The Lord declared in the Gita, "Whoever remembers me is very dear to me." Therefore, remember the Lord always. Offer him your mind and your will. Surrender everything to him and you will quickly reach him."
In the Gita the Lord taught that joy and sorrow, cold and heat, profit and loss, criticism and praise, must all be faced with an equal mind. This equanimity of mind is one of the most important attributes of a true devotee. There are many other attributes of a true devotee, but these are all contained in two principal qualities: discipline and renunciation. Discipline refers to the three types of penance: bodily penance, mental penance and vocal penance. Renunciation refers to understanding the defects in objects, and living a life which does not get attached to these things; in other words, living as a witness. If you can incorporate these two important qualities, discipline and renunciation in your daily life, then there will be no need for any other spiritual practice.
If you want to develop these two qualities you have to start in your childhood and use this early period of your life in a sacred and ennobling way. In the world today many people undertake spiritual practice only when they reach old age. After they have thoroughly enjoyed the objects of luxury and have become disgusted and exhausted by worldly pleasures, they consider embarking on the spiritual path. Having spent their lives concentrating on sense objects, on family life, on children, on wealth, on properties, on name and fame, they become disillusioned in old age. They realize that there is nothing true in these things and that peace of mind and lasting joy cannot come from the phenomenal world and from worldly pursuits. After they come into the evening of their lives and are haunted by the emptiness of their experiences, they begin to do spiritual exercises.
But in old age, when you are suffering from all sorts of physical and mental weaknesses, it will be very difficult to practice and live a rigorous spiritual life. Even then you should not be discouraged, thinking that there is no possibility for spiritual advancement in old people. Opportunities for spiritual experiences are certainly available to them. Instead of not thinking of the Lord at all, it is far better to think of him, at least in old age. When it comes to thinking of the Lord, there are no restrictions whatsoever with respect to time, place or age. That is why the divine teacher has declared in the Gita, "At all times, in all places, think of me." But he has also declared that the best opportunity for practicing these spiritual exercises in a determined way is in your youth. When your physical strength, the strength of your sense organs, and your mental strength are there in abundance, that is the best time to undertake spiritual exercises.
The process is something like reserving a plane ticket before embarking on a journey. When you arrive at the airport, after first having reserved your place, you are likely to proceed smoothly with your journey. On the other hand, if you go to the airport only at the last minute, without having a reservation, you may not get on the plane. It all depends on chance. You may end up having to go by a slower way or you may have to delay your journey. It is the same way with people who start thinking about spiritual matters in their old age. They may or may not be able to advance spiritually in a significant way at that point in their lives. But if the same individuals had in earnest undertaken spiritual exercises from an early age, they would be sure to achieve spiritual success in their old age.
If you waste your time enjoying the pleasures of life during your youth, wasting the power of your body and your sense organs, then if you want to reach your goal of merging with the Lord in your old age, you may not get that chance. There is no meaning whatsoever in serving delicious food to the demons, and then, when they have consumed everything worthwhile, offering the leftovers to God. Do you think that will please God? No! After all your powers and capacities have been dissipated by the demons of anger, greed, lust and pride, you try to offer God what little is left. But that offering will not be accepted by him. In this context, the Gita has emphasized that your youth is a very precious period which has to be used with great care to advance yourself spiritually.
When you have had something for a long time and taken it for granted, you may not appreciate its real value. It is only after losing it that you truly appreciate it. As long as you have your eyes, you do not know the value and the preciousness of your eyes. You only realize the importance of vision when you lose your eyesight. In the same way, when you have good health and all your faculties are in their full glory, you do not understand their true value. After having lost your health, and when your faculties have become impaired, then you repent and lament that all your capacities and powers are gone. But lamenting at that point is useless. During youth you have allowed the bad habits and bad traits to become your great friends and get deeply rooted within you. You squandered and misused the capacities that have been given to you, blindly following your sensual desires. Later, these bad habits and bad traits become your principal enemies in old age.
Most young people do not use their powers of discrimination properly. They do not try to sort out who is their true friend and who is their foe. If you follow only your senses and lower instincts, and have not developed your intelligence to understand the meaning of life, then is there any reason for calling you a human being? Should you not be called a mere animal? Once you understand the significance of human life and fill yourself with the noble qualities of a human being, your senses will no longer be able to confuse you.
