There is a very famous saying that spiritual path is like walking on the edges of a razor. It is so dangerous that one wrong step can cost a person a lot. A seeker might be thinking that he has progressed a lot but one small mistake through attachment or aversion to a being or thing will make him in par with animals. Sankara thereby beautifully proclaims in his Maya Panchakam that strange are the ways of Maya that it makes even a person who is giving discourses on hundreds of scriptures deluded into women, wealth, fame etc. thereby making him in par with four-legged creatures.
There is one and only one way to stay away from the clutches of Maya or not getting deluded or not falling off from the spiritual trail towards Brahman – this one path is best explained through the Lord’s words in Bhagavad Gita thus:
Daivi hi esha gunamayi mama maaya duratyaya
Maameva ye prapadhyanthe mayaam etaam taranthi te
This divine power of mine called Maya which is composed of the three gunas of sattva, rajas and tamas is tough indeed to conquer; but those who seek me alone, they conquer it very easily.
The word the Lord uses here is PRAPATTI or complete surrender. It is interesting to note that this PRAPATTI is the very basis of vaishnava philosophies. This PRAPATTI is more than just uttering externally “everything is God’s grace”, “everything is done by AMMA”, “thanks to AMMA” etc. Even great politicians and actors like Kamal Hassan use the Mahavakya of TAT TVAM ASI on stage. But this in no way guarantees that they are either devotees or jeevan mukthas. Thus PRAPATTI is much more than usage of external words praising the Lord at all times. PRAPATTI is when each and every moment of our life is filled with thought, dedication and surrender to the Lord. It is that state wherein the seeker can forget his own kith and kin yet cannot dare to forget the Lord. It is that state wherein thought and surrender to the Lord becomes as natural as breath, as natural as hunger and as natural as sleep. It is in that state that the seeker need not fear anything as he has completely surrendered to the Lord. The Lord then takes care of each and every need of the seeker. This PRAPATTI is not the same as daily chanting sahasranama, rudra etc. or going to the temple three times a day or always speaking about the Lord or singing the glories of the Lord. It is an inner feeling of the heart due to which the mind and intellect are ever focused on the Lord. Whatever happens in the world or in one’s life, the seeker ever contemplates and remembers the Lord. Even if this requires forgetting one’s own father or one’s own Guru (as in the case of Prahlada and Mahabali respectively), still the seeker will not forget the Lord.
Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa beautifully mentions this state as the state of a fish which is on land. Even as the fish struggles to get into water, similarly the seeker will struggle each moment when the Lord is forgotten – thereby the seeker will never ever forget the Lord.
We can ask as to is this the same as JNAANA propounded by Sankara and whether the Lord is the same as Nirguna Para Brahman. These questions are only due to ignorance of concepts and the scriptures. Bhagavatham is one the scriptures supposed to propound bhakthi. But Bhagavatham at the end speaks about its main topic thus:
Sarva Vedanta saaram yat brahma atma aikyatva lakshanam
The entire essence of Vedanta which is oneness of Brahman and Atman (Supreme non-dual Self and the individual Self in all beings) and which is the non-dual reality, being established in that reality and in that state of absolute-ness is the only purpose of Bhagavatham.
The above sloka very clearly proclaims that JNAANA of Sankara is not different from PARA BHAKTHI (Supreme Devotion wherein there is no difference between the devotee and the Lord as the devotee has merged unto the Lord due to constant contemplation of the Lord) of the various bhakthi philosophies. A small reading of the Narada Bhakthi Sutras and its right interpretation will only clarify this further.
Bhagavatham speaks about the non-dual reality of Consciousness as being termed variously in the beginning itself thus:
Vadanthi tat tattvavidah tattvam yad jnaanam advayam
Brahmethi paramatmethi bhagavaan ithi shabdhyathe
Knowers of the reality proclaim the reality as non-dual Consciousness; they term it variously as Brahman, Paramatman, Bhagavan etc.
Thus PRAPATTI towards the Lord is the same as JNAANA of Brahman. In the former we concentrate on an omnipresent Lord whereas in the latter we concentrate on the in-dwelling witness Self. Both lead us to a non-dual reality of the nature of SAT CHIT ANANDA (Existence, Consciousness, Bliss).
