January 2016

By thinking deeply of a noble person of character and love, our minds entertain those thoughts, and this causes what we call a blessing.  –  Chinmaya

The above quote glorifies Satsang – the company of wise – and how it transforms the life of a person.

The need for Satsang has been emphasized in all religions, by all spiritual masters at all times. Bhagavan Shankaracharya in Bhaja Govindam says:

सत्सङ्गत्वे निस्सङ्गत्वं निस्सङ्गत्वे निर्मोहत्वम् । निर्मोहत्वे निश्चलतत्त्वं निश्चलतत्त्वे जीवन्मुक्ति: ॥
 (Through the company of the wise, one becomes detached from worldliness; from detachment comes freedom from delusion; this leads to the realization of the changeless Truth, and thus one is liberated.)

One of the verses Narada Bhakti Sutra says:

महत्सङ्गस्तु दुर्लभ: अगम्य:अमोघश्च |
(To come in contact with a great soul is indeed extremely difficult; it is impossible to know them fully, yet it is infallible in its effect.)

In Shrimad Bhagavatham, when asked to show God, Bhakta Prahlada replies to Hiranyakashipu, “Dear father, there is no other way to know the Lord other than bathing in the dust of the lotus feet of the great devotees.”

In Sapta Prashna Geeta of Tulsi Ramayana, one of the questions asked by Garudji to Kaka Bhushundiji is “What is the greatest joy in life?”

The answer given is: संत मिलन सम सुख जग नाहीं| (There is no joy greater than meeting the saints.)

In the life of all great men, we find that they were all influenced, somewhere or the other, by towering personalities of knowledge and character.

Balakrishna Menon was working as a journalist for a national newspaper called National Herald. He was then in his mid 30’s and had all the typical characteristics of modern youth.

Proud being called an atheist, he once decided to expose the sannyasis in the Himalayas, who, according to him, contributed nothing and were leaches in the society. Swami Shivananda, the founder of Divine Life Society, was a well-known saint in the Himalayas in those times. Menon decided to stay in the ashram for a couple of days and interview the Swamiji to get enough spice for his critical scathing article.

When Menon reached Rishikesh and entered the ashram, he was wonderstruck. For the first time, he saw people working not ‘for happiness’, but ‘out of happiness’. The whole atmosphere was filled with a festive look.  Everyone, without any pay or reward, was seen engrossed in selfless service with faces beaming with cheerful smiles, with hearts filled with love and compassion. Cleanliness, purity and discipline were seen everywhere. Ashramites got up at Brahma- muhurta (3:30- 4 am) and did their spiritual practices like Japa, meditation, yoga etc. Mornings and evenings were spent in bhajans and Satsangs. Smoke, drinks and non-vegetarian food items were unheard of. Menon felt ashamed that he was the only one with a cigarette in hand. 

But as soon as he met Swami Shivanandji Maharaj, all his false notions regarding the saints disappeared like mist. Here was a man – an epitome of knowledge, devotion and dispassion… Here was a man, who despite his successful career as a doctor renounced everything for God… Here was a man, who prostrated to one and all in utter humility seeing divinity in all – be it plants, animals or human beings… Here was a man who hardly had any possession but was the most blissful and content… Here was a man who sang and danced shy-less, glorifying the name of the Lord… Here was a man, who blessed even those who ridiculed and criticized him… Here was a man who despite being a master of Bhakti, Jnana, Hatha, Karma and Raja Yoga, remained as humble as a child… Here was a man who despite having supernatural powers never exhibited any… Here was a man who demanded nothing even when Rajas and Maharajas came to prostrate unto him… Here was a man for whom no job was menial, whether it is cleaning the toilets or washing the wounds of a leper… Here was a man who considered even the rank sinners and criminals as divine… Here was a man who had conquered all weaknesses of the mind and the senses…

Here was a man seeing whom, being with whom thousands were inspired to live a noble life of love and service…

Menon was totally transformed. He never knew a human being could reach such impossible heights. He compared the divine life in the ashram with his disgusting sensuous worldly life. There was a deep sense of regret for having wasted all these years in worthless pursuits. He was convinced that human birth is not just for eating, drinking and making merry, but it had a higher purpose – to realize one’s divine nature.

Menon had come to the ashram to stay only for a couple of days, but could not resist staying a couple of weeks. Even while returning, he got all the books written by Swamiji. Such was the impact of this Mahatma, that Menon was seen again in the ashram, this time not to go back to the world – but to be one with the sannyasa order. He was initiated into the sannyasa order by Swamiji with a new name – Swami Chinmayananda.

Swami Chinmayananda later became the founder of a worldwide organization called Chinmaya Mission, inspiring millions all around the world with his thoughts, words and deeds.

Such instances are many. Mahatma Gandhi who was inspired by the truthful life of King Harischandra became an inspiration for millions to follow the path of truth and non-violence. The son of a servant maid, by serving the holy men, skyrocketed in spirituality to become the great Narada rishi, who in turn produced spiritual giants like Prahlada, Dhruva and sage Valmiki. Ramakrishna Pramahamsa became instrumental in transforming an ordinary college graduate Narendra to the world-renowned Swami Vivekananda; and through him were born patriotic stalwarts and freedom fighters like Subhash Chandra Bose, Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad and Tilak.   

In all our Itihasas and Puranas, we find that noble men of purity, character and courage were made the heroes; and through their noble deeds, the eternal values of life were imparted for the generation to emulate.

One among many reasons in the Bhagavad Geeta given by the Lord Shri Krishna to Arjuna to fight the war is:

यद्यदाचरति श्रेष्ठ: तत्तदेवेतरो जन: । स यत् प्रमाणं कुरुते लोकस्तदनुवर्तते ||
(Whatever the great men demonstrate, the others follow it blindly.)

The Lord’s advice was, “Therefore O Arjuna, if you – a national hero with enormous fan-followings – take a wrong step, there will be millions following your footsteps, and thus it will lead to a national disaster. So leaders like you must be extremely cautious.”

A recently conducted research says that psychological problems in the younger generation are on the rise at an alarming scale. What else to expect, when the entire generation looks up to the characterless film stars and cricket stars as role models? When blind are led by the blind, this is but natural.

It is rightly said, “Show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are; show me your company, and I’ll tell you what your future is.”

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