Live Q&A from Germany
Shree Peetha Nilaya Ashram
Today's Satsang from Paramahamsa Vishwananda answers questions about devotees and activism, describing bliss, how do we avoid loving God selfishly, and dealing with emotions about death.
Jai Gurudev, again, everybody and welcome back!
Today, I was reflecting upon a message I got this morning from someone. They were saying that during this lockdown, not everybody really appreciates this, and of course, it’s true. To be closed and to be among the same people all the time, of course, it can be very terrifying and also a very heavy weight upon somebody. That person was saying that together with this lockdown, there has been also a lot of gender violence, like in the family, husband, wife, not only appreciating the moments that they have been together, but they are also fighting. It's true, it is sad to see that, that people don’t realise the importance really of appreciating the time, first to be with oneself and also to be among the people who are dear to you. Like yesterday I was saying about people are looking forward for the lockdown to finish so that they can go back again to their petty self, their mundane reality and again do everything [the same way].
Then I’m asking myself, ‘What have people learned?’ You see? What are you learning through that? Of course, it is difficult to always bear the same people around and sometimes you can go crazy. But at the same time you can also just appreciate the person who is next to you, see a different point of view of that person, and see how much that person has done for you, or that you are doing for that person also.
Another thing which really saddens me is that, during this time, you see so many people helping other people, but there are also some people who are profiting from that to ask for donations and money, and especially from devotees. Such a thing came to me today, that there is somebody in Vrindavan using my picture, and because some people come, they take a picture and put it there, ‘Look, we are very good friends with Swamiji.’ Then they start asking for money. The funny thing is that he used the video of another devotee who is truly helping people, going around giving food to the sadhus and to the poor. And that person on his website put that if you want to give donations, you can give. But I just wanted to remind the devotees that if they want to give donations, the donations should be given directly to Bhakti Bharat [in India] or Bhakti Marga here in Springen, and that you should just say for what purpose it is, and then it will be used for that purpose.
Also people were writing and asking if they can contribute towards this time, because there is no donation coming or anything, so if you want to donate you can donate directly to Bhakti Marga, you see? You don’t need to give to other people. Please, be careful and be aware of that. When we were in India, there was one instance that Tim got an email that there is government help, and you can donate towards that. I don’t know how these people got the email. So he came to me and asked me, the government is asking for help, and I said, ‘Okay, this is a scam, and you should be careful of that.’ Then a week ago, there was an article in the Indian newspaper that this scam has taken so much money from people. There were two guys and they've been asking people in the name of the government to give money. So, you should be careful when people are asking for money. Some people will even say, ‘Oh, Swamiji is helping us, we have to help the world, we have to do so many things, please, give us money, support us.’ You should be careful.
Look, if God has made your hands and feet proper and you can work, you are working, and everybody is working and doing their best, so don’t let yourself be fooled by the nice words of people asking you things in the name of me and Bhakti Marga also.
Beloved Guruji, currently there are many discussions in our sanghas as to whether or not a devotee should get involved in political issues or activism in general. What is your instruction?
Normally, for me personally, I try to keep away from political things, you know? Whatever is related to politics, I keep far away from it, because you see, in my life I have met many politicians and I tell you frankly, they are all the same. There is no good politician, there is no bad politician, they are just politicians. So, personally, I don’t have any interest. I’m talking for me right now, I’m not talking for you.
Maybe you have a great interest in politics, so then it is your business. Of course, you may have different kinds of interests. But one thing I’m asking myself, ‘If you’re interested in politics, then what can you change?’ Being a normal person, you can’t really do anything. Would you go and raise your voice? Do you think anybody really cares about you? Nobody cares about you. Nobody cares about your voice. It’s like a dog barking. You can bark as much as you want, but it will be the same. Especially nowadays you see every kind of opinion from many kinds of people, but your opinion is your own self, it’s for you. You can raise your opinions, you can raise your voice, but do you have that power to really change something? I guess you can talk about politics if it is a topic that you like, but it doesn’t change anything in the system. Why waste your time with that? Engage your time in doing something which will change something. You know, every politician, everybody, comes in this world to do something good, you know? Hitler started something great, he wanted something amazing, but see how it turned out!
You see, when you start something, you have great ideas, you know? I have spoken with many politicians that have said, ‘When I started my political career, I wanted to change the world, I wanted to change something. That’s why.’ But in between, everybody gets corrupted. That mind gets corrupted by things.
