3. Prema Vahini - Part 3a
Prema Vahini - Part 3a
21. Listen, contemplate, and sing God’s name
Vedas and Puranas deserve to be read and heard. God’s name is to be recited and listened to. For some ailments, medicines are prescribed for external application while for others, they are given for internal use. But for this universal ailment of the cycle of birth and death (bhava-roga), listening to spiritual discourses (sravana), singing God’s name (kirtana), and other medicines are prescribed for external and internal use. One has to utter as well as hear the Lord’s name. An aspirant might win God’s grace, the guru’s grace, and the grace of devotees of the Lord, but all this grace is of no avail if another grace is not secured, the grace of their own inner consciousness (anthah-karana). Without this grace, the aspirant falls into perdition, for all the rest are of no account whatsoever.
The grace of God is not easily attainable. The feeling of I-ness (ahamkara), which makes one say “I am the doer”, should be plucked by the roots from the heart. Everyone, be they learned or illiterate, should feel an overwhelming urge to know God. God has equal affection toward all His children, for to illumine is the nature of light. Utilising that illumination, some can read good books and others can do their daily tasks, whatever they are.
So too, uttering God’s name, one can progress in the realisation of God, another can even do wicked deeds! It all depends on how you use the light. But the Lord’s name is without blemish, always and forever.
22. Seek knowledge of the Eternal Truth
Haven’t people trained themselves in countless skills and arts and sciences? Haven’t they devised countless machines? Haven’t they accumulated vast tomes of knowledge? Nevertheless, they haven’t attained peace of mind, which is so essential for happiness. Instead, with every passing day, this education (vidya) drags them into deeper and deeper waters, while peace recedes more and more into the distance.
The reason can be stated thus. These arts and sciences have only transitory value; these machines cater to worldly comfort; this knowledge is all about temporary, transitory things. This education does not reveal the innermost secret of the universe.
There is one secret that, if known, lays bare all secrets. There is one problem that, if solved, solves all others; there is one knot that, if untied, loosens all knots. There is one science that, if mastered, masters all. That key science is spiritual education (sanathana vidya).
If a tree has to be destroyed, its tap root has to be cut. There is no use trying to kill it by plucking its leaves one by one, for it takes too long and it may not work. The ancient Vedic seers knew this spiritual education (vidya), but Indians are becoming ashamed to claim the seers as their kith and kin.
The seers saw God through their ascetic endeavours and won His Grace. They expounded the science that they so boldly discovered. Seekers from other countries perused these books and said that India had blazed a trail for the whole world. This is a well-known fact. The lamp illumines the house, but just at the very foot of the lamp lurks a dark circle. India doesn’t know or care for that treasure. Can we ascribe this to the play of fate and keep quiet?
23. Don’t neglect the study of Sanskrit and Vedic culture
In past ages, Indians performed their daily rites, sat in purified places, surrounded by sacredness, and immersed themselves in the study and practice of the teachings of the Vedas and the Upanishads. They recorded their experiences in order to guide others to bring those experiences back again into their own consciousness. But their children and grandchildren placed the books on the altar and duly worshiped them. Neglect reduced them to dust or lumber; the palm leaves disintegrated, and rats ate into them.
Eager students from the West have sought out this lumber, realising that it enshrines incomparable sources of illumination and priceless pearls of wisdom. They lift it reverentially above their heads and acclaim it as the precious gift of the continent of Bharath (Bharatha-khanda) to themselves and their children. They carry it across the seas with joy in their eyes and thankfulness in their hearts.
Shall I reveal what the children of India have been doing? They don’t open the pages, peruse the contents or even concern themselves with them. Only one in a million reads them, but even he is ridiculed as a fool and a crank. People laugh at the books as a conglomeration of lies and legends and argue about the historicity of the books and their authors. They dismiss Sanskrit as “very hard to learn” and pass on the treasure to scholars from other lands. What a sad spectacle this is! It would have been some compensation if they attended carefully to the study of their mother tongue, but even this they fail to do. It is neglect; neglect everywhere.
No. I don’t condemn worldly happiness. I feel glad when people are happy. But, please don’t believe that this happiness is permanent. I want you to study all the arts and sciences for acquiring worldly happiness, but I want you to remember that this happiness is not everlasting.
Permanent happiness can be secured through only one knowledge (vidya), the Upanishad knowledge. That is the science of God-realisation, the teaching of the sages (rishis). Only that can save one and grant one peace.
