(… Continued from Part 4 )
Sumant : Lord Krishna repeatedly exhorted in the Gita that our duty is to perform well without any attachment to the fruits thereof remaining indifferent to success and failure. How is it humanly possible to remain unattached to the results ? Should one not refrain from action altogether then as sanyasis do ?
Swami : Lord Krishna says in Ch.3,verse IV, that, : ” Man does not attain freedom from action without entering upon action nor does he reach perfection merely by renunciation of action “. He exhorted Arjuna in verse 8 theref to , ” perform your allotted duty for action is superior to inaction “.
Any sensible person knows that result of an action is dependent upon varius factors-tangible or intangible, many of which are beyond his control. Hence failure results in disappointment and dejection and success in happiness and euphoria in normal cases. A person always worried about the result is unable to give undivided attention to the task at hand and loses his balance of mind at unfavourable result or becomes conceited or unduy elated when successful. It is better , therefore, to maintain eqanimity in all situations by leaving the results to the will of god. Qua Sera Sera (what will be will be ). What lies in our control is unwavering and utmost attention to action. In verse 19 thereof , the Lord says, ” Always do your duty efficiently without attachment. Doing duty without attachment, man attains supreme “.
Karma or action is that which ends in result. Even akarma or inaction has result. If one does not walk, he will not reach anywhere. If a student does not study, he is likely to fail in the exam. Action does not mean physical action only. A philosopher, a scientist or a sanyasi may be apparently doing nothing in the physical sense but they are engaged in intense mental activity or sadhna which may result in some theory, some discovery, some message in that order. Buddha and Mahavir could be said to be inactive for long as they engaged in tapasya ( rigorous austerity ) forsaking every thing, even food, yet they attained enightenment and came out to spread the message of right thought, right action, love and ahimsa.
A sanyasi is active in spiritual sense, a scientist in mental sense and a manual labourer in physical sense. A good sanyasi , like Om Swami ji, always comes back to the society, after a period of self -discipline and meditation, to share his perceptions of divine life. But for saints, sanyasis, philosophers, thinkers, scientists, poets, writers, artists etc the world would be a poor place devoid of ideas and ideals. Thoughts or feelings precede action. A good thought or feeling results in good words or good action and evil thoughts or feelings in bad words or bad action. WE BECOME WHAT WE THINK. A sanyasi or a sadhu who takes from society but does not return anything in terms of spiritual knowledge gained is only a beggar and does not deserve any respect.
According to Hindu scriptures, every karma or action leaves its mark on our personality or sanskar and even determines our fate in this life or even future life. The Gita says in Ch.IV, verse 41 that, ” who has dedicated all his actions to God according to the spirit of karmyoga, whose doubts have been dispelled by wisdom and who is self-possessed; actions do not bind him. Such a person is freed from bondage of karma and enters the kingdom of God “. This can happen when egoistical sense of being achiever is eliminated and we accept that God is the doer and we are but instruments in his hands.
…At this point , they reached the top of the hill. Down below the valley was the Shiva temple. It was dusk hour. Temple bells were ringing and drums were being beaten , inviting the devotees for the evening aarti ( prayer ). Swami ji rested a while and said ‘let us go and join the aarti ‘.
When they reached the temple , the sanyasi, who was to conduct the aarti, saw Swami ji and paid his respects to him. He offered him a seat becoming his status ( there is an established hierarchy even amongst sanyasis ) and sought his permission to commence the pooja ( worship ). The pooja lasted about half an hour. Prasad ( sweet offering )was distributed to all devotees gathered for the pooja.
After the pooja , the devotees requested Swami ji to bless them with kind words of advice and answer their doubts. Swami ji smiled benignly and said that that they should meet him after an hour as he would first rest and also complete his sandhya pooja ( evening prayer ) . After about an hour, Sumant and 25-30 devotees had gathered at the appointed place and waited on Swam ji.
Swami ji came along with the temple poojari and some other sanyasis and sat on a higher platform erected for the purpose. Swami ji intoned ” om nama narayan ” and asked the devotees to briefly address their doubts.
Q 1. Swami ji what gives sanctity to a place and what benefits one derives by visiting a holy place ?
