Questions and Answers

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

I have been indoctrinated by the objectivity of scientific enquiry. How do I bring bhakti into my life?

When you look at the sunset, what do you see? The beauty of the sunset – the colours, the sky, the clouds, the radiance of the sun – or do you analyze the sunset scientifically and say, "This is all unreal. The colours of the sun that I am seeing are due to sunlight hitting particles in the atmosphere"? If you analyze the sunset with a scientific bent of mind, the joy and the beauty of sunset will be lost.

In the same manner, if you try to scientifically analyze what bhakti is, you will fail as it is not a subject for scientific analysis. The brain and mind are subjects of scientific analysis, while the human heart is a subject of experience. Scientific discovery belongs to the domain of the brain and mind, and appreciation of joy and beauty belongs to the domain of the individual heart. Do not confuse the intellectual gymnastics of your mind and brain with the innocence and purity of your heart.

Bhakti is not for intellectualisation; it is an experience of something beautiful, uplifting and inspiring in your life. Do not try to view bhakti from a scientific perspective, for you will never appreciate anything, just as you will forget to appreciate the beauty of the sunrise and sunset if you scientifically analyse the play of light in the atmosphere.

Is it possible to reduce the ego while living in society?

In English the word is ego, yet I will not rely on this word to answer the question. The relevant word in Hindi is ahamkara, which is positive, not at all negative and bad. Aham means I. Akara means form. So ahamkara is aham plus akara, 'my form', 'my identity', 'my existence'.

In the state of samadhi, ahamkara exists; if there were no ahamkara in samadhi, the sadhaka would not know what he is doing. Ahamkara is not bad; it connects you with your body. It is arrogance, self-exaggeration and rigidity which is dangerous.

The ego gives everyone recognition, which is a good thing, however the behaviour of the ego in relation to the world of the senses expresses arrogance and a superiority complex. These two are expressions of negative ahamkara; positive ahamkara is freedom from these two while maintaining a self-identity.

Even a sage who does his sadhana and practises austerity, becoming disinclined and disinterested in the world, does not forget himself. He gives up his arrogance and superiority complex.

30 July 2014, Netaji Subhash Stadium, Kolkata, India