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Chapter 2 / parts 6 - 10

Workshop on Spirituality - Part 1
6  Shema

   In the Bible, towards the end of Moses' life and when the people were finally ready to cease their wanderings in the desert and enter the promised land, Moses made a great proclamation which speaks of the oneness of all in God. It is called the Shema, which in Hebrew means listen. It has become the principal mantra of the Jewish people. Pious Jews will repeat it many times per day, have it written in a little scroll tacked on to their doorposts, and will finish their lives with it on their tongue at the last breath. But its importance extends far beyond the Jewish experience. It is the universal mantra of Christianity as well.

   In the Gospel of St. Mark Jesus is asked, "Rabbi, what is the most important commandment?" Jesus replied, "Shema Yisroel Adaunoi Elauhenu Adaunoi Echod." You will find it translated into Greek or into English or into German. But, of course, Jesus spoke in Hebrew when quoting the scripture. It means 'Listen, O people of Israel, God is One, (there is none other)'. It is the great unity teaching of the Bible. This is usually understood to mean that He is the only God. There are no other Gods. But to a mystic it means that all there is is God. There is nothing else. "La Illaha El Allahu" proclaimed by the prophet in Islam, has the same meaning. The first commandment of the Ten Commandments which says, 'You shall have no other God besides me', also has the same mystical meaning, namely, that here is nothing else but God; wherever you look there is only God. In the Bible we also have the mystical name of God, 'I am', which we have just spoken about.

   All these elements are there, but the great step that necessarily follows, is not clear. That step is laid out in the nondualistic teachings of Vedanta, the teaching which Swami was giving us in this interview, namely, that the God who is everywhere and in everything is also in you. No, even more than that. That he is you. You yourself are God. Look in the mirror, and if you look deep enough and with integral vision, you will see God. Because all there is is God, all there is is you. The body is merely a changeable dress covering the truth which is you.

   How to reach that realization? Jesus followed his statement of the unity of the divinity, which is the beginning of the Shema, with the devotional injunction, which is the last part of the Shema: "And you shall love God with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your strength." Then, when he was asked: "Rabbi, what is the second most important commandment?" he again quoted Moses, "Love your neighbor as yourself."

7  Path of Wisdom, Path of Devotion, Path of Action

   So, 'God is One, there is no other.' 'Love God with all your heart and mind.' 'Love your fellow man'. These are the three foundation stones of the Bible, both of the Old and the New Testaments. They are also the three principal paths of the Gita: the path of wisdom, the path of devotion and the path of action. What is service or good action if it is not loving your fellow man? What is loving God with all your heart and all your mind, but devotion? What is being established in the oneness of God, but wisdom?

   And now Swami with the authority of his direct knowledge, adds to this biblical revelation the great insight of Vedanta: "'Tat Tvam Asi - That Thou Art'. All this you are. You are the God of this universe. But in truth you are the absolute beyond. And now, you are ready to receive this highest teaching. Move up, move along. Set aside your limited understanding and make yourself ready to receive this gift I have to give you. You are not this limited being you think you are, but the totality, the infinite that you really are. Think it, live it, be it."

   Swami sometimes goes into villages and speaks to gatherings there. Frequently he will teach them the great truths of the supreme self. Mr. Kasturi once asked him: "Swamiji, why do you give them these high teachings which no one here can understand? Why don't you talk about the Ramayana, the Bhagavatam, or the divine sport of Krishna?" And Swami answered: "The seeds have to be sown. The ground is fertile. The stones and weeds have been removed. Through many difficulties the soil has been plowed. Now the seeds have to be put. I will give water, I wlll give manure, and in time, these seeds will come up."

   The very first thing that Krishna taught in the Gita was the knowledge of the immortal self. There was no way Arjuna, a warrior, could have understood. But Krishna sowed the seeds. And that is what Swami is doing for us, subtly but most powerfully - stripping away our false self and revealing the true self. The first step in this process is developing self-confidence, which, at the highest level, as Swami explained in this interview, is confidence in the one self. But there are preparatory steps whereby you develop faith in yourself by becoming aware of the constant nearness of God. Let us return to the interview.

