Live Q&A from Vrindavan
Shree Giridhar Dham Ashram, 25 March 2020
In today's Satsang via livestream, Paramahamsa Vishwananda answered questions about about His favourite saints, staying grounded, the power of Vedic chanting, and the life of the gopis.
Jai Gurudev, everybody!
So, it’s nice…I don’t know what to tell you today. Like every day, we are cooking together and really enjoying the time here in Vrindavan, actually, because Swami Revati and Rishi Akash are giving courses on the Bhagavad Gita, and the Mauritian people are here and we are cooking together nicely. Swami Paranthapa also. And thinking also of all of you. So, I will see which questions Swami Revati has. Yesterday was really sweet the question from that nine-year-old. I was thinking about it last night and laughing about that.
Who is Your favourite and most beloved saint and what message about their life can inspire us in our spiritual path?
It’s quite difficult to say which saint is my favourite, because each saint is unique and each saint has a different inspiration to bring. If I would say one saint is my favourite, I would say, in the Christian tradition, St Nicholas is my favourite saint. And the message he brings is the caring for others. In the Hindu tradition, it’s quite difficult because all of them are very sweet and dear. But when we look at the life of many of these saints, what we learn from them is that surrender, that single-pointed-mind devotion that they have to the Lord. So, it’s quite difficult to say. For me, Mirabai is very dear to me… and Tukaram, Chokhamela and so on, there are so many names to say, so it’s quite difficult. One thing: if I would say I prefer one more than the other, it means I am comparing the saints. It’s not about comparing the saints, it’s about getting inspired about their lives, how they surrender to the Lord, how they surrender to Bhagavan and how Bhagavan becomes alive in their daily life.
Last night we were watching together the story of Savatamali. Such a beautiful story about his life, and how this saint who lived only 30 kilometres from Pandharpur had never been to Pandharpur. They asked him, ‘Why you have never been to Pandharpur? Why you never gone to have darshan of the Lord?’
He smiled and said, ‘Everything is for the Lord Himself; everything is for Vitthala, and I see Vitthala in the plant, this garden, this field which I am looking after; it’s all for Vitthala Himself.’ And he said to his parents, ‘One day, Vitthala Himself will come to me.’
And this is so beautiful to see how Bhagavan enacts a certain lila to go to His devotee.
Namdev and Dnyaneshwar Maharaj were very dear to Bhagavan. Every day they were eating and talking to Vitthala. So, one day Vitthala said, ‘You see, you think…’, because in their minds they thought that they were great devotees; in their minds they thought that, oh, Bhagavan has come only for us because He is visible to us. So, the Lord knew what was inside of their minds and He wanted to teach them a lesson. He said to them, ‘Listen, don’t think that you are too great. There is somebody else who is even greater than you, and that is Savatamali.’
Well, they had never heard of Savatamali. They were wondering why Bhagavan was saying that he was so great. So, the Lord started running towards Savatamali. As He reached the place of Savatamali, Vitthala went directly to the field of Savatamali and said to Savatamali, ‘Please, save me because behind me there are two thieves who want to rob Me. Can you save Me?’
Savatamali recognised Him as Vitthala and said, ‘How can I save You? You are the Lord of the Universe. Everything is abided by You. How can I save You? Where can I hide You in this world where You are not present?’
But Vitthala said to him, ‘If you don’t, I will go somewhere else.’
He said, ‘No, no, no, Bhagavan, You have come to me; I’ve been waiting for You all this time. I will hide You. There is only one place that I can hide you.’ So, he took his sickle and he cut himself open and he said, ‘Bhagavan, please, hide Yourself inside of me.’
And Vitthala went inside the stomach of Savatamali. As He entered the stomach of Savatamali, it miraculously closed, but a little bit of His yellow dhoti was left outside. When Dnyaneshwar and Namdev Maharaj came looking, they were following the smell. You see, the smell of Tulsi was everywhere and they saw the footprint of the Lord. So, they came to Savatamali and they saw the footprint stopped there. And they were wondering how come? Then they asked Savatamali, ‘Have you seen Vitthala?’
