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Today we’re going to talk about the core human drives. According to the sages, there are four such desires that rule our lives in this world: bhakti, karma, yoga and jnana. Bhakti is the pure desire to serve the Absolute Truth with the purpose to please Him. Three other types of desires are nothing else but various deviations from love of Truth. They represent different forms of degradation and contamination of consciousness.
It just so happens that we are all a little ‘nuts’. This should come as no surprise. After all, we all came to live in this world of deviation from the norm. So as the phrase goes, everyone has their own little quirks. These are divided into three major categories.
Take, for example, the desire for karma. If I want to serve the Absolute Truth but don’t make it my aim to please Him; if I want to feel pleased and happy myself, this is already the desire for karma, not for bhakti. I want to get big wages, collect my regular salary. So if you pay me less than agreed or not on time, don’t expect me to work further. I won’t even move a muscle. Thus, the desire for karma is the desire to enjoy materially, not spiritually. It’s when we want to enjoy through our gross material senses. We want to possess everything that is sold in the stores – all the stylish up-market stuff our neighbor already has. We want the fruits; without the fruits we won’t take care of the field. We won’t care two straws for it.
What is desire for jnana? This is the aspiration to enjoy subtle matter, craving for prestige or power. Others are obliged to show respect for me, at least to some extent because I’m a well-respected man without doubt… “Do you respect me?” “I do.” “Me too. I respect you from my heart.” “We are most admired people!” drunkards say to each other. So this is probably why people are attracted to alcohol. They hope to feel super respected at least while they are drunk.
In esoteric terms, desire for jnana is seeking relief from material suffering. So many people are craving for knowledge. But they aren’t eager to learn how to serve the Absolute Truth. They only want to know how to gain superiority and release from suffering. I want to become a great scientist, come up with the cure for death. An inventor and a scientist are typical representatives of modern-day esoterics. Hence, there’s so much inventive esoteric nonsense in bookstores! Piercing chakras with the universal piercing gun…
Desire for yoga is the attempt to find and unlock special mystic powers within oneself. What if I can bend a spoon or light a lamp by just taking a look at it? People spend the whole evenings in the kitchen, staring at the matches, hoping to move them with their eyes. But the aim remains the same: to enjoy the physical body and its abilities. This has nothing to do with spirituality. Since people don’t know it’s a deviation, they consider wonders to be the evidence of holiness and chosenness by God. However, deviations of any kind mean only one thing: one engages in spiritual practice to derive benefit for himself/herself. One is not really interested in God and is even less interested in surrounding people. All illusionists today imitate mystic yogis, and mystic yogis imitate illusionists. As a result, instead of happiness, we get a rabbit pulled out of the hat.
Interestingly, as a result of these three types of deviation, one comes to the conclusion that he/she doesn’t need a spiritual preceptor, doesn’t need a spiritual master. It’s because one of the main duties of the spiritual master is to point out these three deviations to his disciple. It appears that a spiritual master hinders such a person from living peacefully, enjoying power, glory and deviation from spirituality. He’s like a school teacher who prevents the pupils from enjoying relaxation. He comes and says: “Stop behaving like hoodlums or you’ll grow up to be dim-witted and useless!” It also seems that our teachers expended little effort; otherwise, why do so many people start feeling stupid and useless at midlife?
If we don’t work on ourselves, the very idea of accepting a guru may seem dangerous. Just see how the contemporary society is afraid of the notion itself. The only reason is that the guru honestly shows us: we live selfishly; we live only for our own enjoyment and are not interested in anything else. Even if a modern man accepts a guru, he prefers to keep distance, without taking advice or associating that much. The picture of a guru seems the safest option. It goes to show that we need a symbol of a spiritual master instead of a real father. A father is always strict – he won’t let the son act stupid. Hence, by choosing and accepting a spiritual master we confirm our readiness to receive chastisement. We just confirm our willingness to hear harsh words from this particular person.
Without the spiritual master, one is prone to mistake hallucinations for real spiritual experience. One counts everything taking place in his diseased imagination as a spiritual insight. Some people claim to hear a voice from God; others claim to talk to God. Some people say that God dictated some new spiritual scriptures to them. If I hear God speaking to me, why do I need to purify myself any further? Why should I follow rules and regulations; pray and study the scriptures? I’m the proclaimer of the will of God myself. I’m the holy scripture: hear me, render honors to me! Make a big fuss over me. Carry me in your arms, or preferably, on a palanquin. This is how one becomes mad with pride.
These dangerous phenomena downgrade the importance of spiritual development. The spiritual path is not easy — it requires great effort. One has to shed an ocean of sweat and tears to reach something really essential. But we don’t want to wait. We have no time. We are busy solving urgent tasks that can’t be shortened to free up at least some of our time for spiritual activities. We don’t want to get purified. We’d like to break into the world of purity being impure as we are now. We excuse ourselves from purification process by saying we simply don’t have time for such nonsense. But we are blind to the fact that we start looking like bums actually. As soon as a bum steps into a subway car, everybody else comes out since it’s impossible to stand next to him. Similarly, so that the residents of the spiritual world don’t scatter in different directions, we simply won’t be let into. At the entrance of the spiritual world there’s face control. Two gatekeepers Jaya and Vijaya strictly check the purity of our heart so that no bum could get into the world of purity, honesty, knowledge and bliss.
Therefore, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati said we shouldn’t try too much to see God, but act in such a way that God would want to see us. But we are too lazy to work on ourselves. We are spiritual layabouts who wait for favors from nature. The mercy comes, though not in the form of miraculous purification but in the form of knowledge that we should make our own efforts to purify ourselves. Kali-yuga is the time when everybody hankers after something they haven’t yet deserved.. This is a harmful thinking pattern that brings nothing except disappointment. This is also the way spiritual deviations appear asserting that spirituality is plainly simple. “Keep thinking that you are a saint, and you’ll become one. To become convinced of something, convince someone else.” Such pseudo transcendentalists tell everyone: “You are a saint. Your children are saints. Your whole family is saintly. We are all saints… let’s go have a drink!”
