May I answer that by Swami Sivananda

  • By Swami Sivananda
  • November 2003


Q123. How was it possible for Sri Sankaracharya to have devotion to Sakara Brahman when he was an Advaitin and his philosophical treatises prove that he believed in the nameless and formless One? 

It is because Jnana and Bhakti are essentially the same! Look at the various Stotras that he has composed. They indicate clearly that he had developed devotion to a very high degree. Atmanivedan or self-surrender leads to Jnana; and Jnana is synonymous with Para Bhakti.

People nowadays condemn Bhakti and think that it is inferior to Jnana Yoga. They have no understanding of Bhakti. They think that they can jump at once to Jnana Yoga Sadhana. They have really no faith in God. They just acquire some intellectual conception of God. This does not serve them. Jnana Yoga without the necessary preparation is of no use.

Q126. Is it possible to become absolutely desireless? The Western psychologists say that it is impossible to give up all desires. 

Western psychologists are babies. In the Yoga vasishtha and in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, it is mentioned that absolute desirelessness is Moksha. A Jivanmukta has no desires. Desire is imperfection. A Jivanmukta is a perfected soul. How can there be desires in him? How can perfection and imperfection go together? So, it is quite possible to be free from all desires.

Q127. Psychologists do not accept that there is a super conscious state. They accept only the conscious and the subconscious states. 

An owl says, “There is no light”. Is there no light? Similarly, the ‘owl’ professor says that there is no super consciousness. Because an owl professor says that there is no super consciousness, does supersonsciousness cease to be? Study Yoga Vasishtha which affirms the existence of super consciousness. He who denies super consciousness is like the owl that denies light simply because it cannot see light.

Q132. What is the easiest method of developing devotion? 

The easiest method of developing devotion is to hear again and again the Lord’s Lilas. Each time you hear the Lord’s Lilas and glories, an image of the Lord is formed in your mind. And when you go on hearing the glories of the Lord, in due course, the Lord’s image in your mind gets strong and bright, even as the piece of wax which a goldsmith uses for collecting the gold particles which fall on the ground while cutting gold pieces, accumulates gold in it every day, and after some days, itself begins to shine like a piece of gold, when the maximum number of gold particles have stuck to it. And when the form of the Lord is bright and firm in the mind, the devotee has ceaseless remembrance of Him and surging devotion for Him.

Q135. Swamiji, I have often come across this word ‘Kala’ in the Indian scriptures. What exactly is meant by it? 

It is the Great Time personified. It is the destroyer of name and form. In the Hindu pantheon, there are various gods and goddesses who are members of the divine hierarchy. Just as we have our government here composed of various ministers and officers, the celestials who rule the world, too, have their own deities who control the various aspects of creation, preservation and destruction of this world. Some are in charge of the various elements like air, fire and water; some are in charge of birth, death, preservation of life and disease. Kala or Yama or Dharmaraja is the Lord of Death. The entire universe is under his control in a way; for, when the time comes, he brings about the end of the earthly sojourn of all beings. It is only the man of Self-realisation who transcends this Kala and realises his own Self. All Sadhana is meant to help us transcend this Kala, to conquer death, to go beyond time.

Q136. Please explain to me what is meant by Cosmic Consciousness.  

It is a state of consciousness in when you are aware that God is all that there is, and what is more, that He is the link that connects all individuals. God is the Consciousness that illumines the entire creation. Realisation of this Consciousness or God liberates one from bondage to passing phenomena, from the illusion of names and forms. This is the state of God-realisation or Self-realisation.

After God-realisation, the individual is completely merged in the Cosmic Consciousness or God. It is like the rivers entering into the ocean; they lose their identity and you can no more distinguish the waters of the Ganges from the waters of the Godavari. The appearance of the world vanishes in the Reality of God, just as when the lamp is brought, the snake which appeared to be vanishes in the rope that exists.

Q139. Are the senses meant to be starved and destroyed? The ascetic ideal says so.The Greek ideal, however, is moderate enjoyment of life. Most of the Western thinkers of the rationalistic type accept this. Modern psychologists assert that by denying or refusing the needs of the body such as food and sex and suppressing emotions like attachment and love, people generally create mental problems for themselves. Is there any substance in this?  

No; the senses have not been given only to be starved or killed. Neither are they given for being indulged in and earthly purpose whatsoever. That is the highest view that the sages uphold for spiritual aspirants. The senses are given for being utilized consciously and deliberately for the attainment of something altogether above and beyond the farthest reach of the senses. To understand the right import and significance of self-restraint, one must take a more comprehensive view of the question.

