There are four strong bonds, which hinder spiritual progress:
1) The bond with the spouse
2) The bond with the money
3) The bond with the child
4) The bond with one's body and life.
A soul who is detached from these four bonds is called an Avadhuta. A samnyasi (monk) is one who can cut the first three bonds but not the fourth bond. This is the strongest bond to break. Food, drink, sleep, and sex are the four biological needs of the body. A samnyasi or a monk, like any living being takes food, drinks water and sleeps. The samnyasi has avoided getting into married life but he still cannot give up the desire for the sex.
An Avadhuta lives and maintains his body without these four needs. His body is beyond the rules of the nature. His is a divine body maintained by the super power (Maya) of the Lord. The state of Avadhuta is that of complete liberation and such complete salvation is possible only by the Grace of the Lord. An Avadhuta is just an inert house of the Lord. There is no soul in that body. The soul also is a part of the nature and so the soul becomes a part of the inert house of the Lord. All that the Avadhuta thinks, talks or does is as a siddha (the accomplished one). There is nothing in this world that remains for Him to be accomplished.
An ordinary individual is a sadhaka (a seeker; one who seeks to accomplish). Even a samnyasi is a sadhaka who is still traveling towards the state of an Avadhuta. There is an uncanny likeness between an inert object such as a stone and an Avadhuta. Both have no soul and no bonds in this world. The only difference is that the Lord dwells in the latter but not in the former. That makes all the difference. If one tries to attain salvation without devotion to the Lord, one will be like a stone; free of attachments but empty in the absence of the Lord. Therefore, salvation must be attained through devotion to the Lord. This will lead to the stage of an Avadhuta.
Among the remaining three bonds, that with one's children is the strongest. It is stronger than the bond with the wife, or spouse in general. The wife can help in the spiritual effort (sadhana) and therefore she is called as 'saha dharmacarini'. One can follow the spiritual path even when one is married, without much hindrance if one devotes one's life to the service of God. The time spent with one's spouse to satisfy the biological need, is an attraction of a short while. This little time is negligible compared to the long lifetime and the energy dedicated to the Lord.
The bond with one's children is more resilient. It persists at all times. It places a greater demand on the time and energies of the parents. It also intensifies the bond with money, since you need to earn more in order to raise children, educate them, get them married and so on. Some people go to the extent of resorting to corruption, and misappropriation of money for the sake of their children. In the process, a lot injustice is perpetrated. This strong bond can be cut only by Realization. With that, not only will the individual get salvation and ascend to the upper world, but justice and peace will also prevail in this world. The strife and chaos in the world is a result of each individual's bonds in this world.
This is the reason why Lord Krisna spoke about the detachment of worldly bonds for the establishment of the justice. He said that He was born to restore justice. Yet we find that He did not preach about justice, laws, rules and regulations. Governments, police and courts of law, quote and enforce laws and rules in order to maintain justice, which they can never truly succeed at maintaining. There are always some people who try to bend the rules and win their case. In the Bhagavad Gita, the Lord kept away from talking about laws and rules. He instead taught about detachment from worldly bonds, which are responsible for injustice in the world. He attacked the problem at the basic level.
Injustice in the world is directly proportional to people's attachment to worldly bonds, especially the bond with one's children. This bond also hinders spiritual elevation. Unless this bond is cut, salvation is impossible. Without salvation, the single bond with the Lord is impossible.
You can analyze Vyasa, Arjuna and Dhstarastra as three examples of above average, average and below average individuals as determined by their detachment towards their respective sons. Vyasa, was a divine soul. He complied the Vedic knowledge into the four the Vedas as we see them today. He wrote the great Brahmasutras, eighteen puranas and the great epic Mahabharata. He is regarded as the highest Guru and his birthday is celebrated as Guru Paurnima. Yet he could not give up his attachment for his son, Suka. When Suka left his home and parents in order to fulfill his life's goal, which was the service of the Lord, Vyasa, who could not give up his attachment, ran after him crying and trying to stop his son. The divine damsels, who are no more than glorified prostitutes laughed to see a man of Vyasa's stature and knowledge, so blinded by his attachment for his son. Vyasa was mocked for his blind attachment for his son. He was not mocked for his bond with the divine lady called Ghritaachi because it was just a temporary bond for a few minutes. She gave birth to his son Suka' to whom Vyasa remained attached for twenty years. For the sake of his wife he wasted only few minutes but for the sake of son he wasted twenty years.
In the Mahabharata, Arjuna, the Pandava prince, was also bound by the bond with his son Abhimanyu. In the Mahabharata war, Arjuna had to fight his own cousins who were favoring injustice. He was not keen on this bloodshed within the family and was ready to give up his rightful kingdom. However at the behest of Lord Krisna he decided to carry on with the war in the interest of justice. He was ready to kill his unjust relatives for the sake of the Lord and justice. This shows his considerable detachment and noble character. Yet when his son Abhimanyu died in the war, he was devastated. He could fight no more. He decided to stop the war.
The war was orchestrated by the Lord to punish the evildoers. It was Arjuna's duty to continue with the war at any cost since it was service to the Lord. Yet his attachment for his son blinded him and he even refused to continue the work of the Lord. In doing so he proved that his bond with his son was stronger than his bond with God. Lord Krisna recognized this fact. He had to break His devotee's attachment to his children. Therefore He performed a painful 'surgery'. After the war, Asvatthama, a warrior from the enemy's side sneaked into Arjuna's camp at night and murdered all his remaining children and nephews (Upa Pandavas). Thus Arjuna, who finally lost all his children, had to learn it the hard way. The Lord had to take this step in order to free his great devotee from the clutches of this fatal bond. Arjuna could have developed detachment if he had taken the advice of the Lord, in the form of the Bhagavad Gita. However he could not do so. Preaching the divine knowledge to him was enough. He needed a more severe treatment, which he got. So did the rest of the Pandavas, the brothers of Arjuna. They too lost their sons and were freed from their attachments as they had surrendered themselves to the Lord.
