Live Q&A from Vrindavan
Shree Giridhar Dham Ashram, 30 March 2020
In today's Satsang, Paramahamsa Vishwananda answered questions about balancing masculine and feminine qualities, the way Rama fulfilled His dharma, talking about our path, and being around those who are not on the spiritual path.
Jai Gurudev, everybody! Welcome again to Vrindavan!
Today firstly I wanted to wish all of you a happy Yamuna Jayanti! It’s the appearance day of Yamuna Maharani. And today we had a funny experience, actually.
You see, every day we’ve been doing all the prayers with everybody sitting, and there are certain laws right now because of the Coronavirus, and here we try, but you know how it is with people. So, we’ve been sitting very close to each other and, of course, the law is the same everywhere that you should be a certain distance from people and only few people can be around.
It was funny, we were celebrating Yamuna Jayanti by doing abhishekam on the Yamuna Shila and we had visit of the police who came and said to us, ‘You know very well that because of the virus you should not do all these things’, and actually, it was okay, they were just doing their job, as a reminder that we should not be gathering like that, even for prayer. It’s amazing, eh? But, you see, for security reasons it is important, because there was one Sikh guru who a few days ago passed away. He was travelling in Europe and he came to India and he went around to 20 villages giving his satsang and so on, and he infected more than 15,000 people! So, you see, I think for that it is obvious that the government is taking precautions. But it was funny that it was only two people inside serving Yamuna Maharani.
But it’s a reminder that everybody has to take time right now to go inward, and also here. So, everything has become very quiet and very shanti, shanti everywhere. You don’t even see people, anybody, around. But one thing is beautiful, you can hear the birds singing. The birds are singing everywhere and it’s amazing, because before in Vrindavan you would never hear birds singing. And now you see birds flying around and nature is blooming and this is nice.
I think the government in all countries, whether there is Coronavirus or not, should put their country on two weeks of lockdown. It’s an idea, whether it’s a good idea or not, but when you see how nature is! Without pollution! I was asking some devotees from Delhi how is it there, and they said, ‘Oh, we have blue sky!’ Which in Delhi I have never seen. And even they have never seen. They were saying, ‘It’s amazing that we have blue sky, the air is more fresh and you can breathe.’ Also here in Vrindavan is the same. This time of year normally would have been terrible. I remember last year when I came to Vrindavan there was pollution already in Delhi. People were wearing masks – not because of the virus, but because of the pollution. And this year is a different reason why people are wearing masks!
It is amazing to see for the ones who have been destroying the world. The minds of humans – it's terrible. Especially to see the fearfulness of people. People go through their lives filled with fear. And when you see the crazes of people, it’s a bit strange. One thing that the most strange is this toilet paper thing: the craze of toilet paper. You know, people don’t have the fear that they won't have food, but they fear how they will clean their a**! [laughing] It’s like Coronavirus has created a certain thing: ‘Ah, now I will decide to s**t, so for that we need a lot of toilet paper.' So, it’s strange; what kind of fear is that? It’s a fear of toilet paper. It’s a bit crazy, isn’t it? [laughing] They are all laughing here! Whatever message every day I receive, there is always one about toilet paper! [laughing] It’s like everybody decided, ‘Now we will just s**t, nothing else is important.’ [laughing] Sorry, but…it’s funny. You see what fear is doing in the minds of people.
Actually, you don’t need to fear. Relax yourself. You see, like Krishna said, there is a time to be born and there is a time to die. Most of the things that are happening, I think it’s mostly the fear in the people’s minds which is making this happen. So, relax yourself, take your precautions and chant the Name of God, chant the Name of Rama. This time now is a time where we are celebrating as we are moving towards the birth of Lord Rama. I think we are on the fourth day today, so take this time to meditate upon the life of Lord Rama, to read about Him. You have time now, read about His life, especially about what He stands for.
How can we balance the feminine and masculine qualities inside of us?
Ah, this is a question that people very often have. You see, in some people their feminine quality is stronger, while in some people the masculine quality is stronger. So, to bring a balance to that, it means accepting yourself as you are. Whatever quality is predominant inside of you, this is how you are.