   Swami was asked: "What is self-confidence?" He answered: "It is thinking all the time that God is in me, that God is doing everything. Without God I cannot be. All this is God. I only want to think of God. When you realize that God is not outside of you, then you gain self-confidence. When there is self-confidence, there will be love, there will be peace, there will be truth, there will be God. So first there must be self-confidence and love of God. But now, what are you thinking about? You are thinking about the body. But the body is just a water bubble. The body is a dress. It is only a dress."

8  Bodies are Instruments

   Devotee: "Swami says that everything is God. Isn't the body also God? If everything is God, then the body must also be God?" Swami answered: "If you only think of God, then for you there will be only God. But now you are thinking of the body, not of God. The body is an instrument, a temple, it is made up of matter and matter is always changing. The world also is always changing. But God is not changing. God is the one unchanging spirit."

   Devotee: "Is Swamiji's body also just an instrument?" You see, these were very good questions. It was almost as if every time a devotee opened his or her mouth, Swami was talking through the devotee, putting the question and answering the question. Now, one time I also happened to ask Swami that. One Christmas he called me inside and I was the only one with him there. I wanted to ask some questions about Jesus. I said: "Swamiji, I want to ask you about Jesus." And before I had a chance to ask the question, Swami said: "Jesus is the name of a body. Sai Baba is also the name of a body. And so is Rama the name of a body. Why are you interested in bodies? Bodies are born, bodies die. Be interested in Christ, not Jesus. Be interested in Sai, not this Sai Baba body. Be interested in the Rama principle. Inside, you are Rama, you are Sai. Think like that."

   This is the teaching that Swami is presenting to us. Now some of you will have some doubts about all this and we will have to discuss this. But I suggest that for now you set aside your questions and let this highest teaching of Swami's come in. Let him sow his seeds.

   Returning to the devotee's question: "Is Swamiji's body also just an instrument?" Swami answered: "Swami's body is like all bodies. All bodies are just instruments. All bodies are only temporary. They have birth. They have death. The indweller of the body is permanent. That is the immortal self, the supreme self. That is you. That is the real you. You are the immortal self, not this body."

   So, Swami's body is also an instrument. It is not an ordinary instrument. It is a very special, a very sacred instrument. It is an instrument that evokes our devotion. But the fact is that it will die. It is not the ultimate truth. That truth can only be realized when this body-consciousness drops away.

   One time at Christmas we had a very nice play depicting the unity of faiths, in which the children played the part of the founders of the different religions. As it turned out, I had taken charge of the preparations. It was a very special time. Swami came backstage every day while we were rehearsing. On Christmas Day, he was again backstage, watching the final dress rehearsal and making sure that the children had all their makeup on right. Then he turned to a few people who were there and asked each in turn: "Are you the director of this play?"
Each one duly answered: "No, Swamiji." Then he turned to me and said: "Are you the director of this play?" And I said, "No, Swamiji, you are the director of this play. I am only the assistant." And Swami said: "The director needs no assistant! You can call yourself an instrument." So, as long as we still think of ourselves as these individuals, then we will best progress on the spiritual path when we see ourselves as mere instruments in the hands of the divinity. We are not the ones who are doing; the divinity alone is doing everything.

9  The Immortal Self

   But being an instrument in the hands of the divine is just an intermediate stage. In truth, we are the immortal self. Swami tells us to think: 'I am the immortal self. All there is, is the supreme self.' That is the perennial wisdom, the ancient teaching. That is the mystical understanding. That is non-dualism. That is why we come to India. This is what we won't find any place else. It is the truth, and it is what we are ready for, because Swami is teaching this to us.

