Live Q&A from Germany
Shree Peetha Nilaya Ashram
Today's Satsang from Paramahamsa Vishwananda answers questions about whether to pray for healing or acceptance, competition on the spiritual path, the chanting of the Asuras, and the essence of service.
Jai Gurudev, everybody! Welcome back!
There is not much really happening today, so we’ll go directly to the questions.
What is the proper spiritual understanding of diseases and physical pain? So many people search for cures or beg God to heal them, is this right or is the real point to accept?
Well, the natural state of somebody is, first, to look for the cure for it. You know, when you have pain or certain diseases, it’s the natural state of somebody to look for the cure for it, you know? Otherwise, would you bear the pain? Yes, we can say, ‘Yes, accept the pain’, but do you feel comfortable or enjoy the pain? Well, there’s some people who enjoy pain in life, but I don’t think anybody in life really likes to be in pain or be unhappy, because your natural being will be unhappy. when you are unhappy, do you think you can say that yes, you are enjoying everything? Are you enjoying life? No, you don’t. You don’t feel happy. Nothing, even the happiest thing and most joyful thing will not appear to be happy for you. it is natural when you are in pain that you seek help to get rid of that pain or disease. There's nothing wrong in that.
Throughout the centuries, we even have gods, deities, and saints who are great medical helpers. The Lord Dhanvantari, for example, who is an incarnation of the Lord Himself. He is Lord of medicine, Lord of herbs, and who, in a way, shows that if we really want to be free, we must really look after ourselves!
We can’t be truly happy when we are in pain, no? Those who have transcended that, yes, of course, they can find true happiness, in their true aspect. Like I was saying few days ago, Ramana Maharishi was very much in pain, but yet, he realised that he was the great witness inside, witnessing life on the outside. But not everybody is Ramana Maharishi.
It is normal that you seek advice and the help of the doctors, knowing that God is helping you also through them. Coming to the question now, though: if you can accept the pain, and learn from it, then you are very strong. You should do it. Then, like Ramana Maharishi, you can be the witness, really experience it and go beyond that and not attach to the outside. But how long would you hold onto that? So, be reasonable and use your logic a little bit. God has given you a brain. He has also given this brain for others to be able to help you. So, why torture yourself?
You know, for me I don’t like really to take medicine, but sometimes, I wake up in the morning, and I have a terrible headache. Of course, I say, ‘Okay, it will go away’, but still it carries on throughout the day, and becomes more and more intense, you know? Finally, I say, ‘Okay, I'll just take a pill’. And I have relief quickly. So why did I have to be tortured for the whole day till at the end, ‘Okay, yes, finally, I'll take that medicine.’ I could have just said I'd take the medicine already in the morning when I felt the headache, and then I would have had a whole day free of headache.
Like that, if you feel like you can accept the pain that you are going through and if you are a great enjoyer of pain, that is your choice in life! But I don’t know if anybody is really happy to be in pain. So, that is up to you.
And, also, whatever is the illness or the pain that you are going through, of course, there is a point to looking at what it is teaching us, also. It is teaching us also to discover, ‘Why am I having that?’ But we can also discover it without being in pain.
You also have to watch how you have been eating and how is your thinking, because all this is a major fact of most diseases, and our minds especially, which are preoccupied with so many things. The media is filling everybody with so much negativity. When you are filling your mind continuously with negative things, do you think that the outcome of that will be positive? No, it will not be positive. It will be negative. And that negativity reflects upon, first, your physical body itself, and it will reflect upon the weakest point in your body. When we watch and listen to negative things, it reacts upon our brain and, of course, we take it in throughout the day, all these things. We are absorbing from left, right, we listen, we calculate, we think how it is and all these things. What is happening to our minds? Our minds have to process it.
