Once upon a time there was a thunderous sound in the firmament. The sound was 'Da' repeated three times. The sages and seers who were assembled heard the uproar and asked what the sound indicated. They were told it meant three things: be restrained, be compassionate and learn to give.
Someone asked for an explanation of the import of these three words. Then the reply came. Devas are pleasure seekers and should restrain their passions. Demons should be kind and show mercy to others as they are very cruel and devilish by nature. Human beings should share their earnings and give to others because they are inherently tight-fisted and miserly. So, the devas need to exercise restraint, the demons need to be kind and compassionate to all and human beings need to share their earnings with those who are deprived and less fortunate.
To give, to donate, to share your bread with our less fortunate brothers and sisters is the loftiest ideal of life. The worst type of meanness and pettiness is to sit tight on our possessions. The most despicable part of the human character is to crave everything and not share our wealth with others. Try and learn to give to others.
Sannyasins have the uppermost duty to share what they have. A sannyasin cannot be a symbol of enjoyment. A sannyasin is not a consumer, he can only be a trustee. Our resources do not belong to us. Whatever we get we keep in trust for society, and nobody has the right to breach that trust.
Swami Sivananda used to say that most sannyasins and sadhus were wasting their time in India because they were in pursuit of their own salvation. When the majority of people were dying of hunger, these sadhus ate good food and prayed for their salvation. So when the yajna is being performed, I pray only for the wealth, long life, good health, success and prosperity of everyone. Let everyone be kind and caring to one another and may no one ever experience any distress in their life. May all receive the auspicious blessings of God.
Yajnas are conducted to appeal to Devi to grant us wealth, long life, success, good health and smooth sailing in these disturbed oceans of life. The purpose of a yajna is to remove people's pain, to rectify life. There is distress, sorrow and disaster, poverty, disease and fear of death, or death. This distress can be remedied by divine grace, which is the purpose of this yajna.
Yajna has three essential components. The first is worship of the deity. The second includes the ritualistic installation and the chanting of mantras. The third is giving and receiving. The poor, the impoverished and the affluent all have to participate in the yajna. The yajna cannot be complete without daan or giving. This was the tradition when Sri Rama ruled the earth. The tradition was followed during the Dwapara period and the same tradition should also be followed during the present age, Kali Yuga.
In ancient times King Harshavardhana gave away all his personal property at the conclusion of performing the Rajasooya Yajna. It is an historical fact, not a myth. He had attended the Maha Kumbha at Prayag. There he gifted away all his personal possessions and thereafter ate his meals from leaf plates, drank water from an earthen pot and slept on the bare ground. Think of it, the Emperor of Hindustan gave away everything that he possessed and slept on the ground! He did that because offering is one of the three components of yajna.
The process of offering is very simple. Before we offer the prasad items to the Mother, we prepare a list. We then pray that after the articles have been offered to Her, they will be distributed as prasad from Her to the people who need them the most. Once She gives her approval, they are distributed. Giving means that you also give and I also give. You present your offerings to the Divine Mother and the Divine Mother gives you Her prasad in return. The prasad I have distributed consists of the offerings made by you to the Divine Mother.
The meaning of this offering is taken very lightly these days. People learn to take in their mother's womb. Yajnas teach us about offering. Offering does not only denote giving. If you take something out of your pocket and hand it over to someone, that cannot truly be an offering. The feeling of offering all that you have, including your life, is really an offering in the truest sense.
What does prasad mean? Prasad means pleasure, happiness. It is the reverse of pain and sorrow. Prasad does not mean presents or gifts - prasad means happiness. That which causes elation in your heart, which makes you very happy, is called prasad.
The children will distribute the prasad as we wish to banish meanness from our society. By and large people are very tight-fisted and you know that miserliness is the weakest point in man's character. Therefore, children should learn early in life how to share their pleasure with their fellow beings. They should imitate the habit of giving. Giving good samskaras in the formative years will bring about changes in their attitude to life. To give prasad is a meritorious act and to offer prasad is a person's first duty.
