Sahaj Marg Retreat Centres
by Chariji, May 5, 2006, Pune, India.
Our brother, General Dovedy, has already told you what this is all about. Shri Ram Chandra Mission and Sahaj Marg Spirituality Foundation are one and the same, except that the Foundation will involve itself in the creation of training centres, as he pointed out—one in Bangalore, one in Kharagpur, and in six or seven retreat centres all over India. The CREST [Centre for Research, Education, Sadhana and Training] centre in Bangalore is ready, and it is proposed to have the inaugural session some time in August—the 10th of August, I think. Invitations have gone out worldwide for about hundred and twenty participants, from whom we will have to select fifty or sixty, at the most.
This is an institution where the trainees train themselves while they train others. I do not know how well you know the fact that every good teacher learns from the student as much as the student learns from his teacher. It is the arrogance of the teacher that they generally ignore this truth and sit on their high horse of learning, pretended learning, and so our students suffer. First of all, they don’t learn humility.
Humility is a great lesson to be learnt, according to our praachin sanskriti—ancient culture, Vedic culture—vidyaa vinayasampanne [the one with knowledge must be endowed with humility], vidyaa dadaati vinayam [education gives humility], things like that, you see; a wise man must be humble. My Master, Babuji Maharaj, used to emphasize that a teacher should be grateful for those who come to him to be taught, because without them he has nothing to do in life. Of course, nowadays like everything else, the teaching profession has been demeaned as a mere moneymaking enterprise, aggrandizement of the self, boosting of the personal ego, et cetera, et cetera. And even spirituality suffers, because there are so many organizations parading under the name of spirituality—again moneymaking institutions, where a cheap type of yoga is taught, asanas are taught by people who do not know what an asana is, who have never studied Patanjali. All that is happening everywhere in our lives is happening to yoga too, to teaching too, in our hospitals, in our law courts, under the general nomenclature of corruption. There is corruption in the physical world, in the mental world, in the moral world.
A retreat centre is meant to be what it claims to be—where a man, a woman, can retreat, leave the world behind and come. Like a tired lion goes into its cave, sleeps, rests, recuperates itself. Here we come for moral recuperation, we should come for moral recuperation. This is a beautiful spot, but this is not a picnic spot—not our institution. It is essentially a very serious-oriented institution where people must come with all humility, throwing away the cares of this world, leaving behind the responsibilities of the world. I must emphasize the second aspect—leaving behind responsibilities too! Because if you come here, whether it is for three days or thirty days, and are thinking of your family, of the marriage of your cousin-sister in Nanded, of your grandfather suffering from cancer in a Bombay hospital perhaps, it is no use. That is no retreat and you might as well remain where you are. A retreat means a total withdrawal from the world. The physical body retreats from the world, and the spiritual body retreats into the heart. This is the cave [pointing to the heart]. The heart is known as the spiritual cave. And there we must be able to go in and not come out for the duration of our stay here. When we come out, we come out like babies fresh born, innocence re-established and, most essential, wonder established.
We have lost the power to wonder at things—one, a camera; other, a telephone; and third, computers. Our sense of wonder, at the wonders of creation, we don’t have any more. “Oh, one more mountain!” I have seen people going to big, tall mountains, looking at the sunset or sunrise and saying, “Oh, I see this everywhere. What is so wonderful about this sunrise?” Anything is wonderful when you have the spirit of wonder in yourself, when that sense of wonder is awakened. As Babuji Maharaj said, “When you go to sleep, nobody can be sure you will see another sunrise.” Nobody!
So you see, innocence alone creates wonder, and where there is a sense of wonder, there is innocence. We have lost the innocence. We are flooded by inventions. Every day almost, there is a new Nokia phone; next day there is a Samsung, and so on. And our sense of acquiring the latest is so pampered, so pumped up by, shall we say, false air being pumped into these small selves. There is a frenzy to acquire the latest. And one thing I cannot understand: how can a telephone be ‘sexy’? Today’s telephones are advertised as “Slim, sexy”. I don’t know what sex people find in them when they buy them! So we are being misled. New terminology is developed and, thanks to emails, our English is corrupted. Nobody today bothers to write proper English. “U R well…” They will then start drawing the well, I suppose!
