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Eternity—The Promise of Sahaj Marg
A talk given by Shri Parthasarathi Rajagopalachari
I hate closing remarks, and I have just been clobbered on the head by the Centre-in-Charge, metaphorically speaking, and asked to do this dirty thing I don’t like—to close a seminar. But I suppose all things come to an end, good or bad, and that is in the nature of things. And I suppose it is good too, because good things have to be revived and renewed from time to time, and if this seminar were to go on and on, it would be disastrous, because soon it would be boring and then we would begin to see the attrition. Eventually, probably, only I would be left on the stage here and all the hall would be empty. I mean, you can see it happening—already, one-third of the hall is empty.
There is a story in the Puranas of India about a bhakta [devotee] who wanted to meet Hanuman. (Hanuman was a great bhakta of Lord Ramachandra.) And he said, “How to find him?” So his guru told him, “In a Rama temple, he is the first one to come and the last to go.” That’s what, generally, is my fate: I am the first to come and last to go because by the time I leave, most of you would have left, if not all of you. So this is for me a little troublesome because I have to come first, I have to go last.
You know, I have attended so many weddings and had them performed in my house. We begin with a great deal of anticipation, anticipatory preparation, joy, welcome people with wide-open arms and love. The celebration is the culmination. Then begins the most, what should I say, sad part of the whole thing that we have to watch guests leaving, one by one, until the family is there, watching the pandals [temporary enclosures] being removed, the decorations being removed, the house cleaned up. And by the time you go to bed, sometimes you are actually scared because, having had four or five hundred people at home, suddenly you are three.
So our seminars are like that, you see, but there is a difference. The difference is, you all carry back the guy you call Master with you in your heart, or you should, and I have the better part of the bargain because I carry all of you back with me. I hope you sometimes feel a little absent even where you are present—I don’t mean mentally absent [laughs] but, in a very vital way, you feel lost; you don’t know where you are. That is because you are at home and not at home; you are with me and not with me, in a sense. That is a very desirable state.
I remember once I was leaving Shahjahanpur, after having been with Babuji for some seven or eight days, and the whole day, I was getting more and more sad to leave the old man. And he came with me up to the gate when the rickshaw arrived, gave me a big hug, and there were tears in his eyes—my Master! And he told me in Hindi: “For the first time in my life, I feel that somebody is going away, leaving me alone.” So that is the sort of feeling you should leave with your Master, when you leave. He should actually feel sad with every individual departure, “I am alone.” Of course, He is eternally alone and I don’t think there would be any permanent companion for Him unless, like in the Puranas, there is a Shiva and a Parvati, and a Vishnu and a Lakshmi. (I think they are all mostly made-up tales.)
So you see, it is all right for you to feel sad when you leave, if at all you do feel sad—I know some do feel. But to make the Master feel sad is something very unique, which means you have really touched His heart. How many abhyasis among all the thousands in this world have been able to do it? I don’t know. Because Master told me in Paris (in that tragedy of the tragic year, just before he passed away), he said, “There are few people who love me—maybe two or three.” Imagine, you see! He had been working from 1945 to 1982—thirty-seven long years, registered a Mission after he was told he was the successor. And he was seventy-three when he went abroad for the first time in 1972. I was privileged to accompany him and I could see he was averse to travel.
He was a home-bird, home-lover: he had his own chair, he had his own towel, he knew how to go to the bathroom in the dark. Very essentially, he was a homebound person. He was compelled to travel to be of service to humanity, in obedience to his Master, Lalaji’s wish. Lalaji said, “Spread the good word,” and he did. But you know, there was physical suffering, there was, of course, emotional suffering. But I assume all that was possible because of the spiritual joy, the spiritual bliss that he felt in merely carrying out the orders of his Master. He did not expect results. He was a karma yogi in that sense, you see. Do without expecting results—“Maa phaleshu kadaachana,” says the Sanskrit. “Karmanyeva adhikaaraste maa phaleshu kadaachana. [Your right is to perform only your duty and not in the results thereof.]” I know he never expected results; he hoped for results, but he did not expect.
There is a difference between hoping and expecting. When expectations fail, only hope remains. And in a world which is becoming increasingly difficult, in which we can hardly expect anything—we cannot expect good air to breathe, good water to drink, good neighbours, good governments. The only thing we seem to be having is better and better terrorism, better and better terrorists. In such a world, all that keeps us alive, if not happy, is hope. That is why hope is often pictured as a young, beautiful girl seated with her eyes blindfolded, playing the harp.