The desire for jnana is of particular interest. A person is so deeply absorbed in knowledge that he concocts his own logical explanations difficult to make head or tail of. As a result, instead of thinking of the Absolute Truth, one engages in mental speculations. One creates a logical world of his own and lives in it. Such an individual overlooks the essence of spiritual growth completely. He is happy to find someone who would listen to him, someone he can share logical revelations with. But there’s no real spiritual experience in that. These are just intricacies of the mind — and nothing besides! Such people have experienced so much emotional pain in life that they are scared to show emotions on the path of development. Logic has no emotions – it is dry and sad. People just explain their ideas to each other. They like it that they can remain completely unemotional.
Sages explain that all these deviations occur because we suffered much pain in the material world and wish to hide from it somehow. Even when we study spiritual knowledge, we are seeking not the Absolute Truth, but relief from pain. We are looking for relief in Ayurveda, astrology, vastu — in anything. We either want to find a formula to get rid of suffering, or immerse ourselves in spirituality to forget ourselves. Such immersion doesn’t differ much from alcohol or drug abuse.
It is also said in the treatises about contamination of yoga that it’s the attempt to drag the Absolute Truth down to our level. I will do the asanas, breathe properly – and God will come to me. By comparison, contamination of jnana is the attempt to quickly rise to the level of God: decipher Him in the treatises or figure Him out by way of logic. Contamination of yoga is the attempt to enter into business-like relations with God. I will do something for Him, and He will do something for me. These are contaminations that slow down our spiritual progress and may even bring it to a halt. So we should always watch our consciousness so that it doesn’t get contaminated by any of these deviations.
Lastly, I’d like to tell an interesting story about craving for bhakti.
After the destruction of Ravana at Rama’s hands, Nikasha, Ravana’s mother, run out of the palace and fled into the forest for dear life. Lakshmana pointed out to Rama that it was a quite strange way to act. Nikasha was an old woman who had suffered a great deal from the loss of all of her sons, and yet she seemed so afraid of losing her own life that she was taking to her heels! It all looked quite strange. Rama caught up with Nikasha, gave her assurance of safety and asked her why she was running away. And Ravana’s mother said in response that she was longing to see many more things Rama would do on this planet. She was afraid to pass away and not be able to witness His lila till the end. To be born on earth when the spiritual lila takes place is such a rare opportunity. To strive to stay alive is really worth the effort!
Today we’ll address one of the aspects of karma that is of particular interest to a modern man. Material world is filled with all kinds of filthy things. So when people learn about karma, or more precisely, when they learn about bad karma, they develop a fear of getting it. What if karma is a sort of airborne disease? This is how our mentality works. I think of myself as a nice person. “Nothing’s the matter with me. The main thing is not to catch a bug from others – not to contract some evil karma from them.” Clearly enough, such thinking is laden with karma in itself. If one sees oneself as good and thinks that all misfortunes come from others, this suggests one’s own bad karma. It manifests as hatred of the entire world. Such flawed thinking arises as a result of one’s own wrong actions.
We really can and should be interested in the issue. Only we should approach it from the philosophical viewpoint. Is it actually possible to catch karma from another person? Today we’ll try to grasp this subtle point.
If to approach karma from this particular viewpoint, it would mean our movement direction in the material world. If we move to purity or sublimity, this is good karma. If we move in the opposite direction of meanness and viciousness, this is bad karma. If we go north, it’s getting colder and colder. This is karma of the north. If we go south, we are feeling warmer and warmer. Such is the karma of the south. Similarly, if we start following a particular person, we begin to “take his/her karma”, that is to follow their path. If he/she goes north and we follow, we get karma of the north – ever-frost. If he/she goes stealing and we follow him/her, we get karma for stealing and go to jail. Thus, we’re not becoming infected with karma. We get it because we don’t think where we are going to; where it might end up. Do you remember how mom used to tell us: “If everyone else jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?”
If we follow someone who goes to the cinema to watch a comedy movie, we gain the karma of humor and scream with laughter for two hours straight. If we follow those who lead us to the same cinema, this time to watch a horror movie, we get the karma of horror movie respectively, and quake with fear for two hours. Therefore, scriptures give a very simple solution to all karmic problems. We need to follow the Absolute Truth, sages and saints – then there won’t be any karma at all. If I follow someone who knows how to go beyond karma, naturally I also go beyond karma. This is called akarma – to follow someone who knows what it is. “In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear.” This is what Bhagavat-Gita says on the subject. And these are clear signs of the absence of karma.
Life in itself means that we are living in the style of retribution for our past deeds. We receive what we deserve for living wrong in the past. Our current life goes to prove that. Life in the material body is retribution in itself. But we don’t want to pay off debt; we prefer to forget about it. Our human body goes to prove that we’re terribly indebted and all our life we’ll have to repay what we borrowed in the past. But we prefer to turn a blind eye to this fact and simply enjoy. This is really nonsense. This is what is called bad karma. However, if I honestly pay all my debts, if I put up with tough situations in life realizing that this is my duty to go through them, karma allows me to move in the direction of mindfulness and spirituality.
It is impossible to run away from karma. No way. Vedas state that ‘as a calf follows its mother among a thousand cows, so the good or bad deeds of a man follow him’. Therefore, one should possess a special quality that will gradually allow him/her to go beyond karma. This most important quality is the desire to act wisely. Wise people are never worried or troubled about things that happen in life. They realize these are just the consequences of their own actions. Thus, they struggle to repay all debts through patient discharge of their duties. If such a person has difficult relatives, he/she takes care of them the whole life, thus performing this duty and repaying the debt. And some day such a person gets beyond the influence of karma.
But it happens only if while doing it we remember: this is the law of God. If we simply endure something without understanding how birth and death are linked together, such forbearing doesn’t release us from karma. It only makes us a little more purified. In short, I must understand: everything that happens to me is absolutely lawful, and the Person who established this law did it for love. This is not the law for me alone. This law is for everyone. The word ‘cosmos’ means ‘an orderly or harmonious system’. The entire material world is under the influence of these laws of karma, and it doesn’t matter whether we believe it or not.
A few followers used to come to Guru Nanak. Once one of them met a prostitute and was fascinated by her. In the following days he left the house under the pretext that he was going to visit the guru, but in fact he visited the prostitute. A few days later his friend who daily came to offer respect to guru, was pricked by a thorn, while his neighbor who went to the prostitute, found a gold coin in the street.
