This talk by Swami Satchidananda, was given on 5 August 1996 to a group of inmates at the Buckingham Correctional Center, a maximum security, facility in Buckingham, Virginia. Swami Satchidananda had been invited to the prison by a group of inmates who are part of a spiritual group called the Buckingham Monastic Community.


It’s hard to come into a correctional institution and say that the inmates are fortunate. But, before I answer your questions, I would like to say that you are, in a way, fortunate people.

Just now, we heard the poem, “Life is a Journey,” written by a member of the Buckingham Monastic Community. As monastic members you know the advantage of sitting in meditation; and here you are, fully protected, with food guaranteed, and nobody to bother you. So, you have ample opportunity to meditate. You can think about this opportunity instead of having any negative feelings of, “Why am I here?”

Maybe you didn’t even commit the crime; but, still, if you are here as a monastic community, you should know that there is a karma theory. If you did something sometime, you have to face it some other time. You might not have done anything this time, but you do believe in reincarnation and “preincamation.” You might have done something before in your past lives, but you escaped from that, and now you are facing the result of it, now you have to face it. Because, once we do something, we cannot avoid facing the consequences. That’s what you call the karma theory: what vou sow, you reap. So, even if you are here and you are innocent, you should not say, “I am being punished unnecessarily.” You might have done something in a past life and you are purging it. The Bible says, “Blessed are the sufferers.” Why should it say, “Blessed are the sufferers?” Can the sufferers be blessed? The reason is that if we want to wash our karitia, we have to undergo some suffering.

For example, the kanita is like dirt in our life. If your clothing gets dirty, what do you do with it? Do you fold it, put it on an altar and pray, “Get cleaned”? No. [“Wash it,” someone from the group answers.] Yes: wash it. Washing means the item undergoes a lot of suffering. You have to immerse it in water, apply soap, rub it, scrub it, boil it. It’s all suffering. But your intention is not to destroy the clothing. You are doing it all just to clean up the dirt. You are interested in the dhoti, in the clean cloth. You want to remove the dirt, but it cannot be done without going through the suffering. After washing. still, there’ll be some wrinkles. Ho” do you straighten them out? With a hot iron. That*s also another part of suffering. “Blessed are the sufferers” means that by the suffering we are cleaning our past karititis. “-hate~-er we have done in this birth or in the previous birth.

Before I go further, do you believe in rebirth or prebirth? Does anybody have any doubt? We lived before. Do you know that? [Some group members answer: “I’m not sure.” “I have mixed feelings.”] Mixed feelings. Then I have to answer that first. Okay. Let’s say that this is the only birth for us. That we neither lived before nor will we live afterward. But you do believe that God created people, is it so? [“Yes.”] God created everybody. Is God impartial or partial? [“Impartial.”] Impartial. [“I’m not sure about that either, but I’ll say impartial.”] Impartial. If an impartial God were to create people for the first time, why should He create them with so many differences? Some in poor families, some in rich families. Some handicapped, some in good health. Some knowledgeable, some dull-headed. Does God take a fancy in creating like that? You don’t have an answer for that. The only answer is that we sowed the seed before, and, in this birth, we are facing what we sowed before. We have to believe in reincarnation in order to understand the changes, the recurrences in upbringing, the differences in life status.

… if we want to wash our karma, we have to undergo some suffering.

Question: Then why do we not recall past lives clearly? Are we destined to life a life and, then, just to throw it away, without remembering it?

Answer: Well, we can recall if we want. But can you recall exactly what you did a year before on this day, at this time? Questioner: If it ii,ere important to me, – ves. Sri Gurudev: Okay. If it were important, you could recall that also. You can go back. It’s a chain. It’s not forgotten. It’s all recorded in our minds. For example, Lord Buddha meditated, and he envisioned ten lives past. It’s possible. But we don’t have to spend time on that. Why? There’s no point in knowing why this is happening. Instead, we should think, “This has happened. There must be a good reason. I did something. I don’t know what, why, how, but it happened here. How can I avoid it? How can I root it out? There’s no point in thinking of the past. Think of the present. “What can we do now to take care of our past mistakes?”

