The Call From Within
are quite a number of devotees who are initiated disciples
of the Ramakrishna Math. They often say: 'We have received
Mantra-Diksha, but we don't seem to have made any progress
in the spiritual path. Why is it so?' In answer it has to
be pointed out first of all that one has to become serious
about the goal. For most of us that goal consists in the fulfilment
of certain worldly ambitions. Most people desire to become
doctors, engineers, administrative officers or business magnates.
But the supreme aim, the goal, should be to attain perfection
in this very life - to realise our true nature, which is absolute
existence, absolute knowledge and absolute bliss. If this
is the Goal Supreme of human life, then this goal becomes
easy to attain, provided we are fortunate enough to learn
the path from a Sad-Guru, a realised soul, who is the visible
representative of our chosen ideal or Ishtam.
who really aspires after the Goal Supreme? Only the one who
hears the call from within. When Swami Vivekananda met his
Great Master, Sri Ramakrishna, he sang two songs and the Master
was very much pleased. The first line of one of the songs
mind! go back to your own abode.'
is not our real abode. Our real abode is elsewhere. That does
not mean that our abode is high up in the heavens. It is within
us. As Jesus said, 'The Kingdom of Heaven is within you.'
As Sri Krishna says to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra
in verse 61, chapter 18 of the Bhagavad Gita.
arjuna tisthati |
The Lord abides in the hearts of all beings, О Arjuna, causing
them to spin round by His power, as if they were mounted on
is within, but if we run after the so-called pleasures of
the world, then our life goes in vain. As Jesus said, we have
got this human life only to become perfect as our Father in
Heaven is perfect.
other song sung by Swami Vivekananda when he met Sri Ramakrishna
Lord! must all my days pass utterly in vain?'
is only when we are tired of the so-called worldly pleasures,
tired of the play-land of illusion, that we want to go back
to our real abode, and turn our gaze within. Only then we
shall want to withdraw ourselves from all kinds of worldly
allurements and attractions. Therefore, only those who have
this kind of longing will hunger and thirst for the Eternal
and the Infinite. If the question is asked, 'Why should we
withdraw our minds from the pleasures of this mundane world?
Why not let us seek happiness outside in external objects?'
- the answer is, 'Well, one can get some amount of happiness,
some amount of pleasure, no doubt, from things which lie outside
us; but we are not concerned with temporary happiness.' Abiding
peace and lasting happiness are possible only when we realise
the Infinite and realise that the Infinite is our real self.
So, in self-realisation alone, or in the attainment of the
Goal Supreme, lies the real fulfilment of human life. Why
is it that we should strive after the Infinite or the Eternal?
Who can attain the Goal Supreme? Only those who find in themselves
a conflict. There are millions and millions of people throughout
the world who do not bother about the higher values of life
and are satisfied with the so-called pleasures of this world,
who do not believe in the existence of the other world, who
do not believe in the existence of the soul or the Supreme
Spirit. For such people there is no conflict obviously.
if real awakening dawns on any one of us, we cannot but have
some kind of inner conflict. If we have no inner conflict,
then there is no need for a spiritual quest at all. Only when
we try to withdraw our minds from the outside world and practise
introspection or, to put it in another way, prefer to become
introverts instead of extroverts, that we experience a conflict.
For those who are extroverts, there is no conflict whatsoever.
There may be some people who claim to be religious. They are,
however, so in a superficial sense only. For example, there
are those who visit temples and places of pilgrimage. They
may also go to the Kumbha Fair and have a dip in the holy
confluence of the Ganga and the Yamuna rivers. These, however,
are just certain obligations which can be described as social
religion. We have to make a subtle distinction between such
an attitude and the aspiration to attain the Goal Supreme.
So those who are after the highest goal cannot but have an
inner conflict, while those who follow routine habits of a
ritualistic type, may not suffer from any kind of conflict.
who are really seized with the problem of reaching the Goal
Supreme in this very life do not belong to any ordinary category
of men and women. They belong to the category of mystics or
persons who want to open themselves to the inner drama. We
feel drawn to the highest values of life, to the highest ideal,
which is to reach perfection in this life. But at the same
time we are subject to the demands of the body. This is the
source of the conflict, the tug-of-war, so to say, between
the inner call of the spirit and the allurements of the senses.
