Talks by Sringeri Acharyals - XIX

Virtues Promote Happiness


Sages and saints have left a rich legacy for the benefit of posterity. This treasure is still available in the form of guidelines which when followed will result in obtaining peace and bliss. One among this galaxy of such masters was Rishi Gautama, who prescribed eight personal qualities which when cultivated will enable a person to enjoy happiness. If all of us adopt them in our lives, the world will become a better place to live.

The sage starts with man's need to display compassion towards all beings.

God has nothing whatsoever to achieve for Himself but still on account of His mercy and His desire to uplift mankind has taken many incarnations. The tendency to relieve the sufferings of others is compassion, which occurs naturally among some while in some others arises due to the company of godly persons.

The second quality is forbearance.

Even though a person may have the power to take action or retaliate, still he should forgive the wrong doer. The Ramayana points out how God-incarnate never recalled even a hundred wrongs committed against Him but was satiated even with a single favor extended to Him. Anger burns the very person who gives room to it.

The third trait is not to find fault with others who are competent, prosperous or famous.

We should appreciate the good in others and not search for their defects.

Purity is the fourth requirement.

One should maintain personal cleanliness and see that the surroundings are hygienic.

The fifth essential is avoidance of lethargy.

Many may give excuses for not being in a position to carry out their duties. Laziness should be totally eschewed. Instead, a person should show zeal in discharging his obligations.

Auspiciousness accounts for the sixth noble quality.

It is necessary for a person to speak and conduct himself in a pleasant manner and not put on a wry face.

Manu has said, `Do not verbalize a distressing truth. Do not say anything that is gratifying but false'. Lord Krishna adds, ``Speech that causes no pain, is true, agreeable and beneficial, and the practice of studying the scriptures constitute austerity of speech.''

In one of his `expositions', Sri Abhinava Vidyatheertha Mahaswamigal (whose Jayanthi was celebrated on Monday) has referred to the `Absence of niggardliness' as the seventh requisite.

Hoarding and not parting with anything for charity arise out of greed. A person should realize that he cannot carry his wealth when he leaves the world.

The last of the eight qualities is `Absence of attachment' as most of our problems stem out of our worldly desires.

A detached man experiences inward joy. Virtue alone will accompany a person to the next world. 

Talks by Sringeri Acharyals - XVIII

Four stages of devotion


While it is said that a devotee is under God's loving care, it will be wrong to demand from Him that he should not experience any hardship. The Lord, is not only the most compassionate but also perfectly just. If a person had committed major transgressions in his earlier births, allowing him to go scott-free without any punishment in the form of suffering, will be a travesty of justice.

A judge who refuses to penalize a murderer on the plea of kindness will indeed be doing a disservice to society. He may however take into consideration his repentance and reduce the quantum of sentence for the crime. Likewise, God being always fair, may alter the nature of punishment to the extent possible.

There is just nothing that a devotee has to make known to God, which He is not already aware of. Further, when a devotee requests Him to fulfil his wants, how can he be said to have total faith in divine dispensation. The will of God is infallible. It is well-known that people feel happy when they obtain what they desire and regret when they do not. Those who attune their thoughts to that of the Lord will have no reason for dissatisfaction. How can grief make devotees get upset and lament if they cultivate the attitude that pain too is in their best interest.

There is no reason why anyone cannot cultivate devotion to God. To think of Him is not difficult, for, one can mentally keep chanting His names and dedicate all actions and thoughts to Him. The company of devotees is helpful in developing devotion. At first, when an aspirant tries to fix his mind on Him, he may not have concentration but there need be no despair. Constant practice will fetch him the results and he will start experiencing peace.

A portrayal of the different stages of devotion has been given by Adi Sankara in ``Sivanandalahari''. In the first stage a devotee somehow approaches God, just as the seed of the Ankola tree gets attached to the trunk of its tree. Thereafter, the effect of divine grace will be felt and the devotee feels attracted to God. In the third stage both (the devotee and God) are close to each other and their love is mutual. Finally the devotee enjoys total communion.

On the occasion of the Aradhana of Sri Abhinava Vidyatheertha Mahaswamigal (the 35th head of the Sringeri Sarada Peetam), scholars recalling the advice tendered by him pointed out how he had described the conduct of a spiritual aspirant who acts with the knowledge that he is an instrument of God. He will view success and failure with equanimity and will abstain from misdeeds. Treating the scriptures as the directives of God, he will faithfully carry out the duties which are pertinent to him. 

Talks by Sringeri Acharyals - XVII

Three Types Of Devotion


Three stages of devotion have been spelled out in the hymn of a saintly person. A staunch adherent to the doctrine of non dualism, Madhusudana Saraswati, was a great devotee of Lord Krishna and has composed soul-stirring verses in His praise. The first step in displaying devotion is the one in which an aspirant feels that he belongs to God. The special characteristic of a true servant of God is that he does not expect anything from the Almighty in return for his dedication.

To prove the child devotee Prahlada's conviction that God is present everywhere, the Lord incarnated as a man-lion in a pillar pointed at by his tyrannical father. The boy urged by others to pacify the furious Lord, fearlessly approached Lord Narasimha and prostrated before Him. The Lord calmed down pleased with the devotee's prayers and asked Prahlada to seek a boon.

The prompt reply of the lad was, "I desire nothing from You." The Bhagavatam refers to Prahlada's verse.

