp where the light was bright, to look for her needle. Baba ends the story there. Whenever he tells this story he always seems a little amused by the silliness of it.

We are like that old woman. We have also lost our needle while working on the tapestry of our many lives. Our lost needle is the knowledge of our truth, without which we cannot finish our work. After groping through countless lives caught up in illusion, we now know that there is something vital to our existence that we have lost. We go to great teachers and to ashrams where the spiritual light is intense, hoping to find there what we have lost.

We get great solace being in the light and we gain deeper understanding of what we are looking for, but the final discovery of what we have lost can only happen when we look inside our own heart of hearts. There within, deeper than the body and the mind, deeper than our sense of I-ness which stands at the core of our individual self, beyond all sheaths, subtle and causal, which cover our truth, we find the brightest light of all, the light of atma. When the atma, our true self is realized, the tapestry of our long journey in the world which we have been working on for so many eons and so many lives, is finally complete.

Baba assures us that, just as was true in the vision given to Arjuna showing the final outcome of the war, the outcome of our long trek and our inner war has also already been determined by the divine will. We are destined to return home. Nevertheless, we must still tread the path and fight the battles and win final victory over our inner enemies. We initiate this process by making friends with the divinity in our hearts, keeping it as our steady companion and allowing it to guide our inner journey.

As we proceed on our path the clouds of illusion thin out and we become aware of a great mystery. We realize that the spiritual journey we thought we were on is itself an illusion. We are not individuals on the spiritual path following the direction of the divine inner guru. In truth, we are the totality. We are the divinity itself. We are and always have been the atma. Atma is neither born nor reborn; nor does it ever die. As atma we have not come from somewhere nor are we going somewhere. We have never changed. Only the illusion of individuality and separateness has changed. Ultimately that illusion disappears and we discover the glorious truth that we have always been one with God. Baba tells us, "God if you think, God you are. Dust if you think, dust you are. Think God. Be God. You are God. Realize it."

Some years ago in a public discourse, Baba directed us to repeat several times daily, "I am God, I am God, I am no different from God. I am the infinite supreme. I am the one reality." If we allow this declaration of truth to suffuse our lives and fill us with the consummate love that is God, these powerful words will gradually become our direct inner experience. More and more we will identify ourselves with the divinity, our real self, and less and less with these ephemeral personalities which are but shadow selves. Thus we realize who we are, the immortal self, the one divinity, which is love itself.

That is the inspiring message of this Gita.

The Essence of the Gita

For Western readers who may not be familiar with it, here follows a summary of the tradtional Bhagavad Gita, as set down by the sage Vyasa. That Gita was given by Krishna to Arjuna, just before a great war involving huge armies with millions of combatants, coming from kingdoms scattered all over the Indian subcontinent. In massive encounters that raged daily for 18 days, the forces of good were pitted against the forces of evil. This war proved to be one of the bloodiest of all time. When it was over, only a handful of men survived.

In this war, Krishna, who was God incarnate, took the humble role of a charioteer, to guide Arjuna and the Pandava brothers to victory. But, on the eve of the great war, it looked like the battle was lost before it even started. Arjuna, the foremost warrior on the side of good, had become overwhelmed with doubts; he decided to throw down his bow and not fight. This situation came about after Krishna had driven Arjuna's chariot onto the battlefield between the two armies. There Arjuna saw his beloved grandfather, his teacher and his kinsmen on the opposite side, getting ready to fight and die for their cause. They had allied themselves with the forces of unrighteouseousness.

Filled with a deep despondency, Arjuna said, "O Krishna! I cannot fight! I feel overcome by a sense of helplessness! What good is winning this war when it will lead to the destruction of all these kinsmen, teachers and heroes. I do not know where my duty lies! I beg you to tell me what is right for me! I surrender myself fully to you! I am your disciple! Please teach me!" Then the blessed Lord gave him the great wisdom teachings of the Gita.

Krishna started the Gita teachings with an admonishment, "Arjuna! Shake off this faint heartedness. It is not worthy of you. Do not yield to weakness. You have been preparing so long for this battle to preserve righteousness.

"Even as a man casts off worn-out clothes and puts on others which are fresh, so the atma casts off bodies and enters into others which are new. Bodies are born, and what is born must die. But the eternal atma is never born. It never dies. Weapons cannot cut it, fire cannot burn it, water cannot wet it and wind cannot dry it.

"This atma is not your perishable body. it is your immortal self, the imperishable self of everyone, once that is known, then what is there to grieve for? the wise never grieve... neither for the dead nor for the living.

"I am that atma, Arjuna. I am the supreme Lord of all, residing in the heart of every being. I am the father of this world and also its mother and sustainer. I am the beginning, the middle and the end. Everything is produced out of me. Everything is pervaded by me. No creature can exist without me. Whatever path men travel, it is my path. Whichever way they go they reach me.

"Though I am eternally birthless and unchanging, yet, I incarnate myself from age to age. Whenever righteousness declines and unrighteousness prevails, I take on a form, to protect the good and to destroy evil.

"Veiled as I am by my inscrutable power of illusion, my maya, the world does not recognize me. Although they do not know me, Arjuna, I know them all. I know their past, present and future. In truth, I am ever unmanifest and imperishable; but not understanding this transcendental nature of mine, the ignorant regard me as a mere mortal.

"Knowing nothing of my reality, they ignore me and become occupied in the world with vain hopes, vain works and vain knowledge. Lost in the maze of maya, they are spun around like puppet-dolls on a merry-go-round.

"This divine illusion of mine is most difficult to overcome. Among thousands of human beings, only a few struggle to know my truth; even amongst these that struggle, only one, perchance, comes to know me in reality. Such a one is a yogi, one steeped in the highest wisdom. Therefore, Arjuna, you should be a yogi! With all your being take refuge in me alone, and by my grace you will attain supreme peace.

"From this moment on, fix your mind steadily on me dwelling in your heart. Be devoted to me, bow down to me, worship me. Know that I am always within you and soon you will become one with me. Yes, truly do I promise this to you, Arjuna, for you are very dear to me.

He who knows my divine birth and work, will not be born again after death. He will not lose sight of me, nor I of him.

"Arjuna, whoever works for me and has me as his supreme goal, whoever is devoted to me and is unattached, bearing no malice towards any creature, will quickly come to me. Such a one sees me everywhere, residing in all beings, as the imperishable amidst the perishable.

"For these, who have me ever present in their mind's eye and serve me steadfastly with affection, I will carry their burdens and I will give them what they need. Talking about me to each other, they are forever satisfied and delighted. Out of my compassion for them, I strengthen their power of discrimination and destroy the darkness of ignorance that beclouds their vision. Bringing their senses under control they transcend the world of death and decay, and attain immortality.

"Arjuna, whoever offers me with love, either a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or even some water... such devout offerings coming from a pure heart, I will surely accept. Whatever you do, whatever you eat or sacrifice or give away, whatever austerity you perform, offer that first to me. Then you will be free of the consequences of your actions, and soon your mind will become calm and wise, steeped in renunciation. Endowed with evenness of mind and having abandoned the fruits of your actions, you will be freed forever from the fetters of birth.

"Arjuna, resign every action to me. Fix your mind firmly on me. I will perform all your actions through you and liberate you from all sins. Fear not. By my grace you will overcome all obstacles.

"But if from self-conceit you do not listen to me, you will surely perish. You may think, 'I will not fight!' But impelled by your sense of duty, your own nature will compel you to fight. What out of delusion you do not wish to do, you shall do in spite of yourself. Arise, Arjuna! With the sword of wisdom that I have given to you, cut to pieces this ignorance which doubts the truth that the divinity is everpresent in your heart. Arjuna, stand up and achieve glory! You are pledged to uphold righteousness! The forces of unrighteousness have become rampant. You must encounter them and destroy them!

"Take refuge in me, Arjuna. Think of me at all times and fight! It is not you who will kill these heroes, but I. I am the world's creator and sustainer, but I am also the mighty world-destroying time that devours all. Truly, these warriors in hostile armies have already been slain by me. You are merely the instrument through which I act.

"Here, I give you a vision of my universal form in which you can see the oneness of all existence! Behold my divine power! Behold the whole universe, moving and unmoving, all unified in me!"

Overwhelmed with wonder and amazement, Arjuna bowed his head in adoration and spoke with palms joined, "O supreme Lord! Hail to you! Hail, again and again! If the effulgence of a thousand suns were to blaze forth together in the skies, their glory could compare only a little with your infinite splendor! You are the imperishable Lord, the undying guardian of the eternal dharma. You are everything that can ever be known. Seeing your awesome form, all the worlds are trembling with fear. And so am I. Just as the many rivers flow towards the sea, so do all these heroes in the world of men enter your flaming mouths."

Then the blessed Lord again assumed his usual gentle form as Krishna, and said, "Graciously have I shown to you this infinite, primeval form of mine. It is very rare, indeed, to see what you have just seen. Neither by study of the scriptures, nor by austerities, nor by charity, nor by rituals, but only by single-minded devotion can I be seen thus. This experience of my cosmic form and this sacred knowledge that I have taught you are the most precious of all treasures.

"Arjuna, have you listened to me with full concentration? Has the delusion caused by your ignorance been dispelled? Think over everything that I have said to you, reflect on it fully, and then do what pleases you."

Arjuna answered, "O Lord of the universe! Your powerful and wonderful words contain the highest wisdom, and you have spoken them with so much compassion. Through your grace, my delusion is now destroyed. I stand free of all doubts. Please direct me! I will do as you command!"

 

Part One

I. Love and Duty - The Path of Perfection

If you want peace and if you want happiness
You must live in love.
Only through love will you find inner peace.
Only through love will you find true happiness.
Love flourishes through giving and forgiving.
Develop your love.
Immerse yourself in love.
These words of Sai are a stream of love
Flowing out to you.

 

Embodiments of Love,

There are many fields of knowledge but there is only one supreme knowledge. This supreme knowledge is self-knowledge, the knowledge of the immortal self. It is the knowledge of your unchanging reality, your true self that which was never born and which will never die. There are many other types of knowledge. There are the different fields of art, science, commerce and education. But, these will only help you to gain some transitory worldly objectives and worldly pleasures. To realize the eternal bliss that is your own true nature you must have self-knowledge. It is the only knowledge that enables you to know the inner peace and the unending joy which is your own truth, your real identity. When you shine with self-knowledge, you become love itself. You become pure and completely selfless. Then you will always be in perfect harmony with all existence.

Self-Knowledge is God-Knowledge

Self-knowledge is not different from God-knowledge. The sacred knowledge of God and the sacred knowledge of the immortal self are one and the same. They are the one divine wisdom. When you realize the one self everywhere, you become established in unity consciousness. Then you see only the oneness in all the diversity that is around you. From that moment on, you transcend worldly existence and gain the immortality you have been seeking.

What is the basis for this supreme knowledge? Its basis is purity of the mind. To purify your mind you must suffuse your whole life with spirituality. Engage yourself in noble activities. Associate with spiritually-minded people. Observe exemplary conduct in your daily life. Strive to do your duty to perfection. Live your life so that it is one of selfless service and virtuous deeds. And study the wisdom teachings of the ages; put them into daily practice; let these teachings serve as your guideposts. Then your mind will become purified. And with a pure mind you will be able to discriminate between the permanent and the temporary, between that which is beneficial and that which is detrimental to your spiritual progress. Then all your ordinary daily activities will become sacred and God's grace will be showered upon you.

Now, you may be highly learned in secular knowledge, you may be a great scholar or you may be a world-renowned expert in a number of fields. But all your titles and achievements cannot confer on you real wisdom. To be truly wise and remove the grief from your heart, you must know who you really are. You must realize your immortal self. You cannot transcend grief by any other path. Only the knowledge of your true self will allow you to overcome all suffering and misery. This is the only knowledge that can bestow on you all happiness. When you master a worldly field of knowledge you earn the respect of your peers. You may become famous and fulfill your worldly aspirations, but it is only when you acquire self-knowledge that you deserve and earn the grace of God. When you have that, you become ever blissful. You enjoy the ultimate happiness.

Who are those who deserve to learn this sacred knowledge? Is it, as some would contend, exclusively reserved for old people, or does a child deserve to learn it? Is it to be given only to religious initiates or should it be made available also to those who have no previous religious background? Should it be kept for men alone or are women equally eligible? Truly, to gain this wisdom, race, color, age, gender, nationality or social status are of no consequence. The sage Valmiki in his earlier life had been a highway robber, the sage Narada was born of a lowly maidservant; yet, they both became great spiritual lights. Everyone is equally entitled to acquire this supreme wisdom.

The Lord comes to those who have devotion for him; he looks at the heart and not at the outer status. Develop your devotion. Devotion is very important to human life. The Lord said in the Gita, "You become very dear to me when you serve me with a loving heart."

Faith in Yourself and Faith in God

When the Lord counsels you to develop your devotion it does not mean that you should neglect your worldly duties. Prepare yourself thoroughly for all your worldly tasks. Take great care to properly learn the secular knowledge which you need to discharge your duties. Most importantly, always have faith in yourself, faith that you will be able to fulfill the role for which you have taken human life. Faith in yourself and faith in God is the real secret of greatness. In truth, they are the same, for faith in yourself means having faith in your innate divinity.

Worldly knowledge can only give you food and shelter, whereas self-knowledge gives you the greatest treasure of all, the realization of your own reality. Still, without some worldly knowledge, you will not be able to obtain the knowledge of the eternal. You should not be careless in the sphere of worldly knowledge. Spiritual knowledge needs to be balanced with worldly knowledge. The sages Valmiki and Vyasa were honored by everyone. They wrote many holy scriptures, including those timeless epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. They were great spiritual lights, but they were also very well versed in worldly knowledge. Otherwise, how could they ever have written such great classics?

Everything in the world is derived from God. When everything comes from him, what can you possibly offer him? The only thing you can offer him is your love. That is all he expects from you. That is why a great poet sang,

Beloved Lord,
You are the all-pervading reality.
When the entire universe is filled with you,
How can I build a temple to you?
When you are effulgent like millions upon millions of suns,
How can I offer you my small candle light?
When you are the indwelling reality of all beings,
How can I call you by a particular name?
When the entire universe is in your stomach,
How can I offer you a little food in worship?
All I can offer you is my love,
And all I can hope to do is to empty myself in you,
Who are the ocean of divine love.

The Formless takes a Form

For the sake of human satisfaction you give name and form to the Lord. But in reality he does not have any form at all. Yet, he will take on a form so that you can express your devotion to him and worship him, and thereby satisfy some of your spiritual yearnings. Whatever form of the Lord you choose to follow, worship him with a loving heart.

Ramakrishna was not a learned man in secular matters; he was barely literate. But his mind was always engaged in worshipping the divine mother. With his heart brimming with love, he dedicated his entire life to the worship of the divine mother. He was living on only five rupees per month; that was enough for all his needs. Through his intense, one-pointed devotion, he became luminous. Today he is well-known throughout the world; you can find Ramakrishna Missions everywhere. He is universally honored.

Similarly, a robber like Ratnakara became the great sage Valmiki because of his love for God. Prahlada was the son of a demon, nevertheless he became luminous and pure with the divine love he had for God. Hanuman, a monkey, by repeating the name of Rama, became a glorious being who is honored throughout India. Jatayu was a bird, who because of his great love for Rama merged in the divine principle when he gave up his life. For devotion towards God, race, creed, gender or any other distinctions make no difference at all. Everyone is equally eligible.

The chapter on devotion is the most important chapter in the Gita. That is why we have started with it today. Devotion is not merely repeating the name of God. It is an undying and pure love for God. It is completely selfless in its nature, bereft of any worldly desires. It is pure, permanent and eternal. This divine love should be practiced constantly in your daily life.

Divine Consciousness

To begin with, you must know who you really are. Are you the body? If you are the body then why do you say, "This is my body"? Since you call it, "my body", you must be something different from the body. When you say, "my heart", then that means that you are something different from your heart. Your heart is an object possessed by you, its owner. You declare, "This is my brother, this is my sister, this is my mind, my body, my intellect". The unchanging element in all of these declarations is my. There is a true I, which stands behind this little my and gives rise to it. It is really the deepest consciousness in everyone and in everything. It is the universal I, the divine consciousness. This divine consciousness is all-pervading. It is within you, around you, below you, above you, and beside you. Truly, it is you.

This divine consciousness can be found everywhere, in everything in the world. But to realize it, the mind must be turned inwards. You must become inner-directed and search out your own truth. You must realize that you are not this, you are not that... you are not the mind, you are not the body, you are not the intellect. Then who are you? The answer comes, "I am I". This is the right path to follow for self-realization. This can only develop when you follow the path of love, the path of devotion. To search for God there is no other way.

Everywhere you look, the formless has taken on forms. God is present everywhere. But in order that you may comprehend him, he has taken on a particular name and form. He is everywhere as the formless divinity, but before you can get that realization, you have to develop your love and devotion for the Lord with form. Therefore, in the beginning, you enter the devotional path at the lowest rung, and worship the Lord with a name and form. Then steadily, inch by inch, you rise to a higher state. You withdraw your mind from the external world and worship the formless, until finally you realize your own reality as the formless divine principle. That is self-realization.

Work, Worship and Wisdom

Without flowers you cannot have fruits. The maturation of the flowers into the unripe fruits and then into the ripe fruits, is the path of self-realization. The flowering stage is the path of service. When it progresses to the unripe fruits it is the path of devotion. When the fruits become ripe and full of the sweet nectar of wisdom, then it becomes the path of self-knowledge. At that point, the flowers of good works and service have transformed themselves through love and devotion into the sweet fruits of wisdom. Therefore, good works lead naturally to worship and detachment, and on to wisdom. On the spiritual path, it is not enough to just worship; you must also engage in good works. But your works become worship when you steep every deed with love for the Lord and offer all your works to him.

As long as you are in this world, you must be engaged in work. Work is very important for human beings. It is through your work and activities that you learn to harmonize thoughts, words and deeds. For great souls, thoughts, words and deeds are always one. At first you will yearn for the fruits of your work. In the beginning, when there is still a great deal of desire, you will not be able to perform your work without a desire to enjoy the fruits. Later, however, you will become totally selfless and unconcerned with the fruits of your work. In that way, gradually, your work becomes converted into worship and, in time, you will be doing everything only for the love of God.

Truth is one, but the sages call it by many names. The divinity is one, but many names are used to speak of this one absolute reality. From the one come the many. When a child is born it is called a baby. As it grows up it becomes a youth. After twenty years it becomes an adult and later a parent. Later still in life, it becomes a grandparent. But these are all one and the same entity. Similarly, the ultimate reality is always one and the same. When you realize this unity and remain firmly established in the one divinity underlying all the changing names and forms, you will have achieved something that is truly worthwhile.

Extinction of Delusion

Have a clear understanding of the Gita in your heart. What is the essence of the Gita teachings? Some say that it is the path of service and action, and others say that it is the path of love and devotion. Still others say that it is the path of knowledge and wisdom. But these are all partial truths. The Gita starts with a verse whose first word is dharma, which means duty or right action. The concluding verse of the Gita ends with the word 'my'. When these words are taken together they become 'my duty' or 'my work'. That summarizes the whole teaching of the Gita. It means you should perform your prescribed duty to the very limits of the human capacity for excellence and perfection, doing the work that is appropriate to your stage of life.

When you are a student study your lessons well. When you are a householder perform your work and family responsibilities properly. When you are retired perform the duties appropriate to that stage, and if you have renounced the world to engage yourself in contemplation of the reality, then stick to that path. When you follow your prescribed duty in the very best way possible, discharging your duty sincerely and conscientiously, then there will be no confusion or misery.

Arjuna had to perform his duty on the battlefield. His calling was to be a warrior and to combat evil and protect the good. But, when he saw his friends and relations arrayed on both sides of the battlefield, he forgot his strong resolve to fight for right, the fight for which he had been preparing for so long. He became full of attachments and delusion, and threw down his bow. He abandoned his duty and became miserable. Krishna taught Arjuna how to free himself from despair by adhering to his prescribed duty. Krishna taught Arjuna the truth of the immortal self, and showed him that his duty was to follow the inner promptings of the Lord, who was enshrined in his heart. When Krishna finished his teachings, he asked Arjuna, "Have your attachments and delusions disappeared?" Arjuna picked up his bow and answered, "My despair has completely vanished. All my delusion is now gone. I will do as you command!"

As long as you have delusion you will be in a state of bondage. When you suffer from delusion and infatuation, liberation is impossible. Liberation has nothing to do with worldly pleasures. It is not an air-conditioned car or a comfortable life. It is the complete destruction of delusion. It is the extinction of all worldly attachments, the incineration of all selfish desires.

From now on, do your duty to perfection and become ideals for mankind. Apply the teachings of the Gita in your daily life and be blessed with grace. Many of you are just wasting your time. Start today to reform yourself. Don't waste time. Time is God. Every day spend some time on these holy teachings and contemplate their inner meaning. Once they are understood, put them into practice. Only in this way will you be able to attain a sacred life, a life of purity and perfection, which is the mark of a true human being.

II. Surrender - Transformation of Man into God

Krishna declared in the Gita, "If you surrender yourself fully to me and take shelter in me, you will be protected by me. I will drive away your sins and guide you towards self-realization." You must treasure this statement in your heart. Steadfastly follow the path of surrender to the Lord and he will look after you and take you to him.

 

Embodiments of Love,

God's power is immeasurable and unlimited. The huge diversity you see when you look out at the universe is all the result of the illusory power of God. The physical universe visible to your human eyes is just a very small part of the infinite power of the Lord. All the worlds can be covered by a fraction of the foot of the Lord. It is impossible to understand the greatness of the Lord. He pervades the entire universe, gross and subtle. No place exists where he is not.

The Universe

The universe is the body of God. He has embodied himself in the creation. To understand the divine principle on which the universe rests, you can begin by considering the vast size of the universe. The moon is hundreds of thousands of miles away from the earth. The sun is many tens of millions of miles away. Even the nearest of stars is millions upon millions of miles away; and beyond that, in the furthest reaches of the visible universe, there are stars that are still billions of times further away. But, all of this, which constitutes the physical universe, and which to our limited view is so infinitely vast, is only the minutest part of the subtle universe. Compared to this subtle universe, the whole grand physical universe is no more than the size of an atom.

The subtle universe, which is so indescribably huge when compared to the physical universe, is itself only a microscopic part of a much, much vaster aspect of the universe, which can be described as the causal universe. It is known as the causal universe because it is out of this finest aspect that the gross and subtle worlds arise. All of these three worlds, the physical, the subtle (or mental), and the causal, are so enormously big, the scriptures have declared that they cannot possibly be understood by the human mind or depicted in words. They are beyond the imagination, beyond the ability of the mind to grasp. And yet beyond all these, transcending the gross, the subtle and the causal, is the divine principle, the ultimate cause of all.

The Path of Devotion

God is beyond the gross, the subtle and the causal. But, as Lord, he rules over all of them. He is the master of time, past, present and future. Human beings have been given limited capacities and may find it very difficult to understand this divine principle. In that case, the easiest path to follow is the path of devotion. This is what Krishna taught Arjuna. Krishna described the path of devotion in three steps.

  • First and foremost is: Work for God! You may not be aware of it, but every bit of work you do is already being done for God. He is the supreme master of this world and everything in this world belongs to him. Knowing this, consciously make every action you undertake an offering to God. Devote all your labors to him, while being ever mindful that God is not outside of you.
  • The second step is: For the sake of God alone! Up to this point you have been thinking only about yourself. But who are you? Who is this I that you use to refer to yourself? Krishna said, "It is I who am shining in you." This word I does not belong to the body, neither to your own body nor to Krishna's. This I emanates from the highest self, the immortal self, the atma. This I should not be equated with the body or the mind or the intuitive faculty or any other aspect of the individual. It transcends the limited personal self of the individual. This I relates only to the unlimited, impersonal self, the divine self, which is the real self of everyone.

    The limited personal self by calling itself "I", has associated itself with the universal. But the personal self is not the real self. It is merely a reflection of the one immortal, divine self. Whatever you have been doing has been for the satisfaction of the divine self alone. Not realizing this sacred truth, you have been caught up and swept away by delusion. Krishna told Arjuna, "Whatever you do, do it for my satisfaction, for my sake. Do everything you do for me. Perform all your actions on my behalf. Act as my agent." This me or my or I which Krishna is speaking of, is not God outside of yourself. It refers to the atma, your divine self. Do everything you do for the sake of God alone, who is none other than your highest self.

  • The third step is: Be devoted only to God! Understand the inner secret of this directive. Devotion is the expression of love, and the emotion which is called love emanates from God, your highest self. Love comes from God and is directed towards God.

    Love has nothing at all to do with worldly feelings and secular things. Love, which is just another word for devotion, is the very name of your highest self. This principle of love emanating from the core of your heart must saturate every action, word and thought. This will happen when you think that everything you do, say or think is for the satisfaction of God alone.

Your Highest Self is God

In the waking state, you may think that you are doing everything for the sake of your body and mind. But in deep sleep you are not conscious of your body or your mind. Then for whose sake are you enjoying the rest and peace of sleep? It is for the sake of yourself. Sleeping, taking food, all the various activities of your daily life, are performed only out of love for yourself. You believe that you are doing all these for your personal self which you experience to be separate from God, but the I that you call yourself really emerges from your highest self which is no different from God. Whatever you do out of love for yourself reaches your highest self and, therefore, reaches God. So you must do everything with the awareness that whatever action you undertake, good or bad, will certainly reach God. Devotion means making all your actions sacred and dedicating them to God alone.

In the ancient scripture we find a conversation between a sage and his wife in which the sage explained these inner meaning to his wife. He said to her, "For whose sake are you loving me? If you examine your deepest intentions you will discover that it is for your self. The wife does not love the husband for the husband's sake. It is for herself that she loves the husband and that self is the true self, her highest self. You may think that the mother loves the child for the sake of the child, but it is not so. It is for herself that she loves the child. Again, it is for her highest self. You may feel that the teacher loves the student for the student's sake, but it is really for the teacher's sake that he loves the student. Similarly, the devotee does not love God for God's sake; it is really for himself that he loves God."

When the devotee feels the deep joy of love for God, he believes it is his personal self that is feeling this joy. And so his love for God is tinged with selfishness. But, God's love for the devotee is totally different. God's love for the devotee is not selfish. It is only for the devotee's sake. Herein lies an important hidden truth which can be found behind every spiritual practice. God has no sense of individuality or separation. He does not feel that some things are his and others are not his. When there exists a feeling of difference and individuality, then selfishness and the sense of I-ness and my-ness arise. But God does not limit himself to any particular form. He has no separate feeling of mine and thine. He has no selfishness. These three injunctions, "Work for God!... For the sake of God alone!... Be devoted only to God!..." are given for your sake. They are not given for the benefit of God but for your benefit. They are intended to help you realize your true self by removing all traces of selfishness and separation which becloud your truth and keep you from being one with God.

The Unlimited Power of God

If you want a little breeze you may take a hand-fan and wave it so that you get a little air. On the other hand, when there is a powerful whirlwind you find very big waves crashing against the shore of the ocean and even huge trees being uprooted. The breeze you can get from a hand-fan will be very limited, but the power of God is tremendous; it is unlimited. Consider some other examples. When you try to draw water from a well, you can draw only a very small quantity. But when there is a heavy downpour, streams will become rushing rivers which join together in one great flood. One comes from the limited power of man, the other comes from the unlimited power of God.

Take the example of wanting some light in your house. You may light a candle or switch on an electric lamp. But at dawn when the sun rises, the whole city and forest will soon be flooded with the sun's light. The little light of your lamp is very weak compared to the splendor of the sun, shining magnificently everywhere. Again, this is the unlimited power of God, compared to the limited power of man. How can you reach this unlimited power of God? How can the limited capacity of a human being be transformed into the unlimited capacity of God? The means is surrender.

The Lord has declared in the Gita, "I will destroy all your sins and raise you to the supreme position which is my own." How can that happen? The physical world that you see with your human eyes is the gross aspect of the universe. When this gross aspect takes a subtle form in the mind you have the subtle universe. And when the mental takes a still finer and more subtle form in the heart, then you have the causal universe. The infinite Lord is beyond all these. He is the biggest of the big, but he takes the form of the smallest of the small, and installs himself in the very heart of the devotee, deep in the causal aspect. The wonderful truth is that such a vast, unlimited and powerful Lord allows himself to be imprisoned in the heart of the devotee. Here is a story to illustrate this.

