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Conquer Your Senses - There will be no Sorrow
Discourse of Sathya Sai Baba during the Summer Course
in Spirituality and Indian Culture
Who is your wife? Who is your child? What a mysterious thing is this family? To whom do you belong? From where have you come? Dear brother! Know that all knowledge is contained in the answers to these questions.
Pavitratma Swarupas, students! For the last one week, you have been listening to the Bhaja Govinda verses given by Sankara and his disciples. These verses contain a description of the essence of all our Sastras and all types of Dharmas appropriate to the world. Apart from that, you have been told that all the paths in this world lead to only one objective and that objective is to reach God and become one with Him. When the sun shines in the sky with thick clouds in front, people on the earth are not able to see the sun. However this does not mean that the sun is not there. If there is a cool wind, the clouds move away and the sun becomes evident. In the same manner, the effulgent sun of our Atma is generally covered by the clouds of our ignorance. If man can drive away the clouds of ignorance by acquiring knowledge, then the self-effulgent Atma will become evident to him.
Man in this world is forgetting what is permanent and what is of value. He is running after the worldly pursuits considering them to be real. He does not see the Atma because of the cloud of ignorance. He requires the winds of knowledge and of wisdom to move away the clouds of self-deception so as to enable him to see the effulgent Atma. All physical relationships are temporary. In a stream which is flowing, it is quite common to see branches of trees meeting and separating from each other after moving together for some distance. The joining of these two branches together is like the joining of two people together as husband and wife. They join, move together, live together and separate and struggle in this stream of life. In this context, Sankara wants you to give up the illusion of attachment.
The next question is, who is your son. This son of yours has come as your son as a result of something which you or he may have done during his or your past birth. It is only to redeem some debt between you both, that he has come as your son in this life. This situation has been described in the Bhagavata in a lighter vein by saying that the son comes to you for the sake of property and not because of any connection with the Atma. If you ask the questions to any one who he is and where has he come from, he will not be able to answer. How can he tell you how many births he already had and in which of them he was a son to whom? How can he tell you how many births he will have in future and in which of them he will be a husband to whom? He will not be able to tell you how many births he has already had and how he has landed himself in the present birth.
We do not know where we have come from and where we are going. In this illusory world, we go on increasing our attachments and thereby we are going away from Madhava and are not getting closer to divinity. We are only increasing our bondages and restlessness by this process. In this context, we should not attach any importance to bodily relationships. The body is made up of the five elements and is certain to fall. There is no indication of the body telling you when it was born and when it will die. Do not be misled by this illusory world. Realise the permanent Atma.
There is a small story for this. One day the Yuvaraja or prince of a kingdom was moving about in a forest. He was tired and felt thirsty and searching for water, he reached an Ashram. The inmates of the ashram were attracted by the appearance of the prince, took him inside and gave him fruit to eat and water to drink and asked him to rest. The prince did not agree to take rest but wanted to look at the elders who lived in the Ashram. They then took him straight to the head of the Ashram who was a saint. The head of the Ashram asked the young man who he was. He replied that he came from the kingdom of Jitendriya and that his name was prince Jitendriya. He was asked what his father's name was and the prince said that his father's name was king Jitendriya. He was then asked how the people in the kingdom were and the prince replied that all the people were Jitendriyas and they always enjoyed bliss and happiness.
The head of the Ashram who was a Sanyasi had a doubt. The word Jitendriya means one who has conquered all desires. How is it possible that the king, the prince and the people were all Jitendriyas, asked the Swami. He was wondering how one, who is a ruler and one who is controlling people as the head of a state be a Jitendriya. He wanted to verify it personally. He obtained the details of the way for reaching the kingdom and proceeded thereto after asking the prince to stay in the Ashram. The Swami asked the prince to give him the princely robes and himself wear the yellow robes symbolic of a Sanyasi. He asked the prince to remain in the Ashram till he returned from his mission. The prince was not at all affected by the suggestion, because he was a Jitendriya, and exchanged his robes with those of the Swami. The Swami took the clothes to a distance, put some bloodstains on them and proceeded to the kingdom of Jitendriya.
He reached the kingdom and told the gatekeepers to tell the king that a Swami was there and that he wants to convey some tragic news regarding the prince to the king. The Swami was allowed to go in and he met the prime minister and told him that the prince of the kingdom was killed by a tiger; and as proof of the fact that the prince was killed, he showed him the blood stained royal clothes. He wanted this tragic news to be conveyed to the king. The minister remained unperturbed when he heard the news. He smiled and said that it looks ridiculous to see a Sanyasi, wearing the yellow robes grieve for the death of a prince. However, since the Sanyasi wanted to convey the news to the king, he was allowed to do so. As soon as the Sanyasi saw the king, he handed over the blood stained clothes to the king and began weeping. The king looked at him and was laughing. The king told the Sanyasi that in the evening, many birds come and perch on a tree and at dawn, those birds fly away and each bird goes its own way. One bird cannot tell another where it goes. No two birds are connected with each other. He said that in the same manner, his family consisted of children, wife, grandchildren etc., who were all birds on a tree and they would all fly away in different directions. That day, one bird as the prince had gone away and the next day another bird may go away, and it looks ridiculous that a Sanyasi should grieve for such a situation.