So you see, our sensibilities are lost, our capacities are lost. When calculators came into being some forty-five or fifty years ago, we lost our capacity to multiply, divide, and even add! “Two plus three…” [mimics typing], like kindergarten children. Here we want to restore, not as a mathematical adventure, or a physiological adventure, but as a spiritual adventure. What on earth is two plus two? Do two exist? Spirituality says no. You are alone in this world. You may be much married, you may have a hundred brothers or hundred children like Dhritarashtra, but you are essentially alone. We saw in the Mahabharata serial how, at the end of the war when all the children are dead, Bhishma is gone, poor Dhritarashtra and his wife go off into vaanaprastha—that is retreat. After having ruined his dynasty, his family, his children, his everything, that fellow is compelled to retreat, maybe to hide his pain and sorrow in a cave, like they say of a lion, licking its wounds. We have to lick our wounds and restore ourselves somewhere, sometime, within this life.
So please understand: these retreat centres are not holiday centres for relaxation. In spirituality, there is no relaxation. There is permanent total alertness, awareness. That is what is called the cosmic consciousness, the divine consciousness, yoga nidra in Sanskrit—where you are asleep apparently, but awake all the time. The state referred to as the divine consciousness where it is described in the Gita that, “When you are asleep, He is awake.” That He is within. That He we have put to sleep because we don’t want Him to know what we are doing, where we are doing it, why we are doing it. Today we dare not face our conscience. Is there anybody here who is ready to say, “Yes, I am willing to face my conscience”? I dare say, if such a man exists, if not a sage, he is on the way to sainthood, saintliness.
These retreat centres are expected to, and certainly will, restore our courage to face ourselves because unless you can face yourself, you cannot face your Maker, your Creator. Therefore we meditate with eyes closed. As you all know, it is very common for some people, when they are starting this method, first time they sit in abhyas with eyes closed, they cannot keep their eyes closed for more than one or two minutes. I have known cases where, after three minutes, they came out shrieking. They said, “I felt as if I was falling in a bottomless well!” They dare not face themselves. Here, you have to face yourselves! Therefore you are not allowed to look outside. We are not one of those ascetic organisations where you lock yourself up in the room and you have food thrown to you through a hole in the wall. Here you have to face yourself, knowing that the universe is surrounding you. You are not afraid of it, but you turn away from it so that you can appreciate the reason for the creation of this universe, understand your purpose in it, and also know your responsibilities towards it.
I mean, it is a big job, apparently, when you hear it outlined in words but, like meditation, it is very simple when you sit down to do it. So, as General Dovedy pointed out—he is in charge of our Sahaj Marg Spirituality organisation here. He is a retired lieutenant general of the army. He knows what is the army, what is the family; he knows what is war, what is peace. Most of us don’t know what is peace because we have never known a war. We don’t know what the darkness is because we are always in the light. How? Even in the evenings, even at night. We don’t switch off our lights to enjoy the natural light of the stars. We don’t care for it any more. We don’t want sounds of nature to interfere with our sleep. So you have air-conditioners which whisper to you, according to the advertisements, and lull you to sleep. But one moment of power off, and you have nightmares. ‘Be in tune with nature’, ‘be simple’—these are forgotten axioms. Where is nature today? So we run to a place with half a dozen trees, sit down under one with a sandwich made at home and a flask of tea and pretend we are enjoying ourselves. Today even enjoyment is a pretence.
