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)

Satsang is a Waste of Time

Question 1: My friends and I discuss a lot of spiritual issues at bhajans/satsangs (=spiritual gatherings). We discuss valuable quotations that we have gathered from the scriptures and from the books of mahatmas or enlightened masters. A friend of mine says that all these are SHEER WASTE OF TIME and especially effort. What are your views on this opinion? 

Mata Amritanandamayi answers: “It ISN’T enough to read ABOUT living spiritual life, or to HEAR about it, or to just TALK about it—you have to put it into practice… Attending a lecture on the THEORY of cooking ISN’T enough to remove hunger. To appease your hunger, you have to cook the food and eat it. If you want to grow fruit, just STUDYING agriculture ISN’T enough. You have to plant the fruit trees and nurse them.

“It is NOT enough to know that there is water beneath a particular spot, because that WON’T give you ANY water. You have to dig a well there. Nor can you quench your thirst by merely looking at a picture of a well. You have to draw water from a REAL well and drink it. Is it enough to sit in a parked car, staring at a map? Tp reach your destination, you HAVE to travel on the road which is shown on the map.

“In the same way, it’s NOT enough to just take part in SATSANGS, or to READ the SCRIPTURES. To experience the Truth, you HAVE to LIVE according to those words.” (pgs. 273, 292, Eternal Wisdom Vol. 2)

Question 2: So, attending regular SATSANGS is a waste of time? 

Mata Amritanandamayi answers: “…To someone who DOESN’T make any effort, satsang is like a COCONUT given to a jackal; his hunger will NEVER be appeased. A tonic will improve your health, provided you follow the directions written on the bottle and take the right dosage. SATSANG is like learning those directions, and sadhana is like drinking the tonic. Satsang teaches us about the eternal and the transitory, but only through sadhana will we be able to experience and realise what we have learnt.” (pg. 293, Eternal Wisdom Vol. 2)

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)


Spiritual Groups

A spiritual group needs the inspiration of a living person. Mere rules and printed instructions are no substitutes for it. Without such inspiration, no matter how inspired a group was at its inception, time will draw it down into a mire of mediocrity. The real strength of every group is power emanating from its source. In the case of Christianity, that power derives ultimately from Jesus Christ. It also depends on people’s devotional attunement with him. Finally, however, it depends on the living presence of at least one inspired individual. This person need not be the leader. Even the cook, or the gardener, if he or she is filled with love for God, can function as the actual inspiration for an entire community.

The living memory only of a saint can help to keep devotion alive through those disciples for whom that memory is still fresh. If the disciples themselves lose the immediacy of that memory, however, and assuming no one is left to carry forward the baton of inspiration, the group’s devotion will wither in time like a plant without water.

That religious institutions should contain members of the “scribe and Pharisee” type is inevitable. Most people are satisfied with relative goodness, for their own aspiration soars no higher than the attainment after death of an existence in surroundings of astral beauty. Religious institutionalism is better, certainly, than blatant materialism. A problem religious institutions face, however, is the general tendency of every living thing toward either self-expansion or contraction. It is usually easier to maintain the spirituality of a small group than of a large one, provided that the group has someone of genuine charisma to inspire it. St. Teresa of Avila sought to combat spiritual mediocrity in her monasteries by limiting the number of their residents to eighteen.

As spiritual groups increase in size, they become not only organized, but institutionalized. Their leaders often reason that, since God is the Supreme Good, any increase in membership will benefit humanity itself. Once proselytizing zeal sets in like concrete, it is easy for one to be diverted from his spiritual goals. Mass conversion becomes a general ambition, and fervor for inner communion with God becomes increasingly viewed as, at best, a threat to group spirit.

To inspire thousands is no doubt better than to inspire only a handful, provided those thousands truly are inspired. The sheer effort involved in reaching them, however, cannot but affect one’s own devotion. The attempt to satisfy mass expectations is one way of diluting high aspiration. In the very effort to transform those expectations into love for God, one’s own devotion becomes compromised. The point is finally reached where worldly alternatives—the sale of “indulgences” in Martin Luther’s day; the emotional rallies and “revivals” in our own—become acceptable as a proper means of attracting people to their “higher good.”

Treading at first softly, then arrogantly, on the heels of such compromise comes the desire for worldly power, money, and fame. Justification for these ambitions is sought in the claim that power makes it possible to be more influential for good; that money makes it easier to achieve that end; and that fame can focus people’s enthusiasm and make it possible to draw them to God.

