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Everyone Deserves to Become
Talk given by Shri P. Rajagopalachari
My mind goes back to 1972 when I came with Babuji Maharaj to this country, US. We landed in New York, I think at about five o'clock in the evening, and there was a car waiting to take Babuji Maharaj to Stonington in Connecticut. And that's where he began his work in this big country of the US - Stonington, Connecticut. So I am happy to be back in Connecticut after thirty-one years [applause].
At that time the number of abhyasis were probably, of course [chuckles] Babuji Maharaj and myself [laughter] and maybe two others. The family with whom we stayed, they had heard something of Babuji Maharaj, and one of the daughters of Grace Kimball, who used to live in Cleveland, Ohio, was married to the son of the family with whom we stayed in Stonington. So that was what took us there. I remember at that time when we came here, we had probably twenty-two abhyasis in the US, and when three weeks later we left, we had about sixty-eight abhyasis. And Babuji was enormously pleased that the number of abhyasis had been multiplied three times. We also left some preceptors behind; some of them are still around, some have disappeared.
As they say, time changes everything. Babuji always used to regret that while time changes everything - time makes black hair white, makes the young old, ripens fruit, matures wine - with human beings, it's not able to do much. There is an old saying that old is gold. Precisely to what it applies, I have never been able to determine. Some old things are gold. I mean, like antiques, you know, which you buy. They are gold because they are old, not because they have any intrinsic value in themselves. In America, there is a lot of at least superficial, shall we say, respect, paid to the old [chuckles] which is rather, to me who is a straight talker, a lot of spurious stuff. In the old age homes and the geriatric homes, where I have a suspicion we just put away the old people out of sight, out of mind, they are taken care of. In Eastern societies, we respect the old. We have of course, our problems with the old, I know. You know, I am old myself so I know. The young people around me have problems. They politely say, "Looking after the Master." [chuckles] Of course, you see, but I know they have their own grudges, their own problems, their own difficulties, because as we grow old we become crusty, as the old English saying goes. We become impatient.
Babuji never showed his impatience in public. But he used to be impatient in private. You know, I had the privilege of being his only companion for months on end, and I knew him very well indeed. And all his disappointment was that his work for humanity was not accepted by us human beings, and he was repeatedly saying you can take an animal and train it in three months. His favorite example was a lion in a circus, which you could train in such a way that it would open its mouth and allow the trainer to put his head into the mouth and not bite. But he said, "Alas! Human beings." Not so easily trained because, unfortunately or fortunately, only God in His wisdom can know why He gave us our own will.
Babuji used to say, no lover would like his beloved to come by force. You cannot drag your lover by the hair as the old Neanderthal people are supposed to have done. You know I've seen cartoons of a big biceped guy with a huge, you know, what do you call this dumb-bell sort of thing on his shoulder, dragging his beloved by her hair into the cave. That sort of thing went out with the dodo. Love must come willingly. You want children to come willingly to you, not beat them around. Love must be spontaneous, love must be reciprocal, love must come and not be called. It is the beloved who longs for union, for meeting, whatever you call it. In Hindi we say milan.
So Babuji used to emphasise that spirituality is, above all, a love affair with the Divine. And the Divine is like one of those shy beauties, you know, longing for her beloved, but never venturing beyond her domain, not stepping out of the household. He must come. I mean, that is the law, that is the etiquette, that is the culture of love. It has no nationality. We cannot say, "Oh! But in the West, Chari, we do things differently." It is not that different. That is love; that has to be the only way it must be done. That it is done differently doesn't make it correct. So you see, this etiquette of love says, you who love me must come to me.
And I think Sahaj Marg, if you've read its literature with some perspicacity, some idea of really understanding how going beyond the superficialities of sitting and meditating and cleaning, and you know all these entirely surface things, it is the transmission of life itself. Pranahuti is defined as the transmission of the prana of the Master into the heart of the recipient, the abhyasi, the devotee, if you will. It is a life-giving force, love is a life-giving force, prana is a life-giving force. Prana is the ultimate life. The life that is transmitted when lovers come together physically is not prana - that is just life. So, you see, this goes beyond the physical level of loving. This is love in its absolute divine essence. Poured willingly into the heart of whoever's willing to accept.
And I don't like this word deservingness. Because in some way we tend to judge ourselves and say, "Oh, I am not deserving." Culpability, guilt, false modesty, false humility. "Oh I don't deserve His grace." How do you know you don't deserve His grace? You know if you go to India, or to places where we have water problems, when there is water shortage you will find people collecting water in every conceivable vessel. It may be of tin; it may be of brass, copper, gold, what you will. The vessel does not make any difference; it is the water that is important. And what is it that the vessel must have to be deserving? It must be empty. Suppose a bucket says, "No, no, I am only a galvanized sheet; I am unfit to store water in." Well, we store it in mud pots, don't we?