We want to advance steadily towards the Goal Supreme but the
allurements of the external world pull us in the opposite
direction. The body refuses to collaborate with the ideals
we have in mind. We are torn between these two opposite tendencies.
On the one hand we feel a genuine urge to realise God, but
on the other hand, such are the temptations surrounding us
that we feel there are forces which run counter to us. Therefore,
we can safely say that all cannot reach the Goal Supreme and
all are not qualified to make the pilgrimage towards the Goal
Supreme. We should remember that true spiritual life is possible
only for the chosen few. There cannot be any such thing as
mass spirituality, for it is not possible for all to be spiritual.
It is meant for the chosen few - to those who have the conviction
that the goal of life lies in attaining our real nature which
transcends the bodily life.
though there is a conflict between the spirit and the flesh,
we must have also this conviction that, though genuine religious
consciousness is meant for the few, we belong to this group
- the chosen few. Well, it is meant for the chosen few, but
why not think, 'I am also one of the chosen few?' We must
have this faith in ourselves, this tremendous confidence;
otherwise we lose all interest and become pessimists instead
of optimists. We must become robust optimists and have this
kind of conviction. We should also remember that very few
people really care for the great treasures of spiritual life.
There are people who like to waste their human life in sense
pleasures only. So those who do not get the inner call are
apparently satisfied with the sensual pleasures of the world.
If we run after sensual pleasures, then we will be mined ultimately.
In one of the writings of Swami Vivekananda, he did make use
of this expression: 'In sense pleasure lies the ruination
of man. Not in sense indulgence, but in sense denial lies
the key to eternal happiness.' So those fortunate few who
listen to the call from within should also be prepared to
pay the price for it. Those who hear the call to make the
pilgrimage to the Goal Supreme, must have this inner awakening
and awareness, and at the same time, must be prepared to follow
the path with dogged tenacity and a tremendous amount of perseverance.
has pointed out in the 3rd verse of Vivekachudamani that three
things are rare attainments in life:
are three things which are rare indeed and are due to the
grace of God, namely a human birth, the longing for liberation
and the protecting care of a perfect sage.
birth is a rare thing. The grace of a true Teacher is rare.
So also is the desire to know God or to have the real longing
for liberation. But one would like to add something more,
which is very important - we must be very serious. Let us
assume we have all these. We have got this rare human birth,
we have got our Guru's grace, we have learnt the correct technique,
and we have the holy company. Even then we may lack something
- eagerness to profit by all these three.
must be ready to undergo any kind of hardship on the way of
our pilgrimage towards our Goal Supreme. Now what do we mean
by seriousness? If we are really serious about reaching the
Goal Supreme, there has to be a parting of the ways. Parting
of the ways is inevitable in spiritual life. Sometimes we
follow the beaten track - the so-called humdrum, monotonous
mundane life, and we are slack in our spiritual efforts. We
have the grace of the Guru, we have got the Mantra. We read
the Kathamrita or the Gita or the Bible. But all that is not
sufficient. With most of us, spiritual striving stops mid-way.
In the beginning, we have some interest and enthusiasm; but
later, when we find we have no tangible proof of any spiritual
bliss, we lose interest. Our spiritual practice then becomes
mechanical. Therein lies a great danger. Our minds are very
restless and always outgoing. Naturally, we find it hard to
maintain the original fervour as years roll on. That should
Wordsworth, in his famous poem Intimations of Immortality
rightly says, 'Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting.'
Another of his poems has a very significant title, 'The world
is too much with us.' If the world is too much with us, then
it will be very difficult to reach the Goal Supreme in this
life. If the world is too much with us, naturally, we become
extroverts and we will end this precious human life in the
so-called phantom pleasures of the world. So there is a difference
between the ordinary people and the genuine spiritual seekers
or aspirants. To us, ordinary mortals, this world which we
see with naked eyes, the visible and empirical world, is the
only world, the real world.
to a knower of Brahman or to a realised soul or a saint, anything
which is visible to the naked eye is unreal. Such great ones
reject as unreal, anything which has a form or a name. They
know that this is a world of appearances and that the self
alone is the reality. To them the inner world, the spiritual
world, which lies at the back of the appearances, is the real
world. The majority, however, do not care to bother themselves
with the inner world. Why is it so? Because we are so sense-bound
that this world alone looks real. Therefore, those who want
to reach to Goal Supreme in this life should be very, very
life is really a life of dedication to the highest. It is
a life of consecration and of sacrifice. It is a life of one-pointedness.
