Live Q&A from Germany
Shree Peetha Nilaya Ashram, 6 April 2020
Today's Satsang features answers from Paramahamsa Vishwananda about the difference between 'surrender' and 'taking shelter', taking part in other spiritual practices, lust, fasting, and what should be done if your spouse is afraid of your spiritual path.
Jai Gurudev, Everybody!
Welcome to SPN, Shree Peetha Nilaya.
So, today – well, there is not much happening here, because we are in quarantine. I was thinking I probably should start writing because I was planning to give a commentary on Narada Bhakti Sutra, so maybe I’ll start doing that.
Apart from that, I received many messages where people start to question many things that are happening right now in the world. Whether it is real or not or it is some conspiracy happening. But we are not going into these kinds of things because this plays very much upon one's mind. Because, like I said, apart from being positive, really you can't do anything, even if it is a conspiracy or not. What is happening, we can just assume it is real.
Another thing is that, well, when we look at Mother Nature especially, we should be really glad about what is happening. I’m not talking about all the numbers which the media has been giving, but I’m talking about looking at how wonderful is Mother Nature, and you can see that Mother Nature is smiling. She says, ‘Yes, I’ve been waiting for that for a long time. I have sent you reminder after reminder that you have to calm down, but you have not calmed down.’
Whether the virus is real or not it doesn’t matter, but when we see what is happening to nature, how nature is blossoming, it’s so beautiful really. You know, even being inside, it's really nice to see that also and to see that people are taking time really for themselves, go deeper within themselves and not just always running behind something on the outside. It's time now to take time to run inside. And this is what is happening, in the lives of many people right now. They have time to go and dive within their consciousness. Of course, at the beginning is not that easy, but when they come to the point of acceptance, then it becomes easy. As long as we accept things, our view transforms and it becomes so positive and inspiring. When you judge, you criticise, then it is a different matter.
So, let this test be an inspiration to go into the consciousness, to go into the Self and to get to know yourself better. Take the time to get to know you: that 'you' which you have never looked after. Because the world is so busy running after things like whether you know or you don't know. A few days ago I told a story of a dog that keeps running behind the car. Like that, with the mind that has always been busy running after futile things, now it's time to run and rediscover yourself. And nature is allowing you to do that. That is a beauty of this time. Every year you take time to go on holidays to relax, to do so many things. This is a time where nature is also relaxing, she is having a holiday time from pollution, from your car exhaust, from so many things. So, and that is very beautiful. It would be nice if people learn from that now and not, when later on Corona has disappeared or they have found a vaccine or whatever, then go back to their petty selves again.
We must appreciate really what nature is giving us. And it would be nice if (this is my idea, of things) the government held a lockdown, a quarantine, but without any fear, without any virus, without anything, every year, for the world to breathe, without any pollution or anything. Let the world take a holiday also, just like you people go on holidays. So we all go on a holiday, we all take time to relax. Like that Mother Nature also can take her time to relax.
What is the difference between sharanagati (surrender) and prapatti (taking refuge or shelter)?
When you are taking refuge at the Feet of the Master, prapatti, you are saying, ‘I don’t take that responsibility, but You have that responsibility’, whereas in sharanagati ‘I give myself completely to You. There’s no I, it’s only You.’ Even if it sounds the same and both are surrender, in one surrender the ‘I’ is still there and in the other surrender the ‘I’ disappears; it’s only you that exists.
When we talk about sharanagati, it’s not just a simple word; surrender is not just, ‘Oh, Bhagavan, I am surrendered.’ No, when you take shelter, you surrender to the Lord, the Lord becomes everything for you. Yesterday, we were giving the example of the gopis’ minds and how they functioned; it was not only about them. They don’t think about themselves; they think only about the Lord.
Whereas in prapatti, ‘I am taking shelter.’ So, there is an action of ‘I’ surrendering to you. That ‘I’, ‘I am holding onto You.’ Just like a child holding the hand of the father, or parents, so ‘I’m holding onto You, You also hold onto me.’ But imagine if you are holding the hand of the Lord. That means at any moment you could also let go of that hand and run away. This is the same for the Lord also. When the child gives the hand to the father and then for no reason the child just lets go of father’s hand and falls down, whose fault is it? It's not the father's fault. It is the fault of the child because when you have given your hand, you have to hold on tight to that hand, you know?
