Daily Readings

Insights Inspirations - November

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

Om Namah Shivaya

Om Namah Venkatesaya

November 1


I was just wondering about escaping from oneself.
Is it possible?
There is an unpleasant feeling, and you want to escape from unpleasantness, not from yourself.
You want to escape from the unpleasantness of being alone or lonely.
You cannot run away from yourself, you are carrying this 'myself all the time - you have no choice.
You cannot escape from it - the whole thing is you.
I can hear my voice but it is me - I am talking and I am hearing.
You feel bored, you feel lonely, you want company; so you can run away from the room but you are not running away from yourself.
It is the mind that moves - which means you are imagining that you are moving away from the centre.
To 'run away from oneself' means just this: the attention instead of flowing towards one's centre tries to stray into some sort of object during that period.
You 'forget' yourself.
In a state of sleep you 'forget' yourself (it is merely an expression, but there are not too many alternative expressions).
So, when you are distracted you forget yourself, or you move away from the centre.
You want to go to sleep.
You don't want to be aware of what goes on within you.
This is one form of diversion or self-forgetfulness where there is movement away from the centre.
Awareness is like space.
In that, there is what is called self or ego.
This self acts like a wall, it seems to divide awareness or consciousness into within and without.
But what is internal, external?
There is no meaning in those words, there is only consciousness - the self seems to divide that consciousness.
It is the self that is bored, lonely, unhappy and it wants to divert itself, run away.
But it cannot run anywhere, it merely projects its awareness towards an external object and 'touches' it, experiences it.
So, you were bored or unhappy and then projected your awareness onto something, and because the self went to sleep during that projection there was happiness - the happiness of sleep, nothing more.
But that thing doesn't last forever, and sometimes that thing itself throws your attention back to yourself.

November 2

The Wisdom of the Tortoise

It is very difficult to live always in a state of awareness and to become aware when the awareness is about to be lost.
Our mind is clear and sharp, and then suddenly a distraction comes.
Yogis all over the world insist that to be able to do this requires grace.
Whether you call it God's Grace, or Guru's Grace, it doesn't matter what it is - at that one point one has to fall back upon grace.
Grace does not mean dropping of self-effort, but Grace itself becomes self-effort, and self-effort becomes Grace.
At that moment when this distraction is about to strike you, is it possible for you to gather up your strength at that point and cling to this awareness, to God, to the Guru, or whatever it is?
Therein lies the secret.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says:
"When like the tortoise which withdraws on all sides its limbs, he withdraws his senses from the sense objects, then his wisdom becomes steady." (II:58)
The picture given here is of a tortoise.
Normally the tortoise has its head and all the limbs out.
As long as it is not threatened it sticks its neck out and the limbs out, but when there is a threat, at that very instant it is able to withdraw the limbs into the shell.
I'm wondering why it is that you and I - human beings - the crown of God's creation and all the rest of it, are unable to do this, whereas a tortoise is able to do that.
A tortoise is able to sense danger and the moment there is a threat to its life it pulls itself in.
You and I, when there is a threat, stick our neck further out.
Why is that?
And yet we call ourselves highly intelligent.
It's so simple: live in this world with all your limbs out, enjoy yourself if you want to, be happy, be as happy as you want to.
But the moment that happiness is threatened, 'pull yourself in'.
Is that difficult?
Like this tortoise, when that happiness is threatened pull yourself in quickly.
Don't even look round to see from which quarter this unhappiness is coming, or it may be too late.

November 3

The Spirit of Satsang

The point in Satsang is not to think of numbers, not to think of the value and who comes and who does not come.
Even when there were many people in the Ashram in Rishikesh, the people in the Satsang were only few.
People who were living next door would not attend Satsang.
But Swami Sivananda was never perturbed about it, never scolded people.
He felt 'That is their business. They come and go when they want.'
Total freedom!
But He was there and, very often, there were only two or three people in the Satsang.
When you hold Satsang, as far as possible read source scriptures.
Do not go for any commentaries and things like that, for then you get 'polymix'.
Go to the sources.
From there, can we get closer to the truth?
That is what Satsang means.
Can we draw a little closer to this truth by communing with these words?
If that is possible, we are blessed!
So, one must understand the spirit.
Once you get into the spirit and go on listening to it, then something happens.
The penny drops - occasionally, and not on every occasion, and not on every page that you read.
Sometimes the penny drops here, sometimes there.
There is a time when I understand that, there is a time when I understand this, there is a time when I understand a third thing.
If it has to happen, it has to happen!
For instance, I have read the Yoga Vasistha once while translating it, once again while reading it through, once again after publication, but still when I listen to it suddenly, as Swamiji said, there is a shock.
"My God, I didn't think of that before!"
So this Satsang must be kept going.
There is a message, there is beauty, there is a shock, there is a revelation.
That is called Satsang.
So, I request you to listen to the readings and, where possible, where you can, and even where you cannot, join in the chorus.
If you are a little far away, have your own Satsang: small scale, large scale.
Swami Sivananda often used to say, "You need only one - one plus infinity - God is there with you."
One plus infinity is more than anyone could imagine - so carry on.
If this habit can be formed then it can bring great blessings to our life.

November 4

Light in Darkness

Light needs a dense material to reveal its nature.
At night only the stars twinkle because only they - the dense mass of matter - can reveal the light; light-rays pass through space without illumining it.
The planets would not twinkle but for the light of the sun.
In themselves they are dull and dark.
A great South Indian devotee thus spoke to the Lord: "Lord, I am a destitute without you; and your supreme compassion needs me - a weak and undeserving sinner - in order to shine. So, we are both indispensable to each other!"
What a bold and true statement!
Lord Krishna underlined this when he declared that mutual aid is the secret of commonweal.
Gurudev Swami Sivananda commanded: "Serve all with atmabhava; feel that the Lord has come to you in the form of the sick, the poor and the suffering to give you an opportunity to purify your heart by service."
Swami Muktananda Paramahamsa has given us a new mantra: 'let the other person be God to you' in continuation of the similar mantras found in the Taittiriya Upanishad.
As you light the little lamps on the Diwali morning, kindly remember this: the lamps shine because of the surrounding darkness.
The darkness is illumined because of the lamps.
They need each other.
Neither is superior, but both are complimentary.
We are all limbs of one Cosmic Being.
We need each other.
It is the little ego that exploits this need for self-aggrandisement and later gets caught in its own net.
Hence, Gurudev Swami Sivananda sang:
Within you is hidden God,
Within you is immortal soul;
Kill this little 'I', die to live;
Lead the divine life.