These days you are using God for the sake of the body. You are not using your body to worship God. You pray to God for good health whenever you are sick, but you are not using all your physical strength and faculties, when you have them, to worship God. You imagine that there will be plenty of time later on to engage in worship, and so you go on wasting your time. You think that after retirement you can begin to take up the contemplation of God and do spiritual exercises. Perhaps you feel that it is better in the meantime to enjoy life and to enjoy the objects of the world while you are still young. But how can you start thinking of God when you become old, after having lost all your capacities.
If you are not using all your physical powers and capacities for the worship of the Lord now, then later it will be too late. When children make fun of you and call you 'old monkey!', will you then have the strength to start an intensive spiritual life? When your hair is gray, when you are hardly able to move, when you are barely able to see, when all the sense organs have become weak, will you then be able to use them for the worship of the Lord? No, it will not be possible. The scriptures have very forcefully described the futility of starting your spiritual practices only during your last days. It is stated that when the god of death finds you and shouts, "Come! Come!", when your own relations are anxious to get the corpse out of the house, when they are all shouting, "Take it away! Take it away!", and when your wife and children are there sobbing, can you think of the Lord at that time? Can you tell your relatives to stop crying, can you tell death to wait a little bit because you want to think of the Lord for a few moments?
You should accumulate in youth all the things which are necessary to lay a strong foundation for a happy future. Do you really think that it is possible to think of the Lord only after you retire? No, it is not possible. You should be fully engaged in regular spiritual practice before retirement. But instead, you immerse yourself in business, and continue with that even after retirement, or waste your time going to clubs, and in many other ways dissipate your precious life.
A housewife once asked her husband, "At least now in your old age shouldn't you be thinking of God? You never took the time to do it before, during your busy period. Please, do it now!" The business man replied, "I have no time even to die, no less to think of God." But do you think that death will not come to someone who says that he has no time to die? Will death come only according to his wishes? No, time waits for no one. Therefore, while you still have time you have to make use of it in a proper way.
The enemy called death, along with his soldiers called disease, will be waiting to wage war against your body. Men die most pitifully and helplessly during such periods of time when they are attacked by disease and death. But no army can attack those who have won the grace of the Lord. Therefore, during youth itself you have to earn the grace of God and equip yourself to meet all the challenges of your enemies when they come to lay siege on you. Above all, you must be firmly convinced in your own heart that this journey of life is going to be a long one. Any other journey, whether it be by bus, train or plane lasts for only a short time; you need not make too many preparations for these. But for this journey of life you must equip yourself for all the contingencies of a long journey; otherwise you will be suffering greatly later on when you are faced with real problems and real troubles.
In the compartment of freight trains used to transport chemically-active substances, a stamp is placed at the time of manufacture giving a particular date in the future. It is the day when that container has used up its normal service life and must be returned to the depot for recycling. It is the same for the container that is your body. Here also a return date has been written on it by God himself.
You do not remember that you have to go back. People totally forget this all-important truth. If you really want to enjoy all the pleasures of life at a later stage, then during youth you have to earn the grace of God. In the course of human life the early periods of childhood and youth are very important. Not realizing the great value of this period of your life, you waste your time during youth. You use a golden cup, adorned with precious gems and jewels, for a low, mean, contemptible purpose. To feed the fire of your senses you are using costly sandalwood as fuel. The vessel is very precious, the fuel is also precious, but the food you are choosing to cook with their help, is insipid and worthless. Such a precious body and such sacred fuel is being squandered away for the sake of enjoying useless trivial things in life. Things without value are put in this precious vessel and used for sordid enjoyment. You are using a golden plough to plough the field of your heart, but you produce nothing but useless weeds.
The field of your heart is most precious and sacred. The divine teacher has declared that even that field belongs to him. The Lord has declared that he is both the field and its knower. He is the true owner of your heart and of your body. He has identified himself with them. What are you doing with this sacred heart and body? You are using a golden plough to raise useless crops of sensual pleasures. Any person who is aware of the preciousness of the heart and the preciousness of the feelings that are there will not misuse these things. Life must be used for good, for the welfare of others, for reaching the sacred goal and for treading the sacred path, and for bringing about a shining effulgence in the heart and mind. You have to use this life for merging yourself in the divinity. Only then will you have the authority to say that your life has become sanctified and genuine.
