Live Q&A from Vrindavan
Shree Giridhar Dham Ashram, 28 March 2020
In today's Satsang via livestream, Paramahamsa Vishwananda answered questions about how to deal with negativity arising, what is the highest aim, sharing experiences about the guru, and the deep connection between devotee and guru.
Jai Gurudev, everybody!
So, today, actually, I’m a bit … I would not say sad, but I don’t find any other word to say. Like I was saying before the japam, one of my dearest devotees, actually, one of the oldest devotees who has been with me since I was 16 or 17 years old, ever since we met, she and her family came to see me in Mauritius; we have been together all these years. And this morning she passed on to the eternal abode, of course, of Sriman Narayana.
You see, she was such a wonderful soul. When I came to Europe…a little history about that…when I came to Europe every time, she was there. There was a time where I didn’t have a place to go and she and her family happily offered a place. When I was studying also in Paris. In every situation where everyone turned their backs – where people who said they love you just disappeared like that – she and her family were always there. Lately, during her illness, I visited her, and yesterday while talking to her, she said, ‘Promise that you will be there.’ She wanted to pass on in a very calm way, without any suffering, and God has given her that.
You see, it makes one realise, how grateful we should be. We have not to be grateful only when somebody does something good for us. In life you have many people around you, and some will love you and some will not love you. You don’t need to waste our time with people who don’t love you, who don’t care for you. Why waste your time? Why waste your time in trying to convince somebody that they are wrong? It will never change anything. Be yourself, and appreciate how you are. Life is so finite. I’m talking about here in this material world itself: you have been sent here really to be happy, to realise yourself, and to really appreciate the gift that God has given you.
It’s funny, I was looking earlier when I was sitting with Swami Paranthapa and I was analysing myself; I was looking at myself and saying to Swami Paranthapa that it’s strange. You see, even if earlier I was using the word 'sad', I don’t feel a certain sadness. But there are certain memories. Especially memories that were there in every moment of your life, since, like I said, since I was 16, 17 years old when I met them. So, truly that bonding, that friendship, was strong. Of course, that carries on, but it’s different. And that’s what was really touching.
When we go through our spiritual path and our processes, negativity comes out, but I don’t know what to do with it. Generally, I hang onto Krishna more in those moments instead of facing the negativity. What is the best way?
You see, it is obvious when you go on your spiritual path that negativities must awaken. They awaken so that you can transcend them. Because in life, people don’t want to face their negativity. What they like to do is brush it under the carpet, because they like to pretend to be perfect. So, what do they do? They go sideways or they try to avoid. But in reality, why do you think the negativity arises? So that you can look at it. It’s not that you have to identify yourself with your negativity. Your negativity is not you; you are beyond that negativity. You are even beyond your positivity. So, identifying yourself with that negativity will make you negative. But being aware of it will make you go through it with understanding. So, you don’t need to run away from your negativity, and you don’t need to take a whip and whip yourself, saying that, ‘I am a sinner. I am bad.’ That will not change that negativity inside of you.
The moment you are aware of it, and this is very important, because very often people are not aware of their negativity, or they are aware, but they don’t want to look at it. No, be strong! Face it and look at it, go through it and know that God and guru are with you, holding you. They will never let you alone into that. But again, you don’t need to identify yourself with the negativity. And also, on the spiritual path it’s natural that this negativity resurfaces itself or awakens again, because you see, it’s like the story of the churning of the ocean. When the ocean was churned by the Devas and the Asuras, you see, the mind and the heart is being churned, you see? What you are feeling inside and what your mind is thinking, they go opposite ways, no?
So, from that churning of the ocean, what comes out first? The first thing that comes out from that churning of the ocean, from the Bhagavatam, you will see it is halahala: the poison. So, that poison which awakens fir, that negativity which awakens firstly in your mind has to be offered. Like you said yourself, you offer it to Krishna. In the churning of the ocean, that poison, Lord Shiva drank it and held it. But when you are offering something to someone, it is not yours anymore. You have to understand that once you offer something to somebody, the moment the thing has left your hand, it is not yours. You can’t say, ‘I am offering to you’, and hold onto that, ‘Oh, yes.’
