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Sahaj Marg Retreat Centres
A talk given by Shri Parthasarathi Rajagopalachari
Dear brothers and sisters,
You know, like in the life of an individual, there is conception, there is birth, babyhood, childhood, youth, then the prime stage of manhood, then the decline - what we normally call the decline but what should actually be a maturity from the physical to the mental to the spiritual. That is why in the limited approach of our ancient systems, they reserved spirituality to the end of life; they said it should be the culminating activity. And in Hinduism, or what we should call Vedanta, it is emphasised that vaanaprastha is the last stage of life, when you go and dedicate yourself to a spiritual approach. Of course we do not know if those couples who went off into the forest became meat for tigers and lions or they did go up - there is no historical record. Lalaji Maharaj reversed the whole process. That was the first break from tradition, I should say, though it was nothing more than, if you look at it one way, turning the hourglass upside down. He said spirituality should begin with conception. I hope you all understand, you see. Spirituality should begin with conception.
Now I had a funny experience once that is related to this. During meditation in my house, I think by myself - I had probably attended a marriage a few days earlier. You know we have this social custom of the 'first night' as they call it, when husband and wife physically unite. It is called shanti muhurtam [peaceful period], and I was wondering why such a frenzied, lustful, aggravated, physical approach should be called a shanti muhurtam. Then I had something of an inner awakening after forty-five minutes of meditation, when I felt that Babuji was suggesting that after the excitement and all the hullabaloo of the marriage over a period of months: buying jewellery, buying clothes, the bridegroom shaving himself, all the excitement, and if on the marriage day itself they unite, they will do it with only lust, not much love. And when there is a lustful union, the souls that are attracted to such a union are supposed to be asuric [demonic] souls, which perhaps explains why so many asuric souls are descending on earth nowadays when there is more lust than love in marriages. So the purpose of the shanti muhurtam is to cool down all this ardour, and this fervour, and, shall we say, unnatural expectations of satisfaction, come down to the normality of a human level of existence and then unite in a calm atmosphere when higher souls come into the willing and readily prepared receptacle.
So it should begin at conception of course, but that preparation for that conception has also to be made, which brings us to the second step of preparing and performing marriages within the Mission which Babuji Maharaj initiated. The first marriage in the Mission was performed by him, and unfortunately, that was also the last in his lifetime. And that tradition is being continued. Hopefully our abhyasis, when they marry, they carry with them the spiritual treasure, whatever they have garnered through meditation, through study, through their faith and devotion. It is with them and surely it will have the effect on the progeny that they will generate for the future. I can see it even in the children that are born today or have been born in the last ten years.
So you see, the idea of initiation at conception, the idea that for that conception, the correct auspicious circumstances are to be created by prior initiation into the Sahaj Marg system: some years of practice, some months of practice, both minds prepared, both hearts prepared. Body is nothing, you see. It is the mind and the heart which rule this universe. And of the two, the heart is the primary vessel.
So now we come, having introduced this, what next? It naturally follows that yama and niyama has to follow because we are a big family, where the family as a whole must co-operate, remembering what Babuji emphasised: "Why we don't emphasise yama and niyama, asana and pranayama in Sahaj Marg is because yama and niyama are taught within the family: ethics, morality, culture, tradition. They are not to be left to schools." So we already have a large school all over the world, you see - willing hearts, convinced minds, trained interests with, shall we say, the aspiration to produce a new human race. So I think the appropriate moment comes by itself. It is not created by somebody or looked for in a panchaangam [almanac] - it comes. Like when we are ready for marriage, the bride comes or the bridegroom. You don't look for a bride at the age of three.
So the appropriate moment now, the time for commencing the regular Ashtanga Yoga practice (as my brother referred, though I have not codified it in such, shall we say, detailed terms) will begin. So these retreat centres - this also came to me out of a vision, you see. Let us say Sahaj Marg has been a mining company - mining ore. You know, I mean in some way preparing that ore for smelting, for steel-making, etcetera. Now comes the second organisation in the process which will put you through the smelting process, refine you, purify you, and give inside you not the steel of the metal, but the steel of integrity, the steel of devotion, the steel of determination that "I shall achieve this goal within this lifetime."
So these retreat centres, of which I am hoping there will be five in India: one is here, second will be in Ambala in Haryana for which I am going to acquire land next month. The land is selected, but there are standing crops and they will give it to us only after the crops have been harvested. Other three, Inshallah, I don't know where they will come up, but they will come up. So five spread out in India. There are already plans for one in the U.S. If Babuji blesses the project, I hope it will be a reality within a couple of months. We will start with one in the U.S., one in Europe, and one perhaps in the Far East - in Australia or New Zealand. So eight. And there will be a ninth one, perhaps in the old Soviet Union, somewhere near Minsk. So you see, we cover India first; then we cover the world.