There is a story in the Upanishad about a man who is running for life from a tiger, and he does not see there is a big hole in front of him. He falls into it, but as he falls, he clutches at the thick roots of a tree, a banyan tree. He wants to jump; he looks down and it’s full of snakes. (It’s a snake pit.) He looks up—the rats and squirrels are gnawing at the roots to which he is hanging for dear life. In this dilemma of what to do, he looks up to see the sun and a drop of honey falls on his lips from a honeycomb above, and he says, “What joy there is in this world; what bliss!” This is all the bliss that earthbound mortals are generally entitled to and perhaps receive. Because if you look at all your satisfactory moments, whether in physical exercise or physical fulfilment in marriage or just gustatory feelings after lunch and dinner, the rare pleasant experiences when you have been mildly drunk (some of you at least)—if you add up all these moments they would probably not last more than twenty-four hours in a seventy-year-old life. One drop of honey from a comb above—but that is what keeps us moving, you know. Something better tomorrow, next experience better than last night’s, next bout of friendship more sober, shall we say, than the previous one. Even in spirituality, I hope the next sitting is better.
Somebody told Babuji Maharaj, “Today was awful,” and Babuji said, “Why?” He said, “I don’t know. I saw all sorts of funny things. It was like a nightmare during a waking period.” Babuji was immensely happy. He said, “Mubarak! [Congratulations!]” and he patted this fellow on the back; and that abhyasi was puzzled. He said, “I say it’s a lousy sitting and he is patting me on the back and saying, ‘Congratulations!’” Babuji said, “What in your experience is the worst sitting, is the best sitting which I want to give you, because it is a proof that I have got rid of lot of muck which you have been storing inside you, which you could not remove by yourself, which perhaps you would not have liked to be removed because they carry memories—and that is what I want. Whereas, a ‘good’ sitting for you is only something pleasant. It is like the dessert at the end of lunch or dinner. Often children wish they could have the dessert first and not have the soup at all—but mummies are mummies. I don’t mean m-u-m-m-y-s [chuckles], but ‘mothers’. They insist, you know, and into unwilling little mouths they literally ladle spoonfuls of soup, much to the child’s discomfiture, fill up this tiny stomach so that it will not ask for cake.
So you see, from tender childhood to senile age, expectations and what we receive or achieve don’t match. They never did, they never will, because of several problems. One, we want what we should not want; two, we want it when we should not want it, and we often want what is definitely destructive. So a benign nature, whether in the form of a mother or a guru or God himself says, “Stop.” It requires wisdom to know that what is not good for us is stopped by a benevolent destiny and its ruler. But we often feel annoyed, angry, humiliated. It is like the outraged philosopher who shouts to God and says, “All my life I have prayed to you. All my life I have served you. What have I received?” And God says, “Whatever I did for you was for your good, my son. And what you wanted to do for yourself was not good for you. Therefore I prevented it.”
So to accept a destiny, you know… I have often wondered what sort of God we have. I mean, in a mood of levity, I would say, if I were to meet God face to face, I would have two or three suggestions for him—humble suggestions because I cannot be arrogant there! One is biological problems, like the juxtaposition of the trachea and oesophagus, which makes old men choke when they eat or laugh. I mean, it is a silly design. If you gave it to Microsoft, probably they would have had a better design turned out. And some nice young lady who is a programmer, would have sold it for a billion dollars. But I know God will have his reasons. The others are problems of pregnancy, where again, minor design changes would make delivery a much easier solution. But I would ask Him, “Why are neem leaves good (the worst things that you can chew on), and cake and honey are bad?”—honey in the bottle and out of the bottle, in these forms. [laughter] “Why, then, did You create a world where what we consider bad is good for us, and what we desire so much is not good for us?” And God would probably laugh. But I did find a solution after a great deal of rumination, that this is how he favours the poor against the rich. The rich get all the honey, the cakes, the lovely mattresses, air-conditioners, perfumes, jewellery—and are sick. They die of cancer, they die of diabetes, they die of heart problems, strokes. The poor eat what we consider rubbish. They are healthy, happy, though not wise. We are wise but we are not healthy and happy. What is the difference? Money, wealth.
Therefore Babuji said, “Saintliness is very difficult under modern circumstances.” It was always difficult for the prosperous, if not impossible, because saintliness demands three things. In Urdu, it is illat, killat and zillat. One means you must have a little less than what you need. You need a hundred ringgit per month; you have ninety-nine, you will be happy. You will spend wisely; you will think before you spend— think ten times before you spend. You must always have a little less than good health. I am not talking of perfect exuberant health. Even good health. It must be a little less, so that before you seek comforts (as my uncle would say, in various ways—in and out of bed, in and out of tables), we will think. You see how diabetics eat carefully. Occasionally they go on a binge—okay, it is permitted. If you are a little less than healthy, you are careful. You walk carefully. You don’t jump and slip around and go skiing.
