1. Prema Vahini - Part 1
Prema Vahini - Part 1
1. Good character is spiritual power
More than all previous eras (yugas), the present one (the Kali-yuga) offers multifarious paths through which people can acquire discrimination (viveka). If it is education that is needed, there are many schools and institutions, and if it is wealth that one is after, there are various avenues by which, with effort, it can be honourably earned. In spite of this, however, we don’t find any increase in human happiness or peace. In fact, there is much more misery than in previous ages!
What is the reason? The reason lies in human behaviour, in the way people live. Human life is undoubtedly the highest in evolution, and to give it meaning, spiritual endeavour, endeavour that is pure and holy, is essential.
For this way of life, character is all important. Character makes life immortal; it survives even death. Some say that knowledge is power, but it is not true. Character is power. Even the acquisition of knowledge demands a good character. So, everyone must yearn to attain flawless character, without any trace of evil.
Note that Buddha, Jesus Christ, Sankaracharya, and Vivekananda, as well as great sages and saints and devotees of the Lord - all these are treasured in the memory of people even to this day. What quality made them all memorable for all time? I say that it is the character of each.
Without character, wealth, education, and social status are of no avail. Character is the fragrance of the flower; it gives value and worth. Poets, painters, artists, and scientists may be great, each in their own field, but without character, they can have no standing in society.
Doubts will certainly arise whether those who are now greeted with respect by society have the character that we consider essential to greatness. But I am speaking of a society and a character that cling to certain unchanging values. Ordinarily, society attaches varying importance to certain qualities from day to day, and fashions in character change with the vagaries of society. But the basic nature of a flawless character is eternal; it is the same, whatever the vicissitudes of society. In this sense, it is immortal, being associated with another immortal entity, the Atma.
2. Reshape character by cultivating noble qualities
Among the qualities that make up a flawless character, love, patience, forbearance, steadfastness, and charity are the highest and have to be revered.
The hundred little deeds that we indulge in every day harden into habits; these habits shape the intelligence and mould our outlook and life. All that we weave in our imagination, seek in our ideals, and yearn in our aspirations leave an indelible imprint on the mind. Distorted by these, we form our knowledge, our picture of the world around us, and it is to this picture that we get attached.
One’s present is but the result of one’s past and the habits formed during that long period. But whatever the nature of the character that one has come by, it can certainly be modified by changing the accustomed process of thought and imagination.
The wickedness of nobody is incorrigible. Wasn’t Angulimala, the robber, turned into a kindhearted person by the Buddha? Didn’t the thief Rathnakara become Valmiki, the sage? By conscious effort, habits can be changed and character refined. People always have within them, within their reach, the capacity to challenge their evil propensities and to change their evil habits. By selfless service, renunciation, devotion, prayer, and ratiocination, the old habits that bind people to earth can be discarded and new habits that take them along the divine path can be instilled into their lives.
The purpose of all spiritual literature, poems, epics, books, and periodicals is to discuss the nature of this character, its ways and vagaries, and to inform about the process of reshaping it. The Sanathana Sarathi has just this aim in view; it does not seek either the exhibition of erudition or the acquisition of name and fame.
But it has to be said that the mere reading of a book or journal will not vouchsafe discrimination (viveka).
That which is seen, heard, or read must be put into practice in actual life. Without this, reading is mere waste of time. If anything is read to pass the time, it passes the time and nothing remains.
3. Read life histories of saints and sages
Books are available in plenty, and at very cheap prices. The Vedas, scriptures (sastras), and Puranas can be obtained and read by everyone. There is also no dearth of spiritual teachers (gurus). Schools abound and are ostensibly granting the boon of knowledge. Facilities for training the mind are plenty and within reach. And yet, from nowhere is heard the note of content at having partaken of the nectar of spiritual wisdom (jnana).
When I see the heaps of books that lie around everywhere, I feel that the wisdom inside a book cannot succeed in penetrating the heavy binding and emerge into the light. God is hidden by the mountain ranges of lust, anger, envy, and selfishness. So too, the sun of wisdom is hidden by these huge heaps of books. Though these books have spread to all corners of the earth, we can’t say that culture or wisdom has increased; the human is still not far from the ape. An attractive binding and title, a beautiful picture - these are what the reader seeks, viz. transitory pleasure and momentary contentment.