Therefore, the Lord performed this painful surgery and uplifted Arjuna and other Pandavas since they surrendered to Him. The Lord uplifted Vyasa by preaching him through the mocking of the divine damsels. For Vyasa that mocking was enough to realize his foolishness and give up his attachment. Since Vyasa and Pandavas were His devotees, the Lord did everything for their upliftment.
Dhstarastra, the uncle of the Pandavas. His cruel sons were fighting with the Pandavas, in the Mahabharata war. Dhstarastra was not a devotee. He knew that Lord Krisna was the Lord Himself. His blind eyes had beheld the Cosmic Form of the Lord, the Visvarupam. Yet he did not surrender to the Lord as His servant and devotee. Instead he advised his sons to arrange a grand feast to welcome Lord Krisna and bribe Him into joining their side in the war. He was interested in the wealth and power of Lord Krisna. He had tried to grab the throne from his most capable and valiant brother Pandu, knowing fully well that it was his brother and not he, who had conquered and expanded the kingdom. When Pandu went to the forest in a self-imposed exile, Dhstarastra was made the acting king. In addition to his physical blindness, he became blind with his love for his son. He wanted his son and not Pandu'sto ascend to the throne. He did not mind doing an injustice to his own brother for the sake of his son. The whole kingdom and wealth actually belonged to his brother. Yet he wanted to keep it for his son.
His son, Duryodhana, fueled by his father's ambition and lacking any sense of justice and noble character, usurped the whole kingdom for himself. He even took the share that was promised to the Pandavas. He was intent on waging a war with the Pandavas and destroying them. He had collected all cruel and unjust kings to support him in the war effort. Dhstarastra could have stopped all this. He could have prevented the bloodbath that resulted. He could have prevented the death of his hundred sons and the destruction of his family. He was the king. If he had passed an order as a king, to stop the war and give the Pandavas their rightful share of the kingdom, his son could not have gone against it. He would have the support of the powerful and invincible Bhishma. Bhishma had taken an oath that he would protect the throne. Therefore Dhstarastra need not have feared his son's wrath. Duryodhana would not dare face the great Bhishma. Yet he refused to stop the war, in spite of repeated requests, appeals and warnings from the Lord as well as a number of wise men. At last he faced utter destruction. He lost all he had. Bitter was his defeat and the loss of his hundred sons.
Dhstarastra's wife Gandhari, who was a very righteous lady, always criticized her husband and her sons for their devious ways. Yet at the end of the war, when her sons had lost the war and not one of them survived, she in her pain, cursed Lord Krisna. In that brief moment, she forgot that He was the Lord Himself. She too was blinded momentarily with the love for her children. Such is the strength of this illusory bond!
Today, Dhstarastra represents the majority of people in the world. They try to earn money for the sake of their children and they are prepared to do any injustice for it. Like Dhstarastra they want to please the Lord by spurious worship only in order to obtain some benefit for their children. Such is the destructive power of this bond. It is stronger than the bond with money and with the wife. Therefore if the sadhaka can cut this strongest bond, then the other two bonds can be easily cut. The Gopikas represent the state of a real Avadhuta. In the absence of Krisna, they forgot all the biological needs of their bodies and they committed themselves to the fire when they heard that Lord Krisna had left His body. They could cut the bond with their bodies and bond with their lives. The Lord had already cut their other bonds by dancing with them, by instigating their children to do mischief and by stealing their butter. By the dance in Vrindavanam, the husband-wife bond was cut. The Gopikas had left their husbands in order to dance with the Lord. Krisna made the children of the Gopikas to steal butter from their houses. This angered the Gopikas and broke the mother-child bond. By having the children give butter to Him, Krisna, made the Gopikas part with their hard-earned wealth. Thus their bond with money was also cut. The Gopikas alone could cut all the bonds and achieved the highest grace of the Lord. They were given place in the Goloka which is the fifteenth upper most world.
Even Hanuman, whose service and devotion to the Lord was beyond compare, on one occasion, fought with the Lord for the sake of his mother to protect king Yayati. The Bhagavatam, which contains the story of the Gopikas at the end, is considered as a very sacred scripture. King Parikshit got salvation when he listened to it for seven days. The very first verse of Bhagavatam speaks about the attachment of Vyasa with his son. The love in these worldly bonds can be cut only by the love for the Lord. A diamond can be cut only by another diamond. These bonds with human beings can be cut only by the bond with the Lord in the form of a human being. The bond with the formless God, or the bond with a form of God in the upper world like Vishnu and Siva, or the bond with an idol or a photo cannot cut your family bonds. These are stones, which fail to cut the diamond. Gopikas could cut these human bonds by their bond with Lord Krisna who too was in the human form.
The understanding about these four bonds and the freedom from them, is very important because it deals with the actual journey towards the goal. For us neither the analysis of goal nor the analysis of a soul is as important as the analysis of the path and journey. The goal can be analyzed even after reaching it and need not be known now itself. Since the soul is traveling towards the goal, the soul is already not the goal. This one point is sufficient regarding the soul. All the efforts need to be concentrated in the analysis of the real path and the mode of the journey.
Love is prema. It is based on truth and knowledge. Blind love is moha, which is based on falsehood and ignorance. If you teach your son so that he may pass the examination, it is love. Inspite of your teaching, if he does not improve and if you still encourage him to pass the examination by false means, then it is blind love.
Saint Tukaram preached the Bhagavatam to his wife everyday. Yet she was much attached to her household duties. Hence, she did not deserve salvation. The divine aeroplane came only for Tukaram because he was a deserving soul. Tukaram offered a place in the aeroplane to his wife who was undeserving. This is moha. His wife did not reach the aeroplane on time due to her household duties. Tukaram did not wait for his wife. Had he waited for his wife, he too would have become undeserving himself due to his moha. The divine aeroplane might have left without either of them. By the grace of the Lord, Tukaram realized the truth and got into the aeroplane. Tukaram preached the Bhagavatam to all devotees and his wife was also present in those devotees. Had he preached only to his wife, it would have been moha again.
