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Purposeful, Systematic Practice
A talk given by Shri Parthasarathi Rajagopalachari
Babuji said that prefects serve. Whom do they serve? Not the abhyasis. Those of you who are new prefects must understand this idea very correctly, that prefects do not serve abhyasis; they serve the Master. And in obeying the Master, they give sittings to abhyasis, and therefore they should not get attached to abhyasis. If Babuji says, “No more sitting,” no more sitting! If he says, “Give him three sittings,” you cannot say, “I am tired.” If he says, “Tomorrow two sittings and you don’t eat,” it means, tomorrow you give two sittings to the abhyasi and you don’t eat. If he says, “Tomorrow you prepare this fellow to be a prefect,” you do it. So, all the work is done in obedience to the Master.
It is the Master who serves the abhyasis and, therefore, he has a lot of people whose demands he has to fulfil, whose spiritual requirements he has to look after, whose lives have to be balanced between the material and the spiritual planes of existence, and whose general welfare he tries to regulate—provided abhyasis cooperate. If abhyasis do not cooperate, the Master has no responsibility towards the abhyasis. So Babuji said, when I asked him, “Why do you do what you’re doing with so many abhyasis?” He said, “It is courtesy. If somebody comes to my door, I cannot send them away empty-handed. I give them something.” That ‘something’, he said, is an act of courtesy, that no person coming to the door shall return empty-handed. When he said I was going to be his successor, he told me, “Parthasarathi, nobody shall come to you and go back empty-handed. No question of deserving or not deserving. If they are deserving, you give them everything. If they are not deserving, you give them something. But nobody should go empty-handed.”
So those of you who have become prefects in the last one month that you have been here among the scholars must please remember this: that we serve the Master, the Master serves the abhyasis. And therefore our job is like, a ticket-seller in a movie or a train. “You want to go to the next station?—you get the ticket. You want to go to the destination?—you get the ticket to the destination. I [as a prefect] have nothing to do with it—it is your job and the Master’s. Between the two of you, you decide how far you will go. You must have the willingness. He has the ability to take you there.” If you are just playing with Sahaj Marg, you’ll get something. Like if I go to the swimming pool and put my foot in the water, my feet will get wet, but I will not have a bath. Many people go like that; they dip their finger and say, “Oh, it is too cold,” and come back.
So if you want the full benefit of what you are trying to do here, you must dive into it, like if you go to a swimming pool, you must dive into it. If you want pearls, you have to dive in the ocean. Nobody found a pearl floating on the surface of the ocean. You may swim all your life on the surface of the ocean, but all that you will pick up is scum, seaweed, things like that. You may swim over a thousand miles on the surface of the ocean, you will not find a pearl; you dive, there is the possibility of your getting a pearl. And to dive, you must have courage—and the most important thing is, you must let out the breath from your lungs. If you hold your breath and go in, you will not go, you will float. It is only this much, but that much air makes the difference between whether you’re going to dive or you’re going to float. And when you dive and you give up your breathing, it is an act of surrender to your Self [exhales]. “Ayyo! What will happen when I am there?” We shall see. “Suppose I die?” Well, you will be born with a better possibility of continuing Sahaj Marg. That is what Indian culture, yogic culture says. It says, “If you get off the train at this station, you can catch another train. But you have not lost your opportunity.” But if you get off the train and go away because the garden is nice, the coconuts are good, or there is a pretty girl there, or a handsome man, then you miss the opportunity altogether.
So while it is his ability and his responsibility to take us, his ability will work only when we are willing. His responsibility is to see that we are not turned away with nothing; something will always be with us. As he told us, “If you have roses and you distribute them, the smell will remain in your hands; that is your reward.” You get the rose, I get the smell, you understand? But if you don’t want the roses, I have both the roses and the smell. So your abhyas must be serious; it must be purposeful, it must remain oriented towards the goal, and your practice must be systematic, steady and regular every day. Otherwise you are like the rabbit and the tortoise which ran a race. The rabbit said, “Oh, this poor tortoise. What can it do?” and it sat there and fell asleep. And when the sun was up, it was surprised to see that the tortoise had already reached the goal because, even though slow, even though clumsy, it walked slowly every day, whereas this rabbit thought, “Oh, I can jump. In two jumps I shall be there!” That’s a famous story.
