In the first instalment we saw how people are influenced on the worldly path by having certain types of beliefs, and the actions to which these beliefs lead. This month we will look at how people suffer on the spiritual path due to incorrect beliefs.
During the battle of the Mahabharat there was a powerful warrior on the side of the Kauravas named Dronacharya. He was very difficult, if not impossible, to defeat. Lord Krishna on the side of the Pandavas, was aware of this. On the side of the Pandavas was Yudhishtir. He was renowned for always speaking the truth. If Yudhishtir said anything, everybody would believe it. Lord Krishna realised this and thought that if Yudhishtir utters, 'Ashwatthama is dead', then Dronacharya would be shocked (because Ashwatthama was his son) and in such a state it would be easy to kill him. When Lord Krishna told Yudhishtir to say the above he was reluctant. Despite knowing that Krishna was God he was hesitant to obey him. Why?
Yudhishtir was a staunch advocate of speaking the truth. He believed that speaking a lie would not lead to salvation. His moksha was in the hands of Lord Krishna, yet Yudhishtir resisted in saying 'Ashwatthama is dead.' Because of his allegiance to truth he failed to reflect an unflagging faith in Lord Krishna. Since Lord Krishna told him that he had to say something to keep His respect, he agreed to compromise and say,
"Ashwatthama is dead. Elephant or man I don't know."
There was an elephant also named Ashwatthama on the battlefield, that is why Yudhishtir said, "...man or elephant I don't know." After having uttered this he felt deeply grieved that now he will not be redeemed (in reality Dronacharya's son had not died). After the war Bheeshma spoke to him for one month and tried to convince him that you will be redeemed. But, alas, Yudhishtir was not satisfied, and even after Lord Krishna explained he still had doubts. Just because Yudhishtir could not give up his own belief in truth, for the word of God, he suffered perplexion and doubt with regard to his salvation.
During the time of Gunatitanand Swami, a devotee named Ladha Bhagat believed that Gunatitanand Swami was Shriji Maharaj Himself and spread such talk. Swami explained that this was totally incorrect and told him to stop, but Ladha Bhagat refused to let go of his belief and eventually he had to be excommunicated from Satsang. Gunatitanand Swami is the abode of Shriji Maharaj and through him Shriji Maharaj is present on this earth, but Gunatitanand Swami is not Shriji Maharaj Himself.
There were two female devotees named Harbai and Valbai in Satsang. These women were atmajnani i.e. knowers of atman. They used to preach to both males and females. Shriji Maharaj told them that it was not proper for them to preach to males. He explained that on the spiritual path men and women should stay aloof for their own moral safety and that many had fallen in the past by not observing the rule of celibacy. On hearing this the two women were infuriated and told Maharaj, "Who are you a novice to give us such guidance? We have been preaching for a long time and nothing has happened to us. We are atmajnani and are not affected by anything. We will continue to preach." The two women refused to let go of their belief and did not heed the advice of Maharaj. So eventually they had to be excommunicated from Satsang.
Whether it is on the worldly path or the spiritual path, wrong beliefs lead to one's downfall.
THE RIGHT BELIEFS
We have seen that even on the spiritual path if one is not aware of the wrong beliefs one can fall from Satsang. So what should one do to protect oneself?
Sir Isaac Newton gave the theory that space and time are absolute, independent things. This was accepted for several hundred years and nobody doubted it. Then came Albert Einstein. He said that space and time were not absolute but relative, dependent things. Many in the physics community at that time refused to accept this revolutionary concept, despite it being true.
Shriji Maharaj also gives us revolutionary concepts. But since we have been ingrained over innumerable births with concepts different to those of Shriji Maharaj's, we find it hard to accept what He tells us.
One thing Shriji Maharaj tells us is that there is no pleasure in worldly objects. Well, everybody experiences pleasure in worldly objects. Don't we enjoy eating ice-cream? Don't we enjoy sitting in an air-conditioned room on a hot summer's day?
Maharaj tells us that we are the soul and not the body. But none of us really feel or experience that we are the soul. Shriji Maharaj gives an example of a harijan boy. He asks him, "Who are you?" The boy replies, "I'm a harijan." Maharaj says, "Repeat. I am atma." The boy repeats and Maharaj then asks him to repeat it a hundred times. Then Maharaj asks, "Who are you?" The boy replies, "Because you say so, I say I am atma, but actually I'm a harijan."
Maharaj had on many occasions explained to His devotees that He Himself was the Supreme God. Still they kept thinking that Maharaj was like other incarnations of God. Even some paramhansas found it difficult to accept the supremacy of Maharaj.
Similarly, Maharaj has given us many new and radical beliefs which we find hard to accept. If we do not accept what Maharaj tells us we stand to lose out.
Even the many things that Pramukh Swami Maharaj tells us we do not readily accept. For example, he tells us not to eat outside food and not to watch TV or cinema. If we do not readily accept and obey him we stand to get diverted from Satsang or fail to grasp the true importance of Satsang. To fully accept what Maharaj or Swami tells us means having to ignore and give up our own pre-conceived and deeply-held ideas and beliefs. Once, while holding up a handkerchief, Shriji Maharaj asked Muktanand Swami, "What is this?" Muktanand Swami replied, "Maharaj, it is a handerkerchief." Maharaj said, "No, it is a sword!" Muktanand Swami readily agreed, "Yes Maharaj, it is a sword." This incident appears small and simple, but it is not. Suppose Pramukh Swami Maharaj holds up an apple and asks you what it is. You reply that it is an apple. Then Swami says, "No, it is a hammer." And then he gives you that 'hammer' and a nail and asks you to hammer the nail into the wall! What would you do?
Pramukh Swami Maharaj always accepted what his guru Yogiji Maharaj said without any doubt. Swami once said that Yogiji Maharaj's thoughts and his own thoughts never differed. If we analyse ourselves we find that on many aspects we differ in opinion from Swamishri. We must cultivate an absolute faith and absolute trust in the words of Maharaj and Swami. That is why people say one needs blind faith in religion. Shriji Maharaj says in the Vachanamrutam that this is 'muhdpanano ashro' - refuge of God through absolute faith. If we have this type of refuge in Maharaj and Swami we are safe. For this we have to daily pray to Maharaj and Swami. In the Mahelav prayer section of the Yogi Gita, Yogiji Maharaj has said, "Bless me so that I always remain in Satsang."
Eventually we have to discard all our beliefs and accept the ultimate belief that Maharaj tells us in verse 116 of the Shikshapatri: Believe oneself as brahmarup, above the influence of the three bodies and offer devotion to God.