Sankara preached to all people by wandering all over India on foot. Moha can bring down a person from the highest state to the lowest. Hanuman and Sankaracarya; both are incarnations of Siva. Hanuman was trapped in the moha of his mother when he fought against Rama for the sake of his mother. So, he fell from the state of Siva to jiva. Therefore, he was always in the state of jiva (soul) and always stated 'daso'ham' i.e., I am a servant (of Rama). Sankaracarya left his mother for the sake of Lord and was free of moha. Therefore He was in His original state of Siva (the Lord) and said 'sivo'ham', i.e. I am Siva. Please remember that Hanuman acted the role of an ignorant jiva to preach to us through example. He was not really trapped by moha. We should therefore only take the essential message of his role and not pass judgments over anyone. The message is that even Siva becomes jiva due to moha. When Siva crosses the moha, he remains the original Siva.
The essence of sadhana is only to destroy this moha for worldly bonds and to have moha only on the Lord. Moha for God alone becomes prema. It should be proved in practice and need not be expressed through words or feelings. If true knowledge is absent, practice will never come. If the true knowledge is attained, you are sure to soon attain it in practice as well. Therefore, true knowledge and its propagation is the most important mission of the Lord. He who participates in this mission becomes very near and dear to Lord. The only duty of a samnyasi is the propagation of the divine knowledge and therefore the samnyasi is the nearest and dearest as told in the Bhagavad Gita (jnani saca mam priyah, jnani tva tamaiva). Samnyasa does not mean shaving the head and wearing the saffron clothes. Samnyasa means propagation of divine knowledge to uplift all the people in the world.
Love is the nectar created by the Lord and therefore should not be destroyed. The family is a bottle in which this nectar is present. The Lord is another bottle. You do not need to destroy the first bottle neither do you need to throw away the nectar. You have to simply transfer the nectar from the first bottle of your family to the second bottle, which is God. Therefore you should neither leave the family nor destroy the love for your family.
Suppose your destination is Delhi but you are traveling in a car towards Madras, which is in the opposite direction to Delhi. You need not destroy the car that takes you to Madras nor do you need to stop it from moving. The car is in your control. You can redirect the car towards Delhi. The car will take you to Delhi with the same speed. Similarly the love for your family draws you to the family. The love is in your control. You redirect the love towards the Lord and then it will take you towards the Lord with the same speed.
This love should not be confined to mere words and feelings, for such love is spurious. You do not show such spurious love to your children. Your love for your children is not merely a show of words and feelings. It is backed by action and practical sacrifice. Therefore do not show spurious love to the Lord. Show your love to God in action as, you show to your family. You do not spend empty words and feelings to show your love for your children then why do the same to God? Similarly you do not wear silk clothes, garlands and apply sacred ash on your forehead to show that you love your children. Then why should you put on this act before God?
Duty is different from attachment. Krisna is Narayana . Narayana is one with Siva. Manmadha was the only son of Narayana . When Manmadha committed a grave mistake, Narayana in the form of Siva, burnt His only son. Dhstarastra had one hundred sons. He could not punish even one son (Duryodhana) for his devilish deeds. This is the difference between a scholar and an ignorant person. An ignorant person does his duties with attachment. A scholar also does his duties but without attachment.
All family bonds are temporary and are confined to this birth only. In the previous birth you were not related to the same people and in the future births too you will not be related to them. Sankara has told that that which is temporary must be unreal (yat anityam tat katakamhi loke). The two actors in a drama were not father and son before the drama and will not be father and son after the drama. The bond of father and son exists between them temporarily during the drama only. Actually if you analyze, even during the drama also they are not really father and son. Therefore that which is temporary must be unreal in the past, present and future. That which is permanent is ever real. If you realize this divine knowledge of Sankara you can cut all your worldly bonds. Sankara left His old mother for the sake of the Lord. He practiced whatever He preached.
5. My son wants to take samnyasa (renunciation; monkhood). Can you please stop him and explain to him that the Vedas say that one must carry out one's responsibilities towards one's parents by serving them and treating them as God Himself?
Your name indicates that you belong to the Smarta tradition and are a follower of Adi Sankara. Lord Sankara also left his mother and took samnyasa at a very young age for the sake of propagation of knowledge of the God. Did He not know that parents are to be treated as God? Why do you not criticize Him then? If you do not criticize Sankara then you have no right to stop your son from doing the same.
The fact is that you are unaware of the truth. Father and mother are to be treated as God as far as this world is concerned. They should be loved and worshipped as God as compared all other persons and objects in the world. However when the choice is between God and parents, the parents are to be left for the sake of God. The Veda says 'matr devo bhava| pitr devo bhava. This line could be interpreted in two different ways. As far as the world is concerned, parents are God. However when God enters one's life, God is the only parent. Then even biological parents are left in favor of God. We normally take only the earlier meaning. We want to extend this interpretation even beyond its scope for our convenience.
If your son leaves you for the love of his wife, children or anything else in the world, he should be criticized. He has not carried out his responsibilities to his parents and will be punished. However if leaves his parents for the love of God, it is not a sin and he gets no blame. Therefore Adi Sankara left his mother for the sake of God. His mother even got salvation because of this action of His. Had Sankara stayed in that hut and served his mother for that petty lifetime of hers, she might have had to settle for this insignificant and temporary benefit of being served by her son instead of the eternal and infinite benefit of salvation.
If your son is attracted tot he world and is likely to be spoiled by its temptations, I would advise him to get married, settle down and serve his parents. However if he is not attracted to the world and is keen on embarking on the journey towards God, I will not stop him. It is a great sin to prevent a person from going God. You are not at all justified in trying to prevent him from taking samnyasa. God will be angry with anyone who tries to stop him. The persons who try to prevent others from walking the spiritual path should instead be walking it themselves.
