Thus Spake Lord Sai - 4 (on importance of regular and intense sadhana or spiritual practice)
Today is Guru Poornima, 2012. It is indeed a great blessing in life to have a Guru (preceptor). The preceptor has been considered as the trinity of Gods themselves as it goes:
Gurur Brahma Gurur Vishnu Gurur Devo Maheshwaraha
Gurur Sakshath Parabrahma Tasmai Sri Gurave Namaha
The previous part depicted two beautiful stories that Swami narrated as He sat on the Jhoola in Trayee Brindavan. This continuation also consists of stories. Here Swami revelas some wonderful aspects of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa to teach us what devotion and Spiritual Sadhana truly mean. He also put in perspective the importance of practice.
24th April 2001 (continued...)
Swami: (continuing) First you have to learn eeta (swimming). What is the eeta to be learnt? It is chanting God’s name. Then we can cross any ocean. There is no need to fear. There is great reward in Swami’s Darshan (sight of a great soul), Sparshan (touch of a great soul), and Sambhashan (talking with a great soul). But you live like sheep.
How do sheep live? They walk closing their eyes. Even if a vehicle is honking loudly, they don’t move. They just follow the sheep in front. Similarly, all of you just follow others blindly. If one of your classmates goes in one direction, you just follow him blindly. Imitation is bad. Imitation is human. Creation is divine. Don’t be like the sheep.
(Then Swami goes on to emphasize on the importance of regular practice if one has to get out of the rut of following blindly)
You all feel that you have learnt many things. Know that even a monkey can do cycling with practice. It will even smoke a cigarette with its left hand while cycling. With training even a monkey or dog can change their behavior.
Any greatness is achieved only with practice. Without practice, nothing can be achieved. That is why the Bhagavad Gita tells,
“Shreyo Hi Jnanam Abyasath,
Jnanath Dhyanam Vishisyathe,
Dhyanath Karma Phalathyaga,
Thyagath Shanthi Anantharam”.
(It is through practice that wisdom/knowledge is attained. The end of knowledge, however, is meditation, and the culmination of meditation is in the renunciation of the fruits of action. It is by such renunciation that one can attain peace of mind.)
So first you must practice to get peace. Even walking is learnt by practice. Your mother holds your hand and makes you walk or else you would still be just sitting. Similarly, Sai Matha(Mother Sai) gives you all practice. But you don’t understand. You start getting afraid. You are afraid even to stand up. Till you have bhayam (fear), there will be no abhayam (in this context, it means blessings). Therefore to get abhayam first give up bhayam.
Whatever Swami tells, does and thinks, is all for your good. But you don’t understand this. You waste time. Remember that even if a moment is lost, it is lost forever.
“Ramakrishna Paramahamsa worshipped the Mother from morning to night. One night he ate some food and went to sleep crying. He cried,
“Oh mother! Even today has been wasted. I did not get your darshan today.”
He felt very sorry for it. The lost moment cannot be recovered back.
(As I read this, I was moved. A voice within me asked,
“Do I pine like this? I say I want to see Swami but do I feel that each day nay each moment that I do not experience Him has been a total waste?)
You eat an apple. You chew it and take it inside. Then it cannot be got back, as it has been digested. Similarly a moment lost cannot be got back. Before you lose it, you must use it. Then alone will your life be fulfilled. Instead, if you feel,
“All boys are going to Trayee. So I also must also go”.
then, it is of no use. That is sheep mentality. Thinking thus, if you sit in a corner, is it useful? Without bothering about Darshan, Sparshan and Sambhashan you just go back and tell all those who ask,
“I don’t know! Some one spoke in there as Swami sat on the Jhoola”,
then there is no use of this.
There is so much sweetness in words. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa used to tell stories to his disciples who had to go and procure for him fish from Calcutta. He loved eating fish. Just one or two fish didn’t suffice. He needed a plateful!! The disciples went by turns to procure the fish.
One day it was the turn of Brahmananda. He has to cross the Ganges to get the fish. In the boat, people started criticizing him and more than that, his master, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. They told him that the so called saint was making all these boys lazy; that he made them wear ochre robes; that he was mad and made these boys also, equally mad. Hearing this Brahmananda cried, but gave no reply. He went to the city and got the fish. He was afraid that even during the return journey, people would criticize him. And people did criticize him saying,
“See the young sanyasi (renunciate). He is becoming lazy. He is mad. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa is also mad”. Brahmananda just closed his ears.
When he came back, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was speaking to his disciples. He called Brahmananda and asked what had happened in the boat. Brahmananda cried and related his tale of woe,
“People criticize you. It is okay if they criticize us. But when they criticize a pure soul like you, I couldn’t bear it”. In that congregation Narendra (Swami Vivekananda) was also present. Hearing Brahmananda, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa said,
“Chi, Chi… How could you tolerate such guru dhushana (criticism of Guru)? Get out of here”.
Brahmananda walked away to a corner and sat quietly.
The next day, it was Naren’s (Swami Vivekananda’s) turn. When he went to get the fish, people started talking ill about him and Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. They started wagging their tongues again,
“See, another lazy man is coming. He simply keeps roaming. Is Ramakrishna Paramahamsa a devotee? Being a sanyasi he eats fish”.
