Those who do not believe in purushartha, self-effort, but rely on fate, have to assess situations to see where fate will assist them better. They have to consider whether Jharkhand is better or Bihar is better. However, to those who believe in self-effort, constant growth and progress, and struggle hard, it does not matter whether they are living on a beach, mountaintop or desert.
Did I hesitate before opening the ashram in Munger? I could have instead gone to Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh or Australia. But I chose Bihar and Munger. Every person looks for easy circumstances to accomplish a task. This is the general tendency of people. But there are people who believe that when one needs to struggle hard, one earns something valuable. Struggle is not required in favourable circumstances; it is always an outcome of unfavourable circumstances. If people do not cooperate with you, if someone steals your precious possessions, spreads a negative rumour about you, government agencies do not assist you, you will have to put in struggle. If everyone around you is a saint, people praise you and the government agencies are favourable, then everything will be easy. In such easy circumstances, ones purushartha shakti, the power to make effort, does not grow.
Usually, an infant is always held in the mothers arms and that is why he learns to walk only by the age of two. If the mother is not available, he will learn to run at the age of one, for the circumstances that could weaken him were not available. It was pleasurable for him to always be carried by the mother, but that stopped him from learning to walk. So, when the circumstances are unfavourable, your growth is faster. In favourable circumstances, whatever growth you experience is not due to your strengths or speciality; it is an outcome of the circumstances. And those who progress due to society or circumstances have an early fall. Irrespective of the country, city or region you are in, if the circumstances are unfavourable and you have to find your capability and struggle hard, you will emerge the winner.
When the British came to India, they had to also struggle hard. They established the rail network, the post office system, the legal system and the bureaucracy through hard work. One who struggles knows how to fill up a gap, to bring in that which is missing. He will eliminate the unnecessary requirements and social systems, and not think that an order prevalent for two thousand years needs to be followed.
It is absurd to think that the social circumstances that used to exist in a country two thousand years ago should still be adhered to. When the social circumstances change, the society that believes in purushartha must eliminate the unnecessary stuff from its structure.
You are always so worried about life, but you do not know that your life has already been decided. The script of your life has already been written out. You are all actors, someone is the hero and someone is an extra. The director has already made his choice.
Swamiji, then what is the place of karma?
Karma also comes under the script. After all, when an actor appears on the television, does he not have to act perform karma? If someone writes a script, does it not include conflict, marriage, death, love, murder? An actor enacts every role.
So does our worship also come under the script?
Now you have understood the idea. Do you think that you perform actions independently? You own nothing and you think that you are the doer!
Is it correct when it is said that someone has cast a negative spell on us?
As long as it comes under the script, it is correct. Everything comes under the script: ego, Kamsa, Ravana, Sita, everything. God has put every element in His script. You are not independent; you do not have the qualification for being independent. In the case of someone extremely powerful such as Sage Vishvamitra who could create a second world, the statement I am the doer might make some sense. But as far as you are concerned, you require a pill to handle a small headache. You do not know how to get rid of your sorrow, hopelessness or depressive thoughts. So how can you claim to be the doer? A thought comes from nowhere, catches you in its grip and you get depressed. You dont have even the means to get a small thought out of your mind and you claim that you are not part of the script! The depression is part of the dialogue, part of your act in the play. An actor does not have any real motivation in the part that he plays. Your motivation is not a result of your own will, but it exists. Every living being has the quality of motivation, including a small insect. Where did it get it from? You may ascribe it to your brain, mind or education, but the basic motivation comes from somewhere else; it is natural to a living being.
All actions, motivations and karmas are based on one factor. The director decides when the shot will be fired, when the marriage will be held, when a fight will follow, when someone will turn into a good person, when there will be laughter or tears, when the actors will dance, eat or leave the stage. This is the truth whether or not you accept it. However, if an actor begins to think I am not Rama, this woman is not my wife, then he will not be able to play his part. He has to become one with the character; he has to feel that she is his wife. He has to awaken that feeling, all emotions have to be awakened, there needs to be total identification with the part. This identification is what we all go through, but in the process we begin to associate so deeply with the script of life, we become so one with it that we do not realize that it is a play. The day you realize your life is a play, your perspective will change.
It is all so strange. We do not understand so many things about this world. We do not understand the need for God to do these things, where is He sitting or how He materializes all these things. These questions have been asked in the Upanishads. What is His purpose? Does He know what is happening? Does He know that the script He wrote has been running since eternity? These questions cannot be answered. Even if I try to explain them, you will not be able to understand what I say, you will cry when you have to cry. When the situation arises, you will say, Swamiji you are not experiencing the pain, I am.
Shouldnt one be conscious of these things?
Yes, from time to time, just as you are conscious of them today. King Janaka was a vedantin, a brahmajnani, his guru was Yajnavalkya and he would discuss spiritual matters with saints and sages. However, when he would be at his court, he would completely adhere to the duties of kingship.