The episode projects two aspects: that a true servant of God knows no refuge other than God, the reason why the child had no fear. The second is that the true servant of God desires nothing from Him.

He who wants some favor from God is a trader and not His servant.
— Bhagavatam

In Sivanandalahari, Adi Sankara tells God, "Tell me why you are not redeeming me from this wretched worldly state. If the answer be that it pleases You that I should wallow thus, then I have achieved all that has to be obtained." When God is so pleased, what else is there for one to long for.

The second stage of devotion is the feeling "God is mine." Here, the devotee is positively concerned about ensuring God's welfare. It is not as though that God is in need of the devotee's care. He allows Himself to be even controlled by him.

The Bhagavatam contains an explicit declaration of God, "I am subservient to My devotee like one under the control of another." Yasoda's love for Krishna is an illustration of such devotion. To her, He was but her child and not Lord in human form. The divine child even allowed itself to be tied to a mortar.

Sri Abhinava Vidayatheertha Mahaswamigal of Sringeri has said in one of his enlightening expositions that in the third stage, a devotee feels, "I am He" with reference to God. This is Advaitic realization. While others are willing to brook at least a minute's separation from God, a devotee of this type cannot bear even that. When can separation be totally obliterated? Obviously, when one realizes that one is same as the Supreme. In the Gita, the Lord indicates that the knower of truth is not different from Him.

Talks by Sringeri Acharyals - XVI

Meditation results in realization of God


The paths of Karma, Jnana and Bhakti have been explained in the scriptures for attaining Self-realisation. The method of Upasana (Dhyana) is treated under Bhakti yoga, wherein, the way to train the mind to concentrate on God is elaborated. The paths of Jnana and Upasana focus on the mind but they are different. The mind is the basis of all knowledge and it operates at the empirical level which involves subject-object duality. This is involved in the process of gaining any form of knowledge.

The method of gaining the knowledge of the Self (Atman) on the other hand involves transcending the level of duality which is the natural state of the mind. The process by which the mind can be trained to intuit the nature of the Self through meditation is known variously as Dhyana, Yoga and Upasana.

The natural tendency of the mind is to relate with the objective world and hence it is only by conscious control and rigorous practice that it is possible to develop concentration. The first step involves controlling the mind without letting it get distracted by thoughts. This can be achieved by regular practice, since the mind by virtue of habit will over a period of time develop concentration.

To overcome distractions while practicing dhyana it is helpful to concentrate on one thought or form of God. Yoga is the last stage in dhyana when the mind attains union (Samadhi) with the object of meditation. The techniques involved in this method are elaborated in the Yoga sutras of Patanjali.

There are certain pre-requisites for adopting the path of Yoga as in the case of any other spiritual path, like practising Ahimsa (non-injury), Satya (truth), Asteya (abstaining from possessing whatever does not belong to one even in thought) Brahmacharya (celibacy) and Aparigraha (non-possession of anything beyond one's requirement) which purify the mind.

One may wonder whether it is not possible to pursue dhyana without these, but one must bear in mind that whatever has been prescribed in the scriptures have been tested for their practical effect. While practicing meditation one should select a secluded place where there will not be disturbance. On the occasion of the birth anniversary of Sri Abhinava Vidyatheertha Swami, the 35th pontiff of the Sringeri Math, the insights given by the Swami on dhyana from his personal experience, were shared by his devotees. The result of practicing dhyana was summed up by the Swami in the words of the Lord in the Bhagavad Gita.

Having fixed the mind on the Lord always, the Yogi with his mind controlled attains Moksha, the blessed state of being in Me after the final destruction of the body.
— Bhagavad Gita

Talks by Sringeri Acharyals - XV

Desire induces man to commit sins


It is understandable that evil persons are prone to indulge in misdeeds. Why should even those who wish to abstain from unrighteousness, commit sin? It is as if a man is being forced to err, akin to a servant ordered by an employer to perform some task. ``Impelled by what, does a person, even though reluctant, commit sin as if he were compelled?''

This doubt was raised years ago by a confused individual before God whose reply contains the cause of all evil. "Desire and anger born out of man's triple qualities are his foes."

The chief enemy is desire from which evil springs in all beings. When this desire happens to be obstructed by some cause, then it gets transformed into anger. Thus anger is a manifestation of desire. Everything in the world comprises three qualities - one which is responsible for a peaceful, happy disposition, the second for an overactive, attached nature and third, indolence and sloth.

Desire, the Lord says, is born out of the third quality. Only when a man is in the grip of desire does he commits sin.

The doubt about evil and the answer to clear it are in the Bhagavad Gita. Krishna illustrates how desire affects, by giving three examples which convey the gradations in the covering of knowledge by desire. ``Just as fire is enveloped by smoke, a mirror by dirt and as a fetus is enclosed in the womb, so too is knowledge covered by desire''.

The wise man knows, even before suffering the consequences, that he has been led by desire to evil ways. So, he feels extremely sorry and in his case, it is his enemy. On the other hand, the ignorant regard desire, at the time of their thirsting for objects, as a friend. Only when grief arises that an unwise man realizes that he has been rendered miserable by desire. "Never is desire satiated by enjoyment just as fire cannot be put out by pouring ghee into it."

Explaining the source of all evil, Sri Abhinava Vidyatheertha Swamigal of Sringeri, in one of his discourses had said that according to Krishna who had delivered the eternal message in the Gita to mankind, "The senses, the mind and the intellect are the seats of this enemy." Veiling knowledge, it deludes the embodied soul.

