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Q&A Session with Master

Shri Parthasarathi Rajagopalachari
(Molena, Georgia Ashram on September 1, 1996)

Q: What is the difference between imagination and experience in meditation? Sometimes we imagine something and we don't know if we are experiencing something.

PR: Well, if during meditation you are thinking of experiences that you might have, then that is imagination. But if you are totally absorbed in yourself and things come out, it is experience. You know, one is like a well in which there is no water and you order trucks of water to fill into it, and then pump it out all over again and say, "This is well-water." The other is where there is a spring from, you know, down under.

Q: What about... books that you read?

PR: Read and forget! [laughter] I read for pleasure, not for knowledge; even science. All this Einstein-Podorsky-Rosen business I read for fun. My Master said, "Work as if you are playing, and play as if you are working." It's a good philosophy, you know, because we are too serious about both. You are willing to give your life to be the Wimbledon champion, and you are burnt out by the time you are twenty-six, twenty-seven. What is so hot about a cup? I mean, most of us could make one out of our own money [laughter]. Isn't it? I give myself a cup [laughter].

Q: I wanted to know if I have to unlearn whatever I read from the scriptures.

PR: Yes.

Q: How to unlearn? Because it is very difficult to unlearn.

PR: No, no, it's not. You see, our ego is keeping a tight hold on our knowledge, so that I can say, "Oh, I am educated. I am a PhD in math," or whatever it is. You know, "I am a doctor, I am a neurologist, I am a psychologist, etc." This is ego-fulfillment. But we don't have the satisfaction of solving existential problems of life with our knowledge. Try to give up and see.

You know, one of the stories which moved me most - you are an Indian, isn't it? - you know the story of Surdas? The blind-eyed saint of Lord Krishna. He was wandering along, you know, tottering with a stick held in his hands, and Krishna comes and taunts him, saying, "Surdas, you are supposed to be my bhakta." He says, "Yes, Lord, I am." Krishna says, "Do you have faith in me?" He says, "Yes." And Krishna says, "Why this cane which you are holding?" And playfully he knocks it off, you see. He says, "Now walk." So you see, that is faith.

You know, I have always admired Swami Vivekananda and when I read about his walking all over India with nothing in his pockets, I had the desire to emulate him by going out with a hundred rupees in my pocket, but I first had to ask permission of my Master. So I went to my Master and I said, "Babuji, I want to go alone for a month, on foot, with a hundred rupees in my pocket." He said, "If you have faith, why do you need a hundred rupees? And come to think of it, how long do you think a hundred rupees will last?" I mean, I could step out of Babuji's house and the money is lost, pick-pocketed, anything could happen. My hope was that if I got stuck somewhere I could send a telegram home [laughter]. You see?

So I thought of the Bible where Christ says, "Oh ye of little faith." Now, you see, a millionaire has faith in his millions. He says "Oh, nothing can touch me, Chari." A man with ten rupees has faith in his ten rupees. I had a faith in a hundred rupees, but not in the Master, you see. So the big lesson to me.

So faith means - I have this as my own definition - "Belief is the capacity to believe in what is possible. Faith is the capacity to believe in the impossible." I can't have faith in things which I am sure will happen, you know. But when everything says, "This cannot happen," and I say, "Well, I have faith" - that is faith. That also brings a certain sense of humility, you know. Faith must be accompanied by humility. Because an absolute sinner pretending to meditate, pretending to do his cleaning, "my self, my humble self", and yet having faith that my Master is going to take me somewhere, that gives me humility because I know I am totally undeserving. You see?

Now what makes the undeserving deserving? Because in a sense it is like the relationship between a child and its father or mother. They have become its parents. They say, "This is my child." So when we become His child, He has to look after us. But we must be "Be ye as little children," not "Be ye little children." One is childishness, one is being child-like. There is a big difference. We don't want childishness. "Child-like innocence." That He is the Master. He doesn't judge us by what we are. But He is prepared to give us what we have to be. That is His benevolence, that is His love for us, you know.

I once had a vision, about which I wrote somewhere, that God, watching humanity, sees us like a swarm of ants. So for me, as for Him, I see the whole swarm of humanity and cannot distinguish; there may be an emperor there, a prime-minister, a peon, a scavenger - how to know the difference?

So in God's eyes there cannot be any difference between one human being and another human being. Religions tell us lies when they say "Don't sin, don't do this, don't do that." Of course, we should not sin - knowingly. But we are sinning, you know, millions of times - when we breathe we are killing millions of microbes. When you are digesting your food you are killing millions of microbes. "Oh no, no, I am ahimsa, you know, I am a Ghandian." Will you stop breathing? So humility says "Lord, I have to live. And you made me breathe and eat." Isn't it? "So you look after this; it's your load, it's your problem." That is like children. Child-like innocence.