So don't think of yourself as being deserving or undeserving. If you think you are deserving, you might be fooling yourself. If you think you are undeserving, you might be condemning yourself. Both are not relevant to spiritual life. In spiritual life all that is relevant, all that is necessary, is for you to present yourself and say, "Hey! I'm here. Fill me." I mean, it's a foolish car owner, who would have a full tank and go to the petrol pump and fill gas in it, wouldn't he be? You empty your tank - when it's empty, you go and fill up.
So all this ... you know many of these concepts in Sahaj Marg have been superficially bandied about, and superficially dealt with, intellectually analysed. "Am I deserving?" How do you know what makes you deserving or what doesn't make you deserving? I mean the spiritual histories of this world are full of saints who were sinners. Few were born saints, that is the very odd, very, shall we say, minuscule proportion of the saintly culture who became saints, who were born saints, you know. But if you look into the history of individual saints, most of them were ordinary human beings with their quota of, shall we say, a rambunctious life, enjoyment, pleasure. Even the great St. Augustine, if you read his confessions - he was a downright liar, womaniser, what have you, until the age of nineteen or twenty. It is in his confessions! I am not criticising St. Augustine. He has criticised himself. And he became a saint - one of the greatest in the Christian tradition. Isn't it?
So let us not be worried whether we are sinners, or murderers, or rapists, or what have you. That is the base of human culture. Remember that in every candle, the light is at the top and the base is wax. In every lamp, the light is there [points upwards], the bottom may be copper, wood, tin, brass, metal, anything you like. It is the light that matters. So neither exclude yourself by thinking that you are too deserving and Sahaj Marg is not good enough for you, nor condemn yourself by thinking, "I am a sinner, I am a sinner; mea culpa, mea culpa," you know in the old tradition. There is no mea culpa here. As Jesus told the people who wanted to stone the adulteress, "Let him cast the first stone who has not sinned." And nobody dared to pick up a stone.
We must read and understand the lives of saints. What they were, what they became. It is in the becoming that the job is, not in the being, you see. I mean a king who is born a king has nothing to speak about. And generally they were stupid. They did not know how to rule. They ruined their kingdoms. They fought unnecessary wars. And their people were miserable.
Do we deserve to become? Of course. Everyone deserves to become. How do you become deserving? By trying to become. There is nothing else that is needed. If I am trying to become, I will become. There is no trying which is defeatist in this universe. Babuji said, "Do and achieve." Achievement is guaranteed to one who will try. But if you are just sitting in your easy chair and reading Plato and Augustine, and I don't know, the life of criminals, we are going into despair after despair and saying, "No, no, this is not for me. Maybe in some future life."
So, you see, all that we need in spirituality, is to be able to be brave enough to say, "My past is behind me." We cannot carry our past with us into the future. You know when I go along the roads of America, I find every so often garage sales. People are always getting rid of the things they don't need any more. Leaving them behind, moving houses, "relocating" - the famous American term. U-haul. No? Here I haul, and you follow. [laughter and applause]
So all that submission means, all that surrender means, is to say my past is behind me. My future is with you. It's like a girl, you know, who gets married. My past was in Stonington, Connecticut. I am relocating in California with my beloved. That life isn't dead. My parents are still alive, my old home is still there. Nostalgia will be there. "Oh dad!" you can telephone, and "Oh mom!" you can telephone, and weep your heart out for an hour. But your life is now here, in California. Every girl knows this. Every man who changes his job is attracted by better circumstances, better salaries, better perquisites, more stock options, what have you, and doesn't care about the house that he's leaving behind. He cannot say, "Oh I love this house, I cannot leave this house. I grew up in it."
You know dead places are for worship, not for growing in. Worship is not for growth - worship is paying homage to something which was. Growth is paying homage to what I've to become, to the future. Spirituality is to the future. Worship and religion is to the past. Please remember this very significant difference. I worship in temples, temples are wonderful. Walden Pond - wonderful; Thoreau's house - wonderful. They are monuments, they don't exist. It's better to read Walden than to go to Walden Pond, and sit and meditate, isn't it? It is better to read Gandhi, but you cannot follow Gandhi any more. Plato, where is he today? Of course his principles, his philosophies, his great dialogues - if you can benefit, yes; if you cannot, leave them alone. Because easiest thing is to sit down, meditate and become.