Only those who, by means of discrimination, select the books they read and practice what they read can realise truth and enjoy everlasting bliss. Only those people live worthwhile lives. Therefore, those who seek the highest path and who revel in thoughts of God should strive to read only the life histories of saints and sages and books that help the contemplation of the Divine. Aimless reading of books all and sundry, whatever comes to hand, will make confusion only worse confounded. It gives no profit; it confers no peace.
4. Cultivate one-pointedness and equal vision
Above all, cultivate one-pointed steadfastness (ekagratha) in whatever you do. Impartial vision (sama-drishti) is auspicious vision (subha-drishti).
The lion, though king of the forest, turns back every few steps while walking through the woods, because it is afraid of being pursued. Fear in the mind makes the vision falter. Violence within the heart distorts the vision and distracts the sight.
People must have impartial vision. All creation must appear as equally auspicious to their eyes. They must look upon all with as much love and faith as they have in themselves, for nothing is evil in creation, no, not even an iota. Evil appears as such only through faulty vision. Creation gets coloured by the nature of the glasses we wear. By itself, it is eternally pure and holy.
There have always been, there are, and there will always be teachers who reveal to people and who instruct them in attaining the heights they can reach through one-pointed steadfastness and the fullest manifestation of their physical, mental, and intellectual powers. But people’s minds revel in external objects and in purposeless observation and criticism of the outside world. How then can their minds be trained to be steadfast?
Each one should ask themself this question: Great souls (mahatmas) and outstanding sages were also people like me; they were also embodied beings. If they could attain perfection, so can I, if I follow their method. What profit do I get spending my time in discovering the faults and weakness of others?
5. First search and correct faults within yourself
Thus, the first spiritual practice (sadhana) is to search for the faults and weaknesses within yourself and to strive to correct them and become perfect.
The unceasing toil of each succeeding day has as its aim and justification this consummation: to make one’s last days sweet and pleasant. But each day also has its evening. If the day is spent in good deeds, then the evening blesses us with deep sleep, invigorating refreshing sleep, the sleep about which it is said that it is akin to samadhi One has only a short span of life on earth. But even in this short life one can attain divine bliss, by wisely and carefully using the time. Two people, in appearance the same, ostensibly of the same mould, grow under the same conditions, but one turns out to be an angel while the other stays on with their animal nature. What’s the reason for this differential development? Habits, behaviour formed out of these habits, and the character into which that behaviour has solidified. People are creatures of character.
6. Life is a selfless loving sacrifice
To a superficial observer, life appears to be a rotation of eating and drinking, toiling, and sleeping. But verily life has a much greater meaning, a much deeper significance. Life is a sacrifice (yajna). Each little act is an offering to the Lord. If the day is spent in deeds performed in this spirit of surrender, what else can sleep be except total immersion in the Godhead (samadhi)?
People commit the great fault of identifying themselves with the body. People accumulate a variety of things for the upkeep and comfort of the body. Even when the body becomes weak and decrepit with age, people attempt to bolster it by one means or other. But how long can death be postponed? When Yama’s warrant comes, each has to depart. Position, pride, and power all vanish before death. Realising this, strive day and night, with purity of body and mind and spirit, to realise the Higher Self by the service of all living beings. The body must be preserved as a vehicle for this service. But remember, you are not this body; this body cannot be you.
7. Thou art That (Thath-twam-asi)
This is the highest and holiest spiritual maxim (maha-vakya); you are the indestructible Atmic principle (Atmathathwa).
It is for the sake of the Atmic principle that you have this body, so, in the attempt to realise the supreme Lord (Parameswara) here and now, you must be prepared to offer this body as a sacrifice, at any moment.
Utilise your authority over this body to foster the welfare of the world. This body is but an instrument, an implement given by God. Let it serve its purpose.