So spasmodic effort does not take us everywhere—or anywhere! We have people who live in old railway coaches which have been decommissioned by the railways, and you see them standing along the tracks on brick pillars. If you live in them, you don’t go anywhere; they have no wheels. The children can say, “Look, we are in a train!” But that is child’s play. A train must move if it is to take you to where you want to go. And if it is moving and you are not in it, you are still where you are; the train has gone. Sahaj Marg is a train, and if you want to reach your destination you must be in it. Not in it at one station and out the next. You may have moved like the rabbit and then gone to sleep.
In my travel days, I have done a lot of travelling by train. I have seen a passenger get out to buy something. He does not know how long the train will stop but he goes, and the train leaves. Somebody else—he goes to have a shower! Europeans, and especially Americans, are very fond of showers. “How long will the train stop here?” they ask somebody who doesn’t know anything. He says, “Twenty minutes.” “Oh, wow! I’ll have a shower,” and after twenty minutes, when they come out, the train is in the next station twenty kilometres away. You understand? This is not a way in which you can expect luxury or comfort or even painlessness.
Many people think that when they come to Sahaj Marg, their personal lives will be very good, they will have no more sickness, their jobs will go higher and higher and they will earn more and more money, they will have no problems with their wives or children. In fact, they expect something like a luxury steamer going in the South Sea Islands: nice climate, no storm, no seasickness—mal de mer. It is not like that. Sahaj Marg only says: the sea will be rough, because where this ship is going, it is uncharted ocean. There are no roads, there are no directions to get there. Only the captain knows and he does not have a map to show you. He only takes the wheel, and you say, “It’s rough!” He says, “Yes, it is rough, I am also on your ship. Why are you afraid?” “Non, non, mal de mer [No, no, seasickness]…” He says, “I will give you the strength so that you are not sick. But if you are weak, you will have sickness, and then don’t blame the ship or the sea.” The food? “Oh, I’m used to caviar and to Boursin cheese.” He says, “My dear, this is a ship. What we can give you on a ship, that you will get. What I eat, you will also eat.”
So you see, we have a captain who lives like us, who suffers with us, because he is inside in the heart, and who goes with every batch, again and again, to lead them to the destination. We go there once; he keeps going eternally with every abhyasi. It is as if I have to take you and put you at the gate, one by one. Imagine how my legs would be, my hands would be! So this is a great task for the Master, but we, in our ignorance, think that we are doing such a wonderful job. “I have come all the way to India,” somebody tells me, “and you have not given me a sitting.” Your progress is not judged by the number of sittings you get in a day. If that were the case you should be eating all the time so that you grow stronger and stronger. But the less we eat, the more we grow— invertendo. The more we eat, the more we become sluggish, put on weight, all these funny things. Fasting is very good for the body.
Spirituality too is like a food; it is the food for the soul, pranasya prana [life of life] as Babuji said—the prana of the prana. My prana is my breath, my heart. I live by food and drink. What does my soul live by? It lives by the transmission. And when it is full, no more transmission will have any benefit. It is like going on putting petrol in a car, and you ask him, “What are you doing?” He says, “Oh, I have enough money. I can afford it.” And the tank is full, and the petrol overflowing. “I can afford it. You buy five litres because you have no money. I can fill a kilolitre. It doesn’t matter.” But it’s a danger because that excess transmission, like excess petrol, has to go back to the Source.
Prefects and preceptors have to remember that when they give a transmission, at the end they must make a thought that all excess transmission is returning to the Source. Like, you know, when you are a good wife, or a good mother, when you clear the breakfast table, you close the jam bottle, you cover the butter and put them back in the cupboard. You don’t say, “Oh, it does not matter.” So you have to understand a great deal about Sahaj Marg. It’s not as ridiculous as some Westerners think. They say, “What is this? Close your eyes and sit down—and liberation! How is it possible? If I want to lose one kilo in weight, I have to do five kilometres a day for six weeks! And if I am very thin and I cannot absorb my food, it can take me six years, sometimes, to put on a kilo. And here this guy says, ‘Close your eyes. Please begin.’ Is this mantra, is this magic, or is this just humbug?” Fortunately, the Master protects himself by not taking any money; now you cannot blame. If I charge you even one sou [a penny], as the French say, I become culpable, because I have taken something, I have to give you something. I take nothing, and I give you nothing, because spirituality is nothingness.