The Devotee is even greater than God

Once upon a time, sage Narada came into the presence of the Lord. The Lord asked him, "Narada, in all your travels through the world have you been able to discover the principal secret of the universe? Have you been able to understand the mystery behind this world? Everywhere you look you see the five great elements, earth, water, fire, air and ether. Which do you think occupies the first place? Of everything that is to be found in the universe what is the most important of all?"

Narada thought for awhile and then answered, "Lord, of the five elements the densest, biggest and most important is surely the earth element." The Lord answered, "How can the earth element be biggest when three-fourths of the earth is covered by water and only one-fourth is land? Such a big earth is being swallowed by the water. What is bigger, the thing that is being swallowed or that which is swallowing it?" Narada acknowledged that water must be bigger because it had swallowed the Earth.

The Lord continued his questioning. He said, "But Narada, we have the ancient tale that when the demons hid in the waters, then in order to find them, a great sage came and swallowed up the whole ocean in one gulp. Do you think the sage is greater or the ocean is greater?" Narada had to agree that without doubt the sage was certainly greater than the water he had swallowed. "But," continued the Lord, "it is said that when he left his earthly body, this same sage became a star in the heavens. Such a great sage is now appearing only as a small star in the vast expanse of the sky. Then what do you think is bigger; is it the sage or is it the sky that is bigger?" Narada answered, "Swami, the sky is surely bigger than the sage." Then the Lord asked, "Yet we know that one time when the Lord came as avatar and incarnated in a dwarf-body, he expanded himself so hugely that he was able to cover both the earth and the sky with his one foot. Do you think God's foot is bigger or the sky?" "O, God's foot is certainly bigger," Narada replied. But, the Lord asked, "If God's foot is so big, then what about his infinite form?"

Now, Narada felt that he had come to the final conclusion. "Yes," he said exultantly, "the Lord is the biggest of all. He is infinite beyond measure. In all the worlds there is nothing greater than he." But the Lord had still one more question. "What about the devotee who has been able to imprison this infinite Lord within his own heart? Now tell me, Narada, who is greater, the devotee who has the Lord locked up or the Lord who is locked up by the devotee?" Narada had to admit that the devotee was even greater than the Lord, and that, therefore, the devotee must rank first in importance over everything, surpassing even the Lord.

You can bind God with the Power of Love

Such an enormous power which can bind even God, is within the scope of every devotee. Whatever be the immensity and capacity of any power, however magnificent it may be, if it is bound by something else, then that which binds it must be considered more powerful. The awesome power of God has been bound by the power of love; therefore, in this path of devotion, you can tie up the Lord himself and keep him locked in your heart.

If you take a drop of water from the ocean and keep it in the palm of your hand, compared with the ocean the drop appears very, very small. But put that same drop of water back into the ocean and it becomes a part of the infinite ocean. If your smallness as a human being is joined together with the vast power of the Lord, you become infinite and all-powerful; you become one with God. In the scriptures it is said, "The knower of God verily becomes God." In other words, the very process of knowing God merges you into oneness with God. This process which joins God and you together is called the path of devotion.

Unfortunately, many people today choose not to even recognize God; instead they prefer to rely only on their own limited strength and to be impressed only by human achievement. They are prepared to bend low before a village officer or a petty government official, but they refuse to show humility and obedience to the all-powerful cosmic personality, who is the master of the universe. God, who is the origin and cause of everything seen and unseen, is being ignored. The reason for this sad state is that very few have been able to understand the underlying truth behind this vast manifested universe. If they were to see that everything is but a reflection of the one divinity, they would never follow the wrong path.

If you have a wish-fulfilling tree in your courtyard why search for wild fruits in the forest? If you have the all-giving celestial cow in your house why wander around the market place looking for milk to buy? If you recognize the unlimited benefits you derive from having the celestial cow, you would never look elsewhere and get caught up in trivial pursuits. For little minds even small things look very big. You get what you deserve; think little and you become little. Little thoughts breed little natures. You are attracted by small things because you think that your power is limited. But truly speaking, your power is unlimited.

From Duality to Non-Duality

You remain small by identifying yourself with the body. You think, 'I am the body'. This thought keeps you in a state of littleness. But expand your view from 'I am the body' to 'I am the soul, the spark of the divine.' In this way rise up from the stage of dualism to the intermediary stage of qualified non-dualism. Then, you must expand further from 'I am the soul, a part of the divine' to 'I am the divinity itself, I am no different from God. God and I are always one.' That is the highest spiritual stage, the stage of complete non-dualism. The feeling you start with, that you are the body, is steeped in dualism; it is the very birthplace of sorrow. As long as you are immersed in duality everything is sorrow and grief. If you identify yourself with the supreme self everything will be happiness and joy.

You must elevate your thinking and always identify yourself with your highest self, thus giving up the false identification with the body. This is the proper attitude for worship. Worship in Sanskrit is called upasana;, which means sitting near to God. But it is not enough to just sit close by and be near. The frog sits on the lotus but does it benefit from the sweet nectar that is in the lotus? Just being near the Lord is of no use; you must also be dear to him. You must be able to taste the honey.

Your neighbors may be very near to you, but you do not get too deeply affected by whatever problems and difficulties they may be experiencing. Compared with this, if your husband or son is half a world away and you don't get a letter for even one week, you begin to worry. In this case the body is far away, but your mutual love makes you near and dear. Your relationship with your neighbors is not charged with the same love, although they are very near. Consider another example. In a house there may be some mice and ants running around. Do you call them your friends? Along with physical nearness there must also be dearness. A deep feeling of love must develop and permeate the relationship. You must be near and dear to the Lord.

Near and Dear

What benefit will you derive by being near and dear? If you sit close to a lamp you get light, and with the help of its illumination you are able to do some useful activities at night. If you sit under a fan you get a cool breeze and the heat that was causing you discomfort will be dispelled. During the cold season of the year, if you sit near a fire you will be protected from the cold which may be bothering you then. In each case, one quality is removed and another takes its place.

Similarly, if you are close to the Lord, if you become dear to him, then you will get his love, and soon all the bad qualities in you will vanish away and be replaced by the good qualities that God embodies. Develop your love so that you may get ever nearer and nearer and dearer and dearer to God. The easiest way to get closer to God is to remember him in whatever you see, whatever you say and whatever you do. Think only of God and how to get nearer and dearer to him.

On the path of devotion it is not enough for you to love God but you must also engage in activities which are pleasing to the Lord, so that you can evoke God's love and feel his love for you. There are a number of characteristics that a devotee should possess which will endear him to the Lord. Treat censure or praise, heat or cold, profit or loss, joy or sorrow, honor or dishonor, or any of the other pairs of opposites, with an equal mind. Do not get dejected when you are criticized or elated when you are praised. Do not be overjoyed by profit or come to grief when there is loss. Treat heat and cold with an equal attitude, they can both be a source of joy to you.

During the winter warm clothing will be desirable and being near a source of heat will give you comfort from the cold. But, during the summer you will want thin clothes and you will welcome the cold. Heat gives joy sometimes, cold gives joy at other times; the way you use them determines whether you experience this joy or not. Heat and cold, profit and loss, and, in fact, all the various pairs of opposites and everything else in the world have their usefulness. Everything has been created for a purpose; but you need to use them in a way which is appropriate to your life and your stage of development.

Show no Hatred towards any Being

It would be utter foolishness to give a golden cup to a child or to give a sword to a madman. A golden cup, which is highly valuable, should be given only to a person who would appreciate its value. Such a person will derive great joy from it and know how to use it. In the same way, the one who knows the value of devotion will use it to fill himself and others with pure joy. Genuine love will never give trouble to anyone, it will never lead one to hate another. In the 12th chapter of the Gita the desirable qualities of a devotee are enumerated; they start with 'Let there be no enmity directed towards any creature in the world.' Repeating parrot-like, "Lord, I love you", "Lord, I love you", while at the same time giving trouble to others cannot be considered devotion.

You become a devotee, filled with love and devotion, when you surrender yourself completely and are ready to carry out every command of the Lord. Arjuna, out of pride and egoism was feeling dejected; but after listening to the Lord, Arjuna fell at the divine feet and said, "Lord, I am your disciple. Teach me what is good for me. I surrender myself fully to you." Up until that time they were treating each other as brothers-in-law. Arjuna was married to Krishna's sister. But once Arjuna said, "I will do as you say. I will carry out your commands!", he became a devotee. The transformation took place in his mind, as he changed the relationship from a brother-in-law to that of a disciple, with the Lord as his teacher. Such a mental transformation is absolutely essential for a devotee. Without this, whatever level of closeness you feel you may have developed with the Lord, your devotion will remain fruitless and useless.

Being aware of these high principles, do your duty in life. Maintain an even mind and make sure that the work you do is good, and that it is always appropriate to the occasion. These verses from the Gita should not merely be memorized but they must be put into practice. When you fully understand their meaning and practice them in your daily life, your worries will soon leave you and all your sorrows will disappear.

III. Earning God's Love

The Lord said in the Gita, "Develop steady and unwavering devotion for me and you will become very dear to me."

 

Embodiments of Love,

In the world, you can earn money, you can gain wealth and property, you can attain honor and prestige, you can gain position and power. All these are rewards you can attain from your worldly endeavors. But the Lord declared in the Gita that these are but temporary fruits. They are transient and have no lasting value. The only thing you can attain through your life here on earth that is of real value, that remains with you permanently and eternally, is the love of God. This divine love is extraordinary. No price can ever be set upon it. It is a treasure that is valuable beyond all measure. You must make every effort to discover the means for acquiring this precious love of God.

The Love of God

God's love is unconditional. It is the same for all. But what must you do to experience this extraordinary love of God? What path should you follow ? If you sow some seeds without first weeding and properly preparing the field, you cannot expect to get a good crop. In the same way, in the field of the heart, unless all the bad traits of selfishness are first removed, you will not get a good crop. In the Gita it is taught that the principal weed that has to be removed from the field of the heart is the attachment to and identification with the body. Even now, you may imagine that you love God; but merely having this thought will not produce any worthwhile result for you. It is like sowing good seeds on barren, unprepared soil. The most important thing for you to find out is if you are dear to God. Even if you love God, if you haven't transformed your life to become very dear to him and feel his boundless, unvarying love, then your devotion will not have taken you very far.

What, then, is the way to become dear to God? You will find the answer to this question in the Gita, in the chapter on the path of devotion. The chapter on devotion gives a number of human qualities that are very pleasing to God. It speaks of being resolute and making a firm commitment to practice only the spiritual teachings in your daily life. It puts great emphasis on developing steadiness of mind under all circumstances. And it enjoins you to be fully contented and joyful at all times, under all conditions. What is the inner meaning of this last directive?

True Joy

Consider the feelings you get from singing devotional songs at a spiritual function. If a song is being sung that is not very familiar to you or whose melody is not especially pleasing to your ear or if you are not drawn to the particular aspect of the divinity to which it is being sung, you might find that you have very little real feeling towards the song. You merely follow the song perfunctorily with your lips. What a great difference between that and a song which you love, which comes from the very core of your heart, emerging freely, spontaneously, with a great deal of joy, filling you with rapture and devotion for God.

In the same way, there is a vast difference between the temporary joys you derive from this apparent world and its transitory objects and phenomena, and the true joy that emerges from the depths of your heart. The latter joy is totally different from the temporary satisfaction you get from worldly things. This deep joy coming from the heart is associated with truth. It is permanent. It is detached from all transient worldly concerns. It represents the unity of the spirit. For this joy there is no possibility of change. There is nothing that can be added to true joy. It is full and complete in itself.

True joy comes from equanimity. Do not be carried away by or attach any importance to worldly things. Use your time and effort to control the vagaries of the mind and develop mental steadiness. Equal-mindedness; means that you remain unaffected by victory or defeat, by profit or loss, by joy or sorrow. Accept whatever happens, whatever comes your way, as the gift of God, to be enjoyed with great satisfaction, regarding it as a gift of love given to you for your own good. When your heart is not swayed by worldly things, when you treat all people and all things with equal mindedness, then you will experience true joy. Then your heart will be filled with feelings of love and satisfaction, and you will know the true joy of devotion.

Courage and Steadiness

Another important quality that every devotee must possess is to be resolute and courageous. It is completely natural for you to have courage and a firm resolve. You can manifest these qualities in a number of ways in life. You may use these attributes to climb mountains. The same sense of adventure and courage may be used for crossing the ocean or traversing through wild jungles. You may also behave in a courageous and resolute manner in earning wealth, acquiring properties and making a profit. Or, you may be brave and courageous, but manifest these qualities in a merciless manner. You may choose to abandon all the noble qualities of humanity and divinity and, instead, acquire the qualities of a demon. This firmness and resolve may be used either for good or for bad. How you use these God given qualities depends upon you.

Earlier in his life, the great sage Valmiki was Ratnakara, the despicable robber. At that time he was using all his courage, prowess and firmness in an evil way. Thanks to his association with the seven sages, and listening to their teachings advising him to constantly repeat the name of God, he was able to transform his life, and use his strong determination and powers for the good of mankind. Soon he had the name of Rama constantly on his tongue. That is how he became the author of the Ramayana, the great epic recounting the life of Rama. Therefore, you should not use your steadiness and firmness in doing bad things or even for ordinary worldly things. Instead, use your courage and resolve to acquire the grace of God.

Worship of God with and without a Form

In the chapter on devotion, Krishna expounds on the worship of God both with and without a form. The Gita compares these two modes of worship and points out which is better, which is easier and safer for devotees at each stage of their spiritual progress. The Gita declares that it is impossible to realize the formless and attributeless divine principle except by going through the stage of worshipping God with form and attributes.

As long as you have attachment to your body and remain steeped in body consciousness, you will not be able to understand and reach the formless aspect of the Supreme. You attain the necessary qualifications to worship the formless only after you have overcome your attachment to the body, your attachment to the world, and all your other attachments. Therefore, as long as you identify yourself with the body, and think that you have a particular form, then you must also visualize God with a form. So, you start your spiritual journey by worshipping God in a particular incarnation, having certain recognizable divine qualities. Gradually, after following this path for some time, you can change your practice to worshipping the formless aspect of the Supreme.

In truth, the whole world is the form of God. Everything you see everywhere is the form of God. But to begin with, you focus on a particular form of God, one of the avatars or incarnations of God. These divine incarnations are associated with the physical universe. Corresponding to these physical forms there are the subtle forms of the Lord which are in the mental or the subtle aspect of the universe. The physical and mental domains have to do with the senses and the mind. Transcending both the senses and the mind is the causal universe. This causal universe is made up of the subtlest manifestation of matter, containing in potential form the seeds of all names and forms. This causal aspect is experienced every night in deep sleep. Here the formless aspect of the Lord can be experienced.

During the waking state the effect of the mind and the senses will be very strong because they are associated with the phenomenal world. During the dream state, associated with the subtle world, the senses will not hold sway over you, but the mind will be very active. In the deep sleep state, associated with the causal world, the mind gets dissolved and does not comprehend the sense impressions. It is only in such a state, when the mind and senses are totally inactive, that it is possible to experience the formless aspect of the divinity. But, this can be experienced even in the waking state, when the mind becomes perfectly steady and equanimous and the senses are maintained tranquil and inactive. Then, you enter the causal state while awake and experience the formless aspect of divinity.

Many devotees base their spiritual experiences only on God manifest in name and form. The form and the formless are both essential for a devotee. It is like having two legs for walking or having two wings to fly. To reach the final spiritual goal you must have the two legs of form and formless, putting one in front of the other, with the one leg representing form, taking its support from the other, which is the formless. It is important to realize that the manifestation of the Lord with form is only transient, whereas the formless aspect of the divinity is permanent. It is everpresent and unchanging. Here is a small example to illustrate this principle.

Only the Formless is the Permanent Aspect of the Lord

When you come to hear Baba give a spiritual discourse, you will be with about a thousand others seated in the temple. This will be happening in the physical domain, and may last for one to two hours. Associated with this experience is a given time and activity. But this very same experience can be re-experienced even after you go home. Whenever you want to think of it, it will be there in your mind... one thousand people seated in the temple and Sai Baba giving the discourse. In the external vision and in your experience in the waking state, you can see that all of you are sitting in the temple. What happens when you are back in your home? You find this temple will be in your heart and can be recalled to your mind at any time.

You were there for one hour, but this can become a permanent experience for you forever, even after you leave the ashram. Having initially had the physical experience in the phenomenal world, it becomes a permanent record in the subtle universe of the mind, which can then be recalled at some later time. As you repeatedly recollect this experience and ruminate on Baba's teachings, its message becomes permanently embedded in your heart.

Without first having had the actual experience in the hall, there would have been no permanent impression in your heart which you could later re-experience in your mind. Once the impression has been made in the mind, there is no need for actually being physically present in the temple or seeing Baba's physical form. In the same way, once you have experienced God in form, you will certainly be able to get the experience of the formless God later on. The form is momentary whereas the formless is eternal; but the formless will live on as a permanent entity for you only after first having experienced the divine form and imprinted it on your heart through worship and devotion.

Consider another example. Suppose you want to teach the word 'chair' to a small child. If you merely utter the word 'chair' it does not become clear to him what its form is. However, you can show him a chair like this and ask him to look it over carefully. While he is doing this you repeat the word 'chair'. Then later on, whenever he sees a chair he will remember the word associated with the form you have shown him and he will repeat to himself 'chair'. The form of the particular chair you used to teach him the meaning of the word may be impermanent. That chair will change, but the word 'chair' and the type of objects it represents will remain. Unless he sees the impermanent form he will not learn the permanent word 'chair'. The permanent element is understood through the impermanent one. Therefore, though divinity is formless, you first have to associate it with a particular form to understand it.

Steady your Mind by Worshipping the Divinity with Form

To start with, many people do not even have a firm faith in the existence of God. Most of the time their mind will be wavering, and they will ask themselves, "Does God really exist? Is it really true that there is a God?" An iron resolve is most essential to cultivate constant faith in God. You can travel from an unsteady mind to a steady mind with firm faith only through the process of worshipping the divinity with form. Consider one more small example.

Here is a pillow stuffed with loose cotton. What covers this pillow? A piece of cloth. What is the content of this cloth? Cotton. So externally you have a piece of cloth and internally there is the cotton. But, in fact, the internal and the external are both cotton. The formless cotton has taken the form of thread, and this thread has become cloth, and this cloth is covering the formless cotton. Cloth is form and raw cotton is formless. From the formless to the form and then from the form to the formless, these are the transformations that make up divinity. To have a pillow you cannot use the formless cotton alone. So, you must first convert the cotton into cloth and this cloth having form can then cover the formless cotton inside.

In the same way, the divinity in form and in its formless aspect are exactly the same. Both are essential. Through the impermanent form you become aware of the permanent formless. While you still identify yourself in terms of body-consciousness and feel that who you are is related to your body, it will be impossible for you to give up the aspect of form. As your mind becomes steady, rooted in faith, and you move beyond body consciousness, you will be able to experience the permanent formless aspect of the divinity.

Worshipping the Formless God in your Heart

Traditionally, in the worship of the God with form, you may become engaged in many types of ritual worship. You may offer flowers to the Lord, you may bathe his statue with holy water, you may burn incense or use other forms of worship. These will give you some satisfaction. Worshipping the Lord's form externally with various sacred articles yields satisfaction. But, once you establish God inside your heart, then you will worship him through the flowers of your heart. After body consciousness and the delusion associated with it is destroyed, then the divinity that you previously worshipped externally in form, with flowers and various articles of external worship, will now become established in its formless aspect in the depths of your heart, and you will want to worship it with the sweet flowers of your feelings. This will bring true unchanging joy.

As long as you are worshipping the Lord with form, you will use physical flowers such as roses, marigolds and jasmine. These are all impermanent and the body which performs this worship is also impermanent. But if you want to worship the formless God in your heart, then the flowers are different. Those flowers will be permanent. Those flowers are the noble qualities that you develop in your heart and offer to the Lord. They are the flowers of nonviolence, of sense restraint, of truth, of patience and forbearance, of perseverance, of love and compassion, of charity and sacrifice. All these flowers are meant for inner worship. To elevate yourself to the worship of the formless principle, you will have to develop these flowers of the heart and use them in your worship. Then you will experience the ineffable and unchanging joy of the spirit, and enter the path that takes you home to your divine source.

Inner Peace and Contentment

In the 12th chapter of the Gita, Krishna taught the essential characteristics that a true devotee should possess. These are the qualities which you have to develop if you want to be loved by God. To begin with, if you want to be a devotee of God you have to develop inner peace and a firm resolve. You should always be contented. You should never give room to worry and allow any pain to enter and disturb your heart.

The great devotional scripture called the Bhagavatam, gives the example of Prahlada as the ideal devotee who possessed all these qualities. When the demons were troubling Prahlada, who himself was the son of the lord of the demons, Prahlada never allowed any pain to trouble his heart, no matter what trials and difficulties he was passing through. He just kept on repeating the name of the Lord, taking shelter in him as his protector and savior. He never shed one tear in the midst of all these troubles. Therefore, Prahlada has been described as the one who was fully established in union with the Lord. Even though he was living in the phenomenal world and had a form, he did not allow any desires or attachments to enter his heart.

Love All

For a true devotee there should be no evil traits such as hatred, jealousy, anger or greed. These are the main obstacles to devotion which enter your being. You must develop a sense of unity with everyone. If you develop hatred towards anyone, you will be hating the very Lord whom you worship. It is because of your inflated ego that you take action against another, in the course of which, hatred, jealousy and anger arise. Therefore, the primary warning given in the Gita says, "Show no hatred towards any being".

Without uprooting the weeds from the field and preparing it for cultivation, the seeds will not yield a good crop. In the same way, without removing the weed of ego from within your heart, all attempts at spiritual practice will be useless. The most important thing to be learned from the path of devotion is that you should not only love God but you should also love all beings, treating everyone as God. Worshipping God while harming others cannot be called devotion. It only reveals the depths of one's ignorance. Such people will never progress on the spiritual path.

In the days to come you will learn the ways that you can develop your faith, and through your good actions sanctify your life. It is by developing these desirable qualities and practicing them in your daily life that you will call forth the love and grace of the Lord.

IV. Inner Inquiry - The Path of Wisdom

Meditation is the steady, uninterrupted practice of contemplating God. This is the principal spiritual activity taught in the Gita. Thinking of God now and then cannot be called meditation. Meditation is thinking of God at all times, under all circumstances. It is a continuous, unceasing process.

 

Embodiments of Love,

The constant remembrance of God is the method in which you continuously keep turning the mind inwards to become united with the indwelling Lord. This can correctly be called meditation. Any practice that you engage in periodically is a concentration practice. Such a practice will usually focus on a chosen object and be associated with a particular place and time. True meditation, on the other hand, goes on continuously. It is completely free of all objects and phenomena and completely transcends the element of place and time. Therefore, in the Gita, the ongoing practice of meditation has been described as superior to any type of periodic practice.

But, there is a practice even superior to meditation. The ultimate spiritual practice is the development of wisdom. Wisdom emerges from inner inquiry. It is the spiritual practice of looking deep into the essential nature of everything. If you faithfully pursue this inquiry, you will gradually reach the supreme state of peace and bliss. This is the unique goal of human life, a goal which all mankind will one day achieve.

The three Stages on the Wisdom Path

To reach the state of abiding inner peace, you begin by inquiring into the very heart of everything. This is the process of inner inquiry, the first stage on the wisdom path. Then you must make use of the deep insights you have gained by applying the spiritual teachings to every detail of your daily life. This is the second stage. If you continue with this practice unfailingly, then, in time, you will reach the goal of God-realization and enjoy unending bliss. This is the third and final stage on the wisdom path.

You can compare the first stage to the period of life when you are a student. As a student and spiritual seeker you are most active in acquiring knowledge. While you are in this stage you inquire into the principle which underlies everything in the universe. You try to understand the deeper meaning of the great wisdom sayings, such as that thou art. Here, that refers to the eternal divine principle we call God, and thou refers to the immortal self, which is the one true reality of everyone. In this first stage you try to understand this saying, which states that the highest self and God are one and the same, and you look for this oneness in the core of everything.

So, you start off by seeking the unity underlying everything in existence. Then, having become aware of it, you live your life by applying this great truth to all your daily activities. This second stage can be compared to the period of life when you are employed and busy in your profession. If you have not pursued your education and earned good qualifications, you will not be able to find an appropriate position. Therefore, in the first stage you acquire a good education and develop your knowledge so that in the next stage you can put that education into practice and use it to do your life's work. The third stage can be likened to the later period of life when you are retired and become a pensioner.

You receive a pension only after you have completed your working career. You start your career and gain employment, in the first place, only after you have successfully completed your education and acquired qualifications. These then are the three stages in your path through life namely, first is the stage when you are a student, then there is the stage when you are a professional, and lastly, there is the stage when you are a pensioner.

Similarly, on the path of wisdom, you start out as a seeker, then you become a practitioner, and finally, you become a wise illumined one. In this final stage you enjoy complete peace of mind and realize the unity of all of creation.

To permanently acquire peace of mind and the state of unending inner joy, you first have to enter into the stage of inquiry and give up all attachments to the world. These days, so-called spiritual seekers are first entering into the stage of attachment, and later they try to enter the stage of inner inquiry. They call each other brother and sister and aspire to practice unity, while at the same time taking on new worldly attachments. At best, they can only be described as part-time devotees. The Gita does not condone such part-time devotion. The Gita teaches complete surrender by offering oneself and everything one has to God.

God is the Master of Time

In order to experience the principle of complete surrender you need to become aware of time, and how it exercises total power over all that is changing, and yet, how it is utterly powerless over the unchanging divinity, which is its master. God is not subject to time. He not only is not under the spell of time, but he keeps time under his control. The one who is bound by time is man; the one who transcends time is God. The one who is mortal is man; the one who is immortal is God. Only when you take shelter in divinity will you be able to transcend this element of time. Time consumes man, whereas God consumes time itself. It is time which is responsible for man's progress or man's decline, for the promotion of his good or his fall into evil, for his earning merit or storing demerit. Therefore, in the ancient scriptures we find this prayer:

O God, you are the very embodiment of time. Please, help me to sanctify my life and spend all my time in remembrance of you, so that I may safely reach your lotus feet.

The entire world is inextricably enmeshed in the grip of time. It is not possible to fight against this element of time. Time does not wait for anyone. You are bound by time, time is not bound by you. Time can be compared to a great flowing river. All living beings are washed away by this flow of time. If you are washed away by a flood you cannot take protection and shelter in someone or something which is also being washed away. You, as well as the people and objects in which you try to find security, are all being washed away by the flood of time. If you seek to gain protection from something that is itself being washed away, it is like a blind person following another blind person. In the end, they both get lost. But if you were to be helped by someone who is standing securely on the bank, you would surely be saved.

The one on the bank who is not caught up in the flood of time is God. If you take refuge in God you will be able to free yourself from all the troubles and problems associated with time. God has proclaimed the principle of surrender and emphasized its importance by telling man, "O man, you are being washed away by the flood of time. The only one who can shelter you is myself. Take refuge in me, and I will save you." When you obey this divine command and offer yourself, your wealth, your property, your entire family at the Lord's feet and surrender yourself completely, then you will surely be saved.

The Veil of Illusion

At first it is difficult to experience this principle of surrender because there is a very big veil between you and God. Due to this veil, you are easily subject to doubt and confusion, and then you feel yourself unable to surrender completely. This veil is illusion. What is the meaning of illusion? Illusion refers to that which does not exist. When you are under the spell of illusion you imagine that which does not really exist to exist. And you imagine that which really exists to not exist. What never changes really exists and is true. What changes does not really exist and is not true. The one thing which always exists, which is true and unchanging is God, the one without a second. The world, when thought to be devoid of God, will be seen as constantly changing. Since it is changing, it cannot be true and, therefore, cannot really exist. But, in this, you are not seeing the world correctly.

When you are under the spell of illusion, you see the world as separate from God. You do not see the divinity as the principle underlying everything in the world, and as a result, you become afraid and find it impossible to surrender yourself completely. It is like seeing a rope and thinking that it is a snake. But there is no snake there at all. You are subjected to fear and tension by imagining that there is a snake where there really is no snake, at all. What is the reason for this fear? Imagining things which really do not exist, as existing, is the cause of fear. This feeling is responsible for all your troubles. If you were to see all this in total awareness, you would find that there is only a rope; there is no snake. Then you would have no fear whatsoever. You would not be afraid to reach out to it, to hold it and to play with it, because you would realize that all there is, is only a rope.