This incident enraged the follower of the guru, who visited him daily. He mentioned it during the morning prayer. Guru Nanak heard it and was surprised. He said to the Sikh:
“Your friend was destined to find a treasure, but because of his demonic behavior the treasure had been reduced to a single coin. Whereas due to your past karma you were destined to be impaled. But you changed yourself and received only a thorn prick.”
Modern philosophy is divided into two major camps, with their representatives competing to death. Some say that everything in this world is predetermined, while others say we are absolutely free. Understanding the laws of karma enables to find the point of tangency between two different worldviews. Indeed, the fated will happen. But still we have our own free will. Karma is the final stage of action that cannot be changed. However, there are previous stages at which something can be changed.
The first stage of action is comprised of our desires. We may choose to think them over or reject them. Nothing prevents us from making a choice when a certain desire comes into our mind. If we give thought to it, an idea becomes entrenched in our heart and causes the seed of desire to germinate. It grows up in the form of decision. And again, it is for us to decide whether to fulfill this desire or not. We can apply all our efforts to stop and make a decision not to satisfy our desire. Or we can postpone decision-making if we feel some danger. We still have free will at this stage.
If an action is already performed, this is the stage of karma at which nothing can be changed. We’ve come full circle. Satisfied desire causes karma in the form of new desire that appears in our mind again. Only this time it is much stronger and more persistent. This is why it’s so hard to resist some of our desires. They went through this vicious circle a million times, and we are simply too weak to resist their roar in our mind independently. For this reason, laws of culture and morality are much-needed in a civilized society. They help us to control feelings, affecting the most powerful intrinsic motivation – our ego.
Culture determines what is shameful and what is acceptable in our day-to-day activities. No one wants to disgrace oneself, as it is extremely painful for our ego. If culture is properly directed, if it brings shame upon things that impede spiritual advancement, this is not just an ordinary culture. This is divine culture. This is precisely why we study the Vedic culture. It is perfectly adjusted to help people move to purification quickly and easily. Modern culture can’t understand the principle of sin sometimes. And sin often becomes natural. As the phrase goes, ‘what is natural is not dirty’. Spirituality vice versa is considered shameful or something. One hesitates to pray, worship God or simply read scriptures in public transport. Right now the doctor whom I consulted for liver problems has told me it’s no problem if I drink vodka or cognac. Therefore, in order to start a spiritual life, one must get into society where spiritual culture is more or less established. Then spiritual development comes easy and becomes enjoyable. This is why we are gathering together to see how culture affects our decision-making and our freedom of choice.
Now listen to the parable about karma.
There was once a stonemason who worked long and hard. From dawn till dusk, he had to draw stone from a rock quarry. His hands were rough and calloused, his back always bent and his stern face was as long as a fiddle.
And he was unhappy. One day he began to repine at his lot:
“Oh what cruel fate has befallen me! Why did it make me what I am? If only I were richer! If I were rich, I would be happy.”
All of a sudden, an angel stood before him and said:
“What’s the thing that can make you feel rich and happy?”
“Well, it’s easy. If I were rich, I would live in a city, in a magnificent penthouse apartment. I would feast my eyes on the sky. There would be a large four-poster bed with cool, silk sheets in my room. And I would sleep there all day long. That’s when I would be happy.”
“So be it!” said the angel, waving his hand.
Thus, a mason became rich. He lived in the city, in the magnificent bright penthouse apartment. He slept in the bed covered with cool, silk sheets, and was really happy.
It continued until, one day, early in the morning, he became disturbed by the noise. It was coming from the outside. He sprang from the bed and ran to the window. Looking down, he saw a huge golden chariot. It was drawn by beautiful horses. Soldiers walked behind it.
That was a king. People filled the streets to welcome and worship him.
Suddenly the rich man realized he was discontented with his lot.
“Poor wretch that I am! A king is more powerful than me. If only I were a king, I would be happy. “
Once again, an angel appeared and said:
“Be it so! You’re the king from now on!”
Thus, he became the king. And he was extremely pleased. He was aware of his power and influence. He liked it that people showed respect and served him; that he could decide if another man should live or die. He felt immense joy.
But once he drew attention to the sun. He saw that the sun could do things he couldn’t even dream of. It turned green fields into yellow ones and yellow fields into brown ones. It dried the most extensive rivers and left nothing but parched coast covered with mud. It took away life from the very springs of life.
Once again he realized he was unhappy with his lot.
“What am I, poor wretch, to do? The sun is more powerful than me. If I could become the sun, I could be happy.”
That’s when an angel appeared to him and said:
“So be it! You are the sun now!”
Thus, he became the sun. He was very delighted. He felt his power and strength. He liked it that he could turn blooming green fields into brown ones, make rivers dry and change the world. He was boundlessly happy. He ruled the world standing at the zenith, rejoicing in his own strength.
It lasted until he noticed a cloud, a large black thundercloud. He saw how powerful it was, turning brown and withered fields into blooming carpets, filling rivers with force, pouring out water and returning life to the world. And he fell into depression again.
“I am so unlucky. This cloud is much more powerful than me. If only I could become the cloud! That’s when I would be happy forever.”
The angel showed up and said,
“You are the cloud now!”
He became the cloud and was unbelievably happy. He took great enjoyment in his power. He liked it that he could correct the work of the sun and revitalize life where, seemingly, there was nothing left alive.
For the short haul, he was happy to the max, until he saw a black rock one day. He saw how strong, unwavering and unchangeable it was. And he noticed that no matter how long and heavily it rained, nothing could alter or destroy the rock. The rock was solid and stable.
Once again, he felt the bitterness of adversity. And he said,
“I’m so unhappy. If I could be the rock, I would regain happiness.”
Again, the angel appeared and said,
“So be it!”
He became the rock and enjoyed his power and might, and was greatly happy. He rejoiced in his invincibility and superiority. He liked to feel that he could resist anything whatever nature prepared for him. He laughed at the sun and mocked at the thundercloud. And this went on until a stonemason came one day…
Today we’re going to go over an important feature of our consciousness. We shall discuss the way we perceive a chain of events that seem to appear by accident yet are somehow connected. Perception of coincidences can be either unhealthy or fully conscious. In the first case, one tries to find some underlying logic and prompting for further actions behind a set of circumstances. In the second case of conscious perception, one tries to see the hand of fate behind all events. One tries to comprehend what fate wants to tell him, where it directs him, and work out the meaning of those hints. Both kinds of perception seem very much alike, but there’s a qualitative difference between them. The one who holds unhealthy perception doesn’t possess spiritual knowledge, while a person who has a conscious perception fully realizes: not a blade of grass moves for no reason. Thus, the difference in perception depends on the degree of spiritual absorption. Without it, one can simply go out of his mind.
