If God loves everybody, why is there suffering in the world? Suffering is a blessing in disguise. We are always afraid of suffering and we do not want to suffer. However, suffering is a means of realizing and exterminating the evil karma. You should welcome it just as you welcome an operation when your appendix is inflamed. There are people who do not like suffering and, therefore, they feel it more. There are those who enjoy suffering as thereby they are able to increase their tolerance and will. Do you realize how much Christ or Mahatma Gandhi had to suffer? If you suffer, you should always think that God is trying to awaken you from your stupor.
Sorrow exists because man enjoys being in that state, even though he desires happiness. His mind becomes one pointed in sorrow, which does not happen in happiness. When man is faced with sorrow, his mind jumps into it and sticks to it like glue. The mind is attracted towards sorrow because it attains pratyahara, withdrawal of the senses, from every experience other than the sorrow. Sorrow is an intense and powerful experience. Happiness is a mild experience.
Suffering has a tremendous effect on the mind and emotions. By understanding sorrow and converting it into a form of sadhana, the same sorrow becomes a source of happiness and the end result is extremely fulfilling. Then neither death nor adversity will have any meaning. Searching for happiness is like trying to catch hold of your own shadow, which is impossible. Sri Rama was an incarnation of God. He endured many years of suffering and hardship. Why didn't he enjoy the treasures of happiness at all times? He was king of the world, but he didn't alter the course of events in his life to suit his own convenience.
Why are we unable to overcome worldly suffering? Because the two qualities of faith and trust are missing within us. Most people can activate these qualities for a short time only, not constantly. Faith in God will bring you out of crisis situations a few times, but do not think that this will happen every time. People suffer because of their own desires, and when the suffering becomes unbearable and there is no other way, then they turn to God. You develop intense faith and then your crisis slowly goes away. But when you are in the crisis, that is when you should transform your entire life totally.
The main purpose of faith and trust is to develop love for God, bhakti, even while living in the external transient world. It is not a matter of surrendering to Him and then everything becomes okay. That is not the purpose of faith and trust. Faith and trust are necessary in order to develop an experience of God, to have His darshan and to merge in Him. This should be the aim, if not today then tomorrow, if not tomorrow then in the next life.
Man's biggest strength is not intellect, it is faith and trust. If faith and trust become solid and stable, then they switch on God's power. A lot of people are intellectual; they ask question after question, they follow mathematical logic, which does not help here. Faith and trust are not only the basis of a bhakta's life, but they form the very foundation of human life. How do you know that such and such a person is your father? What proof is there? Wherever there is faith and trust, there can be no question.
Faith and trust are the foundation of our society and our family. In the Bhagavad Gita (12:2), the Lord says: "Those who, fixing their mind on Me, worship Me, ever steadfast and endowed with supreme faith, these I consider to be perfect in yoga." Faith and trust are the basis of bhakti and the basis of one's life. They are innate qualities and provide an individual with an identity. They are man's greatest qualities. Without faith and trust, man would not survive even for a single day. If these qualities are channelled properly towards God, life will be full of bliss and wonder, and the journey of life will be completed successfully.
Other paths, such as jnana yoga, raja yoga, nada yoga, mantra yoga, kaivalya marga and so on, are all difficult to follow. You may concentrate the mind for a short period of time, but the concentration soon breaks. Bhakti can never break, it is a continuous process, like the Ganga which flows ceaselessly without a break. The path of bhakti is the easiest and most straightforward path.
Those with restless minds cannot hear or understand God's words. Therefore, it is necessary to quieten the mind by any method. Yoga is a very important way. God is wherever you are. You won't have to search for Him anywhere else. God is not far from you. He is closer to you than your own breath, closer than your own prana, closer than your own mind. He is your closest companion, your friend, your prana, your life, your eyes and your ears. All your energy is His. You are the grandeur of God. Think like this.
Pray to Him and He will show you the way. God can show the way to anyone. If He has shown me the way, He will show the way to you. He showed the way to Mirabai, he showed the way to Ramakrishna and Vivekananda. All those who sought His advice with a true heart and laboured for it were shown the way. The true way is only one: wherever you are, remain a servant of God.
God's blessings are for everyone. If you put a corked bottle, a plate and an empty glass out in the pouring rain, the bottle will remain empty because it is corked and the plate will contain more water than the glass. Similarly, God's words and blessings are pouring down everywhere, but we need to open our minds more.
You should always feel yourself to be in tune with God. To keep in tune with Him, it is necessary to expose yourself to satsang from time to time. Without satsang, you cannot develop discrimination. Through satsang your devotion to God becomes strong. To have real satsang, you only need His grace. In satsang you experience association with truth. You should also sing the Lord's name and study the scriptures pertaining to bhakti, the lives of saints, great souls and sannyasins and obtain inspiration from them. Read good books like Ramacharitamanas, Srimad Bhagavata and Guru Granth Sahib. Ramacharitamanas is the most powerful tonic for generating bhakti. One should read it regularly to please the Lord and to please oneself.
There are three methods to attain peace: acceptance of one's situation in life, bhakti or devotion towards God, and satsang. Bhakti is not external worship. Bhakti means love for God in the same way that you love your wife or your sisters. Life without bhakti is tasteless, it is incomplete. Nothing is more precious in the world than bhakti. Where there is bhakti, there is peace of mind. There is no factory that manufactures peace of mind. Bhakti is a state in which there are no worries, likes, dislikes, love, hatred, anger or lust. When you have equanimity, the mind is indifferent to praise or criticism. Peace means acceptance of life. The attitude of bhakti is: I have left everything in Your hands; it is up to You to take me towards success or ruin.