A seeker might think that by learning a few slokas or practicing a few sadhanas he has gained PRAPATTI and JNAANA. But this often is proved wrong through his very actions and deeds in the world. The first and foremost quality of a seeker who is established in PRAPATTI is that he will set aside everything for the sake of the Lord. The second quality that we can find is fearlessness of anything and everything in the world. The third quality that we can find in such a seeker is braveness and openness in terms of truth and reality. Without all these qualities, we can never claim ourselves to be a seeker in the right spiritual path. As long as we are not endowed with PRAPATTI, we are in the clutches of MAYA. Thus we will never be able to make progress in the right direction. The very vision of a seeker with PRAPATTI is enough to make another person get bliss.
It is seeking PRAPATTI and meeting a Mahatma (if a seeker with PRAPATTI itself can give bliss, what to speak about a Mahatma) that I started my rather long drive to meet AMMA in Dearborn, Michigan along with a few friends.
AUM NAMAH SIVAYA
The world is filled with duality in everything. Even as we find differences in the same type of things, we find different people each knowingly or unknowingly seeking the goal of eternal bliss. Majority of people in the world are of the category of depending on somebody else or something else. Though we claim to be from an independent country as well as that we have total freedom, we are far from being independent and free. We cannot live in a single day without talking to another person. If we were to be taken to an isolated island with nobody around, we will die rather than remain isolated. But if we tend to interact with a person most of the time, we will complain either that the other person is taking too much interest in us or that our interest is not reciprocated. Thus both being isolated and being in the midst of people is leading us nowhere but to sorrows. It is to get rid of these sorrows arising from the external world that we seek Mahatmas like AMMA. AMMA is very different from other Mahatmas in that she has taken the most beloved form of MOTHER. Even though a child might do all sorts of mischief and would even be a murderer, yet the mother cannot overcome her love for the child. Similarly though AMMA knows that consolation as well as worldly relief will not do us any good in the long run, still she does the same due to her motherly love. But even as a mother would occasionally give advice to her child, AMMA also gives us advice most of the time through her speeches.
If we were to analyze AMMA’s words, we will be able to find the same Vedantic truth preached in the Upanishads and proclaimed clearly by saints like Sankara and others. As the saying goes that “we apprehend what we want to apprehend”, hence we ignore those statements and focus only on our worldly troubles. AMMA says in each of her discourses that we should be aware of the temporary nature of the world and act accordingly. A jeevan muktha (realized while living) might also behave the same way as a worldly person in terms of worldly actions. But the difference is that the jeevan muktha knows that the world is temporary and hence doesn’t expect any fruit of his actions. Since he doesn’t have any expectations therefore he doesn’t get either excited or disappointed by the fruits of his actions. Contrary to this a worldly person is attached to his actions and does it with expectations; thereby he enjoys either happiness or sorrow. Though sensual pleasures might seem to give us happiness in the beginning they will give us sorrow alone in the long run as they are seeds of sorrow.
AMMA gives a beautiful analogy as to how we must act in the world being fully aware of the temporary nature of the world. AMMA says that we should live in the world like a bird living on the branch of a tree. Though the branch is its home yet the bird is ever agile. It knows that if any strong wind comes the branch will not protect it. Therefore even while sleeping the bird is aware. It is ready to fly any moment the branch falls. Though the bird knows that the branch will not protect it at all times, it doesn’t renounce the branch. It is our common notion that if we were to learn about the temporary nature of the world through Vedanta, we will end up renouncing the world. This is a completely wrong belief. Once we know that the world is temporary and will give us sorrow alone, we will do all our actions with this knowledge. Thus we will not only be unaffected by the outcome of the actions but we will be able to do those actions in a far better way. This is like great actors like Tom Hanks and Aamir Khan portraying the role to perfection though always being aware of their true nature.
AMMA says in each of her discourse that we should learn the scriptures and that it is lack of scriptures and knowledge that makes us susceptible to the sorrows of the world. If we were all learnt like Janaka, we will be doing all our duties in the best possible way and we will be able to face even death with a smile.