We do not call prasad donation or alms. We call it honour. We have deleted the words donation and alms from our dictionary. We will honour the village folk first, as they are our distinguished guests, then the elderly people and widows, followed by the Santhali labourers who have worked ceaselessly for twelve long years to construct this ashram.
The gifts of the yajna have to be practical because they are given to the poor people around us who don't have much. Whatever you give should be useful. A poor man needs a lantern and a bottle of kerosene oil, not a transistor or tape recorder. In yajna the significance of a gift is that it is for the ordinary person. Rich people should be givers rather than receivers. A gift is not just to please someone, not just to pass on your emotion to someone. Gifts should have some practical purpose, to help a person in need, whether it is a blanket, a pashmina shawl, a pair of shoes, an umbrella, a satchel for a school child, a compass or a pencil case. A poor man has certain definite needs in life, especially in this country.
Gifts have to be offered pragmatically. A newborn baby requires nappies, which is also practical too as such useful things can be had cheaply. These rural folk, whose welfare is supreme to me, cannot use microwave ovens or gas ovens, as a gas cylinder for the oven would cost more than two hundred and fifty rupees, and a poor man hardly gets forty rupees a day. With that he has to have his daughter married and look after his medical bills. Therefore, find out what needs to be given.
Money has three destinations: daan, offering; bhoga, enjoyment; and nasha, destruction. All property has these three destinations only. You may enjoy it or you may offer it, otherwise it will be lost or destroyed. Anything and everything, movable or immovable, gold or silver, food or sweetmeats, clothes or animals, cars or anything else. You should think about how much you need for your own enjoyment. To collect and keep things is not enjoyment; to store things is also not enjoyment. Enjoyment is utilizing things for oneself. You have many things that you do not need and such things you must offer to the needy. If you offer a job or service to the needy, or if you make a firm arrangement for the livelihood of a needy person, you will be doing yeoman service to that family.
The society that only knows the culture of receiving and not giving promotes social exploitation. To strike a balance in society we should teach children to follow the culture of give and take. If we don't receive from others, how can we give? Unless social balance is achieved, the gap between affluence and poverty cannot be bridged. Therefore, provision is made in the yajna for the giving of prasad.
The general populace are the foundation of the nation. The village children and their parents are the load bearers of our society. The masses provide the base, the solid ground, the direction and destination for a nation to move forward. This section of society must be looked after properly, otherwise there will be rape, looting, extremism. If the larger section of the country is not looked after, society cannot be given security. Sixty to seventy percent of the world's population is neglected.
This is a message to each and everyone. If you bake four loaves of bread, one loaf is for society. You have to share your joy, your booty, your money. You have to share your happiness with everyone. Everyone should ponder over the plight of that section of society that has been kept deprived for so long. If you don't give to others how will you get anything back.
For a human being, the most difficult vow is to forsake, to renounce, to let go. Everyone knows how to collect, how to add up. To renounce means to make a sacrifice. Sacrifice is made for the sake of others, just as a mother makes sacrifices and abstains from many comforts for the sake of her child's well-being. A time should come when people cultivate the habit of giving. You should give to everyone, even the affluent, not only to the poor and the destitute. God does not discriminate between rich and poor. He gives to all. He gives to the poorest of the poor and the wealthiest of the wealthy too. This is the way of God and we should learn it.
We who have enough of everything should develop the philosophy of atmabhava in our lives. That is the philosophy of Vedanta: you and I are the same. It is written in Vedanta, in the Upanishads, that all of us, living or dead, are part of the universal soul which resides within all of us. It is very easy to say that, but in actual practice we do not follow that tenet. In practice 'I' is separate from 'you'. The feeling of oneness comes when you can feel that all those who live around you have the same soul or are part of the same soul that is within you and that their sorrow and pleasure are your own sorrow and pleasure. It may not be possible for me as a human being to share all the difficulties of my neighbours, but certainly I should have the quality to feel that. One person cannot wipe out the pain of everyone in the world. But there should be the feeling that if your child is sick, I should feel the pain that you feel for your child, or for that matter the pain of your friends, wife, daughters and neighbours, in the same way as I would for my own kith and kin. This is very important. The sayings of the Upanishads will not be true until one practises that. It is no use saying that everyone is myself. You should feel that everyone is yourself, then you will feel their problems.
