Sayings of a Paramahamsa

Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Satsang at Sri Panchdashnam Paramahamsa Alakh Bara, Rikhia, Deoghar, on the occasion of Rama Nama Aradhana, November 26 to December 24, 1996

The truth is that people do not know where God is. They write to God, c/o Nowhere, and we are the postmen. They ask this one and that one for the whereabouts of God and then say, “Brothers, there is no God here.” We return such letters without addresses to the dead letter office. First and foremost, everyone, man or woman, rich or poor, must know where God lives and who He is. Only then can they give something in offering or write to Him or pray. But nobody seems to know the whereabouts of God, even though it is written in the scriptures.

The Vedas, the Upanishads, the Ramayana and all religions tell us where to find God and what He does. Everything is written down, yet people just do not pay any heed. People's concepts about God are not clear. Their minds are confused and their ideas are foggy. God resides in everything, in the flora and fauna of the plant kingdom and in the animal kingdom. He lives in the rich as well as the poor, in the good as well as the bad, in the wise as well as the ignorant. God pervades everything, just as electricity comes through the bulb and the microphone. God is the power which is immanent and nearest to you, but you do not experience His proximity.

Service of the poor

If you write to God, c/o Everywhere, we will deliver your letter to Him. Worship and devotion to God are performed in a variety of ways. We teach asana, pranayama and kundalini yoga to the rich, those who are affluent and have a lot of leisure. We teach them many things, but does this mean that God does not live among the poor, the hungry, the sick and the distressed? Have you ever thought about this? Have you ever felt that God lives in the poor? God lives in the church and the temple as well, but have you ever thought that God also lives in a poor man who is suffering, and that when you see that man and deny his need, you are denying the God within him?

It is like having a cheap aluminium ring worth a few annas studded with diamonds worth 50,000 rupees. Someone shows you the ring and you see the aluminium, but completely ignore the diamonds. This is what happens when you see a tree as a tree, a man as a man, an animal as an animal, a stone as a stone, a dog as a dog, an ass as an ass, a prostitute as a prostitute, a sadhu as a sadhu. You are captivated by the physical form, the visible exterior, the tangible cage, and, therefore, you only see the aluminium and miss out on the diamond within.

Siya-Ramamaya saba jaga jani

The whole world is permeated with the inseparable pair Sita and Rama

Oh, how many examples I could quote! I could go on for hours on end. There is not a single scripture which says that God is confined to a particular place. Nor is there a single religion which chains God to one particular location. All religions unanimously teach that the best way to worship God is by serving the poor, the hapless and the needy. Even the rich are unhappy, suffering and in need of service. So, we teach them asana and pranayama and draw their attention to the God hidden within. But have you thought about the God who inhabits the hungry, the starving and the sick? All religions, especially our own, have made it clear that all this is the lila, the divine sport of God. He hides Himself within a blind man like Surdas, within a jnani, an erudite scholar, within a woman, and also within a robber. He puts Himself in any garb that He likes and puts on an act. A play is performed on the cosmic stage.

World family

The whole of creation, the whole of life, is a drama which we watch endlessly. While watching this endless play, you and I feel outwitted and helpless! If someone takes diksha, initiation, from the guru with this kind of sentiment, in full humility, his diksha will have fruition. But the one who seeks diksha for his own selfish ends, for his own progress and development, and who works for himself, gets fruit of a temporary nature only. His fruition is momentary and, even in success, fear is lurking. He gets a son but fears for his survival and so he is never actually happy or at peace. Suddenly the lottery is drawn in his favour. He receives a windfall of fifteen million rupees, yet he is worried and scared of the income tax people.

In order to develop a different attitude, you should think, “I have three children of my own, but there is a needy orphan who is intelligent and deserving, yet has no money for school fees. He is also my child.” Young girls remain unmarried for want of a dowry that their parents cannot raise, but you are only concerned about marrying your own sons and daughters. You are so engrossed in yourselves that you have forgotten the reality, the totality of God's existence. You are totally occupied with yourself: my fever, my headache, my poverty, my wife, my children, my, my, my. What is this damn 'my'! You keep on harping about 'my this' and 'my that'. Your world ends once you have thought about yourself, your wife and your children.

See how small you have made yourselves, but still you pay much in lip service. You claim the whole world is your family and here I am, weary from trying to provide enough clothing just for the people of Rikhia. Months pass and nothing gets completed. I am unable to provide for even the small population of Rikhia panchayat, whom I consider my family. Are you following me? I am talking about a very practical reality. I belong to the district of of Rikhia. Even if I cannot cater to all their needs, I can call the whole world my family. But merely talking about it does not make the world my family. Practical steps must be taken.

