AhAra-nidrA-bhaya-maithunam cha samAnam_etat_pashubhir_narANAm | dharmo hi teShAm adhiko visheSho dharmeNa hInAH pashubhiH narANAm ||
Aahar means food, Nidra means Sleep, Bhaya means Fear, Maithuna means intercourse. The sensation for food, sleep, fear and intercourse are common among the human and the animal. Dharma is the only thing that distinguishes the human from other animals. Without Dharma the human too falls in to the category of animals by his way of his life.
What is Dharma? Normally the word Dharma is translated in to English as the Religion. Religion means a kind of faith in God or way of worship. But fundamentally the definition of Dharma is much wider than this. Dharma is not only the way of worship or some belief or faith. Dharma means the code of conduct, the way of life.
I often say that the Sadhana (Spiritual Practice) is not just restricted to what you do in front of your altar. Sadhana is no just some rituals and chantings, the whole life is a Sadhana. The word Sadhana means the practice that helps to obtain Sadhya (The Goal). Even if the goal of a devotees life is the God, he cannot ignore the creation of the God because every creation carries the signature of the Creator.
However a person may live, he cannot be free from performing actions. One performs action mainly in three ways :
Kayena : By body Vaachena : By speech Manasen : By mind
Those who apparently lead a life of ascetic order or in seclusion are also not free from performing Karmas. Remember that denial of social responsibilities is not the state of detachment. It is purely escapism. Such Sadhakas only end up far away from the God. The biggest hurdle a Sadhaka faces is from her or his own self. I will tell one very interesting experience during my journey in to Himalayas.
Like it happens with the most of the Yogis I too was fascinated by great Himalayas. In my early youth at the age of abour 20 years I had travelled through the great Himalayas in search of self. I will write in detail about it some other time. Here I am writing about my meeting with a Yogi whom I met during my quest.
He was a Bengali gentle man in his late forties. We will call him Bengali Baba. He had been living in a small cave like shelter of rocks which was covered with some wood available in Himalayan region. When I reached to his small Aashram I was quite tired and had not talked with any one for many days. So was very happy to see a hut like set up from a distance and also felt that this must be an opportunity to see some great sadhaka because this place was far away from any small village or agricultural land. But as I had experienced earlier many such secluded shelters were abandoned so may be this place too can be empty.
Nevertheless I decided to advance towards this place. If it was abandoned then also I had an opportunity to stay there for a couple of days, may be more if it suited me to do my sadhana. Wind was blowing very hard. By now my body had developed an inner system to survive in to this climate. As I reached closer I could see a human figure coming out of the place and stood there looking towards me. As I got closer I saw his figure more clearly. He had a considerably good height and a fair complexion. He had grown quite a big beard. Even I had a small beard now. Physically he looked very fit and was standing with a straight spine. I could understand that he must be practicing Hath Yoga Asanas regularly. Only some graying hair in his beard exposed his age. As I reached at an ear shot distance I shouted aloud "Jay Bhole Nath” which he responded very calmly with "Jay Bhole Nath”.
During all these days of my travelling in Himalayas I had happily understood that here all sects ended in to acceptance of the Supremacy of Bhagavan Shri Shivji. No need to look at the Tilak to greet. Tilak or no Tilak, it was always "Har har Mahadeva” or "Jay Bhole Baba” or "Jay Shiv Shambhu”. So symbolic it is. Like most of the great rivers of India originate their roots in Himalayas, sects originated their root in the God Supreme, the Lord of Mercy, Bhagavan Shiv. As people living in planes created their identity like "from the region of Ganga or Yamuna” later on all identifying themselves as "Shaivas, Shakts, Vaishnavas and so on”. No one bothers to reach the root, neither of the rivers nor of the faith.
