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Before death takes its toll, one must realise in this body itself the eternal truth and the relationship between a person and that truth. This human birth is the consequence of countless good deeds, and it should not be cast aside; the chance must be fully exploited. Katha Upanishad exhorts, “Arise, Awake! Do not stop until the goal is reached.” When there are many chances of saving oneself, isn’t it a big loss if no thought is spent on ways of escape? Start today the spiritual practice that has to be done tomorrow! Start now the spiritual practice that has to be done today! One does not know what is in store the next moment.

When the rains come, earth and sky are one in the sheety downpour. It is indeed a beautiful inspiring scene, a scene by which creation itself is teaching you to become one, in unison with it. Three lessons can be learned: the impermanence of created things, the role of a person as the servant, and God as the master. This creation is the wherewithal of the worship (puja), the person is the worshiper, and God is the worshiped. The game called life is played with these.

Prema Vahini, Ch 8

First Lesson in Spiritual Practice

Swami says that one must look upon all with as much love and faith as one has for themselves, for nothing is evil in creation, no, not even an iota. Creation, which is always auspicious, gets coloured by the nature of the glasses we wear. What profit does one get by spending time in discovering the faults and weakness of others?

Thus, the first spiritual practice is to search for the faults and weaknesses within yourself and to strive to correct them and become perfect. There are two methods for cultivating such divine love which is the true birthday of Bhagawan in our hearts:

  1. Always consider the faults of others, however big, to be insignificant and negligible. Always consider your own faults, however insignificant and negligible, to be big, and feel sad and repentant.
  2. Whatever you do, with yourself or with others, do it remembering that God is omnipresent. He sees and hears and knows everything. Whatever you do, discriminate between right and wrong and do only the right.

Acquire One-pointedness

It is important to acquire single-mindedness, equanimity and freedom from likes and dislikes. Spiritual seekers should not yield to arguments and counter arguments. They must dwell on subjects that would give enthusiasm and joy, and avoid wasting valuable time on building up doubts regarding mundane things. Swami says that the two items that need special attention. The first is conceit that one knows everything and the second is doubt, whether it is, or is not. These are the two chief enemies of the spiritual seekers.

Swami reminds us that after all, importance of all this japa (repetition of Lord’s name), meditation, devotional singing, is for acquiring single mindedness, one-pointedness. Once that is earned, human effort becomes unnecessary and its inner significance will be revealed.

Look at the crane, it walks about pretty fast in water. But during the walk, it cannot catch any fish. It must, for that purpose, become slow and quiet and stand motionless. So also if one proceeds with greed, anger and similar qualities, one cannot secure the fish of Sathya, Dharma and Santhi.

Prema Vahini, Ch 56

Constant Contemplation

Since the Lord is the universal goal and this journey of life has Him as the destination, keep Him constantly in view and subdue the mind which makes you wander from the path.  Whatever spiritual discipline one may choose, the true aspirant must practice uninterrupted namasmarana (contemplation on the Lord). Swami assures that all good qualities like, fortitude, humility, courage, joy, peace and charity automatically gather around the person who practices control of speech and the constant contemplation of the Lord.

Surrender Is Effortless Devotion

Devotion has to be continuous, uninterrupted, like the flow of oil from one vessel to another. Swami says that there are two types of devotional practices. Ordinary devotion is like the practice of the young of the monkey, where the child has to rely on its own strength to protect itself—wherever the mother might jump about, the child has to attach itself fast to the mother’s belly and not release its hold, even if pulled apart! So the devotee too has to stand the tests at the hands of the Lord; and hold on to the Lord’s name at all times and under all conditions, tirelessly, without the slightest trace of dislike or disgust, bearing the ridicule and the criticism of the world and conquering the feelings of shame and defeat.

The path of surrender is instead like the way of the kitten. Just as the kitten simply continues mewing in one place, placing all its burdens in the mother cat, so the devotee puts complete trust on the Lord. The mother cat holds the kitten in its mouth and removes it to more elevated places or transports it safely through even very narrow passages. So too, the devotee places all burdens on the Lord and surrenders fully to His will.

The discipline of absolute self-surrender (prapatthi) is much superior to the discipline of devotion (bhakthi). The characteristic of prapatthi is dedicated and selfless activity, in all aspects. Swami tells us that such dedicated activity is true devotion which leads to the highest spiritual wisdom. When each group of life’s activities is saturated with selfless service, divine love, and spiritual wisdom, life verily becomes the yoga of supreme (purushotthama yoga).

A block of Mysorepaak (a sweet made of chickpea flour) has sweetness, weight, and shape; the three cannot be separated, one from the other. Each little part of it has sweetness, weight, and shape. We don’t find shape in one part, weight in another, and sweetness in a third. And when it is placed on the tongue, taste is recognised, weight is lessened, and shape is modified, all at the same time. So too, the individual soul (jiva), the Atma, and the Supreme Lord (Parameswara) are not separate; they are one and the same.

Prema Vahini, Ch 9

Answer to Our Prayers

Spiritual discipline should be done constantly with an ever expanding heart full of devotion and spiritual wisdom. A time may come when one becomes tired and weak, but one should then pray thus: Lord, things have gone beyond my capacity. I feel further effort is too great a strain. Give me strength, O Lord!

At first, God stands at a distance, watching one’s efforts, like the teacher who stands apart when the student writes out answers to questions. Then, when one sheds attachment to sensual pleasures (bhoga) and takes to good deeds and selfless service, God comes encouragingly near. Like the Sun-god (Surya-narayana), He waits outside the closed door. Like the manservant who knows their master’s rights and their own limitations, He doesn’t announce his presence or bang on the door but simply waits. And when the master opens the door just a little, the sun rushes in and promptly drives darkness out from within. When His help is requested, He is present by a person’s side, with hands extended to render assistance.

So what is wanted is only the discrimination (viveka) to pray to the Lord and the spiritual wisdom (jnana) to remember Him.

Each Little Thing Counts

Twenty hammer strokes might not succeed in breaking a stone, but the twenty-first stroke might break it. Does this mean that the twenty blows were of no avail? No. Each contributed its share to the final success; the final result was the cumulative effect of all the twenty-one.

The object of all spiritual practice is the destruction of the mind, and some day, some one good deed will succeed in destroying it, just as the twenty-first blow broke the stone. All the good deeds done in the past have contributed to this triumph; each little thing counts; no good deed is a waste.

Always keep death, which is inevitable, before the eye of memory and engage yourself in the journey of life with good wishes for all, with strict adherence to truth, seeking always the company of the good, and with the mind always fixed on the Lord. Live, avoid evil deeds and hateful and harmful thoughts, and don’t get attached to the world. If you live thus, your last moment will be pure, sweet, and blessed.

References

Prema Vahini, Ch 4, 5, 8, 9, 11, 19, 27, 28, 45, 46, 51, 56, 57