   Devotee: "Swamiji, how to rise up to that highest level? How to become perfect?"
Swami: "Through love, only through love. Develop divine love, develop prema. Divine love is completely selfless. Human love is mostly selfishness. All the time it thinks only of this little 'i'. This little 'i' is the ego. Ego is a very bad quality. Ego sees everything as separate. It sees everything as dual. You must remove this ego and see only the unity. Where there is duality, divinity will not be present. Think only of the basis of everything. But now for you there is only desire, desire, desire: 'I want this! I want that!' These desires are all just passing clouds. They come and they go. One moment they give pleasure and the next moment they give pain. They cannot give permanent joy. They make up the mind; the mind is nothing but a bundle of desires. Every thought in the mind comes from a desire.

"Don't follow the mind. Don't follow these passing clouds. Desire comes, desire goes. But morality comes and grows. Morality is very important. Follow morality; practice it."

10  Morality and Immortality

   So this is very important. Let's make sure we understand. What Swami is elaborating on here, is his oft-quoted dictum: 'The only way to immortality is the removal of immorality.' Every religion says something like that, but in no place do you find it stated so clearly, that this is the only way to attain immortality. Swami teaches virtues. Without virtue there is nothing. You can know all these teachings, you can be the highest scholar, the greatest philosopher, the pundit of all pundits, but it is totally meaningless if you don't put the teachings into practice.

   Ravana, the worst of the demons, the very embodiment of the evil that has polluted the earth, was also the greatest of all scholars. He knew the Vedas like no one ever knew the Vedas, but he had desire, he had greed, he had lust in his heart, he had arrogance and ego. And all his high knowledge did him no good. So these bad qualities must be removed before anything sacred can take place.

   In this materialistic age no one is pure, none of us have true purity. Everyone is fighting an inner battle. That is the Mahabharatha; that is the inner meaning of that great genocidal war that wiped out the cream of Indian manhood. It is a war to uproot the entrenched tendencies which drag us outwards into the illusion of world. When victory is achieved in this war then truth, which is goodness, which is love, which is beauty, which is virtue, which is joy and bliss, will shine forth.

   This war is deeper than the mind. The mind cannot reach in there. If it is deeper than mind then how do we fight this war? We cannot do it on our own. The charioteer has to come. Krishna has to guide the chariot. How will he come? He just told us. He is the voice of conscience. We must cultivate that inner voice and listen to it. Once you have self-confidence it will be there, guiding and directing.

   As you think, so it will be. Swami says: 'Dust if you think, dust you are. God if you think, God you are.' It is wherever you put your faith. That faith must be one-hundred percent. Not seventy percent or ninety percent. It must be total - a blind faith. Swami says that true faith is blind. What does blind faith mean? It means: You set aside all your experiences and conclusion based on the mind, and you follow the teachings, you follow the inner voice, the voice of the master. Arjuna said to Krishna, "Your words are my truth, Lord!"

   First step, Swami says, is to follow the master, follow the conscience, the inner voice. If you are not ready to do that, then, Swami says, come and examine, dig deep, find out if the master has come. When you know that he is here, then follow him. Do what he says. Surrender, one-hundred percent. No shares. No sharing with worldly interests. Do everything exactly as the inner guide tells you and you will reach the goal. Krishna will direct your chariot to victory. But along the way there may be many ups and downs. In the Mahabharatha there were eighteen days of fighting and much suffering, until the final victory was achieved.

   What is the way to immortality? It is the removal of immorality. Immoralilty refers to anger, ego, jealousy, lust, hatred, greed. Wherever we look these negative qualities will be there. In every newspaper we pick up, that is all we will see. We have no trouble seeing all these negative qualities in the outside world. But they are projections or reflections of the very same qualities inside, in our inner world, buried deep in the subconscious. Now, we must expose these negative qualities inside us to the light of day and remove them. That is the inner war. To remove immorality we must follow the conscience. It is the voice of immortality.

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