Scriptural Knowledge and Abominable Scoundrels


Question 1: I have known people who can volubly quote chunks of verses from the scriptures but they seem to have serious moral turpitude. How do we reconcile their vast knowledge with their character defect?

Answer 1: “Quoting scriptures is….not a sign to indicate the spiritual development of a person. A man may recite the whole of the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Brahma Sutras; and yet he may be the greatest and the most abominable scoundrel.” (pg. 24, Satsanga and Svadhyaya by Swami Sivananda)

[“Scoundrel” refers to a dishonest or unscrupulous (=having or showing NO moral principles) person: Oxford Dictionary]

Question 2: I have known people who give impressive lectures; yet, they have every trait that qualifies them to be un-spiritual. Oftentimes, some of them are even bad and hypocritical. How do we reconcile their impressive knowledge with their lack of spirituality?

Answer 2: “One may deliver a lecture on Adwaita Philosophy for several hours. One may interpret a verse in hundred and one ways. One may give a discourse on one verse of the Gita for a week and yet these people may not possess an iota of devotion or practical realisation of Vedantic oneness. It is all dry intellectual exercise. Nothing more than that.” (pg. 240, Sadhana by Swami Sivananda)

Answer 2: Swami Sivananda: “It is practice that counts. You know the Gita by heart. But are you living in the spirit of the Gita—that is what matters.” (Swamiji’s speech on 25.9.1950: pg. 150, Sivananda’s Lectures: All-India and Ceylon Tour).

Answer 2Mata Amritanandamayi: “Memorising something is NOT that difficult; putting what YOU have LEARNT into practice IS difficult.” (pg. 43, Lead Us to the Light)

Question 3: How is it that their knowledge of the scriptures does not help to eradicate their bad and evil tendencies?

Answer 3: “It is easy to become a lecturer on Vedanta. If you sit in a library for some years and enrich your vocabulary and phraseology and commit to memory some passages, you can deliver good lectures, in two or three years, but it is not so easy to eradicate an evil quality. Only a real aspirant who is doing Sadhana will realise his difficulty.” (pg. 240, Sadhana by Swami Sivananda)

Question 4: Some of these people who are so-called well-versed in the scriptures often say that there should be a balance between pleasure of living in this world, enjoying the sense satisfaction and leading a spiritual life. Can one make substantial progress in attaining God-Realisation in this way?

Answer 4: “Spiritual life starts with your recognition that as long as you keep going headlong in the pursuit of sense satisfaction and pleasure, you are NOT going to move one step. So all will be academic and theoretical. Our aspiration, our wanting spiritual life will only be in theory—a fancy and a feeling. You have not started. So, the beginning stage itself of the spiritual life is a turning away from sense experience and sense indulgence and starting to move in the opposite direction,” (pg. 19, The Role Celibacy in Spiritual Life by Swami Chidananda)

Question 5: So, what are the uses of spiritual or scriptural knowledge?

Answer 5: “It is not enough…merely to read the scriptures. We must hold their teachings up to the watchful presence within us…,” (pg. 203, The Promise of Immortality by Swami Kriyananda) [Swami Kriyananda is a direct disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda, the author of “Autobiography of a Yogi”].

Answer 5: “Even if we memorise the most complicated… texts, without an innocent love for God, it will be difficult to make any real spiritual progress,” Swami Ramakrishnananda (pg. 246, The Blessed Life)

Answer 5: Mata Amritanandamayi: “Knowledge is good, but ONLY when expressed in life is its benefit experienced both by ourselves and by society….(Scriptural study) must be practised in DAILY life… ONLY when we live BY its principles can we progress without flagging, no matter what the circumstance.” (pgs. 4-5, Matruvani, March 2013, Vol.24, No.7)

Answer 5: “All too often the intellect becomes satisfied with just theory about God. Great and glorious is the story of God’s presence, but greater and more glorious is the actual perception of the Infinite….If you practice one millionth of the things that I tell you…you will reach God. Success doesn’t lie in listening to my sermons, but in practising what I have told you.” (pg. 94, The Divine Romance by Paramahansa Yogananda)

Answer 5: “It is true that our ancient teachers were great, their wisdom was profound, their morals were high, and their spiritual insight transcended the limitations of time and place. HOWEVER, we have NOT been able to take advantage of the great treasure that could have made life better and brighter.” (pg. 51, Spirituality by Swami Rama)

Answer 5: “It is not enough to read the scriptures as a form of duty. One should think deeply about the meaning they contain and try to get a firm conviction about the possibility of realising the Truth.” (pg. 514, Meditation and Spiritual Life by Swami Yatiswarananda)

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Attending Talks and Satsangs—Any Value at All?