The Sanyasi thought that it was possible that the king does not like this particular son and that he may have developed detachment for the son. So the Sanyasi thought that he should see the mother and the mother who had given birth to the prince would surely be unhappy at this and tears would come from her eyes. The attendants took him to the mother of the prince and he told her that the prince was killed by a tiger and handed over the blood stained clothes to her. The queen said that there was no reason for such grief and compared the situation to a choultry where many people come for rest during the night and each man goes his way the next morning. She asked what the connection is between people who come into the choultry from different places and compared the world to a choultry and said that into this choultry, many people come. Today, the prince had left the choultry and tomorrow others will also leave. None of us will stay permanently in a choultry. Our connections are like that and there is no reason to grieve. She asked the Sanyasi why he should grieve for such a situation. In his illusion, the Sanyasi thought the mother may be a stepmother and therefore she does not have affection and so he wanted to meet the wife of the prince and give her the news. He thought that being a Sumangali and wife of the prince, she will surely grieve over the situation.
He went to the wife of the prince and told her that the prince had died and that she would have to live as a widow thenceforth. Saying this, he cried loudly. The prince's wife laughed and she told the Sanyasi that this world could be compared to a forest where there are many trees. The trees dry up and the branches fall into a river. Similarly, some more branches come from another forest and these branches meet in the river. She said that husband and wife were like such branches coming from different families or different forests and meeting temporarily in a river. The river is the river of life. Although the branches are different, the river in which they joined is the same and in the same manner she said that between the husband and wife, who are like two different branches that had fallen into the river of life, the ocean of bliss is common, and there is no need to grieve about this.
Then the Sanyasi realised that all the people in the kingdom were Jitendriyas. So the Sanyasi returned to the Ashram. He still had a desire to test the prince if he was really a Jitendriya. He told the prince that he saw his kingdom being overrun by enemies and that the enemies had taken the king, the queen and other relations prisoners and were causing untold harm to the people in the kingdom. He told the prince that in that context, the prince should return to the kingdom and should not stay in the Ashram. The prince laughed and asked what is the kingdom and who are the kings? There is no relation between them. He said that in effect God is the big king, Bhakthi is the kingdom and the devotees are the princes. The relationship between the prince and his father was only a bodily one, said the prince. The only kingdom is the kingdom of the Atma.
In a similar context, Gandhari was telling about her grief to Sanjaya in the story of the Mahabharata. She said that amongst the Kauravas, Aswathama, Kripacharya and Kripana were the only three people alive. Amongst the Pandavas, five Pandavas, Krishna and another brother of his were alive. She expressed grief that there were seven people alive on the side of the Pandavas while on their side, there were only three people alive. There were altogether ten people alive while so many persons had been sacrificed in the war for the sake of these ten people. Sanjaya gave a very significant reply to this question. The name Sanjaya signifies one who has completely controlled all his senses. Sanjaya told Gandhari that there is some significance to the fact that there are ten persons left after the war. God wants to proclaim to the world, the meaning of all our existence and of the number ten.
To the right of the integer one, there is a zero in the number ten. Zero represents the world and the integer stands for God. Without 'one' the 'zero' has no value. That is, without God, the world is meaningless. The world which is false, transient and impermanent will amount to nothing, if it is not associated with God. The earth on which we live is spherical. The sun which gives us light and the moon which gives coolness are spherical. In fact, most things which we see around us in the world have a spherical shape. In that context, our own life has a spherical shape and is nothing more than a zero. By the side of this zero, if we put the divine, life will become meaningful. The seed contains the tree in it and the tree carries the essence of the seed in it. This is the truth which has been coming to us from time immemorial. The purpose of this life is to realise the truth that the tree and the seed contain each other. All the rest is just illusion or Maya.
This Maya has been described and defined by Sankara as that which does not exist. This does not seem reasonable. Sankara gave a beautiful example in answer to this. The big palaces, which you see in your dream, do not exist when you wake up and open your eyes. In the same manner, you see so many things while you are awake and you experience many things through your senses, but when you sleep, these things do not exist. It means that one is a day dream and the other is a night dream. Both are dreams and all the dreams are untrue. The purpose of our life is to search for the truth, if any, in what we see. Therefore, our bodily connections should not worry us and create special beliefs in us. We should only utilise them for doing the duty which we have to do. We should have no special attachment to the world.
There is no mother, there is no father, there are no children, there is no wealth, there are no relations, beware and awake. All that you suffer by birth, growth and death is painful, beware and awake. This is what Sankara had said. So long as you are alive you should keep your body healthy, your mind and vision steady. You should enjoy the bliss of the Atma by these means. You should not weaken and neglect the body so as to fall into the hands of others for help and become dependent on them. Keep your body healthy so that you can use it well. This life is like a boat. One side of the river is the material world. The other side of the river is the spiritual destination. Your life is like a river. With the boat of the body, you should cross the river. We should use that boat and reach the destination before it develops a leak. If it develops a leak and deteriorates in midstream, there will be trouble and you cannot reach the destination. There is no danger even if the boat remains in water for any length of time. If water enters the boat, there is every danger.
You should be in the family and there is no danger. Do not let the family enter you. If you do that, there is every danger. If you can spend your life in this manner, you will yourself be the supreme self. With a view to bring you to this path, Sankara has given you this particular verse in Bhaja Govinda by way of asking questions such as "Who are you? Who is your wife? Where have you come from? Who are your relations?" and so on. By asking such questions, he attempted to make you think and search for the right answers.