I have met many people in life where they come and give you something. They like you, they give you something, but then later on they ask you, ‘Give me back what I have given you.’ For sure everybody has had this kind of people in their lives. Is that really an offering? Is that really a giving? No. When you give, it is not yours. So, understand that when you say that you offer it to Krishna, you place it at His Feet, and it is not yours. You have given it to Him. Forget about it. When I’m saying forget about it, it’s not like pressing a button and the mind will forget about it. No. It will take its time, it will surface itself again, but you have to remind yourself that you have placed it at Krishna’s Feet; you have given it to Him. It is not yours to deal with. You as a devotee, you as His servant, you trust your Master, no? So, if you trust, the Master will look after you. The Master cares for everybody. But if you keep hanging onto that, it will be difficult for yourself.
You know, my mom had an auntie. I always say that, because it’s really funny. This auntie was like this. When you go to see her…of course, as when you go to somebody’s house, you don’t go empty-handed. You always bring a gift, or something, a bouquet of flowers or chocolate, whatever. So, the auntie would always say, ‘Why have you gone to the trouble of bringing this gift?’ But she would put out her hand and take the gift, at the same time saying, ‘You should have not brought anything.’
Like that, you see, whenever you offer to Krishna, you also do something similar; you offer it, ‘Here, please, Bhagavan, take it’, but you hold upon it. You are not giving it to Him fully. So, stop holding onto it when you have offered it to Krishna. He knows how to handle it and He knows how to take care of it.
You see, very often we think that we know best. Because it is the nature. So, this negativity, when it resurfaces itself, when it awakens, it’s a reminder that you are not perfect. You still crave for perfection, you still long for perfection and it is a nice learning process. It’s not a bad thing. So, go through it and know that guru and God are standing with you.
At times, You’ve advised us to aim to know our true selves, other times to become God-realised and to be worthy of a vision of God like Arjuna was able to do. Other times I have understood the highest aim is to serve guru and God eternally. I know none of these are possible without Your grace, but if we pray for that grace, what should we pray for? What is, actually, the highest aim in life?
You see, when you go to a doctor, a good doctor I am talking about, for the same kinds of symptoms, He will give a different medicine. If you go to an Ayurvedic doctor, the Ayurvedic doctor will check your pulse. You may have the same symptom, a fever (like right now everybody has a fever, coughing and so on), but a good doctor will not give the same medicine, because a good doctor has not learned just in books; he has learned also that each person is individual. Because of that individuality of the personality of each person, each person, even on the ladder of spirituality, doesn’t stand on the same level. Everybody understands a different level; where they are standing, they will have a different understanding. So, the doctor will give according to how the physiognomy is, how the personality of the person is, a certain medicine.
Like that, gurus give different advice for different people. For those who are really advanced, a guru will tell them serve Bhagavan directly. Those who have not yet, a guru will give them a different sadhana to do. But for those who really long for the grace of God, then he will give the sadhana to surrender to guru. Because those who really want to be humble, they should know that service to the Master, service to the guru, is the ultimate one, and through that service of the guru they will attain the grace of God. But they have to learn to listen to the guru.
Yesterday while chanting the Ramayana, one of the verses Goswami Tulsidas said was, ‘Blessed are those eyes who have seen the saint.’ He didn’t say that blessed are those eyes who have seen God. Because without having the grace of seeing the saints, the guru, one will not have that grace to see God. So, according to your question, you said what is the highest aim? In my opinion, the highest aim is the service of guru firstly. Guru will guide you to God. If guru doesn’t guide you to God, that is not the right guru. But the guru must guide you to only one ultimate reality: that is to the Feet of the Lord Himself. So, you see, all three are similar, but all start first by service to the Master.