You are subject to many sorrows because you forget the fact that the entire world is the embodiment of God. It is not just the world as you think it is. You see the world only from the phenomenal point of view; you are not looking at it through the eyes of inquiry. If you were to look at the world correctly, you would realize that it is a stream of continuous change. This ongoing, uninterrupted flow of change is the basic characteristic of the phenomenal world. But within and governing that flow of change, is the one divine principle which is forever unchanging.

It can be likened to a river. The water in the river will flow continuously and give rise to the apparent effect of a steady stream, flowing without end. But at any given period of time, and at any particular place along the river, the particles of water rushing by will all be different; some will be muddy, some will contain rocks, some will be foamy, some will be pure water. Although the flow is continuous, the exact makeup of the water is constantly changing. We see that the river is a combination of both changing and unchanging elements.

In a similar way beings, which are the expressions of life, are born and die. Although they come and they go, there is a continuity of life in the world. Life which goes on continuously can be considered to be truth, whereas living beings which are born and die and are constantly changing, represent untruth. Therefore, the changing expressions of life are untrue, but life itself, which is a steady stream whose essence is the divinity, is true.

The World as a River of Truth and Untruth

That is why the world has been likened to a river, where reality has become associated with unreality, or change. You can consider it a stream of changing truth, a truth which is qualified and not fully true. The world is a combination of pure truth, which remains the same and never changes, and untruth, which deals with things that are constantly changing. The wisdom teachings have described this state as truth-untruth, namely, a mixture or combination wherein both truth and untruth coexist. Spiritual practice is the process whereby you separate the truth from the untruth, and retain the truth. You see the illusion that the world exists separately from yourself and God for what it is, namely untruth. Once recognized as untruth you are no longer deluded by it, and the truth, which is the unity of God, man and world, stands revealed.

Ignorance, nature, world, illusion, mind, maya are all synonymous. They are all the illusory power of God. Thinking that things exist which do not really exist, and coming under their spell, is illusion. A saint summarized this as, "God is true but the world is false". You must understand this statement correctly. What it means is that our mistaken perception and experience of the world is untrue. The world itself, in essence, is true. God is the one, unchanging basis of this world of change. When you examine this in some depth you discover that the world is truly not world, but the divinity itself.

Hold on to God alone

In the Gita, Krishna told Arjuna, "Arjuna, you are subjecting yourself to this element of time. You are getting yourself caught up in its flow, and you are going far, far away from me. Surrender yourself to me and all your sorrows will soon be removed." When you are associated with God, when you are near him, illusion cannot harm you. Here is a small example for this.

In the expensive homes of the wealthy there will often be a watchdog guarding the gate to keep people out. This dog is not like a street dog; it has been brought up by its owners with great affection and has been carefully trained. This dog does not go on barking whenever it sees people walking or moving about. It starts barking only when someone comes near the gate and tries to get in. When they see the dog and hear the barking, most visitors will quickly leave the gate and go away. Others, however, who have taken a firm resolve to meet the owner of the house, will continue to stand there and loudly call out to the owner of the house. Eventually, the owner, hearing all the commotion at the gate, will look out from his upstairs window to see who is standing at the gate. Once the owner recognizes the person waiting there to be his friend, he will come down, go to the gate, let his friend in, and take him upstairs into the house.

When this apparent stranger, who had been waiting at the gate turns out to be a friend of the master of the house and goes with him, the dog will no longer bark at him or try to harm him. The dog now knows that this person is being allowed in by the owner himself. Illusion can be compared to this dog. It guards the gate of liberation and bliss. If a person comes who is not a friend of the master of the house, if he has nothing to do there, but insists on coming in through the gate, the dog will catch hold of him. Fearing the consequences of being accosted by the dog, most people will run away. In a similar fashion, most people, as soon as they experience some difficulties on the spiritual path, will choose to turn away, instead of persisting on their quest, undaunted by difficulties. And so, they do not reach their goal and thus continue to be buffeted by the spell of illusion.

But a real devotee, who in this example is the person with a strong determination to reach the owner of the house, does not mind the dog at all. He remains at the gate and attracts the attention of the master, and stays there until the master comes out. To such a persistent one waiting at the gate, even the barking of the dog, even the pain caused by illusion is helpful, because the pain draws the attention and compassion of the master inside. The master turns his gaze on the devotee, recognizes him, and takes him into the house. Therefore, only the one with courage and a strong resolute nature, who has decided to remain there no matter how ferociously the dog is barking, will get to see the master and be able to enter this palace of ultimate peace.

Conquer your Senses

The five senses and the sense objects we perceive with them represent this dog of illusion which will distract you and keep you from reaching God. It is for this reason that Krishna told Arjuna, "Arjuna, you are attached to so many sense objects; therefore you are ruffled by events. You have not been able to control your senses and you have not been able to develop concentration. Therefore, you have not been able to establish the divinity in your heart. Continue to cultivate your practice of constantly turning your mind back to God dwelling in your heart. Then you will gain concentration of mind. Only when you have concentration of mind will you be able to fully surrender to God. At all times and in all places always think of God. Whatever work you are doing, think of God. Remember God with love. Remember God with faith.

"Even when you are waging a war, think first of God, then fight. This is not an ordinary war; this fight you are now becoming involved in is not like a quarrel between you and some other individuals. What you are fighting most of all is your own weakness, your bad habits, all your limitations and frailties. With warm thoughts of love for the divinity dwelling in your heart, wage this inner war and win. Remember you are not just fighting a war against others. You are fighting your own inner sense organs. So, do not quit until you have achieved victory, until you have conquered your senses and fully mastered them."

In an earlier age, Prahlada also spoke of this inner fight to his father, the powerful demon king. He said, "Father, you have won many wars and have gained lordship over numerous worlds, but you have not been able to win a victory over your own senses. By winning all the worlds outside you have become a powerful king, but only when you can control your own senses will you be king of the whole universe. If you keep being defeated by your inner senses, how can you ever win a lasting victory against your enemies outside? When you win over your inner enemies, you can easily win over the external ones, also."

When is this possible? Only when you surrender yourself completely to the divinity. You say, 'my objects', 'myself', 'my people'. As long as you have such feelings it will not be possible for you to surrender. These are all attachments associated with the physical realm. You will have to gain mastery over not only the physical, but over the mental realm as well. Finally you will have to gain entry into the spiritual realm. Once you have fully surrendered yourself and entered the spiritual realm everything will be taken care of automatically, and you will no longer be bothered by any burdens and cares.

Give your Burdens to God

When you take a train journey, upon reaching the railway station you have to transport your luggage via a porter, or by one means or another. If there is no one to help you, you have to carry the luggage yourself. But once you enter the train you can put the luggage down anywhere you like. Then you can relax and there is no further bother with the luggage. The train will carry you and your luggage. Nevertheless, there are some fools who will sit in the train and carry their luggage on their heads. Those are the ones who have been blessed with God's grace but still doubt and continue to follow their own independent will. They have not surrendered fully.

Once you surrender yourself fully to the Lord and offer up everything that is to be done, as well as when it is to be done and how it is to be done, at the Lord's feet, he will take care of everything. To achieve this level of surrender there can be no trace of ego left; there should be no sense of yourself remaining. This has been shown in a particularly clear manner in the Ramayana by Lakshmana, the brother of Rama.

Let us pick up the story when Rama, Sita and Lakshmana during their exile in the forest, were moving through a mountainous area. As is the Lord's nature, he always loves to carry on some playful sport; he is the perfect actor. He never has any sorrow or pain whatsoever, but sometimes he will act as though he has these feelings. Whenever God comes down in human form he acts this way in order to conduct himself in a natural way as man. The human form is taken on by him so that he can be easily accessible to people. On that particular day, Rama, the incarnation of God, acted as though he was very tired. He was removing the sweat from his brow and telling Lakshmana, "Lakshmana, I am so tired. I don't think I will be able to go any further. Please put up a hut somewhere nearby, so that we can take a little rest."

Lakshmana asked Rama, "Brother, where shall we have this cottage?" Rama said, "You can decide for yourself which place will be most appropriate, and then put it up." Lakshmana responded, "Rama! Rama! What have I done? What is my error? What sins have I committed to hear these words? Please let me know why you have spoken to me like this!" Now, Rama knew the mind of Lakshmana and so he knew why Lakshmana was saying this, but in order to help Sita understand the level of Lakshmana's surrender, Rama said, "Lakshmana, please tell me what is troubling you. What have I said that has made you feel so much pain?"

Lakshmana replied, "I have given up everything. I have given up wife, mother, father, kingdom, everything. I have come along with you feeling that you are the father, that Sita is the mother, and that wherever you are is our beautiful capital city of Ayodhya. I have come only to implement your will. I have given up my own individual will, and now you ask me to construct a hut and choose the place in which to build it. Your command is my only thought. I have no other thoughts than that. Whatever is your will, I will do. My only duty is to obey you. My only goal, truly my everything, is you. You alone must tell me where the hut is to be put up." Sita realized the depth of Lakshmana's devotion and surrender. She turned to Rama and asked him to relieve Lakshmana's distress by designating the site for the hut himself.

Surrender fully to God

The basic lesson of this story is that man should not have any desires separate from the one desire to fully surrender to God. Everything belongs to God, and only to God. Surrender means implicitly following the commands given to you by the Lord, whose directions will be clearly heard when he is enshrined in your heart. Surrender is the basis of the declaration, "Come and sit in my train and I will look after you. Let go of your ego-sense and desire. Don't carry your baggage on your head and suffer."

In this context, Krishna taught surrender as the highest and most important stage of devotion. Once you have surrendered yourself fully to the Lord, you will gain his grace. "Wherever you are, be it in a town, in a village, in a forest or in the sky, I will be your refuge. Come and surrender to me!" That is the command of the Lord, and that is also his promise. Once you are his, he will shelter you and protect you from all harm.

But, surrender does not mean giving up your discriminating faculty. You must discern what are desires and what is truly divine, and surrender all your worldly desires, offering them to the divine. Make every effort to discover the right way to surrender yourself, and thereby sanctify your life and reach the goal.

V. Find God in your own Heart

The Lord stated in the Gita, "Only when you renounce all selfishness and attachment, only when you treat joy and sorrow with an equal mind and practice forbearance in all circumstances, will you become my devotee and very dear to me."

 

Embodiments of Love,

To have an equal mind, to be free of attachments and concern for yourself and your family, is difficult for ordinary spiritual seekers. Particularly for householders, such equanimity of mind and detachment is almost impossible. They are able to worship God through the various types of spiritual practices which have been prescribed in the scriptures. But for them to destroy their ego and remove all sense of I-ness and my-ness would be very difficult. Why is that so? It is difficult to eliminate the ego as long as you differentiate your own will from the command and will of the Lord. You have doubts and are unable to surrender because you see others and the world as separate from God. It is only when you recognize that God is dwelling in all people everywhere, in the form of an ever luminous light shining in the temple of their hearts, that you will be able to eliminate your egoism and surrender fully to God. Once you recognize the all-pervasive unity of the Lord you will have no difficulty following him. Know that the self-effulgent flame of God's presence which resides in all people also resides in you. The one who protects all people is an integral part of your own form.

The Indwelling God

From time immemorial, the inquiry has been going on whether or not God exists. Once you have convinced yourself that he exists, the next step is to find the way to reach him. Just as was true in ancient times, this problem of how and where to find God has become a perplexing question for mankind today. To solve this problem, numerous sages made a determined effort to use all their skills and their penance to find the solution. These sages revealed where they searched and how they came to know about the existence of the effulgent Lord. They declared to the world at large:

"O citizens, we have been able to perceive the transcendental principle which exists beyond this visible and created world. It will not be found in the external world or in outer space, but only within your own inner self. It is there in your inner vision within your soul, in the sacred heart inside your deepest self. It is there that the blissful Lord resides."

This was their great discovery, that God dwells within the body itself. God is the imperishable one who lives within the perishable body. The body is inert; it does not know itself. In the Gita, God has been called the knower of the body and the one who gives consciousness to the body. To penetrate through the veils of ignorance that hide your truth, you must make a determined effort to discover the immortal Lord residing resplendently in your mortal body. Not only must you find the Lord installed in your own body and the bodies of other creatures, but you must also find him installed in every object, in every thing. He is the indweller of all the five elements, space, air, fire, water and earth. He is the very basis of the creation.

To find a diamond you must dig deep within the earth. You will not find it hanging outside on a tree. In the same way, you will not find this most valuable diamond which is the Lord, lying around somewhere outside, easily visible to all. With the help of the teachings of great souls you will have to make the effort to find God within. The body is not an ordinary thing. It is the temple of God, it is a chariot which carries the Lord. In the world, which can be thought of as a grand village, the Lord is being taken in procession everywhere in this chariot called the body.

Within the Body is Pure Consciousness

Since the body is the temple of the Lord, it is not proper to be indifferent towards it or to neglect it, or to use it in an inappropriate or unrighteous manner. The body must be used only to perform activities which are sacred and selfless. You must take good care of the body and sanctify it by using it to do holy tasks. The body is inert no doubt, but within it lives the principle which is pure consciousness. This body may be compared to a boat which will help you cross the ocean of worldly existence. This body was not so easily obtained by you. Because of innumerable merits and numerous births in other forms, you have been able to obtain this human body. To use it improperly is to waste all the merits you have earned in all those countless lives.

It is your extraordinary good fortune to have been able to get this birth as a human being. Therefore, this sacred boat which can take you to your destination, has to be used very carefully so that you can cross the ocean of worldly existence safely. In this ocean there are terrible crocodiles and all kinds of terrifying creatures which are very harmful to you. These menacing crocodiles are the six inner enemies of man, in the form of lust, anger, greed, attachment, pride and jealousy. They inhabit this unfathomable ocean of worldly existence at every level.

The water of this ocean of world existence which supports all these horrendous creatures, is made up of a mixture of opposites like joy and grief, attraction and repulsion. When you are in this ocean of life it is very difficult to say when you will obtain happiness and when you will suffer pain. When you are beset with so many crocodiles, the very best means for completing this journey safely is to see the unity in everything. You have to firmly believe that the divine principle, the godhead in the form of the self-effulgent flame, resides in everybody and in every thing. Once you recognize the presence of God dwelling in everyone, once the unity is recognized in all this apparent diversity, then you will no longer be able to hate anyone. That is why in the Gita the injunction, show no hatred towards any being is given first place.

The various acts of ritual worship, such as singing devotional songs and repeating the holy name, which at one time may have seemed so important to you, will seem very small in comparison, once you recognize this principle of God dwelling in every heart. It is only when you are ignorant of this great truth, that you consider the various devotional practices as paramount in your spiritual life. However, until you have mastered the art of swimming there is a need to use various flotation-aids for support. Once you have learned to swim, these aids will no longer be necessary. In the same way, all the various ritual practices are necessary until you truly understand the meaning of the Gita. Once you have comprehended the sweet essence of the Gita, all these rituals will appear quite trivial.

See God in Everything

In the chapter on devotion in the Gita, the noble characteristics that endear a devotee to God are described. It is emphasized there that once the six inner enemies of man are brought under control, these characteristics will naturally blossom forth in the individual. Can this ever be done easily? Yes. These six enemies can be readily conquered once you recognize the truth that the one God resides in all of the five elements everywhere, and that it is he who activates all beings. Before you recognize this and experience it, you will not realize true satisfaction in anything you undertake.

If you keep some salt in your mouth then even if you try to swallow some sweet juice, you will still get the taste of salt. First you have to get rid of the salt and wash your mouth well, then you will be able to taste the sweetness. When the salt is gone you can enjoy the full unpolluted sweetness of the juice you have taken in. Similarly, it is only when you are able to conquer the ego by removing all the bad traits which have become an integral part of you, that you will be able to enjoy the sweetness of compassion, the sweetness of sacrifice, the sweetness of charity, the sweetness of sympathy and the sweetness of divine love.

To begin with, try to understand what true devotion really means. Devotion means an all-absorbing love for God. When you develop devotion and turn all your love towards God, everything that is necessary will be added unto you. You will develop the capacity to sacrifice yourself. You will expand in love. Love is the very life breath of a human being. Without love you cannot live. Love is a very sacred quality. As was referred to earlier, a great sage in ancient times told his wife, "All the love that you have is really for the sake of your higher self. Love is not for the sake of others but only for the higher self." But all too frequently, through delusion, this sacred love for the atma, the one self, is diverted towards the body. Everywhere in the world we find this disease of identification with the body.

The Diseases of Mankind

Many of the enjoyments you experience in life are really just the relief you feel when you temporarily soothe the pains of a disease you are suffering. For example, you think that taking food is an enjoyment, but it is really only a medicine. Food is the medicine for the disease of hunger. When you give the medicine the disease is temporarily forgotten. You cook many varieties of delicious food and consider the taste of these prepared dishes to be most enjoyable, but that is not the real purpose for which you take food. As you know, medicines are sometimes given in the form of a mixture which contains some sweetener to make it more palatable. In the same way, to treat the disease of hunger there will be a meal containing a mixture of ingredients, some of which are particularly flavorful and pleasant to the taste. But in the final analysis, the meal can only be thought of as a form of medicine to treat the disease of hunger that afflicts you. After you have eaten, the symptoms of the disease disappear. Similarly, when you take some cool water, the symptoms of the disease of thirst disappear.

We have previously discussed the six inner enemies of man: lust, anger, greed, attachment, pride and jealousy. They can also be described as desire, hatred, possessiveness, infatuation, arrogance, and envy. These are the most deep-seated diseases of mankind. It is only when you engage in practices which serve as medicines to counteract these diseases, that they will diminish and disappear. During your whole life you have been deluded into thinking that you are enjoying different types of pleasures, but in fact you are afflicted with these diseases. Until you recognize that the resident of the body is God, you will continue to be burdened by these diseases and the sufferings they bring.

Seek the Lord inside your own Body

All spiritual practices can only be done with the help of the body. All the education that you have acquired has been obtained by means of the body. The magnificence and extraordinary characteristics of God have been learned through the facility of the body. Taking the body as the basis, you have to make an all-out effort to see the Lord inside it. Do not keep thinking that God resides somewhere, in another world. He actually is present in the body itself. Sin does not exist in some distant world far away; it depends upon the actions that you perform with your body. Both your merit and demerit are the result of the actions you performed with the help of your body. You have to make an incessant search, a serious attempt, to find God inside your own body.

Only when you knock at the door will the master inside open it. Even your own mother will serve you food only when you ask her for it. Therefore, you will have to ask and go on asking, knock on the door and go on knocking, search and go on searching, seek and go on seeking. If you search for God within you, with all earnestness, you will surely be able to find him. If you go to a room where a great number of articles are stored, it is only if you search carefully that you will be able to find the particular article for which you are looking. Without searching you will never find the article you want. Therefore, it is said, 'Seek, seek, and it shall be found; knock, knock, and the door shall be opened.'

Perhaps you feel that you have already been knocking at the door for a long time and it has not opened for you. But find out if you have been knocking at the right door. Are you knocking at the door of liberation, or are you knocking at the door of attachment? Are you knocking at the door where God is residing or are you knocking at the door where the devil is dwelling? Whom are you approaching? In whom are you taking shelter? Are you asking the most merciful one, the one who comes in human form and holds out his own life as an example? Are you asking the mother of the universe? Are you asking for food from her, or are you asking for food from the devil?

You may even be looking at the Lord, but you are not asking for the divinity itself. No doubt, you are praying to God, but you are asking for petty material things and worldly things. You are at the wish-fulfilling tree and you are asking for trivial coffee powder. You have to pray for the wish fulfilling tree to grant you the transcendental principle which will fill you forever with eternal bliss.

Your devotion must go on increasing and progressing, keeping in mind the firm belief that God is residing inside your own body. If you want to seek and search for the Lord who is residing inside you, you have to turn your vision inwards. How should you aspire for the Lord? You have to cry the way a calf cries for its mother who has left it and gone off with the herd. You have to cry like a chaste woman who has lost her husband and wails in pain at the separation. You have to cry in the way that a childless couple implores and pleads with God for a child. This is how you should pray to the Lord, full of devotion, longing to realize his presence within you.

Harmonize all your Thoughts, Words and Deeds

But today, most of your prayers are filled with pompous words, devoid of feeling. Inside the mind there is one thing, on your lips there is something else. It is only when you synchronize the thoughts in your mind with the words in your mouth, that your words can turn into prayer and become effective. Then you must put your prayers into practice. When your activities in daily life are coordinated with your thoughts and words then your prayers can become worship; and when you achieve full unity in thought, word and action then you become a great soul.

You have to examine yourself to see whether you are following this path of harmony in thought, word and deed. When you examine yourself honestly you may find that most of the time these three, thought, word and deed, will be going off in three different directions, without any unity between them. When thoughts are different, words are different and actions are different, you have the characteristics of a demon, not of a saint. Such disharmony will not benefit you nor endear you to the Lord.

Forbearance, the Primary Spiritual Quality

Whatever thoughts you have, they will bring you the corresponding results. Whatever you are feeling will be reflected in your way of talking and acting. In the very first place, you must endeavor to purify your feelings. You have to make your love pure. To do so you have to develop forbearance, which is a serene patience and self-restraint under all circumstances, giving good to all, even to those who may want to harm you. There is nothing greater than having this quality of forbearance. Forbearance is equivalent to truth itself, forbearance is the heart of righteousness, forbearance is the very essence of the ancient wisdom, forbearance is nonviolence in practice, forbearance is contentment, it is compassion. Truly, forbearance is everything in all the worlds. Only when you have developed patience and forbearance will you be able to obtain the Lord.

Now, over minor insignificant things you lose your temper and become ridden with tension. Anger and temper are dangerous. They can ruin your life. If you suffer from anger you will not be able to achieve anything worthwhile. You will be looked upon with disgust and derision. You will lose your wealth. All the honors you have enjoyed will turn to ashes. Your anger will even separate you from those who are closest to you. Because of anger people lose everything, and their life becomes a waste. Therefore, in the Gita, Krishna taught the principle of love and the need to cultivate love to counter hatred, jealousy, anger and all the other bad traits that cause so much harm to you.

Love knows no hatred.
Love is free from all selfishness.
Love is far removed from anger.
Love never takes; it knows only giving.
Love is God.

You can experience God through Love alone

If you want God, you will have to develop this sacred quality of love. Only through love will you be able to experience him, who is love itself.

If you want to see the moon there is no need to use a candle or a torch light. The light of the moon is enough to see the moon. If you want to see God you need only to immerse yourself in love. Fill yourself with love and you will surely succeed in acquiring God. But as long as this love has not yet become clearly established, there is a need for spiritual practices such as devotional singing, repetition of the name of God, and other forms of worship. Once pure love has developed these spiritual practices are no longer necessary.

Yet, even when the moon shines brightly, you will not be able to see it if your eyes are closed. In the same way, if your eyes are still closed to the loving presence of God within you, then good actions, including the various spiritual exercises, will help open your eyes and clarify your vision, so that you can see and enjoy the Lord. That is the import of Krishna's teaching in the Gita.

Only when you listen to such great words, and only when you understand them clearly, and only when you practice them, will you be able to reach your divine goal. Set aside at least one hour per day to study these teachings and incorporate them in all your daily activities. In so doing you will be using your time wisely and you will be sanctifying your life.

VI. The three Stages on the Spiritual Path

Fill your heart with one-pointed devotion and God will reveal himself within you. Then you will see him as he truly is. In time, you will merge with him and become one with him.

 

Embodiments of Love,

There are three principal stages that you must follow on the spiritual path in order to reach your spiritual goal. They have been described in a number of different ways in the Gita. At the end of the 11th chapter, wherein Lord Krishna gives Arjuna the vision of his cosmic form, you will find the three stages presented as follows:

  • First, you must know that God is here.
  • Then you must have a direct vision of him.
  • Finally, you must merge with him.

These three steps will lead you to liberation.

Know that God is here then experience God directly

In the first step, you learn through the words of the scriptures or a teacher, that God really exists. But merely knowing this truth does not give you unlimited joy. You discover that God is here, but you also realize that you and God are separate. This feeling of separation can serve as the basis for subsequent steps on the path, but in itself it does not provide much lasting satisfaction.

Gradually, the anguish of separation from God moves you on to the next step. The desire develops in you to gain the direct personal experience and vision of God. You feel, "I want to see you, dear Lord. How can I experience you directly?" But, you find that it does not happen so easily just by wishing for it. You must deeply pine and yearn for this vision; you must constantly aspire to see him. Whatever form or aspect of God you have come to love in your devotion, you must now yearn for it with all your heart and wish to see it directly. If your yearning is sincere, then after some time he will make himself known to you in a most personal way, and give you this sought-for vision of himself. Here is a small story to illustrate this.

The Cowherd Boy

There was a poor cowherd boy, who had a great deal of faith and an intense yearning to see God. One day, in the village where this boy lived, a preacher came to deliver some spiritual discourses. The preacher would gather together an audience and sing the glories and exploits of the Lord. It was not possible for this cowherd boy to give up his work and come to all the meetings, because all day long he had to attend to his cows. But in the evenings he would bring the animals into a sheltered place and then go to hear the preacher give his talk. The cowherd boy would listen with great earnestness and care to all that was being said.

The preacher was a follower of Lord Vishnu, and so he related the characteristic features of God in the form of Vishnu, or Narayana, as he is also called. In the course of the discourse the preacher repeatedly described the traditional image of the Lord as one who was dark complexioned, who wore a white mark on his forehead and rode on a white eagle. The preacher also explained that Lord Vishnu was always prepared to go to the rescue of those who sought shelter in him, and that he would accept as an offering anything that was given to him with full faith and love.

As the preacher repeatedly described these characteristics of the Lord, they made an indelible impression on the heart of that boy. The preacher also said that God is a great lover of music, and that he could be won by directing one's prayers to him in song, sung most reverently from the heart.

Well, this cowherd boy used to carry some food with him for his noontime lunch. Daily he would offer this food to God with all sincerity and devotion, praying to the Lord to partake of it. He began his prayers by singing this song, "O loving Lord, You ride on a white eagle, so I have been told. Come. Please come to me and accept this food." The boy went on praying like this to the Lord for one whole week continuously. He never touched his food because it was not shared by the Lord. By the end of the week he became extremely weak.

Anguished Yearning for the Lord's Presence

Besides his weakened physical condition, he was also suffering from extreme anguish because he felt that he wasn't singing properly and therefore the Lord did not respond. He was sure that it was because of his own shortcomings in his songs that the Lord did not come to partake of his food. And so with great determination and devotion he continued to practice his singing, thinking that in the end he would surely win the grace of the Lord.

In his weakened condition he reached the forest. He was feeling extremely exhausted but he was determined not to eat unless his offering was accepted by the Lord. Now his prayerful song poured out of him in a most melodious and sacred way. The boy just kept on singing and singing all the time, imploring the Lord to come down and accept the food and drink that he was offering with so much yearning. When there was perfect harmony in the feeling, in the tune and in the content of the song, the Lord descended. How did he appear before that cowherd boy? He came as a boy of the same age, wearing the simple ochre cloth of a saddhu, a mendicant holy man.

The young cowherd asked the boy he saw standing before him, "Please, dear friend, may I know who you are? Are you a traveler passing through this forest?" The holy boy answered, "I am the Lord. I am Narayana. You prayed to see me and so I have come to give you a vision of myself." Remembering that the Lord liked the sweet sound of music, the cowherd boy continued his questioning in the form of a most melodious song, "But you don't conform to the description given of the Lord, who is dark complexioned, who wears a white mark on his forehead and who rides a white eagle. The preacher said that is how we can know the Lord. But it doesn't seem to be true. O, dear one, if you are really the blessed Lord, please resolve my doubt and let me see you in your true form."

The Vision of the Lord

The boy had heard a description of the Lord; now he wanted to see and experience him directly, exactly as he had heard him described and come to believe in him. But God doesn't have any specific name or form; he has a thousand eyes, a thousand ears, a thousand hands and a thousand feet. Yet in order to please and satisfy his devotees who are aspiring to see him, he takes on the particular form which has been earnestly prayed for. To satisfy this cowherd boy the Lord revealed himself by taking on the lustrous form of Vishnu, and accepted the food and drink so lovingly offered by the boy. This is the second stage when one yearns for the vision of the Lord. Even when that vision comes, it will still not be the true form of God but the one chosen through the prayers of the devotee. God loves sincere, heartfelt feelings, and therefore, in keeping with the feeling of his devotee, he will give his vision in the form which pleases the devotee most.

