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Chapter 3 / parts 1 -6

Workshop on Spirituality - Part 2
1   The Shemaa Mantra

   Let us sing the great mantra of the Bible. Unfortunately, most of you who have been raised in the Christian faith will not be familiar with it; but you might like to learn it. It's very beautiful and it's very powerful. It can be likened to one of the great Vedic sayings that leads to the realization of the truth:

Shemaa Yisroel Adaunoi Elohenu Adaunoi Echod

2  Creation and Five Elements

   If you don't know the shemaa, you can't be blamed for wanting to write it down and follow it from the paper. But, a mantra should not be read. It should properly be heard and not seen. You see, in the cosmic order of things as given by Swami, first came the vibration or sound. And out of that sound came the ether, or space and time. Then out of the ether came touch, and out of the touch came the air. Air has the qualities of both sound and touch. Then came form. And out of form came fire. Fire has the three qualitites of sound, touch and form. Out of the fire came the taste. And out of the taste came the water. Finally, out of the water came smell. And out of smell came the densest of the elements, earth, which has all the five qualities. You see, it is always the subtle that comes first and then the gross. And you also see how the senses of perception are related to the five elements. They are the subtle aspects of the five elements. When Swami speaks of the five elements, he refers to both the gross elements and the subtle or fine aspects of the elements.

   Why is this important? Why should we know this? Because Swami makes a big point of the fact that in this universe all you will ever find are the five elements. And when he speaks of the five elements, it includes these subtle five elements that are perceived, as well as the gross elements. The subtle is what is actually sensed by the sensory system, so we are speaking of something that is an experience, something that is subjective. The whole of Vedanta ultimately is something that is subjective, not objective.

   Now, back to the statement that mantras should be heard. When they are done correctly they are of the essence of pure vibration, the finest of the fine. Hence, they have incredible potency. The subtle is always more powerful than the gross, although this is not immediately apparent because of the time required for the subtle to work. For example, energy which is more subtle, transforms matter, which is denser. Information, such as is contained in a blueprint or a directive, and which is still more subtle, organizes both energy and matter. Consciousness is subtler still, and produces information. So, with respect to the subtle senses, the most subtle and therefore the
most potent is the pure vibration of sound.

3  Sound

   Now, if you are holding a piece of paper, then you are involving the touch sensation. If you are looking at it, then you are involved in seeing the sensation of form. So this is something much grosser than pure sound involving only the perception of vibration. Therefore, something that is read is grosser and denser than something that is only heard. That is why in the Indian tradition, a mantra is never read. You hear it, and pass it on. Of course, we are so visual that we have to see it. But once we get a little bit of an idea of how it is pronounced, then it is best to put the paper aside. It is the same in devotional singing. Swami doesn't like us to sing our songs to God from a piece of paper or a song book. He says that is not devotion, that is just 'deep ocean', referring to the ocean of worldly life. It is a written thing, no longer something from the heart but of the mind.

   One Christmas Swami told me to prepare a talk for the Christmas function, to be given just before Swami's discourse. He told me to speak on Jesus. I protested, "Swami, I don't know anything about Jesus. I'm not Christian." Swami asked, "What are you?" I told him, "I don't regularly observe any Western religious practice, but I was brought up as a Jew." Immediately Swami replied, "Jesus was also a Jew. You give a talk on Jesus." That was that. But I hadn't even read the New Testament. I didn't know anything about Jesus. I scurried around to get my hands on everything I could find on Jesus. I read the Bible, I spoke to ministers, priests and lay Christians who were visiting the ashram. I read all of Swami's Christmas talks of years past. I meditated on Jesus. Pretty soon I felt like an expert on the life and teachings of Jesus.

   For ten days prior to Christmas, everyday on the veranda, he would ask me, "Are you ready?" And I would say, "No, Swamiji, I'm not yet ready." Then two days beforehand he asked, "Are you ready?" And I said, "Yes, Swami." And he asked, "How long will you take?" I said, "Twenty to thirty minutes." "Yes", he said, "That is good - do it in twenty minutes."

