Satsang in Rikhia

Paramahamsa Satyananda

Yes, I have heard my guru's command, but I have heard those commands which are beyond the mind, which are in the depth of my consciousness. I heard them when I was not even aware of my own existence. I have had many experiences. To give you one example, on the 14th of July 1989, I arrived at Nasik which is near Bombay. About thirty kilometres from Nasik is Trayambakeshwar, the source of the river Godavari. Here there is one of the twelve jyotirlingams of Shiva. I had a small hut and I was completely free from all my responsibilities. I asked a question, “What am I to do now? I have nothing to do with yoga, with preaching, or with anything. I am a sannyasin, I am a free bird and I have no more missions to perform.'

I am the bird of the vast expanse of the sky,
I am the continuous flow of nectar,
I am completely quiet, blissful and eternal,
I am a luminous star of bliss.

Then I sat down and gradually my mind sank and I lost consciousness. Then a storm came – a cyclone, thunder, rain lightning. I experienced it all within me. Within or without is all the same, it is just a concept. I am talking in terms of time and space. I am not talking in terms of the body or the individual. When we talk, sometimes we speak about time and sometimes about space. 'Twenty-one thousand six hundred times' was the sound that came. Later, when I came out of that state, I knew what I had to do. I had been teaching, so I had no difficulty in understanding this. I started my practice from that day.

Now the next question that came to me was, 'Where am I to stay for the rest of my life?' or for as many years as possible. I had the choice of several places. One was a nice cave in Gangotri, quite a big rock and an inlet, just on the bank of the Ganga. It was a double cave. So when I went there, I asked, and I reserved it for myself. Then I went down to Rishikesh and stayed a few days in the ashram of my Guruji. The swamis there said, 'Why don't you stay here? We will make a kutir for you.' I said, 'It is very fine, but somehow I don't like Rishikesh. It is a holy place but it is a noisy place because it is very easy to reach. Go to Delhi, take a taxi and there you are. Anyone can go to Rishikesh without any difficulty.' So Rishikesh was out of the question.

The third place I went to was Mount Abu in Rajasthan. Near Mount Abu there is a hillock called Guru Shikkar. Lord Dattatreya's footprints are there. There is also a temple devoted to his father and mother, Atri and Anasuiya. At the foot of that hillock there is a branch of Niranjani Akhara, the akhara which I belong to. But there was the problem of water, because a paramahamsa must stay where there is plenty of water. That is the rule. Water, fire and pure air are our requirements. At this time I was struggling to find a place. I had a lot of friends to help me, including the forest officers in Madhya Pradesh and Bihar. I said, 'Please find a cave for me somewhere.'

On the 8th of September 1989, in the early morning, I woke at about two o'clock, made a little tea, took my bath, and sat down. My mind sank again. There was total quiet, and I remember there was moonlight, like you have on the tenth or the eleventh day of the moon. Then the instruction came, 'In the burial ground.' That was all, burial ground. The question in my mind had been, 'Where am I going to stay?' At once I understood the meaning of what I had heard, for in this context the Deoghar area is considered to be the chitabhoomi, the burial ground. In Vedic mythology and in the Puranas, particularly the Shiva Purana, there are references to 'chitabhoomi', which is the Deoghar area which you are now visiting. When He said chitabhoomi, He meant this place which is considered to be the burial ground not of Shiva, but of Sati.

That day was the 8th of September, the birthday of my guru, Swami Sivananda, and at about seven o'clock, Swami Satsangi arrived from Munger with prasad. I said to her, 'You don't have to stay here, go back immediately. I have seen a place near Deoghar. Please go there and find it.'

There have been so many other instances which I have attributed to my super mind, higher mind, deeper mind, greater mind or whatever you wish to call it. But now I will not make that mistake. This is my God who guides me. He has guided me from childhood.

At the age of six I had a very frightening experience. I could see my body but I could not feel it. I could see my fingers, my knees, everything, but there was no feeling. There was no connection between existence and cognition, awareness. It was frightening, a real fear.

My parents consulted many people, including the sannyasins and healers of that time. Fortunately, we did not have any mental hospitals in those days, otherwise I would have been placed in one because my symptoms were abnormal. This experience also came again. Finally, a great lady saint, Anandamai Ma, saved me. She said, 'Nothing is wrong. The serpent is now shedding its skin, that's all. Let him sing kirtan.' From that time on I started singing kirtan. I used to sing kirtan day and night. Singing kirtan rhythmically for two to three hours was very joyful. The mind goes so deep you do not want to come out, because the bliss in music and in God's name mix very nicely. Then my symptoms went away and I lived a very normal life.

