Excerpts from ‘Towards the Goal
Supreme’, by Swami Virajananda,
Published by Advaita Ashrama, Calcutta 700 014.
Thoughts on Spiritual Life
If you have to be in the world at all, make God your world. Set up your home with Him. Whatever you do, see or hear, think that to be God. It is all play, a game with Him. Know life to be a game, in which Mother Herself is the Player and you are Her playmate. The world will be quite different when you know that Mother is playing with you. Then you will find that in this world there is neither happiness nor misery, good nor evil, attachment nor aversion, greed nor jealousy. Consequently, all delusion, self interest and conflict will vanish, and no pairs of opposites can torment you there. All ideas of union or separation, of friend or foe, of high and low, of ‘I and mine’, are non-existent in that play of yours with the Divine Mother. There is only inexhaustible Bliss, boundless Love, and infinite Peace. If even a drop of that Bliss be experienced, the pleasures of worldly objects will seem contemptible. The possession of even an atom of that Love will make the whole world dearer than one’s dearest ones, and heavenly Bliss will be felt through every pore of the body. There is no fear in that play, no anxiety, no bondage, no weariness; it is always an ever-new play. And what infinite modes of play does the Mother know! Endless are the forms and ways in which She plays! One loses oneself in the very thought of it and is merged therein. In that moment of transcendental ecstasy the play ceases; for who will then play, and with whom ? That beatific experience, that state of blissful union, is beyond the reach of speech and mind! He alone knows who knows! Great fun! Oh, the great fun!
He who really wants Him finds Him; he who does not, is made to dance to the tune of the five devils, becomes the sport of the five elements, which comprise the material of the body and the universe–earth, water, heart, air and space. He is at the mercy of evil influences of all kinds.
Highest knowledge, devotion, spirituality–these can only be acquired through great self-effort. One has to struggle hard to win them. Then only do they become one’s own, and enduring, filling the mind with joy unspeakable. None can make a gift of these to another. Spiritual practice has to be diligently performed. Then only can Realization be attained. The degree varies with the intensity of spiritual effort. What is gained without discipline or hard labour loses its gravity, is not highly valued and does not bring happiness earned by hard struggle. Moreover, it goes away as easily as it comes, and it is of little use when we are buffeted by the angry billows of life. In dangers and difficulties, in trials and tribulations, it is swept away altogether. To make spirituality one’s very own, means saturating oneself thoroughly in the idea of the realization of the Self, so that one’s nature is wholly changed and an entirely new personality is developed. It is like being reborn again in this very body. Is it child’s play ? Such a thing is possible only if one is wide awake and strives for it to the utmost, as if one’s whole life is at stake. Thus one must continue spiritual practices without interruption and with single-minded devotion as long as the Goal is not achieved.
But the grace of God descends only upon him who has striven his utmost, who has not spared himself, who has not let go the helm, and who has finally come to know, after many a hard struggle, that it is impossible to realize Him through self-effort alone-without His grace. When the aspirant feels that he is lost in impenetrable gloom, that he is about to drown in a boundless sea, his strength utterly exhausted by his efforts to keep afloat–then and only then does the Lord lift him up with His lotus hand and take him beyond the realm of life and death, where there is endless bliss and infinite peace! The possession of even a particle of that bliss makes the Jiva or individual soul feel happy beyond measure.
Remember the Lord and think of Him as much as you can. Know Him alone as your own, nearer and dearer than your own self. He who is your sole refuge and resource, here and hereafter, love Him alone, with all your heart and soul. One thinks of the beloved and, thinking, gets joy and happiness thereby; one desires to be always in the company of the beloved, resents other topics of conversation or distractions that take one away. Nevertheless, such earthly love, like everything else in the world, has separation and end. But there is no end to the love of God. It is an inexhaustible treasure! The more you drink of it, the more thirsty you feel; and ultimately, losing yourself in bliss, you forget yourself and are merged in it. Then, this little individuality will melt away and divinity will take its place; in place of this corpse-like existence, the divine consciousness (Shivahood) will illumine the soul; the dance of death will cease for ever and you will attain to Immortality.