So, that is what you call karma. Karma means you do an act, you face a result. The Sanskrit word “karma” is used for both the present act and its result. Both are called karma. You might have done something in the past; so you are facing this situation here. Okay, accept it and take it as a sort of cleaning process, “I am being helped to clean my past karma.” That is what you call in Patanjali’ssutras. Tapasva means to heat it, to boil it, to bum it. You are burning your own sins which you committed now or before, any time. And, with tapasya, by burning it out you are cleaning it out. Everybody goes through the suffering. Not only in prison, even in the outside world. People undergo a lot of suffering because that is the only way to clean up their past karmas. So, instead of having negative feeling, “Oh, he must be the cause for me being here.” Or, “He did something wrong. He told a falsehood. That’s why I am here.” Instead of blaming all those people, accept that what happened, has happened; but don’t blame others. Blame your own past karma. And then ask, “What can I do now? Let me clean out my karma.”

No pain, no gain

Don’t think of others as enemies. It’s not somebody else who can do something to you. Even if anybody wants to do something, he cannot. In fact, there is a theory: nothing happens to you if you do not deserve it. Nobody can help you or hinder you. Nobody can make you happy or make you unhappy if you do not deserve it. The others are only instruments. If you deserve it, you face it; there’s no point in blaming somebody else for that. If you keep on blaming others, you are never going to find out why you are in the situation. So, this opportunity is given to you by God to clean up your past karma. Think, “Let me get cleaned.” That way you can accept pain. It’s painful only when you don’t want to accept the pain. When you accept the pain, when you understand the pain, you will, in a way, enjoy it.

For example, two ladies who don’t know each other come to a clinic. One woman goes to the doctor, complaining, “Sir, I have stomachache. Could you give me some medicine?” And the doctor gives her some medicine, and she goes out. Another woman goes in, “Sir, I should have had my stomach-ache, the pain, yesterday. but I didn’t get it. Can you induce some pain?” Who could that be, the woman who goes to a doctor to ask him to induce pain? Do you know why she might ask? Is she crazy? Can you find out reason for it? She says, **According to my doctor, I should have had the pain yesterday, and I didn’t have it; so could you induce the pain?” What for? She was expecting a baby! You get it? She’s asking for pain, because she expects a gain. Without the pain, she won’t have gain.

Another example. You go to the doctor to have an operation. You pay the money, the doctor’s fees, and you get the operation, which is a painful thing. Why do you want to do that? Because you know the gain of it. Right? The pain that comes to us if we understand it and accept it is no more pain at all. It may be superficially painful, but, within, it’s a joyful thing.

Going back to the previous example, when the doctor introduced the pain to the woman, the woman was happy? Why? “I am going to have a baby now.” Do you understand that? That’s what. Pain should be understood properly. If you understand it, if it comes-we don’t have to go looking for it or take it by force-accept it. You may not know the reason, but think, “Well, I must have done something. And the pain is going to clean me up. I am going to become a better person. So, let me have that.” It is in that sense that one of the Beatitudes says, “Blessed are the sufferers.” Having said that, let me go to your questions.


Question: How do you explain the supernatural, such as supernatural activities or supernatural beings-the unexplainedand unseen?

Answer: We call something supernatural because it’s not natural for us. In our limited understanding, within our time and space, it’s not natural. But supernatural is natural in a different realm. So it’s always there, but we don’t see it. We see only within a limited space. For example, this is plain water for me. Take a drop and see the drop under an electronic microscope. What do you see? Do you see water there? You see millions of animals. Yet, it looks like an innocent drop of water. That is supernatural. Why? Because it is beyond our understanding. If we expand our understanding to that level, then it’s no longer supernatural. That’s why we say about supernatural things, “Oh, it is extraordinary. You cannot do that.” But somebody can do it. Thus, all those supernatural activities are based on expansion of the mind.

Your mind functions only within a limited area. But you can expand the mind. You can go into unconscious, superconscious, subconscious. Mind stays in different levels. Normally, we act, or function, on the conscious level. When we go to sleep, in deep sleep it is on the unconscious level. When we dream, it is subconscious. But-more than the conscious, subconscious, and unconscious levels there is a fourth dimension called the superconscious. It’s all in the mind. So, those who develop their mental capacities can do supernatural things. But, still, it’s all in the mental realm. Total liberation comes when you go beyond the mind.

