In the beginning of time, the formless Lord brought this creation into being. It was pitch dark and there was nothing but water everywhere. This process of creation has been described in the beginning of Bhagavatam, Mahabharata and Puranas. At that time, the all-pervading Paramatman alone existed. It is very difficult for us to understand Him. All we can do is worship him with devotion. We cannot understand the Lord. Instead, we should strive to understand ourselves. If we understand our inner self, we would have understood God. All noble souls started their spiritual journey with the question, “Who am I?” They asked themselves, ”Who am I? What is my address? What is my name? What is my form?”
Swamiji sang a bhajan – dēvī virāḍrūpa vainaṭṭi nīku – into which is poured all Vedanta. Study that bhajan ten times and you will begin to understand its essence. At the beginning of creation, the Lord put a small drop of water into water. That drop of water grew massive and solidified into a hard egg – the cosmic egg – from which was born Parabrahman. That egg turned into two parts – one became the higher worlds, the second became earth and the nether worlds. Brahma who was inside kicked one side of the cosmic egg with his hand that pushed it out to the higher worlds. He kicked the other side with his leg and pushed it down to the nether worlds. Brahma who emerged from inside, not in the form of an infant, but in a fully-grown form did not understand anything as there was nobody around. He wandered and looked around for eons on end in the darkness of the waters. Then the Vedas that transcend creation fell on Brahma’s ears. Brahma heard “Ta” “Pa”. That means Tapam or penance (tapas). Penance has such supreme importance. Brahma undertook penance for many eons. Tapas is the source of everything in this creation.
If you take a strand of hair of that Tapas and slice it vertically 1000 times and then vertically slice one of those strands again 10,000 times, a tenth of that strand is equivalent to the mauna meditation we undertake. Such calculation may not seem possible by our measures, but it is possible for Him. Our mauna meditation is so miniscule, that we cannot imagine how many kalpas it will take for us to reach our destination. Four yugas make a kalpa. It is after many kalpas you understand the meaning of your daily meditation. This shows us how utterly insignificant we are. Brahma’s penance continued for countless kalpas. It is this Brahma that started this creation. This process of creation is narrated by Swamiji in his recording of the hari vamśam. Those who want to gain spiritual knowledge and understand the principle of the Self will find the divine plays of the Lord and the process of creation described beautifully in hari vamśam. Not only do we learn about the lineage of Sri Hari, but eventually our own lineage as well. Listen to it on TV when it is broadcast. It is extremely beautiful.
Srimad Bhagavatam helps inculcate devotion, Mahabharata helps gain knowledge and the rest of the Puranas give us divine education. Srimad Ramayana is a very important scripture to learn how to conduct ourselves as long as we live. So, without wasting life and falling into the delusion of mantras and yantras, strive to gain real knowledge. Start reading sacred books. It is beneficial for you and you will earn a lot of knowledge. That is why Swamiji is making many small books such as Bhaktimala accessible to everyone. I put in a lot of effort to publish Bhaktimala for you. But you do not realize the value and do not make use of it. Swamiji has published so many books, audios and videos just for you. It was all done only for your benefit. But you have neither interest nor faith. You cannot study and contemplate on those books enough number of times. You must continuously engage in shravana (listening), manana (contemplation) and nidhidhyasana (meditation). That is what Tapas – penance/austerity is. That is the austerity that Parabraman undertook due to which we have this creation. There is a supreme secret and a purpose behind this creation. We have no choice but to be here till the end of the Kalpa. Rather than the 80-90 years we live now, the entire duration of births until the end of Kalpa can be considered one birth. You take repeated births in various forms such as germs, animals, birds etc until you attain a human birth. The human birth gives you eligibility to strive for liberation. It does not guarantee you liberation.
