Of all the precious things in the world, time is the most precious. Think carefully how you are spending your precious time. Your primary duty as a human being is to offer your body, your work and your time to the Lord, who is the very embodiment of time.
Health which is spoiled and lost can sometimes be recovered with the help of medicines. But time which has gone by is lost for good; there is no way for it ever to come back and be used again. You have to make every effort to use this precious time in a sacred manner. Time is infinite; it goes on forever. But the time which is allotted to you is only a microscopically small fraction of that. Many of you are wasting your lives by thinking that the phenomenal world is real. As a result, you are using all your limited time for enjoying the pleasures of the world. If you reflect even for a moment on what you have achieved and how you have spent your priceless time, you will be very sorry to find that you have used it in such a wasteful manner.
You cry when you are born, because you have come into this world without knowing who you are and why you are here. Your cry is an anguished plea to find out, "Who am I?" If you waste your entire life on only your physical existence, when will you ever be able to understand who you truly are? There is a deeper significance contained in your life than merely caring for the body. You have to start your life with "Who am I?", and you have to end your life with "I am that! I am God!" You have to recognize that you yourself are the divinity, and end your life in the supreme peace which is your true reality. Unfortunately, most of you concentrate your attention only on the worldly enjoyments you can obtain, aspiring for immediate pleasures, and do not think at all about the future consequences that will follow from your actions.
When a frog sees some flies or worms in front of it, it becomes so happy and enthusiastic that it would like to immediately jump on them, swallow them whole and enjoy them. But behind the frog there is a snake lying in wait, ready to catch the frog and eat it up. The snake is very happy to have found its meal in the form of this frog which for the moment is preoccupied with its own enjoyment. The snake does not know that a hawk is hovering overhead, ready to snatch the snake up in its claws. The hawk is so joyous at the idea of grabbing and consuming this unsuspecting snake that it does not pay any attention to the hunter lurking in the bush, ready to shoot it.
In the same way, you are also thinking only of fulfilling your desires and anticipating the comforts that you see before you, not thinking at all of what is stalking behind you, waiting to pounce on you. You are wasting your time without realizing the harm that may befall you in the future. You cannot know at what time, in what place and in what circumstances danger may present itself and come your way. Therefore, you have to sanctify the time at your disposal now, and use it properly, recognizing its sacredness and preciousness.
You may be prepared to offer millions of dollars to buy whatever comes your way, but no amount of money can be paid to ever get back the time that has already been spent. Youth is the most precious, the most sacred period of human life. It offers you a golden opportunity to properly utilize your time and sanctify your life. In human life, the time of youth, like the waters that flow in the river, cannot be turned back again. Today's youth should recognize this fact. Utilize your time in a proper way and you will gain fulfillment in life. Always be aware of the many aspects of the wheel of time. Realize how extremely important time is. Think ahead as to what is likely to happen in the future and keep the goal of your life constantly in view.
In the chapter on devotion in the Gita, it is said that time is the most important element in your life and you must use your time wisely. Your time should be used to reach God. The divine teacher taught in the Gita, that even if you have not reached a highly developed detachment from worldly objects, if you use your time in constant awareness of the Lord, performing all your works and duties as worship and offering everything you do to the Lord, then you will have a blessed life.
Krishna told Arjuna, "Do your duty, Arjuna! If you have to fight, then fight. But fight, thinking of me. That way you will incur no sin. If you have offered everything to me, and have me steadily in your heart, you will not suffer any of the consequences of your actions. You are not being asked to go to the forest and do penance or to give up all your relations. You need not give up your family, your house and all your properties. Whatever you see, whatever you say, whatever you hear, whatever you think, whatever you do, do it as my work, and offer it to me. Offer your mind and your intelligence fully to me. That is the proper way to sanctify your time. If you conduct your life in this way, you have my assurance, you will be saved!"
Unfortunately today, one does not find this capacity for renunciation, this firmness of purpose, this deep level of faith and commitment, this willingness to completely offer up mind and intellect to God. Most people today do not have a vision that is steeped in faith. But you should develop such a strong faith. You cannot hope to know what kind of life you will be living in the future, or under what circumstances and in what place you will find yourself. No one knows these things but the Lord. If you offer everything to him, he will protect you in all situations. Such a deep level of renunciation requires strong self-confidence and a clearness of vision. Whatever work you do, you must have a great determination and a firm resolve. Without this you cannot achieve even the smallest thing.