Our prayers are often mere words of mouth-lip-deep; we do not pray from the heart-that is why they bear no fruit. Our prayers are sure to be fulfilled if they come straight from the heart. When you feel that you are not deriving any result whatever by practicing Japa and meditation, then search within to find out the defects–the cracks and the holes through which all the water of the vessel is leaking out–and try to mend them. Japa and meditation cannot transform or work changes in the personality of an individual if strong attachment to the world–to sense-objects, to lust and gold–remains. But do not for that reason give up practicing Japa and meditation regularly; you are sure to get desired results in time. Worldly pleasures will gradually appear to be insubstantial and insipid; love and devotion to God will increase and you will find joy in Him alone.
What you intensely desire you are sure to get. If you really want God, you will find Him; if you pray to Him for worldly enjoyment, you will have that instead. But for either, you have to work; nothing can be acquired without toil and travail. What untold hardships people undergo for gaining worldly ends! They vigorously strive day and night with body, mind and soul, even foregoing food or sleep, for the sake of wife and children, for money, for property and possessions, for name and fame. There is no respite even for a moment, no escape; yet they do not get all they want, for there is no end to their hopes and desires. If you could strive in that way for God, you would surely realize Him. Rejecting gold and jewels, we are satisfied with bits of glass! We receive blows again and again, yet we are not brought to our senses. Such is the illusion of Mahamaya (Mother of cosmic illusion). Realization of God is difficult, but it can become easy when a new turn or direction is given to the trend or tendency of the mind and it is wholly directed towards it. But he alone can do this, upon whom the grace of the Mother descends.
It is certainly true that the desired object cannot be had without toil. Little children alone can get their wants satisfied without striving, for they know that their mother understands all their needs. They know nothing except the mother. The mother gives whatever is needed and whenever it is needed; they do not have to think about it for themselves. One has to become exactly like a child in spiritual life. When the child is hungry, it cries, and immediately the mother, leaving all other work, comes and takes it in her lap and suckles it. So you see, even the baby has to cry to make its want known. Similarly, the devotee has also to call upon the name of God, feel acutely his separation from Him, and with tears pray yearningly for the love of God. He does not care for or look at anything else that might be given to him. He wants God alone–not His Divine powers, not even the bliss and splendour of heaven. Wealth and riches are no longer any attraction. Sang Ramprasad, the poet-devotee of Bengal:
“O Mother, of what use to me
is paltry wealth ?
Who is crying for Thy riches ?
If Thou givest any other treasure, O Tara,
It will lie uncared-for in a corner of the room.
But if Thou givest Thy Lotus Feet that dispel fear,
I shall keep them on the lotus seat of my heart.“
When you go to visit a temple of God or a Sanyasin, you should not go without an offering. Take with you at least a pice or two worth of fruits or sweets, or at least a few flowers.
A beginner in spiritual life should ever be awake and alert, so that the mind, as yet unripe, may not lead him into bondage through unwitting attachment to persons or things. And it should be remembered that this stage of a beginner does not mean only the brief period when spiritual exercises have just been begun. Ten or twelve years’ practice of japa and meditation does not necessarily make an aspirant the possessor of a higher degree of spirituality. The first stage may continue for many years, or even for life, until something is directly realized. It lasts according to the difference in degree of eagerness and effort on the part of different individuals. This perception of Truth is the beginning of real religion or spirituality. Any religious rituals, ceremonies, austerities and discipline performed before that, are mere preparations and aids for entering the realm of the Spirit.
God has not really left us in want of anything; the want is in the mind only. Happiness and misery are in the mind, and not outside. “As is the mental conception so is the attainment.” We get what we seek.
A householder devotee, endowed with
faith and earnestness, though unable to do much spiritual practice, is
a thousand times better than the Sanyasin who has fallen from the ideal.
The former is striving his utmost, according to his ability, to advance
on the path of spiritual progress, and is praying to God with a yearning
for liberation from his intolerable bondage. An intense longing for renunciation grows in his heart as he keeps on fighting with diverse obligations of duty and obstacles and hindrances which constantly face him in his worldly life. His heart hungers and pines for God-vision, and thus the despite to realize Him by breaking the bondage and renouncing the world is steadily intensified. This longing quickens the power of the Spirit within. God comes to his help. He is the Inner Guide, and knowing the devotee’s plight, He gradually removes the impediments in the way to his salvation. The truth is, that unless the desire for renunciation comes from the heart, nothing-neither Love, nor Liberation, nor Knowledge-can be gained.