What is life? A Series of Actions – an Endeavor to Attain Happiness!

gurudev (2)

What we mean by the word ‘life’? What do we associate the word ‘life’ with? Life means sentiency. It means activity. When do we say this man is alive? When he. is active. Therefore. life may be defined as a series of actions or as a series of experiences. If there is no action, there is no experience. Then there is no life. Life is a series of actions and this is what we find common to all human beings. It is common to all living beings. Action cannot be avoided by anyone at any time.

This is what the Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita

न हि कश्चित्क्षणमपि जातु तिष्ठत्यकर्मकृत् |
कार्यते ह्यवश: कर्म सर्व: प्रकृतिजैर्गुणै:!!  3-5

Verily, none can ever remain, even for a moment, without performing action. Why is it so ? Everyone is made to act helplessly indeed by the qualities born of Prakrti.

Everybody is made to act, as though helplessly, by some force, by some factor. There is some factor which constantly propels one to act. That is the reason why we find every living being persistently acting. Even if a man physically may not be doing any action, mentally he could be very active. I might think that during meditation I am inactive, but I am not really so. In fact the activity is more intense at such moments. Thus action here means either physical or mental action.

Seeking Happiness

When we want to know what is meant by life, our enquiry is directed to the knowledge of what an action is, how and why it takes place. Since life is a series of actions, if we understand one action we will be able to understand life. If we look within, we find that we are constantly prompted to perform actions by something within called desire. It prompts us to. do one thing or another, to go from one place to another. That is why we see people constantly moving, ‘changing places, situations and conditions. Man constantly acts. He constantly moves. To understand the nature of an action, we have to understand the nature of desire, which prompts man to act.

When a person is at home in the morning, he entertains the desire of going to office. While in the office, the only desire that occupies his, mind is to go home. The moment he reaches his office, on. Monday the desire is – to enjoy a holiday or a Sunday at home. When the, holiday comes, he plans to go out. Man does not seem to be satisfied with what he has. He cannot relaxer sit quietly. Therefore when the holiday or the day of relaxation comes people plan for outings, visits, cinemas etc. In and through every action there is a desire to get something which one does not seem to have at the moment.

That ‘something’ goes by the name of happiness. I want to go to a cinema, so that I can be happy. I want to go to work in order to be happy. What makes a man happy may differ from person to person. What makes me happy, may make you miserable. In the train, in the same compartment, some who are smoking are absolutely in ecstasy. They are in heaven, but some others in the same compartment are miserable. Again, what made me happy in the past may not give me happiness now. So what makes me happy keeps on changing but the fact that I want to be happy is constant. Every human being, every living being wants to be happy. For what does a mosquito sit on my hand? For sucking blood, which gives it happiness. No one wants to be unhappy. The moment the mosquito finds that my hand is going to land on it, it flies away.

Thus, what a man tries to do in and through all actions is to seek happiness and avoid unhappiness. The desire to attain happiness and to avoid unhappiness constantly keeps one engaged, making him do something or the other. If this basic desire were not there, there would have been no action. There would have been no life. Vedanta is bold enough to say that the only reason why life is there in the universe, or the only thing that sustains the universe, is this basic urge in the heart of every living being of seeking happiness and avoiding unhappiness. Is there a third kind of activity? Is there any motive other than these two? Examine every action of yours and see whether it falls under one of these two categories or not. Any action, ancient or modern, whether it is performed by the greatest scientist or by a sweeper, is prompted by one of these two motives. Therefore an endeavor to attain happiness is essentially what we mean by life.

Swami Viditatmanand Saraswati

Excerpts from Vedanta in Present Day Life

Link to Swamiji’s Discourses & Talks



Renunciation: A process of converting necessities into luxuries!

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Renunciation means letting go. It is process of letting go of that which is a burden and causes unhappiness. This is the primary teaching of Vedanta. We hold on to many things, imagining that they are offer happiness. However, as we discover the true nature of things, we find that what we regarded as helpful is not really helpful and what we regarded as useful is not really useful. When we recognize this, we will not continue to hold on to it any more. Renunciation takes place in the wake of this discovery. When we ’grow out’ of a given thing, we recognize that it is not necessary. That is when we are able to let go. At that point, our necessities reduce and inner satisfaction grows.

We have certain necessities at the present moment and need many things. Of these, there are many things that we do not recognize as being irrelevant and we are, therefore, holding on to them as necessities. However, as our necessities reduce on account of inner growth, inner maturity, or inner satisfaction, we will find that more and more things seem unnecessary. In understanding the true nature of things, we discover not only that many of our requirements are not necessary, but also that when our own necessities reduce, things become less and less necessary.

