Shri Datta Swami

Posted on: 26 May 2019

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REMOVING SELFISHNESS: SELF ANALYSIS AND DEVOTION

Shri Kishore Ram asked: You have said that when ‘I’ is crossed the selfishness being related to the self (‘I’) also vanishes. You have further said that ‘I’ vanishes whenever one is attracted to God. This brings a temporary relief from the selfishness. How to get rid off selfishness forever?

Swami replied: As long as ‘I’ exists, selfishness also exists just like the property of heat exists as long as the fire exists. The root source of selfishness is the I-thought or one’s self-identity. It means that one must try to keep oneself in the state of being attracted to God at all times. It is the only way to be relieved of selfishness forever. A doubt arises at this point that if a devotee is always immersed in God, how can the devotee perform his or her necessary worldly duties? The answer to this question is found in the Gita. God says that in the case of such a devotee, who is always immersed in God, God Himself takes up the worldly responsibilities as well as the spiritual responsibilities of that devotee (Teshaam satatayuktaaanam... Yogakshemam vahaamyaham). For such a devotee, God is everything. Hence, his mind will not be attracted to anything or anyone else in the world. For such a devotee, if God is present before him in human form like Krishna, it will be very convenient to develop attraction towards Him. Also, such attraction or devotion towards the contemporary Human Incarnation of God will actually be real. This is because, God can easily test the genuineness of the devotee’s devotion. The proof of the purity or genuineness of the devotee’s devotion is his ability to overcome his worldly bonds in order to practically serve the Incarnation and sacrifice the fruit of his work to the Incarnation. For such a genuine devotee, the contemporary Human Incarnation of God is everything as said in the Gita (Vaasudevah sarvamiti ...).

Instead of the contemporary Human Incarnation of God, if the devotee chooses to be devoted to the unimaginable God, even developing theoretical attraction becomes impossible. How can you develop attraction to an Entity which you cannot even imagine? So, the unimaginable God is the most inconvenient to develop devotion as also stated in the Gita (Avyaktaa hi gatirduhkham). If the devotee chooses to focus on a representative symbol of God such as an image or a statue, it might be possible to develop some attraction towards it. But there is no way of proving the genuineness of the devotee’s attraction or devotion to God. Whenever the devotee serves or sacrifices something to God in the form of a statue, God does not actually and directly receive the offerings. The statue cannot test the devotee’s devotion as an Incarnation can. Even the devotee does not get complete satisfaction in worshipping a representative symbol of God as he can get by worshipping the contemporary Human Incarnation of God. When the goal of one’s devotion is God-in-human-form, not only does the practical service and sacrifice done by the devotee fully prove that the devotee’s devotion is actually real but the devotee also gets full satisfaction.

Sages are considered to be the topmost devotees in creation and are given a higher place than even angels. These sages realized the existence of the absolute unimaginable God (Parabrahman) after thoroughly analyzing and debating upon spiritual knowledge for millions of births. But they could not properly concentrate on that original form of God. They realized that even theoretical meditation on the unimaginable God is impossible. The sages also tried to concentrate on energetic forms of God. But they realized that God would only appear in these energetic forms for a very short time. Finally, they approached Rama, the human form of God, after having had a lot of theoretical debates and discussions for many births. But Rama told them that He would examine them in their next birth before granting them the certificate for total salvation.

Monism and Dualism

‘I’ means the basic ego or self-identity, which is necessary even to continue on the path of devotion to God. Devotion requires the dualism between the devoted soul and God who is the goal of the soul’s devotion. If the self is totally forgotten, the difference between God who attracts the soul and the soul which is attracted, also disappears. If that happens, the very attraction (devotion) itself disappears. Devotees enjoy in dualistic devotion to such a great extent that they condemn the very concept of monism between God and the soul. Their point is correct from the devotee’s point of view since no devotee should ever aspire for attaining monism with God. But such dualistic devotees are seeing only one side of the picture, which is the side of the devotee. They are not seeing the other side, which is the side of God. If God Himself desires to grant the monism-fruit to a certain devotee, how can you oppose it? Such monism with a certain devoted soul allows God to come down into this world in human form for the sake of the welfare of the world. The devotee cannot contradict this fact by saying that monism is impossible.