There is nothing higher than that; this is an indisputable fact. Whatever your joy and sorrow, whatever the subject you have specialised in for a living, rivet your eyes on knowledge of Brahman. If only intelligence is sharpened, without the growth and practice of virtues, and if mere information is stored in the brain, the world cannot progress and its welfare will be in jeopardy.
But people now seem to be losing faith in virtues, for the educational system does not assign any place to spiritual teaching or training. True education does not mar or pervert the beautiful virtues of boys and girls, it does not content itself with filling the brain with cumbersome junk. Only education that gives full scope for the blossoming of all the virtues that distinguish people is beneficial.
24. Don’t mistake appearance for reality
Actually, people see the shadow and take it to be the substance. They see length, breadth, height, and thickness and jump to the conclusion that they have an object before them. They experience a series of sensations and memories and, adding them all up, infer that some objects produce them. This mistaking of appearance for reality is misnamed spiritual wisdom (jnana). How can it ever be spiritual wisdom? Can the image of a person ever be “he”? If the image is taken to be “he”, can we call it knowledge? Such is the nature of all knowledge now; what is cognised as an object is not real at all; its reality is not cognisable.
Nondualists (a-dwaithins) believe “I am Brahman (Aham Brahmasmi)”. How do they acquire that conviction?
Ask one of them, and the reply is, “The scripture (sruthi) declares it so; the guru taught it like that.” But learning it from these sources does not entitle one to make that profound statement. Do people who are masters of these three words: “I am Brahman (Aham Brahmasmi)” attain unity with Brahman? No, ceaseless striving through countless births, loyal performance of scriptural duties - these purify the mind. In such a mind, seeds of devotion sprout and, when tended with care and knowledge, grow into blooming flowers; fruits appear and ripen and get filled with sweetness and fragrance. When the fruit is eaten, a person becomes one with the Supreme - the power that permeates all things and all regions and that is eternally present, conscious, and blissful.
People may enunciate the formula, “I am Brahman (Aham Brahmasmi)” correctly; their etymology may be perfect; but when they are ignorant of the “world”, unaware of “I”, and completely in the dark about “Brahman”, how can they ever taste the rare joy of the wise (jnani)? It is not mastery of words and their meanings that counts:
it is awareness, experience - these are the fundamentals.
25. Understand that the objective world is as unreal as the dream world
Mud alone is real. The pot-consciousness is born of ignorance regarding mud; mud is the basis, the substance of the pot. How can a pot exist without mud? How can effect exist apart from the cause? The world appears as multiplicity only to the ignorant. To wise people (jnanis), Brahman alone exists, Brahman upon which all else is superimposed. The Atma alone is cognised by them; there is nothing else. That is the nondualistic (a-dwaithic) experience.
If the world is real, it must be cognised even during the stage of dreamless deep sleep, but we are not conscious of it at all. Hence, the visible world is as unreal as the dream world. The world is imposed on Brahman just as a snake is imposed on a rope through illusion. The snake and the rope are not seen at the same time; the entire rope is the snake. So too, Brahman is all this world, all this vast variety of name and form. But this imaginatively conceived variety is fundamentally false. Brahman alone is true.
The sky might be reflected in a pot of toddy but does not defile it. Similarly, in this vehicle - the body - the Atma dwells pure and undefiled. The fruits of action, good or bad, fair or foul, adhere to the vehicle and not to the indweller, the seer.
When such wisdom (jnana) dawns, the dark shadows of the three types of actions (karma) flee before it: present actions, which affect the future (agami), accumulated (samchitha), and commencing (prarabdha) actions.
Yes, even present (prarabdha) karma can be overcome. For the will of God is omnipotent, and for omnipotence there can be no limit or exception. When, through spiritual practices (sadhana), you win the grace (sankalpa) of the Lord, you can achieve victory over commencing karma also. Don’t be discouraged on any score.
The suffering and travails of this world are illusory and transitory. Fix your mind firmly on this great fact and set out bravely on the path of spiritual practice, the practice of devotion.
26. The journey of life depends on inborn desires
People are immersed in many activities and engaged in various undertakings. This is a well-known fact. They are so many in number that sometimes one may feel that the span of twenty-four hours is too short for daily activity. Drinking, eating, reading, walking, sitting, and also hating, dreaming, boasting, praising, weeping, laughing, moping, hoping - all types of activities go on without end. They fill up the span of life. These activities are all intimately attached to the mind. This makes life a mere collection of inborn desires (samskaras), which make an impact on character and personality.
There are two types of activities, good and bad. The effect of both on the life of a person has to be considered.
