Q: Swamiji advocates selfless service but we, as human beings, are self-obsessed. How can one overcome selfishness and become selfless?
A: A human being does not come to earth to live for hundreds of years. He may live for possibly 80, 90 or 100 years. What wealth does he have? His true wealth is his body. The body is the most precious wealth you possess, not the wealth of money, land or property and so on. You need to ask yourself-did you become selfish because of love for your body? How did you become selfish? Why should you be a selfish person? Why should selfish thoughts arise in the mind? The reason is because of the attachment you have for worldly things. Most people are interested in running after worldly things and getting entangled in mundane matters.
There is a great power and intelligence beyond us that activates all. First, you have to accept this. This power is what I refer to as Divinity. Divinity lives within all beings. Genuine service that you do for Divinity should be selfless service. If you are to do selfless service you have to forget your individuality and not act on the basis of “I” or the ego. What belongs to you in this world? What is “I”? What is mine? Is your wife or husband yours? Are the children yours? Is your house yours? What is there, that can truly be called “yours”. Even your body is not yours. Selfishness comes because you attach your mind to the house, to your wife, your husband, to your children and many other things in the world. Because there is a strong attachment and liking to all these things, the feeling of selfishness creeps into you. That selfish attitude develops in you and becomes stronger as you cling to the material world.
The time will come when you realize that nothing really belongs to you. Everything is the creation of the Divine. When this time comes, you can do true selfless service. How can you reach this state of mind? You need to change yourself. Instead of thinking that things are yours, change your way of thinking. Regard everything as belonging to the divine. Many people say, “Oh, it is his will, let his will be done” but, in fact, they do not understand what they are talking about.
In order to discover what really is his will and to realize that everything belongs to Divinity you need to start the practice of self-enquiry. I have often told you what questions you need to ask yourself in this practice. To remind you, they are “Who am I? Why was I born? What is the true purpose of my life? How long shall I live in this world? What shall I do in this world? What did I come to do in this world?” To this list, you may now add, “What is selfishness?”
Really, what have you come to do in this world? If you ask your parents, they might reply that they were blessed with children, they brought up the children, they educated them and they got married and now their responsibility is over. Do you think that only this is the sole joy of life? That is selfish joy. It is tradition. It is what has been done by human beings since time immemorial. That is not a spiritual practice. The worldly life is an attached life but the spiritual life is a detached life.
Think, how are you going to do a spiritual service? Are you only going to give service to your own children? Yes, of course, by all means do it. You can make them into what you want – lawyers, doctors, engineers. That is service, but selfish service. There are many other children too. There are hundreds of children in this ashram. They are also being educated and they will be trained for some profession and they will have a good life in the future. However, even though I am taking care of their lives, I cannot say that they are my children. They are not my children. I was not there when these children were born but still I do my duty to them. I do not expect anything from them in return. There is nothing that I expect they should do in return to me. I can live alone by myself, but at the same time I can organize the care of hundreds of children. Why is this? It is because there is attachment in your heart but there is none in mine. You think that you must bring up your children in luxury and provide them with so many facilities. You and they must have a certain status and way of life. You think of your family background, your pride and your reputation. I think of our ashram children as God’s children and I would like to give them a good life. Yet, I do not think of all that you think of concerning bringing up your children.
Do good service to others in any way you can but do not expect any rewards or personal satisfaction. If you carry out your service without wanting anything for yourself that is selfless service. Do your service joyfully. Do as much as you can with effort and sincerity. Do your duty and keep your mind free and happy.
I had Sri Premananda Ashram built and then suddenly I had to leave it. I did not feel sorry that I had to leave it and all its contents and go away. I made all the buildings and organized the Ashram for the sake of others. I have done my duty that is all. This is my selfless service to this country and I am happy that I did it. All is Divine Mother’s work. She gives and she takes. It all belongs to her. Let us do selfless service in her name and be happy.
Q: You say that celibacy is best for the spiritual path, but you have many married devotees. Do you expect them not to have sex?
A: Desire of the body for sex is temporary and is satisfied in 5 or 10 minutes. I am in a difficult position to say these things when so many of my devotees are married. There are also many young people who want to marry who take notice of my advice. Sex is normal and natural for married people. I will never say that they should not do that. But I must say the truth that the highest life is that of brahmacharya, perfect self-control in body and mind. Indeed, it is a path fraught with difficulty but it is the true way to the highest spirituality.