For this, a certain amount of divine discontent is necessary.
If we are very happy with all the pleasures of the world,
then we cannot hope to reach the goal. Sometimes we do get
some kicks and blows from the world, and then we are brought
to our senses. Therefore, it is said that if we have a certain
kind of discontent and an understanding that anything of this
world cannot give us real, lasting happiness, we will be able
to destroy our attachments to worldly matters.
regarding the parting of the ways, there are two distinct
ways - one is the path of Pravritti and the other is the path
of Nivritti. The former is the path of the pleasant (Preya)
and the latter the path of the good (Sreya) - the path
of enjoyment and the path of renunciation, the path of sense-indulgence
and the path of sense-control. The Mundaka Upanishad symbolises
the Jivatma and the Paramatma as two birds of similar plumage
sitting on the self-same tree of the body. These may also
be called the apparent self and the real self, or the lower
self and the higher self. So we have to decide once for all
which path we are going to choose. Swami Vivekananda, while
giving a talk at New York, observed, 'Since death is inevitable,
let it go in a noble conquest, and what conquest is nobler
than the conquest of the lower man?' Now, unless we are prepared
to pay the hard price to achieve mastery of the lower self,
the higher self cannot be unfolded and revealed to us. It
is hard struggle, but we must be prepared to pay the price
this connection it may be relevant to refer to the concept
of Maya and its two-fold powers, Avarana and Vikshepa. Stangely
enough, though Wordsworth was not born in India, in his poem,
he has used two words, 'Sleep and forgetting' in the very
same sense as this twofold power of Maya. By 'sleep', he means
the sleep which makes us unconscious of our divine self, and
by 'forgetting' he means forgetfulness of our real, divine
nature. Here in the concept of Maya, we find two words, Avarana
and Vikshepa. Avarana means concealment of reality - a kind
of veil which hides our real self. Vikshepa means distortion
of reality as something else in our mind. We are supposed
to believe what we are not. These two are the two functions
of Avidya or Ajnana, of illusion-producing ignorance. It is
because of this Maya that ignorant people are deluded and
they see many objects here instead of Brahman, the one without
a second. The truth is we are divine. 'Aham Brahma Asmi.'
We behave like limited beings, finite beings, (as Jivas),
but the truth is we are Brahman - 'Jivo Brahamaiva Naparah'.
is because of the Vikshepa Sakti, the projecting power of
Maya, that we do not realise our true nature. How can we overcome
this two-fold power of Maya known as Avarana and Vikshepa?
It is a fact that due to ignorance, we first forget our true
nature, which is one of pure consciousness. Secondly, we are
supposed to believe and behave like Jivas or finite or limited
beings, which we really are not. Is there any way out then?
There is, provided we are prepared not to cling to any kind
of false attachments. Hence spiritual life, i.e., genuine
spiritual life, is meant for the chosen few. It is not meant
for the masses.
let us come to some other guidelines. As Sri Ramakrishna said,
'Let us be honest; let us not be traitors to our thoughts.'
Do we really want to reach the Goal? Do we really want realisation?
It we really want it, we will be able to reach it. He also
said, 'As we think so we become.'
are examples of this kind of spiritual transformation. Take
the case of Valmiki. As a young man he took to highway robbery
to support his family which consisted of his mother, his father
and his wife. He used to rob even elderly people of their
wealth, just to maintain his family. One day, as he was going
along a road, he met Narada, the great saint. The robber did
not know about the spiritual excellence or greatness of Narada.
He waylaid Narada. But Narada was very compassionate to the
young robber and asked him, 'Why have you taken to this path?'