The Upanishads have asked the question Who am I? And the answer that has been given is, I am atman whose essential nature is consciousness and bliss. Shivoham, Soham, Aham Brahmasmi. The I is in reality your essential nature, one who is within you, who is a resident of your body.
When you live in a house, are you and the house one or different? This body is a house, and inside it lives someone who is not visible. He is the I, the atman. When the atman is wrapped in the blanket of ignorance, it is called jiva, the individual being. When it is wrapped in the blanket of desire, passion and anger, it is called aham. Its name alone changes, not its essential nature. If I shave my head for example, I am called a sadhu. If I keep my hair long and wear a shirt and trousers I am called Mr X. It does not matter. The atman does not have a form. It is neither male nor female, neither Hindu nor Muslim, it does not die, it cannot be destroyed. Only the body dies.
When you leave one house you go to another, and until you find a new house you wander about. In the same way, when the atman leaves this body it goes to another one. And then it again begins to play out a new part the way we all are doing. The essential nature of atman is light, jnana, consciousness. It is in fact a part of God. It is not the sun, but it is a part of the sun. The warmth on earth is not the sun; it is a part of the sun. In the same way, the light within you is a part of God who is all-pervading. When the electricity created in the powerhouse comes to your home it provides light. The electricity is a part of the energy generated in the powerhouse. It is both different and not different from the original energy. This is a matter of understanding. If the power is turned off there, it will be turned off here as well. However, if the power is turned off here it will not be turned off there. So we try to see and understand the supreme spirit to understand our essential nature, and He becomes visible to us in the form of our ishta, guru, light or some other form.
Papa and punya, sin and merit, are social beliefs, social creations. To keep the society under control, two kinds of laws have been created. One is the administrative law whose watchword is Dont do this or the police will arrest you. Therefore, there are many things that people dont do out of fear of the administration. The other is scriptural law: This is sinful, dont do it. So the scriptural law is about sin and merit. We should not be afraid to admit this, for the future generation will come to this conclusion on its own.
What is the basis of sin and merit? None. God has created the human being as an independent entity so he can protect his own life and create his own facilities to progress. However, somewhere along the line the notions of sin and merit entered our psyche and we have followed them ever since. What is sin and what is merit, after all? That which is forbidden by society cannot be termed sin. You can term it something else. Sin is that which God considers as sinful, and God does not consider anything as sinful. Even what is called inhuman behaviour is inhuman from the point of view of man; from the universal point of view nothing is inhuman. I am not saying that it is not wrong. If something that you do hurts others, it is wrong. Mistakes are committed, crimes are committed, and good turns of act are also performed. These are social things, and society should reassess them from time to time.
Earlier a couple could not divorce each other, now they can. So divorce in itself cannot be considered either right or wrong. Right and wrong are judged according to the circumstances, not merely by law. There are many other such things; non-vegetarianism, for example. If you consider it sinful, then the eighty percent of the worlds population that eats meat will have to go to hell and there wont be any room left there! Non-vegetarianism can result in an ecological imbalance and cause disease, so it should be avoided. But to judge it in terms of sin and merit is inappropriate. So these terms, sin and merit, should be removed and from time to time society should re-assess what is right and what is wrong according to prevalent circumstances. The things that were considered wrong fifty years ago are no longer taboo. Could your great grandmother have come out in the open the way women today can? It was considered wrong then. So right and wrong are decided by circumstances. There is nothing absolutely wrong and nothing absolutely right.
This is a vast subject. From the times that the Vedas were written, it has been asked, What is dvaita and what is advaita? What is the principle of duality and non-duality in worship? The subject has become the cause of conflict among different religions as well. One believer might say that there is only one God, Ekam brahma dvitiyo nasti, so do not perform idol worship or rituals.
However, the Vedas say that both dvaita and advaita are true. Truth can be one, but it can manifest as many. They explained this with the example of the sun. There is only one sun, but it can give out both heat and light. Heat and light are part of the sun, though they are not the sun. Yet, you cannot say that the suns heat and light are different from the sun.
Essentially, there is no difference between dvaita and advaita. They constitute the two great philosophies of India. Dvaita philosophy is the basis of sadhana and advaita philosophy is the basis of experience. Adiguru Shankaracharya argued for advaita vedanta, but in his spiritual practices always followed dvaita. He worshipped Devi, Shiva, and many other gods and goddesses.
The philosophy of dvaita and advaita is called Vedanta: Dvaita Vedanta and Advaita Vedanta. Veda means knowledge and anta means end. What is the end of knowledge? Experience. So Vedanta means experience. Advaita Vedanta means experience of advaita, non-duality; Dvaita Vedanta means experience of dvaita, duality. Miras experience of the visions of Krishna was a dvaita experience. Ramakrishna Paramahamsas vision of Kali was a dvaita experience. In the same way, many saints and sages have had visions of different divine entities. All that was dvaita experience. There was an experiencer and there was a vision: I saw Devi. I saw Rama. I saw Krishna. There are two things here: the drashta, witness, and the darshan, vision. This is dvaita, duality. Ramacharitamanas explains this clearly.