Many religious leaders find this reasoning persuasive, indeed irresistible. Unfortunately, compromise always ends up compromising the compromisers. Power, money, and fame are snares set for the unwary by Delusion. No matter how cleverly one rationalizes these roundabout means to spiritual ends, they become ends, at last, in themselves. A zealous servant of God may feel that he is working for the Lord, but if his activities inspire no devotion in his own heart, how can they inspire it in the hearts of others? If once he recognizes his spiritual dryness, he should ask himself, “What am I really accomplishing?”

Often, even a service that began in a spirit of deep sincerity develops gradually into a tendency—reluctant at first, then accepted with a shrug as a regrettable necessity—to lie, cheat, and treat with ruthless indifference the needs of other people, whose well-being is perceived as being secondary in importance to the greater good. Resignation gradually develops toward destroying people’s reputations for the sake of that “greater good.” In extreme cases, even murder is countenanced—again, always, for the “greater good.” In time, it becomes glaringly evident that the person they serve is not God, but the one we’ll call “that other fellow.”

(pgs. 267-269, The Promise of Immortality by Swami Kriyananda)

How to Relate to a Master by Swami Kriyananda

A master is not what he appears to human eyes. Yet his human appearance is, for all that, an aspect of what he is. The distinction lies in the fact that he is infinitely more than what he appears. Thus, for those who see in him a great and wise teacher, he is that. For those who see him as a dear friend, he is also that. He appears differently to every person: as a gracious and charming individual; as a wonderful raconteur of wise stories; a delightful humorist; an inspired lecturer; an invincible opponent; a powerful crusader; a guileless child; a stern disciplinarian; the truest friend one could ever have. He is infinitely morethan every possible definition of him, and more than the sum of all concepts of him—more even than people’s capacity to understand.A master is like a mirror: Whatever qualities we present to him, he reflects back to us: not our errors, needless to say, but what our own souls perceive in us from their level of deeper wisdom. To each of us he represents the reactions of the eternal Self. Thus, even if people view him as the personification of kindness, he never fails to correct them, even sternly, if that is what they need at the moment. At the same time, behind each of those reflections he remains ever the same: wise, kind, all-forgiving, humble, firmly resolute, and forever incapable of compromising the truth. He is whatever each of us, in his soul, wants him to be; at the same time, he is beyond our mental concepts, unshakably centered in infinite consciousness.

The author recalls once addressing a saint in India lovingly, “How tirelessly and selflessly you have given of yourself to others all your life!”

The saint, gazing at him with calm eyes, replied, “Is that how you see it?”

Whatever else a master is, he is also a person of extraordinary magnetism. Thus—inevitably so—he attracts people to him though his one desire is to draw them to God, not to his humanity. Devotees who love God one-pointedly enjoy more than others do the charm and inspiration of a master’s nature. Nor is it wrong for anyone to do so. Indeed, it is his magnetism that carries the soul on a “magic carpet” up to the Infinite Light. The devotion a master receives is directed by him to God alone. And he patiently teaches others to direct their love to God also, viewing him as but a window onto infinity.

One of the chief signs of a true master, indeed, is the impersonality of his love: impersonal where he himself is concerned, but not where others’ needs are concerned. He knows, however, and others know also, whose perception is intuitive, that without the inspiration they receive from him their very devotion would become only a sputtering flame.

Thus, disciples often focus their devotion on the master as a catalyst for their love for God. By devotion to him as a conscious instrument of the Divine, they open themselves to the flow of divine love. The magnetic presence of a true master, far from impeding their spiritual progress, greatly accelerates it.

In like manner, people in general are lifted to higher levels of consciousness by associating respectfully with people who live more in wisdom than they themselves do. The young, therefore, are well instructed to show deference to the old, whose longer experience in life has (or should have) given them greater wisdom. It is good, indeed, to serve any human being whose magnetic influence can raise one to higher levels of awareness. To work even as a servant in the home of people who are socially above oneself can be a karmic boon for someone whose family background is coarse and uneducated, for it can help him to become more refined. Even pets who are loved by their owners receive an impetus through that association in their own spiritual evolution.

Thus, association with a great master, even for those with only dim awareness of what he is, can bring priceless spiritual benefits. Of course, the more aware one is, the greater the blessings he attracts.