   On the day before Christmas, I was a little anxious. I had no information when in the program I would speak and where the function would be held. I asked: "Swami, what is the Christmas program?" He said: "Christmas program? You dance!" As it turned out the function for that particular Christmas was to be held in the new boys' hostel at Prashanthi Nilayam, which had not previously been used. Swami was inaugurating the hostel that day. There was not enough room there for both the ladies and the gents, so only ladies were permitted in. The men had to stay outside. So I came there to give the talk and they would not let me in. "But I am supposed to be speaking on the program." "Sorry, Sir, we don't have any direction from Swami."

When Swami came, he walked by me outside without apparently noticing me waiting there. He went in with the governor and that seemed like the end of it for me. But then, five minutes later he called for me and they found me, a little bedraggled in the big crowd outside. When I came in he called me over and said to me: "Make it short... only ten minutes!" And then just before I was to speak, he said something to the boys and one of them whispered to me: "Sir, Bhagavan says, not more than five minutes. Only five minutes; you speak just before the governor."

   So my talk of twenty to thirty minutes had to be condensed into five minutes. I had a few little pieces of paper with some notes on them. In five minutes a whole message had to come, and so I read it out very quickly, but with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. I probably took closer to ten minutes, and got a few gentle kicks under the lectern from the boys, to remind me of the time. But it seems a power came into me and I must have sounded like an old time preacher shouting out his sermon. The people who could not see that I had a piece of paper were very impressed afterwards.

   That evening there was a dinner with Swami and one of the senior devotees said to Swami: "Drucker gave a very good talk!" Swami wrinkled his nose, shook his head in a negative way, and said something in Telugu. He did not appear to be very pleased. Later I asked: "What did he say?" And I was told he said: "It was a just a written thing!" He said; "You people listen to words, but the divinity listens only to what comes from the heart. When speech comes from a pure heart I am pleased, but not when it is words coming from paper. Paper is not good."

   So we have these papers because we are so used to that. We need these papers, but once we have the words down in our hearts, even if just a little bit, then it's best to throw away the paper. Swami does not like tape recorders, either. He says: "Turn on the tape recorder in your heart. Its batteries or tape will never run out."

4  Devotion and Wisdom

   Question: "What is the relationship between the wisdom teaching and devotion. Do we choose one or the other? How do we know which we're best suited for?"
   Answer: Swami likened the three paths to a clock which has three hands. The second hand is the path of action. The minute hand is the path of devotion, and the hour hand is the path of wisdom. The second hand must go all the way around before the minute hand advances one small division. This means that you have to do so much service to get the feeling of a little bit of genuine devotion in your heart. As the minute hand progresses, the love comes. But then, consider how much devotion there has to be until you finally see the Lord everywhere.

   When you see the face of God in every face then you have wisdom; that is the hour hand. The minute hand has to go a long way before the hour hand advances, even just a little. But, Swami says, when you are interested in what time it is, you are primarily interested in the hour, and only secondarily in the minute and the second. The hour is what is most important. So, the culmination of the paths of action and devotion must be the path of wisdom. We must dispel the ignorance that has veiled the truth and become established in wisdom, in self-realization.

   He also spoke of it in another way. He says it is like going from Bangalore to Delhi. You can take a direct train, an express train. It gets you there very quickly and very comfortably. Or you can take a train in which you stay in the Delhi thru-coach, but along the way, the coach is shunted from one train to another, shifting several times like that along the way, until you reach Delhi. So, it gets you there and you don't have to get out of your coach, but it is not as quick and not as comfortable. Or you can take a series of local trains. You get in, you get off, get in, get off, get in, get off, and finally you reach Delhi. All of these ways reach Delhi, but the express train is the wisdom path. The coach that takes you through is the path of devotion. And the off and on local train is the path of action.

