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Religion and Spirituality

by Chariji, March 31, 2005, Kharagpur, India.

We have a spiritual retreat where we do some sort of grihastha tapasya [householders' ascetic practice] because we are all grihasthas, we are not sannyasis in Sahaj Marg. So grihastha tapasya is combined with very necessary education on various aspects which are totally misunderstood in the Indian context. We have already started construction of the site in Bangalore. We have land in Pune, Baroda, Ambala, and this is the fifth one: Kharagpur.

Why I chose Kharagpur I don't know myself, because I have never been here, and when I came here this morning, I found it as Jabalpur was in 1934, '35, '36, when I used to study in what is now Madhya Pradesh: same mango trees, big areas, large compounds-not the modern jungle of steel and cement. Our Bangalore site is about twenty-one kilometres away from the city in a similar area: part jungle, part farm, part coconut groves, chikoo trees-and there we are building. So here also we will build, but this will be probably in 2007 or 2008, because I have to get funds for it.

Now we should come to the subject of what we are going to do in these institutes. Sahaj Marg is the yoga we practice, and which my Master taught me, his Guruji taught him. And, according to our philosophy, our belief, our sampradaya [tradition], it was existing one thousand years before Raja Dasharatha. You know the old Surya Vansh. Chakravarthi Dasharatha of Ayodhya was the father of Ramchandraji Maharaj of Ayodhya. This was practiced many generations before him. But as has been the case in India, many good things have been lost because of foolish ideas of secrecy. Many things have been lost because they were considered secret, gupt, rahasya, things like that.

My Master's Master (who had the same name, Ram Chandraji Maharaj of Fatehgarh, U.P.), rediscovered the system and he had been offering it to the world. His world was very small, limited to Fatehgarh, Farukkabad district, Kanpur-cities within, say, a twenty-mile radius. My Guruji was born and lived in Shahjahanpur, about eighty miles away from Farukkabad. Somehow he came in contact with him, became his disciple, became his devotee, became his beloved, and in a sense, through this yogic practice, he attained what we call aikyatha (merger)-what in Hindi we call layavastha-so that his Guru told him, "Today, you and I are one, and nobody can say we are different in any way from each other." Of course, physically they were different; their photographs show the difference. Always equality is an inner quality.

When you say two people are equal, it does not mean they are clones. You know, modern technology, modern science is talking of cloning. We don't create clones-not physical clones. The spirit need not be cloned. The soul is eternal, it is always the same. So what is the difference between one human being and another? Sahaj Marg says, it is the qualities we are born with-what we call samskaras-which are the results of our past actions and thoughts which leave impressions on the mind. It's very easy to understand. You know, suppose you see something very nice, you remember it for days. A child eats an ice cream; it remembers it for three days. "Papa, I want Kwality ice cream." Not any ice cream-Kwality ice cream. A woman sees blood and she faints. And thereafter for life she is afraid of blood. These are impressions, and these impressions create or become the foundation for our future action.

As we are, so we behave. And 'as we are' applies to the time of our birth, because before we are born, we have made up our mind to be born in this world in a particular situation: environment, geographical, historical, familial, everything. After birth, it should be possible technically, theoretically and actually, to achieve the goal of your human life in one life-that life. My Guruji used to say, "We should not have to take birth as a human being more than once." Because if we stick faithfully to the parameters of our own evolutionary path that we have outlined for ourselves, the program we have written uniquely, each one for himself or herself, nothing can stop it. What interferes? Why don't we do it? Why are most of us born better than we are when we die? Because we have given way to tendencies of acquisitiveness, avariciousness, lust-lobh aur kaam. Krodh to beech mein aata hai-anger [anger comes in between]. Where you cannot have your desires fulfilled, anger comes. Where anger comes, the power to think sanely, sensibly, is lost. "Such a person destroys himself," says Lord Krishna in the Gita. No less a person than Lord Krishna himself.