The Lord has also indicated that the senses are dangerous for they forcibly carry away the mind of even a striving wise man. Hence to conquer desire, the senses should be controlled. One who is keen to realize God, should not only eliminate desire, anger and greed, but also the three types of impure mental tendencies.

Talks by Sringeri Acharyals - XIV

The Almighty impels man to act


The stability of the entire universe, in fact its very survival, is dependent on the operation of the law of virtue. The Lord Himself had declared in the Bhagavad Gita, ``With this (the divine constitution), you nourish the shining ones and may the latter illumine you. Thus nourishing one another, you shall reap the supreme good''. ``God has prescribed this moral law for humanity in the form of the Vedas which are His instructions for a life of purity.

A question that often troubles many is whether God can appear before us. If not, what is the meaning of divine grace. The fallacious answer provided by some in modern times is that the utterances of the ancient wisdom and of the divine mercy, appear to be concocted by a few to deceive the common man. As against this and to convince people of the merits of saints and of the Vedas, an appropriate reply has also been rendered as to what constitutes divine grace.

The beautiful verse in this respect says, “God's blessings do not mean that He will go about with a staff in His hand as a shepherd does when he drives the animals to a meadow.'' This is to be understood as that He will bestow on us the proper motive for action. Every action we do is stimulated by an urge to perform it. Without such a spur, one does not act at all. The desire and the urge emanate from the Almighty's grace. If that be so, the skeptics will ask, why should not His grace be only for the performance of pious deeds and why should the urge to do evil acts arise?

This apparent riddle has been answered by Sri Bharathi Theertha Mahaswamigal of Sringeri Sarada Peetam. Urge for indulging in wicked deeds also is from the Divinity, he says. Does that mean that God's intention is that we can do such prohibited acts? If so, what sort of God is He is the next query? Does He, who is the object of our veneration and devotion, and whom we consider worthy of worship, goad us to perpetrate them?

The scriptures explain that one has to reap the consequences for the evil deeds done in one's previous birth. Because of this, God does not become responsible and He cannot be blamed. The succession of rebirths, wherein we ought to reap the consequences of our past actions continues from time immemorial. This concept of reaping the consequences of one's previous actions is neither improper nor unscriptural. Hence, those eager to procure God's grace and who want to please Him should abide by the law laid down by Him. He has given us the power of discrimination and it is for us to use it properly. A sword given by a father to his son for use in case of war, should not be instead utilized to chop off his own neck. If he does, is it the fault of the father or the son?

Talks by Sringeri Acharyals - XIII

Follow the teachings of preceptors


Some of the literary compositions of saints not only contain their sincere prayers to the Lord but also advice to humanity, besides being replete with anecdotes testifying their excellence in several fields. Reciting one of the verses by a great religious reformer, we can clearly comprehend, "This is how we should conduct ourselves." The import of this verse is, "Let me possess humility; let me not have arrogance. My mind wanders all over. So let it remain firmly fixed on you. I desire to possess whatever I see but let me not wallow in the mire of wants; make me compassionate and bless me with liberation."

The way in which a man should behave is revealed in this verse by Adi Sankara. A person should be humble, control his senses and should desire nothing. This prayer indirectly describes the important attributes of an ideal human being. "Instead of wasting our time, if we recite at least a single verse of Sankara's hymns daily, great merit will accrue to us," said Sri Bharathi Theertha Mahaswamigal of Sringeri on the occasion of Sankara Jayanti. In his commentary, Adi Sankara had established that liberation can be attained only through knowledge of the Self. Authentic information about his life is available in `Sankara Digvijaya' authored by Madhava Vidyaranya.

Some of the verses in this book praising Sankara state, "Only in men with a background of great meritorious deeds will the tree of spiritual life take real roots. Control of mind is the sprouting leaf-bud of that tree; control of senses, its tender foliage; contentment, its blossoms; forbearance, its nectar; and faith, its fruit. Your teachings are like a necklace of splendorous pearls, strung on the golden thread of sound reasoning which scatter the darkness of ignorance by their brilliance."

Adi Sankara was a `knower of Truth'. At the same time, he was an expert in managing worldly affairs. His patience, fortitude and ability to get along amicably with one and all, set him apart as a brilliant leader. He admirably removed a misunderstanding that had cropped up among his disciples. He had full authority over them but was not a dictator. The admirable manner in which he promoted national integration is apparent in the manner in which he established the pontifical seats.

Sankara Bhagavadpada wanted the propagation of the law of righteousness to go on forever. His vision was that good deeds should continue to be performed for centuries to come. He possessed such a nonpareil intellect and farsightedness that within a short span of 32 years he accomplished unbelievable tasks. Adi Sankara was a great adept in yoga and instances clearly show that he had acquired astounding powers.

Talks by Sringeri Acharyals - XII

Individual life must benefit society


Man's sojourn in the world must be marked with some purpose. Life unless it is useful to the society at large cannot be meaningful. It is not right to remain contented in life when endowed with prosperity. Only when a person who has the welfare of others at heart and helps them with an attitude of selflessness, his life becomes enriched. When we analyse the lives of great personages like Sankara, we will realize that they never lived a moment for themselves but spent all their lives in the service of humanity.

Often people do not know whether they are pursuing the right path until it is pointed out to them. It is human nature to give priority to one's interest while undertaking any task. This results only in realizing selfish ends and one loses the larger perspective of how one's enterprise can be of benefit to the society at large.