In Pujya Swami Dayanandaji’s words, what we call “progress” is nothing more than the conversion of luxuries into necessities! A necessity is something we cannot do without. A luxury is nice to have and can make us happy, but is something that we can do without. However, as luxuries become available, we get used to them and they become necessities. Soon, we cannot do without them. Gradually, more and more things become ’necessities’ and we become dependent on them.

Moving in the direction of dependence is called samsara, the life of bondage, and moving in the direction of freedom is called adhyatma, the spiritual way of life. One way to live is to walk into more and more intense bondage. The other way is to progressively gain release from this bondage. As we grow in inner purity, we discover greater inner satisfaction and then, things that seem like necessities will slowly become luxuries. Growth along the spiritual path is a process of converting necessities into luxuries. When our needs reduce, we realize that we need fewer and fewer things for our satisfaction; more things then become luxuries. Renunciation is the process of converting necessities into luxuries, to the extent that, at some point, everything becomes a luxury.

Lord Krishna describes a wise person as one who is happy with himself by himself [Bhagavad Gita, 2-55]. He does not require anything for his satisfaction, and whatever he has are luxuries to him. An ordinary person needs many things for his satisfaction, but all that a wise person requires is himself. Similarly, to the extent that we discover such satisfaction within ourselves, our needs automatically drop off. The discovery of inner satisfaction results in the letting go of needs.

A life of renunciation need not necessarily be equated to the life of a sannyasi, one who has given up everything. It is possible to practice renunciation in day-to-day life, by making our lives as simple as we can. For this, firstly, we should realize that we do not really have as many needs as we assume. Secondly, we must lead a way of lift that helps us grow in inner maturity. Inner maturity leads to inner satisfaction, which renders us more and more self-sufficient. To the extent that we can initiate a process of discovering inner sufficiency, our needs win become progressively fewer. This will ensure that our lives become a process of gaining emotional maturity gr inner growth and discovering inner freedom.

Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati

Excerpts from Satasanga with Swami Viditatmananda, Vol: 1

Link to Swamiji’s Talks and Discourses

How वैराग्य renunciation – necessary for the attainment of bhakti – is obtained?

Who am I? Existance, Knowledge and Happines!

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Let us examine the various things a human seeks in life.

There is an innate desire in us to perpetuate our existence.

Life is the dearest thing to us. Everybody wants to protect themselves, to remain alive. Nobody wants to die. We make every effort to continue our existence. However miserable we may be, however old we may be, at whatever stage in life we may be, we still want to continue to live. Even at the age of ninety-one, an old lady has a desire to see the marriage of her great grandson! Even at that age, she has a long list of things to be accomplished! The whole pharmaceutical industry thrives on this desire. Why should we have hospitals otherwise? Emergency rooms, oxygen cylinders and all kinds of gadgets and equipment are there just to help humans continue living. However miserable that living may be, we still want to continue it. It represents an innate desire of humans. All the means of security that I surround myself with – shelter, comforts, etc, – are also to stretch out life as much as possible. But everybody knows that this body ultimately will come to an end, and that he or she has to part with it. It is because of this awareness that I want a son who would join my name after his and thereby continue my existence in some manner. That is the reason why we leave name plates. If the body does not remain, let my name remain. When we go to a cemetery, we find that the tomb-stones indicate the name of the person and the period he or she lived. Through memory in the minds of others, a person wants to continue to exist. He or she wants to live, which shows that there is a natural love for life. A number of our activities in life are prompted by this desire. So there is one class of activities or pursuits which is directed.

The second kind of desire, which leads to a different kind of pursuit, results from the love for knowledge.

It is not that we want to know everything, such as how many grains of sand there are, or how many stars there are, or how many cells there are! It is not that kind of knowledge that we mean by ‘all knowledge.’ What we want is to understand everything, make sense of everything, and gain clarity about everything. We want to understand the nature of whatever we confront. When we do not understand what we are confronting, we are at a loss.  When you are in front of me, and I do not know you or remember who you are, there is confusion in my mind. Therefore, what we mean by gaining all knowledge is gaining clarity about everything.

The manner in which a child pursues knowledge is different from that in which an elder pursues it. A scientist pursues it one way, a housewife another. When a child looks through the key-hole to find out what’s happening inside, that is also nothing but love for knowledge, and when I am keeping a watch over my neighbor, that is also out of my love for knowledge.

The third pursuit in life is to gain happiness.

When a person is at home in the morning, he entertains the desire of going to office. While in the office, the only desire that occupies his, mind is to go home. The moment he reaches his office, on Monday the desire is – to enjoy a holiday or a Sunday at home. When the, holiday comes, he plans to go out. Man does not seem to be satisfied with what he has. He cannot relax and sit quietly. Therefore when the holiday or the day of relaxation comes people plan for outings, visits, cinemas etc. In and through every action there is a desire to get something which one does not seem to have at the moment. That ‘something’ goes by the name of happiness. I want to go to a cinema, so that I can be happy. I want to go to work in order to be happy. What makes a man happy may differ from person to person. What makes me happy, may make you miserable. In the train, in the same compartment, some who are smoking are absolutely in ecstasy. They are in heaven, but some others in the same compartment are miserable. Again, what made me happy in the past may not give me happiness now. So what makes me happy keeps on changing but the fact that I want to be happy is constant. Every human being, every living being wants to be happy. Love for happiness makes humans maintain the various relationships that we have in the society. We want to love someone and be loved by someone.

