A Devotee's Reality

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Shree Peetha Nilaya Ashram

Today's Satsang from Paramahamsa Vishwananda answers questions about the difference  between Shiva and the gopis as devotees, doubt on the path, understanding devotee behaviour, and the difference between padaseva-bhakti and dasya-bhakti.


Jai Gurudev, everybody! Welcome again!

Today is my last day of being in self-quarantine. Tomorrow I can go out, and you see the weather is beautiful, but fresh. 

Today somebody sent me a message of how three sadhus were killed in Maharashtra. Actually, I’m reflecting upon that, seeing how this culture, this rich culture, the Indian culture, is losing its beauty, and seeing how people nowadays treat and respect the saints and the sadhus. It’s very sad, actually. Because people are becoming so engrossed into what politics is telling them and what the media is telling them, they lose the capacity of reasoning. It is very sad to see such a beautiful culture being degraded, and how they treat those who are really promoting and keeping the culture and faith strong. In a way, though, it’s so beautiful to see that this rich culture has been spread not only in India, it has spread all around the world, where everybody is profiting from that. 

Also, yesterday I was talking about Srila Prabhupada, and people have been sending me many messages, saying, ‘Oh, this movie is beautiful about this saint and that movie is beautiful about that saint.’ Well, in the life of the saints, the gurus, there is always beauty. When we can appreciate that beauty, when we can appreciate what they have given to us, we will truly grow from that. And of course, in all the saints’ life, it is all wonderful. You see, that’s why I always say, take the life of saints, drink from the nectar that they have given you. And that you see clearly in the Srimad Bhagavatam itself. The Bhagwat is so rich about the greatness of these great saints, gurus, rishis, and the relationship that they have with their Supreme Lord Himself. It is not just an idea; it is their reality, their life with Him. Each life of a saint that you have read can inspire you. So, be inspired, don't just read it. No. Just transform yourself, see what you can gain from that and grow from that.

And another thing, today is also the Jayanti of Vallabhacharya, who was a great saint. He is the founder of one of the four sampradayas, also called the Rudra Sampradaya, Pushtimarg and so on. He was a great devotee of Giridhariji or Giriraj. Also, in Pushtimarg they worship Yamuna Maharani a lot. As you know very well, the temple in Vrindavan is Yamuna and Giridhariji.

And also, the Christians, the Eastern Orthodox, are celebrating Easter. I wish you all happy Easter, and Christos Voskrese and Christos Anesti to all, everybody!

Could You please explain the difference between the devotion of Shiva and the gopis? Both are said to be the best of devotees, and great examples, but they are quite different. Does it matter which example we take?

Shiva is the Lord of the gunas, whereas the devotees are representatives of devotion in whatever they are doing, in the material life. When we take, for example, the gopis, (a few days ago there was a question about gopis and Radha), are all elevated souls, which means their level of spirituality in their relationship to the Supreme Lord is a model to everybody.

When we take Lord Shiva, the Lord of gunas, he is always absorbed in remembrance of Sri Rama. Whenever he is meditating, he is always meditating upon the Supreme Lord Himself. And the gopis are also doing the same thing: whatever they are doing in their daily life, they are doing in remembrance also. They are not sitting in meditation, but they are doing it through being active into the outside world. For both of them, their minds are fully absorbed: one is through sadhanasadhana-bhakti, where one is fully absorbed in meditation. But what is the goal of one’s meditation? Lord Shiva represents here the great yogi. It is said yogis, even being sublime, being exalted, being great, having achieved a very great level in spirituality, still, they are fully absorbed into the Name of the Lord, that supreme aspect itself of the Lord.

When Lord Shiva was sitting in meditation, Parvati asked him, ‘On whom are you meditating? You, who are the Lord, everybody calls you Mahadev… you are not just a deva, you are Mahadev, you are the great God itself. But on whom? If you are so great, you are fully realised, everybody is looking at you, “Praise to you, Lord Shiva”, but yet, when we look at you, you are always sitting in deep meditation. So, who is that object of your meditation, Lord Shiva?’

He said, ‘The object of my meditation is Rama. My object of meditation is on the Supreme Lord Himself, Sriman Narayana Himself.’

So, this is the aim we have to have. In the Bhagwat, Canto 10, chapter 84, 16-17, the rishis said to the Lord, ‘We are rishis, we are learned, we know everything about everything around, and yet we are so bewildered by Your Yogamaya. We can’t comprehend. When You descended into this world, You acted so normal, just like a normal human being, as if You are ignorant like all the other people. You are acting so normal! But we know. You have come onto this Earth that has given so many forms and aspects in itself. You, who are the Lord of the creation, from which all this universe has been created; You maintain everything, You hold everything, and You dissolve everything back. You are the creator, protector and destroyer of everything, but yet, You are not bound by anything. Nothing of this really touches You, even though You are acting so normal.’