A person, who is drawn towards worldly attractions and vices, should be diverted towards worldly justice (Dharma). He should serve his parents as God. However if one is inclined towards the spiritual path, he should not be tied down by worldly justice. God is greater than justice because He is the creator and protector of justice. If someone is falling down you can bring him up. But if one is going towards the sky you should not pull him down to earth. If one is engaged in spiritual discussions and is not feeling hungry, you should not force him to take his meals. If he is feeling hungry, you can advise him to take his meals and resume the divine discussion. Suppose out of the one hour that you indented to have the discussion, even if a half hour goes for meals, at least the rest half hour is fruitfully spent in discussion. If instead you sit in the discussion hungry and are not able to apply your mind to the discussion, you have wasted the whole hour.
Such hypocrisy should be avoided. If you are hungry then there is no need to pretend that you are interested in the discussion. On similar lines, it is wiser to take up family life and live like a householder if one is attracted to the world rather than live a hypocritical life of outward samnyasa with worldly desires inside.
As a householder you should serve the Lord sincerely at least for some time. Therefore you can advise your son that he should not take samnyasa if he has even a trace of attraction towards worldly pleasures. Even after taking samnyasa, if his mind is attracted towards the worldly pleasures, he should come back to household life instead of continuing in samnyasa with hypocrisy. Samnyasa without any hypocrisy is the best. The next best is household life in the service of the Lord. The worst is samnyasa with hypocrisy. This is the real essence of all the Vedas.
People should not misinterpret the Vedas and state that parents are God and that there is no God other than the parents. If that were true, Prahlada should not have left his father and Sankara should not have left his mother. Yet both left their respective parents for the sake of God. In fact cutting all worldly bonds such as those with parents, wife, children and money is real salvation. The establishment of a single bond with the Lord is called 'kaivalyam' or 'sayujyam'.
6. When one is spiritual, the parents may cease to take the place of God for him. Yet should he not give them what is due to them as parents? How can he be justified in leaving his parents for the sake of the Lord?
If what you say were correct then Sankara should not have left his old widowed, mother, especially when she was without any alternative assistance. Therefore when God enters one's life, the mother looses not only her Godhood but also her motherhood. God becomes the only mother for a realized soul.
The biological mother is only a co-actor in this life drama. Life is a drama. As soon as this drama costume called the gross body is cast away in death, the actors that acted together in the drama cease to have any connection with each other. They are no more father, mother, husband wife or children. They all go to the Divine Producer of the drama for their remuneration and future appointment in different roles in the drama. The remuneration is the fruits of their good and bad deeds. In their new roles, in different costumes, they enter the drama again. Their earlier roles are completely forgotten. She who was a person's mother in the past birth could be his wife in this. He who was his enemy in the past birth could be his father in this birth. Thus the drama continues.
Therefore for a realized scholar, the Lord alone becomes mother, father, wife and children. Through all the various temporary and changing bonds he is related only to the Lord. The Lord brings the soul to this world as a farmer brings soaked seed to his field to sow. Thus the Lord becomes the father. The Bhagavad Gita says the same (aham bija pradah pita). The Lord created the five elements. These five elements combine in the mother's womb to form the gross body of the person through the power of the Lord. The infant is even delivered by the will and force of the Lord. Thus in fact God alone is the mother. Therefore God becomes the real father and the real mother of the spiritual seeker.
For an ignorant person this mother is both mother and God because he is under the illusion of this drama called Maya. He forgets that the soul of mother is acting as mother as per the written script of the drama called as 'Vidhi'. The actors should play their part according to the script. Therefore, the love of the mother is not real. If it were real then she would not have forgotten her child after death. The Lord remembers all your previous births because His love for you is real. The Bhagavad Gita says Tanyaham Veda Sarvani Natvamvetta. This means that the Lord remembers all the births of the soul but the soul does not remember even a single past birth. This proves that the love of the soul is unreal since it is only a part in the drama of life. When Abhimanyu died and went to heaven, the Lord took Arjuna, his father, to the heaven. Abhimanyu could not recognize his father. This proves that the feelings of these dramatic bonds disappear as soon as the soul leaves the gross body. The gross body is nothing more than an actor's costume.
An ignorant person alone treats his mother as God. He is in fact a type of atheist who does not recognize the real Lord. In the second stage, one treats his mother as mother and God as God. He is somewhat better but he is putting his two feet in two different boats. In the third step he treats God alone as mother. This is the final and highest stage. These three stages constitute the entire spiritual journey or sadhana. Unless worldly bonds with the family are broken, the bond with God cannot be formed. Unless one is relieved from the old institution, he cannot join the new institution. The bonds of this world are many and include the bonds with parents, wife, children, money etc. The bond with the Lord is only one as said in the Bhagavad Gita (eka bhaktih visisyate). The breaking of old bonds in this world is called salvation (moksa). The formation of the new bond with the Lord is called as Union with God (sayujya).
The Bhagavad Gita says 'eka bhaktih visisyate', which means that a person having only one bond with the Lord alone is liberated. Liberation itself means destruction of all the bonds in this world. Without full liberation, one cannot have a strong bond with the Lord. Unless one is completely relieved from the world, one cannot serve God. The in order to be appointed for a position in a new institution, one has to resign from the old institution. You cannot partially join the new institution. Service to God cannot be treated as a side business. Of course a partial bond with God can be treated as the intermediate stage and is better than having no bond. But the aim should not be just a partial bond.
If you aim at a score of 100 marks, you may get only 40 marks and mange to pass. If you aim at 40 marks only, you will certainly fail. Therefore, the aim must be total liberation from the world and establishing a single bond with the God. The bond consists of three parts. The service in terms of sacrifice of work and fruit of work comprises ninety-nine percent of the bond with the Lord. Loving the Lord with the mind consists of 2/3rd percent. Remembering Him through words consists of a 1/3rd percent.
