The Compassionate Buddha
Chapter 1: SURRENDER TO HIS WILL
Madhav, what a difference between us!
I a sinner, you the destroyer of sin; such is my Lord.
I am soiled, you the purifier,
I am bereft of any virtues, you the supreme benefactor.
I the fool, you the wisest of all,
Thou are the knower of all.
Your entire creation is marvellous,
You are the giver of my body and pranic energy too.
I have no worthy attributes; you shower on those who are humble.
You shower your benevolence and we can’t even appreciate your grace,
You are the embodiment of happiness and solace.
I seek refuge in you, O my Lord!
You are my treasure, the invincible emperor.
Says Nanak, I refer to Thy bounty of Love.
I pray, keep me ever in company of sages.
These are the sentiments of such a devotee who has seen the Lord in his most beautiful, most adorable form. Thence the devotee calls him ‘Madhav’ – which means the one who is my dearest friend, closest to my heart and mind, my soul mate.
Friends can be of different types, friendship can be made at different levels. For e.g. some friends are made socially, others at a professional or even a political level. Some are old friends since childhood days, others have been made whilst studying for a degree in a college; some are from the same neighbourhood; some are more of acquaintances whilst others are closer - different types of friends indeed. It is also seen that often a well-known person has all kinds of people coming up to him. And sometimes friendship happens between the different people acquainted with this famous person. People frequenting the same clubs can become friends. People coming together for a common social or political cause may become friends. Friends can become enemies and vice versa is also possible. So, a variety of so-called friendship can be seen in this world.
However, on a completely different plane – the Guru, the master is also referred to as a friend. The reference has been made by several masters including Baba Bulleshah, Kabir, Ravidas, and Meera to name a few. In the Gurbani, Guru has been addressed as ‘yaar’ - the beloved, the most endearing friend.
Listen, O my beloved yaar, I pray to you,
I am wandering in search of none other than, my beloved you.
And relating to the Lord with this bond, this alliance of friendship, the devotee calls out to the Lord as ‘Madhav’, the most endearing and closest one to the heart, to the mind. The reference is on a much deeper plane – God is viewed as the absolute confidant, where the unconditional connection happens at the deepest level of the mind. And remember, human mind is not exactly an epitome of beauty, in fact it is far from it.
Some may question, why should one attend a shivir (meditation camp), what is the purpose, what is the benefit? Well, the importance of attending meditation camp lies in the fact that by staying away from your family, your business/profession, in the quietude you get an opportunity to get familiar with the working of your own mind.
People are biased when it comes to scrutinising their own minds.
Anything, any attributes that lead to further strengthening of the ego is all one wants to see. And people simply want to ignore and deny the existence of anything that doesn’t please them, that doesn’t give their intellect a reason to boast, to swell with pride. For example, how many people (including you!) will accept the presence of anger or envy within them? Most people will say, “Normally I am not an angry person but what can I do when other people provoke me?” More often than not, one will blame the circumstances and other individuals for their own anger and envy. But if you blame others and don’t take the responsibility for your own anger then how can you be labelled as a human being? A man is responsible for all his actions and no one can get away from this fact.
The purpose of a meditation camp is to give you an opportunity to get acquainted with your own mind. Ask yourself - are you ambitious, do you have envy in your mind? Someone may justify, “I don’t think I am an envious person, but isn’t it natural for me to get angry when someone else climbs on my back to achieve success?”
People always ask me, “What should I do, my mind simply doesn’t engage in meditation.” Well, that’s not at all surprising! How can you meditate when the mind is full of so many negativities? The mind that is full of so many desires, overloaded with ambitions, burdened by the never ending yearnings, will never be able to achieve the meditative state.
In reality, some people attend meditation camps for all kinds of wrong reasons: Either they are fed up with the stress of daily living and want to get away or they are unwell and misguidedly think that meditation will be the panacea for all their ailments.
It is indeed woeful that no one has a clue as to why one should be
attending meditation camps and why should one meditate? What a tragedy that no one is interested in getting acquainted with the functioning of their own mind, to get rid of the mental afflictions, to taste the joy of meditation. Instead people want to learn meditation so that their desires can get fulfilled. They want to get rid of the anxiety resulting from their unsatiated desires, so that they are free to get further involved in the worldly cravings and aversion, what an irony! Similarly, some people seek out meditation camps just as a ‘cheap’ remedy for their high blood pressure, to do away with popping blood pressure pills!