Hearing this Narendra got up. He slapped the people who spoke thus. He even lifted a man and threatened to throw him into the river. The people got very scared and kept quiet. Thus, even when he returned after buying fish, these people kept quiet.
When he returned to the temple, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa asked what had happened in the boat. Narendra replied that people again spoke ill and he slapped them. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa then told him,
“Chi, chi… you wear an ochre robe. You live in the proximity of the Divine. But you can’t control your anger. You were even violent. Get out.”
Narendra was puzzled. He asked Ramakrishna Paramahamsa,
“Yesterday you told Brahmananda not to be silent when you hear criticism about the Master. But today you condemn what I have done?”
Ramakrishna Paramahamsa replied,
“What I did yesterday and today are both correct. A car has four tyres. The pressure in these tyres must be balanced. It can’t be more in one and less in another. If there is any difference you have to check it up in a petrol bunk. Yesterday, Brahmananda was like a soft tyre. He only cried. So, I had to pump him up. So I scolded him for being silent. Today you were short tempered. (Swami said that Narendra was short-tempered because he had asthma.) To reduce your temper, I scolded you. Yesterday I increased the pressure. Today I decreased it! Therefore my teachings is all for your good."
( Isn't that why Swami is so special? There are customized solutions and methods according to each individual. This story enlightened me more on how one should counter criticism after that great inspiration from the Shishupala episode in the Mahabharata.)
So too, whatever I do, I do only for your good. You must see the teachings of saints and learn from them. Is this a good story?
Students: Very nice, Swami.
Swami: (continuing) So if anyone criticizes you, face it. Don’t be weak. Fight it. Realize it. Demonstrate the truth to the other person. Say with confidence,
“I like Swami. I want to go to Trayee. You have no right to stop me. He is my God. Who are you to question about Him? I have my God. I like Him. That is my confidence. You have not right to interfere. Shut up”.
If he/she tries to physically harm you slap him/her.On the other hand if he/she speaks softly with genuine doubt, then say,
”I am going to the ashram. You have spoilt your life in samsara (worldly activities). I am leading a fulfilled life”.
Teach this to others as well.
(Swami then continued to speak about Ramakrishna Paramahamsa)
Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was an expert in teaching. He didn't even know the alphabets ABCD. He used to tell,
”I am going to Kamarpukur”.
If anyone asked him whether there was a meeting there, he would reply,
“No, I am going to get my pencil”.
He used to refer to his pension as pencil. Once Narendra told him,
“Please say it as pension and not as pencil”.
Ramakrishna Paramahamsa replied,
“Let people laugh. For me it is pencil”.
He was determined and stubborn about this.
Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was a priest in Rani Rasmani’s temple. His monthly salary was just two rupees. He ate a little of the offering to the Lord, spent one rupee, and offered the other rupee to the Mother Goddess. He had great love for the Mother Goddess and lived in bliss.
One day he told the Mother,
“You are Rama and I am Hanuman”.
He kept thinking of Hanuman. He became one with Him. As a result he even grew a tail 3 inches long. On another occasion he told,
“You are Krishna, and I am Radha”. He became Radha and developed a woman’s chest! He went to the queen’s son-in-law, Madhurnath, who was incharge on the temple and asked,
“Will you give me a saree and bangles for the worship of the mother?”
Madhurnath granted these. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa wore these and was plucking flowers. Madhurnath used to come to the temple at 11 am. He saw a lady there and went back. Chanting Krishna’s name, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa fell down on a lamp. His saree caught fire. But nothing happened to him. Such was the great determination in his sadhana.
Once Lord Rama asked Hanuman,
“Hanuman, how do you worship me?”
“First you are the master and I am the servant. This is at the bodily level. Next you are object and I am the reflection. That is at the mental level. Finally, at the level of the spirit, I and you are one”.
This shows the philosophies of dwaitha (dualism), vishisthadwaitha (qualified monotheism), and adwaitha (monotheism). Ramakrishna Paramahamsa experienced all the three philosophies.
He was afflicted with cancer in the later stages of his life. He was not able to eat anything. Narendra and other disciples requested him,
“Please pray to Mother to cure you”.
Ramakrishna Paramahamsa replied,
“I have prayed. But she replied that so many crores of people are eating. What is the loss if I alone don’t eat? Therefore I will not ask Her anymore. Mother told me that it is for my good. She also told me that earlier I kept chanting her name loudly. Now I must chant it silently inside.”
Ramakrishna Paramahamsa did a lot of sadhana and fulfilled his life. One day he could not bear not having Mother’s darshan. He got up at midnight and walked to the Ganges. He kept walking into the Ganges. But he felt that the water was always only knee deep. The Mother then told him,
“Due to ignorance you are trying to end your life. But your life is in my hands. You do not have the right to lose it. Therefore I have reduced the level of the water. Offer everything unto me”.
Ramakrishna Paramahamsa offered all to the Mother. He lived a life full of bliss and joy.
(Now isn't that what Swami has told us about perfect surrender - to consider everything that happens to us as the best for us? With that, Swami brought the profound and beautiful session to a close with Aarthi.)
If you liked this, you should read the other parts too:
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© 2012 Aravind Balasubramanya