What is Om… Aum… ॐ… Video
Basic Meaning and Significance of the Profound Word and Mantra “Om”.
Presented by Vasundhara
In Talk 8 of “Talks with Ramana Maharshi”, Sri Ramana Maharshi states that Sacred Mantras should not be taken casually, but that “one must be competent and initiated in such mantras”.
There are reasons why a Sacred Mantra is dealt with so cautiously and selectively.
One must be qualified
To give a simple example, when someone wants to join a university and get knowledge and a degree, the student chooses a suitable place or even a teacher, approaches the university and applies for admission. More importantly, the student must be qualified for this. Not any one can join a course, and not without going through the prerequisites for this course. Only such a student gets admitted. The student must also be willing to learn, understand and put to practice what is taught.
In the same way, a person must be qualified to take up a Sacred Mantra. A Sacred Mantra offers an in depth, precise, concise, enlightening spiritual information in a terse verse. It shows the delicate and subjective path to knowing one’s Real Self. It contains an ocean of information in a few words and it needs to be explained further by a knowledgeable teacher to a suitable student. This is what is meant by initiation in the practical sense. So one who wants to learn a Mantra must be initiated into it.
Why the apparent secrecy
In spiritual matters especially, if anyone is easily and casually allowed access to such intricate, profound Mantras or Scriptures, they could be misinterpreted and misused. Even with so much caution, it is well known how the scriptures can be misused for power, money and self-aggrandizement. To avoid such confusion and chaos in society, these Mantras and the Vedas have been protected from mentally and spiritually unqualified and unsuitable people. Hence the apparent secrecy about these Mantras. The shield of secrecy or safeguarding is there, not for keeping the knowledge from people, but for preventing the knowledge from falling into the wrong hands.
What does initiation mean in present times
A Mantra, such as Gayatri, is profound. It is used for purification of the mind, mental focus, concentration and to control and calm the mind to make it fit for self-enquiry and inner spiritual quest. It offers an explanation and insight into the whole universe and our existence and the Real Self. It offers spiritual guidance in a few words. One should not just chant it casually for personal gain or for material desires, but should contemplate on the meaning for inner improvement and spiritual advancement. The meaning must be traced and understood. Ramana Maharshi says that eventually, “Utterance of words is not enough. The elimination of thoughts is wisdom. It is the Absolute Existence”.
In the ancient Hindu lore, students who were genuinely interested in turning inward and knowing more about the Real Self, approached an enlightened Master and if qualified, they got themselves initiated into this spiritual path and into a Mantra.
What does this mean in the present times? The traditional Guru-Sishya (Master-Disciple, Teacher-Student) method is not always possible, especially for those who don’t live in India, or live in places where such privilege is not available. So how does one obtain the benefit from these wonderful Mantras?
In the present times, what initiation really means is that a person should be sincere and dedicated in truly understanding the meaning of a Mantra. One should first follow and try to understand the teachings of authentic Hindu Scriptures and Sages. This will qualify a person to some extent. If one comes across the teachings of a great, enlightened Master, and particularly gets attuned to those teachings, and studies them reverently, and tries to follow such teachings, that qualifies the person to a greater extent.
Such a genuine spiritual seeker, who has already followed and grasped to some extent the teachings of authentic Scriptures or Sages or a particular Master, and has a preliminary understanding of the Hindu culture, should pray for the Grace of God with great humility and make themselves suitable, or in other words, qualify themselves, for taking up the Mantra. If the person is thus qualified, good results will follow.
It is the mental development that matters. It is the genuine thirst for spiritual advancement, sincerity, reverence and dedication that really qualifies a person in the spiritual path. This comes as close as possible to the formal and traditional initiation of the ancient Hindu lore.
All true religions have good in them. I would to share with you the little knowledge I have about Hinduism. ~ Vasundhara
First of all, Hinduism is not a religion. It is a fusion of traditions and cultures of India. It is “Sanatana Dharma”, Eternal Righteous Way of Living, passed on from generation to generation through the Guru-Disciple Teachings and Guidance. There are countless Sages, Saints and Scriptures of India, existing in the past, present and will be in the future. Hinduism gave the spiritual power to Great Ones like Mahatma Gandhi to drive an Empire out of India, by non-violence and sacrifice. He is a Hindu who struggled hard to bring the people of India together as Indians first, then everything else. He agonized and made strenuous efforts to eradicate ignorance due to religious misunderstanding. He set an example to the whole world.