After the Lord left the boy thought to himself, "First I heard a description of him, and then I prayed for a vision of him. Now he has come down and I have seen him directly. But, how can I reach him and be ever with him?" By merely knowing that God exists, a devotee will not be satisfied. Nor does he get full satisfaction by just having a vision of the Lord. Having had the vision, he yearns to be fully merged with him. It is only then that the devotee will be in unending bliss. In the case of this boy, the Lord had given a vision of himself, and then disappeared. But from that moment on the boy kept the picture of the Lord as he had just seen him, in the form of Vishnu, continuously imprinted in his heart. With that lovely form in his mind's eye, he now began inquiring and thinking only of how he could reach him and merge with him. This is the third stage.

Beyond Dualism

In the same way, by either listening to learned people or by reading and studying the scriptures you can get some idea of what God is like. But ultimately you will not be satisfied and happy with just this. It is still only a stage of dualism, for in this stage you and God remain separate. Therefore, you will make an attempt to go beyond the stage of dualism to the next step, which is qualified non-dualism. This refers to the deep aspiration to see and experience God directly. How can you get a vision of him? By picturing in your own heart the form of God you heard described, and then continuously thinking and contemplating on that form. Whatever you do, whatever you say, whatever you see and whatever you listen to, you have to become one with that sacred form.

The specific form of God you have pictured becomes a thought form in your mind. The thought form should then become saturated with the feeling of devotion so that it becomes a feeling form in your heart. Gradually, gradually, these feelings will deepen and strengthen until one day you will have a real vision of the Lord. So, first the Lord is heard of and thought of, then he is sought through intense feelings of devotion and yearning, and finally he reveals himself in form and can be directly experienced. In other words, the thought form turns into a feeling form, which then becomes transformed into real experience. That describes the second stage on the path. Not only do you get the personal vision of the Lord, whom you have aspired to see, but you also get the chance to converse with him face-to-face.

After seeing the Lord thus and talking to him directly, you gain a little more satisfaction. But if you are a true devotee, even this golden opportunity will not give you the full joy you long for. Now you want to reach God and merge with him. You think, "I have heard... I have seen... now I must reach him and be one with him." In the first stage, when through reading and hearing you come to know that God exists, you feel that God is separate and you are separate. This is the state of dualism. But in the second stage you see the Lord and get the feeling that you are part of him. This is the state of qualified non-dualism. Finally you move on to the feeling, 'The Lord and I are one and the same'. This is the stage of complete non-dualism. Here you think, 'Either I must get merged with him or he must become one with me.' Then there is complete unity.

Becoming One with the Lord

So long as there remains a separate river distant from the ocean, which is its source and its goal, then the river will retain a separate name and have an individual identity. But once the river merges into the ocean it gets the taste of the ocean, it gets the form of the ocean, and it takes on the name of the ocean. If you want to become one with the Lord, you have to acquire the feelings of the Lord, you have to acquire the form of the Lord and you have to acquire all the sacred characteristics of the Lord. Only then will you be one with him.

You have to feel that all the attributes of the Lord must manifest themselves in you. Affirm to yourself: "The broadmindedness of the Lord is within me. All the selfless feelings of the Lord are within me. The unbounded love of the Lord is within me." When you faithfully live this conviction then you eventually attain the realization that you and he are one. Then there is perfect unity.

You must continuously strive for this feeling of unity. You must make every effort to gain it. Then you will reach that fulfillment one day. This is the ultimate goal of human life. It is only when you reach that place, the place from which you have originally come, that true fulfillment will be yours.

The three Stages in Secular Life

Even in your secular life you can recognize these progressive stages necessary for reaching a goal. Consider the following example. Suppose some mangoes have arrived in the market place and that mangoes are fruits which you love immensely. There may be one particular type of mango which you especially favor and relish. Now a friend comes to you and informs you that they are selling these particular mangoes that you enjoy so much. The moment you hear this you get a certain amount of satisfaction; you are happy just thinking about these mangoes, even though you have not acquired them and tasted them.

The moment you get the news you rush to the bazaar to find out where those mangoes are and whether there are any still available. Yes, they are there. Now you get a good look at them. This gives you still more satisfaction. But even then you are not yet fully happy. So you put some choice mangoes in your bag and pay for them. Then, until you reach home you go on thinking about those fruits, reflecting on your good fortune to find such nice ones, and looking forward to eating them. Why do you spend so much time thinking about them? Because you have an extraordinary liking for these fruits, and your actions in going after them and getting them are proof of this strong love you have for them.

You can get a lot of joy when a feeling that you have been experiencing strongly inside you, takes on a form which you can see externally. In truth, whatever you see outside of you is always only a reflection of your inner thoughts. When you have a strong enough desire, you will manifest externally what you wish for so strongly internally. Your desire for the mangoes brought you to the market. Now you have bought them and brought them home. You wash them nicely and peel them. Then you start eating them with great relish and anticipation. As you consume them, you blissfully enjoy the nectarine juice of these lovely fruits. Soon, the juice is no longer something outside of you, but it will have become part of you. With that you get immense joy; you feel complete bliss.

Knowing, Seeing and Becoming One with the Divinity

What is the reason for such great joy? Let us recapitulate the process. First you came to know that the particular fruit you love had become available in the bazaar. That is knowing. After hearing about it, you didn't get discouraged but developed the intense desire to get them and enjoy them. You went to the bazaar with great intensity of desire, yearning to see the fruits there. Finally, you found them and got a good look at those fruits. That is the stage of seeing. After seeing the fruit, you acquired them and ate them. This is the stage of entering into and becoming one with the object of your desire.

Do you have such intense feelings for God? That is the one desire you really should develop. After listening to a number of discourses, after reading many scriptures, after knowing that God exists and after having spent much time in worshipping him, you will have to develop a strong yearning to see him; otherwise, all your efforts will be in vain. You have to fervently strive, making an all-out effort to get a direct vision of the Lord.

A student, after having entered a particular grade and spent the year studying the subjects at that level, will not get any satisfaction in remaining in that grade for the next year. He will aspire to progress to a higher grade. If a student is in the same class for two years he develops a sense of despair and despondency. Not only does he get discouraged but he is also put through a lot of ridicule by his fellow-students. In the same way, you will be poorer in the eyes of other devotees if you continuously remain in the first stages of dualistic worship, without moving on in your spiritual development. Other devotees will say, "Look at this person. He has been attending so many discourses over a long period of time and he's read all the great scriptures, but what is the use of all that? There doesn't seem to be any progress in him."

This unfortunate process of remaining stuck in the first stage, is the characteristic feature of the slothful quality of inertia and laziness. You have to remove this quality and go on from the dualistic state to the next state of internalizing the Lord. In this state, through the continuous contemplation of the Divinity inside, you try to gain a direct vision of God in the particular form you choose. With intense desire you will get that coveted chance to see the Lord, converse with him and serve him.

Reaching the Abiding Peace of the Immortal Self

But even then you should not be satisfied. You should strive to reach the final and highest state. There should be no rest, no peace of mind or contentment until you reach the state of complete mergence with God and the realization of his oneness. These days you are only aspiring to obtain rest for your body and trying to get a little peace of mind. But this is not good. You have to reach the abiding peace of the atma. This is your true self, the immortal self, the one universal self. When you become reunited with it, you become peace itself. Your individual self has to merge with the universal self. Then the long journey is complete and permanent bliss is realized.

A river is born from the ocean and ends in the ocean. But how did the river originate? Initially some of the water of the ocean turned into clouds. Once the ocean water becomes a cloud there is separation and duality. Clouds are separate; ocean is separate. The water of the ocean is saltish. After it turns into a cloud it becomes sweet. But now the water which has become a cloud comes in the form of rain. You can say it is a rain of love, because this rain water becomes a river and with great enthusiasm rushes to rejoin the ocean. This may be compared to the state wherein a great anguish and aspiration develops to get nearer and nearer to the final goal.

When you are in that state you yearn with all your heart to reach the native land from which you have become separated. In the case of the water in the form of a river, it is impelled to merge back into the ocean from whence it came. Only then will it have reached its goal. Such is the pure non-dualistic state of total mergence with the source.

You are born as a human being and you have lived part of your life as an ordinary human being. But you have chosen to take up the path of spiritual life. You find yourself seeking out the company of spiritually-minded people. You find yourself listening to the great scriptural stories describing the sacred characteristics of the Lord. But now, you find that this is not enough. You yearn to have a direct vision of the Lord. Even then, you are not satisfied with just that. Merely having had the opportunity to see and talk with the Lord you still do not find that your happiness lasts. But when you finally get fully merged and united with him, then you gain the complete fulfillment you have been seeking. Then you are one with the unending peace and bliss that is the Lord. This was the teaching that Krishna imparted to Arjuna on the battlefield.

The Sacred Names of Arjuna

In the Gita, Krishna used a number of names to address Arjuna. Even Even in worldly life, a number of titles and names may be conferred on people. In the Gita, it was the embodiment of divinity, Lord Krishna, who conferred the different names on Arjuna. Krishna told Arjuna, "O Arjuna. You are not a child of mortality. You are the divinity itself. You are the son of immortality." In his life Arjuna found himself in a number of trying circumstances in which he acquitted himself heroically. As a result, he was given various titles. To obtain his bow, which was a sacred weapon, he performed severe penance and faced a number of difficult problems. But throughout he persisted with a great deal of faith, courage and conviction.

His determination in the face of all obstacles was ultimately rewarded by gaining the grace of Lord Shiva and winning the bow directly from him. In the process of getting this celestial weapon even the elements of nature went against him, but nothing could deter him from his firm resoluteness and purpose. Because he was able to win that bow, the Lord conferred on him the title, the victor of the bow.

From a worldly point of view, Arjuna could also be thought of as the one who was victorious in gaining wealth. There is a story for this. The oldest of the Pandava brothers, Dharmaraja, who was the king, decided to undertake a great ceremonial sacrifice, performed only by reigning kings. At that time the Pandavas were opposed by the wicked Kauravas. The treasury of the Pandavas was completely empty. They had no money available at all. In the face of such obstacles it would have been nearly impossible to proceed with such a grand ceremony. Still, Dharmaraja insisted on going ahead with the ceremonial sacrifice. He said to Arjuna, "Brother, this occasion will require a very heavy expenditure of funds. We will need a great deal of wealth. How might we raise this money?" Arjuna replied, "Dharmaraja, why worry about money when we have with us the wish-fulfilling tree in the form of Krishna? Why should we be afraid? Once Krishna blesses us we will be able to get any amount of money."

Arjuna went around to the different kings ruling over the surrounding areas to inform them of Dharmaraja's wish to hold the great sacrifice. As soon as these kings heard that Dharmaraja was planning to perform the ceremony, they offered to support Dharmaraja with their own treasuries, and so Arjuna brought back wealth in such huge quantities that it took dozens of elephants to carry it. There were great heaps of gold, silver and jewels. Krishna who had prompted all this, came and acted as if he didn't know anything. He asked Dharmaraja, "Wherever did you get so much wealth? Where did it all come from?" Dharmaraja, out of ignorance and fraternal pride, replied, "It is because of my brother Arjuna that I got all this."

From that day on, Krishna addressed Arjuna as the conqueror of wealth, in this way concealing his own role and announcing to the world that it was Arjuna who was able to gather so much wealth. There were many other names given to Arjuna, such as son of the earth. These names were not intended for Arjuna alone. As you hear these various names you can start applying them to yourself; each contains a deeper meaning and shows how the Lord showers his grace on his devotees. Make them part of you; fully live them by striving to understand their deeper meaning and by putting them into practice in your daily life.

VII. Restraining the Tongue in both Food and Speech

One of the most important disciplines necessary for coming into union with God is control of the tongue. This must be exercised both in the area of food and in the area of speech. Without control of the tongue it is impossible to follow the path of devotion and become one with God.

 Embodiments of Love,

Together with most animals and birds, human beings have five sense organs. These sense organs must be used extremely carefully, always being aware of their capabilities and limitations. You must exercise the same control over them as you do in controlling some of the powerful energies and tools that are used in daily life. For example, fire when used with care and intelligence can serve you in many useful ways. But when it is out of control it can be very harmful. Or take a knife or electricity; if you know the proper way to use them, they will be beneficial. Otherwise they can be quite dangerous. It all depends on the care you take and how well you use your intelligence. The spiritual teachings have laid great emphasis on knowing the proper use of the sense organs and applying that understanding to your day-to-day life.

The Dual Power of the Tongue

Each sense organ given to human beings has one particular use, but the tongue is endowed with dual power. It has both the power of speech and the power of taste. In the Gita, the Lord cautions you to be very careful in using your tongue. He praises the devotee who has attained complete control over the tongue, for such a one will soon develop a pure and steady heart and feel the constant presence of the Lord. To gain such control, devotees have been practicing a number of special disciplines, such as observing silence, controlling their diet, or maintaining a complete fast.

Fasting promotes health for the physical body. In the mental realm it gives joy and bliss. Unlimited and unregulated food is very harmful for devotees. Indulging indiscriminately in unwholesome foods is likely to lead the devotee into the torpidity of inertia. To think that you can go on wantonly indulging yourself in food, while at the same time trying to please God and enjoy the nearness of God, is extremely foolish. These two, indulging in food and gaining the nearness of God, are not compatible. Therefore, right from the beginning you must make a determined effort to keep the tongue under control. Once you gain mastery over the tongue, the other sense organs will automatically come under control.

Control of the Tongue

Today's devotees have imposed on themselves all sorts of rules and regulations in order to live a disciplined spiritual life. Unfortunately, these have not been effective in gaining control over the tongue. Truly speaking, it is not necessary to make such strenuous efforts to control the various sense organs. If the tongue is properly controlled all the other sense organs will come in line by themselves. Because people have not been able to gain control over the tongue, they are afflicted with numerous doubts, emotional turmoil, contradictions and confusion. Control of the tongue refers not only to food but also to speech. You must recognize that there is nothing more powerful than the power of words. For this reason, you must keep your talk strictly under control.

In life, you can observe that even for little things a number of sacrifices have to be made. You cannot get anything without paying for it. You are prepared to sacrifice even your own life to obtain some small, petty, useless things. But, you are not seeking that which is exceedingly important, that which includes all other things and is the very basis of everything worthwhile. That greatest of all treasures is the immortal self. Only when you give up one thing can you get another in its place. Should you not then give up everything else for the sake of gaining this most important and most valuable of all possessions? Should you not sacrifice everything for the sake of reaching your highest self?

In the market place, if you want some vegetables you will have to give some money in exchange. Without offering to pay, and thereby sacrificing some of your money, you will not be able to get those vegetables. By giving up one thing you can then acquire another. In the same way, if you want to acquire virtues, you will have to give up your bad qualities. Only by sacrificing your likes and dislikes can you obtain equal-mindedness. Only by sacrificing your bad qualities can you attain the noble qualities. Only by giving up your bad thoughts, bad habits and bad behavior can you possibly achieve good thoughts, good habits and good behavior.

Many sages have described how the tongue always longs to enjoy good things, and how everything will be easy once you can gain control over it. The principal way of exercising this control is by observing silence. Silence does not merely refer to restraint of the tongue. Not only should you exercise silence in speech but you should also be silent in thoughts. Your mind should remain free of all thoughts. That is true silence.

Develop a Discriminating Mind

If you want to gain control over the food that you take in, you should not go on feeding the tongue whatever it desires. You have to develop discrimination. In every activity of life you have to apply your discriminating faculties to determine if what you are doing will benefit you spiritually. In the area of food, you have to explore and find out whether the food you take in is pure, or if it inflames the senses and passions, or if it is of a dull, unhealthy quality that produces a sleepy slothful reaction.

According to the Gita, maintaining control over the tongue by taking in pure food in limited quantities is absolutely essential for the devotee. Use your powers of discrimination with every item of food and ask the question, "Is this food pure, or will it disturb or lower my consciousness?" If you were to examine every item of food you use in this way, and take food in judiciously, you would always remain equal-minded. You would not be affected by censure or praise.

But, if you were to indulge in food without discrimination, without trying to find out whether it was desirable or not, paying attention only to satisfying your hunger and catering to your taste buds, you would not be able to control your attachments and feelings. You would sink down into weakness. If someone were to make adverse comments about you, you would soon conclude that the whole world was against you and you would feel depressed. The moment you were criticized or blamed by anyone your happiness would go, you would become grief stricken and regard all of life as meaningless.

On the other hand, if anyone were to praise you and appreciate you, you would start bloating up with ego and pride. It would be practically impossible to hold you down. What is the reason for such instability? The single most important reason for these weaknesses is the type of food you take in. All these adverse feelings come about because of your lack of control and discrimination in the area of food. The Gita has emphasized the need for exercising extreme care in selecting the food you eat. You must constantly keep in mind the importance of pure food for helping you to maintain equanimity in all situations, so that you become neither elated when praise is showered, nor depressed when criticism is heaped upon you.

Purity of the Food, the Cooking Vessels and the Cook

The Gita has also declared that there should be purity of the vessels and utensils used in cooking, and purity of the cooking process itself. The vessels used must be absolutely clean. Purity refers not only to physical cleanliness but also to the way in which the implements and the articles of food have been acquired. You have to see whether these things have been acquired by proper means and honest work or whether they have come through dishonest means. Articles which are acquired by improper means and used for cooking food, will not only generate bad thoughts but will lead you down the wrong path.

The next step is to inquire into the purity of the cooking process itself by ascertaining the thoughts and feelings of the person who is cooking the food. There are three things that have been mentioned that must be carefully looked into and controlled. Normally, you pay attention only to the purity of the vessels and not the other two, namely, the purity of the person cooking and the purity of the food itself. You do not know the feelings in the mind of the cook and you do not know if the shopkeeper has acquired the articles you buy in the market by proper or improper means.

Therefore, just before taking your food, you should pray and offer the entire meal to God in order to cleanse and purify it. This prayer which is offered before food is not for the benefit of God but for your own benefit. It will purify your food by evoking God's blessing. Before eating, you can say your own sincere prayer from your heart asking God to purify and bless the food. Or, you can use formal prayers such as the verses from the Gita that are traditionally used before food. These are the 24th verse from the 4th chapter and the l4th verse from the l5th chapter, which are particularly efficacious.

The Blessing - Offering Food to God

In Sanskrit the Gita verses used before food are:

Brahmaarpanam, brahma havir,
Brahmaagnau brahmanaa hutam,
Brahmaiva tena gantavyam,
Brahma karma samaadhinaha.

Aham vaishvaanaro bhutvaa,
Praaninaam dehamaashritaha,
Praanaapaana samaa yuktaha,
Pachaamy annam chatur vidham.

which mean:

The offering is God, the act of offering is God,
Offered by God in the sacred fire which is God.
He alone attains God
Who in all his actions is fully absorbed in God.

I am the all-pervading cosmic energy,
Lodged in the bodies of living beings.
United with their ingoing and outgoing life-breaths,
I consume all the various foods.

This prayer before eating removes all the defects and flaws in the vessels and in the articles of food, as well as removing any negative influence acquired during the cooking process. Before offering the prayer the food is merely food; but once you offer it to the Lord it becomes consecrated food.

The Role of the Tongue in Speech

The second aspect of the tongue is speech. As has already been mentioned, speech has its own powerful impact on the mind and the entire mental process. It has a tremendous power. It can perplex your mind. It can break your heart. It can even kill you. It can also give life and encouragement and help you to reach your divine goal. These are two opposite and contradictory results, both effected by the spoken word.

By the use of appropriate words, it is possible to transform the entire mind of an individual. Unfortunately, many people do not believe this. They raise objections like, "How is it possible to transform the mind through mere words? What experiments have been conducted to prove that there is this power in the faculty of speech? Words are only gross sounds heard through the ear." Or else they think, "The mind is a very subtle thing. How can mere sounds transform something that is so subtle and fine? It is not possible." In this way they will argue that it is impossible to bring about a mental transformation through words. There is a small story to illustrate this attitude.

The Story of the Officer and the Preceptor

There was once a government officer who did not believe in the great power of words to transform minds, particularly when it came to spiritual teachings. He happened to be the education secretary for a district, and included among the schools he had under his auspices were some religious institutions. One day he visited one of these schools where a preceptor was teaching the holy scriptures to a number of young students. This spiritual teacher was expounding on some very profound concepts. Sitting there listening to this, the officer developed a headache. Finally, he told the teacher, "My dear fellow. These are small children. There is no need to burden them unnecessarily with such lectures. This will be completely useless to them. Such scriptural truths and deep philosophical concepts cannot possibly be grasped and understood by such small children."

The teacher replied that only when children are at such a tender and impressionable age can they be led onto the proper path. Being taught these noble truths from the very beginning, he felt, would clear their hearts of doubts and put them on the right track in life. The officer said, "I do not believe in all these words. How can mere words transform the mind? I do not think this will ever be possible." The teacher tried to convince him through various explanations and arguments, but the officer would not listen and allow any of the teacher's wisdom to penetrate into him. It was a case of a closed mind. Too much authority often results in cynicism and an exaggerated sense of self-importance. Cleverness follows and in a short time all the virtues disappear and the reason becomes impaired.

When the teacher realized that no matter how hard he tried it was impossible to explain his point of view to this officer, he decided to prove his point by a practical lesson that the officer was sure to understand. He asked the youngest of the students to get up and told this small boy, "Child, you go and physically throw this officer out of the room. Do it immediately!" The moment he heard these words, the officer got very angry. He started shouting at the teacher, "Who do you think you are? I am a government officer, I am the education secretary of this district, and you are asking a small child to send me out! How dare you do this?"

The teacher then told the officer, "Well sir, I did not beat you or hit you or even touch you. I did not do anything to you. Just by merely hearing some words you seem to be getting very upset. What could be the reason for your becoming so angry? It is because of these few words I used, isn't it?" This is how the teacher demonstrated to him that words can be very powerful. They have an enormous capability for doing great harm or great good, according to the way they are used. After this personal lesson the officer left, but now much wiser and humbled by his experience.

The Power of Words

In the scriptures you will also find statements that point out how words are extremely powerful and can destroy the world itself. There it is said that if you were to cut a tree, it could still sprout; or if a piece of iron were broken in two, a blacksmith could make the two pieces come together again by heating and pounding them until they were one. But if you were to break a heart by venomous words, it would not be possible to ever make it whole again. Words can cause endless troubles and they can also give boundless joy. Therefore, you should be most careful that the words you use do not hurt or give pain to others.

If you were to physically slip and fall there might be some small injury that could cause you some inconvenience for a while. But there would not be any grave consequences resulting from this in the long term. There might only have been a small wound, which you can get easily dressed, and which would soon heal. But if your tongue were to slip and you were to hurt the mind or the heart of another person with harsh words, it would create a wound in that person which could not be cured by any doctor in the world. Therefore, you should never use words which are likely to hurt another's feelings. One day the words which you have used will come back to you. So, always use sweet and good words.

It has been said that the tongue relishes sweet things. You can talk to it and say, "O tongue, you like sweet things so much, why don't you linger on the sweet name of the Lord? O tongue, you know what true sacrifice means; you are the very embodiment of sacrifice. Use yourself only for singing the name of the Lord. Sing of God and become sacred and holy thereby."

Sacrifice and Forbearance

Now, why do we say that the tongue knows the true meaning of sacrifice and is absolutely selfless? Well, this is really what you experience every day. For example, when you give some sweet things to the tongue it tastes them, and as soon as it finds out that they are delightfully sweet, it says to itself, "O let me pass these lovely sweet things on to the stomach so that it can also enjoy this delight." But if what is tasted is not pleasant, if for example it is something that is bitter, then the tongue will not pass this on to the stomach but will immediately spit the offensive substance out of the mouth to save the stomach from grief. Good or bad, sweet or bitter, the tongue does not try to keep anything just for itself and only for its own enjoyment. It lives selflessly and with honor, knowing its own limits very well. For any number of years it is content to remain shut up inside the mouth. Does it come outside even once? No. Whatever work it does, it does uncomplainingly inside the mouth.

There is still another important feature of the tongue; it has extraordinary forbearance. Whatever are its difficulties and problems, and whatever troubles others give it, it remains focused within itself, never exceeding its own limits, and always observing forbearance. It lives in the midst of exceedingly harmful companions, namely, very sharp and powerful teeth. With a great deal of skill it manages not to be bitten or hurt by these aggressive fellow-residents that share its tight quarters. With unusual skill and forbearance it has been existing very well with such dreadful neighbors, without even once coming to any harm.

In this way, the tongue can teach a number of very important lessons which can be quite useful to you. For instance, it teaches you that you can live in the midst of people who are very difficult to live with. With a lot of care, forbearance and skill, you should be able to enjoy a happy life despite such trying circumstances. But in today's world there will be very few who follow such good examples. For most individuals, once they come in touch with bad people, they also tend to become bad. All the good feelings, the good qualities, the good thoughts and the good behavior disappear in a moment, and they lose all their merit and virtues. In order that you do not suffer such bad consequences, it is necessary that you gain complete control over your tongue.

Talk wastes Spiritual Energy

Baba quite often tells the students, "Dear students, you should not talk too much. The divine energy which is in you will get wasted in the process. By engaging in too much talk, your memory power will be reduced and weakness will develop in your body. Premature old age will be the final result. Besides that, you will also get a bad name."

Now, consider that you have a radio. You may switch it on to hear a news broadcast, but then you leave the room and forget to switch it off. The radio just continues to play without purpose and uses up costly energy. Your body can be compared to that radio and the intellect may be thought of as the switch that has turned it on but failed to turn it off again. In this comparison, your mind will be the useless sound coming forth in the form of words and talk, ceaselessly babbling all day. The sacred divine energy in you will get wasted by this kind of endless talk.

Right from dawn when you get up until dusk when you go to bed you go on talking, if not loudly then within yourself. The volume might be turned down but nevertheless the talk will be going on all the time. The radio inside just keeps on playing non-stop and the valuable spiritual energy that is within you gets wasted, just as electricity is consumed in the case of the radio, whether it is playing loudly or softly. The energy just drains away.

The most common cause of premature old age and senility is this talk, and more talk, and still more talk. All this talk is not good. You have to observe silence. From birth you have not developed the habit of inner silence. You have to develop it now. Actually, the two functions of the tongue are closely related. Too much talk leads to unnatural hunger. When the talker feels more hungry he will, of course, take more food. Because of this excess food, feelings will arise which will express themselves in still more talk. In this process, controlling the senses becomes an almost impossible task.

If you were to give a horse very concentrated food and then confine it or tie it up, it would become very nervous and upset, and would not be able to keep quiet. After you feed a horse it is necessary to exercise it also. In the same way, if you take in rich food without working hard and taking some exercise, you will become nervous and restless, and you will also develop egoistic feelings of selfishness and pride. Proper exercise will strengthen your health and proper food taken in moderation will control the negative tendencies.

One of the main purposes of spiritual practice is to see to it that the food you take in will be used in the service of society. You must be firmly resolved to always do good. In the face of some adversity, you should not flicker like a flame in the wind. You must have strong self-confidence.

Self-Confidence

Consider a tiny bird which has come and landed on a branch where it continues to sit for some time afterwards. Now, suppose a wind comes up and the branch starts to move, swaying back and forth. The little bird will not get frightened by this movement of the branch. Why? Because it does not depend entirely on the branch for its support. It depends on its wings and so it has strong self-confidence that no amount of movement of the branch would disturb it. Even if the branch were to break, this would not threaten it or cause it to fall. But today's man gets easily frightened by the smallest difficulties in day-to-day life. He does not have the self-confidence which even a little bird has. What is the reason for this? The reason is too much food. He takes in food which is full of dross and which, in turn, generates feelings that are saturated with the quality of rajas, excessive nervous energy and activity, which promotes apprehension and anger. As a result, he has no chance to experience his true nature which is even-minded and pure.

The youth of today have many doubts. They see animals and birds relating to one another in all kinds of ways, enjoying a great deal of freedom. The youth wonder why they should not have the same freedom and independence that the animals enjoy. The proper answer to this question is, "Yes, you are also entitled to freedom, but it is the freedom appropriate to a human being, not that of an animal." Animals enjoy the freedom which is natural to animals. You should enjoy human freedom, the freedom that is natural to human beings.

Live as a true human being; develop the qualities appropriate to a human being. Calling yourself human but trying to enjoy the freedom of an animal will not get you far. The human characteristics are sacrifice, love, compassion, generosity, sympathy, nonviolence and other such noble qualities. Do not develop the qualities associated with an animal. And even worse than that, do not succumb to qualities much lower than an animal, namely, the qualities of a demon such as selfishness, anger, hatred, lust, jealousy and the like. These demonic qualities have no place in a human being.

