Daily Readings

Insights Inspirations - February

CYT - 1982 - ISBN 10: 0959069038 ISBN 13: 9780959069037

Om Namah Shivaya

Om Namah Venkatesaya

February 1

Face the Violence Within

If I get a newspaper I see about 2,000 problems in each morning's edition.
Newspapers are supposed to tell us what is happening in the world, but they are only full of crimes, riots, murders and wars.
These are not the only things that take place in this world.
But the newspaper only tells us something grim, something vicious, something to upset the mind.
It is not even a one-sided picture, but a small corner of one side of the picture.
Who is responsible for this?
Why shouldn't someone report that today 30,000 people got married, 500,000 fell in love?
The fact that nobody tells us anything good is to me almost conclusive proof that there is a streak of violence in us.
There is this conflict in us, this aggressiveness and hate already itching to express itself.
The trouble is not outside.
One must see this thing clearly - the violence is in me.
So long as the violence is in me I can always find a reason to justify it.
When I use a wrong argument, I am covering up the truth.
Is it possible for me, therefore, to strip the truth of all shoddy argument and to see it as it is in all its nakedness?
When you look into yourself, face the violence within, you see than death is inevitable in this world.
Nobody who is born is going to live forever.
If I see that that which I am defending is also bound to die then I will not defend it and therefore will not be violent.
People will indulge in violent behavior until they realise the utter futility of killing one another.
The reason why this goes on and on endlessly is because we are evading the discovery of ourselves.
In order to make this discovery we will have to become intensely aware of this aggression and this violence.
Here I am caught with something that I cannot get rid of.
I cannot get rid of it because it is me.
How can I get rid of myself?
It is me, it is not a garment that I can take off and throw away; but then, can I sanction it?
"If I don't hit this man now, he is going to hit me later."
In anticipating his violence, I become violent.
There is violence in me and if I see violence in him it is only because it is in me.
This violence is looking for an excuse to express itself - the violence in me is going in search of a cause.

February 2

The Inner Light Dispels Darkness

Can we live in such a way as not to stir up emotions of attachment, fear and hate?
These three are the ghosts...
I wanted to say 'that pursue us', but probably we are the ones that are pursuing these ghosts!
Why? Because we have turned away from light.
When we have turned away from this inner light, it is then that we see the shadows.
That is obvious - if you are facing the light you don't see your own shadow, but if you turn away from the light you see it.
Either you fall in love with it: "What a marvellous person he or she is"; or, if the shadow happens to be cast in a mirror, you admire yourself.
"How great I am, what a marvellous person I am".
When you turn away from this inner light, one of these three things must happen: either you get attached to something or you begin to loathe it, and of these two is born fear.
Fear does not arise totally independent of these two fundamental emotions - love and hate.
You love her and so you are afraid you may lose her.
You hate him, so you are afraid he may be around you all the time.
Is it possible for us to live completely free of these three ghosts which are constantly pursuing us?
They are not pursuing us.
No ghosts ever pursue us.
I don't think they're interested in us!
We seem to be all the time pursuing them because we have turned away from the light.
We run in an attempt to get rid of the shadow that is in front of us, but we find that we cannot capture it.
These are the only two things we are doing in our lives: either we want to capture the other person or get rid of him - he being the shadow.
Sooner or later one should realise that it is not possible to capture the shadow, and it is not possible to get rid of it.
Being a projection from you, why do you want to capture it?
Why do you want to fall in love with a reflection in the mirror?
You are the original of that which is a reflection!
That is the meaning of the Sanskrit expression: "All happiness is experienced in me, by me, within me."

February 3

The Lord's Leela

Be ever-mindful of your faults and the virtues in others, of your happiness and the unhappiness of others, wishing them happiness.
Then you are a saint.
The man who always criticises others is so full of evil that he does not or dares not look within.
There is a popular saying in Sanskrit that "One should not behave contrary to the social norms, even if one is sure that it is not unethical".
But that applies only to social or religious leaders whose example is followed by others, and not to great saints and yogis whose ways are not for us to judge or to emulate.
The divine presence, being everywhere, is in you, in me, in all the infinite creatures, flowing everywhere.
Therefore there is inevitable interaction.
When that interaction is one of love, the result is happiness; if it is one of attachment the result may be frustration; if that interaction is one of hate, jealousy, fear, the feedback is one of unhappiness.
This is what we mean when we say, "The world is a mirror that reflects us".
If you look at the world with love, it reflects happiness towards you; if you look at the world with hate, it reflects unhappiness towards you.
The world is the leela (play) of the Lord.
It demands keen wisdom, insight and discipline to see this.
He and he alone plays the role of the sick man, the doctor, nurse, the germ and the drug.
He alone plays the roles of the poor man, the exploiter and the philanthropist.
He is the murderer and the victim.
(You need all these characters in any good play.)
He is the theatre, the drama, the actors and the audience.
Hence no-one is superior and no-one is inferior.
Yet He Himself plays the role of a critic who exalts some and condemns others.
He who knows this is He Himself.
'Judge not' is absolute.
As the Bhagavatam cautions, he who points out the evil in another partakes of it.
However, if in certain circumstances you have to - then like Sati in Bhagavatam, denounce the evil-doer and sacrifice yourself.

February 4

What Choice Have You?

There is something beautiful in natural phenomena.
Their inevitability and even their unpredictability are beautiful.
There is no confusion, there is no indecision.
There is wisdom.
When it comes to the human being, there is confusion and indecision.
We feel that we have to make the decision; of course what is made is artificial, not natural, and it has no relation whatsoever with intelligent life which is natural.
This confusion is effectively masked by our perverted intellect with the theory of 'freedom of choice'.
The trees have no choice, the birds have no choice, "But we human beings are superior and therefore we have choice".
The choice is between that which is good (often not pleasant to the seeker of pleasure) on the one hand, and that which is pleasant (most often not good) on the other.
The human intellect sees this creation of its own fancy as choice.
It prefers the pleasant, but dreads the evil consequences; it likes the good but not the unpleasantness involved in it.
It hopes that the evil consequences or the unpleasantness will somehow go away; in this hope it postpones the decision.
Procrastination aggravates the problem.
Inhibitions and reservations make spontaneous action impossible; and there is no energy in such unspontaneous action.
It is clear that the root cause of all this is the pursuit of pleasure.
When the inner intelligence sees this, there is intense awareness of the pursuit of pleasure.
In the light of this awareness, this pursuit is stalled.
Life proceeds, action proceeds, making its own moment to moment and extremely intelligent decision.
Life flows naturally, whatever its course and whatever its destination.