Right there was a deity of Vitthala, so Savatamali pointed to the deity and said, ‘Here, He is standing here!’
Then they said, ‘No, we are not talking about the deity. We are talking about Bhagavan Himself, He has come this way, and this is His footprint and His smell is so strong coming from everywhere here. There is such a smell of Tulsi.’ So, they were wondering where He could be.
Then Savatamali said, ‘Well, Bhagavan is everywhere. There is no place that He is not present.’
Then they asked him, begged him, ‘Please, tell us!’
Then they noticed that a little bit of His dhoti was left outside, and then they said, ‘Ah, He is hiding inside of you!’
You see, Bhagavan is hiding inside of everybody, we just need some time to recognise Him inside of us. Once we recognise that He is the one who is seated inside of our hearts, there is no judgement about anything or about anyone. Then He becomes one reality: He is omnipresent, He is everywhere. That’s what He said in the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 7, verse 30: ‘Those who recognise Me as adhibhūta, adhiyajña and adhidaiva, at that time, and even after the time of death they will attain Me, they will come to Me.’ So, ‘Those who recognise Me as adhibhūta, and the Lord of the elements, the Lord of everything that is material, and beyond this material reality; those who recognise Me as adhidaiva, I am the Lord of all the senses, the sense organs. I am the Lord of all the Devas which prevail within this body itself. And I am the Lord of sacrifice’. What we sacrifice is that transformation of the mind, the intellect and the sense organs. We transform it and we offer it as sacrifice to the Lotus Feet of the Lord, So, ‘Those who recognise Me as that, attain Me.’ Those saints who have recognised the Lord in each of the elements, in themselves, in each person that is around them, are the saints who are dear to Bhagavan Himself.
So, how would you recognise one saint as better than the other? You can’t recognise a saint like that. Because very often the saints, due to their humility, like to hide themselves. Later on, when their life passes on, we hear the beautiful story about their life, and this story has been given to us as a reminder that these people have attained the Lord. If they have attained, everybody is called to attain Him. And in a very simple way, you see? Bhagavan is not complicated. ‘Those who remember Me, at the time of death, or remember Me continuously’, because to remember Bhagavan only at the time of death is not an easy thing. We have to remember Him continuously. We have to make Him part of our life at all times. Then He becomes one’s reality.
So, all the saints are dear to Him, and all the saints are dear to me because they are my friends. So, how can they not be dear to me? How can I say this one is better than the others when all of them have surrendered their lives to God?
More than any message in the last few years I constantly hear You reminding us to be grounded and that You don’t like fantasy. What does it mean to be grounded from Your point of view?
You see, on the spiritual path, like I’ve been saying in the past few days – and said many times – you are born here in this world, why? First, we have been given a human body where both our feet are on ground. If you are healthy, both feet are on ground, no? So, to start fantasising and creating things in your mind will make you lose ground. It doesn’t mean that you start levitating, but you lose ground in the mind itself. Then you start to make yourself more important and you start flattering yourself, because self-flattering is what people look for. People like people to look at them in a certain way. They like to be in the good books of everybody. You see, when you are in the good books of everybody, then you feel good about yourself and you feel good at how people are looking at you. But you can’t make everybody happy. Because by thinking of making everybody happy, there is one person that will always be unhappy. That is you. Because in that fantasy, do you think that you are happy? No, you will never be happy. Sooner or later the reality will catch up with you. Then what?