A small bird laid its eggs on the shore of the ocean. It wanted to have a comfortable life. A number of times the waves came and washed the eggs away into the ocean. The bird became discouraged and also a little desperate, for every time it laid its eggs the ocean washed them away. In time it became very angry with the ocean. Now, you might think, 'what can such a small bird do to the huge ocean?' But it entertained no such doubts; it did not think of itself as just a little bird unable to do anything against the vast ocean. No, on the contrary, this small bird took a firm resolve and decided it was going to empty all the waters of the mighty ocean. That was its vow to which it stuck with great determination. Night and day it stood at the edge of the ocean, dipped its head into the sea, took a little water into its beak, flew to the other side of a nearby hill, released the water from its beak, and thus, drop by drop, resolved to empty out the whole ocean. It believed that ultimately it would manage, in this way, to conquer the ocean itself.
When it realized that it would not get very far on its own, it sought the help of Garuda, the eagle, which is Lord Vishnu's vehicle and which is endowed with divine powers. With the help of Garuda it was able to earn the grace of Lord Vishnu. Now the ocean became very frightened and humbly apologized to the little bird. The ocean assured the little bird that its eggs would never again be destroyed by its waves and that it would be most welcome to nest on its shores, without disturbance. How small was this little bird and how vast was the ocean! You also think of yourself as so small, but you should never get desperate and lose hope. You should not get dispirited thinking that you are so insignificant whereas God is infinite and all-powerful.
You might wonder, 'Why would God bother to pay any attention to me? What could I possibly offer him which he would be happy to accept, when the entire cosmos is already his? If even angels and divine beings cannot see him, how can I ever hope to behold his form?' But such self-demeaning and belittling thoughts will not get you very far. As long as you think this way, you will not be able to gain the grace of the Lord and be fit to serve him. Give no room for such displays of weakness. You have to establish the Lord in your heart and say to him, "Beloved Lord! I know you are residing in all the universe, but you are also here in my heart. With all my power I will keep you here, firmly established within me. You are, it is true, the biggest of the big. But you are also the smallest of the small. In that small form, You are ever residing in my heart." If you have such a firm faith in yourself, and a firm resolve to establish the Lord unalterably in your heart, then you will surely attain him and thereby, gain all the strength of the Lord.
Gautama Buddha, with a firm resolve and a lot of penance, was able to achieve the state of enlightenment. One day, after coming to know that Buddha was begging for alms, his father sent this message to Buddha, "O my child, your grandfather was a king, your father is a king and you are also a king. I have heard that you, a king, coming from such a noble lineage, have been begging for your food. There is no dearth of property or wealth in this kingdom. There is no shortage of any luxury. You can have anything you wish. I am suffering untold pain knowing that you, who can enjoy all the luxuries and comforts of a king's palace, have taken to begging, and that you are lying down on the hard ground living an uncomfortable beggar's life. Please come back to the palace. I will welcome you and make all the proper arrangements for your return. The kingdom itself will be yours."
Buddha who heard all these things with total detachment replied to the person who brought the message, "Please tell the king, 'Yes, my grandfather was a king. My father is a king, and I too was a king. But now I have renounced this world. And I believe that my real parents are renunciates and that my true ancestors are also renunciates. If you want me to come back, you must first answer these questions: Do you have the power to save me from death? Can you keep diseases away from me and guarantee to keep me in sound health? Do you have the capacity to prevent old age and senility from descending on me? Do you have the power to free me from all these evils? If you can give me the correct answers to these questions, then I will immediately come back to the palace.'"
Buddha saw that birth was sorrowful, that life was sorrowful and that the end was also sorrowful. He replied to his father in the correct way. After having seen all the sorrows of life and after having watched so many people suffering, he could not continue to wallow in ignorance and illusion; that would have been sheer folly. Buddha's life can serve as an important lesson to you. In the limited time given to you, you have to realize your true nature. That is the real objective of human life. Your body is composed of the five elements, and some day it is going to perish. The indweller of your body is the only permanent entity. When you inquire into truth, you will realize that there is nothing like old age and there is nothing like death for the indwelling self. If you could understand that this indweller, who is your own reality, is the divinity itself, in all its fullness, then you will know the truth and enjoy infinite peace.
