Shri Datta Swami

Posted on: 25 May 2019

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IS SERVING GOD UNFAIR TO ONE’S FAMILY?

Shri Hrushikesh asked: When a devoted soul is dedicated to God and is involved in practical service and sacrifice to God, the family members of the devotee suffer. Is it justified on the part of the devotee to let his family suffer as a result of his devotion?

Swami replied: Certainly, I tell you, it is not merely justified but it is more than justified! Shankara, even though He was the only son of His mother, left her in her old age in order to serve God. His old mother lived alone in a hut far from the village and she did not even have the cooperation of her relatives. If you see these circumstances, you will say that Shankara’s action was not mere injustice, but it was more than injustice! The old mother, who had no attendant, suffered a lot at the fag end of her life. But just before her death, she had the vision of Lord Krishna and after her death, she was given total salvation by God. Her suffering in her old age was temporary whereas, the salvation achieved by her gave her permanent bliss. Shankara had left His home for the sake of God’s work. His mother was granted salvation because she sacrificed her Son for the sake of God’s work. You cannot say that Shankara’s mother was a realized soul and hence, she did not suffer. In fact, it was not so. She was greatly attached to her beautiful Son and she always wanted her Son to get married and stay with her till the end of her life. She was not cooperating with God’s work due to her very strong attachment to her Son.

Shankara had to force His mother to sacrifice Him for the sake of God’s work in the world. He created a divine drama in which a crocodile caught hold of His leg as He was swimming in the river. He shouted out to His mother who was on the bank of the river that the crocodile would let Him go only if she allowed Him to become a saint for the sake of doing God’s work. He said that if she denied permission, the crocodile would surely kill Him. Of course, the old helpless mother had no choice but to allow her Son to become a saint and Shankara was released by the crocodile as soon as she permitted. Now, is there any such crocodile, anywhere in the world, which realizes spiritual concepts and releases its victims if they are allowed to do God’s work by their mothers? So, frankly speaking, Shankara simply cheated His innocent old mother for the sake of serving God. Such cheating of people for the sake of serving God is not a sin at all. Had He stayed with His mother in her old age, He would have done some temporary service to her. But she would not have attained salvation. Is there any comparison between that temporary service that He might have done for her and the eternal salvation that she got? Had He attended to His mother, she might have got some temporary happiness. But since He attended to God and served Him, after leaving His mother, she got the unimaginable divine fruit of eternal blissful salvation. Who has done real service to his or her mother: Shankara or the ordinary person who serves his or her mother during her old age? The truth is that nobody in this world has done so much service to his or her mother as Shankara. Similarly, the Gopikas cheated their families by giving butter secretly to Krishna and dancing with Krishna in the middle of the night, while their families were in deep sleep. All those family members were given salvation since they were the relatives of the Gopikas. The devotee, Vishnu Datta, donated food to God Dattatreya Himself during the annual death ceremony of his father. All his ancestors were granted salvation for that service.

If you neglect your family for the sake of an illegitimate worldly bond, it is a sin and you will be sent to a horrible hell for it. But if you put God in place of that illegitimate worldly bond, it gives you an unimaginable merit. That is, if you neglect or sacrifice your family for the sake of serving God, God gives eternal divine fruit not only to you but also to your family which suffered due to your sacrifice. Sage Narada is the author of the Narada Bhakti Sutram, which is a collection of aphorisms on devotion. One of the aphorisms (sutram) in it is “Jaaraavatcha”, which means that a devotee must be dedicated to God just like a sinner is attached to an illegitimate partner such as a prostitute. Here, the devotee is compared to a sinner and God is compared to the illegitimate partner or prostitute. Both these comparisons are actually not acceptable and are the non-applicable parts of the simile. The only applicable part of the simile is the sinner’s strong fascination for the illegitimate partner, owing to which he even leaves all his legitimate bonds. A simile that applies only in one aspect is called an ekabhaagopamaa, which means a ‘one part-simile’. Since there cannot be a more powerful simile than this bad simile, it has been allowed. But we must understand that the non-applicable aspects of the simile are to be ignored and that our attention should be focused only on the applicable aspect of the simile.