Later I left home and went to Swami Sivananda. I asked him many questions about my experiences and about spiritual life. He only said, 'You can't see your face in the mirror unless the mirror is clean. You have to clean the mirror first. The base should be ready. What is the use of doing all kinds of sadhana when you are blind? You have avidya, ajnana; you don't have spiritual eyes, inner eyes. You want to see the reality with the physical eyes, but it is not possible. So, do karma yoga.' Well, I did karma yoga and it yielded positive results. Service to guru is certainly a very important part of spiritual life and should never be underestimated.

There is no scarcity in the court of the Master,
But the disciples do not act according to their will,
And there is no fault in the act of service.
Everything is accessible through the grace of Guru,
But, according to destiny, the disciple receives his due.
The disciple should be filled with love,
And ready to serve the feet of the Guru day and night.

On the day of sannyasa, Swami Sivananda said, 'I am teaching you, but don't practise yet, because you are not ready. If you practise now, something will go wrong, an accident will take place.' He said this forty to forty-five years ago. He gave me one example: 'Supposing you come to the railway station three hours before the arrival of the train, what are you doing to do? Wait, pass the time, read newspapers and drink tea, or spend the time in the waiting room. The train will come at the right time.'

So my train came forty to forty-five years later. During the interim period I was given very clear instructions. The first instruction was about Australia, and that is why I had great success there. Then Denmark, Sweden, Italy and Greece – I had very clear instructions throughout. So, whether or not I have seen God is immaterial. I do not crave to see Him, because I know that all forms are His form, and at the same time, He has no form. Similarly, Kabir Das says:

How can I describe the beauty of love,
When I am completely merged in its splendour?
The dye in which I have been coloured,
And the grace which I have experienced,
Have intoxicated me so that I forget
Everything including my body and mind

What is the aim of sannyasa?

One does not take sannyasa simply for a career. The true aims of sannyasa are renunciation and surrender, to search for the soul, to live with non-attachment, to know oneself, to know the Almighty, and to discover that God is both separate from us and within us, that God is omnipresent. The aim of sannyasa is to dedicate one's whole life to the worship of God. Lord Krishna explains in the Gita (18:12): “The sages understand sannyasa to be the renunciation of action with desire; the wise declare the abandonment of the fruits of all action to be tyaga.”

However, not everyone who takes sannyasa can fulfil this aim, because each one brings with him his own karmas. I also had karmas; some I exhausted with my guru and some I have exhausted here. I feel that the karmas have now gone. Munger and even yoga are part of a very remote past for me. And as for you people? I have nothing to do with you. A sadhu is not a friend of anyone. He will have a chat with you and then slip away. I am also like that. I will talk to you and then quietly go. Kabir Das also explains this very well:

A Yogi Baba lives alone, quite alone.
He has nothing to do with holy places,
Fasting or any kind of company.
He has no bag, paper, ashes or pot.
He is always listening to the anahad nada.
He neither begs for food, nor sleeps hungry,
Although he roams hither and thither.
Kabir says that he is a disciple to that Guru
Who holds a class for training the five senses.
Don't be surprised by this.
For he who experiences this,
The fair of the world is over.

I am one of those people who slips away quietly after taking a puff. Sadhus are not friendly with anyone. Sadhus do not have a heart; it is a fact. He who has a heart cannot become a sadhu. If the sadhu had a heart, he could not have left his mother and father. They are the symbols of love, affection and compassion. He could not have left the father and mother who fed and cared for him. Such a person does not have a heart. Kabir Das says:

Like lotus leaves that remain dry in water,
Or the maid servant who rears a child,
But remembers that it does not belong to her,
Sadhus live in the world, yet are not a part of it.

When I came into this world, I offered my heart to God. I am like the monkey who kept his heart on the jamun tree. I did not bring it with me. When you do not have a heart, how can you love someone? You keep your love with you in your heart and this is why you have to keep playing the drama. I performed this drama until I was able to perfect it. Now I am giving up the performance. Again Kabir Das says:

Running water is clear, but still water stagnates.
Similarly, those sadhus who constantly roam
Are superior because they gather no stain.

. . . move about from one place to another and think as a sannyasin. Kabir Das used to sing:

Nothing to take and nothing to give,
Always be carefree.
This cage is made of five elements,
And inside is a singing bird.
The river is deep and the boat is old,
You should be friendly with the boatman.
Your lover resides in your own house,
O my dear, see him with open eyes.
Kabir says, you should always remain,
Embracing the feet of the guru.