So spirituality teaches us to distinguish between nothing and nothingness. What is there in this bottle? There is nothing, but there is air in it—prana, isn’t it? You can whistle by blowing into a bottle. So it is empty, but it is not nothing; there is something in it. Like I am empty except for the blood and the flesh. What is in my heart?—blood. What is in my lungs?—air. But there is prana, because when I die, that prana is lost. Now what has gone, we don’t know, but we weep, we moan, we bury, we cremate. Then what is there? An eighty-kilogram man is cremated and you get five grams of ash, and you say, “This was that! I cannot believe it.” Because my brain doesn’t permit me to think that eighty kilograms of a happy healthy man is only five grams of ash. What is the difference? Seventy-nine kilograms and nine hundred ninety-five grams, but that is not the weight of the soul. People have tried in the Middle Ages to weigh the soul. They took the weight of a dying man and just after death, the weight—no difference! Sometimes the body is heavier after death. It feels heavier. Why does it feel heavier? Because that which moved it is not there, so it has become gross, substantial, we say—that is, full of substance. So, dead bodies appear much heavier. That’s why in Tamil we have a saying: It is as heavy as a dead body.
So, that animating soul, when it leaves, we have nothing. We have the eyes, but we cannot see; we have the ears, but we cannot hear; we have the nose, but we cannot smell. Is it the fault of the eyes or the ears or the nose? No. There is no fault. It is like a house which has been deserted by the people who lived in it and it collapses. And then come the stories, you see: “Oh, this house is not good. So-and-so lived here. And they died…”
Sahaj Marg is a very serious business. You must take it at least as seriously as you take your married life and your job. Your job, you take more seriously because you get—I mean, whether you are a beggar who is begging at the gate and is prepared to stand there in rain, in sun, in cold, holding your hand out for the few pennies that you get everyday, or you’re a multimillionaire making millions of dollars every hour, there is no difference! The beggar dies, he leaves his pennies behind; the rich man dies, he leaves houses all over the world, cars all over the world, girlfriends all over the world, and billions of dollars in banks, but he goes alone.
Until we realise that all the money in the world cannot save me from death, we are going to accumulate, we are going to build houses: a mountain house, a house in the Caribbean, a house on the Mediterranean, things like that, where we rarely stay. I know millionaires who have houses everywhere—the caretaker and the staff are happy, they have a permanent holiday. They are well-paid, they eat the best food because of the boss, who comes once a year or once in three years, and for one night. He comes with ten girlfriends, twenty-five bottles of whisky and half a dozen people who are after him for his money, and he thinks he is great because so many people are following him. The test is, when he loses money, how many people are still with him? Is there even one?
What a man really was in life is known when he dies. The race is won at the end of a race, not at the beginning of the race. The success of a life is to be gauged by the end of a life—not by the beginning—as is the success of any enterprise. I want to walk across to the gate. If I reach the gate, I am successful. Even two steps before, if I fall dead, I am unsuccessful. A plane journey is complete only when I land at my destination. There is no person who will say, “Oh, he almost reached the destination, you know, but the plane crashed just before it landed in Frankfurt.” He might as well have been in Madras, happy and alive.
So this enterprise called Sahaj Marg, which we undertake, is neither long nor short. It is short for the very devoted, very capable soul which says, “This is my primary motive of life. This I shall do.” Babuji said that such a person turns his head from here to Here and he is at his destination. Another says, “Oh, how long will it take, from here to eternity?” How far is eternity? Eternity is not a measure of time. It is a measure beyond time. Like if I am in the aircraft, I can see almost from here to Madras—I see both of them. Where am I? I am above both, only then I can see both. So when I rise above my life, beyond time, I am in eternity and there is no time there, there is no distance there.