It is this smiling face filled with contentment, peace, satisfaction and bliss that we all are seeking each and every moment of our life. Until we learn the scriptures we will not realize that bliss is the very nature of Consciousness which is termed as God or Brahman and is the innermost Self or “I” in each one of us. As long as we are unaware of very nature of blissful Consciousness, we will suffer in the world even as the prince thought himself to be beggar since he was brought up as a beggar. It is gaining knowledge and being inspired to get knowledge that we seek AMMA. AMMA’s very life is based on knowledge. One moment we will find AMMA cracking a joke with a devotee and the very next moment we will find AMMA shedding a few tears with another devotee. AMMA says that a Mahatma or jeevan muktha is like mirror – he just reflects the emotions of the person who comes to him. AMMA is a perfect example of this. Even as the mirror itself remains unaffected by the emotions of the person coming in front of it; even as the Sun is not affected by the activities happening in its light, similarly the jeevan muktha remains unaffected by the activities of the world. It is this state that Vedanta terms SAAKSHI BHAVA (witness-hood) or KUTASTHA BHAVA. When a person is a mere witness to all activities happening around him, he is situated as the Self. The Self is a mere witness to all activities thereby being ever blissful. If only we were to learn to be a witness of all activities by seeing AMMA, we will at least get eternal bliss for some period of our life. The more and more we practice this witness-hood being inspired by AMMA, the more and more we will go towards bliss and realization.
In many of the articles about being with AMMA, lot of things has been discussed regarding knowledge and devotion. In this article we will see one of the most beautiful explanations to the foundational concept of Vedanta propounded in simple words by AMMA in answer to a question posed by a devotee in Michigan during the “Question & Answer session with AMMA”.
One devotee asked AMMA this question – “AMMA, one of my friend went to a saint whose behavior towards the friend wasn’t good. Why is it that some Mahatmas don’t behave like Mahatmas?” To this simple yet profound question, AMMA’s very first reply was that she will not comment on any saint. This is the state of a jeevan muktha who will never criticize any person. AMMA didn’t stop there but said that we should imbibe whatever is good in a person and reject the bad qualities. This brings to mind the story of the Avadhutha that Krishna mentions in Uddhava Gita. The avadhutha said he had 24 Gurus – some of them told him as to what to do in the world and others told him what not to do in the world. Thus we shouldn’t comment about any person – everybody has good and bad in them. We should just imbibe the good and reject the bad even as the Hamsa (swan) separates a mixture of water & milk by removing water thereby drinking milk.
Being the compassionate Sadguru that AMMA is, AMMA after giving a clear statement that she will not comment on the person started explaining as to what is wrong in the person who went to the saint. We generally go to Mahatmas seeking some experience. Since we have been so used to experiences, thereby we expect some miracles or siddhis from a Mahatma. Once we experience the miracles in the presence of a saint, we surrender to the saint without understanding the nature of the Self. The Self is beyond all experiences (anubhava ateetha). It is the experiencer who experiences all experiences itself being a mere witness to all experiences. Earlier we discussed about the witness-hood of the Self. A witness can never be experienced as the witness is the substratum in which all experiences exist. Thus the moment we get deluded into mystical experiences, we are prone to end in sorrow alone. The great saint Patanjali himself speaks about mystical experiences as an obstacle to Samadhi in his Yoga Sutras.
Any experience that we might get is not the Self as the Self is the witness of all experiences and is never subject to experience. There is a naama of Devi in Lalitha Sahasranama which is “mano vaachaam agochara” meaning that devi is beyond words and the mind. Devi or the ultimate reality of Brahman or Self is beyond words and mind because it is the Consciousness that illumines and activates words and the mind. Without understanding this profound truth about realization and Self being beyond all experiences, when we get some glimpse of the Self in the form of various miracles we go behind it. If some saint takes us to a mystical experience in meditation, we start worshipping the person. We don’t care to find out whether the person’s words are as per the scriptures. It is for this reason that Sankara as well as AMMA give a lot of emphasis on the scriptures. The scriptures (which is prasthaana traya of Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Brahma Sutras) are infallible in that they are the truth about the Self that various saints experienced themselves. This experience of the saints is not exactly an experience as it is intuitively and directly experiencing one’s own nature of Self as the witness of all activities. The best way to explain that state of Self realization is to term it as an intuitive experience (though it is not an experience) or aparoksha anubava (in Sanskrit).
Thus AMMA suggests directly that we all should learn the scriptures in order to not get deluded into mystical experiences as well as blindly surrendering to a saint. Once we learn the scriptures we will be able to find out who the real Mahatma is. A real Mahatma is one who will give a lot of emphasis to scriptures (even more than his own words). AMMA is a perfect example of such a Mahatma as she always leads us to the scriptures either in the form of her words or in the various sadhanas of chanting Lalitha Sahasranama, singing her bhajans filled with Vedantic truth etc.
There is a beautiful bhajan of AMMA in Malayalam which goes like this:
Oru nimisham enkilum svairyam undo
Iha loka sukham tedi alayum manuja
O Human! Do you have peace even for a single moment? Because you are always seeking pleasures in this world or the other world.
