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)

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)


Practise Your Conviction by Swami Chidananda

Radiant Divinities! We are living in an age where the highest form of knowledge comes to us from all ten directions. There are countless books bringing spiritual, metaphysical, psychic and philosophical wisdom to us. There are countless spiritual organisations, institutions, societies and foundations all over the world. There are any number of new mystical schools, many of them reviving forgotten knowledge. They want to bring out the wisdom, philosophy and system of worship of the Incas, the Aztecs, the American Indians. And great gatherings and so many conferences are held each year. The discussions are tape-recorded and published. There is a great revival everywhere.All this means that the educated citizen of the modern world has access to immense knowledge, and many a time this knowledge comes to where he is in the form of gift books and other literature. And therefore we know so much. We know that there is a great Reality. We know that It pervades everywhere, It is present everywhere. We know that It indwells our heart. We know so much.

But then, all this knowledge gets stored in the mind, in the intellect. And the person possessing this knowledge, having immense information through so much reading and so much listening, still continues to be in the same state of consciousness as before. Because, this intellectual grasp of certain fundamental great truths, and also an inner conviction based upon the intellectual grasp of these great truths, nevertheless fails to penetrate deeper into the consciousness and fails to manifest itself or produce actual experience of this truth. Everyone knows for example that we are parts of God. God has made us in His image and therefore we are divine, we are immortal Spirit. Everyone is convinced, “Yes, I am divine.” But it makes no difference to our here and now personality. We continue to remain very, very human and all that that implies.

So, therefore, an important question arises. It was put to me by a sincere seeker: “Swamiji, we know so many things, have grasped these things. We are absolutely convinced about these things, yet the actual experience of these things still seems far away. How to bring about this experience? How to make this conviction an experience?”

It is in answer to this question that all the different Yoga systems, all the different systems of sadhana, have come into being. The Bhagavad Gita gives not less than sixteen different kinds of sadhana. If you leave aside the first two chapters as an introduction and a preparation for sadhana, then from the third chapter onwards until the eighteenth, Yoga after Yoga, sadhana after sadhana, is expounded. And all the various Yoga Sutras, Vedanta Sutras and Bhakti Sutras, they also expound an answer to this question.

We are convinced God is our own. We are convinced we belong to God wholly and solely, we belong to no one else. We are only passers-by here; all connections are temporary. Our connection with God is a permanent, eternal, unchanging connection. We know that. God is our all-in-all. He is our father, mother, friend, relative, wealth, wisdom, everything. This knowledge is there; we are convinced also, we believe it, but we do not experience this fatherhood of God, this motherhood of God—the living experience. What to do?

All the scriptures answer this question. All the lives of saints answer this question. And what is the quintessence of this answer? Whatever your conviction is, commence, start practising the conviction in the form of again and again affirming the truth that you are convinced of, again and again asserting it, again and again dwelling upon it, again and again meditating upon this truth. And time and again as any contrary state of mind begins to emerge in your interior, any thought that contradicts this, immediately reject it. This is the classical method given by great teachers of Vedanta.

They say it is only by practise of the truth-affirming, asserting, reflecting upon, deeply pondering and meditating upon that truth, trying to listen to it again and again, trying to absorb it even more by study—that it will go deeper. Do it through satsang, through sravana, through svadhyaya, through manana and through nididhyasana. And if anything of a contrary nature comes into your consciousness, immediately reject it.
Contrary thoughts will keep coming, because they do not come from outside, they are right within us. We have practised error for such a long time, since our birth. We have constantly lived in error and taken that to be the truth. We are groomed, reared up in error. Therefore, you cannot simply transform yourself overnight. The error will keep coming back and, you have to reject it.

So they say: “satya ka pushtikaran asat ka nirakaran, jnana ka pushtikaran ajnana ka nirakaran; neti, neti (the strengthening of truth, the rejecting of untruth; the strengthening of wisdom, the rejecting of ignorance; not this, not this).” “This is not right, this is not the correct thing. This is not the truth; I don’t want it.” Reject it, throw it out! And affirm, assert the Reality, the truth. Both of these are simultaneous. Both of these have to go together.

And, add to it deep study of the Goal. Absorb it, think of it constantly and then meditate upon it. “Tat srotavyo mantavyo nididhyasitavyah (That should be heard, reflected upon and contemplated).” So Yajnavalkya tells his disciple Maitreyi who was also his wife. On the eve of renouncing the householder status and entering the monastic life, when questioned about the Reality he said: “It is the greatest thing, dearer than the dearest, nearer than the nearest, the highest of all values, the one supreme thing.” He said: “Yes, this is the Atman. It has to be heard about, it has to be reflected upon, it has to be deeply meditated upon, O Maitreyi.”

He addresses Maitreyi, but actually he tells us this is what has to be done in order for conviction to gradually start developing into a feeling. First of all you experience it as a feeling. Though it may be on your psychical level, yet it is better than mere intellectual conviction. You are one step further. Not only are you convinced about it, you begin to feel it. That means it has started to approach closer to your consciousness. And then this bhava (feeling), if it is maintained, if it is brought into your daily life, if it is made to permeate your vision, then gradually this bhava begins to ripen into anubhava (direct perception).