If you take the case of Sankara, he donated His hundred percent to the Lord. His mother was His only family. Yet he left her for the service of the Lord. He diverted all the love and service that was due His love for His mother, words of praise for His mother and service to His mother, to the Lord. He is the most beloved of the Lord. That should be our aim.
In the beginning you cannot sacrifice the effort (duty) that you take for the family and mental attachment that you have for your family. At least make a humble beginning by donating words, in the form of prayers to the Lord. Read spiritual books and chant hymns and songs. Remember that in doing this, you would have donated only 1/3rd of a percent of your efforts to the Lord. Therefore, do not aspire for any thing in return from the Lord, for this donation of 1/3rd of a percent.
In the next stage you should try to divert your mind towards the Lord. This is love for the Lord and constitutes 2/3rd of a percent of your effort. In this you should do your duties to your family members, but without mental attachment. Such mental detachment has several added advantages even from the worldly point of view. If one is mentally detached from the family members, he will not be hurt if they insult him in future. He will not be disturbed when their behavior is contrary to his expectations. He will not suffer when disease or death attacks them. Mental detachment brings full peace and balance of mind. Due to this he will be always energetic and in good health. Thus mental detachment is needed even for an atheist.
The detached mind cannot keep silent because it is habituated to the attachment. Therefore, one should attach the mind to the Lord. Such attachment will always give infinite bliss in the life. When you are successful in attaching the mind to the Lord, you are called as devotee. Now even a devotee is not stable and can be disturbed. The mind (manas), is fickle and ever fluctuating by nature. The intellect (buddhi) is the decision-maker and the stabilizing factor. Devotion becomes firm only if the intellect is involved. Devotion becomes firm when the intellect takes a firm decision through knowledge.
Therefore, the Bhagavad Gita started with buddhi yoga or jnana yoga (the path of knowledge) in the second chapter. When the mind is fixed on the Lord with the help of knowledge, actions will naturally change and will follow the mind. The mind is like the king. Words are like his ministers. The intelligence is like his preacher or Guru. Work or actions are like his army. Therefore, with the help of the words the mind should be diverted to the Lord and it is fixed with the help of the intelligence. Words may divert the mind but intelligence stabilizes it. Therefore, when you donate words and mind to the Lord and when you stabilize and strengthen them by spiritual knowledge, your duties and responsibilities, which constitute actions, will naturally be directed towards the Lord. Work is an inert entity and is controlled by the mind and intelligence which are conscious entities.
In this life, you get everything according to your past and present deeds. The Lord has arranged the cycles of your births in a particular way. In each cycle, happiness and misery are alternatively arranged irrespective of the sequence in which you performed good and bad deeds. Even if you have done two sins one after the other, the fruits of the two sins are not given to you in the same sequence. The result of a good deed is interspersed in between the results of the two sins. Thus the Lord has arranged all your life events in the present and in future births.
Suppose you are suffering at present. You are actually suffering for some bad deed that you did in the past. You always pray to the Lord to remove your present miseries and give you happiness. When you pester Him like this by crying and praying, He will bring you a good result which you were supposed to enjoy in the future. He will remove the misery that you are suffering now and postpone it for the future. He will replace it by some good result that you were supposed to enjoy later. It is like encashing a fixed deposit prematurely. Whenever you encash fixed deposits or money bonds prematurely, you inevitably lose some money. Had you waited for the right time of maturity, you would have got its full value.
By such interference in your life cycles in which you insist on getting only good results and removing bad results, a stage comes when all the good results that you had earned by virtue of your past good actions, get exhausted. All that remains in your life cycles is miseries after miseries. They are those miseries which you had postponed every time by badgering God with your prayers and supplications. The miseries grow in value. It is as if they accrue interest. The future life cycles are thus filled with misery. Then you will scold the Lord crying "Oh! Lord you have given me misery from birth to death". You do not remember your foolish interference in the past births. Thus such interference in one's destiny does not remove the miseries in your life however much we may try to avoid them by praying to God.
The only other way out of your predicament is that the Lord in human form should transfer your sins on His body and should suffer for your sake. In this case, there is actual removal of your miseries. However God does not do this frequently. He will do so only when you don't aspire for this option and worship the Lord in human form by sacrificing all your bonds of the world. Only for a true devotee who never wishes that the Lord should suffer for his or her sake, will He do so. Such a true devotee worships the Lord without aspiring for anything in return.
One has to understand the theory of karma and the devotion towards Lord. The Lord suffers for the sins of His true devotees only. The real devotees serve the Lord in practice by doing karma samnyasa (sacrifice of work) and karma phala tyaga (sacrifice of the fruit of work) in His mission without aspiring anything in return. In such service even an iota of desire should not be present even in a single cell of the human being. This is called 'niskama karma yoga' as emphasized in the Bhagavad Gita.
Your question proves one thing for sure, that you are not a real devotee of the Lord. Your son must have been a real devotee as you say. He was born to you as the result of his past action (prarabdha). In your association he would have certainly got spoilt. Therefore the Lord wanted to separate him from you. It was for your late son's benefit.
The Lord wanted him to become the son of another real devotee. He allowed you to live with your son for sometime to see whether you would change and become devoted. If you had changed, your son could have continued to live with you. Obviously you have not changed because you are finding fault with God and criticizing His justice. In reality all He did was to cut your blind attachment to your son and gave your son a better opportunity to pursue the spiritual path.
Actually all family bonds should be cut for the sake of the bond with the Lord. Just like you change your son's school with bad students to a school with good students, the Lord changed your son to be raised in the atmosphere of real devotion. Thus the Lord protected your son. Ironically He protected your son from you. In His view, removing this external body is just like removing the shirt. In your view, such removal of shirt is cruelty. However you are ignorant and selfish. Therefore your view is not valid. The Lord is All-knowing and free of selfishness. Therefore always have firm faith that the Lord is always kind and that He is the protector of all His real devotees.