February 5

Life Everlasting

Is it possible to determine action without linking it to a goal and a hope?
Of course, one can see that there is the ever-present danger of frustration in hope.
A Christian mystic once said that one has to risk frustration in order to realise one's hopes.
But is action (which is life) really and truly linked to hope?
Does hope have the power to alter the course of action or life?
Or, does hope arise merely to mask one's fear - fear often born of a realistic appraisal of one's actions!
If we are honest we shall instantly and without the least difficulty see that our hopes are rarely realised.
When they are, it is only because the hopes accidentally happen to reflect the reality.
But if there is no hope (which also means there is no fear) the attention or the intelligence is freed from the distraction of the 'future'; there is awareness of the immediate present', and without 'hoping' that the summer heat will go away, you find a cool spot in the building.
That is living without hope or fear.
Life lives, and it has no choice.
It does not need a motivation, a goal, a reason or a purpose.
Natural (divine) action (life) arises in Life-in-God.
Few of us are aware of what this natural action (divine life) means.
We live a mechanical life.
We think we have a reason for whatever we do, a goal or a 'lofty' purpose.
But we do not recognise that the reason arises after the action has commenced, because we do not recognise mental action but regard the physical as the only action.
First there is the thought (mental action) or the will, then the rationalisation, and then it flows into physical action.
The thought arises in the psychological conditioning which goes unnoticed.
When we see this, rationalisation ceases, the intelligence observes the inner process and becomes aware of the psychological conditioning.
When this intelligence sees the danger of such a conditioned life, an instant and radical change takes place in the very source of action; the psychological conditioning is inactivated, and there is everlasting divine life.

February 6

Parent: Child; Teacher: Taught

How does a parent bring up the children?
The answer is provided by nature!
The expectant mother is entirely responsible for the nourishment of the unborn child.
The nursing mother has a choice: she could either breast-feed her baby or use the bottle instead.
Once the child is weaned, the child becomes independent of the parent.
In the same manner: for the first few years of childhood, the child is entirely dependent upon the parent psychologically, and hence it tries to question and find out or observe and imitate.
From the age of about 8 to 15 there is a give-and-take relationship, and the parent has an optional responsibility.
Beyond that the responsibility ceases.
However, if the child had been properly nourished earlier, it knows how to take care of itself.
The key-note of communication throughout this period seems to be Love!
Love is utter egolessness.
This love-egolessness is the condition prerequisite to any communication.
When two egos clash, there can never be communication; when one is strongly motivated and the other is not, there is sometimes a domination (with its unpleasant consequences of revolt).
This is what the mother-baby relationship teaches us: the baby has no ego and is therefore entirely dependent upon the mother, and the mother is full of love (and therefore egoless) and responds to the baby's needs without any motivation.
Then communication is perfect.
In the second phase, the communication is effective only to the extent that such love-egolessness exists.
Even in later years, such love-egolessness can exist and thus make teaching-learning possible.
However, one should beware of a tendency to assume what is good for the young man or woman, and to impose 'for his own good'.
The imposing ego will be treated as a threat by the student or the offspring whose own ego will, in an endeavour to assert his or her freedom from such imposition, ignorantly or willfully harm himself or herself.
And the parent or the teacher has a big share in this harm!
It is often said: "The Lord has entrusted these young ones to my care; how can I not feel terribly concerned about them?"
The answer is: "If the Lord entrusted them to your care, He surely knows how to bring them up too!
Let not your ego interfere.
He will, from within You if need be, guide them."

February 7

Custodian of Culture

Any factor that tends to interfere with the two vital formative influences in one's life (the parent and the teacher) is bound to cause a 'soul quake', destroying the very foundations of humanity.
The reason is obvious.
Such an interference will have a catastrophic snowballing effect.
For, the child is the father of the man, and today's student is tomorrow's teacher.
It is not too late.
One half - the better half - of humanity is still very responsive (indeed: the other half is not totally unresponsive either, for nothing survives by halves).
Women all over the world are up in arms: in their arms they hold Man - father, husband, son, brother or friend.
In those arms man finds security, peace, happiness, and hopefully salvation.
My Gurudev Swami Sivananda used to glorify woman as the first Guru of Man.
She has been the real custodian of dharma - religion, culture, goodness, humanity throughout the world.
She has often stood behind man; she has been veiled and sheltered from evil influences for the simple reason that the great ones recognised that once she was destroyed all would be lost.
All the major religious and spiritual movements throughout the world today are either spearheaded or sustained by women.
This is indeed cause for great joy.
With such inspiration, yoga teachers all over the world (men and women) will hold aloft the torch of yoga, so that humanity may prevail in the hearts of all, nourished by the loving, restraining and guiding hands of enlightened women whose role in man's life is thus described in an ancient text:
karyesu mantri karanesu dasi bhojyesu
mata sayanesu rambha dharmanukula
ksamaya dharitri sadgunyametaddhi
pativratanam sarangadhara niti
(Meaning: At work, she is a counsellor; in times of need she is a servant; at the table she is a mother; in bed she is a nymph; she is a pillar of support in righteous action; and she is of unbounded patience like the earth. These are the six qualities of a woman devoted to her husband.)