In the human being, these senses are given together with the superior, directive faculty of intelligence with its aspects such as discrimination, selection etc. The senses are to operate under its wise supervision. The aim is not the ultimate denial of the senses, but the achievement through restraint, of a pleasure a million fold greater than that achieved through gratification. When one realises this fact, he will understand, how, with the Yogic aspirant, this self-restraint is not a matter of bitterness or reluctant, unwilling repression at all. Understood in its correct light, it is a joyous, voluntary discipline undertaken for the acquisition of an infinitely greater and more blissful experience. Does the angler ever grudge the lost of the worm cast for catching a big fish?

Moreover, the rationale of asceticism is not rightly understood by most people. The ideal of asceticism and penance is not based upon repression. Conservation and sublimation are the principles underlying asceticism rightly practised. The true ascetic withholds, diverts, canalizes and finally transmutes his natural propensities. The untoward repercussions of forced repression such as complex, neurosis, etc., have no place here. No doubt, modern psychologists are correct in their view about repression, but one must know that it does not apply to religious asceticism, wherein the process is sublimation and not just repression; and it must always be remembered that asceticism is a part of Yoga which provides such a marvelous system of mental training and culture that most effectively counteracts and wards off any possibility of neurotic complexes or obsessions.

It is, however, true that asceticism is very much misunderstood by the majority of persons, and unfortunately by the ascetics themselves, as a result of which we hardly come across a real ascetic in the aspirant world.

Yoga recommends a proper utilization of the tremendous faculties of undissipated senses for higher purpose of inner culture, social welfare, inventions, scientific progress, and finally, intuition. The senses are to be sublimated through restraint through reason and intelligent judgement. Their unlimited potentialities are to be harnessed of the greater good and not allowed to be most shamelessly dissipated for a momentary pleasure, unintelligent and animalistic. Viewed from this angle, the aspirant is asked not to starve and destroy the senses, but really to strengthen them and utilize them for his good. Dissipation, on the contrary, actually caused destruction of the senses.

The Greek ideal was enunciated as a general philosophy of life for the average humanity. Asceticism, as understood by the sages, is a distinctive discipline especially incumbent upon that class which would walk the spiritual way the aspirant class dedicated to the goal of Self-realisation. This class is vividly aware that the conception of “moderate enjoyment of life” is a conception alone and is well nigh impossible to put into actual practice. For the very nature of enjoyment is such that it tends to progressively increase in force each time the senses are indulged in. The habit gets man in its grip and drags him down. This has been the uniform experience of the sages. Therefore, at one stage or the other, a rigid religious self-control and denial becomes imperative in the march to spiritual progress.

The rank materialist may not care for it, but the seeker does. The seeker is marked out for a special achievement. You know how an ultra-modern acrobat, a ballet dancer or an expert boxer willingly imposes a rigid regimen upon himself to keep perfectly trim and healthy for his professional success. Mark the denials and restrictions during the training period of any serious candidate trying for a championship in athletics! His keen zest and enthusiasm serve to keep his mind in a high mood of inspiration and anticipation. What, then, should be the interest and aspiration in true asceticism undertaken as a part of the training for an infinitely greater achievement in the spiritual path?

Q141. What is the best method to check the advance of lust?  

Lust is but a natural tendency of the mind. The best method to check the impulse is the way of intense and deep Vairagya by a study of religious books, by constant Satsang with Mahatmas (noble souls), by self-enquiry or “Whom am I?” enquiry, by close observance of the ways of the world, and by an understanding of the diseases and the spiritual degradation that result from over-indulgence. Remember the saying of the Lord in the Gita:

Trividham Narakasvedam Dvaram Nasanmatmanah

Kamah Krodastata Lobhas Tasmat Etat Trayam Tyajet

                                                                                    (Ch. XVI-21) 

Practise the chief Asans and Pranayam as detailed in my books “Yoga Asanas” and “Science of Pranayama”. Do intense Japa to the point of self-forgetfulness. Treat womankind as the manifestation of the Devi, the adorable Mother Divine. Maintain Matru Bhav in your dealings with the other sex. Give up looking at the face of a woman, but look at her feet to avoid room for evil thoughts to crop up or indiscriminate deeds to arise. Take cold water bath always. Control the tongue. To give leniency to the tongue means to allow free access to lust to trouble the being. Always engage yourself in pure and noble thoughts. Realise the glory of Brahmacharya by studying the lives of Hanuman, Ramdas, etc. Check yourself as per the details given in my book, “How to Get Vairagya”. Reduce wants and desires. In proportion to the reduction of the egoistic self, all negative tendencies will disappear.