And how long will I have to do this? There is a famous story which I would like to tell you. Perhaps you have read it in one of my earlier talks. Narada, the great rishi of Indian culture, was going to heaven to meet the Lord. As he passed through a jungle, he saw a man in deep meditation who woke up when Narada passed. He said, “O Rishi, where are you going?” “I am going to heaven to see the Lord.” He asked, “Will you please find out how many lives I have to take, how much longer I have to meditate before I am liberated?” Narada smiled and said, “Yes, I will.” Some distance further he saw a madman dancing under a tree. He was again asked where he was going. “I am going to heaven to see the Lord.” “Will you please find out how many more lives I have to live before I am liberated?” Narada said yes. Later when Narada returned, he was asked by the rishi how many more lives he would have to continue. Narada said, “You have two more lives to live on this earth before you can be liberated.” And the rishi was desperate. He said, “Oh, I have meditated for such a long time, I have been so sincere, I have been so devoted. Two more lives? Why is God so unjust?” Narada smiled and went on. The madman was still dancing. He asked him, “Narada, did you ask the Lord how many more lives?” Narada said, “As many lives as there are leaves on this tree.” And the madman was so happy. He said, “That’s all? That’s all?” And a voice came from above and said, “You are now liberated, my son.”
So you see, attitude means something. Business people who start a new business want to be millionaires the next morning, or a woman wants to have her baby the next morning after her honeymoon. We have the story of a tree, the ficus religiosa as they call it, where women with no children say some prayers and walk round it nine times. It is supposed to grant them the benefit of conception. So one girl came with her mother-in-law, did her prayers, went around [the tree] nine times, and felt her belly to see whether the baby was already there. So, this is like looking in the mirror after meditation and asking, “Am I liberated?” And the mirror will ask you, “Am I liberated?” So it is not a joke.
Babuji Maharaj said that we should have desire neither for life nor for death. We are here. How long will the train journey last? It will last as long as it takes to reach the destination. Six hundred kilometres in Europe—it may be three hours; six hundred kilometres in India may take forever! But if you sit in the train, you reach your destination. You understand? And now, our vehicle, which is Sahaj Marg, has the speed of the mind—instant! Babuji Maharaj told me, “It is possible to liberate a devotee in an instant of time.” One minute he is there, the next minute he is not there. But people are afraid; they don’t want instant liberation. They say, “No, no, sir. I have to get back to Vienna,” or “I have to get back to Minsk,” or “I have to get back to Perth,” or “I have to go back to Teheran. My wife is waiting for me.” Another young man says, “I have to play the daf [a drum] at the celebration in Isfahan.” Another says, “I have two daughters to be married. I want liberation; don’t mistake me! But please—not today.” Then when do you want it? We cannot say. Because he has to play the daf, you have to get two daughters married. Getting two daughters married may take twenty-five years, Insha-Allah. [God willing] That also—Insha-Allah!
You know, I was in Dubai, and they say ‘Insha-Allah’ for everything. “I’m taking the car and, Insha-Allah, we’ll go to the beach at five o’clock.” I said, “To go to the beach—Insha-Allah?” They said, “Everything depends on God.” I said, “But you don’t have to say it every time. Even your ability to say it is Insha-Allah, you know. ‘Insha-Allah I will say that Insha-Allah we shall go to the beach.’ Then, ‘Insha-Allah I will say Insha-Allah I will say Insha-Allah…’ ” It goes on forever, you see. It is ridiculous! It is trying to cheat God by telling Him, “If you wish, O my Lord, I shall go to the beach.” And the Lord smiles and says, “My son, you are supposed to be meditating, and you want to go to the beach. And you take my name? Well, you are at liberty to go to the beach, or to a bar to drink. You can go anywhere. I have not put a limit on your will. You are a human being; you are entitled to use your will power to do what you like.” That is the freedom God has given.
To give up that freedom is what surrender implies. Surrender means giving up my freedom to follow my desire, rather than following my need. My need is liberation; my desire says, “Go for a swim.” My desire says, “Go to Pizza Hut and eat tonight. Tomorrow we shall meditate. After all, every day we are meditating! So what does it matter if we lose one meditation?” Isn’t it? It is like saying, “I will dive into the ocean and not breathe. Well, all my life I’ve been breathing; what have I achieved?” Well, I’ve stayed alive; that’s a great achievement! But you say, “No, no, I will not breathe.” Suddenly you wake up, “Where am I?” and there are these big things with horns and tails. You are where you have come! “But where have I come?” “Oh, on Earth they call this Hell. But we know better. This is our heaven.” “Why is it your heaven?” “Because all our life we were chasing people—for money, for girls, for this, for that—and here we are able to chase you all!”