As I reached closer he looked at me with quite astonishment. "You look very young” he said. I smiled. He welcomed me and asked me to sit down any where I want. I thanked him and sat down. It was a wonderful place naturally created by the placing of some big rocks. It looked like a cave but was not a cave. It was covered with some wooden branches to safe guard the inhabitant from snow storms and heavy winds as I understood. He observed me carefully. I smiled. My body must have looked like a house of wounds because I had just recovered from frost bites before a few days. All extra fat had vanished. I had not looked in to a mirror for weeks now so difficult to describe my own self in that condition. All I could tell about how I must have looked was by the way my hands and legs looked. I have yet not found words to describe limbs in such rotten condition. The only positive thing I can say about my physical condition then today is "I was feeling more energetic than ever.” It was because of the medicinal herb given by that unknown sadhu with big jata whom I whom I had met before few weeks.
I used to eat it bit by bit every day as instructed by that Jatawale Babaji (Holy man with Jata ) as he had a very big Jata ornamenting his head. He had given me a small cloth bag full of this herbs and told me that " this will last till the end of your journey” and still there was much of this herbs, so I could understood that I had to go a long way further.My host asked me, "Do you want to eat some thing?” I said, "No”. Because the Jatawale Babaji had told me that I should not eat anything else on the day when I had ate that herb. "You mean to say that you had food today?” he asked with a bit of surprise in his voice because the nearest human colony was at least three days journey on feet and I had no such belonging that can indicate that I was carrying food with me. I told him that I had some blessed herbs which helped me to sustain. He was silent.
He had gathered quite a lot of dry wood in his dwelling and made a small fire place. He had two small marble stones with him. He had made a small fire pit with soil and small rocks which indicated that he lighted fire there. He put some wood and a bit of Ghee in that fire pit and started to rub the marble pieces with each other generating sparks. He started to chant Vedic mantras for Agni Deva (The God of Fire) while doing this and I watched him silently. Soon, much sooner than my expectation, I saw those woods burning. He put some water on the fire and added honey and salt in it. I watched it with curiosity. As it boiled he gave it to me in an Earthen bowl to drink. I did not know if I could drink it or not, as that Jatawale Babaji had not told me anything about drinking such thing.
I decided to drink it as it was offered to me with some affection and concern. I drank that hot drink with salt and honey and felt real good. By now from the accent I had understood that my host was from West Bengal State of Eastern part of India. He told me that he had enough rice for the winter and he used to eat once in two days. He used to cook rice with little salt. He offered to cook some rice for me as he was not supposed to eat that day. I said I also did not want to eat anything. He told me that I can take rest and we would talk at the next morning. Suddenly I realized that for a long period of time I did not have such luxury to sleep under such a shelter at night. So I started to feel very sleepy.
When I woke up I saw him practicing asanas. I watched him with interest. He was marvelous. I also decided to sit for meditation. I meditated for few hours. When I opened my eyes I found him looking at me with great interest. He told me, "you seem to be a very advanced yogi!” I replied, "I don’t think so. I am a seeker, trying to find out my destination. But you seem to be a master of Hath Yoga.” He smiled with some sadness and replied, "Well, I do practice a lot. I am here at this place since last ten years. I wanted to be a Siddha but somehow I have not been able to advance. My Param Pujya Gurudeva took Maha Samadhi before three years. Suddenly after that I realized that I have not reached anywhere except for mastering these Hath Yoga practices. I have a family in West Bengal, I miss them often. I had dreams to go back to my home as a Siddha but it seems that it will never happen. I don’t know what should I do now. I left home to return as a great conqueror But now I find myself absolutely defeated. I don’t want to go home now and I don’t know how I will spend the rest of my life here.” His voice trembled as he spoke about this. "Ten years in Himalayas, mastering the techniques of Hath Yoga, and now in total despair.” I looked at him with compassion. "I saw you sitting in meditation, calm and quiet for almost half of the day. I am surprised and feel envy.” He told me with a voice full of appreciation.