So the root of all problems is desire. After we are born, desire comes. We have the program on one side and we have desire on the other side. Now if you are not able to regulate your mind and give the program more importance than the desire, we go off-course. It is as if I am going back to Kolkata and I see a nice garden on the way-some beautiful girls dancing there. And I decide to stop there, have dinner and rest. Gone! My program is already contaminated. You can say 'virus attack'. It is not that the girls are a virus or the restaurant is a virus or the food is a virus. The virus is my desire. In our case, our computer program is so perfect that, except for me, no one can introduce a virus into my program. And the only way it can be done is through desire. Therefore, Shaitan, or Satan as you call him in English, always implants desires in us. If you read the life of the Buddha, you read the life of Jesus Christ, you read the life of any great person, the last temptation was always the same. Even young Nachiketas, the eight-year-old boy who went to Yama Loka to meet Yama-the same temptation.

"I will offer you life, long enough for you to see your great-grandchildren's great-grandchildren's great-grandchildren." (That means nine generations, you see.)

"I don't want it."

"I will offer you dominion over this earth."

"I don't want it."

"You shall see beautiful women whom even Indra cannot have."

"I don't want it."

Some people succumb and Shaitan comes with his pen: "Sign this agreement. You write your soul to me." Samaapt [finished]! So, you see, kama [desire] is the first problem, krodha [anger] is only next.

Now what to do with our desires? Are they in-built? Not at all! If they are in-built in us, we should all be tempted by the same things all the time-everybody should want pizza, everybody should want Aishwarya Rai [film actress]-things like that. But we each want something else. So, we have something in us which responds to certain temptations and not to others. A man who is tempted by a woman is not tempted by food or by drink. The drunkard is not tempted by women. The man of money has no temptation either for women or drink or anything, he only wants paisa, paisa, paisa. Now what is this and how is this? Sahaj Marg says, in your samskaras there are potential recordings from the past. It is very much like a gramophone record. The music is in it. Until you play it, there is no music. Where is the music? It is here. But how can it be here? It is in it. Today we have the modern miracle: you can send music by e-mail. Where is the music? Isn't it? People who know computers know you can send almost anything. So, what we respond to depends on what we have here, from the past.

Sahaj Marg has two kriyas [activities]: meditation and cleaning. Meditation is what takes me on in my path to evolution, towards my pre-destined goal of perfection-which is the same as becoming like my Creator. Not becoming God, but becoming divinised-almost approaching the condition of God, like our avatars. We say, "Rama was divine." In what sense? He did not have four hands and eighteen heads. Ravana had, but he [Rama] did not have. So, was Ravana more divine than Rama? We call him [Ravana] an asura, a raakshasa [demon].

So the evolution is accepted, promoted, by meditation. What can influence it, impede it, stop it, perhaps even destroy it, is our samskara. This we take care of by what we call cleaning. We have a process called cleaning which we do in the evening, when we sit as if we are sitting for meditation and imagine the Guru's grace flowing through us like hava-like a little mild breeze and washing out everything from inside-good, bad, ugly, everything. There is no such thing as good samskara, there is no such thing as bad samskara. See, suppose, you eat half a bar of chocolate and you have diarrhoea and another man eats bad spinach and has diarrhoea, you cannot say, "My diarrhoea is better than yours because I paid two hundred rupees for it." So there is no good samskara, there is no bad samskara. If you are in a plane and you have twenty kilos of gold, and the plane is in trouble and the captain says, "Jettison all cargo," you say, "Mine is gold!" He says, "You want your life or your gold?" Twenty kilos is twenty kilos-it doesn't matter whether it is feathers or gold. Throw it out. That is samskara.