Whereupon Valmiki replied, 'Well, Sir, I have no other alternative;
I have to maintain my family.' Narada said, 'But by doing
this you are incurring sin. You murder people. Now go and
ask the members of your family, your father, mother and wife,
if they are prepared to share the sins you are committing
by such acts of robbery,' Valmiki replied, 'Oh yes, of course,
I am sure that they will share the sins, because I am maintaining
them.' Narada said, 'Go and ask them.' Now to make sure that
Narada did not run way, Valmiki tied Narada Muni to a tree
and went home. Then he asked each member of his family, 'Do
you know how I maintain you? By acts of murder and robbery.
I am committing these sins to maintain all of you. So you
are supposed to share part of the sins accruing from these
acts.' They replied, 'No, it is your duty to maintain us.'
The wife said, 'You are my husband and it is your duty to
maintain your wife.' The parents said 'You are our son; it
is your duty to maintain your parents. So we are not prepared
to take any share of your sins.' All these replies shocked
the young robber. So he came back, untied the rope, released
Narada and then requested him, imploringly, 'You have opened
my eyes, Sir, and I take refuge at your holy feet. Show me
the way to lead a virtuous life. I entreat you, please accept
me as your disciple.' And Valmiki learnt from him the correct
path of spiritual Sadhana. He did so much Tapas and meditation,
that an anthill (Valmika) grew around him, and out of that
he had a new birth, as it were, when he emerged from it. That
was the great Valmiki. When he realised the futility of the
so-called worldly affection and love, and found that they
were shallow, he was brought to his senses.
take the case of Gautama, the Buddha. Siddhartha was a prince
and he lived in a great palace with acres of gardens and many
servants. He had a beautiful wife named Yasodhara and a son,
Rahul. One night Gautma was in the midst of the dancing girls
of the palace in a banquet hall, but suddenly he was filled
with a tremendous disgust. He left the hall and went to the
palace garden where he sat under a tree and started meditating
on what he had been doing in life. He thought, 'A little while
ago, I was enjoying the company of dancing girls, but it gave
me only a transitory joy. It seems that if I run after the
sense-pleasures, I shall never gain lasting happiness.' He
was seized by a tremendous force of Vairagya (dispassion)
and became intensely dissatisfied.
was now midnight and all was dark and silent in the garden.
Suddenly, Siddhartha had the good fortune to hear divine voices.
A chorus of celestial beings was singing the following proclamation
which changed the life of the wealthy prince.
mourn for rest. Alas! But rest we can never find. We know
not whence we come or where we float away. Time and again
we tread this round of smiles and tears.
vain we pine to know whither our path leads us and why we
play this empty play. Rise, dreamer from your dream, slumber
hearing this divine message, Siddhartha's mind became clear
and he felt the inner urge to take to a life of renunciation.
He went back to his room in the palace for the last time to
take a final look at his wife and son. He then resolved in
his great zeal for knowing the truth, to bid goodbye to all
the sense pleasures once and for all. He then set out on his
famous pilgrimage which culminated in his attaining supreme
illumination under the Bodhi Tree at Bodh Gaya. He was henceforth
known as Gautama the Buddha, the Enlightened One. How beautifully
Arnold has expressed, 'Time and again we tread this round
of smiles and tears.' Swami Vivekananda has also said: 'Down
we go, animal man once more, eating and drinking and dying,
dying and drinking and eating, again and again.'
should always remember the fact of death - the inevitable
hour that awaits prince and pauper alike. We are all here
today, and tomorrow we shall not be so. When the call from
the other world will come, we are not sure. Any moment death
may snatch us away. 'Naked and alone we come out from mother's
womb, and naked and alone we depart from this world.' We cannot
carry with us any worldly possessions, any of our relations,
dear and near ones.
is the hard truth, the hard reality. Is it not prudent on
our part to be serious about spiritual life and to reach the
Goal Supreme in this very life? This does not mean that all
have to become monks and nuns. We must develop dispassion.
We must always remember the real fact that everything of this
world is temporary, short-lived. As Sri Ramakrishna used to
say again and again, 'We have to discriminate between the
real and the unreal. God alone is real, eternal; all else
is unreal, non-eternal.' So in the midst of a thousand preoccupations
of the world, if we have the right attitude of Vairagya or
dispassion, then only can we reach the goal, as has been mentioned
dreamer, slumber not again.' As Swamiji said, 'Arise, awake
and stop not till the goal is reached.' So we are to arise.