So such people become deserving because they don't know, you see. Like Christ says from the cross when he is crucified, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." They don't know they are crucifying - at that time - the greatest saint on earth. You know like a child which is catching a fly and tearing its wings apart. He doesn't know what he's doing. Will you beat it? So innocently, when we do what we have to do in passing through life, it has no effect on us. When we knowingly and wantonly do something, that is a samskara.

Q: In trying to be in the present; I'm also curious with what you were just mentioning, my having very positive memories of myself as a child, and yet those are in the past. Can you reconcile those, or do you need to just leave the past...

PR: Well, you know, a memory is different from living in the past. A memory is recording in the present what happened in the past. If you are a child now and behave like a child, you know, which unfortunately you see in some children who are under-developed mentally; they're still children though they are forty years old, thirty years old. That is a child in the present though it should be an adult. So you see the result. Yes?

Q: Can one cure physical illness with meditation?

PR: Meditation is not supposed to cure physical illness. But if it sets your system in order and a cure follows, there is no harm in it. But don't look for it.

Q: What do you suggest in a marriage when one person is spiritual and the other one is not spiritual? Does it have a path?

PR: Well, knowingly or unknowingly, we are all spiritual in the sense that what is in me is spiritual. We have to find it. You be loving and patient, you know, and you make the guy see that there is something in you which is spiritual, why don't you do something about it? Love is the answer, you see. Not impatience. Because there are women who have become abhyasis and then left it. Suppose the husband followed them back out of spirituality! [laughs] Some cases have been there.

The whole issue is whether we do it for ourselves or because of somebody else. It's better that the need for it is awakened in the heart, and each one does it for himself or herself. Of course, we must be supportive of such an effort by others, you see.

Q: I've asked a question before but I'd like to ask another one. When we clean and we're letting go of all our impressions and we're doing it over and over ourselves, am I polluting the environment, you know, with all my samskaras. What happens to that energy when I let it go?

PR: We don't bother about it. I mean, if I had to think of this, I wouldn't be able to use the toilet in the morning! [laughter] I mean, I am sorry to mention 'toilet'! [laughs]

Q: Master, is it normal that now that I am at the ashram, I feel the need for more cleaning?

PR: We should not feel the need for cleaning. We should clean because it is proscribed, like a bath, you know. If I wait 'till I feel the need for a bath... [laughter].

Q: Master, as you said, if everything happens by divine Grace, then don't you think the destruction of place or the way the human evolution of today is also because of Him? So how could you blame whoever discovered the... whatever the destruction...

PR: I'm not blaming anybody.

Q: But if it had to happen it had to happen by divine Grace?

PR: I don't think it had to happen by divine Grace. This is a very specious argument indulged in by people who don't want to face realities, that God does not intend to be destructive. He gave us the head. The purpose of our intellect is to decide what is right, what is wrong. And he gave us the will power, which is in the heart, to help us to follow the right, and avoid the wrong. So how is God responsible? You can as well say that Adam, when he was tempted by the snake in the Garden of Eden, why did God create an apple? I mean, if He was wise, he could have refrained from creating an apple, you know! [laughs] Isn't it?

Q: Same thing with me, in my watch-station office I keep always seeing pictures … [inaudible]… pray for me… [inaudible] …I just keep smiling. You don't have to answer to that?

PR: Well, if you feel like it we can pray. No harm. What is a prayer? A prayer is just saying, "This guy is here, he wants your help. Do what you can."

Q: Maybe the change in my attitude in viewing this picture. [inaudible] Why don't you pray for us, why don't you do this?

PR: Well, it gives me a hint of what you were before! Well, I'm happy. [chuckles]

Q: I just give them some pamphlets to read and all?

PR: Yes, you can. You should. If they are interested and they find that you have changed. You know, the biggest problem is, we find a good thing and we don't want to speak about it. Isn't it? On the contrary, we should have glad tidings, you know. I saw a "Church of Glad Tidings" somewhere here yesterday, on the way from Atlanta. We should spread, you see, we should radiate. Suppose the sun says, "I'm too shy," and folds up. "No, no, I don't want to be exposed, you know, Chari." What would happen to us? Isn't it?