You don’t need to be different [than you are]. You see, if somebody has a problem with you being different, then it is not your problem, it is their problem. So, learn to accept yourself. By accepting yourself, you‘ll be free. You see?
The problem is that very often we are bothered about what others think about us and the judgement of others. Throughout our life, we go and live our life, and 90% we live our life the way others want us to live. So, are you really yourself? No, you are not. Let‘s analyse that and see. Throughout your childhood, you had been taught how you had to be and if you didn’t fit in certain norms, you would be considered as an outcast. But who considers you as that? Is it you, or it is others? Others, most of the time. So like that, 90% of your life you live how other people want you to live. How can you be free? You can’t be free, because in your mind you have this perception of good and bad. Like Shakespeare said, ‘There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.’
How you perceive it, how you are seeing yourself, that determines which energy will prevail inside of you. Everybody has these two qualities inside of them. There is no such thing as just pure male or pure female. You are a fusion of both, male and female.
In the Hindu tradition, we say that our left side is the feminine quality and our right side is the male quality. You see that clearly in the majority of people; whether you are man or woman, your right side is stronger than your left side. And you will see that the organs also, the heart, which is the organ of feeling, is on the left side. So, it is the more the sensitive side.
When you view yourself, regardless of whether you have a predominant male quality or female quality, this is not who you are. You are not these qualities. That, you should never forget. You are the atma, and the atma is beyond the gender quality. You can’t say, ‘This atma is male’ or ‘That atma is female.‘ No, atma is just atma. There is no male atma or female atma. So, in some lives the atma has been in a female body and in some lives the atma has been in male body. The question is not about the gender, it‘s about who are you? With what are you identifying yourself? Are you identifying yourself only to the gender, whether you are male or female, or do you want to realise yourself and awaken from that delusion the world has made?
You are firstly, the atma, secondly, you are a human being. However God has created you, He has created you the way you are, and in His creation, like I have said before, there is no imperfection in His creation. He has created you perfect. So, the moment you learn to accept that you are as God has created you, automatically the balance between those two energies happens, because you have self-acceptance. The moment you have self-acceptance, nothing can move you.
So, love yourself as you are, accept yourself as you are and be happy that you are unique and that God loves you as He has created you.
In Your Bhagavad Gita Commentary, You say that Bhishma, Dhritarashtra and all those present at the humiliation of Draupadi had a distorted understanding of their dharma and the honour of their word. But to me Rama essentially does the same thing with Sita. Knowing Her purity and fidelity, He casts Her out pregnant with His children to the forest just for the sake of following certain rules and tradition. Bhishma and the others are criticised, yet Rama is an example of righteousness and following dharma. Could You please explain this for me?
Well, we can’t really categorise Rama and Bhishma and Dronacharya, all these, in the same category. Even if they seem similar. You see, when Rama sent Sita to the forest, He didn’t know that Sita was pregnant, first of all. And Rama didn’t do it for his own sake, ‘Oh, yeah, look, I am safeguarding my prestige, that’s why I’m sending My wife away, this wife which I took 14 years to look for, when she was kidnapped, that drove Me crazy.’ Do you think just like that He will send Her away? No! Like I was explaining a few days ago while they were reading the Ramayana, how much pain there was for Rama to say, ‘Yes, My dear wife, I have to send you away.’ But Sita knew that it is for the good of the kingdom.
Now we come back to Bhishma, Dronacharya and so on. You see, these are the grandsires. Rama was a king. So, these are the grandsires, and as you know about Bhishma, before that incident of Draupadi being dragged into the court, he promised Duryodhana that he would stay always faithful to the throne and that he would not say anything. Krishna reminded him of that, He said, ‘No, being a grandsire, you can break your word. When you have to protect the dignity of someone, you can always revoke what you have promised. Because this is beyond…it’s inhuman. If you saw that they were disrobing somebody openly, would you sit there and watch? Would you not react? You know, as a grandsire, as a grandfather, as an elder, you should have opened your mouth and said it is wrong.’ But he didn’t do that, and they didn’t do that. What did they do? They just put their heads down, completely helpless.