Much grace comes through association with a great master, even for people who are only vaguely aware of the gifts they are receiving. The benefits vary, depending on the disciples’ understanding and receptivity. Few disciples are as intuitively attuned to their master as Peter showed himself in the above story to be. Most are content to enjoy the master’s personality. Thus, they follow him about eagerly, gaze at him avidly, and try mentally to absorb his expressions and gestures as indicative of the consciousness he emanates. His least remark is reported eagerly, and every tidbit of news concerning him is circulated widely: to whom he has spoken, whom he has favored especially, the time he has given to this person or to that. The disciples’ attention, in other words, is often directed so much outwardly that they neglect to develop inward communion with him, and think by physical association alone to receive his blessings.

Much of this sort of energy may be seen around the kings and queens in the royal courts of this world. We see it displayed also in this Bible passage in people’s fascination with such superficial questions as who Jesus was in other incarnations. It isn’t that such questions ought never to be asked, but only that too much of this kind of interest becomes mere gossip, and prevents one from absorbing the master’s vibrations and magnetism.

(pgs. 187-190, The Promise of Immortality)

Ethics and Morality by Swami Sivananda

Ethics are the basis of spiritual life. Without ethics, philosophy is wishful thinking and religion menanigless. Life without ethics is a living death. A character without ethics is like salt-less dish. Morality coexists with ethics or spirituality. Unintelligent seekers blunder in attempting to reach Samadhi through meditation as soon as they take to the spiritual path, without caring a bit for ethical virtues. Tolerance, absesnece of angre, greed and lust, unprovocable patience imply morality

Having sacred baths daily and worshipping at the shrine regularly, attending or conducting Ramayana or Bhagavatha may, no doubt, aid one’s spiritual aptitude. Bit, if you do not fulfil the fundamentals of ethics and morality, all the above observances would no way ensure Self-realisation. Therefore, first and foremost, please look to the rudiments of ethics and morality.

(pgs. 135-136, Sermonettes of Swami Sivananda)

“…morality is the basis of spiritual life…Practice of morality leads to purity of hearty, and attainment of Self-realisation. Without morality, you will become a spiritual bankrupt.

“Without ethical perfection, there is no spiritual progress. Without spiritual progress, there is no emancipation. Ethical perfection comes through the practice of Yama and Niyama. Asanas and Pranayama form the second stage. Concentration and meditation form the third stage. Samadhi is the summum bonum. Thus, the human soul aspiring after perfection goes from stage to stage and finally merges itself in the blissful glory of the highest union. Aim, therefore, at moral perfection. Spiritual success is half achieved through strong moral foundation.

“Always bear in mind that the primary condition of success in the spiritual life is an earnest longing for purity. So, be sincere and very earnest in your Sadhana and strive for purification and sound ethical culture.” (pg. 116, Ethical Perfection)

“Right from the very beginning of your spiritual life, you must understand clearly that in true humility, sincere desire to root out  gradually pride, egoism and jealousy earnest and unceasing introspection to find out one’s own defects and improve oneself, lies your hope of progress. Witout this, all sorts of Sadhana become a delusion and a waste.” (pg. 98, Ethical Perfection)

People who don’t seem to know anything are the ones who really make spiritual progress!

Mata Amirtanandamayi, “…People with little knowledge, after reading two or three books, will create problems.” (pg. 79). 
Mata Amirtanandamayi, “You’ve read a lot of books. You’ve got so many ideas, so your mind is filled with things… your mind has to become empty of all those things…” (pg. 82).
Swami Paramatmananda, “…Sometimes, the simplest people are the ones who get it (Samadhi) the soonest, not the smart ones. Being smart is not everything in life, especially in spiritual life. As you make spiritual progress, as your mind gets clearer, as your mind gets cleaner, then your intelligence starts to shine…Sometimes, people who don’t seem to know anything are the ones who really make spiritual progress… the simple people are the ones who are the real winners, not the smart one or the clever ones….
“….Understanding, hearing and studying it (i.e., the Divine principle of living) is one thing. Putting it into practice is quite another thing. It’s very easy to read and understand spiritual things, but not to practise it. Even a little bit of practice is difficult.”

