QUESTION 1: Sri Aurobindo has said in his book Mother that one must be in “living communion” with the Divine. And you have said: Find out your soul, open yourself to the Divine and then the Divine will work in you. You have also said that it is not that easy to open yourself to the Divine or to find your soul — but only if you find your soul will you be in touch with Divine. Now I feel that this is true. But then how to attain that living communion with the Divine which Sri Aurobindo is talking about. Can you guide us?
You see, there are various ways to this goal. Much depends on your swabhava, your nature. That is why the Indian spiritual tradition does not insist on any one particular way, nor does it shut out any possible avenue that leads to God. In the choice of your way to God, your nature is the best guide — your nature at its highest and widest and not at its lowest and narrowest. Now either you find it yourself or you leave it to a Guru to show it to you. Sri Aurobindo has laid down the general principles of yoga; your success will depend on finding the right path for your nature and also on the intensity of your commitment to spiritual life.
For some people the heart may be the most dominant part of their nature. For such people the tapasya of the mind is not very important at the early stages, and they need not be overly concerned about the fact they are not well read and haven’t tried to understand the philosophical lore. But for other people the leading role is assumed by their mind. This is the way of Jnana yoga. There you begin with the query, “Who am I?” Then gradually, through long years of inquiry, you arrive at the realisation that you are basically the deathless immortal Self. But this is a path which only a few people can follow, because it needs a very powerful mental discipline and it is a path of hard tapasya. Then there is the Yoga of Works, in which the will assumes the dominant role.
According to the popular Indian tradition, the way of Bhakti is the easiest. In fact, it does look easy on the surface since it does not demand any hard austerities. But real Bhakti is not very easy. The Bhakta begins by saying, “O Lord, I am totally surrendered to you, I regard you as my all.” But in saying this, there is something he has not said but has in fact assumed, namely that God will look after all his personal and private projects. “God is almighty, and since I am surrendered to Him it is His responsibility to give me the success I desire in all my schemes and plans.” This is what most of us believe.
As the first step on the path of Bhakti, such an attitude is all right because you cannot rise to a lofty level of self-giving to the Divine at the very beginning. Now as you progress in life, you find that God is really kind; many times He grants you your desires. But after a while you find that this business relationship with God does not take you very far. You are not making much progress spiritually. You see that your faith in God has become deeper, your gratitude to God has become deeper, but your nature has not changed. This is because you are still pursuing things which do not bring you deep inner peace, unchanging happiness and lasting satisfaction. So a time comes when you pray to God and say, “O God, give me the real spiritual attitude, give me viveka and vairagya, discrimination and detachment.” Then, in regard to worldly matters, you are willing to accept whatever God thinks fit to give you. That is the second stage.
So as you advance, gradually a third stage comes when you say to God, “O Lord, I want to belong to You wholly, I wish to consecrate to You all that I am. I do not even know what is good for me. You decide what is good for me and let that happen. I am ready to accept happily whatever You grant me, whether it is victory or failure, happiness or sorrow, life or death. All that comes to me from You is the gift of Your Grace.” From then on, your mind is not thinking any more of your projects as your personal projects. You have handed over to God all you have and all you are. Whatever work God chooses for you, you are happy to execute it for whatever result He intends. The energy to do this work is given to you by Him. You begin to realise more and more that everything here is done by God and that you are only a manifesting centre of the Divine. This is how you achieve a living communion with God. Most of us wish to please God so that He will be available to our ego as an efficient assistant. But as long as you are doing that, you will be in living communion not with God but with your ego.
So these are the various stages. Bhakti is not really a path on which you can take it easy. On this path you need the same inner consecration to your spiritual ideal as you do on other paths. Surrender may seem to be an easy path to follow. Surrender is the beginning of the path, true, but it is also the culminating movement of the sadhana. Please remember that in the Gita the famous verse, “Sarvadharman paritajya mam ekam saranam vraja” (Abandon all dharmas and take refuge in Me alone), comes in Chapter 18, the final chapter of the Gita, and there it occurs almost at the end of the chapter. This suggests that surrender is the beginning, surrender is the sadhana, and surrender also is the Siddhi.
To establish communion with God, we have to untangle the tentacles of the ego which are spread everywhere in our being. It is true that the ego was very necessary during the early stages of our evolution. That is why God has made it so deep-rooted in us and that is why, no matter what you do, without an intense personal effort which calls forth God’s Grace, you cannot get rid of it. This removal of the ego is in one sense the aim of all the yogas. They all try to lift you beyond the ignorance which, through the agency of the ego, has alienated you from your own deepest being, from your fellow beings and from God.
