Satsang at The Ashram
Shree Peetha Nilaya, 5 July, 2020
On 5 July, 2020, Paramahamsa Vishwananda spoke about the preciousness of a human life and the role of the guru in the life of the devotee.
Jai Gurudev, everybody!
Firstly, a blessed and happy Gurupurnima to everybody!
In life, like it is said, life itself is one of the privileges that one has. It’s one of the most difficult things: to acquire a human life. In the shastra, it's said that, after passing through countless of births and deaths, you come to the point of attaining this human life. In spite of it being so difficult to attain, yet through the grace of God one receives this human life. For what?
Very often, that is a question, you know. When you look at the world, we see that people don’t realise their aim of life. Despite that many masters have come, and Bhagavan Himself has come to remind humanity, yet, even knowing how precious this human life is, people don’t do anything. This is where the guru is very important in one’s life. The guru comes as a reminder of what life is.
We can live life like an animal (which you have lived for so many lives). Even while being a human being, you [still] live a life like an animal, without an aim. You go into life aimlessly. What you do in life, the animal also does. The animals also have to work for their food. They also have their families. Then, what’s the difference between your life and an animal’s life? So, that’s why the shastra says that acquiring a human life is one of the most precious gifts that the Divine has given, that Bhagavan has given. But how to realise that? Because, you see, when we look at the world, the world is very beautiful. Maya is beautiful. And aimlessly you will roam into that cycle of birth and death. There is no escape of that. If somebody doesn’t remind you, you will keep rotating in the same cycle of birth and death. So, the guru’s role is to remind you that you have to get free of that.
That’s why, when I was sitting here, I was looking at this beautiful painting of King Rishabhadeva. You know, in the Shreemad Bhagavatam, Canto 5, Chapter 5, verse 18, he said one beautiful thing: he gave a description of a guru. Nowadays you see in this world we have many so-called gurus, no? For everybody who has learned a little bit, they put the title of guru upon them. King Rishabhadeva said in this verse, ‘What is the quality of a guru?’ Firstly, the guru has to be free, which means the mind of the guru is not attached to this world; it’s attached to the Divine Himself. If the mind of the guru is attached to the Divine, then only he will be able to give the Divine, no? If he is attached to a potato, he will give you only a potato. If the mind is attached to money, they will be only giving…no, they will not give you money. They will take your money away from you. That they don’t give!
And nowadays you see that. They can’t give you Bhagavan. That’s why they say, ‘No, be happy.’ That’s the only thing they can give you. They can give you a happiness of this world only, but they can’t give you eternal happiness.
King Rishabhadeva said the quality of the guru is the one who can free one from the cycle of birth and death. Then one is eligible to be not only a guru. Then one is eligible to be a father, a mother, a husband, or a spiritual Master. He tells you of that quality that one has to be. If you can’t free yourself from the cycle of birth and death, then you don’t have that quality to be qualified as a spiritual teacher, and not even as a father, mother, husband...who has that quality nowadays?
Humans are so attached to this material world thinking that this is the only happiness and there is nothing else, but by looking at people, are they really happy? No, they are so filled with fear and worry. They are fearing what the next day will bring. You go in life being so unsure about everything. And this is the role of the guru. You see, the guru doesn’t want people to roam in that cycle of birth and death, roam in that misery which they call happiness. He says one has to be free from that. Freedom doesn’t mean, ‘Yes, all your worries are finished, here.’ No. [It means] to attain to that divine blissful state which you hold inside of you, nothing else. That quality is very important.
Like I said, you have so many so-called gurus nowadays. You go and learn a little bit of yoga and you come out with the diploma of guru. Isn't it? You learn a little bit, you think you know so much already that you have to start teaching others. And everybody wants to tell others how to live their life, but they don’t look at themselves. If you can’t save yourself, how can you save somebody else? If you, yourself, are swimming in samsara, swimming in that delusion; if you, yourself, are swimming in that fantasy, and yet, you want to go and save somebody else, it’s impossible.
That’s why it's said that only the ones who can give the grace of God to others are the right ones to become a guru. If one is centred in the Divine, that means only the Divine. When you centre yourself into the Divine, only the Divine remains. 'You' are not there.
In the Bhagavad Gita actually, Chapter 4, verse 34, Bhagavan Krishna said, ‘Take shelter.’ That’s what He is asking Arjuna: to take shelter at the feet of the guru. To take shelter at the feet of the guru, but how do you take shelter at the feet of the guru? Then he said with reverence and service to the guru. He said you don’t take shelter just 'like that', and say, ‘Okay, I have taken shelter. I have taken initiation, and I am a devotee.’ No, that attitude of taking shelter means one has to be humble. Humility is not just acquired like that. Humility is from the heart itself. That’s why on the bhakti path, when we talk about humility, you see how people greet the guru? They always fall down on their face. (You don’t need to fall down on your face. You will hurt yourself…) But this is how it is said: with reverence and service to the guru. It’s not only reverence like, ‘Okay, I’m bowing down, I will make a show, I’m showing that I am bowing down’, but service to the guru.