Do not be deluded and undertake much suffering just to fill your belly. Selling your soul, do not miss out on this opportunity to make use of this birth. Try to find out who you are. Strengthen your devotion. Live with a spirit of surrender, not with ego. Do not think that the useless temporal knowledge you gained so far will do you good. An undisciplined life and useless worldly knowledge are no good. Do not get deluded that this will take you to liberation. You will keep falling back into darkness and ignorance repeatedly. Your weakness will make you a prey to the pull of your senses. You always comply with the fickle sense organs, falling prey to desires and dualities such as joys and sorrows, heat and cold. The body keeps yielding to these forces, making it hard to recover from them. Therefore, you must march forward very cautiously. Realize that you are running barefoot in darkness on a path filled with thorns, splinters, glass, rocks, shrapnel and stones, infested with venomous creatures such as scorpions and snakes, and scorching in fiery heat. It is impossible to walk on this treacherous path. We have fallen into such an illusory hell. We are compelled by the senses that drive our world. In other words, we think the body is Atman, we think the body is everything. We live to nourish and decorate the body. We are attracting the world around with our senses. We are getting fooled thinking the sense organs are the most important to satisfy. We have become a part of this deceptive world. Everything and everyone in this chaotic world is deceptive. We cannot find anyone that is peaceful and content in internal bliss. Even if we find such a person, we find it hard to trust him/her because we are on the same path. How do we reach our destination while walking on this treacherous path of illusion and darkness? It is an impossible terrain devoid of light and guidance. There is no one that can hear you if cry for help, there are no breaks in the path. Reaching the destination is a must, but the destination looks fuzzy. How do you reach the destination? Can you fly? Can you walk that thorny path? I mentioned that it is scorching hot. You cannot get past that scorching heat even if you fly. So, it seems inevitable that we fall and get destroyed right in the beginning. Interestingly however, we do not die. Is this hell? If this is so hellish, what is real hell like?
God is witness to everything we are doing. God has given us this life, body and mind and set us out on this path. Our sole refuge on this path is the Guru. We have no one else. Right at the beginning of this creation, Paramatman gave us the Guru – the solution to this problem. Was poison born first or was Lord Shiva born first? As per the story, it was Lord Shiva. So, the panacea was created before the problem was created. He already gave us the solution to cooling down the scorching heat, to getting away from the thorns and walking without stepping on the glass and splinters, to piercing through the darkness and to reaching the destination. All these solutions have been given to us already. The Guru will not magically take you to the destination through a short cut. He assures you that he will be with you as you walk that treacherous path. That gives us courage. The disciple who has gained some initial knowledge should courageously bvcwalk that path shown by the Guru.
That is what the Mahabharata taught us. Pandavas and Kauravas may have an existence in the physical sense, but Sage Vyasa used them only as a pretext for telling the story. Who is Sage Vyasa? Vyasa is Lord Vishnu himself.
vyāsāya viṣnu rūpāya vyāsa rūpāya viṣnave
namo vai brahma nidhaye vāsiṣṭhāya namo namaḥ
You must memorize these small shlokas. We hear the references to Lord Vyasa as the author of many scriptures. Sage Vyasa is none other than Lord Vishnu himself. The Lord alone can write his history to teach us mortals about it. To impart knowledge in the form of Goddess Saraswati, Lord Narayana came in a human form and gave us the Maha Bhagavatam. Otherwise, there is no way for redemption and we cannot reach our destination. The Lord, the form of Sat Chit Ananda, who started this creation, Himself came to us.
