SRIMAT SWAMI SUBODHANANDA' S LECTURE AT CHENNAI
Swami Subodhananda, our beloved "Khoka Maharaj", escaped the task of giving lecture in the year 1897 at Alambazar Math, thanks to the earthquake of 1897 that saved him. When the monastery was at Alambazar, Swamiji wanted to train the young monks in the task of public lecturing. Khoka Maharaj tried his level best to avoid it, when his turn had come up. But Swamiji was very particular in his giving the talk. Khoka Maharaj had to yield to the pressure. No sooner had he got up than the earth trembled and he got relief. "Khoka's was a 'world-shaking speech', Swamiji said, and others enjoyed the event.
Swamiji's words became true. In the very same year, Swami Subodhanandaji Maharaj visited Chennai and delivered a very impressive talk at the "Young Men's Hindu Association", Madras.
The text of that lecture is reproduced hereunder:
SANNYASA AND BRAHMACHARYA
Sannyasa is the renunciation of all selfish motives and desires. Before I explain what Sannyasa is, I should speak to you about Brahmacharya; for unless the latter is realised, no Sannyasa or renunciation is possible. The observance of Brahmacharya requires strict regulations of one's diet, habits and thoughts. Of all the injunctions prescribed for this stage, the greatest stress is laid by the shastras upon the complete mastery of the sexual instinct. Nothing should be sensed or acted by the aspirant which might directly or otherwise tend to arouse the animal in him or her. In this way one is directed to bring one's mind under full control. He who is not a slave to his senses and mind, but on the contrary has made them his slaves is a true Brahmacharin. All the Religions of the world preach this Brahmacharya and Sannyasa, both of which have one and the same end in view, viz. to lift the mind up from all sensual concerns towards God. When the mind reaches God it enjoys divine bliss.
This lifting up of the mind can be brought about either by worshipping God with form or without form. Those who are devoted to God with form know him as their nearest and dearest; they enjoy his company all the moments of their lives. They play with him, they live and move in him. Those who worship the formless God also enjoy him intensely, realising him as the all pervading one; and thus they also live and move in him. The enjoyments of both these devotees are same in their intensity, inasmuch as both are supersensuous.
Unless a man rises above the allurements of his senses he can never be a devotee. So a devotee's mind is far away from all worldly desires. He does not much care for his family, friends or relatives; no duties bind him to any one of them, for his mind entirely rests in and with God every moment of his life. And when he looks towards the world any time he does not see the world of men, but rather the world of gods, for all men, women, animals, houses, trees, sky and earth, all appear to him to be filled with divinity. Let me illustrate this by narrating to you the life of a saint, for the lives of such persons are the living and concrete examples of what I have just now said. The study of such lives are more beneficial to us than the knowledge of the abstract truths themselves; for the former clearly show to us the path which we should follow in the journey of our life.
Mahajani yena gatah sa pantha – What a great man traced out is the true path.
They, as Long fellow says, 'Leave foot prints on the sands of time,'
'Foot prints that perhaps another
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.'