It is said that the mind can process 100,000 thoughts per day. That means that, when you are sleeping, your mind is still processing what you have received, what you have collected through your senses, through your eyes, through what you have heard, and what you have eaten and whatever. So, all this, when it’s overloaded, what happens? When your mind is overloaded, it has to react somewhere. Then it is focused and brought to a certain place: your weak point. On that, when that weak point inside of your body starts to react, you start to panic, you start to take time for yourself. This is where the body is telling you, ‘Now it’s time to rest’.
There was once in Mauritius one man...at that time there were no devotees or anything… who came to me. He used to come often, actually. But he was a very hardworking person, young, actually, but a very hard-working person.
I remember once I told him, ‘Listen, you are working too much. You should really slow down and relax a little bit.’ And, of course, when you tell somebody something like that, (people who are busy, busy, busy) they don’t like to hear that. Of course, they hear it, but they don’t listen. And a few days later he had a stroke. Then he had to be brought to the hospital and then the doctor said to him, ‘Listen, your heart is...it’s too much pressure upon you.’
And this is the thing that I had told him before, but he didn’t listen. But when it comes from the doctor, of course, because of their title, they listen. So, you have to learn to listen to your body. You have to learn to observe your body and what is your body telling you. When you learn to listen to what your body is telling you, then you can really know what to change. Especially what that teaches us is what kinds of food we eat. Nowadays, because of the lockdown everywhere, everybody is eating just junk food, all frozen things, all canned things.
Krishna said in the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 17., v. 8, 9, 10, He give the three kinds of food: satvic food, rajasic food and tamasic food. So what we are eating reacts on one’s physical aspect and so does which attitude we have when we are eating the food. Because we think, ‘Okay, yes, it’s just food, let’s eat and fill the stomach.’ That’s it. That’s what many people think about.
But that attitude of eating the food is very important. That’s why, when devotees eat the food, they first offer the food to the Lord, by doing the Food Prayer. By offering it with the Food Prayer, the food becomes prasad, which is the offering to the Lord. Then, the devotee knows that whatever they are eating, they are eating the prasad and this prasad has a certain energy in it. Your mind focuses upon that and you perceive there is a certain change inside of you. So, prasad is not the same kind as food as other people are eating.
All these things relate to our health. When we take care of our health, we take care of our body, which is a temple of God, and then we can happily take care of our spiritual path. Because, if we have pain in our bodies, we can’t really concentrate on our sadhana, we can’t really concentrate on our japam, we can’t concentrate on our meditation, because we are fully focused on that pain.
So, look after your body and but first, look after feeding the right thing to your mind, which is very, very important.
Is the feeling of competition a positive quality that helps us advance on the spiritual path, or is it connected to envy and therefore considered negative?
Well, when we talk about competition, we have to have the same level or standard. You should compete with somebody that is on the same level as you. If you have somebody that is on the same level as you, then you can do a competition.
First, I will say that any kind of competition between the devotees is a negative thing. But at the same time, I will say it can be an impulse of pushing one forward. Because, if somebody can inspire you…let’s say you feel competitive towards somebody, and of course, there is a little bit of jealousy there, you want to be in that place and you want to reach to that level. But this kind of jealousy is not a bad jealousy, because that kind of jealousy can also inspire you to awaken, to move more forward. And in that case it is not a competition, it becomes like an inspiration from the other person. If they inspire you in that way, it will always push you forward.
But if you feel that, ‘Okay, I am jealous,’ and you feel anger inside of you, and you don’t feel an inspiration inside of you, then it is not good. Then you should really transform the way you are perceiving things, because envy and jealousy will come and then the result of that will be anger. When you become angry, then you want to fight. When you are fighting, there is no end to the fight because you will say something, the other person will say something, and it will be like a Ping-Pong, ‘pang, pang, pang, pang’, and then there will be never really an understanding.