Why I mentioned skiing is because Babuji said, “Human life is sacred. It is the highest thing in evolution so far, and at all cost it must be preserved.” Of course people say, “Oh, he is afraid to ski. He must be a darpok—he must be lacking courage.” Look at our exuberant youth! And twenty go to swim, three die. Sixty go to ski, two come back with broken legs. In a good society like our Western societies where insurance pays everything, it is okay. You are sick but somebody else pays for it. But you don’t understand that you are sick and you pay for it with your broken legs, broken bones, increasing lack of physical capacities. So human life was not created to be gold medallists. You are supposed to be platinum medallists in the inner journey, in the inner races, the inner challenges that we have to face in life, which, let me assure you, are much, much, much more than the physical danger that so-called brave people and athletes and sports people face. There are mountains in spirituality you cannot climb—you cannot even think of it.
So you see, we need a lot of patience because this effort can be tedious, can be long-winded, can take time. So we need patience. When you have patience, you accept the facts of life: that what may come to you tomorrow can come to you only next year; what should have come to you last year may come not even today. Because when we are in a situation where we aspiring to be eternal, there is no today, there is no tomorrow, there is no day after. There is only an eternal present and when the giver gives, it is always now.
It is always human memory which gives us all these problems of—“Oh, I should have had it. I should have been promoted last year. I missed it. This time too, there is a selection board,” things like that, you see. When we get it, we say, “That’s all?” I find hundreds of people who come to me with promotions, raises and things like that. They are always disappointed—expectation! So I have given an eleventh maxim [adding] to the ten that Babuji Maharaj gave, “Expect not for thou shall not be disappointed.” I remember once, where I was working, my secretary got a big increment. “I am very happy.” But two hours later, his face was long and he was sitting at his table, not typing letters, doing nothing. I said, “What happened? You got a big increment and you just went around distributing sweets.” He said, “You know, but Ananthanarayanan got hundred rupees more than I did.”
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Our priests, you know—if others give five rupees as their fee after performing, let us say, a puja at home, you give twenty—they are happy, but sad. They say, “You could have given fifty for what it is worth, you know.” You give him hundred, he would expect two hundred. That is why, among Brahmins, it is said that the best thing to give your teacher or your purohit or your pujari [priest] is a meal, because then they say, “Please, no more. Please, I can’t take it.” That is why feeding is supposed to be the best virtuous act, most virtuous act, because there you have an individual who leaves you satisfied because he cannot take more. In every other field you give, whatever you give… Suppose a man has four daughters and he gives one away in marriage to an aspiring young man, and just after the thaali or mangal sutra [marriage necklace] is put on, he sees the other daughters and says, “I wish I had married the second one, she is prettier”—immediately after marriage! Sometimes they wish that they had married all four! So life is like that. There is no limit to desire; there is no limit to acquisitive tendencies; there is no limit to lust. There is no limit to all the things that we find acceptable, desirable in life, because fire feeds on fire.
In the Vedas it is said, as you light the homa [sacrificial fire] and you feed it with more and more ghee, it burns brighter and brighter. So lust satisfied only increases lust. Any desire satisfied only increases desire. People don’t understand, you see—“No, no, this will be the last because this shall be the best.” So we have to do away with all these things. Cleaning is meant only to remove desire—the duality in the mind between what I like and don’t like; what I want and what I don’t want. Cleaning does not mean just grossness. Cleaning means [removal of] this idea of judgement (saying this is good, this is bad; this I like, this I don’t like), of nothing in my field of view, in my field of experience, in my field of my senses. There is what it is, I don’t know what it is.
There is a famous story, again in one of the Upanishads about Shuka—Hindus will know who Shuka was—he was one of the most famous rishis (Paraashara’s grandson). And he was enlightened even when he was born. And he never had clothes on. One day there were some pretty girls bathing in a pond. Shuka came. They all got out of the tank and bowed before him, raising their hands in salutation. He did not know a girl from a horse or a tree or a stone. Then behind came his grandfather, venerable old man with a long beard, and the moment they saw him coming, they went back into the water and buried themselves up to the neck. And he said, “You hussies” (or something equivalent in Sanskrit). “You shameless hussies. Before this virile, handsome, tall, young eighteen-year-old fellow, you all came up naked on the bank of the pond and greeted him. And I who am beyond all in this universe, when I come, you hide yourselves. Why?” And one girl answered, “Maharishi, please excuse us. But in your question lies the answer. Why are you conscious that before him we are naked and before you, we are not?”
