(Understandings from Swami Mitrananda’s talk to Yuva Veers of Youth Empowerment Program 6thbatch)
Ka te kaanta kas te putrah, samsaaroyamteeva vichitrah
Kasya tvam kah kuta aayaatah, tattvam chintaya tadiha bhratah || 8 ||
Meaning: Who is your wife? Who is your son? The world is indeed wonderful. What are you made of? Where have you come from? Think over the Truth NOW, oh brother!
In Hindu culture, we encourage students to ask questions. Hindu scriptures are not a dogma that is thrust upon an individual saying, “You are dumb, and you need to follow this without questioning”. It’s a culture that respects an individual and encourages him to enquire, for Truth is understood not by forcing, but through Enquiry.
In Prasna Upanishad, six students from different backgrounds go to a Master and say, “Oh Master! We have come with certain questions in our minds. Can you please clarify them?” The Master replies, “You all have come to this ashram, now serve this place for one year. After that you ask your questions. If I know, I will answer”. The students agree, they stay for a year serving the ashram, and after that the Master answers their questions.
The point here is, sometimes the student asks an intelligent question but is not matured enough to understand the answer. E.g. A three year old may ask why the sun cannot be seen at night. Here, the question is correct but he’s not fit to understand the answer. Similarly, even as adults, our mind may not be in a condition to conceive the Truth. For this purpose, the Scriptures and the Masters advise us to do selfless service so that our minds will be purified, ego will be lessened and we can understand the answer. Some students might be matured to understand the answer. So the Teacher knows how and when to give the answer to the student according to his level of understanding and maturity. E.g. In Rama-Gita, Vyasa describes a question-answer session between Rama and Lakshmana. When Lakshmana asks a question, Rama tells him to stop all Karmas and not to initiate new Karmas. Whereas, in Bhagavad Gita, Krishna asks Arjuna to do Karma. Why? Because, Lakshmana’s mind has already been purified by his service to Rama; unlike Arjuna who’s mind needs to be purified to understand the Truth. Hence, the Lord asks Arjuna to perform actions.
Once Swami Mitrananda and few Chinmaya Yuva Kendra members happened to stay at an ashram in the Himalayas during a travel. The Sanyasi of the ashram was a medical practitioner earlier. The conversation (in English) went as below:
One of the Chinmaya Yuva Kendra (CHYK): Maharaj, can we have a Satsang?
Sanyasi: Ok. You have been here for about an hour and a half. I don’t know you. So, tell me, Who are you?
CHYK: I am ….(so and so)
Sanyasi: Did I ask your name? My question is – Who are you?
CHYK (looked at Mitranandaji and smiled): I am from Tamil Nadu.
Sanyasi: Did I ask your geographical location? My question is – Who are you?
CHYK: I’m a man.
Sanyasi: Did I ask your gender? My question is – Who are you?
CHYK: I’m an Indian.
Sanyasi: Did I ask you your nationality? My question is – Who are you?
CHYK: I’m a student of Swami Chinmayananda.
Sanyasi: Salutations to your Master. Did I ask you your Guru’s name? My question is – Who are you?
(Nevertheless, the CHYKs kept giving answers to the best of their thinking that somewhere he will have to stop…until there came a point where they thought of acting smart and asked…)
CHYK: Maharaj, why don’t we start with your introduction?
(As they asked this question, they were so happy in their minds thinking that they have fixed the Sanyasi now)
Sanyasi: I can only tell you what I am not. What I am, I cannot introduce.
That was the end of the conversation. To most of us, this might not make any sense because we are not matured enough to understand it. But, Mitranandaji explains this answer as follows (which again might be difficult for most of us to understand)
Whenever we say, “I am”, we say it in reference to something. May be it’s a gender, nationality, caste, religion, name and so on. Can we say it without reference to something else? Try saying who we are without using any references. Try! Can we answer this basic question – Who we are? And we have lived our lives for so many years.
Another anecdote in reference to this context is the first meeting of Shankaracharya and Hastamalaka (one of his direct disciples). In his travel, Shankara had come to a village where some people told him that there’s a 14 year old boy in their village who acts strange. He doesn’t speak to anybody. He is always alone. He sometimes bursts into laughter, sometimes jumps or claps his hands. He is very happy being with himself. We think he is not just dumb, but also mentally retarded. (Here, Swamiji breaks the story and says, “What a way people analyse things! If someone is happy being with themselves, they are mad”). On Shankara’s request, the people bring that boy to him. Shankara looks at him and is stunned. He immediately understood that the boy is a genius. All this while, these guys have been camouflaged by him. Shankara smiled. The boy smiled in return. Shankara asked, “Kim nama te? Kuta aagato si?” (What is your name? From where have you come?). His reply stunned the villagers.
Na aham manushye (I’m not a man)
Na cha deva yakshah (Nor an angel or a demi-God)
Na brahmana kshatriya vaishya shudra (Nor a Brahmin or Kshatriya or Vaishya or Shudra)
Na brahmachari grihi vanastha (Nor a Brahmachari nor a householder nor a Vanaprastha)
Na bhikshur cha (Nor a Sanyasi)
Aham nija bodha rupa (I am one’s own Consciousness)
The villagers asked him, why you never spoke till now. “Nobody asked me intelligent questions that were worth answers” was his answer.
What Hastamalaka said was the exact thing that the Sanyasi in the earlier story said. What the Sanyasi meant was, “How can I explain to you that I’m the Consciousness that is all pervading. Since it is all pervading, where is the question of two different individuals you and me? There is nothing different from me (the Consciousness)”. It’s like…a wave is ocean itself. When we look at the waves, they look separate/different. But when we look at the Ocean, there are no two things. It’s just ONE OCEAN. Duality is in the Form. The Substance is always singular.
In the above verses, Shankara tells us to enquire, “Who is your wife? Who is your son?” There are some people who are dependent on you and there are some people on whom you are dependent. Wife and son are used just to represent all those people. Shankara continues, “Who are You? Enquire NOW, my dear brother”. As said in the beginning, our culture encourages students to ask questions. And sometimes when a question does not occur to us, the Teacher drops a question in the student’s mind. Here, Shankara is doing the same thing. All this while, most of us have lived a without enquiring these things. This is the opportunity to start thinking. And when to start thinking? Shankara says, “Tadiha – Here and Now”.
Swami Chinmayananda says in his commentary of Bhaja Govindam, “Who is your son? Your son has become your son only after his birth. Before that it was a fetus. Before that, it was only a seed in your loins. And that itself came from the food that you assimilated. The food came from the earth. Thus a cloud of earth in its various manifestations becomes the fruit, the food, the seed, the fetus, and the child. And therefore the child is nothing but an effect of the ultimate cause – the mud. If you analyse yourself as the father, you too are nothing but a product of another cloud of mud of another period of time and place. One piece of mud then gets attached to another piece of mud. How strange? How powerful is this delusion – Maya!”
These are verses that we cannot understand at one go. We need to contemplate on them again and again.
“Intelligent enquiry is the ONLY antidote for follies of delusion” – Swami Chinmayananda.
(Note: This write up is almost unadulterated with my words)