Nothing is possible without divine grace. When God's grace is there, all the rubbish of life is removed instantly, just as darkness is removed by the first rays of the sun. Samskaras from many different births will vanish or subside only with God's grace. If you think you can remove your rubbish, that is ego. Sometimes you may throw away the diamonds and keep the stones because you do not know the difference. You do not have the discrimination to know what is true and what is false. Therefore, leave it to God. Try to attain His grace through prayer, remembrance and satsang. The first sadhana is satsang, where there is talk about God, about spiritual life or where there is singing of bhajan and kirtan. This helps you to purify yourself and your inner environment.
The only difference between God and man is that we are human and He is divine. We are in the hands of the world and the world is in His hands. When you realize you are separate from God, then your sadhana begins, and that is the real sadhana. Prior to that, sublimation, elimination or total destruction of the ego is necessary. You have to kill this feeling of 'I am the doer' or else the bell will not ring.
Whatever success I have achieved in spiritual life has not been due to my personal effort or diligence. It has been due to God's grace. It is very difficult to tread the spiritual path because it is the inner path. When your mind soars high in inner life, the path is uncharted; you do not know which way to go. Therefore, it is ultimately the grace of God. If I had not had God's grace, my life would not have been like this. How could an ordinary person like me, a man with limited knowledge, means and intellect, do and say all this? Only through Divine Will. God's will is operating. Through this process of realization, when the ego begins to diminish, you may not see God, but you certainly begin to perceive the Divine Will. Once you see the Divine Will, then you know that you have come slightly closer to God. The distance remains, but it will diminish by and by, kilometre by kilometre. One day the gap will close and you will merge with God.
The simple person who does not use his head too much finds God very soon. If you want to call God, you must speak the language of the heart. One who has the heart of a child receives God's love. God's grace is for the one who is simple as a child, who considers toys to be real, the moon to be cheese, who marries his dolls and starts crying when a doll is broken. God's grace is for those with childlike innocence. God is not a matter of intellect. On that basis, you will fail for centuries, for thousands of lives. God is captivated by bhavana, feelings.
It is the feeling you have when you throw away all your superiority and ego, and say, "I am not an academic, a scientist, an author, a teacher of so many disciples, a mahant or a pontiff. No, I am nothing!" Only the very innocent, like Mirabai, Christ, Raidas and Ramakrishna Paramahamsa have obtained it. Christ was not an intellectual. He did not know what was ahead of him. Become simple-hearted like a child, and then you will receive God's blessings. If you think that becoming a renunciate, a tapasvi, being charitable and dharmic is the way to God, you may find you are wrong. To get to God, it is simple necessary to learn to love.
Everybody wants to give love to others, but no one has enough love to give. You want to distribute love to everybody, to your neighbour, your friends, the people all around, but you do not have much of it. When you come face to face with the reality, you find that you do not actually have much money, love, or food to distribute. You have to develop love within you, but love does not grow without facing hatred, jealousy, greed, selfishness and mean-mindedness. You have to confront those negative aspects if you are going to climb up towards love. At different points, you will encounter these rascals, these demons: Miss Jealousy, Mr Arrogance, Mrs Selfishness. You are in search of love, but you may stay with jealousy for a lifetime. By the time you realize this, however, you are old and cannot climb any more.
Love is the feeling of oneness with others, to feel for others as you feel for yourself; to be able to feel the difficulty of another person as you feel your own. That is one expression of love. In love, duality is fused into unity, two become one. Sometimes emotions come and take the form of love. There is a clear cut distinction between love and emotion; they are two different substances completely. They belong to two totally different castes, but they look almost alike.
Love requires a lot of sacrifices: your comforts, your idiosyncrasies, your ego, your money, your life, everything. In love, there is just giving, not taking. You give without expecting anything in return. When you expect something in return, it is not love. To attain love, you have to purify your mind. That is only possible when you are a pilgrim, when you are searching for God.
God can only be reached by love. There is no other way. God is approachable only through love and devotion. He will reveal Himself only if He wants to, not because you have tried all the methods. There is no method. Nothing except bhakti is necessary in order to find God.
The next generation will ask about God. They will ask the questions which this generation, by and large, is not asking. This generation is only interested in kama and artha, not dharma and moksha. In the next generation, bhakti and dharma will become relevant. The twentieth century belonged to the politicians and materialistic scientists. It was not the century of a spiritually oriented people or culture. Now we have realized that politicians and scientists have given us absolutely nothing. They have not even been able to remove poverty. But in the twenty-first century their hold on society will be reduced and people will be motivated more and more towards bhakti.
Tulsidas, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and other saints and mahatmas used to say that in Kali Yuga all the paths to reach God are very difficult. The only simple path is kirtan. Today everyone's mind is restless; it cannot rest at one point. When a group of four or more people get together to sing the name of God, it is called kirtan. When ten, twenty or thirty people sing kirtan together they generate a combined energy which is very powerful. The house where kirtan is sung becomes purified. Bad spirits do not reside there. People remain in a good mental state. All the filth disappears because the name of God has the ability to destroy bad energy. When the light of the sun appears, the darkness disappears. The name of God is like light. It enlightens and purifies wherever it exists.
Bhakti is a good way of life, not only for the individual, but for society, the entire civilization. Imagine the family sitting together every evening with a harmonium, guitar or sitar, and singing "Sriman Narayana Narayana Narayana Om", or any other bhajan, in any other language. This is a happy family. Then together they read some books on saints and mystics. This cheers people up and gives them a feeling of love, satisfaction, harmony and bliss.
Bhakti is the path, God is the destiny and you and I are the travellers. This is the only truth. We are born with only one destiny. Man is an experiment and the outcome of that experiment is the experience of God. Many people in the past have had that experience, but many more will have it in the future. People are turning towards spirituality, they are adopting bhakti marga, the path that leads to God. This is the only way.