When the great saint and prophet Sri Chaintanya of Nadia was travelling in Deccan he became the guest of a pious and wealthy Maharatta Brahman. This Brahman had an only child named Gopal Bhatta whom he loved very fondly. As he was a very pious man he spent most of his time in worshipping his Ishta and chanting the praises of God. He never turned out any guest from his doors and his chief pleasure lay in receiving Sadhus and Sannyasins as his guests, feeding them sumptuously, supplying them with clothes and hearing from them instructive lectures to edify himself. But his boy Gopal had a higher motive. He was not satisfied only to hear lectures from Sadhus or worship the image of God, he wanted to see the real God. With this end in view he always wanted to go to a solitary place and there devote his whole time in communion with his beloved. So when Sri Chaintanya was his father's guest the boy was struck with the intense devotion of the Prophet, whose eyes were like two streams flowing in tears of love. He wished to be like him, to live alone and travel from place to place as a Sanyasin or a Sadhu, supporting himself by begging alms. Sri Chaitanya too seeing the goodness, purity, simplicity and devotion of the boy was very much attracted to him, so much so, that he praised the child before his father saying," This your boy will be a great devotee hereafter." When Sri Chaintanya went away the boy's heart followed him; but he could not make out how to carry his desire into action, as his father's fondness towards him proved a great barrier. However, one day he told his father about his intention and the father fearing lest his child should leave him secretly and betake himself to a foreign land, kept a constant watch over him, without his knowledge. But where there is a will there is a way. One midnight when all were asleep , when even the guards that were especially employed to keep strict watch over him were in deep slumber, Gopal left his home and avoiding the highway took the forest path to evade detection. He had nothing with him besides the cloth which he had on. After travelling a whole day he was over powered with hunger and being still a boy began to weep and pray to his God. A little while after, he saw an old man coming towards him, who asked why he was weeping; upon which the boy said that he was hungry and the old man immediately gave him some food to eat, caressed him and told him that as his way also lay through the forest, he would be his fellow traveler and that the forest was a very big one and it would take them several days to cross it. The boy was very grateful at this and what was more, whenever he felt hungry he was sure to find some good food and sweet words from the old man. One day he asked the old man who he was and why was he taking so much care of him. The old man at once gave out that he was the very same individual whom he had been seeking after. At this the boy replied: "He whom I seek is not old like yourself but very young and beautiful with a flute in his hand and a peacock's feather on his head. How can I believe that you are He, my own dear beloved Sri Krishna? To his utter surprise and transport the old man was at once transformed into the most lovely youth in the world and stood smiling before him as Sri Krishna himself. Who can describe the ecstasy which Gopal was in at the time? After a while when his transport had abated a little, Sri Krishna pointed out to him a very easy way out of the jungle and vanished on the spot promising to meet him again in Sri Brindaban, filling the boy's mind with love and joy. It is needless to mention that a few months after Gopal reached Sri Brindaban and there spent his whole life in ecstatic communion with his beloved Sri Krishna. Now after studying the life of Gopal Bhatta we can clearly see that he became a man-god only because he had a strong faith and an insuperable determination in him. Simple faith and strong will are the two things necessary for the making of a true man. Our Master used to say that if we wanted to pass a thread through the eye of a needle all the scattered fibres of the thread should be brought to a point and then alone we could make it go through the needle, otherwise if the fibres were allowed to point to all directions they would prevent the thread from passing through the eye; similarly if we wanted to lift our mind up towards God, we must have to bring it back from all external things and concentrate it into one point. But how to concentrate the scattered mind? — The mind which has been distributed to wife and children, to the attainment of name and fame and to the pursuit of all sorts of sensual pleasures? This can be effected by faith in God or in one's own Guru.
Gopal Bhatta had a great faith in Sri Krishna and therefore it was easy for him to direct his love entirely to the most loving, kind, and beautiful shepherd boy of Sri Brindaban; even hunger and privation could not estrange his mind from the lotus feet of his beloved. But such a faith is not ordinarily met with. Therefore for the generality of man-kind faith in one's own Guru is necessary. If a man loves his Guru with his whole heart, obeys what the latter says, his mind being devoted to him, will naturally shun other attractions and thus get concentrated. This faith towards one's own Guru grows gradually in strength and so it is not advisable to lay it open to vulgar criticism when it is just sprouted; for so long as the plant had not grown up sufficiently it should be hedged in to be protected from being destroyed by the cattle. When there is a little quantity of water in a pool we should not disturb it violently for then it will get muddy and be unfit for drinking and we will have to return home more thirsty than before. This our Master taught us. Therefore it is my earnest prayer to you all never to allow any indiscriminate questioning of your faith from outside, nor should you yourselves lay it bare to vulgar criticism. Faith is one's own; no one has any right to call it into question. Every