So in this cleaning process, we do it very easily, very simply, supported by the Guru's grace which goes through us. Like you know if a room is full of smoke, every lady knows, you just open the window on two sides and the wind blows and the smoke is gone. My samskaras are washed away each evening like that. This is the daily kriya which is more important than even meditation. Because if you are trying to progress on one side, and you are building more samskaras inside, it is like trying to fly a plane which is already overweight by adding more and more weight to it. It will not fly. So in my opinion, this cleaning is very important. I don't know if my preceptors talk about it enough, whether they tell you the importance of doing it. It is absolutely a must. You know, people who have problems with going to the toilet know that eating is easy, but often emptying your bowels is very difficult; and if you don't do that, you cannot eat any more. Same problem here: if you don't clean, there is no more meditation, no more evolution.

So Sahaj Marg has a very simple, very easily practiced, what shall we say, charter of practices: meditation, cleaning and a prayer which is very simple. It is not a prayer which is begging. My Guru Maharaj said, "All prayer as we know it is begging." "God give me this. God keep my wife safe. God let my son pass his twelfth, because it is a vital year for him. Otherwise he will not get admission in the IIT [Indian Institute of Technology]. If he does not get in the IIT, he will not get a good job." It goes on, you see. "He will not marry well. He will not have good children." We go on breeding, not only physically (children), but thoughts. So desire should be cut. Why do we have to cut this desire even for our children, for our wife, for our parents, anybody? It is coming out of the deep understanding that there is a unique justice which has given you the possibility of approaching the same divine goal irrespective of who you are, what you are, where you are. If there are differences, they are created by us-each one of us.

If my father is suffering, it is because he had to suffer, maybe because of past samskara, maybe because of what he was doing in this life. "No, no, sir, my father used to drink half a bottle every evening. But good man, sir. Wonderful heart, golden heart." Heart-golden, but liver failed? "Kee korbo? [What to do?]" So we can only sympathise. We can say, "I will pray for him." But it is God who deals with this, you see. It is his problem, not my problem. So, don't go to a potential Guru and say, "I want this. I want a better job. I have been denied promotion for three years. I must have double promotion. My wife is always teasing me. Please make my house happy. Please make my children gifted. Please make my job progressive. And haan [yes], last but not least-no disease in the family." God cannot smile because He has no face. But if He could, He would laugh. He would say, "My son, you are wanting something which perhaps even the gods don't have."

You know, when Arjuna sees Lord Krishna in his Vishwaroopa Darshan [the vision of the cosmic form] as it is called, Krishna says, "I have not shown this to gods, to munis [saints], to the greatest rishis [seers]." And Arjuna says, "Why are you showing it to me?" He says, "Because you love me." So the secret of our Hindu tradition as embodied in the Gita-which is the most important-forget Ramayana, forget Mahabharata. In the Gita, truth is spoken: "If you love me, you are mine. And if you are mine, you don't have to ask me for anything." Does your son come and stand before you and then go on his knees and touch your feet and say, "Pitashri, Pitashri [father, father], please bless me with success in my exams." He says, "Daddy, I am going to the exam. Take care of it. I need fifty rupees." Isn't it? That is the freedom of being a son of the father. If you are another boy from another neighbourhood, you have to say, "Guptaji, I need some money. My father is not giving." "Theek hai, theek hai, paanch rupiya ley jaao. [All right, all right. Take five rupees.]" Isn't it?

Spirituality is no different from ordinary life lived every day before you, in your homes by you. He is your father-you have a right on everything. You are a stranger-you have to beg for everything. And because we have become strangers with our God, with our Creator, we are begging: "Please give me this. Please give me that." Shiv mandir, Vishnu mandir, Lakshmi mandir, Lokhi puja, Saraswati puja [Shiva temple, Vishnu temple, Lakshmi temple, worship of Lakshmi and Saraswati]-same sordid story of a guilt-ridden soul going begging for mercy, begging for bread, begging for butter. My Master used to say, "How would you feel if your son comes to you in this situation-in tattered clothes, unclean, smelling of drink, drugged, not even in his consciousness and grovelling at your feet and saying, 'Please forgive me.'" You say, "Chi, you are my son." Would you not say it? Why do you think God would not be similarly affected when he sees us grovelling before Him, when we should hold our heads proudly and say, "Dad, I need."

