Monday, May 14, 2018

                                        CONVERSATIONS  -  13

Devotee - Swami, Your last week’s upadesh was both profound and sweet. I have been thinking about it the whole week. But You haven’t touched one question yet.
 Swami - Tell me what you want. I will explain.
 D -  How long, and how often should one pray.
S - What a foolish question you are asking boy! If prayer is a loving contact with God, you are asking me to make a time chart for such a contact! And God should make Himself available accordingly? What about God whom millions are trying to contact all over the globe, some to adore, some to cross-examine, some to beg, some to  consult, and some to denounce. What time chart He will follow?
D -  I realize it was really a foolish question.
S -  Prayer is a way of recognizing your unbroken contact with God. He is sitting in your heart all the time, a part of your being. Do you ask how often you should have contact with your body and mind? At least during sleep you lose contact with your body and mind, but God? He is ever aware, ever wakeful. You have difficulty understanding these ideas because you are always trying to convert life into a ritual.
D – Ritual?
S – It is doing something for the sake of doing it, without any understanding. It is artificial, kind of bondage. I want to free you from all bondage and make life an endless celebration, a joyous song which I want to sing with you. But you are telling me, “Swami, from 5 to 5.30 in the morning, and 5 to 6 in the afternoon I can be with you to pray. You must make yourself free during that time. Rest of the time I am not available, for I am busy. Please don’t disturb me; I have to follow a tight schedule, even to allow myself to feel happy”.
D -  Oh, Swami, please stop. I am ashamed of my stupid questions.
S -  You need not be sorry for that. No sincere question can be stupid. My effort is not to make you feel foolish, but to take you there where all questions are formed, the mind. You have to grow out of the confines of your ‘limited company’, the mind, and seek the unlimited company, the Self. Prayer helps you in that endeavour. When you tune up to God with love, and stop defining your relationship with Him, you gradually break into a borderless experience, in which you see yourself both as a seeker, and the sought. That is the ultimate state of prayer, which is no more an effort, but a spontaneous feeling of unity.
 D-  Swami, Swami, another bouncer! Please come down to my level.
 S -  No, I will take you to my level. For that if need be, I will destroy you.
 D -  S..S..Swami, please don’t frighten me…please destroy me not… 
 S - Unless I destroy your smallness, you will not wake up to your own greatness. Love is not always a pleasant feeling, it is in fact not so much a feeling as a power of the soul which unmakes you to remake you. Do you know what Radha went through in life, or Meera, or Surdas, or Jesus, or scores of others who had a direct perception of God? They did not have a time chart for contacting God, nor did they play from the ground of mind. You are so much bound by your own body that you can’t see beyond it, you can’t perceive beyond the mind. Rebel against your bondage, the body and mind, establish ceaseless contact with the loving Father, and when you
      see his face, your body and mind too shall be transformed.
D -  Swami….Swami….I have no words to react….
S - Forget all your dumb words, dead rituals, blind concepts, and sink into the bliss of prayer, the experience of oneness with your Beloved. Do you know what St. Francis of Assisi felt on the days when his stigmata were bleeding profusely? He was on a song, crying and laughing at the same time. Don’t ask me therefore how to pray, how long to pray, how much to pray; rest in the sweet remembrance of God as much as, as often as, as long as you can; if you can, ceaselessly.
D - Swami, I feel as if this is going to happen tomorrow! But strangely, I feel so near You, yet so far! Why is this contradiction?
 S -  Isn’t human life itself a contradiction? You are a part of me, yet I have to remind you again and again about your own reality. This happens because you are still identified with your body. First believe in what I say, then live it. Unless you live them, beliefs can’t take you far. Believe that freedom is your birthright, and then work on it.
D - Swami, prayer appears to be a very personal work. Does it have any social utility?
S - I have already told you whatever is good for the individual is good for the society, and good for the society is good for the individual too. There is a lot of ignorance in the world, and the sins people commit out of ignorance and conceit, affect both the individual and society. Today the load has become so heavy that the existence of life itself is challenged. The rot has to be stemmed, and only people in contact with God can do that. Therefore I have introduced mass bhajans, and nagar samkeertans. When a big group of unselfish people at one place call on God with love in their hearts, God is moved, and His love can burn the collective sins to save mankind. There is no other way to avert the inevitable calamity.
D -  Swami, will these mass bhajans and samkeertans be enough?
S - No. When you believe in the efficacy of such unselfish prayers, you would gradually begin pratising in your personal lives some of the protective values I have pointed out. When more and more people believe in love, sacrifice, compassion, truth, sharing of privileges, and yearn for peace, and actually start living them, you create a huge road block for the marauding evil. The purification of environment will lead to purification of minds, and that will save mankind. But all this depends on the intensity with which you join hands in this saving effort.
D -Then individual lives have to be increasingly prayerful, increasingly established in    right living if we want to achieve universal wellbeing?
S -  You are right.