It is said that it is very difficult and almost impossible to get a human life. What is so special about human life? Why is it so difficult to get? All the pleasures which animals and birds enjoy, you can also enjoy. In that case, what is the meaning in declaring that human life is so very precious, so very special? It is because you have the ability to discriminate between right and wrong. It is because you have the ability to give up attachments and hatred. Therefore, you have to use the intelligence given to you to make a distinction between the animal way of life and the human way of life. By not discriminating between the true self and the lower self, by not developing your higher intelligence, you become the victim of agitation and sorrow. You cannot find inner peace because you do not follow the right path.
With a firm determination, young people need to undertake the three types of penance, physical, mental and vocal, and thereby set an example for the world. You have to use the active principle within you to subdue the slothful principle, and then, you have to use the serene principle to subdue the active principle. It is impossible to be serene as long as your heart is filled with the slothful and active natures. When the head is empty you can hope to fill it with some good ideas, but if your head is already full of all sorts of useless thoughts, how is it be possible to fill it up with any thing sacred and great? You have filled your head with all sorts of unnecessary worldly stuff. You will have to first empty all that out. Only then will you be able to fill your head with sacred feelings and sacred thoughts.
Many of you are following a meaningless path and living a meaningless life. You cry when you are born and you cry when you die. In between, through your whole span of life, you go on crying for useless things. Do you cry when you see the decline of righteousness? That is what you should cry for, that is what you should use your strength and abilities for, to correct the decline of righteousness and to help heal the wounds that follow its decline. What is right living? It is the constant remembrance and uninterrupted contemplation of the Lord. It is discharging your daily duties thinking of the Lord. The Gita has not taught that you should give up your family, that you should give up your wealth and property, and then go to the forest. No! Take care of your family. Do your duty. But keep your concentration constantly on the Lord. Whatever you do, do not forget your goal. If you give it up, you will get lost and stray onto the wrong path. Your divine goal must be solidly set in your mind. Keeping your goal in view, perform your daily duties.
Do not allow any flaw or defect to taint your words. Always adhere to truth. Some people think that in times of difficulty they can modify the truth. They may even feel that it is necessary to tell untruth sometimes. But in difficult situations you can develop sufficient presence of mind to keep silent, instead of telling either the truth or an untruth. If you tell the truth, tell it dearly and sweetly. Do not tell the truth in an unpleasant way, or tell an untruth in a pleasant way. Whenever there comes a difficult testing time, you should learn how to avoid compromising situations without ever telling an untruth. In certain circumstances you will have to conduct yourself in an extremely careful way. You should know how to use words without hurting people. It has been said that, "He is the fortunate one who knows how to talk without ever hurting anyone." You should neither hurt others nor be hurt by others. Here is a small story.
A housewife attended a series of meetings at which a spiritual teacher was expounding the scriptures. She was concentrating and listening with great attention to everything that was being said. One day, the speaker recounted the story of Rama and Sita, and in that connection declared that for a wife, the husband was the only goal in life. He said, "It is the responsibility of the wife to satisfy her husband and make him happy. Always treat the husband as God." The housewife after hearing all this went back home. She was so impressed by this discourse that she resolved to put into practice immediately all that she had learned. As soon as the husband returned home for his midday meal, she took a container of water and poured it over his feet, thinking that she was worshipfully serving her husband thereby. The husband was confused and flabbergasted. He entered the house and sat down to dry his feet, but before he could do so she insisted on doing it for him.
After seeing all this, the husband went into his office and rang up the doctor. Her husband did not know that his wife had been attending the discourses. The doctor came and decided to give her some sleeping pills. He said that it looked like an attack of hysteria, but after a rest of one or two days she probably would be all right. The husband ate his meal and told his wife to go and have some rest; then he went to his office. His wife went right back again to the meeting to hear the next lecture. That afternoon the speaker was explaining the delusory relationship which exists between husband and wife. He said, "Who is husband? Who is wife? Nothing is permanent. All these things are just temporary and transient. In truth nothing exists." Then he added, "God alone is true. He is the only real truth." The housewife went back home and sat in her shrine room.