Such selfishness and narrow-minded approach to life does not lead us anywhere. On the other hand one must be broad-minded enough to put others before oneself. The idea that the entire world is one family is visualized in the scriptures to enlarge man's vision to include the entire creation in himself.

The Yoga sutra of Patanjali indicates how man's mind must react to others' happiness and sorrow. Instead of feeling jealous about others' prosperity one should feel happy. Likewise one should show concern when encountering others in distress and try to give them solace. While noticing someone drowning in a river one rushes to save him spontaneously without deliberating whether he is one's friend or enemy. Likewise our heart must automatically sympathize with the distressed.

Sri Bharathi Theertha Swami of Sringeri Math in his benedictory address said, in our relationship with others in society we should besides doing good, try to bring around those who indulge in wrong deeds by right counselling. If it is not possible one should remain indifferent and keep a distance from such people who will only be a distraction.

Good fortune and happiness in this life is due to God's grace and meant for sharing with others and not for one's edification only. Broad mindedness, concern for others and selflessness are the virtues which lives of great men teach us. Man's intellect has its limitations and he cannot know everything on his own or learn only with his experience.

So it is good to look to elders for guidance by molding one's life after them and also by following their precepts. One should not have reservation about learning from others and in the realm of learning age should not be a deterrent. History shows that an elderly person like Sureswara became Sankara's disciple who was very much younger to him. 

Talks by Sringeri Acharyals - XI

Birth as human being a rare privilege


Birth as a human being is rare to attain. It is the result of good deeds performed in countless lives. All living beings have many functions in common and what distinguishes man from other creatures is his capacity to follow the path of dharma( virtue) since his faculties are specially equipped for higher pursuits.

All living beings perform actions only for the preservation of their bodies, but man acts mainly with ulterior motives and hence all his actions are ultimately motivated for his own benefit and fulfillment of his desires. If his entire life is wasted without utilizing this birth for realizing the ultimate goal, by adopting the path of dharma it is futile existence. Moreover there is no guarantee that one will be blessed with a human birth again.

Man's ignorance about the privilege of his present birth must be removed and his goal in life made clear to him. Suppose an ardent student finds that a text-book which he needs for his course is out of print and when he borrows the same from the library he is told that he can peruse it only for one month, one can imagine the seriousness with which he will study the text within the short period which normally he would have taken to complete in one year.

Likewise the scriptures tell us that this birth is very rare to get and there is no certainty about the condition of our future lives. So a lot of effort is necessary in daily life to realise the goal of human existence (liberation) for which adherence to dharma is of paramount importance. Man's life is led on the path of what he believes in. Only when there is belief that by adopting dharma one will be able to achieve higher values (shreyas) in life, will he remain true to the goal.

In his benedictory address, Sri Bharathi Theertha Swami of Sringeri Math said, scriptures classify human beings as believers (asthikas) and non-believers (nasthikas) according to their propensities. A believer in rebirth, karma (effect of good and bad deeds) and existence of God is an asthika, whereas a person who believes in leading a life of hedonism denies all this. So we must only exercise the choice and make efforts to follow the path which will be for our good.

With full conviction that the path of dharma will confer merit we must perform the enjoined duties. Even the desire that we should have a good comfortable life in the next birth must motivate us to do only good deeds and the prescribed duties according to our station in life. Gita also reiterates:

Better is one’s own duty, though devoid of merit, than the duty of another well-performed; for performing the duty ordained by his own nature man does not incur sin.
— Bhagavad Gita

Talks by Sringeri Acharyals - X

Preserve Vedic tradition: Sringeri Acharya


The Sankaracharya of Sringeri Math Sri Bharathi Theertha today blessed the Veda Vedanta Gurukula Mahavidyalaya, the institution in Andhra Pradesh dedicated to Vedic learning in the traditional gurukula style.

Speaking at a function of `Honoured Citizens Meet', the Sankaracharya, who is also the Chancellor of the Mahavidyalaya said, Vedas and Sastras were the cornerstones of `sanatana dharma'. Only by the propagation of these the principles of dharma could be learnt. If there was no dharma, there would be no virtue. Hence, the `vedasastra parampara' ought to be preserved and the Mahavidyalaya was an effort in that direction, he said.

In his benediction, the Sankaracharya also blessed the `Tritiya Maha Veda Sastra Sabha' to be conducted by the Mahavidyalaya on Tuesday. Eminent pandits in Vedas and Sastras are expected to participate in the Maha Sabha.

Earlier, speaking to reporters, Mr. M. H. Avadhani, Chairman, Steering Committee of the Mahavidyalaya, said the institution was visualised on the lines of gurukulas to impart Vedic and Sanskrit education in its best form and practice. The Vedas, Sastras, Upanishads, and other related subjects would be taught at this centre. It would also conduct research on the Vedic system. The research centre would be connected to various centres around the world through satellite to share Vedic literature.

The Mahavidyalaya is situated on the banks of the Krishna river at Swetha Sringachalam in the Venkataya Palem Forest area, Guntur district. The center proposed to have 16 colleges with a total strength of about 500 professors and 2,500 students. The first college had already started with 75 students and 12 teachers. The students would have to stay in the campus with their teachers and in the gurukula tradition, all the needs of the students would be taken care of. The second college would be for applied Vedas and the third one for astrology and astronomy.