So that is the heaven of the devil, you see. What is hell for us is their heaven. And you went there because you did not want to breathe. “All my life, I’ve been breathing; why should I breathe any more?” Like that, “All my life I’ve been meditating. Why should I meditate any more? I’ve not got anything so far!” So people leave. And you know, when you churn buttermilk for butter, it takes a long time to come. Butter doesn’t come little by little so that you can take five grams and walk away. Suddenly it is all butter, and if one minute before that you say, “Oh, my arms are aching. I don’t know how long I have to churn. My mother said, ‘Churn.’ Everyday I’m doing it”—the butter is gone.
So, for butter, you must churn until the butter comes; not until you are satisfied. If you want butter, the butter must be there. If you want liberation, the liberation must be there. I don’t get it. It is there, and it comes to me. If I want to breathe, the air must be there. If there is a sudden vacuum, in a moment of time we are dead. You know it; it is a scientific fact. And if I want to live in eternity, my soul must be nourished by that which is its prana. Otherwise at the end of my life, I don’t know what happens to my soul. Whereas if I continue, I know where my soul goes. It goes to the Source, where it becomes once again the nourisher of others along the way.
You know, the breath that I let out is full of carbon dioxide and all these sorts of funny things. Therefore we don’t sleep fifty people in a room—we would poison ourselves. But when such a person sleeps, his sleeping itself is our grace, his living is our grace, his existence is grace. Therefore we have to preserve his existence by our love. What is his nourishment? If you put ten rupees before a lamp, it will not burn longer. But if you put a spoonful of oil, it will burn an hour longer. You follow?
So love is that which nourishes life, whether it is at the human plane or in our contact with the Divine. Love God—it is the right way. Worship God—I am a beggar. Therefore, in Sahaj Marg we do not recommend traditional worship of any sort in any religion. All religions are the same as far as this principle is concerned, because we go to a temple or a church to beg. “Lord, forgive me,” is a begging. “Lord, let my daughter get married soon,” is begging. “Lord, let my business flourish”—another beggar.
About this begging, there is a story of a rishi, or a saint, who went to a great emperor, a Mughal emperor, to ask him for some money to build an ashram. He was stopped at the palace gate saying, “The emperor is praying.” But when he said, “I am also a man of God. I will go and sit with him in prayer,” he was allowed. So he went and sat there, and the emperor was praying: “Lord, give me better armies. Give me more beautiful queens. Let my next war against the neighbouring country be victorious. Let me eventually be the emperor of this world, et cetera.” The saint got up and as he walked there was some noise. The emperor turned round and said, “Where are you going? Wait! You came here to ask me something.” The saint said, “Majesty, you are a beggar. Why should I beg from a beggar? I will beg from Him from whom you are begging.” You understand?
So that is life, that is simplicity, that is the proper approach to God. Go straight to Him; don’t go through the priests, or the Pope or all these funny things. They can give you nothing except a spoon of water or a little bread. Beg, if at all, from Him, but my Master says that even that is wrong. Love Him! My master was once asked by somebody who was talking of selfishness—“You are only closing your eyes and meditating for your own liberation. What are you doing for the world?” So Master asked him (he was a very powerful man in the government), “What are you doing?” “Oh, I sanction money for various projects, I do this, I travel to Delhi every day, and from there I go to Assam tomorrow to…”—like that. So Master asked, “Are you doing it for the people or for yourself? And is it your money that you are giving? What are you getting in return?” He said, “I shall be elected again next time. I shall again be a minister.” “So you are doing for your re-election, not for the people! And how much of the money you give goes to the people?” Then that man was not happy and he asked, “What are you doing? I want to know.” He said, “I don’t know what I am doing, but if you do it you will find out.” You see? It’s like telling a man who is drinking water, “Why are you drinking water? Why not whisky?” “But only water will quench my thirst. If I drink whisky it will make me more thirsty.” “No, no, you are a fool. Because you have no money you are drinking water!”