So, comparing this to Rama: you know the story that Rama was going around in His kingdom and there was a clothes washer man, and his wife had been with somebody else, and so he told his wife, ‘Look, I am not as merciful like Rama. For me, you have been with somebody else, so it’s finished. Take your stuff and go.’ Rama knew Sita had been with Ravana for so many years, but yet, He took Sita back.
But one thing they forget. Very often whenever I have this question, people don’t realise because they have not read the Ramayana fully. You see, the Sita which went to Ravana’s palace, actually, was a copy of Sita. The first cloning, actually! It so happened that Rama, when He was in the forest, asked Agni-dev to look after Sita, and out of Sita’s shadow another image of Sita came out. So, that shadow of Sita went to Lanka. It was that shadow that Ravana kidnapped. But very often this story, this lila, is ignored. They say, ‘Oh, yes, it was Sita who went there.’ Actually, it was the copy of Sita that went to Lanka.
And one thing, in Lanka, let’s observe Ravana now. Ravana, even being lustful, because that’s how he was looking at Sita, he actually desired to marry Sita. He kidnapped Sita because of that. But the first time he wanted to lay his hand upon Sita, there came a voice that said, ‘If you ever touch Her, you will die.’ Ravana reminded himself of that. So, Ravana was not a bad person who was treating Her in a very bad way. When Sita was in the Ashoka garden, every day Ravana would try to come and make an advance towards Sita, but he would never force himself upon Her. How would it be nowadays? Nowadays if that would have happened, poor Sita, sorry, forgive me, but probably She would have been raped. But no, Ravana didn’t do that. He could have, he was very powerful, he could have jumped on Her and done whatever he wanted to satisfy himself. But no. He tried so many times: to impress Sita, to frighten Sita, telling her that he killed Rama, and through some illusion he brought the head of Rama. But of course, Sita, even being the shadow of Sita, was fully absorbed in the remembrance of Lord Rama.
To prove that, again, after Rama had killed Ravana, they brought Sita. Now, one would expect that Rama would be joyful and run like in the Indian Bollywood movies and jump into the arms of His beloved who He has come to get. No, it was not like that! Rama, said at that moment, ‘Wait!’ And everybody was shocked. He said, ‘She has to go through Agni-pariksha.’ Meaning, if She had been an unfaithful wife by being in that house of Ravana for all these years, if She had been tarnished, She would burn. So, they made this pyre and, of course, everybody was shocked. Why is He talking like that? So, Sita was sat on the pyre and as the fire was lit, Agni-deva, the fire God, appeared and with him there was another Sita. And that shadow of Sita disappeared. and Agni-deva said, ‘Rama, take Your wife. She is chaste and pure. Ravana has never ever laid his hand upon Her.’ Even though he had kidnapped Her, and he had pulled and dragged Her, I mean he had never laid his hand upon her in a naughty way.
So, you see, Sita was brought chaste there for Rama and She knew about it. And also when He sent Her to the forest, after hearing what the people were saying, it was not out of joy. It was because He wanted to set an example. That’s why with a heavy heart He asked Lakshmana to bring Her to the forest. But He didn’t know that Sita was pregnant. Then you know about His sons Luv and Kush and how Valmiki took Sita and how again Rama was reminded of Sita and so on.
But Rama, when we analyse His life really, why do we say that Rama is an example? It is how He handled every matter of His kingdom. Before He thinks about Himself, He thinks about His people. Not His throne. You know, if He was thinking about His throne, He would have fought already when Dasharatha told him to go for 14 years into exile. No, He didn’t think about His throne, He was not protecting His throne. He was protecting His dharma. He was doing what must be done for the welfare of society. So, that’s why for Him to send His wife away was not for the sake of His reputation, but His kingdom, so that He would set an example for that.
Whereas Bhishma and Drona were not setting any example. They were just helpless. They had rendered themselves helpless. What work were they doing? You see, one was doing his own work for the sake of his people, the others were just trying to protect their own reputation.