I remember one of our preceptors was in Australia in a restaurant eating lunch, and from another table a lady went and sat and said, "Can I sit next to you?" He said, "Yes." She said, "You are so calm and so centred in yourself, (not 'self-centred' in the other meaning), can I know what you are doing?" He just smiled and let her go. Now this is like catching a fish and letting it go. I mean, he was a preceptor, no? When you catch a fish, what do you do? Give it a gentle knock on the head and put it in your bag. [laughter]. You know, Peter was called the 'Big Fisherman'. Christ said, "You are a fisher of men."

Q: What should our attitude be towards social and economic injustice?

PR: I think in a certain sense, you know, like when it gets dark we put lights in our own home. Isn't it? So let us light up our homes, let us light our hearts and help others to do it, and if sufficient homes are lit and hearts are lit up like that, perhaps you won't see darkness any more. But we are trying to blow away darkness like we are trying to blow away the clouds, you see. It doesn't work.

So instead of trying to fight social justice and economic justice outside, fight it within yourself. Because the universe is only made out of what you are inside.

I remember once, you know, we had an abhyasi. He was there for about six, eight months. And Babuji came, and he was very happy with him, giving him individual sittings and then suddenly somebody came and whispered in my ear, you know, that this is a bad character. So I whispered in Babuji's ear. [laughter] And Babuji looked very puzzled. He said, "What are you saying?" I said, "No, no, this man, you know…." He said, "But I don't see it!" There I discovered that, you know, when you look for bad things you find them, I mean, they're there everywhere. But you raise your vision and look at what is divine, and the rest ceases to exist for us.

Q: [inaudible]

PR: Well, I have already told you three times that God gave us this to know what is right and what is wrong. That is discrimination. It's nothing more than that. 'Discrimination' is a big word that philosophers who can't explain things tell you and say, "Look it up in the dictionary." What is discrimination? To know what is this, and what is that. So Babuji said, "Where this and that come to an end, that is Reality. Because there there are no more opposites, no more dualities, no more need for discrimination." I have to discriminate only when I am living in a world of dualities. Good pizza, bad pizza, you know? Which one should I choose? So that's the problem of existence, you see.

Q: I was curious to know, what do you think of Divine intervention?

PR: Well, the Divine intervention is always there, but we have to - you know, it's like a helicopter letting down a rope, you're unable to catch hold of it. There's no such thing as Divine intervention because the Divine is all-pervasive. How will It intervene in Itself?

Q: There are situations where everything goes wrong, and something happens, and we just want to describe as Divine intervention.

PR: Yes, we can describe it, but I would prefer to say that, you know, it's something in me changed the situation, and the Divine is in me. So when I seek Divine intervention, I allow the Divine within me to intervene rather than wait for some external God to manifest from some distant heaven, you see. That's the difference.

Q: [inaudible]

PR: Circumstances are external, you know. For instance, suppose somebody is sick and a doctor comes, and the child is okay. You say it's Divine grace. If the child dies we blame the doctor. Now, Divine intervention works both ways. When the child dies it could be that God came to take back what was His own. But we don't look at it that way, you see. We personalize this into gain or loss for ourselves, situation of sadness or happiness for ourselves, and what is good we say is Divine. What is bad we say Shaitan, you see. Not good. Either it's all God's, or nothing is God's.

Q: What is the role of anger?

PR: In Reality anger has no role, but you can pretend to be angry. It helps. Of course, if you are angry to the extent that your heart is involved in it, you are destroying yourself. But pretending to be angry, your heart is laughing and you are [inaudible].

There's a story of a snake which was this great saint's disciple. And he thought that it should not, you know, kill, and this and that, and it was a very humble snake. He went away. Ten years later he comes, the snake is almost dead, and tiny tots are throwing stones at it. He stops and says, "Aren't you my disciple?" The snake says, "Yes, Master, but you told me not to be violent." He says, "Damn fool, I didn't tell you not to hiss!" [laughter] Hissing is not wrong, biting is.

The moral is that you should not put your heart into anything, except God. Don't be angry with your heart. My Master told me, "Don't equate a man and his work." It can be a good man who does bad work. So teach him to do good work. He is a good man all the time. But he says, "Oh, he is a lousy fellow, useless scalawag." Yes?

Q: Is love an emotion?

PR: According, I mean I hate to say this, but according to Sahaj Marg love is only for God. The rest is all what we call affection.

Q: I hear sometimes people say "Oh, the atmosphere is very heavy here." What does that mean?

PR: Well, that's what they feel, I don't know what it means. [laughter] I don't feel heaviness anywhere.

There is one way of insulating yourself from all such nonsense, you know. Have the atmosphere of the Master around you all the time. It acts like a sort of a balloon and nothing can penetrate inside. We should try these techniques! We just hear it and say, "Oh, great." Not enough to say, "Oh, great." Try it.