Swami : A place is considered holy for some mythological or historical reasons having a religious bearing. For instance, Ayodhya is a sacred city as Lord Rama was born there, Mathura as Lord Krishna was born there, Four dhams- Badrinath, Kanchi, Puri and Dwarika because Adi Sankaacharya established his pitham ( seat ) there. Haridwar, Allahabad, Ujjain and Nashik because mythical Amrit ( nectar ) was dropped there by gods. Myths, traditions, beliefs give a place certain sanctity. Sometimes, stories meant to impart religious significance are created by pundits to attract people to a place for commercial reasons.
Pilgrimage to a holy place by devotees of all religious faiths has been traditionally considered to bestow divine benediction on pilgrims, hence visits to places like Jerusalem, Mecca, Vatican is one’s life ambition of people belonging to the respective faiths. Hinduism being an amorphous religion, where a believer is free to choose his God or Goddess, the places of pilgrimage are scattered all over the country. The pilgrim may choose to go to Golden Temple, Char Dhams, 12 Jyotir Lingas, 52 Siddha Pithas, Kailash Mansarovar, Amarnath, Somnath, Vaishno Devi, Thirupati, Rameswaram, Swami Ayappa, Sai Baba at Shirdi etc. In fact , the country is dotted with numerous temples of all faiths, shrines, Dargahas, Vihars, ancient churches, mosques etc. There is perhaps no other country with such diverse faiths and beliefs.
The underlying idea , however, is to make people shift their attention from mundane matters and direct their thoughts on spiritual matters , even if temporarily. The more rigorous the journey the better, as it is considered a test of their faith. Congregation of enlightened sages, recitation of mantras by sanyasis/ pundits, prayers by the devotees, impart certain sanctity to a place as thought waves vibrate in the environment. During the period of journey and stay at a holy place, at least majority of the people refrain from unclean thoughts and deeds. This is a good enough achievement , even if momentary for good of the society where sefishness, greed, violence are on the rise.
Q.2. Whether it is essential to refrain from eating non-veg food or alcoholic drinks or substance during stay in a holy place ?
Swami : While staying at a holy place, we should be in tune with the environment. We associate love and compassion with godly qualities. How can the gods be pleased if we indulge ourselves in tamsic ( degrading ) acts like eating meat and taking alcohol.
Hindu, Buddhist and Jain scriptures , in particular, exhort compassion to all living being, which include animals and plants as well.Such compassionate catholic vision is perhaps seen and practised by devout people only in India. Meat eating is a part of normal dietary habit in most other countries irrespective of their religious beliefs. We should be proud of our cultural and religious beliefs and heritage and retain it. Killing involves cruelty as all living beings have a right of peaceful existence as long as they do not pose harm to our life and health. Love and compassion can not exist in the midst of cruelty. It is true that for sustenance of the body eating is necessary and certain amount of cruelty is inevitable in nature but the plant life has lesser degree of consciousness as compared to animal life. While walking on the spiritual path our endeavour should be to bring down the level of cruelty.
Gita describes three types of people having sattvik ( righteous and enlightened ) or rajasik ( energetic and violent ) or tamsik ( indolent and depraved ) tendencies or combination of them. A sattvik person will abstain from eating meat but the other two enjoy it. The higher one reaches on spiritual plane, the more sattvik tendencies he acquires.
Alcoholic beverages or intoxicating drugs when taken in excess , unsettle the body and mind and the person loses his sense of discrimination and propriety. Addiction to anything , even to sattvik tendencies , if they make one boastful and conceited , should be avoided and Buddha’s middle path followed.
Observance of proper conduct and proper food habits during stay in a holy place is not enough, it should become our second nature. This is the essential purpose of a pilgrimage. One can evolve in spiritual sense through good reading, good practises and good company. Observance of rituals alone prescribed by pundits do not make an evolved person – spiritually. Mahabharat says that , ” Reading of scriptures does not necessarily make one spiritual unless it is accompanied with right conduct, purity of thought, speech and action, like kite and falcon who soar high in the sky still they are always looking down on earth for a rotten piece of meat “.
Q .3. What is immorality, vice and sin ?
Swami : Immoraity is transgression of human made laws of conduct, social customs and traditions. The concept of imorality is different in the Western world and the Orient. For instance, having pre-marital or extra-marital sex or homo- sexuality is considered improper but not immoral in the West but is looked down upon with moral stigma in the oriental societies. Vice is addiction to certain undesirable habits like drinking, smoking, gambling etc which are improper conduct not generally approved by the cultured society.
Sin is essentially transgression of laws of nature or divine laws as defined or interpreted by enlightened saints or seers.