Another way that the divine teacher spoke of the body and its indweller, was in terms of the field and the knower of the field. By the knower is meant the one who is conscious and filled with the highest knowledge, whereas the field is without such consciousness and knowledge. What is this field which is devoid of the highest knowledge? It is the body with its gross and subtle aspects; it is the dwelling place of the Lord. Know that the Lord, who has all knowledge and wisdom, resides in this field of the body. It is his residence here on earth.
In your day-to-day life, you refer to your body as my body. In other words, you acknowledge that you are not the body, but that this body is yours; it belongs to you. Similarly, the indweller considers that he is not the field, but that the field belongs to him. When you say, "this is mine", then you are declaring that you and the object are different. When you state, "this is my handkerchief", you are asserting your separateness from the handkerchief; it is something different from you. When you say, "this is my body", it means that you are distinct from your body. In the same way, when the Lord declares that the field is his, then he is free to give it up any time he wishes.
The body is given to you in order that you may realize who you truly are, in order that you may recognize its indweller. Without a body you would not be able to know him; you would not be able to perform any activity and follow any spiritual path. All your work, both worldly and spiritual, can only be performed with the help of the body. The body consists of 20 principles; these are the five organs of perception, the five organs of activity, the five vital airs and the five sheaths. When you add to these the lower mind, the power of discrimination, the seat of feelings and remembrance in the heart, and the ego, together with the indwelling self, then the total comes to 25 principles which comprise an individual. This knowledge of the body and the indwelling spirit relates to the path of wisdom.
Foolish ones who are born in illusion and grow up in illusion, never recognize illusion for what it is. The whole world is illusion, all attachments are illusion, family life is illusion, death is illusion, all that you see and think is illusion. This life itself is illusion. Where are all those kings and emperors who were so proud of their accomplishments? They have all been ground under the wheel of time. Days, months, years and eras have all merged into one another. Time is one continuous flow, and in this flow everything and everyone, every object and every person, is being washed away. A thing which is itself being washed away in the flow of time cannot become the support for another thing which is also being washed away.
Who can save whom? The only permanent entity who is not being washed away by time and who can take care of all, is the Lord. He alone can protect everyone. He is the stable bank for this unending river of time. Hold on to him. That is the secret of life. That is the mark of a true human being. Believe in the Lord and do not believe in the world, that is the right way to live your life and enjoy it. Always remember these three principles:
In the first place, Do not forget the Lord;
in the second place, Do not believe in the world;
and in the third place, Never be afraid of death.
These are the three guiding principles for all of humanity.
In the Gita you will find 64 qualities given as the attributes of a true devotee. It is impossible for any one individual to have all these attributes. If you can practice one or two of these it is enough. Have firm faith in the Lord. Once you have developed a deep faith you do not need anything more. In a match box there may be 50 match sticks. If you want fire, you can strike one stick. That will be enough. You need not strike all the 50 match sticks. In the same way, out of the 64 attributes, if only one single attribute is practiced to perfection, that will be enough. The most important attribute is selfless love. Swami has often said, "Love is God and God is love. Live in love." If you live in love and become immersed in the divinity, the Lord will take care of everything in your life. Krishna said to Arjuna, "When you have complete faith in me, when you are filled with devotion and leave everything to me, you will be very dear to me".
True devotion does not merely refer to the performance of various religious rituals like singing devotional songs, repeating incantations, engaging in silent or communal prayers or sitting for meditation. Devotion refers to this deep unshakable faith in the Lord. There are four types of devotees: the seekers of boons to relieve their suffering, the seekers of blessings for a full and happy life, the inquirers into the deeper meaning of life, and the knowers of the highest spiritual wisdom.
The first type is one who prays to the Lord when he is in difficulty or undergoing trials and tribulations. It is only at such times that he thinks of the Lord and worships him.