D - Swami, there is another doubt. If more and more people concentrate on prayer, will not their work suffer?
S -  On the other hand, work would be done more efficiently.
D -  How Swami?
S -  If you do not convert prayer into a meaningless ritual, and mean what you do, you will be less talkative, more self-aware, more unselfish, more able to take right decisions, more humble, less hurtful, more connected to Nature and people, and therefore more happy. You will always tell yourself whatever you are doing is for God. You are more certain that God will take care of all your legitimate needs, and therefore you will feel less worried, and more secure. All this, of course, depends on the strength of your belief, and making your belief your lifestyle. Thus the total quotient of greed will come down, needs shall be more focused, resources better distributed, commercial activities shall be less exploitive, there will be less health hazards, and you will have more time for yourselves and your families. If this is not kingdom of heaven on this earth, what else is? Jesus promised his followers kingdom of heaven within, but I promise you kingdom of heaven without also.
D-  Swami….. I am overwhelmed by your vision of a wholesome life. My doubt that spiritual life may improve individual life, but it may not have much of a social relevance in the present times, is completely dissolved. I understand, if we needed spirituality as a way of life any time, it is now.
S – It is good that you understand that. Now, go and practise it, and help others to do so. That much today. I have some work to do. Till we meet next time contemplate on what you have heard.
D -  Yes, Swami; You have given me food for a whole lifetime. Thank You.

            -- To Continue

Saturday, April 14, 2018

                   CONVERSATIONS WITH GOD - 12

Devotee -  Swami, I am back with You, to learn more about prayer.
Swami -  Remember all I said last time?
D -  How can I ever forget those priceless words, words of light and love!
S - Prayer is basically connecting God. But to connect God, you must feel the need. Then you must have faith that He is capable of helping you, and therefore would do so.
D - In what language we must call Him? I have no problem Swami, for I can speak to you in Telugu. But a friend of mine is from Assam. He feels so sorry that he cannot speak with you in Telugu. Moreover, how do I know you are listening to my prayers?
S - Between me and my devotees there is no language necessary. The moment a thought arises in your mind, I know it. But if you want to speak with me, speak the language of heart, I will answer in the same language. I am listening to your prayers, for my eyes and ears are everywhere. But when I want to answer your prayer, you are not ready to listen!
D - How is that Swami, I am not ready! How can I be not ready when You want to speak to me!
S -  You did not hear me properly. In prayer you ask me to do this or do that. If I would not do that for your good, I keep quiet. Sometimes when you pray to me for bhakti, initially I keep quiet to see if you pray for bhakti just for a change, or you mean it. But in your next prayer you forget bhakti, and ask for something else! I heave a sigh, and feel hurt. I have to wait for another prayer in which you remember what I have come to give you. This drama goes on, and the dish on my plate gets cold!
D - Oh, Swami, mind is a mad monkey you have said, and we don’t know how to regulate it.
S - I wouldn’t mind so much even if you ask for this and that in the language of love. But I find no love in your language. Either you pray as a deena, a pitiable creature, a criminal asking the king for pardon; or as a person who deserves to be served by me, as if I am your store-keeper, and I must be on my toes to bring it to you on a platter! In both cases, there is no intimacy between us. How can you find love in such a relationship? And you will never find me where love is not.
D - Then what is this language of love, Swami? How do we learn to speak it?
S - It’s very simple. How do you make a syrup? Add water to sugar. The water can be from a well, a river, or from your house tap, the taste of the syrup would be the same. Similarly, add love to whatever you say to God, say it with love, say it with faith. When you speak with love, you don’t shout, do you? You are not curt or harsh in your words, you speak it gently, sweetly. Love entertains no suspicion, no doubt, no anger, and no impatience. So when you are speaking to me, do not give place to these feelings.
D – Swami, I always doubt that you do not hear all my prayers.
S -  You are confusing hearing a prayer with answering it, or fulfilling it. I hear all prayers, but if I start fulfilling all prayers of all animate world, where will the world be, and where will you be? All legitimate prayers, which do not have conflict of interests, and do not undermine spiritual good of the individual, are answered. And you must remember, for me the individual is only Atma, not necessarily the embodied person. If what you pray for is not good for Atma’s awakening, I may not fulfill it.