The thinking process of a sannyasin is entirely different. It cannot be expressed. We are not concerned with giving and receiving, profit and loss, for what and for whom. We have no relationships. We have not acquired an inheritance from anyone. Our only inheritance is the guru-disciple tradition, and nothing else. We are quite satisfied with the geru cloth. We do not accumulate money in the ashram. Those entrusted with the job of managing the affairs of the ashram do so, and others perform their assigned duties. These should be the thoughts in the mind of a sannyasin. A sannyasin must always have the feeling of sannyasa. Sannyasa means a trust. You are a trustee of your body, mind, ability, knowledge and money; they are not yours. Sannyasa is a perfectly constituted and perfectly created trust. It has been said by Shankaracharya:

Those who are engrossed in principles of Vedanta,
And are satisfied with the food received from begging,
Who are full of compassion and free of sorrow,
Those clothed only in a loincloth, are most fortunate.
Those whose abode is beneath the trees,
And who use their hands for an eating vessel,
Who discard even the rags, like a woman, from their life,
Those clothed only in a loincloth, are most fortunate.
Those who have left body awareness,
And who see Him in themselves,
Who remember the Lord day and night,
Those clothed only in a loincloth, are most fortunate.
Those who are fully satisfied with the feeling of bliss,
And whose tendency is to keep the senses calm,
Neither remember the inside, outside, or even in-between
Those clothed only in a loincloth, are most fortunate.

All your abilities should be formed into a trust and used for others, not for yourself. If you have twenty thousand rupees, you can spend it as you like. You may purchase a cow, a car or anything, because the money is yours. But if you pledge that money to a trust, and say it is for the orphanage, the hospital, the educational institution or any other particular purpose, you cannot use that money for yourself. Although you may control it as a trustee, it is no longer yours to spend freely. You may manage the fund, but you can only spend it for the purpose for which it has been pledged.

So, a sannyasin's life is not for himself. A sannyasin's purpose in life is to help others. The eternal law is that those who are sannyasins, whoever they are, live for others. Whether they teach spiritual life or do social service, whatever they do, they live for others, not for themselves. Those who live for themselves are householders, although they also make a contribution to society. Their contribution cannot be underrated, but they do not really live for others; they live for themselves. A sannyasin has to live only for others. A sannyasin requires some food for the maintenance of his body and a roof to sleep under, according to his age. But they do not have to horde for anyone.

Some sort of standard has to be maintained in sannyasa life. The standard of sannyasins in the latter part of this 20th century has fallen because sannyasa became a career, a profession, a way to get respect, honour, name, fame, disciples and limelight. But the 21st century is coming with a new promise. Vyasa and Vashishta, the authors of the Vedas, Puranas and Smritis and the infinite literature of the Vedic culture, how and where did they write? Sage Vyasa wrote in a cave and Vashishta wrote in a thatched hut. They did not have a word processor, nor did they write with a fountain pen, but with a quill derived from the birds and ink derived from the trees.

This eternal literature was handed down, not only to India, but to the entire world as a great dharma. Though there are different religions in the world, in my opinion, there is only one dharma, and that is the Vedic dharma. The rest of the religions are simply sects. If you like something, you accept it. If you like nirakara, formlessness, you can accept it. However, if you do not like nirakara, you can accept sakara, with form. In Vedic dharma, everything is there: both nirakara and sakara, the worship of ghosts, ancestors and animals also, the path of Tantra, the left path or vama marga, and the path of brahmacharya as well. There are so many paths. Vedic dharma is a broad concept.

We are not one mind; we are plural. The human mind is not singular; it is universal, plural. Whatever the rishis wrote in the Vedic times, they wrote in that way because they lived the sannyasa life. When there was degradation in them, there was degradation in society as well. Why did sage Vashishta marry Arundhati? It is not bad to get married, but when you enter public life, leaving aside your private life, then you should not get married, because there will be a son. Should my son enjoy the money that I receive from you? When there is a son, he will definitely enjoy the benefits which have been offered to the father, because he lives in the same house.

Gandhiji also had a lot of problems with his wife. They used to quarrel over twelve annas which is seventy-five paise today. She would spend the money on her grandchildren. Gandhiji used to get annoyed and tell her that the money belonged to the public, not to him. It used to appear daily in 'The Harijan'. That is why a sannyasin should remain alakh niranjan, uninvolved or stainless. One can achieve this by not getting married, if one finds a proper path in life. When one does not find a proper path in life, one is in trouble. There are different sadhanas, mudras, bandhas and other methods which can help a person to lead a single life.