Recently during the pilgrimage You encouraged us to share our stories and experiences that we’ve had with You. And this is one of the most wonderful and inspiring things. But some people feel like it’s something very intimate and they want to keep it. Some even say that they feel a little bit empty after sharing them because other people start to become jealous or project things onto them. So, is there something that should stay just between the devotee and a guru and how to know if we should then share and with whom and whom not?
It’s true, there are certain personal experiences which one cherishes for oneself. Not every experience has to be shared. Certain experiences are personal. It is between you and the guru. And between you and the guru, this is your personal relationship. That’s not to be shared. But if you have had a certain experience which you think can inspire others, then it is important to share it. If that experience has changed your life especially, if that experience has transformed you, then it is important to share with others. That can inspire a change in other people.
So, if your experience is personal, it is yours and you don’t need to share it. If you don’t feel like sharing, don’t share it. If what you have experienced is an excitement, it makes you happy that, ‘Yes, that has changed my life’, of course, then share it freely.
One thing is that, very often, people say, ‘You know, I have shared my experience, I feel empty.’ It’s not true. You see, if you would truly share your experience, that would make you more strong. It can’t make you more weak. An experience God gives, so that it can inspire others also. But first you have to see that experience in your own life, how it has changed you, and would that be an inspiration to others or not? You do as you feel inside of you, because nobody is forcing you to share the experience as an inspiration for others to hear. Nobody is forcing anyone to share it.
Forgive the question if it is not appropriate. We would like to know how do You feel when we do puja to You, when we talk to You or offer food or sing to You? Do You feel it and enjoy it like we do?
You know… It made me laugh, because some years ago I had to stop one devotee from offering prasad in the temple because my weight was getting bigger and bigger. You see, people who are around me know very well that I don’t eat that much. But in spite of that, I was getting a little bit fat. And the devotee was getting happier and happier. I had to stop him, saying, ‘Please, stop offering this prasad every day like this. It’s not healthy for me.’
You see, when you are doing your sadhana, you are doing your prayer, that joy that you are experiencing? I do know about it, because at that moment, spiritually, I am with you. We are sharing that experience, and that experience has not been just now only; it has been in many lives.
There is a beautiful story of a king. His name was Virasindhu. This king was a great devotee of Lord Shiva and he had such great bhava when he was praying and doing sadhana that he excelled as a normal devotee and he grew in spirituality. But in one of his previous lives, he didn’t attain that grace of Lord Shiva. So, in his next life he was born again in a kingdom, Kalinga, I think. So, when the time came for him to be crowned king, he was crowned, but then a certain sentiment awoke inside of him: that he was not happy. He saw the futility of this world. He didn’t feel happy inside of him, and said, ‘Even being the king, I have everything, yet, I don’t have that happiness. Why?’ So, then he started to think.
As he was thinking, the samskaras from past lives awoke inside of him. He started to remember that, ‘Yes, I must have something deeper inside of me, I must look for a, I must search for the perfect guru who will give me that enlightenment.’ So, he announced in his kingdom. All the saints, sages, sadhus, and everybody came. Everybody gave him a certain mantra. Some would give him the taraka-mantra, some would give him the ashtaka-mantra, some would give him the panchadaksha-mantra, some would give him ‘Om namah shivaya’, ‘Om namo narayanaya’, but nothing would touch his heart and transform him. So, he was so angry that he imprisoned all the sadhus and the saints because nothing was touching him inside. All these mantras he had been initiated into already in a previous life, he had already done sadhana on these mantras in previous lives, but yet, these mantras did not make him reach where he had to be. At that, Lord Shiva Himself decided to come.
Lord Shiva disguised himself as a coolie, a porter. As he came into the kingdom of King Virasindhu, he was in the hall where the king gives his audience. He just stood there in the middle, looked at the king and said only one thing. He said, ‘Stop!’ He just said, ‘Stop’ with his hand up and he disappeared.