Service to the guru doesn’t mean only just doing the seva you are doing. No. It’s that inner transformation itself that must happen. To serve the guru means, ‘I follow what the guru is saying, if I am really willing to transform myself.’ Because nowadays people always say, ‘Yes, I want to change, I want to transform, I want to be spiritual’, because it’s fancy, no? But when it really comes to changing, nobody really changes. They change for two weeks, three weeks, and then they are back to their normal selves.
Bhagavan said no, inquire of the guru, ask the guru, ‘How can I serve you and how can I change myself? How can I be an instrument for you? How can I change this ego personality which I have held onto?’ Of course, nowadays, you just remember this life itself, but this life is a continuation of many lives. So, ‘How can I transform that?’ You inquire. By having this inquiry towards the guru, the guru first will work upon that person. First you have to polish, no? If you have a rough stone, like when you see a diamond…well, I don’t know whether you have ever seen a raw diamond in this world, but it’s like a normal stone. Because if you look at a raw diamond in the world, it’s just a rough stone that you find. If you don’t have knowledge of that diamond, you will just see a normal stone. But the guru sees a different thing. He sees, ‘How can I polish that stone?’ So then the polishing starts. This is where you inquire. Polishing means transforming: transforming of the mind itself. And that transformation will happen only through knowledge. Knowledge is not just book knowledge. Knowledge comes in multitudes of aspects where you will learn to transcend that limited mind into a mind that is unlimited. That finite reality which you know about yourself must transform to the infinite.
When you say, ‘Lead me from darkness to light‘, you say, ‘asato mā sad gamaya, tamaso mā jyotir gamaya’, from untruth to truth, from mortality to immortality. When you take the whole Veda and compress it, it becomes only this mantra: asato mā sad gamaya, tamaso mā jyotir gamaya, mṛtyor mā (a)‘mṛtām gamaya. Can you imagine that? How great is the yogi just to create the whole Veda and make it into these three lines only! Life is about that.
First you chant it like a mantra, no? ‘asato mā sad gamaya, tamaso mā jyotir gamaya’, ‘asato mā’, from untruth to truth. What is this untruth? What is this 'fakeness'? That fakeness is that delusion that we have put upon ourselves through countless lives. That fakeness is that we think that, ‘Yes, we are happy, being here'. Or, ‘We will be happy. If I have a mother who was not a good mother, maybe next life I will have a better mother, and then I will be happy. If I have a husband and I am not happy, maybe next life I will be happy. If I didn’t have this in this life, I will be happy in next life by having that.’ You see, you are aimlessly going through life looking for happiness in unhappiness.
asato mā sad gamaya: ‘Lead me from untruth to truth’.
Who is making you unhappy? Yourself, no? You are making yourself endlessly unhappy in this delusion, but yet, you ask, ‘Lead me from untruth to truth.’ And when the guru appears to teach you the truth, it is terrifying. Because the truth means you have to let go of all that you know, all that you think you know about yourself, all that you have learned, so that you may be filled again with new things, a new understanding. This is what that first part of that mantra means: lead me from untruth. This world is beautiful and every part of this world has the potency of Bhagavan Himself, but do you perceive that potency of Bhagavan? I would not say it’s an illusion. It’s an illusion cast upon your mind that you don’t perceive that reality which lies behind everything. That’s why Bhagavan said in the Gita, ‘My devotees perceive Me everywhere, in everything.’
What is that state of a devotee? Knowing is one thing and realising it is another thing! Leading one from untruth to truth, is a journey; it’s a life journey. It’s not just words that you say. Do you want to go out of that unreality to reality? This is your spiritual path that you have taken on and the guru is there to remind you of that. But do you want to be reminded continuously? It is scary, no? Somebody is telling you, no, you are living a life which is not real, but from your side what you will say? 'No, no, no, no, it’s very real. I love my life.’ But it is a different reality. Your reality is based on a limitation reality. Your reality is based only on, ‘Yes, I am happy here, tomorrow I am not happy. Day after tomorrow, I am happy.’ The yo-yo effect, no? You have this yo-yo effect. All of you go through that. One day you are very beautiful, blissful, ‘Aaah, very nice.’ That’s what you call bliss, and tomorrow that bliss disappears. That’s what the guru doesn’t want; he wants you to be in a blissful state.
That’s why the next verse says, ‘Lead me from darkness into light.’ It is not a switch, you know, like an electric switch that you put it on and off! It is the darkness of ignorance that you have accumulated.
