"Self-realization is meant to ensure fulfilment for one’s own self. It is not reaching somewhere or getting at something external, like going to the peak of a mountain. The attainment is in dissolving the mind and intelligence, and getting into the very core of oneself. In other words, it is like multiplying everything with zero."

The Guiding force of Narayanashrama Tapovanam & Center for Inner Resources Development

Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha

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Our life is full of activities. You may ask: “How can we develop bhakti in the midst of such hectic activities from morning till night? We are not like sannyāsins or tapasvins who can sit somewhere and think of God! How are we to grow devotion? How are we to get enriched by devotion?”

Growth & Enrichment of Devotion - IV

[Concluding part of the talk delivered by Mā on 29th December 2005 in the 4th Śreemad Bhāgavata Tattva Sameekshā Satram. – Ed.]

Divinizing All Activities

Our life is full of activities. You may ask: “How can we develop bhakti in the midst of such hectic activities from morning till night? We are not like sannyāsins or tapasvins who can sit somewhere and think of God! How are we to grow devotion? How are we to get enriched by devotion?”

We should be able to make our life divine through all activities. Bhagavadgeeta says: Svakarmaṇā tam-abhyarcya – we have to worship the Lord with our activities. We must offer all our activities to the Lord. How?

I remember an incident. I was not a Sannyāsin then. I had a great opportunity to serve a Sannyāsin, a Mahātmā, who was teaching us the scriptures. We used to attend his classes. One day he told us, “I am taking bhikṣā from only one house. Sannyāsins are not supposed to do that. They should take bhikṣā from at least seven houses a week.”

I did not know whether we were fit to bring bhikṣā for the Swamiji. So I told him, “Mahārāj, we do not know whether we are fit to give you food. But if you give us a chance, we will try.” We had heard that he was a very orthodox sannyāsin, and sometimes would not accept bhikṣā if he felt that it was not cooked and brought with enough purity.

So, there was a fear in my mind whether I would be able to cook for him with enough care and with the purity of heart and mind. I am talking about a time when I was much younger – may be about 34 years old. Those were my sādhanā days – trying always to keep the mind pure, attentive and divine, and failing quite often. So, what happened?

First, we bought a bag for him – an orange coloured bag. We thought: “He is a Sanyāsin; so, it is better that the items meant for him be kept in an orange bag”. Mind you, I was not a sannyāsin at that time. Whenever we went to buy vegetables for him, we would not keep that bag on the floor anywhere. We would hold it in our hand. We would select the best of vegetables and other items for him and keep those in the orange bag. Vegetables for our own consumption, we would buy separately and keep separately.

We bought some new vessels for cooking and carrying the food for him. We felt that we should not cook or give him bhikṣā in any vessel used by others. If one can afford one should get new vessels. And then, when the day came, I started cooking with all my mind and heart. I became very tense thinking every moment about my purity and attention – “Am I doing it perfectly? When I serve him food, will he refuse it or will he take it?” Anyway, we went and served him the food. After taking, he said: “Very pure food you have brought. I am happy.” I felt relieved.

Next week, as the day of bhikṣā arrived, I became all the more tense, all the more worried – “Once I have passed, but what is going to happen this time?” Like that, three-four weeks passed. I thought: “What is this? Such an opportunity I have got, but it is making me tense. It is not giving me any joy! This opportunity of serving a Mahātmā, very few people get. But why is it that instead of making me light and joyous, it is making my mind full of tension and anxiety?”

I found my answer. I understood: “I am trying to make my cooking pure and divine only once a week, because I have to give Mahārāj bhikṣā that day. If every day I cook thinking that I am cooking for the Lord alone, then no special effort will be required that day. There will not be any anxiety or tension. My cooking will become divine everyday.

It was a great revelation! From that day, I started cooking everyday with the attitude that it is an offering to the Lord. There was no more anxiety about what will happen if the food cooked was not pure, nor was there any fear about humiliation “if Mahārāj happens to reject the food”. This is true of not only cooking, but everything we do. This is the meaning of “Svakarmaṇā tam-abhyarcya” (Worship the Lord with your own activities. Bhagavadgeeta 18.46).

Why did I narrate this experience? Because, this is what happens in the association of holy persons. From that association I got this revelation that every action has to be divinized. Whatever work we do, we have to associate divinity with it. In extremely difficult situations also we have to say, “O Lord, I am not able to bear the burden; please make me feel your presence in my heart. Give me strength. Make my mind courageous and strong so that I can cross over the difficulties.”

