[25th December, 2000. A group of Western seekers – mostly Americans – had come to Narayanashrama Tapovanam (Trichur) from the Integral Yoga Institute, Coimbatore. Swamini Divyanandaji from Integral Yoga Institute wrote to Poojya Swamiji: “We are thrilled that a group of Western devotees are going to have your Darshan on this Holy Day of Christmas.Nothing can give us greater happiness than to be with One who has evolved the Christ consciousness from within himself….”
Somehow, they got delayed on the way, and there was not much time for Satsang. Only a short question-answer session could be arranged. Poojya Swamiji welcomed them with a long hearty laugh, making them relaxed. He then recited a few invocatory verses and asked:-]
Let me know what do you want from me? What am I to do?
Blessings? Blessings you get whenever you come here. Even when we were told that a group is coming, blessings started flowing. What is the role of the sun? – To spread illumination. Just as the sun spreads the rays of light, we are spreading the rays of blessings. What else shall we do?
Q. Would you meditate with us?
See, to tell you something about meditation is one thing and to meditate with you is another. I don’t generally sit for such sudden meditation with people. I do sit with seekers. I initiate people into the process of meditation and for that I generally sit alone with them, closing the door. Then, with such initiated people I also sit in a group for meditation. But suddenly I don’t do it. It is not necessary and desirable also.
Q. Tell us something about the Ashram. What is an Ashram?
About Ashram? Well, do you know, any spiritual institution, in our traditional language, is called an Ashram? An Ashram is actually a growth from and around an individual Saint. Initially, it is an individual who becomes ascetic. He becomes spiritual and becomes exclusively so. The Ashram comes later, as a natural flowering of his spiritual personality and mission. The Ashram grows basically in response to the needs of the spiritual seekers and devotees who happen to come to him for knowledge and guidance. On one hand, the activities of the Ashram provide a basis for spiritual saadhana of the seekers and devotees residing at or related to the Ashram. On the other hand, they are verily meant for the long- term welfare and evolution of the society as a whole.
A seeker grows into a Saint by virtue of an inner growth or evolution. May be he had begun his pursuit when he was a householder. Gradually his saadhana grew in intensity, and at a point of time he felt that he must pursue his goal exclusively. When that time comes he becomes an ascetic. May be he assumes a special kind of robe and lives away from his family. Ascetic means what? His pursuits are no longer of a worldly nature or character. He pursues the spiritual path in a wholesome manner. A householder also may be pursuing spirituality, but he may not pursue it in an exclusive manner.
You are born in a family. Initially you have the blood relationship with the parents. From same parents, other children are also born and they become your brothers and sisters. Gradually, if you get married, you have a matrimonial relationship which gives rise to further blood relationships. So, the household is a place where you generally have blood and matrimonial relationships. Once a person becomes an ascetic he will naturally become an exception to the house. He will not be interested in blood relationship, he will not particularly react to the blood and matrimonial relationship.
There are people who take to sannyaasa after a spell of married life. There are people who shun marriage and take up sannyasa directly from their student life. Both are there. A Sannyaasin is a renunciate. Leaving his home and profession, he surrenders his life completely to Chance or Providence. He may either roam about or get settled somewhere. Wherever he stays, people may come to him for spiritual knowledge and guidance. And through such spiritual interactions, new spiritual relationships grow, leading finally to the growth of an Ashram around him. Instead of blood and matrimonial relationships of a household, the spiritual relationship forms the basis of an Ashram.
This is one aspect of an Ashram. Another aspect is that an Ashram is always different from a temple or a church. A temple or church is a place for the worship of God. I don’t know all about your churches. Something I know – either there are some pictures, or there are some idols. Basically, there is an external focus for you to pray. In the Hindu temples, the focus is the idol – a symbol of God.
But in an Ashram, the focus is the Saint. So we call it Guru-sannidhi – presence or proximity of the Teacher. It is the abode of the Guru. Here people do not come for praying to God. They come to know about God and to pursue the path of God-realization.
So, first of all, we see the Saint and then we start communicating with him. What will you communicate? Whatever is in your mind and heart. If it is a seeking, you express your seeking. If it is distress or torment, you seek redress from him. If you have inquiries, you seek clarity. So, you confess your heart and mind and ask for his guidance. All this is not possible in a temple, before the idol.