Now it was my turn to be surprised. I asked him, "Isn’t this normal? Don’t you meditate?” He replied, "I do meditate of course but cannot for so long time. I start to get many emotions and thoughts after a few minutes. I have to take support of imagination again and again to prolong my practice. I know this is not right but I can’t do it.” I thought about my Pujyapad Shri Guruji and my Pujyapad parents who made me meditate from a very young age and my heart was filled with a strong wave of gratitude towards them. I looked at the Bengali Baba who had left everything in search of peace but was in total despair in an isolated place of Himalayas. What was the reason? His desire to become a Siddha? His own mind? I thought about him. I tried to convince him that he will be able to meditate and reach the condition of Samadhi some day. But he kept on telling me how disappointing it is for him. Soon he will be fifty years old and have nothing to be proud of.
My meeting with Bengali Baba made me think about what went wrong with him. How can he be so much in despair after spending so much time in Himalayas?! He was wonderful in Hath Yoga, but he could not meditate. I understood him. He was a real seeker, he knew that he is not able to meditate. Today when I look around and see people boasting about their every day meditation I remember that Bengali Baba. He knew what is the state of meditation in reality because he had learned from a Guru who was a Yogi of the highest calibre.
Before Sunset we sat to have our meal of rice with salt. I had not taken my daily bit of the herb given to me by the merciful Jatawale Babaji. By now he had became a good friend of mine. He was very much curious about Jatawale Babaji. He asked me many questions about him. "How did he look? How did he talk? How tall he must be exactly?” He asked endless questions about the Jatawale Babaji. I tried to satisfy him. Suddenly he asked me, "How did you greet him when you saw him?” "Aum Namah Shivaaya!” I replied, "Why?” And how did he respond? I told him his response ( I cannot write it here for my some vow.). On hearing this he jumped and held my hand, he was trembling and his eyes were filled with tears. He told, "My Param Pujya Shri Gurudev told me about him.
I have been looking forward to meet him. No wonder you are here and survived all odds, because you have his blessings on you ever since your childhood. You are the blessed one.” He told me many good words. I just did not know how to respond. After that he requested me to sit for meditation with him. I agreed happily. The next morning we both sat for meditation. Time passed by. Suddenly I heard a voice, "Don’t get attached, don’t let him get attached to you. Get up. Start your further journey.” I opened my eyes. He was sitting in front of me in deep meditative state with peace radiating on his face. I had to go. I was not supposed to wait even to express my gratitude towards him. I had to walk further. Follow the inner voice. I looked at him and prayed to Maa and Bhagavan to bless him with success in his sadhana and resumed my journey.
Bengali Baba was not an ordinary man. He can be categorized among very persistent seekers. But despite of his living in Himalayan serenity he was far from inner bliss. He was far from his material world physically but his mind pondered over what he had left physically. Why he went to Himalayas? For siddhis. His this step itself was wrong because the wanting of Siddhis is also a desire which very easily pushes a man in to a deep pit of despair.
Many youngsters take BrahMcharya diksha at a very young age. When such Sadhus grow older and start to face the realistic force of sexual desires they are startled. They fight with such desires very bravely and vigorously. Such battle lasts for years, sometimes for the whole life time. In most of the such cases the Sadhu is defeated and destroyed from inside by the time he reaches in his forties. Of course there can be exceptions. There are exceptions but very rare. Celibacy can be a practice for a period of time to discipline the mind of sadhaka but it cannot be a lifelong vow compulsorily. Desires should be conquered not suppressed.
When a sadhaka tries to run away from his social commitments and search for peace of mind in jungles and mountains he mostly meets with disastrous isolation because what really troubles a person is his or her own mind. When such sadhakas start their sadhana in isolation they face their own mind like confronting a gigantic demon. Most of the times the mind takes over total control over such sadhakas. This leads them towards despair and anguish.