D – Swami, when a person sits down to pray, he does not know if it will undermine his spiritual good. Then what should he do, not pray at all?

S - The choice is always yours. But prayer is always better than not praying. Whatever be the intention, the moments of prayer you are at least thinking of God, and pretending to be humble! But this is only about praying for something.
D – Is there a different kind of prayer?
S - The best prayer is trying to feel one with God. Love asks for nothing but itself, gives nothing but itself. And God is nothing but love. If you sit down, and just try to give yourself to this feeling of oneness with God, that is the best prayer. In that moment of experience God is with you, and He does all that need to be done to remove roadblocks in order to perpetuate it.
D – But Swami, there are prayers in our sastras for health, wealth, progeny, etc. We should not pray God for all that?
       S -  God is like a loving father. If you pray for an earthly kingdom, He will give it   to you, if you pray for kingdom of heaven, He will give that to you. He is the provider of everything, health, wealth, progeny etc. If you need anything, ask God, don’t ask anyone else, that is the message of the sastras. That would make your Father in Heaven as Jesus said closer to you. Then a time will come when you would ask for Him, and nothing else. That is the culmination of all prayers. Prayer for worldly benefits can be a used as a ladder to climb higher.
D -  How swami?
S - You may pray for health, wealth, progeny etc for yourself, and God gives them with a tag.
D -  Tag, Swami? What is that?
S -  If you want to decide in your limited vision what is good for you, and pester God to accept it, He might accede, but with a condition, “Well, take them, but you must accept the consequences of your prayer”. He may give you health, but you might in your arrogance misuse it; He might give you wealth, but you cannot protect it from thieves or family litigation, and get into more problem; He might give you a son who would be a constant source of worry and disappointment!

D – But that is not right. God should not nullify his own gifts.
S - That is not nullifying my boy, that is grace. If He did not give you all that you asked for, it was grace. If he gives them with a tag, it is grace operating in a different form.
D - How swami? How can you say giving, and not giving both are grace?
S - You asked for things of this world, while God was eager to give you the kingdom of Heaven. What would God say? He would say. “My child, in your ignorance you are asking for something that is not good for you. But I love you. So I cannot deny what you are asking for. You chose the path of illusion and suffering to reach me; however I will expedite it, so that you can reach me faster through them.”
D -  How can pain and suffering help one reach God?
S – When you realise that your prayer for wealth has made you run to the court for years against your family, prayer for a son has given you the gift of insomnia and diabetes, you will now say, “God, I made a huge mistake by asking you for wrong things. Now forgive me, and save me from myself”. Then God will gladly rush to you, hold your hand and lead you to safer grounds. But now you have to hold on to Him.
D -  What does that mean ? Does God have any hidden plans?
S -  God hides nothing from you, only you don’t see.
D -  How is that Swami ?
S -  For instance, if you get embroiled in property problems, and pray that God save you, God might decide that you lose all cases, and be a pauper again! You might end up in an old people’s home, free from all encumbrances, free to take His name. The son you prayed for might throw you out of home, or leave you with a monthly pension. You prayed that you be saved from your wrong prayer, now don’t tell God how to do that. Accept Him unconditionally.
D – O’ God! I never thought there was so much to know about prayer. But a poor man, a sick man, a childless person would surely like to pray for removing his poverty, for a
        cure, and for a good son.

S - Sastras have always taught unselfishness. No one can be really happy if the community is unhappy; no one can enjoy health if the community has been struck by an epidemic; and no one can bring up his son well if he lives in a community of thieves and robbers. So the sastras advise us to pray for all, for everybody’s health, happiness, wealth, and progeny. Then God will be pleased with your unselfishness, and give you too a part of all that you pray for others. How many times do you chant “samasta lokah sukhino bhantu” every day?

D -  O’, that is why we repeat this prayer countless times?