So, here we see that even when Bhagavan incarnates in this world He acts so normal. Even the rishis are bewildered by the Maya of Him. Because He has covered Himself, He has hidden Himself. He hides His divinity. He is such a great actor, that people don’t recognise Him.

Bhagavan Shankar, who sees this Supreme Lord, he recognises that Supreme Divinity itself, so how can he not meditate upon the Lord Himself? Like I said, he is the Lord of the three gunas, who has mastered the three qualities. So, here you see Lord Shiva Himself being absorbed in devotion to the Lotus Feet through his sadhana. He is showing an example of how to be a devotee. Even being exalted, being Self-realised, still, ‘The object of my meditation is the Feet of the Lord Himself.’

And you see the gopis: the gopis are in the world outside, they are normal people. They are doing their chores of the daily life, they are working in the fields, they are milking the cows, they are looking after the children, they are looking after their husbands, mother-in-law, father-in-law, whatever. But yet, this is clear for them also: the object of whatever they are doing is for attaining Krishna.

So, the object of both, whether it is Shiva or the gopis, are examples of where they are focusing. For both of them, it is to attain the Lord. The gopis are doing all the chores of the daily life, because you can’t sit like Lord Shiva through hours and days and years in deep meditation. If you could do that, go into nirvikalpa-samadhi and stay there forever like the great sages have (you have heard about it, that the rishis could sit for many years in deep contemplation upon the Supreme Lord), if you could do that, yes, then take Lord Shiva as an example. But if you see the gopis being in the world, and you are in the world, then take the gopis as an example. They are reminding you to do your duty but let your mind be upon the Lord. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, know one thing: you are doing it for Bhagavan Himself, you are doing it for Krishna. So, if that is clear inside of you, you will see that there is no difference, because both of their relationships towards Krishna are unique, yet both of them want to be with Him. So, both are examples where one’s mind must focus and where one’s mind must be absorbed.

Doubt is a huge challenge on our spiritual path.  What is the best way to overcome it? Is it better to ignore it or face it?

Doubt is a natural thing. It will happen. Because why do you have doubt? 

Firstly, because you are not fully absorbed into your path or into yourself. So, doubt may arise, especially at the beginning. But doubt is such a poison. If you start feeding it, you will be the one who will suffer afterwards. Because when you have doubt inside of you, of course, you start to think that this is your free choice, you have that freedom to think whatever you want. But to entertain that when, deep inside of you, you know that it is not like that? 

A doubt, what is a doubt? When you have something, a doubt is a something that it is unknown to you about it. Let’s say you are on your path and somebody comes and tells you something. Of course, straight away, because of your samskaras from the past, the mind starts to think about it. When the mind starts to think about it, you start to create the thoughts, ‘Oh, am I right on this path or not? Is it true what I am feeling or not?’ But what you are feeling is your reality. It’s not somebody else’s reality. People know their reality for themselves. But you don’t know about their reality. You know only about your reality, what you feel inside of you. So, can somebody say what you feel inside? Can you change that? No, you can’t. What you feel inside of you is your truth. You have to learn to trust. Doubt is an absence of that trust. When there is not this full trust in your path, in yourself, in your feeling, in the guru, in Sriman Narayana, of course, then the outside can influence you, or you can influence yourself, because due to samskaras from the past your mind can jump again. 

First, whenever you perceive doubt, just don’t go into it, or just see whatever it is in a positive way. Because, in everything there are two ways of seeing. Either you take one thing as positive or negative. This depends on which state of mind you are in. When doubt arises at first, of course, the negativity is more strong because it weighs heavier. But are you free from that? No, it makes you stressed, it makes you worried, it makes you uneasy, because you know deep inside of you there is a fight. Here [in your head] is something and here [in your heart] is another thing. So, it is like a deep fight between the two.

Sadly, many people start to listen to their minds. Then they lose the reality. You see? That is where you have to take the challenge of it. Go face it. Go through it. But like I said to you, first you have to become strong in yourself, you have to become strong in your feeling. Because, in doubt people often lose reasoning. They stop reasoning. Then you ask yourself, ‘What has happened to these people? Have they stopped using their brains?' You can’t become dumb from one moment to the other. But yet, people do. It happens. 