(pgs.82-83, 87, Talks, Vol.3)

Swami Sivananda on Atman

Feel You Are Atman


Do not act under the influence of sudden impulses. Do not be carried away by the force of emotions, however noble they may be. Be ever vigilant and diligent.
Avoid unnecessary worry. Be not troubled. Be not anxious. Do not be idle. Do not waste time. Do not worry yourself if there is delay in further progress. Wait coolly. You are bound to succeed.
Develop courage by constantly feeling you are Atman. Deny and negate the body idea. Practise, practise Nididhyasana always; all difficulties, tribulations will come to an end. You will enjoy unalloyed bliss. 

Live In Atman 


Wake up from the dream of forms. Do not be deceived by these illusory names and forms. Cling to the solid living reality only. Love your Atman alone. Atman only persists. Live in Atman. Become Brahman. This is real life.
Approach the sages, the doctors of divinity with faith, devotion and humility. Take a dose of medicine called Jnana. Then the disease of Ajnana will be eradicated completely. You will attain everlasting peace.
Do not be deluded by Maya. Be calm as the waveless ocean. Be broad-minded as the sky. Be pure as the crystal. Strive ceaselessly for the realisation of the Atman. Be patient as the earth. You are bound to succeed. You will succeed. Rest assured. 

Rejoice In Atman


Lead a life of intense activity. Keep always a calm mind. Mentally repeat your Ishta Mantra. Mix with all. Serve all with Atma Bhava. See God in them.
Do not be afraid of difficulties and failures in the spiritual path. Difficulties will develop your will-power. Failures are stepping stones to success. Use your intelligence, sagacity, discrimination and commonsense. You will overcome the difficulties one by one.
Stand adamant. Be cheerful. Dismiss fear and anxiety. March boldly in the spiritual path. Do not be discouraged. Draw courage, strength and power from within. Be cautious. Thou art Invincible. Nothing can harm you. Remain serene always. Smile and rejoice in the Atman. 

(pgs. 56-57, Light, Power & Wisdom)

We Should be a Model for Others by Mata Amirtanandamayi

This is the age in which there are speeches and discourses throughout the country. Spiritual discourses, cultural discourses, political speeches, religious talks, talks against religions—why, everybody has some subject or the other to speak on. Everyone has the authority to make speeches on everything under the sun—this seems to be the general attitude. As Mother syas this, an incident comes to my mind. A student tells his friend, “We have a great professor. You give him any subject, and he will talk on it for hours. Even if you give him a small topic, he will talk for more than five hours. Hearing this, another young person says, “Your professor speaks for only five hours when he is given a subject, right? But we have a neighbour. You don’t have to give him any subject; still, he will keep on talking—for days on end.”
…..In truth, what we need is not speeches, but action. We should show through our lives what we have to say…..An incident from the Mahabharata comes to mind.
It was the time when the pandavas and Kauravas were young and were being taught by their great guru, Dronacharya. The first lesson was on ‘Forbearance’. One day, the guru called all his disciples and asked them to recite what they had learnt. Each one of them recited the lessons from memory. Finally, it was Yudhishtira’s turn. He repeated just one line. When the guru asked, Is this all you have learnt?”. Yudhishtira replied with reluctance, “Pardon me Sir, I have more or less learnt just the first lesson; the second lesson I haven’t learnt even that much.” 
Dronacharya could not control his anger when he heard this, because he had expected more from  than all the others in the matter of studies….In his anger, Drona took a tick and beat Yudhishtira with it until the stick broke into small pieces. But even after receiving the blows, the cheerfulness and the smile on Yudhishtira’s face did not fade. Drona’s anger cooled when he saw this. He was sorry. He said affectionately, “My child, you are a prince. If you wanted, you could punish me by putting me in prison. But you didn’t do anything like that. You were not angry at all. Is there anyone in this world who has patience like you? There is such greatness in you!” 
When he turned around, Drona saw the palm leaf on which Yudhisthira’s lessons were written. The first line on it was, ‘Never lose patience!’ and the second line was, ‘Always tell only the truth’. When Drona’s glance fell on Yudhishtira’s face again, he thought those lines on the pal leaf were shining in the young prince’s eyes. 
As he took hold of Yudhistra’s hands, Drona’s eyes were brimming with tears. He said, “Yudhishtira! when I was teaching you, I was merely mouthing some words. The other boys were repeating them like parrots. Only you learnt them properly. how great you are, my son! In spite of teaching this for so long, I wasn’t able t olearn even a single line. I could not control my anger. I could not be patient.”
Hearing his guru saying this with eyes full of tears, Yudhishtira said, “Forgive me, master! I did feel a little anger towards you.” Drona now realised that his disciple had learnt the second lesson as well. Those who don’t fall when they hear a little praise are very rare. Even if they have a little anger in them, they will be reluctant to show it. but look at Yudhishtira. He didn’t show any relunctance to admit it. That means, he had learnt the second lesson also. A lesson is complete only when it is practised in life. The true disciple is one who tries to do that.
….Each word of ours should cause a transformation in the listeners. It should bring bliss to others. We should be a model for others. Each word we utter should have that power. For that, simplicity and humility should shine forth in our words. But today, if we sift through our words, we won’t find a trace of humility. What pervades all our words is the attitude, “I want to be higher than the other!” We don’t pay attention to the fact that person’s greatness actually resides in his humility. Even the lowliest person tries to pose as great in front of the others. But we don’t realise the fact that if we act like this, we just become fools in the eyes of others. 
Once an army major was promoted to the rank of colonel. On the say he assumed charge of the new post, a man came to visit him. As soon as the man entered, the colonel picked up the phone with an sir of importance and started talking, “Hello, is that President Clinton? how are you? I took charge just today. There are lots of files to go through. Ok, I will call you later. Please give my regards to your wife…” After talkikng this for a while, he put the phone down. All this while. the man, who ahd come in, had waited very courteously. The colonel asked him very seriously, “Yes, what do you want?”
The visitor said n all courteousness, “pardon me, I came to connect the phone. This is a new phone that was put in yesterday. The lone hasn’t been connected.” Who is the fool here? We don’t see that we become fools like this several times a day—that is all. One who tries to display one’s own importance in front of others actually becomes a fool in their eyes.
(pgs. 119-121 & 123-124, Lead us to the Light, Vol 2)

