Paramahamsaji’s Gift

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

When Paramahamsaji left the ashram in 1988 and went into seclusion, many people who had known him had very strong head trips. What will happen to us? Who will guide us? To whom can we give our feelings of love and affection? There was a general feeling of abandonment. Some people felt betrayed. Some people even returned their geru dhotis and malas, saying that if Swami Satyananda was not a guru any more, they were not disciples any more. At that time they were looking at the superficial, external aspect of a person who had a greater role and mission to fulfil in life.

People are very self-centred and sometimes it is difficult to make them understand. Even during the yajna parikrama, people would come and say to me, “I want to speak to you for a minute. My brother has a hernia. What can I do for it?” All these things make me feel that people’s problems, fears and hang ups take the prominent place in their lives and they fail to see the beauty and goodness that life has to offer.

As a sadhaka, as a spiritual aspirant, as a sannyasin, as an initiate, one must try to develop another kind of attitude, another kind of vision in relation to one’s life and in relation to one’s personal connection with a higher reality. Today we can all appreciate that Paramahamsaji has not retired; rather he has become more active, more dynamic on a different plane or level. He is offering us much more than we could have ever expected. Therefore, the fears that people had are unfounded.

Udhava’s lesson

There is a very beautiful story from Krishna’s life. When he left Vrindavan and went to Mathura, after he had grown up and played with all the gopis, he was declared a prince because he was the son of the heir to the throne of Mathura. Because of his duties he could not go back to his friends or to the village where he had grown up. But he could feel the emotions which his foster parents and former playmates were having and those feelings would come to him in the form of waves. So he called one of his closest friends, Udhava, and said, “Please go to Vrindavan and Gokul where the people are pining for me. Explain to them that right now it is not possible for me to come.”

A beautiful discussion took place between Krishna and Udhava. Udhava was considered to be one of the greatest jnanis of that age. He was also arrogant about his knowledge. He would talk to Krishna and identify with Krishna but without form; in place of the physical form he would always see a light. When Krishna told him that the gopis were attached to the physical form, Udhava could not understand. He said, “Why are they attached to your physical form? I will show them the way to identify with your formless aspect so that they can experience shanti, peace. If they identify with your physical form then they are identifying with maya, illusion. Because of maya they are experiencing prem, love, but that love is causing them a lot of pain and suffering.”

Udhava took a sankalpa to make everyone understand the nature of Krishna’s formless divinity. But when he reached Vrindavan no one was willing to listen to him; they were all pining for the return of Krishna, for his touch, for his physical presence. They said to Udhava, “You might be the biggest jnani, but you have not yet experienced love and, therefore, your knowledge is not complete. If you experience love and if you experience the suffering, the pain and the yearning that comes with love, then you will know what we are feeling.” Udhava had not experienced that love for God, so all his wisdom and knowledge was halved. He got the message that knowledge itself is not enough.

Towards atmabhava

Jnana is a dry subject. The intellect, buddhi, is used, but not the emotion, the feeling, bhavana, bhakti. I have told you this story to emphasize the idea that along with knowledge, understanding and wisdom, there has to be an appreciation of feelings and love. These feelings and love have to be directed. Our love is at present what Swami Sivananda called prostitute’s love. There are different forms of love and as human beings what we experience is a love which flirts with one object of pleasure then another. Swami Sivananda has used a very strong word but the flirtatious nature of our mind has to be contained. The ability to control the mind, which the Yoga Sutras calls ’chitta vritti nirodhah’, must be attained by every person. It is like the brake in a car. How often you use the brake depends on the situation and circumstances, but alertness and awareness have to be maintained; the brakes must not fail in an emergency. The safety feature allows us to train and guide our inner experiences, feelings, intelligence and emotions in a direction through which we experience completeness and wholeness. Just because you shed tears when you sit in front of a saint is not an indication of your inner bhakti. Just because your heart melts when you see somebody is not an indication of your love. Just because your heart throbs and you feel attracted and attached to somebody is not an indication of your true feeling for that person. Love has to be understood in a different way. When we feel love for somebody or something we want to possess it. I like something, I want to have it. I love somebody, I want to possess that person. That is very superficial. Some people call it conditioned love; Swami Sivananda called it prostitute’s love. We are only expressing that to satisfy the vacuum that is already within us. We want to fill in the gap, the void that we are feeling inside and all our effort is directed towards this fulfilment.

We are searching all the time. Even with gurus, not to speak of friends and family members, we develop an expectation so that we can have a place to go and change the mental environment. Sometimes we experience joy and security. We come with an inspiration and later on we become dependent on that feeling, obsessed with that situation. We have to curb this tendency. Krishna never went back to Vrindavan or to Gokul. He left his flute behind and never played it again. But there was no difference between Krishna who was far away and the gopis who were living in Vrindavan and Gokul. They were always united. They led their lives with their husbands, children and household duties, but in spirit they were one with Krishna. Even in sleep they were thinking about Krishna. That is mind identification.

This mind identification is one of the greatest assets that a human being can have. But there is a pitfall. When we feel that we are identifying with somebody who represents a quality, a state of perfection, then arrogance also comes in. I am a true devotee, a true bhakta and I can identify. The feeling of being superior to other people is arrogance which leads one further away from God. It happened to Udhava. He was so arrogant about his wisdom and knowledge, thinking that he could see the real form of God, that he missed totally the experience of pure bhakti and love. In the life of a sadhaka, pure love and bhakti also have to manifest at one point or another, even if it is on the death bed. It is bound to manifest. You may be far away from bhakti, you may not recognize or give space to the feeling of inner love. But it will come, even if only for a moment, and that moment will be the richest and most fulfilling one of your life.

The sadhana and the guidance that Paramahamsaji is giving us through his personal example is: see the divinity in everything. Do not think of God as something far away from yourselves. Do not be afraid of God; rather, try to understand that nature, that life force which is inherent in each and every one. The absence of that life force is death. In the same way, God is present in each and every aspect of creation. God is not formless. Maybe one of the attributes of God is formlessness, but definitely God has form. Each one of us is a symbol of that form.

The recognition of that nature in each and every one is a sadhana, a guideline being given to us by Paramahamsaji. It is not only a recognition but also a feeling of oneness with other beings, identifying with the suffering and also the happiness of other people. Of course, this is tough but a way has to be found. This was the gift which each one of us received during the yajna. Let everyone take a sankalpa to preserve this gift from Paramahamsaji for times to come.

4 December 1995, Ganga Darshan, Munger Printed in YOGA, Vol. 7, Issue 1 (March 1996)