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October - December 2021

Pariprasna Swami Tapasyananda

QUESTION: The Lord has said in the Gita: ‘You are competent only to act but not to claim the results of your actions.’ This is very difficult to practise. Is there any way to make this practicable?

MAHARAJ: So long as we are absolutely self-centered, it is impossible for us to practise this teaching. For it is only the result or the gain out of a work that makes a self-centered person exert himself. So the only way to put the Gita’s teaching into practice is first to discipline ourselves by identifying ourselves with bigger and bigger ‘wholes’. An animal only eats, sleeps and mates except when certain instinctive drives in certain species goad them to work for the species. The ‘animal man’ is also like that. He exists for his food and his pleasures. But as his self gets identified with a group, say, his family and is thus drawn out and expanded, he learns to work to some extent without personal ‘compensation’ and in the interest of a bigger group, the family. As he evolves, the ‘whole’ or ‘group’ with which he identifies himself will also grow bigger and bigger, progressing towards a universal ideal. Thus he can become the leader of a village, of his community, of his country, of his race and of humanity. To the extent he identifies himself with these progressively expanding ‘wholes’ or ‘groups’ he becomes capable of greater and greater personal sacrifices for the good of the greater ‘wholes’ with whom he identifies himself.

Now if a person is a devotee of God in truth and in spirit, he accepts the whole universe as His and also as His expression, and becomes capable of doing everything as His service. There should however be genuine enlightened faith and devotion, if one were to act in this way. But most of those who say they have faith in God and devotion for Him, have only pseudo-faith and pseudo-devotion, and these will never, help one to attain to that sense of joy and elation which work done without personal motive, as a service of God, would bring. Indifference and irresponsibility alone can be the result of pseudo-faith and pseudo-devotion. One who is fit to follow the Gita ideal would put his best into his work, although he does not personally gain anything by it. Even where conditions of life require the acceptance of a salary for subsistence in the world, his work is not regulated by his salary but by the urge he feels for doing the work to the best of his capacity, as he is doing it for the Lord who is the Master of everything.

People who have not got this kind of true faith and devotion would be well- advised not to stand on that highest ideal expounded in the Gita, but on the lesser ideals described earlier, namely, identification with groups or ‘wholes’ like the community, country, humanity, etc. If the love for these bigger ‘wholes’ is genuine, man will grow in strength and detachment and will gradually be able to dedicate all his works to God. An absolute and living faith in Divine reality is needed for this discipline.

QUESTION: What is the meaning of the description of the wise man in the Bhagavad Gita as one who sees ‘action in inaction’ and ‘inaction in action’?

MAHARAJ: To understand this we have first of all to grasp the idea that action means an assertion of an individual’s will. It does not necessarily mean external action. From this point of view, a man who asserts with his ego-centric will ‘I will not do anything, I will remain quiet’, is really acting, though externally he is inactive. A wise man understands this and never remains in this kind of self-imposed and self-willed inactivity, which is only another name for idleness. He is not under the illusion that idleness is spirituality. In the opposite condition of physical and mental activity, a wise man can remain a witness, without any identification with the activity. All the activities of the universe are the expression of the Sakti or Power of the Supreme who remains a witness unidentified with all the manifestations of Sakti. The wise man is one whose spirit has attained communion with the Lord and participates in His spiritual consciousness. As such, he feels no stirrings of an individual egotistic will in all the actions that flow through his body- mind, which forms part of the Universal Nature, the Sakti of the Lord. He remains the unaffected witness in the midst of activities of the body and mind. This sense of witnesshood is the inactivity of the wise man; it is not enforced inactivity induced by idleness.


QUESTION: Is there a place for Japa in yogic discipline for spiritual realization? And, there seems to be no mention of Japa in the path of devotion as discussed in Kapilopadesa.

MAHARAJ: Japa is accepted in all forms of spiritual discipline, including the Yoga school of Patanjali. In Sutras 27 and 28 of chapter 1, he says that Omkara is the manifesting word of Brahman and recommends its repetition as one of the ways of steadying the mind.

Kapilopadesa in the Bhagavata is a section where all the Yogas are synthesized with a special stress on Bhakti. In dealing with Bhakti, Kapila speaks of Saguna-bhakti and Nirguna- bhakti. Saguna-bhakti includes all aspects of Vaidhi-bhakti or disciplinary devotion. Performance of Japa or silent repetition of the divine name is an important part of this discipline. It comes under Smarana or remembrance in the list of the nine aspects of devotional practices. Continuous repetition of the Divine name helps remembrance of Him and the promotion of love for Him.

QUESTION: What is the ultimate end and result of the repetition of a holy Mantra constantly as devotees generally practise?

MAHARAJ: The word Mantra literally means ‘an instrument of deep thought, prayer, meditation, etc.’ Derived from the roots ‘Man’ and ‘Tra’ meaning ‘to think’ and ‘to save’ respectively, it is interpreted to mean also ‘that which saves one from Samsara.’ In a general way all Vedic passages are called Mantras but the Mantras usually so-called in different spiritual traditions are somewhat different. A spell or incantation used by a magician (Mantravadin) is also called a Mantra. In devotional language the word ‘Mantra’ is used for names or invocations of an aspect of the deity with some Bijakshara (seed letters) attached to them and transmitted from Guru to disciple for generations for devoted and concentrated repetition. It is something more than a prayer. It is in itself a word of power. It is thought-movement vehicled in sound and possessing saving power.

It is a sound-manifestation of the deity, whose reality the Sadhaka is enabled to grasp through its repetition. By repetition and the consequent rhythmical vibrations of the subtle sound, the unsteady vibrations in the gross and subtle bodies of the Sadhaka are regulated and brought into harmony and enabled to grasp the reality of the deity.

But mere repetition, though not absolutely useless, is not enough. If the Mantra has power, it can be evoked only with the aid of the power in the Sadhaka. It is like an axe and the proper use of it, both combining for felling a tree. The axe may be sharp, but it is of no use in felling the tree unless the man using it cuts with force. The proper use of a Mantra by a Sadhaka consists in having an understanding of its significance and in himself being motivated by tremendous faith and aspiration. The essential point to understand about the significance of a Mantra is that it is the deity Himself in sound form and that, in repeating it, we are actually communing with the deity. Much can be said about the meaning of the Bijakshara and other parts of a Mantra. While this is largely a matter of esoteric scholarship and there is nothing objectionable in trying to gather all such information about word meanings, etc., we shall be missing the real spiritual significance of the Mantra if, in the midst of all these details, we forget that it consists in the understanding that it is the deity Himself in sound form. So much about the power in the Mantra.

Next, regarding the power in the Sadhaka: it is roused through faith and aspiration. Faith consists in the uninhibited acceptance by the mind of the spiritual tradition, the teacher and efficacy of the Sadhana one is undertaking. Without that, the mind cannot wield the Mantra with force. Equally important is the strength and steadiness of the Sadhaka’s spiritual aspiration if he is an aspirant for Bhakti and Mukti. Just as there is the hunger of the stomach, there is the hunger of the heart—the longing, the reaching out of the soul, for the Supreme Spirit. This is the most essential requirement in spiritual practice. It is the fertilizer without which the spiritual plant will not fructify. When the power of the Sadhaka is roused through understanding, faith and aspiration and unites with the power in the Mantra through devoted and concentrated repetition accompanied with contemplation, then enlightenment comes to him, and he becomes established in harmony and unison with the whole and is a sharer of the bliss that the Supreme Being is.

Courtesy: Vedanta Kesari