We are not to dream. Many a time we have had dreams - all
false dreams. What is in this life? Once we realise our divine
nature, then even if death comes, we shall be sure that we
are not the body, nor the mind, nor the senses - we are the
Atman, eternally free. Before the call from the other world
comes, let us be ready so that we can meet death smilingly.
But how many of us can do that? Only those who are serious
about their spiritual life.
continuation of the reference made to the stories of Valmiki
and the Buddha, it will be relevant to take the case of the
western mystic St. Augustine to illustrate how tremendous
earnestness is required to reach the Goal Supreme. A study
of the book, Confessions of St. Augustine, will give
us immense spiritual benefit. Augustine had to pass through
a real struggle - struggle between the call of the inner spirit
and the call of the external body. Every day he would say,
'Oh Lord, I know you are the truth, you are the reality. I
must reach you, I must realise you. It is true that you are
within me, as you say the Kingdom of Heaven is within us.
But somehow I go down to the level of animal life, to a very
low level of animal existence. Why? I find it hard to resist
the temptations of the senses. I want to realise you as the
spirit, but the senses pull me down, and everyday I say: Lord,
let me enjoy a little of the delights of the senses today,
a little sense pleasure. Please forgive me. From tomorrow
I am not going to listen to their allurements. Tomorrow I
will follow you, my beloved Lord. But let me enjoy today.'
he was seized with a tremendous mental struggle and he cried
out in agony, 'O Lord, how long? Tomorrow and tomorrow! Why
not today and why not now? I am a poor mortal. I fail, I am
conscious of my limitations, of my weaknesses, of my imperfections.
Unless you come to my rescue, it will not be possible for
me to respond to your call. Everyday I resolve that I will
turn over a new leaf from tomorrow. But again I fail, I go
down. So, Lord, be kind and gracious to me.' One day, he was
so serious that he cried out. 'Oh Lord, how long! How long!
Tomorrow and tomorrow? No. Why not now, today itself?' Then,
he heard the voice, the divine voice, just as Gautama Buddha
had heard - the voice of celestial beings. St. Augustine has
himself confessed that he committed all kinds of sins possible
on this earth, yet even so he had the desire to know the truth;
he had the desire to know God, to realise Him. And because
he had that, he was saved. But he confessed that he was not
a traitor to his thoughts. As Sri Ramakrishna said, 'Don't
be a traitor to yourself. Admit your weaknesses, admit your
imperfections. God is within you. If you confess your faults,
God will forgive you and you can realise the truth.' That
happened in the case of Augustine too, and so when he said,
'O Lord why not come to my help today itself?' Then he heard
the voice 'Wake up, read that page from the Holy Bible.' And
he opened it at a particular page and got some inner guidance
and resolved lo have nothing to do with the temptations of
the senses and he became a great saint. So let us not be traitors
to our thoughts. We are all conscious of our limitations and
imperfections. It is true that God is so kind and so compassionate
that if we do take refuge in Him, He will forgive all our
imperfections. But the thing that is necessary is sincerity
and real tenacity on our part.
then, as to reaching the Goal Supreme, we must give our whole
mind to God - not merely a part of it. It we think that we
give a part of our mind to our family relations, a part to
our jobs, a part to this person and that person, to this work
work and that work, and we want to reach the Goal Supreme
also - then we are terribly mistaken. If we want to reach
the Goal Supreme and that too in this very life, we must be
prepared to give our mind in its entirety to God. We must
be prepared to make all-round surrender to God. A question
may be asked: 'How can I give my mind in its entirety to God?
If I give the whole mind to God, then what about my day-to-day
relationship with my family and with all the work I am expected
to do? I have to attend to so many people. Naturally, I have
to give my mind to my job, to my duties and obligations.'