Efface Selfishness, Pride and Jealousy

In particular, you should never allow selfishness, pride and jealousy to take up residence within you. These three are the worst of the bad traits that infest man. If you wish to acquire only good qualities, the human qualities instead of animal or demonic qualities, then you will have to acquire control of the tongue, in both the areas of speech and food. This is the royal road for human beings. The path of devotion, requires that you use the tongue properly, which means that you use food properly and use words properly.

Especially in this dark age of materialism and unrighteousness, the tongue can get easily sanctified by repeating the holy name. Instead of wasting your precious divine energy and your precious time in idle talk, let the tongue constantly sing the praises of God and repeat his name. Sing the name of the Lord! That is the proper way to spend your life. Use every moment of the day to saturate yourself with the glory and the holiness of his presence.

VIII. You can reach God through Love alone

The Lord declared in the Gita, "When you constantly think of me with love, I will bless you with the gift of spiritual discrimination. This will lead you to permanent union with me. I promise this to you."

 

Embodiments of Love,

The buddhi is the discriminating faculty through which you can separate that which is real from that which is unreal, that which is permanent from that which is changing. This power of spiritual discernment becomes available only to people who have developed sacred devotion and are filled with love for God. Devotion is the royal road to attaining the highest wisdom. In truth, it is the only path leading to self-knowledge. Devotion evokes the grace of God. The Lord proclaimed in the twelfth chapter of the Gita, "The one who is devoted to me is very dear to me."

Devotion

What is devotion? It is the steady flow of love towards God. When your love flows towards individuals or towards transient, worldly things it cannot be called devotion; it is really only a form of attachment. But when your love flows unceasingly towards God, the one unchanging principle behind this world of change, then your love becomes devotion.

Initially, you develop your devotion by turning towards God and approaching him. Then, you strengthen your love for God by cultivating the attitude that you are his devotee or his servant and you surrender yourself to his will. As your love for God deepens, you progress to the stage where you feel an intimate closeness to God and experience his presence continuously. Finally, you reach the consummation of your spiritual journey when you fully realize the truth, "I am God. God and I are one."

In practice, devotion takes two forms. First, there is the type of devotion which involves various devotional practices and rituals engaged in by devotees, such as the traditional practice of worshipping the Lord with ritual offerings, making pilgrimages to spiritual centers and attending spiritual functions, singing devotional songs and studying devotional literature, and so on. These are the ordinary types of devotion. In the Gita the Lord taught that these various practices can be considered to be of a lower type. But, when your worship expands into a total absorption in God, when your love for God enters into every activity of your daily life and you develop a flawless, sacred character, then you are expressing the higher devotion which very much pleases the Lord.

There is a clear distinction, therefore, between this devotion which is particularly dear to the Lord and the more ordinary type of devotion. The latter uses the things of the phenomenal world to worship the Lord, such as flowers, for example. Where have these articles come from? Have you been able to manufacture them? Have you created these flowers? No. They have all been created by the Lord. Where, then, is the sacrifice in offering to the Lord things which he himself has created? Such offerings will not get you very far on your spiritual path. But to offer to the Lord the sacred flowers of your heart, which are not related to the world, and to offer these in loving worship to the one who is seated in your heart, that is the highest form of devotion. That is the devotion you should aspire for.

Meditation and Devotion are One and the Same

Another way of thinking of this highest form of devotion is as the uninterrupted meditation on God alone. In the popular understanding of the word, meditation refers to concentrating on an object, and through that object reaching a higher state of consciousness. But this is not the correct approach to meditation. True meditation is meditation on God, and only on God. Therefore, meditation and devotion are really the same; both are the process of concentrating on God to the exclusion of everything else, thinking only of him. Without such meditation or devotion it is impossible to realize the constant presence of God everywhere, in everything, and thereby, gain true spiritual knowledge.

You long to enjoy the fruit, but you will not be able to get it without first having the flower. First comes the blossom, then comes the fruit. Devotion is like the flower. Without first developing the flower of unshakable love for God and allowing it to blossom forth, it will be impossible for you to acquire the fruit of spiritual wisdom. This flower of love may express itself in different ways as the following example shows.

The Householder and the Monk

There were two devotees who both had an all-consuming love for God. One was a householder leading a family life and the other was a renunciate monk. The family man felt himself to be the servant of the Lord and always practiced the principle of total surrender to God. The great virtue of the servant stage is that through the practice of humility and surrender, the ego quickly disappears. As long as you have egoism, you will not be able to gain the sacred knowledge of the supreme self.

Egoism can be found everywhere. Even Arjuna, whom Krishna befriended for so long, and to whom Krishna gave so much encouragement, was riddled with egoistic feelings throughout his life. It was only after Arjuna threw down his bow and surrendered himself completely to the Lord, saying, "Command me, O Lord, I will do whatever you say," that Krishna taught him the highest wisdom of the Gita.

So, the householder started from the very humble beginning which is associated with "I am your servant, O Lord, I am your instrument", and he expressed his unshakable love for God that way. On the other hand, the monk, expressed his love for God by seeking God everywhere he went, in everyone and in everything he encountered. He would constantly repeat, "Everywhere I look I find only God. Everything I see is created by God and imbued with God. Everyone I meet is but God. I too am truly God."

Because of the different circumstances of their lives, these two individuals adopted different paths to overcome the power of illusion. The householder, by following the path of a servant became smaller and smaller, until he became so small that he slipped through the clutches of that fierce tiger maya, the terrible power of illusion, which had held him in its claws. By losing his ego he became free. For the monk, the shackles of illusion which had been binding him were broken to pieces when he transcended his ego limitations by absorbing himself in the conviction "Everywhere there is only God. All is God. I too am God. I am God." Through their deep love of God, each in his own way was able to transcend the power of illusion.

I Am God

If you develop within yourself the sacred and lofty idea, "I am God", you will not be bothered by anything; nothing can come in your way. Of course, it is of no use to merely utter these words. You must first overcome your body consciousness and maintain a firm control over your senses. At the same time, you must develop an intense love for God and live it by continuously identifying yourself with the divine. This will lead you to the supreme wisdom. Or, you can express your love for God by following the path of the servant. This will quickly remove the egoism from your heart and fill you with bliss.

There are three successive stages on the way to God-realization. In the very beginning you will declare, "I am a devotee of God." Here there are two entities, one is God and the other is you, the devotee. God is believed to be away somewhere, and your approach will be to try to find God, to get closer to him, and become very near to him. Gradually you progress along this path and, in time, you will come face to face with God. Then you say to him, "Dear Lord, I belong to you." In this second stage, you stand erect before God and declare yourself as his own, very close to him. Then in the third stage you know yourself to be one with God and you state, "You and I are one."

The first stage, which is characterized by the declaration, "I am the servant of God," and where God is cognized as a faraway form, is dualism. The second stage, where you say directly to God, "O Lord, I am your devotee", and feel him inside your heart, is the stage of qualified non-dualism. The third stage, in which the ultimate truth dawns within you and you say to God, "I am you and you are me", is non-dualism. At that point there is no distinction between you and God.

From the Form to the Formless

You commence your journey from the stage of dualism and finally end up in the stage of non-dualism. You start your spiritual practice with the very ordinary type of devotion, worshipping God with form and attributes and using rituals and external forms of worship. But then you quickly progress onto the formless, the absolute aspect of the Divinity. In this way, you initially develop yourself spiritually by being a servant of God, but eventually you become fully identified with God.

Consider, for a moment, a very big circle, and consider that just by its side and separate from it there is another circle, one which is very much smaller. The big circle may be thought of as God, the small one as the individual soul. Here the individual is different and distinct from God; this is dualism. When you bring the smaller circle in so that it lies within the bigger circle, you have qualified non-dualism; now the individual is part of the Divinity, he exists in God. What then is the meaning of the individual becoming totally merged in God? The small circle has to broaden itself and grow bigger and bigger until it has fully expanded to the size of the big circle. At that point the two circles are indistinguishable and man has merged himself into God. This is complete non-dualism.

Surrender to the Divinity within You

On the path of devotion it is absolute surrender which makes the individual soul expand and become merged with God. It is when you relinquish your limited individuality by surrendering yourself to the divinity inherent within you that all your weaknesses will leave you and you will develop the broadness of mind that finally culminates in your mergence with God. How can you gain this understanding of your divine nature? How can you recognize the divinity within you so that you can follow its directions? It is only through steady practice that you will acquire this realization.

To acquire even the smallest skills in the world, you have to constantly practice, be it reading, writing, walking or talking. All of these are developed through practice alone. If you start your practice at the first step then eventually you will be able to reach the last step. In this case, the last step means acquiring the supreme knowledge that makes you free.

There are two types of knowledge. One refers to spiritual knowledge, the other to knowledge of the physical world. Inquiring into the various properties of an object is the ordinary knowledge associated with the world. But understanding the inner principle, the underlying basis and purpose of every object that has ever existed in the world, is spiritual knowledge; that is what can be called wisdom. This is a very important quality to cultivate. Even for understanding the world in its deeper aspects, you first have to acquire spiritual wisdom.

To gain spiritual wisdom you must use your body wisely and have your mind and your senses under control. Without the body it is not possible to perform any activity. For all types of work and activities, the body is needed; it is the basis for all practices. Use your body for the purpose of reaching your goal and in performing activities which will be useful to others. Here is a small example.

Transforming Desires into Wisdom

Consider for a moment that you have gone on a picnic to a forest, and that you have taken along all the articles necessary for cooking and preparing your food. Just before you start your meal preparations, you gather up three stones and arrange them as a base for the cooking vessels. Next you put some water in the vessel and then you add the rice. Underneath the vessel, in between the stones, you make a fire.

What is the purpose of the fire beneath the vessel? It is through the heat of the fire that you can cook the rice which is in the vessel. Without the vessel, if the rice were to be put straight into the fire, you would not be able to get the food that you want. The heat of the fire gets transmitted to the vessel, and on from the vessel to the water, and finally from the water to the rice. In this way the rice gets cooked and you enjoy your meal.

In this forest of life, you are searching for bliss, which can be compared to the food that you prepare. The three stones are the three basic qualities of inertia, activity and purity, underlying all natural phenomena and human activities. Your body may be considered the vessel. Your feelings and desires are the water, and your spiritual yearnings and aspirations are the rice. The fire which you have put between these three stones is the purifying practice which is used to acquire wisdom. This purifying fire which must continue for some time, has to be applied to the body, and through the body to the feelings and desires; these in turn will be cooked and transmuted into the highest spiritual yearnings. Finally, this process results in the cooked product, the spiritual food, the knowledge of the true self, which you have been aspiring for. This knowledge grants eternal bliss.

It would not be possible for you to realize such spiritual wisdom directly in your heart, straight off, without first going through the cooking process. Through the body and your good actions you have to burn up your desires, transform them into spiritual yearnings; this will then lead to the realization of the highest knowledge.

Renouncing the Fruits of your Labor

The correct application of the practice of meditation is the gradual, slow and steady control of all desires through the constant practice of love for God. By controlling the sense organs and controlling your desires it will become possible to carry on all your activities in a totally natural and spontaneous way, without expecting to reap any fruits from your labors. Actually, it is impossible to have work without fruits. Whenever you engage in an activity there will necessarily follow some consequence or result; this is the fruit of that action. So, it is not that there are no fruits, but the Gita teaches that you should give up interest in the fruits. The fruits will always be there, but do not work for the purpose of obtaining these fruits. Work only because it is your duty to work, because it is God's will.

While discharging your duty there will incidentally be some desires and there will also be some results, in other words, some fruits. There is no harm in that. Just continue doing your duty. Gita has not taught that actions will be without fruits. People who have not correctly understood the meaning of sacrificing the fruits of action are giving up the action itself. But actions must be engaged in. What the Gita stresses is renunciation in action and not renunciation of action. Until the food is cooked there is need for the fire. Until you understand the inner secret of work, and that of sacrificing the fruits of work, you will have to continue to engage in activities and discharge your duties.

Love is the Root of all Spiritual Practices

A noble character and good behavior announces the inner truth of a person; this truth is based on love. Whether you are engaged in sacrificing the fruits of your actions, or contemplating on the omnipresent Lord, or practicing inner inquiry and aspiring to gain wisdom, the root of all these spiritual exercises is love. There are five major human values that distinguish a noble human being. These are truth, righteousness, peace, love and nonviolence. But they do not exist separately. They are all essentially dependent on one of these five, which is the primary value. That is love.

When love enters the thoughts it becomes truth. When love manifest itself in the form of action it becomes righteousness. When your feelings become saturated with love you become peace itself. The very meaning of the word peace is love. When you fill your understanding with love it is nonviolence. For all these noble human qualities it is love which flows as the undercurrent.

Another way of saying this is when you saturate every thought of yours with love then you are immersed in truth. When you practice love in your daily life it is dharma or righteous living. When you feel love all the time you are established in abiding peace. And when you have a deep understanding of the divine principle of love you become steeped in nonviolence. In the Gita, in the chapter on devotion, it says, "Fill yourself with love and use this love to reach me. In that way, you will develop both nearness and dearness to me."

Dear devotee. Your hands are very small but with these little hands you are trying to serve me. Your eyes are very small but with these two little eyes you are trying to see my infinite vastness. Your ears are very small but with these two little ears you are trying to follow my sacred words. With your two little feet you are attempting to come towards me.

But merely serving me with your two little hands will not achieve very much. Merely looking at my infinite form with your two little eyes will also not be of much use. Merely listening to my divine words through your two little ears will not get you very far. And merely coming into my presence with your two little feet will not serve you so strongly. But there is one thing you can do which will have a great impact, which will produce a truly significant effect. That is: Install me permanently in your heart! Once you bring me into your heart then all these other activities will no longer appear very important.

Whatever worship you have been engaged in, using your eyes and your ears and your hands and your feet, has only served to control your mind. But when you invite the Lord to enter your heart, then control of the mind and the senses becomes very easy. The mind and senses will become still on their own. There will be no need for any special effort to be made for sacrificing the fruits of your actions. Krishna said, "Once you start thinking only of me, and keeping your thoughts constantly fixed on me, then I will automatically take care of all the rest." To achieve this state of total one-pointed focus on the Lord, you must develop a firm resolve and an unshakable faith that the Lord is ever-present in your own heart. Your heart is his residence.

Fill your Heart with Love and Faith

God is always full and complete; to reach such infinite fullness you must have full faith. When God is full and complete and you are not full and complete, there cannot develop the necessary binding force that will hold you and God together. To reach the full and complete love that is God, you must also have a full heart, full of love and faith. If, instead, you are filled with doubts, you will undermine this pure principle of love which is your true nature; your doubts will blemish your heart and distance you from the omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent Lord, who is aware of your every thought.

Whatever thoughts you have, fill them with him. Think of him with a full heart saturated with love and faith; then you will certainly reach him. In the Gita, He said that you will become dear to him when you worship him fully with all your heart. That means seeing him everywhere, in everything. The Gita proclaimed, in all of the creation do not hate anyone or anything, for he is in every name and form. When you have the feeling of love permeating your whole being, you become very dear to him.

All the noble human qualities are already there in their fullness in every human being, but very few people are making any effort to become aware of them. They are wasting their time in pursuing only outer activities in the world. But you must also engage in inner activities which will help you to reach your goal. For example, you perform your worship using external rituals, but you must perform your worship internally, as well, offering God the flowers of your heart. Then there will be unity and harmony in your life. Once you achieve such unity in all your activities, both inner and outer, your life becomes sanctified and you will experience fulfillment in whatever you do.

Love is the most important of all Human Qualities

In the path of devotion, it has been taught that love is the basis of everything. It is the single most important quality that has to be developed. All your thoughts must become immersed in this quality of love... then truth will naturally establish itself in your heart. All your acts must be saturated with love... then righteousness will naturally manifest itself in all your undertakings. All your feelings must be soaked in love... then you will be able to enjoy immense peace. And all your understanding must be filled with love... then you cannot hate or hurt anything. Therefore, love is the very basis of peace of mind. Love is the very birthplace of truth. Love is the very foundation of righteousness and nonviolence. That is why Baba has so often said, "Love is God. God is love."

The essence of the teaching of the path of devotion is to develop and practice this selfless love. Then you will become broadminded and, in that way, fully develop all the greatness that is inherent within you.

IX. Desire and Anger - The Twin Evils

Only when you can still your thoughts will you be able to overcome desires, and only after you have controlled your desires will you be able to conquer anger. Therefore, the first step in conquering desires and anger is to become free of the thought process.

 Embodiments of Love,

Stilling the mind is an essential practice for both devotees and ordinary people, but, as has been taught in the Gita chapter on devotion, the calming of all thoughts is especially important for devotees. Thoughts are charged with energy and life. They can even be stronger than the strongest matter. You begin thinking right from the moment of birth. The material making up your thoughts is extremely subtle; it arises from the food you eat. Therefore, if you consume food that has been sanctified you will get only sacred thoughts.

Use Sacred Thoughts to Destroy Dark Thoughts

When a person is filled with sacred thoughts all his actions will be sacred. His words will also be sacred. Such sacred thoughts are like a sword or a sharp knife. You can use sacred thoughts to search out dark thoughts, dark feelings and dark actions, and cut them to pieces. On the other hand, if you take in food that is not sanctified, dark feelings, dark actions and dark thoughts will flourish. Not only this, but because of unwholesome food you will weaken the body and lose the power of digestion, and suffer all sorts of bodily discomforts.

In the Gita the Lord has emphasized that for worldly prosperity as well as for developing the spiritual potential that is inherent in man, a strong and pure body is essential. For this it is important that only wholesome food be consumed and that it be sanctified by being offered to the Lord before it is eaten.

Thoughts and the thought process constitute the very form of the mind. If thoughts are turned towards the phenomenal world and the things related to it, then these thought processes become concerned with wealth and property, for these are the very basis of life in the phenomenal world. The word wealth usually refers to your worldly possessions and attachments, such as money, houses and land. Another form of wealth is your fame, your position and station in life. But the Gita does not consider either possessions or status as your real wealth. It declares that character is your wealth, good behavior is your wealth, and above all, knowledge of the supreme self is your true wealth.

Good Character, Good Behavior and Knowledge of the Self

Worldly name and fame, property and family are all ephemeral. They may disappear even while you are still alive. Calamity and misfortune may bring about the loss of name and fame, property and family. What is more, none of these will have any connection with you after your death. But good character, good behavior and all the noble qualities which they give rise to, will help you not only during your lifetime but also when this life is over. They will remain your steadfast companions forever. They will be by your side to help you gain the knowledge of your true self, and thereby reach the Lord and merge with him.

Your true fame does not depend on your physical beauty or your charm. It does not depend on your riches. It does not depend on your physical strength. It depends only on your good character. In the scriptures, you will find the story of Vishvamitra who, at that time, was a powerful and ruthless king obsessed with ego and pride in his physical prowess. One time, he decided to take revenge on the sage Vashishta. Of course, Vashishta based his strength only on divinity. He was a very great soul who was ever established in God-consciousness. He wore an invisible protective shield, the protection that comes from being immersed in the divine principle.

When attacked by the deadly arrows and missiles of Vishvamitra, the sage remained completely unruffled. The arrows that Vishvamitra launched towards Vashishta became utterly powerless, as if they were aimed at a mountain of stone. All the missiles Vishvamitra used broke into pieces the moment they touched Vashishta's body and fell harmlessly to the ground.

In fact, physical strength is really a kind of weakness. Only power which is based on divinity and has the strength of righteousness is true strength. When Vishvamitra realized this, he undertook severe penance so as to reach the same lofty spiritual state that Vashishta was always in. After engaging in prolonged austerities, Vishvamitra was finally able to acquire the knowledge of the divine and have Vashishta himself proclaim him a God-conscious sage.

Divine Power and Physical Power

The Kauravas, the evil cousins that Arjuna and the Pandavas had to encounter in the great war, together were one hundred brothers. The Kauravas had also based their strength on military might. In the end, all these brothers died in the war which they had fomented and not even a single son was left to perform the funeral rites for the parents, when the parents died. What a terrible fate that was. Instead of seeking divine help, the Kaurava brothers took refuge only in physical power, in money and in the strength of individuals. On the other hand, the Pandava brothers surrendered everything to Krishna, and sought only his grace.

When Arjuna fell at the feet of Krishna and surrendered to him, Krishna was very pleased and lifted him up, saying, "Get up, Arjuna. Real power lies in faith. In the end, justice will always triumph and selfishness will always perish; this is the one unchanging righteous truth that applies in every age." He assured Arjuna on the day of the battle that whoever takes refuge in the Lord will win the Grace of the Lord, and will be successful in whatever he undertakes. Whereas one who refuses the protection of the Lord will not be able to win his grace, and in the end, will surely fail and be destroyed.

If you aspire to earn the grace of the Lord, you have to control your worldly desires. All your activities in the phenomenal world have to do with the waking state. The results that arise from these activities are no more real than the results you get in dreams. The mansions and big bungalows you see in dreams vanish in a flash once you open your eyes and wake up. They are not real and were never real. The experiences of your dream state disappear in your waking state and the experiences of your waking state disappear in your dream state. And in your deep-sleep state they both vanish.

The three Worlds and the Lord Beyond

Krishna taught in the Gita that there are three worlds, the physical, the mental and the causal. The mental world is a subtle form of the physical world, and the causal world is an even subtler form of the mental world. Of these three inter-penetrating worlds of your waking, dream and deep sleep consciousness, the causal is the subtlest. It is all-pervasive. But beyond all these is the infinite Lord, the supreme principle of divinity. This divine principle is the subtlest of the subtle, the smallest of the small, but also the biggest of the big. Among the mighty ones, the divinity is the mightiest of all. There can be nothing greater. Seek him. Install him in your heart and be saved. Know that that mightiest of the mighty is your very self. This is the truth of divinity. This is your truth.

To reach the principle of Godhead, which is the goal supreme, you have to start your journey with the first stage of the path, wherein you consider yourself to be the servant or the messenger of God. This is the stage of dualism. Gradually you enter the stage of qualified non-dualism, the second major step on the spiritual path. Here you experience the divinity within yourself, in your own heart. At this stage you identify yourself very closely with the Lord. You will have the feeling, "God is within me. He is the one I truly am. I am he. I am he." Then, as you continue still further on the spiritual path, all duality will disappear completely and you will be left with only the I, the pure self, without any modifications or limitations.

This whole journey is a little like the healing process that takes place with a wound. Initially, a protective layer of hard skin forms over the wound. Eventually this covering falls off by itself as the wound heals. When both the feeling that you are the servant of the Lord and the feeling that you are one with the Lord, both of which cover the pure I, fall off, then you will be in the final stage of non-dualism. Then you are immersed in the one truth, I am I.

Wherever you look you see your One Self

When you declare, "I am he, I am God," there is still some duality, because there are still two entities, I and God. So, this is still not complete non-dualism. At the very beginning, when you say, "O Lord, I am your servant," the Lord is separate and the servant is separate, and their status is clearly different. On the other hand, when you say, "I am God," although there is still a trace of duality, the distinction is not one of separate subject and object but more like seeing the reflection or image of yourself in a mirror.

Whenever people are different, when there are many separate entities, then there will also be many different images or reflections. But in the stage of qualified non-dualism, you see only your own image everywhere, because you are all there is. You are the one self being reflected as many images, just like the one sun is seen as separate images in a number of different water-filled pots. So, in the stage of qualified non-dualism, you are alone; there is none other. The only thing that still comes between you and the divinity is the mirror. You constantly perceive your own reflection, and so you see yourself as very near and very dear to the Lord - face to face with him.

But when you perceive only the one God who is all-pervasive, then where is the need for any image at all? Can there be a place where he is not? When the entire world is the mansion of the omnipresent Lord, then where should you look to find the door to enter his mansion? If there were a separate street and a separate house then there would have to be a door which opens onto the street; but in truth, there is no street at all. When the all-pervasive Lord is everywhere, how can there be any special place where you must seek him to find him? No, there is no special place where he resides.

Once you realize that he is everywhere at all times, then the true perception of the divinity is not that of an object whose reflection is seen in various places but the realization that there is only you, the one immortal self, abiding everywhere, present in everything in all its fullness. This all-pervasive perception of the divinity as the one without a second, is called non-dualism.

You are not a Sinner - You are God

As part of their religious observances, people will sometimes say in their prayers, "O Lord, I am a sinner, my soul is full of sin, I have been performing so many sinful acts." But who is this person who is sinning? Can there ever be anyone who is separate from the Lord? Can such a one exist? These declarations about sinning and being a sinner are not good practices for devotees to engage in. Rather you should think, "In truth, I am God. I am not different from God. I am peace itself. I am love eternal. I am pure bliss without end." Keeping such lofty ideas and thoughts in your mind is the best way to reach the goal.

In the Gita, in the list of noble qualities that a devotee should possess, the Lord started with, "Be without hatred towards any living being." If you treat happiness and misery with an equal mind then the question of hatred does not arise at all. If you recognize that the same transcendental principle is embodied in all human beings as well as in all creatures, then there cannot be any room for hatred. If you realize that the one divinity resides equally in all, then how could you ever hate another? Where is the other? In this context, you might ask for whom the phrase, "Be without hatred towards any living being" is intended. Is it meant for those who have realized the one transcendental principle which exists equally in themselves and in everyone else? No, it is obviously not intended for them. This injunction is given for the sake of those who have not yet realized this great truth of the unity of all beings.

The Sweetness of the Servant Path

There is an extraordinary joy which you obtain when you immerse yourself in the attitude of being the servant of the Lord. You soon become filled with delight from having imbibed the Lord's sweetness, and you never want to leave that happy state. You come to the conclusion that if ever you were to move on from this feeling of being the servant to the state of "I am he", you would not be able to continue to enjoy the consummate sweetness of the Lord. Sugar does not know its own sweetness. You may be concerned that if you were to become one with the sugar you would no longer be able to enjoy its sweetness. Since you partake of the Lord's sweetness in the servant stage, you may prefer to remain in this stage so that you will always be able to taste the nectarine sweetness of the Lord, rather than being one with him.

For example, Hanuman, the great devotee of God, had the experience of extreme bliss arising from his unwavering attitude of "I am the servant of Lord Rama". But how long can such a feeling last? It can last only as long as you have the grace of the Lord and are near to him. If you were to ever become separated from him, then in all likelihood you would experience extreme anguish.

In the stage of qualified non-dualism, the question of suffering does not arise at all, because in that exalted state you are unceasingly with the Lord, and there is no possibility of experiencing any separation or suffering. In the servant stage there is the possibility of separation between the Lord and the servant, but in the second stage of qualified non-dualism there cannot be any discontinuity in the bliss since no possibility of separation can arise.

Controlling Desires and Anger

If you want to reach the ultimate truth of your being and be immersed in the bliss of your own divine principle, you need to develop complete control over your desires. The moment any thought arises, you should inquire into the nature of this thought. Ask yourself, "Is this thought desirable or is it harmful for my spiritual progress?" Devotees should be extremely careful right from the very beginning, to see to it that dark thoughts do not remain in their minds. For most people, it is impossible to remain without any thoughts at all. But, at least, when dark thoughts arise you can do something about it. Do not harbor them. Give them no shelter.

Immediately transform any dark thoughts into sacred ones. In the same way, see to it that you undertake only good actions, and take every opportunity to transform these actions into worship by consecrating them to the Lord. By transforming all thoughts into noble thoughts and all work into worship, you will naturally progress on the sacred path. By controlling your thoughts in this way, you will also be able to control any anger that might arise.

Quite a few people worry about anger, wondering what is the best way to control it when it comes on and tries to overwhelm them. The easiest way to control anger is this. The moment you become aware that anger is rising within you, just laugh very loudly. Or go to the bathroom and have a cool bath. You can also take a glass of cool water and relax in a cool place. The moment anger comes it is most helpful to leave the place where you are and go somewhere else. If with all these measures you still have not been able to control your anger, then stand in front of a mirror and examine your face. After seeing your appearance you will surely feel so much disgust that at once you will be able to control your anger.

One other thing you can do whenever anger comes is to inquire into the cause of this anger. Is it justified? Remember that if someone is going to be harmed in the process of your anger, you will be committing a sin, and that cannot possibly be good for you. To undertake all these methods will be quite difficult, but it is enough to remember not to let your tongue go into action immediately after you get angry and spill out a torrent of angry words. Take some time to think things over. In a number of ways anger weakens a person who is trying to undertake a spiritual practice. If you make some effort to control anger when it arises, these efforts will act to strengthen your body and purify your mind.