Languages, food, rituals, forms of worship etc., these may be different from province to province, but there is an underlying substratum, a foundation of Hinduism, like a necklace that holds gems and pearls together, that cannot be destroyed. People may come and go, some will revere, some may mock, but these Values will go on.
A human being’s existence is about 100 years. However, Hinduism has existed for many, many thousands of years, long, long before other major religions. It has survived major invasions, disasters and crisis situations in India. Many cultures, like the Greek and Roman, were destroyed. But the Hindu culture has withstood the tests of time. For someone to worry and try to save Hinduism is like a Drop of water in the Ocean saying that it is concerned to save the Ocean. Religion is about God, and the Almighty God knows how to take care of everything and everyone.
Whereas other religions offer salvation to members of their religion alone, Hinduism offers methods and techniques leading to salvation to all human beings, beyond religion. There are the ritualistic, religious parts for those who are interested according to local customs, but there are also the Vedanta parts which apply to the whole universe, irrespective of religions, offering techniques for Peace of Mind and Self-Realization. It has to do with inner improvement, therefore, there are no restrictions. One is not a Hindu because of external appearance, like clothing and other outfits. One is a Hindu because of the good values of life cherished and practiced, while externally going with the flow where they live. Outfits and rituals provide zest and incentive to think of God and to come together as a community especially for children, but they are not the Goal.
Some followers of other religions offer and even put pressure on others to be converted to their religion. They feel zealous due to newly-founded enthusiasm, and get carried away. It is a trick of the ego to try to reform others so that it can avoid being subdued. Or, those who have an inferiority complex about their religion will mock, insult, slander and abuse other religions, or try to convert others to their religion.
Those who feel sure and confident about their religion will not do any of these. Hindus are strong, and they are secure and confident about their religion. There is no need for them to convince or convert anyone, nor exists a procedure for conversion. Besides, any one in this world who is interested can follow the tenets of Hinduism without having to convert to it, because it is a way of life. So, let’s not worry about what some ignorant followers of other religions say or do. There are some religions that teach good things, and there are always good people in any religion. Let’s take the good and ignore the rest.
One takes about 20 years of their life to get a college degree, but they come to wrong conclusions about a religion in a few hours.
Hinduism did not create caste divisions. The original Varnashrama is the division of society into four varnas (types) and four ashramas (stages of life) that cooperate to satisfy the Supreme Being. One’s Varna is determined by one’s character, qualities, training, and work – not by birth or color of skin. The focus is spiritual advancement and spiritual satisfaction for each member of society.
According to Swami Chinmayananda – The Bhagavad Geeta defined the four major groups of people falling into four general categories based on their mental inclinations and professional capabilities. It has been misunderstood. The categories/castes exist in every country and culture in one way or the other. They are the Spiritual, Political Heads/Kings, Business and all the Professionals who don’t fall in the above three categories. So doctors, engineers, lawyers, other professionals and those who perform other services, they all fall in the last category. When it is said that castes should not mix, it only means, for example, that a lawyer should not do a doctor’s work. One should act according to one’s own nature (dharma), not someone else’s.
Some people with authority perhaps misinterpreted this and caused confusion due to ignorance, or perhaps foreign invasions and forces created splits and divisions among people, using the “divide and conquer” method. But one should not hate Hinduism for these reasons, nor give up their heritage and the wonderful teachings we can follow for the Happiness and Welfare of ourselves, our children, our family and friends. If they do, they are the losers. There is a saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the dirty bath water!”, meaning “don’t throw out the good too along with the bad.”
Building temples and places of worship in every street corner to spread Hinduism does not constitute being a true Hindu. It may even dilute the magnificence of Hinduism. There are already Great Hindu Temples in every city and town in India, that are ancient, artistic and beautifully built by ancient Kings, and blessed by Sages and Saints. Elsewhere in the world, just a few major places of worship will suffice. Visiting them often, supporting them monetarily or by service, according to each one’s ability, is the greatest help one can offer to maintain Hinduism the right way. Besides, God is everywhere, and we can contemplate on God anywhere any time, and offer worship right at home.
