Sathya Sai Baba

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Discrimination (Continued from previous article)

The next logical step in the practice of discrimination is self-expansion. An integrated personality has become a fit instrument ...

Author: Swami Dayatmanananda


The next logical step in the practice of discrimination is self-expansion. An integrated personality has become a fit instrument; his body and mind are finely tuned and ready to move towards his goal, and the goal is realization of the Self. From now on he has to move both upward and outward. Through prayer, meditation, worship etc he moves inward and upward. Through selfless service, harmony and right relationship with the world he moves outward. Here comes the need for self-expansion.

What is self-expansion? It is to discover the truth that the world we live in is in reality God. Everything in what we call the 'world' is connected and related. No man is an island; we live, move and have our being in a world of relationships; we are all strands of a huge web, part of one single living, conscious organism. This organism is God. Because of our ignorance we do not see God, we see Him as the world and the One as many. Swami Vivekananda used to say that this world is a reading of God through our minds. Self-expansion is to discover this truth and modify our conduct accordingly. In other words what we see in front of us is a reflection of our own Self, Brahman. This truth is expressed in the Upanishadic dictum, sarvam khalvidam brahma, i.e., All this that is seen is Brahman.

It is said that spiritual progress takes places in three stages. In the first stage called dualism everything is perceived as separate and totally unrelated. In the second stage of qualified non-dualism all things are perceived as parts of the whole which is God. In the final stage, the many and the One are perceived as the obverse and reverse of the same coin.

When we study the lives of mystics we get a glimpse of the way they see the world.

Sri Ramakrishna once said: "I began to perceive God in all beings. Formal worship dropped away. You see that bel-tree. I used to go there to pluck its leaves. One day, as I plucked a leaf, a bit of the bark came off. I found the tree full of Consciousness. I felt grieved because I had hurt the tree. One day I tried to pluck some durva grass, but I found I couldn't do it very well. Then I forced myself to pluck it.

"I cannot cut a lemon. The other day I managed to cut one only with great difficulty; I chanted the name of Kali and cut the fruit as they slaughter an animal before the Goddess.

"One day I was about to gather some flowers. They were everywhere on the trees. At once I had a vision of Virat; it appeared that His worship was just over. The flowers looked like a bouquet placed on the head of the Deity. I could not pluck them."

We can observe the same experience in the life of St Francis. For him the whole of creation is alive with God; the sun, the moon, the stars, the birds, plants and animals - all are brothers and sisters.

Here is a poem by Swami Vivekananda:
From highest Brahman to the yonder worm,
And to the very minutest atom,
Everywhere is the same God, the All-Love;
Friend, offer mind, soul, body, at their feet.
These are His manifold forms before thee,
Rejecting them, where seekest thou for God?
Who loves all beings without distinction,
He indeed is worshipping best his God.

Why do we not perceive God in this world. Because of 'ignorance', says Vedanta. It is not enough to pray and meditate. We must also slowly be able to see the God we perceive in the depths of our heart in the outer world.

Part of the process of discrimination is to find this God peeping through this visible universe. How does one do that? How does one get rid of this ignorance?

This process takes place in three stages. The first stage is purification of our body and mind. The second stage is to perform duties appropriate to our station in life. A proper discharge of our duties (called Dharma in Vedanta) has the twofold result of conferring merit and purifying the heart of evil impressions. But merit only confers happiness in this world, it does not lead us to God. This is why aspiration to heaven is not commended in our scriptures.

The next stage is selfless service called Karma Yoga. Karma Yoga is serving the world looking upon it as a manifestation of God; it is to serve with love and reverence. In Karma Yoga every work is transformed into an act of worship. Needless to say only advanced spiritual aspirants can perform Karma Yoga. Swami Vivekananda says: "That man will have seen the real motive of doing good to others, because there is only one; it cannot be called egoistic, because that would be differentiation. It is the only selflessness. It is the perception of the universal, not of the individual. Every case of love and sympathy is an assertion of this universal. 'Not I, but Thou.' Help another because you are in him and he is in you - is the philosophical way of putting it. The real Vedantist alone will give up his life for a man without any compunction, because he knows he will not die. As long as there is even an insect left in this world, he is living; as long as one mouth eats, he eats. So he goes on doing good to others, and is never hindered by the modern ideas of caring for the body."

There are two ways of performing Karma Yoga in a detached manner. The first method is described by Swami Vivekananda as work for work's sake. "I am only the witness, unaffected, untouched. All work is done only for work's sake, not out of any other consideration or hope."

The second method is suited to those with a devotional temperament. Here all actions are done for pleasing God. The results of all actions are offered to God. In fact the devotee feels that every work is God's work; that he is only an instrument of God carrying out His orders.

In his lectures on Karma Yoga, Swami Vivekananda says that both these methods help one in overcoming attachments and freeing oneself from the binding nature of karma.

He says: "For whatever good work we may do, let us not claim any praise or benefit. It is the Lord's; give up the fruits unto Him. Let us stand aside and think that we are only servants obeying the Lord, our Master, and that every impulse for action comes from Him every moment. Whatever thou worshippest, whatever thou perceivest, whatever thou doest, give up all unto Him and be at rest."

Swamiji then describes the wonderful sacrifice of the little self, Atma-yajna. He says: "Let us be at peace, perfect peace, with ourselves, and give up our whole body and mind and everything as an eternal sacrifice unto the Lord. Instead of the sacrifice of pouring oblations into the fire, perform this one great sacrifice day and night - the sacrifice of your little self. In search of wealth in this world, Thou art the only wealth I have found; I sacrifice myself unto Thee. In search of someone to be loved, Thou art the only one beloved I have found; I sacrifice myself unto Thee. Let us repeat this day and night, and say, 'Nothing for me; no matter whether the thing is good, bad, or indifferent; I do not care for it; I sacrifice all unto Thee.'
"The Truth! Be one with it! Let visions cease,
Or, if you cannot, dream but truer dreams,
Which are Eternal Love and Service Free."

This is self-expansion at its best. Performance of actions in the spirit of service will gradually bring the aspirant to the stage where he will be able to transcend the world of illusions to the world of Reality.

This will be discussed in our next article: Self-transcendence.

(to be continued)

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