See? So there is the knowledge. I think it was Hari yesterday who was talking of knowledge: the knowledge of nakedness and non-nakedness, the consciousness of nakedness and non-nakedness, and the absolute lack of any consciousness of anything in this universe. That is the thing to which we are heading or for which we are aiming. That is our goal. And for this, the senses must act purely like mechanical things, you know, like brakes and like accelerators—to keep the vehicle moving. But we use our senses for pleasure. Nature did not give us the five senses for pleasure. They gave them to us as instruments. The eyes to see, ears to hear, and so on, you see. The tongue to say what is good for me and what will poison me. But when we became what we are, from what we should have been, the senses took a predominant role in our lives. Wisdom was lost—only intelligence remained, and that intelligence is amoral, in the sense [that] it has nothing to do with you. It is like a computer. You say, “Should I do this?” It will judge the parameters and say, “Yes or No” (Y-stroke-N in computer language). And the computer says, “Why not? Everybody is doing it.” It goes by the laws of averages, I suppose—that anything is do-able if more people do it than people who don’t. Our mind has to be turned away from such statistical misleading parameters of existence. That everybody is doing it does not mean we should do it. That everybody loves something does not mean that we should love it. That everybody is coveting something does not mean I should covet it.
So you see, cleaning is a very potent thing. It removes dirt, of course, but like the bath, it not only cleans me but gives me a sense of freshness, of renewed energy, because from water we derive energy. The yogic way of bathing does not permit showers because showers ruin the auric strength that is surrounding the body. We are supposed to take water in our hands and rub it and let it dry by itself—good way of saving water, for one thing. Because when you bathe out of a bucket using a mug to clean yourself, you may use five litres. In a shower, nobody knows how much, because the more happy you are, the more water flows down the drain! And Americans—who bathe routinely twice a day, cleaning away not the bodies which don’t need cleaning but perhaps the sins which are lying heavy on their minds, not knowing that no water can clean away the sins—what shall we do with them? Increasing water shortage, the dire prediction that this century will be noted for its wars for water. Last century was wars for petrol (gas); previous years were wars for food, territory.
So you see, the Sahaj Marg system of sadhana, spiritual practice, aims at individual liberation from samskaras, unifies the mind where no longer exists the concepts of dual existence: no here and there, no now and later, no good and bad, not even me and my God. You know, it is one of the very important teachings of Sahaj Marg which nobody seems to observe, that God cannot say, “I am God,” because the moment he says, “I am God,” there is something which is not God. So anybody who says, “I am God,” is not God. In the same way, anybody who says, “I am the boss,” is not the boss. (Like the famous joke, you know: a man boasting to everybody at the table of drinks that, “I am the boss and I have my wife’s permission to say it!”)
So you see, cleaning is the most important thing. Transmission is, even in my opinion, secondary. Because if you have a kerosene tin which you have not cleaned and poured milk into it, what will happen to that milk? So if you look on milk as transmission, it is wasted. Unless the vessel is clean, you pour something into it, that is also going to become unclean and therefore a waste. So cleaning is very important. I emphasize again and again that you must do it. Even if you can’t meditate, don’t give up your cleaning.
So you see the importance of Sahaj Marg. It makes us individually independent of this world because, in one stroke, it removes all misconceptions arising out of a dual perception of nature, of world, of life itself, because our biggest worry or fear is of death. And so long as I think in dual terms of life and death, I am bound to be committed to this world, until I am wise enough to know that in life there is only life; death belongs to the body, eternal life belongs to the soul.
So Sahaj Marg is a unique system, very mild in its prescriptions, seemingly mild. “Get up and do meditation. That’s all, sir.” (Only the man who has never meditated can say, “That’s all, sir.”) “Do cleaning.” “I find that more difficult, sir.” And bedtime prayer? It is lost in the anticipation of the rewards of the bed, often in the young. In the old, in the hope that at least tonight I will be able to sleep (because as you grow older you sleep less and less). You sorrow more and more for the past: for what has happened in the past that should not have happened, and sorrow for that which should have happened which has never happened, and for sorrows related to people who have passed on. “How I could have treated this man better, that man better. How I could have given that beggar ten rupees yesterday, when I have hundreds in my pocket.” Life is full of regrets, you know.
