Live Q&A from Vrindavan
Shree Giridhar Dham Ashram, 26 March 2020
In today's Satsang via livestream, Paramahamsa Vishwananda answered questions about the speed of His chanting, cultivating humility, experiences with Swamis, and who or what is God.
Jai Gurudev, everybody!
So, you see, like I was saying, the world is going paranoid, and the paranoia has really installed in the heads of everybody. Even here in Vrindavan, the people, the authorities, are also going a bit ‘cuckoo’ themselves. And, if you know the Indian bureaucracy, everything is about paper, paper, paper; if you give them one paper, tomorrow they look for another paper and tomorrow they will come again, and the next day, asking for more paper. It’s like you have to keep printing the paper and keep giving it to them. And, of course, you see, this is also due to the neighbours, because here they have a certain mentality that the westerners, the foreigners, are the cause of the Coronavirus in India; maybe it is partly true, but you see, they categorise everybody in the same box. And whenever they see foreigners, they see ‘Coronavirus’.
And sadly it’s not only here. In Germany also, in the ashram there. Throughout all these years, we have been abiding by everything that the government says, and by what the neighbours (whenever they complain) say, but yet, still they have a problem with us. So, you see, people like their problems, they like their worry, they like their fear. Instead of rejoicing and being happy to see happy people, they are not happy about it. They look for how to be miserable, and that’s why I think Bhagavan has given them something to be miserable about right now. So, what to do? That’s why we had some issues; that’s why the Satsang has been delayed a little bit. But you see how it is, people are people. Look, I’m wearing a nice T-shirt of Shiva today and on the head of Shiva is Krishna, and beyond is Sriman Narayana. And I think that’s where we have to be. Like Shiva, always constantly his mind is on Narayana, so like that we should not bother about these people. So, that’s a little bit of a summary of what is happening here and in the ashram in Germany!
When You gave us the 16 japa rounds to do, You told us not to do it quickly. I am watching Your livestream and You are doing it so quickly. Is it because You are strongly focused or is it something else?
Actually, when we are chanting, I’m not chanting ‘Om namo narayanaya’. I’m chanting, ‘Vitthala, Vitthala, Vitthala, Vitthala.’ That’s why it’s going faster! Well, you see, when I’m chanting, my mind is seeing the vision of Vitthala and Rakhumai. So, their vision is in front of me. That’s why I am interacting with them. That’s why I can chant [so fast].
Normally, even if I don’t chant, it doesn’t matter because in each breath I do remember them. I am doing this chanting not for myself, but for all of you. And also, to inspire you to chant daily the Name of God. Because here, everywhere, like I said from the beginning of our Satsang, we are reminded continuously of God’s presence in our life. So, whether I’m chanting fast or slow, I am doing it with the same attitude and faith when I am going and doing my other things of daily life. So, I have said to chant, because, for you all, you have to learn to calm your mind; but in my mind there is nothing there, so there is nothing to calm! So, I can chant, I can scream His Name, run, it doesn’t matter as long as I am chanting the Name of the Lord. And for you also is the same. You can chant the Name of Bhagavan however you feel as long as you chant it with faith and devotion; that is the most important thing. If you chant and you don’t have faith in what you are chanting, of course, it will still have a certain effect upon you. But with faith, that amplifies that Divine Names and gives such a great power to it, and that is the most important. I am enjoying it, actually, really. I wait for that time, I am looking at the time, when will it be 4:15 so that I can sit there and chant with all of you, really!
What is the best way to cultivate humility?
You see, if humility was just like a kilo of rice you could just go to the shop and buy, it would be much easier. Very often when people talk about humility, they talk about humility like as if it is a grain of rice, that you can just go to the shop and buy it, ‘Oh, yes, I am very humble’ No! Humility it’s a lifelong process to work out. It’s not from one day to the other. It’s not by saying that, ‘I am humble’, that you become humble. By transforming how you see yourself, humility will awaken. If you are full of pride and ego, do you think humility will awaken? You may say, ‘I am humble, ‘I’m humble, I’m humble.’
