A sannyasin should realize for himself that his sannyasa is only a mask, only a label. Geru, shaven head, flowing beard, none of these makes him a sannyasin. A true sannyasin is a personification of tyaga, renunciation and non-attachment. He is a representation of tapa, austerity and self-purification. If you are a real sannyasin then I bow my head to you. One who lives for himself cannot be a sannyasin. A trustee who spends the trust's money on his own children is misusing the trust. What is the meaning of sannyasa? Nyasa means 'trust'. You are a trustee of your own wealth which comprises your feelings, capability, body, intellect, money and house. You must use all these resources for others.
Have you ever seen mango trees eating their own mangoes, wheat fields eating their own wheat, pumpkin creepers eating their own pumpkin? Paropakaaaraya sataam vibhootayah to serve others, to do good to others is the life of a sannyasin. A sannyasin lives for others. A sannyasin who lives selfishly is only a member of the sannyasa institution, a member of a sect like Saraswati, Giri, Puri, Bharati. A real sannyasin is a symbol of tyaga, which does not mean leaving the house or wearing geru robes. Tyaga means sacrifice for others.
A sannyasin is entitled to earn just enough to meet his necessities of life but not for enjoyments, not at all! Whatever personal wealth he has, his material, intellectual, physical and spiritual resources should all be dedicated to the wellbeing of others. But sannyasins have gone astray. They have opened ashrams in big cities and do not even go to the villages because nobody gives donations there. What can the poor villagers give them? They don't have even a penny; there is nothing in their house which they can offer, whereas in big cities like Delhi, Bombay, Kanpur and Bangalore there are moneyed people who can easily write out a cheque for 75,000 rupees. The people here do not even know how to count 75,000 rupees!
The goal of sannyasa is not to find God, to seek deliverance or personal peace, but to work for the amelioration of human suffering. The world is on fire, your neighbourhood is burning and you are smugly sitting at home with your air-conditioning. But how long can you sit in an air-conditioned house? The day is not far off when the fire will engulf your house too. Therefore, make the world cool then you won't need an air-conditioner. Look around, how cool it is in this month of Marga Sheersha. Do you need an air-conditioner at such times? When there is coolness and peace everywhere, you too will feel it; this is certain.
In a peaceful atmosphere even an agitated man cools down, whereas in an agitated atmosphere even a peaceful man loses his cool. How can you find peace at all when everywhere in the world people are crying and clamouring? Leave aside India, there are over 900 million people here, but what about the billions who are below the poverty line all over the world? What are the sannyasins doing for them? What are the millionaires doing for them? The wealth which you have amassed is not yours; it belongs to society. You are depriving society of its privileges, its rights and its due tax. The government can make you pay the tax by hook or by crook, but what about the debt you owe to society? That debt is called social obligation. How will you discharge that?
Whether you are a sannyasin or a householder, it is all the same. There is no difference unless you have overcome your mind, your weaknesses and limitations and purified yourself completely. By changing your sect, by entering into another tradition, or sampradaya, you cannot change your personality. You cannot change your personality by changing your tradition. When you enter into a particular path, be it Christianity, Islam, Sikhism or sannyasa, you are still the same person as you were before. The change has to take place within your own consciousness; that is called transformation. When that transformation has taken place in you, then you will be a different person, whether you are a sannyasin or a householder.
However, if you seek peace of mind and salvation for yourself, it will not come because all around you there are problems, anxieties and restlessness; everyone is unhappy. How can you be happy when the whole world is unhappy? Therefore, first take care of others, then take care of yourself. First take care of their moksha, then your moksha is guaranteed. First take care of their peace and prosperity, then your peace and prosperity are guaranteed. If you can't think about others, if you can't understand the problems of others, you can never realize yourself.
This is the sum and substance of all religions, the message of all saints. I know this very well because He spoke to me, He spoke to my inner soul. I heard the message very clearly: You have to look after your neighbours as I have looked after you. Who are my neighbours? That depends upon my capacity. In Hitopadeshah, it says, Ayam nijah paroveti gananaa laghuchetasaam; Udaaracharitaanaam tu vasudhaiva kutumbakam for those with an open heart the whole world becomes their neighbourhood.