February 8

Gurudev's Secret

When you follow the Guru Who is the Light of Truth, make sure that you have kindled the Light of Truth in yourself, that you are also the Light.
Otherwise you will walk in the darkness of the shadow that the human personality of the Guru casts behind Him.
The Guru is everywhere at all times, for He is the Light of God, and His Grace is freely available to all at all times.
It is up to the disciple to study his own mind and see for himself how it throws up doubts and distractions.
The light for such self-study is viveka or vigilance.
Such vigilance keeps the distractions away and the doubting intellect at bay, so that the heart may be open to the Guru.
Gurudev's genius was synthesis, harmony and oneness.
In His vision there was no division.
Hence there was no division in His heart and in His mind.
He was the living illustration of the famous expression that occurs frequently in the Bhagavad Gita: "He sees God or the Self in all and all in God or the Self." '
It was this vision of the Infinite that lived as Gurudev Swami Sivananda.
He is our guarantee and assurance that such a vision is possible, and that in such a vision lies our salvation; not in running away from anything, whatever be our justification for such action.
Even evil is not shunned, renounced or abandoned!
When the vision of the Infinite is attained and God dwells in our hearts in all His radiance, evil does not exist and does not arise.
In the light of truth there is no darkness.
When the light shines in darkness, there is no darkness.
This was Gurudev's secret.
Hence there was not even a struggle to overcome evil in His life.
Only he who is endowed with such a vision can love all.
He is love, and nothing but love can flow from him.
He is divine.
His life is divine life.
In it there is no self, no selfishness.
In it there is no division - not even between the one and the many, the divine and the undivine, light and darkness.
Hence, Gurudev was able to live an intensely dynamic life, presiding over the world-wide Divine Life Society, apparently dealing with diversity without ever losing the vision of the infinite.
He was infinite love.
May His blessings be upon you all!

February 9


What governs this unpredictability of life?
We tend, as the medical scientists and astrologers do, to take the credit for all the fulfilment of our purposes and quietly sweep the failures under the carpet.
But if we honestly look at life, the failures are at least as many as the successes.
Then one wonders, "What is the truth concerning life? Why are some prophecies or hopes fulfilled and others not, some prayers heard and others not?"
It is perhaps then that we begin to look at life, not merely think about life.
If you think about life you become a philosopher.
If you look at life you become a yogi - this is the difference.
These two are completely different.
It is pretty easy to think about life because we don't see, we don't know what it is all about.
We speculate: "It may be this, it may be that."
But it's extremely interesting and absorbing to be able to look at life, not think about it.
I may be able to look at life and you may be able to look at life and discover the truth, but it is valid only to the discoverer; it doesn't work for anyone else.
Life is like the ground which receives seeds all the time; these seeds germinate and saplings spring out of the earth.
You see the tree, the sapling or the shoot.
But the shoot is not an isolated event - it is connected to the tree.
Once it is recognised that life is an on-going process, the question of time becomes totally irrelevant.
It is a deed done, maturing now.
Therefore every moment you and I have the same freedom of action which was exercised some time ago, to plant the seed.
The same freedom of action is here now.
When that seed grows into a plant and yields its own fruit, you are free to do what you like with it: plant it again, chew it all up, burn it.
This, in brief, is the doctrine of karma.
It is not only "As you sow, so shall you reap," it is really "As you sow, so shall it grow."
The rest is unpredictable.
Whether you are going to reap it, enjoy it, suffer it or destroy it, we don't know.

February 10

A New Look at Past Karma

I am utterly convinced that 'karma' is 'action' and not 'fate'; that we do not suffer because of some unknown sin we committed in the distant past, but because of the state of our being just now.
And the most dreadful sequel of the past is the repetitive tendency which past action leaves in our mind - which the yogis called 'samskaras' or 'vasanas'.
This is the reason why our life runs round in circles, we commit the same mistakes again and again and again, and blame our present conditions on a remote past, ignoring the immediate cause (which may, of course, be the same as the remote cause).
The problem is inside me, the problem is me - not what I did years ago, but what I do now, what I am now.
It is more profitable therefore, that we should look within immediately, now, and discover the present cause of the present conflict or unhappiness, without relating it to past karma or commitment.
Relating it to past karma, commitment or even habit may dilute the observation and make it ineffective and incapable of bringing about an immediate change.
Immediate change can only be the result of a direct observation, direct observation can only be of what is there now: though, undeniably, what is there now was there in the past, too.
It is what is there now that is throwing up all this sorrow and conflict.
The past is misty; the present is clear.
Without consoling ourselves ("I must have done something in the past to deserve this sorrow; and if I do something good now, I shall have a good life later"), if we become intensely aware of what is now, the change can also be immediate and radical.
This is what the yogis implied when they said that Self-realisation immediately puts an end to all karmas.

February 11


The teachings of the great ones seem invariably related to the personality of the teacher, and when transmitted to a disciple, they are modified by the capacity of the student to absorb and assimilate them.
The teaching also has to be adapted to the context in which it is given.
When Krishna taught Arjuna the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna was a warrior faced with the battle of life and death on the battlefield.
In the Bhagavatam, Uddhava, Krishna's other disciple, had no such predicament.
He had reached the end of his tether and was ready to leave the world.
The teaching in that aspect was slightly modified there was greater emphasis on renunciation.
It is not that the teaching given to Arjuna was worldly and that given to Uddhava was other-worldly.
Only the emphasis was different, the quality is more or less the same - one has to do one's duty.
The concept of duty as taught by Krishna is not something which can be intellectualised.
It is not a formula that can be applied to one's life.
What is duty?
As long as there is life, it is the inviolable duty of the heart to pump blood and the lungs to breathe.
Once you recognise that, what you call duty, nature, dharma, God's Will, God's Grace - all become synonyms.
Duty is not something which can be imposed upon us, nor is it something we can learn from someone else.
It can only be discovered, each one for himself, by observing one's own nature.
The spontaneous expression of that nature is one's duty.
Once I turn my attention within, I see that I am greedy, proud, easily annoyed, angry.
Can I take that to be my nature?
What is natural will invariably be constant.
Yet, I have seen that in my relationships with others, even though similar situations may arise, I do not behave in the same way.
By directly looking into this, I observe the perversity, and see that I am not living a natural life, and therefore I am not doing my duty.
In this way, as life becomes more and more natural, there is both duty and great beauty in it.
It is then that one goes on to the next inevitable step.
If this is natural to me, what is 'me' in my nature?
That leads to Self-realisation.
Therefore Krishna told Uddhava; "If you learn to do your duty in this way, your heart becomes pure, and in a pure heart there is Self-realisation."
This is karma yoga in essence.
Karma yoga is not merely doing one's duty as dictated by others, nor doing something thinking it is unselfish.
Karma yoga is to go right into one's own inner nature, to find what that Self is.