So it is the result of a continuous, unceasing abhyasa, practice of affirming the truth, asserting the truth, reflecting upon it, meditating upon it and rejecting anything contrary to it. Thus, that which is only a conviction on the level of the intellect becomes an experience deep, deep within your innermost centre of consciousness. That is the beginning of liberation. So abhyasa is what is indicated and abhyasa is to be continuous. Abhyasa also includes the rejection of that which is contrary, not in consonance with the truth, with the Reality. Both are necessary.

When it says in the Gita: “You must focus your mind upon that great Reality, O Arjuna, and kascidanyan na cintayet—you should not think of anything else,” it means the entire mind should be focused upon the one great object of your meditation, the great Reality, to the exclusion of all other contrary thoughts. No other contrary thoughts should be allowed to enter in, to interfere with the focus. This is the way. And the law behind this practice is: “As a man thinketh, so he becometh.” “Mana eva manushyanam karanam bandhamokshayoh—The mind alone of man is the main cause of either bondage or liberation.”

So there you have a method given to you. You have your mind, bring it under your control. You have your intellect which is already convinced. Now practise this conviction by affirmation. Assert, affirm, and reject all things that are contrary. Reflect upon it, meditate upon it, listen to it again and again. Read and absorb, take it deeper down. These are all abhyasas. It may be any path—bhakti, jnana or Yoga, any path. Practise this constant affirmation, the assertion of your relationship with God.

“God is my Father, I am the child of God”—this should be practised, this should be affirmed. Any other thing such as: “I belong to so and so, I am the son of this family,” should be rejected. “No, no, this is a false relationship. Any other relationship except with the source of my being, the cosmic origin, source and support of my being, is not authentic, is not genuine. The real, authentic relationship is with that Being alone Who is my Father, Mother, God. Any other relationship is an imagined one.” In that way one should practise.
Even upon the path of bhakti, even upon the path of duality, the same process is to be carried on, but modified and suited to that approach—through the heart, through emotion, through sentiment, through love, through devotion. But the technique is the same, the practice is the same, the sadhana is the same. “Mere to Giridhara Gopala dusara na koyi (So far as I am concerned, my God is Lord Krishna and nobody else).” That is bhakti. That is the same practice applied.

Whatever your path may be, God bless you to practise your conviction, strengthen it, take it ever deeper, and rejecting all that is contrary, may your efforts be crowned with success, with God-experience!

(pgs. 353-358, Ponder These Truths)

Powers of Celibacy by Swami Sivananda

People talk of celibacy; but practical men are rare, indeed. A life of continence is really beset with difficulties. It is easy to tame a tiger or a lion or an elephant. It is easy to play with a cobra. It is easy to walk over the fire. It is easy to uproot the Himalayas. It is easy to get victory in the battlefield. But, it is difficult to eradicate lust.

You need not despair even a bit, however. Have faith in God, in His Name and in His grace. You are bound to succeed if you have faith in Him. Mere human effort alone will not suffice. The divine grace is needed. Lust cannot be completely uprooted from the mind except by the grace of the Lord. God helps those who help themselves.

Lack of spiritual Sadhana is the main cause for all sexual attractions. Mere theoretical abstention from sensuality will not bring you good results. You must mercilessly cut off all formalities in social life and lead a pious life. Leniency to internal lower tendencies will land you in the region of suffering. Excuse will not be of use in this respect. You must be sincere in your purpose for the sublime life of spirituality. Half-heartedness will leave you in your old state of misery.

Do not think of the opposite sex. Do not look at the opposite sex. Looking at the opposite sex will create desire to talk to them. Talking will create a desire to touch them. Eventually you will have an impure mind and will fall a victim. Therefore never look at the opposite sex. Never talk intimately with them. Do not be familiar with them.

The look must be perfectly chaste and pure. Lord Jesus says: “If you have a lustful look, you have already committed adultery in the heart.” Lustful look, lustful thinking, wet-dreams are all failures or breaks in celibacy. Be chaste in your look. Be chaste in your talk. See mother in all women. Cultivate sublime, divine thoughts. Repeat the Lord’s Name and meditate regularly. You will be established in celibacy.

There are four processes in the practice of celibacy. First control the sex-impulse and sex-Vasana (sex-desire). Then practice conservation of sex-energy. Shut out all holes through which energy leaks. Then divert the conserved energy into proper spiritual channels through Japa, Kirtan, selfless service, Pranayama (practice of breath-control), study, vigilance, self-analysis, introspection and Vichara. Then have conversion or sublimation of the sex-energy. Let it be converted into Ojas (spiritual energy) or Brahma-tejas (spiritual halo) through constant meditation or Brahma-Chintana (remembrance of God).

According to Yogic science, semen exists in a subtle form throughout the whole body. It is found in a subtle state in all the cells of the body. It is withdrawn and elaborated into a gross form in the sexual organ under the influence of the sexual will and sexual excitement. An Oordhvareta Yogi (one who has stored up the seminal energy in the brain after sublimating the same into spiritual energy) not only converts the semen into Ojas, but checks through his Yogic power, through purity in thought, word and deed, the very formation of semen by the secretory cells or testes or seeds. This is a great secret. Allopaths believe that even in an Oordhvareta Yogi, the formation of semen goes on incessantly and that the fluid is reabsorbed into the blood. This is a mistake. They do not understand the inner Yogic secrets and mysteries. They are in the dark. Their Drishti or vision is concerned with the gross things of the universe. The Yogi penetrates into the subtle hidden nature of things through Yogic Chaksu or the inner vision of wisdom. The Yogi gets control over the astral nature of semen and thereby prevents the formation of the very fluid itself.