Bhakti, Jnana and vairagya- these words often recur in Vedantic explanations. They are crucial for attaining Self-knowledge.
The first lesson to be learnt in spiritual path is to cultivate devotion (bhakti). It must be followed by acquisition of right knowledge (jnana). Dispassion (vairagya) will then automatically follow.
Bhagavatam is an embodiment of Self-knowledge. Until Emperor Parikshit developed absolute dispassion, Maharishi Śuka refrained from preaching Self-knowledge. Initially he taught about bhakti, jnana and vairagya. That is why in the initial skandas of Bhagavatam, only the outline of Self-knowledge is given- the real knowledge is imparted only after every form of impurity is cleansed from the mind i.e. at the *** end.
Only after devotion (bhakti) stabilizes the person travels towards acquiring jnana (spiritual knowledge). Attaining right knowledge leads to emergence of dispassion (vairagya) in him/her. Self-knowledge follows dispassion.
In Hanuman Chalisa, Swami Tulsidas glorifies Hanuman as the king who commands bhakti, jnana and vairagya. Hence, this is what we should seek from Him.
More often than not, a person shares his possessions with the person who begs from him. A wealthy man will part with money; a person whose house is stocked with grain will distribute grain and the like. Likewise, out of compassion Sadguru showers His possessions with his devotees. It is not material destructible possessions but invaluable, eternal possessions that He showers. In other words, He showers bhakti, jnana and vairagya upon the devotee.
Towards this, it is essential to develop unflinching devotion and dedication towards our Sadguru. We must revere Him. We must look up to Him. We must begin by offering all our actions to the Supreme Lord. ‘My every word is a mantra; my every step is a pradakshina to the Lord’ -with such thoughts, we must cultivate devotion.
Discipline is an essential pre-requisite for devotion. Learn to discipline yourselves. There are no external teachers for disciplines. Having erratic schedules shows lack of discipline. For instance, waking up at 8 AM one morning, at 12 noon another day, sleeping throughout the day, having 3 meals on one day while abstaining completely from food on another day shows undisciplined lifestyle. Discipline means to teach the body to follow a strict schedule every single day.
Light the oil lamp every day and offer the food to the Lord prior to consumption. Cultivate the faith that He is consuming the food you offered. Develop a deep bonding with the Lord. Circumambulating the temple or offering arati to the deity must not become mechanical chores. It must be coupled with devotion. Else, it remains a wasteful exercise. Only when the heart overflows with devotion, the temple trip turns fruitful. Such devotion must be wilfully cultivated. Initially the mind/body resists. Gradually, a day will come when without lighting a lamp, without connecting with God, without chanting our prayers we feel incomplete. We refuse to stay away from Him.
As we cultivate this connection with Him, a desire to know about Him automatically emerges in the heart. Enquiry begins. ‘Who am I?’ ‘who are you?’ ‘What is the cause for this birth of mine? Why have these problems landed on my head? How can I exit from this cycle of repeated births?’ – such questions begin to churn in the mind.
As time goes by, the realization that you are here on earth for a short while is grasped. The temporary nature of this world is understood. With this, dispassion (vairagya) emerges.
Dispassion must not be confused for abandoning the home or duties in a fit of rage. Dispassion does not mean physically abandoning objects. It means mentally abandoning them- removing attachment towards them. Attaining dispassion is the final step. Once it is reached, the person is very close to his goal.
It is true that highly educated IAS officers, MBBS doctors give up everything and reach Haridwar. It is wrong to assume that every person in ochre robes in Haridwar is a fraudster. These sadhus train themselves to live in harsh conditions- to sleep on bare floor, eat any food offered to them, not to entertain cravings and so on. Many among them would be rich businessmen who are trying to seek detachment.
Frequently going for Sadguru darshan, going on pilgrimages, reading holy books are ways to cultivate bhakti and jnana. For instance, when we reach Mysore, at times we do not get hot water. During such times, unmindful that it is peak winter, we bathe in cold water. We sleep on the bare floor without demanding soft mattresses. Gradually with such practice, the body learns to adapt. We are learning detachment without being aware of it. For close to 10 days or more we adjust and live happily in ashram despite inconveniences.
Those who initially approach Swamiji seeking devotion, cease to seek it explicitly, for, devotion automatically increases in them. Those who were searching for spiritual knowledge (jnana) find that due to repeatedly listening to Swamiji’s words of advice, jnana is automatically sprouting in them. This in turn leads to emergence of dispassion (vairagya).
In this way, spending time in Sadguru’s sannidhi (temple) is akin to vanaprasthasrama. We are training ourselves and must continue this training wilfully.
Learning to live without hurting others, learning not to covet other’s possessions, refraining from gossiping and criticizing others are lessons we automatically learn due to association with Sadguru. Traits such as falsely accusing others, heckling them, telling lies, and creating frictions, slowly disappear from the person due to living in ashram. If such traits continue despite association with ashram, then it implies the person is filled with demonic tendencies. Before talking ill of others, first deeply scrutinize yourselves. Check your own faults. Think twice before condemning others.
We commit sins and thereafter run to Ganga to purify ourselves. If Ganga, which bestows purity upon the person, is itself defiled, then what is it that you will gain from it? Similarly, to cleanse ourselves of our sins we have come to Sadguru’s presence. After reaching here we must strive to rid ourselves of our bad habits. If even after arriving here the person fails to rectify himself, then he is surely a demon.
Therefore, at first, learn to abstain from heckling and condemning others. Seal your lips. Do not comment upon the personal lives of fellow-devotees. If you do not stop this habit, you are going to land into serious trouble, for, I will not spare those who falsely condemn my devotees. In the form of diseases I will enter into them. Remember that I have three faces. Only the Vishnu face i.e. which is filled with compassion is normally visible. Occasionally, at times when spiritual knowledge (jnana) is imparted, my Brahma face becomes visible. But I also have a ferocious Rudra face. In mad frenzy I will dance in the homes of those who harm others. I will shake them up completely and cause them to be thrown into the streets. Hence, those of you who have sinned by talking ill of fellow-devotees, must immediately go and seek pardon from them.
Do not be jealous of those who get a chance to talk frequently with Swamiji. Remember that some good deed of the past has bestowed him with this chance. Learn to feel happy for him. When others are showered abundantly with Swamiji’s grace, never sulk. Do not think, ‘Oh, he got the special reward but Swamiji does not give me despite being associated with Him for long’. If such thoughts arise in your mind, then I shall take away even that grace which I have showered. Learn to take delight in other’s happiness.
When Swamiji gifts a devotee with a pendant, fellow-devotees who are truly filled with devotion, go and touch that pendant reverentially to their eyes. They hug the person for having secured such supreme grace. They consider themselves blessed to associate with such a devotee. This is how a true devotee should behave. Instead of whining at other’s success, learn to take delight in it.