Without the knowledge of the Absolute Truth, one tries to judge the laws of this world by a mere confluence of circumstances. Thus, the most profound spiritual knowledge obtained through penances and austerities is substituted by a mere set of circumstances. It goes like this. One witnesses some coincidence – e.g. whenever one looks at the clock, it always shows 10:10— and begins to think he got access to the mysteries of fate. But it’s a pure and simple illusion, nothing more. It’s the same as to solve an advanced math problem, then look at the page number in the problem book and see that it coincides with the answer! But it doesn’t make one a math expert. It’s just that in the world of events chains of events sometimes happen that look like laws. But they just look like laws, nothing more. If we want to know the true laws of this world, we need to study them. To study means to follow them, by applying theory to practice.
If the lottery winning number occasionally coincided with your passport number, it doesn’t mean you understood the system. Just try to place bet on the birth certificate number next time…
A distinguished Renaissance philosopher Pico della Mirandola deliberated upon the subject of coincidences. He considered all objects of this world part of a single whole that now and then becomes disintegrated and reunited all over again. In 1665 the materialist philosopher Thomas Hobbes contended that even the result of throwing the dice is natural and expected. We can’t predict it just because we don’t have full information.
In the 19th century Arthur Schopenhauer denied coincidences and believed they were a consequence of the global harmony that leads to crisscrossing of human destinies.
Wolfgang Pauli, one of the founders of quantum physics and the Nobel Prize winner, also attempted to unravel the mystery of coincidences. He joined his efforts with the outstanding psychologist Carl Gustav Yung. Pauli formulated the key principle of theoretical physics according to which two particles cannot be in the equal quantum state. Yung is known for his collective unconsciousness theories. Working on the explanation of coincidences, Pauli and Yung developed a hybrid of their theories when they published the scientific research titled “Synchronicity: an Acausal Connecting Principle”. Their theory interpreted coincidences as an indication of the yet-unknown universal principle that binds together all the physical laws.
In fact, there’s value in coincidence. It gets you thinking of the subtle laws of this world. It’s possible that one may use this chance to seek after spiritual knowledge. Thus, one can make a real breakthrough in personal development.
Let me adduce some hilarious examples of coincidences. In Detroit sometime in the 1930s a man named Joseph Figlock was strolling down the street minding his own business when a year-old baby fell from a high window, right onto him. Figlock broke the baby’s fall and both survived, shaken but unhurt. As it later transpired, a young and incredibly careless mother forgot to close the window. A curious child climbed on a window-sill, but instead of dying after he fell from the window, he found himself in the arms of the savior! Nothing short of a miracle, you might say. Well, what do you think of the following? Precisely one year later, the very same baby fell from the very same window onto poor, unsuspecting Joseph Figlock as he was again passing beneath. And again, they both survived the event, shaken but unhurt…
In 1966, a four-year-old Roger Lozier nearly drowned in the sea near the U.S. city of Salem. Fortunately, he was saved by a woman named Alice Blaze. In 1974, Roger, who was already 12, repaid the favor – at the same place he saved a drowning man who turned out to be Alice Blaize’s husband.
There exists an interesting story of a writer who had a strange and rare hobby. All his life he collected envelopes of his own letters. He did it the following way. He sent letters to foreign countries. Everything except country name –city name, street, house number and recipient – was fictional and imaginary, thought up by him. In a month or so, letters beautified with colorful foreign stamps were returned to the sender as “Addressee Unknown”.
But once, the writer was quite amazed. As usual, he thought up a city name, street, house number, first name and surname of the recipient. In the body of the letter, he wrote down all the names of the imaginary family.
Two months passed, but he didn’t receive the letter back. Thinking that it was lost in the mail, the writer forgot about it. Suddenly there came a response. First, the writer thought someone was kidding him in the same vein that he was kidding. But when he read the reply address, he was in no mood for joking. The address he thought was imaginary did exist. And the recipient residing at the specified address did exist. All the fictional names coincided with the real ones. Now, the weirdest thing was that they said they could remember him quite well. The picture of a stranger carrying him in his arms was attached. The stranger turned out to be the doctor who saved the writer’s life when he lost his consciousness in an accident.
Since then, the writer stopped sending letters to imaginary recipients…
The point to be emphasized is the following. Logical reasoning that is not based on spiritual knowledge is nothing but delusion of a troubled mind. An attempt to create logical links where none exist is a kind of mental aberration. Why does it occur? One feels some unseen linkages must exist. And this is really so. Unseen linkages do exist. They are called gunas of material nature, prana or karma. These different types of linkages intertwined together form a picture of this world. The whole world is interwoven with them like threads creating patterns of all kind. And one is craving so badly to see them one literally goes mad with this desire. As a result, one ends up seeing one’s own hallucinations instead of reality.
Yes, one sees the illusion because to be able to see the real gunas, one needs to study them. This is precisely why we peruse the Bhagavat-Gita from cover to cover. It gives real, genuine, scientific understanding of interrelatedness of all things in this world. We learn that everything in the world is interconnected, and the connection runs through one single center – the Absolute Truth. Therefore, the one who establishes connection with the Absolute Truth through the practice of yoga gets connected with every single being in this universe. This is really the highest form of knowledge. None other system of knowledge can offer anything like that or as much as that!
Now it’s possible to evaluate the depth of the instruction given by the Vedas. If we bring satisfaction to the Absolute Truth, everyone else will be satisfied. The service to the Absolute Truth is the service to the whole of humanity, the whole world and all the living entities of this world. It’s the greatest heroic deed and the greatest bliss. It’s the highest achievement ever to reach in this world. How could it be otherwise? How else can we help all the suffering beings? And here is a parable appropriate for the theme.
A man and his dog were walking down the road. It was a long and tiresome road. As they walked along, both the man and his dog became very tired.
All of a sudden, an oasis came into sight. They found themselves standing in front of the magnificent gate. Music, flowers, the voice of the stream – there seemed to be many relaxation opportunities behind it.