But it should be noted that even such Human Incarnations, do not express their monism with God at all times. Monism is expressed by them only on certain occasions, when it is actually required. If God-in-human-form were to express His monism with God continuously, He would not be able to freely mix with devotees. It is important to keep the devotees in a stable and normal state that is free of excitement. It helps the devotees openly ask spiritual questions to the Incarnation without any fear. After all, the Incarnation is the Divine Preacher whose primary purpose of incarnation is to preach the highest spiritual knowledge to people and resolve all the doubts expressed by them. If you are constantly aware that the Human Incarnation is God Himself (monism), you will constantly be in a state of excitement and fear. It will prevent you from frankly seeking the clarification of your doubts from the Incarnation. Krishna openly expressed the truth that He was God, only on the occasion of preaching the Gita to Arjuna. Hence, crossing the basic ‘I’ or self-identity is impossible even after death since the self-identity continues as long as the soul exists.

Self-Analysis and Knowledge of God

The basic ‘I’ is not really the problem. The problem comes only when this basic ‘I’ gets associated with the qualities of rajas and tamas. It then takes the form of egotism (pride) and ignorance respectively. The cancellation of ‘I’ means the cancellation of egotism (pride). The difference between the basic ego, which is the person’s self-identity and the perverted ego should be carefully noted. It is only the perverted ego that has to be cancelled. The perversion of the basic ego comes due to ignorance which makes a person think that he is this physical body alone. If one identifies one’s basic ego with this physical body, all worldly bonds appear since they are related to the physical body. It leads to the perversion of the soul in many ways. The basic ego, ‘I’, is like the seed. The stem that arises from this seed is the ignorance of identifying this ‘I’ with the body. It is known as the basic ignorance or avidyaa. The branches arising from that stem are the worldly bonds. This analysis was given by Shankara, which helps us in detaching from the worldly bonds. In His commentary, Shankara referred to the worldly bonds by the word ‘mama’ or ‘mamakaara’, which means ‘my’ (Aham mameti naisargikoyam lokavyavahaarah). These worldly bonds, which can be described as “My wife”, “My son”, “My money”, “My property” and so on, arise from one’s identification with the physical body. This identification with the body was referred to by Shankara as ‘aham’ or ‘ahaį¹kaara’. Thus, ‘aham’ (I) is the stem and ‘mama’ (my) is the branches.

The self-analysis given by Shankara certainly helps us in attaining detachment from the worldly bonds. It should be considered as a helper. But developing attraction (devotion) for God which is based on acquiring the complete knowledge of God’s divine personality has two advantages: (i) The first advantage is that it brings total detachment. In fact, it can also sometimes lead to the disappearance of even the basic ‘I’ resulting in the soul’s perfect monism with God (Ekamevaadvitiiyam Brahma). (ii) The second advantage is that it not only leads to detachment from the worldly bonds but it also brings a permanent attachment to God. On the other hand, self-analysis can, at the most, only bring the detachment from the worldly bonds. It does not bring attachment to God, which is a big disadvantage.

But even though Shankara’s path of self-analysis cannot bring attachment or devotion to God, is certainly helpful in developing devotion. Devotion to God is certainly far higher than mere detachment from one’s worldly bonds. Shankara Himself said that devotion to God is the highest and most effective spiritual effort (Mokshaa saadhanasaamagryaam, Bhaktireva gariiyasii ). As far as this spiritual effort of attaining devotion is concerned, the knowledge of self-analysis only acts as a helper. This knowledge of self-analysis is only a small part of the entire spiritual knowledge. The major part of the total spiritual knowledge is the knowledge of the personality of God. The total spiritual knowledge, which mainly includes the knowledge of the personality of God, is extremely important and it stands as the very basis of the entire spiritual effort. It alone generates devotion. The knowledge of self-analysis is the helper while the total spiritual knowledge is the very basis of the entire spiritual effort. In short, knowledge alone is both the helper and basis of the entire spiritual effort.

Knowledge, Devotion, and Service

The knowledge of the personality of God is the cause for developing attraction or devotion to God. Both the knowledge of God and the devotion (emotion) that it generates are theoretical or mental. The devotion, in turn, generates service and the sacrifice of the fruit of one’s work to God, which are both practical. This practical part can also be called practical devotion and it stands as the proof of the theoretical devotion. Thus, the path to please God is the practice (karma yoga), which is based on devotion (bhakti yoga), which, in turn, is based on knowledge (jnana yoga). Knowledge, devotion and the practice, which includes both service and sacrifice, are the three sequential steps in the spiritual path. These steps are commonly known as jnana yoga, bhakti yoga and karma yoga respectively. They were respectively emphasized by the three divine preachers, Shankara, Ramanuja and Madhva, who came one after the other in that same sequence.

 
   

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