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Choose Rightly, and He Awaits You
A talk given by Shri Parthasarathi Rajagopalachari
This is, of course, an occasion for celebration. Babuji Maharaj used to call these celebrations utsav. Utsav means so many things but the main thing is that it is associated with a divine atmosphere-not just happiness, not just joy, not just bhog, not just sweets, but Divinity pervading all the activities that go on. We sit down and have divine meditation; the cooking must be in a divine remembrance, when it really becomes prasad; and all activities in an ashram should be in that state of constant remembrance.
I have called an ashram a centre of light. There is an old tradition that God permits, when He thinks the time is ripe, certain doors to be opened to the brighter world. The first door is, of course, the great personality who comes to establish these, you see. He gives the teaching. He gives the message. He gives the call: "Arise, awake. Rest not till the goal is achieved." And to make people come and assemble at one spot from where they can take off, we create ashrams. This is like a railway station. Railway stations take you by train from one place to another. Ashrams are, in a very real sense, the gateway into the brighter world, provided it is used properly.
You know there are many people who go to the railway station only to sell things: bookstalls, porters who earn money and cheat; the musafir [travellers] are not so many. And of course, the musafir also has a seemit [limited] destination-somebody is going up to Kathgodam, somebody is going up to Haldwani, some go to Kolkata, some go to Delhi. Only he goes to the destination who does not leave the train. So I think of these ashrams as a sort of point where we assemble, and from where we are lifted up to our goal. So, in that sense, this is a collection point, like you have collection points for the yatris [travellers] along the Ganga. You must have the right spirit and you must have the heart for the journey; because no journey is ever smooth, no journey is ever comfortable, and no journey is ever really safe.
In the Gita, Lord Krishna says we have to be prepared. Prepared for what? For anything and everything. People who travel by the modern airliners, the jumbo jets, know that every moment after they take off, there is the risk that they will come down without wanting to come down-unplanned. So until you reach your destination, the journey is uncertain. No less so in spirituality. Alertness is necessary. In a plane, the pilot has to be careful, the weather has to be good-it is all external to you. In a spiritual journey, everything is inside you. You have to be alert here, you have to be careful here, you have to be courageous here, you have to be strong here. [pointing to the heart]
Spirituality, as I think Swami Vivekananda said, is for the lion-hearted. It is not for the buzdil [weak-hearted] who comes to the door, looks at the sky, thinks it is going to be cold and goes back inside and bolts the door. This is not for those people. It is not for the one who comes out and says, "Oh, it is going to rain," and goes back inside. It is not for those who say, "No, no, I wanted to go but, you know, my wife and children are saying, 'Don't go.' So I will not go." We must remember that in the spiritual way, we come here alone into this world, and no man, no woman, nothing can go out of here except alone. We come alone, we go alone. Remember, no wife goes with you when you leave this world. Remember, dear ladies, that no husband will go with you when you go out of this world, not your children, not your friends, not your lovers, not your beloved-all of these who take so much of our attention, so much of our time. Not because we love them, but because we are afraid to go alone. Any man who says, "My wife does not want me to meditate," please remember you may have to come here for hundreds of lives, marrying hundreds of women and not finding your way. Same goes for the women. "My husband!" Kab tak, kahan tak? [Until where? Until when?]
We have a saying in Tamil that when a man dies, his wife will come up to the door of the house. She cannot go beyond. His son will come up to the shmashaan bhoomi [cremation ground]. Thereafter who is there to take you? That is your dharma [righteousness], that is your karma phala [fruit of action], that is your devotion, and ultimately it is the Master. Because Hindu dharma says that at death, either Yama will come for you or your Guru will come for you, depending on whom you have chosen in this life. Yama is easy to choose. You ignore the spiritual path, you ignore the call of spirituality which is always coming from within, and Yama is there prepared to oblige, you see. He says, "This is my work. I don't have to oblige. You are mine because you have not chosen properly in this life where you want to go." If you have chosen properly, when you leave this world and close your eyes, you find Babuji standing there-"Chalo bete. [Come, my son.] Vakt aa gaya hai-it is time to go."
So remember you see, all this worldly life is a tamasha [play]. Kama, krodha, moha, lobha, mada, matsarya [love, anger, attraction, greed, madness, jealousy]-it is all written in the Shastras. All of you know it. All of you also know that this bandhan [bonding] of bodies in this world is tatkaalik [for the moment]. You are born into this world and you are going to die. In between it is like, you know, a musafirkhana [halting place for travellers]. We huddle together, we pretend we love each other, we enjoy each other's company in various ways, we eat, and we think we are happy. And then one by one the door opens and they each have to go. He says, "Phir milenge." [We will meet again later.] Phir nahi milenge. [We will not meet again.] We are listening to songs where he says, "Marne mein koi saath nahi deta. Zindagi mein saath dene ke liye kai log taiyyar hein-faida ke liye aur bhi zyaada." [No one accompanies us in death. In life, many are willing to give us company-even more so for personal gain.] Marriages are marriages of convenience, of security, of common mutual need. He walks fastest and farthest who walks alone.
Sacrifice is the word most essential in a spiritual context. Without sacrifice, there is no spirituality. Sacrifice of what? Sacrifice of the many for the One. In Him I shall find everything that I have wanted in my life; I shall find my companion, I shall find my friend, I shall find my guide, I shall find my beloved. Here I shall find nothing; it is all illusory. That is reality. Therefore you say, "Tvameva maata cha pita tvameva, tvameva bandhu cha sakha tvameva." Tvameva-you alone can be my friend, you alone can be my lover, only you are my God. There is no other God but you. You are my only mother, my only father, my only friend, my only relative and my guide.
So this is the call of spirituality, you see. And in recognising that truth, we show the wisdom that God has given to all of us. It would be the utmost foolishness to say, "You are educated; I'm only a dehati [villager], I'm only a pahaadi [mountain-dweller]." This wisdom which is essential to us-to go out of this world to where we must go-is given to every human being. God does not distinguish between man and woman, or between castes, or between white and black. God is just, God is above all honest, and God is dispassionate, detached. He gives every one of us this faculty to choose rightly. It depends on us whether we choose rightly or not. If you choose rightly, He is waiting. If you choose wrongly, the world waits for you.