We don't need knowledge. We don't need to base our spiritual life on past philosophies, past systems of knowledge, past achievements. I cannot become Vivekananda by reading about Vivekananda. I can try to become something like him if I did what he did, which was meditate. Was he able to meditate alone? No. He was a mere graduate in Calcutta: very arrogant, very proud, very intellectual. And he needed a master like Babuji Maharaj you know - Ramakrishna Paramhansa, who was a villager, who had no schooling but who was a mystic par excellence. And he had to tame Vivekananda, you see. So if Vivekananda, one of the great intellectuals of his time, a lion among men, a giant in his intellect, a man who could shake the people of the US by his wonderful talk: "Brothers and sisters of America," he roared in his lion voice. It is history. Suppose you stand up and say, "Brothers and sisters of America," how many people will listen to you? You have to become what he became before people will listen to what he said, if you say it again.
So we cannot repeat, we cannot repeat parrot-like what somebody else said and then imagine that I am him. I can be him only if I become like him, and if I do what he did, say what he said from my heart, you know. So, easiest way is meditation, spiritual practice. But we abandon this in favour of going to Borders, and you know what's that, Barnes and Noble, and buying all the books that we can, studying everything, picking hairs, picking nits, as they say - nitpicking. "This is not right. That is wrong. They said so. This is what this is. Judaism says this. Islam said that. Buddha said that. But you are saying something new, how can I believe you?"
Well, when Jesus spoke, it was all unacceptable to the people of what they call Israel now, you see. How many people liked or knew Jesus? They didn't listen to him, least of all the religious people in the religion in which he was born. They hounded him, didn't they? It's a matter of history. The rulers of those countries didn't like him because he was a potential threat - a threat to peace. So the Romans didn't like him. His own people didn't like him. The nobles didn't like him. But the poor people followed him around. And when he went around and said, "Follow me," the great Peter followed him, and then James and John, the sons of Zebedee. I mean, I read my Bible long ago in school so perhaps I know a little more of Christianity than most Christians do. That is obedience. They didn't say, "I have to ask my mom. You know, my pastor won't like it. My grandma won't approve it." He said, "Follow me" - they followed.
Have we the guts? Have we the love for that man who's leading you to say, "Come with me" and you come. A mere fellow in, shall we say, Armani jeans costing $777, looks at you, winks, and you follow him. Disgraceful! Jeans are attracting, not the man. Do we see the worth of people with whom we are interacting? Do we judge with the heart or with the head? Do we see with our eyes or with the divine wisdom with which the heart is endowed? Our life has become very trivial, very superficial. "Beautiful ice cream!" "Lovely pizza!" [chuckles] I don't know - all these terms, which, we have you know, misplaced. There are no more lovely girls. There are lovely pizzas. There are no beautiful girls, there are beautiful ice-creams. No? Transposition of values in the wrong apertures, avenues.
Truth means proper perception first. I cannot speak the truth if I don't know what is the truth. If you ask a newborn baby what is your name, it would only blink at you. It does not know what is a name, before it can answer it.
So you see, deservingness is only being empty, which only means throwing out everything that is in the bucket before you can fill it - valuable or not. If there is a drought in the country, it may even be gold you have to throw out, because the bucket of water is life. Gold may be only death. Are we seeking life or are we seeking wealth? If you are holding onto gold, you may not have water to drink. You know there have been occasions I am told after the world war in Germany, when they used to carry a whole suitcase full of currency notes to buy a loaf of bread. Three million marks for a loaf of bread! Value of money had fallen so much. Three million marks for one loaf of bread! Money was valueless. Loads of paper to buy one chunk of bread. What is valuable? The chunk of bread or the suitcase full of currency? Severe drought, no water, what is worth it? The bucket full of gold or a bucket full of water? I would give my life for a cup of water if I am starving, if I am thirsty. But we don't know to what extent we are starving for this spiritual life. "La vita eternal" they say you know. Because we don't know it. We are so full of our what we call satisfaction, that we've developed wants forgetting our needs.
Babuji Maharaj always emphasised need and not want should govern our life. I need food, I need water, I need fresh air; but I want pizza, I want asparagus. I want a room in the Marriott, double cushions, air conditioning. And when I go into that life, the basics of life are forgotten to such an extent that we are afraid to open our windows and breathe the fresh air outside because that may be polluted. You see, that which is universal, covering the whole globe, may be polluted, but this tiny bit of air in this room, 8 by 8 by 8 is pure. Can I exist under such circumstances? See, we are encapsulating ourselves into smaller and smaller capsules of so called healthy, happy lives forgetting the rest of the world. How it lives, how it dies, is no concern to us. Wars in the rest of the world do not affect us. Tragedies outside our homes don't move us. We are living in a bubble, and like any bubble, it can burst at any moment.