If you go before an idol, the poor idol doesn’t know whether you have prostrated before him! It has no eyes to see. The idol became an idol because we have installed it. We have pronounced that this idol is godly. Even the divinity of the idol is imparted by the priest who installs it according to the installation science using his own inner power.
Q. Swamiji, some people say that the idol speaks to them when they pray. What is that?
The communication between the devotee and the idol is not perceivable by others. It is an affair between him and the idol. Inasmuch as it is so, it is only in the devotee’s mind. If it were not so, others also would be equally hearing and seeing what the devotee experienced.
So, an Ashram is a spiritual abode where a Saint lives, and where one can go to communicate and interact with the Saint, so that the problems or the quests of his mind and heart can be treated, and he can get clarity, peace and fulfillment. Generally people are afflicted and they come to get relieved of the affliction. Some people come with a curiosity or inquiry. Others may come with some specific objective – say, a person is going to start a business, and he wants Swamiji to bless him for success in his business.
Rarely one comes with the real quest for the ultimate Truth. He wants to know the Truth and he is unable to have clarity from any quarter. So he goes to a saintly Knower who has experienced the Truth himself. The Teacher speaks to him, and explains the Truth again and again variously, until at last the seeker feels comfortable with his own enlightenment and knowledge. The communication and interaction with a wise Teacher can grow to the extent that the seeker equally becomes a Knower. The role of the Knower is to make the seeker like himself.
Q. How does this happen?
I will explain. What happens when you keep some green plantains in the company of ripe plantains? The green ones ripen faster. The same thing happens when a seeker lives in the company of a Knower. What do you get when you come near fire? Heat. What will you get then when you come close to a Knower?
Yes. All your interactions with the Knower will have only one effect on you – knowledge. Because he will communicate and transmit only knowledge, knowledge and knowledge. I have been speaking to you. With every word, what did I transmit? Is it not knowledge? And what else is there? It is energy.
Yes! Energy – far superior than objects. Along with the knowledge and enlightenment, don’t you feel inspired? We call it peace, bliss, freedom, a sense of relaxation, composure, elevation and buoyancy. All these are natural associates of spiritual knowledge.
Well, have you understood what is an Ashram? Now, this particular Ashram is set as an abode of learning – it is a place of learning. We propagate and disseminate Brahmavidya. What is Brahmavidya? – It is the knowledge relating to the supreme Reality. That alone is being done here. There are a number of books; all of them deal with only this subject. We have a monthly magazine called “Vicharasetu – the path of introspection”. Whatever we write there is about Brahmavidya. The only treasure of India is Brahmavidya.
‘Vidya’is a Sanskrit word meaning 'knowledge'. ‘Brahma’ is the Sanskrit word for the supreme Reality. What is the supreme Reality?
The world is endless; it is stupendous and imposing; but the fact remains that it is transient, fleeting. The Reality is not changeful. Generally, when you live in this world, you miss this fact. You are so overwhelmed with the changeful variety, that you miss the unchanging Reality behind all these. Brahmavidya deals with the single 'Subject' of all objects. It teaches you to find out the Subject which is far more extensive than all the objects put together.
Q. How to find the Reality?
How to find? – It is right within your being! Actually you are interacting with it every time you think. Where is the thinking process taking place? Your attention is always on the objects of your thought. Try to focus your attention on the knowing process, until at last you are able to get into the source, the Knower. That is why we meditate. The purpose of meditation is to discover this Knower – your real identity.
Q. Swamiji, you teach your students; they understand theoretically. But how do you teach them to experience, to be?
See, in India we always have the benefit of Satsang – the spiritual association. Great emphasis is given to the association of the Wise. We say that one must get exposed to the Truth through a Knower. After listening to the exposition of spiritual truth repeatedly, one gradually feels like getting initiated in the path of practical saadhana. After taking initiation, some pursue saadhana earnestly. They become closer and closer to the Guru and pursue the process of mind purification. And, out of many who tries, some may reach the goal.