So, the best way is to be inspired by others. If you see that somebody has something which you can profit from to advance on your spiritual path, take that as an inspiration and move forward. Take that as an example itself. That will help you much more on your spiritual path than to just say, ‘I am jealous’, and, ‘You know, that person is like this and like that.’ Inspiration can be everywhere, and in anyone. It’s just that you have to learn to see the positive in things. You see, if you see the positive in things, then it can really inspire you. Everything can inspire you, actually. Even in a discussion in which you perceive you have envy and jealousy, then you start to look at this envy and jealousy: why do you feel envious towards someone, why do you feel jealousy towards someone? Because there is a push inside of you to become better. If that person is better, of course, it is actually an inspiration; that’s why you feel jealous about it. ‘Why can they and I can’t?’ That means you can try your best to become better. When you try your best to become better, then it becomes an inspiration inside of you, it pushes you forward to move and become better in yourself.
That’s why, when you said about being in competition, I said in competition one must be on the same level. You can’t have competition when one is higher and one is lower like that; what competition would that be? It will never happen. You have to be on the same level.
So, let’s say something is making you jealous or somebody is making you jealous, raise to that, be inspired by them. Then you will see that there is no need for competition. It is just that you have to be inspired to reach to that level.
Many stories tell of Asuras chanting the Divine Names for thousands of years to receive a boon. Why doesn't chanting purify them and transform their demonic qualities?
It's true, like we said, that the chanting of the Divine Name frees oneself. But one thing is, that the Asuras have an aim. They are chanting because they want something. They don’t want Bhagavan.
You see, when a devotee is chanting, the devotee is fully absorbed in service to the Lord Himself, no? They are not doing chanting and saying, ‘Okay, I want something from Him, that’s why I am chanting.’ There are many people like that. Forget about the Asuras now, but there are many people in the world that do chant, but they chant for something. They have a certain agenda behind it; they want something from God. When they want something from God, they will go to this priest, this sadhu, this saint, and they will say, ‘Please give me a mantra. I want to have a child, please give me a mantra. I want to become rich, give me a mantra. I want to have a good job, give me a mantra for it.’
Very often you find people like that. They go around and ask you for mantras. And, of course, they have the faith that the mantra will fulfil their needs, so they will chant this mantra for a certain period of time, or a certain number of times, so that they get what they want. Their aim is to get what they are asking for, so they are praying and chanting for that specific aim.
The same with the Asuras. They are chanting the Divine Names, they are chanting the mantra, but for a specific aim. For them, their aim is something lie ‘I want to be powerful.’ Take Hiranyakashipu. First he asked Brahmaji, ‘I want to be immortal.’ Brahmaji said, ‘Well, the essence is immortal, but to be physically immortal has been given to the Devas.’ But still he asked, ‘I can’t be killed by any animal, or man or Devas. I can’t be killed inside, outside, up, down’, and so much more. So these Asuras also had a specific aim. They wanted to become powerful only to show their arrogance. Like people very often with asuric qualities become very rich and show their power. The power of control. They think that with the billions they have, they can control everything, and they can do whatever they want. But this is just the same as these Asuras who show their power. Their aim is only that. If their aim is only that, they can’t be purified.
So, when we look at these Asuras, we can say, ‘Yes, in one way, they can’t be purified. But in another way yes, they are purified indirectly, because it is Bhagavan Himself who comes down to liberate them.’ It’s funny. Bhagavan leaves Vaikuntha and comes down, incarnates to free them. In a way, their aim is also not bad. But actually you should not take them as an example, because their aim is only limited by name, fame and power, so that brings them to an end.
When a devotee chants, when they are praying, they are doing their sadhana. If you consider yourself a devotee, whatever you do is for the pleasure of the Lord. You are chanting the Name not for you, you are chanting the Name so that He can reveal Himself to you.
The gopis’ minds were so absorbed in the remembrance of Lord Krishna. Whatever they were doing, it was only Krishna. Their aim was Krishna. Shat is your aim? This is important. Your aim, being a devotee, must be the Lotus Feet of the Lord, nothing else. If it is something material, of course, you will get material things. But Krishna said, ‘Those who surrender to Me, I look after them.’ If you have Him, being the source of everything, then with a clear mind you will achieve that state also.