So, engaging in that, especially in a sangha…well, a sangha should discuss about spiritual matters, about your spiritual growth, not about politics. It’s good to understand politics. It’s good to know about it, but you can’t change anything. First, you have to reconsider and look at yourself; change yourself, first, then you can engage in that.
You have great ideas. I understand why in the sangha they would start to talk about politics, but where does that lead? It stays only there, that’s it. Then it dies, so nothing changes. So, instead of wasting your time, do something concrete with your life. It’s better.
Is it possible to describe bliss or prema in a way that we can understand?
Look, very often people don’t understand what love is. People have many ideas of what love is. So, to describe something which is indescribable, we use the word ‘bliss’, and we use the word ‘beatitude’, because it’s a state where everything else is dissolved. That’s why we use only these words. But first, let’s see what love is and what you understand by love.
What is love? This is a question which people ask very often. But love in the human point of view is: something that makes me feel good; I love something that I feel comfortable with. When I feel comfortable with that thing, I like it or I love it. It’s like eating ice cream: I like ice cream, so as long as I like it, I will keep doing it. The moment the like becomes dislike, then I will stop. Then when the ice cream becomes something that is making you sick, you stop. You know, some people like to drink Coke every day, and when the Coke starts drinking them, then they realise that, ‘Oops, I have to change something.’ And that’s what people like.
There is that state of mind of "liking something that makes me feel comfortable". And, of course, regarding people, we don’t say ‘like’ we say ‘love’. For things, we say ‘like’, we like some things that are tangible, that are material. But for God we say ‘we Love’, and even for people, we say that. But for God, we don’t say, ‘We love Him’, because of course, in the English language, there is this word ‘love’ which is only love, nothing more, and yet there are many aspects of it.
In Hindi we have the words pyar and Prema, like you said in your question. Pyar is when something is bound by something. Let’s say a love that you understand, a love which is bound by, ‘I feel good in that, because that belongs to me’. A husband loves his wife, because the husband thinks, ‘This is my wife, she belongs to me, she is my possession.’ And vice versa, the wife loves the husband because, ‘He is my possession.’ As long as there is this, ‘Okay, you are mine, I belong to you, there is this comfort that I have with you,’ it is fine. But the moment there is a discomfort, this is where all the troubles arise. Where has the love gone? It has disappeared! A mother loves the child because, ‘You are my child, so you belong to me.’ But once the child is growing, there is also an expectation, ‘You must be like this, you must be like that.’ When the child does something opposite to what the mother wants, do you think that love is still as intense in the same way? No, it has changed, because there is an expectation. So, in the things that we have around us, we say "we love, we like," but these are tangible things that we can hold. Something that is tangible has a certain limit to it; it’s finite. But how can we talk about the infinite?
That’s why we talk about Prema. Prema is the blissful state which is the ultimate, beyond what we can hold onto; we can’t hold it even with our mind, or try to comprehend something that is incomprehensible. We can’t hold that because He is not something that we can grab and possess. He's not something material. You know, even if Bhagavan said that - yes, when we say we love God, we are in that blissful state, still, we can’t possess Him. Everything that we can possess, we can control, but for Bhagavan, for the Lord, we can’t. When we are in that blissful state, we are just in servitude. We love Him, we are in a blissful state to enjoy His presence and to enjoy everything coming from Him. And it never diminishes.
You know, when we look at love from the outside, you can be very happy with somebody, but yet how long does this happiness last? Somebody gives a nice talk, for example, you say, ‘I like this talk’, because you resonate with that talk. But does it last for long? It doesn’t last for long. It lasts only for a certain time. I have so many messages from devotees, ‘We love your messages so much.’ Yes, I am very happy that you are loving the messages, but I will be more grateful and more happy if you put them in practice, at least little by little, and transform yourself. That’s why the satsang is important. It’s not done just to say it is beautiful. There are many people who give many nice speeches, even more beautiful speeches than me. Me, I just speak whatever comes out from my mouth, so, there are many people who have beautiful words and very poetic words. I am not very poetic. I just tell you what you have to hear, that’s it. Whether you love it or not, it’s fine.