November 5

Message of Light

The ancient's 'saw' truth, incorporated it in pleasant rituals to ensure its perpetuation and the moderns enjoy the pleasantry (thus depriving the ritual of its life) and faithfully preserve the embalmed rite!
Diwali is no exception.
Lest it be misunderstood, it is good to remember that what is pleasant need not necessarily be the antithesis of the good.
The body of the ritual is pleasant; the spirit is good.
Both together make it whole, holy, healthy (the three words are synonyms).
The darkness of the night is dispelled by the light that is kindled on Diwali.
A single lamp may not be powerful enough to illumine a whole street, even as a single pious action may not bring about illumination of the self.
But it is possible to illumine the whole street with strings of little lamps (Diwali), even as, if all the little acts of one's life are holy, there is illumination of the self.
The lamps enable us to see objects hidden in the darkness.
The light of the sun enables us to see the world outside during the daytime, and at night the same light of the sun reflected by the moon and stars illumines the earth.
An inspiring mantra in the Katha Upanishad declares, "The sun, the moon, the stars and the flame do not illumine 'that', but it is 'that' which makes them luminous."
What is that? Sight.
Light is useless in the absence of sight.
But, what do we mean by 'sight'?
Surely, the eyes, the retina, the optic nerve, the brain-centre, are not capable of 'seeing'.
These are all present in a corpse which does not see.
Enquiry into this is meditation.
Who is the seer?
What is the light which is the inner sight?
Is it an 'organ' or is it the nameless, formless but luminous spirit?
Is there a focal point within where the inner light is fixed, or is the inner light the Infinite itself?
And finally, if it is the Infinite, why is there all this feeling of 'I am' and 'This is mine'?
Deep contemplation of this is spiritual enlightenment - the real Diwali!

November 6

The Light That is the Self

Without light, sight is blind; and without sight, light is darkness.
Light, again, can lead, mislead or distort: it can create mirages and optical illusions, and it is good to realise that light is in a way responsible for the creation of shadow.
Only when the sight is clear and clever can truth be seen as truth and falsehood as falsehood, without confusion.
In life we are familiar with several forms of sight, apart from eyesight and its defects.
We know people who have brilliant hindsight: they are the ones who are always looking back at the past, with regret, remorse and useless brooding.
Their whole life is a perpetual mourning, and this veil of mourning compels them to neglect the present opportunities and then mourn them when they are also dead and past.
There are others who are reputed to have great foresight.
They read the future, and they are so clever that they can avert a calamity before it befalls them!
They take great precautions; and since these precautions have no troubles to deal with, the precautions themselves create the troubles, become the trouble.
Few there are in the world who see the danger of these two sights, and who see that only insight is infallible.
One who has insight has the divine sight which is the highest wisdom.
The divine sight or insight is the Inner Light, the Light that is the Self, 'atma-jyoti'.
This Inner Light is ever alert and eternally vigilant; and it is sufficient to deal with every problem that arises in life as it arises.
This alertness or vigilance is not tension, it is the very opposite of tension.
It is only when you anticipate trouble and flex your muscles that you become tense.
If your finger happens to touch a hot stove, the intelligence in it at once pulls it away, without any tension: even so the Inner Light is capable of dealing with all situations as they arise, if there is no ego-interference.
May the Inner Light shine forever in you.

November 7

Belief and Beyond

It is said that everyone loves light - except owls, thieves and prostitutes.
There is something more to it than meets the eye.
Most human beings are allergic to light.
Light in life is insight, wisdom.
Wisdom does not brook mechanical existence.
Insight reveals inconvenient truths and asks embarrassing questions.
When ignorance is bliss ... ? we close our eyes - as the owl does.
We prostitute the truth to suit our heedlessness; we rob life of its wisdom.
All this gives rise to a belief system.
Belief is inevitable, as are axioms in mathematics and a boat to cross the seas.
But only the blind reconcile themselves to an existence in darkness.
Wisdom leads those who are endowed with insight to the realisation of the belief.
Such a realisation is a mere step beyond the belief-system.
Such a belief is thus picturesquely described by sage Vasistha as a higher form of ignorance that strives to eliminate itself.
It is a healthy state of ignorance which reveals that there is light at the other end of the tunnel.
Belief is religion, belief is dharma in the sense of established religion - full of doctrines, theories, and so on.
Dharma holds the community together, prevents the individual from disintegrating.
But it is also a habit (dress) worn to protect oneself.
However, it is not oneself.
Hence, it should be treated as the means, the end is Self-realisation - the direct experience of the belief believed in.
Insight enables belief to fulfil itself in Self-realisation.
It does not militate against even organised religious institutions but puts the spirit back into them.
Light does not drive away or destroy darkness - it reveals what is.
Belief is a ladder that helps you get to the roof.
To rest on the ladder is childish.
But right belief is a ladder that helps you get there, thank God and thanks to the belief itself.
May the Divine Light illumine your innermost being!

November 8

Serving the Guru

There was something in Gurudev Sivananda's personality which is indescribable.
You may call it love, you may call it divinity - but it was that that made us do what we did.
Nothing else mattered.
I don't know if it's possible to repeat that experience to anyone else.
I may serve you, but in that there is always a 'because', and that 'because' is shifting sands; whereas when I serve my guru it is because I love him and there is no other motivation.
There is a constancy in that because it is in me, it is entirely mine, it doesn't depend upon him at all.
I don't care if he loves me, I don't care whether he protects me or not, I don't care if he honours or dishonours me. I don't care what he does - pleases me displeases me - nothing.
I love him, I want to serve him in exactly the same way as you would serve your baby there it is firmly rooted in love, devotion; and that devotion has a spiritual quality.
Minus this, secular service is not full, there is something lacking in it - it is a sort of contract.
If it is possible to serve without any motivation at all, that is divine, and that is what I would call devotion.
There should be no 'because' at all.
I serve you, period.
But if you have to have a 'because' - I serve you because I love you or am devoted to you, which means it is all in me and does not look at you, into you; it is not dependent upon what you do towards me.
If that is possible, there is love.
Then you are free; in that service there is freedom - I am free to serve you because I don't expect anything in return.
'Adoring' is the word here.
When it becomes adoring, you are not even a servant, you are a devotee.
Here devotion is love.
It is not a master whom you fear, it is a master whom you love.