If the family of a devotee cooperates with the devotee’s efforts in serving God, it is the greatest fortune. In that case, the family will not suffer and in fact, will be happy to also participate in the divine service. Both Vidura and his wife were strong devotees of Krishna and both served Krishna when He visited their home. Hence, the devotee must first start the divine service at home. It means that the devotee should first propagate spiritual knowledge and devotion among his or her family members, relatives and friends. But one should not go on wasting time in preaching only to one’s own family and friends’ circle for too long. This is because such limited propagation leaves out many other deserving recipients of the knowledge in the world. Will you go on making efforts to bring awareness into your inert house made of bricks and stone, just because it is your house? No matter how hard you try, the inert house is never going to become aware. Instead, can you not make some efforts to bring awareness into a sleeping person who is outside your house? He will become aware as soon as he wakes up.

That brings us to an important question. What can you do with your family, which is under the influence of deep ignorance and as a result, does not cooperate with your service to God? The family members obviously suffer when you serve God against their wishes and sometimes, they may even obstruct your spiritual efforts. Under such circumstances, you must serve God secretly (Aatmaanam rahasi sthitah—Gita). Your service to God must remain top secret (Rahasyamhyetaduttamam —Gita). The Gopikas are the best examples of this path of secret service to God. In any case, you must not sympathize with your family members because they are suffering only because of their ignorance. Instead, you must be extremely happy that your family is going to get eternal salvation without making any spiritual effort!

The actual issue here, is not your concern for the suffering of your family as a result of your spiritual efforts. The main hidden reality is that you are unable to detach from your family. You very well know this actual reason and you also know that this attachment to your family is your defect. Generally, people colour their defects to make them appear like merits! Here, the defect is your strong attachment to your family. But you color it to make it appear as a merit by saying that you are feeling sympathy for the suffering of the souls, who happen to be your family members. Your family is suffering due to several other defects of yours. But you do not sympathize with them for that! If your kind heart has really melted out of sympathy for suffering souls, why do you not sympathize with the several souls in the world who are suffering even more than your family? The reason is very clear: it is not a matter of sympathy for the suffering of souls but it is your attachment to your family.

This blind fascination that you have for your family can be slowly diluted in course of time by repeated spiritual efforts and detachment from your worldly bonds (Abhyaasena tu Kaunteya, Vairaagyenacha gruhyate —Gita). But in what way can we achieve detachment from these worldly bonds? You can never get detached from the worldly bonds by hating them. If you go on hating coffee, can you get detachment from coffee? No! But if you taste divine nectar, your fascination for coffee will naturally drop away without any effort. Similarly, if you develop a fascination for God, the worldly bonds will drop off naturally. The Gopikas got salvation from their worldly bonds not by hating the bonds but by developing a new bond with Krishna and strengthening the new bond more and more. Shankara was able to leave His mother not by hating her, but due to His overwhelming fascination for God. Buddha left His wife, wealth and son not due to any hatred towards them, but due to His overwhelming attachment to God. Prahlaada remained in detached silence as his father was violently killed by God. But he never had even a trace of hatred towards his wicked father who had tortured him. The reason for Prahlaada’s detachment during his father’s death was not hatred but his unimaginable devotion to God.

You must not criticize Me for telling you this truth, which is so bitter. The point is that one should know the truth, at least once. The knowledge of the truth always gives great strength because the truth has immense power. Once it enters your brain, it will not leave your soul. It will remain as a strongly impressed concept (samskaara). It will follow your soul forever and liberate you even after millions of births. If the truth is not known at all, there is no chance of your salvation, ever. Hence, Shankara said that true knowledge alone can give salvation (Jnaanaadeva tu kaivalyam). Once the true knowledge is received, the generation of devotion, followed by service and the sacrifice of the fruit of one’s work, are natural consequences.

 
   

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