The supreme spirit is advaita, non-dual. It is one energy; it is not two entities. From this oneness, the entire creation has manifested. It has not manifested from duality. God is not dual. The final or the supreme element is not dual. However, in our experience it is seen as dual, for it is encountered, it appears before one. Tulsidas has explained that even though the supreme element is non-dual, it is seen in a body. It is seen clearly, right in front of you. The term that is used for this experience is darshan, which means to see something within. Where did Ramakrishna Paramahamsa see Kali? Within. That is a non-dual experience, but it appears as dual. You must study this subject deeply if you want to understand it.
Many descriptions have been given of life since eternity, and all have been right for their times. In every age, people have their own perspective with which they view life. In the vedic age, the Buddhist period, the Mughal period and the British period, there were different definitions of life in India and even today it is different in Europe and Asia. So there is no definite and eternal definition of life. Life is how you see it. In Jainism there is the philosophy of probabilities. They explain it with the example of different people walking past a chameleon. All of them see different colours on it and think that the chameleon is of the colour they saw. This law of probabilities is the definition of life. The West and the East look at life from different perspectives. Here life is considered a flow of spiritual growth.
Life evolves through different species. Life exists equally in a caterpillar, dog, tiger, you and me. However, it evolves through various species just as you move from kindergarten to primary to high school to college. Just as there is no ultimate definition of education, there is no eternal definition of life. Today material life is gaining importance in India and the influence of material thought is also increasing. Some may say this is right and some may say it is wrong. Similarly, sometimes it seems as if someone else is right and we are wrong, and vice versa.
The oldest university of life in Gods creation is India. Here the saints and sages looked into external life as well as internal life and analyzed every aspect of it. They analyzed what is real and unreal, what is sin and merit, they looked at the two sides of everything and analyzed it. Through this understanding they created the four ashramas of life.
Ashram means a place where you work hard. It comes from the word shram which means hard work, sweating and applying the mind. Carrying a load on your head or pushing a cart is hard work and study is also hard work. Similarly, householder life is hard work and so is sannyasa. So shram, hard work, has been divided under four categories: brahmacharya ashrama, grihastha ashrama, vanaprastha ashrama and sannyasa ashrama. This is an intellectual division intended to include all kinds of hard work. However, you can live all the four ashramas in one ashrama, which is the grihastha ashrama.
Grihastha ashrama is the situation where a person remains steady at one spot and works. He has children, family, relationships; he has social, family, monetary and political obligations. He has many responsibilities. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna gives the definition of grihastha ashrama as well as sannyasa ashrama. Arjuna did not take sannyasa and Krishna was not even ready to give him sannyasa. He wanted to take sannyasa and leave the battlefield, and Krishna said to him (2:2):
Kutastvaa kashmalam idam vishame samupasthitam;
Anaaryajushtam asvargyam akeertikaram arjuna.
From where has this perilous state come upon you, this dejection which is unworthy of you, disgraceful, and which will close the gates of heaven upon you, O Arjuna?
Krishna said, This will bring you infamy, dont do it and taught him the philosophy of karma yoga. Thereafter, he also explained to Arjuna the principles of bhakti yoga and sannyasa yoga. Krishna told Arjuna how to observe sannyasa ashrama while living in the grihastha ashrama. He asked him to practise tyaga, tapa and other such sadhanas.
The system of four ashramas was devised in the ancient times. One could retire at the age of fifty and take to forest life. Today, however, it is not practical. At fifty, your child may not even have finished his education, how can you think of retiring to a forest! Seventy-five was the prescribed age for sannyasa ashrama, but today at seventy-five, you cannot even get up without help, so how can you possibly take sannyasa? So, under the present circumstances, the traditional method of vanaprastha ashrama or sannyasa ashrama cannot be practised. The social and financial circumstances will not allow you to do this. However, this does not mean that you cannot imbibe the principles of vanaprastha and sannyasa ashramas. What is required now is that you stay where you are, but practise sannyasa according to the Bhagavad Gita. Study the eighteenth chapter where Krishna speaks to Arjuna on sannyasa. Arjuna said to Krishna, I want to know the essence of sannyasa and tyaga (18:1):
Sannyaasasya mahaabaaho tattvamichchhaami veditum;
Tyaagasya cha hrisheekesha prithak keshinishoodana.
I desire to know severally, O mighty-armed, the essence or truth of renunciation, O Hrishikesha, as also of abandonment, O slayer of Keshi!
He asks Krishna to speak on sannyasa and tyaga separately, for sannyasa includes tyaga and tyaga includes sannyasa. There is salt in the dal and the dal is in salt. So Krishna explains sannyasa, tyaga and karma; its desirable result, undesirable result and the mixed result. So study the Bhagavad Gita to understand how you can fulfil the responsibilities of householder life and still live the four ashramas.