Ask yourself – why do you want to learn meditation? Why have you come to this shivir? Right in the first session of this shivir, you need to be very clear about why you have come here. A shivir is for knowing one’s own self, the nature of one’s own mind and not as a remedy for curing bodily illnesses, as some misguided people think. So, be clear that you should be attending meditation camp not with the intention of attaining good physical health but for your own spiritual evolution and upliftment. Even if you were to become a great sage, will there be a guarantee that your body won’t get sick?
The body will fall ill now and then; it is inevitable. Even a Guru’s body can fall sick. The law of nature is applicable to one and all. I don’t know about others (and I am not saying that I am a great sage), but my body too falls ill. After all, that is the nature of the body. Vata, Pitta, and Kapha – these may increase or reduce and the balance may be disturbed by the weather or indeed anything else. Ayurveda states that an imbalance of these three principles leads to occurrence of diseases in the body.
Diseases occur in the body and the ignorance of your real identity is in your intellect. So, whether someone is enlightened or is an ignoramus, it is related to your intellect and has nothing to do with your body. They are foolish who think that a 'real' Guru can never fall ill. What an absurd notion! When a sage performs all bodily actions just like you –eats, sleeps, bathes, feels hunger - if all this is happening to his body, then won’t his body fall ill, just as yours does?
So who is my mind’s best friend? The answer is Madhav. I can hide my own mind from myself, I may be blissfully oblivious to all the negativities harboured in my own mind - be it jealousy, envy, anger, lust, greed, egotism. I can evade and run away from my own mind, and furthermore, can even manage to conceal the negativities from the Guru. However, the one I can never deceive is Madhav who resides right within me, who is my truest friend, for there is no veil between the Lord and me. Here Madhav refers to God. How can there be any veil from God, who resides right within me?
You must have heard about shoplifters who steal things from shops. And sometimes they come from rich families but shoplift because of some mental problems. They are kleptomaniacs and they ‘enjoy’ the experience of stealing. These days the shop owners tag all objects in their shops so that if someone were to leave the shop without paying, the tag on the object ticks off an alarm at the exit. But despite this, there are such adept shoplifters who manage to elude all the security procedures. The point I am making is that no matter how clever you are in deceiving others, the one you can never ever cheat is God.
Guru Nanak Dev, in one of his odes, says, “O’ Lord, I am soiled and it is you who makes me pure. I am the sinner and you are ever absolving. I err and you forgive. I am ignorant and you are infinitely knowledgeable.”
It is worth noting that someone of the calibre of Guru Nanak Dev had said this - the one who lived a spotlessly pure life, not even a speck of blemish anywhere. He made this statement so as to motivate people to introspect and be aware of the filth lying in their own minds.
But alas! People are usually concerned only about maintaining their public image, putting all effort in hiding their shortcomings and weaknesses from public scrutiny. So, no matter how bad we are inside, all our efforts are to hide this from other people; even if we steal or cheat, we want the society to regard us as a nobleman. A liar will not have any qualm about cheating others but will nevertheless want the world to regard him as the epitome of honesty!
One steals but doesn’t want to be known as a thief; one lies but doesn’t want to be known as a liar; one is arrogant but doesn’t want to be known as an egotist. And eventually, one gets so used to deceiving others that soon one starts deceiving one’s own self and completely deny the existence of any negativity in the mind. Thus, people actually start believing that they are best behaved, noble, compassionate and say, “We get up in the morning to do our meditation, we love our Guru, we are such great devotees of God - see our virtues!”
Let’s suppose someone comes and says to you, “Wow, you have become so virtuous! I called you at 6 am but your wife said you were meditating. Wow, getting up early to meditate, really great!” Now if some more people come and say the same thing to you, your ego will swell up and you will reply, “Did you come to know of this only today? Well, I have been doing so for the last 3 years now.”