But most of all, living the Great Values of Hinduism – righteousness, honesty, compassion, love and friendship to one another of any gender, religion, race, caste, creed or color, being kind to animals, performing one’s duty or work effectively – this is the best way to popularize and spread Hinduism. Also presenting a revered God or Goddess, Sages and Saints in a respectful manner on the internet, videos and movies will produce respect for Hinduism. The respect we have for ourselves is the respect we will get from others.
So let’s be proud and confident of ourselves as people and as Hindus, wherever we live. Let’s not give in to inferiority complex as a person, as a community and as Hindus, no matter what. When there is a doubt, let’s clarify by enquiry and reasoning, instead of making hasty conclusions. Let’s make most of what we like in Hinduism, and ignore what we cannot accept. Let’s popularize Hinduism by “Living Its Values” and by following our traditions and customs intelligently, according to the times we live in.
The real meaning of the word religion (matham) means “personal opinion”. Let’s live our religion, and let others live their religion. Let’s not be fanatics.
Let’s be Happy as Hindus with unshakeable confidence, Or as those who appreciate Hindu Values, Friends!
To start with, Pray to God or Guru sincerely to help you with your problems. Pray in general, Pray in particular, Pray at any time and anywhere you can remember. You will get Help. There is no doubt about it.
Having said that, I would like to point out that Sri Ramana Maharshi says that such Divine Grace and Help only becomes available to those devotees who strive hard for it. Therefore, I would like to offer some pointers from Great Sages about how to make that effort.
Talks with Ramana Maharshi – 27th March, 1937 – Talk 378.
“In a conversation with a visitor, Sri Bhagavan quoted:
Lord Krishna says to Arjuna: (Bh. Gita, Ch. VI, 35)
Asamsayam mahabaho mano durnigraham chalam
Abhyasena tu kaunteya vairagyena cha grhyate
Without doubt, O mighty-armed Hero, the mind is restless, hard to curb. Yet by constant effort, Partha, matched with detachment – curbed it is.”
Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi – 28th September, 1938 – Talk 521.
“Acquire strength by surrender and then your surroundings will be found to have improved to the degree of strength acquired by you.”
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj – I Am That – Item 72
M: Whenever a thought or emotion of desire or fear comes to your mind, just turn away from it.
Due to our inherent tendencies (Vasanas), turbulent thoughts arise in the mind. And the force that operates on the mind is called Ego. Often, these thoughts are contradictory and conflicting. And due to habit, we follow every thought and are affected by it. And whatever we do, we expect and worry about results. Meditation is practiced for the expulsion of these disturbing thoughts that cause misery, depression, lethargy etc. There are two main ways of handling this problem.
1) Surrender to God and abide by His will. He knows what is best and when and how to do it. Leave everything entirely to Him. His is the burden. You have no longer any cares. All your cares are His. Such is surrender. This is Bhakti.
2) Enquire to whom these questions arise. Who am I who is depressed, who feels lazy? I was feeling fine during sleep. My real nature is happiness, that is why I want to be happy. Then who is this ‘alien’ ego telling me that I should be depressed? Asking oneself like this makes the mind subside and creates peace of mind. It increases concentration and focus.
One easy thing to practice is this, which we can do at any time, at home, driving, at work, in a party, anywhere: Every time a thought disturbs you and you feel depressed, ask yourself, “Hey, wait a minute. These things didn’t bother me in deep sleep. From where do they come now? And they are constantly changing. That means they are not real. I am not going to pay attention to these disturbing thoughts. I will do my duty and leave the results to God. Then what is there to make me depressed?” Constant reminders will make this a habit.
Another easy thing to practice at any time, anywhere is watching your breathing. No strenuous breath control exercises. Just simply watch the breath movements. Swami Chinmayananda says: Concentrate on the inhaling – the cool air going in through the nostrils, then concentrate on the exhaling – warm air flowing out through the nostrils. Do this a few times.
As soon as one wakes up, to try to meditate for about 30 minutes to an hour will create a calm atmosphere, so to speak, that will carry on with you for the rest of the day. Sometimes it may not seem to do any good. But positive results will be gradual but certain.
The following Posts contain in depth information by Great sages. Please study them and try to follow them. Good results will follow.