February 12

The Spirit of Karma Yoga

All the so called spiritual practices are normally confined to the morning or to the evening, and most of them involve nobody but you.
But that is not life.
Life is when you come out of your meditation room or your house, and you meet and have to live and work with others.
If your yoga practice is yoga at all, it must enable you to live in a yogic spirit throughout the day.
If that is not there, then your yoga practice was hallucination.
What happens in our daily life when this yoga spirit is cultivated, is called karma yoga.
Karma yoga is not merely activity but life in the spirit of yoga, of harmony and of love; and this love and harmony are possible only when there is realisation of selflessness.
There is a Buddhist expression 'the absence of independent self existence'.
Unless that is clearly realised (but not as an intellectual notion), yoga as a living thing is not possible and it does not become a living truth.
Yoga students ask what to do in the meantime.
We are trying to intellectually understand what selflessness means.
Logically it seems to be clear that there is no such thing as self, and yet we live and act as if we are an independent self existence.
This means that there is disharmony between our philosophy and our life.
This disharmony can only be removed in its totality by God's Grace, but in the meantime we can also do something about it.
That which we do in the meantime is also called karma yoga.
When the yogi in the fullness of his Self-realisation realises that there is no self, then selflessness is natural to him, and his actions are totally motiveless.
In the absence of that Self-realisation, the action always has some motive, for the self is incapable of acting without a motivation.
The selfish motive may be crude or refined and relate to some kind of selfish goal here or in heaven, but there is always a goal.
This self can extend itself to cover a whole country or a religious sect.
Though all these extensions appear to be better than a purely selfish action, it is not unselfish action, because that entity is merely an extension of myself.
On the other hand the yogis also suggest that when the self is extended like this, it is possible for us to understand that in that diluted self (which is selfless to some extent) there is greater joy and greater happiness, and to hope that one day the total absence of self might result.

February 13

Karma Yoga

How should one live so that we don't create a problem for ourselves and others?
How can we live an active life that doesn't make ourselves or others unhappy?
When, in our relationships with people we don't become a problem to them, and they don't become a problem to us, it is called karma yoga.
Karma yoga is not only what it is often billed to be (i.e. service of others), but living in such a way that you are not a problem to others, and they are not a problem to you.
If that is not possible, you live in a state of tension which destroys the whole structure of yoga.
If it is possible, what should be done?
Because here it is a matter of doing.
The yogi examines the three fundamental aspects of action in relationship:
(1) there is the one who does something,
(2) there is the one to whom it is done, and
(3) there is the action.
These are the three fundamental factors.
For instance, I am saying something, it is all directed towards you and there is the action.
There is something very simple and beautiful here.
Both you and the person whom you serve, whoever he may be and whatever be the service, are both made of the same substance.
Physically we are made of the same substance, whatever be the superficial differences.
Physically we have more things in common than uncommon - the mind, the life-force, everything seems to be common.
We believe we are different from each other.
That is the pollutant.
Karma yoga was evolved in order to keep this pollutant out.
Karma yoga tells us to remember the common factors more often than imagining that we are different from each other. So a supercommon factor was introduced - 'God' or 'Consciousness'.
The yogi ultimately realised this as truth, but to begin with he introduced as an axiom the idea that God dwells in this personality, this body, this mind.
It is God that enables this personality to function and therefore speak, and it is the same God who dwells in you, in these bodies and these personalities, that enable you to hear and to understand.
Remembering this, the pollutant of distinction is gradually removed.

February 14

Making One's Life Sacred

Karma yoga is not something which can be practised in isolation.
It is a method by which all activity is transmuted into yoga by combining these activities with devotion and wisdom.
My Guru, Swami Sivananda, pointed out that karma yoga must be based on devotion to God or supreme wisdom.
One can use nice formulae like 'God alone does everything' and 'I serve God in all' - but how does it happen?
Are we merely giving expression to some formulae?
How does it feel to be in the presence of God?
It's one of those extraordinary facts of life that, whereas you can train your thought or thinking and will yourself to think, you cannot will yourself to love.
You cannot demand either that you should love somebody or that somebody should love you.
It is not possible.
Either that love happens or it doesn't happen.
Sometimes you can detect or discover some sort of a switch.
All the bhakti (devotional) practices are like these switches.
There is another problem here.
If the mind or the intellect comes into this, it blocks it.
Either the mind should come into alignment with the feeling, with the heart, or stand aside.
When I develop devotion to God I might adopt certain methods suggested as the switch for this devotion, and the mind must cooperate.
If I have a picture or an image, my heart considers it as an image of God, a focal point through which my consciousness can enter into God-consciousness.
Now the mind or the intellect begins to fall in line with this feeling, and the intellect realises that, since God is omnipresent, He is present here in that image.
I offer flowers, decorate it nicely. I stand in front of it and start praying.
That statue stands there and doesn't smile, doesn't say "Thank you," doesn't say anything.
After doing all that I say "Thank you God for accepting this service".
Then I come back to my friend.
I do something and he sits there like God almighty.
Then I remember that God also didn't smile, didn't acknowledge my service.
I have learned a tremendous lesson.
It is my privilege to do what I'm doing.
Whether the other person recognises or does not recognise what I have done is immaterial, because what is done is worship of God Himself.
This service is considered a privilege.
I don't expect any thanks.
Observe this very carefully.
Whatever is placed on the altar some fruits, flowers or bread - becomes sacrament at the end of the service.
Then it is distributed as prasad.
Even so, if this attitude can really happen, then all my actions become sacred - my whole life becomes sacred, holy.
That is what is called sacrifice.

February 15

Enlightenment is Nearby

There is a beautiful formula that the brahmins in India use: "All that has been done is done to Himself by God with His own energy."
There is no dualism involved.
The moment there is a dualism - 'I' serve 'you', 'I' am teaching 'you' - there is a problem.
Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita suggests a very beautiful attitude: "Man reaches perfection by treating everyone of his actions as a flower with which he worships God who is everywhere."
When God does something Himself there is no motive or no one knows the motive except God Himself.
When there is even this intellectual understanding that it is God who functions through this body and this mind and serves His own manifestations everywhere, then there is no selfishness.
There is no motivation and no goal, no laziness and no idleness.
The person who has correctly understood the spirit of karma yoga is ever active, without a goal.
If at the same time he is vigilant and meditative throughout the day, then he detects the very arising of the self.
If that is possible, then enlightenment is within your reach.
What is not clearly visible, observable, when you are sitting in meditation or practising pranayama or yoga asanas, becomes very clear in human relationship or in your daily activity.
You can see the manifestation of the self - lust, anger, greed, jealousy, hate.
I don't see the self, but the arising of these emotions, these thoughts, tell me that it is very much there.
Is it possible for me to live without all these coming up?
It should be possible theoretically, because when you are sitting in meditation none of these disturbances are there.
But when we meet each other, work for each other, serve each other, all these things come up.
So there is a two-fold or three-fold approach.
I am working with you, along with you and for you, but with this feeling that 'God works, not I' and 'You are all manifestations of God'.
At the same time I am using the meditation technique to observe where all these - lust, anger, greed, and so on - arise. I am also prayerful and humble and look up to God and say, "God, I have no idea how to deal with this," and generate the spirit of surrender.
When all these come together, then surely enlightenment is nearby.