I’ve seen so many people, who think that they are very humble, but in reality when you talk with them, they keep talking only about themselves. They don’t talk about God, they don’t talk about anything else, but only how great they are, how many things they have, and very often they call themselves humble. So, humility is a virtue that the more you go deeply into yourself, the more you will realise that you have to be humble. The whole expansion of things and what makes you arrogant is what you think, you see? The more you think you know something, the more you become arrogant. But the more you think that you still have to learn a lot, the more that will humble you.
Because learning never finishes. From the first moment you breathe, from the first breath until the last one, you will still learn. So this is humility: when you forget about what you know of yourself. Say that you don’t know anything, and look at yourself and see it, not just saying it only, not mere words, empty words, but the meaning of it that, yes, when you look at yourself, do you know who you are? Do you know yourself? Then why all these glamorous words of how great you are, how wonderful you are, you know? All this greatness, all this wonderfulness, and in one click the Lord can take it away. And this is the moment also. You see what is happening in the world, where, this virus, is humbling everybody. From the highest to the lowest, everybody is being humbled. Everybody is being reminded of life. So, why be arrogant when you will leave everything here and go? This is one thing I have never understood: why do people have to be proud of what they have? It’s good you have worked, you have earned a lot, that is yours. But why become proud about it? Why be arrogant about it? You can also do it in a humble way.
In Bhagavad Gita Chapter 12, verse 2, Bhagavan reminds us of the quality a devotee must have. He said three things in that. He said, ‘Those who fix their minds upon Me, those who worship Me and those who have faith in Me: I consider them the greatest yogis.’ They are on the highest path. These are three simple things. Very often on the bhakti path, people say, ‘Oh, yeah, bhakti is very simple, it’s for simple people.’ Actually, it’s not true.
When we look at these three things that Bhagavan said, ‘Those who have strong faith in Me.’ Faith is not just like that, Faith is not, ‘Oh, I believe in something blindly’ like that. Faith makes the things that you don’t know known to you.
‘Those who worship Me.’ When we see the devotees worshipping the deities, the outside world people will think, ‘Oh, my goodness, these people are stupid!’ You know? ‘These people are dumb, they are just worshipping a stone or a piece of metal.’ But it’s not true. You see, what is happening by worshipping the deity is that your mind needs something to focus on. Either it is focusing upon the world, and you become slave to the world, or your mind has been given a certain image, a certain focus, a certain aim. So, a devotee’s mind is not focusing on themselves, for their pride and ego to boost up. No! They are focusing upon the form of their beloved Lord. This is the object of their worship. Even thought this object is limited, yes, but that mind which is unlimited, that mind which is great, has learned to focus itself upon that supreme Form. Because the form of the Lord, even if it is limited to matter, in reality what it is holding is that faith. If you believe a stone to be a stone, it will be a stone. But if you believe that stone to be God, it becomes a Shiva-lingam. Like that, that belief, when somebody is worshipping, that object of worship, becomes one focus and one intention.
Then Bhagavan said, ‘And the third one is those who ‘Focus their minds upon Me.’ You see, these three sound similar; those who have faith, those who find Him in an object and those who focus their minds upon Him. It’s similar, but you see, we can sit in contemplation, we can sit in japam, but very often our mind is wandering around. But here Bhagavan exclusively said, ‘Those who focus their minds upon Me, I consider that as a greatest yoga.’
So, that focus is not just a mere focus. It’s a focus in which all the attention is being diverted to one single point. We can read a novel and just go through it like nothing; like people read one novel after the other, they fill their mind with so many things, but it doesn’t have any impact upon their lives. Does a novel change one’s life? No, it doesn’t! You can read hundreds; it will never change your life. It will, actually, make you more dumb and stupid, because then you try to implement this in your life and think that, ‘Ah, yes, the Prince charming will come’, and all this stuff. This is where all the problems start arising.