The acts of a child during that tender age fade away like the writing of that child on slate. When the events of one’s own childhood are thus consigned to oblivion, how can the events of the past life be retained in memory?
Leaving this point aside, it would be wrong to infer that only remembered events have shaped character.
The acts and activities that have transpired and that have been thrust back into forgetfulness by subsequent events have left a trace of their consequences in the mind. The residue is there. When you try to bring back to memory at bedtime the events of the day, not everything that happened, from the insignificant to the significant, will answer the summons. Those that are meaningful, that are deeply embedded inside - only these can be recalled.
When such is the case with the happenings of a single day, when we forget all events that are not associated with joy or pain, what shall be said of the events of last week or month or years? Most events turn hazy, recede, and disappear. Only the chief events are registered clearly and remain; these few are the inborn desires (samskaras).
Performing innumerable deeds, gathering vast experience and knowledge, learning a wide variety of lessons from a wide variety of activities, one retains as capital only a mere four or five of them, strong, deep-rooted, vital.
27. Direct your life to acquire your last moment’s mental tendency
A merchant calculates the debit and credit at the end of a week or month or year and draws up the balance sheet, to arrive at one figure - his earnings. So too, in this business of life, everything ends in some bit of net earnings after all the giving and taking concludes. At the very end of life, it is this small quantity that will come into memory. The experiences that persist to the very last moment, the two or three that well up into consciousness when one recalls all that has happened in life, these are the real sustainers, the genuine achievements.
This does not mean that all other acts and experiences have been a waste. Forgetting them means only that their work has been accomplished and their value realised.
When business is done with thousands of rupees, one’s heart freezes if a loss of a few thousand is sustained and leaps in joy if a few thousand are gained. Such is the story of the business of life. At the point of death, if one yearns to cater to the tongue, it is proof that throughout life the tongue has been the master. At the point of death, if a woman remembers her child and seeks to fondle it, the inner desire (samskara) of child-love has been predominant all through life. It proves that all other experiences have been thrown into oblivion.
Thus, of the inborn desires (samskaras) of life, some are stronger than the rest and stand out to the last. Life is like that; this has to be learned. The net result of all this living and toiling is whatever comes to memory at the last moment of life. Therefore, direct the entire current of life toward acquisition of the mental tendency (sam- skara) that you want to have during the last moment. Fix your attention upon it, day and night. The feeling that dominates the moment of death works with great force in the coming life. This truth must guide a person for the journey of this life too, for inborn desires are the wherewithal for this journey as well as for the journey after this.
Therefore, from tomorrow, always keep death, which is inevitable, before the eye of memory and engage yourself in the journey of life with good wishes for all, with strict adherence to truth, seeking always the company of the good, and with the mind always fixed on the Lord. Live, avoid evil deeds and hateful and harmful thoughts, and don’t get attached to the world. If you live thus, your last moment will be pure, sweet, and blessed.
Disciplined striving throughout life is needed to ensure this consummation. The mind has to be turned over to good mental tendencies (samskaras). Everyone must examine themself rigorously, spot defects, and struggle to correct them. When people uncover and realise their own defects, it is like being reborn. People then start anew, from a new childhood. This is the genuine moment of awakening.
Life is eternally stalked by death. Yet, people don’t tolerate the very mention of the word “death”. It is deemed inauspicious to hear that word, though, however insufferable it is, every living thing is every moment proceeding nearer and nearer to it. Intent on a journey and having purchased a ticket for the same, when you enter a train the train takes you willy-nilly to the destination, whether you sit quiet or lie down or read or meditate. So too, each living thing received a ticket to death at birth and has come on a journey; so, whatever your struggles, safeguards, and precautions, the place has to be reached some day. Whatever is uncertain, death is certain. It is impossible to change that law.
People have taught the eye, ear, and tongue the luxury of constant novelty. Now, the opposite tendencies have to be taught. The mind has to be turned toward the good; the activities of every minute have to be examined from that standpoint. Each deed is a chisel stroke shaping the rock of human personality. A wrong stroke may spoil and disfigure the rock. Therefore, even the tiniest of acts has to be done with great care and devotion.
For a drowning person, even a reed is some support. So too, to a person struggling in the sea of inborn desires (samskara), a few good words spoken by someone might be of great help. No good deed can go to waste; no, not even a bad deed, for that too has its consequence. So, strive to avoid the slightest trace of evil activity. Keep your eyes pure. Fill your ears with words of God and stories of Godly deeds; don’t allow them to listen to calumny.