But, even when we have the holy association, we have the Guru, we will not succeed in transforming our mind unless we are true disciples. A true disciple is always open before the Guru. He must be ready to take all the corrections. He should feel blessed. He should feel fortunate. A disciple should feel:

ब्रह्मानन्दरसानुभूतिकलितैः पूतैः सुशीतैर्युतै-

र्युष्मद्वाक्कलशोज्जितैः श्रुतिसुखैर्वाक्यामृतैः सेचय ।

सन्तप्तं भवतापदावदहनज्वालाभिरेनं प्रभो

धन्यास्ते भवदीक्षणक्षणगतेः पात्रीकृताः स्वीकृताः ।।

- Vivekacūḍāmaṇi 39

O Lord, the Brahmānanda-rasānubhūtiḥ which you have had, which is so pure and soothing, shower upon me a pitcher full of it in the form of sweet nectarine words and make me feel cool. I am scorched by the forest fire of worldliness. Shower your nectarine words on me, O Lord, and make me cool. Dhanyāste bhavad-īkṣaṇa-kṣaṇa-gateḥ pātrī-kṛtāḥ svīkṛtāḥ – I feel blessed that you have accepted me as a disciple, you have given me refuge.

This dhanyatā (blessedness) we should feel always – “Out of many, I am fortunate that I am in the association of a Guru, a Mahātmā.” Then only we will be able to know the Lord, grow love for the Lord and understand who He is. Kaṭhopaniṣad says (1.ii.23): Yam-evaiṣa vṛṇute tena labhyaḥ – The Soul can be known only by one who chooses It in preference to everything else. You may give very good lectures. You may chant many ślokas. You may be very intelligent and scholarly. None of these qualifications will enable you to realize the Lord unless you embrace the Lord wholeheartedly. Wholeheartedly, in preference to everything else! We have to think about Him in all our activities, in our success and failure, in our likes and dislikes. We should see his merciful hands in everything that happens in our life. Then our life will become blessed, dhanya.

And ultimately we will understand: “Whatever has come in our life, whatever we have faced on our way – every incident, every interaction – has only helped us go closer to the Lord, made us grow love for Him and be enriched.” We will say like Bhartṛhari,

मातर्मेदिनि तात मारुत सखे तेजः सुबन्धो जल

भ्रातर्व्योम निबद्ध एष भवतामन्त्यः प्रणामाञ्जलिः ।

युष्मत्सङ्गवशोपजातसुकृतस्फारस्फुरन्निर्मल-

ज्ञानापास्त समस्तमोहमहिमा लीये परब्रह्मणि ।।

- Vairāgyaśatakam 100

Mātar-medini - O Earth, the mother; tāta māruta – wind, the father; tejas sakhe – fire, my friend; subandho jala – water, the best relative; and bhrātar-vyoma – space, my brother! I am giving you my last praṇām. Why? Because, it is by your constant association, through all the interactions with you that I have finally acquired the nirmalajñā na – the pure Knowledge. And through that Jñāna, apāstasamasta- moha-mahimā – all the delusions and ignorance about the world and the Lord have vanished. And with what result? Leeye para-brahmaṇi – I have got merged in the para-brahman, the Supreme Truth, the Lord.

This is our ultimate destination. We get enriched by all the interactions with the world, if we have made Lord the ultimate goal in our life.

I pray that all these Bhāgavata satrams, all these readings and listenings, take us to that Ultimate Goal through the association of the Mahātmās, the Gurus. I will chant a few ślokas and stop.

Once, when a Bhāgavata Saptāham was being held, a preta (ghost) – he had become preta because he did a lot of bad work – got liberated. So, there was a question: “So many devotees have listened to the Bhāgavatam, but why is it that only the preta got liberated? Why the celestial vehicle did not come to take others?” The reply was –

श्रवणस्य विभेदेन फलभेदोऽत्र संस्थितः ।

श्रवणं तु कृतं सर्वैर्न न तथा मननं कृतम् ।।

- Bhāgavata Māhātmyam 5.71

It is because of the difference in listening that this has happened. Everybody has heard; but has not done the manana (rumination) as the preta did. So, we have to do manana. We must ruminate and contemplate upon what we listen from the Mahātmās.

शङ्खिने चक्रिणे नित्यं शार्ङ्किने पीतवाससे ।

वनमालाधरायैव तस्मै कृष्णात्मने नमः ।।

- Mahābhārata Śāntiparva 47.37

एकोऽपि कृष्णस्य कृतः प्रणामो दशाश्वमेधावभृथेन तुल्यः ।

दशाश्वमेधी पुनरेति जन्म कृष्णप्रणामी न पुनर्भवाय ।।

- Mahābhārata Śāntiparva 47.92

कृष्णव्रताः कृष्णमनुस्मरन्तो रात्रौ च कृष्णं पुनरुत्थिता ये ।

ते कृष्णदेहाः प्रविशन्ति कृष्णं आज्यं यथा मन्त्रहुतं हुताशे ।।

- Mahābhārata Śāntiparva 47.93

हर त्वं संसारं द्रुततरमसारं सुरपते हर त्वं पापानां विततिमपरां यादवपते ।

अहो दीनानाथं निहितमचलं निश्चितपदं जगन्नाथस्वामी नयनपथगामी भवतु मे ।।

- Caitanyaśatakam 8

Jai Guru! Jai Guru! Jai Guru!