But when you have focus upon the Lord, you focus on His lila, something else awakens inside of you. That is the understanding of life itself. Because what Bhagavan has given through the holy scriptures: the Bhagavatam, Bhagavad Gita and so on, is about your journey back to understand who you are truly. Go beyond that mind concept, that sensory organ concept, that intellectual concept, But that happens only through humility. It can’t happen differently. When we talk about love, the whole concept of love, of course, everybody feels and knows a certain way that love is, but love in itself is a very humble quality. You are giving up your own freedom for something. That’s what is love. You see that clearly when two people are in love with each other. One is giving up their own freedom, or both are giving up their own freedom to sustain each other, to be able to cope with each other.
Lately because of this Coronavirus, some devotees have been sending me some funny pictures, also some funny videos about how terrible it is when people are living together, to bear with each other, and what is happening after three or four days; it’s really funny to look at it. But this is how it is, you see? It humbles you. This morning I got a little video from somebody. A man tries to ask his wife something and the wife took a belt and started beating him, and it’s written ‘After four days of quarantine’. So, you see, nature is still humbling each one also about that! Humbling comes in many ways. Right now the whole world is called to humble themselves, to take time, to go inwardly. I really wish people would understand that, because like I was saying earlier, at the beginning of the Satsang, we are trying always, to spread the Love of God, but not everybody really will be able to understand that. But that’s what we have, So…
It reminds me of a story right now of a two neighbours. A wise neighbour, very intelligent, very rich, bought a beautiful orchard and he had his beautiful house on it. And his neighbour was a grumpy old man. This man was very jealous of his wealthy neighbour. So, he did everything to make that man, the neighbour with the beautiful house, angry and really he tried his best. He would throw garbage, he would terrible things to harass his neighbour, because of jealousy. So, one day he took some garbage and in front of the gate he pushed all the garbage underneath and left his basket there. So, when the wise and intelligent neighbour came out, he saw the garbage, and what did he do? He just cleaned it and then he took the basket, filled it with some nice apples, then he went to the grumpy neighbour and knocked at the door.
When the grumpy neighbour heard the door knocking, he said, ‘Ye! I am ready to fight with him, because finally he has come to his senses that we have to fight, we have to really beat each other for him to understand that I am more powerful and stronger than him.’ So, when he opened the door, he saw the man with the basket and the man handed the basket to him full of apples in it, and he said, ‘Listen, I am returning your basket with what I have. You have given me what you have, but I am giving you what I have.’
So, you see, like that, everybody gives to each other what they have. So, if you are humble, what you have inside of your heart is what you will give to this world.
I have had both positive and negative experiences with Your Swamis. If one doesn’t follow the Swamis’ guidance, is the consequence the same as not following guru’s guidance, as they are Your representatives? Or is there any consequence at all?
Actually, there is no consequence, because they are not your guru. What is important to be clear about is who is the guru. I am the guru for all of you. So, whether you are following the guidance of the Swamis or not, it is not a consequence. But the Swamis have been given a certain task, you see? And, of course, they represent me, so certain respect must be given to them. But if they start to put themselves in the role of the guru and expect people to really abide by them or fall at their feet and eat their prasad and so on – I have heard many things like that – that is completely absurd. So, devotees should know that even if they are taking initiation from the Swamis, that I am the only guru and will always be the only guru for them. Whether I am here physically or not, I will always be the guru for them. So…
Who or what is God to You? Can You, please, share the essence of what God is? I have had so many understandings in my life and I would just like to have one!
Well, you had many understandings, and if that has not given you the right understanding who is God, then I don’t think that what I will tell you that will make any changes in your life. You see, people like the concept of God, and they like to hear what and how God must be according to them. They are looking through many paths, through many ways, and they are expecting that throughout that someone will tell them, ‘God is like this’, and then they will be happy.