February 16

The Mind Asks and Answers

The mind demands a reason for everything and it then supplies the reason.
Isn't it a joke?
It is the mind that asks for the reason, and it is the mind that supplies the reason.
Neither of these has any validity in life at all.
You can see that quite clearly.
Very simple! I shave my head every morning, the mind wants to know why.
'Why do you shave yourself?'
'Because I want to appear nice - not so old as I really am'.
But then, the hair comes up again.
It seems to be a hopeless, thankless, useless job!
I am sure all of us eat at least three times a day.
Why do you eat? Because you want to appease your hunger.
But it is not appeased.
A couple of hours later it starts again.
Or, you may answer that question 'Why do you eat?' with 'I want to live'.
But you don't live.
Inevitably we are proceeding towards the grave.
What is this absurdity we are trapped in?
We assume all sorts of purposes.
'Why do you practise yoga?'
'In order to be ever-youthful, ever-young.'
Believe me, I have seen many yogis - great ones, super-great ones, less-great ones and not-so-great ones, and I might tell you that most of whom I was acquainted with about 30 years ago are all dead.
Why are you practising yoga?
In order to be forever young and forever healthy and all that sort of thing ... it's not possible!
When you come to a yoga class, the mind asks you, 'Why am I practising yoga?' and the mind supplies the answer.
It's a ridiculous thing: the mind asks the question and the mind itself provides the answer.
One doesn't visualise the total scheme.
You want just one part of it.
I don't know if you have ever considered this.
Supposing all of us were granted physical immortality - for ever and ever and ever.
You know what a rotten world we would create?
All the idiots will continue to be immortal!

February 17

The Fire That Consumes Ignorance

Realising that we are all students, pilgrims who have undertaken the same pilgrimage called life, it is possible that I may help you and sometimes I may need your help.
We are all in the same boat.
If we adopt this spirit there is no shyness, no self-consciousness.
Nobody is God almighty here!
With this attitude we can discuss our problems freely without assuming an air of superiority and out of that discussion itself arises knowledge.
When we discuss our common problems then some kind of fire is produced and it is that fire that consumes our ignorance.
In this spiritual game you have to take a dose of your own medicine perhaps before administering it to others - unlike other treatments where you can be completely detached.
So, as you are consoling others you are consoling yourself; as you are advising others, you are advising yourself.
If in this way you go on talking amongst yourselves about your respective problems and their solutions, some deeper understanding arises.

February 18

Loneliness to Self-transcendence

Loneliness hurts, so you go and seek somebody's company.
That somebody might be pleasant for a few minutes and then he also pricks you, hurts you.
Immediately the self wakes up.
And immediately the self wakes up there is unhappiness.
Even if this is an extraordinarily beautiful relationship, it has to come to an end.
When that comes to an end the self wakes up again and there is misery until there is another dimension and another direction in which the awareness can be made to flow, and that is within.
Here there is self-transcendence - awareness seems to pierce the self and go beyond it.
But here there is movement of awareness towards the centre, there is no movement away from the centre, and the self is asleep again because it is left behind - therefore there is centring of consciousness.
This could last forever if you want, because there it is yourself - there is nothing to gain, nothing to lose, nothing was gained and so there is no loss.
Loneliness is already a projection of the self. How?
This self, this wall, creates the image of an ideal condition which it calls happiness.
No-one has so far really defined 'happiness' and even if somebody has tried, that definition is not accepted by everyone - which means that happiness is a myth created by the self in order to make itself miserable!
I have an image of happiness, and since I do not measure up to that or I do not have that which constitutes happiness, I must be unhappy - I am not unhappy!
Having created this unhappy situation, the self tries to project itself, tries to grasp something in order to fill this void, this loneliness.
This loneliness is self-created, it is not there - I am always lonely, alone.
Now, all that the yogi asks is stop there and look - look at what the self is doing.
When you are enjoying something, the self is fast asleep, but the moment you investigate this, the self wakes up because you are 'pouring' awareness into it.
The awareness was distracted, the self was asleep and the awareness was flowing towards something else, and because the self was asleep, you thought there was happiness.
When this awareness strikes, the self is withdrawn into it - that is called pratyahara.
That is, you do not project anything anymore.
Everything in the world is exactly as it is.
This is the other form of self-forgetfulness, which is marvellous when you go right down to the core of your centre, you pierce the thing called 'self' and enter into yourself.
There you are completely centred but 'self-forgetful'.

February 19

Sivaratri in Sivanandashram

Rishikesh is Siva's abode. Gurudev was Siva; in fact in the early years He used to sign 'Siva' and several of the biographies also referred to Him by the abbreviated name of 'Siva' instead of 'Sivananda'.
Furthermore, when the disciples first decided to celebrate Gurudev's Birthday, but did not know His exact date of birth, they chose the Mahasivaratri, the day auspicious to Siva.
Siva and Sivananda share several characteristics.
Both are generous to a fault.
They are easily pleased by a little service.
They do not entertain any suspicions in regard to people who approach them, even if they have malicious intentions. Siva grants boons indiscriminately.
Sivananda gave shelter to and poured His Grace on people who were hostile to Him, and one even tried to assassinate Him!
One of the mantras used in the worship of Siva describes Him as 'He Who is never insulted' (for surely the Lord does not 'feel hurt' and is therefore beyond insult).
This was true of Gurudev Sivananda also.
To Him, all of us, the entire mankind, were like His own children; the loving parent loves the child even when it behaves insolently.
Siva's, and Sivananda's, love knows no limits whatsoever.
Siva and Sivananda reveal the simple truth that all auspiciousness flows from contemplation, meditation, prayer and samadhi, rather than from feverish activity.
They sing and dance: when Gurudev danced in ecstasy, a tremendous wave of bhakti or devotion swept everyone's heart.
Siva hid His auspiciousness in matted locks and sacred ash; Sivananda hid His holiness in elegant clothes or an overcoat.
They teach: "Man, seek the truth.
Learn to perceive the appearance as appearance and the truth as truth.
When you are able to see ugliness and beauty, good and evil, for what they are, and at the same time avoid reacting in a judgemental way, you have found the key to rise above them (not by ignoring them or by imagining they do not exist)."
This is an extremely delicate exercise and it came alive in Gurudev Sivananda's own life.
May His light guide us.

