Sayings of a Paramahamsa

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

When my mother sits for meditation in front of her deity or the picture of her guru, negative thoughts assail her. What can she do to free herself from this?

When you take a purgative there is diarrhoea. In the same way, when you meditate on God, your chosen deity or the guru, all the impurities of the mind well up. Let them come up. There is no need to do anything about them. You should neither suppress nor get carried away by bad thoughts. These bad thoughts are the rubbish within your own mind. Bad feelings surface, taking refuge in the guru. When you take a laxative, it is not the medicine that comes out, it is the garbage inside that is thrown out. Your intestines are not thrown out, only the accumulated dirt passes out. Similarly, when you begin your sadhana all the negativity comes out. It happens to one and all. The mind tends to wander all the more during the sadhana hour. It becomes more fickle; it wavers all the more. People think that since they cannot stabilize their minds by sadhana, no purpose is being served. So they give up their sadhana in desperation.

Remember that in order to enhance shraddha or faith, three supports are used. The first is the mother, the second is the ishta devata, the chosen deity, and the third is the guru. It is not difficult to have faith in the devatas, who are regarded as superhuman godly beings. They neither sleep nor eat, nor do they fight or run the ashram. They have no disciples or gurus either. They are above all human imperfections and weaknesses. Therefore, the faith one has in the gods goes unchallenged and remains undamaged, but faith in the guru is very fragile and vulnerable because the guru lives in a human body and is subject to the laws of prakriti or nature. As a human being, the guru is full of human traits and limitations. He may be fat or thin, grow a beard or be clean shaven, be handsome or ugly, dark or fair, speak in English or Hindi, get angry or remain cool and be subjected to scandal or disrepute.

Thus the guru becomes the hardest test for a disciple's faith. When natural laws apply to gurus, the gurus fall short of the ideals people expect when they place their faith in them. In their human form, therefore, gurus become subject to criticism and assessment, and people lose faith in them. People find fault with their gurus. Therefore, the guru is the ultimate test of one's faith. When faith is placed in the guru in human form, there is a hassle. If one's faith remains intact in spite of all the assaults and challenges, then one attains real unwavering faith. A disciple of such deep faith can even have the darshan of God. The guru's place is thus considered to be the highest.

The guru is the ultimate barrier which only the disciple can cross over. Who is a disciple? The one who does not peck at and find fault with the guru. Let the guru chew tobacco or wear silk clothes. What should it matter to the disciple? If one decides to carp at the guru and look for faults, then scores of shortcomings may be found. People find fault even with Lord Rama and Lord Krishna. This faultfinding backfires on the disciple and does him harm. However, it brings no harm to the guru, who remains untouched. The faith of the disciple cracks due to faultfinding and then he is at a loss. Faith is a very fragile and delicate thing. The milk of faith curdles and is spoiled by just a drop of sourness. Shraddha, faith, is the brahmastra, the ultimate weapon of spirituality. It is the ultimate armour, the ultimate power of spiritual life. In the Ramacharitamanas, it is said:

Bhavaanishankarau vande shraddhaavishvaasarupinau,
Yaabhyaamvinaa na pashyaanti siddhaah svaantahsthameeshwaram.

"Without shraddha and vishwas, faith and deep conviction,
even great siddhas cannot achieve spiritual attainment."

Some people wonder why I worship the shaligram, which is a stone. I tell them that I have wrought miracles with this stone. Even a stone can become a god if faith is placed in it. Faith turns the most mediocre person into a great personage. This is the power of faith. However, it is extremely difficult for ordinary people to have unwavering faith in the guru. The guru knows his job too well. He keeps prodding his disciple this way and that. We have a saying, "Why did the betel leaf get spoilt, why did the horse get stranded and why did the disciple get waylaid?" All this happened because they were not turned upside down and inside out. The guru must keep poking, stirring and turning the disciples around. Some disciples think they should relate to the guru on their terms and conditions, that the guru should bend to their own will. However, the guru is not there to listen to the disciple; he exists to make the disciple listen to him.

Rikhia, November 1997