The second type is one who entreats the Lord for the blessings of wealth, position and power. He prays to the Lord for progeny and long life and yearns to gain houses, property, cattle, gold, jewels and such things to serve his fellow man. Most people hanker after worldly boons, not realizing that true wealth is wisdom, that real property is a noble character, that the most valuable jewel is to be immersed in God's love. They are anxious to acquire worldly objects, but do not understand the subtle meaning and deeper significance of all these outer symbols of worldly wealth.
The third type of devotee is ever engaged in inquiry into truth. He constantly seeks to know, 'Where is God? Who is God? How can I reach God? What is my relationship to God? Who am I?' When you enter this stage, you become engaged in all these inquiries in order to gain spiritual knowledge. In the first place, you must try to find out, 'Who am I? Where did this world come from? What is my goal?' You puzzle over these three important queries and try to gain some understanding. You approach great people, listen to their teachings, serve them, and study the sacred scriptures. Through this process, indirect knowledge gets turned into direct knowledge, as the teachings you have heard and studied become your direct inner experience.
Finally, when you have fully absorbed the teachings within yourself, you leave this stage behind and become the fourth type of devotee, the highest knower of truth, the one of abiding wisdom. This wisdom is true spiritual knowledge, the transcendental knowledge. It refers to the experience of unity, the experience of the One without a second.
Dwelling only on external things will cause you endless sorrow. If you base your experiences on worldly knowledge alone, you will have to suffer the reactions that result from this knowledge. For example, suppose you hit a table very hard and feel a sense of pride in doing this. You can boast that you have given it a good smack and that you surely must have hurt it with your blow. But, immediately afterwards, to your dismay, you discover that the object has hit you back with the same intensity and you end up being equally hurt by it. In knowledge of the world there will always be this response. Whatever you do will react back on you; whatever you say will resound back to you; whatever you think will reflect back to you. Everything in the world involves reaction, reflection and resound.
But in the spiritual domain there is no reaction, no reflection and no resound. Within this domain, there is only transcendental knowledge; that is the true knowledge. There you will find nothing separate, no objects which can react, nothing that can reflect or resound, because in the spiritual domain, there will be no other. There, all is one. Whenever there is a second entity there will be a wish to either possess it or to escape it; in other words, there will arise a feeling of desire or a feeling of fear. But when you are immersed in real knowledge, you will experience nothing else and no one else; there will be no second. Then neither desire nor fear can arise. That state can best be described as wisdom, the highest knowledge. In that exalted state, you do not see anything separate from self and you will not hear anything separate from self. You will only be immersed in supreme bliss. This is the eternal joy of the divine.
There is a little story which illustrates the four types of devotion that have been discussed here. Once, a wealthy man who had four wives had to go abroad for some important work. He spent a few months in a foreign country. Before he returned home, he wrote a letter to each of his wives. In the letter he mentioned that he would be coming home in a few weeks, and if there was anything they wanted from that particular country, they could send a list and he would be glad to bring back the various things to them.
His first wife was an unhappy lady; she was suffering from many ailments. She sent the husband a list of medicines, explaining that her health was not good and that she would like to have a number of foreign medicines which would help her feel better. His second wife had a great many desires. She wrote, 'Dear husband, please bring me some fine jewels, some silk saris and all the latest fashionable articles that are available there.' He received her letter and arranged to procure those items for her.
The third wife had a strong spiritual inclination. She wrote to the husband asking for any good books that were available in that country, books which dealt with the lives of great saints, depicting their life experiences. She was always looking for good spiritual books that would inspire her in her own spiritual aspirations, and so she asked her husband to see if he could find such books and bring them back for her. His fourth and favorite wife wrote, 'Dearest one, I do not need anything for myself. I will be very happy when I know that you have come back home, safe and sound.'
When he returned home he brought with him whatever they had asked for. The first wife got the latest medicines and tonics from abroad. The second wife got beautiful jewels and exquisitely textured silk saris. To the third wife the husband brought the finest copies of the scriptures and other holy books. And then he went to stay with the fourth wife, who had written, 'Please come home safely; I want nothing else.' She only wanted him. The other three wives became jealous of the favorite one since the husband had gone to stay with her. They sent messages asking, "After such a long time without seeing us you have not even once come to our houses to visit us. What is the reason for this?" The husband replied, "I have given each of you exactly what you asked for. One of you asked for medicines; I brought them. One of you asked for the latest jewels; I brought them. One of you asked for sacred books; I brought them. One of you wanted only me, so now she has me!"