I'm not saying that we should pay for their education, although it would be good to do so, but at least they should have two square meals a day for their children. There are millions of families in this world whose children do not have two square meals a day. There was a driver with this ashram who stayed with us for two or three years. Then we arranged an auto rickshaw for him and now he is self-sufficient and earns his own living of one hundred rupees a day. It is the duty of each one of us, be it the ruler or the ruled, to see that no one is deprived of this basic minimum need.
One should live and do for the pleasure of others. You all know this, as you live for the well-being of your children, but at times people forget, It is not wrong to live for your own well-being, but you should not forget the well-being of others. You should take care of their well-being along with your own. The poverty-stricken outnumber the affluent. We cannot help all the poor, but at least we should all be aware of our duties to the downtrodden. This is a fact of life which you must all understand.
If this society cracks and breaks, then there will be chaos. Therefore, it becomes our duty, your duty, everyone's duty, to sustain this society. Society does not depend on us. We are the load, not the load-bearers. We are a burden on society, not the bearers of the burden. It is our duty in every society - Eastern or Western, African, Chinese or Russian - to care for the common folk, because their needs are very few. The oxygen, food and water they consume in one year, an American or European consumes in one second. So you can understand how economical they are for our existence, for our society. The villagers have been receiving prasad since I came to Rikhia. We all have a duty, a compulsory obligation to look after the common people, the supports of society.
God told me, "Swami Satyananda, as long as you are not amassing wealth for your own comfort and luxury you will get whatever you want." Mother Lakshmi has issued a blank cheque, but it is not meant for my personal comfort. Be it the earthquake in Bhuj or the Orissa catastrophe, I can spend as much as I like on relief measures for disaster affected people. That divine gift is always there. It is a service to the nation. I wish to emphasize one point. The tendency to collect and amass property gives rise to wrong conduct; it leads to undesirable thought processes and unholy attitudes. However, the tendency to sacrifice brings about a complete change in man's behaviour, way of thinking and expression. This is the statement of our sages and seers. If you fill a bottle with water and do not use it, the water putrefies. If the water continues to flow, it never putrefies. This should be the attitude of human behaviour.
Saints are born to help others, to serve others. Saints and ascetics are not born to seek their own liberation; it is not their mission. Householders seek moksha, worldly people seek liberation or final salvation because they are miserable. One who is in bondage needs release. One who feels he is a prisoner wants to be set free. If you feel that this world is a veritable bondage, only then will you seek release from this bondage.
But why should I seek liberation? What will I do in the next world? I may be happy in the next world too where I will serve God. I am also quite at home in Rikhia. If I have to shift somewhere else tomorrow, I will be happy there. I remain happy in every situation, in every country, in every association, in every garb, in every hue and colour, in every circumstance. I adjust myself to every mode and method. Saints and seers never seek final liberation; they do not need it. Only those need moksha who are in chains, in bondage, who are miserable, who are in terrible agony, who are frustrated and worried. One who is sick needs a doctor.
Does a river drink its own water? Do fruits and vegetables eat themselves? No, they are for all of us. This is called paramariha, the highest service. That which is of no help to others is selfishness. Man's greatest weakness is miserliness. Devas run after enjoyment, demons are cruel and human beings are miserly. So devas have to learn self-restraint, demons have to learn to be kind and human beings have to learn to give.
My philosophy is very simple. The entire panchayat is my ashram. Every house here is my house. Their pains and pleasures are my own. Their poverty is my poverty and their happiness is my happiness. If anyone is sick, it is my ashram inmate who is sick. That is not a social philosophy, it is Vedantic philosophy. You have to see yourself in everyone and you have to see everyone within your own self.