“What’s that?” the traveler asked the gatekeeper.
“This is Heaven. You’ve already died. Now you can enter and enjoy a well-deserved rest.”
“Can I have some water there?”
“As much as you like: pure fountains, cool swimming-pools…”
“Will there be any food?”
“Anything you wish.”
“I have a dog with me–”
“I’m sorry, but dogs are not allowed in Heaven. It has to stay here on the road.”
The traveler stayed with his dog, and he and his dog walked on. After a while, the road led them to the farm. There was also a gatekeeper at the gate.
“I’m thirsty,” begged the traveler.
“Come on in! There’s a water well over there in the yard.”
“What about my dog?”
“There’s a drinking-bowl at the well.”
“Can I have some food, please?”
“I can treat you to dinner.”
“And my dog?”
“We’ll find a few bones.”
“What do you call this place?” the traveler asked.
“This is Heaven.”
“How so? The man at the near-by palace told me the Heaven was there.”
“Nope. That was Hell. He told you lies.”
“How can you tolerate such things?”
“This is very useful for us. ONLY THOSE COME TO HEAVEN WHO DON”T LEAVE THEIR FRIENDS BEHIND.”
We do indeed want to help all living entities. We don’t forsake those we take responsibility for. But remember: to help others, we must really be fully aware of the laws of fate, scriptural instructions and guidelines given by the sages. On no account should we contrive our own decisions, invent our own systems and laws. We used to live in illusion and therefore, keep illusory perceptions for a long time, even after we have taken the spiritual path.
It is commonly said that doctors put trust only in facts. The same should hold true for us. In our desire to help poor living entities entangled in this material world, we should be guided solely by the principles set out in the spiritual scriptures. We should repeat only what sages say; explain the structure of the universe as revealed by the sages; pass along the message the Absolute Truth Himself has imparted. That would be real help, not some coincidence game.
Otherwise, a helper of others may get trapped in illusion. Supposing a person may come to us to tell about a real-life situation he/she is faced with. And we may recall a similar situation we came up against at some point in our life. We may start giving tips based on how we handled our situation. To us, it may seem like worldly wisdom. But this is a folly. We think fate sent us this person because we had the similar experience. We think their situation coincides with ours. But it is not so! Fate has sent us this person because we study the laws of fate and are obliged to impart this knowledge as it is, without any distortions. Then our mission will be accomplished. Otherwise, fate will become disenchanted with us. We woke up to spirituality, we understood the meaning of life. Fate has sent us a suffering person, yet we started to talk piffle, share our material experience, that of a loser and a fool…
Thus, we must be careful so as to remember: our task is to preach the truth, not illusion, no matter what circumstances life throws in our direction.
Even if all clocks around the world show 10:10, we should speak the words of the Bhagavat-Gita. Only the Bhagavat-Gita can help a person solve all problems, while we can only aggravate them and thus, get punishment in the form of karma. By the way, it may be rather heavy. This is the karma of even deeper immersion into illusion.
Modern psychologists and physicists write in all seriousness about the “law of paired events”. According to it, one situation gives rise to a similar situation over some time. There exists a medical concept of this law. If a patient in the hospital unit has died, in the next 24 hours you can expect another death. And if a patient with a rare disease has been admitted to clinic, another such patient will soon check himself into… People are ready to call their unwillingness to study spiritual laws whatever term, even invent such a nice expression as “law of paired events”…
Neither physicists nor psychologists can thoroughly understand the structure of this world. Any housewife can confirm that cherries in a cherry-pie never distribute evenly. In the theory of chances, this phenomenon is called cluster effect meaning that separate objects have a tendency to huddle up.
There’s a huge number of laws in this world, and not a single scientist, not even the most intelligent one, can explain them in one formula. Only the Bhagavat-Gita does it so boldly that one’s hairs can stand on end. In a span of just a few minutes, Krishna explains to Arjuna absolutely all the laws of this world and, most interestingly, Arjuna can understand them all. Hence, even from the standpoint of pure practicality, it’s better to spend some time for understanding all these laws, than to spend a lifetime thinking of some useless “cherry-pie law’…
Material world consists of time and space. These two closely intertwined notions make up the whole structure of material creation. We got entangled in that structure and find it hard to live in a present moment. We either reflect on the past or dream about the future. But we never manage to bring our mind into the present.
Before we try to understand what the present is, we must have a closer look at the concept of time. Vedas give the definition of “the great time”, or atomic time. That’s the amount of time it takes for the light to pass through the atom. The whole world consists of atoms and light. Therefore, the definition of time is based on these most fundamental concepts. And we can see that science has reached the same conclusion: time must be atomic. Although they see it a little differently, they find a solution in a similar vein as the Vedic science.
The fact that Vedas introduce atomic time measurement is not a limitation by itself. Theoretically, time can be measured by any means. Humanity came up with different clocks and watches: sand watches, water watches, sun watches, spring-loaded watches… We can measure time by our breath or even by cough, though others may refuse to adopt our system. We seem to have learnt how to measure it – but did we come to understand it? What if I decide to measure a computer with a ruler? It doesn’t make me a programmer at all. Those who measured a diameter of the Sun, have no idea how life works there. Having measured the Earth, we didn’t understand its structure. Imagine that you consulted a physician, but only had your height measured. Materialists hold the firm belief: “Whatever gets measured gets managed”. They think if they measure something, they come to understand it. But it’s the biggest miscomprehension. We have already measured the whole universe. But do we have what it takes to understand the meaning of life?
For a materialistic person, time remains inconceivable and unexplained. But the Vedas give a precise, unambiguous explanation of what time is. Time is the manifestation of the Absolute Truth. It is explicitly stated in the Bhagavat-Gita: “Time I am”. Through His energy, the Absolute Truth gives rise and puts an end to everything taking place in the material world. Because of this we can feel the presence of time and realize that everything will have to end at some point. In the material world time is described in terms of beginning and end, past and future. Something that started in the past is sure to be over in the future.
Time in the spiritual world has another impact. It exists only as the absolute present, something that’s happening at the given moment. This is far different from the material reality where it’s impossible to stay grounded in the present. As soon as you start thinking of something, it automatically recedes into the past. We can’t truly grasp the present moment with our perception. This is why spiritual world is of such great interest to us. It’s the world of eternal present.