To be in bliss, it is a state which you can’t describe with words. It’s just a state where you are ever-happy with everything. This is what we can say. You stay in that state where your mind doesn’t trouble you, because that mind has transformed into the Divine. That mind is experiencing that divinity in its fullness, not only when you are doing your sadhana, but in every action you do there is this same joy inside of you.
We perceive love in a way which we talk about very often, but still, Prema is something beyond that. So, it is really quite difficult to explain in words.
Srimati Radharani and the gopis longed only for Krishna. How do we ensure that our longing for guru and God is not rooted in our own selfishness and that it has no thought for ourselves?
Look, in your question, how many times have you focused on yourself? Many times, you see? When we talk about the Self, we have heard a beautiful story of Srimati Radharani and the gopis, but these are realised beings. Their level of spirituality is excelled. They are not focused on this petty self. They are not focused upon this pancha-tattva, which is made of the five elements. They are focusing upon themselves, their minds, and throughout their lives they have already transcended that limitation of focusing only upon the body, the mind and the intellect, which we call very often 'yourself'. Referring to that, first, we have to be aware of that: that their way of thinking of themselves was not about their bodies or their minds, you see? They are fully centred into their true Self, the atma, and they have full awareness that the atma can long only for something that is Supreme, which is Divine. So that’s why their love, their surrender, is completely different.
Bhagavan Krishna in the Gita, Chapter 9, verse 11, said, ‘Clad in a human form, when I descend here in this world, fools don’t recognise My Divinity.’ Here Bhagavan said fools, and in Chapter 7, He said fools again. So this is a shock when Bhagavan said that people who are foolish in their minds don’t recognise who I am, the Lord of all beings.
So let’s look into this: the gopis and Srimati Radharani, how do they see, how do they perceive Krishna? Of course, they know deep inside that He is the Supreme Lord, but this is from the atma level. They know that this Supreme Ultimate Being has manifested here, and that longing that they have inside of them, that yearning to be with Him, is not something which is in one life only. Firstly, like I said, they know their true Self, they know who they are, they know that they are not this body, they know that they are not this mind, but they are that eternal soul, the atma itself. And they know within the atma it is only Krishna. So, having that clarity inside of them that it is only about Krishna, ‘What else should I please here into this world?’ You know? ‘Will I please the stone? Will I please the trees? Will I please my husband, my wife, my children? No! Who I have to please is Krishna only. Having that clarity that they have seen Krishna within the core of their hearts, there is nothing else to please. It’s only that Ultimate Reality, that Supreme Reality, that has taken a form and has taken an aspect in this world.
In the Brahma Samhita, Lord Brahma said, ‘iśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ saccitānanda vigrahaḥ anādir ādir govindaḥsarva-kāraṇa-kāraṇam’, which means, the Supreme Lord Himself being here, He has taken birth here in this reality, who has taken a form in that reality by His power, He has taken form in this reality, He is all knowing, He is eternal, He is blissful, He is without end and without beginning. Brahmaji prayed to the Lord in that way, that He is the only aim for everybody. So, for Radharani and for the gopis, it is super clear that He is the Supreme Lord and there is nobody else than Him. Because they recognised that Supreme Lord within themselves, they didn’t see the difference.
Somebody sent me a talk of someone who was describing when Krishna left Vrindavan and He didn’t come back again. Supposedly, Radha met Krishna in heaven and asked Krishna, ‘Where were You? You are Dwarkadish, Where were You all this time?’
You see, Radha used to call Krishna ‘Kanha’ and there She called Him 'Dwarkadish'. Dwarkadish means the Lord of Dwarka.
He said, ‘Why are you calling Me Dwarkadish? Radha, for you I am still your Kanha.’
She said, ‘No, no, no, no.’
You see, the Kanha is the One who is caring for people, the One that lifted Govardhana and who sheltered everybody. But Dwarkadish is the One which has fought on the battlefield, who has killed people.
'Even being the king, You have given Your army to the Kauravas, and of course, these are Your people, but yet, You have killed them all, where You should have protected them.'
And this is because of the Prema itself.
Radharani said to Krishna, ‘When You were in Vrindavan, You had the sweet water of Yamuna to drink, but when You went to Dwarka, You had the salty water. That made you trust in Your flute in Vrindavan, but when You go to Dwarka, You trust in Your Sudarshana-chakra.’ This is the absence of Prema itself again, in the absence of Prema.