The remedy is, the great ones say, 'Give your mind, but spiritualise
your relationship.' Give your mind only to God and believe
in your heart of hearts that God dwells in every man. He is
here, there and everywhere. He is omnipresent and so He is
in every person, in every job, in every duty. Therefore, while
doing all works, discharging all duties, if one can give one's
mind, the entire mind, to God in this way, one can overcome
the struggle. As Swami Vivekananda said, 'The goal of human
life is to manifest the divinity which is within us.' First,
we must have the conviction, that we are divine and then we
are to manifest the divinity in our day-to-day life. As Swamiji
said, 'My ideal indeed can be put into a few words and that
is: to preach unto mankind their divinity, and how to make
it manifest in every movement of life. There is no distinction
between the secular and the sacred, all work is worship, no
work is secular.' Whether one is a doctor or an engineer or
a housewife or a monk, one has to engage oneself in hundreds
of activities, but we should always try to spiritualise our
relationship with others in day-to-day life, nay, in every
moment of our existence.
present writer would like to recall an incident from the life
of Swami Atulanandaji Maharaj, as this will help us all to
spiritualise our day-to-day relations with others. I was then
a novice, a probationer, a Brahmacharin, who had just joined
the Order. I was confronted by a kind of conflict. As a Brahmacharin
I was expected to do Japam and meditation at particular times.
In those days, I was in the Belur Vidyamandir, which is a
residential college. One day my Principal, Swami Tejasanandaji,
reminded me that Saraswati Puja was drawing near and that
I would have to attend a rehearsal which he was organising
every evening from 6 to 7 p.m. (which was the time fixed for
my Japam and meditation in the evening). My Principal asked
me, 'Can you come and help me? I have to arrange for the rehearsal
of students who are going to enact a drama.' I was obviously
in a mental conflict. I had just joined the Order, and it
was a time earmarked for my spiritual practices. Shortly after,
I had the good fortune of going to Barlowganj - at the foot
of the Mussorie Hills where Swami Atulanandaji Maharaj was
then living. Swami Shraddhanandaji, who is now the Head of
our Vedanta Society of Sacramento, asked me to go to Atulanandaji,
as he was a monk of spiritual attainment. So I went to him
and one day when I got a chance, I just unloaded my mind.
'Maharaj, I am just a novice. I have just joined only; but
sometimes when I am in our college, I have to do certain duties
at a time when I am supposed to do meditation. Then what am
I to do?' His reply to this was as follows: 'The question
you have put to me is the same question I had put to Swami
Turiyanandaji when we were in the Shanti Ashram in America.'
let me inform my readers that Atulanandaji was born in Holland,
took Diksha from Sri Sarada Devi, the Holy Mother, and had
the good fortune to come in contact with a number of the direct
disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, including Swami Vivekananda.
I now refer to that period, when Atulanandaji was in the United
States living at Shanti Ashrama at San Francisco with Turiyanandaji.
Swami Turiyanandaji wanted to give special training to a number
of sincere seekers after Truth, so that they could realise
their own divine nature. With this end in view, he took with
him a group of aspirants to Shanti Ashrama. Atulanandaji was
fortunate enough to join the group and he also went with great
expectations that he would do Japam, meditation and study
scriptures all the time. But to his great surprise, after
they had gone there, the members of the group were given different
kinds of duties, such as bringing firewood, water and so on,
and naturally they did not get much time for Japam and meditation.
Atulanandaji was mentally disturbed about this, and one day,
being unable to control himself, he asked Revered Hari Maharaj
(Turiyanandaji), 'Swami, you have given me so much work, but
then where is the time for meditation?' At this, Revered Turiyanandaji
of hallowed memory told Atulanandaji, 'My son, remember always
that the life of a spiritual aspirant is one of continuous
meditation. What more time do you require?' Atulanandaji told
me when I met him at Barlowganj Ashram that this reply of
Hari Maharaj opened his eyes and that till then he was under
the impression that bringing firewood and water are all secular
activities; but now he understood that this was a wrong attitude.
The whole life is to be divine. The entire life is one of
continuous meditation. Every work or act is an act of worship.
The reply Atulanandaji got from Turiyanandaji was the same
reply that he gave me when I approached him with the same
question, and that solved the problem once for all.
if we develop this attitude, then only it is possible for
us to spiritualise our day-to-day relationship with others.
When it is said that the mind in its entireity is to be given
to God, it implies that it is possible, provided we do not
make a distinction between the secular and the spiritual.
A question may be asked: 'For those who are in the worldly
life, is it possible?' Yes. Try to spiritualise your day-to-day
relationship. Remember always the truth that the life of a
spiritual aspirant is one of continuous meditation. Let there
be no break.
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