Opposite to this, the sadhakas who are firm to do their sadhana and perform their duties find it easier to conquer their mind. Because when a sadhaka is active in various kind of activities his mind does not get space to outgrow the capability of self discipline.
Remember the nobody is free from her or his duty towards the society. We all are part of the celestial administration and are placed to perform our duties by righteous way of life. We face lots of problems because we do not try to live in harmony with the celestial plan for us. What we call as the spell of Maya is our own desires that divert us from performing our moral conducts. A sadhaka needs to discipline his mind. He should remove his selfish desires. He should form a habit of analyzing his action from the perspective of social, ecological and global benefit. Sadhaka does not need to retire (Nivrutti) from his worldly duties but should perform action (Pravrutti) with selfless (Nishkama) attitude. Sadhaka should surrender her or his self completely unto the Ishta Deva and Sad Guru and perform her or his duties without any expectation.
It is very essential to understand that each of us are very important in the governance of this world. Only we have to understand our role correctly and perform it with optimum conviction without any expectation. Knowing our God gifted capability is knowing Swadharma, own way of life. If you are born with a skill of mason or medicine man, you should except it as Swadharma without any kind of comparison with the jobs of other people. Because it is better to perform Swadharma and let God plan our life.
Once Devarshi Naradji went to Vaikuntha chanting his favourite mantra "Narayan..Narayan”. After offering Pranam he told to Bhagavan Shri Vishnuji, "Bhagavan, I have a question, kindly shower your mercy and bless me with the answer to this question.” Bhagavan Shri Vishnuji smiled and told him to ask his question. "Who is your greatest Bhakta (Devotee)?” asked Naradji. Bhagavan smiled and replied, "There is a small village in Jambu Dvipa. One farmer lives there with his wife. He is my greatest Bhakta.” On hearing this Naradji started to think deeply. He asked Bhagavan Shri Vishnuji, "May I go and have darshan of this greatest Bhakta?” Bhagavan granted the permission with a smile on his face. Naturally he knew that Narad is very much anxious to know that who can be a greater Bhakta than his own self because with every breath Naradaji used to chant the name of Narayana and he was bestowed upon with the title of "Devarshi” – the Rishi among Devas. (Devas are demigods who dwell in heaven) In one of his births Shri Naradji was a Gandharva. Gandharvas are a community of musicians and singers in heaven.
Naradaji soon reached near the house of the farmer whom Bhagavan Shri Vishnuji had called his greatest Bhakta. He spent a few days observing what that farmer was doing. After that he returned to Vaikuntha Loka.
After offering his respects to Bhagavan Shri Vishnuji, Narada stood with some confused state of mind. Bhagavan smiled and asked him, "What bothers you? You are not happy to have darshan of my greatest Bhakta?!” "Of course I am happy.” replied Narada,”but I did not understand that how he became your greatest Bhakta?! I observed him for a few days. He follows a monotonous routine. He and his wife get up early in the morning. Milk the cows. He goes to the farm with his two oxen and a plough. He spent his day plowing his farm. I have not seen any of the husband and wife worshipping you or chanting your name at any time of the day or night. On other hand I don’t even breath without chanting your name. How can he be your the greatest Bhakta?”
Bhagavan Shri Vishnuji smiled and told him, "Very interesting question my dear Narada, but before I answer this question I want you to do a small job for me.” Bhagavan gave Narada a bowl completely filled with oil and told him, "Take this bowl and circle three times the Earth and come back. Be careful, not a single drop of oil should fall from the bowl.” Naradaji assured Bhagavan that he would do the needful. Soon he left with the bowl filled with oil. With utmost care Shri Naradaji circled the Earth three times with the bowl full of oil.