In addition to Vedic education, the students would also be imparted education as per the contemporary system so that they could integrate into the mainstream and seek employment if they wished to. To a question whether the centre had any university status, he said it would be acquired by repute. After completing education at the centre, the students could get employment there itself. The remuneration of the teachers would be equivalent to that of any university, Mr. Avadhani said.

The Mahavidyalaya would be spread over an area of 1,500 acres of forest land and would comprise four distinctive divisions: Mahavidyalaya campus, Mahavidyalaya Service Centre, Mahavidyalaya Township and Tapovan. Construction activity would be restricted mainly to the campus area and hence the forest would be preserved. By the end of the century an expenditure of Rs. 24 crore was expected. By then the center would be able to accommodate 2000-3000 persons and 500 `gurus'.

On the selection procedure, he said anybody willing to abide by the rules of learning Vedas in the traditional gurukula system could be admitted. The minimum age limit would be 6-8 years. However different courses were being made available to all the people. To a question whether a scheduled caste candidate would be admitted, Mr. Avadhani said `he may be admitted' if he met all requirements for Vedic learning.

Mr. V. R. Gowrishankar, administrator, Sringeri Math, Dr. K. Ramamurthy, editor of special publications brought out to mark the Sankaracharya's visit to the city and Prof. T. V. Ramanan, Principal, Guru Nanak College were among others present. 

Talks by Sringeri Acharyals - IX

God accessible to one and all


God has been described as an ocean of mercy, ready to rescue His devotees from their problems. One of the doubts raised by some is, ``If He is really so compassionate, why not He protect them of His own volition? Does He not know their difficulties? Where then is the need for their prayers or appeals?'' A fitting reply can be given for this doubt.

God is ever anxious to help those who seek His help. A river flows near a village carrying copious water. Anyone who requires water can go to it and fetch any quantity. But a person cannot expect the river to flow to him and fill the pitchers in his house of its own accord. So too, God is to be approached through prayers and worship as He is readily accessible to everyone. He has no partiality and welcomes all and is ready to shower His grace on the seekers without discrimination.

God shows no distinction among His devotees in regard to their scholarship, color or status. A well read person and a less qualified one offered their prayers before God. The former used a hymn in a flamboyant style while the latter's was not so flowery. The former got annoyed with God that He has accepted the grammatically incorrect verse but the Almighty said that He only appreciated a devotee's sincerity and intensity of feeling. So too was the case of Narayana Bhattathri (who composed Narayaneeyam) virtually accusing God of having approved the verse of a not so scholarly poet, which contained flaws. “I am not worried about grammatical construction but am pleased with devotion.” , the Lord replied.

Sri Bharati Theertha Swami of Sringeri Math in a discourse said, that God is pleased with any offering made with total devotion. He does not approve of hypocrisy and knows who is sincere. He will not be carried away by extravagant display of devotion. The attitude behind an offering is important. A poor devotee who has no wherewithal, can before an idol, imagine the Lord being seated on a throne made of gold imbedded with gems and himself offering lavish items. This is termed ``Maanasa puja.''

There will also be no difficulty in chanting God's names. ``Namasivaya'' is a simple mantra of God and it is regrettable that many do not resort even to the simple procedure of chanting it to approach God. At the conclusion of one's daily worship, a verse is recited in submission to God to condone the defects in the offerings or for the violation of the prescribed rules of worship. God forgives them. Such is the power and efficacy of prayers and divine names.

Talks by Sringeri Acharyals - VIII

God, the permanent companion


Immersed in worldly activities, man generally toils day and night and by some means goes through his ordeals and escapes. Time waits for no one and in this fast changing background, he manages to earn and spend. But each one should introspect on what distinction he has achieved and whether he has taken any step to reach the goal of emancipation. ``What have I gained in this precious life and have I utilized the opportunity provided by God in a proper manner'' should be the self-enquiry he should make.

Our forbears who had been steeped in spiritual traditions had left for posterity the methods to secure divine grace. They had said that the mind should be kept absolutely conditioned, which meant that the physical body, the senses and the mind ought to be utilised to think about the God-man relationship, to utter His names and to offer service to Him. When he worships, naturally the mind will have to be kept tamed so as to enjoy peace.

But many have not been able to resort to spiritual exercises which will lead them to God. They usually say, ``These days (when I am young) are not intended for religious pursuits. There is enough time and I can take to religion at a later stage.'' This is their general attitude but little do they realize that as age advances all the sense faculties will fail to respond. On the day when he is to fast, he will feel more hungry and when he is asked to keep awake on a Sivarathri day, he will get sleep early. There is absolutely no guarantee that he can think, act or see clearly in his old age.

Hence, wise men have tendered genuine advice that younger days are more conducive to developing devotion and be of service to God. When his body is trim, words flow without falter, mind takes quick decisions and eyesight is sharp, a person should think of God and adopt measures which will lead him to God's vicinity. Such a tendency to be God-minded should arise, not from suggestions made by others but by one's own volition.

He should not go to the temple because someone has compelled him. Worship of God should be to please himself and the Almighty, knowing well that it is for his own benefit. Elders have pointed out that they have been provided with a golden opportunity to realize God through these procedures.