The Mother has spoken of another way, the way of the psychic, the soul in us. There is in you the psychic, a projection of your Jivatman, which is the individual Self or Atman. The Jivatman is in fact a power of the Supreme, and the Supreme as Consciousness-Power is another name for the Divine Mother. Thus the psychic in us is the representative of the Divine Mother. Your psychic is the one thing that travels with you as you travel from one life to the next. That is the eternal being in you. The Mother has said: Try to bring the psychic to the front and hand over the control of your life to this representative of mine in you. The psychic in us is trying to reach out to us, but our attention is focussed elsewhere. Our ears are filled with so much outer noise, the noise made by our desires and cravings, that we are not able to hear the quiet voice of our own psychic. When you are watching television in the drawing room, can you hear a child crying in the bedroom? No, there is too much noise. So the sadhana we need to do is to make sure that our ears are not too distracted by outer noise so that we have some time to listen to what our soul is saying to us. Once we begin to receive its voice, it will slowly and surely guide us on the right path.
How do you become aware of your psychic? How do you bring it to the front? When desire is rejected and does not govern your thought any longer, when you aspire steadily and constantly for the Divine alone, the psychic begins to come to the front. Also, whatever you do out of genuine love will help to lift the veil hiding the psychic. Another important thing is the poise of the consciousness behind all your thoughts, feelings and actions. The same act can be done from different poises. Cutting someone’s body, for example, can be done by a surgeon or by an assassin. The act is the same; the attitude behind it is not. So it is the attitude that is important. Take the example of someone like you who is a great giver. The right attitude is this: let not the left hand know what the right hand is doing. Your right hand is giving, but let not the left hand know it. Give, but do not “know” it, do not take credit for it. All wealth belongs to the Lord, He has given you some of it. Now you are giving it to someone else or to an institution as guided by the Lord. So where do you come in? The Lord has given it to you; you are the giver as an instrument of the Lord; the receiver of your gift is also the Lord.
There is an anecdote connected with the Muslim saint Rahim, a contemporary of Tulsidas. It seems that every day Rahim would sit outside his house with a big sack of rice and give away handfuls of rice to whoever came for it. But then people noticed that when he gave away the rice, he would never look at the receiver’s face, but only at his feet, and that too with great reverence! Someone mentioned this to Tulsidas, so he too got curious about the unusual behaviour of this great giver and sent him a doha, a little poem, asking him why he was acting this way? In reply, Rahim sent another little doha in which he said, “I know that the rice I am giving away comes from the Lord who remains invisible to me, but I also know that the person who comes to receive it from me is also the Lord. I then am able to see Him in the receiver and so I look only at his feet.”
God has put you in a position which enables you to give and you have been doing that wonderfully well for several years now. But make sure that each time you give something, you do so in the spirit in which the great saint Rahim gave handfuls of rice. If you can do that, you will find that this giving will not create any disturbance in you. It will give you detachment, it will give you real peace and joy within. Don’t calculate, don’t let the ego play its monkey tricks; leave the whole thing to the Lord. You will then realise that the Lord Himself comes and receives things from you.
I have given you this example of selfless giving because you are in that line; you have been a great giver. But basically no matter what your profession in life, what counts is whether you are able to cultivate detachment from your ego. And this can be done through various ways; one of the best ways is through love — love of truth, love of beauty, love of goodness, love of men and God. All acts motivated by love help in lifting the veil cast by the ego over your psychic being. Anything done in opposition to this spirit of love, anything based on selfishness, desire, vanity, jealousy, hostility, falsehood, increases the distance between you and your psychic being.
Now to determine each time whether what we have done has been selfish or selfless is not easy. That is why the Mother has said that sincerity is the highest spiritual virtue, not only sincerity to other people but sincerity to oneself as well. Spend some time each day reviewing what you have done during that day; see whether you have been sincere. There are the hazards created by the ego in everybody’s life; you have to recognise them. For example, I give speeches and I must examine myself to see whether giving these talks helps me spiritually or merely tightens the grip of the ego over me. I should be saying to myself, “O Lord, you have given this opportunity to me. Let me be concerned about how sincere I was in delivering Your message as effectively as I could. Let me not bother about what people think of my performance as a speaker.”
Do not bother about what the world thinks of you. I have never come across any person about whom the world always has good words. Today someone may have good words for you, but tomorrow this may change. What should matter to you, really, is what the Divine thinks of you. The Mother used to say: Why are you worried about X’s opinion and Y’s opinion? What is the value of their opinion? Instead ask yourself each time: “If I do it this way, what will the Lord think of me?” This is important because you are now interested in forging as close a link as possible with the Lord. The link with the world outside should have no value to you except as a way of strengthening your link with the Lord.
Allow nothing to distract you from your single-minded consecration to the Divine. Somewhere Sri Aurobindo has said that the secret of success in yoga is to regard it not as one of the aims to be pursued in life but as the only aim worth pursuing. You will be able to establish a living communion with God only when you belong entirely, in all the parts of your being, to the Divine. God is not interested in your money, your talent or your ability to put in hard work. He wants your consciousness to be open to Him alone so that He can work through you in the world.
These comments of Dr. Mangesh Nadkarni were made on 7 March 2001 in conversation with two Bombay businessmen, who asked three questions on how to attain a living communion with the Divine. Dr. Nadkarni has edited the transcript of his tape-recorded remarks for publication.