Live Q&A from Germany
Shree Peetha Nilaya Ashram, 5 April 2020
Today's Satsang features answers from Paramahamsa Vishwananda about the purpose of prayer, God-realisation vs. God's incarnation, being a child's parent or slave, and the gopis' experience of loving God.
Jai Gurudev, everybody!
So, welcome to Shree Peetha Nilaya! And here I am in quarantine, self-quarantine of course. It was amazing yesterday to see while leaving Vrindavan how empty everywhere was. The road was completely empty, apart from the police checkpoint.
But it was very nice because, like I said at the beginning of the Satsang in Vrindavan, they have a notion that the westerners are responsible for bringing the Coronavirus to India in their mind. Actually, they were not wrong, in a way, because first among Coronavirus victims were the Italian people who came from Italy to India, so most of the first cases were Italians. This is so imprinted in the minds of people that they dwell on a certain fear. And I saw that yesterday when we were driving and the police stopped us. The first two checkpoints were okay, they said, ‘Okay, fine, let them go.’ The third one as we stopped there, the head policeman asked for the paper. So, the driver gave the paper, and behind him, another policeman said, 'Sir, please, don't touch the paper!' (How you will see without touching the paper?) So, he let us go.
The airport was completely empty and they didn't even check much. Amazingly, we could take a big bottle of water inside the plane. On the plane were some Dutch people and the moment they see us, they think, ‘Oh, my goodness’. One of them said to Swami Revati, 'Oh, the circus is back', or something like that, you know. But you can see how fear is triggering inside of people so that they stop thinking, stop reasoning. Often you see that. It's not only now. When we look at the world, we see why people don’t reason properly: it's due to their fear.
But we had a wonderful trip, actually, back to Shree Peetha Nilaya. And it was nice coming back here; the air is so beautiful and really what is so nice is the calmness around here. Also in Vrindavan was very calm; it was very nice and sweet because you could hear the birds singing and everything. So, overall it was not that bad; actually, it was wonderful. You see how nature is becoming, it’s beautiful.
What is the purpose of our prayers to help with disasters and diseases if everything is the will of God? It especially feels strange if we pray for other bhaktas that are anyway under Your protection. Is there any point to this?
A similar question was asked some time back. You see, an act of prayer is an act of goodwill and good wishes where you are forgetting about yourself. You are thinking about somebody else. Whether the prayer is answered or not, it doesn't matter. It's true that everything is the will of the Lord; everything is the will of Giridhariji. Like it's said, not a single leaf moves that He doesn't will it. But as a human being, we also have a certain feeling for others, and due to that feeling for others, even if we know about it, it does touch us.
You may know, ‘oh yeah, we are the atma, we are eternal. All is equal in the atmic form’, but yet, when somebody dear to you passes on to the other side, you do feel, I will not say a loss, but you do feel a certain pain inside of you. It’s not because you are missing the person, but because you are a human being, you care for other people. Due to that love relationship, you do things like prayer, like japa; it’s not that you don’t care for them.
So, prayer and knowing that the Lord is taking care of everything, these two go hand-in-hand. What would you lose really if you pray for somebody? Are you losing something? You are not losing anything! Actually, in reality, you are gaining something, because that blessing, that invisible blessing which the soul from that person is bestowing upon you while it is receiving that prayer, that is not visible to the eye. That soul is part of Bhagavan Himself, no? A part of Him.
When you are addressing your prayer and offering that prayer for the bhakta, for people that need it, that atma which resides within them is giving that blessing. So, it is very wonderful to have some positive thinking, a prayer for somebody. And it encourages you also to be positive. It helps you to stay in that state of positiveness. Let’s say somebody has a problem: somebody is ill. Instead of joining the person in that pain, which very often people do…like when they go to see somebody who is sick and they sit there and become miserable, with a grumpy face and crying with that person. Instead of elevating the mood of that person, they sit there and they cry, ‘Oh!’ Actually, they are not doing it for the person, they are doing it for themselves because they think they feel that loss. But instead of being miserable like that, you should elevate the mood of that person. That gives more strength and power and it keeps you in a positive state and a positive mood. When you are in that positive mood, you can radiate that to others.