One very interesting message is here for devotees from the action of Shri Naradaji. Apparently there seems to be no importance of this act of circling the Earth three times with a oil filled bowl, but Shri Naradaji does not question Bhagavan Shri Vishnuji. He did not ask, "Why do you want to do this? What will happen if a few drops fall from the bowl?” He just does it because he trusts his Ishta, because he has strong faith that Bhagavan cannot do anything wrong. He has surrendered completely. Even his question about the farmer being the greatest Bhakta also has no doubt about the discrimination of Bhagavan Shri Vishnuji, he trusts him. He asks this question because he wants to learn his own mistake. He wants to improve.
Devarshi Narada returned to Vaikuntha. He humbly announced to Bhagavan that he had completed the task. Bhagavan smiled and said, "Very good, I am sure that not a single drop fall from the bowl.” "Of course not my Lord” replied Naradaji. Bhagavan then asked him, "Tell me o Narada! How many times did you chant my name when you performed this task?” Shri Naradaji was in shock now. He replied, "Not a single time.” Shri Vishnuji smiled and asked him again. "did you forget me?” "how can I Bhagavan?’ replied Naradaji. "Then why you did not chant my name?” asked Shri Vishnu Bhagavan. "The task needed utmost concentration. And the task was entrusted upon me by your divine self. I was engaged in to your task and all my effort was to complete it without any mistake. The task allotted by you was not less than a sacred Yajna to me (Yajna = Vedic Fire Ritual) so I concentrated solely on it and could not chant your name.” "The answer to your question lays in your reply” told Bhagavan Shri Vishnuji, " That farmer is doing the task allotted by me with utmost conviction and concentration. If he fails to perform his task properly then many people will be deprived of food. To provide food is a part of my administration. He is working for me with full sincerity. So he is my Bhakta even though he does not do any rituals or chant my name constantly like you.” Devarshi Naradaji understood.
Even Devarshi Naradaji himself has obtained the highest level of Bhakti as blessings for his services to the sages. He was born to a maid servant who served sages. As a child Narada served sages with his mother. He served them with so much dedication that they blessed him to become a great Bhakta.
Remember even a self realized person has to perform his duties towards society by preaching the truth he has realized. If it was not so then the world would not have got the opportunity to be graced by the presence of Shri Krishna, Shri Buddha, Jesus, Zarathustra, Mohammad and many others. We must not forget that we are sharing this planet and her resources with others. We owe our duties towards the society. We face the problems because we try to do the jobs which are not ours. We don’t spend time to understand what we are suppose to do in this life. The person who is blessed with literary capacity tries to become a scientist or a businessman which leads towards failure and unhappiness. Instead of starting to work we think about the possible gains and losses in what we are supposed to do and land up doing things which are not meant for us.
In Shrimat Bhagavat Gita there is a very nice word quoted : "Svadharma” which means Dharma of an individual. Here Dharma is not in the sense of religion, it indicates an individual’s moral code of conduct in accordance with the capabilities bestowed upon him by the God. Like Arjuna was blessed with the capability of a warrior so he must protect the truth and justice by the mean of a battle. Despite of his much superior intelligence and craving for love and peace his way laid in battle field. He could not be a Maharshi like Bhagavan Veda Vyasa. It is always better to act in Svadharma than to diversify from it in anticipation of some material gain. Even while you perform Svadharma it is very necessary to concentrate only on the part of performance not the part of result. One cannot perform any thing perfectly if there is a dilemma about the result in the mind. So it is always better to perform our actions without any expectations. This becomes Nishkama Pravrutti.
Whenever you start to perform your job, pray to your Ishta, "O God! I am going to do the job you entrusted up on me. Please bless me that I can do it with utmost conviction.” Start this practice every day and see the positive changes it will bring in your life. A sadhaka’s material life is also not useless. Every sadhaka must perform the daily duties also. Even those who are chosen to be Aashram inmates by their Guru also have to perform their material duties in Aashram. In fact they have to become absolute Karma Yogis.
Remember there is no such condition when you do not perform any Karma. This Karma can be by action, by speech or by thought. So it is better to discipline yourself in order to become a Nishkama Karma Yogi and perform Nishkama Pravrutti.