All the Enlightened Sages teach the same thing, turn inward and learn how to lead the life in the world like rain drops on a lotus leaf, play your part in the world diligently because every one has been brought here into this world for a purpose, fulfill that purpose as best as you can. But the devotee finds it easier and more suitable to follow the teachings of a specific style of teaching, a specific Peaceful Being who is the One Reality manifesting in human form due to extreme Kindness, Mercifulness and Love for the devotees. The guidance and practical advice of some of those Great Ones in their own words are presented here to follow in day to day life.
The following Talk with Sri Ramana Maharshi by a devotee, clearly explains what the significance of God, Guru (in the Highest sense of the word), and the SELF is. All the Gurus and major Religions only teach what’s good for us. But each offers the Truth in a unique style and manner to suit the mental framework of the devotees and the languages they will understand. Suppose I get lost while going for a walk, and I ask for help from a good samaritan passing by, what good is it if he talks to me in a language or signs I don’t understand ?! It is as simple as that.
When we want help that cannot be offered by any human being, we seek help from a Higher Power, SELF, Source, Spirit, God, Scriptures, Nature OR whomever or whichever we believe in. But just as we cannot see the all-powerful electricity directly, but can only see its brilliance and power through a lamp or fan etc., so also we cannot see and realize the Real, Blissful, All-Pervading Being directly, but only through the Enlightened Beings, Sages, Gurus or Mahatmas. In rare cases, however, where a ripe soul is fully equipped, then they are found to attain the Highest Tranquility by deep enquiry or just some little thought-provoking incident that totally transforms them into a different being. Numerous examples of such events can be found especially in India.
Even though typically it is advised to follow the teaching of One Master and stick to it, I found help and solace from several Great Sages and Scriptures in many ways. I learnt a lot about basically everything which I am trying to practise . But I will not give up this knowledge I received for a zillion bucks. Because I am learning that without peace of mind, nothing else is worth having.
Talks With Sri Ramana Maharshi
10th June, 1936
Note: M stands for Maharshi and D for Devotee.
D.: What is Guru’s Grace? How does it work?
M.: Guru is the Self.
D.: How does it lead to realisation?
M.: Isvaro gururatmeti … (God is the same as Guru and Self …). A person begins with dissatisfaction. Not content with the world he seeks satisfaction of desires by prayers to God; his mind is purified; he longs to know God more than to satisfy his carnal desires. Then God’s Grace begins to manifest. God takes the form of a Guru and appears to the devotee; teaches him the Truth; purifies the mind by his teachings and contact; the mind gains strength, is able to turn inward; with meditation it is purified yet further, and eventually remains still without the least ripple. That stillness is the Self. The Guru is both exterior and interior. From the exterior he gives a push to the mind to turn inward; from the interior he pulls the mind towards the Self and helps the mind to achieve quietness. That is Grace.
Hence there is no difference between God, Guru and Self.
The Guidance of Great Sages of India about Life and Meditation are Unique Vistas, beautiful paths toward attaining Peace of Mind and Happiness. The Real Peaceful and Serene Being is One residing in all, the Path is One, all that needs to be done is to realize this and be happy. Easier said than done! The Ego or the mind has become very powerful in the extrovert sense, pulling one in various directions deeper and deeper into the quagmire of worldly desires, egocentric activities and negative emotions. Therefore, it has become weak in the introvert sense, because how can one be peaceful when thinking furiously in so many diverse ways on so many disturbing matters.
Sometimes a lot of Money, Huge Fame, High Expectations in School and Life – these are a lot of heavy burden to handle, because of consequent high expectations of grand results or keeping up with them. So, for immediate relief, drugs, alcohol etc. are used by some people to alleviate the burdens of their minds. But these temporary aids also lead to greater pain and suffering until the person collapses.
So REAL HELP is needed to recover. Hence the myriads of religions and scriptures. However, to explain them or to offer practical help, guidance has to be given by someone who has achieved and experienced Perfect Peace and dwells in It. Knowing the sincere seeker’s longing for peace of mind, HELP arrives to slow down the wanderings of the mind and restore at least some of the natural happiness. It arrives in the form or manner the seeker will be most benefited. Therefore, due to great compassion the Great Sages of India appear from time to time to guide us.
One Great one is enough. However, the egos are many and varied. To suit the seeker’s personality and to match the mental makeup, fitness and spiritual maturity of the Seeker, a Sage guides in a unique style. Sages show how to live in this world according to one’s nature and fulfill the purpose for their existence. They also provide guidance about how to deal with day to day problems, how to get mentally strong and how to be truly happy and peaceful.