saccidānanda rūpāya viśvotpatyādi hetave
tāpatraya vināśāya śrīkṛṣṇāya vayaḿ namaḥ
Maha Vishnu is the one that removes the afflictions of this mind. Therefore, the beings that strive to understand and cross this most difficult path must without fail necessarily listen to Bhagavatam and Mahabharata. Studying these two scriptures is adequate. It contains the essence of all Upanishads. Just so we do not get bored the Lord is using the story of Pandavas and Kauravas in these scriptures. We should reconcile these to spiritual truths to understand the meaning. If you go by the Vedanta in these scriptures, you will have clarity when studying these scriptures. Do not just be caught up by the story of Pandavas and Kauravas. That is only for lay people. If you have some minimal knowledge, you must go beyond that and reconcile with spiritual truths. Towards the end, Sage Vyasa himself revealed who the Pandavas and Kauravas were and what their significance was. Lord Sri Krishna reveals the entire intent and essence of Mahabharata to Uddhava and shows the same to Akrura. The Lord teaches Uddhava the purport of the Mahabharata so he realizes is it not just a story. When we reconcile the happenings spiritually, enlightenment dawns on us. Just as you administer a bitter medicine with honey to an infant, Sage Vyasa administered the essence of Vedanta with these stories. To this end, the Lord has Himself indulged in divine plays, revealed to us his stories and acted in a way that we understand his essence. The Lord has such intense compassion for us. We should not lose this treasure. We should view these scriptures through the lens of Vedanta, not through the lens of a story. Never miss an opportunity to listen to the Bhagavatam wherever it is being narrated. Other scriptures too are important of course. Srimad Ramyana teaches you how to conduct your life. But if you want to cross the ocean of life, you need Bhagavatam. Bhagavatam also strengthens devotion.
Youngsters these days are listening to Bhagavatam a lot. Transformation slowly seems to be coming to them. We did not think youngsters would care. But how long will they keep wallowing and sinning in illusion in the outside world? They have to eventually come back to this. Youngsters in America have a great need for this knowledge. Many youngsters in America follow Swamiji. Learning about the workings and secrets of this illusory world – the deceptions, illusion, cheating, earning wealth, losing wealth, men, women, politics, drinking, partying etc., would not even need ten days. You can learn in about three days if you walk into a club. People think this is hard to learn, but I feel it is very easy. It is hard to even qualify what people are doing as deception since this is the craft the deceivers are using on us. You learn some other tricks and deceive someone else. So, each one deceives another. Youngsters can understand all this quickly. But the secret of this creation is not easy to understand. It needs more concentration and greater inquiry. It is a much bigger course of study that lasts all life. The rest of the worldly courses can be completed in 5-8 years. All PhDs can be completed within than time. The longest of the courses may take a maximum of 12 years. After that, you can either go home or join a mental hospital.
But Vedanta is a course that goes on till your last breath. It goes on birth after birth. The worldly courses are short lived – no more than 12 years for the biggest subject. But the courses that reveal the inner Self and lead us to God need countless births. We should therefore keep practicing ceaselessly in this birth. We cannot get liberation right in this birth. Many get tired of this life and ask for liberation. It is not as easy as eating a snack. Some say, “I have learned that this world is an illusion, I want liberation”. They wax eloquently on Vedanta, and ask for liberation, “I have paid Rs. 116 for Pada Puja, you are my sole refuge, please give me liberation”. How can you get liberation? What is liberation? I barely have time to write “liberation” on a piece of paper to give you. That too is very valuable. You think liberation is that easy? You cannot even die that easily.
Effortless death is very rare. Very few souls breathe their last in their sleep or effortlessly while working. Regardless of how long you live, death is certain. The surviving members bemoan the death of loved ones. Why do you cry when someone dies? Unable to bear the jealousy that they have escaped from this chaos and difficulty, you mourn their death. You are jealous that they crossed over.