Sri Bharathi Theertha Swami of Sringeri Sarada Peetam in a discourse cited in this connection the words of the Lord in the Gita:

Let a man lift up himself who is drowned in the ocean of transmigration. Let him not lower himself for he alone is the friend of himself. No other friend can lead him to liberation from this sea of distress. Mind under different circumstances is both a friend and a foe to the soul. It is a friend to one who has full control of self and an enemy when he has not checked its vagaries.
— Bhagavad Gita

God alone is man's permanent companion and so what one should consider as a real achievement is not to merely accumulate wealth or seek fame and position but to meditate on God, utter His names, offer worship to Him and thereby earn His pleasure and obtain His grace. 

Talks by Sringeri Acharyals - VII

Motivated charity leads to bondage


Several valuable and easy guidelines have been packed by Lord Krishna in His Bhagavad Gita, His sermon on the battlefield, which if upheld will enable men to lead a virtuous life. What is needed is a sincere endeavor to put them into practice. A few among these divine declarations are about the value of giving charity to genuine causes, of refraining from falsehood, of speaking truth only and about being soft in one's conversations with others, avoiding any offence to them. An injury inflicted by harsh statements and derogatory comments about other's conduct will leave an indelible scar whereas even a physical wound may vanish in course of time. Efforts in all these matters are sure to result in perfection and in pleasing God.

On philanthropy, the Lord indicates that help should be extended only to deserving persons, the poor who are in dire circumstances. Charity should never be given to gain fame, popularity or publicity but should be considered a duty enjoined on a person who can spare. It should not be indiscriminate, granted to one who may use it to promote wicked deeds or to divert to ignoble acts. Charity should be purely voluntary and should not be under duress, compulsion or reluctance. The help given should be for a proper and an absolutely needy man, at the proper time and in a proper place. More important is that it should be provided expecting no return at all or anticipating any benefit from the recipient. Such a beneficial act will be liked by God. Charity with an eye on a return or for other purposes will result in bondage and may be a sin too. If it is done as a duty ordained and as a dedication to God, there will be no attachment. Similar are the spiritual exercises, visits to temples or meditation which form part of religious duties. One should not seek gains from them and ask ``what shall I get if I carry them out.''

For further reads:

God will not appreciate motivated duties. If you observe them, God will feel satisfied. He will give the reward when and what he deserves.

Sri Bharathi Theertha Swami of Sringeri in a discourse referred to Krishna's advice on being gentle, polite and soft when one speaks to others. Courtesy will not cost anything.

For further reads:

An astrologer was candid in informing a king that he would die before others meet their death. The enraged ruler asked another, who realizing the situation and his mood, answered in a subtle oblique manner conveying the same without being open and the king was happy.

The Lord asks men not to be prejudiced while meeting others and hate them or be unkind or pass adverse remarks. They should speak the Truth on all occasions. Poet Kalidasa mentions how the forbears of Rama were highly choosy and measured in their words. Not that they were proud but they felt that unnecessary talk may lead them to indulge in unnecessary falsehood.

For further reads:

Gita urges people to distribute their wealth among the have-nots. Some will not spend it for their own comfort or distribute to others. They are the worst misers who neither enjoy their money here nor hereafter (in the other world).

The Acharya also pointed out how some people created confusion or spread hatred among devotees praising one God or decrying another. Hinduism gives liberty to its followers to worship the deity of their choice, as all are but different forms of one God and hence the question of superiority or inferiority never arises and there is no scope for any uarrel. 

Talks by Sringeri Acharyals - VI

Substitute ego with compassion and equanimity - Part II


Q: Advanced communication techniques have made the world a small place. Values can no longer be confined to a particular country. How to guard against the wrong type of influences?

A: However much the scenario changes in the world and it is bound to from time to time, we have to seriously think, analyse and absorb only what is good and beneficial to our interests from others. Even a scientist or an intellectual can never derive peace from his pursuits unless it is in tune with higher values.

Q: The modern pace of living does not give much time for parents to devote themselves to their children. They are at a loss as to how to guide them in the pursuit of values. The educational system also is unable to stress on value-based education. How are we to mould the future generations?

A: It is highly detrimental to the very purpose of life if parents do not give enough time for the welfare of their children. When there is concern for the child's future the necessary time can always be found to inculcate the right values in life. There is no point in regretting later when the children go astray.

We cannot help those who do not want to aspire for higher values and are satisfied with a materialistic existence. But those who want the best for their children will certainly consider it their duty to teach them the right values in life.

Q: Can you give some simple guidelines to be followed in day-to-day life?

A: The quality of compassion differentiates man from other beings. So to be humane is man's first commitment. He must make it a point to help others in life according to his capacity. If a person is well versed he can impart knowledge to others, if wealthy help others in need or if in a position of power, use that for the welfare of others in society.

The sense of ego proves detrimental to all higher pursuits and so one must never give room to it. We must always remember with gratitude that it is due to the grace of God that one enjoys all comforts and recognition. One can never go wrong in the company of the good.

Good and bad times come in everyone's life. So it is essential to remember that what we enjoy in this present birth is due to our own karma, hence we should not feel elated during good times and depressed in adversity. Life must be faced with equanimity of mind in constant remembrance of God.


Talks by Sringeri Acharyals - V

Substitute ego with compassion and equanimity - Part I


Few persons in history have exercised as deep an influence on Indian thought and spiritual life as Adi Sankara (788 to 820 AD) did. In a short span of 32 years he left an indelible mark of his intellect and wisdom on the thought and culture of our country.