Thus, we are all are seeking immortality, knowledge and happiness.

We want to live forever. How long do I want to live? I want to live forever. I want to be immortal. How much knowledge do we want? We want to know everything, all that exists at any place, at any time. I want to be omniscient. How much happiness do I want? I want absolute happiness, limitless happiness. This is what is desired by everybody – a man or a woman, young or old.

सत्चितानन्द -Sat-cit-ānanda, Existence, Knowledge, Joy – My own nature

Our pursuit of absolute existence – Sat सत, absolute knowledge – chita चित, and absolute joy – ananda आनंद – also means that I am trying to get rid of its opposites, i.e. mortality, ignorance and unhappiness. These three things I cannot stand.

Let’s examine the nature of things that we generally think of getting rid of. I don’t think of getting rid of something unless it becomes a nuisance. Nobody thinks of getting rid of hands and legs. I don’t wish to part with one of the eyes even though I have two of them. This means that nobody wants to get rid of that which is natural to him. On the other hand, if a dust particle falls in my eye or a bug enters my ear, I will direct all my efforts to get rid of them. Even with the finest dust particle in the eye, I cannot be at peace. Therefore, in our life, what is it that we want to get rid of? We always want to get rid of that which is unnatural, the thing that is foreign. I cannot stand a foreign element but I am comfortable, I am happy with what is natural to me.

When I say that I want to get rid of mortality, ignorance and unhappiness, what does it amount to? Nobody every goes to a doctor and complains, “Doctor, please do something because my eyes see!” Or nobody complains to a doctor saying, “Doctor, There is something wrong with me. Even though I eat every six hours, I feel hungry again. So please help me!” That he sleeps at night is not a problem to man, because it is natural to him. Nobody is happy being unhappy. And so we know that happiness must be the natural state. That is why we accept it. Nobody goes and consoles or sympathizes with a scholar for having stood first in the University! Because we accept happiness as a natural and a desirable thing. This shows that ignorance, mortality and unhappiness are unnatural, whereas immortality, knowledge and happiness are natural to me. Therefore, I like them, I love them. This indicates the nature of a human being, and the nature of all living beings.

सत Sat Existence, चित्त Chit knowledge and Ananda आनंद happiness is my nature and that is what I am. This is the most natural state. This alone is the goal of life, and through all my actions I try to attain this state.

Swami Viditatmanand Saraswati

Excerpts from Vedanta in Present Day Life

Links to Swamiji’s Discourses and Talks

What is Sthitaprajna – स्थितप्रज्ञ? Can we be a sthitaprajna?

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We are all ignorant about our true nature. Because we are ignorant, we have an ego. Whenever we have an ego, we are vulnerable and can thus be manipulated; by pleasing us or gratifying the ego, others can get whatever they want out of us and by attacking the ego, they can hurt us. We become subject to hurt and guilt.

Is it possible to become a – स्थितप्रज्ञ – sthitaprajna if one is a common man, an ignorant man affected by samsara, a vulnerable man? The answer is yes. That is the purpose of the teaching.

What is meant by sthitaprajna – स्थितप्रज्ञ? Prajna – प्रज्ञा – means wisdom and   sthiti – स्थिति -means abiding. So, a sthitaprajna is a person of abiding wisdom. What is this wisdom? It is the knowledge that one is brahman – ब्रह्मन् – or that one is limitless, the truth of the Self. One who has a spontaneous or abiding knowledge that he is brahman – ब्रह्मन्, limitless. free, and complete, is called a sthitaprajna, a man of abiding wisdom. It is possible for a person to become that because the knowledge of our being brahman is everybody’s birthright; nobody can deny us that knowledge.

One would need to ’become’ brahman, only if there were a distance between the seeker and the sought. If we were not brahman, then, in order to become brahman, we would need to perform certain actions, and it is possible that we may not be successful. But the fact is that we already are brahman; it is simply a matter of discovering this. God has given us the intellect with which to discover this fact. We are also given the scriptures, wherein this teaching is provided. By dutifully following what we learn from the teachers and abiding by the teaching of the scriptures, we lead a certain ‘way of life, called yoga. We can initiate the process of self-growth or emotional maturity by exposing ourselves to the teaching. Therefore, to answer your question, yes, it is possible to gain the knowledge and it is possible to gain abidance in the knowledge if we persevere in this pursuit.