   But, that does not mean that you can skip ahead to wisdom. You must go through the successive steps. You have to start with service. You cannot start at the highest. If you do, it will be dry. It will have no meaning. Each stage must develop naturally. It is like a fruit that turns from bud to fruit, from bitter to sour to sweet. Even so, many of us are ready for the higher stage. Our preparations may have been completed in previous lives. And so we have been stressing the wisdom stage and giving some attention to it here. But understand that when wisdom dawns, the devotion will also be there; and the service to mankind will be there, as well. They will have become part of your nature. We have not been discussing these other aspects here, but they are obviously very important. In the time we had available, I wanted to share with you the highest non-dualistic teachings which Swami expounded so lucidly and forcefully, and with such immediacy, in those intimate minutes we had with him at Kodaikanal, a few years ago.

5  Non-dualism

   He once said that there are many different spiritual philosophies. But most of them deal with duality. "What good are they?" he asked. All our common experiences are in duality. So, duality is nothing new. We don't need a philosophy for that, when we have our day-to-day experiences to go by. It is only non-dualism that is new for us. It is new because we have been closed off from it by the veil of illusion. Therefore, non-dualism is the only true philosophy. And so, it is non-duality that he is stressing. It is unique to India. That is really why we go there... so as to be exposed to these ancient teachings.

   We will not find this in our Western religions unless we have deep mystical experiences, such as St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Francis of Assisi, or the Jewish mystic Bal Shem Tov or some of the Sufi and Buddhist saints have had. If you read their works, you will find this unity of the divinity, although it will not be couched in purely non-dualistic terms. But they have had the direct experience of oneness with the divine. Non-dualism is the express train to final realization.

Swami said that seventy-five percent of our time should be spent on inner inquiry. Seventy-five percent! All our spiritual practices eventually become inquiry into our truth: "Who am I?" The question does not have a verbal answer, but the asking of the question evokes a response. The 'I' thought is the basis of all thoughts. When you inquire into the 'I', there is no possibility for any other thought to arise. Dwelling on the 'I', seeking the 'I' stills the mind. Then you must find the source of that 'I' and that becomes the continuous practice for those who have the inner impetus to go in that direction.

   Swami speaks of the nondualistic approach as integral vision or good seeing. It is having your vision constantly focused on the unchanging self. In India they have chariot festivals. You will find this happening in Prashanthi Nilayam, also. The chariot is a two-story cart, almost the height of this ceiling. It is kept in the old temple in Puttaparthi. Once a year it is decorated. Then the idol from the temple is installed in that chariot and it is taken in procession. Holy men and scholars go in front and recite theVedas. There is much music and waving of incense and lamps; devotional singers will accompany the chariot and all kinds of colorful things will be going on. It is a grand festival.

   At these festivals, Swami says, there are three kinds of people. There are those who come to enjoy the sound, the music, the performances, all the excitement and color of the festival, and to have a good time. Theirs is the physical vision. Then, there are those who like the rituals that go with the procession, the offering of the lights and the whole religious feeling that goes with it. That is something deeper. That is another kind of vision. It is the vision associated with the emotional or feeling state.

6  Integral Vision

   Then, he says, there are those very few whose only attention is on the indweller of the chariot, represented by the idol. The idol is an image just like the pictures or candles we use to symbolize the one divinity. For this third type, their whole focus will be on that, and for them this festival atmosphere with all the sound and sights and throngs that go with it, only gets in the way of their vision. All they are focused on is the indwelling divinity. That kind of vision, Swami says, is the integral vision. If you have that kind of vision, you see the divinity everywhere.

The deeper significance of this, Swami says, is that every body is a chariot taking the divine indweller in procession. The bodies not only of human beings but also of animals, are sacred chariots; wherever they go, they take the divinity in procession.    Therefore, when we have integral vision, we pay little or no attention to the bodies and their outer features and dress, we pay little or no attention to the personalities and their peculiarities, but we see only the divine indweller being taken about in all these sacred chariots. Such an integral vision can be obtained only by a person whose heart has become pure, one who has purged himself of negative tendencies and lives primarily, in the finer dimensions of being. To understand what this means, let us look at the five sheaths that make up this composite chariot, this body/mind/personality complex that we call our individual selves, in which the divinity is seated and taken in procession

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