He established a living tradition at Sringeri, Karnataka, by setting up the Dakshinamnaya Sri Sringeri Sarada Peeta with Suresvara as his immediate successor. The Peeta has an unbroken guru-sishya parampara which has kept the heritage of the country's ancient wisdom and learning vibrant.

Sri Bharati Thirtha, the present pontiff who is the 36th acharya of the Sringeri Peeta, during his recently concluded visit to the city provided spiritual succor to the devotees. Excerpts from an interview to `The Hindu':

Q: Mankind lacks a sense of direction from childhood to adulthood. An honest seeker feels perturbed about the situation. How can man be made aware of the purpose of his life?

A: It is by listening and following the advice of elders who guide others from their experience and reading scriptures that man can choose the right path. For instance, a person learns that fire burns after touching it. When with this experience he cautions others, they should take his advice instead of experimenting and committing the same mistake. Even those who do not heed good advice will automatically take recourse to the right path when confronted with problems in life, but it is wise to learn and benefit from the experience of elders who have traversed the right path; the scriptures will certainly enlighten one on all important matters.

Q: In the prevailing materialistic culture how can man realize his spiritual base?

A: The fruits of science can give us bounties in the realm of the material world only. Man must at some point in his life realize that existence here is not the end and develop interest in the pursuit of that which will give him everlasting happiness by clearly understand the difference between evanescent and permanent values.

Q: To the intellectual today, religion with its overwhelming myths and dogmas does not hold appeal. How to convince him?

A: Only when man out of ego thinks that he knows everything does such superficial knowledge result. If man sheds his ego realizing that what he knows is very little and there is much to learn he will take the guidance of spiritual leaders in all humility. There is no reason to scoff that they repeat age old beliefs before making an attempt to understanding what they convey. Science can only enlighten that which is within the purview of the senses and the intellect and in matters which are beyond their grasp one has to take recourse to scriptures and the guidance of spiritual leaders only.


Talks by Sringeri Acharyals - IV

Attributes of a Ideal Human Being


 "Only in men with a background of outstanding and distinguishing acts will the tree of spiritual life take real roots. Control of mind is the sprouting leaf-bud of that tree; checking the senses, its tender foliage; contentment its blossoms; forbearance, its nectar; and faith, its fruits. Your teachings, which inculcate all these excellences become available only to men who possess great merits to their credit. A dip in the waves of mercy of your river of grace fetches liberation from bondage. Your message is like a necklace of splendorous pearls, strung on the golden thread of sound-reasoning which dispels the darkness of ignorance."

This exemplary tribute about Adi Sankara is from the verses of another great scholar Madhava Vidyaranya extolling that great personality. "But for the timely appearance of Sankara, the world of pious men would not have been able to taste the nectar of Adwaita philosophy," was the praise showered on the great Guru by another ascetic. In one of his works (Upadesa Panchakam), Adi Sankara has urged devotees to perform well all the acts enjoined in the Vedic revelations. "Give up the thought of engaging in desire-prompted rites. Worship God through the observance of duties. Eradicate the hosts of sins. Contemplate on the faults in worldly enjoyments. Pray for the knowledge of the self."

In a lecture on the occasion of Sankara Jayanthi, Sri Bharathi Theertha Mahaswamigal, Head of the Sringeri Math, has advised people to recite at least one hymn of the great Acharya (Sankara) everyday and attain prosperity. Adi Sankara has categorically established in his commentaries that liberation can be achieved only through knowledge of the `self.' He had held that in reality, the individual soul and the Almighty are not different. Adi Sankara's depth of knowledge has remained unparalleled. He was a poet par excellence and was no less eminent than Kalidasa in his poetic genius.

In one of his prayers, Adi Sankara urges the Lord "Let me possess humility. Let me not turn arrogant. My mind wanders all over and hence, you should enable me to firmly fix it on you. Make me compassionate and do not allow me to wallow in the mire of desires, but bless me with liberation." The manner in which a man should conduct himself is thus focussed by him. The Acharya asks man to be humble, control his senses and refrain from desires. Indirectly, he describes the attributes of an ideal human being in this poem.

Adi Sankara's patience in dealing with people has been seen on many occasions. He was not treated with respect when he visited Mandana Mishra; Ubhaya Bharathi questioned him on matters opposed to ascetic order; another even asked for his head for a religious rite. But Sankara treated all of them with compassion.

Talks by Sringeri Acharyals - III

Abide by law of virtue to get God's grace


What is the relevance of the Law of Righteousness when the world is fast progressing in the fields of science and technology, is a question that is often raised by many. They have not obviously understood the nature of this moral law which has its source in the Vedas, the divine revelations. The stability of the entire universe, in fact its very survival, depends on this law. The Lord Himself has proclaimed: ``With this, (the law), you nourish the shining ones and may the latter nourish you. This process of sustaining one another will enable you to reap the supreme good.''

God has prescribed this law for the entire humanity in the form of Vedic commands. Some ask whether God has appeared before anyone to tell him what should be done. ``What then is the meaning of God's grace?'' For this, some have given a fallacious answer that these ``directives'' appear to have been concocted by a few to deceive the common man.

The ancients have provided us a suitable reply: ``God's grace does not mean that He will go about with staff in His hand, even as a shepherd does as he drives his animals to a meadow.'' This indicates that He bestows on us, the proper motive for action, which is stimulated by an urge and a desire which too arise from God. ``If the urge for action comes from God, it should only be to perform noble deeds. How can then one indulge in evil acts?'' If God is responsible for this also, does it mean that He wants us to indulge in wicked deeds too? What sort of a God He is who goads us to perpetrate evil acts are the other arguments of skeptics. Scriptures have the ready explanation for these also.

