Summary of the Workshop on Spirituality
This was intended
as a report to the general conference on the closing day of the workshop.
But spirituality cannot be reported on in the past tense. It is a
dynamic reality belonging in the present. So, this short talk turned
into another opportunity to dwell on Swami's teachings:
1 Be Happy!
Swami says that the very first
step on the spiritual path is "BE HAPPY!" One time he
was speaking to the higher-secondary school boys. He said, "You
may think that this body is 61, but really it is only 16. I am always
young and cheerful. I am always happy. It is you who are 61! Look
at all your castor-oil faces. Be happy!" Well, that goes for
us also. When we come together for an occasion like this we get
very serious and we forget to be happy. Let's let the sun shine
through. Happiness is our basic nature. It is who we truly are.
"Pleasure, not pressure!" Swami says, "Transformation
not information!" When he speaks to us he calls us embodiments
of eternal joy and bliss. That is the key. We must rediscover our
own true nature and abide in it... that is what spirituality is
2 Our own Gita
In the workshop we took up
a wide range of Swami's teachings, but we concentrated on the highest,
the non-dualistic principles. Although these are very difficult for
most of us because they are really at a level beyond the ability of
the mind to comprehend, beyond the realm of understanding, nevertheless,
these are the teachings that Swami is stressing when he speaks to
foreign devotees, as was also evidenced by the enthusiastic response
and interest of the participants in the workshop, both days. There
were many insightful questions and discussions on the finer points
of Swami's teachings. As you know, Swami teaches on many different
levels. There are many paths leading up the mountain, but Swami is
the whole mountain; all paths lead to him. When he teaches at the
highest level, we may not be able to understand, yet, when we have
become ready to hear this, there will be some kind of intuitive awakening
that makes us brighten and say,"Yes, this must be true."
In that way, he sows the seeds and lets them grow. And we can only
conclude that we must be ready for these seeds, because more and more
he exposes us to these sacred teachings on the knowledge of the divine
Just as he did for Arjuna on the battlefield, Swami
will give each of us a Gita, a song of God. Actually, he has already
given us a Gita collectively, in the 34 discourses he presented in
1984. In those talks he gave a new interpretation of the Bhagavad
Gita, an updated version, one that is easy to understand and practice.
He showed that there are two paths. The first path is one we are all
familiar with; it is really the only one that we in the West would
call 'the spiritual path'. It is the path that leads home to the Lord,
coming up from below and going to the very heights of spiritual attainment.
Another way that we refer to this path is the evolutionary trek, in
which we evolve through countless lives to reach this present penultimate
state as human beings, aware of our divine inheritance and heading
for the final goal. This path is supported by our spiritual experiences.
Swami gives us these experiences to convince us that he is intimately
involved in our lives, directing, protecting, nurturing, correcting
and loving us, as we expand in consciousness and grow up spiritually,
and in that way, come ever closer to him.
The path of action and the path of devotion characterize
this first path. We start by doing some selfless service to those
in need. This involves turning ordinary actions, wherein we have only
our own reward in mind, into sacred actions, where we do some good
for others and relinquish all interest in the fruit of our work. Then,
when we dedicate every action to the Lord and live a life of love
in action, our work is transformed into worship. And when we see the
Lord everywhere in everything that is happening in our lives, and
know that the Lord alone is doing everything, prompting every thought
and every action, then the path of action automatically turns into
the path of devotion, and we have become elevated to this higher path
This then describes the steps on the first path.
But there is another path. For most of us this one is totally unfamiliar,
because it doesn't tally with our experiences, at all. Actually, it
is not a path. It is just the removal of the mistaken notions that
have hidden our truth. Here there is no question of reaching a goal;
there is no liberation waiting for us on the horizon. We are already
at the goal; we have always been there. We are the divinity in its
infinite splendor, but we have hidden that truth from ourselves. We
have descended from above. We have veiled ourselves in a cloak of
imagination, but this has in no way affected our real nature. We are
and remain the divinity itself. This is very much an Eastern idea;
we will not find it in our Western traditions. Swami recently said,
"You are all avatars. You have all descended into incarnation."
We have taken on a human birth, but our truth is that we are the unchanging
divine principle in all its fullness.
So, we have descended into a dream world of our
own creation; but now, it is time to wake up and return home. For
this, the spiritual practice that is required is to purify the mind
and remove the veil of illusion which has covered it and hidden our
truth. Swami started several talks he gave in his temple last year
with an introductory poem in which he said, "A wise man seeks
out his own faults and removes them, whereas a foolish man looks only
for others' faults and criticizes others." This is obvious when
we realize that the most important thing that we must do is to remove
our number-one fault, which is the mistaken notion that we are not
who we truly are, that we are not divine. What good is searching out
others' faults and criticizing them? It will not help us. It will
only get in the way of our spiritual work, which is to purify our
minds and see the divinity everywhere.