Can we become sthitaprajna? We have no choice but to become that! We cannot accept ourselves unless we become sthitaprajna, and we cannot be happy or comfortable with ourselves unless we abide in the knowledge that we are whole, complete, and free. Therefore, nobody has any choice but to become sthitaprajna, if not today, then tomorrow. That’s what we want. Since we are limitless, there is no avoiding the fact that there is a natural love for the limitless. We cannot be satisfied with being anything less than limitless and will, therefore, be driven by our desire to be limitless. We have to discern what we are seeking, and understand that there is a method and a process to fulfill that desire. This must become clear. Our lives will then become a pursuit of inner growth and learning, and a process of attain’ the goal of limitlessness.

Swami Viditatmananda Sarswati

Excerpts from Satsang with Swamividitatmananda Vol 1

Links to Swamiji’s Talks & Videos

What is Karma Yoga – कर्मयोग? An Attitude towards Action.

Defining Success & Failure – from Vedantic Perspective

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Success of an endeavor is usually determined by the outcome, because it is the immediate objective measure available to us. Effort and outcome are the two aspects of any endeavor.

Individual effort is subjective. Outcome is the result and is objective. The Gita teaches that you can control the effort but not the outcome. instead of judging success by the outcome, it should be judged by the effort. Effort is what a person can control. One is able to do the best that one can, not any better. Outcome is determined by factors all of which are not under the control of the person who makes the effort. There are many unknowns that may influence the outcome.

Lord Krishna says, “May you perform actions in a responsible manner. As far as the outcome is concerned maintain the sameness of the mind.” Sameness of mind can be called success. Vedanta says that success is a subjective phenomenon. Social and economic success is generally measured by wealth, name, fame, power etc. These are accepted as the criteria for determining success. However, all these can be called success provided they create satisfaction in one’s mind. It is the individual who determines whether he is successful or not.

Self-satisfaction cannot be willed, it has to arise. Satisfaction is an inner feeling and one knows when it occurs. Success should be measured in terms of the inner satisfaction and worthiness one feels about oneself. Even though other people may think of a person as worthy, based on the criteria that they have accepted, the person himself may not feel so. What ultimately matters is, what the person thinks about himself.

One may be wealthy but wealth could have been acquired by unfair means. A person is aware when he has violated the values. He knows it is due to his weakness. Violation of values creates a loss of self-worth, which creates self-dissatisfaction. The pleasures acquired through unrighteous – adharmika –  ways do not produce inner satisfaction. There is no real joy in them. To enjoy things, not only do we need objects of enjoyment, but also the capacity to enjoy. Dharma, the righteous way of life gives this capacity. With that, one becomes less dependent on things of the world for his joy and gains a greater self-satisfaction.

Success is subjective and is determined by the extent to which one is satisfied with oneself, feels worthy and good in his or her perception. This is the measure of success. To gain this, Lord Krishna teaches that may you perform your actions well. Do what is right in a given situation even though it may be painful and may not bring immediate desirable achievements. Remain indifferent to the outcome as far as personal gain is concerned. This is karma-yoga.

It is true that we live in a world where outcome alone is the criterion of success because effort, being subjective, cannot be judged. Hence, we should not be indifferent to the outcome. It should be given the place it deserves. But the outcome should not become so important that one has to compromise the means for the sake of the end. Good outcome will come today or tomorrow if the actions are Virtuous. That is the law of karma good begets good, evil begets evil. For social and economic success, values alone are not sufficient. Right kind of skills, training etc. should also be acquired. Material success requires the capacity to manage the material. Effort involves good values, good intentions and a commitment to do an action well. One should pay attention to all these. There should also be recognition of the realities of life. Accept all personal limitations and gracefully accept the rewards as they come. According to the law of karma, rewards are commensurate with effort made. Reward will come, if not today, tomorrow, if effort is righteous and made with required skill. One can continue to perform good actions with that faith and confidence. Learn from results and make changes where necessary.

Success is a process of learning and growing. Growth is in terms of one’s goodness, inner strength, poise of mind, tranquility of mind; reactions in adverse situations, large heartedness etc. Vedanta looks upon life as a process of inner growth. Righteousness and sincere effort are the means of gaming inner growth and success in the real sense.

Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati

Excerpts from: Hindu Dharama, Basics & Beyond

Link to Swamiji’s Talks and Discourses

What is Karma Yoga – कर्मयोग? An Attitude towards Action.


In the Bhagvad Gita Lord Krsna describes to Arjuna the attitude that can defuse one’s likes and dislikes while performing action. This attitude is called karma yoga.

कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन।
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि॥ २-४७

In Roman scripts—

Karmanye vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana,
Ma Karmaphalaheturbhurma Te Sangostvakarmani

 You have choice over your action but not over the results at any time. Do not (take yourself. to) be the author of the results of action; neither be attached to inaction.