Death is actually not the end, but the process of growth. The problem is we have no death at all. We have no liberation from this chaos. Liberation comes only after many kalpas. Just because liberation has been revealed to us as our goal does not mean we will attain liberation right in this birth. If you read Mahabharata or Bhagavatam in its entirety you will understand this. You can study Jaimini Mahabharata four or five times. If I have time, I will narrate to you. I will try to record it so you benefit in the future. I recorded the entire original Bhagavatam every day for 3 years for your sake. That fills so many CDs. Now Swamiji is recording hari vamśam for your benefit hoping you will listen to it, walk the path of righteousness, develop courage, undertake sadhana, gain devotion, knowledge and dispassion. Only when we have devotion, knowledge and dispassion can you absorb Vedanta. You all assumed you can easily attain dispassion. You cannot. You are all selfish beings. You come to see Swamiji so you can ask selfish personal questions if you have an opportunity. “We want progress in business, we want kids to get visa, we want money, health, marriage, kids, political gains, status etc.” I have seen millions of people and everyone has selfish desires. It is extremely rare to find someone that wants nothing but Guru. I might find one once in six months at the most. In my entire life, I might have only seen 40 such people. Those who are applauding now should have the desire to at least be the 41stsuch person. Even those who seemingly have given up everything have some unfulfilled desire and fickleness.
Many people spend their entire life running around courts until they die. Many spend their entire lives hankering after their homes, getting their children married until they die. They do not properly plan their life. There is barely anyone who thinks, “I need to understand who I am. I need to inculcate devotion to Swamiji”. Everyone is always hankering after material desires. There is always some unfulfilled desire. There is not one person that says, “I have no desires whatsoever. Please give me the ability to understand God”. You think satisfying your one last desire is all you need to focus on your inner self. But neither will the desire be fulfilled, nor will you start focusing on your inner self. I have seen many couples that promised to come and serve Swamiji once their desires are fulfilled, but by the time they come to the Ashram, I need to take care of them in their old age. That is why, I built Amma Vodi in different places to take care of the old people. I need to focus on uplifting people, I cannot look after these aged people.
We nurture endless desires until we die. We have a fickle tongue that is always craving tastes. You just heard so much Vedanta, but when you go to have dinner shortly, you will crave pickles with your food. All the Vedanta you heard will disappear in a jiffy. You cannot ignore the tongue’s cravings even for a day. Even after listening to all this Vedanta, you are satisfied only when you indulge your tongue in pickles filled with garlic at home. Forgetting everything in a second, you find greater satisfaction in fulfilling the craving of the tongue than in listening to Vedanta. You cannot even contain your anger before you get up from here. You show irritation towards the person sitting next to you. Despite having heard this discourse, you cannot hold your peace for even a day or even an hour.
Sometimes I wonder if I am wasting my time with these discourses. But I do it because it is my duty. Sage Narada has been wandering the worlds for eons chanting the name of Narayana whether someone hears it or not. Not even for a day did he take a break. That is the nature of the birth that he took after having gone through various births. He taught everyone – demons and gods to chant divine names. He did as a duty. Not even for a day did he pause to check if anyone was listening to his teachings. The great soul did not even look for results or transformation in any single soul. He granted liberation through his teachings to many demons, Gods and to the likes of Uddhava. He just keeps imparting teachings. That is his job. He does not care how many people are listening. His teachings are the same whether there are 2 listeners or 2000 or 20,000. He is not running a business, he is doing it as a duty, that is all.
This is what happened in Mysuru recently. Swamiji narrated Bhagavatam in Kannada in Mysuru recently. Following that Swamiji narrated hari vamśam in Telugu, but the Kannada devotees kept coming back to listen to hari vamśam. They discovered the taste of these discourses irrespective of the language. Food tastes the same regardless of the native language of the maker. The devotees wanted to listen to hari vamśam regardless of language. That is the state we should strive for. If you listen with concentration, you will understand regardless of the language being spoken. Close your eyes and listen with focus when someone speaks in Sanskrit and you will understand. If you concentrate and listen with devotion, you will understand any language a person is speaking in. When you hear in Sanskrit or another language a previously heard topic, you understand easily. Second, once you know the subject, your mind is hovering around that topic. You may not understand specific words, but you will get the gist of the topic.
Change your morning timetable. Tune in to ETV without fail. There are other speakers doing lectures in the morning time slot. You can listen to them too. Those lectures will help you understand what Swamiji is saying. They are speaking the form of stories, Swamiji speaks in terms of Vedantic truth.