Question 1: Is it wrong to attend spiritual talks by people who are quite well-read and informed?

Mata Amritanandamayi: Everyone has something to say on every topic. People are under the impression that they are all authorised to speak on any subject under the sun. Amma remembers a story. A boy once said, “I know a professor. What a great man he was!” When asked why he thought the man was great, the boy said, “He can talk for hours, no matter what the topic (is). Even if you give him an insignificant topic, he can speak for more than five hours!” Another boy who overheard this said, “Your professor can speak for only five hours, and that (has to be on) a topic! My neighbour, however, can go on talking for days on end without any topic!… (People) do not practise anything that (they) preach. (pgs. 2-3, October 2013, Matruvani, Vol. 25)

Question 2: For many years, I have been studying the holy scriptures, viz., Gita, Upanishads, etc., and I have mastered them in a way. But I do not feel the oneness of life in all. I still take delight in gossiping, backbiting, rumour-mongering, etc; I still get jealous, angry; hypocrisy subtly exists in me. Therefore, are scriptural studies of no avail? Are the scriptures for mere study alone?

Swami Sivananda: “Mere study of the Vichar Sagar or Panchadasi cannot bring in the experience of pure Advaitic consciousness. Vedantic gossiping and dry discussions on scriptures cannot help a man in feeling the unity and oneness of life. You should destroy ruthlessly all sorts of impurities, hatred, jealousy, envy, idea of superiority and all barriers that separate man from man. This can be done by incessant, selfless service of humanity with the right mental attitude. Practical Vedanta is rare in these days. There are dry discussions and meaningless fights over the non-essentials of religions. People study a few books and pose as Jivanmuktas. Even if there be one real Jivanmukta, he will be a great dynamic force to guide the whole world. He can change the destiny of the world. The present-day Jivanmuktas are mere bookworms. Many imagine that they can become Jivanmuktas by a little study of Laghu Siddhanta Kaumudi and Tarka. Oneness of life can be had only by Self-realization through constant spiritual practice. Study of scriptures can help you a bit, but it cannot make you a Jivanmukta.” (pgs. 143-144, May I Answer that?)

Mata Amritanandamayi: “…Learning becomes complete only when one is able to express what one has learnt in one’s life. One who strives to do is a true disciple.” (pg. 4, October 2013, Matruvani, Vol. 25)

 

Which is the Easiest Path to God?


Question: There are so many paths or ways to God, it seems. I wonder which is the correct way?

Swami Sivananda: “Man is a composite of three fundamental factors, namely, will, feeling and cognition. There are three kinds of temperament—the active, the emotional and the rational. Even so, there are three Yogas—Jnana Yoga for a person of enquiry and rational temperament, Bhakti Yoga for the emotional temperament, and Karma Yoga for a person of action. (pg. 9, Introduction to the Bhagavad Gita by Swami Sivananda).

Question: But which is the correct way to God? In one place in the Gita, for instance,

  1. Lord Krishna praises Karma Yoga: “The Yoga of action is superior to the renunciation of action”—(Chap. 4.2); 
  2. Yet in another place, He praises Raja Yoga: “The Yogi is thought to be superior to the ascetics and even superior to men of knowledge; he is also superior to men of action. Therefore, be thou a Yogi, O Arjuna!”—(Chap 6:46). 
  3. Similarly, in another place, Lord Krishna praises the path of Bhakti Yoga: “The highest Purusha, O Arjuna, is attainable by unswerving devotion to Him alone within whom all beings dwell and by whom all this is pervaded!”—(Chap 8:22). 
  4. To confound it further, He has also praised Jnana Yoga: “Noble indeed are all these; but I deem the wise man as My very Self; for, steadfast in mind, he is established in Me alone as the supreme goal”—(Chap 7:18).

Swami Sivananda: One Yoga is as efficacious as the other… A beginner is confused when he comes across these seemingly contradictory verses. But, if you think deeply, there is no room for any confusion. Krishna praises each Yoga in order to create interest in the aspirant in his particular path. The Gita is a book for the people of the world at large. It was not meant for Arjuna alone. Each Yoga is as efficacious as the other. (pgs. 9, 12, Introduction to the Bhagavad Gita by Swami Sivananda).

Question: So, which path should I follow? And, will the path that I have chosen help me spiritually, and finally give me liberation? Or, should a person who is following a certain path now, for instance, Jnana Yoga, change his path to another (efficacious one) that will help him to attain Him?

Swami Sivananda: Any spiritual path pursued with real sincerity and faith leads the aspirant to God-realisation. (pg. 210, Voice of the Himalayas by Swami Sivananda)

Stick to one path with all your strength and single-minded devotion. (pg. 235, Voice of the Himalayas by Swami Sivananda)

If you are sincere, you will surely attain God, which(ever) path you follow. (pg. 237, Voice of the Himalayas by Swami Sivananda).