Q142. What view do you hold about cow-slaughter? Do you believe that its practice is the main cause of the downfall of our nation?  

Scriptures, and the personages and episodes in the scriptures, are as true as God Himself. The former definitely and unambiguously say and propound that all the thirty crores of Devatas as envisaged in Hinduism have their abode in the frame of the cow, as in the Basil plant (Tulasi). The cow is boldly proclaimed in the scriptures as one of the objects of Dana (offering) for the uplift of the soul when the Prana departs from the body of a human being. The cow is really worthy of our adoration. Pancha Gavya (the milk, curd, Ghee, urine and dung of a cow) are ordained to be taken in for Prayaschitta at the commencement of certain Vratas like Rishi Panchami. Any number of instances can be cited regarding the holiness of a cow. Gow-puja (cow worship is as much fruitful as Sannyasi (Sadhu) Puja. It is a equal to, if not more than, Sakala Devata Puja (worship of all deities). Such being the case, cow-slaughter (Gow-Vadha) is condemnable without hesitation.

Q144. There is a general complaint that Swamiji Maharaj, who is supposed to be above all caste, creed, religion and sex, is always surrounded by lady visitors, mostly. Pray, kindly answer this question. 

I do not prevent men from sitting around me. In fact, in the office, there are quite a number of them always surrounding me. They sit on the bench provided for visitors; and the ladies, naturally in keeping with Indian tradition, sit on the ground, around my table. While walking about, the European custom prevails; and the men, of their own accord, let the ladies first. Therefore, the ladies seem to crowd round me and the men walk a few paces behind.

But, when all is said and done, no one can deny that women have more devotion then men who have been endowed with more of intellect. It is the ladies’ devotion that makes them sit near my table in the office; and it is the men’s intellect that makes them question the propriety thereof! When the intellectual man cultivates devotion too, the result is an understanding heart and breadth of vision that lead him soon to Self-realisatlon.

I am as much interested in the spiritual welfare of women as in that of men; perhaps I take a little more interest in guiding women on the path of Sadhana. There are three reasons for this. Firstly, you know the wise saying: “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world”. Women is the maker of man; if she is spiritual, then there is no doubt that the whole of mankind would be pious and peaceful. Secondly, while men all over the world are busy running after the shadow, trying to acquire wealth and the useless objects of this world, it is the women who preserve Dharma as best as they can. They need all the spiritual strength and encouragement that we can provide them. Thirdly, as man’s “better half”, I know that if woman is spiritually inclined, she will not leave her man behind, but will take him along with her on the spiritual path. She is man’s ‘Sahadharmini’, and even if in the busy work-a-day world man forgets his role for a while, woman will not; and she will be patiently working for his welfare and will convert him to the life divine.

Q148. Can asceticism lead to enlightenment?  

Asceticism is really the austere life of sense-control and mental concentration lived for the purpose of devotional practices or spiritual meditations. True asceticism necessarily includes a strict observance of the moral and ethical disciplines, on the basis of which the higher practices are undertaken. Asceticism is a means to enlightenment in as much as it prepares the ground for meditation which leads to wisdom and realisation. Sometimes, asceticism is taken in its narrower sense of bodily mortification alone. But this is a grave error and this alone cannot lead to enlightenment without the calming of the passions and discipline of the mind.

Q151. In an Ashram where you have gathered together young spiritual aspirants, promising to guide them in their rapid march to the Goal of life, viz., Self-realisation, why do you encourage dance, drama and music? 

The question betrays an ignorance of the fundamental principles of music and dance. They are divine. I should request you to remember that Lord Krishna with His inseparable flute and Mother Sarasvati with Her Veena remind you that music is divine. Lord Nataraja reminds you that dance had its origin in Him. The wickedness of man would misuse anything. Because pickpockets are found in abundance in a temple on a festival day, should we deny ourselves the blessing of His Darshan?

It is a pity that these two divine arts-music and dance-have been brought down to the level of sensuous entertainment. It is the sacred duty of every lover of God and of the fine arts to raise them to their original standards of purity and divinity.

Music is Nada Yoga. It at once enables you to attain union with Nada Brahman, the sacred Pranava. Nritya or dance enables you to enter into Bhava Samadhi.

Drama is a very powerful instrument for the dissemination of spiritual knowledge. What you cannot teach through hundreds of books and hours of lecture, you can bring home to the audience easily and effectively through a single play. Drama is an art form that touches the heart.

