“The paths leading man to god or Truth are said to be many. I will speak only of the shortest. It is to recognize God as the Self in you and then to find Him out. What is the distance then between you and God, between you and yourself? Ah, there is no distance at all, a full Zero! Yet, how dare you say to find God and Truth is hard?’’ 

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

Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha

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Harih Om Tat Sat. Harih Om Tat Sat. Jai Guru. Jai Guru.

Mā says the subject for today’s discussion should be what one can learn from the Ashram or from an Ashram. India is a country which is great in many many ways. I would like to say the knowledge that India has been able to acquire or was able to acquire in the most ancient of times, I think that made and makes India incomparable. They hit upon this knowledge, not by an accident but by consistent and austere devotion to the very subject of knowledge, the knowing process and the knower.

Whenever you speak of India, we cannot avoid mentioning about the immortal Vedas and Upanishads. The word ‘Veda’ itself means knowledge and the treasure of knowledge. So Vedas are actually a treasure which our people were able to dig out and they preserved it ever since. They preserved it as a literature. The literature was not written, as later scriptures used to be written, cutting across the fibers of palm leaves. They only learned and uttered it very very rigorously. If one had to learn it, he had to learn it from hearing. So it was from mouth to ear, mouth to ear and they were not in written form at all. This itself is something very unique. Those days are gone and we have now everything in a written form. So Vedas are available in print, in written form now. Because it was a treasure of knowledge, a book of knowledge, it has its own beginning, the process of development and finally the outcome, the finale. The finale is the Upanishads.

The word ‘Upanishad’ is derived in this manner. ‘Upa’ means sameepe, near, proximate to, ‘nishad’ means to sit. So one has to sit closely with the teacher and with the teacher’s guidance, assistance and repeated effort alone, the knowledge can be imbibed and after imbibing it, the good student will himself become a teacher.

We have got a word like ‘Dakshiṇa’. Normally this is understood to be an offering which we make to the teacher. Whenever somebody guides you, helps you, assists you in doing a work, your performance depends upon him. So as a token of your gratitude and obligation, you give the teacher something in a tangible manner, that is considered to be ‘Dakshiṇa’.

But actually the word ‘Dakshiṇa’ does not stop there. In Sreemad Bhagavatam of twelve Skandas, the eleventh Skanda is called Mukti Skanda. That is the one in which the subject of redemption, liberation, fulfillment is discussed. There, the most important portion is Krishna’s last message to Uddhava, asking Uddhava to leave Krishna and Dwaraka, to go forever to Badarikashrama, live there, bathing in Alakananda and always basking in the cool and pure fragrant air of the Himalayas, contemplating upon Krishna or the Supreme Truth alone. Now Krishna enabled Uddhava to leave. The advice he gave in Kuruskshetra to Arjuna was to make Arjuna fight the vigorous war. The same Krishna was talking to Uddhava for a longer while because he had time and at the end of the talk, Uddhava simply got Krishna’s sandals to place on his head and he started walking. As Krishna succeeded in making Arjuna take the bow and arrow, here he succeeded in making Uddhava walk northward to the Himalayas. Both were the same subject of talks. The subject of both the talks was the same.

Now in the dialogue He had with Uddhava, Uddhava was asking a few simple questions and all of them were answered in a simple manner. Every question had eight letters; the answer also had eight letters. In that, he enquired, “What is meant by Dakshiṇa?” Krishna answered, “दक्षिणा ज्ञान-संदेशः”. Dakshiṇa means carrying the message of knowledge which one has learned from the Guru. You are going to a teacher to gain knowledge because you consider the knowledge to be Supreme! So you are not able to acquire it yourself. So you go to the Guru and seek it and the Guru guides and imparts it to you. You gain it. So you feel so much grateful to him and being grateful, what should you do? I think everyone of you should think. What should you do? Krishna says, you have gone to him thinking that the knowledge you sought was the Supreme and he was able to pass it to you. If the Knowledge is Supreme and you wanted it to be imparted to you by the teacher, the best that you can do as a service to the teacher and in honour of the knowledge that you have gained is to impart it to the others. That means you will have to resign from all other involvements and be given only to the pursuit, promotion and dissemination of knowledge.

“I have got this treasure from my Guru. I value it so much, but for it I would not have been able to live. He imparted it to me. So in his memory as a gratefulness to Him, I am going to devote myself completely to this knowledge dissemination.” That becomes the real Dakshiṇa, He says. Just imagine. This is what I say the greatness of our India is.