Use the tongue for uttering good, kind, and true words. Let it always remind you of God. Such constant effort must grant you victory. It is to earn these holy mental tendencies that one has to maintain the uninterrupted flow of high feelings and thoughts.
28. Perform good deeds and saturate the mind with God
Use the hands to perform good deeds. Have the Lord’s name within and the practice of one’s duty (swadharma) without. With the hand busy in selfless service (seva), let your mind be engrossed in all this - there is no harm. When the rains pour on the mountain peaks and the water hurries down the sides, no river emerges therefrom. However, when the waters flow in a single direction, first a brook, then a stream, then a torrent, and finally a flooded river is formed, and the rains reach the sea. Water that runs in one direction reaches the sea; water that flows in four directions soaks in and is lost.
Mental tendencies (samskaras) are like this. Of what use are they if they merely come and go, this way today and that way tomorrow? The holy stream of good inborn desires must flow full and steady along the fields of holy thoughts and finally abide in the great ocean of bliss at the moment of death. Worthy indeed is the one who reaches such a goal!
Twenty hammer strokes might not succeed in breaking a stone, but the twenty-first stroke might break it.
Does this mean that the twenty blows were of no avail? No. Each contributed its share to the final success; the final result was the cumulative effect of all the twenty-one. So too, the mind is engaged in a struggle with the world, both internal and external. Needless to say, success might not always be your lot. But you can attain everlasting bliss by getting immersed in good works and by saturating your mind with the love of God. Infuse every moment of life with that love. Then, evil tendencies dare not hamper the path. If your mind dwells always with the Lord, you will be drawn automatically only toward good deeds.
The object of all spiritual practice is the destruction of the mind, and some day, some one good deed will succeed in destroying it, just as the twenty-first blow broke the stone. All the good deeds done in the past have contributed to this triumph; each little thing counts; no good deed is a waste.
29. Be engaged in good actions, with God in your thoughts
While struggling in the spiritual field, you should take on the Lord (Parameswara) Himself as your protector.
To instil courage in the child, the mother persuades it to walk a few steps and turn about, but she won’t allow it to fall. If it totters and is about to lose balance, she hurries from behind it and catches it before it falls.
The Lord (Iswara) too has His Eyes fixed on the individual (jivi). He has in His hand the string of the kite, which is humanity; sometimes He may give it a pull, and sometimes He may loosen the hold; but whatever He does, be confident and carefree, for it is He that holds the string. That faith ever-present, that feeling hardening into an inborn desire (samskara), will fill you with the essence of love (prema-rasa).
The string is the bond of love and grace. The kite or individual is thus bound to the Lord (Iswara). You must do and earn auspicious mental desires so that the bond of love and grace may exist and tighten.
The inborn desires (samskaras) make or mar the individual (jivi); they are the steps that take all individual souls to the goal. Mental impressions (samskaras) make the individual wade through loss and grief. Only through good mental tendencies can one attain the Lord. So, every individual has to be wholly engaged in good actions (sath-karmas). Good action is authentic worship (puja). It is the best form of remembering the Lord. It is the highest devotional song. It spreads love, without distinction and difference. It is service done as the duty of the individual.
Be engaged in such actions (karmas). Revel uninterruptedly in the thought of the Lord. This is the royal road to the goal you have to reach.
30. Eternal Religion: the divine mother of humanity
The Eternal Religion (Sanathana Dharma) is the mother of all religions, all ethical codes, and all dharmas of this world. And Bharath (India) is the home where the mother was born. Oh! How fortunate are the Bharathiyas (Indians)! How sublimely splendid is this Bharath!
The world in its entirety is the body of the Lord of the world, and Bharath is that body’s unique organ, the eye. Without the eye, the body is not master of itself, is it? Again, it can be said that Bharath has been beautified by two eyes: the Vedas and the scriptures (sastras). On account of this, it can be declared without doubt that the mental tendencies (samskaras) attained by the Bharathiyas (Indians) haven’t been acquired by the people of any other country.
The Eternal Religion (Sanathana Dharma), which teaches the truth of all religions and tolerance of all religions, is the dharma of all humanity. Born in various areas, flowing through various paths, rivers at last reach the ocean; so too, born in different lands, practising different ways of dharma, people reach the ocean of the presence of the Lord through different modes of worship. The Eternal Religion is the central location in which all these various paths, moving in different directions, converge. Followers of the different religions can practise this Eternal Religion by being truthful in speech, avoiding jealousy and anger, and acting always with a loving heart. All those who so practise the Eternal Religion and, without faltering, achieve it, are entitled to be called Bharathiyas.