So, naturally, if you turn towards that doubt and go into that path, of course, you will not feel good about yourself. And, due to not feeling good about yourself, what do you want to do? You want to feel good again. How can you feel good? You can start to put that doubt into other people. You want to share what you have. If you have good things inside of you, you like to share it with others. And when you have dirty things inside of you, this also you want to share. It’s like you are so overfilled with garbage that you want throw it upon other people. And doubt is such, that you bring it and throw it on other people. Do you think you will feel good? No, you will never feel good. Even if you appear to feel good, you will never feel good. Because you know very well you are going against your true nature; you are going against what you feel inside of you. When you go against what you feel inside of you, you are poisoning others. You are throwing your dirt on other people so that they can tell you, yes, you are right and praising you for, ‘Wow, you have opened my eyes'. But this will not help you because it will always create a certain, ‘Am I truly right or not?' inside of you.

There is a beautiful story. There was a girl and a boy who were playing. The boy had a variety of marbles. (You know these little round things when you were small you played with.) He had a variety of those, and he was very proud of it. And the girl had variety of candies with her. So, the boy approached the girl and said, ‘Let’s do an exchange. I will give you all my marbles, you give me all your candies.’

And the girl said, ‘Okay, that’s fine.’

So, as he was giving all the marbles, he kept the biggest and the most beautiful one. He hid it, and he gave all the others to the girl. The girl gave all her candies to the boy.

That night the girl slept wonderfully. She was pleased, she was happy, because she was free, she had given all what she had. But the boy could not sleep. Why could the boy not sleep? Because inside, his conscience started to reproach him, firstly. Secondly, his mind started to think. Because, when you have done something like that, your mind starts to think about, ‘I have taken this marble, so maybe she has also not given me all the candies. She also had hidden the best of the candies.’ So, he could not sleep.

Like that also, people who cultivate doubt in their mind, are never free. Because, when you go into a certain path or certain direction in life, you have to try to give your best. I will not say hundred percent, because it’s impossible, but at least you have to try your best. If doubt is there, doubt will always try to stop you, and you will never be able to give your best into it. So, look at it and transcend it, or transform it. Or if you can’t do that, just ignore it.

I practice Atma Kriya Yoga but I don’t understand why Your devotees keep saying I need You. I see that many are weak, unhappy, and don’t care about people but for their murtis instead. They beg God and think they are better than others. Is this really Your teaching?

No, actually, my teaching is not that. We have to break this question into many parts for you to understand.

Firstly, you are doing Atma Kriya Yoga. Of course, you don’t need to be devotee, you can practise it. Nobody is telling that you that you have to need me, though. You don’t need me; you are practising, that’s fine.

And, secondly, in your question you said that they care more for the deity than the people, which is not true. I know the devotees. I have always told them service is the most important thing, and caring for others is the most important thing. What you have to see, also, for them to say, that because you are practising Atma Kriya that you need me, in a way, they've said that they have tasted something different and ‘I want you also to taste something different’. It’s not in a bad way they are telling you that.

One thing you have to understand: a devotee’s life, and what a devotee has, is different from what ordinary people have. Devotees have found their way to happiness through a certain way and they are happy about that. I will not say that my devotees are not happy. Maybe there are one or two who are not happy, but you can’t expect that, because devotion comes in many ways. So it can be that also being unhappy is a form of devotion.

Actually, what is the aim of a devotee. You have taken shelter of the Master. The Master normally becomes the centre point of everything for you. Ramanujacharya  said 82  prominent words before he passed away. He said, ‘Worship, give the same respect as you worship the deity to the acharya.’ And also, he said, ‘Treat every devotee with equal respect’.

So, it’s not about disrespecting anybody. It is out of happiness that they say, ‘Yes, you must be like this or you must abide by this’, because they have tasted something which makes them happy. It’s like if you have tasted something which makes you happy, naturally what would you do? You will give it to others also to be happy.

Sometimes, of course, they don’t know how to approach people, or in which attitude to approach people. This is a different matter. But if they have found their path, they have found their aim and goal in life, which many others have not, what is the most important thing about that? Why not?

You go through lives and you say, yes, you are happy. If you see your life before and your life when you find your spiritual path, your spiritual Master, and you are centred in that, what great joy that will be. Because, it is not in every life that one finds their spiritual Master. And if they realise that and they have this deep feeling inside of them, then, ‘Why should I be different?’, ‘Why should I be how YOU want me to be?’ No, they have to be how a devotee is. And, of course, sometimes their actions will be completely different from what people expect.

You say they are serving the deities more. Of course, this is their aim. But their aim is not about serving the deity. For them, the deity is not just a metal statue. They are focusing upon that essence which the deity holds. And that essence which the deity holds, how can mundane people understand that? Because, when the mundane people look at the statue, they see only the surface of the outside, but they are not exalted enough to see what is beyond that.