In this way, without even becoming aware, you start to repeat statements which further strengthen your ego; you start patting your own back, praising your own self. Guru Nanak Dev shatters this self-deception by saying, “Lord, I am soiled, cleanse me.” Try to remember how many times have you felt envious of others’ success and progress? The neighbour buys a new car and on his face you may make pretence of congratulating him but your insides are being eaten away by envy. And when you hear that his new car has broken down, can you deny the secret upsurge of pleasure in your mind?
It is only the compassionate Lord, your truest friend who eradicates all the mental negativities, all the impurities with his loving grace. Guru Nanak Dev says, “Lord! You take care of my weaknesses, you cleanse my impurities. I am ignorant but you are all-knowing, hence, I feel assured that as long as you are watching, nothing bad can happen to me. And even if I want to ruin my life, it won’t happen, as ‘You’ would take care of it.”
Guru Gobind Singh says, the Lord is the supreme guardian of all
hapless beings who have surrendered to Him. However, for this to happen, annihilation of the ego and complete surrender is a must. And it won’t work if on one hand, you say that you will take care of yourself and on the other hand you also expect the Lord to keep a watchful eye on you. So, you either take the burden on your own shoulders, or you completely surrender to His will, but you have to take one stand. The Lord protects and takes care of all those who have surrendered to Him completely, who are egoless.
And this is not easy for the mind that is so used to forming relationships based on fulfilment of desires – this grace will not happen until and unless you completely give up the desire of getting anything in return of your prayers. If you are forming a relationship with God so that you get something in return, then this is bound to fail.
Who has given prana (cosmic life force, vital force) to your body? Bear in mind, it is not your parents. For if this was true, then prana would never leave your body – after all, which parent would want his child to die? This pranic energy has been given to you by none other than your beloved Madhav. It is the Lord who has created your body and perfused it with the cosmic life force, the prana.
The heart should be filled with utmost gratitude to the Lord for giving us this precious life, for He is the source of the very breath that we take in. Although you have received your body through your parents, the life force in you is a gift of the Lord alone.
‘O’ Lord, it is your grace that I have received this precious life. O’ merciful one, you are constantly looking after my wellbeing but alas! I don’t understand it.’ People think that they are running their lives. But the truth is that all happens according to the Lord’s will. Everything is happening as per the divine will, but people find it so very difficult to surrender themselves to the divine will.
‘O’ Lord, you are always merciful.’ The sun can only give out light and it does so unceasingly. Likewise, the divine is unceasingly showering us with His love, benevolence and mercy. Any adversity in your life is a result of your own doing either in the present or the result of previous karma (action). On the other hand, all the abundance in your life is a reflection of the Lord’s benevolence.
People waste their lives by polluting their minds, filling it with all kinds of filth. Even while attending a meditation camp, they keep falling prey to negativities like envy – comparing their experiences with those of others. They are so used to living their lives in envious comparison to others that they are unable to keep away from this loathsome habit even in the serene ambience of a meditation camp. ‘How could the other person sit still longer than I?’ ‘How come I never experienced the laughter and crying that others could?’ so on and so forth!
If only people started focussing on themselves, how much easier and happier their lives would be! Each individual has his own pace of growth and evolution, so where is the question of any comparison? But alas! This habit of comparison is so deeply rooted in the mind, perpetual pointless comparisons - be it wealth, looks or status – people compare anything and everything.
Amusingly, some advertisements use this human tendency to compare as the basis of their marketing strategy: ‘How can her clothes be whiter than mine’– is the punch line of an advert for a washing powder! Comparison and the resultant envy is indeed a very deeply entrenched malady of the human mind. And the consequence of comparison is that either it leads to superiority or inferiority complex, both of which are unhealthy.
One should never compare but people do. And even when people come to shivirs (meditation retreats), they bring their envy along. If you only learnt to focus on yourself, to be watchful of your own life, you will be so much happier, because comparison will only reveal the object of comparison to be either bigger or smaller.
Everything is relative. Hence, any object is either going to be bigger or smaller than the other objects. Once emperor Akbar drew a line and asked his ministers to shorten the line without touching it. As usual only Birbal (one of his grand ministers) could solve this puzzle. Next to the line drawn by the emperor, he drew another line but longer, this automatically made the first line shorter!