According to Lord Buddha, sin can be categorized as under :
Sins of body : murder, theft , adultery
Sins of speech: lying, slandering, abuse and idle talks
Sins of mind : covetuousness, hatred and ignorance
The Christian scripturs mention about seven deadly sins, which are : lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride.
Hindu scriptures enumerate many sins which are predominantly : Kaam ( Sexual indulgence), krodh ( anger), raag ( attachment), dwesh ( hatred), lobh ( greed), irshya, (jealousy ), mad (arrogance) and ahankar ( ego ).
While killing a human being is a sin in Christian or Muslim faiths; killing a living being whether human or animal , is a sin in Hindu, Buddhist or Jain faith. Killing in self defence or for the defence of one’s country or for upholding of justice is not, however, considered a crime or sin as self preservation by destruction of enemy of life, country or the world is justified ethically, morally or even spiritually. Lord Krishna exhorted Arjuna to fight the war against the Kauravas even if they happened to be his kith and kin who had usurped the throne of Pandavas through deceit. Killing is sometimes necessary to establish peace or for upholding laws-whether man made or divine. Killing of innocents or non-believers in the name of jihad by terrorists can not be justified as these perpetrators are neither truly religious nor human. They are modern day asuras (demons ) who kill for their sadistic, satanic pleasure . They are mercenaris masquerading as holy warriors.
No religion can claim superiority over other religions and no one has a right to force his religion on others. If any religious edict mandates so, it should be resisted by all force by all right thinking people /nations.
Q.4. What is maya and what is moksha ?
Swami : The nature of this world was described as maya ( illusion ) by Adi Shankaracharya. According to him,WHAT WE PERCEIVE IS NOT THE TRUTH AS IT IS EVER CHANGING , TRANSIENT. ” One can not step into the same river twice “, so said Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher. Brahm alone is the truth as He is timeless, changeless, ever present and the world is un-truth ( jagad mithya )-so maintained the seer.
The word maya means that ( ya ) ; which is not ( ma ). Yogi Paramhansa Yogananda said, ” The word illusion, maya, is individually called avidya, literally, not knowledge., ignorance, delusion. Maya or avidya can never be destroyed through intellectual conviction or analysis but solely through attaining the inner state of “nirvikalp samadhi” .Poet philosopher Bharthrihari gave exression to this view in his Vairagya shatak that , ” bhoga na muktah, vyavameva muktah, kalo na yato, vyavmayeva yatah, trishna na jirnah, vyavmeva jirnah “( Innumerable are the pleasures, we can not exhaust them, rather we ourselves get exhausted; time is an element which does not pass, rather we ourselves pass away; our desires remain ever green but we creep to old age and senility “.
Due to transient nature of the phenomena, we can not foresee what may happen to us the next moment.. Yudhisthira, the Pandava king, when asked by the yaksha ( the celestial being ) as to what is the most surprising thing in the world. Yudhisthira replied that we see death all around us but we never believe that we could be the next victim. We may get deluded by our sense perceptions and seek happiness in things which may eventually cause us grief or shun things which may lead us to happiness. We can see through the play of maya only by transcending the limitations of senses through spiritual practices , knowledge and non- attachment to worldly matters.
THE CONCEPT OF MAYA HAS, HOWEVER, BEEN MISUNDERSTOOD BY MAJORITY OF HINDUS. WHILE THE CONCEPT IS TRUE AT PHILOSOPHICAL LEVEL, IT SHOULD NOT BE SIMPLIFIED TO MEAN ESCAPING FROM WORLDLY DUTIES-AS EXPLAINED IN THE GITA.
Moksha is liberation of soul or Nirvana in Buddhist parlance.This is the end of life cycle and merging in the god. According to Hindu scriptures, this happens when effects of karma are wiped out by surrendering the fruits of action to god, as expounded in the Gita and spiritual awakening by taking recourse to practices prescribed in scriptures.
Q.5. What are the good and bad points of Hinduism ?
Swami : One good point is that you have been able to ask about the bad points of Hindu religion with out the fear of being lynched by your co-religionists ( the audience burst with laughter at this answer ).