November 9

You Must Wake Up!

Our life is so completely wrapped up in irrational fantasies that they provide the motivation for whatever we do - good and evil.
Watch the mind very carefully and you will see this.
If you love me you do all sorts of things and you are prepared to undergo any amount of privation, suffering and expense.
You love me because you think I am your friend or your brother.
That relationship - my so and so, whatever it may be - makes you do all sorts of good things.
This is a reason why this irrational, stupid idea of a relationship is very jealously guarded and maintained by society.
But the unfortunate factor is that it is not goodness alone that flows out of this 'mine'.
You care only for people whom you regard as 'my' people.
Are these people really mine?
How does this 'mineness' arise?
How does this relationship arise?
Are these relationships based on reality, truth?
The strangest part of it is that they are there as long as you accept that they are there.
This 'mineness' is a nightmare or a sweet dream, it doesn't matter which way you look at it.
But please also remember that while you are enjoying a sweet dream you are inviting a nightmare, because they both belong to the same family.
There is only one way to avoid both of these, and that is that you must wake up.
The moment you wake up from this ignorance and begin to enquire into it, the mineness goes away.
'I am' is there and 'you are' is also there.
We are not running away from that.
There is a body here, there is a body there, but we don't possess each other.
We are both equally important, so I don't have to torture myself in order to do something good to you and you don't have to torture yourself in order to do some good to me.
That is a beautiful life where we love and respect one another without possessing one another, when we realise that possession does not exist.
There is no martyrdom and there is no greed.
If goodness does not need the motivation of possession, then it is free, true goodness.
Virtue which is free from compulsion is true virtue.
Is it possible to free goodness from this sense of possession, and in that freedom cultivate goodness?
That goodness is divine.

November 10

Be Simple

Krishna's message in the enlightening ninth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita is intriguingly simple, tantalisingly enigmatic, and pre-eminently practical.
But such is our complicated brain-structure and the devastating power of our culture that we resent simplicity and deliberately make life difficult.
Why do we complicate our lives?
Take the case of food, and our eating habits.
We eat food in order that we may be able to digest it, so that it may nourish us and keep us in good health.
But then, we look to others to decide what food is good for us.
Even so with all other aspects of our lives - our life-style, relationships, religion and so on.
Looking to others for guidance is not bad in itself if we realise that the others and their theories are at best sign-posts.
They are useful, but we cling to theories as if they were truths.
We forget that the problem plagues us, not them!
Since the attention is diverted from the source of the problem within us, to the theories of others that may or may not be relevant, there is great confusion, unclarity and hence continuing sorrow.
Krishna points out that God dwells in all as the not-so-obvious reality - not to tempt us to speculate what it may be, but to alert us to the need for proper investigation.
We begin with the obvious, which is sorrow, unhappiness, disharmony and conflict in our lives.
All this is obvious, but their source is not so obvious.
If it seems obvious to you, you discover that you blame someone else, the environment, your karma, or the stars!
You try to get rid of some, and get out of the others.
But there is no end to sorrow.
Its cause is not so obvious; and whatever it is, it keeps producing results - sorrow.
Patanjali allows the use of thought and logic to arrive at the end of thought and the conclusion of logic.
When these fail to recognise the not-so-obvious cause of sorrow, you learn the art of looking within, observing the source of sorrow.
Only one thing seems to be clear: 'I am unhappy', whether the cause is internal or external.
If 'I' is absent, as in deep sleep, unhappiness ceases too.
But, then, what is 'I'?
When you look for it, you cannot find it.
If the 'I' is nowhere to be found, sorrow is nowhere either.
This discovery leads to great joy.
However with the next experience, 'I' arises again.
This time it is not so deadly.
You have the key to the problem.
You can dispose of it quickly.
When you find a firm foothold in Self-realisation the awareness in you is able to stop the sorrow before it arises.
It is simple, if you learn not to complicate your life.

November 11

Significant spirituality

Svadhyaya (study of scriptures) is necessary and sravana (hearing) is necessary, hence discourse is necessary - but not for their own sake.
They are ladders to be quickly ascended and discarded.
Gurudev therefore built these into his satsang pattern, but discouraged them when they degenerated into what he called 'lingual diarrhoea' and 'itching ears'.
There is not much that you do not know.
Moreover, when you hear something new, especially what your selective mental receptor disapproves of, you do not listen.
There is danger here, for when you do not listen you distort and destroy or destructively use what you hear.
This danger can only be avoided when you are mature enough to be sincere, to realise that Self-knowledge is not the product of external prod but inward sight, and you have the courage to face up to your own weakness or wickedness.
When you do this, then that weakness or wickedness (in one word 'me') is not allowed to distort what is heard.
When the instruction is thus listened to, you see the simple truth that the source of your insincerity was an ambition to have the cake and eat it at the same time, to hold the light with one hand and darkness with the other, to cling to craving which is the source of pain and to aspire for supreme bliss.
The very seeing of this truth decides the issue.

November 12

The Yoga of the Bhagavad Gita

We should progress.
It is very essential.
Life is movement.
Growth is expansion.
The expansion takes place in nature on two levels.
If you contemplate the growth of a tree, you will realise that as its branches spread out, its roots go deep and spread out underground, too.
Minus the roots, the growth above - even if it were possible would wither away and might become a menace.
No-one would dare sit under a tree without roots.
Yet the whole of humanity today lives in such a state!
Knowledge has branched out in many directions.
Luckily, these branches are laden with fruits.
But is this tree of knowledge rooted in firm soil?
Are we safe in its shade?
Or are we going to be crushed by the weight of the tree we have grown, by the weight of the very fruits we have longed to enjoy!
Where is Knowledge rooted?
In knowledge of Self.
Knowledge of 'the other' is external growth or expansion.
Knowledge of Self is inner growth in the depth of our being.
The two together are the greatest blessing to mankind.
The science that enables us to gain this inner knowledge of the Self is yoga.
Many techniques have been evolved to bring about this discovery.
Some insist on world and life-negation; others extol total world and life-acceptance.
The former leads to inertia, the latter back to materialism - not because of their intrinsic lack, but because understanding is lacking in the practitioner.
However, there is one scripture which describes both the methods but insists that understanding is necessary.
Equipped with this understanding, man recognises the existence of the world, but is not lost in its glamour.
He recognises the need for growth and expansion, but does not neglect the rest.
That scripture is the Bhagavad Gita and that yoga is called buddhi yoga, the 'yoga of understanding'.
If we study this yoga of understanding we shall see that the scripture, though in Sanskrit, is not the monopoly of the people of any faith, race or nationality, but is the nourishment that all men need.