In sharanagati, you say, ‘No, I have given me completely to You, You hold me, You carry me.’ So, if the Lord is carrying you, there is no chance of you falling down. So, this is sharanagati.You know, when Mirabai said, ‘Mere to Giridhara Gopal dusro na koi’. She said, ‘You, Giridhar, my Giridhar Gopal, there is no other one than You. I am giving myself completely to You’, ‘but I have that single-pointedness. There is no other one than You.’ And that is that kind of surrender that one must have.
When we talk about surrender, we have that single-pointed mind, no matter what comes. ‘You are my sole refuge, nothing else. There is no the world, there is no mother, father, there are no children, there are no material things, there is nothing. All other things are secondary, but You are the Supreme and You are the only one, nothing else, not even I.’
If we practice our sadhana daily and follow all Your teachings the best we can, is it wrong to participate in a spiritual practice other than Bhakti Marga’s? For example, the World Meditation? What is Your stance about participating in other spiritual practices and gatherings?
I don’t have any problem with that. I'm not a dictator; I've never said you have only to practise this. No, as long as you are clear about your path. I have said that many times, as long as you are clear about your path, you’re clear where you belong, to whom you belong, of course, you can participate.
When you have that as a devotee, if you are participating in other things, you should also bring what you have and share it with others. That is the role of a devotee: not only to keep for yourself but to give what you have received and share it so that others too can taste a little bit. This is a blessing which you have inside of you through your initiation, through your path, and through the sadhana you are doing.
It’s like you are tasting a sweet, a rasgulla. How wonderful it is, how juicy it is, but if there are people around you, you would like to share this with others, no? So, you can’t keep it for yourself. You have to share that when you are chanting the Name of the Lord, that sweetness which the Name of Bhagavan has, that power which He has, doesn’t equal anything else.
Sharing that with others helps others also. But like I said, if you want to participate in other activities other than your path, you have to be strong. You have to have a clear understanding of why are you going there, you know? So, there’s nothing wrong in participating and in spreading, also. As long as you are clear, then you can do it.
What is lust? How to overcome it? What is a healthy approach?
Lust is a desire. Very often people who are lustful, crave for something, and of course, they act in a very sexual way. But in reality, lust is not only about sex. Because how much will you have sex, you know? You can't have sex the whole day. This suppressed energy inside, it acts in a very lustful way. When we look at lust and we look at somebody who is really in love, it’s two different things, because in lust there is a power game. There is, ‘I impose my power on you, I show you how strong I am, I force myself upon you’. This is lust, and lust is full of desire. Do you think by fulfilling that lustful desire, it finishes? No, it keeps increasing.
You have to know whether this is truly lust or it is love. Because when two people share something intimate between them, they are also sharing a part of themselves; they are sharing the love between them. That is not lust, because that attitude of how you approach that, love, and how you approach lust are two different attitudes. Those are two different aims. Very often, devotees come to me and say, ‘Oh, Guruji, I have this desire inside of me. I have this craving to have sex with my partner in that way’. Then they say, ‘But I feel guilty’. No, you don't need to feel guilty about that. You have taken a certain path which you are together with that person. You love each other and you are just sharing that love between each other, so you can't call it lust. Because in lust, once the desire is fulfilled, that person disappears in your life the moment that person has gotten what they want. It's like a one-night-stand. So, it's just to fulfil that desire. Once it is done, it's gone and with lust, there is such a very heavy karma attached to it. Because, the stronger is this desire to fulfil the lower urge, the stronger is the karmic reaction also. You probably won’t see the reaction of that karma now, but you will later on. So, differentiate through your feeling whether it is lust or it is love.
There is a lot of information out there about how to fast on Ekadashi. What do You recommend? What is allowed and what is not allowed to eat or drink?
Here when we fast – well, I don't fast too much on Ekadashi, but when the devotees fast, I normally ask them only to drink on Ekadashi. We have brought it to another level, because here when the swamis and the prabhus fast, they fast without eating. So, this is how we do it. When we fast, we fast without food.