In the beginning, life is full of joy because we have nothing to look back upon, nothing to compare with. Children come out in joy and love, and then grow in anticipation of more and more pleasure fulfilment. And this goes on till we are about twenty-five, we get married. Then we begin to taste the bitterness in the lime juice because it has been squeezed too thoroughly; the bitterness in the fresh orange juice because the rind has been squeezed too much (the peel). Because when you squeeze anything too much, any pleasure too much, bitterness and pain follow. So you see, never try to suck anything so dry that you get only the bitterness and the dust at the bottom. People who have eaten kadalai (nuts) on the beaches of Madras [know that] at the bottom there are always a few nice pellets of clay or mud. So, the wise man takes two-thirds and leaves one-third to nature—let it go back to where it came from. The fool takes to the last and unfortunately tastes bitterness. And that is what happens to people who want to taste or drink down to the very dregs, as they say in the English language. Pleasures are best left alone.
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So, cleaning is the most important, most vital part of our system of Sahaj Marg. Please do go to your prefects for cleaning. Of course, once the vessel is clean, Babuji Maharaj used to say, the duty of the prefect is only to prepare the abhyasi so that He may do His part by filling the vessel now. This every woman knows: you clean the vessel at home, the milkman delivers the milk. Isn’t it? So that should be what we should be doing.
Remembrance—because when we are in remembrance, escape out of this duality-governed world [is an] instant possibility. If I can think of one thing, I cannot think of anything else. Constant remembrance is very effective just for this fact that God mercifully gave us a mind where we can think of only one thing at a time, and when I am thinking of Him, I am thinking of nothing else—so very simple, enormously effective, unfortunately not practiced well enough or even regularly. And many leave because they find that it is too simple: no chanting, no bhajans, no ecstatic swaying of the bodies before a cheating guru who sits down and takes the wealth off them, fleeces them. All this is missing. So, they go back to other babas and saints, you know, and pay their hundred dollars per meditation and they are happy. This again is a direct result of a world, a corrupt world, where you think that you can buy everything.
It is like asking Babuji Maharaj, “Okay, hundred dollars for one sitting. How much for the best sitting? Well, you know, there is a scale, twenty-one.” I mean there was a guru like this, and I am using that [example]. He said, “For the first initiation—five hundred rupees; second level initiation—Rs. 2,500; third level—Rs. 5,101.” (One hundred and one is a mystic figure just because nobody understands why it is mystic.) And like this, at the twenty-first level, it was twenty-five thousand rupees. And when one of our abhyasis, who was a member in that organisation before, told me this, I computed and said, “You have spent several lakhs of rupees and yet you have to come here?” He said, “Yes. It takes a long time to know that one is a fool.” I am glad that he didn’t blame the other organisation because only the fools go there. And here because we charge nothing, no fees for meditation, no fees for sittings… I remember a tall, handsome, black boy who came to see Babuji in Cleveland, Ohio. Babuji never spoke but sat by my side; I was speaking. When the conversation was finished, he took out a big note, a hundred dollar bill, and left it. So Babuji said, “Look here. What is this?” He said, “That is for you, Master.” He said, “You know, I don’t accept money for spirituality.” He said, “Oh, how come you can give liberation for free?” and he took the money and walked away. He thought that Babuji was a crazy fellow, if not a fraud.
So we are in a world where we have to buy. We have paid for water already, for pure water. In Japan, they have so-called oxygen parlours. Soon we shall have to pay for air. Sunshine may have to be bottled, brought home and released. And of course, you have massage beds, vibrating beds, mattresses planned for the comforts of the married or unmarried couple life—more and more expensive, less and less pleasure, more and more frustration, more and more drugs, more and more suicides—you see what the world has come to.
So to get out of this world, suicide is not the way; Sahaj Marg is the way, because you leave the world without having to leave it. You give up everything without having to give up anything, because at one moment you find yourself here, [then] when you close your eyes you are in a different world, different universe. Unfortunately, as long as we are alive in this physical form, we have to come back again and again. But, we come back again and again much less what we are here and much more what we were during our meditation. That is the promise of Sahaj Marg. That is what keeps us to this system of practice; that is what brings us together to share our experiences. Because if you were to come out of the bathtub as dirty as you went in…
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Here we find exemplary joys, bliss, a balanced state of mind when we meditate. We plunge, we do not know where we are; we lose our identities. Suddenly we say, “That’s all” and you come out and you look around to see whether I am still in that familiar environment where I was.
I hope all of you will realise the importance of this practice, which takes up half an hour, forty-five minutes of meditation in the morning, fifteen minutes cleaning in the evening, prayer-meditation. How much do you need? One and a half hours every day out of twenty-four, which is about six percent of your waking and sleeping state put together. For six percent, you get eternity!