November 13

Faith, Honesty and Sincerity

In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna exalts adherence to scriptural injunctions.
Even this injunction is not adequate for a sincere, honest and earnest person, because the scriptures (even where all of them agree, which is rare) state only general principles and leave the interpretation open.
However, Krishna does point to another alternative.
It is the path of sraddha (faith: or, honesty and sincerity).
However, this sraddha itself may be of different qualities - sattva, rajas and tamas (pure, passionate or stupid).
Since "the person is his faith" as the Bhagavad Gita says, this classification of faith characterises every aspect of one's life; and the Bhagavad Gita details this classification (which is worthy of a close and deep study).
Honesty and sincerity demand that we should carefully investigate the nature of our faith and let this investigation itself guide us in our actions.
Surely, no one wants to lead a stupid life, and even the passionate aspire for purity.
However, the vital factor here is the intense, deep and constant awareness that is set up within oneself.
This awareness acts as the candle that looks for the switch to the supreme inner light in which alone right action happens spontaneously, without doubt or hesitancy.

November 14

The Teachings of Buddha

The teachings of Lord Buddha were based, not on any scripture or religious tradition, but on Self-realisation, i.e. his own direct experience of the truth.
Buddha did not follow any scriptural injunctions, but, so to say, scriptures followed him.
This does not necessarily imply that the scriptures that he did not follow are therefore invalid!
But it does mean, however, that scriptures are validated by personal experience, and till such personal experience is gained it is unwise to accept or reject them blindly.
This is the purport of many of the Upanishads, too!
"The goal is unshakeable freedom of mind," said the Buddha.
Sri Krishna points to the same goal and declares the same methods in the Bhagavad Gita.
This path is 'The Middle Way'.
I have heard many people speak of the Middle Path as though it is broader, smoother, straighter than the National Road!
The Katha Upanishad speaks of it as 'ksurasya dhara' (the razor's edge).
The Middle Way demands eternal vigilance and constant effort.
It is too irksome for the extremists who either accept a certain standard of asceticism, pat themselves on their backs and go to sleep; or others who conceive of a God or a metaphysical category like Brahman or Atman and, since they can answer any question concerning the category, they consider themselves sages.
What you conceive of is your offspring and not your deity!
One can get used to even the most tortuous forms of asceticism, and it may cease to hurt or thin the mind - if that was the original aim.
In a very different context, and perhaps starting from a very different premise, Mahatma Gandhiji arrived at the same conclusion: "Man can change his temperament, can control it, although he cannot eradicate it. Change and control, therefore, require constant effort and eternal vigilance."
One who walks The Middle Way will, therefore, be perpetually 'mindful' (to use a favourite Buddhist word).
Then desire, aversion and fear do not bring about an action; every action is thoroughly deliberated, weighed in the scale of mindfulness, and performed in the full consciousness that it is right and should be performed.
The follower of Lord Buddha does not circumvent this process even when he feels that he is established in the Noble Eightfold Path and is therefore incapable of straying from it!
There is no such thing as a permanent guarantee: you have to be eternally vigilant and constantly striving so long as this life lasts.

November 15

I Am

In the Bhagavad Gita it is said:
"When like the tortoise which withdraws on all sides its limbs, he withdraws his senses from the sense-objects, then his wisdom becomes steady." (II:58)
The tortoise is enjoying life, which means whatever happens is natural and inherent in life.
He's not running after something.
You can see very well why the illustration is given.
The tortoise doesn't run after any pleasure.
But no-one can say that the tortoise therefore does not enjoy at all.
It enjoys as much pleasure staying there as running around.
That's why the example of the tortoise is given in the Bhagavad Gita.
Enjoy yourself, stick yourself out when there is some happiness, but when that happiness is threatened, pull the indriyas (the senses) back.
For if thought or the mind suggests that 'That is the object of my pleasure and that is running away, and unless I pursue it and capture it, I'll be miserable', that is when you are looking for misery and unhappiness.
Pull yourself in!
"I was here before this; and I'll be here after that." Correct. Quite simple.
You had a very happy experience so you stuck your neck out and enjoyed it; that is flowing and now it has passed.
Don't pursue it, pull your neck in.
"I was before this experience arose, I am now and I'll continue to be after this experience has ceased."
That's all.
And there's absolutely no possibility of unhappiness there, there's no longing, there's no expectation, there's no craving either.
The craving has been nipped in the bud.
I was before this experience arose, I am - and therefore this experience arose - and I will be after this experience has passed.
If I am not, where could this happy experience have arisen at all? No.
I am the source of that experience.
In the same way, this can be extended to cover all emotional upheavals - this way one learns to cancel out the upheavals even before they arise.