So, there is a big difference between the two.
Often when I speak about our Vaishnava path with people, I see how I often have the tendency to dilute or even hide some teachings to make it more acceptable to the people. But afterwards I don’t feel good. What can You advise me to do? Adapt the teachings to people or just speak it how it is properly?
Look, firstly when you are approaching people and you want to talk about your path, like I said a few days ago, you have to put it in a way that the person can understand it. That doesn’t mean that you should hide that you are Hindu and that you are on a Vaishnava path. You see, that you should say, but put it in a way that takes that person from what they understand and shows what you really want to give them. Take them on a journey from their point of view; from how they see to how you see.
So, you don’t need to feel bad if it’s the first time you are talking about your spiritual path. It’s normal. Very often people feel a bit awkward, thinking, ‘How? You see, if I open myself fully, they will think that I’m crazy.’ And also one thing is that, if you start talking about the Vaishnava path, if you know really about your path, there are certain concepts which are alien to them completely. They will not understand what are you talking about. So, instead of really encouraging them to go on the spiritual path, you may discourage them about going on the spiritual path because it will be too much for them.
So that’s why you have to go slowly and speak their language. Take them on this journey until you can really give them what you have inside of you. But for that, one thing is that you have to educate yourself. Knowledge is important. Every day I have been reminding you. Otherwise it will be difficult.
In the spiritual path we are taught it is good to spend time with like-minded people and people on the same spiritual path. However, some of my closest friends are those that are not on the spiritual path and who are not even vegetarians. I feel like these people are more genuine and are better people than those that are actually on the spiritual path. Is this wrong of me to feel this way?
No, it’s not wrong. Actually, I've also said it that I have met some good people on the spiritual path, but I have met the worst ones on the spiritual path also. Often on the spiritual path, the sad part is that people like to pretend that they are very holy and that they are superior to everybody else.
This is a danger, actually. When spiritual pride arises, this is where one falls even further down. I don’t find it wrong that you have friends and people who are dear to you, who are not on the spiritual path and don’t understand the spiritual path or who are not even vegetarians, but one thing is that you are the light which shines in the darkness. Very often people are sitting in the darkness of ignorance. They don’t know anything about it. But by being near to them, you can share what you have inside of you, whether directly or indirectly.
First, I would say that you must become strong in your spiritual path, because you seem to be in the surroundings or company of like-minded people. But if you are not strong enough, sooner or later you will fall back whether you want it or not, because your weakness inside will catch up. And that’s what you have to be very careful of.
That’s why when we say if you are on the spiritual path, be among like-minded people, which means, first, strengthen yourself. Become strong in your path; become strong in your aim, become strong in your spiritual endeavour, then go and help others.
As long as you are not strong, a little temptation will make you fall back. And this I have seen many times, also with people who have taken initiation. They will say, ‘Yes, we are devotees, we are wearing the kanti-mala’, and then you see them on their Facebook page with a bottle of wine, and they should know very clearly that that is not right.
You see, when they are not strong, they fall back again into their old samskaras. So first you have to become strong. You have to become really anchored in your faith, anchored into your discipline. That doesn’t mean you can’t say ‘hello’ to your friend, you can’t drink a tea or whatever with your friend. This you can do, but don’t give it much importance until you are strong enough to share your spiritual life, because otherwise, from where you are, you will again fall back, you know?
Like Krishna said in Chapter 3, verse 9, ‘You see, in this world, whatever we do we create karma, but there are certain things that we do in the state of sacrifice that becomes liberation. It liberates you.’ Whatever we do in this world, it is through our minds, no? And when we do it, we do get attached to things. Through the attachment that we receive, we build up such a big wall that what we have inside doesn’t shine. If you are on your spiritual path, you are here to bring something deeper, something greater. You are not here to create more karmic things to bring you down. You are here to be free. But how would you be free if in your mind you are weak, if in your faith you are weak? It’s very difficult. So, first you have to understand that everything you do, you do for the service of the Lord. This is a state of mind that, if you achieve it, then you will not create any attachment. You will not create any degradation, because you become such a presence that you will be there only to elevate. If your presence can’t transform somebody, that means that you have to strengthen yourself still; you have to become more strong in your path.