There is a dear devotee, very often I have noticed something in her life. You see, she likes to tell people everything that the people want to hear. And yes, you see, years go on, that fantasy has accumulated, but reality and fantasy are two opposite realities. On the spiritual field, when I say grounded, it means you have to be genuine, you have to be real, firstly with yourself. Otherwise you will always be unhappy. And the second is not to expect everybody to be happy with you. It will never happen, because there will always be somebody who will not be happy with you. So, like that, nowadays you will see when karma catches up in so many ways; karma will catch up, you know. This is the reality of things. So, when karma is catching up, who will become unhappy? Who will be the miserable one? Only you will be the miserable one. That’s why, when you are grounded, you are doing your dharma; you are doing your duty with full awareness that whatever you are doing you are doing for God and that you should enjoy and not be in fantasy, and you should meditate upon the lila of the Lord. But to meditate upon the lila of the Lord it doesn’t mean that you are IN the lila of the Lord. You can take it as an example.
That’s why, when we look at the lives of the saints, they are so humble that they never want to publicise themselves, they never want to put themselves as, ‘Oh, look at me, I am the greatest one!’ No! They consider themselves unworthy. Yesterday there was this question too, which I answered. So, like that, humility is very important. It’s not in the eyes of people. Firstly look at yourself and ask yourself this question, ‘What is my relationship with God?’ It’s not that somebody else comes and tells you. Continuously I have told you as a reminder always: it’s not about me coming and telling you that. You should know it by yourself. The guru will guide, the guru will be there always, but you should start analysing yourself individually, and really open up your heart, open up your mind, open up your intellect and really see: is your relationship with God a fantasy or a reality? How you will know that? Because if it is a fantasy, there will be always unsureness inside of you, and to fulfil this unsureness, you will always tell the story to other people so that the people can acknowledge your own fantasy. Very often, you will see that in the spiritual field; people like going around telling their ‘story’. But if the experience is sincere, you will sit down and meditate upon it and keep it inside of you. You don’t need acknowledgement from ‘x y, z’, except the guru, that you are not in delusion.
So, really analyse yourself and enjoy the presence of the Lord at all times. Like I said yesterday, you don’t need external signs. What He has given you, your life itself, is a miracle; the change of your life itself is a miracle, from what you were before and how you are now. You really don’t need any other sign. Look at your life itself: how beautiful is your life, how wonderful your life has become, how dear He has made you to Him and ask yourself this question: ‘Am I the same person how I used to be or I am different person?’ That is the answer you have to answer yourself.
Can You tell us about the auspiciousness of the Vedic chants, the five Suktams and the Vishnu Sahasranama? Why do You recommend us to chant them?
The Sahasranama is the thousand Names of the Lord Himself. Chanting the Name of the Lord is a reminder of His great quality in our life. Thousands of qualities He has given to the devotees, by which He has made Himself accessible, and which He has kept reminding you, ‘Please, take any of these Names, focus upon it – focus your mind upon it and chant.’ So that’s why the Sahasranama is very important, to chant it on Saturday especially, because Saturday is the day of the Lord Himself.
The Pancha-suktam is the praises of Maha-Lakshmi, Bhu-devi, Sri-devi, Nila-devi. These are the consorts of Sriman Narayana. Purusha-suktam, Sri-suktam, is where we see His glory, we are reminded of their glory, what they bring to us, and how Maha-Lakshmi brings Her blessing of abundance so that we can be at peace focusing on our spiritual path. Abundance doesn’t mean material only, but spiritual abundance, too, because Maha-Lakshmi is always sitting at the Feet of the Lord. She reminds us where our minds must be: at the Lotus Feet of Bhagavan.
Bhu-devi, how wonderful is this Mother, who cares so much for Her children, who gives freely everything, but yet, very often how ungrateful human beings are, that sometimes She has to shake Herself as a reminder. She has to go through the pain of seeing Her children dying. Which mother would like that? Look at Mother Earth now! She is suffering, as a mother, She is suffering. In ancient Vedic times we hear how Bhu-devi would go to Sriman Narayana, ‘Please, save me!’ But do you think She is not doing that? When we chant, we are reminded of that, how grateful it is to be here on this planet, how grateful it is to be here as a human being, how grateful it is to be a devotee of the Lord Himself and how He cares for us. And Nila-devi, Narayana-suktam, and Purusha-suktam are all reminders of why we should chant it. It’s to show our gratitude to Bhagavan Himself, show our gratitude that with all that He has given us we can at least in a little way remember Him and be gracious about His blessing as abundance, as Mother Earth, as Nila-devi. That’s why we chant this.