November 16

You are the Ocean

There is a beautiful picture painted in the second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita:
"He attains peace into whom all desires enter as waters enter the ocean which, filled from all sides, remains unmoved; but not the man who is full of desires." (II:70)
In the case of the tortoise illustration we are given a hint at how to deal with a craving that threatens our mental equilibrium.
Let's say the threat has already arisen - that is when the tortoise withdraws its limbs.
We go on from that kind of experience to another experience of that kind, one threat to another threat.
Is my life then going to be one of sticking my neck out and pulling it back?
Is there not an end to it?
Krishna says, "Yes, there is an end to it."
That end is: when you can remain like the ocean into which all desires enter, there's not even a threat.
The ocean doesn't pull its neck in, it's exposed; and no-one has so far been able to threaten the ocean, because it is infinite.
So when you realise the Infinite, desires won't arise in you at all; even if they arise, they would arise only in the Infinite - going up there and coming down immediately, rising within you and falling within you.
So that there is no external threat, in fact there is no threat at all you are the ocean into which all the rivers empty themselves.
The rivers here stand for your desires, your life's experiences.
All life's experiences enter into you, flow into you, into the Self, so there is no distraction.
If there is a thought of happiness you realise that that is also happening within you.
If there is a thought of unhappiness it is also another thought that arises in you.
If there is an ocean of love, that arises in the same consciousness; if there is an ocean of fear, it arises in the same consciousness.
These things have lost their original meaning.
When you become imperturbable like the ocean, even if there is an excitement you are still the ocean.
Millions of waves may be there, but still the ocean remains ocean.
At that point there is neither 'stick your neck out' or 'pull your neck in' or 'withdraw your limbs'.
There is nothing.
You are the ocean.
Which means you are constantly aware and never unaware even for a single moment.
What happens from there on is life itself.

November 17

When Goodness Becomes Inevitable

What we need in life is a certain simplicity, which is not something you can hang on a tree and reach towards.
Holiness, harmony, yoga, love, God - none of these can be positively described or grasped.
Happiness ceases to be happiness the moment I hold onto it.
When I hold tight to it, it is dead.
The same is true of the thing called holiness.
Holiness means to be whole.
Harmony, holiness and yoga all mean the same thing.
If I am whole there is no problem, there is no difficulty, there is no conflict or contradiction in my life.
It is only when the mind says something, the heart says something else and life flows in another direction that we are torn into many bits.
We all think wonderful thoughts, but deep down inside there is non-acceptance of these concepts produced by our thinking, and life is bewildering.
The mind says one thing, the heart says something else - in which direction should life flow?
This is the problem, a tug of war all the time.
The conflict is within me, not outside.
I see some problems outside, but they are a reflection of what is in me.
Yoga is merely a technique to find a solution to this problem of inner conflict.
It has nothing to do with any religion whatsoever.
The yogi is constantly vigilant, discovering himself all the time.
When he knows that it is only the mind-stuff that is changing all the time, he is able to observe these changes that take place within and see that he is free from it.
Then a revolutionary change takes place in the whole personality.
This light that has become aware of the substance that changes, realises that it is free from such changes which take place in the substance.
A tremendous revolution takes place in the whole being.
Then by nature he is good - he neither wants to be good, nor wishes to be good - goodness becomes inevitable.

November 18

Frustration on the Path

Just as breathing does not stop, no matter what you are doing, even so it is possible for the awareness to remain brilliant within you, it is possible for this insight to be alert within you all the time, without distracting your attention from whatever you have to do.
You are talking, and while you are talking something is observing you, the awareness is there merely pointing out that there is a danger.
Will such a life be frustrating?
There is frustration built into any spiritual life.
If you study the life of Jesus Christ or Buddha you see it through and through.
Frustration is half of this process of spiritual awakening, because we are trying to deal with something that is fundamental.
Until you become enlightened, this frustration will keep you company.
And that's very good company!
We are not frustrated because we are unable to deal with this shadow.
Intuitively we realise that it is merely a shadow, it doesn't exist, yet it haunts us so terribly.
You can't get at it.
It's like a phantom pain in a limb that does not exist.
So this frustration is likely to keep you company for a long time - or until you reach enlightenment.
You are not frustrated then, not because the frustration has gone, but you yourself have disappeared.
In Self-realisation your problems are gone because you yourself are gone.
Till then this despair and frustration will continue: the pangs of separation that the lover suffers when the beloved is away.
To an earnest seeker of the truth, the closer you are to the state of enlightenment the greater the frustration.
As you move closer to this light of truth, everything worries and hurts you.
Then something becomes finer and finer end you find that, literally, it's almost impossible to live.
Everything seems to hurt you - even a thought seems to be a sin.
That is the stage when even to live seems to be a tragedy.

November 19


Wisdom lies in understanding the totality of life, the truth concerning life, and in not being distracted by one or the other events that are also part of life.
This is the beauty - and this is the difficulty.
The problem is that the distraction is not something apart from life.
If you observe very carefully you will notice that the distraction arises only because at that moment you are not interested in what is going on.
In life also all our distractions - and therefore all our foolishness - arise only when we are not interested, not wise, not paying attention to life itself.
The distracting influence also is part of life, just as pleasure and pain are part of life.
There is no life which is completely free of pleasure and pain.
These are experiences that are granted to everyone.
When you are wise there must be an inner joy; when this wisdom is absent there must be some restlessness.
Wisdom is your best friend.
According to the Bhagavad Gita: "You are your own best friend and you are your own enemy.
You are your own best friend when you have won yourself over by yourself." (VI).
It does not mean that you conquer - 'to conquer' means that you fight with someone and put him down and sit on him.
When someone stronger than you thus conquers you, you want to get up and kick him off!
That is what the mind (or whatever it is in you) does when you conquer it.
'Winning over' is quite a different thing.
Swami Sivananda's approach was to wean your mind from running astray and win it over, so that it naturally does not pursue pleasure.
Such a mind becomes your friend.
When this happens there is wisdom.
When you hear the word 'philosopher', you hear the two words 'philo' and 'sopher' - 'suffer'.
So the philosopher who analyses man, God and world, suffers.
He has found neither wisdom nor peace.
If you want to be philosophy (which means that you are in love with wisdom) the path is quite different.
Within yourself there is an inner joy which is quite different from pleasure.
Pleasure disturbs the mind but this inner joy enables the mind to rest.
Having found this wisdom, one is not disturbed at heart.