Q. So, it takes time!
Q. What is the saadhana? Is it meditational?
Meditation is only one part of it. Nowadays, I am emphasizing more and more the pre and post meditational saadhana. I call it ‘interactional saadhana’.
People are meditating but they are not able to strike the right chord. Even after decades of practice, they say, they have not made any progress. It is because they lack purity of mind, subtlety and refinement of intelligence. They don’t have qualities like love, sympathy and tolerance.
The possessor of 10 billion rupees will bequeath all the money to his only child – not even to his brother’s child who may be living in privation. See how constricted the mind is! Do the children need so much of inherited property? Mostly it will spoil them! But the parents don’t understand. This is the constricted nature of the householders. That aspiration for expansion of the mind and heart is not there in them. That is why they fail to succeed in spiritual saadhana.
So, we try to prevail upon them to have an expansive mind, to have concern for others, to have enough control over the senses. Once we understand that the greater joy is in expansion and sharing, our life becomes different. It is our birthright to generate joy from within.
I think, you will agree with me that possessing many things we can still be miserable, yet we can be blissful while possessing nothing.
Desire is the killer of the mind. That is the robber of all contentment. When you have no desire you have fulfillment. You are joyous when the object of desire is gained. You think that the joy comes from the fulfillment of desire. Actually it comes from the extinction of desire. When a desire is fulfilled it becomes extinct. Absence of the desire enables you to feel the joy that comes spontaneously from within you, until another desire constricts the mind. So, if you can have a mind free of all desires, it is equal to that mind where all desires have been fulfilled.
Q. But, what about the desire for enlightenment?
Initially it will be there. Thereafter, when you become enlightened, that also will drop. As long as it is there, you are not enlightened. In fact, the desire for enlightenment should make you free of all worldly desires. And once you are free of all worldly desires, the desire for enlightenment also will drop.
Q. Swamiji, how big is this Ashram?
This is a small Ashram. We have only about 5 acres of land, part of it having a very steep slope. It is primarily a place of learning. I give lectures; we run a magazine. Whenever people come here, we talk to them and look after them. Generally, people who are already exposed to me come here to stay. Very rarely others also come. Because of my moving about and giving lectures, people get exposed to me through my talks or books or the journal.
Q. How much importance do you give to Sanskrit?
I always speak on the basis of Sanskrit texts alone, and that too, very ancient texts. I don’t use anything else. In India the listeners are generally attuned to Sanskrit although many may not know Sanskrit well. When they come to close quarters I teach them Sanskrit in a practical manner, to serve the purpose of understanding the texts. I do not go very much into the linguistic details.
Q. Will you tell us about your teacher and your awakening experience?
I have already written about my Gurudev in the book “My beloved Baba”. I have written there how an engineer became a Knower, how I happened to go to him and how I became what I am now. The whole story and the intricacies of Guru-sishya relationship are explained there. It will be very useful for the earnest seekers. It is a book of saadhana – devoid of all mysticism and miracles. If you read it a few times it will give you a very good insight.
Q. How is it that in India you have Guru and spiritual traditions, but in America we don’t?
My dear girl, your American society is only 200 years old. It has to live 2000 years; then only healthy traditions will be established. But, with the modern communication and nternational relations, it should be possible in a much lesser time. I bless America and Americans only for one thing: Very soon they must develop this ascetic tradition. There must be ascetics and Sannyaasins there, who will live and move about freely as we do in India – for the benefit of the society and also supported by the society.
We are supposed to move in this world only for one reason: There are some seekers who want to know the truth. Many of them may be poor people, handicapped in many ways. When we move about, providentially they come in touch with us and get exposed to the spiritual treasure. That is why we are expected to travel. It is called “sancaara samaadhi”. We don’t stick to a place.
We move from place to place so that people in different parts will get an opportunity to get exposed to our spiritual heritage. When they come to know that a Sannyaasin has come they will come to see us, make their inquiries and get a spiritual touch. Sometimes they get initiated, do saadhana and get salvation.
In this way America should also develop proper spiritual, ascetic orientation in a very organized institutional manner. Your society should start recognizing such ascetics and must play host to them, welcome them, have Satsang with them.
So, I bless America!
Harih Om Tat Sat. O – M.