Bhagavan said that you have to inquire. This is where knowledge is important. Of course, the guru, with a click of a finger, can give everything, but would you be able to handle that? No, you would not. That, with experience, I tell you. Human beings, if they have not transcended their mindset, if they have not let go of what they think they know about to transcend their limitations, they will never be able to handle what the guru can give them. That’s why many come on the spiritual path and many exit also from the spiritual path, because they can’t handle the Light. You know, everybody thinks, ‘Yes, I can handle the Light’. Like Arjuna said to Krishna: ‘I want to see Your great Form and I want…’, but when he saw that, what was his reaction? He was shocked. He could not handle the Light of Bhagavan; he could not handle that reality.
The same thing in Jesus’ life, when Peter opened his mouth and said, ‘Yes, yes, I have faith, I will come to you’. Jesus said, ‘Okay, come! Out of the boat, walk on the water.’ What happened? He came out of the boat, he stood on the water, but then his mind started to click, fear started jumping into his mind, and he started to sink. Thanks to Jesus, He was there to hold him, otherwise the poor chap would have drowned! But the same thing, you see: human beings are drowning in this delusional world which they call happiness, and the guru comes to relieve them, to bring them out of that ‘happiness’. They are in their own cocoon, they are happy about it, and they feel very content with their life. When you ask people, very often you will hear people say, if you ask them, ‘How is your life?’ ‘Oh, our life, we are content in our life. We are happy with our life.’ So, people have built this delusional world around them, thinking that they are happy, but then when the reality kicks in, then you see that they are not really happy. They realise themselves that they are not really happy. They sit in that delusion, with that ignorance inside of their mind, and they lack true knowledge. When the guru appears, he will give that knowledge, but they have to take it and try to put it into practice.
Then from mortality to immortality. How many people know about themselves truly? Even on the spiritual path, not so many people know about themselves. They know this: they know what the mind dictates. They know that somebody is here alive and somebody is dead. Finish. But Bhagavan said, ‘No, you are immortal, you are the atma.’ So, which one would you call you? If you downloaded your file which you have kept inside your Brahma-nadi – that’s where all the storage is kept inside. Your 'hard disc'. If you downloaded it, you would be shocked at how many names and forms and lives and how many aspects you had. Which one would you call you? Eh? Which one is you? Who are you?
There is only one reality that you are, and transcending that mortality which you call 'you' (that aspect you see on the outside), it reveals itself as only Him.
That’s why in the verse from the Gita, Chapter 4, verse 34, He said that by reverence and service to the guru and inquiring, ‘How can I save myself?’ —But when you inquire, you have to be ready also to receive what the guru is giving. Not just sit and inquire and keep packing it into storage. This you have done for many lives. No, when you inquire, you have to be ready to listen, ready to face the challenges, ready to transform and transcend your limitations. Like it’s said by carrying on with the verse, Bhagavan said that the guru has seen the supreme reality, the guru dwells in that supreme reality and he is ready to give, and he will give, but he will give only when you are ready.
Like Chapter 11 of the Bhagavad Gita where Arjuna said, ‘If only I am ready, please, reveal to me Thy true aspect.' You know, 'I am willing to see this, I am eager to perceive You into Your ultimate reality, but first see if I am ready.’ In the same way, the guru makes one ready. In various ways, you know, that transformation must happen to transcend that limited mind into a mind of unlimitedness: from a mind that is centred into delusion, into a mind that is divine itself. This is the quality of the guru, where he is ready to give the supreme bliss, ready to even reveal Bhagavan, to give Bhagavan to the people, to the devotees, but one has to be ready for Him for that. And the guru’s role is to make one ready and to give the most precious gift that he holds.
You know, nowadays people go to gurus, ‘Please, make me happy. Let me have this house. I’m praying to You every day, please, give me a husband. Please, give me a wife. Please give me children. Please, give me…’ You know, everybody is looking for finite happiness by thinking that, ‘If I have this thing, I will be happy.’ Some days ago somebody wrote to me and said, ‘Guruji, I have everything in my life, but one thing I don’t have: happiness. And I don’t know how to be happy.’ You see? How many things do you have in your life? You amass so many things, you know!
Like that, you see, you have an attitude of never enough. You have to have this, you have to have that, you have to have this thing to be happy, but yet, at the end you see that even having so many things, where is happiness? I am not talking about the happiness that is 'today you are happy, tomorrow you are not happy'. No, I’m talking about a happiness that doesn’t finish. You become more and more happy, daily. And we are still into that lesson of these pandemic things, you know, where you can see the state of the mind of people.
You know, all of a sudden, all the things that they think will make them happy don’t make them happy because what was making them more happy was the fear of losing their life! What will make you happy truly is to realise that life is the most important thing. But yet, nobody wants to realise that. When you are sitting on your deathbed, then you will say, ‘Ah, now I want to go and live life’? Sadly, this is the reality of this world. That people realise that they have wasted the most precious gift that they had, which is this moment. They have wasted time in their lives. Sitting on the deathbed, then they look back, ‘What have I achieved? Nothing. I have placed my happiness on a husband, wife, children…' But when you are dying, nobody is there with you. If you are lucky, they will be there chanting the Divine Name for you. But if you are not, you die alone. But the guru is always there.