There are many such Great Ones, but here I have provided the teachings of those who came into my life and made an impact on me. Without their teachings, I am lost. Even if I keep in touch with the divine advice they give just once in a while, it makes a big difference. They are my best friends. They are friends because they don’t interfere as long as we think we can handle everything on our own, but as soon as we need help, they rush to assist us. A friend in need, is a friend indeed! The beauty is that they are ready to offer their divine friendship to everyone and anyone who wants it. This is real Kindness, Equality and Understanding.
It is very useful to ponder upon at least one of the Golden Guidance Tips of Wisdom before starting the day’s activities. Pondering on these Mini Guides helps to make the day go Easier. It makes us see and take things with the right perspective. Gradually, it also adds longer lasting Peace of Mind.
Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi generally placed self-improvement techniques under the categories of Practice and Dispassion. They become difficult ventures only when we think that we have to expect immediate results and success. However, these efforts usually shower benefits gradually. The more we reflect and ponder on these and understand their purposes, the more we get ready for meditation and self-enquiry. This itself creates some peacefulness in our minds.
Practice makes perfect is a well-known statement. Typically, it relates to worldly accomplishments. In the spiritual realm, Practice literally leads one to Perfection. So say the Sages. The more we practice meditation and self-enquiry, the happier and more peaceful we become, without really consciously changing our normal life routines. The important thing is to keep practicing these techniques consistently, and gradually we will find ourselves more calm, mentally strong, peaceful and happy, with ourselves as well as with others. The most significant process in Practice is the elimination of unnecessary, disturbing thoughts and sticking to one thought, which will also eventually merge into the Self – so say the great Sages.
Dispassion may seem like a very difficult task that means total lack of interest in life and act like a zombie. So it turns us off. But in its simple interpretation, it is something we often hear and mention in our normal lives. For example, we hear and say things like “You are the company you keep”, “Keep company with the wise and you will become wise. “, If you make friends with stupid people, you will be ruined. “, “Money does not buy Happiness” etc. We also hear parents say to their children, “I don’t want you hanging around those kids.” Of course, dispassion becomes more profound when it is used for checking and controlling the wandering mind by understanding what is really necessary for life, to find out what causes real happiness to pursue them, and to detect what causes misery to avoid them. Still very practical to ponder upon and follow. The more we practice dispassion as best as we can, the more the sense of relief.
Practice and Dispassion consist of numerous techniques to check, persuade, manage and control the mind and perform self-enquiry to give up false notions, break the spell of ignorance and withdraw into the Real, Blissful Self. I call my hour of meditation and contemplation “My Happy Hour”!
It is easy to suggest a possible, theoretical solution to a problem. However, very few follow their suggestion with a set of detailed steps to achieve the results of the solution. Here, as in all other things, Great Sages excel. Their teachings are complete. They seldom leave the devotee hanging in the dark, unless that is also for the devotee’s good! One is really lucky to come into contact with such Great Sages. If we keep them in mind, they changes us for the good automatically with His Love. This alone will do, if it is not possible to follow the other things.
Whenever I wanted to refer to a Scripture or the Teachings of a Great Sage of India, for spiritual or practical guidance, I always found that women were given the least importance or priority. Whenever disagreeable things were advised to be shunned by devotees, it usually came as “women, wealth, fame” etc. To add to these disturbing things, I found that many deities were accompanied by more than one goddess, even though many of the things mentioned in Religion are symbolic and so they cannot be taken literally.
However, I also found that the same Scripture or Sage venerated women as Supreme Shakti (Power), Valor, Wealth, Knowledge, Peacefulness and Bliss. For example, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa frequently mentioned that “The mind is wasted on ‘woman and gold’”, “The renunciation of ‘woman and gold’ is the true renunciation.” etc. But He also said “The Primordial Power is ever at play. She is creating, preserving, and destroying in play, as it were. This Power is called Kaali. Kaali is verily Brahman, and Brahman is verily Kaali. It is one and the same Reality.” In fact, He considered His Consort Sri Sharada Devi as a Goddess and worshipped Her.
Sri Aadhi Sankaracharya too offered great poetic works such as Soundarya Lahari. whose hundred and three slokas (verses) eulogize the beauty, grace and munificence of Goddess Parvati.
