Live Q&A from Germany
Shree Peetha Nilaya Ashram, 7 April 2020
Today's Satsang features answers from Paramahamsa Vishwananda about being born into a Christian family, advice for anxiety attacks, repenting our mistakes, and being grounded in our spirituality.
Jai Gurudev, Everybody!
Welcome to Shree Peetha Nilaya!
So, you know, the quarantine is just walking from one room to the other! But today I discovered that I can go up on the roof. So I went up on the roof to walk around. It was nice, actually. And it is really nice because the weather was wonderful, and now it is chilly and a bit cold. After coming from India, yes, we can say that it is cold.
This morning I was talking with somebody and that person was wearing a mask, just like this one here, you know it reminds me tomorrow is Hanuman Jayanti, and it’s funny how nature has made everybody become like a monkey. Wearing it like this, you really look like a monkey. So, are we really? Or are we just acting as? This is a question. (So, now it’s getting too much for the minds of people!)
It’s funny, when we do Silent Retreat, it’s similar. Whenever people say, ‘Okay, one day fine, two days okay, but when they hear that on a silent retreat it’s like seven days to be in silence and seven days you have to be away from one’s mobile and so many things. People go into panic. So, that monkey that is inside starts to jump around, thinking, ‘Oh, how can I live without all these things?’ But here it is reminding you that, yes, you can. You can sit in one place and enjoy that place. For sure now you still have your mobile, you still have your TV and so on; you still carry on.
But it’s amazing to see how the mind panics. It’s like the monkey. A monkey can’t stay in one place and just sit there. A monkey has to keep moving around, jumping from one branch to the other. Such are the minds of people. Now that we see the monkey on the outside, this makes you think, what have we become? From being a human who is full of love, we have forgotten about it.
Now social distancing: people you love, you can’t even be near them, people you care about, you can’t be near them. What have you become? Through social media, through all this technology, we have distanced ourselves. We are always with our mobiles; we are always on the phone, we forget about the people around us. So, now this is a time that we can really appreciate what God has given around us.
Why am I born into a Christian family if my soul now follows a Hindu path? Often all those Hindu gods, saints, festivals, ceremonies and stories stay strange to me and I am afraid I will never overcome the cultural gap.
Like you said in your question itself "the cultural gap"…but what Christ taught is not about religion. What Krishna taught is not about religion. It’s about becoming a better human being and how to surrender to God. Did they talk about religion? No, they never talk about religion.
Of course, when we follow a certain path in life, which is very important, we have to abide to that path. Like your question said, you are born in a Christian family. What is the precept of a Christian? When you call yourself a Christian, you have to become like Christ. Christlike, that’s what Christian stands for.
So, what is the personality of Christ himself? He is loving, non-judgemental, free. What did Krishna teach in the Bhagavad Gita? It is the same freedom to be who you are. It was never about religion. What we made out of it afterwards, religion, is from the human mind, because humans want to have control over everything.
When the Vedic sages in India were giving their knowledge, they were giving their knowledge to humanity. They didn’t say that, ‘You are different, I will not give you that knowledge.’ No, they were giving that knowledge to everybody.
Veda-vyasa, when he compiled it, compiled it for generations. He compiled all this knowledge for generations to profit from it. When Lord Krishna gave the Bhagavad Gita, He spoke not only to Arjuna, He spoke to everyone, because He spoke in an universal way. That universality which resides there is not Hindu, it’s not Christian, it’s not Islam, it’s not anybody. What resides inside, the universality of the Self, is who you are. And through different teachings you have come to that point that the Lord, God, is one. You can call Him by so many Names, but in the end, He is the Supreme Lord which resides within everything.
There is this beautiful verse in the Gita, Chapter 15 verse 14, where Krishna said, (and actually, we do this in the Food Prayer): ‘Aham vaishvanaro bhutva, praninam deham asritaha, pranapana samayuktaha, pachamy-annam chatur vidham’. It’s so beautiful; I find this verse so nice. Relating to that He said, ‘In the form of fire I reside inside the body digesting the four types of food, four kinds of food’, but together with inhalation and exhalation: prana and apana. Here we can say, also, perception and excretion. Well, I’ll explain to you.
You see, when the Supreme Lord said He resides in the form of fire inside all living beings, that fire is equal whether you are Hindu, you are Christian, you are whatever religion. as long as this fire is inside of you, you are alive. But when that fire is not there, when life has departed from you, in the absence of that fire, you are just a body. It’s not even you. It’s just a body, nothing else.