Those of you who know how this Norton Antivirus [software] operates, when you click 'Do It Now', you get a tower broadcasting waves. I mean, that is the graphic. This, as Babuji has said, as it has been said through the history of Indian culture, Indian tradition, Indian Vedic knowledge: India is the land of spirituality. It is not a matter of pride or a boast. America is the land of money; Germany is the land of science. So just as the body has its own specified functions: the eyes see, the nose smells, the mouth tastes, the ears hear, you touch, using the pancha indriyas - the five senses. So the world as a whole has its own sensory, shall we say, apparatus for input and output. And I believe this will be the heart, somewhere there will be the head (Deutschland) and somewhere there is the vaishya, the market people (that is the U.S.).
So we have to look at the world in a different sense, not as something that is specially yours or specially mine but as a unified whole, with the properties very much so of a human being, endowed with the separate apparatus in each place of what was created or designed for it, respecting it, using it properly, for the common welfare of all. That is what democracy is supposed to mean. Of course, the democracy as it is practised today is very selfish, very racist in its application, and very narrow and exclusive for the benefit of the few, to the detriment of the many. That is not how it should be practised. And there are enough proofs that civilizations that practised democracy in that way have perished, have gone into oblivion, becoming but a sentence in the history books of this world. That is by the way, you see, for our political leaders all over the world to understand and to implement. The good things must be shared; bad things are individual. A man's crime is his own. A man's intellect, a man's knowledge is for the good of all. His spirituality has to be for the good of all. And as you proceed higher and higher, it has to be freer and freer: no restrictions, no payment, no limits, no racist prejudices, no colour bar.
So Sahaj Marg says there is no distinction of caste, race, profession, sex - of anything - in Sahaj Marg. So with that belief these institutes or retreat centres will cater to all and sundry. Of course we will start at home, you know, in the sense that charity begins at home. So we will start training our own people first, prefects to start with, abhyasis next.
It is proposed that there will be twelve one-month courses, with approximately seventy-five entrants, nine hundred per year, four thousand five hundred in all the centres when they are up. And that is adequate strength. The curriculum will be suitably made; I am still brooding over it. But this is a fact - that we have to wake up before dawn. It is the number one maxim of the ten maxims of Sahaj Marg. The foundation already exists in our culture, Sahaj Marg culture, in the spiritual culture that we are all supposed to be practising. Then sit for meditation with attention to purity of body and mind. So there will be no insistence on cold water bathing at four-thirty, provided you feel you are pure in body and mind, with emphasis on the mental purity rather than the physical purity. There will be due, shall we say, emphasis on the fact that a healthy body is necessary to have a healthy mind, and the healthy mind makes a healthy body - it is a sort of symbiotic relationship - Mens sana incorpore sano.
So there will be a period of relaxed physical culture. You can play badminton, table tennis, do some jumping around, walk around in circles. We will have some parallel bars, a little weight lifting. We have to think over all that. I don't know whether we will have group meditation in the morning, but after breakfast we will start classes at say ten o'clock, finish at half-past-eleven. There will be only two courses in the morning; then in the afternoon, half-past-two to four-thirty or five - two more. Only four classes. Weekends will be free for library reading.
There will be good libraries in these centres, only equipped with books on religion, books on culture, books on studies of comparative religion: Islam, Buddhism, Sufism, Taoism, name it. I hope we should be able to adequately stock books at these libraries, so that anything you want to you can refer and study. The classes on religion will be conducted by eminent people in those fields. A professor of Islam, a priest or a bishop of the Christian church, a professor on Yoga, a professor on Hinduism, things like that, so that we grow, in a certain sense, like the cell grows after conception. The single egg is fertilized and it begins to divide; you have a human body with eyes, nose, throat - everything that you need. Now which cell knows how to do it, we don't know - it is a mystery of nature. And if you go into cellular biology or whatever you want to call it, you find that there are only four building blocks in the universe. And out of those four come twenty-four amino acids, which we call proteins. And from that comes this universe. So we will have some lessons on science, we will have video projections of pre-selected material. We will try to integrate science and spirituality here, and show why there should be no opposition but co-operation between the two fields.
Today, while the spiritualists are willing to accept anything, the scientists are sceptical, suspicious, of the spirit, of spirituality as a whole. In fact, I saw a movie the other day. It was called 21 Grams or some such thing - funny title. It says, when a man dies, he loses twenty-one grams; I don't know in what way. And you know, there have been efforts to weigh a body before death and after death to determine how much the soul weighs. So science is always inquisitive. It is not necessarily a thirst for knowledge. We don't want inquisitiveness; we want introspection - look into the self. Children are inquisitive, monkeys are inquisitive, everything is inquisitive - rats, mice. And they pay for their inquisitiveness often with death. So we don't support the need to be inquisitive.