We have lost the tendency to naturally enjoy natural things; somebody has to tell us. Simhgarh—you go up. I went up there, huffing and puffing, four years ago and we had a three-day stay. I enjoyed it. Huffing and puffing because of my age, but once I was up there, it was magnificent: cool, open sky, clear sky, visibility of stars. But for a few people it would probably have been a sort of paranoia. “What am I doing here? Eternal darkness! I cannot jump off.” And the cell phone—it is a wonderful invention, it is very convenient, but it has also given us a false sense of connectivity with everybody else in the world. ‘Wherever you are, stay connected.’ ‘Talk more, one rupee a minute.’ We want silence, and we are told to talk more. We want isolation—not loneliness—isolation.
We are never lonely because there is your eternal companion with you. We have to realize that He is there, by going into retreat, being afraid of the darkness, and then perhaps, in a moment of blessedness, finding that He is right there, saying, “My son, will you look after Me?” If that happens, if you are lucky enough for it to happen in your life, it will be one of the grandest moments, when your own Creator says, “Son, look after Me, for in this world, in this creation, nobody recognizes Me, though I am the universe. I am inside you, I am outside you, I look after you. But unless you recognize my presence, my existence is useless.”
So that is the ultimate purpose—to know that there is a sort of symbiosis between Him and me. He exists because I have recognized His existence. We are not talking philosophically now of absolute existence and the lack of need for human beings to know it. That sort of thing is philosophical jargon. Here, I have to recognize I have to hand myself over to Him. And like my grandson aged eighteen now guides me when I am faltering on my walk, whereas once I lifted him up and carried him all over Madras—this sort of mutual dependence, not on prayer, not on worship, but love. As in married couples, there must not be this question of “He doesn’t love me.” Do you love him?
It should be enough that you have somebody to love in this world. The highest, greatest, most miserable loneliness is when you have nobody to love. And all the people like cinema stars, big personalities and the rich people like Bill Gates—all the world apparently loves them, but it is not love. It is lust for money, lust for power, lust for what have you, you see. Learn this truth: that if you have nobody to love you are indeed in the deepest part of hell. No hope. Where there is no love, there is no hope. That also you will learn here: that utter loneliness, this utter isolation from this universe, utter lack of anybody to love. And then you realize that loving yourself has no meaning; self-love is destructive; respecting only yourself, earning only for yourself and craving only yourself—it is moral suicide.
So we hope that, as General Dovedy has indicated to you, in less than a year, we shall have this centre running. This will be a place where people can request and be admitted, of course within the limits of accommodation, fifty to sixty people at a time, three days to thirty days. You decide how long you have to retreat. Anybody who is in the corporate world earning a great deal of money knows that he or she takes a fifteen-day holiday, and on the third day, they don’t know what to do. They would like to go back and work. Children are craving for holidays. Three days of holiday and they say, “Mummy, what am I doing? I would like to go to school.” The ideal is like with night and day—alternating. (I mean this is not a joke, I mean this seriously.) We should work alternate days and rest alternate days. Not this silly thing of five days working and three days holidaying.
I have seen all over the world this lust for holidays, holiday centres, beaches filled with bodies in the south of France, in Denmark. They don’t know what they are doing. This has become a cult. Near nudity, splash yourself with expensive suntan lotions, have a parasol, dark glasses and just… “What are you doing?” “I am relaxing.” I am reminded of this joke when Milka Singh was coming back and one of the airline staff wanted to be attentive. He asked, “Are you relaxing?” He said, “No, I am Milka Singh!” [Laughter] That is what most people are doing. They are not relaxing; they are parodying a holiday, a compulsive attitude to holidays. Wherever you are you must take your car, your children, pack them at 5:30 in the morning to avoid the traffic, drive eight hours like mad to the beach. No place there. There is hardly a place where you can put your foot! So you see, there is no holiday. It is a compulsive thing you must indulge in. Otherwise people say, “No vacances [vacation]? You are not going anywhere?” The impression being created that you are too poor to have it, and of course we cannot have such an odium thrust on us. So then you have to grin and pretend, “No, no, I am okay. I have enough money but…”—the Gallic shrug.