Of course, there are different paths where there is Ekadashi food, which is without grains or without certain things. So you can follow that too. Either/or. What is the most important thing in Ekadashi is the elevation of your mind and consciousness. It's not the food itself as much, but it's that consciousness itself. You know, on Ekadashi day you are not eating or you are eating Ekadashi food, but if your attitude is the same, then nothing is changed.
It reminds me of the story of a squirrel. This squirrel befriended the king of the forest, a lion. And, of course, the lion gave the squirrel some task which the squirrel did wonderfully. So, when the squirrel did it wonderfully, the lion was very proud of him and said, ‘Listen, work with me, and at the end, when you retire from your service, I will give you a cart full of almonds.’ The idea of a cart full of almonds was amazing in his mind, so he, that squirrel, stayed and worked under the king, the lion, and would do everything that the lion said. At the same time as he was doing what the lion told him, he was always envious about other squirrels because they were free. They could jump from one branch to the other, they would run left and right, they were free to do whatever they wanted. But he could not, even if he wanted to. He had to do it with dignity.
So, in his mind he was very frustrated, looking at others. Then he would think, 'Oh, one day they will be envious about me. Once I receive the punya, when I receive the cart full of almonds, they will be envious about me.’ So, this thought was playing inside of his mind. As the years passed on, he became old and it was time for him to retire. When he announced it to the king, the king made a big banquet for him, and as promised he offered him a cart of almonds. So, an almond is one of the nuts which not many squirrels have the chance to eat, so he was very happy. But when he saw the cart of almonds in front of him, instead of being happy and joyful, he was completely sad, because although he now had a cart of almonds, and all these years he had dreamed only of this cart of almonds, now that the cart of almonds was there, he realised that he didn’t have any more teeth to eat them with!
So, if you are fasting for Ekadashi, and yet, you don’t change your attitude, what would you do? Just like the squirrel, in the end, you will realise that nothing has changed inside of you. Fast on Ekadashi or eat the right thing which is prescribed for Ekadashi or don't eat anything during Ekadashi, but at the same time, Ekadashi is a time to connect yourself with the Lord. It is said that on Ekadashi day whatever you do, the little you do, the punya is great. So, build up, every Ekadashi walk a few steps closer to the Lord. Walk into that transformation of your mind, offer that mind to the Feet of the Lord. So, Ekadashi is a transformation of this limited mind. Allow that mind to transform into Divine. This is what you have to do on an Ekadashi day.
If one partner of a couple is really scared by the spirituality of the other one, how should one react? Is it right to push for being able to go on on the spiritual path "on the outside"? Or should one focus on the inner spirituality for keeping ahimsa and keeping the relationship more harmonic?
Ahhhh, that’s a bit complicated. That’s why I said, it’s much easier if both parents or couple are on the spiritual path. Well, I would say, in one way, live your spiritual life. But if you have children, it’s more difficult. In what you have to do, tolerance is important. You know, sometimes you have to, like we say in Mauritius, 'Hold the nose and drink the oil’, which means, accept, do your spiritual path inwardly.
You know, that’s why Bhagavan in this time has said that, 'I am in the form of the Name'. In this age right now ‘If you are chanting My Name, I am with you.' Because, the great sages have seen what will happen to the minds of people in this time. So, that's why is said wherever you are, find Bhagavan through His Name. To avoid conflict within your family, follow your spiritual precept, be a vegetarian. Inspire your kids and inspire the people around you, until you can really do your sadhana, do your puja, and so on, on the outside. To avoid conflict with your partner or whatever, just chant the Name of Bhagavan inside of you. And, well, if it carries on good like that, it’s fine.
You see, look, you are on the spiritual path. You have learned to respect. But if you also at the same time just keep quiet, your partner also should learn to respect you. It doesn't matter which path you are on, which tradition, whatever religious practice you are doing. Your partner also should learn to respect you the way you are, the same way you respect him or her. So on that point I say yes, also doing your spiritual practice on the outside is also good. It will be a challenge for him or her, but sometimes challenge is also good.
So, before you have children, think well if your partner is the right partner or not, and what kind of samskaras you want to give to your children. That’s why if both partners are on the same spiritual path, it’s much easier.
So, Jai Gurudev, everybody!