So we have to go simply, simply, simply to the simplest. ‘Be simple and in tune with Nature’ is one of our maxims. Eat food that is put before you as if it is prasad—no taste. Taste is not the quality of the food. Often it is masking the quality of the food. That is how restaurants thrive. They put more herbs, fines herbes, fromage avec fines herbes… [herbs for seasoning, cheese with fines herbes…] What for? Sugar in fresh milk, vanilla taste. What for? Fresh milk is good, and nature created it. But we want to put peaches in it, apricots in it, give it a vanilla flavour, remove all the butter because we don’t want to get fat. As Babuji said, “The cow gives all that fat but it doesn’t get fat!” Why doesn’t the cow get fat? So be simple, be in tune with nature, eat what is put before you with love, love all whom he loves—nobody follows this!
Babuji said, “Love Him who loves all.” That was to make all of us love the Master. But then I came and I found that we all love the Master but we cannot love each other. “Why don’t you [inaudible]?” “Oh but, Chari, she is French!” says the Deutsche. Germans don’t like French people, French don’t like Indians, Indians—it goes on and on. When we come to spirituality there is no Frenchman, there is no Indian, there is no black, there is no white, nothing.
Because, like perfumes—today if you go on an airplane and buy perfume, it is the bottle that is sold, not the perfume. Isn’t it? Beautiful bottles! Originally there were glass bottles like this Chanel Number 5. It is still in the same bottle, the perfume is important. But today you have crystal—beautiful crystal, crystal in beautiful shapes. I found last time as I was coming back from Dubai, a perfume bottle [shaped] like a woman! I’m not joking; you will find it on the aircraft. Now whether the man who buys it thinks he is buying a woman along with the perfume or buying perfume for a woman, only he can answer. In such ways, we are deluded. And then gold on glass as if there is a sari around that woman—another bottle! This is seventy-five dollars, that is a hundred and twenty-five dollars. And I saw some so-called pure Arabic perfumes—three hundred and seventy-five dollars, bigger crystal, thicker crystal, heavier bottle, and people buy this because they have money. All that you need is some nice cold water from a river to wash your face, and you won’t stink, but you will smell nice. Whereas when you use these beautiful perfumes and you don’t bathe for three days, you really stink, using the most expensive perfume on Earth!
Be simple—poor people know it, they look charming, they smile, they are healthy, their faces glow and they spend in ten years what you would probably spend on two bottles of perfume and nail polish. Be simple. Your life is simple, you don’t have to work like a slave to earn money. Enough is enough, isn’t it? So you see, Sahaj Marg rules are not for the sophisticate. Sophistication, like civilisation, means being unnatural, smiling at somebody whom you would rather kill. “No, no, honey.” “No, no, darling.” In the morning you bid goodbye; in the afternoon, you receive a divorce notice from the lawyer. I am talking of things as they are happening today. I read in a newspaper that a cinema actress was married to her childhood boyfriend, and the marriage lasted five hours! She was so much in love with that boy whom she had met in school and she said, “I must marry him”—five hours! And it’s called a marriage! Another marriage—two days. One couple came to me in Augerans, long ago. They said, “Will you perform our marriage?” I said yes and they were married. Three years later they came hand in hand, like lovers, smiling, and said, “Chariji, bonjour.” I said, “Yes, bonjour.” “Will you divorce us?” I said, “My dear, I only perform marriages, I cannot divorce people. I don’t know how to do it, nor do I have the authority. ‘Whom God has joined, let no man set asunder’, that is what the Bible says. I cannot separate you. I can join you but I cannot separate you.” They were happy, they said, “Oh, you cannot do it? Then we’ll go to the mairie [town hall],”—that famous institution in every village in France. Mairies—they are all powerful, they can marry you, they can divorce you, they can bury you if they want. Because in Augerans, with a population of a hundred-and-one people, I had the biggest problems of life, because there was a mairie and a mayor—democracy at work!
So my dear friends, sisters and brothers, new and old, white and black, red, blue, anything: Sahaj Marg is Sahaj Marg. It is very simple, it is very easy to practice if your heart is in it; it is very difficult if you put your mind to it. Therefore, Babuji recommended that when you come to Sahaj Marg, cut off your head and leave it at the door with your slippers—and never put it on again. Thank you.