Lord Krsna begins by drawing Arjuna’s attention to a fact: “Work alone is your privilege, never its results ” This sentence has confused many scholars who interpret it to mean that one should perform action without expecting a result This cannot be the intent of Lord Krsnas statement, because it would mean that he would teach Arjuna without expecting him to understand. No one performs action without expecting some result.

What then does the statement mean?

The statement is very clear: you have a choice in your action, but never in the results. The result is determined the moment the action is performed. You cannot avoid karmaphala, the fruit of action. One cannot jump out of a window and expect the result, falling, not to happen, nor can one expect gravity to pull one’s body at a rate less than 32 feet per second per second! The results of action are governed by laws that are not under out control.

We find ourselves in a World governed by laws that are not created by anyone here. We are born according to laws, and the reaping of results is also according to laws. The relationship between an action and its results is governed by the laws of nature, which we can attempt to understand but never change.

The author of these laws is the one we call God or, in Sanskrit, Isvara. It is by His laws that I get a particular result, not by my choice. Therefore the Lord says, “May you not take yourself to be the author of the results of action.” The results are produced by laws which are not under our control.

When I undertake to do something, I expect a result, even ‘ though I know that the results are not under my control, because I have likes and dislikes which I want to be fulfilled. This expectation of result, which is natural, is not a problem; the problem lies in our reaction to the results when they come. The meaning of the verse is: perform action expecting results; act so that you can achieve what you desire; plan and execute your work; but if the result is totally contrary to your expectations in spite of all your wishing and willing, don t react and call yourself a failure.

It is possible to prevent such a reaction if you enjoy an attitude born of an understanding of the nature of actions and their results. An action produces a result that is inherent in the action itself. One Cannot expect what is not contained in the action. You are not the maker of laws that govern the results of actions, nor do you know all the laws that come into play to yield a result; but you do know that things function according to laws and that there is a harmony in the functioning of the universe. For any action, a proper result always accrues according to the laws.

You don’t feel grateful to the banker when you get the money sent by your son every month. He is only an instrument that conveys the money to you from your son who is your benefactor. Likewise, laws are only instruments of the Lord who gives you the result of action. Even when you read these words, the reading takes laws. When you understand this fact, you develop a special attitude: you appreciate that the result of every action comes from the Lord.

The Effect of Karma Yoga – is there any incentive to act?

One might naturally ask whether there will be any incentive to act, or any learning as a result of one’s experiences, if one accepts all results as coming from the Lord. In fact, only with this attitude can you learn from your experiences. A reacting mind cannot learn, for in its despair, frustration, and helplessness it is unable to see things objectively. There is a common saying that experience is the best teacher. Experience can teach if we assimilate it without reaction; but too often we learn nothing from experience and only regret them.

Learning takes place in those moments when your mind is not reacting however infrequent such moments may be. You cannot learn when your mind is angry, hateful or jealous; such a state of mind is not receptive. Action is creative and human; reactions such as. anger, jealousy, etc., are mechanical. You do not become angry, hateful or jealous by choice. Because of such reactions, you are unable to learn from your experiences. The Lord advises Arjuna to avoid such reactions by recognizing that the laws that produce the results of action are not partial to one and cruel to another. The laws that govern the universe are impartial and they never fail. If a result is not according to your expectations, accept it, Change your course, and act again. If your action fails, you are not a failure if you learn from your experience. If you accept the result of your actions, as you accept prasada in a temple or a church, and if you perform all your actions as an. offering, you Will develop a. non-reacting mind, a mind capable of learning.

Swami Dayananda Saraswati

Excerpts from the Teaching of Bhagavad Gita

Links to Swamiji’s Talks & Discourses

Take your time and you will achieve your end.


It is thought which is the propelling force in us. Fill the mind with the highest thoughts, hear them day after day, think them month after month. Never mind failures; they are quite natural. They are the beauty of life, these failures. What would life be without them? It would not be worth having if it were not for struggles. Where would be the poetry of life? Never mind the struggles, the mistakes. I never heard a cow tell a lie; but it is only a cow-not a man. So never mind these failures, these little back sliding; hold to the ideal a thousand times, and if you fail a thousand times, make the attempt once more. The ideal of man is to see God in everything. But if you cannot see Him in everything, see Him in one thing, in that thing which you like best, and then see Him in another. So on you can go. There is infinite life before the soul. Take your time and you will achieve your end.

Swami Vivekananda

Excerpts from Jnana Yoga

Open Your Eyes, and See! The world we have been thinking, it never existed!