Had your statement been correct, there would have been no death due to hunger in this world. However, we find that hunger, death, illness and misery are all very common. This means there is no such responsibility for the Lord. This is explained in the Bhagavad Gita (na kartrtvam). Every living being gets everything including food according to its own deeds. In short, food and all material things are earned, not granted as a gift. One should not aspire for anything desirable from the Lord. Instead one should only serve Him selflessly. The Lord protects human beings who are selfless and serve the Lord. The Lord protects them by transferring all their sins to Him.
First of all, you cut your blind bond (moha) with your son. He was your enemy in your previous birth. You stole his property. He is now born as your son to collect his wealth from you with interest (rnanubandha rupena). In your previous birth you had prayed to the Lord to punish the same person since he stole your property. The Lord neither punished him in his previous birth and nor will He protect him in this birth. The punishment and protection come to him only in the form of fruits (results) of his deeds. For you, one soul becomes near and dear in this birth and the same soul becomes your enemy in another birth. How can you plead his case to Me? Are you pleading for the person who stole your property as your enemy or the person who lost his job and is your son?
All living beings are equally dear to the Lord in all the births. The Lord is the Father and Mother of all. Suppose a stranger comes to your house and pleads your son's case to you. How preposterous would that be? You love your son the most. Then how can a stranger plead his case to you?
The Lord punishes a person only to bring realization to that soul. Did you not punish your son in the childhood to discipline him? Did I interfere in your punishment then? I have an even greater responsibility towards humanity than you have for your son. The Guru is greater than even the parents. If you plead someone's case to the Lord, you are insulting the Lord. It shows as if you are pretending to be more concerned about him than Me. Therefore you worry only about yourself and leave him to Me.
The Bhagavad Gita says that the caste system is based on qualities and profession (gunna karma vibhagasah). Good qualities and excellence were always respected. Rama and Krisna were non-Brahmanas. Yet Brahmana priests wash the idols of Rama and Krisna and drink the washings as sacred water. In the Bhagavatam it is written that Bhurisravasa, who was a pot maker (a low caste) was made Brahma (the person presiding; one who represents the Lord) in the sacrifice.
Ravana was a Brahmana but was condemned due to his evilness. Every human being is Sudra by birth and can become Brahmana by practicing the true meaning of the Vedas (janmana jayate). Brahmana means he who knows the Brahman. Brahman also means the Veda in Samskritam. Every caste contains good as well as bad people. Sabari and Kannappa belonged to the family of untouchables. Nobody is untouchable by birth. In the Veda only four castes were mentioned. How did this fifth caste of untouchables come into existence? All the bad people in the four castes were expelled from the village just like bad students are expelled from the school. Thus untouchability is due to the qualities and deeds but not by birth. Even Brahmanas worship the photos of Sabari and Kannappa in their prayer rooms.
The caste system is based on the qualities and profession. It is not based on birth. This is clearly told in the Bhagavad Gita (Chaatur Varnyam Maya Sristam). Unfortunately, nowadays a birth-based caste system is followed. The Dharma Sastra says that the girl should love a deserving boy. If a deserving man is not available in her caste, she may marry a deserving man of another caste but not an undeserving fellow of her own caste. If there are two deserving men, she should prefer the deserving man of her own caste.
The reason why marriages within the same caste are preferable is that each caste is characterized by a certain language, type of food, manners and habits. This leads to some difficulties in adjustment in case of inter-caste marriages. It may even be that the girl is ready to adjust to a certain man from another caste. However would she be in a position to adjust to his relatives and friends who are culturally and habit-wise so different? E.g. Suppose a vegetarian girl marries a man who is also vegetarian but is from another caste. However other people of then man's caste including his relatives are traditionally non-vegetarian. If they visit this couple for dinner, the boy may force his wife to prepare non-vegetarian food for the sake of his relatives. The girl may not be prepared to deal with this situation. Such day-to-day things can lead to misunderstandings and even to separation. A lot of such problems are avoided if the marriage is within a caste and is a strong factor for the perpetuation of a birth-based caste system.
However the above reasoning has its limits. The aspects of food habits and cultural difference are not half as important as good qualities and devotion. If a boy with excellent qualities and deep devotion, belonging to another caste is available and a comparable boy is not available in her own caste, the girl should prefer the one from another caste. She should be aware of the possible future problems before taking the decision. If such problems are not present in their particular case, then the caste distinction based on birth can be ignored.
The real basis for the division of the population into the four castes is given below. Any human being who knows the true meaning of the Veda is a Brahmana. Any human being who protects the innocent is a Kshatriya. Any human being who donates money for the sake of the work of the Lord is a Vaisya. Any human being who does the service of the Lord without aspiring any thing in return is Sudra. Sudra means the person who suffers (Shochati Iti Shudrah). The person who does service without aspiring for any fruit in return, really suffers and therefore is called as a Sudra. The Brahmana is the person who knows the true meaning of the Vedas. The Sudra is the person who practices the true meaning of the Vedas and undergoes suffering as a result of sacrifice. Therefore, in fact, a Sudra is higher than a Brahmana.
Every servant of the Lord is a Sudra. He brings the spiritual knowledge into practice. The Brahmana is only a scholar of the spiritual knowledge. He lacks practice. Manu Dharma Sastra says that a Brahmana knows the knowledge of the Veda and Sudra does service with self-suffering. Unless knowledge is converted into practice, one cannot get salvation. This is the reason why the sages who were Brahmanas took birth as Gopikas (sudras) to get salvation. The sages discussed the Vedas but the Gopikas practically sacrificed the fruit of their hard work (butter) to the Lord and served the Lord. They did not give the butter even to their own children and such sacrifice caused suffering in their hearts. Therefore a Sudra should not be looked down upon.