Dakshiṇa jñāna sandeśah. It is not materially or otherwise gifting anything to the Guru but dedicating oneself at the altar of knowledge, its acquisition, its affirmation and its dissemination. The word Upanishad means go to a Guru, sit by his side, listen to what he says, and learn. And once you have learned it, you must be prepared to teach it.

Nowadays, I have heard some college lecturers, particularly medical professors who say to the students, “All of you have come here for a crash course. You will get your certificate and you will run after profession. There are people to pay you sumptuously but if you are really devoted to knowledge and you understand the merits and utility of the knowledge you get, you should yourselves start teaching the others”. The best student should be the right teacher. We find that they don’t teach. They seek some other pastures because they get more money. It’s all a confusion.

India is a great country. So we have probed into the knowledge and on the basis of knowledge, we have evaluated human life and we have said that it consists of three stages. One is the stage of learning, Brahmacharya. Thereafter it is a life of getting married and being instrumental in perpetuating the lineage by having a couple of children. If one is born, he must be able to help one or two in their place to be born. Now after you have fulfilled that role, get away from the family and lead an austere life, entrusting the welfare of the family to your grown-up children. That is called the Vānaprastha or the anchorite life. Once you are able to do it well and you are satisfied about your austerity, you will be able to carry it on, enter into the fourth stage of life called sannyāsa, renunciation.

The one supreme fact about sannyāsa is you should declare to yourself that “I shall not harm anybody in this world. If at all, I shall be of help and service.” Once you are able to ensure fearlessness from your part, that is the best qualification for sannyāsa. Then you should be devoted to austerity, truthfulness, dependence on chance and God. And if at all you will do anything, you will only do the dissemination of knowledge which has made you a sannyasin and still keeps you as such. These are the four stages of human life.

What do you understand from this? Human life will be fulfilled only when all the four are taken up one after the other. And you should end up your life as a knowledge pursuit and a knowledge dissemination phase. This is for all people without exception. But actually what happens is, people get married. They get their children married and they boast that “Oh, I have become a grandfather, a grandparent. I have witnessed the marriage of my granddaughters, grandchildren”. That is not the purpose. In terms of knowledge, this is the assessment, this is the classification.

Now you were asking me what do you get from the Ashram. An Ashram is a place where the fourth Ashrama people live. Though it is the fourth Ashrama, one need not go through marriage and anchorite life. From Brahmacharya, you can straight have a triple promotion provided you are fit for it. In fact in our country, people who have become sannyāsins directly from celibacy, they have done the best of work in any area that they have taken up because after the body has become old, how long will you live, there will be no energy left for doing any considerable work. So people take up sannyāsa right from celibacy, Brahmacharya and when they become a sannyāsin, automatically an Ashram grows around them or develops around them.

The abode where an ascetic or a sannyāsin lives is called an Ashram. And in an Ashram, what will take place is the inmate’s own austerity and pursuit of wisdom. And when it ripens, he starts becoming a source which can charge other batteries also. So an ascetic when he grows well and he becomes a treasure or a repository of spiritual knowledge, he starts articulating it and from such articulation, people start coming and hearing him, sitting around him and an institution or a collective life like this grows. But mind you, in an Ashram whatever is not taking place in the society otherwise and in a household should take place here.

Our day starts with a prayer, a collective prayer in Samadhi Mandir. It starts at 6 o’ clock. Thirty to forty minutes it goes on. This is the most vital part in our Ashram. But I don’t think in a household you all will get up and first pray for half-an-hour. Our prayer is not just a prayer. It is an amalgamation of lofty spiritual thoughts, spiritual assessments, spiritual knowledge, spiritual inspiration and the flames of enlightenment. After that, we have this Pushpa samarpaṇa program here. Then people disperse. We again have a bhajan session in the evening from 6.15 to 6.45. For something like one hour, 1.5 hours we have this spirituo-religious you can say, or spirituo-austere collective sādhanā. Then when both of us are here, I am here and Nutan Swamiji also is here, generally Mā is here when I am here, we have a session at 10.30. We also have a session at about 7.15 in the evening. Now this is the backbone of our Ashram.

People come here to participate in these programs, to listen, to absorb. The rest of the time they are supposed to ruminate or reflect over whatever they have heard. Additionally, they can go to the reading room library, take books and start reading. Whenever they want to discuss any subject with us, we are available, we give time and we meet people individually.