man in this world has some faith or other, which to others may appear false. Let me assure you that no sincere faith can be productive of anything but what is really good. Let me repeat therefore, do not let yours or any other's faith be made a butt of unsympathetic and disrespectful questions; for doubt is death. The proverb says that faith is very near to Sri Krishna. Scepticism is far away from him. Adorn your mind with the good quality of humility, for unless you be meek and humble you can learn nothing. Our Master says that as rain water does not stand upon a high ground but always seeks the lower level, similarly those who are puffed up with vanity cannot retain any faith in them; for faith always seeks the hearts of the humble and the meek. So long there must be quarrel between different individuals and sects as long as they do not rise up to realize the highest truth. When truth shines, the darkness of ignorance and its crew of narrowness, bigotry and fanaticism which deluge the earth with murder and bloodshed, shall all vanish. "My God is true God, your God is false," is the talk of men groping in the darkness of ignorance. Once, the late Mr. Keshebchandra Sen the leader of the Brahma Samaj asked our Master: "Sincere there is only one God how is that there are so many sects quarrelling with one another?" To which the Bhagwan replied: "You see, my dear boy, people always quarrel over their lands, properties and sundry other things of the world saying: this land is mine, and that is thine, and, in this way divide this earth in various ways by drawing lines of demarcation to distinguish their respective properties; but no one ever quarrels about the open space that is above the earth, for that belongs to none, as there can be drawn no lines on it to mark out one's property from that of another; similarly when the mind of a man rises above all worldly concerns he can have no occasion for quarrel, for then he reaches a certain point which is the common goal of all." When a man realises God he cannot quarrel, but when he is below the right mark, that is, when he is distant from God, is more or less given to quarrelling. Try to rise up to that height without quarrelling, although you may have many occasions for it and thus at last end all these disagreements by realising universal harmony and agreement which are only to be found in God, who is both within and without you. Let us hear what a great Bengali devotee of yore named Sri Ramaprasad had ever been singing sweetly to all people. This great devotee never sat down to compose his songs but when the feeling came he sang extempore most exquisitely beautiful songs redolent with the love celestial. These immortal songs are believed by many to have come from the Eternal Mother herself who sat enthroned in the bosom of her child Sri Ramaprasad and prompted him to sing. He sings: "Worship the mother, Oh my mind, in whatever way you like, never forgetting to remember the mantram which your spiritual father has given to you; know that you prostrate yourself before the holy Mother when you stretch yourself to rest; know yourself to be in deep meditation when you sleep; know that you offer oblation to the holy fire when you eat. Know that every sound you hear is the holy mantram of the mother for all the fifty letters of the alphabet are her different names. Sri Ramaprasad announces to all with great joy that the Mother Divine is in every being; and so, Oh my mind, when you walk in the streets know for certain that you are simply going round that Divine Mother." Here the song ends. Can such a man have any quarrel with any of his fellow brothers? Such a man is a true Sannyasin.
Once upon a time a dirty looking man entered the garden premises of the late Rani Rashmani at Dakshineswar, a village north of Calcutta. This spacious garden contains a very beautiful temple of Kali which covers a large area. The temple servants seeing the dirty and unclean man intruding into and polluting the temple-grounds gathered together to turn him out after giving him a good thrashing. But our Master, who lived in that garden, seeing the man, at once found him out to be a great Yogin, a real Sannyasin and so he told the men not to ill treat him. They obeyed him, but looking at the dirtiness of his exterior, they did not allow him to go into the temple. After a while, standing in front of the temple, the dirty Sadhu began to chant the praises of the Divine Mother so sweetly that he drew tears from the eyes of all those who a few minutes ago wanted to beat him. Then, seeing a dog eating some remnants of food that were cast away, he went up to the dog, caressed him and spoke to him thus: "Why friend are you eating all alone? Won't you share your dish with me"?—and began to eat with the dog. As he was going away from the garden a good man went up to him and asked him with joined palm—"Oh master, kindly instruct me in the mystery of true knowledge." To which the Sadhu replied: "My boy, when you will not find any difference between the holy water of the Ganges and the filthy water of a sewer, then alone shall you be able to comprehend what true knowledge is." A true sannyasin looks upon a saint and a sinner in the same light, for he finds the same God in both of them, only in different garbs. Such a one is called a perfect man. The characteristics of a perfect man are thus summed up by Bhagvan Sankaracharya :
Digamvari vapi ca samvaro va; tvagamvari vapi cidamvarastha
Unmatta vadvapi cavala vadwa pishaca vadwapi caratyavanyam
The perfect man has sometimes a cloth on and sometime none; sometimes he covers his nakedness with the bark of a tree, sometimes with the skin of an animal, sometimes he dresses himself purely with a garment of knowledge. He sometimes seems to be a mad man, sometimes a child. Sometimes a dirty being, even like a pisacha. Thus he walks abroad in the world at large, free as the morning air and fresh as the dew drop; and proclaims peace and joy to all.
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