November 20

Vision Without Division

All our experiences and expressions contain an element of truth and an element of falsity.
The false is our own opinion, our ideology and our concepts.
The truth is 'what is'.
This is eternal and infinite and therefore beyond the reach of the intellect, which is limited and restricted by time and thought patterns.
When there is ignorance of the truth, a concept arises: 'I do not know and yet I think it is such and such'.
This thought creates a division in ourselves, in our society and in whatever involves thought - including the question of human survival - thus threatening it.
Where does thought arise?
It is no use looking to thought to provide an answer to this question.
Do we have anything else?
Surely, yes: it is that which is awake when 'I' am asleep.
It is continuous, unbroken, eternal and infinite.
It is there even in our waking state.
However, the play of thought and the incessant clamour of our ideas, opinions, fears, loves and hates claim all our attention and obscure the Infinite.
There is nothing wrong with thinking itself, nor even with the ideas, opinions and concepts.
They are like the waves of the' ocean.
The waves do not in any way minimise the reality and the importance of the ocean.
It is when the waves are taken to be the ocean that a confusion arises.
That is not true. It is false.
'Wave' is a word or a description, and a 'wave' does not exist independent of the ocean.
However, the ocean is real, and in that context the wave is real.
When, similarly, one realises that all our experiences and expressions are false in themselves and that the consciousness on which they are based is real, a new vision arises in which there is no division.
This vision without division does not put an end to any aspect of life, even as it is not necessary to stop the waves in order to see the ocean.
The totality is the truth.
Falsehood is the assumption of totality by the fragment.
It is the self ('I') that creates 'the other'.
When in the inner light (the vision without division) the shadow of self ceases to exist, there is no 'other' either.
That is love.
The essence of enlightened living is love.
That is yoga.

November 21

Work is Worship

The truth has been revealed again and again by the Lord, and it will continue to be thus revealed.
Gurudev echoed this truth.
He regarded it as His own mission and His own vision, His work and His worship.
He listened to everybody.
He often declared that He was an eternal student, eager to learn from everyone, and from life itself.
He was a voracious reader.
But unlike most of us, He reflected on what He had seen, read or heard.
All this was infused by His spirit and seen through His vision.
Soon, He conveyed His spirit, His ideas and His vision through His writings.
In spite of the fact that there are hundreds of highly inspiring scriptures which we have inherited, we still remain ignorant, and there is still no radical change in our nature, because the revelations of the scriptures do not enter into all parts of our being.
We handle them as a printer handles his material, as a job to be done.
To Gurudev Sivananda this was a good start!
Our bodies are engaged in such spiritual activity.
Soon, because we read such highly elevating material again and again, the intellect is won over.
But even this does not inspire us to live a truly spiritual life.
The heart has to be won over.
Gurudev was a postmaster in the art of conquering our hearts.
His affection and His Love were truly limitless.
His encouragement and His patience were boundless.
He made us all feel that we had truly understood the truth, even if we had just learnt the use of the words.
He encouraged us to deliver lectures, to speak about the spiritual truths to others.
So, during such exercise we discovered our own lack of spiritual experience.
He made such experience seem within our easy reach.
He treated our faults lightly.
Our hearts were conquered, the truth He had presented in His works, and the mission was complete.
I believe that this is what is needed in the religious field today.
We need not be discouraged if we can only grasp the truth intellectually and our own lives fall far short of perfection.
We might even thank God for our imperfection - that gives us enough opportunities to strive harder for perfection!
The very work (dissemination of spiritual knowledge) in which we are engaged provides us with enough opportunities to reflect and meditate.
The knowledge which we endeavour to spread becomes more and more fully integrated into our lives.
It becomes jnana yoga, the yoga in which the truth comes to life in us - the word is made flesh.

November 22

With Grace Freedom Arises

I have a funny theory.
The Bible says "God made the world and he saw that it was good."
Obviously it was good and it is good even now.
But in such a good world as God created, why is there so much unhappiness, suffering and pain?
He must be capable of avoiding them.
My theory is that pain and sorrow, whether it is physical or psychological pain, were introduced into our lives merely to train us and to help us look within.
Otherwise it is very difficult to look within.
Where am I going to look?
Can you, without a shirt, feel the centre of your back?
It's very difficult.
But let one small ant crawl there and you can pinpoint that spot on your back.
You become aware of it.
In the same way sorrow is there in order that we may be able to look within and see that where it hurts, what hurts and what it hurts, is the ego.
As long as it hurts, there is some problem within.
This hurt is meant merely to turn our gaze within and help us find it.
I am reminded of a very beautiful saying of Vivekananda in connection with renunciation: "Work hard. Get something and then renounce it. Otherwise, what does a beggar have to renounce?"
So work hard, become good, very good, better.
Then say, "It's not me, it's God. This is not mine."
At that point all the evil qualities which met their match individually in the good qualities are seen as just the play of the mind, nothing more.
'I am' is not me and 'I am' is not mine.
'Mine' is seen to be non-existent and 'I am' is absorbed into the Divine.
That is moksha.
If you feel that 'This is my body' or 'This is my house' and you are quite happy with that, nobody, no god, can take it away from you.
One must reach that point where it hurts.
It is then that you discover that however hard you work it's not possible for you to get rid of the ego, because the hard work needs some sort of a result: psychic powers, spiritual experiences, visions and so on, and this ego owns all of them.
"You are mine, these are my experiences, this is my philosophy, my teaching."
Even that should hurt.
Then you are ready for grace and that grace instantly frees you.

November 23

What is Violence Made Of?

I must become intensely conscious of the aggression in me which is searching every day for a cause.
One day it will find some social injustice, the next day it will find some religious intolerance or dogma, and another day a domestic problem.
I go on day after day, finding one excuse after another for the expression or manifestation of this violence within me.
It is not only within me, it is me.
I must become intensely aware of this.
From here meditation starts.
All the breathing techniques and mantras are mere aids - very powerful and valuable aids, but aids.
I must know how to turn my mind within.
I must know what it feels like to look within, and therefore I create the mantra, I visualise the form of God, etc.
But to discover the inner personality, I must first become intensely aware of the cover, which is beastly.
However, I am not ashamed of it because it is me.
This violence that I have seen is a cover and I, in order to lift it, must know what the violence is made of.
I must know its inner substance and so I use a mantra or the image of God.
I wonder if those who meditate have ever thought about this.
When you visualise an image of God within, you see it sitting there quite real, but have you ever asked yourself what it is made of?
Even while looking at me, you can visualise a picture of Buddha or Jesus Christ within you - what is it made of?
Don't say mind, or imagination because we don't know what that is.
'Imagination' simply means 'image in'.
But what is it made of? Paper? Stone?
When I ask myself that question I acquire the ability to see my own mind-stuff.
And therefore, when I look at this violence again, I know what it is made of.
But this is another tricky thing - just before a soldier takes off in his bomber he takes leave of his girl and his heart is full of love, from head to toe he is only love.
But soon he is ready to bomb and kill everyone in sight.
How does this happen?
One minute I am full of love and affection and the next I start bullying.
Are these changes going on within me or am I changing from moment to moment.
One minute I am love, then I am jealousy, next I am hatred.
But once I am able to look within and see this cover, I have discovered the most vital and wonderful truth, that the mind is one, and this one substance undergoes constant change.