There was once a man was also going from one ashram to the other, always asking, about his question, and of course, in his mind he had a certain answer inside of his mind. You see, when you go and ask the question like that, you have a certain answer what you want to hear. God must be an old man with the long beard, very strict and very terrifying. For some. You see? For some they like the concept of God that, oh, God is there to fulfil their wish only. It’s like a wish-fulfilling tree, whenever, whatever wish they have, they like to say, ‘Oh, God, please, fulfil that wish for me.’ They don’t even know whether God is listening or not listening, but yet, they do it for the sake of doing.
And then you have others who sincerely and truly devote their life to know God. You see, you expect me to answer your question, ‘Who is God?’, if I told you, ‘Yes, God is Love, would that awaken love inside of your heart? No, it would not! You see? If I told you God is bliss, would it awake that bliss inside of you? No, it would not. It is only through sincere dedication, through sincere longing for Him, through sincere want to know Him, that He will reveal Himself. Otherwise, why should He reveal Himself? You who are moving from one concept to the other; you will keep moving from one concept to the other because no concept will really make you happy. Because, you see, you are wasting your time in running behind the concept of God, instead of building your relationship with Him.
The question now will arise, ‘But I don’t know Him, how can I build a relationship to Him?’ That would be the next question inside of your mind. You see, when we study the holy scriptures, everybody doesn’t know everything. God reveals Himself. When you don’t know something, you go and study. No? And then through study – let’s say a scientist firstly, before they learn it through books. Then they put in practice through their the laboratory what they want to research. Then they will have the result afterwards. The same thing, you see, if you say, ‘Yes, I want to know about God, who is He, what is He and so on, but yet, you are not doing any effort, and that also doing effort in the right way, because you see, if you do effort in the wrong way, of course, then you will have still more concept. You see, nowadays when we look at this world, very often people like just the concept of just being happy. Are they really happy? No, they are not happy, but yet, because it’s pleasing to the ears that, ‘I am happy, yeah, I am happy’.
But life doesn’t go like that, no? You have to find real happiness in life. When we talk about God, it’s not just a concept of it, it’s not just a mere word which doesn’t have the power of it. We have to get to know Him, we have to get to really like the sages and the saints, we have to believe that they have had this relationship with Him, they have known Him.
Once there was a reporter in India here. Some people, the Varkaris, walk for many days to Pandharpur to have the darshan of Panduranga. Among these, there was an old man. So, there was a reporter who asked this man, ‘How many years have you walked to Pandharpur?’ The old man said, ‘I’ve been walking for 70 years. Every year I walk for a whole month to Pandharpur to have darshan of Panduranga.’
And that also, you see, there are millions of people who walk there. They don’t go inside the temple to have darshan of Panduranga. They walk continuously chanting, ‘Vitthala, Vitthala, Vitthala, Vitthala’. They walk to have darshan only of the Kalash, which means the pot on the top of the temple. Once they have seen that, they bow down, they walk back. What kind of devotion is that?
So, the reporter said, ‘But you’ve never seen Panduranga? For 70 years you have been walking!’ But the man answered, he said, ‘Yes, I’ve never seen Him, but I trust that He sees me.’
‘How can you trust?’
He said, ‘I trust in the word of Sant Dnyaneshwar, Tukaram. I trust in the word of the saints, because for them they have seen Him, they have been with Him. It is like a dog, in the surroundings. For sure you have, at night, heard a dog barking. You will hear one dog barks and straight away all the dogs in the surroundings start barking. Maybe that dog, one dog, has seen the thief. Have all the other dogs that are barking seen the thieves? No, they have not, but they trust that one dog who has seen the thief is barking to alert all the others. They trust him. If dogs can trust each another, people can trust in the word of the saints, ’
So, I find this such a beautiful answer, if we believe in what the saints and sadhus and gurus are saying, and really try. I don’t say that you can put in practice everything, but at least try your best to build your relationship with guru and God. Have that grace, and that will make God visible to you.