February 20

The Message of Mahasivaratri

Mahasivaratri is one of the holy days that My Guru, Swami Sivananda, observed with great intensity and devotion.
There are numerous stories in our myths and legends to illustrate the popular belief that Lord Siva is pleased with even unintentional and accidental 'devotion'.
The implication is obvious: how much more glorious is devotion which springs from wisdom and understanding!
The Mahasivaratri brings us all together as co-pilgrims and provides us with a taste of the beauty of such togetherness.
Even so we are pilgrims in this world; we are all proceeding to a common destination.
The spirit of togetherness in that pilgrimage illumines our path, lightens our burden and enlightens our understanding.
Lord Siva is usually pictured as the supreme meditator.
'Sivam' is auspiciousness, prosperity, welfare.
These flow, not from feverish activity but from fervent meditation.
Siva is also the highest exemplar of total renunciation.
Humanweal, peace and happiness (at both the individual and the collective levels) flow from renunciation and not from acquisition.
These are but words until one experiences them as living truths, until one has a taste of the freedom that flows from renunciation, and of the peace and the happiness that flow from Divine Grace.
This is the purpose of pilgrimage.
During the pilgrimage people help one another, serve one another lovingly for the sake of God.
As co-pilgrims we soon realise that happiness is sharing, that joy is to the giver.
All these are impossible if there is no spirit of renunciation.
We learn all these lessons during the Mahasivaratri.
When we have a taste of the sweetness of self-discipline it becomes natural to us.
Imposed discipline is imposition, not discipline, and it only gives birth to impostors.
If you observe the Mahasivaratri with faith and devotion for the sake of which you give up smoking, drinking and other evil habits just for one day, and if you taste the joy of such selfdiscipline, then the mind naturally seeks such a disciplined life.
Only a disciplined man of peace can promote peace and human welfare.
Lord Siva is the archetype of such a person.
The Mahasivaratri is the emergence of such a person in you.

February 21

The Dance of Siva-Shakti

Another day. A mild breeze rustled the leaves of a nearby tree, They shook with a graceful swinging motion.
So does the pendulum in the grandfather clock.
So does everything in the Great Grandfather's universe.
Sun-rise, sun-set, birth, death, construction, destruction - are these merely oscillating movements?
Life seems to take no notice of our individual opinion or feelings.
One has only to look around oneself: there is life everywhere.
Life comes into being, life lives.
Life flows on unconcerned.
Life does not demand that we rejoice over some changes and grieve over others; and it is not difficult to see that all these changes are inevitable in unchanging life.
You are born.
You grow up, till you reach your own half-life according to your own inbuilt biological clock.
Then you swing back to where you started - people do not see this and think you are growing old, to die.
The plant grows into a tree; and then, as the gardener says, "It goes to seed."
It goes into the seed - just like a wave which rises and falls at the same spot, though to an observer it looks as a sort of straight-line movement.
There is no straight-line movement.
Such movement is an optical illusion.
There is only swinging.
The whole universe is swinging.
Thought arises in consciousness.
It stays for a moment in consciousness - whether that moment is known as a moment or an epoch (It is thought that thinks of such temporal distinctions anyway!), then it returns to consciousness.
Creation. Evolution. Dissolution.
The life-spans of different creatures seem to differ, but only in comparison.
When the half-life is reached, the resolution begins, the return movement begins.
Soon the creature returns to the starting point, for the beginning and the culmination are the same factor Consciousness-Energy (Chit-Shakti).
Sun-rise and Sun-set!
Oscillating, swinging universe.
The dance of Shiva-Shakti, Chit-Shakti!
He who knows this is neither born nor does he die.

February 22

The Self

Does the end of the body mean the end of the self?
Once death has come, will I still exist or not?
Most of us do not take this enquiry seriously.
One thinks, "Why worry, who cares what is the meaning of life and what happens when it comes to an end?"
Instead of meditating on this, one looks after the body, enjoys oneself, works or steals to get more money.
We go from one stupid action to another until death knocks at the door.
When it is too late, you suddenly jump up, "Oh no, wait, I must meditate".
But you cannot do it now.
Can I bring about this 'facing death' now?
Physiologically or biologically death has not yet come to me, but psychologically or spiritually it has.
Then I see that all the pleasures I have enjoyed have made me weaker; that all I think I possess, possesses me!
These things happen in the world around us, but even though we see them, we close our eyes to the truth.
The dialogue between 'me' and 'death' which may be taking place within me right now, becomes meaningless, unless I am sincere in my search for truth.
If I am sincere and serious, I will not be side-tracked.
The temptations are not outside.
Temptation is in the mind, desire is in the mind, and the desire is the temptation.
If I am serious about this question: "What is death and what happens to me in death?", when I discover that death only removes that which never belonged to me, I am no longer afraid of it.
It is as simple as that.
Then the query arises: "What is 'I'?"
The only obstacle to answering this question is unsteadiness of attention.
Watch and note if merely seeing is temptation.
If you look within, inwardly watching the mind, you find that the attention does not change, does not shift at all.
The eyes still see, the ears still hear, life still goes on - but your attention is within yourself.
And there, deep within the innermost core of your being, you realise that you are the Self.
Not the self which is some kind of an image, nor something which looks like a big light, nor something which looks like a god.
(All these ideas have been created by you.)

This Self has nothing whatever to do with your good actions or bad actions, it has nothing whatever to do with your suffering or your pleasure.
Uninvolved in pain, uninvolved in death, uninvolved in birth - it is.