Question: I am not sure which path is good for me. Which is the easiest way to follow?

Swami Sivananda: Jnana Yoga for a person of enquiry and rational temperament, Bhakti Yoga for the emotional temperament, and Karma Yoga for a person of action. (pg. 9, Introduction to the Bhagavad Gita by Swami Sivananda).

Of all the various paths that lead to perfection, the path of devotion (Bhakti Yoga)  is the pleasantest and easiest. (pg. 86, Voice of the Himalayas by Swami Sivananda)

The path of devotion (Bhakti Yoga) is the easiest and surest of all the ways for attaining emancipation. (pg. 83, Voice of the Himalayas by Swami Sivananda)

By devotion he knows Me in truth, what and who I am; and knowing Me in truth, he forthwith enters into the Supreme. (Bhagavad Gita 18:55)

Gita Jayanti By Sri Swami Sivananda Maharaj


THE HOLY Gita Jayanti, or the birthday of the Bhagavad Gita, is celebrated throughout India by all the admirers and lovers of this most sacred scripture on the eleventh day (Ekadashi) of the bright half of the month of Margaseersha (December-January), according to the Hindu almanac. It was on this day that Sanjaya narrated to King Dhritarashtra the dialogue between Sri Krishna and Arjuna, and thus made the glorious teachings of the Lord available to us, and to people of the world, for all time.

The Gita Jayanti marks one of the greatest days in the history of mankind. Nearly six thousand years ago on that day a dazzling flash of brilliant light lit up the firmament of human civilization. That flash, that marvellous spiritual effulgence, was the message of the Bhagavad Gita, given by the Lord Himself on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Unlike ordinary flashes of light which die away after a split-second, this brilliant flash of that memorable day has continued to shine through the centuries, and even now illumines the path of humanity on its onward march to perfection.

The Gita is the most beautiful and the only truly philosophical song. It contains sublime lessons on wisdom and philosophy. It is the “Song Celestial”. It is the universal gospel. It contains the message of life that appeals to all, irrespective of race, creed, age or religion.

The Gita was given to us about six thousand years ago by Sri Krishna, the Lord incarnate, through His most devoted disciple, Arjuna. Its teachings are based on the sacred Upanishads, the ancient, revealed metaphysical classics of India.

The Gita shows a way to rise above the world of duality and the pairs of opposites, and to acquire eternal bliss and immortality. It is a gospel of action. It teaches the rigid performance of one’s duty in society, and a life of active struggle, keeping the inner being untouched by outer surroundings, and renouncing the fruits of actions as offerings unto the Lord.

The Gita is a source of power and wisdom. It strengthens you when you are weak, and inspires you when you feel dejected and feeble. It teaches you how to resist unrighteousness and follow the path of virtue and righteousness.

The Gita is not merely a book or just a scripture. It is a living voice carrying an eternally indispensable and vital message to mankind. Its verses embody words of wisdom coming from the infinite ocean of knowledge, the Absolute Itself.

The voice of the Gita is the call of the Supreme. It is the divine sound explained. The primal source of all existence, all power, is the manifested sound—Om. This is the Divine Word. It is Nada Brahman, whose unceasing call is: “Be ye all ever merged in the eternal, unbroken, continuous consciousness of the Supreme Truth.” This is the sublime message that the Gita elaborates and presents in all comprehensiveness and in a universally acceptable form. It is this message of the Gita that I wish to recall and reproclaim with emphasis to you.

To be always conscious of the Divine, to ever feel the Divine Presence, to live always in the awareness of the Supreme Being in the chambers of your heart and everywhere around you, is verily to live a life of fullness and divine perfection on earth itself. Such a constant remembrance of God and such an attitude of mind will release you forever from the clutches of illusion and free you from all fear. To forget the Supreme is to fall into illusion. To forget Him is to be assailed by fear. To live in unbroken remembrance of the Supreme Truth is to remain always in the region of light, peace and bliss, far beyond the reach of illusion and delusion.
Mark carefully how the Gita stresses again and again this lofty message.

The Lord declares: “Keep thou thy mind in Me, in Me place thy reason”.
In another verse He says: “Therefore, at all times remember Me and fight. You will surely attain Me, having thus offered yourself”.

And yet again: “Perform thou action, remaining united with Me at heart”.

The Gita guides you to glory with the watchwords: “Be thou divine-minded, devoted to Me as your goal, and let your subconscious mind be divine”.

The Lord gives the following firm assurance also: “I become the saviour from this mortal world for those whose minds are set on Me”.