The usual tendency is to immediately give up the teachings of these Profound Scriptures and Enlightened Sages as “male chauvenists”. But I could not easily make this rash judgement, because I felt it was stupid to make decisions based on just on feelings without researching further. It raised some questions for me. Why would they insult women when at the same time they worship the Higher Power as a Goddess or Mother? It did not seem rational. So after some pondering over these discrepancies and ambiguities, I came to the conclusion that I have to take every Spiritual teaching in the “right context”. I guess the times and the nature of the society and people in those times have to be taken into consideration.
Whatever the case might have been, I have come to the conclusion that it would be unintelligent to give up the Good parts of a Scripture or Teachings of a Sage that are agreeable to me, just because there are some Unpleasant mentions that are disagreeable to me. Besides, I have the unshakeable confidence that I do deserve to be benefited by these Scriptures and Gurus as much as men, if not more. So I have decided to take what is useful and helpful to me, and leave the rest. And that’s exactly what the following simple, common quote means :
“Don’t throw the Baby out with the bath water”! It means to me – “Keep the good things, those that you like. Ignore the disagreeable things, what you don’t like”. Otherwise I will be the loser.
The Attributeless Being is the Highest Reality. So should we worship God only this way, or is it okay to worship God with a Form and Name? There are so many Gods and Goddesses, Forms, Names and Symbols and Attributes. Why? These baffling questions are probably raised in the minds of many.
It seems to me that worshipping God in both these ways are good and necessary at different stages of one’s spiritual development and mental inclinations. Different solutions are needed for different problems.
Let’s take a simple example of a City with people of different ages and mental capabilities. And let’s say the goal is to get a PhD degree. A rare few geniuses may be eligible to pursue PhD even as a child or teenager. But typically little kids have to learn the alphabet and basic numbers in Elementary School. Elementary School kids cannot learn complicated subjects that only Junior High or High School students can. In the same way, there are steps for Under Graduate, Graduate, PhD etc. Therefore, can we say that since PhD program is available and that is the Goal, anyone can directly join the PhD program, whether they are capable or not? The truth is, everyone has to educate themselves according to a certain combination of their age, capacities, mental framework and preference. When they are ready, they can pursue their ultimate goal. So the City has to have schools all the way from Kindergarten to the Highest Education.
The same applies to Religion and Spirituality too. Not everyone can directly worship the Supreme Reality that has no attributes and which is all-pervading Being and Bliss. The Sanatana Dharma – the Eternal Way of Life in India – allows ways of worship to God at every phase of life. It caters to all ages, all temperaments, all levels of abilities, all preferences, even though the end goal or aim is one – true liberation from sorrows, realization of the Real Self. All the others kind of worships apart from the transcendental, can be said to be supplementary aids to achieve the Goal.
It is not easy for everyone to think of something or someone without a form or name, especially children. It is easy to contemplate when one associates the Highest with a Divine Form or Name or Symbol of preference. There are phases and stages of development too. A person who loves worshipping God with a Form may later prefer to meditate on the sound of OM, or perhaps just do Self-Enquiry. So Hinduism addresses all of this. It is complete. It does not leave anyone hanging out there without suitable guidance.
To put it in a nutshell, here are the words of the Great Sage, Sri Ramana Maharshi.
D.: Has God a form?
M.: Who says so?
D.: Well, if God has no form is it proper to worship idols?
M.: Leave God alone because He is unknown. What about you? Have you a form?
D.: Yes. I am this and so and so.
M.: So then, you are a man with limbs, about three and a half cubits high, with beard, etc. Is it so?
M.: Then do you find yourself so in deep sleep?
D.: No, I am the subtle jiva within the gross body.
M.: So you see that you are really formless; but you are at present identifying yourself with the body. So long as you are formful why should you not worship the formless God as being formful?
Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi
25th December, 1935
Below is another discussion on the same subject with Sri Ramana Maharshi
D.: Idol worship does not seem good. They worship the formless God in Islam.
M.: What is their conception of God?
D.: As Immanence, etc.
M.: Is not God even then endowed with attributes? Form is only one kind of attribute. One cannot worship God without some notions. Any bhavana premises a God with attributes (saguna). Moreover, where is the use of discussing the form or formlessness of God? Find out if you have a form. You can then understand God.
Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi
6th April, 1937
Everybody wants to be Happy! No matter what we do, good or bad, right or wrong, we only do it to be Happy. Most of the times, we mistake pleasures to be Happiness. But when we understand that every pleasure seems to have nine pains following it, we want to know how to get true happiness. We need HELP. So we turn to God, Gurus, Scriptures and Wise Ones.
Everybody is afraid when they hear the word God, Religion, Guru, Scripture, Meditation etc. The so-called experts of any religion – they all seem to tell us to give up life as we know it, consider ourselves sinners, give some money or do some special worship or confession as atonement or punishment for our sins. There are good followers and good people in any religion who tell us what is really good for us. But there are also some who tell us to be phonies. Sometimes they are not to be blamed, because they are placed in positions for which they are not qualified. The inadequate and immature followers of religions and scriptures misinterpret the sacred scriptures and confuse and brainwash people for their own wealth and power. The power of being “holy” is the most dangerous power because the people who know they have been bad, want to get a quick cancellation of their wrong doings and buy a “ticket to heaven” and so they listen to these “holy” people who promise them that.
However, if we are fortunate enough to come across Masters, Gurus or Their Teachings, who are qualified to teach us about Life because they are living what they are teaching, then we will know that the phony religious teachers are bluffing. On the contrary, these Great Ones tell us the Truth as they see it. If we don’t spend the time to understand it correctly, how can we blame them? Swami Chinmayananda once said that if the radio is defective and produces noise instead of music, you cannot blame the station from where it is transmitted. Meaning, the Guru is telling you the Truth; if you don’t follow it correctly, then you cannot blame the Guru. He also said that the longer the beard of the religious guru, the more careful you have to be about him! He had a great sense of humor! All the Great Ones have.
The fact is, these Sages never tell us we are sinners. Sri Ramana Maharshi said that there are no good or bad people; just good or bad thoughts. How simple, yet how refreshing! Once an American devotee called Dr. Henry Hand told Maharshi during a discussion, “Maharshi! Do not think we are bad boys!” Maharshi replied, “Do not tell me so. But you need not think you are bad boys!”. By hearing that we are sinners all the time, the negative notion is further reinforced in our minds. But if we hear that we are only good, but due to ignorance we have bad or unwise thoughts, then that reinforces the positive notion in our minds and encourages us to fix the mistakes we make.
These Sages tell us that we should live our lives in the world according to our nature and “Dharma” which here means “duty”. Everyone has a purpose for being here and the purpose will be fulfilled whether you will it or not.
Mr. M. Oliver Lacombe, a Frenchman asked Sri Ramana Maharshi:
“D: “How is work to be done ordinarily for an aspirant?.
M: Without self-identification with the actor. For instance, did you intend visiting this place while in Paris?
R: You see how you are acting without your intention to do so? The Gita says that a man cannot remain without acting. The purpose of one’s birth will be fulfilled whether you will it or not. Let the purpose fulfil itself.”
The Great Ones say, you are an actor playing a part due to desires and attachments. Act to the best of your ability using the talents and skills that you have. But don’t get carried away and get deeper and deeper into the mire of delusion and attachments and desires. Understand that your basic need is to be Happy, which is your Real Nature. You have just digressed from it temporarily. Get back to it slowly and gradually. Swami Dayananda in one of his discourses gave an example. He said, to identify too much with our activities and the world, is like an actor who refuses to give up his role and his costumes even after the play is over and continues to play the actor in his life too! Great example.
The point is, Sages only tell you to lead your life happily, but wisely. Even in ordinary life, this is what everyone says! Only some people don’t know how to do it. So the Sages are sought. When someone wanted to go to a cave to meditate, Sri Ramana Maharshi said, “Solitude is in the mind of man. One might be in the thick of the world and maintain serenity of mind; such a one is in solitude. Another may stay in a forest, but still be unable to control his mind. He cannot be said to be in solitude. Solitude is a function of the mind. A man attached to desire cannot get solitude wherever he may be; a detached man is always in solitude.”
So it is very clear to me that we can live an active and happy life while turning inward and learning how to handle problems and acquire peace of mind. I call the little time I try to quieten my mind, “My Happy Hour”! I also call it, “charging my batteries” to prepare for the rest of the day! These Sages are My Best Friends!