Attraction and Repulsion

The Gita declared that a weak person can never gain self-realization. Therefore, in order to acquire the knowledge of your true self, it is most important that you gain full control over your attachments and hatreds, over your desires and anger. These pairs of opposites arise from the primary qualities of attraction and repulsion which are inherent in the human psyche as well as within all phenomenal things and beings. Attraction and repulsion are responsible for everything that makes up the world. They keep you bound to the world, and as long as you are preoccupied with the world, the light of truth will not shine for you. Therefore, this attraction and repulsion for things of the world must be banished from your heart. Then the knowledge of the true self can take root there.

When you have the sacred knowledge of the atma in your heart, you will be able to enjoy peace. That fragrance of peace will spread all around you and affect everyone you see and touch. On the other hand, if you are filled with dark feelings, dark thoughts and dark actions, these will pollute your heart and infect others with your poison. Whether good or bad, the thoughts that suffuse your heart and take shelter there, will spread to others around you, and these others will soon emanate the same feelings.

Sometimes there may be some difficulty in distinguishing good from bad. The real distinction is not in outer appearances and labels but in the inner purity and intentions. If you hold a rose in your right hand, which in the East is considered your sacred hand, the fragrance of the flower will not only reach you but also the people in the surrounding area. But even when you take the same rose and hold it in your left hand, which in the East is considered the unsacred hand, the rose will spread its sweet fragrance to all. You might make a difference between right and left, but for the fragrance there is no distinction whatsoever. It spreads to all who are near just as profusely from the unsacred hand as from the sacred one.

Likewise, whether you are a theist or an atheist, this relates only to your own feelings and beliefs. As far as God is concerned, if you have sacred thoughts and engage in good works and good words, then even if you are an atheist you will be dear to him. The Lord of the Gita declared, "Whoever he is, if he has control over his desires and anger, if he has subdued either his attraction or his abhorrence to people and things of the world, then he is very dear to me."

Character - Not Belief is what is important

Indian philosophy has been classified according to those who believe in God and those who do not believe in God. But to the divinity, what counts are the qualities of men's character rather than their beliefs. Prahlada, who was the son of a demon king, was one of the greatest devotees of the Lord. He was put to great trouble by his father and his teachers who tried to impress on him their demonic traits. Although he was born a demon, Prahlada always displayed a noble and sterling character. And despite all the difficulties he was put to, Prahlada was able to continuously enjoy the bliss of his own immortal self, and know the presence of the Lord in his heart. Prahlada means the one who is continuously happy. So, if you go on thinking of the Lord continuously, these feelings of joy will shine forth with an effulgent splendor, and you will become one with God.

Right at the outset of your spiritual journey you have to make determined efforts to control your desires and anger, your attachments and hatred. This will permit the divine principle to shine forth from within you. Controlling desire and anger is a most important spiritual practice. It is the primary task of every devotee. If you succeed in controlling desire and anger, attachments and hatred, you will be able to justify your life and reach your goal. But if you allow them to remain within you, then whatever spiritual exercises you undertake will be wasted and your life too will become an utter waste.

X. Love and Sacrifice - The Cure for Desire and Anger

Anger is born of desire and desire arises from thoughts. Therefore, thoughts alone are responsible for both desire and anger. Just as you cannot get cloth without thread and thread without cotton, you cannot get anger without desire and desire without thoughts.

 Embodiments of Love,

In the Gita, the divine teacher has termed desire and anger as fire. There is danger of being harmed by fire even when it is some distance from you. When this is true for a fire that is burning outside then how much more careful you must be when the fire is burning fiercely in your own heart. This fire of desire and anger has an extraordinary capacity to destroy all your human qualities and to suppress the divine nature within you, leaving only the demonic qualities raging inside.

The Fire of Desire

Most things in the world have prescribed limits but the fire of desire and anger is limitless in its hunger. Whatever fuel you give to fire, whether it be wood, oil, or anything else, it will never have enough. But even the most destructive fire eventually burns itself out and becomes extinguished when it uses up its fuel, whereas this fire of desire and anger knows no such limitation. It has a voracious appetite that is endless. It will not exhaust itself. It cannot be appeased. It will never be satisfied. This fire of desire and anger has no contentment at all.

That being its nature, is there any way to control it? The Lord declared in the Gita, "You can conquer anger through love and you can conquer desire through renunciation and sacrifice." Where there is love there can be no anger. If you develop your love, then there will be no room left in your heart for hatred and anger to take root. The heart is like a chair, there is room for only one occupant at a time. Therefore, only one quality can establish itself there. It leaves no place for another to enter and occupy it at the same time. You must make every effort to establish love and only love in your heart. You must never allow your heart to become like a 'musical chair', giving room for love at one time and for anger and hatred at other times.

If you want to conquer anger through your love then you must develop your love in a most magnificent way. Love is always prepared to shower itself freely and to overlook the defects and weaknesses in others. Love has this extraordinary quality, it lives by giving and forgiving, whereas the little ego-self lives by getting and forgetting. Where there is love there can be no room for selfishness, and where there is selfishness there will be no love.

Make Love the Dominant Force in your Life

There is absolutely nothing in the world which you cannot achieve when you shine with this principle of love. With love you can conquer all obstacles. Therefore, to achieve total victory over anger you have to fill your heart with love and make love the dominant force in your life. Once you recognize that the indweller of your heart is the indweller of every heart, that the beloved Lord whom you worship seated on the throne of your heart is also dwelling in every other heart, then there can be no possibility of hating or being angry with any person in the world. When the same Lord is in every heart how can you look down with contempt at another? Therefore, immerse yourself fully in this principle of love and establish it indelibly in your heart.

As has been mentioned before by Baba, when love is associated with thoughts, it becomes truth; when love is introduced into your activities, your actions become righteous; when your feelings are saturated with love, your heart is filled with supreme peace; and when you allow love to guide your understanding and reasoning, then your intelligence becomes saturated with a deep respect and caring for all life, and you manifest the quality of nonviolence. Therefore, love is truth, love is right action, love is peace, love is nonviolence. For all these noble human qualities love is the undercurrent. If your thoughts are not filled with love, there will be no truth. If there is no love in your actions, righteousness will not be present. If you do not feel love in your heart, there will be no peace. And if you do not base your understanding on love, nonviolence will not establish itself in your intellect.

So, just as sugar is the basis of all different kinds of sweets, so also love is the basic ingredient for truth, righteousness, peace and nonviolence. Love is the divinity itself. Love is God and God is love. Love is the divine power that activates everything. Through love you can easily conquer hatred and anger. Therefore, always live in love.

The Nature of Anger

Anger can be the source of numerous difficulties and expose you to countless problems. It destroys your dignity and undermines the principle of humanness that exists within you. Anger first enters in a very subtle form and gradually becomes all-pervasive. Initially, when it comes in, it will only ask for a small bit of space. "Just give me a little room to sit down in," it says. Once it has established itself, it declares, "Now, I'll make myself enough space to lie down and stay." But you must not permit even the least room in your heart for such bad traits. Once you let anger in, it will be impossible to get rid of it. Even if you make friends with it and give it all your wealth it will not leave you. It is a most dangerous poison which should not be given even the least space to get a foothold within you.

In a car the red tail-light goes on as a warning before the car comes to a stop. In the same way, before you explode into anger, your eyes become red, your lips begin to quiver and the whole body becomes hot. The moment you start having any of these symptoms, you had best leave the place you are in immediately and go to a solitary spot and sit there until peace returns. As was mentioned yesterday, you can also take a cold-water bath.

Once anger expresses itself in words it may lead to endless complications and problems later on. Even if your anger is justifiable and you are protecting the truth, you will still have to learn how to express that truth in a sweet way, in a dear way, in an acceptable way that would be received by the other person without hurting him in any way. Therefore, every devotee must learn to control his anger by developing and saturating his heart with love.

Sacrifice conquers Desire

Next, let us consider how to deal with desire. To conquer desire you have to develop a sacrificing nature; you must be steeped in renunciation. Renunciation does not mean that you give up your family and go to the forest; nor does it require you to give up all your property. Once you realize the defects in any object, once you recognize its transitoriness and worthlessness in helping you to reach your goal, you will automatically stop desiring it.

Even when living the life of a householder immersed in the world, you can recognize the defects and weaknesses of the things of the world. For example, there may be a certain kind of food that you enjoy very much, like a curry, for example, and you ask your cook to prepare a variety of dishes made with this curry. You sit down to eat, the meal is brought in and you are about to eat it with great relish. But then the cook comes running in and says, "Stop! Please sir, don't eat this food! I just discovered a poisonous lizard has fallen into the pot and is dead inside!" The moment you hear this and recognize the harmful nature of the food you were about to eat, you would under no circumstances consider eating it anymore, no matter how much you previously cherished that dish and looked forward to having it.

In the same way, you have to recognize the nature of the things of the world. They are ever changing and some day they must cease to exist. Once you know this, how can you remain enthusiastic about acquiring them and trying to get lasting enjoyment from them? Food is only medicine for the disease called hunger. How can it ever be an item of luxurious indulgence? When you are sick and medicines are given, do you refuse them if they are not tasty? Therefore, recognize the fact that the things you use in the world are only medicines for the diseases that you have.

As the disease declines, the need for medicine diminishes. When you are well you do not need to take any medicines at all; but when you are sick you must take the right medicine which will cure you of your illness. You cannot refuse to take the medicine just because it is not very tasty, while at the same time hoping to get cured. Now you are running after all sorts of attractive and tasty things which instead of curing your ills worsen them. You rejoice that you have discovered so many delights in the world and that you are living a very happy life, enjoying many things which seem to give you a lot of comfort and joy. But these are not real enjoyments, for, in the future, you will surely have to face the consequences of all these indulgences you are engaging in now.

The Pest of Desire and Hatred

Consider a giant tree which has a number of branches heaped with flowers and fruits. It is a very grand and attractive tree. One day, this tree begins to dry up and its flowers fall off. Is it because there is a shortage of water or manure? Has there been some neglect in feeding it? No, there is some kind of pest that has attacked its roots and is destroying this beautiful tree. Through the roots the pest enters and starts to eat up this giant tree. In the same way, once you allow these pests of desire and hatred to enter your heart, then one day you will quite suddenly come to ruin. This is absolutely certain.

In the material world you think that a rich man is a very important individual, but in the world of the spirit, material wealth is of no consequence. Charity is a quality that is much greater than all the possessions associated with wealth. If there is no charity, wealth has no intrinsic value at all. You have four heirs, each of whom will enter a claim to your wealth. The first is charity. The second is the government. The third is the thief. And the fourth is fire. Each of them expects to inherit your wealth, but if you were to hand over all your wealth to your first heir, charity, then the others will get no share of it. When you give freely to charity, you will find that the other claimants will show great respect for your decision and will not press their own claims.

For example, we know that the government gives you an income-tax exemption when you donate to charity. Even fire will be a little frightened of you, and thieves will leave you alone. So, when you give to charity, which may be considered your oldest son and your natural heir, then the others who would otherwise try to claim your wealth will respect your action and not interfere. But if you possess wealth and do not give it in charity, then the thief will have his eye on you and the government will also try to catch hold of you and claim your riches as its own. If these two for some reason choose to ignore you, then fire will come one day and destroy your possessions.

Let all the Noble Human Qualities Shine within You

The Gita has declared that it is charity, not wealth, which is really important. In a similar way, in human beings, it is not the ability to speak well but the truth which is uttered, that is important. If there is no truth in your speech, then whatever you say will have no value at all. The Gita has also declared that it is not life itself but a good character that is important. A life devoid of good character is useless. You have to develop your character and earn a good name so that all the noble human qualities will shine forth in you.

Your most important duty is to harbor good thoughts, to have good behavior, to speak good words and to lead a good life. You must be very careful with your words and actions so that you will never earn a bad name. Instead of living the life of a crow for a hundred years scavenging off others, it is far better to live a few moments as a swan, with an untainted name and an unblemished character. The Gita extols such a sterling soul whose life is replete with goodness.

Good actions are far more important than physical strength. A body that is not being used to serve others is nothing but a dead body. Use your body in the service of mankind, not just for the purpose of catering to your own selfish needs. Today, whatever man does, thinks or utters is primarily prompted by selfishness. In order to overcome this tendency, you have to constantly seek opportunities to help others and develop the principle of service. In this process, by your good actions, all of humanity will get sanctified. It is very difficult to obtain birth as a human being. You must spend some time thinking over how to properly utilize this rare life that has been given to you and develop good habits which will overcome these weaknesses of desire and anger that waste your golden chance.

Replacing Bad Habits with Good Habits

How do you best overcome the deeply ingrained bad habits and replace them with good habits? Consider a small example.

One day a beautiful dog happens to come to your house; you do not know to whom it belongs. It is such an attractive thing, in order to keep it there for some time and enjoy its presence, you give it a little food. Next day it comes about the same time, and again you feed it and enjoy having it visit you. In this way it comes back every day to get fed, and gradually over a period of time, attachment increases and this dog now regularly visits your house, spending more and more time there. One day you find that it will no longer leave; it just continues to live at your house from that time on.

But the happiness that you enjoy in looking at physical beauty does not last very long. Once the beauty is no longer accompanied by joy, it becomes obnoxious to you. In the case of this dog, you soon get tired of having it around all the time, and so you look for a way to get rid of it.

To begin with you must ask yourself why that dog has attached itself to you and is now living in the house. The reason is that right from the very beginning you have been feeding it regularly every day; you have also been stroking it, playing with it, and paying so much attention to it. It is this repeated daily practice which has created the attachment between yourself and the dog. Now you must develop a new regular practice, which will break this attachment and help you to get rid of the dog. For this the best method is to reverse the original process that created the attachment and made the object so dear to you.

Steady Practice is the Key to all Accomplishments in Life

In the case of the dog, if no food is given for some days and everyone is indifferent to it, paying no attention to it whatsoever, then soon, of its own accord, the dog will go away. Therefore, it is the practice that is important. It is through practice that you have developed certain attachments and undesirable qualities, and it is through practice that you can change them. The Gita has said that for everything practice is the starting point. In the 12th verse of the chapter on devotion, it says, "Through practice you will be able to get knowledge, through knowledge you will be able to develop meditation, through meditation you will develop sacrifice, and only when you have sacrifice will you obtain peace of mind." Therefore, it all starts with steady practice.

For many births, you have been enamored with beauty and you have engaged yourself in desire and anger until these passions have struck deep roots in your heart. Now you have become a slave of your desires. Mere words will not be enough to get rid of them. After having practiced attachment for so long, these negative qualities have developed such strong roots, that even if you were to cut them off at the surface, they would sprout up again and again. When desires have become an integral part of you, it is only by reversing the process and practicing detachment and renunciation that you will be able to get rid of these deeply ingrained pests.

In the beginning, desires are extremely attractive and sweet. After some time you develop a disgust for them; but then it is already quite difficult, in fact, almost impossible to get rid of them. Therefore, it is best if right from the very beginning you develop renunciation and detachment as part of your nature and give no place or importance to desires. Unless you have such an attitude of sacrifice and a capacity to resist desires, you will not be ready to receive the grace of God.

A bullock or a horse which cannot be controlled, a car without brakes, or a life which is not based on control of the senses, are all dangerous. Control of the senses is very important. You need to tightly control the tendencies of the mind to go off in all directions, running after desires. Mind and senses must be kept in check within limited bounds. Even happiness which exceeds certain limits can be harmful. For everything there is a limit, there is a range of healthy functioning.

Keeping the Senses within their Normal Limits

The normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit; if it goes up even one degree there will be a disease in progress. Only when it is within the appropriate level does it indicate a healthy body. In the same way, your blood pressure is normal when it is 120 over 80. If the blood pressure goes up to 150 over 90 it indicates an abnormal condition in the body, which may be indicative of an illness. Similarly, the heart beat should be around 75; if it increases an ailment will be in progress.

The same is also true for your senses. There is a range of light that is appropriate to healthy functioning of the eyes. If the light is too bright the eyes cannot see and will be harmed. This is true, as well, in the case of the ears; there is a proper range of sound. If the level of sound exceeds that range, such as may happen close to an airplane, a train or a loudspeaker, the hearing will become impaired. Like this, all the senses are limited to a normal range of operation.

We see that life functions a lot like a limited company in the business world. If you want to carry on unlimited business with this limited company then you will be subject to a great deal of distress. Therefore, you have to impose restrictions on your behavior, and spend your life acting always within certain prescribed limits. This can also be called discipline. Discipline is particularly necessary for the spiritual progress of an individual. Without discipline a person is likely to become nothing but an animal. But discipline, too, has to be exercised within limits. There is even a need to regulate your discipline if you are to enjoy life. You see that for everything there is a limit and a boundary. If you stay within these limits you will not be troubled by life.

The Gita has taught that desire and anger are the primary obstacles to liberation, so it is vitally important that they be curbed. You need to take proper notice of these two dreadful enemies of man and develop complete control over them. These enemies are not external to you; they are your inner enemies. If you are defeated by your inner enemies, how can you ever hope to conquer your external ones? Once you keep desire and anger under firm check you will be able to defeat your outer enemies quite easily. The Gita has shown that the way to conquer desire and anger is by saturating your life with renunciation, sacrifice and love.

XI. True Renunciation - Focus on God, not the World

If you want to reach the Lord and have a vision of him, the most important quality that you need to develop is detachment. Detachment endows you with the capacity to internalize your vision. Detachment allows you to introvert your mind and dwell on your inner beauty.

 Embodiments of Love,

Once you recognize the defects and weaknesses in the objects of the world you soon lose your desire to possess them. The mind is very strong and fickle. It is also very obstinate. It is forever determined to get its way. Arjuna prayed to Krishna for help in controlling his mind. He lamented, "O Lord, the mind is very powerful and wayward." Krishna replied, "Arjuna, if you practice detachment you will certainly be able to control your mind."

Control of the Mind

The mind can be compared to a poplar tree. The poplar leaves are always shaking whether there is a wind or not. Similarly, the mind is always unsteady and wavering. In addition to its wavering quality the mind is also strong and stubborn. Take for example an elephant. It is very strong and it can be quite cruel, too. However with the help of a goad you can bring it under control. Likewise, the horse is rarely still. It is always moving its limbs, its ears, its head or its tail. Being unsteady, it will first go one way and then another. But with a bit, it can be controlled and made to go in the direction that the rider wants.

Another example is the monkey, which roams here and there, the very picture of unsteadiness and fickleness. But with training, it too can be brought under control. Therefore, just as with a goad you can control an elephant which may be very cruel and strong, just as with a bit you can control a horse which is nervous and unstable, just as with training even a monkey can be controlled, in the same way the mind, which is also strong and fickle, can be controlled by detachment and constant practice.

Detachment

True detachment means realizing the temporary nature of objects and not allowing your mind to get attached to these transient things. It does not necessarily mean that you feel disgust or hatred for them. It means that you feel no mental attachment towards them. Totally giving up all the objects of the phenomenal world is not possible. However, you can give up your my-ness, your sense of possessiveness. Once you give that up, then you can go ahead and enjoy the various objects of the world. They will cause you no harm.

In the phenomenal world, every thing, every person and every object undergoes change. The world consists of six types of change: birth, growth, maturity, decline, degeneration and death. These are the changes to which all objects are subjected. To delude yourself into thinking that this transient impermanent world is permanent and become attached to the objects in it is very foolish indeed.

In the temple of Vishnu you will see statues and pictures of Garuda, the eagle. Similarly, in the temple of Shiva you will find statues and pictures of Nandi, the bull. And, in the temple of Rama, you will see a portrayal of Hanuman, the monkey. In all these depictions the concentration of each of these beings, Nandi, Garuda and Hanuman, is on the feet of the Lord; they see only the Lord, not the world. All of these demonstrate the right kind of attachment. Their attachment is to the Lord who is permanent. And their detachment is from the world which is transient. The significance of all these symbolic representations is that you should not care much for what is transient, but always concentrate and dwell on the permanent entity, which is the Lord himself.

Once you recognize the defects of objects, their transitoriness and impermanence, then you will gradually lose your desire to have them. There are a number of stories which show how emperors who had a lot of wealth at their disposal and possessed all the luxuries and properties one could dream of, did not derive much joy or peace of mind from them. In order to get peace of mind they would go to the forest and perform penance. From this they ultimately derived the satisfaction and inner solace for which they had been yearning.

Make the Best Use of Every Object

Detachment involves more than just recognizing the defects and weaknesses in objects which results from their transitory nature. Detachment also involves the positive quality of getting the most out of the objects of the world. You should always strive to make the best use of an object and appreciate it for what it is. There is no point in just dwelling on the limitation and sorrow that objects of the world produce, but you should know to properly use objects to perform your duty in the world. Then you will acquire some satisfaction. In the larger sense, it is really giving up worldly sorrow and gaining the bliss of the supreme self that is true detachment. Giving up family, wife, children and properties and then going to the forest cannot be called detachment. Detachment is recognizing the weak aspects in the nature of the objects, as well as accepting their positive and strong points.

Whenever you get into difficulty, whether physical, mental, financial or any other type of problem, you may develop a sense of detachment towards the objects causing this state. This is quite natural. For example, suppose a person dies and his body is taken to the burning ground where it is cremated. When you look at such a situation you develop a particular type of detachment, philosophizing that the body has to come to an end some time or another. But this detachment is only a temporary phenomenon, a temporary feeling; it cannot be considered true detachment.

Another example is when a mother is delivering her first baby. Not being able to suffer the pain, she shouts that she would rather die. This also is not true detachment. As soon as the baby is born, suppose she has a girl, she immediately wants to get a boy the next time. A similar situation develops when someone does not get his wishes fulfilled. Here also he develops a certain type of detachment. All these attitudes are temporary. Permanent detachment is something quite different.

Permanent detachment is an intense detachment, as opposed to dull or weak detachment. For example, a person may have resolved to go on a pilgrimage to one of the holy places in India, but then there may be a strong tendency to postpone it to the next month. If it is a matter of doing something good such as going on a pilgrimage, one will tend to postpone it. On the other hand, if it is a matter of doing something bad, one prefers to do it right on the spot, without wasting any time. People usually will not make very great efforts to perform good deeds. This may be seen as a type of weak detachment which tends to postpone implementing good resolutions and performing good actions. But such behavior will not help you to reach your spiritual goal. It is intense detachment which is essential for progress on the spiritual path.

Harischandra and Buddha

If you decide that a particular activity is good and sacred, you should not postpone it. You should immediately implement it and see to it that this good action is successfully carried out. This was the royal path laid down for all by the Buddha. Once Gautama Buddha realized that the body was impermanent, that none of the worldly things were going to last, he resolved to seek out and discover the unchanging truth. He gave up his family and his kingdom and went into the forest to realize the ultimate reality.

There was another great ruler who had an intense sense of sacrifice and detachment. His name was Harischandra. Although he was an emperor, through a series of unfortunate circumstances he lost everything he had in the world, his kingdom, his wife and family, and spent his days as caretaker of a cremation ground.

One day, when Harischandra first started performing his duties in the cremation ground, the corpse of a rich man was brought there by a large number of friends. They brought the body, set it on fire and immediately went back to their homes. Usually when a body is set on fire, a little weight is put on it. Otherwise, as soon as the heat comes, the body bends as if it was getting up, and then lies down again. Only Harischandra remained in the burning ground that day. No friends or relatives of the dead man stayed behind to keep a watch on the body. Harischandra went to get a little more fuel to put on the fire. Suddenly he saw the body lift itself up. He was surprised and went near it to have a closer look.

As Harischandra approached the pyre, he noticed that the body had by itself returned to a prone position. For an instant he thought that it was still alive as if sitting up to look for its relatives and friends, but then he realized that the whole episode was just a momentary illusion of a corpse appearing alive, caused by the heat of the fire. Harischandra thought to himself, "In the same way that I mistook this corpse to be alive, I thought this world to be real. But it is unreal, it gives only an illusion of reality."

Harischandra lamented that such a wealthy man whose corpse was brought there had no relatives or friends to stay with his body until the end. He thought, whatever may be the position and the riches of a person, not even his wife or children retain any attachment to him after his death. As a result of this experience, Harischandra developed an intense detachment towards the objects and forms of the world.

Worldly Attachments are like Poison

Every day, at every time, there will be changes occurring in all the objects of creation. These changes are not artificial, they are not imaginary, they are natural and inherent in the very nature of the objects. Once you recognize that the world is basically a stage for the continuous natural occurrence of changes, and that change is inherent in the very nature of the objects of the world, then you will become free from suffering. Anyone who realizes that there is a lethal toxin contained in the fangs of a poisonous snake will not casually go near it. If you see an approaching scorpion with its poisonous tail held up, ready to strike, would you not run away from it? Only a small, innocent child or a totally ignorant person would go near it, get stung and die.

You make every effort to avoid a poisonous creature because you know its harmful nature. In the same way, you would make every effort to avoid worldly attachments if you knew their harmful nature. The Lord taught in the Gita, that instead of undergoing all the sufferings that go with developing attachments and then getting disillusioned when the inevitable changes begin to happen, it would be far better from the very beginning to remain unattached towards the things and objects of the world. But now you go on planning many things and attaching yourself to many things in order to gain some short-term joys. You exhaust yourself thinking and planning, "I should do this, I should do that" or "I should do this instead of that" and get yourself involved in countless projects and activities. But you will have to bear the consequences of all these actions in the future.

The seeds you have sown by your actions will mature and you will reap the harvest of those seeds. If the seed belongs to one variety, you cannot expect to get back a different kind of result. Whatever acts you have indulged in, the appropriate fruits thereof will be given to you in the form of an invisible garland which is hung around your neck. When you are born from the womb of your mother, no garland can be seen. Neither a garland of pearls nor one of precious gemstones nor a necklace of gold will be visible around your neck. Nevertheless, there surely is a garland there. That garland is composed of the consequences of your past deeds which you have performed during your previous births. That garland given to you by the Creator will adorn your neck, although it will not be seen by the physical eyes.

The person who recognizes the truth, that for every action there will be a resulting consequence, will take up only good activities and will spend his life indulging only in actions that will earn him good results. This has been taught by the Gita as a spiritual exercise of particular importance to devotees. It leads eventually to developing indifference and detachment to the things of the world, and it results in the acquisition of true wisdom. Here is an example which illustrates this illusory nature of the world and the detachment you should have to it.

King Janaka's Dream

King Janaka had acquired extraordinary proficiency in the knowledge of God. He was called "the king devoid of body". In other words, he had been able to transcend body-consciousness. One particular night after dinner, he was discussing certain administrative problems with his ministers. He got back to his bedroom a little late. A meal had been set out for him but he did not touch it. He relaxed on a sofa while the queen massaged his feet. Soon the king fell asleep. The queen asked the various attendants present to leave the room and made sure that the king, who was extremely tired, would not be disturbed in his sleep. She covered him with a blanket and banked the light low, quietly remaining by his side.

Shortly afterwards, King Janaka quite suddenly opened his eyes, sat up, looked around incredulously at his surroundings, and in a most peculiar way began to ask, "Is this real or is that real? Is this the truth or is that the truth?"

The queen became a little frightened by his bewildered look and strange question. She tried to find out what exactly he was asking, but he would not explain or answer any of her queries. He just went on saying, "Is this the truth or is that the truth?" She called for the ministers, counselors and other important officials. They all assembled and began questioning the king. "Maharaja, what is your doubt? What exactly are you asking?" But the Maharaja would not respond to them. Finally the ministers brought the great Sage Vashishta to the court. Vashishta asked the king, "What are you asking? What is troubling you?" The king was replying to all the questions with the same query, "Is that the truth or is this the truth? Is this reality or is that reality?"

Sage Vashishta being omniscient closed his eyes and meditated for a while to find out the cause of the king's strange behavior. Vashishta realized that the king had suddenly awakened from a vivid dream in which he had forfeited his kingdom and found himself wandering lost, alone and despondent in a forest. He was feeling very hungry and also very tired and forsaken. As he wandered through that forest he kept shouting, "I am hungry, I am hungry." It happened that there were some robbers in that forest. Those robbers were just sitting down in a glade nearby to have their meal, eating from plates made of leaves. Taking pity on him, the robbers made themselves known and invited Janaka to join them, offering him a portion of their meal.