Give up the world which you have conjectured, because your conjecture was based upon a very partial experience, upon my poor reasoning, and upon your own weaknesses. Give it up. The world we have been thinking for so long, the world we have been clinging to so long, is a false world of our own creation Give that up. Open your eyes and see that, as such, it never existed; it was dream, maya. What existed was the Lord Himself. It is He who is in the child, in the wife, and in the husband; it is He who is in the good and in the bad. He is in the sin and in the sinner; He is in life and death.

Swami Vivekananda

How do we deal with the ego, which will not allow us to let go of things?

gurudev (2)

It is not true that the ego does not let go of things. In reality, it is our insecurity that does not allow us to let go of things. For example, when we suffer a leg-fracture and start walking with the help of crutches, soon we cannot let go of the crutches because we feel insecure. Letting go happens when we discover security.

The ego is nothing but a bundle of insecurities. There are many crutches in our lives, e.g., wealth, name, fame, recognition, family, and friends. These need not be . crutches, but generally, they are. They can also be luxuries. For example, getting married or having a child is a luxury in the beginning. In course of time, however, it becomes a necessity because of attachment. Having a family or material possessions does not necessarily mean we have crutches. It depends on how we relate to them. If the relationship is one of attachment or dependence, they are our crutches. If we are not alert in relating to things, we may inadvertently become dependent on many of them for security and comfort. That is why we are reluctant to let go of things.

Inner growth signifies discovering inner security. We will be happy to let go to the extent that we discover security within ourselves. The ego can be predominant, whether in tamas, rajas, or sattva. Inner growth is the transformation from tamas to rajas and from rajas to sattva. The sattvika ego alone is one that is happy with itself and by itself.

Letting go need not be an action. For example, letting go of the family means mentally giving them the freedom to do what they want. A relationship of attachment is one of control. When we are attached to somebody, we control them and cannot let them go, such as in giving them freedom to be who they are, because letting them go makes us insecure. The ability to ‘let go, therefore, means gaining freedom from the need to control others and the ability to give them freedom without feeling insecure. This does not mean being uncaring. One can take care of the family even while giving them freedom and feel happy that they enjoy that freedom. This is also called renunciation.

Holding on to our views, opinions, and things arises from some kind of. insecurity. People derive security from their own beliefs. It is not that a secure person cannot take a firm stand; a secure person is simply willing to consider and accept the views of others. The ability to accept another person’s views with an open mind only comes when there is a feeling of security. Thus, renunciation also means discovering inner security.

The mature ego is not interested in holding on to anything, because holding on to things is a burden. The more things we hold on to, the more we are concerned about them. This causes a lot of stress. People who hold on to lots of things are stressed-out. Therefore, we must not hold on, even to our opinions and views, UUIESQ necessary. Once We discover that that is not necessary, we will be comfortable letting go of them.

’Giving-up’ need not be an action because ’holding. on’ is not an action. Holding on to something happens on account of wrong understanding, while letting go is the result of the right kind of understanding. Renunciation is nothing but having the right understanding. It is possible to be in the midst of things physically and still be a renunciate.

People equate renunciation to becoming physically distant. Well, if it is convenient, physical distance can ‘ also be created. But first, there must be emotional distance. Then alone will physical distance help. Otherwise, it will not help. According to Lord Krishna, that form of self-control, in which one creates a distance with an object of pleasure by not indulging in it or by controlling oneself, while yet retaining a fascination for that object in the mind, is not true self control, but suppression. Taking to a life of renunciation primarily means creating an emotional distance, and then, perhaps, a physical distance as well.

Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati

Excerpts from Satsanga with Swami Viditatmanada, Vol: 1

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What is God? Where is God? If he is in heaven, where was God before God created heaven? A vedantic View.


“Dad, tell me, who made all this?” asks a seven year old.

Dad can only say what he himself was told when he was young and never questioned afterwards. He was told that God made all this, and nobody questions that further. His granddad also confirmed what his father said. But the boy is not satisfied. He persists with questions:

“Where is that God? Have you seen him?”

The father says, “I have not seen him; I hope to see him. He is in heaven.”

“Dad, who created heaven?”

“God created heaven.”

“Where was God before God created heaven?”

And the child has to come up with the only answer possible: hell. God in hell created heaven. Hell was so hot, he couldn’t really sit there. To air condition all of hell is a hell of a job, and therefore, God went to heaven and kept hell for certain people. Still the questioning continues:

“Who created hell?”

Now dad has to say that God created hell.

“Where was God before he created this hell?”

The only answer Dad has left is: “Shut up. You ask too many questions.”

