Live Q&A from Germany
Shree Peetha Nilaya Ashram
Today's Satsang from Paramahamsa Vishwananda answers questions about how to be 'unmotivated' in serving the Divine, what is fear, self love vs. selflessness, and raising children without forcing them to follow our practices.
Jai Gurudev, everybody! Welcome again!
So, I am out of the self-quarantine. Funny thing is that many people been asking how was it, the quarantine. I got messages saying, ‘Oh, Swamiji, how was it? Was it terrible?’ Actually, no, it was not terrible, it was wonderful. It was really, really, really nice, actually. It was not really quarantine (like closed) so I could go on the balcony and all these things. It was wonderful.
And, yes, I was talking to a devotee also some days ago, and we were saying that these satsangs could be called the Covid 19 series! It was funny. We were laughing.
So, it’s really nice, and I’m looking forward to going for a walk around here, and today is quite windy and fresh. I will go, because I have been walking up on the roof, going up and down, so now I can go outside. It’s nice, actually; I’m looking forward to go to the temple, and see the other birds also.
What else? I was watching a nice movie last night, about Saint Bakhita. And it’s really beautiful. Of course, it is a movie, so it’s not really accurate, but it gives you a different [view]. It’s so nice, all these movies on the life of saints, and the deities, and all these different aspects of God; it’s very inspiring.
The scriptures tell us that we should become 'unmotivated' servants of God. I don’t understand how to love just for the sake of loving. Don’t we always want something in return, like happiness or love itself?
Well, you used that word ‘unmotivated’, and I don’t think anybody does anything without any motive. Even when we say we are loving God for His sake, there is a motive, there is an aim behind that. So no one really does anything without any motive behind it.
If you don’t have a goal, it’s like a boat without any sense of direction in the middle of the ocean without any compass. What will happen? The boat will keep turning around. It’s like somebody is going into a forest without a guide. For sure you will get lost. Like that, we have to set a motive in life. And of course, it depends on what kind of motive, on what is the aim of one’s motive. The mind is designed in that way. We can’t let the mind be quiet. Bhagavan Krishna Himself said it in the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 6, verse 35. He said that it’s indeed very difficult to control the mind, because that mind is like a monkey: it is always jumping from one thought to the other. If we don’t give it a certain motive to focus upon, it’s very difficult.
Of course, it’s not about dwelling. when we analyse the mind itself how it functions, the mind is either thinking about the past or worrying about the future; this is how the mind focuses. Very rarely the mind hears and really enjoys this precise moment. Jumping from having a regret about what you have done in the past, thinking about it and becoming miserable, or worrying about what the future will be, in which actually you can’t change anything.
You can’t change the past, you can’t change the future. Everything is focused on the present moment itself. So, having a motive it’s very important. In that verse, Chapter 6, verse 35, Bhagavan Krishna said that indeed it’s very difficult to control the mind, but, with constant practice and detachment from certain things, it will become possible. It’s true, when we have a constant practice in our life, things change. Like this satsang: every day you all are sitting there, doing japam, listening to the satsang, and of course, you look forward, and changes happen.
When you look at yourself, there are certain changes which are happening inside of you. Through that constant practice, it is important to have an aim, no? So, that aim is very clear. You know, when you have a certain aim and you focus upon that aim. When we talk about the gopis, again I will repeat that, because when we talk about the gopis, their aim was Krishna. It’s not aimless. It’s not, ‘Okay, I am aiming for a void or an emptiness that I don’t have any clue what it is.'
You know, 'It is God, I recognise Him and He recognises me. We have this relationship together.’ And due to that, there is an aim to it. And also, in that context we see what Bhagavan said: constant practice. Constant practice is that aim which we put in our life. Being a devotee, the aim should not just be shallow, because people talk about happiness, ‘Oh, just be happy’, but are they really happy? Just talking about happiness, you don’t become happy. You have to have an aim to focus upon, something which makes you completely happy. Not just happy today but tomorrow you are not happy, because of the mind cycle inside of you that is continuously putting pressure upon yourself.
The aim is to transform yourself. The aim is to attain the Lotus Feet of Sriman Narayana. That is the aim. So, to come to the point of that aim, what you must do is detach. Which means let go of things which are not connected to that aim. When your aim is clear, you see in daily life how much time people lose. When we look at a day of somebody, how much time do they lose on social media, how much time do they lose on their phone, how much time do they lose in doing such petty things which don’t have any meaning in their life?