You know the story of Kuchela, as we call him in the Southern tradition-Krishna's friend, Sudama. He had twenty-seven children. Krishna was the Lord of the universe. Sudama's wife tells him, "Why don't you go and ask him? He is your jigri dost [close friend]. Why don't you ask him?" He says, "How can I ask? It would be insulting my friend to ask. I cannot do it." She says, "Baba, hamaare liye jaao. [Go for my sake.]" She gives him a handful of poha [beaten rice]. Krishna takes one mouthful of poha-everything is transformed in Sudama's village. Second mouthful-he becomes the richest man. Krishna is about to take the third mouthful, and he is stopped by his wife. She says, "Enough. If you take this, he will become you and you will become like him." That is the Lord's grace. You cannot say the Lord is generous. You cannot say the Lord is kind. Grace!

We have seen cinemas where the shehenshah [emperor] is sitting and keval one narthaki [just one dancer] is dancing and if he is happy, he takes his pearl necklace and throws it to her. He doesn't say, "Munim [accountant], give me five rupees." The king gives what he has. A friend gives what he has. A lover gives what he or she has. God gives what He has. He has infinity, he gives us infinity. No going to God for five rupees when he can make you the master of the universe. No use going to God for health and long life when He can give you immortal existence which is above time, free of time. Don't you think so? Should we be grovelling in temples and begging before acharyas [priests]? We should do what we have to do, to become what we have to become.

Religion is lena-dena, souda [give and take, trade]. "Lord, I will give you five per cent of my salary if you will increase my job and give me a promotion." God will say, "What is this? I give you hundred rupees and you give me five rupees. Is this fair? Even money-lenders give a better deal." Will He not say?

So religion deals with God outside you, put in temples where you can pray, where you can weep, where you can beat your breast, and one day, as it happened to Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, a wise man like Totapuri comes and says, "What are you doing? You are stuck." "No, no, she is the Lord, the mistress of the universe." "Theek hai, theek hai. [All right, all right.] But you are stuck." Whether you are stuck with Aishwarya Rai or a rickshaw-puller's wife, it does not matter. I know some Bengalis may be offended by such comparison, but it is your history, your desh [land]-Bangla.

Totapuri said, "Stop this nonsense. Meditate." And he struck him here [points to the forehead]. Then only he became Paramahamsa. Till then he was only Ramakrishna, the pujari [priest]. This is your ithihaas [history]. Bengalis should know this better than I do. Thereafter he was able to talk with the authority of one who has direct perception of the ultimate reality of truth. You understand?

So religion-lena-dena [business transaction, give and take]. Inevitably you have to bribe God. You have to do everything with God that you do with your bosses-pray, beg, cheat. "Lord, I will not tell any more lies. God, please forgive me. Aaj to bolna hi pada jhoot. [Today I had to tell a lie.]"

So that is religion. That is why we have temples. And why are there more temples? Because it is very convenient for us. When you have God inside you as we all have, it is a dreadful thing, you know. Why? Because He is there as part of you: inside you, doing everything you are doing, seeing everything you are seeing. And you cannot tolerate it. So we prefer to leave God in a temple and say, "I have come, I have prayed, I have offered you what I have to. Now you stay here and let me go home." And we bring prasad. You see, prasad [chuckles]-it is the biggest lie. Because instead of bringing God with you, you bring half a banana, one little bit of laddoo or sandesh, and distribute it: "Have some prasad."

So you see the sordid character of religion today: the cheating, the skulduggery, the humbug, the blatant commercial transaction you are involving yourself in with Him who created you, without whom you cannot exist. What you are enjoying is His, and from that you take five rupees and put in the hundi [collection box] and say, "I have done my work." Anyway, that is religion.