Paramaartha tattvangal ariyaathe maaya than niyalinte pinbe bhramichu chaadi
Eriyunna tee khanda shalabham kanakke oru phalavum illaathadangunnu
Without knowing the ultimate reality of Brahman or Self, you go behind the illusory world which is like the shadow of a person (unreal) and thereby are deluded; you are deluded like the fire-fly which gets attracted to fire and ends its life jumping into it.
Krimi aayi puyuvaayi ezhayunna janthukal palathaayi paravakal mrigavumaayi
Kramamaay uyaryuyarna aatmaanubhuthi than nara janmam aarjichathenthinnuvo
You have taken many births starting from the smallest creature of bacteria to many organisms including animals; finally you have gained a human birth in order to realize your Self but why have you sought the human birth when you are just experiencing sensual pleasures and not going behind the Self?
The above is just one among the many songs of AMMA which has indepth spiritual knowledge in it. We can go on and on explaining the songs of AMMA and relating it to the various scriptural statements.
We are blessed in that we have a got a Sadguru who instead of directly taking us to the tough scriptures is giving us the scriptural truth in the form of her discourses and songs.
Thus to the simple question of the devotee, AMMA explained the very foundation of Vedanta in simple terms. AMMA finally concluded the answer by telling the friend of the devotee to ask the question and mentioning that equanimity of the mind is the goal of spiritual path (quoting the Gita statement of “samatvam yoga uchyathe” or “equanimity of the mind is called YOGA).
Another devotee asked a question regarding the war going between her native country and another country. She asked as to what she should do and asking AMMA’s opinion on the same. AMMA replied beautifully that she doesn’t want to comment on government decisions. AMMA said that she can speak about a particular subject if the government invites her to the country but she cannot get involved in the government’s decisions. This is a very deep statement of AMMA which if we were to imbibe, we will never end up in sorrow about our country, our people and our things. As AMMA herself says “environmental change is not the goal of spirituality, mental change is the goal of spirituality” we need to maintain equanimity of the mind by knowing our true nature of witness Self which is the substratum of the illusory world. Once we remember this truth, we will be able to do our part in the world by doing our regular activities and trying to help for peace and welfare of the world rather than trying to get involved in government-related issues. This reply might have been tough for the devotee to understand as AMMA had openly rejected to comment on the issue but again AMMA’s compassion brought out beautiful words. AMMA said that we shouldn’t be bothered about how much we are able to help others. It is not the quantity but the quality that matters. We might think that how a single individual can bring about revolution in the world but AMMA’s life itself is a testimony to the same. The girl named Sudhamani who was the child of a fisherman in a very small village in Kerala has brought out the revolution of love, peace, devotion and knowledge to the entire world. It is also a saint’s nature not to praise himself or give examples of himself therefore AMMA gave a beautiful story to illustrate as to how a single individual’s effort can bring about revolution.
There was a small village where there was no light. Hence lot of stealing and murdering used to happen in the village. There was no way of overcoming this. Then one day a person lit a lamp and hung it in front of his house. It was beautiful. The neighbor saw this beautiful light; thereby he also did the same in front of his house. This went on and soon the entire village was filled with light. As a result of this light, stealing and murdering got completely removed. Thus one single individual’s effort solved a big problem of the village which was seemingly impossible to solve.
AMMA is therefore telling each one of us that whatever be our effort whether it is big or small, we should do it for the welfare of the world. We should try to spread the message of love and above all knowledge. Though AMMA might not openly speak about knowledge and spreading it but that is the substratum upon which love can permanently reside. When we have equanimity of the mind and know our own nature of witness Self, we will realize that the entire world is but an illusion of names and forms in the Self. Thus everything is but one Self alone. When we see everything as one, we cannot but love others as they aren’t different from ourselves. It is only when we see differences in people that we get attached to some and averted to some others. It is being established in the state of Self that AMMA is able to love everyone even ignoring herself at times. We don’t need to do that much as our body and physique might not be able to withstand it – but we can do our best of spreading knowledge of the scriptures, words of AMMA and thereby love, peace and bliss to the entire world.
Remembering the profound truth from AMMA’s word to always learn and implement the scriptures in our day-to-day life, let us all try to gain more and more devotion to AMMA so that we will also be able to rejoice in the blissful state of the Self that AMMA is ever situated.
May AMMA help each one of us to achieve that goal of Self-realization which alone can give us eternal bliss and make us life filled with complete peace and satisfaction.
AUM NAMAH SHIVAYA