Similarly the women should not be treated as lower than the men. A male Brahmana denied the Gayatri to women and sudras. Ironically, Gayatri remains with them only. Gayatri means a song in praise of the Lord. Women and sudras worship the Lord through devotional songs. I am not criticizing all male Brahmanas. Please don't forget that I am a male and Brahmana. Only the blind egoism of certain rigid male Brahmanas is being criticized. There are plenty of good male Brahmanas who have acquired perfect obedience (Vinaya) through their Brahma jnanam and who are like the rishis. Sages like Kasyapa, Atri, Bharadvaja were also Brahmanas. So were some demons like Ravana, Hiranyakasipu. The distinction should only be based on the merits and defects in quality and not on birth, gender, age, nationality or religion.
Bhurisravasa, a pot maker was made as chief priest in a sacrifice by the sages in the Bhagavatam. Rama and Krisna were kshatriyas (non-Brahmanas). Yet Brahmanas washed their feet and the washings are taken as the sacred tirtham. Ravana was a Brahmana but was not respected by Brahmanas. Sabari and Kannappa were untouchables and yet their pictures are worshipped in the prayer rooms of Brahmanas. The untouchability is not by birth but by quality. Bad people in all the castes were expelled from the village as untouchables just like the worst students are expelled from the school. It is only to change their minds. Thus in the view of Lord Datta, the caste system is based only on qualities and the deeds of the human beings and is not based on birth at all.
13. According to genetics, qualities are inherited from parents and passed on to offspring. In that light, the divisions of caste must be based on birth alone. How can you say that divisions of caste are not by birth?
Your argument is not in keeping with reason, experience, the Veda and the Bhagavad Gita. It is clearly false. The Veda says that unless a Brahmana practices the Vedic spiritual knowledge, he is not a Brahmana simply by birth. If your argument were correct, then a child born to a Brahmana should spontaneously practice the spiritual knowledge without any effort. A light produced from another light may be as bright as the previous light. However the son of a Brahmana, who practices the spiritual knowledge, need not be in a position to practice the same spiritual knowledge spontaneously. We find so many Brahmanas who are given to vices. By your logic, these bad qualities must have been present in the great sages, to whom the Brahmanas trace their ancestry. This is a strange conclusion, as the sages, by definition, had an exceptional character.
In fact we see so many examples in our life in which very righteous and honest parents have children who have a bad character or are given to vices.
Then we must conclude that in case of all human beings irrespective of the caste in which they were born, there must be both good and bad qualities. Thus no human being can be considered to be superior to the other simply by birth. In fact Sastras say that no soul can contain only a single quality (such as purely good or purely bad). Each soul is a mixture of the three qualities called satvam (purity and knowledge) and rajas (activity and passions) and tamas (inertness and selfishness). The satvam is called the good while rajas and tamas together are called the bad qualities.
The soul is called the 'jivatma', which constitutes both 'jiva' and 'Atma'. The jiva is a bundle of qualities like the waves and 'Atma' is the pure awareness, which is like motionless water. There cannot be waves without water. Therefore there cannot be jiva without Atma. This means that in every soul is pure awareness, which is vibrating as the three qualities. In such case all the souls are equal.
Any soul can suppress the bad qualities and nurture good qualities by spiritual effort (sadhana). The ability to take this effort is greatly influenced by the surrounding environment (sanga). If you are in the association of worldly people, you will be a bundle of worldly qualities. If you are in the association of spiritual people you are a bundle of spiritual qualities. The worldly quality is a mixture of the three qualities dominated by rajas and tamas, while the spiritual quality is a mixture of the three qualities dominated by satva. If you are in the company of spiritual scholars, they will preach to you the right spiritual knowledge. Knowledge is also a bundle of ideas and each quality is an idea. Therefore knowledge alone can change your nature by tipping the balance of your qualities in favor of satvam.
Knowledge is not hereditary. The knowledge of the father is not spontaneously transferred to his son. The son of a professor of mathematics cannot become a scholar in mathematics spontaneously. However if a mathematician dies and his soul takes a new birth as someone's son, then that son may have a natural brilliance in mathematics due to the transfer of the same qualities of the soul from its past birth. However it is not a rule that the souls of a mathematician will be born to a mathematician alone. Likewise there is no rule that the soul of a Brahmana will be born to a Brahmana alone.
The souls take births in different castes, irrespective of their caste in the past birth. Thus transfer of qualities and knowledge is again distributed in all castes at random. Conversely, based on the same principle, ignorance is also distributed in all the castes. The soul in any body charges the brain and the nervous system of that body with the qualities and knowledge that it possesses. Once the soul leaves the body all the qualities follow the soul and no quality remains in the body. Genes are entirely physical and are capable of transferring only physical characteristics and at the most some mannerisms.
14. Creatures such as fishes eat other creatures. How can one incur sin in killing and eating such carnivorous creatures? Vegetarians, who protest against killing of other creatures for food, themselves eat plants, which too have life. While we argue about killing lowly creatures, the recent tsunamis killed about a hundred thousand people including innocent children. Could you please shed some light on these issues?
You talk about whether eating fish is sin. However you do not stop at eating fish alone. A goat is a pure vegetarian but you (non-vegetarians) eat the goat too. Suppose you find a human being, who is a murderer, would you kill him yourself, or would you hand him over to the police and let the court of law decide his fate? Assuming that the fish is carnivorous and hence a murderer, how can you decide that it deserves to die and be your food? You cannot kill it directly. That is God's job. He will punish it. Of course you cannot file a case against the fish in the court of the God and you need not. He will take care of it far better than you can imagine.
As civilized people, you raise your voice against capital punishment saying "If you cannot give life, you have no right to take it away". You also say that hanging is the most barbaric deed and that several countries have banned it. If you are really so civilized and so pro-life, then how about being consistent in your own views when it comes to fishes and other creatures. How do you get the right to end the life of a fish even if it is regarded as a murderer of other creatures? Life is common in the human being as well as the fish. Both are living beings. If you don't have the right to take away the life of a human being, you also have no right to take the life of the fish.