>A Dying Man’s Thoughts by Swami Sivananda

>And whosoever, leaving the body, goes forth remembering Me alone at the time of death, he attains My Being; there is no doubt about this.
Whosoever at the end leaves the body, thinking upon any being, to that being only he goes, O Kaunteya, because of his constant thought of that being! 

(VIII-5 & 6) 
Only the most prominent thought of one’s life occupies the mind of a person at the time of death. The predominant thought at the time of death is what in normal life had occupied the person’s attention most. 
The last thought of a licentious man will be the thought of his woman. The last thought of an inveterate drunkard will be that of his peg of liquor. The last thought of a greedy moneylender will be that of his money. The last thought of a fighting soldier will be that of killing his enemy. The last thought of a mother who has been intensely attached to her only son will be that of her son only. 
I once saw a dying man who had been having the habit of using snuff. When he was in an unconscious state, he used to move his fingers towards the nose very often and do imaginary sniffing. Obviously he was having the thought of snuff in his last moments. A medical officer of a hospital used all sorts of abusive and obscene terms when he was in a dying condition. 
The last and most powerful thought that occupies the mind of a man in his dying moment determines the nature of his next birth. The last thought determines the nature or character of the body to be attained next. The last thought of a man governs his future destiny. As a man thinketh, so shall he become. 
If the thought of tea comes into your mind at the moment of death, you may become the manager of a tea estate in your next birth, provided you had done virtuous actions. You may be born as a labourer in the tea estate if you had not done any meritorious actions. 
Desire is endless. Therefore, man cannot gratify all his desires in just one birth. At the time of death, the whole storehouse of impressions and desires is churned and the strongest and most cherished desire comes to the surface of the mind or the field of mental consciousness. Thus the churned-up cream of cherished desires arrests the attention of the dying man for immediate gratification. He thinks of that only at the time of death. Just as the most vital mango plant shoots up prominently in the nursery, so also the strongest desire shoots up to the surface of the mind. If the desire is not gratified, the mind gets saturated with that desire and it is gratified in his next birth. This desire will become very prominent in his next birth. 
King Bharata, the son of Rishaba, renounced his kingdom and took to the life of an ascetic. One day he observed a small motherless deer in distress. He took pity on the poor creature and loved it so passionately that his thoughts were mainly centred on it, with the result that he completely forgot about God. At the time of his death the thought of the little deer harassed him much and he had to take the birth of a deer in his subsequent incarnation. 
King Bharata had been well versed in all the scriptures, in the Vedas and in the Puranas. He had performed very rigorous austerities and had meditated on the Lotus Feet of the glorious Vasudeva. But the inordinate attachment to the animal gave him the birth of a deer. Bharata recognised his folly during his life as a deer and remembered every detail of his past life as King Bharata. As a deer he ever meditated on the Lord, ate but little and never mixed with the other deer. He was actually counting the number of his days on earth to get freedom from the low birth. 
After departing from its body, the deer again took birth, this time as a Brahmin by the name Jada Bharata. Now Jada Bharata grew wise enough not to commit the same mistake once again, and from his very boyhood kept himself aloof. He had a mind free from attraction and repulsion. Thus, he escaped the clutches of Maya and, at the dissolution of his mortal sheath, attained oneness with Brahman. 
I shall tell you another story. Ajamila lost his pious conduct and led a detestable life. He fell into the evil depths of sinful habits and resorted to theft and robbery. He became the slave of a public woman. He had ten children, the last of whom was called Narayana. 