To have an aim is very important. Without an aim, it’s not possible. That makes it clear what you have to change in your life and what you have to let go in your life to attain that aim. Because, you will not attain that aim if you don’t let go of certain things. By letting go of certain things which are not connected to your aim, it makes you more at ease and light to carry on your path. Otherwise it becomes difficult. This mental agony, it will drive you crazy. Do have an aim. That aim, like a devotee, that aim must be the Feet of the Lord. No matter what, you must strive to attain that.
This may seem like a simple question, but what is fear, really?
Fear is unknown things and when you start to imagine things. Fear has many levels. For example, you fear something that you don’t know about. Why? Because that thing is unknown to you. Because it is unknown, you can imagine so many varieties of ideas about that thing. And of course, fear arises. Fear is a state of the unknown, something that you don’t know about.
Like that you see in religion itself. When you go and talk about your spiritual path, very often, religion finds it very difficult to accept because they don’t know about it. They will criticise you, they will tell you many things, they will tell you that you are coming from the devil and so on. It’s just because they are ignorant, they have never taken their time to study other philosophies in their lives. They have focused only on one thing and that’s it. They don’t know anything else. And due to that ignorance inside of them, they have great fear; they will even fight for their ideas.
But why do you think people fight for their ideas? It is due to that lack of trust in the Supreme Divine Being. They say, ‘Yes, we believe in God’, but yet, when that faith is challenged, why do you see people fight? Whenever you talk with some people who are not in the same understanding of you. They don’t agree with your philosophy, they don’t want to hear about it, they want you to hear them, but they don’t want to hear you, so they will fight for their belief. It’s out of fear because they don’t really fully trust in their religion or in their belief.
So, like that fear has many aspects of unknown. When you don’t know something, and you stay in that state of ignorance, of course, you will be fearful about everything. You will be fearful about what will be next, you will be fearful that, ‘If I don’t achieve what I’ve been taught in this life, I will go to hell’, or, ‘If I do this, I will go to hell.’ Through that, lots of things arise inside. So, fear is this factor of unknown.
Very often in religion and many other aspects nowadays, it is through fear that people are being controlled. If, let’s say for example, you know something is easy, what will happen? Do you think you will have fear of it? No, you will not have any fear of that. But when they can input fear inside of you through what you see, your visual senses, and what you hear, what happens? You get panicked. Through that fear, there are others who can control you. They don’t want you to be free. Being free you are challenge to them. A free person is a challenge to the society. Because a free person functions in a different level. Can everybody understand that? No, it’s a challenge for them.
Because it’s a challenge, you become an obstruction for those who want to control you. That’s why you see around in social media, you see everywhere, what do people want you to be? Fearful. They want to incur fear inside of you. They want this quality of fear to become very strong inside of you so that they can control you. On one side, the spirituality tells you, no, you should not fear anything, you should be free, you should not have this aspect of that you can’t achieve something. You can! Like earlier, I said if your aim is clear, move towards that aim, be fearless.
You have seen a lion. When a lion is looking at its prey, the lion doesn’t look left and right. The lion moves very slowly towards its prey. Imagine if the lion had fear. Imagine the lion is standing there with all four legs shaking and doesn't know what to do; do you think you can call that lion the king of the jungle? No, you can’t call that lion even a lion. You would just call the lion a pussycat. Even a cat doesn’t have fear when a cat jumps from very high down to the ground. But with that trust, with that confidence that, ‘I will land on my four legs’, that cat stands strong. Imagine if that cat would jump and fall down with fear. It would never happen. Most of the time it’s fear that kills people.
There is this beautiful story. Once a saint was going on a pilgrimage and as he was going along, he met Death on the way, so he asked, ‘Death, where are you going?’
Death said, ‘Oh, I am going to that pilgrimage site.’
And the saint asked him, ‘How many dead people will you take today?’
He said, ‘Oh, I will take only 200 people. That’s what is meant.'
On the way back, the saint met Death again and he said, ‘Well, you told me that you would take only 200 people, but more than 2000 people died.’
Death said, ‘Yes, I went there to get 200 people only, but out of fear…’ (because there was a plague or whatever)… ‘out of fear, 2000 people died.’