There is a beautiful story of such sacrifice, such a way of service, of being in the world, but yet keep reminding oneself of that everything here, which God has given us, is only for His pleasure, for His service, and that our life itself is here for His service.
As we were talking about Rama, there is Raghu, (because Rama comes from the Raghu dynasty), who was a descendant of Lord Rama. He was a wonderful, great king. So, after he had done his duty as a king, he decided, ‘Okay, whatever I have done was not for me, was for the society, was for God, because everything that I have done was only as a service. This has been given to me, and I have to give it back to Him.’ His understanding of his life itself was a life of surrender, a life of continuous reminding that he was here to serve God, and everything that he had done was for the sake of God.
After he finished his service, he decided to do one sacrifice, one yagna. And this yagna was the yagna of giving everything that one has back to society.
After the yagna, he gave all his possessions to his people, dressed himself with a rag and a begging bowl and he left. So, when he left, he went around begging for his food. A king who had everything, you see? He reminded himself that it is like water: the water is coming, it is on the Earth, it evaporates, it goes up as water vapour to the cloud, it gets condensed and it comes back again to the earth as water, as rain.
He remembered that everything that he had received here in this world, was for service. He was just here to look after it like a manager, to manage it only, but everything belonged to God. So, he left everything and he went.
One fine day as he was begging and felt tired, he lay down next to a tree. As he lay down next to a tree, he overheard some people talking. And some people were talking, and saying, ‘How great is King Raghu, who has renounced everything just like that and gone away. You know, it’s so great. We have a wonderful king, you know.’
So, he overheard and he said to them, ‘What are you talking about this Raghu?’
You know, of course, the people didn’t recognise that it was the king himself because he was dressed like a beggar and they said, ‘Why are you saying that in such a tone like that?’
He said, ‘Yeah, I’m saying it. Can you go and ask your king with what has he come, to claim that he has given everything away? Go and tell this to your king. Your king was born with empty-handed!’
Like Krishna said in the Gita, you were born empty-handed. Everything that you took, you took it from this world and you will have to leave everything back in this world.
King Raghu, in the form of the beggar, said, ‘Go and ask your king, what has he brought into this world that he had renounced?’
So, you see, everything that we take, we take it from here, and everything will stay here. But if you could transform the life of somebody, if you could make a difference in the life of someone in a better way, bring them closer to the Divine – yes, same as the previous question that Swami Revati was asking: if I can’t speak my spiritual path directly to the person first, I have to speak their language, but I feel bad inside. But the same thing: it’s not wrong to be among people who are friends of yours and who are non-vegetarians and so on, but just remind yourself continuously where you stand, and what you can give to them. That’s what you have to strengthen inside of you. And when that becomes strong inside of you, nothing can move you. You will be anchored so strongly that you will start transforming the life of those people.
You see, being a devotee you shine differently, your action is different, you have a certain glow inside of you which is completely different from a mundane person. A mundane person, due to the fear of life, due to the fear of wanting this, wanting that, they have a different understanding, so they don’t have that glow which shines within themselves. Like I said earlier, they have built a wall so thick that not even the light of the atma can shine through. They don’t even have a glimpse of that. But being a devotee you have a glimpse of that. Through the grace of the Lord, through the grace of the guru, you have had that glimpse inside your life for the transformation of your life.
So, become stronger. It’s true, very often you will perceive that people of the world are more joyful and happy and understanding than spiritual people. Because spiritual people have closed themselves in a narrow box by thinking that they are so special. That’s why they have not understood really what spirituality is.
When you say you are spiritual, you have a broader way of seeing life. You have a broader way of understanding of people. There is no judgment. Sadly many people on the spiritual path have that opposite quality, whereas people who are in the world have the quality of being more understanding and more happy.
But are they truly happy? Are they truly having an understanding of life itself? I don’t think so. They’re still searching. And if God has brought you to them, do what I will ask you again: become stronger so that you can share what you have inside of you.