But that nascent, growing mind, with a freshness of its own, cannot easily give up the questioning. For a long time the child persists before giving up. Then he shuts his mouth and mind about that fundamental topic, that inevitable question. Later, he may conclude that God cannot be known, saying, “I am an agnostic. I don’t say God is; I don’t say that God is not.” He relegates the topic to the background, behind more important questions like how much he has on his credit card. When it comes to whether God exists, his mind is wide open and can go in any direction, like a freeway. But at least he doesn’t just say, “I know where God is—he is in heaven.” That person has stopped thinking and just believes what he was told. The question, however, is never given up. We are a rational person because viveka, discrimination, is our basic endowment. And it is arguably our greatest endowment. It makes the difference between a questioning person and a non-questioning person.

Unless this question is answered, you will feel insecure and uncertain about yourself. Everyone is born helpless, and to compensate, everyone is born with a capacity to trust totally. Whichever pair of hands picked the baby up—that pair of hands was trusted totally by the child, thank God. A baby does not have distrust or mistrust—it has total trust. It has to, because it is helpless. If you are helpless, you have to seek help. That is intelligent living. And when somebody offers help, you need to be able to trust that person. If somebody offers help but you don’t trust him at all, then what would be the result? A baby is born helpless and therefore, it needs to trust. It trusts totally, but slowly it loses the trust. That is because for the growing child, dad and mom are infallible, almighty—until there is a cockroach. Then the child runs to mother, thinking mother is infallible and that she will take care of it. In fact, only after running to mother would the child even look at the insect. When the child is with its with mother, there is no problem—it looks at the roach. That means the child trusts mother. Then the mother calls dad. “Don’t worry, I’ll call Dad.” This is how the erosion of trust begins. So, mom is fallible. But then, dad must be infallible. And dad—a big guy, comes and says, “Oh, that’s only a cockroach—don’t worry.” He phones the fire department! I am just given an exaggerated example. But this is how the child loses trust. You lose trust, and afterwards, all your life, you are searching for the infallible.

In fact, your whole life is a search for the infallible, and unless you discover the infallible, you are insecure. But the concepts of God, that we hear about from various religious pulpits are only fallible; they exhibit traits which even humans are exhorted to overcome. I have been told that I cannot afford to be judgmental. But God himself is presented as judgmental. On judgment day, he will judge you. When we present this God as judgmental, where is the infallibility? How a person can be judgmental and still be infallible? And what is the basis of his judgment?

These concepts of God that are floating around are really damaging to a human being’s psychological well being. God is presented as all good things, and all the opposite qualities are said to belong to the devil, Satan. Thus you have a vertical division right in your psyche. The person, the personality, is divided. And due to that split, you feel you can’t afford to have jealousy because if you feel jealous, then the devil has entered into you. But still, you do have jealousy due to some psychological reasons—perhaps due to circumstances when you were growing up. When somebody gets something that you don’t, then you feel jealous. You may say, “I am not.” Then what are you? “I only feed sad.” Why do you feel sad? “Because I don’t get what others get.” What does that mean? All right, you feel sad—do you enjoy the other person’s happiness, at least? “No, I can’t enjoy the other person being happy. I get angry.” That is called jealousy—the affliction arising on seeing another’s excellence is jealousy. This sorrow, that occurs when you see another person being happy is defined as jealousy. At least, you think he is happy. In your jealousy, you cannot but think he is happy, yet that may not be true. If you were to ask that person, he might tell you otherwise. We can get rid of that jealousy, but not by bracketing jealousy as Satan’s doing. Satan is not sitting somewhere, pushing jealousy into your head, deciding, “Let this fellow have jealousy today. Let him have some hatred today.” There is no such vertical division. If there were a Satan, even he could not be separate from God. By definition, such a Satan could not exist.

The Vedic vision of God is a whole vision, without such a split. And although it is a fact, not simply an option that one may choose, there is a necessity to qualify it as ‘Vedic’, for the unfortunate reason that there are dualistic versions of God. And the truth is that there cannot be many versions of God. Like the fact that one plus one equals two, the truth about the nature of God is not open for accommodation. You cannot choose to have one plus one equal three. That is not a cultural option. It is not like choosing a style of music. For instance, both Indian music and Western music have their own beauty. One is not greater than the other, and if you think that one is greater than the other, it just means that you don’t understand the other. Things are different and we have to take them as they are; we try to understand them. When that is the case, each style is valid. Music is open to your choice, but the sum of one plus one is not. It is two. You can’t say, “In my country, one plus one equals three”, or “In my culture, one plus one is four.”

So, too, there is no such option about the truth of God. If God is a reality, then definitely I have to discover that. The Veda tells me, “All this, whatever moves in the world, is to be [understood as] pervaded by Ishvara,” “All that is here is Ishvara” is the opening sentence of the Ishavasyam Upnishad,.

All that is here is Isvara. Therefore, look at it as such.” For your own sanity, look at all that is here as Iswara. There is nothing other than Isvara. Look at that. The Veda is not saying that there is one God; it says there is only God. If you do not see that, you have to prove that it is not true. It is not a matter of belief.