For the majority of things in life, when you transcend fear, you become fearless, you move forward in life, and nothing can stop you. Like I said earlier, your goal, when it is clear, nothing can stop you, whether it is on your spiritual path or on your worldly life, it doesn’t matter which path you take. But if you cultivate fear, you will always be stopped, because it’s not about somebody else stopping you, it’s about you yourself that put those brakes in your life. And that doesn’t make you move forward.
You have told us that we must love ourselves before we can love others. But You have also asked us to act selflessly. Can You, please, help us to understand how to develop self-love and selflessness without a contradiction?
How to develop self-love, and selflessness. Actually, selflessness, and self-love is the same. Because once you realise that love for you, automatically you will be able to love everything, and you will be able to love everybody. Because you have not yet realised this love inside of you, it becomes difficult.
Yesterday I was talking about love itself. The story of Mirabai, for example: we are all drawn towards that love. It is through love itself that we are pushed to do things. For the sake of love itself we do things. You know, if we don’t love something, or you don’t like something and you don’t love someone, would you really move forward into that? No, you will not! But because you have this love inside of you, you will be able to recognise that love in somebody else. You see, love is not something alien to you. It is something which is inside of you. When it manifests, when it comes to the surface, it becomes your reality. And that love, when it becomes your reality, when you perceive it, it starts to shine through you. So, don’t think that love is not there, but it is how much we focus upon it, how much we want it to shine through us.
Lord Krishna said in the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 10, verse 11, He said, ‘Out of compassion, I dwell within their heart.’ It’s so beautiful!
‘Out of compassion, I dwell in their heart, shining the light of knowledge, removing the ignorance which is born out of darkness.’ You know, when we look at that, it’s so beautiful when the Lord Himself said, ‘Out of compassion, I dwell within their heart.’
It’s not that Bhagavan is not there in the heart. He is ever-present. But due to the ignorance, when one doesn’t have the true knowledge of the Self firstly, true knowledge about Him, we dwell in a state of ignorance. In the state of ignorance one doesn’t perceive that love. When you don’t perceive that love, automatically you become selfish, you want to keep things for you. You don’t want to share. You are in such a mode of darkness. That’s why ignorance is said to be darkness. If one dwells in that state of darkness, do they perceive the light? No, they can’t perceive the light. Only when you dwell in the state of light, when you have the true knowledge inside of you, then what is inside of you starts to shine. When you are in darkness, the ego especially, and the Self, they are so big. It’s so covered with so many layers that what you have inside of you can’t shine, can’t show itself, can’t beam its light.
What you have inside of you… like Krishna said, He is the indweller of things. But for Him, for you to see Him, for you to perceive Him, the indweller of the Self, you must rise beyond that ignorance. If you keep having that ignorance inside of you, it becomes very difficult. Removing that ignorance through the light of knowledge, the Lord starts shining through you. Your Self starts to shine: what is inside of you. First, when you are in the mode of ignorance, your mind, your intellect, your senses, are all bound by the same ignorant quality, which is awakening from that. When you are in that state, in the mode of ignorance, of course you can’t be selfless, you can’t be! You are fully selfish.
But when that is cleansed, when that is transformed, when you move closer towards the Divine, it is like magic. All of a sudden, you start to shine, you start to beam a different light, and your life changes. It's not that it was not there, like I said. It’s like the sun which is shining outside during the day, and yet, you have a thick curtain covering. You can’t say that the sun is not shining. In spite of this deep ignorance which is represented as a curtain, the sun is still shining. The Lord is the indweller of things, but if it is covered with ignorance, if it is covered with your ego, your pride and all your negative qualities, can it shine? It will not shine. But when you draw away the curtain, then you see the sunlight. In spite of that, the sun is ever-shining. When all that ignorance, when all this darkness in the form of ignorance is removed, when you educate yourself and you move towards your goal, you start to shine. The Self starts to shine.
Why does it start to shine? Because the grace of the Lord Himself. Like He said, ‘Out of compassion, I am the indweller of them. Out of compassion, I dwell within their heart.’ Out of compassion, when you come to that state where you have that knowledge and you have that capacity to handle, automatically that Divine aspect inside of you starts to shine. It starts to shine through your mind, it starts to shine through your intellect, it starts to shine through your senses. All these start to have a different aspect of their own, which is the transformation from the limited self into the Divine Self. Even the mind becomes Divine, and the intellect becomes Divine and the senses. Everything that you do becomes Divine and it starts to reflect. That aspect of the Self which is imbibed inside of you, deep inside of you, starts to shine through you. Automatically whatever you do becomes selfless. You don’t stay in the same mode of selfishness, but when you get to know who you are, you dwell in a state of awareness and you start to shine the light of the Lord Himself. That grace which he awakens inside of you, you start to reflect that light.