Spirituality does not talk of God outside you because everyone has God inside himself. The Antaryamin [the Lord who dwells in the heart] he is called, in our tradition. And Him I don't have to worship. I have to learn to live with Him, accept Him as my elder brother, be guided by Him, and let Him rule my life from inside. My bosses, my doctors, my astrologers, my priests-they try to govern my life from outside. You go to an astrologer when you are in trouble: first havan [religious offering] is five thousand rupees, second is twenty-five thousand rupees, if you can afford it. If you are unfortunate and go to a doctor, first fee is fifty rupees, second is five hundred rupees, third is an MRI. They don't let you go. In modern language, they rip you off. But here, He doesn't ask anything. He says, "My friend, because you are my friend I am with you, I am in you, I am for you. Just leave it to Me."

This is the significance of the Gitopadesha, you know, where Lord Krishna becomes the saarathi [charioteer] of Arjuna. He says, "Let me do the driving. I know the way. Why are you bothered about it?" We have to hand over the reins to the Lord. How do we do it? First of all, we have to recognise that He is really there, because we have lost sight of Him, we have lost track of Him, we have lost total contact. Occasionally, when we do something very bad, when there is a twinge of conscience from inside, we weep, we feel guilty-that is His voice speaking to me. "What are you doing?" He says, in a very dheemi awaaz [low voice]. If you permit Him to speak, His voice becomes stronger. Next He says, "Stop, this is not for you." And you say, "Yes, Lord." Then you hear His voice permanently, until one day you feel you are not speaking, He is speaking; you are not eating, He is eating; you are not doing, He is doing. That is the stage of the divinised human being, to whom now the body is the vehicle for the Lord inside himself. This is spirituality.

So, you see, what we are offering you is a very clear choice. Do you want to continue with this parody of worship, worshipping a God who doesn't need your worship? He is great whether you say so or not, he is the Master of the universe whether you say so or not. "Tvameva maata cha pita tvameva [You alone are the mother and you alone are the father]." He says, "Come on, yaar, shut up. Do you mean what you say?" My Guruji used to say, "Say what you mean and mean what you say." Then there is no question of lying and truth. If I say what I mean and I mean what I say, it is; it is the spoken word, sathya vaak [truth]. Is it true? There is no question of truth and lies anymore. That is why we have the tradition that great rishis speak and you say, "Tathaastu-so shall it be." His voice, his speech, what he has said, cannot be changed even by the Master of the universe-because it is the Master of the universe who has spoken from inside. You follow?

So we go to great people for blessings. Why do we want blessings of great people? Because we believe what they say will happen. Why should it happen? Why must it happen? Because He has said it. The king says, "I have spoken," and it becomes law-a mere man sitting on a throne for three days, three years, thirty years-nobody knows. "I have spoken and it is." The court says, "So shall it be," and a man can be hanged. But what about this voice from inside which is my Creator, my friend?

In the Gita, there is this very great emphasis on the friendship between Lord Krishna and Arjuna-maitri bhaav. He says, "Lord, you are my friend." When Krishna offers him so many paths (worship in this way, worship in that way, so many ways) Arjuna says, "You are my friend. Why are you confusing me by giving me so many options? Tell me the shortest, most effective way to come to you." And Lord Krishna says, "Raja vidya raja guhyam. [This supreme knowledge is the most secret.]" That is Raja Yoga-the yoga of the mind. It is also translated in literature as 'the yoga of kings' or the 'king among yogas'. But this is what it means-"Raaja vidyaa raaja guhyam pavitram idam uttamam [This supreme knowledge is the most pure, the best and the most secret]," Lord Krishna says. He says, "Forsake everything. Who are you worshipping? Whatever you worship, it ultimately comes to Me. Why don't you come direct to Me? You have to worship a bhoot [ghost], and that will go to the pret [goblin], and that will go to the pujari [priest], and that will come to somebody, you know, and it will come eventually to Me." Because tradition has it that anything you do, wherever you do it, goes to the Lord. That is the ultimate destination of all our actions, all our thoughts. In between we have dalals [middle-men]. If you believe them, they have power over you. If we say, "No, I don't believe you. You don't exist for me," they have no power. You can see this in some of our old movies-mantravaadi [magician] comes home and mumbles some 'magic' words. He says, "Stop," and he [the magician] disappears. He has no power over us.