Compassion for all beings

The world family begins with your own next door neighbours. The world family starts from your own village, from the people in your immediate neighbourhood. As long as their misery, their shocking condition, their abject poverty, does not touch a chord in your heart, as long as their suffering does not become your suffering, their difficulty does not become your difficulty, their pangs of hunger do not become your pangs, don't talk about Vedanta! It is wrong to do so. It is better to say, “I don't believe in God and that is all.” God permeates the whole of creation like electricity, water and air. The best and easiest way to attain Him is to have a genuine feeling of compassion for your fellow man.

Until and unless you consider another person like yourself, there is non-conduction within you. Do you know how electricity is conducted? There is bad conduction and good conduction. Thinking of others as you think of yourself means atmabhava, including everybody within your own heart. The Vedas, Upanishads, rishis and munis have told us that atmabhava, sympathy and feeling oneness with others, identifying with their woes, is the sarvatma bhava, which is all-encompassing affection for the creatures of the whole world. You must have the same intensity of feeling and compassion for the suffering of others as you have for your own self.

I have a pain in my arm and I am uneasy; I cannot bear it. I try to relieve the pain by any means possible. I apply Iodex, then something else; it is a matter of urgency for me. You have a pain in your arm and I come to hear of it, but I do not feel it inside myself. I do not suffer as you are suffering and, as a result, I do not treat it as an urgent matter. In my own case, I run helter-skelter and spare no effort to find a remedy immediately. If there is no Iodex at home, I make someone run or, even better, cycle to the shop and see to it that my pain is relieved as quickly as possible. But when it is your turn, I may postpone the treatment or decide to send you to the doctor the next day.

You must pay attention to what I am pointing out. This is not a joke which you can laugh away. You may view it from the social, spiritual, national or conceptual angle, you may take note of it from any point of view, but what I am saying is the truth. It is a matter of fact.

Saint Eknath

Something else which you may not have heard is a short sweet story. As a matter of fact there are thousands of such stories, but this is a story about a saint by the name of Eknath. He was taking Ganga water to the temple in Rameshwaram to worship Shiva there. This is a vedic tradition. Imagine, about seven hundred years ago, a person carrying water from the north of India to the southern tip, walking all the way. It is not like the journey from Sultanganj to Deoghar, which is an easily negotiable distance. I am talking about the times when this distance used to be covered by foot in the absence of transport facilities and through all kinds of hazardous weather and conditions.

Thus, after braving all the difficulties the saint finally managed to reach Rameshwaram. He was about to enter the Shiva temple when his eyes fell on a donkey, dying of thirst. He was in a dilemma and wondered whether he should offer the precious holy water for Shiva's worship as intended, or whether he should first quench the thirst of the parched animal. After all, the man was a saint and a theist who believed in God. How could he have walked the enormous distance otherwise? He believed in the God residing in the temple, but he also knew that God is omnipresent.

Having such faith, the saint immediately saw God in the donkey. God is glowing even in a donkey, and that God is to be propitiated and pleased. So, at once he gave the water to the donkey and saved its life! It was a small matter, but because he was a saint he could do this good turn without hesitation. Had we been in his place, we would have dismissed the donkey as a beast of burden, not deserving of the holy water brought so far with such difficulty. Our brains would never have thought of giving the water meant for God to a worthless creature like a donkey. But the brain of a saint always thinks the right way. Our brains think just the other way around. Our world itself is topsy-turvy.

God lives in the trees

There are many instances which illustrate the nature of reality to us. These examples show that God pervades each and every iota of creation. God lives not only in human beings, not only in the poor and the sick, but also in the trees. I get up at five a.m., take a bucket and water Tulsi first, then the peepal tree and then all the other trees in my garden. I have fixed an order of priority. I can't water all the trees here myself as there are far too many, but while I am watering a few of them I chant my mantra simultaneously and I feel I am being blessed. It is doing me immense good. What better exercise can an old man like me have than watering plants?

Why do I do this? Because trees are devatas, gods. Tulsi is a goddess; Rudraksha is a deity. We have rudraksha trees. Rudraksha is Shiva's favourite. Mahatmas were enlightened and attained jnanam, wisdom, under the trees. Dattatreya was enlightened under the gular tree. Lord Buddha was enlightened under the banyan tree and became a jnani. Dattatreya Maharaja is supposed to be the embodiment of the trinity, Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh, and he is in an incarnation who attained jnana and samadhi under a tree.

I don't care for samadhi myself. I only want to be able to remove the pain and misery of the helpless. It needs God's special power to remove the woes of suffering humanity, to wipe away the tears of crying people. It is a spiritual power, not an ordinary power, that enables one to alleviate human sorrow. If you really want to help people, you need a special power from God.