The very fact that the worldly man has taken such an interest in these three and misused them to fulfil his nefarious purposes shows what a tremendous power they have over the heart and soul of man. What a blessing they will be if they are used for spiritual ends! 

Q155. We see a very good man suffering too much. Why? The answer may be: “Because of his previous Karma in his previous Janma”. This we can trace back to the day of creation.

The law of Karma is inexorable. Every one reaps the fruits of his previous births. A good man only will suffer a lot, because he is hurrying up in the spiritual march. Many of his evil Karmas have to be worked out and purged out quickly to hasten his salvation in this very birth. But, God gives him extraordinary power of endurance through His grace. An aspirant or a good man gets many difficulties and sufferings. But he rejoices even in sufferings and destitution on account of the descent of the Lord’s grace. He voluntarily welcomes these sufferings. The only best thing in this world is pain or suffering, because it is the eye-opener towards God.

Q156. How to develop Bhakti?  

By Satsang, by repeating the Lord’s Name, doing Kritan, hearing Kathas, reading the Ramayana, Bhagavata and the lives of Bhaktas-Bhakta Vijayam and Bhakta Lilamrita-Vishnu Sahasranama, Narada Bhakti Sutras and Sandilya Sutras. You must develop Vairagya. This is important Live amidst Bhaktas. Live in Ayodhya. Respect Rama Nama. You will develop Rama Bhakti. Live in Brindavan. Study Bhagavata. Do Japa of the Dvadasakshara Mantra, “Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya”. You will develop Krishna Bhakti.

Q162. Does the soul take a new body in one year? Does it take ten years? How long does one live upon the subtler planes before reappearing on the earth plane? 

There is no definite period of time in this matter. In main, two factors, decide this issue, viz., the nature of the individual Karma and the last impression before death. It may vary from hundreds of years to a few months even. Those that work out some of their Karmas in other planes in subtler regions take a considerable time before entering a fresh body. The interval is very long, for a year of the earth period passes off as a single day on the celestial plane. There is an instance cited where, seeing the amazement and admiration of foreign tourists at the imposing ruins of certain ancient monuments, a saint present in the vicinity remarked that some of those very people had fashioned those monuments centuries ago.

A very sensual individual with strong craving or one with intense attachment sometimes is reborn quickly. Also in cases where life is cut short by a violent death or a sudden unexpected accident, the Jiva resumes the thread very soon. Usually in such cases of immediate rebirth, the Jiva often remembers many of the events of its previous life. It recognizes its former relatives and friends and identifies its old home and familiar objects. This sometimes leads to very queer developments. There are some instances where a murdered person, being reborn, has declared the manner of his death and revealed the identity of the killer in the recent past.

But such cases of immediate rebirth are not common. Generally, for an average individual, the interval between death and rebirth happens to be a considerable period measured in terms of earth time. Persons who have done much good Karma spend a great deal of time on the Daivic plane before being born again. Great souls, spiritually advanced persons, wait for a long time before reincarnating.

Q163. What is music? Has it got any power to soothe the aching mind?  

Music is a system of harmonious, melodious and rhythmic sounds capable of producing inner peace and an inexpressible thrill of joy. Music is one of the sciences which deal with Nada (Sabda) which is the first vibration of Brahman represented by the Pranava-Om. All the Sapta Svaras-Sa, Ri, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni-which evolved themselves later into the various vocal sound first originated out of this fundamental Om, symbolic of Brahman. Music is one of the fine arts or Lalita Kalas. Yes. It has got not only the power to soothe the aching mind, but also the power to cure diseases like neurasthenia, insomnia, hysteria, moroseness, giddiness, etc. To achieve perfection in the Sangita Sastra is to attune oneself with Brahman. As Brahman is Light Absolute, Knowledge Absolute, Bliss Absolute and so on, so is He Nada Absolute. God is Nada Brahman. One can achieve God, even as the votaries of music, Thyagaraja, Purandhara Das, Tukaram and others, did.

Q169. I feel a burning sensation in my eyes and my mind is restless; and so I am unable to meditate. Is there any effective remedy? 

It is a sign to show that your system is hearted. Apply Amalaka oil or butter to the head for fifteen minutes in the early morning and then take a bath. Take Sattvic food. Whenever you feel thirsty, drink a cup of Misri Sharbat (water in which sugar-candy is dissolved). Take a cup of pure cow’s milk in the early morning and at night before going to bed. Regulate your food. Take bath twice a day. That will cool the system.

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