All these people, whether it is mantravaadi, or astrologer or priest, they take your power and use it against you. With God we use no power except the power of love, against which even God cannot act. He says, "Love is the only thing which can conquer Me." God says, Lord Krishna says, "Anything else, you know-you want your weapons-take it." You know, between Duryodhana and Arjuna-when he wakes up, he says, "One of you will have all my armies, and my astras and shastras [arms and weapons], the other will have me. Choose. And because Arjuna is younger and because he saw me first, he has first choice." Arjuna says, "Lord, I want you." Duryodhana is happy. He says, "Stupid ass, this man had the chance of a lifetime and look what he has done." He says, "Lord, I am happy with your army and with your astra and shastras." And what happened to him? What happened?

It is like marrying a wife whose love you don't have, but only her body. I mean, to give you a very bad example which all of us know, many of us experience. What is the body without love? It is cheap; it can be bought in the bazaar. It stinks. But a body with love? It has no price; it is priceless. Therefore, marriage is priceless, a wife is priceless. That is why you can pay two hundred thousand rupees for a diamond necklace for your wife and still it is no price. If you can afford it, you can buy a fifty crore diamond necklace- still it is too cheap. It is love, and love cannot be bought, love is priceless. Yoga deals with love-love for God, not fear of God. Religion: fear of God, begging from God because of our fear. Spirituality: love for God, manifested by my being able to contact Him in my meditation, no demands, no aspirations, just "Lord, I want to be with you."

So you see, I have given you, I hope, a fairly comprehensive idea of what is religion, what is spirituality. I cannot say more about spirituality, because it can only be known by practice. Temples you can see. "Oh, that temple is most beautiful." Yes, the architecture is superb. The Lord is made of white marble. He has a lot of ornaments in gold and diamonds. But that is not what I go to a temple to see. And we have this modern wonderful eye-opener, that even the Lord is robbed by thieves. Even idols are taken away. And people ask, "What is the power of the Lord if He Himself is taken away?" Then we have to say, "But that is only an idol." Then why are you worshipping it? If it is only an idol, why are you worshipping it? After, all a man created it-the sthapati [sculptor]. After all, a pujari gave it whatever it has in terms of holiness, which it does not have. And you worship before it.

So, you see, we have been indulging in false, useless, wasteful, idolatrous practices for centuries over centuries. The Indian tradition has corrupted us for the last, I think, twenty centuries. The Vedas do not speak of temple worship or idol worship. You are all welcome to study the Vedas-nowhere is there a reference to temple worship, idol worship. Our cinemas propagate this, you see. Everyday I see new devis [goddesses]. You go to the pahaad [mountains], you find one devi. "Local deities-very powerful!" You know like, a "very good doctor-Bandhopadhyaya-you know, excellent cardiologist!" But can he guarantee your life? Depends on you.

So Lord Krishna finally says in the Gita: "Sarvadharmaan parityajya maam ekam sharanam vraja-leave everything, come to me alone. Aham tvaam sarvapaapebhyo mokshayishyaami maa shucah-I will release you from all your pains and your sins and your evil. Do not doubt me." That is the final word of Lord Krishna.

I would also like to say, do not doubt what Sahaj Marg has to offer you. Sahaj Marg is very beautiful, very wonderful, because we don't charge any fees-no initiation fees, no monthly fees, no annual fees, no hidden fees. You pay nothing for being an abhyasi. In most of our ashrams, stay and food are free-boarding and lodging. Of course, books you have to pay because it costs money to produce a book. And all that we ask you is: try it for six months sincerely. Put your heart into it. At the end of six months, if you say, "Rubbish," I will shake your hand and we part as friends. If you stay, you will stay forever with us.

Thank you once again. May Master bless you all.