Then Krishna asked, ‘But you never missed Me?’
Radha said, ‘Well, how can I miss You? You were always with me. You see? Look at You, when You saw me you were crying, but we didn’t cry for You, because You were always in front of our eyes. If we cried, we were scared that You would be washed away, so we stopped crying.’
So, like that, a big discussion. It’s so beautiful. But you understand that such a degree of spirituality, such understanding, awareness or consciousness! First, you have to get to know who you are, this is a question. Because without knowing who you are, you will not know who the Supreme Lord is. Through your sadhana, through your meditation, through your japam, that must awaken inside of you, that mind must transform into a mind of complete surrender. So, surrender to the guru’s Feet, surrender to your path, surrender to the Name of the Lord, call for Him. And this is for the gopis and Srimati Radharani, that was clear that the Kanha that was there was everything for them. And throughout lives, these gopis have meditated upon only one Supreme Reality: to have Him only, nothing else. They are the great yogis, who perceive Krishna everywhere. When that awakens inside of you, that dualistic world disappears. It becomes only one reality. And this is His reality, that Supreme Reality.
You often talk about death as something good or easy, but I cannot feel joy when I think of the death of a family member and I've cried a lot when this has happened. Is this feeling so wrong?
No, it’s not wrong. Look, when I am talking about death, when somebody passes away, it’s not that I don’t feel sad about it. You know, you have been with that person, this person was very dear to you, of course, you feel certain sadness inside of you. Look, Nadège who was very close to me passed away, and it’s not that I didn’t cry. I did. Otherwise I would be heartless person, you see? But how you view it, how you see it, it doesn’t mean that you can’t cry.
When Haridas Thakur died, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was taking the body of Haridas and was dancing around, crying. It’s not because he was not fully realised. He was fully realised, but you see, there is a certain gratitude towards that person, for that soul has come to have a certain purpose in your life. You have this gratitude towards that. It’s not about that person. Why would you cry if somebody is dead? The body is still there. The person that you think you know is still there. Do you know truly the essence of that person? Do you know the atma of that person? No, you have not known the person, because that person probably himself has not known who he is. The absence of something that is inside, that’s what you are missing, you see! When you see somebody is dying, everybody is sitting and crying, they hold the body, ‘Oooh, I’m crying’, but the person IS dead. What is missing in that? It is: the atma is not there. That essence which was making that body alive is not there. That essence which was giving life to that mind, to those eyes, to that nose, to that mouth, to those feet, to those hands to act is not there. That’s what you miss, you see? You don’t miss the person really. You do feel a certain sadness when somebody who is dear to you has gone, but you know also that what has gone is eternal.
What you really miss is that interaction with them. And, of course, due to that this is also through attachment and so on, of course, you will feel sad about it. There's nothing bad about it. But you have to realise that the atma that is inside of you is eternal. The atma that was inside that body is also eternal. Even if that atma has departed from that body, it is still there. That connection, that relationship that you have, is still there. It’s not finished.
You have to be grateful for life, that life has allowed you to go through an experience, and you have experienced it, you have gone through it, and that person who has passed away also had their role to play in that. You see? Now they have finished their play; they are gone. They have finished their work. Now it’s up to you to move forward.
It is like this: very often we think that a soul comes into our life so that we have to cling upon it, hang upon it, create a certain attachment to it – no, of course, not. These souls have come to be free also. This is the law of nature, you see? Souls incarnate to free themselves, not to attach, because the soul doesn’t have anything to hold upon in this reality. The soul doesn’t belong to this reality. The soul has gone through millions of lives. You have met and you have built a certain karmic relationships with that soul. That’s why that soul has come again into your life so that you can really finish something with it. Because the soul wants to be free. The soul doesn’t want to hang onto all this drama and all these things, you know. So, that’s why they come into your life.
You have to be grateful for that. Your parents, the same. Your parents, your friends, all the people around you, are just taken for granted, very often. No, each one is there to play a certain role in your life. Through the role they have played, through their life, they have brought you to where you are standing now. Of course, you feel a certain gratitude. Due to that gratitude, you do feel sad when there is no interaction anymore. But note one thing again: that atma that is inside of them it is eternal, and you have that relationship to that atma.
Maybe when you take a life again (if you have not finished) you will meet again, but in a different role, in a different drama.