That evening the husband came back from his office half an hour early, thinking that his wife may not be well and perhaps he could help her in some way. He knocked on the house door and asked her to kindly open it. From the shrine room she answered, "There is no mother, there is no father, there is no house, there is nothing, not even a husband." He was quite alarmed by this behavior, but somehow he got her to open the door. When he came into the house he went straight to the telephone and called the psychiatrist. The psychiatrist came and examined her in detail. He gave his diagnosis. He said that after all this listening to these discourses she had developed some peculiar attitudes; but if she could be kept at home she would soon get over them. All arrangements were made to keep her from going to the lectures. Everyone was informed. The driver as well as every servant of the house was told not to let her go there.
After these restrictions had been put on her by doctor's orders, she did not go to the lecture for two days and she started behaving in a normal way again. So the detachment she had developed was only temporary and superficial. It did not last. Now the husband was happy. The normal daily routine resumed. After a week this lady went again to the place where the lectures were being given. On that particular day the speaker was expounding the teachings of the Gita. He explained that whenever one uses words one should tell the truth and one should not tell it in a compromising way. She heard this and returned home. Her husband told her that there was a marriage reception that day, and asked her to join him. She got ready and went there with her husband.
The marriage ceremony started. There was a tradition in those parts which calls for the auspicious necklace that is worn by the bride to be taken to every elder, who then touches it and blesses it. The father of the bride came to this lady, recognized her and asked her, "How is your mother? Is everything all right?" These questions were a matter of courtesy, exchanging a few words with her while he held out the sacred necklace, asking her to touch it and bless it. She answered, "My mother is doing fine. She is quite all right, but you know, a week ago my mother-in law died quite suddenly and her body was taken to the cremation ground the following day."
The neighbor who was sitting next to her told her, "Why did you have to say such an inauspicious thing while touching and blessing this necklace, which is meant to impart a long and happy life to the new bride and her future family?" The housewife replied, "Should I tell a lie just for the sake of this necklace? No, I will never tell a lie. It is a fact that my mother-in-law died last week and that the body was cremated the next day." One intelligent young lady sitting nearby told her, "Mother, certainly you should speak the truth, but you should also be aware of the circumstances and think through what is appropriate before you say anything."
Whenever you hear a spiritual teaching on a particular day, you will go about implementing it with a great deal of fervor and conviction; but only on that very day. But this is not the correct way to pursue your spiritual studies. You should use your intellect to understand the context in which you find yourself before you use words in a given situation. Whenever you do a particular thing or say something, you should know that truth is the royal means for reaching your ultimate goal. The tongue should not be tainted by untruth. The body should not be tainted by violence. The mind should not be stained by bad thoughts and bad feelings. It is only when you sanctify all these three, the tongue, the body and the mind and bring them into harmony, that you will be able to get the sacred vision of the Lord.
Students should be extremely careful in telling the truth. They should certainly tell the truth, but be careful not to go on talking and hurting others unnecessarily. Have control over your tongue. Whenever there is a misunderstanding with someone, if you tell him all his defects, with the justification that everything you are telling is true, then there are bound to be complications later. You should never hate others. When you have love in your heart, your words will naturally be very sweet. Even if anger develops, it will be of a fleeting nature.
There are four types of people. The anger of a person who is of a serene nature will be very short-lived; it recedes immediately. The Gita has declared such a one as a great soul. The second type will have this anger for a number of minutes, but it will soon fade away. The third category of person will have this anger continuously, all day long. The one in the lowest category will have this anger throughout his life.
The divine teacher has told this in another way also, "The anger of a good person is like writing on water; it is not at all permanent. The anger of the second category of person is like writing on sand, it will be washed away, one moment or another. The third type of person's anger is something like writing on stone. Over a long period of time it too will be eroded away. But the anger of the fourth type of person is like writing on a steel plate, it will never go away unless you melt it and cast it anew. Only when you put it into the fire will it get destroyed. Only through intense transformation is there any possibility of changing it."
Things which are highly relevant in day-to-day life can be found in the Gita. It is very difficult for you to take all the teachings that are in the Gita and practice all of them. But you should, at least, take those teachings which are directly applicable to your present life and put them into practice. That way you reap immediate benefits and will rapidly progress towards your ultimate spiritual goal.
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