So, with the Asuras, when they are chanting, of course, their chanting is sincere. That’s why, even when they are chanting for Lord Shiva (Bhasmasura, for example), Lord Shiva came. That means, there is complete sincerity in their asking. You see, if there was not complete sincerity in their asking, if they were not single-pointed in their asking, do you think Lord Shiva would come? No, He would not. Many tests have been given, but still, they stand strong. The same thing with all the Asuras, like Ravana, etc.
You know, there is one beautiful verse in the Ramayana where, after Ravana had kidnapped Sita and brought Sita to Lanka, of course, he wanted to have Sita as his wife, so, Ravana's wife, Mandodari, said to Ravana, ‘Listen, you are trying your best to impress Sita, why you don’t just take the appearance of Rama and go to Sita?’ At that moment Ravana was furious and said, ‘You fool! How can you say such things? How could I, by my mayavic power, take a form where, even by thinking about Him, the Devas and even Lord Shiva go into bliss? How can you tell me to take a such a form, that even my mind, even when I think about Him, even in an angry way, when I think about Him, I feel such a bliss inside of me?’
Imagine, this comes from the mouth of Ravana himself. Imagine his mindset: his mind was so obsessed about Rama that, in his mind was only Rama, nothing else. That’s why, before he died, he said, ‘I am blessed to die at Your Lotus Feet.’
When we look at these Asuras when they were dying, they all died like Hiranyakashipu died: with the Supreme Lord coming out to liberate them. All these Asuras died looking at Lord Krishna. All the demons when Krishna was young were liberated. Like that, their aim, of course, is for a power, but behind that aim, they know deep inside of them that the Lord Himself has to come and liberate them. They are liberated completely by the touch of Him. Deep inside of them, when they were chanting and they aimed for something, they do recognise that whatever they were doing was to attain the Feet of Sriman Narayana Himself and that Sriman Narayana Himself will come.
If they could do that, imagine a devotee who is centred into that remembrance and into the absorption of that mind upon the Supreme Lord! What kind of transformation is happening to your soul?
What is the essence of service, and when do we know we are truly serving the Master? For example, can two people perform the same puja, but one is in service and the other is not?
Well, it’s an attitude of serving. You see, you can have 100 people doing the same thing, but with the same attitude that they are serving the Master. What is in your mind while you are serving? You know, earlier we were talking about competition, so while you are serving, there should not be any competition. You should serve wholeheartedly. And it can be one or two hundred people serving the same thing, even when you are doing puja together. But the attitude? Nobody knows what is in the mind of each one. What you are doing outside as service is one thing, but what truly is the service that you are rendering? With a whole heart, that is true service, and of course, that true service is known only to the Master and God. Guru and God.
When you have in your mind whatever service, and how many people are doing the service, the attitude of serving must be there. Otherwise it’s of no use. It’s of no use if you are serving, but the attitude is different. Or you are feeling, ‘Oh, this one is better than me, they are doing better than me.’ No, you can be better, just learn it and do it properly. In what attitude you are serving is the most important thing. It’s not a competition how many people are serving.
Actually when we are talking about service, we are here, everyone, as serving. We are here as servants to the Supreme Lord; we have to remember that. We are here to serve; we are here to spread His light, to spread His Love and His teaching to everybody. And when you do that with love, and you do that with really great happiness to just to do, to serve, and you don’t feel pressure that, ‘Yes, I want to bring that to somebody else, I want to serve’, then everything can be service. Your life itself can be service. Every moment of your life can be a service to the Feet of the guru and God. So, whenever you are serving, bear in mind where your mind is and what really is the aim, and who you are serving.
All of you are serving the Master, so just enjoy that service. That’s what you have to do: enjoy serving the Master. But when you forget about that you are serving the Master, then the ego will take over, then pride arises. When ego and pride come together, then you become a very angry person and then you can’t serve. Bear in mind when you are serving, the service must be out of love.
And of course, engage everyone to serve. Because this is really what makes the greatest joy in yourself and in others. Also, by making other people happy, you can really make God happy. Bear that in mind: that service is with love.