A devotee feels a different relationship to that, even if it is just a piece of metal or stone or wood or whatever, but the essence that is behind everything. That’s what the devotee really perceive. Do you think it's just taking a piece of stone and carving it into a form and you worship it and that’s it? No, it is not that! The person is not creating a relationship to the metal, but to that essence which is behind that; to that essence which prevails over everything. If God, through faith, can energise that deity and make it alive, imagine that! How great it is.

A few days ago, I was saying, Chapter 9, Verse 11 when Bhagavan said, ‘I come into this world’ where He said, ‘I come into this world on My own. Nobody can really recognise Me’. How would one recognise Him? Only when you have a certain relationship to Him can you recognise Him. If you don’t have a relationship to Him, why would He reveal Himself to you? He will not! 

The devotees have a certain relationship to that deity, where they feel something deep. Very often people say God doesn’t have a form, that we should just sit and meditate upon the Formless, which is so absurd. Krishna Himself, Chapter 4, Verse 6, said, ‘I incarnate into this world by My own will’, ‘I, Me, which is unborn, which is imperishable, which is the Lord of all beings, I come into this world by My own Yogmaya, so I cover myself, again.

Like I was saying before, the Bhagavatam Canto 10, 84, 16-17, where Lord Krishna Himself said, ‘I come into this...’ The yogi said that here in Chapter 4, verse 6, He said, ‘I come into this world by My own will and I cover Myself by my own Yogmaya.’

But how would one really understand that? One will not really understand it if you have not transcended a certain reality, if you have not reached a certain level. That’s why many people say, ‘Yes, the Supreme can’t take a Form’, ‘Why are you meditating upon a statue?’, or, ‘You are meditating upon Lord Krishna?’, and so on. But people who don’t have a relationship with the Divine, who don’t understand truly what a relationship really means, will not understand what the devotee is going through inside when the devotee is serving the deity itself. So, that’s why they will say [those things].

Just imagine in one instance. Very often people say God doesn’t have a form or whatever, which is completely absurd. That Lord who has created the whole universe with form, with aspects, with colours, with beauty, with all kinds of aspects, do you think that Lord who wills that everything happens, can’t will a form for Himself? Then He can’t be God.

So, through bhakti, through devotion, those who have that relationship to their deity, to the Divine itself, their minds don’t function the same way. They have exceeded that reality. For them, they dwell for the service of the Lord, for the service of the guru. Why would they serve a mundane world which will lead them nowhere?

There is a word called upasaka. What does that mean? Upasaka means somebody whose emotions and thoughts and heart are continuously focused upon one aspect of the Divine, focused with single-pointedness. That aspect becomes one’s reality. It’s not a God who is, ‘Oh, I’m praying to the air, to a void, or I’m praying to a nothingness’. You have a form, you have a mind, how can you pray to an emptiness? You can’t! You need something to build up a relationship. If Bhagavan has taken a certain aspect, a guru has come to lead one for what purpose? The guru’s life is to lead one to the Lotus Feet of the Supreme Lord, no? To make one ready. So if the Lord has seen that one is ready and He has sent the guru to that one's path, why not surrender to the guru’s feet and really go directly and focus mind, body and spirit upon that path itself. That one would not concentrate upon something which is mundane.

So, for your happiness do you think the devotee must be how you want them to be? No, the devotee will be how they have to be, and the devotee’s duty is to show others how they are and help others also to transcend their limitations.

Of course, like I said to you, in which attitude the devotees are doing it, maybe they have to look into that. So, in this context, I will say that my devotees, if they are listening to what the guru is saying, they should always follow what the guru is saying.

Mundane people in the mundane world will give you advice only about mundane things. Like I said, if you want to learn mathematics, you go to a professor of mathematics. If you want to learn physics, go to a physics professor. But if you want to learn about spirituality, go and surrender to a Master.

You are saying about my devotees being different. Of course, my devotees are different. In your eyes, it is different because you are completely focused upon other aims. Whereas my devotees are focusing upon guru and God. That’s what I have taught them. 

What is the real difference between padaseva-bhakti and dasya-bhakti, or are they ultimately the same?

Padaseva, firstly, what is it: the worship of the Lord, no? And dasya-bhakti, so when you worship the Lord, firstly, we are all servants of the Lord, no? We are all here to serve Him. We don’t know anything. Do we know what liberation is? We talk about mukti, no? Everybody likes that word,mukti, to be liberated. It’s true, who doesn’t want to be liberated? Everybody wants to be liberated, everybody wants to be free, but do we know what it is? No! 