The Bhagavatam tells us that the gopis left their duties as wives and mothers to be with their beloved Krishna and that no one could stop them. What can these stories teach us today as we are also mothers and wives and, of course, we all feel the deep and sincere longing to be with You and to run to You. But if we leave these dharmas as mothers and wives, surely that is not good. So, what to do?
That’s true. But the Bhagavatam also says that the gopis were doing their duties, as wives to their husbands, as mothers to their children, but their minds were always absorbed in their beloved Krishna. They didn’t just leave and run away.
You see, when it comes to a point that your heart can’t hold anymore, you can’t resist anymore, there is this longing, there is this pull, then you can go; then your duty is finished with this reality. There is no way of looking back, it’s only looking forward. But Bhagavan didn’t say that. You see, in the Bhagavatam He said that whatever they were doing, they were doing with their minds focused on their beloved Krishna. So, in serving their husbands they were thinking in their minds they were serving Krishna. They were serving their own children, but in their minds, they were thinking they were serving Krishna. Milking the cows was for Krishna. So, whatever they were doing was only to give pleasure to only one person, and that is Lord Krishna. That doesn’t mean that they were not cooking their food. That doesn’t mean that they were not feeding their children. They were doing everything, but their minds were on Krishna. The same it is today. That has not changed. It is a reminder that whatever we do in our lives, our minds must be on the Lord Himself, on Bhagavan Himself.
The moment we forget about that, our ego and our pride takes over. So, it’s not about running, leaving your duty and running, but combining your spirituality. Bring your mind to this as a reminder. When you are doing japam, it’s not about just leave and just do. No. Do your duty, chant the Name of God. Work and worship.
St. Benedict of Nursia said it, and many other saints have said it. Not only him, but also Savatamali himself. That was his motto also: work and worship. So, you have to do your duty, but from time to time, remind yourself that whatever you are doing is for the Lord Himself. And if you can’t do that, at least at night before going to bed. In ancient times, they used to kneel down. You will see that in the movies sometimes. You see the children kneeling down, and the parents telling them, ‘Pray.’ And they would say, ‘Thank You, Lord, for this beautiful day which You have given us’, and so on. What you can do is similar. You don’t need to kneel down. Just before going to bed, close your eyes, think of guru and God and say, ‘Krishna Arpan.’ Offer that day to the Feet of the Lord and guru; that will be enough. That will also bring all of us together. So, physically whether we are close or not, look, you are in the world, I am here in Vrindavan, but spiritually, in our hearts we are all connected.
This reminds me of a beautiful story. Nowadays you see everybody is talking about social distancing. Well, for not spreading the virus, of course, physically is important, but in our heart to heart we can’t be distant, because in our hearts we are connected. Through Love, we are connected. There is no space, there is no time, that can separate that. Our relationship is ‘together’. There is this beautiful story. There was one of the coldest winters and many animals were dying. Just like right now, many people are dying everywhere. So, all the animals were dying. There were the porcupines, and porcupines are like a ball full of needles…quills…spikes.
So, all the porcupines decided to come together. Through their body heat they kept themselves warm. But there was a problem. Their spikes were spiking each other! So, after some time they decided to detach, to separate from each other. When they decided to separate and keep away, what happened? They started dying. Then they came back together again. In spite of the spikes hurting each other, they came together to keep each other warm. And that became their strength, that became what kept them alive.
So, right now we are talking about distancing. Yes, physically be distant, but in your heart don’t get distant. In your heart-to-heart, remind yourself that you are a human being, you are ball of love, and love is a warm feeling that connects. Whether you are physically present or you are distant, just let us all connect with that Love and really let there be no distance.
Jai Gurudev, everybody!