On the occasion of the ``Vardhanthi'' of Sri Bharathi Theertha Mahaswami of Sringeri Math celebrated recently, speakers referred to the answers for doubts, provided by him in one of his discourses. Since a person has to face the results of his evil acts done in his previous birth, God gives him the desires in his subsequent births. God cannot be blamed for what the man does because this succession of births, wherein he experiences the fruits of the acts carried out in previous lives, in his subsequent appearances, has continued from time immemorial. Vyasa and Adi Sankara have laid emphasis on the eternal nature of ``Samsara.'' Hence the concept of reaping the consequence of one's previous actions is neither improper nor unscriptural. Those who are eager to obtain God's grace and want to please Him, have to abide by the Law of Virtue laid down by Him.

God has given the humans the power of discrimination and it is their responsibility to use it properly.

Talks by Sringeri Acharyals - II

Why does not God physically appear


"Why does not God physically appear in front of us?" is a question some people ask. The reply is that we all believe that there is nothing which is impossible for Him. Such being our faith, if He were to present Himself before us, will anyone allow Him to go back to His abode?

None of us will spare even a distinguished person should he visit us; we would pester him with our demands for material needs. Hence, if God were to reveal His form, some among us may even force Him to bring heaven to our place before He leaves. Still, it can be said that He may decide to appear before humans.

God had shown His divine form to a few well-merited persons. Why not He then grant His vision to all of us? It is because that our spiritual practice differs from that of the sages.

The latter had performed penance, spent time in meditation and were tolerant towards both heat and cold. So are some amongst us. But the fruit obtained is different. How can this discrepancy be explained?

The God-realized personalities who observed austerities and other types of rigorous spiritual exercises did so only to get rid of all belongings whereas ours is for the fulfillment of the desires lurking in our minds. They remained insulated from the pairs of opposites but our plight is entirely different.

The sages did not care for worldly comforts. Their aim was to behold the Lord. They meditated on His forms, while our thoughts are invariably about gaining pecuniary advantages. All these reasons account for the difference in results according to Sri Bharathi Theertha Mahaswamigal, Head of the Sringeri Sarada Peetam.

"We should also try and emulate their ways" the Acharya adds, in one of his lectures. It is wrong to offer worship to God for the fulfillment of our desires. Trying to gratify them will be in vain, resulting in misery, because they will multiply. If we sincerely take steps to eradicate our wants and spend our time in striving to behold the Lord, we too can witness His glorious forms.

Worshiping God with devotion is the greatest virtue. The devotion displayed by us should not be for mere show. Even when thrown amidst penury, Kuchela did not express to Lord Krishna (both were classmates) any of his needs. But Kuchela turned into a Kubera in a trice due to the Lord's grace. Hence all our good deeds should be aimed at pleasing Him.

The scriptures point out that the Lord graces a person by inducing appropriate thoughts in his mind, which will enable him to achieve success in his activities.

Talks by Sringeri Acharyals - I

Man reaps the result of his action

This is a collected list of interviews and talks by the Sringeri Acharyals on various religious topics during the 1990’s. They were published in “The Hindu” newspaper.

What is the relevance of the ancient law of virtue when we are now achieving tremendous advancements in the scientific and material spheres? Such a question is being asked by some and their doubt arises about the lack of understanding regarding the nature of this law and its greatness and about the sublimity of the Vedic revelations which are the sources for this eternal moral law.

Millions of years ago, the Vedas declared that the stability of the entire universe, in fact its very survival, is dependent on righteous conduct. God has prescribed it for us in the form of the Vedas. Some raise the query, ``Does God appear before us and give these instructions. If not, what then is the meaning of Divine grace?'' The fallacious reply by a few is, ``All these appear to be concocted by some to deceive the common man.

But the ancient spiritual authority has provided the suitable explanation, ``God's grace does not mean that He will go about with a staff in His hand, as a shepherd does when he drives his animals to a meadow. On the other hand, He bestows on us the proper motive for action. Every move we undertake is stimulated by an urge to do, which arises out of a desire to perform that particular action. Without such a spur, we will not act at all.''

Where does this desire and urge for action stem from, is the next question. The only satisfactory answer is that it comes from God. If so, these skeptics say, such an urge should only be for the performance of pious deeds. Why then some have the tendency to indulge in wicked acts? Does God ask you to do evil acts? Will He, who is the object of our veneration, goad us to perpetrate bad deeds? Here too, the law provides the answer.

Sri Bharathi Theertha Mahaswamigal of Sringeri in a discourse said, since a person reaped the consequences of the evil acts he had perpetrated in his previous births, God gave him the appropriate desires to make him experience the fruits thereof. God does not therefore become responsible and He cannot be blamed. In the succession of births one experiences the fruits of actions done in previous lives in the subsequent ones. The process is continuous and hence the concept of reaping the results of past actions is neither improper nor un-scriptural.

If a sword is handed over to a young man for use in case of a war, and he chops off his own head with it, whose fault is this? Likewise, if a man who is asked to uphold the Divine commands (contained in the law) does not use the power of discrimination and does not understand the teachings contained in the sacred texts, the fault is man's. Man should hence decide on the correct course of action.