In the material world, there’s only past and future. And no one can keep oneself in the present. So it’s just the opposite of the way things are in the spiritual world. There’s only present there, without any past or future.
In the material world, so many systems of philosophy were created. They try to explain what the present moment is. But the truth is that it can’t be perceived in the material world. Everything we can see or feel immediately becomes a thing of the past. And this is the source of all human anxiety. We can see life but can’t get into it…
Material life consists of hankering and lamentation. We either lament over something we failed to achieve in the past, or dream of things we can probably get in the future. But what are we doing right now? We’re trying to snatch the present moment, but it’s gone. Moment’s gone. Present instant is actually absent. You’re looking at me, but I’m not the same person I was a moment ago. You can only snatch the past. You see the reflexion of light that touched me in the past. Now another light reflects off me. Certainly, this is very recent past. But it’s apparently a thing of the past. Once I’ve said something, my mind has already changed. While speaking, I already changed my opinion on what I’ve said. Hence, what we call ‘present’ in this world is nothing else than the recent past…
So, to sum up, time has no impact on the spiritual world. But it does exert a powerful influence on the material reality. Here we consider the time factor to regulate our activities: routinely wake up, go to work, and celebrate our birthdays. Each day is divided into 24 hours; 60 minutes make an hour, and 60 seconds make a minute. This is the timing of modern civilization. In a Vedic system, they divide a day not into minutes, but into danas. A day consists of 8 danas. And dana is calculated based on the passage of light through the aggregation of 6 atoms. By the way, it was easily visible to the naked human eye. This is beyond our understanding. But the sharpness of vision in the Vedic times was such that people could see a tiny aggregation of atoms with the naked eye. For our civilization of lenses this is simply inconceivable.
Surprisingly enough, atomic time can’t easily be calculated even now. But this time scale was widely used in the Vedic civilization 5000 years ago. So it was far from being a primitive culture. Some historians suggest that people in those days just fought for life and food. But in reality, they had the same exact understanding of time, as modern physicists. Vedic astronomy accurately describes the motion of celestial bodies. It is contained in special treatises – Upavedas. Modern scientists have no clue what happens before our birth and after death. But Vedic astrology was so perfect that it was able to predict exactly what would happen in the next 30 minutes. Modern scholars, however, use the Vedic astrology to predict the outcome of football matches. They seriously discuss it at astrological forums…
There’s one historical text written by Madhvacharya. It contains mathematical calculations of planetary motion. This is so complicated that disciples of Madhvacharya worshipped this treatise as they couldn’t fully comprehend it. When this work was shown to modern scientists, they were amazed at how complex and precise the calculations were.
If we can’t see the present, we can’t gain proper understanding of the past and the future. In our present we’ve got a man with no principles, no goal in life or knowledge of the soul. If we don’t pay heed to this fact, it would be extremely difficult to benefit by the knowledge that comes from more advanced civilizations.
We go to museums and see collections of pottery there. But culture is not about the pots. Culture is the ability to use knowledge accumulated and tried through practice over millenniums. Potsherds are not the embodiment of culture. This is just an ancient scrapyard. While the real study of culture is the study of scriptures, study of the sages’ message, study of experience saints had. It seems that a modern man doesn’t have a clue. Culture is when we have something to see, hear or think about. But it’s a huge problem nowadays. Since we lack that sort of culture, people just stare at each other and become either lusty or aggressive. Even in material life it’s better to use knowledge that already exists. For instance, people pump oil from the ground by all means. But the point is that lack of oil causes earthquakes. Nowadays they occur with increasing frequency.
The most important knowledge, however, is spiritual knowledge. Krishna says in the Bhagavat-Gita: “Always think of Me”. And this is exactly the entry point into the present we are searching so hard. It gets you thinking. You think of the options to turn your mind to the Absolute Truth. And 20 years later you suddenly realize that it has been the object of your thought all that time! Maybe not directly, but still we thought about how to think of the Absolute Truth! This is the secret of Bhagavad-Gita. We don’t even notice how it brings our awareness into the present moment. We notice it only when we get into spiritual world. We ask one another: “How did you get here?” “I don’t know. I only thought my whole life about Krishna’s words when He told Arjuna that one should think of eternity, knowledge and bliss …”
Thus, the one who constantly remembers that one should think of eternity enters the Great Present. This is because the present moment can only be in eternity.
Last but not least, hear the parable.
One day a soldier guarding the road stopped a Buddhist monk. Snatching up a sword, he sternly asked the traveler:
“Who are you? Where are you going to? And why are you going there?”
The monk thought for a while and timidly inquired,
“Can I ask you a question?”
“Fire away!” – griped the soldier.
“How much does your chief pay you a week?”
“Two baskets of rice.”
“I’ll pay you four baskets of rice if you promise to ask me these questions each day.”
Fanaticism consists of redoubling your effort
when you have forgotten your aim…
Today we’ll talk about fanaticism, which is quite a common phenomenon in this world. It can be seen almost everywhere. We meet fanatics of football, hockey, TV series, celebrities, cars, computers, nationalities and countries. In fact, crazy fans can be found in any area touched upon by human consciousness. It’s a wholly internal phenomenon which refers to human perception and is indicative of one’s inner world. And it’s a prominent diagnostic symptom for someone who tries to help a person address their current problem.
It can be said that in 90% of cases human problems are somehow or other connected with fanatic attitude towards life. It’s also true that in the same 90% of cases one finds it hard to admit that their problem is rooted in fanaticism. So the first thing we must realize is that a fanatic is the most difficult person to help. Such people ardently believe that they are not fanatics at all. Thus, in order to help them we must be ‘fans of our own work’ so that our professionalism could exceed self-confidence of a suffering person.
So, how to recognize a fanatic? It’s quite simple. Crazy fan is a brilliant representative of black and white thinking, without any shades of gray. He/she accepts either black or white and can’t allow any combination to exist. For example, a Hare Krishna fanatic sincerely believes that the most imperfect Hare Krishna devotee is still much better than a good Christian. And conversely, a Christian fanatic is sure that the weakest Christian is much better than the best Hare Krishna devotee. To put it shortly, whoever is not with us can’t get into our category of white. Regardless of their deeds, they’ll always stay in the category of black.