Of course, the mind goes here and there at times, but in this way a sannyasin can be saved from the major accidents in life. For him, marriage is a major accident in life which he can avoid. Therefore, sannyasins should live for the good of others and not have personal lives. Paropkar, working for the good of others, has had different meanings in different ages. Sometimes it meant giving peace to others, sermons, mantras, teaching the techniques of worship, teaching asana and pranayama. In the coming age, paropkar will also mean arranging food for hungry people, as poverty is on the increase.

You may not know that when an industrial revolution takes place, in the first stage unemployment increases and political crisis takes place, as has now happened in Europe. It has happened everywhere in history. Under such circumstances the role of sannyasins changes; they should then work in the villages. There is no dearth of nursing homes in cities. There are also schools in plenty, but there are hardly any facilities in the Indian villages.

You can see for yourself in the nearby villages. For example, if a cow comes into heat it is very important for the village. A cow coming into heat has to be taken all the way to Deoghar for mating and by that time it becomes cold. The mating has to take place within twelve hours and no one keeps an account of such things. They may take the animal for mating after twenty-four hours. There are no arrangements even for meeting the routine requirements of the common people. This place is not more than six to seven kilometres from the town.

Sannyasins should leave the towns and settle down in far off villages. They should lead the life of Swami Satsangi. They should remain happy while imparting knowledge and doing their duties. They should construct thatched huts. A first class house can be constructed with 20,000 to 30,000 rupees. A sannyasin should live comfortably and serve his neighbours. A sannyasin should serve everyone. The times have changed. Nowadays there is a great challenge facing sannyasins, because the leaders have betrayed us. Let no sannyasins betray. Sannyasins have potential. We need resources. Whether it is five thousand or five millions rupees is immaterial. Wealth definitely comes to a person who does not run after it. If you run after a shadow, it will go away from you. If you keep the shadow behind you and the light in front, it will automatically follow you.

Goddess Lakshmi has told me that if I think about myself, she will desert me, and if I think of others, she will come to me anytime I call her. I have no problem. After worshipping Goddess Lakshmi, Saraswati and Durga, a sannyasin should help his neighbours by way of providing them with cows, bulls, clothes, jobs and other such things. There is extreme poverty in India. If I start describing it, I will not be able to hold back my tears. Stay in the village for a day and you will realize it. They do not have shelter and during the rains they are forced to huddle together under the roof of the verandah of a house constructed by Swami Satsangi for one of our friends in the village.

They cannot afford to construct their own houses. On top of that, these people suffer because of bad customs, and we are not social reformers. I do not want to be a reformer; I am a sannyasin. If I can reform them only by my personality, and not by my speech or sermons, it is fine. Telling them that they should not follow the custom of child marriage is of no use. If they understand by merely watching us, it is alright. A sannyasin has a great ideal before him and those who want to adopt sannyasa should do so. It is good to adopt sannyasa. Sannyasa is a path to serve the nation. In this path you follow the dictum of treating all of your neighbours as your own family instead of looking after the interests of a small family of four or five people.

* * * * *

A true sannyasin is a volunteer of mankind. For a sannyasin who voluntarily takes upon himself a duty, there are no rights. For a sannyasin duty is the right. You always see duty and right separately, my right and duty. But a sannyasin does not separate them. He says duty is his right. I am saying nothing new. In the second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita (2:47), the Lord days: “Your right is to work only, but never to its fruits; let not the fruits of action be your motive, nor let your attachment be to inaction.”

Your rights are inherent in your duty. Therefore, do not struggle for your rights. Sannyasins have no social rights. We do not agitate for rights. There may be sannyasins who are doing it, but the dharma of a sannyasin does not allow that. Duty involves your rights. Your rights are inherent in your duties. A sannyasin has to dedicate his life voluntarily, not for a career, as many sannyasins have been doing in the last part of this unfortunate twentieth century. Sannyasins do not live for a career or for an occupation. They come out of society with an aim, which is not a sectarian or a partial aim. Sannyasins believe in one universal dharma, in one humanity, mankind, and in one creation, the creation of God. We do not believe that God has any one name, but that all names are His names. We do not believe that God has any one form, but that every form is His form.

Extracts from Bhakti Yoga Sagar – Volume Two