Such is the most illuminating message of the Gita, seeking to lead man to a life of perfection even while performing his ordained role here. Long has this message been neglected by man. Forgetting the Lord, the world has turned towards sense indulgence and mammon. A terrible price has been paid. O man, enough of this forgetfulness! The Lord has warned you against heedlessness: “If, out of egoism, thou wilt not hear, then thou shalt perish”.

It is a matter of great regret that many young men and women of India know very little of this most unique scripture. One cannot consider oneself as having attained a good standard of education if one does not have a sound knowledge of the Gita. All post-graduate knowledge, all research in universities is mere husk or chaff when compared to the wisdom of the Gita.

Live in the spirit of the teachings of the Gita. Mere talks or lectures will not help you in any way. Put into practice the teachings of this most sacred scripture and attain eternal bliss and peace.

The Gita may be summarised in the following seven verses:

1. “Uttering the one-syllabled Om, the Brahman, and remembering Me, he who departs, leaving the body thus, attains the Supreme Goal”.

2. “It is meet, O Lord, that the world delights and rejoices in Thy praise; the demons fly in fear to all quarters, and all the hosts of Siddhas bow to Thee!”

3. “With hands and feet everywhere, with eyes, heads and mouths everywhere, with ears everywhere, He exists in the world, enveloping all”.

4. “Whosoever meditates on the omniscient, ancient ruler of the whole world, minuter than an atom, the supporter of all, of form inconceivable, effulgent like the sun, such a one goeth beyond the darkness of ignorance”.

5. “They, the wise, speak of the indestructible Asvattha, having its roots above and branches below, whose leaves are the metres or hymns; he who knows it is a knower of the Vedas”.

6. “And I am seated in the hearts of all; from Me are memory and knowledge, as well as their absence. I am verily that which has to be known by all the Vedas; I am indeed the author of Vedanta, and the knower of the Vedas am I”.

7. “Fix thy mind on Me; be devoted to Me; sacrifice to Me; bow down to Me; having thus united thy whole Self with Me, taking Me as the Supreme Lord, thou shalt verily come to Me”.
Read the whole of the Gita on Sundays and other holidays. Study carefully again and again the verses in the second discourse, which deal with the state of the Sthitaprajna (a perfected Yogi and sage). Also study the eight nectarine verses in the twelfth discourse.

The study of the Gita alone is sufficient for the purpose of scriptural study. You will find in it a solution to all your problems. The more you study it with devotion and faith, the deeper will your knowledge become, the more penetrative would be your insight, and the clearer your thinking. Even if you live in the spirit of one verse of the Gita, all your miseries will come to an end and you will attain the goal of life—immortality and eternal peace.

None but the Lord can bring out such a marvellous and unprecedented book, which grants peace to its readers, and which guides them in the attainment of supreme bliss.
The teachings of the Gita are broad, sublime and universal. They do not belong to any particular cult, sect, creed, age, place or country. They are meant for all. They are within the reach of all. The Gita has a message for the solace, peace, freedom, salvation and perfection of all human beings.
At the Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh, the holy and auspicious Gita Jayanti is observed every year on a grand scale:

All the aspirants wake up at 4 am and meditate on the Lord. From sunrise to sunset there is unbroken recitation of the Gita. The Samputa method is used, that is, before and after each verse the following Samputa is recited:

Sarva dharmaan parityajya maamekam sharanam vraja;
Aham twaa sarvapaapebhyo mokshayishyaami maa shucha.


Thus, between two verses, this verse is recited twice. This is an extremely efficacious method of earning the Grace of the Supreme Lord and the Gita, the Mother.

Aspirants fast on the day, as it is also the Ekadashi day. Competitions are held among the little children, to develop their talents in the recitation of the Gita. In the case of the slightly older children, they are given a chance to deliver discourses. This is a wonderful way of encouraging them to study the scripture.

In the evening, a special Satsang is held at which scholars, Yogis and Sannyasins discourse upon the Gita. Leaflets, pamphlets and books containing the teachings of the Gita, as also translations of the holy scripture, are distributed.

Take a resolve on Gita Jayanti that you will read at least one discourse every day. Recite the fifteenth discourse before taking your meals. This is done at the Sivananda Ashram.

Keep a pocket-sized edition of the Gita with you at all times. Mark a few verses in it which inspire you. Everyday, while you wait for your bus or train, or whenever you have a little leisure, pull out the book and read these verses. You will be ever inspired.

May you all lead the life taught by the Gita! May the Gita, the blessed Mother of the Vedas, guide and protect you! May it nourish you with the milk of the ancient wisdom of the Upanishads!

Glory to Lord Krishna, the Divine Teacher! Glory to Sri Vyasa, the poet of poets, who composed the Gita! May his blessings be upon you all!

(pgs. 79-86, Hindu Fasts & Festivals)