February 23

The Mystery of Consciousness

One of the participants in a discussion became interested in 'akashic records'.
It seems to be the nature of the mind to probe these phenomena, often at the sacrifice of probing into itself.
Yet sometimes speculation has lead to greater understanding.
The radio has considerably facilitated the explanation of akashic records.
The music broadcast from all the stations of the world are literally within your grasp (in the space within your fist); the fist is not a proper receiver.
Similarly, it is possible that all the music and the utterances of prophets and divinities exist now, but we do not have the proper receiver.
All this exists in the infinite intelligence as infinite consciousness in which everywhere is here and everywhen is now.
Attention skims over this consciousness; knowledge, experience and awareness arise.
But what limits them to the concepts, 'This is my field of awareness. This, I know. This, I experience.'?
Is this 'I' born with every such experience, or is there a permanent 'I' which identifies now with this and now with the other?
A Vasistha or a Ramana might point to the answer.
A Buddha or a Sivananda might caution: "Do not talk about this, but look for the mind and its manifestations, the ego and its tricks, and thus you will discover the truth."
When the attention is utterly purified of its habits and concepts, the truth reveals itself.
The discussion lead to psychic powers, especially healing powers.
Psychic powers are inherent in all, and surely most of us have had our premonitions, our hunches, our intuitions and our inspirations.
Mostly such powers manifest when there is temporary 'loss of self for they lie beyond the little ego.
In pure love or total self-surrender and devotion, the healing grace flows.
If the self had only remained suspended - but it wakes up and regards itself as the source and owner of the grace, and thereby loses it.
Our Master lived in the awareness of the expressions, "O Adorable Lord of Mercy and Love, thou art omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent," and numerous healing miracles experienced by His devotees failed to rouse the egosense in Him.

Change the flow of the mind and the senses and we achieve the God within us.
That is one of the purposes of meditation.

February 24

Another View

As long as the mind is involved in this world of diversity, it is inevitable that there should be diverse points of view.
These diverse points of view spring from the same source, the mind, activated by the same consciousness.
To that infinite consciousness or God, the diverse points of view are natural and do not involve contradiction, but to the individual it is still a problem.
But the problem of the individual does not go away even then.
When you see that someone else is not doing what you think is the right thing, should you take up the cudgels and fight or suppress your own feelings?
We who are accustomed to the 'either or' way of life do not see a third possibility!
Which is, say what you have to say without even a wish in your heart to suppress the other point of view - you cannot, in any case.
'Resist not evil' does not imply 'keep quiet'.
When you have seen what your point of view tells you is evil, the 'see no evil' border has been crossed beyond a point of no-return.
The other boundary, 'resist not,' is at a distance. Watch it.
Often we say this to one another: "I love you, I am happy to be with you," etc.
We take for granted that we know what the other person is, and that it is that which makes us happy.
The oriental philosopher declares: "The One Self dwells in all beings and so one should love all."
This is one interpretation of the famous declaration of Yajnavalkya in the Brihadaranyaka Upanisad: "Not for the wife's sake is the wife dear, but for the sake of the Self is the wife dear."
Perhaps there is another view!
When one says to the other, "I love you," there is an assumption that one knows the other.
Can one know the other?
You try to grasp the other with your mind: you think he is this or that.
That then becomes the image you have of him in your own mind.
It is your own mental projection.
That image is, in fact, part of your own self - your own mind stuff.
Then, you love 'him', (that is, your image of him, your own mental projection) and this is nothing but your own self!
Thus, when you love another, you love your own self; when you hate another, you hate your own self.
One who sees this truth ceases to love or to hate another, and finds that there is nothing to be afraid of in another.
Freed of love, hate and fear, his heart becomes pure and his mind tranquil.
In that Pure heart and tranquil mind is reflected the truth that the pronouns 'I' and 'You' are inadequate substitutes for the Truth which is One.
May we all see the One!

February 25

Off Course on Life's Journey?

On the bridge of a ship, between India and Ceylon, the Captain said: "From here the coast of Ceylon is nothing more than a piece of hair floating on the ocean."
"Yet, " I said, "you take the boat right into the harbour. How do you manage it?"
He explained the use of the compass and let fall a casual remark of profound significance.
"Swami, if I make an error a couple of degrees here and do not correct it, instead of taking you to Ceylon, I might land you in Burma!"
Two degrees where the deviation takes place, but the gap widens to hundreds of miles eventually.
This caution is often ignored in life.
Often abetted by the psychologist's description of the fixations and neuroses, people abhor any rigid discipline.
There are those who assert that inhibitions are always dangerous.
Animals are strong and do not suffer from neuroses only because their actions are less inhibited than man's.
Even those who don't approve of this jungle law, feel that we should not impose rigorous discipline on ourselves and even more so on the young ones.
There is a phrase which is so often used when we have done something wrong: 'It does not matter'.
The compass has swayed a couple of degrees.
However, if the position is not quickly changed and the course of the ship of our little life altered, we will not reach the destination.
The little deviation will lead us to a big disaster.
Often we hear, too, the glib excuse: "But times have changed. Who is senseless enough to put back the hands of the clock?"
Nobody suggests that this is possible.
But we should realise that there are two classes of change in nature.
One is inevitable and the other is undesirable.
When your grandfather does not want to run uphill because his physical frame has changed over the years, you accept it and leave him alone.
But if your young brother says his knees are shaking and he can't climb, you do not ignore him, you take him to a doctor as he is obviously sick.
Certain changes are natural, and you will have to accept them as signs of the march of time.
Means of transport, of communication and of livelihood come under this category.
But lack of respect for elders, drunkenness, debauchery, cheating and violence, turning away from God and the good life are all symptoms of inner disease and demand immediate corrective treatment.