It is difficult to define or explain Hindu relligion as it is not a codified religion like other established religions lke the Bible or Quaran. No one can claim definitively that by reading a particular book or following a particular religious practice, one can know about Hindu religion. There are so many gods and goddesses in the Hindu pantheon that one can choose to worship any or not worship at all. One may go to a temple or not go at all. One may believe in God or not believe at all but still he is a Hindu if born to a Hindu family. There is no practice of proselytization in Hindu religion either by argument, inducement or force and no organized attempt is made to convert any to Hinduism , except those who were originally Hindus but left its fold to seek greener pastures.
Since Hindu religion has not been codified, unlike the
Bible and Quaran or Guru Granth Sahib, it is loose and amorphous resulting in diverse interpretations and practices in different parts of the country. For instance, controversy has continuousy raged amongst the saints and pundits as to whether God is one and dwells in us (adwait vad- mono-theism )or He is in Purush and Prakriti form ( dwait vad-poly-theism) as Atma and Paramatma. Whether he possesses Attributes ( sagun ) or is (nirgun ) beyond Attributes.. There has, however, been no unanimity till this day resulting in diverse religious sects prevailing side by side but fortunately without acrimony. Each is entitled to his views as sometimes both the views appear to be true depending on individual Perspective. Since God is beyond comprehension such discordant viws about Him are bound to arise. So this is the good and bad points of Hindu religion.
Q. 6. In many ways you sound original and even somewhat critical of traditional concept of religions much in the manner of Osho. How do you assess him ?
Swami : No one can claim to be original. Knowledge-specially in spiritual matters – existed since coming of Seers, Prophets, Messengers of God , Gods incarnate on this earth from time to time , ONLY PHRASEOGY CHANGES WITH THE AGE.
Osho was made in the mould of Socrates, the Greek philosopher, a known iconoclast, both of whom suffered as they were ahead of their time.They challenged fossiized customs, traditions, beliefs. His discourses appealed to some people , who appreciated his free, unshackled thinking but provoked the traditionalists. He was a very knowledgeable person and commented upon the sayings of virtually all great spiritual masters, thinkers or philosophers, whether Indian or foreign. He was largely influenced by Buddhist thoughts. His main focus was on creating self-awareness and mindfulness by following the vipassana method suggested in Buddhism. He , however, also made many controversial statements which tarnished his reputation. One may agree or disagree with his view but he had an uncanny, effective and humorous way of communicating with his audience, largely foreigners.
Q.7. What are your views on Baba Ramdev ?
Swami : Normally we sanyasis refrain from expressing opinion on other living sanyasis but since Baba Ramdev has entered public life with a flourishing business in a big way, he needs a mention.
He is an earnest and well intentioned sanyasi. It is to his great credit that he has simplified yoga technique- which was hitherto an esoteric science , a preserve of traditional yogis and tantrics- to suit the common masses and has created a general awareness for physical fitness and sound health based on yogic exercises and ayurvedic medical prescriptions. Establishment of Maharishi Patanjali yoga pithas , educational institutions patterned on gurukul system, and mass production of herbal medicines by adopting modern clinical methods is a commendable initiative taken by him. It is surprising that his single handed efforts have not been recognized by the govt of the day which hands out annual awards for social service to less deserving but politically beneficial persons. He may not be , however, hankering after govt awards as thousands of people throng to him every day for his yoga sessions and talks , which would be an envy of any poitician .
He , however, tends to talk too much and even on matters about which he has only superficial knowledge. He is himself beginning to behave like politicians who love their voice and love to be seen and heard in visual media. Over exposure always results in diminishing effect and carping criticism from rivals. He is not in the show business that he should be seen hopping from one TV channel to another. He would be well advised
to maintain depth, poise, restraint and occasional silence AS BECOMES A SANYASI.
An example of his over enthusism to seek popularity was exhibited in his bringing out some medical formulation called corolina.
While there is nothing objectionable in treating it as immunity booster as the ingredients of this herbal formulation are said to be tulsi, aswagandha, giloy etc which are tried and tested ayurvedic formulations for improving immunity but to call this formulation as cure for corona is presumptuous.
What is needed is a succession of Baba Ramdevs albeit more poised, dignified and spiritually profound.
AT this , Swami ji said that enough questions have been asked and he would not like to be seen talking endlessly like Baba Ramdev ! HE wished all present, the country and the world at large well and hoped that peace and harmony would prevail. OM SHANTIH-OM SHANTIH- OM SHANTIH. After uttering these words, he retired to his room.
Next day morning, Sumant went to see and wish Swami ji. He was not there. He came to know later that Swami ji had left for the Himalayas for meditation…