Everybody goes through that: the body is just a body. Like it is said, this body is made up of the five elements, it will go back again to the five elements. In the Christian tradition you say "dust to dust". So, this is made up of this dust. The elements combined have made this body. Does the atma have any religion? No, it doesn’t! But we have to take what the sages have said, what all the rishis have said, what all the saints have said, about how to build our relationship to God. In whatever ways, whatever path we take, we have to honour that path. We have to embrace it. Only by embracing it, by honouring it, we can come to the point of understanding and come to the point of realising that Self that is beyond religion. That’s what Christ taught, that’s what Krishna taught.
Again, to come back to that verse from the Gita where Bhagavan Krishna Himself said that without this, in the absence of this fire, you would not be alive. This fire, which is helps you to digest the four kinds of food (the four kinds of food which are those which can be chewed, swallowed, licked or sucked). These four kinds of food are digested through the help of the air that you are inhaling. So, when you are inhaling, you are swallowing, and the air is pushing it into your stomach and the same mighty Lord is digesting that food inside of you, transforming that food you are eating. Through the digestive secretions inside of your stomach, it’s assimilating and making it transform into energy inside. And it is the same apana.
With prana you are taking the food, food is going inside, its form is turning and so on, and inside it’s being digested. And here it’s saying the same Lord assumes that form: apana. So, through prana and apana the food is put out. It’s so beautiful how this body's systems function inside. Here Bhagavan Krishna said, ‘This is Me. I am this life force; I am this energy.’ Here Bhagavan again reminds you of that.
While we are talking about your question being related to Christian or Hindu, imagine that those functions happening inside of your body is the same as your life function inside of you. You come, you live life, and of course, in your life you have certain ideas of how life must be, but yet, what resides within your atma, that dharma that you have, life will bring you where you have to be, whether the mind understands it or not. Because very often you want to understand, ‘Why am I born in a different religion, yet I have to follow another religion?’ Like you are asking this question. It’s not about religion, it’s about which one will bring you to that state of Realisation; which one will bring you to the state where you will say, ‘Yes, I want to completely surrender to God’?
I am not saying that what Christ has given is less. What Christ has given to humanity is great; He has come as a reminder. Again, we see that He always offers everything to the Father. He offers everything up to Him, you know? At no time He has ever said that, ‘I am doing that.’ No, He said, ‘The Father is doing it through me.’ He was well aware that there was something, a different energy inside of Him.
Like that, you go through stages in life also. What you have not understood, life will bring you to another stage where you have to move forward. So, it is the same as going to a school, you know. If you sit in one class, you will not learn anything. So, you have to move on, no? And to move on, you have to pass the test.
Like that, you may be born in one religion, but yet, your atma has a different programming inside. Your atma has come for a different purpose. Your atma has come, because your atma has already evolved from one tradition to the other, but yet, still, due to the law of karma, you still have to go through that until you find what will liberate you.
If you look at it from that point, not from the mind point of view, because the mind point of view will question so many things, but when you look at it from the point of view of the Self, you will see that there is no such thing. What Christ is teaching, Krishna taught 3000 years before that.
When you read the Bhagavad Gita, you will that see everything that Jesus taught is there. That knowledge is universal. It helps you to advance more in your understanding.
So please, I’ll ask you, read the Bhagavad Gita and really understand it. Don’t just read it as a novel. Read and understand it; read it with a commentary that you can really understand from another point of view, from the guru's point of view. Then you can assimilate it in your life itself. And remember that it is the same Lord which has assumed a different aspect, and it is within this body. He assumes different duties to bring you to that realisation of who you truly are.
Some people are experiencing mental problems like anxiety or panic attacks, what is your advice to this besides meditation? Should we also consider going to psychologist? What is the source of it?
The source of all this mental panic and attack is a lack of trust in themselves. Because you don’t trust your inner feeling. Like you said in your question, let’s assume that you are doing meditation but yet, you don’t trust your meditation. That’s why you are having a panic attack.
If you feel that, ‘If I go to a psychologist and if I tell all my problems to that person or I go to a priest and I confess everything to that person, I will feel free.’ No, you will never be free from that because you are attached to it. You are just taking your load and dumping it on somebody else.