November 24

Learning With the Heart

The seeker within 'me' is subject to one or the other of the three qualities of nature - sattva, rajas and tamas.
Swami Sivananda was insistent that one should remain constantly aware of which guna (quality) prevails within.
Naturally, when the awareness is thus trained and awakened one moves closer and closer to sattva; rajas is flavoured by sattva, and tamas is kept at a minimum.
Sattva is something close to truth, reality - sat.
If your awareness is of a sattvic nature there is almost immediate grasping of the reality.
Rajas not only means activity, dynamism, but also dusty - a dusty mirror does reflect, but it is not a clear reflection.
Tamas means total darkness, inertia and an unwillingness to put forth effort.
We can visualise these three as coloured lenses.
Each colour gives the object a different appearance.
If you have understood the beauty of the three modifications of buddhi - the transparent lens, the distorted lens, and the darkened lens - then you will naturally understand that whatever is learned from a teacher or a scripture, is not learned at all!
You are listening to a teacher or studying a scripture, your buddhi - your intelligence - is awake.
Are you learning?
How do you learn?
You hear with your ear - hear, ear.
Right in the middle of that word 'learn' there is also the word 'ear'.
So in order to learn you need the ear.
But what we call the ear is just a piece of flesh.
Where is the ear?
There is another word with ear right in the middle - heart.
You hear with your heart.
So if you really want to learn, the ear with which you learn is in the heart, and that heart should wear a transparent lens.
Before you can attempt to even hear the truth you must become an adhikari.
In the beginning of the Yoga Vasishtha it is said that an adhikari is one who feels 'I am bound. May I be liberated'.
He who is firmly determined to be liberated can derive inspiration from this scripture, otherwise it makes no sense.
Philosophy is the love of wisdom.
Wisdom has to arise within in an aparoksa way - not 'my' point of view nor anybody else's point of view.
For aparoksa jnana to arise, it is possible that you and I need an external help - like a scripture or a teacher - but unless we make sure that we at least have sattvic buddhi, the wisdom that is derived from the scripture or the teacher is likely to get lost or heavily distorted.

November 25

When There is Neither Hate Nor Love

What is this thing that refers to itself as 'This I am'?
Even as this question arises you are baffled, you are confronted with something which you had for a long time assumed to exist.
What is this 'I'?
How did it arise in the first place?
It doesn't matter whether you are a swami or not, a holy or an unholy person, educated or uneducated. Everyone feels 'I am' and therefore everyone is capable of looking within and finding this 'I am'.
The yogis might insist that unless your heart and mind are pure you won't be able to find the answer.
That might be true.
But it might also be that the very act of turning to find what this 'I' is, is capable of steadying the mind and purifying the heart.
If you learn merely to look within, then that very action brings about steadiness of the mind and purification of the heart.
Immediately I begin to look within I feel unsure and therefore reluctant to relate myself to anything or anybody.
I am not saying there is no relationship - something happens so that there is neither love nor hate.
All the evil actions that proceed from us are directly related to one of these emotions.
When there is neither love nor hate, what is popularly known as evil action is impossible.
What flows from there on is natural, the manifestation of life-force.

November 26

Play the Game

When the Indian sage says: "The creation is the Lord's Leela (play)," the serious and earnest rationalistic believer in God and His purposeful creation is disappointed and disgusted.
Is God such a childish being?
"Are construction (including the creative demolition that precedes it) and preservation, evolution and revolution, heartbreaking search and back-breaking toil life challenging; and surviving death, disease and destruction just His play?" asks he in cynical contempt.
But why should he assume that play does not involve all this?
Ask any Olympic champion, a successful dancer or musician, circus performer or member of a dramatic troupe: they are engaged in play and they know what it means.
Play is not idle fun or stupid or easy going purposeless activity.
Play involves rules of the game, within which the players have ample scope for the use of their free-will which must be used!
Success and failure are vital parts of the play: everyone cannot 'win'; and losing the game involves no disgrace.
One who understands the rules of the game well and plays his role without undue anxiety to win, wins.
In this world-play, the Lord is the originator of the game, the umpire, the field, the starting point and the winning post!
As an inspiring religious formula says: "The Lord does everything, with the help of his own divine energy and strength, unto Himself, by Himself, for His own satisfaction."
The work that lies ahead of us is His worship.
He uses us as His instruments; He provides the right sort of help and brings about the right conditions in order that His mission may be fulfilled.
What that mission is, is hidden in the lap of God.
Don't try to bet on this or that.
Life is an experiment (which is the use of freewill in the play), but gambling is forbidden!

November 27

Remedy Without Reaction

What can the yogi do in order to promote peace in the world?
What can he do in order to bring about a healthy change in the social order?
The yogi discovers in meditation that peace is within oneself and that order is within oneself, too.
He also discovers that it is when the I-thought arises that this peace and this order are disturbed.
Selfish thoughts, feelings and ideas flow from there on.
The yogi also realises that all this has to be discovered by oneself.
You cannot make another person see all this.
The yogi, therefore, endeavours to find peace and order within himself, and to rest in them and to let them shine in their own light, thus enabling others who may be so inclined to see them.
He does not force others to be peaceful: such an attempt is self-defeating because the others cannot find peace under pressure and the force disturbs the yogi's own inner peace.
Does it mean that the yogi does not care for the world and that he is interested only in finding peace within himself?
Of course not.
When he has discovered peace and order within he also realises that there is disorder around him.
When he realises the inner peace, he overcomes selfishness.
Unselfishness naturally inspires him to serve all and to help all to realise the same inner peace and order.
This, therefore, becomes his very life.
However, he helps and serves more like a bus driver than like a school-master.
He does not determine your destination, for that would be violence.
He guides you and helps you get from where you are to where you choose to go.
He is like the sun.
He is the light of peace in which you are free to find your own.
All this is nice theory, but has it any practical value?
When you discover yourself in that light, you discover the truth.
You realise that even the ideas concerning peace and order and the ways of bringing these about are not your own.
When you see disharmony around you or social injustice around you, you think you know the solutions.
But, if you look within in the light of meditation you realise that these solutions are not yours but they belong to other theorists and therefore they do not work for you, the problems remain unsolved and your solutions become problems.
When in the light of yoga you discard all these, you find peace and order.
They are your own.
They are real.
In that discovery you have found a remedy that does not become a disease and that does not generate a reaction worse than the original ailment.

