In the two scenarios mentioned earlier, a lack of physical self-control was accompanied by a lack of emotional self-control. The parents’ actions were in their children’s best interests, but immaturity prevented the children from realizing this. Maharaj describes a similar scenario in Gadhada II 23, wherein he says, “If a child attempts to grasp a snake, touch a flame or hold an unsheathed sword, it becomes upset when it is not allowed to do so; yet if it is allowed to do so, it will hurt itself.”
We are at risk of emotional instability when either people or circumstances prevent us from fulfilling our desires. Such unsteadiness often results in stress, depression, anxiety and, sometimes, even self-harm. Statistics attest to the prominence of this phenomenon. One in every eight Americans experiences a major depression episode during their youth; moreover, among youths, suicide is the second leading cause of death, with 25 youths committing suicide every hour worldwide.
Understanding that difficulty is inevitable is the first step to defeating harmful thoughts. The second step is to cultivate understanding. In this light, Gunatitanand Swami says that it would be challenging to cover the entire earth to prevent ourselves from stepping on stones and thorns; it is easier, he says, to avoid injury by merely wearing shoes. Here, “wearing shoes” implies being wise. Maharaj discusses what being wise entails in Gadhada II 60. Therein, Muktanand Swami asks, “Maharaj, life is full of difficulties. Amidst all these difficulties, what understanding should a devotee of God cultivate to remain happy at heart?” Maharaj answers by citing three forms of awareness that devotees should develop: 1) awareness of the atma, 2) understanding of the world’s transiency, and 3) awareness of God’s greatness.
Being aware of the atma helps us to overcome physical and emotional limitations. Indeed, the body’s and atma’s particular characteristics are dissimilar from each other (Sarangpur 4). Hence, none of the body’s flaws – which include physical disabilities and negative traits such as lust, anger and avarice – are present in the atma (Gadhada II 12). Also, as discussed above, the atma transcends the body and is its controller (Gadhada I 47, Gadhada II 12). Understanding this helps one remain composed even under challenging situations (Gadhada II 32, Gadhada I 61).
Describing the peace and stability attained from awareness of the atma, a youth from Mehsana explains, “At school, people used to tease me due to my physical disabilities… At such times, Maharaj’s words regarding atma-realization supported me and kept me calm to the extent that I would no longer feel upset when teased.”
In this way, being conscious of our identity as the atma helps us to remain stable by allowing us to rise above negativity and control over our emotions.
Awareness of the world’s futility and transiency, also known as sankhya, is a second factor Maharaj shows to help us remain equipoised. Sankhya helps us to realize that nothing in our lives is permanent, not even that which we most cherish. Maharaj teaches us the steps of practising sankhya as follows:
Understand that worldly pleasures never ultimately satisfy, no matter how much we indulge them (Gadhada II 47).
Consider the misery attached to worldly objects (Gadhada II 24).
Contemplate the extreme insignificance of material objects in comparison to God’s bliss (Sarangpur 1).
Look beyond time and realize that everything is perishable, other than Akshardham, God’s murti, and the released souls (Gadhada II 24).
Mahant Swami Maharaj elaborates on this last point with an example: Imagine a large clock that covers not 12 hours but 100 years. Its enormous time span would mean that it would appear not to be moving at all. On this time scale, hours, days, and even months would pass without even notice. Similarly, everyday joys and sorrows become negligent when looked at from the perspective of one life and even more so when looked at from the perspective of the infinite births we have all taken.
Worldly joys and sorrows often leave us either inflated with ecstasy or drowned in grief. Sankhya, though, helps us stay stable despite such circumstances.
A recent survey of 5,000 satsangi adolescents and young adults revealed how the Vachanamrut impacts youths. One question, “How has the Vachanamrut helped you in difficult times?” yielded two remarkable experiences that narrate the strength of sankhya:
“Everything is perishable – these words have freed my worries many times.”
“When my father passed away, I was shattered. However, my mother read a Vachanamrut around this time that stated that we should not be excessively attached to our relatives. These words helped me regain my footing.”
In this way, Maharaj teaches us that understanding the world and its realities as temporary can help us to remain calm amidst turmoil.
A third factor that Maharaj says can help us remain stable is awareness of God’s greatness. In Gadhada I 78, Maharaj describes God as “he without whose wish not even a blade of grass is able to flutter; he who is responsible for creating, sustaining and destroying countless millions of brahmands ; he who administers pain and pleasure to the beings residing therein; and he who is the sole doer of all that happens”. With this understanding, one realizes that pain and pleasure are not caused by people or events but are given to us by God. One also understands that such incidents come to us as gifts, as God never wishes ill for his devotees (Jetalpur 5). Even challenges are seen as concessions, as Maharaj explains in Gadhada I 70, “It is as if one who is to be executed on a shuli gets away with the suffering of a mere pinprick.”
Maharaj summarizes these thoughts in Gadhada I 74: “We are God’s servants; so we should be pleased with whatever pleases him… If God seats us on an elephant, we should be happy with sitting on an elephant; and if he seats us on a donkey, we should be happy with sitting on a donkey… but in no way should we harbour any joy or grief in our minds, as everything happens by God’s will. So, just as a dry leaf is blown in the air according to the wind’s direction, we should also remain dependent on God and joyfully worship him, not allowing any frustration to enter our minds.”
One satsangi youth named Mukesh Vaja applied this type of awareness to stay composed amidst difficulty. He was not well off financially, and several members of his family had fallen gravely ill. His situation was dire. However, a bal mandal sanchalak named Kishore Kansagara once made him read Gadhada I 61, wherein Maharaj says, “We should become increasingly pleased as God puts us through more severe hardships, bearing in mind, ‘The more misery God inflicts upon me, the more bound he will become to me; thereby, he will not be away from me for even a moment.’” Maharaj’s advice here about not becoming disheartened in the face of misery gave Mukesh a new perspective on life. Externally, his circumstances had not changed; yet, the understanding he gained from the Vachanamrut’s explanation of God’s greatness infused him with strength that allowed him to remain joyful as he continued his struggle to support his family.
Maharaj thus advises us to maintain our emotional stability by developing an awareness of the atma’s resilience, the world’s impermanence and God’s benevolence.
By helping us understand our true identity, realize God’s glory and put into practice values such as tolerance and acceptance, the Vachanamrut acts as a beacon to guide youths through the sometimes terrifying, stormy ocean to the firm, stable shores of calmness and tranquillity.
Maharaj’s advice on how to gain control over oneself and one’s emotions are solutions to two of the many difficulties facing today’s adolescents and young adults. Yet, the Vachanamrut addresses many more issues than just these two. Diving into the ocean of wisdom that forms the Vachanamrut, we find countless pearls of wisdom – some small, some large, but all priceless.