I have an example I always say: if you go to see the doctor and the doctor sits with you and starts crying with you, do you think the doctor will be able to help you? He will never be able to help you. But the doctor has taken an oath, ‘Doesn’t matter what, I have to help that person, so if I sit and cry with that person, I will never be able to help him. For me to help that person I have to be strong and I have to be in my power, and then I can help somebody else.’
So, prayer helps you to be in that positive state and strengthens, not the person, it strengthens you, firstly. That strengthens you in your belief, strengthens you in yourself, strengthens you in the way your mind and your intellect function. So, prayer is always good and encourages you to know that, like you said, everything is the will of the Lord.
But even though you know that everything is His will, how much can you accept His will? Very often you can’t accept that will of God. Yes, we can say, ‘Yeah, we can accept it, it’s fine’, but very often to accept the will of God, it’s a very great statement. You have to be in a state of mind to be able to accept that. When you are in that state of mind, then it is easy. It’s not just a mere saying, ‘Yes, I accept the will of God’, you know, ‘because He is doing everything.’ But knowing that He is truly behind everything? This is through the power of prayer. Hold onto that positivity and elevate your consciousness to that state where you can really and strongly believe that He is there.
I would like to ask if being God-realised and [being] an incarnation of God is the same thing? Should we consider all God-realised people as God Himself?
Okay, I will answer only the first part of that question. We all have a part of the Divine within ourselves. A God-realised soul, a God-realised person, is not the same as an Incarnation. It's two different things because a God-realised person goes through the stage of evolving themselves which is getting rid of their karma and purifying themselves, purifying their mind, their consciousness, their intellect, their body and so on. So, when all these are cleansed, then they start to shine the divine light.
Whereas an Incarnation is the Divine, full or partly, amsha-avatar. They come for a specific purpose. They don’t have any agenda with karma; they come here to elevate and to liberate those who have attained to the state of Self-realisation. They come as a reminder that they have to attain God. So, God-realised beings are those who have been touched by that grace of an Incarnation and have had the divine vision for that grace and they are being freed.
How do you know, firstly, that they are God-realised? You don’t know. You can’t say because somebody is dressed in a particular way or is telling you such beautiful things that they are God-realised. Many are just professors or teachers who help you on your way, but they can’t give you that realisation.
An Incarnation, the jagadguru, the satguru, they can give you that realisation when you are ready. If you are not ready, why would they give it to you? You will not be able to handle it. Arjuna himself said, ‘Lord, reveal to me Your cosmic form’, you know, ‘but only if You see that I am ready.’ Look how wise he is! He is not somebody that just says, ‘Okay, listen, I am ready, can You reveal Yourself to me?’ It’s two different things. He asked Bhagavan Krishna clearly ‘Because You have the great vision, You know whether I am ready or not. I don’t know whether I am ready or not. If You deem that I am ready, reveal that to me.’
So, Bhagavan, this cosmic form, knows, you know. He is sitting inside of you. Do you think there is any action from your side which will make Him reveal Himself to you? No, no, no, no, no. This happens automatically. When He sees that you are ready, He will reveal Himself to you, you know? Not like some “saints” from other religions. I was reading about a recently canonised saint who I will not mention, but throughout her life, she had done many good things. But at the end of her life, she had doubt; she doubted even if God existed, or if God was looking. That doubt was in her mind. There are good people, but I would not classify her as a saint. She was a good woman who helped lots of people and lots of people have been inspired, also. Like that, many good people in this world inspire and help other people, but it doesn't mean that they can reveal God to you. It’s very important to recognise that, also.
So, how would you recognise that? Firstly, only when you are humble. Through your education, knowledge, all this stuff, no, you will create judgements. But only through humility will you recognise that. And this recognition is through your heart, what you feel inside of it the moment you meet a saint, the moment you meet a realised being or you meet an Incarnation there is a certain knowing without any doubt that, ‘He can free me’, or, ‘That one can help me to attain liberation; that one can help me to attain the Lotus Feet of the Lord.’