November 28

Look Within

Is it possible to learn our lessons directly from the only teacher that we really have - life?
Instead of looking to someone else for a theoretical diagnosis, to look directly at the problem itself?
Theories are born of man's quest for a solution to the immediate problem of sorrow.
But who created this problem?
I myself.
Trouble does not come from outside.
We do not need theory.
Look at it directly - here is my sorrow; it arises in me.
This may not be easy for everyone.
It needs a certain maturity of intelligence, a certain ability to focus one's attention on the source of sorrow while undergoing that sorrow.
This may be difficult while the pain is still there.
Therefore, the theories and belief systems will take us to a certain point, but the solution must be found inside.
Sorrow is experienced very clearly - I know I am miserable.
So, if instead of trying to destroy all my external enemies I readjust the thing within myself that responds to external circumstances, the problem is solved.
No one is my enemy.
In the Yoga Vasistha it says, "To pave the whole world with leather, you need only put on a pair of shoes."
Instead of trying to manipulate the environment to suit myself, why not readjust the self so that it does not get hurt?
Is there a state of mind, a state of awareness where one is not hurt or sorrowful at all?
Let us observe what it is that gets hurt.
Look directly, without any theory whatsoever, merely look within to see where the hurt is experienced - totally unrelated to the external provocation.
I am hurt, or whatever it is that says 'I' in this body, that is hurt.
But what is it that says 'I' in this body... eyes, heart, stomach?
There is no 'I' and therefore there is no hurt!
I discover that the truth is extremely simple.
Yet since body consciousness is there, it is possible that I will be hurt again.
'I' arises and whenever it arises it gets hurt.
But if I have found the key, what does it matter if someone locks the door?
It is as simple as that.
And all the theories that man has invented are meant only to lead us there, to the discovery that 'I' is not.
When we realise that simple truth, confusion disappears.

November 29

Self-awareness is God

Truth is brought out clearly when we consider shame.
Are we ashamed when we are naked? No.
In our own privacy there is no embarrassment at all.
Perhaps, we are ashamed when others see us when we are naked? No.
When we are fast asleep and our clothes are in disarray and our body is exposed, and when others see us thus, we are not ashamed.
But, if as someone is looking down at us we suddenly wake up, we are terribly embarrassed, ashamed and shy, and blushingly cover our nakedness.
In other words, when we were aware that our nakedness had been exposed to other's view.
We are not worried if we are fools.
We are not worried even if others know we are fools.
But we are upset when we are aware that others know we are fools.
A stage of refinement should come in the course of our spiritual progress when we are able to gain this awareness without the intervention of others.
The student of yoga, at one stage, is watching himself; he becomes aware that he is watching himself.
Perhaps at this stage he becomes extremely sensitive, often yields to pessimism and despair.
For the first time he has discovered his own nakedness.
But his vision is coarse still.
Suddenly the viewing-point shifts.
Instead of the centre watching the circumference, the circumference watches the centre.
By a mysterious, unimaginable and indescribable process he becomes aware of the Awareness.
He realises the supreme glory of that Awareness.
The defects, passions and foolishness belonged to the circumference, not to the centre.
Yoga is like a dark tunnel.
On 'this' side you stand and wherever you turn you see 'others' (objects).
Self-knowledge is absent.
You enter the tunnel.
You do not see anything (object).
But you know you are, and you see because you are able to walk, to think, to know that you are!
You go out on the 'other' side.
Now you know you are and you also know All is.
The objects appeared, disappeared and reappeared.
But you, the Self-knowledge, remained unbroken.
In Pure Awareness there is no sin, no suffering, no evil, no veil.
That is God.

November 30

Tune Oneself to the Guru

The great masters often isolated themselves from society.
Even if they did not do so physically, they achieved a psychological isolation by behaving like a fool or ignoramus.
Seekers who were mature sought the company of the masters and received instruction and knowledge.
Such maturity is purity in thought, word and deed.
However, this procedure excluded the vast majority of human beings from the hall of wisdom.
They were entertained by lesser teachers; unfortunately such entertainment later came to be known as wisdom!
Truth was neglected.
The reaction to this was the trend that is prevalent even today.
It is euphemistically called 'knowledge explosion', but in reality it is 'literacy explosion'.
We know a lot of words.
We can talk as if we are religious, spiritual, intelligent and enlightened, but our life belies all this and reveals the truth which is otherwise.
How can we tune ourselves to these great masters so that their music is heard in our hearts and the truth they utter becomes our living truth?
It is easy.
First and foremost we should abandon the foolish habit of translating what we hear in terms of the symbols that are familiar to us.
We should have the courage to admit that their symbols are unfamiliar to us.
We do not understand their teaching, even if the words are extremely simple.
This confession commences an inner search within us.
"How is it," we ask ourselves, "that the simple truth that the master thus propounds and which he obviously embodies in himself is impracticable to me?"
In the light of this enquiry you yourself will discover that either the mind or the emotion rebels against the teaching.
Hence it remains unassimilated and it turns into poison within.
The seeing of this truth concerning oneself is itself the removal of the psychological or emotional obstruction.
You begin to experiment.
It is possible if you have a healthy curiosity and seriousness blended.
You might fail.
In fact you will fail, (remember that), but it is not failure.
It is a pointer to the area of weakness which needs to be strengthened.
The search itself is success.
The intelligence is awakened.
This is immeasurable success.
This is religious instruction of the future: to hear the truth, and having heard the truth, to examine oneself in its light.
When areas of darkness come to light there is light and no darkness.
When the seeker takes delight in this, there is no limit to that delight.

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