When Ajamila was about to die, he was absorbed in the thought of his last son, whom he loved dearly. Three fearful messengers of the God of Death advanced towards him. In great distress, Ajamila cried out aloud for his son Narayana. On the mere mention of the name of Narayana, the attendants of Lord Narayana came speedily along and obstructed the messengers of death. They took Ajamila to the abode of Lord Narayana. 
Ordinarily, a dying man is haunted by various horrible thoughts. He cannot concentrate his mind on God. His mind will be clouded by innumerable thoughts. He will be thinking: “Who will look after my young wife and children if I die? What will become of my property? Who will realise the outstanding dues from the debtors? I have not finished such and such work. The second son is not married. The work is half finished; many law-suits are pending judgment.” Thus reviewing the actions of his whole life and thinking of the future, he will feel miserable. 
It is very difficult to keep up God-consciousness at the time of death when diseases torment the body, when the consciousness begins to fade. Some people think: “Why should a man become a Sadhu and spend his life in the Himalayas? What is wanted is that one should think of God at the time of death. This can be done even at home.” This is a mistake. The last thought will be that of God only in the case of the man who has disciplined his mind all throughout his life and has tried to fix his mind on the Lord through constant practice. This last thought of God cannot come through stray practice of a day or two. It cannot come in a week or a month. It is a lifelong endeavour and struggle. 
The thought of God comes to a man at the time of death only through the Grace of the Lord. You have to keep up the practice of remembrance through repetition of the Divine Name. This has to be carried on every hour, every second, for days and months. When a strong habit is formed by means of unceasing practice through the period of one’s life then it will be easy for one to remember God at the time of death. 
Pursuing worldly activities throughout the day and sleeping at night, you will find no time to think of God at all. Even if you do Japa and prayer for ten or fifteen minutes daily but spend the rest of the time in worldly activities, you cannot make very great spiritual advancement. Therefore, the remembrance of God should be constant so that the thought of Him may come automatically at the time of death as well. 
A devotee says to the Lord, “O Lord, let me enter the cool shade of your Lotus Feet this very day, when my senses are strong, when my memory is good! When the intellect is perturbed and perverted at the time of death, it may be carried away by the threefold diseases of the body.” Even the most devout aspirant may fail to think of the Lord at the time of death due to the weakness of the physical body. 
That is the reason why the Gita, Bhagavata, Vishnu Sahasranamam and other holy scriptures are recited at the deathbed of a sick person. Even though he may not be able to speak, he may hear what is read out to him. This will help him to forget the body and his ailment and enable him to think of God. Man always desires to die a peaceful death, with his mind fixed on God. When his memory fails, these sacred sentences of the scriptures will remind him of his real nature. 
If holy books are read and his interest in the glory of God is aroused, there will be every possibility of the dying man forgetting his worldly attachments. The relatives gathered around him should not begin to weep. If they do so, his mind will be afflicted all the more. On the other hand, they should encourage him to think of God alone. When the mind of the sick person is thus gradually turned away from the network of worldly matters and centred on the picture of the Lord or on His glories and teachings, all favourable conditions are thereby created for the passing of his life-breath. The mind also peacefully alights on the thought of God. 
The dying man will then repent for his follies and pray to God sincerely. Sincere prayers can undo the evil effects of bad Karmas. Discrimination and dispassion will dawn in him instantly. If real discrimination and dispassion dawn in him at the time of death, it will be enough to give him the solace which the soul strives for. 
May you all realise God in this very birth by constant remembrance of Him! May He appear before you at the time of your departure from this body!
(pgs. 81-85, Kingly Science, Kingly Secret )