'The moment you have taken birth into this world, the first breath you have taken, ...that connection to the guru has already linked you.'
>The moment you have taken birth into this world, the first breath you have taken – whether the guru has been here in the physical body or not – the moment you have taken birth into this world, that connection to the guru has already linked you. The guru has always been there, whether you are aware of him or not, but he has, with loving eyes, watched upon you, even without you noticing. So, when you are ready, your atma called and brought you upon this spiritual path itself. But it didn’t bring you on the spiritual path only to put a tilak on your head and say, ‘Yes, I am a devotee’, and dress fancy. No, it’s not about that. He has called you upon that path for you to transform; for you to not be limited by your own understanding, but to transform yourself again into your divine self. You don’t need to die to become divine, you know. People wait, ‘I will become divine once I am dead’. Then die now! No, what are you waiting for? You have to become divine in this life itself. Another word for ‘devotee’ means ‘divine’, you know. Being divine, you transform into that love; you transform into that divine blissful state. That’s what devotee stands for. That’s what Bhagavan said: ‘Wherever My devotee is, I am with them’.
So, ‘I am with them’: do you think Bhagavan is a miserable God? No? He is a blissful one. When we say Ranganath, you know, He is the one who is always joyful, happy. Vitthala: the one which cares. When we take the word 'Vitthala', it has many meanings. The first meaning is the Goddess of fortune, the one who provides. Another thing that Tukaram said: ‘Vittha’ means ignorance, and ‘la’ means the one who welcomes. He is welcoming everybody. He is welcoming you however you are, with your limitation, with your darkness, with your devilishness, your demonic-ness, whatever you have; He is welcoming you. He is like a fire, ready to purify you completely. And that’s what He wants.
Imagine you are like a moth who is committing suicide in the eternal flame, no? The moth is attracted. Wherever there is a lamp, they will commit suicide in it. Like that, a devotee is also. When they are attracted to the guru and God, they commit suicide. Not in a suicidal way, but in a divine way. They transform that limitation that they have, the way they have understood themselves, the way they have understood life, and they jump into the light of God and they start to shine like the Divine also.
That is the light that you have to shine. When somebody sees a devotee, they don’t see a miserable person. A devotee is an inspiration for others to transform. Imagine somebody sees a miserable devotee, do you think that devotee will inspire people to change? Or it will make them run? Even Bhagavan would run away! But if you look at the devotees, even if they are crying…look at all the great souls. They long for Him; they long because their heart is calling for the Divine itself to have that relationship with Him. They cry, but they reflect. Even in their crying, people are attracted to them. It’s amazing, isn’t it? Look, when Mirabai was singing for Krishna, she was always crying. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was dancing, but he was always crying. But those tears are not the tears of ignorance. It’s not the tears that, ‘I am languishing for something that is material.' That recognition, when one is among devotees, they have this, they share this. Even if, like I said, they are crying, yet they attract, because the atma is crying. The atma. If you put your mind quietly for one moment, just one moment – you are so expert in entertaining your mind, if you just put one, not even a second, a fraction of second, of quietness in the mind itself, you will see how the atma is longing for Bhagavan. That’s what sometimes is propelled from the inside to outside. That’s why you have that longing, you know, but yet, then you start to reflect upon it, and then your mind starts to analyse it, and then finish…you lose it.
That’s why Bhagavan said the guru is ready to give, but you have to be ready to receive. And how to be ready to receive? Put that mind away, and then you may receive much more. The guru’s life is a life of serving. This is one thing that the devotees have to understand: they are here to serve. And the greatest server of all is the guru himself. It is serving Bhagavan by bringing and reminding humanity that there is only one aim to be happy: it’s to attain the Feet of Bhagavan Himself. And it’s not that you have to die to attain His Feet, but you have to let this mind die, let this mind transform. When I’m talking about dying, I’m not talking about death like you understand, but that transformation of that mind itself, that willingness also has to be there. If there is no willingness, you will not transform. You may transform for some time, but then you will fall back again. But if you have the strong will of transforming, then you will never fall back.
This is the seva. When we are talking about service to the guru, when earlier I was talking about the verse of the Gita where Bhagavan said serve the guru, serve the guru, then it’s only the external service, but what will really make the guru rejoice and be happy is when he sees that his devotees and disciples have truly changed and transforming with what he has come to give. Then he will be satisfied.
So, I wish you all a blessed and joyful Gurupurnima! May the grace of all the gurus be upon you. And taking that blessing from wherever you are, deposit that grace also in other’s hearts also.