So we turn the mind inside, we become introspective, because anything that is to be known in this universe is here, and if it is here, you are not going to find it anywhere else. Therefore we ask questions in meditation - not ask in the verbal sense but sit and if that question is going around in your head, somehow the answer comes. Like I gave you the example of the shanti muhurtam. Another revelation that I had was, you know, as a Brahmin, we used to do this renewal of the sacred thread every year; the Gayathri Mantra is one of that and I had to recite it hundred and eight times. After I joined Sahaj Marg, one or two years later, when I sat for this Gayathri japam, I just repeated it once and I was gone; and when I looked at the watch, forty minutes had passed. I went to Babuji and said, "What is this?" He said, "That is it. Because when you repeat or think of something, you must go into deep meditation, which will lead to samadhi. You have been in the corporate field. Suppose you want somebody to come to you, do you call him a hundred and eight times on the phone, and then he comes? Or you ring for your clerk a hundred and eight times, and then he comes? So it is foolish, you see."
That is when I gave up this nonsense of ritualistic Hinduism. And then I realised that, what was never prescribed, we have been following - because in the Vedas, there is no prescription of rituals. The Vedas are divided very simply into two parts: the Karma Kanda and the Gyana Kanda. Karma Kanda is only for the benefits that you want to derive in this world, where it says, "If your samskara permits," otherwise there is no guarantee of success. So you do so many homas and japas, this, that and the other. And when it fails you either become disenchanted with religion, you lose faith in religion, you lose faith in God, you revile God, or you follow the Gyana Kanda path of the Upanishads, which says, "Sit, meditate, achieve."
So you see, this is the rough and very tentative approach to, shall we say, the activities of these retreat centres. I hope one month will be enough for each batch to garner all this. Maybe, at a later stage, these five institutes will become five levels of training, and we will shift from one level, to second level to third level - you know, like police training school, police training college, administrative what-not, you know. But that is in the future.
So we need your co-operation as always. You know, when a girl marries a boy or a boy marries a girl, you have to go with your body, your mind and your soul into that union. If only the body goes, you find this unnecessary, unfortunate heart-breaking modern phenomenon of divorce. Now bodies can be divorced - I mean they are after a few moments in any case. But the heart is unwilling. Therefore there is so much anguish after divorce. This is a lesson we have unfortunately picked up from the West, where divorce is easy, marriage is easier and divorce is much easier than ever before.
You know that classic case of, I think, Henry the Eighth who wanted to divorce one of his eight wives, and the Pope did not permit it, and we have the Protestant religion being born. He created a new religion for himself. Eight wives and he was still not happy. So it is not wives that make you happy; it is what you put into your wife and you get out. It is like money in a bank; if you put money in the bank, you can withdraw it. If you don't put love in your wife, you can't get love out of her.
Always we hope to, you know, sort of incorporate in our curriculum, suitably designed courses - they will not be called marital counselling and things like that. That is too superficial, and expensive without results. This will attack or, shall we say, approach the problem from a deeper level. Babuji used to say, "When we water a plant, we don't water the leaves. We water the roots." Modern science, modern technology, teaches us to water the leaves - superficial. Spirituality waters the roots, and when you water the roots, the roots are growing, the trunk is growing, the branches and leaves are growing; they become resplendent. They bear flowers, they bear fruit, and the next generation is prepared - the seeds.
So this is the broad outline, and I hope all of you will co-operate. Don't rush for admission to these courses because we are limited - you know, we start with one, and maybe the second one will be operational from 2005. By 2006, optimistically, two of these retreat centres should be functioning: one here, one in Ambala. And then we will add subsequently, depending on so many things like resources, right place. You know, in the last four, five months, I have been travelling extensively looking for places. So that search will continue. And when we are guided to the right place, it comes.
And I hope you will make use of these centres for the purpose they are established. Come as you are, go away something else. A temple is supposed to do it: you come in a sinner and go away a saint, but they have failed because we hold onto our samskaras and to our guilt with a tenacity which is astonishing.
Spirituality teaches you another great moral lesson: charity begins at home. This means you must be charitable to yourself. Nobody can forgive you if you are unable to forgive yourself. This lesson psychiatrists don't teach us, psychology doesn't teach us. You may run to psychiatrists, who will only take your money and leave you as you are, because then you are only a cow to be milked, periodically forever. So here we look into ourselves, find ourselves as we are with the courage to look at what we see, and to accept what we see, and then comes the boldness and the determination to change what we see into what it should be. That is the culmination of yogic practice.