Parvati is the mother, Maheshwar is the father, all beings in the world are brothers. Some are thieves, robbers or dacoits, some are sadhus and saints, but they are all my brothers. Some are collectors, commissioners, governors, inspectors and they are also my brothers. But just now Rikhia is my immediate neighbourhood. When God showers His grace upon me the whole world will become my neighbourhood. When this happens I will say, My daughter sitting in London has a boil on her head. Send her medicine from this or that doctor. Then there will be a thought for everybody, everywhere.
Don't fight with your mind. Ultimately you will be the loser; you are never going to gain or be victorious. The only way to deal with the mind is to give it a proper duty which it likes, to give it a sound job. The one thing which the mind likes to do is to serve humanity, to help the poor, to feed the hungry, to nurse the sick, to take care of the orphans, to go from door to door, find out their problems and render whatever help you can. You will see the transformation in the mind. The carbon becomes a diamond. It is the only way, there is no other way.
You may practise raja yoga, jnana yoga and bhakti yoga as much as you like. I don't criticize them but they only pacify the mind for the time being. They are all first aid treatment, whether you are young or old, rich or poor, capable or incapable. If you cannot think and aspire passionately to help others, you can never deal with the mind. The mind can only be dealt with by a sattwic programming of dedication and self-sacrifice. Consult the Vedic, Vaishnava, Christian, or Muslim religions; they all say the same thing. I am not telling you anything different.
Don't try to control your mind at all. Ultimately you will fail, you will fall. Dedicate your mind to a noble cause. Do not fight with the mind. You will perish, you will become sick, you will have psychological problems. So many cultures have arisen and disappeared. The only way to conquer your mind is to apply it to a noble cause, to dedicate it to the service of such an ideal that will make it happy. The mind enjoys serving needy people. Go to an institution and render some service. Visit a hospital and do a little nursing, serve the sick, help the doctors, give some first aid. You will like it. You will feel light-hearted after doing that.
Work which you do free of charge is called nishkam seva. Why is selfless service necessary? It is necessary to clean the rajo and tamo guna of the mind. It is necessary for self-transformation. Nishkam seva, selfless work, is like detergent. Nishkam seva doesn't just mean work; you should have a feeling for it in your heart. You are living in India. If you visit forty odd houses, what you will come across is scarcity, death, suffering, poverty, darkness and dejection. There is nothing else. As an exception you may come across a house where it is different, but for millions of people the state of affairs is abysmal. They have no shelter, no food, no place to cook, no toilet, not even water to drink.
What have you done for such people? You are wasting your time if you just grapple and wrestle with your own mind twenty-four hours a day. You box with it, you give it the slip. In your combat with the mind sometimes you fall, sometimes the mind falls, but nobody can attain a decisive victory. Sometimes you win, sometimes the mind wins. The head and the tail win equally, half and half, and the wrestling ends in quits. In the evening you are fagged out. You begin to moan with a headache and take a tranquillizer or open a bottle. Some opt to go to a temple for respite. Some choose to go to a discotheque to refresh themselves. Some decide on a session of yoga nidra and play a tape.
Nobody thinks of going to the house of a poor man and lighting a lamp. Nobody thinks of visiting the have-nots. If a child is born in a poor family, at least go and give the child a crib. When a child is born in your own family you immediately think of a crib and there are elaborate preparations in anticipation. But when there is a newborn in someone else's family all you do is give good wishes and greetings. If you give good wishes and greetings to someone who is born today, that will not help to give him a crib. Give him a warm sweater, some tonic for the mother and some money. Go to his house. This is a practical sadhana I am giving you.
The mind is a minute fraction of the unfathomable Brahman. Nobody should misbehave with it. The mind has a vulnerability, a weakness. If you think of the misery and misfortune of others, the mind melts, it sloughs off its hard crust. Suppose you have 20,000 rupees and the thought comes to your mind, let me help the poor with this money. If you actually do something to help the poor, that day your mind will be very pleased, very peaceful. You will feel so peaceful that you will not be able to express it in words. If you want to befriend your mind, listen to me. Treat the whole world as your family and reach out to as many people as you can.
