Today we will begin occasional postings from Atmaprabha (see the bottom of this article), containing the wisdom of the modern saint of Nashik, India, Sri Gajanana Maharaj.
Importance of spiritual visions and experiences
A few days ago, a gentleman from Poona came to see me. While talking on various topics, he incidentally said:
“Maharaj, some years ago a Santa Parishada (a meeting of saints) was held at Poona. Many maharajas, some having matted hair, some who had practiced tapasya and austerities, some sannyasins, some heads of maths, etc., had all assembled together at that meeting. From the name given to that meeting, ‘Santa Parishada,’ it was very natural to think that all these men were saints. Ordinary people think that saints are persons who, having realized the Self, are always immersed in the bliss of the Paramatman, and all of whom are directed towards leading other human beings to the path of everlasting happiness. A doubt, however, arose in my mind whether all these men were saints as understood in this sense. In addition, we hear about various other saints. There are also different maths, temples, and different gods and goddesses. I am at a loss to know whether any of these things are true–or none are. My mind is absolutely confused. Hence, I request you to tell me in what I should believe, and how I should set my mind at rest?”
To this, I answered as follows: “You have asked a very good question. This question often troubles many thoughtful people, especially when they find ‘saints’ sprouting up like mushrooms on all sides.
“Paramartha (spirituality) is a subject regarding which various misconceptions hold full sway in our present-day society. Sri Ramdas has said: ‘There is a bazaar of shastras, various gods and deities are crowding in it, and people are performing various religious ceremonies for securing the fulfillment of their desires. Various tenets and opinions clash with each other. Everybody thinks his own view to be correct, and anybody else’s wrong. There is no agreement anywhere, and all are contradicting each other.’ Under these circumstances, how to find out the truth is a very difficult question. Sri Tukaram says: ‘There are so many gods. Where should I place my faith?’
“No doubt this is all true. But it must be remembered that Paramartha is a thing which is to be achieved by one’s own efforts. If anyone, therefore, has a sincere desire to obtain it, he should, instead of entering into discussion regarding it, and instead of visiting various places in search of reputed saints, approach a real saint who has attained Self-realization with due humility and reverence. Because only such a saint can lead others to the right path.
“If, however, he finds it difficult to meet such a saint, or to distinguish between true and false saints, there is a very easy method which should be followed by him. He should remain quietly where he is, and at once begin the japa of Soham. He should repeat the japa with a pure mind, and should have firm faith that the Soham japa will fulfill all his wishes. Once he gets this firm faith, he will come to know who is his guru. The Soham mantra is the real savior. If it is repeated with intense faith, accompanied with a sense of detachment from all worldly objects, it will itself make him understand what is true and what is false. There will then be no occasion to find fault with the reputed saints, or to fall into the clutches of false saints. Our salvation really lies in our own hands. I therefore advise my mind to always get immersed in the contemplation of Soham, and thus to free itself from the snares of all such doubts.”
The real meaning of Paramartha (spiritual realization) and its means
The real “I” which dwells in the heart of everyone is the sole abode of this unchanging happiness and bliss. He who becomes one with this “I” gets hold of this sole source of happiness, and therefore feels no need of any pleasure which is derived from the enjoyment of external objects.
The path which leads to the true knowledge of this “I” and to the realization of oneness with it, is the path of spiritual progress. He who desires to go by this path must naturally practice self-restraint and keep himself detached from material pleasures. Abandoning of material pleasures outwardly, or abandoning them by merely forcibly curbing the mind, is of very little use. The renunciation must be mental: the mind must gradually develop a dislike for these material pleasures. If you will try to immerse your mind in the continuous contemplation of the sound of Soham, this renunciation becomes easy. The mind becomes one with Soham, and then the ajapa japa begins. In this stage our whole worldly existence becomes full of happiness. The mind of a person who attains this stage goes beyond pleasure and pain. It becomes full of universal love, and he feels nothing but love in this material world which to others is full of pleasure and pain.
Only saints like Jnaneshwar and Tukaram obtained Paramartha. When this state of everlasting joy is reached, this world, the next world, heaven or hell–which to an ordinary person appears to be full of contrasts of pleasure and pain–becomes nothing but universal, all-pervading joy and bliss incarnate. This stage is what is known as Paramartha.
To obtain this Paramartha is the goal of human life, and you can obtain it by your own persistent and honest effort. Efforts are necessary to obtain any object in the world. Are we not required to put up strong efforts to obtain money or learning? And are our efforts always crowned with success? But do we on that account abandon efforts to obtain these things? Similarly, we must continually make strong efforts to obtain the realization of the real “I.” The various difficulties and obstacles which arise in this path must be removed, just as we do in worldly matters.
For unknown words, see A Brief Sanskrit Glossary on our website.