I have three paths of yoga sadhana before me. Could you please guide me as to which is best for me.

Everyone should be his own pathfinder. You can consult others, hear their suggestions, exchange ideas and thoughts. If you were born in India you have inherited some samskaras, no matter what caste you were born in. These other people have no samskara, so they have a tougher task. All Indians, be they male or female, have inherited some kind of samskara, whether they are born in a brahmin, kshatriya or any other family. After all, a baby rat knows how to make a burrow, even without training. You are all the offspring of rats and you know instinctively how to dig your burrows. This is your advantage. I can only give you suggestions.

Life is a sadhana

A householder must understand clearly that the whole of life is a sadhana in itself. Everybody is a sadhaka. He may or may not do his pooja, he may or may not believe in God, he may or may not be religious, but still he is trying to perfect his life in some way or other, and this is nothing but sadhana. Even animals like the horse and the snake are doing their sadhana. Sadhana means trying to perfect, trying to better yourself.

This is not your first entry into life. You have already evolved through 8,400,000 species of living beings. You were a bacteria living in vegetables, an insect living in faeces and cow dung, then you became a bird, then a reptile, then a rodent, then a dog and then a donkey. That is why people abuse each other saying, “You worthless dog”, or “You dirty rat”. In fact, you have been through these species. In each of the lower species you learned to develop your instincts. Beyond instinct there is intellect and intuition, which are human qualities. All other creatures live by instinct, but man lives not only by instinct, but also by intellect. When man advances in his self-development, then he lives by intuition. These three are the basis of progress and self-development: intuition, intellect and instinct.

You have already passed through 9,399,999 grades of life and then through the 8,400,000 species. Hereafter the body stops evolving. Nature halts physical evolution at the human body and evolution continues at the level of intellect and consciousness. Your awareness and consciousness will evolve now. Sri Aurobindo has explained this evolution very vividly. Hereafter it will be awareness of mind, intellect or consciousness. The process is internal and invisible. It is the evolution of that awareness which sees forms and colours, hears sounds, watches happiness and unhappiness.

You are listening to me and you also know that you are listening to me; this is evolution, expansion of awareness. This knowledge is absent in the animal kingdom. An animal also eats, but it does not know that it is eating. An animal breeds but without self-consciousness. An animal's behaviour is purely instinctive, but it is not so with humans. I am listening to you and I am also aware of this act of mine. Then one day the awareness just gets detached from its actions. Whatever one does, one sees it – just as I am watching your face, your complexion, your hair, your facial expressions and so on. I am your witness. Consciousness expands into witnessing awareness when the time is ripe. If this happens prematurely it is detrimental to your mental balance. If you develop that witnessing awareness, sakshi bhava, just now, you will get frightened. It comes about after a very long period of mental development.

This path of self-evolution needs to be trodden alone. You have to walk it on your own. I always think about what man can do for his own development, how he can best help himself. You can consult society and abide by its norms in the external affairs of life, such as eating, clothing and so on, but in spiritual matters you bow only to God; you are guided only by the divinity above. God gives you the right intelligence. God resides within all human beings. God occupies the seat of the heart within all living beings. God, through his maya, puts you on the merry-go-round of this world. He makes you rotate round and round on the wheel of time. Through maya itself God shows you your spiritual path.

Spiritual life should not be a matter of ego – “I will do this, I will meditate, I will do so many million rounds of japa, I will speak the truth, I will observe brahmacharya, I will observe...”. Oh, what nonsense is this ego! It is better to say, “God, tell me what I should do, whether I should meditate or serve the sick, or enjoy life.” You see, spiritual guidance has to come from God. In some cases it comes, but you don't understand God's ways, God's clues. At that time you need a guru to decipher God's signals to you. Therefore, you must have a guru.

Guru is not a priest. Guru is just like your mother. I will not say guru is like your husband. Guru is like your mother, because the relationship between a mother and child is more intimate than the relationship between a husband and wife. There is a difference in the degree of intimacy and this is natural. The relationship between mother and child is the most intimate; there is no other relationship as solid and as intimate. The relationship between guru and disciple should be the same. Then you understand whatever the guru tells you and it is God's instructions conveyed to you through him. Gurus are the interpreters.

Spiritual life is not a matter of one life, just as education is not a matter of one year. If you want to become a medical graduate, it takes fifteen or sixteen years. Spiritual evolution goes on over many lifetimes. What is one life? Seventy to eighty years is one life. Eighty years is nothing in relation to time, it's like the blinking of an eye.