So it is always a knowledge interaction that takes place in an Ashram. What knowledge? Not mathematics, physics, chemistry, economics, anthropology and the like. All the knowledge will be about what is inside your body. Our body is only an external counterpart in our composite personality. It consists of matter and energy; I repeatedly say this. It has to be animated and activated by something very sentient that is within the body. And mind, intelligence and ego are its functional units. So all the knowledge that we discuss and share here will be knowledge about the inner personality, its characteristics, its potential, its possibilities.

Understand your inner being and develop it, develop it, develop it. That development we call purity, expanse, then qualitative enrichment where the mind develops a number of qualities. In fact, all the qualities of human are mental. Say truthfulness, does it belong to the body? Honesty, sincerity, dedication, perseverance, accountability, trustworthiness, reliance, love, sympathy, sacrifice, inclusiveness, all these are qualities of the mind. They become spiritual for us because these are qualities of the mind.

Similarly, we have qualities of intelligence. That sharpness and dedication by virtue of which the intelligence start discriminating anything and everything about our life. We say “be truthful”. The intelligence questions, “Why? Why not untruthfulness? What is the difference between the two? Is there any reason why truthfulness should be our way and not the other side?”. So the intelligence can question anything.

Ultimately it begins to question as Srimad Bhagavata puts it “Janmādyasya yataḥ”, I want to know the source of this creation. I am a person, a creature, a being of the Earth. The Earth is a planet. Planet is one of the many in a cluster, galaxy. Ultimately the whole world is there. Wherefrom did matter-energy aggregate crop up? Wherefrom did my mind start? How does the mind think? How do I formulate ideas and express them? What is the source of speech, source of thought, source of understanding? Can I access it? How to become more knowledgeable? How to discover and eliminate imperfections and defects in me? Can I become innocuous? Can I become one who will be able to always radiate goodness, love, fellow-feeling, sympathy? Will selfishness drop in me and can I become truly selfless? All these are questions we take up.

So an Ashram is a place where the knowledge about the subjective part of our personality and the world is understood, discussed and disseminated. We don’t discuss the object knowledge, not at all. What is matter? What is energy? How are they interconvertible? What are the economic needs of the country or the people? What is the objective welfare of the people? These questions we never take up. We take up only the subject knowledge. Knowledge of whatever is not object, but subject.

By subject I mean something other than the body but within the body. Your mind is a subject constituent. You cannot see it with your eyes or approach it with your ears. When a thought is produced, it is not senses that make you know it. When a feeling arises, you don’t sense it with your senses. So there are feelings, emotions, thoughts, memory, knowledge, enquiry, interrogation, all these are there.

Then we have problems and needs of the ego. Our ego is obstructional in many ways. It should be helpful. So I would like to say what we must have an enlightened ego - an ego which always radiates enlightenment. It should not be obstructive at all. Your ego should help you.

When Arjuna was reprimanded, admonished by Krishna, suddenly he felt that he was wrong and he should listen to Krishna and mend himself. See how his ego responded? When Arjuna asked Krishna to drive the chariot as if Arjuna was the master and Krishna his servant, they were so, He did not say anything, simply drove the chariot and still did what He wanted to. He wanted to make Arjuna examine himself and find out where the vacuum and deficiency in him were.

So an Ashram is a place where ascetics and austere people live and everything about them is austere and ascetic. If there are so many buildings in this Ashram, these have come out of our austerity. Our body survives because of the austerity we perform. There are people who like it, appreciate it. They come here, they are devoted to us, they take interest in our welfare, say bodily welfare, our needs etc. That is the culture of our land. So they make their offerings, it is called offering, in a very humble manner.

I think my body has no drop of blood which is not an outcome of offerings. The same applies to the elderly sannyasins and others here. We have nothing of our own. Our body and blood belong to the others. Our body is held by the Earth, our body is retained by the air, it survives on water and nourishment and none of these belongs to us. I think we understand it. We understand only that. So our knowledge is different from the knowledge of others. It is distinct, its focus is very clear. It is within the body, other than the body, its focus is the mind of man, intelligence of man, ego of man and ultimately the immortal, the imperishable Soul of man. I think this is what an Ashram is.

Now what do you get from an Ashram? Suppose you go near fire what will you get? You will get the quality of fire, it is heat. So you will feel hot, you will also feel, see in its light. So it imparts the light and heat to you. Similarly, if the fire, an inert agent imparts heat and light, at least we are conscious and sentient beings, we impart light and heat for you, spiritual heat and spiritual light, knowledge heat and knowledge brilliance. Unless you are able to get it, I don’t think there is any point in coming here.

Harih Om Tat Sat. Jai Guru.

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