Total liberation comes when you go beyond the mind.

Sometimes, supernatural activities are called siddhis. Psychic powers are called siddhis in Sanskrit. For instance. some people can read minds; others can pass through walls or walk on water. These are all supernatural powers, accomplishments. Siddhi can be translated as “accomplishment.” When you pray, when you meditate deeply, when you have gained some mastery over yourmind, the mind gets more powerful~ the mind can do many things that you normally cannot do. But those siddhis are also, in a way, a hindrance to us, because we want to rise above the mind and see the Self or the soul clearly. But when people acquire the supernatural powers, they get egoistic: “Oh, I can do this!” And that ego creates a big block. So, sometimes, when you have deep meditation, supernatural powers come automatically. Naturally they will come. However, sensible people avoid and go beyond that. Sensible people won’t get caught in that, because it’s an ego’s net.

Focus the Mind

Question: Can I do other meditations along with japa [repetition of a mantra]?

Answer:: You can, but the point of meditating is to focus the mind at one point. Concentration means that when the mind runs here and there, you bring it back to the point of meditation, and you perfect the concentration; then, it becomes meditation. This means that the mind should stay focused on one point. If you are going to have different types of meditation, the mind runs to various places, various objects. So, whicheveris good, select one. Even though all meditations are equally good, you have to select one that is pleasant to you, one that suits your temperament, taste, and then stick to that. Otherwise, if you practice different meditations, it’s almost like digging wells in too many places. Wherever you dig, you will get water. But by the time you dig ten feet, if somebody says, “No, no, no; that’s not the right place; dig here,” you go and dig there fifteen feet. Then, another person comes: “That’s not the right place; go to another place.” So, if you keep on digging shallow wells in different places, you’ll never get water. But you have put so much effort into the project already. If you had put all the effort in one place, you would have gotten water sooner.

That’s why we have different types of meditations. Eventhough all are equally good, stay with one practice. The simplest practice is japa. The mind has to be engaged in one thing. Here you are giving it, a mantra, or a small prayer. Not too long, not too big, and, then, keep repeating it-Japa means to repeat the same thing-and the mind dwells in that. When the mind is fully focused in the mantra, it forgets all other thoughts. And, then, if you are deeply involved in it (which is what we call meditation), at one point, even that will slip away. Because even all these meditations are like catalytic agents.

Do you know what a catalytic agent is? It’s a counteracting agent. Take, for example, soap. Soap is a catalytic agent. Why? Why do you use soap? To remove the dirt from the cloth, right? In order to remove the dirt from the cloth, you buy a little soap. I call that soap another form of dirt, but nicely named, nicely scented, like Lux or Ivory. Beautifully named, yes, but also a dirt. Because only dirt can remove other dirt. So, you add on a new dirt and rub it in well. D you know what happens at that time? When you add new dirt to the cloth, the old dirt sees new dirt coming and gathers there to greet the new dirt: “Hello, who are you? You seem to be good smelling. What’s your name? You seem to have a nice name.” Dirts of the same feather flock together, no? So, all the old dirt forgets the cloth comes, receives the new dirt, and they try to chum up. And the laundryman knows the right time. When they all forget the cloth and chum up, he dips the cloth in the water, and, then, takes it out. What happens? The old dirt stays in the water. Do you want to have the new dirt in the cloth? No. Even that has to go. That has finished its job. That’s what you call a catalytic agent.

So, even the japa, meditation, all your practices are catalytic agents. Stick to one thing until you clean up your mind. Then, even that is gone. You are totally free. That’s what you call nirvana. Lord Buddha calls it nirvana. Nirvana means total nakedness, nothing to cover or color. So, stay with one practice and keep doing it until your mind becomes totally, totally focused and absorbed in that practice. That is called samadhi.

You know, in his Yoga Sutras, Patanj ali talks about that samadhi. Samadhi means that your mind comes to a well-balanced state. Samaha means “equanimity,” “balance.” The mind is pure. No changes in the mind. No fluctuations in the mind. And that is what is meant by, “Blessed are the pure in heart.” That’s one of the Beatitudes:”Blessed are the pure in heart.” What happens then? “They shall see God.”