At that precise moment something happened inside of the king. He understood what that porter meant by ‘stop’, and he recognised that it was the Lord Himself who had come to remind him what he was looking for. 'Stop’ at that moment, he realised meant to stop that monkey mind, that mind which was jumping around. That mind must be stopped. So, on his seat he closed his eyes and he went into nirvikalpa-samadhi instantly. And he stayed in that state.
The ministers and the people were waiting for him to come out, but he was still in that state. The mind stopped. When the mind had stopped, bliss has awakened; the bliss of consciousness, the bliss of the Self, had awoken inside of him. So, he stayed in that bliss, enjoying that state of nirvikalpa-samadhi. They were waiting and waiting. Hours passed, the king didn’t come out. Days passed, the king didn’t come out. Weeks passed, the king didn’t come out. So, the minister decided that they had to run the kingdom. They took his royal seal ring from his finger and they carried on the daily activities of the kingdom under the seal of the king. So like that, the king sat on his simhasan for six years in the state of nirvikalpa-samadhi, in that blissful state.
After six years, he came out, but was still being in that blissful state. The first thing he said was, ‘Where is my guru?’
Then the minister came and said, ‘The moment that coolie lifted his hand and said ‘stop’, he disappeared and you went into nirvikalpa-samadhi, you went into that state.’
So, then he asked, ‘How long? How much time has passed?’
The minister said, ‘Six years!’
For him, those six years were like a few seconds only. When he realised that, he said, ‘Take that seal, that seal will be my representative. When the right moment comes, give it to the right king, but for me, I am retiring to the forest, to enjoy eternally that bliss.’
So, when you are doing your sadhana, you have to be fully absorbed knowing that guru and God are with you. It’s not just a mere prayer. The guru knows, you see, when you are praying. From wherever you are, like I have said in the previous satsang, we are connected spiritually, we are connected in our hearts, we are connected in that love relationship. And that relationship is not only now, this is a very long relationship. Our atma is in deep connection.
You know, I was telling you earlier at the beginning about that devotee [who passed]. It is not a coincidence that you are with somebody for 24, 25 years just like that. It is a relationship that is beyond time and space. And it’s a relationship that carries on, and very often, you see, doubt arises in the mind of people, but what is the most important? It is this doubt or it is that transformation what happens to you? And I have seen that transformation in people. Seeing that transformation in people who are dear and sincere. That is important, that you have to ask about that sincerity. It is only when you have that sincere longing that you will perceive it.
So, that devotee that I told to stop offering food…it is very special, this devotee [from Kenya], asked me once, ‘Please, Guruji, visit my house.’ And I was not in Kenya. I was in the Europe, actually. I said, ‘Yes, I will come “that day, that day”.’ And he was thinking, ‘Okay, how would He come?’ So, something happened in his house. He had my slippers which I was wearing the first time I went to Kenya. When I met him, I gave them to him, so he had those slippers there. He was sitting in his prayer room, and of course, the slippers were there. Water started oozing from those slippers. And there was so much water that everywhere was flooded! I think there is picture also about it. So, you see, for him it was clear that I was there, I came. He had the sign also.
Like that, many devotees have many kinds of signs in their life. It should not be the same, but the most important sign is that there is no external sign; the best is that you know it inside of you, that we are in constant communication, we are always in connection with each other. Guru and bhakta can’t be separated. If you really understand that relationship, you may be separated from your mother, you may be separated from your father, you may be separated from your brother, sister, you may be separated from every single person, but with the guru once you have taken shelter, you can’t be separated from him. You may go, you may leave the guru, you may go and find another guru, you may go and find another path, you may become negative and disappear, but that relationship that the guru has with you if it is a true guru, the guru never breaks that relationship.
So, where the devotee is, the guru is there. Like the end of Bhagavad Gita, what is the prayer they say? Where Krishna is, where Krishna the charioteer, Arjuna the archer, there is prosperity, there is happiness, there is joy. That’s what Veda-vyasa said. That is my clear conviction. So, where the devotee is, the guru and God is there with them. This is my conviction and I do know about it.