Just at that moment, a tiger came upon them and they all ran for their lives. The tiger helped himself to all the food. Again Janaka found himself staggering through the forest crying out, "O, I am so hungry. I am so very hungry." When he woke up he discovered he was in a palace, on a royal sofa by the side of the queen, with a silver tray filled with luxurious food and dainties sitting on the table nearby, and he began asking whether he was the starving, forsaken wretch begging food from robbers in a fearful forest or whether he was a king living in a sumptuous palace surrounded by all possible luxuries. "Is this true or is that true? Is this real or is that real?"

Maharishi Vashishta immediately recognized the king's confusion and said, "King Janaka, neither beggar nor emperor is real. You alone are real. You, yourself, are the truth. The you who was present as pure consciousness in the dream state playing the role of the beggar and who is present in the waking state playing the role of the king, this you who witnessed both these states, is your true reality. Life during the daytime is a day-dream, during the night it is a night-dream. They are both illusions. They are filled with defects and flaws because they constantly change from one thing to another; so they cannot be real. Only you who remain unchanged in all these states are real, free of all change and illusion."

This was also emphasized in the Gita, where Krishna pointed out the important truth that the world is constantly changing and that the atma alone is real and ever unchanging.

The Anguish of Separation from God

Detachment does not mean leaving behind everything to go to the forest and adopt the life of a renunciate. Penance does not refer to certain postures or bodily deprivations. Penance refers to the intense anguish you experience when you feel yourself separated from God. Whenever that anguish of separation is with you, wherever you may be, then you are engaged in penance. All worldly experiences are governed by combinations of the three attributes, inertia or chaos, action or reaction, and rhythm or calm. The anguish of penance with its intense aspiration for reaching God, takes you into a state of being which transcends these three worldly qualities. At that time, you will experience a deep inner serenity and unity of thought, word and deed.

Thought, word and deed are the causes of karma. They are called the instruments of action. It is the union of these three instruments of action which may be described as penance. When that union is complete there follows an ineffable joy, which is the very bliss of the atma. So true penance is the point at which the three instruments of action merge together into one and you experience the eternal delight of your immortal self.

Consider the following example. Every day you enjoy the benefits of electricity. In your room you may have an electric fan. There are three blades attached to the motor of the fan. If they were to rotate in three different directions you would not get much of a breeze. But when they rotate in unison, as if there were a single blade going around, then you can enjoy a very good flow of air from the fan. So, enjoyment of the cool breeze comes only when all the three blades are working together and rotate as one. In the very same way, when the three instruments of action, thought, word and deed, merge together and work as one, you can enjoy real bliss.

In this illustration your heart may be compared to the room containing the fan. The three instruments of action may be compared to the three blades of the fan. Your intellect may be thought of as the electric switch. Your spiritual power, the energy emanating from the supreme self, may be thought of as the electricity that energizes the fan. Your spiritual practice is the process of clarifying your intellect, and thereby turning on the switch. When the three instruments of action work together in harmony, just as the three blades of the fan go around together, then all your anguish becomes transformed into bliss. In this way, you can convert your life-force and your entire spiritual power into bliss.

True Renunciation is Turning your Mind towards God

Mankind has forgotten the ability to perform penance. When you let your vision roam in the temporary and transient world, your spiritual path spirals downward into inertia and stasis. When you concentrate your vision and your awareness on the permanent God, then you are practicing penance and your spiritual progress leaps ahead. If a door is locked and you want to open it, you must put the key inside the lock and turn it towards the right. Then it will open. But if you turn the key to the left, the lock remains closed. It is the same lock and the same key. The difference is in the way you turn the key. Your heart is that lock and your mind the key. If you turn your mind towards God, you get liberation. If you turn it towards the objective world, you remain in bondage. It is the same mind that is responsible for both liberation and bondage.

True renunciation is turning your mind towards God. It means constantly bringing your mind back from other thoughts to dwell on the permanent entity. Such mental detachment and sacrifice must be developed into a very intense feeling. You should not keep on postponing the practice to the next day, and then the day following that, and so on.

Suppose you expect to go to a marriage; you would keep certain clothes ready several days before the occasion. Or suppose you had a chance to go to the movies; then you will get ready very fast. Even for just going for a walk you make yourself ready in a trice. Well, if you cannot go to the cinema today you can easily postpone it to another day. If you do not go for a walk now you can always go another time. But the Lord's journey cannot be postponed or canceled. You must always be ready to accept whatever comes your way. Time waits for no one. Time does not follow man. Man has to follow time. Time flows on continuously and takes everything with it.

The Gita teaches you that you may enjoy the various objects of the world, but while enjoying them you should not get yourself attached to them, thinking that you possess them. This feeling of renunciation or detachment is one of the most essential aspects of the spiritual philosophy propounded in the Gita.

XII. Detachment - Unifying Thoughts, Words and Deeds

For the wheel of existence, the mind is the focal point, the central hub from which all worldly activities emerge. To be able to penetrate this focal point and obtain a vision of the immortal self that is beyond, you must cultivate the practice of non-attachment. Make every effort to develop this most important discipline.

 Embodiments of Love,

Renunciation or detachment can also be thought of as non-attachment. Non-attachment is when the mind and the senses become unaffected by the objects of the world and remain indifferent to their attraction and repulsion. The mind covers the true self; therefore, the mind can be described as a veil. It is a veil of ignorance, for it hides your true self and keeps you unaware of its magnificent presence within you. But, the mind, itself, is tied down by the sense organs, and the sense organs are attracted to the objects of the phenomenal world, and get bound by them. Therefore, the first step in realizing your true self is to gain control over your sense organs. For this, the practice of non-attachment is essential.

Detachment leads to Self-Realization

Once you are free of attachment to the sense objects, then the sense organs will no longer be able to bind your mind. A mind unencumbered by the senses becomes pure and transparent. It no longer imposes its covering influence over the atma. When the veil of the mind dissolves, your true self becomes aware of itself. Then you are immersed in the unity of all existence and enjoy the bliss which is your true nature. The Gita has taught that non-attachment is crucial for realizing your true self. That true self is the one supreme self.

Detachment or non-attachment has also been emphasized in the yoga classic of Patanjali, a great seer of ancient India. He taught that detachment is the natural property of a mind which remains unswayed by the sense organs and the objects which attract them. Such a mind, being free from the slavery of the sense organs and sense objects, is pure and unaffected by delusion. You gain a pure mind when you see all the objects of this world as transient and changing. The ancient wisdom teachings have declared that from the lowest creature in the phenomenal world to the highest, right up to the heavenly beings, everything is ephemeral and undergoing change. Knowing this, you should relinquish all attachments to sense objects. Any attachment will gradually but steadily lead to bondage.

Just as removing the firewood from the fire automatically extinguished the flame, removing the sense objects from the senses automatically renders them impotent. The wisdom teachings have stressed in a most forceful way that only that person who does not care for anything less than full realization of the supreme self, is a person of true renunciation. Neither objects of the world nor even the heavenly abode of the Lord could sway him from his one-pointed focus.

There is a story related in one of the ancient wisdom teachings about a very wise young boy, who, because of an oath made by his father, found himself in the realm of death. The god of death tried to win over the boy. He said to him, "I will give you complete mastery and lordship over all the wealth and all the power of the world, and I will give you all the pleasures of the heavenly world." But the boy replied, "This world and all the worlds beyond are but transient; they will not last. I do not want anything to do with that which comes and goes. I only want to have the vision of the supreme self. I want to realize the ultimate truth, that which never changes. The world with its bondage and all the sorrow that goes with it is for the person who is swayed by the objects of the senses. They do not interest me in the least."

Attachment to Objects which you think belong to You

Let us suppose that you have been living in a particular house for a long time. One day you have to shift to another dwelling. You pack all your belongings and put them in a conveyance and bring them to the new house. Now, it is a common experience that you even go to the extent of wrapping the worn out slippers and the old broomsticks in newspapers to carry them with you because you think that they belong to you. What is the reason for this attitude? The reason is that you have become bound by your attachments to the sense objects. You have so much interest in packing up all those old things and taking them with you because you are attached to them. You feel they are yours.

But then, consider another example, that of a college principal or the headmaster of a school. In every educational institution there will be a number of valuable articles. For instance, in the lab there will be some highly valuable equipment, many tables, chairs, other items of furniture, a wall clock and so on. When the headmaster of that school retires or is transferred, he feels no attachment to these things. And so he leaves with the same free mind that he had when he came. He does not worry and bother himself about leaving behind all those valuable articles when he goes. The reason is that he knows perfectly well that none of those things belong to him. They belong to the management or to the school trust or to the government. Therefore, with a sense of detachment and indifference to those objects he leaves the school.

Where there is a sense of my-ness and possessiveness, there will be suffering. If you do not have that feeling of possessiveness you will not be bound by anything and will not suffer. Therefore, for all bondage, suffering and sorrow, it is just the I-ness or my-ness that is responsible. Like the school principal, you may make use of all the objects that you find in the world. Do not give up the objects themselves, and do not give up your actions and activities. Just give up the attachment that you have towards the objects and give up the attachment that you have towards the world and your activities in it.

Give up the Fruits of your Actions

Another way of saying this is, give up the fruits of your actions. Perform your duty with a sense of complete detachment, realizing the defects in the objects. Once you understand the underlying laws that govern the world and recognize the defects that are inherent in both the objects of the world and the relationships you have in the world, you will quickly be able to overcome the attachments you have towards them.

Before you were born, who was the parent and who was the child? Before marriage, who was the husband and who was the wife? Only after birth was there a parent and a child. Before birth there was no such relationship and after death there will be no such relationship. It is only during the short transitional period in-between that the feeling of possessiveness and attachment arises. This is all due to defects in your vision and defects in your approach. It comes from a narrow-minded, short-sighted attitude. For all your sorrows, it is your feelings and attitudes alone that are responsible. Once you recognize the defects in objects and relationships you will have no desire to possess them.

Try to understand the principle of detachment. You must reach a state in which you do not have any kind of attachment and bondage even during the dream and deep sleep states. If you encourage a sense of attachment during the waking state, it will also be there in a subtle form during the dream state and the deep-sleep state. The dream state may be compared to a reflection in the mirror. Whatever you experience in the waking state will impress itself into the dream state, and will be seen as a reflection there. Therefore, the waking and dream states are something like the object and its image. If in the waking state you take the right path, recognizing truth and conducting yourself in the light of this truth, then you will be treading the right path even in the dream state. To succeed you have to recognize the defects of the sense objects and overcome them by giving up your attachment to them.

Everything undergoes Change

Because of the passage of time everything undergoes change. Food which is freshly cooked today is tasty and delicious. While it is fresh, its potentiality for giving strength and health are very good. But the very same articles of food become toxic after a lapse of two days. Whatever food you consider to be good, to be useful, to be healthy and beneficial, will after a period of time change into something bad, something useless, something unhealthy and harmful. These changes are unavoidable.

In the context of change, you can also see the four types of devotees: the one who is afflicted and seeks relief from pain and suffering, the one who seeks material boons and prosperity, the one who seeks spiritual knowledge, and the wise one. Over a period of time the very same person is likely to progress through all these stages.

We can also consider the changes that occur in the course of a lifetime. Immediately after birth the new-born is called a baby; after a few years it is described as a child; twenty years later the same person is considered an adult; and after another 30 years it will have become a grandparent. These are not four different people. It is the same person all the time, but because of the passage of time different names are given, in accordance with the different stages of life that the individual is passing through.

A human being's life, which is most difficult to obtain, undergoes many changes as time goes by. When this is true for human beings, then how much more must it be true for all the other beings and objects of the world? If you ask what is the greatest defect in a human being, you will find that it is the changes which occur in one's physical being. Whether good or bad, these changes cannot be avoided. As changes are inherent in everything in the phenomenal world, you should not develop any attachment or any sense of my-ness for anything or anyone.

Who is the father? Who is the mother? Who are the children? Who are the family members? Who are the friends? These are all changing forms. You cannot answer these questions for all time. As you become aware of all these changes that are constantly occurring in all these relationships, then how can you develop any attachment to them? The Gita has taught that one has to recognize all the changes that come about with time as fundamental defects and flaws. Therefore, develop complete detachment from the defective forms which are experiencing these changes. They have no permanence.

Constant Practice

Detachment or non-attachment is the first important discipline that should be undertaken. The second is constant practice. What kind of practice can be called constant? One kind is austerity or penance. The moment people hear this word austerity they get a little frightened. They inevitably associate austerity with going into the forest, eating whatever fruits and roots are available there and exposing themselves to all kinds of risks and sufferings. Truly speaking, that is not austerity; that is just putting the body through some suffering and punishment.

It is not the body that must undergo the suffering, but the mind. The mind tends towards either sloth and chaos or endless activity, and is filled with the sense of doership and possessiveness. Austerity is putting such a mind with all these negative tendencies that cling to it, through real torture, until all these tendencies let go their hold. Austerity also means removing the defects that are inherent in the sense organs. This is the real austerity. There are three types of austerity. One is the physical austerity of the body, the second one is the vocal austerity of the tongue and the third is mental austerity of the mind.

The three Austerities, Physical, Vocal and Mental

Physical austerity refers to using the body to perform good actions, which includes worshipping the Lord and expressing your sense of gratitude by serving great souls. If you earn their grace, the selfish aspects of I-ness and my-ness will slowly get reduced. Once these negative qualities decline, then automatically positive qualities and actions will develop. At that point, you will naturally be attracted to the company of like-minded spiritual beings and be inspired to study the Gita and other sacred texts.

In addition to this, you will undertake charity for education, for medicine and hospitals, for poor feedings and other good causes. And just as, traditionally, the different types of charities such as giving away gold and cows and land were the means for using the body in sacred activities, so also you will now be using your body in a sacred way. Since you will not be doing any harmful or prohibited activities, you will not put yourself under the spell of the sense of doership and possessiveness. You will free yourself from bondage to these two qualities. All of this can be described as bodily penance.

Vocal penance is the use of good and noble words. Even when you speak the truth you should not be severe or sharp-tongued. You must be careful not to hurt anyone. In this context, the Gita has said that truth must be sweet and nonviolent. Use the sacred tongue which has been given to you for giving joy and delight to others and for helping them. Do not give any suffering to another's mind. Use your thoughts to help you concentrate and think of the Lord. Use your tongue to describe all the glorious attributes of the Lord. Use words which are highly helpful to others. Use your talk to show the right path to others. Explain to others all the great and good spiritual experiences that you have had. Correct people if they are going on the wrong path by using good words and a sweet tongue. Make sure that no amount of falsehood enters your heart, or enters your talk. This is the way to become an adept of truth and nonviolence.

Better be Quiet than Tell an Untruth

If you are following the path of truth there may be quite a few problems that you will encounter. A particular sage performing penance had taken an oath to take the path of truth and nonviolence, come what may. A cruel hunter who heard of this tried to induce the sage to break his vow. The hunter pursued a deer and drove it in such a way that it had to pass in front of the sage, immersed in his austerities. The sage saw the deer hiding in the bush. The hunter came running and asked the sage, "Have you seen a deer passing this way?" The sage was in great conflict. If he told the truth he would cause harm to the deer, but if he did not tell the truth he would be breaking his vow. On the one hand, he would commit the sin of causing harm to another being, and on the other hand, he would commit the sin of lying.

The sage found a very good way of dealing with this dilemma. He answered the hunter's query in a somewhat enigmatic way. He said, "The eyes which see cannot speak and the mouth which speaks cannot see. I cannot make that which has seen speak, and that which can speak see. That is the truth." Even in such difficult situations one should not tell an untruth, but one may not be able to tell the truth either. When you are engaged in the vocal type of austerity, difficult situations of this kind may arise. You should make every effort to see to it that you escape without uttering any falsehood. Whatever be the circumstances, do not tell a lie. If you cannot tell the truth then it is best for you to keep quiet and observe silence, rather than uttering an untruth.

Consider the third austerity, the mental austerity. In this type of austerity you will have to develop good qualities and virtues. Whatever thoughts may be flashing through your mind, your face will show the reflection of them. That is why it is said that the face is the index of the mind. All thoughts will be reflected on your face. If you are grief-stricken mentally, your face will reflect that state. If there are sacred thoughts in your mind your face will be very cheerful. The effect of the mind and its thoughts can easily be seen in this way.

Only when you have sacred thoughts, sacred feelings and sacred ideas in your mind, will you be able to live a happy and cheerful life. If there are bad thoughts torturing you, then whenever somebody comes and talks to you, even if you try to smile, your smile will be artificial and it will betray the disturbed inner state in your heart. You should not allow yourself to be driven to such a state. Always keep yourself happy. When will you be happy and joyous? Only when your thoughts are good and sacred. In order to have such good and sacred thoughts in your mind you should exercise control over your thoughts.

Every day observe a period of Silence

At least for a few hours a day you should observe silence. Then the mind will get some rest from words and thought waves. Repetition of the holy name and concentration on the Lord can also be practiced to give some rest to the mind. Repetition of the name and thinking of the Lord brings about both inner and outer purity. Just as you bathe your body every day and transform it into a clean outer vehicle, the mind, too, has to be given a regular purification bath to renew its freshness and sacredness. Now you are concerned mostly with physical cleanliness, but you must also engage in mental cleanliness, which is equally essential to life. Good thoughts, good feelings and good actions go a long way to bring about inner cleanliness.

Austerity truly means bringing about a physical, vocal and mental unity by letting actions words and thoughts become one. This is the real austerity. A great soul is one who has been able to enjoy the unity of all these three attributes. If the thoughts, the words, and the actions are different, then a person cannot be considered a great person.

Worldly experiences are governed by combinations of the three attributes. Of these, inertia and chaos give rise to a slothful nature, action and reaction give rise to an active, passionate nature, and rhythm or calm gives rise to a pure, harmonious nature. Austerity refers to transforming the first of these two, the slothful and passionate natures, into the pure, calm, harmonious nature. This can be brought about by controlling sloth with the help of the passionate nature and then by controlling passion with the help of the pure calm nature. In this way you can enjoy the harmony of all three natures, being joined together as one. Ultimately, when all your actions, words and deeds have become totally unified, you will have overcome all worldly attributes and you will be free even from the limitations of the pure calm nature.

For example, suppose you have stepped on a thorn. If you want to remove the thorn from your foot there is no need to look for a special instrument. Another thorn is sufficient to remove the first one. Then you can throw both thorns away. In the same way, the two lower natures which have been giving you so much trouble, can be removed with the help of the thorn of the calm pure nature. Until you have removed these two lower qualities, you need the calm quality. The calm quality may be described as a golden chain, the passionate quality as a copper chain and the slothful quality as an iron one. All three chains bind you in the same way. The value of the metal of the chain may be different, but they all bind nevertheless.

Free Yourself from all Bondage

If an individual is bound by a golden chain, will he be happy in that situation? No! Bondage remains bondage, be it from a chain made of gold or one made of copper or iron. So, even a pure, calm nature causes bondage, and in the end you have to get rid of this also. You must free yourself from all bondage. But until you reach divinity you need the pure, calm, harmonious quality. Once you merge in the Lord, there are no more distinguishing qualities of any kind. In that state the question of the three qualities does not arise at all. When you have offered up everything and become one with the Lord you rise above these attributes and become totally free of all chains.

The Gita has taught that in order to control the mind, constant practice and renunciation, are essential. Practice does not refer to just the observance of daily religious rituals. Practice means using the body, using the tongue and using the mind in such a way that you do not develop attachment. Practice means orienting your whole life towards the one goal of reaching the divinity. Every word you utter, every thought you think and every deed you perform should be pure and associated with truth. This is the essence of all austerities. Truth and purity are the real instruments for success on the spiritual path. My wish is that you develop these noble qualities and thereby sanctify your life.

XIII. Time wasted is Life wasted

The Lord declared in the Gita, "Whoever remembers me is very dear to me." Therefore, remember the Lord always. Offer him your mind and your will. Surrender everything to him and you will quickly reach him."

 Embodiments of Love,

In the Gita the Lord taught that joy and sorrow, cold and heat, profit and loss, criticism and praise, must all be faced with an equal mind. This equanimity of mind is one of the most important attributes of a true devotee. There are many other attributes of a true devotee, but these are all contained in two principal qualities: discipline and renunciation. Discipline refers to the three types of penance: bodily penance, mental penance and vocal penance. Renunciation refers to understanding the defects in objects, and living a life which does not get attached to these things; in other words, living as a witness. If you can incorporate these two important qualities, discipline and renunciation in your daily life, then there will be no need for any other spiritual practice.

Start your Spiritual Practice when you are Young

If you want to develop these two qualities you have to start in your childhood and use this early period of your life in a sacred and ennobling way. In the world today many people undertake spiritual practice only when they reach old age. After they have thoroughly enjoyed the objects of luxury and have become disgusted and exhausted by worldly pleasures, they consider embarking on the spiritual path. Having spent their lives concentrating on sense objects, on family life, on children, on wealth, on properties, on name and fame, they become disillusioned in old age. They realize that there is nothing true in these things and that peace of mind and lasting joy cannot come from the phenomenal world and from worldly pursuits. After they come into the evening of their lives and are haunted by the emptiness of their experiences, they begin to do spiritual exercises.

But in old age, when you are suffering from all sorts of physical and mental weaknesses, it will be very difficult to practice and live a rigorous spiritual life. Even then you should not be discouraged, thinking that there is no possibility for spiritual advancement in old people. Opportunities for spiritual experiences are certainly available to them. Instead of not thinking of the Lord at all, it is far better to think of him, at least in old age. When it comes to thinking of the Lord, there are no restrictions whatsoever with respect to time, place or age. That is why the divine teacher has declared in the Gita, "At all times, in all places, think of me." But he has also declared that the best opportunity for practicing these spiritual exercises in a determined way is in your youth. When your physical strength, the strength of your sense organs, and your mental strength are there in abundance, that is the best time to undertake spiritual exercises.

The process is something like reserving a plane ticket before embarking on a journey. When you arrive at the airport, after first having reserved your place, you are likely to proceed smoothly with your journey. On the other hand, if you go to the airport only at the last minute, without having a reservation, you may not get on the plane. It all depends on chance. You may end up having to go by a slower way or you may have to delay your journey. It is the same way with people who start thinking about spiritual matters in their old age. They may or may not be able to advance spiritually in a significant way at that point in their lives. But if the same individuals had in earnest undertaken spiritual exercises from an early age, they would be sure to achieve spiritual success in their old age.

Do not waste your Youth

If you waste your time enjoying the pleasures of life during your youth, wasting the power of your body and your sense organs, then if you want to reach your goal of merging with the Lord in your old age, you may not get that chance. There is no meaning whatsoever in serving delicious food to the demons, and then, when they have consumed everything worthwhile, offering the leftovers to God. Do you think that will please God? No! After all your powers and capacities have been dissipated by the demons of anger, greed, lust and pride, you try to offer God what little is left. But that offering will not be accepted by him. In this context, the Gita has emphasized that your youth is a very precious period which has to be used with great care to advance yourself spiritually.

When you have had something for a long time and taken it for granted, you may not appreciate its real value. It is only after losing it that you truly appreciate it. As long as you have your eyes, you do not know the value and the preciousness of your eyes. You only realize the importance of vision when you lose your eyesight. In the same way, when you have good health and all your faculties are in their full glory, you do not understand their true value. After having lost your health, and when your faculties have become impaired, then you repent and lament that all your capacities and powers are gone. But lamenting at that point is useless. During youth you have allowed the bad habits and bad traits to become your great friends and get deeply rooted within you. You squandered and misused the capacities that have been given to you, blindly following your sensual desires. Later, these bad habits and bad traits become your principal enemies in old age.

Most young people do not use their powers of discrimination properly. They do not try to sort out who is their true friend and who is their foe. If you follow only your senses and lower instincts, and have not developed your intelligence to understand the meaning of life, then is there any reason for calling you a human being? Should you not be called a mere animal? Once you understand the significance of human life and fill yourself with the noble qualities of a human being, your senses will no longer be able to confuse you.

Use your Body for the Sake of God

These days you are using God for the sake of the body. You are not using your body to worship God. You pray to God for good health whenever you are sick, but you are not using all your physical strength and faculties, when you have them, to worship God. You imagine that there will be plenty of time later on to engage in worship, and so you go on wasting your time. You think that after retirement you can begin to take up the contemplation of God and do spiritual exercises. Perhaps you feel that it is better in the meantime to enjoy life and to enjoy the objects of the world while you are still young. But how can you start thinking of God when you become old, after having lost all your capacities.

If you are not using all your physical powers and capacities for the worship of the Lord now, then later it will be too late. When children make fun of you and call you 'old monkey!', will you then have the strength to start an intensive spiritual life? When your hair is gray, when you are hardly able to move, when you are barely able to see, when all the sense organs have become weak, will you then be able to use them for the worship of the Lord? No, it will not be possible. The scriptures have very forcefully described the futility of starting your spiritual practices only during your last days. It is stated that when the god of death finds you and shouts, "Come! Come!", when your own relations are anxious to get the corpse out of the house, when they are all shouting, "Take it away! Take it away!", and when your wife and children are there sobbing, can you think of the Lord at that time? Can you tell your relatives to stop crying, can you tell death to wait a little bit because you want to think of the Lord for a few moments?

You should accumulate in youth all the things which are necessary to lay a strong foundation for a happy future. Do you really think that it is possible to think of the Lord only after you retire? No, it is not possible. You should be fully engaged in regular spiritual practice before retirement. But instead, you immerse yourself in business, and continue with that even after retirement, or waste your time going to clubs, and in many other ways dissipate your precious life.

You cannot start Spiritual Life when Death is at the Door

A housewife once asked her husband, "At least now in your old age shouldn't you be thinking of God? You never took the time to do it before, during your busy period. Please, do it now!" The business man replied, "I have no time even to die, no less to think of God." But do you think that death will not come to someone who says that he has no time to die? Will death come only according to his wishes? No, time waits for no one. Therefore, while you still have time you have to make use of it in a proper way.

The enemy called death, along with his soldiers called disease, will be waiting to wage war against your body. Men die most pitifully and helplessly during such periods of time when they are attacked by disease and death. But no army can attack those who have won the grace of the Lord. Therefore, during youth itself you have to earn the grace of God and equip yourself to meet all the challenges of your enemies when they come to lay siege on you. Above all, you must be firmly convinced in your own heart that this journey of life is going to be a long one. Any other journey, whether it be by bus, train or plane lasts for only a short time; you need not make too many preparations for these. But for this journey of life you must equip yourself for all the contingencies of a long journey; otherwise you will be suffering greatly later on when you are faced with real problems and real troubles.

In the compartment of freight trains used to transport chemically-active substances, a stamp is placed at the time of manufacture giving a particular date in the future. It is the day when that container has used up its normal service life and must be returned to the depot for recycling. It is the same for the container that is your body. Here also a return date has been written on it by God himself.

You do not remember that you have to go back. People totally forget this all-important truth. If you really want to enjoy all the pleasures of life at a later stage, then during youth you have to earn the grace of God. In the course of human life the early periods of childhood and youth are very important. Not realizing the great value of this period of your life, you waste your time during youth. You use a golden cup, adorned with precious gems and jewels, for a low, mean, contemptible purpose. To feed the fire of your senses you are using costly sandalwood as fuel. The vessel is very precious, the fuel is also precious, but the food you are choosing to cook with their help, is insipid and worthless. Such a precious body and such sacred fuel is being squandered away for the sake of enjoying useless trivial things in life. Things without value are put in this precious vessel and used for sordid enjoyment. You are using a golden plough to plough the field of your heart, but you produce nothing but useless weeds.

True Human Life involves Discrimination and Renunciation

The field of your heart is most precious and sacred. The divine teacher has declared that even that field belongs to him. The Lord has declared that he is both the field and its knower. He is the true owner of your heart and of your body. He has identified himself with them. What are you doing with this sacred heart and body? You are using a golden plough to raise useless crops of sensual pleasures. Any person who is aware of the preciousness of the heart and the preciousness of the feelings that are there will not misuse these things. Life must be used for good, for the welfare of others, for reaching the sacred goal and for treading the sacred path, and for bringing about a shining effulgence in the heart and mind. You have to use this life for merging yourself in the divinity. Only then will you have the authority to say that your life has become sanctified and genuine.