But when you meet an Incarnation, you have that instant feeling, ‘That one is different from all others. He shines a different light.’ And this is an avatar. So, the way of an avatar is completely different from the ways of a saint or a realised being. Trying to understand with the mind that is not yet surrendered is very difficult because you will come always to the point of your limitation; the mind and intellect function in a finite way. Here you are talking about someone that is infinite. It’s very complicated to understand with the mind. That’s why I said with the consciousness, because when your heart reveals, your heart knows, the seat of your soul knows. When your soul inside recognises that, that soul sends energy inside of your body fully. Every cell of your body starts to vibrate. What is vibrating is life itself. Without life, without you being here, nothing would exist. Do you think your eyes would have the power to see, your nose would have the power to smell, your ears would have the power to listen, your mind would have the power to think, your intellect would act? No, no, it’s only through life. So, when that life, that atma which is inside of you, recognises that, ‘Here, this is my Lord’, it’s a different energy inside.
What is the difference between loving your children, doing your duty as a parent, and being a slave to your children?
Okay, doing your duty as a parent. You have put your children on Earth, you know, they didn’t ask you to be born here. You wanted children, you have them. Which means you have to assume certain responsibility to care for them, to look after them, to educate them, to become a better human being.
So, the question is how not to be a slave to them? By first, reminding them that you are the parents and you are the one who is teaching them. They are learning from you by not only what you are saying to them but by your actions also. Your children are learning through seeing how you are and by listening to what you are saying. If you are telling them one thing and then you are doing something else, which one they will learn? They will learn through actions; children learn mostly not by what you are saying to them but what they see and what they perceive. Through that, they learn. And if they see that what you are teaching them, you are only telling them (because telling them will go here [in one ear] and disappear out the other ear)… Through your actions with what you are doing with them or amongst you as parents, husband, wife, partners, whatever, you have to set the right example.
This third part of the question is not to be slave, which means not always saying yes, yes, yes. You know that children, when they are small especially, have a tendency of controlling their parents. I have met many couples whose relationship has become so bad after having children, and some of them had become so wonderful also.
I’ve asked couples who have children, ‘Why has your relationship been bad?’ The couples have said, ‘Ah, you know, she is giving so much attention only to the child, not to me.’ Because before the child was there, you were giving attention to your husband and the husband was giving attention to you. But when the attention is diverted to the child, then your relationship becomes not good between each other.
Often children play upon that emotional blackmail because they know where your weakness is and they will use any kind of weakness to play upon because they want your attention. They see that, ‘Okay, if I act in that way, I will gain their attention.’ So, they start to act in that way. Of course, when they act in that way from the beginning, you have played into what they wanted and it will carry on. Then they have you in their grip. So, they will make you dance to their tune.
Meanwhile, you see that your relationship to your partner is deteriorating. Especially with a couple who could not have children when they have a child, instead of teaching the child to grow from their example, they let their child dominate their relationship. Then it becomes very difficult and that’s what you have to watch out.
There was once an old man and his wife and they were celebrating a birthday. The daughter came home with her husband and children. The daughter was giving so much attention to the child and the child was so naughty. So, the father said to the mother, ‘I must talk with her.’ So, one day he called the daughter and her husband and he asked them, ‘Who is the most important person in your life?’
The daughter said, ‘Oh, my child is the most important person in my life.’
And he asked his son-in-law and he said, ‘My child is the most important person in my life.’
Then the father said, ‘Listen, I’m not going to tell you how to look after your children, but I noticed that there is a certain disharmony between you two, so that’s why I asked who is the most important person in your life. You both answered that the child is the most important person.’ And then the father said, ‘Listen, this is a mistake. Because the most important person in your life should have been each other, husband and wife. Between you two, both of you should have been the most important person in your life.’
Then they were a bit perplexed.
Then he continued and said, ‘Look, I have lived 60 years very happily with your mother because we love each other and for us, even when the children were there, we have never stopped loving each other, caring for each other, because the children have to learn from their parents; they will learn through what they see.‘ So, he said to his daughter, ‘The most important person in your life between you two is you to him, him to you. And the children will learn from that, by what you share with each other, what you show to them. They will learn and grow with that.’
It is the same in your life. You have to care for your children, you have to look after them, you have to listen to them, but you have to set the example that they also should learn to listen to you. Not by telling them that, ‘Oh, you have to listen when I’m saying something’, no. By setting an example, you as parents, that you are listening to them. Respect comes from both ways and listening also comes from both ways.