It points to the fact that we don’t let representatives of other world-views into our mind. And there’s only one reason for that. We don’t know what to say if they ask why we see the world the way we see it. We simply don’t know the answer to the question of why we are doing what we are doing. We aren’t sure about our choice, and thus exclude any possibility of conversation on the subject. There are no questions raised among fanatics. By the way, this is one of the symptoms of fanaticism. How can a person who is afraid of questions come up with inquiry? So as you have probably noticed we insist that questions be asked before and after the lecture. This is extremely important both for the lecturer and the listener. A lecturer must be sure that he/she does not incite fanaticism. And listeners must make sure they aren’t becoming fanatics. Thus, any silent listener who doesn’t ask questions is a potential fanatic. By the way, this is precisely why our consultancy is based on question-and-answer platform. It initially cuts off fanatic individuals, as there’s nothing harder than to give advice to a crazy fan. What can you say to a person who considers you an enemy, at least to some degree? This is no longer a consultation, but fighting for dear life.
Another trait a fanatic has is that he/she wants everything to happen quickly. Fanatics want enlightenment to be attained quickly, temples to be built quickly. They want to get initiation and attain recognition as fast as possible. They don’t care about the quality – the main thing is that it all should happen fast. This is the main characteristic to make them easily recognizable. Fanatics are always in a hurry; they are dissatisfied with the fact that everything goes slowly. They speak to others: “Why are you so slow? Why is your progress so slow? Why haven’t you accepted a spiritual master yet? Why aren’t you with us? Why do you keep hesitating – you’ll run out of time.” But here’s something they can’t understand. No matter how hard you run around the train, you won’t be able to reach your destination faster. You’ll only make yourself tired and annoy all others. I’d like to tell a funny parable in this regard.
One morning a disciple and his master took a path across the fields. The disciple asked what kind of diet could help to achieve purity. Although his master spoke a lot about the sacred food, the disciple couldn’t believe it.
“There must be some special food that instantly brings us closer to God,” he said.
“Well, maybe you’re right,” said the master. “For example, that mushrooms over there.”
The disciple got all excited thinking that mushrooms can bring purity and enlightenment. But when he stopped to pick one, he cried out:
“Why, they are poisonous! If I eat a least one of them, I’ll die on the spot!”
“Well excuse me,” said the master, “I don’t know any other food that can bring you closer to God as soon as you want.”
As we already found out, fanaticism is the blind, irrevocable adherence to beliefs, especially in the religious, philosophical, political or national sphere. It is driven to extremes by commitment to ideas, views or beliefs and is usually combined with intolerance to views and beliefs of others. It seems quite understandable. We agree that fanaticism is something one should keep away from; that such people are in sore need of help. But in reality, fanaticism is advantageous for those who are selfish, cunning and are ready to sacrifice a couple of crazy fans for execution of their own projects. Fanatics are sometimes mistreated, and this is also fanaticism. Anti-fanaticism is just the other side of the story. Fanaticism is a natural stage of development, after all. It shouldn’t be rejected. It must be corrected and balanced out. Therefore, those who fight against fanaticism are also semi-fanatic.
What advantage can be sucked out of fanaticism? It’s as easy as ABC. As an emotional state, it’s characterized by excessive zeal and enthusiasm. If we have a project that is not so easy to implement, or we don’t want to spend money on it, we can simply find a couple of fanatics, and they’ll move mountains and rivers to achieve this goal. You just have to explain how important the thing is. Thus, one can easily recognize those who take advantage of fanatics as gratuitous workers. They find a fanatic and convince him/her of great significance of what they should do. Such exploiters make crazy fans leap into the breach on their behalf. And when they are no longer able to make headway, everyone simply forgets about their existence.
In fact, fanaticism is a psychological illness. It equals to blindness both towards oneself and things to be done. This indicates reluctance to see the world as a whole. It’s not a worldview, but a partial vision, philosophical cataract. Therefore, fanatics should in no way be exploited or selfishly used for one’s own ends. They must be cured of their fanaticism. Sooner or later a fanatic will understand that he/she was being exploited. Resentment will be the only feeling that will arise in heart. They’ll be resentful against the whole world. Therefore, the one who is truly merciful does not incite fanaticism. One tries to reduce it by talking to a person as if they already got rid of their disease.
Let’s have a look at some other aspects of fanaticism. It will help us recognize fanatic without fail or find signs of this disease in ourselves. What is fanatic way of thinking? What does ‘fanatic’s worldview’ imply? Let’s get this straightened out.
Fanatic sincerely believes that:
We’ll end the lecture with the parable.
Satan once went for a walk with his servant. They saw a man who bent down and picked something off the ground.
“What has this man found?” asked the servant.
“A piece of truth,” replied Satan.
“Doesn’t it bother you?”
“No,” said Satan. “He’ll make a new fanatical religion out of it.”
Today we’ll start with an interesting story. A brahmana once approached Lord Ramachandra with a complaint. He mourned for his son who died before him. And he blamed the ruler of Ayodhya for that:
“O king, the laws of nature in your kingdom are broken. It can only mean one thing. Someone acts contrary to dharma, and you are responsible for that!”
Meanwhile, Narada Muni stayed in Lord Ramachandra’s palace. Deeply saddened, Rama called Narada and asked for his advice. Narada thought briefly and then delivered his judgment:
“The cause of boy’s death is that someone in your kingdom contrary to dharma tries to comprehend things he’s not supposed to know.”
Ramachandra didn’t hesitate to set out in search of a wrongdoer. After some time He came to the edge of the wood and saw a man of low origin. The man was hanging from a tree upside down.
“Oh shudra, what are you doing?” asked Bhagavan.
“Can’t you see? I’m performing tapasya to gain power and achieve immortality.”
“And do you have a master?”
“Why do I need a master? I have my own head screwed on the right way!”
“Therein lies your problem,” said Ramachandra and cut off shudra’s head upon that.
The shudra tried to do something he was not entitled to. Shudras were not allowed to perform austerities and penances in Treta-yuga, especially without instructions of a guru. The risk that they would abuse and misuse acquired power was too high.
In Satya-yuga only brahmanas had the right to perform austerity.
In Treta-yuga it also became the privilege of kings.
Asceticism in Dvapara-yuga became available even for vaishyas.
In Kali-yuga anyone can perform austerity, supposing he/she knows what it is. The recommended meditation in Kali-yuga is chanting of the Holy Name.