S - The far-seeing rishis of India knew that pure love for God is very difficult to  attain for a common man without some experience in futility of lesser loves. That is the nature of human body and mind. One must start from where they are, and yet not miss the target. If the desire for God does not come naturally to a person, allow them a diversion, and a longer travelling route. If you deny them even that, they would get stuck there for eternity, and the purpose of the creation shall be defeated. So God conditionally fulfills your harmless prayers so that you will learn through experience, a longer route though, to reach the best prayer.

D - Swami, why then many rishis also prayed for power and authority, for example Viswamitra? They too were short sighted like us common folk?
S - When Viswamitra started his tapas, which is another name for intense prayer, he was no doubt a short sighted king, no better than an ordinary man. But he had to be taught through experience. He prayed for immense power, and obtained so much of it that he did not know how to handle it, and created another heaven. But then he fell a victim to the wiles of an ordinary woman! He realized through this experience that by praying for power and authority he had wasted years of intense prayer. Then he prayed for enlightenment, and received it. He took a very long route, but as I have promised in the Geeta, no one who takes even one step towards me shall ever be abandoned.
D - To return to the earlier question of praying for health, wealth, and progeny, Swami, one has to travel a long route if one prays for these gifts?
S – There is a way to shorten the route.
D - There is, Swami? Please tell me.
S – Aha, you want to take that route!
D - No Swami. Surely not. After travelling maybe through thousands of lives, I have fortunately arrived at Your Lotus Feet. I would be an incurable fool to make it longer I ask just to know the mysteries of life.
S - Yes, I know for many lives you have been thirsting for this knowledge. Therefore I called you to me. Now listen. When you pray for worldly gifts, and God grants them, you can have two reactions. You might tell yourself, “I prayed so intensely that God was forced to grant me all this. I am a great man, and others should know that.” That is what Ravana did. This is the beginning of a very long route. You might as well tell yourself, “Ah, how kind God is! He gave me so much wealth that I can wipe tears of all my neighbours, He gave me a strong and healthy body that I can serve them, He has given me sons whom I can send to Swami’s school to learn liberating lessons of life. I am forever grateful to Him”. This will make you humbler every day, and attract more and more of divine grace, and his long route shall be cut short.

D -  Swami, tears well up in my eyes listening to You. How will his long route be cut short?
S -  Something else will happen to him. If by any mischance he loses his wealth, he will say, “Look at God’s leela! He gave me wealth, now He has taken it away! Let His will be done.” If he loses a son, he will tell his family. “Why blame God? He only gave us a son, now He took back His property!” If he is bedridden with suffering, and his family and friends blame it on God, he stands up for God, and tells them, “You fools, did you expect me to repeat lives after lives to work out my backlog of karma? God is with me, and helping me to come to Him at the end of this life. What is the suffering of this body compared to the immaculate joy of jumping into His lap?” Do you think God won’t be eager to erase the rest of the road for him, and take his child in His arms?
D -  Swami, how long will it take to achieve this?
S - I have spoken with you very long today. Next time I will answer all your question. But I will end today with a funny story.
D -  Tell me, tell me swami. It has been a very heavy dose today.
S -  There was a very poor man, lazy and unwilling to work hard. So he would go from door to door, and beg food. Whatever he gets, he had to satisfy himself with that. If someone told him to go and work, instead of begging, he would speak to him rudely and leave. Once for two days he did not get any food. So he went the river flowing by, climbed down to the water, took a palmful, drank it saying, “Mother Ganga, thank you for this khichdi”. Then he took another, and said, “Mother ganga, thank you for this payasam.” Thus he continued for some time, sipping palmfuls of water, and thanking Ganga Mata for all imaginary delicacies. Mother Ganga took pity on him and floated down a pot of all the delicacies he had named. The poor man was both amazed and pleased at Mother Ganga’s grace, and had a full lunch of a lifetime. Then next day he did the same thing, and got another free lunch. In a week’s time he looked like a very well fed bull, strong and insolent. Then Mother Ganga thought it was time to teach him a lesson. Next day the floating pot was empty, not a grain of rice in it! The man got angry, and started scolding her. Then an unseen motherly voice told him, “My son, prayer cannot replace effort, it only aids your efforts. Go and work hard, you can earn your food and shelter.”
D -  Swami, it is a beautiful story, with a profound message. Thank You Swami.

           - To Continue