It has become the same with us, too. Periodic holidays: going to the mountains trekking, cruises to Singapore or wherever. Money must be spent! My father used to laugh when people went on a honeymoon. He said, “What is done best at home, in the sacred, protected atmosphere of the home, you go out to holiday places, live in an expensive hotel, being afraid of the big room and the soft mattresses you have never slept in before, and you come back worse than you went.” And you wonder why you spent 50,000, five lakhs, whatever you could.
These centres will not provide luxury. I would love [to see] people sleeping on the stone floor for once, bathe in cold water right through the year, eat simple food, and just see how enchantingly relaxing and reassuring such a life can be. Because you realize how cheaply life can be lived. There are people today who, if they don’t eat a thousand dollar dinner or a thousand dollar lunch, are miserable! We have to learn to become human, not corporate parodies of the human being, not mutants, not robots, aping, keeping up with the Joneses, spending for personal prestige and pride—not knowing that like Samson’s hair, if that hair is cut off, he had no strength. If you have no money, you have no strength. That is why people are so carefully protecting their wealth. And the more they have, the more they are worried. A rickshaw walla who has five rupees in his pocket, if he is pick-pocketed, he does not care a damn. “Five rupees? I can earn it!” But if people lose five crores, they think that their life is gone. Many suicides happen like that. They are afraid to show themselves in society. That is why you find Bill Gates’ properties or fortune reduced by twenty-eight billions. Where was it? Share money? Valuation? Paper! But his life hangs on it, his reputation hangs on it, prime ministers and chief ministers meet him because of that figure in the newspapers, “Fifty-eight billions, eighty-two billions, forty-two billions! Ayyo, what has happened to Bill Gates?” Nothing has happened!
So you see, our sense of values have to be restored. I make money; money must not make me. I work, but my work must not work me. Work is a mere means of feeding myself. How Much Land Does a Man Require?—Leo Tolstoy. Please read it, it is a short story. How much money do I require? When you strip it down bare, these retreat centres will show you that you can live on less than thirty rupees a day.
So, you see, it is an integrated concept of how you get back to life: knowing its purpose, knowing what you have to do in it, knowing what is the value of your work. Work is not for personal aggrandizement, for position, for power, for wealth; work is to make your stomach full, enable you to sleep in peace, and that can happen only when the stomach is filled with good things, natural things, what Nature provides. And sleep—today’s big malady for corporate executives—the higher you go, the less you sleep. Then follows this round starting with sleeping pills, drugs, alcohol, et cetera.
You come here, you leave everything behind. So I don’t want you to think that it is all tall talk because you have to experience it to know what is the truth behind this. When this centre opens, there will be five more centres opening, one in Malampuzha in Kerala, one here, one in Ambala in Haryana, one in a place called Unnao near Kanpur, and in future, more and more as they are needed.
General Dovedy mentioned certain social things like education and free health. The Spirituality Foundation does this. We have free medical centres in our ashrams. There will surely be one here for the villagers and for abhyasis who need them. The policy of this Mission, this Foundation, is not to charge for anything. There will be no charge. No charge does not mean the common Indian spirit of “we can destroy as we go”. I remember when freedom was earned by India, all the coaches in the Southern Railways in Bombay, they were cut, torn away, and bags were made. “Our country, we own this country.” So in the railway coaches, bulbs were robbed, fans were robbed; anything you could use was robbed. Freedom means robbery in our country; freedom means license in our country. You can do what you like, you can adulterate rice, you can make duplicate medicines, kill your neighbours.
You must learn to understand that freedom means freedom to do what is right. Because if you think over it, when you are corrupt and you do everything wrong, you have lost the freedom to do what is right. We will restore to ourselves that freedom which is the true freedom.
So brothers and sisters, I hope my Master will bless all of you with the minimum wisdom necessary to come here to gain more wisdom, more spiritual strength, which is the true strength. The strength of the body withers day after day. Remember what my Master said, that on the day you are born, you have begun to die. Death doesn’t come at the end, death comes right on the day you are born, and accompanies you until it gets a stranglehold on you and finishes you off. Death is the eternal companion for those who don’t have God as an eternal companion.