Until the realisation of the purpose for which the implement is given, it is your duty to watch over it vigilantly and protect it from injury and disablement. During winter, woollen clothes are worn to withstand the rigour of the cold gales, but when the cold subsides, they are discarded. So too, when the cold gales of material life don’t affect us in the least, the material body is no longer essential. One is conscious of only the incorporeal body.
8. Consecrate every act as worship of the Lord
When the rains come, earth and sky are one in the sheety downpour. It is indeed a beautiful inspiring scene, a scene by which creation itself is teaching you to become one, in unison with it. Three lessons can be learned: the impermanence of created things, the role of a person as the servant, and God as the master. This creation is the wherewithal of the worship (puja), the person is the worshiper, and God is the worshiped. The game called life is played with these.
People must be happy that the highest Lord (Purushothama) has placed around them newer and newer materials for serving Him and gets the worship of Him done in various forms. People must pray for newer and newer opportunities and exult in the chance that their hands receive. This attitude gives immeasurable joy. To lead a life suffused with this joy is indeed bliss.
Whatever is done from sunrise to sunset must be consecrated, as if it is the worship of the Lord. Just as care is taken to pluck only fresh flowers and to keep them clean and unfaded, so too, ceaseless effort should be made to do deeds that are pure and unsullied.
If this vision is kept before the mind’s eye every day and life is lived accordingly, then it becomes one long unbroken service of the Lord. The feeling of I and You will soon disappear; all trace of self will be destroyed.
Life then transmutes itself into a veritable devotion to the Lord (Hariparayana). “I am the worshiper (sevak). The world is the offering. God is the master who is worshiped.” When one attains this stage of thought, feeling, and action and all difference between mine and thine disappear.
9. Fill every deed with service, devotion, wisdom
There is no distinction between devotion to God (bhakthi) and spiritual wisdom (jnana). Just as materialization (sa-guna) becomes formless (nir-guna), devotion becomes spiritual wisdom. I don’t agree that dedicated action (karma), devotion, and spiritual wisdom are separate. I don’t even like to classify one of these as first, the other as the second, and the next as the third. I don’t accept a mixture of all three, or even a merger of the three.
Dedicated activity is devotion and devotion is spiritual wisdom.
A block of Mysorepak (a sweet made of chickpea flour) has sweetness, weight, and shape; the three cannot be separated, one from the other. Each little part of it has sweetness, weight, and shape. We don’t find shape in one part, weight in another, and sweetness in a third. And when it is placed on the tongue, taste is recognised, weight is lessened, and shape is modified, all at the same time. So too, the individual soul (jiva), the Atma, and the Supreme Lord (Parameswara) are not separate; they are one and the same.
Therefore, each individual deed must be full of the spirit of selfless service (seva), divine love (prema), and spiritual wisdom (jnana). In other words, each group of life’s activities must be saturated with dedicated action, devotion to God (bhakthi), and spiritual wisdom. This is verily the yoga of the Supreme (Purushothama-yoga). It has to be acted in practice, not merely spoken in words. Spiritual discipline should be done constantly with an ever expanding heart full of devotion and spiritual wisdom. The sweetness of nectar of the Lord’s name is the charm of life; the internal joy derived from the name is akin to the external joy of the outer life.
10. I and you, we, should become He
When you perform an activity (kriya) as an offering12to the Lord, your good, the higher good, and the highest good (swartha, parartha, and paramartha) all become one. First, I and you become we. Next, we and He become identified. The individual soul, the ‘I’ (jiva) should accomplish identity first with the creation (prakriti) or ‘you’ and then with the Supreme Spirit, He (Paramatma). This indeed is the significance of the mantra Om Tat Sat. (which expresses the identity of the individual and the Universal Brahman).
Today, yesterday, and tomorrow Om Tat Sat is, was, and will be. “He” and “I” are always there. The spiritual practice (sadhana) is also always there. Just as the sun is inseparable and is never apart from its rays, under no circumstances should any aspirant be without their spiritual practice. It is only when spiritual aspirants adhere to their spiritual disciplines in such an incessant manner that they can be said to be one with Om.