February 26

Unity in Reality

Life looks grand and rich on the surface, but when the excitement is over, we discover that all that glitters is not gold.
Deep within, the Western world is restless and unhappy.
It is equally true that the Eastern world tends to mistake laziness for contentment, sleep for samadhi.
Young men must sometimes go abroad and see how other people live.
East can learn a lot from West, and similarly, West from East.
I have seen European swamis in India.
One Swami Nirmalanandaji - an American - is as great a lover of Lord Krishna as anyone in India, and wears a pouch around his neck with a small image of the Lord.
A young German lady-swami living in a cave near Rishikesh adores Lord Siva; and why not?
Why is it that, when Indian children sing Christian hymns, we take it for granted, and when European children sing the Gayatri or the Maha Mantra ('Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare') we are surprised?
One is as natural as the other.
I still remember what one of the Rotarians said to me in Perth, after I had talked to them there: "I wish I could speak your language, as well as you speak mine".
Why not?
There is today a big movement in Europe in this direction.
Many groups of enthusiasts sing kirtans in Sanskrit, Hindi and Tamil.
What surprised me most, however, was the enthusiastic interest shown in yoga by several monks and nuns Jesuits in Germany.
This was the first time that I noticed them participating in talks on yoga in such a big way.
And why not?
They have not become Hindus thereby, but they have demonstrated 'Unity in Reality', not merely in theory or in words.
Dialogue is not one person listening to the other, but two exchanging views.
The Lord Himself is the most eager listener when two earnest seekers sing His names and glories, and endeavour to pierce the veil of ignorance through meditation.
To that omnipresent Reality we bow.

If one learns to look at the truth and realises that we are all human beings, the idea of nationalities seems childish and foolish.

February 27

The Food Problem

Young people are conscious of the need for pure food as a condition for health and inner harmony, and of many questions related to food.
The 'ideal' food is of course fruits, nuts and whatever vegetable has run its cyclic course, ripe or unripe.
Nature or God seems to have intended this cyclic exchange of material between the human and the vegetable kingdoms.
In this exchange there is no destruction involved.
The tree has no more use for the ripe fruit: it is food for the humans.
Even so with vegetables and cereals.
Even these have been elaborately classified by people who provide a lot of thought for food.
The general principles for this classification are found in the Bhagavad Gita (Song of God).
Our Gurudev, Swami Sivananda, followed Lord Krishna's example and gave us 'general hints', knowing that there are no absolutes in this relative existence.
He emphasised that the food you eat should be conducive to peace of mind and should facilitate spiritual practices.
His motto was 'Eat to live, not live to eat' which meant, in the words of one of his disciples, 'to be always hungry'.
Gurudev also believed that the 'spiritual content' of the food may be assured by offering the food to the Lord and eating it as His prasad (sacrament).
In the ashram everyone recites the fifteenth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita at mealtimes so that one remembers that God is the digestive fire in all beings and that eating is truly an offering of sacred fuel into that divine fire.
Gurudev advised us not to be dogmatic but to preserve the spirit of sattvic food, which is whatever preserves a sattvic (holy, spiritual and noble) temperament and nature.
May His light guide us.
Man is a problem-solver.
If you solve all his problems for him, he will create some for you!
Since the Industrial Revolution, more and more of the simple problems of man have been eliminated by machines; hence he is creating bigger problems which involve whole societies - wars, revolutions, etc.
Not until we return to the simple natural life (which would obviously keep man busy with the simple acts of living and raising a family) will mankind see peace.

February 28

Is This the End?

On one October day I received two letters: a friend's mother had passed away in Mauritius, another friend's husband had passed away in India.
A few days later, a very dear friend in Tel Aviv passed away after a brief illness.
At the same time I heard that a wonderful young yoga teacher in Australia had committed suicide.
Shock after shock: a garland of tragedies.
It is easy to philosophise when others are subjected to these shocks.
But when we are involved it is a different matter. Gurudev Swami Sivananda used to say, "Here your philosophy, your scientific intellect, your degrees and diplomas, your learning and erudition fails."
Shock (shoka in Sanskrit) wakes you up.
It wakes you up from the dream of happiness and security in the world 'guaranteed' by a bank balance, family and friends.
It wakes you up from the slumber of ignorance, in which you close your eyes to the reality and console yourself that all is well.
It wakes you up from the delirium of equating sense-pleasure with true happiness.
It wakes you up from the insanity of lust for power, pleasure and profit.
Viewed rightly then, shock is not a disease but a treatment.
It is not the end, but a new beginning.
And yet, without the shock, this beginning would not have begun.
The 'other' had to end.
It would not have ended if the end had only been heard of or read about - as when we read of someone's passing away in the morning newspaper.
It has to be immediately seen and directly experienced.
This is what Lord Krishna beautifully describes in the Bhagavad Gita as 'direct and immediate seeing of the evil in birth, death, old age, disease and grief.
This seeing is not possible if the fact is far from us nor if we are engulfed in the grief.
But the shock can enable us to see if it touches us, and yet we do not let it crush us.
May you live an enlightened life!

God is omnipresent.
God alone exists.
God pervades all that exists.
He is the very soul of existence.
Give up the idea that you are different from another.
Realise that in and through these different forms there is one supreme God.
Give up desire, anger and greed, for these prevent you from the realisation of the one God.

February 29

Life and Death are Inseparable

Most questions arise only because we have forgotten the most vital part of life, which is death.
'I am alive today, and I shall certainly do what has to be done. But I am not here (physically) forever.'
If I am able to hold that idea in my mind for even a few minutes, it is capable of correcting every kind of imbalance in my life, in my attitude to life and to the world around me.
Life has become a problem only because we have tried to isolate it from death, and treated death as a problem.
When we see that death is not a problem, but an inevitable component of life, then life does not throw up problems either.
Life and death are one and inseparable.
This is pure and simple truth.
It is universal.
Death has no partiality and loves all of us equally; it comes to saint and to sinner alike.
If you meditate upon this, both selfishness and injustice collapse; they lose their meaning, their significance.
When that which you value most - life - is seen as a vehicle that drives you to the grave a profound change takes place in you.
Then you learn to live, and to love all.
Injustice cannot be eradicated by any other means.
Evil cannot be 'fought' by good; unrighteousness cannot be 'destroyed' by righteousness.
The fighting and the destruction themselves are evil, and they breed evil in those who were previously oppressed by the former evil.
Evil cannot be cancelled by resistance.
Actually it is the resistance that infuses strength into the evil force.
If there is no resistance, the evil may, in all probability, blow itself out.
Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when he taught "Resist not evil".
If there is no resistance, there is no violence either.
But that does not mean that injustice, oppression and other forms of evil are desirable!
There is another way of dealing with it.
To live as if the last hour is at hand.
That in itself is total awakening to the truth that life and death are inseparable; and moral and spiritual awakening just happens.

previous day next day