Asceticism was regarded as a quick way to get the object of desires at all times. However, despite the fact that it can really bring quick results, that kind of attitude to austerities belittles their spiritual significance and relegates them to the category of material activity. Pseudo-spiritual scriptures inspire a modern human to torture oneself a bit to get one’s desires fulfilled without working. But the essence of asceticism is not self-torture. The essence of asceticism is the ability to endure hardships decreed by fate. Hardships come in our life, and we must be ready to meet our fate with fortitude. This is what true asceticism is about. First of all, it implies the ability not to cause suffering to others.
Only those get the real benefit who are prepared to meet all life’s challenges. By contrast, those who want to benefit at the expense of self-torture, don’t understand the very goal of asceticism. Hence, they don’t benefit at all. Such materialistic activity is called austerity in passion. Instead of purification, pride comes. One begins to think that people who don’t follow my austerities are far less advanced and even fallen. But sages explain than a householder can’t be considered less exalted than a monk. Both of them are real ascetics if they are ready to endure problems weighing heavily on them. If any of them is getting proud, their penance becomes materialistic and brings pride and thus, pollution instead of purification.
A real austerity is indeed capable of purifying the mind. Scriptures say that fire gives the molten gold even more luster. The same pertains to a person who can humbly accept the suffering that falls to his/her lot. Such a person gets really purified. Their body begins to emanate special radiance which is sometimes visible to human eye. Such a victory of spirit over the body is indeed worthy of respect. It makes an ascetic steady in his purpose no matter what. This is real asceticism. By contrast to this, an effort to get some chocolate bars from karma by means of self-torture is nothing but a foolish attempt to overreach oneself. As a result of such false pretences everyone gets frustrated and sooner or later gives up both austerities and spiritual advancement itself.
In a word, asceticism is not some special, out-of-the-ordinary activity, but a daily mood which manifests itself as fidelity and persistence. Violation of the principle of austerity is called impiety. For example, it is stated in the scriptures that if you break your promise, such as a vow of fidelity, even in your mind, then all the five material elements laugh at stupidity and uselessness of such deceit. Therefore, sages remind us: one should always remember there are at least six witnesses of each sinful act. Not only all-pervading God sees everything that happens, as He is in everyone’s heart, but five physical elements scornfully laugh at a man who thinks that no one noticed his cunning plan.
To be brief, if a man knows that he has cheated, there are at least six others who know the intricacies of this deception. In the scriptures such a man is called feeble-minded and is compared to a cow which puts on tiger skin in order to avoid being beaten as it grazes in someone else’s fields. People may consider a deceiver a saint thinking that his consciousness has already defeated his body, but in reality he is just a sly deceiver. It can remain a secret for a time. However, since this is not a secret, but is known to a group of six, it will soon be known to everyone. By the way, if one calls oneself a sage but lives stupid life, a karmic punishment for such misconduct can hardly be measured in terms of time or quantity. It is simply stated that it creates an infinite amount of suffering. This is because as a result of such misconduct, many people lose faith in spiritual advancement.
Therefore, it’s recommended not to believe our eyes as long as we don’t know what is really on the mind of a man who looks like a sage. Vedas say that a wounding arrow looks smooth and straight, while the curved lyre produces sweet sounds. One should judge not by appearance but by human behavior. Of course, a sage may also do something wrong. Sometimes he can make mistakes and take wrong decisions. But despite all mistakes and failures, he is headed in the right direction and firmly follows it. He steadfastly endures criticism, attacks and insults of others. He is merciful to everybody, including the enemies. Seeing the qualities of a real ascetic, one should ask him for blessings to become as serious and committed to spiritual life as he is.
The secret here lies in the fact that everything we’ve just discussed refers to austerities somehow or other connected with the beginning of spiritual life. Although somewhat materialistic, they help us enter the world of spiritual bliss. And then the real spiritual austerity begins. In short, true wisdom is to understand that spiritual life is not asceticism, but a great pleasure. And what makes a spiritual austerity is when we tolerate our inability to share our happiness with the whole world. This is the ability to wait until the person whom we love becomes ready to accept spiritual knowledge. This is willingness to share happiness only when it is adequately treated and doesn’t cause rejection. By the way, spiritual life itself is not achieved by asceticism. It is open to everyone, and absolutely everyone can touch it.
Now hear an interesting parable on the subject.
A knight was walking through the desert. It was a long and winding road for him. He lost his horse, helmet and armor along the way. Only a sword remained.
The knight was hungry and thirsty. Suddenly he saw a lake in the distance.
He summoned all the remaining strength and went to the water. But there was a three-headed dragon sitting near the lake. The knight drew his sword and began to fight the monster. The fight lasted two days. Two dragon heads were cut off.
On the third day an exhausted dragon fell down. Next to him the knight fell prostrated, unable to stand and hold a sword anymore. And then with the last bit of strength the dragon asked:
“What did you want, knight?”
“To drink some water,” said the knight.
“Well, why haven’t you drunk then?”
Sometimes we become such knights. All our life we’re prepared to fight for something. We struggle with astonished dragons. But the opportunity of spiritual happiness is right in front of us. It is open to all. As for the battles, we need them only to count ourselves great knights. But to die as a knight and die as a saint is not the same thing. So before we embark on more austerity, we should determine whom we fight and what should be the result.
Thus, asceticism must be aimed at achieving spiritual happiness rather than material result. If austerity is aimed at spiritual happiness, it is not exactly an austerity. It’s a real bliss. As long as we experience some difficulties, this is not an austerity. This is called performance of prescribed vows or duties. Vow differs from austerity in that it’s taken for the whole life, and austerity comes, as fate has willed. Therefore, a vow shouldn’t be treated as an austerity – it’s just a way of life. If it is perceived as an austerity, it hasn’t been accepted as a vow. It means that the risk of breaking it is too high.
Vows in spiritual life are called regulative principles, not austerities. Sensual pleasures are like salt. A good cook knows that if to throw a pinch of salt while cooking, it emphasizes the flavors of food. But if we overdo, we’ll spoil the whole meal. The same goes for sensual pleasures. We get sense gratification, but we regulate it. There must be control over this process. We may have regulated sensual pleasure by following the methods prescribed in the scriptures. Otherwise, if there’s no such control, it is similar to over-salting your food. The whole thing will become spoilt.