But then, what happens? You still take your load back with you after you finish with your psychologist! Don’t think that the psychologist will take your load and say, ‘Yes, my child, I give you the absolution of that’ and finish, like the priest will say, ‘I give you absolution' and in your mind, psychologically, you think ‘Yes, I am finished with that’. You go home, you are absolved, you are clean. If a person can give such absolution, yes, okay. But nobody can do that.
Actually, what happens during confession, is that you cleanse yourself. You come to the point of self-acceptance, you come to the point of, ‘Yes, I have given it to God.’ Whether the priest blesses you or the psychologist tells you, ’Yes, you are free’, whatever, it doesn’t matter, because you have done it.
Due to this lack of trust in your inner feeling, of course, psychologically you go crazy, you go into panic mode. The best way is to take the life of the saints as an example. Know where you have to focus your mind. As long as your aim is clear, there is no panic, but if your aim is not clear, you will always panic. Whether you go to a psychologist, you go to a priest, you go to whoever you want, it will not help you. You have to be clear with yourself. And when you are clear with yourself and have that confidence in any situation, you will be fine.
You are meditating, I assume, and you are doing japa, also. Trust the Divine inside of you. Maybe you know Him, but if you don’t know Him, trust at least the guru which you know inside of you. So, do your japa, trust in that Name, have faith in that Name of God. Have faith that He is residing inside of you. With such faith you will be fine. That trust will awaken and you will see that, when you sit in meditation, it’s not because ‘I want to meditate for something.’ You will sit in meditation because you want to be in connection with the Divine itself. But that trust must be there. If you don’t have that trust, it will not happen.
I’ll tell you a story. In the life of Sant Namdev: Namdev was a great devotee of Panduranga, Vitthala. Inside of him was only Vitthala, nobody else. So, one day in Pandharpur, there was a very rich man, and that rich fellow wanted to celebrate. There is a celebration there called Tula Mahotsav. In Tula Mahotsav, what happens is that a person sits on one side of a weight scale, and on the other side he asks people to put gold, silver and so on. This way, he weighs himself with the amount of gold and silver which is then given to the poor people. Well, it's lucky that Indians are very skinny, so they don’t need to really [pay that much]! (Imagine if I sat on that scale! It would be quite expensive, I’m telling you!)
The wealthy man distributed all the gold and silver to everybody and at the end he asked, ‘Has everybody received something?’
Everybody said, ‘Yes, but Namdev hasn't received anything.’
So, he sent a messenger for Namdev Maharaj, and Namdev said, ‘Well, no, I am not interested. He has done good things, he has distributed to the brahmins and to the poor people, that’s fine for me. I don’t need anything from him.’
Again, the man sent the messenger a second time, and again the same answer. So, when he sent the messenger the third time, Namdev came to him and said, ‘Listen, I told you I don’t need anything from you, but since you are so keen to give me something, I will ask you for something.’
The wealthy man said, ‘Yes, please, ask me, I will happily give you whatever you ask.’
He said, ‘Okay, I will ask you to give me as much as you can when we weigh a Tulsi leaf. But on that Tulsi leaf we will not write the full Name of Rama, we will write only ‘Ra’. Then you give me the weight of that Tulsi leaf in gold, or whatever.’
The rich man said, ‘Okay’, and then he said, ‘Well, you are making a mockery out of me; it doesn’t weigh anything.’
Namdev smiled and said, ‘Well, let’s see.’
So, they brought the weight and Namdev took a single Tulsi leaf, and with faith and devotion to Vitthala, he wrote ‘Ra’ and placed it on the weight. And he asked the fellow, ‘Please’.
Of course, seeing a single Tulsi leaf is not much, you know. So, he took a gold coin and put it on the scale. And nothing happened. Two coins, nothing happened. Three, nothing happened; the Tulsi was still heavier. So, he started putting kilos and kilos of gold and silver and more on the scale. Nothing. The Tulsi still weighed more than that. So, he asked the neighbours and his family to bring all the gold that they had, all the jewellery that they had, all the silver that they had. They put it there, but nothing happened.
Seeing that, his pride and ego was shattered. He bowed down to Namdev Maharaj and said, ‘Please, I don’t have anything else to offer to you. Please take this.’
Then Namdev Maharaj said, ‘What will I do with this? What will I do with this heap of gold, all these things, when just a single Tulsi leaf which is so dear to my Vitthala is heavier than all of your gold. All of the punya that you have done and all the pilgrimages that you have gone on, doesn't equal that single Tulsi leaf.’