If anything is to come to my aid, it is what Babuji prescribed for a spiritual life - "Be simple and in tune with nature." Think of others before you think of yourself. Elevate yourself into a spiritual life where the life is eternal and don't depend on this life, terrestrial life, mundane life, which is but a spark. Here today, gone tomorrow.
He used to tell the story of a preceptor who told an abhyasi, "Come back tomorrow for satsangh." And he was very angry. I said, "Why? Why are you angry, because preceptor may have been busy, he may have been occupied." He said, "When a preceptor takes on a job, he takes on a job. It is no more a question of his convenience." He said, "Do you know, only God can say come back tomorrow, because only God knows who'll be here tomorrow." And he recited the story of a great saint who was condemned by God to a suffering, because some devotee came to him seeking solace in a moment of extreme need and the saint said, "I am busy. Please come back tomorrow morning." But that man when he went, died. So Babuji said you know, "The sin or whatever he had which brought him to the saint, that was his first and paramount job for the moment. He had no business to be busy with anything else." When a patient goes to a doctor and is dying, the doctor's first deed is to look after the patient. Not to say, "I am busy, I am taking my wife to the theatre, or I am busy on the stock exchange, you know, buying shares." We are not duty conscious, because we don't think of the others, we think only of ourselves - my bank account, my stock market, my broker. That saint was condemned to suffer. All the samskaras of the man who died, were transferred to the saint. And this is a true story, not something pulled out of the magician's hat.
So that is the extent, the depth of commitment that is demanded of a human being. You live for others and if you live for others, the others will live for you. "Serve to deserve," was not some slogan I got out of the magician's hat. Unless you serve, nobody will serve you. In the moment of utter need there will be no friend. They will call you names. They'll say, "Oh that guy! Well, what did he ever do for anybody else?" "No, no, but poor man! He's dying." "So what? Call 19 or 911 or whatever it is, you know." "Yes, but he can't even reach out for the telephone." "Well, I can't help it." We are too familiar with such responses to human situations of desperate need - where a man cannot take one breath of air, and he dies gasping for that single fistful of air that you need in your lungs.
Everything has to be earned. Deservingness means, earn it. Earn it in what way? Love and serve. So you see, spirituality is above all, loving and serving. To become capable of that service, you have to be loved and to be served by one who is willing to love you and serve you. The guy you call Master, you see. Accept it. That is surrender. Start a new life, which means throw away the old. That is surrender. You cannot continue to keep this page of the book in your eye, and read this page, too. You have to turn it over. "No, no, I love that page." You can't read the next page. I mean this is ... children know these things.
Perhaps that is why in the Bible, or in the Jesus' words, "Be as little children and thou shalt enter the doors of heaven" - that innocence you see; that before I can take a new toy in my hand, I have to give up the old. Of course, children too weep because they want all of them at the same time. But they learn. Children learn very fast. Adults don't. They want to have all their toys with them, all their loves, so-called, with them, all their wealth with them. And they lose everything. And when they lose, they say, "Why God did this have to happen to me?" No answer. God doesn't say, "I told you so," because He never told us so. Why didn't He ever tell us so? Because He said, "I am here, and you never listen to Me here, you know. You were looking for Me in temples, in synagogues, in mosques where I don't speak. But where I speak to you from within you, you ignored me all your life. What can I do? I am your eternal companion. In your heart I live. In your heart, I go through eternity with you. Because the heart never dies, love never dies. The eternal presence is eternal. I am always with you. Living or dead, you don't know it. You did not know in life that I was with you, how are you going to know in death?"
That is hell. There is no funny hell where molten lead is poured into the ears, and molten brass down your throat, and sulfurous fumes you have to breathe and things like that. Those are all poetic imaginations. Let us leave it to people like Dante. The real hell is where we are alone for the first time in our lives, absolutely, not even knowing that He is here. At least when we are alive we have some idea that there is something in me which keeps me alive. When I am dead, that is gone. Unless, I take Him with me - and that is eternal life.
So you see, there is nothing much that spirituality demands: emptiness and the capacity or the willingness to be filled - only two things. So please, I urge you all to re-examine your own understanding and appreciation of spiritual life, and see how far you can go if you throw away all the intellectual concepts, prejudicial concepts and accept that here and now this has to be.