In order to achieve self-control one must persevere with a strong will, patience and determination. The fruits are indeed great – permanent wisdom, divine bliss and immortal, endless happiness. The ultimate pleasure of sex is over in a few seconds. Logically speaking, where is the comparison? You must decide for yourself if you want to practise celibacy of body and mind. It is a very serious step in the life of a spiritual aspirant. You should never upset or spoil the life of your marriage partner because of your decision. You have a duty to your partner. You decide. I will certainly never force you to be celibate.
Q: If I get upset or angry, how can I control my mind?
A: Think of Swamiji and laugh! If you laugh you never get angry. Take it easy. Don’t get tense. If you get small problems your face will immediately change. You upset yourself thinking, thinking, thinking. Your annoyance shows in your face but I am telling you to laugh!
If you want to develop spiritually you need to control your mind, especially to stop new thoughts arising in your mind. The mind and emotions always create new thoughts and ideas. The mind is continuously involved with thoughts about the past or the future. Don’t allow these thoughts to grow. How to stop them growing? It’s easy. Seeds only grow if you plant them in good soil and water them daily. They won’t grow in the hot desert without water and so you have to make yourself hot in order to stop your thoughts growing! You can only do this by awakening the spiritual power in your body known as kundalini. You can awaken the kundalini force only through meditation. While rising from the place in the body known as Muladhara Chakra, the kundalini force creates heat. If this force rises to the heart chakra, new thoughts will be burned and they cannot grow any longer. Therefore, meditation is very important. Through meditation, all the unwanted qualities I talk about (ego, jealousy, selfishness, anger and so) will automatically vanish.
The only way to develop to the highest level of spirituality is to stop creating thoughts and not to allow thoughts to grow. This is the only way to reach anandam, the highest joy. Look at me – I am always laughing. This is because of anandam. Look at the world! All is material. All is false. There is no truth there. There is no truth outside you. There is only maya, illusion. If you honestly and deeply consider what I am saying, you will surely conclude that it is logically true. Because you are involved in this maya you get angry. For instance, you might want a cup of tea and if you do not get it immediately you get angry. You may want to meditate and if someone makes a noise you get angry. You want to control others but not yourself! That is why you are getting angry.
Feeling and showing anger means that you are not mature. If someone asks a mad question to me, I never get angry. I patiently answer them and try to explain to them. If you really want to, it is easy to control your anger. Listen to satsang, meditate, attend abishekams, and develop your devotion. Automatically your anger will reduce.
Q: Why do we all think that health, material success and being with our loved ones are most important for us to feel happy?
A: The question is: Why are we so enamoured with material and mundane success? When a child is born it is usually the outcome of lust in the parents. Therefore it was desire that brought you forth in to this world. If there were no desire then you and I would not be here. Desire ends up in marriage. Desire brings forth children. The foundation is desire. If the foundation is desire then the building is also going to be desire and it will be based on desire. There will be desires for various things – for sex, for alcohol, for material success and so on. You put soap on your body and wash yourself everyday but at some stage over the day when you look at your body you will notice that it is dirty again. Normally when you get up you brush your teeth but sometime later you will notice that the stench is there! You have to understand how to feel contented and be happy with what you have. There are people who have come to see me on my birthday so I was thinking about what I should do for them. I must give them whatever they need and I must give them as much as possible. People are never satisfied with what they have. I must make them feel happy. That is why as soon as I came I said, “Have your lunch”, so that you will be happy and feel contented because food is the only thing with which you can feel contented. That is because the bodily machine cannot take any more than a particular amount. That is why I give you food because when you eat that is the only time that you feel contented and you say, “Enough!” We don’t have that state of mind where we feel contented with what we have. Until you reach that stage of contentment in your heart the cycle of desire and wanting more and more will go on in your life.
Q: I find it difficult to stay in one place or with one spiritual master. If I go to see many masters is this not good for me?
A: This is one of the eternal questions on the spiritual path. So I will repeat my favourite answer because it is a most important point to keep in mind. Initially, it is good to see other Ashrams and masters and observe these places and people. Experience their great blessings and see if their teachings are suitable for you. But after some time you must settle down in one place and with one master in order to grow.
By staying in one place (or practising with one master) you will reach a very high level. This is entirely in your hands.
These few answers are short but they contain a lot of material for you to practise. The key is to practise. In practising you will face the practical problems of spirituality and it is your experience in overcoming obstacles that makes you strong. I always tell you about patience and love. When you have any problems it is always good to remember these high qualities of mind. They will see you through all kinds of difficulties. Then, of course, you need to have faith. Through faith in your master and the Divine you can do anything in this world.
You have divinity inside you but you do not know it. Feel God inside! Then everything will be yours. But first you must truly feel, know and realize that God is inside.
I bless you all that you will realize that everything is within you.