Could You explain how the gopis were focusing on Krishna while doing their duties? What bhava were they experiencing? As doing day to day duties to please and serve God, seeing Him in everything is more dasya-bhakti while the gopis were in maha-bhava, so how did they experience this in day-to-day life?
First, we have to understand that when we are talking about the gopis, the gopis were not normal human beings. They were great sages who incarnated to serve their beloved Lord. Gopis have already elevated their spirituality. To be amongst the Lord Himself, to do such a lila with Him, they must be beyond the concept of a human being.
As you know, when Rama and Lakshmana were travelling and passing an ashram where the sages were meditating, these sages were children of Agni-dev. They were meditating upon the Supreme Lord to have Him. So, when Rama and Lakshmana were passing by, they recognised the same Lord which they had been worshipping to be with. He was there in person! So, they were all filled with this madhurya-bhava. They started running towards Him to embrace Him because there was no concept of male and female; when atma recognises paramatma, the gender disappears completely. They were running to embrace Him, to be with Him, to jump on Him, to hug Him! At that moment Rama stopped them and said, 'No, stop! In this Incarnation I am already married, so I can’t fulfil your wish. If you want to be with Me, please, I will grant this wish in your next life.'
So, they were all incarnated when Bhagavan decided to come in the form of Lord Krishna. To fulfil that desire, that deep wish, to be with the Lord in an intimate way, Bhagavan came and they came as the gopis. So, when Bhagavan was there, do you think that atma didn’t recognise Him? That atma was burning with that desire inside of them. Whatever they did was about their beloved Lord, nothing else. This world didn’t matter. They had already transcended this world. For many lives they had transcended this world. Their only desire was only to serve Bhagavan Himself.
In Chapter 10, verse 3, Bhagavan Krishna said, 'Those mortals who know Me to be unborn, beginning-less and the Lord of the world, they are undeluded and free from all sins.' Just take this and see the gopis. Those gopis recognised that this is the Supreme Lord. And it is not just a recognition of the mind itself, ‘Oh yeah, He is the Lord.’ No, it’s that deep intimacy. You get to know somebody through that deep intimate relationship which you have with that person. Without this deep intimate relationship to that person, you don't know that person. Through the relationship that they had towards their beloved Lord, they recognised Him in everything. He is the one who is the Supreme Lord, who is unborn, you know. He is beginning-less; He is that Supreme being Himself. Their minds were not deluded by the limitation of norms and they were not deluded by doubts or anything else, they had transcended that.
The bhava inside them was that of a lover who doesn’t recognise anything else apart from their beloved. Deep inside they knew they had to do their duty, but their minds were upon the Lord Himself. They were centred into the Self. They were Self-realised and here Bhagavan came and said, 'Okay, you want Me fully, even being Self-realised, here is God-realisation.' That is that union, that intimacy, between a Self-realised one and the beloved Lord. Very often, people confuse Self-realisation and God-realisation. They think that, ‘Okay, I have attained Self-realisation.’ Yes, through your sadhana you have attained Self-realisation, but God-realisation it is that grace Himself. Even that Self-realisation is His grace in the deepness of things because if He doesn’t will it, it won’t happen.
When somebody attains Self-realisation, it’s not that the journey finishes. The journey carries on. It carries on until you have that sublime relationship, that deep intimacy with the beloved Lord Himself. The gopis of Vrindavan and many saints had this deep intimate relationship with Him. That‘s why they could perceive Him in everything that they were doing. You see, they have placed Him first. ‘I don’t want anything else, only Him, nothing else.’ This single-pointedness which they hold onto made their beloved Lord real in everything, not only when He was there, but in everything that they did they saw only Him. It is like somebody who is madly in love: what is in the lover’s mind? In the mind of a lover is always the beloved. ‘Where is that person? Where is he? Where is she? Why is he not phoning? Why…?’ You are always looking at your phone ten times, a hundred times a day. The intensity of that makes the gopis see their Lord in everything, but with the same longing, ‘When will He give me Himself?’
And this is so deep to go into because here it's not only that realised soul who is asking Bhagavan to reveal Himself, but the same longing comes from the Lord Himself who longs to be with them. So, it is not a one-way relationship; it’s a two-way relationship where Bhagavan makes everything possible for Him to come. This is so beautiful to see, that the Supreme Lord Himself is coming for the devotee…coming for those who have that deep longing for Him.