The Dharma Sastras say that non-violence is the highest justice (ahimsa paramo dharmah). Some people argue that killing for food is justified and that such an action does not incur sin. Yet would you accept carnivorous predators from the forest entering the city and eating human beings? Are the predators not entitled to obtain their food? If such a thing were to happen you would be sure to kill those predators for killing your fellow human beings. You have to understand that killing is sin, period. As you would like to protect your fellow human beings from being consumed by predators, you should broaden your heart further and look at the fish and every living creature as your fellow living being. If you were able to do this, you would be practicing the highest form of justice, which pleases the Lord.
You cannot compare plants with animals and birds. Agreed, that plants have life. Therefore one should not cut green plants. However, plucking leaves and fruits is not killing. It is not a sin to pluck leaves and fruits for food. Also most crops such as grain crops are cut only when they die. Presence of the green chlorophyll is the sign of life in plants. Most food grain crops are normally yellow or brown when they are harvested. Thus the violence involved in leading a vegetarian life is minimal.
The major difference between plants and animals is that although plants have life, mind and intelligence do not exist. Life is called as pranamaya kosha. The mind is manomaya kosha. The intelligence is the vijnanamaya kosha. Life is only an inert mechanism of the process of exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, in which energy is released by oxidation. This mechanism has no awareness of the pain. The mind is where there is feeling and the sensation of pain. This response is distinctly developed in animals owing to their nervous system. In plants, 'mind' as we know it, is not present.
The research of the great Indian scientist, J. C. Bose, reveals that 'mind' exists in an extremely primitive stage in plants. The ancient Indian sages were aware of this and hence avoided even plucking leaves and fruits. They ate leaves and fruits after they had fallen from the plants (Swayam Visheerna Dhruva Patra Vrittita). They avoided this trace of sin also.
In plucking the leaf of a plant and killing an animal, the sin may be qualitatively equal, but there is a huge quantitative difference. One percent sin and hundred percent sin cannot be equated. Your argument is that if a vegetarian eats plant parts then it is comparable to killing an animal for food. This argument is foolish. It says that if one does one percent sin, why not do a hundred percent sin? Are you pained equally if I steal one rupee or a hundred thousand rupees from you? The smaller sin can be neglected if unavoidable. The Lord came as Buddha and preached this non-violence. The Veda also says that one should kill his animal nature in the sacrifice (yajna) and not the animal (manyuh pasuh).
That brings us to your next point as to why so many people and even innocent children were killed in the tsunami. If your insinuation is that God is unjust, then you are mistaken. You may think that children are innocent and free of sin. However this is not entirely true. Each child has the seeds of his past deeds in him. The child of a demon has devilish characteristics in seed form. The soul in a child has just entered this world after a long punishment in hell. The strength of the sinful tendencies (samskara) is very much reduced in him. However the impressions and tendencies of past deeds do not completely vanish. A thief when released from the jail after a sound beating and rigorous forced labor has the tendency to steal in much reduced state. Yet the tendency still exists. When he comes out and enters a suitable encouraging atmosphere, this seed of his tendency grows into a tree and he resumes stealing. He is again caught by the police and sent to jail for his theft.
Similarly a child is born with its past bad tendencies in a reduced state. However as it grows, it may get an atmosphere conducive to the growth of his past tendencies in which case the past tendencies grow as well. The child is thus most likely to repeat the same deeds that landed him in hell at the end of his past life. Thus the individual goes to hell again and again. This is the endless cycle of deeds (karma cakra). When a child is taken away by God, it is something like arresting the thief immediately after his release. This prevents the thief from stealing again. He must be considered lucky. The child was perhaps in an environment which would promote the re-growth of his bad tendencies. If left as it is, the child was sure to repeat the same bad deeds and go to hell. When the Lord takes him away, it is for the child's own good. He may get a better birth.
You are sympathetic towards the child since you are not aware of the soul in the body of that child. The body is like a shirt and death is only the destruction of the shirt. The Bhagavad Gita emphasizes about this aspect in the beginning itself. The plans of the Lord are not known to us. He may give a better shirt in a better place and protect the soul. We have a very myopic view of the whole Cosmic Drama and make arbitrary conclusions. Only complete and thorough spiritual knowledge can remove all such doubts.
Suppose I say that the purpose of creating humans is also to supply the food to tigers, lions, and other man-eating carnivores in the forest. How would do you feel? Why don't you allow tigers and lions to freely come in and raid villages and towns for their food? The purpose of a soul getting the birth of a fish, bird or animal is to punish the soul for its bad deeds in its past births. These creatures lead a hand to mouth existence. They do not store any thing for the future. Thus in such a birth, the soul gets a training to reduce its selfish behavior. A sinner who appropriates the wealth of others and goes on storing it for selfish purposes is born as a creature such as a fish. By leading the life of such a creature, which does not store food even for the next day, the soul learns to be less selfish.
Punishment is only meant for change. Thus the births of creatures like fishes have an important significance in the spiritual progress of a soul. God is the teacher who is responsible for all these souls, which are His students. When the students commit an error, it is His responsibility to make the student realize the mistake and correct it. If you view God from this angle, you will understand God as the kindest teacher. A sinner, who stores wealth and does not donate to others, gets the birth of a plant or tree. The plant or tree stores the excess earned food in the form of fruits and is forcibly made to donate these fruits to the living beings. Thus a soul in a tree is forced to learn sacrifice, which is the most essential part of the spiritual effort. Thus God is leading all the souls towards the highest spiritual goal. If you understand this real purpose, you will not dream of eating those poor living beings. Would you kill your classmate who is learning?
The whole world is a single classroom. The teacher is 'Guru Datta', meaning the Lord who has given Himself to this world in the form of a teacher. Even in a green plant, a soul exists and therefore it should not be cut. In order to teach this lesson, the Lord came in human forms like Buddha and Mahavira and preached non-violence as the highest duty of a human being. The Hindu Dharma Sastra (Manu Smruti) also condemns killing of other creatures. (ahimsa paramodharmah).
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