It is said that it is very difficult and almost impossible to get a human life. What is so special about human life? Why is it so difficult to get? All the pleasures which animals and birds enjoy, you can also enjoy. In that case, what is the meaning in declaring that human life is so very precious, so very special? It is because you have the ability to discriminate between right and wrong. It is because you have the ability to give up attachments and hatred. Therefore, you have to use the intelligence given to you to make a distinction between the animal way of life and the human way of life. By not discriminating between the true self and the lower self, by not developing your higher intelligence, you become the victim of agitation and sorrow. You cannot find inner peace because you do not follow the right path.

With a firm determination, young people need to undertake the three types of penance, physical, mental and vocal, and thereby set an example for the world. You have to use the active principle within you to subdue the slothful principle, and then, you have to use the serene principle to subdue the active principle. It is impossible to be serene as long as your heart is filled with the slothful and active natures. When the head is empty you can hope to fill it with some good ideas, but if your head is already full of all sorts of useless thoughts, how is it be possible to fill it up with any thing sacred and great? You have filled your head with all sorts of unnecessary worldly stuff. You will have to first empty all that out. Only then will you be able to fill your head with sacred feelings and sacred thoughts.

Keep your Concentration unwaveringly on God

Many of you are following a meaningless path and living a meaningless life. You cry when you are born and you cry when you die. In between, through your whole span of life, you go on crying for useless things. Do you cry when you see the decline of righteousness? That is what you should cry for, that is what you should use your strength and abilities for, to correct the decline of righteousness and to help heal the wounds that follow its decline. What is right living? It is the constant remembrance and uninterrupted contemplation of the Lord. It is discharging your daily duties thinking of the Lord. The Gita has not taught that you should give up your family, that you should give up your wealth and property, and then go to the forest. No! Take care of your family. Do your duty. But keep your concentration constantly on the Lord. Whatever you do, do not forget your goal. If you give it up, you will get lost and stray onto the wrong path. Your divine goal must be solidly set in your mind. Keeping your goal in view, perform your daily duties.

Do not allow any flaw or defect to taint your words. Always adhere to truth. Some people think that in times of difficulty they can modify the truth. They may even feel that it is necessary to tell untruth sometimes. But in difficult situations you can develop sufficient presence of mind to keep silent, instead of telling either the truth or an untruth. If you tell the truth, tell it dearly and sweetly. Do not tell the truth in an unpleasant way, or tell an untruth in a pleasant way. Whenever there comes a difficult testing time, you should learn how to avoid compromising situations without ever telling an untruth. In certain circumstances you will have to conduct yourself in an extremely careful way. You should know how to use words without hurting people. It has been said that, "He is the fortunate one who knows how to talk without ever hurting anyone." You should neither hurt others nor be hurt by others. Here is a small story.

Be Steady in your Practice

A housewife attended a series of meetings at which a spiritual teacher was expounding the scriptures. She was concentrating and listening with great attention to everything that was being said. One day, the speaker recounted the story of Rama and Sita, and in that connection declared that for a wife, the husband was the only goal in life. He said, "It is the responsibility of the wife to satisfy her husband and make him happy. Always treat the husband as God." The housewife after hearing all this went back home. She was so impressed by this discourse that she resolved to put into practice immediately all that she had learned. As soon as the husband returned home for his midday meal, she took a container of water and poured it over his feet, thinking that she was worshipfully serving her husband thereby. The husband was confused and flabbergasted. He entered the house and sat down to dry his feet, but before he could do so she insisted on doing it for him.

After seeing all this, the husband went into his office and rang up the doctor. Her husband did not know that his wife had been attending the discourses. The doctor came and decided to give her some sleeping pills. He said that it looked like an attack of hysteria, but after a rest of one or two days she probably would be all right. The husband ate his meal and told his wife to go and have some rest; then he went to his office. His wife went right back again to the meeting to hear the next lecture. That afternoon the speaker was explaining the delusory relationship which exists between husband and wife. He said, "Who is husband? Who is wife? Nothing is permanent. All these things are just temporary and transient. In truth nothing exists." Then he added, "God alone is true. He is the only real truth." The housewife went back home and sat in her shrine room.

That evening the husband came back from his office half an hour early, thinking that his wife may not be well and perhaps he could help her in some way. He knocked on the house door and asked her to kindly open it. From the shrine room she answered, "There is no mother, there is no father, there is no house, there is nothing, not even a husband." He was quite alarmed by this behavior, but somehow he got her to open the door. When he came into the house he went straight to the telephone and called the psychiatrist. The psychiatrist came and examined her in detail. He gave his diagnosis. He said that after all this listening to these discourses she had developed some peculiar attitudes; but if she could be kept at home she would soon get over them. All arrangements were made to keep her from going to the lectures. Everyone was informed. The driver as well as every servant of the house was told not to let her go there.

After these restrictions had been put on her by doctor's orders, she did not go to the lecture for two days and she started behaving in a normal way again. So the detachment she had developed was only temporary and superficial. It did not last. Now the husband was happy. The normal daily routine resumed. After a week this lady went again to the place where the lectures were being given. On that particular day the speaker was expounding the teachings of the Gita. He explained that whenever one uses words one should tell the truth and one should not tell it in a compromising way. She heard this and returned home. Her husband told her that there was a marriage reception that day, and asked her to join him. She got ready and went there with her husband.

The marriage ceremony started. There was a tradition in those parts which calls for the auspicious necklace that is worn by the bride to be taken to every elder, who then touches it and blesses it. The father of the bride came to this lady, recognized her and asked her, "How is your mother? Is everything all right?" These questions were a matter of courtesy, exchanging a few words with her while he held out the sacred necklace, asking her to touch it and bless it. She answered, "My mother is doing fine. She is quite all right, but you know, a week ago my mother-in law died quite suddenly and her body was taken to the cremation ground the following day."

The neighbor who was sitting next to her told her, "Why did you have to say such an inauspicious thing while touching and blessing this necklace, which is meant to impart a long and happy life to the new bride and her future family?" The housewife replied, "Should I tell a lie just for the sake of this necklace? No, I will never tell a lie. It is a fact that my mother-in-law died last week and that the body was cremated the next day." One intelligent young lady sitting nearby told her, "Mother, certainly you should speak the truth, but you should also be aware of the circumstances and think through what is appropriate before you say anything."

Tell the Truth but use Discretion in your Words

Whenever you hear a spiritual teaching on a particular day, you will go about implementing it with a great deal of fervor and conviction; but only on that very day. But this is not the correct way to pursue your spiritual studies. You should use your intellect to understand the context in which you find yourself before you use words in a given situation. Whenever you do a particular thing or say something, you should know that truth is the royal means for reaching your ultimate goal. The tongue should not be tainted by untruth. The body should not be tainted by violence. The mind should not be stained by bad thoughts and bad feelings. It is only when you sanctify all these three, the tongue, the body and the mind and bring them into harmony, that you will be able to get the sacred vision of the Lord.

Students should be extremely careful in telling the truth. They should certainly tell the truth, but be careful not to go on talking and hurting others unnecessarily. Have control over your tongue. Whenever there is a misunderstanding with someone, if you tell him all his defects, with the justification that everything you are telling is true, then there are bound to be complications later. You should never hate others. When you have love in your heart, your words will naturally be very sweet. Even if anger develops, it will be of a fleeting nature.

There are four types of people. The anger of a person who is of a serene nature will be very short-lived; it recedes immediately. The Gita has declared such a one as a great soul. The second type will have this anger for a number of minutes, but it will soon fade away. The third category of person will have this anger continuously, all day long. The one in the lowest category will have this anger throughout his life.

The Four Types of Anger

The divine teacher has told this in another way also, "The anger of a good person is like writing on water; it is not at all permanent. The anger of the second category of person is like writing on sand, it will be washed away, one moment or another. The third type of person's anger is something like writing on stone. Over a long period of time it too will be eroded away. But the anger of the fourth type of person is like writing on a steel plate, it will never go away unless you melt it and cast it anew. Only when you put it into the fire will it get destroyed. Only through intense transformation is there any possibility of changing it."

Things which are highly relevant in day-to-day life can be found in the Gita. It is very difficult for you to take all the teachings that are in the Gita and practice all of them. But you should, at least, take those teachings which are directly applicable to your present life and put them into practice. That way you reap immediate benefits and will rapidly progress towards your ultimate spiritual goal.

XIV. Remember God - Forget the World

Of all the precious things in the world, time is the most precious. Think carefully how you are spending your precious time. Your primary duty as a human being is to offer your body, your work and your time to the Lord, who is the very embodiment of time.

 Embodiments of Love,

Health which is spoiled and lost can sometimes be recovered with the help of medicines. But time which has gone by is lost for good; there is no way for it ever to come back and be used again. You have to make every effort to use this precious time in a sacred manner. Time is infinite; it goes on forever. But the time which is allotted to you is only a microscopically small fraction of that. Many of you are wasting your lives by thinking that the phenomenal world is real. As a result, you are using all your limited time for enjoying the pleasures of the world. If you reflect even for a moment on what you have achieved and how you have spent your priceless time, you will be very sorry to find that you have used it in such a wasteful manner.

Find out Who you truly are

You cry when you are born, because you have come into this world without knowing who you are and why you are here. Your cry is an anguished plea to find out, "Who am I?" If you waste your entire life on only your physical existence, when will you ever be able to understand who you truly are? There is a deeper significance contained in your life than merely caring for the body. You have to start your life with "Who am I?", and you have to end your life with "I am that! I am God!" You have to recognize that you yourself are the divinity, and end your life in the supreme peace which is your true reality. Unfortunately, most of you concentrate your attention only on the worldly enjoyments you can obtain, aspiring for immediate pleasures, and do not think at all about the future consequences that will follow from your actions.

When a frog sees some flies or worms in front of it, it becomes so happy and enthusiastic that it would like to immediately jump on them, swallow them whole and enjoy them. But behind the frog there is a snake lying in wait, ready to catch the frog and eat it up. The snake is very happy to have found its meal in the form of this frog which for the moment is preoccupied with its own enjoyment. The snake does not know that a hawk is hovering overhead, ready to snatch the snake up in its claws. The hawk is so joyous at the idea of grabbing and consuming this unsuspecting snake that it does not pay any attention to the hunter lurking in the bush, ready to shoot it.

In the same way, you are also thinking only of fulfilling your desires and anticipating the comforts that you see before you, not thinking at all of what is stalking behind you, waiting to pounce on you. You are wasting your time without realizing the harm that may befall you in the future. You cannot know at what time, in what place and in what circumstances danger may present itself and come your way. Therefore, you have to sanctify the time at your disposal now, and use it properly, recognizing its sacredness and preciousness.

Youth is the most precious period of Life

You may be prepared to offer millions of dollars to buy whatever comes your way, but no amount of money can be paid to ever get back the time that has already been spent. Youth is the most precious, the most sacred period of human life. It offers you a golden opportunity to properly utilize your time and sanctify your life. In human life, the time of youth, like the waters that flow in the river, cannot be turned back again. Today's youth should recognize this fact. Utilize your time in a proper way and you will gain fulfillment in life. Always be aware of the many aspects of the wheel of time. Realize how extremely important time is. Think ahead as to what is likely to happen in the future and keep the goal of your life constantly in view.

In the chapter on devotion in the Gita, it is said that time is the most important element in your life and you must use your time wisely. Your time should be used to reach God. The divine teacher taught in the Gita, that even if you have not reached a highly developed detachment from worldly objects, if you use your time in constant awareness of the Lord, performing all your works and duties as worship and offering everything you do to the Lord, then you will have a blessed life.

Krishna told Arjuna, "Do your duty, Arjuna! If you have to fight, then fight. But fight, thinking of me. That way you will incur no sin. If you have offered everything to me, and have me steadily in your heart, you will not suffer any of the consequences of your actions. You are not being asked to go to the forest and do penance or to give up all your relations. You need not give up your family, your house and all your properties. Whatever you see, whatever you say, whatever you hear, whatever you think, whatever you do, do it as my work, and offer it to me. Offer your mind and your intelligence fully to me. That is the proper way to sanctify your time. If you conduct your life in this way, you have my assurance, you will be saved!"

Develop Self-Confidence and a firm Resolve

Unfortunately today, one does not find this capacity for renunciation, this firmness of purpose, this deep level of faith and commitment, this willingness to completely offer up mind and intellect to God. Most people today do not have a vision that is steeped in faith. But you should develop such a strong faith. You cannot hope to know what kind of life you will be living in the future, or under what circumstances and in what place you will find yourself. No one knows these things but the Lord. If you offer everything to him, he will protect you in all situations. Such a deep level of renunciation requires strong self-confidence and a clearness of vision. Whatever work you do, you must have a great determination and a firm resolve. Without this you cannot achieve even the smallest thing.

A small bird laid its eggs on the shore of the ocean. It wanted to have a comfortable life. A number of times the waves came and washed the eggs away into the ocean. The bird became discouraged and also a little desperate, for every time it laid its eggs the ocean washed them away. In time it became very angry with the ocean. Now, you might think, 'what can such a small bird do to the huge ocean?' But it entertained no such doubts; it did not think of itself as just a little bird unable to do anything against the vast ocean. No, on the contrary, this small bird took a firm resolve and decided it was going to empty all the waters of the mighty ocean. That was its vow to which it stuck with great determination. Night and day it stood at the edge of the ocean, dipped its head into the sea, took a little water into its beak, flew to the other side of a nearby hill, released the water from its beak, and thus, drop by drop, resolved to empty out the whole ocean. It believed that ultimately it would manage, in this way, to conquer the ocean itself.

When it realized that it would not get very far on its own, it sought the help of Garuda, the eagle, which is Lord Vishnu's vehicle and which is endowed with divine powers. With the help of Garuda it was able to earn the grace of Lord Vishnu. Now the ocean became very frightened and humbly apologized to the little bird. The ocean assured the little bird that its eggs would never again be destroyed by its waves and that it would be most welcome to nest on its shores, without disturbance. How small was this little bird and how vast was the ocean! You also think of yourself as so small, but you should never get desperate and lose hope. You should not get dispirited thinking that you are so insignificant whereas God is infinite and all-powerful.

You might wonder, 'Why would God bother to pay any attention to me? What could I possibly offer him which he would be happy to accept, when the entire cosmos is already his? If even angels and divine beings cannot see him, how can I ever hope to behold his form?' But such self-demeaning and belittling thoughts will not get you very far. As long as you think this way, you will not be able to gain the grace of the Lord and be fit to serve him. Give no room for such displays of weakness. You have to establish the Lord in your heart and say to him, "Beloved Lord! I know you are residing in all the universe, but you are also here in my heart. With all my power I will keep you here, firmly established within me. You are, it is true, the biggest of the big. But you are also the smallest of the small. In that small form, You are ever residing in my heart." If you have such a firm faith in yourself, and a firm resolve to establish the Lord unalterably in your heart, then you will surely attain him and thereby, gain all the strength of the Lord.

Birth is Sorrowful, Life is Sorrowful and Death is Sorrowful

Gautama Buddha, with a firm resolve and a lot of penance, was able to achieve the state of enlightenment. One day, after coming to know that Buddha was begging for alms, his father sent this message to Buddha, "O my child, your grandfather was a king, your father is a king and you are also a king. I have heard that you, a king, coming from such a noble lineage, have been begging for your food. There is no dearth of property or wealth in this kingdom. There is no shortage of any luxury. You can have anything you wish. I am suffering untold pain knowing that you, who can enjoy all the luxuries and comforts of a king's palace, have taken to begging, and that you are lying down on the hard ground living an uncomfortable beggar's life. Please come back to the palace. I will welcome you and make all the proper arrangements for your return. The kingdom itself will be yours."

Buddha who heard all these things with total detachment replied to the person who brought the message, "Please tell the king, 'Yes, my grandfather was a king. My father is a king, and I too was a king. But now I have renounced this world. And I believe that my real parents are renunciates and that my true ancestors are also renunciates. If you want me to come back, you must first answer these questions: Do you have the power to save me from death? Can you keep diseases away from me and guarantee to keep me in sound health? Do you have the capacity to prevent old age and senility from descending on me? Do you have the power to free me from all these evils? If you can give me the correct answers to these questions, then I will immediately come back to the palace.'"

Buddha saw that birth was sorrowful, that life was sorrowful and that the end was also sorrowful. He replied to his father in the correct way. After having seen all the sorrows of life and after having watched so many people suffering, he could not continue to wallow in ignorance and illusion; that would have been sheer folly. Buddha's life can serve as an important lesson to you. In the limited time given to you, you have to realize your true nature. That is the real objective of human life. Your body is composed of the five elements, and some day it is going to perish. The indweller of your body is the only permanent entity. When you inquire into truth, you will realize that there is nothing like old age and there is nothing like death for the indwelling self. If you could understand that this indweller, who is your own reality, is the divinity itself, in all its fullness, then you will know the truth and enjoy infinite peace.

The Field and the Knower of the Field

Another way that the divine teacher spoke of the body and its indweller, was in terms of the field and the knower of the field. By the knower is meant the one who is conscious and filled with the highest knowledge, whereas the field is without such consciousness and knowledge. What is this field which is devoid of the highest knowledge? It is the body with its gross and subtle aspects; it is the dwelling place of the Lord. Know that the Lord, who has all knowledge and wisdom, resides in this field of the body. It is his residence here on earth.

In your day-to-day life, you refer to your body as my body. In other words, you acknowledge that you are not the body, but that this body is yours; it belongs to you. Similarly, the indweller considers that he is not the field, but that the field belongs to him. When you say, "this is mine", then you are declaring that you and the object are different. When you state, "this is my handkerchief", you are asserting your separateness from the handkerchief; it is something different from you. When you say, "this is my body", it means that you are distinct from your body. In the same way, when the Lord declares that the field is his, then he is free to give it up any time he wishes.

The body is given to you in order that you may realize who you truly are, in order that you may recognize its indweller. Without a body you would not be able to know him; you would not be able to perform any activity and follow any spiritual path. All your work, both worldly and spiritual, can only be performed with the help of the body. The body consists of 20 principles; these are the five organs of perception, the five organs of activity, the five vital airs and the five sheaths. When you add to these the lower mind, the power of discrimination, the seat of feelings and remembrance in the heart, and the ego, together with the indwelling self, then the total comes to 25 principles which comprise an individual. This knowledge of the body and the indwelling spirit relates to the path of wisdom.

The Whole World is Illusion

Foolish ones who are born in illusion and grow up in illusion, never recognize illusion for what it is. The whole world is illusion, all attachments are illusion, family life is illusion, death is illusion, all that you see and think is illusion. This life itself is illusion. Where are all those kings and emperors who were so proud of their accomplishments? They have all been ground under the wheel of time. Days, months, years and eras have all merged into one another. Time is one continuous flow, and in this flow everything and everyone, every object and every person, is being washed away. A thing which is itself being washed away in the flow of time cannot become the support for another thing which is also being washed away.

Who can save whom? The only permanent entity who is not being washed away by time and who can take care of all, is the Lord. He alone can protect everyone. He is the stable bank for this unending river of time. Hold on to him. That is the secret of life. That is the mark of a true human being. Believe in the Lord and do not believe in the world, that is the right way to live your life and enjoy it. Always remember these three principles:

  • In the first place, Do not forget the Lord;
  • in the second place, Do not believe in the world;
  • and in the third place, Never be afraid of death.

These are the three guiding principles for all of humanity.

In the Gita you will find 64 qualities given as the attributes of a true devotee. It is impossible for any one individual to have all these attributes. If you can practice one or two of these it is enough. Have firm faith in the Lord. Once you have developed a deep faith you do not need anything more. In a match box there may be 50 match sticks. If you want fire, you can strike one stick. That will be enough. You need not strike all the 50 match sticks. In the same way, out of the 64 attributes, if only one single attribute is practiced to perfection, that will be enough. The most important attribute is selfless love. Swami has often said, "Love is God and God is love. Live in love." If you live in love and become immersed in the divinity, the Lord will take care of everything in your life. Krishna said to Arjuna, "When you have complete faith in me, when you are filled with devotion and leave everything to me, you will be very dear to me".

The four Types of Devotees

True devotion does not merely refer to the performance of various religious rituals like singing devotional songs, repeating incantations, engaging in silent or communal prayers or sitting for meditation. Devotion refers to this deep unshakable faith in the Lord. There are four types of devotees: the seekers of boons to relieve their suffering, the seekers of blessings for a full and happy life, the inquirers into the deeper meaning of life, and the knowers of the highest spiritual wisdom.

The first type is one who prays to the Lord when he is in difficulty or undergoing trials and tribulations. It is only at such times that he thinks of the Lord and worships him.

The second type is one who entreats the Lord for the blessings of wealth, position and power. He prays to the Lord for progeny and long life and yearns to gain houses, property, cattle, gold, jewels and such things to serve his fellow man. Most people hanker after worldly boons, not realizing that true wealth is wisdom, that real property is a noble character, that the most valuable jewel is to be immersed in God's love. They are anxious to acquire worldly objects, but do not understand the subtle meaning and deeper significance of all these outer symbols of worldly wealth.

The third type of devotee is ever engaged in inquiry into truth. He constantly seeks to know, 'Where is God? Who is God? How can I reach God? What is my relationship to God? Who am I?' When you enter this stage, you become engaged in all these inquiries in order to gain spiritual knowledge. In the first place, you must try to find out, 'Who am I? Where did this world come from? What is my goal?' You puzzle over these three important queries and try to gain some understanding. You approach great people, listen to their teachings, serve them, and study the sacred scriptures. Through this process, indirect knowledge gets turned into direct knowledge, as the teachings you have heard and studied become your direct inner experience.

Finally, when you have fully absorbed the teachings within yourself, you leave this stage behind and become the fourth type of devotee, the highest knower of truth, the one of abiding wisdom. This wisdom is true spiritual knowledge, the transcendental knowledge. It refers to the experience of unity, the experience of the One without a second.

Dwelling only on external things will cause you endless sorrow. If you base your experiences on worldly knowledge alone, you will have to suffer the reactions that result from this knowledge. For example, suppose you hit a table very hard and feel a sense of pride in doing this. You can boast that you have given it a good smack and that you surely must have hurt it with your blow. But, immediately afterwards, to your dismay, you discover that the object has hit you back with the same intensity and you end up being equally hurt by it. In knowledge of the world there will always be this response. Whatever you do will react back on you; whatever you say will resound back to you; whatever you think will reflect back to you. Everything in the world involves reaction, reflection and resound.

But in the spiritual domain there is no reaction, no reflection and no resound. Within this domain, there is only transcendental knowledge; that is the true knowledge. There you will find nothing separate, no objects which can react, nothing that can reflect or resound, because in the spiritual domain, there will be no other. There, all is one. Whenever there is a second entity there will be a wish to either possess it or to escape it; in other words, there will arise a feeling of desire or a feeling of fear. But when you are immersed in real knowledge, you will experience nothing else and no one else; there will be no second. Then neither desire nor fear can arise. That state can best be described as wisdom, the highest knowledge. In that exalted state, you do not see anything separate from self and you will not hear anything separate from self. You will only be immersed in supreme bliss. This is the eternal joy of the divine.

The Story of the wealthy Man and his four Wives

There is a little story which illustrates the four types of devotion that have been discussed here. Once, a wealthy man who had four wives had to go abroad for some important work. He spent a few months in a foreign country. Before he returned home, he wrote a letter to each of his wives. In the letter he mentioned that he would be coming home in a few weeks, and if there was anything they wanted from that particular country, they could send a list and he would be glad to bring back the various things to them.

His first wife was an unhappy lady; she was suffering from many ailments. She sent the husband a list of medicines, explaining that her health was not good and that she would like to have a number of foreign medicines which would help her feel better. His second wife had a great many desires. She wrote, 'Dear husband, please bring me some fine jewels, some silk saris and all the latest fashionable articles that are available there.' He received her letter and arranged to procure those items for her.

The third wife had a strong spiritual inclination. She wrote to the husband asking for any good books that were available in that country, books which dealt with the lives of great saints, depicting their life experiences. She was always looking for good spiritual books that would inspire her in her own spiritual aspirations, and so she asked her husband to see if he could find such books and bring them back for her. His fourth and favorite wife wrote, 'Dearest one, I do not need anything for myself. I will be very happy when I know that you have come back home, safe and sound.'

When he returned home he brought with him whatever they had asked for. The first wife got the latest medicines and tonics from abroad. The second wife got beautiful jewels and exquisitely textured silk saris. To the third wife the husband brought the finest copies of the scriptures and other holy books. And then he went to stay with the fourth wife, who had written, 'Please come home safely; I want nothing else.' She only wanted him. The other three wives became jealous of the favorite one since the husband had gone to stay with her. They sent messages asking, "After such a long time without seeing us you have not even once come to our houses to visit us. What is the reason for this?" The husband replied, "I have given each of you exactly what you asked for. One of you asked for medicines; I brought them. One of you asked for the latest jewels; I brought them. One of you asked for sacred books; I brought them. One of you wanted only me, so now she has me!"

God answers Everyone's Requests

This husband is the Lord himself and the four wives are the four types of devotees. The Lord will give you exactly what you ask for. If you ask only for him then he will come and reside in your heart. God is the wish fulfilling tree, the tree that bears every conceivable kind of fruit. He will answer everyone's request. He is omniscient. He is everywhere. He knows what you want and he will give it to you. In fact, this whole world is really a wish-fulfilling tree. The Lord uses the world to satisfy your desires and take care of all your wants. There are very few people who understand this. Here is another small story to illustrate this.

There was a traveler who had been walking for a long time in the hot sun. Finally he found a nice big tree and stopped there to take rest. He was very tired after his long walk in the heat and now the shade of the tree was giving him great comfort. While sitting under the tree he got thirsty and said to himself, 'How nice it would be if I could have a glass of cold water.' Seemingly, out of nowhere, a tumbler of fresh water appeared. He was sitting beneath a wish-fulfilling tree and did not know it. After drinking the water, a second thought came to his mind, 'How nice it would be if I could have a soft pillow and a comfortable bed; then I would really be able to rest nicely.' Immediately, a bed and a pillow came, given by the Lord himself. Now the traveler was very comfortable.

After getting the bed and the pillow, he thought, 'How very nice and comfortable this bed and pillow are! Now if only I could have my wife here, then how perfect everything would be.' His wife immediately came. As soon as she appeared, he became very frightened because he was not sure, 'Is she really my wife or is she some demon impersonating my wife?' The very moment this thought flashed though his mind she turned into a demon. Now, fear really overwhelmed him and in terror he wondered, 'O my! Will this demon swallow me up?' Immediately the demon pounced on him and swallowed him whole.

The moral of this story is that when you are under a wish-fulfilling tree you must be very careful what you think. Whatever thoughts you have will surely come true. The entire world may be likened to a wish-fulfilling tree. If you have good thoughts, you get good results, if you have bad thoughts, bad results will follow. Therefore, you should never harbor bad feelings or bad thoughts. That is why Swami has so often said, 'Be good, do good, see good. That is the way to God.'

You are not Mortal, you are Immortal

The entire world is the creation of God and is penetrated by his will. Everywhere there is God. Do not have bad thoughts about anyone. Have complete control over your senses and think only good thoughts. Whether you are old or young, you should permit only good thoughts to come into your mind and always aspire to lead a good life. This is the real meaning of a human being. The word for human in Sanskrit is nara, which stands for that which cannot be destroyed, that which will always come back to the Lord. Nara is the one who will not be ruined, who is immortal. The ancient scriptures have declared, 'You are not a mortal being; you are the child of immortality.' A human being has also been called manava. This refers the one who is without ignorance. But today you are all behaving in a foolish way. By your thoughts, words and actions you are not giving the proper value to the word human.

It has been said that death is sweeter than the blindness of ignorance. You have to make ignorance flee away from you and never come back. If you want to drive away darkness, you must bring in the light. Where there is light there can be no darkness. If you want to free yourself from ignorance you must acquire wisdom. When you have wisdom, ignorance can have no foothold on you and will be swept away. To gain wisdom you must earn God's grace. A great poet sang, "O Lord! If I have your grace, what is there to fear? What can destiny ever do to me?"

Your life should not be ruled by lust, anger, greed, infatuation, pride or jealousy. These are your enemies. They must be conquered and subdued. They are the darkness, the product of ignorance. Your life must be ruled by light and by wisdom. Your life must be based entirely on the grace of God. From this moment on, aspire for God's grace and gain wisdom. To earn God's grace, think of God, everywhere, at all times and in all circumstances. In this age of darkness there is no greater spiritual practice than this. Engage yourself in the constant repetition of the sacred name of the Lord and keep him permanently established in your heart of hearts. Thereby, you will bless your life and set a sterling example for the rest of the world.