Your mind is not free, your mind is fully attached to the matter on the outside. It can’t be free. When we talk about freedom, we have just an idea of freedom. But yet, when we talk about mukti, we don’t have any idea what it is. Of course, we talk about being free, but can we be free when we don’t know what it is? No, we can’t be free when we don’t know what it is. So, in that context, we rely upon the grace of the Lord, because He is the only one who can free us. When we surrender to Him and He sees that we are worthy of it, of course, then He frees one through His grace. To attain the grace of the Lord, we start by doing padaseva, where we give a certain direction to our mind. When you start serving the Lord, automatically we become servants, no? We render service to Him.

But servant is not in a way that you understand. You have to understand, if you are asking about padaseva, you for sure understand the difference between a servant of the outside and a servant to the Lord Himself. Because servants to the Lord Himself have great joy inside of them. And, of course, the servant is always ready to serve the Lord. Both are the same, padaseva and dasyaseva is the same thing. You can’t do padaseva not being the servant. Otherwise, what’s the use of serving?

You know, it reminds me of a beautiful story. Because, in both, when we are talking about service, we are talking about not service just to some things, we are serving the Supreme Lord Himself. That is the aim of it, that we are serving the Supreme. And serving that Supreme Reality automatically makes us humble.

In the life of Mirabai (for sure you know about Mirabai), Mira was always fully and madly in love with Krishna. For her Krishna was everything, and Giridhar Gopal was everything for her. Whatever she would do, she would talk with Giridhariji, she would laugh with Giridhariji, and of course, she would quarrel with Giridhari, not only laughing nicely and talking, but they would fight also. That was their relationship. And of course, looking from the outside reality, of course, somebody from the outside will say, ‘Oh, my goodness, they are mad, these people.’ ‘She is mad, she is talking to Giridhar Gopal, a little statue, and she is smiling, talking, she is a bit crazy.’ And of course, she was a princess and was married to a prince and of course, the prince, seeing that Giridhar Gopal is getting all the attention, became jealous. So, one day, he called Mira and said, ‘Okay, you love your Krishna so much, you think about Him, you talk about Him, you dance for Him, you laugh for Him, you cry for Him, where is He? Why He doesn’t come?’

Mira was in bliss, because, this is one reality which true bhaktas have, which they perceive more than normal people. So, Mira said to her husband, she said, ‘Krishna is everywhere, Krishna is here, Krishna is everywhere. Krishna is, was and will always be. He is eternal.’ Then one beautiful thing she said, ‘Whereas, you, you are here today, tomorrow you will not be here. One day you are here, the next day you are not here, but in between two non-existences, how can you exist? Whereas Krishna exists always.’ She said, ‘You are the prince, I can be with you. I can stand by you, but the distance is far. Whereas Krishna…’, who lived 5000 years before Mira’s time, so the distance between Krishna and Mira in time was very far.

So, the two existences, is a different dimension itself. The devotees have that relationship. It is beyond time, beyond a limitation, because it is a love relationship. You see? This love which brings everyone close to each other. Because in love there is no distance. That’s why people always long for love, no? To remove that distance. But when there is a distance, love doesn’t exist. Love brings one close to each other. That’s why we love. When bhaktas find that eternal love inside of them, they feel that Beloved Lord is not far away, that Beloved Lord is there with them, every moment of their life they feel Him. So it’s not just a small statue. You don’t perceive that statue anymore, that element which is outside has transformed, transmuted itself into the infinite Lord Himself. Even being in the form. The rishis said, ‘Bewildered by Your Maya, You even act so normal.’ 

Here you see the devotees that have ascended to that, they are also bewildering the other people on the outside. Since [the people] are bewildered by Maya, how could they recognise the greatness of a devotee? How would somebody who is fully absorbed into the delusion world of Maya outside, with Maya covering them so much, how would they understand what is happening within the heart of a devotee? Only the guru knows what is happening into the heart of a devotee. That’s why one takes shelter of guru, because they understand that, ‘this guru can free me from that and it is through the grace of the guru that I have left that mundane reality into this reality; that I have found my path; my way; where I am feeling that love and surrender; where Bhagavan Himself, God, is not just a concept, but is a reality.’ And through the word of the guru, through the trust that they have in the guru, of course, that becomes their reality and the descent of the grace of the Lord upon that devotee happens.

So, for Mira, this was that reality that she lived. And when you are doing padaseva, like I said, it is also dasya-bhava. It automatically makes you humble and it automatically opens that love relationship towards the Supreme Lord Himself.

Jai Gurudev, everybody!