I have fulfilled my karma, my destiny. I have done everything within my capacity that had to be done. There is nothing more left to do. A canister with the capacity to hold 20 kilos of ghee can only contain 20 kilos of ghee, no more. If you try to fill it up with more ghee, it will spill over. I am in the same state now. You evolve yourself according to your own personality. While evolving yourself, however, remember this: a man's life is for others. A man who lives only for himself is not a human or even an animal. Have you ever seen a hen eating another hen? You live for yourself, earn for yourself and enjoy your earnings for yourself. This is not the sign of a human being.
Man has bound himself with the cord of selfishness. Whether or not you can do something about it is a different matter. I understand your limitations, but consider, when the bridge to Lanka was being built for Lord Rama's army, didn't the squirrel make a humble contribution? She would pick up a little sand and drop it on the bridge under construction. The bridge could not have been built with the sand she brought, but look at her bhakti, devotion and dedication to the Lord's work. That is the most important thing.
The intensity of feeling within you is all that matters. You may not be a millionaire or a billionaire, but you can still serve by some means other than money. You can serve through physical work, bhakti, genuine emotion, compassion. Suppose you are a poet, a story writer or an artist working with the media. You can inspire people, you can set them thinking altruistically. Suppose you are a leader, the head of a panchayat. You set the rules for the village, so tell the people that they should not live for themselves but for others.
Wheat and other food crops sprout for others. Look around and you will see that everything lives, thrives and grows for others. It is only man who lives selfishly for himself. He earns only for his own children and keeps clinging to them selfishly. Does a pumpkin say, I am only for cobblers! I am only for brahmins!? Does it ever say that it won't go to a brahmin or that only a Muslim can cut it up? No! Whoever lives for others is dedicated to others. One who is selfless is selfless towards one and all. One who is charitable is charitable towards one and all. One who is a well-wisher is a well-wisher to all, not only to Muslims, brahmins, shudras, kshatriyas, vaishyas or widows; he lives for one and all without exception.
My guru believed that those who think well of others have tender hearts. One who thinks ill of others cannot have a soft heart. One who thinks ill of others has a hard heart which needs to be pounded. Prakriti breaks hard-core hearts. Your heart should be so soft, so tender, so sensitive, that it should immediately respond to the cries of agony and pain from others. You should be able to feel the pain of other people, to feel the tragedy in another's life. Before you are able to experience Brahman or the Lord, to see the light or experience enlightenment, you must be able to feel the pain and agony of another person. If you can't feel or respond to another's agony mentally, it means you cannot attain peace, you cannot see the light. Such a compassionate and sensitive heart which feels and responds to another's pain attains knowledge effortlessly. The more distant and unaffected you are from the suffering and distress of others, the further Brahman will be from you. God, Shiva, Rama, Devi, all will be beyond your reach.
You should be tender and sensitive towards the misery of others. Your hearts should immediately respond; compassion should flow from you. Your heart should go out to all agonized people. You should experience other people's sorrow and suffering as your own. Only such tender hearts can feel and experience the paramatma. Those who are unmoved and insensitive to the feelings of others are unworthy to be called human. They are animals. They share the four instincts of food, sleep, sex and fear with the animals and their lives rotate around them. People eat and sleep; animals also eat and sleep. People procreate and so do animals; people get frightened and so do animals. What is the difference between people and animals?
We humans confine our feelings within our family bonds. There is a strong sense of discrimination and differentiation in us, like 'mine' and 'yours'. We have a strong feeling that 'this is mine' and 'that is yours'. The sum and substance of spiritual life, the best teaching of Vedanta is atmabhava. The word atmabhava means complete sympathy for others like me. It means to feel the pain and distress of others as if it were your own, to feel the poverty, sickness and calamities of others as your own. This is the best philosophy of Vedanta.