So again, grace is not dependent upon you, because you have come to a certain level due to your spiritual exercises, due to your effort. In yoga terms it’s called savikalpa, savikalpa samadhi. Where you have come to a certain level through your effort, you have polished yourself, but yet, there is still a little bit which is not in your hands to attain nirvikalpa. That little bit resides in the grace of Sriman Narayana. You see? And that He removes, by His grace only. That’s why effort is important, but it’s also important to rely completely on attaining the grace of Sriman Narayana.
I wish to raise my children as devotees, but I need Your advice. When I put too much pressure on them, they start to reject it, but I also see how schools and society take the children away from spiritual values and God. What practical advice could You give us?
You being a parent firstly, you have to be an example, a role model for your children. They are children and, of course, they’ve been learning when they go outside. They have different views of the world, of what you are teaching them, first. But you have to teach them the right values. At the same time, not to make them aliens to the outside world also, because they have to know both worlds, otherwise it will be strange for them. You know how the outside world was and that’s why you have come on your spiritual path; seeing the difference between the two, you are able to take the right decision. Like that, what you teach as parents to your children is very important.
The children will learn through what they see. It’s not so much what you tell them. you have to understand, on a child level, the child doesn’t understand the word. Of course, you can say things, you can explain to them, you can teach them, but as much as you teach them with verbal, it disappears after some time. But what they view by seeing, they keep more inside of them. And also what they see, what they hear, not you telling them, but what they hear, how you are interacting…they learn through that. If somebody is smoking, automatically the child sees that, and then you say, ‘You should not smoke.’ But inside of their minds they say, ‘But you are doing it, why should I not do it?’ Like that, you start engaging your children in what you are doing, and not saying, ‘Oh, when they grow up, they can decide by themselves’, ‘I am very fearful.’
Very often I've heard that from devotees, ‘No, I can’t teach my children because I fear what the people will say’, all this. No, but if you yourself are showing fear to them, if you yourself are showing that you don’t trust your path, then what are you teaching them? What do you expect them to learn from you? If you really want your children to be different, to really transform, and if you really want to teach them in a right way, start by engaging your children in whatever you do, also spiritually. This is very often when you do your japam, even if they don’t want to do japam, don’t force them to do it, but just say, ‘If you want to come, here take this mala for you, you can play with it.’ By playing with it, they will see what you are doing, and they will be interested. Because it’s like a game for them. Like that, they will start.
Of course, they will have their time where they will start to go outside, to look outside, but those seeds which you have planted inside of them will germinate one day. Those seeds will grow one day, and will bear its fruits. Maybe it’s not now, it’s not when you are expecting, but it will be in their life. They will come to that point, ‘Oh, mum and dad had shown us something deep’, and it will reflect upon them when they need it. Then they will find their way, they will find their path.
So, engage your children in what you do spiritually also, like singing, like chanting, and if you are trying to explain to them, tell them the stories of Krishna, tell them the story of Rama, tell them the story of the saints, and tell it in a way that they can understand. Because, most of the time they don’t really understand what you are saying. But when you use a language they understand, then it will make sense for them. And through that they will grow and they will enjoy what you are giving them. Otherwise it becomes boring.
Because, what is wonderful for you, well, you are viewing it in a different way, your mindset itself is different, but for them it’s boring. The same thing, if I tell you to start playing with the child's toys, how would it be for you? It would be boring. You know, take something and hit on something else which makes noise. It will not make any sense for you, but for the child, it is making sense because viewing and how the child is listening, is creating a certain impact upon that child.
So, that’s how you will be able to engage your children into your spiritual path and engage them in a way that they also would like to participate. Because when you force somebody, of course, afterwards they will say, ‘Oh, mum and dad have forced us always to do this’, they will run away. But when you engage them in what you are doing – you don’t beat them or shout at them, or whatever, to do something– just let them be in the company, let them be in that vibration, and automatically that will change something inside of them.