When I look at this given body/mind/sense complex, I definitely find that what I thought was hardware is nothing but software. This is an amazing thing. When I go to the level of quantum physics, I understand that there is only software—the whole thing is knowledge. When I examine the cell, it just opens up new areas for me to know. This cell is governed by the laws of biology—in fact, the cell is biology, and as such, it has properties in common with all other cells. For instance, there is not a separate, isolated pack of cells for Swami Dayananda. And it is not that the swami’s cells are different, holy cells while the cells of people who are not swamis are unholy cells. There is no such difference. The cells are the same. There is nothing special or holy about the cells that make up Swami Dayananda. All cells are governed by the same biological laws. There is no such thing as holy as opposed to unholy. In fact, either everything is holy, or there is no such thing as holy.

Not only is there a commonality, but all the structures I see are intelligently arranged. If I just look at the physical body, I see it consists of parts that are put together intelligently. If I look at a plant or this tent in which we are all sitting, I find they are intelligently put together. If the tent were unintelligently put together, it would collapse. Similarly, a car is a car because its parts are intelligently put together. So, too, my physical body is intelligently put together. No one can simply create a pair of eyes if mine need replacement. While organs cannot be created, some, such as the kidneys, can be replaced through transplantation. Transplantation is a possibility in the scheme of things. This is all intelligently put together, with the possibility of transplantation. Where something is intelligently put together, we don’t take it for granted. Even though you don’t see the person who has the intelligence which put it all together, you cannot but recognize that there is such a being. For instance, suppose you ask me, “Who put this tent together?” and I tell you, “Oh, yesterday, it just sprang up. We thought it would be nice to have a tent, so we thought of a tent and it sprang up.” Perhaps some people may believe that, because anything can pass as truth in this world. However, in this campus, at Arsha Vidya Gurukulum, we don’t let it pass. We question. In studying Arsha Vidya—the knowledge of the Rishis, or seers, we learn to question in order to see the essential truth.

Since we see that the universe, including my body/mind/sense complex, is intelligently arranged, we cannot but appreciate that there is an intelligent being, regardless of whether we think he is here, there, or elsewhere. The physical body is a marvel. It is not meant to give you complexes. It is meant to serve you, but it has become a locus of complexes. That I am black; that I am not blond, may give rise to complexes in certain cultures. Or that I am blonde may be a problem in other cultures. People do have complexes, all because of ignorance. There is a self-judgment because of a certain basic ignorance, which implies the ignorance of God, as well. In fact, the basic ignorance is ignorance of God. This physical body, with the mind and senses organs, with all its faculties, is a marvelous piece of creation. ‘Creation’ only means that it is intelligently put together. It does not mean that God dropped it down from somewhere else. The fact that it is intelligently arranged implies an intelligent being, a conscious being. That conscious being must have the knowledge of what is going to be created because creation presupposes knowledge. Knowledge has to rest in a conscious being. When we talk about the total creation, then that conscious being must have the knowledge of all; he must be, all knowing, the one who knows everything (in detail) is omniscient. The Veda tells us that God is all-knowing in terms of all details.

Then we may ask where God found the material to make this world. He could not have borrowed from anybody, because there was nobody else to borrow it from—everybody had yet to be created. He has to find the material only in himself. Therefore, in keeping with the nature of the reality of the world, there must be a material cause. We call that material cause prakÎti, and it is not separate from the being, purusha. The Lord has to have that power. As to the question of where God abides, there is no ‘where’ for God. The question of ‘where’ doesn’t come into the picture, because space and time have not yet been created. The fact that the Lord is the one who is the maker as well as the material cause opens up a new vision for me. Anything created from a material is not going to be independent of that material, like the shirt that you wear. If your shirt is made of cotton fabric, you cannot remove the cotton fabric and still be wearing a shirt. Your clothes are made of the fabric. If you remove the fabric, where are the clothes? Only emperor’s clothes may be there. The shirt is fabric, and there is no shirt apart from fabric, much less is there fabric without yarn. There is no yarn without fibers, and there are no fibers without molecules, nor are there molecules without atoms. You can go on and on, but anything created is not separate from the material of which it is made. In the model that is presented by the Veda, the five elements: akasa, space, which includes time; vayu, air; agni, fire; apah, water; and prtivi, earth, subtle and gross, manifested from Isvara and constitute this universe. And this universe includes your body/mind/sense complex. The first of these elements, which manifested from Isvara, the cause, is space. “From that [Brahman] which is this self arose the space, That’s why space is worshipped. Time, kala, is also worshipped in India. Thus, all the five elements, which include space and time, are the universe, and the universe is not other than the Lord.

The Veda does not say there is one God. It says there is only God.

Swami Dayananda Saraswati

Excepts from  Arsha Vidya Gurukulam 15th Anniversary Souvenir, 2001

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