This husband is the Lord himself and the four wives are the four types of devotees. The Lord will give you exactly what you ask for. If you ask only for him then he will come and reside in your heart. God is the wish fulfilling tree, the tree that bears every conceivable kind of fruit. He will answer everyone's request. He is omniscient. He is everywhere. He knows what you want and he will give it to you. In fact, this whole world is really a wish-fulfilling tree. The Lord uses the world to satisfy your desires and take care of all your wants. There are very few people who understand this. Here is another small story to illustrate this.
There was a traveler who had been walking for a long time in the hot sun. Finally he found a nice big tree and stopped there to take rest. He was very tired after his long walk in the heat and now the shade of the tree was giving him great comfort. While sitting under the tree he got thirsty and said to himself, 'How nice it would be if I could have a glass of cold water.' Seemingly, out of nowhere, a tumbler of fresh water appeared. He was sitting beneath a wish-fulfilling tree and did not know it. After drinking the water, a second thought came to his mind, 'How nice it would be if I could have a soft pillow and a comfortable bed; then I would really be able to rest nicely.' Immediately, a bed and a pillow came, given by the Lord himself. Now the traveler was very comfortable.
After getting the bed and the pillow, he thought, 'How very nice and comfortable this bed and pillow are! Now if only I could have my wife here, then how perfect everything would be.' His wife immediately came. As soon as she appeared, he became very frightened because he was not sure, 'Is she really my wife or is she some demon impersonating my wife?' The very moment this thought flashed though his mind she turned into a demon. Now, fear really overwhelmed him and in terror he wondered, 'O my! Will this demon swallow me up?' Immediately the demon pounced on him and swallowed him whole.
The moral of this story is that when you are under a wish-fulfilling tree you must be very careful what you think. Whatever thoughts you have will surely come true. The entire world may be likened to a wish-fulfilling tree. If you have good thoughts, you get good results, if you have bad thoughts, bad results will follow. Therefore, you should never harbor bad feelings or bad thoughts. That is why Swami has so often said, 'Be good, do good, see good. That is the way to God.'
The entire world is the creation of God and is penetrated by his will. Everywhere there is God. Do not have bad thoughts about anyone. Have complete control over your senses and think only good thoughts. Whether you are old or young, you should permit only good thoughts to come into your mind and always aspire to lead a good life. This is the real meaning of a human being. The word for human in Sanskrit is nara, which stands for that which cannot be destroyed, that which will always come back to the Lord. Nara is the one who will not be ruined, who is immortal. The ancient scriptures have declared, 'You are not a mortal being; you are the child of immortality.' A human being has also been called manava. This refers the one who is without ignorance. But today you are all behaving in a foolish way. By your thoughts, words and actions you are not giving the proper value to the word human.
It has been said that death is sweeter than the blindness of ignorance. You have to make ignorance flee away from you and never come back. If you want to drive away darkness, you must bring in the light. Where there is light there can be no darkness. If you want to free yourself from ignorance you must acquire wisdom. When you have wisdom, ignorance can have no foothold on you and will be swept away. To gain wisdom you must earn God's grace. A great poet sang, "O Lord! If I have your grace, what is there to fear? What can destiny ever do to me?"
Your life should not be ruled by lust, anger, greed, infatuation, pride or jealousy. These are your enemies. They must be conquered and subdued. They are the darkness, the product of ignorance. Your life must be ruled by light and by wisdom. Your life must be based entirely on the grace of God. From this moment on, aspire for God's grace and gain wisdom. To earn God's grace, think of God, everywhere, at all times and in all circumstances. In this age of darkness there is no greater spiritual practice than this. Engage yourself in the constant repetition of the sacred name of the Lord and keep him permanently established in your heart of hearts. Thereby, you will bless your life and set a sterling example for the rest of the world.
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