This story shows us what faith and devotion can do. If we have faith in the Lord, we trust Him. You will not need to go to any psychologist; you don’t need to go for anything, because He will install that peace inside of you. Because you are not in peace with yourself, you worry. Due to worry, you panic. When you don’t have something, you panic.
So, have at least the faith and trust that, when you sit in meditation, you have Him with you, you have guru and God always with you. Just trust in that.
If we have made terrible choices while on our path as initiated devotees, is there a way to repent and clear the slate so that we may start afresh?
Look, mistakes do happen, you know. You are a human being, firstly, and you will make mistakes. And if you repent truly and sincerely, know one thing: that God has forgiven you, and you have forgiven yourself also due to that repentance inside of you. Do start again, but don’t do the same mistake again. If you have done this mistake one time, learn from it. And have it always at the back of your mind as an example of what you should not do again. Then start new. Why?
Chances are always given. God gives you a chance one time, two times or three times. but if after three times you don’t learn, then you will never learn. So, if you’re truly and sincerely regretting and repenting for your mistake, move forward with your life.
If I am not very grounded, will spiritual practice move me further and further away from being grounded? How do we reconcile the two, to be fully in the body and a spiritual being at the same time?
Another word for spirituality is ‘grounding‘. If you say you are spiritual and spirituality is making you ungrounded – ah ya – then you should really consider yourself. So, what should you do if you are not grounded?
If whatever you are doing is not grounding you, I will ask you, first, to step back a little bit. Not to stop your spiritual practices, but to decrease them. First, start self-analysing yourself; start to look at how your mind is. When you go into the spiritual field, especially if you have a guru, the first thing that you do is bow down to the guru, no? This is what you do first. In the morning when you wake up, the first thing you do is bow down to the Master.
Why do you think we do that? Actually, when you bow down to the Master, it shows that the Master is very elevated, spiritually elevated. Does the Master fly around? No, the Master is very rooted on the ground. He has both feet very rooted. He is not flying. Mostly the devotees fly around with their fantasy and all this stuff, but the Master is very grounded. That’s why, when you bow down inside of you, you say, ‘In spite of You being so elevated in spirituality, yet, You are fully grounded, Your Feet are fully there.’ That’s why when you go to a temple you bow down to the deity, because they come here to elevate humanity. But they ground themselves.
If your spirituality is making you flying around, it’s better to calm down, so that you don’t appear like a lunatic, you know. Otherwise it’s very bad. You will give a bad name to spirituality, a bad name to your spiritual path. Imagine that you want to inspire people. So, imagine, you are walking around like a lunatic, how would you inspire the people around you? You will not! This happens only because there is a lack of knowledge inside of you. If you educate yourself well and you feed your mind with the right things, you will not fly around. Because those are the ones who have a true education. I’m not talking about education from school, I am talking about education in your spiritual path. Your lack of education in the knowledge about your path is why you are flying.
Who flies? Let’s see. In the spiritual field, very often you will see that esoteric people are always flying around, because they don’t have concrete knowledge about their spiritual path, and also because they follow some so-called teachers, who tell them fancy things which blossoms the idea that they are so great and they are somebody special.
That’s why many you will see go to America, to all these spiritual fairs. All of them are not grounded people, because there is no sense in them about what spirituality is. People think that spirituality is, ‘Yes, I sit and meditate a little bit, I shake a bit left and right...I am very spiritual.’ No, that’s not spirituality! Spirituality is when you are sitting and you have this connection with the Divine instantly. You feel His love. Your heart is burning with that longing inside of you.
It has nothing to do with the mental derangement of running around, or flying around. Real Masters are fully grounded. There are some great ones who hide their spirituality through deluding others by pretending to be mad. But that is something else. That is not all the people. Very often, people lose ground. Then ask yourself, ‘What is the aim of that?’ Hmm? What is the aim? Mukti? Liberation? What is it? If you are not free, if you are so mentally unwell, how would you liberate yourself?
Educate yourself about your path. Educate yourself. Get real knowledge. The Bhagavatam, the Gita... there are many other wonderful holy scriptures that can transform you to a better human being first, before you start growing wings and start flying around, because that will not help you.
So, be grounded and be a better human being.
Jai Gurudev, everybody!