And isn’t this what people do – either boast and gloat in comparison to someone less endowed or feel inadequate in front of someone better off than them? Why compare and look up to others? Look up to no one but the Lord, as it is only He who can make you blissful, no one else. Guru Nanak Dev says, “O’ ever merciful Lord, O’ bestower of joy, bless me so that I look up only to you and remain forever at your feet.” The cord of love with the Lord needs to be from the bottom of your heart, and not by mere words.
My eyes are saying,
I wish to be by your feet,
I will endure the pangs of love but never gasp.
Pain of separation from you is so very deep, that I can’t stay apart,
Day and night, this pain stays in my heart.
I will endure all pain but still want to be with you,
In every breath, I remember only you.
Every moment, I yearn for your grace,
Your love is my jewel, the most cherished treasure,
I am living because I have your love, the utmost pleasure.
Every second, Thy name resounds in my heart,
I will endure all pain but still be with you, O my sweetheart!
I wish to drink the wine of your love,
I am thirsty for your love, your blessings,
I will endure all pain but still be with you.
Guru Nanak Dev says, “O’ Lord! My eyes are saying that may I forever stay at your hallowed feet. Not my tongue, not mere words, but my eyes are reflecting my heart that forever wants to be at your feet.” This is not mere formality, but such deep sentiments, such deep devotion, are an appeal straight from the heart, no less. It is not easy to form this bond of love with the Lord, but Nanak continues, “O’ Lord, you regard everyone with the same love, with no discrimination whatsoever.”
Such should be the surrender to Him that there is no individual will left even to live. The selfless bond of love with the Lord should be so deep that there should be no place left for your individual will.
Sometimes when someone is very upset, in a moment of despair, he may say that he would rather die but otherwise everyone wants to live. Ordinarily everyone wants to hold on to dear life. Even hapless, sick, impoverished people living in dire conditions on the streets, don’t give up the desire to live. For, people live in hope - hope of a better tomorrow, hope of a better future. But how many ever contemplate on the purpose of their life, the justification for their individual existence? What is the purpose of this human life - is it only for gratifying the senses, making money, running this never ending rat race, in the hope of an elusive better future? There will be diverse answers to this question, depending upon each person’s individual perception. However, for a devotee, there is only one answer – to search the Lord within, as he considers this to be the will of the Lord.
Guru Nanak Dev says, “I don’t know about others but my life is for my Lord, to seek Him. I pray that may I be blessed with the company of sages, whose guidance will make this life worthwhile and take me to my destination, which is none other than my beloved Lord.” Bear in mind, Nanak says that without a sage’s guidance the journey will remain incomplete, so he pleads to God for the company of sages.
Life is not meant to be lived in unhappiness and make others unhappy. Hence a devotee prays that may the Lord bless him with the company of sages who will guide him on this path to the divine, so that he can complete his journey and make his life worthwhile.
Life cannot be only about eating, sleeping and procreating. And neither is life only about listening to discourses on the divine – mere listening will lead to nothing. And there is no dearth of TV channels telecasting so-called spiritual discourses throughout the day. But what good will mere listening do? How will this benefit you? Your welfare is in getting acquainted with your own mind, because only by knowing your mind will you be able to emerge from all mental impurities and negativities.
If you really want to evolve, then you need to know the functioning of your mind and come out of all its negativities and weaknesses. You need to get acquainted with your own mind. Yes, the Lord can purify you but only when you accept the presence of the impurities in you. So, introspect and accept whatever mental impurities you come across. Observing mauna (silence, quietude) is an important aid to becoming aware of the mind. However, do note that silence does not mean talking in hushed voices or whispering! Eat and sleep in moderation; excessive sleeping and eating is also a kind of addiction. Moreover, overeating leads to lethargy.
Don’t waste your time in frivolous chit-chatting. Use the time to introspect, and see what all is lurking in your own mind. Observe all the negativities you encounter, whatsoever, be it anger, lust, greed or any negativity. And if while introspecting, you recollect any previous incidents of your life where you have erred or you come across any negative emotion or behaviour, then please don’t condemn yourself. Just acknowledge its presence. If you don’t accept the presence of negativities in your mind, how can you eradicate them? This acceptance without condemnation is the beginning.
Surrender to the almighty, your truest friend and pray from the depth of your heart; pray without having any expectations whatsoever and realise the purpose of this life.