So, in that pure heart, in that unshaking, steady mind, you can experience the God within you. It is for this experience that all the practices are performed. But each individual selects a practice according to his or her taste and temperament. That’s why, as you mentioned, when people ask me, “Do you believe in Hinduism?” I reply that I believe in Undoism, because religions are all different catalytic agents. You can use Catholic soap, Protestant soap, Hindu soap, Islam soap. It doesn’t matter. Whatever soap I use, all I want is my mind to be clean.

However, if you don’t realize that and if you don’t accept that, you say, “Oh, this is the only way or that is the only way,” and you fight each other. In fact, the whole world is in turmoil because human beings fight in the name of God and religion. But the prophets who gave us God and religion, where are they? Jesus, Moses, Buddha, Mohammed, they’re all up in heaven. And, if you happen to go there you will see them playing together, sitting and playing cards. They don’t have qualms, quarrels among themselves. They’re all happy together. You go up and see. Maybe you can ask Christ, “Sir, they’re asking you to come back. When is the Second Coming.?” And Christ will answer, “No, no, no, no. Don’t call me. I’ve had enough. In our name see what is happening down there. We don’t want to get involved in that.”

That’s why it’s time for us to accept various approaches. There need not be only one way. Once, I was in the Vatican waiting to have an audience with the Pope. Some of the Cardinals were there. One of the Cardinals whoknew about my work casually asked me, “Swami, what do you mean by ‘truth is one, paths are many?’ You put all the various religions together and accept all that. How can there be so many paths to one truth?” I said, “Sir, I am not here to explain the Bible to you. You know it better than 1. But I would like to ask you one question, “Where is the city of Vatican?” “Oh, it’s in Rome.” “Well, have you heard the saying, ‘All the roads lead to Rome?’ When your little Rome can have so many roads, why cannot our home up there have a few more extra roads?”

That is to say, whateverroad you choose to take, it doesn’t matter. To make another analogy, all the rivers, even though they have separate names, separate colors, separate tastes, they all fall into the sea. All the waters fall into the sea. Once they fall into the sea, do they still have their names? The Missouri, Mississippi, Amazon, Ganges in India, they all fall into the same sea, and you don’t separate them. They all have the name holy sea. You see? When you see that, you cannot say, “My river is the only river that can fall into this ocean.” Take your own river; follow that one, let others take and follow their rivers, and then know that we will both fall into the same ocean. There’s no need to fight in the name of race, religion, God.

Samadhi means that your mind comes to a well-balanced state.

Good and Evil

Question: What is evil?

Answer: That’s a good question. If God created everything, God would have created evil also. Do you agree that God created everything? [“Yes.”] So, who created evil then? [“God.”] God. Why? God has both good and evil, and He wants you to choose whichever you like, and He tells you, “Better to choose good. Don’t follow evil.,’ But if you decide to follow evil, then He allows you to go through that and face the consequences and, then, learn from that and come back to good.

Positive and negative, both are equally important. The light burns. Can it burn only with the positive wire? It needs negative wire also. So, good and evil are both needed for us to use our intelligence. God, when He created Adam, what did He say? The first thing He said was “Adam, don’t eat the apple or the fruit.” Right? He said, “Don’t eat the fruit.” But when Adam reached for the fruit, where was God? God could have said, “Adam, stop it!” But He didn’t. Why? God gave Adam good advice and Adam disobeyed Him. God allowed Adam to disobey. Why? Because only by disobeying and by facing the consequences does one turn to the right. So, the evil is necessary to give you experience, bad experience, so that you can turn to good. That’s why the world is a mixture of good and why evil is also equally important.

Another example. What is something evil? The hair on the head is good. It gets all the nice shampoo and scent and this and that as long as it is on the head. But suppose one hair falls onto the dinner plate. You shampooed the hair, and you adored it when it was on your head. Now, the same hair is on the dinner plate, but you don’t adore it there. That means that a right thing in the wrong place is evil. It depends upon how you use that object. In one sense, there’s nothing evil, nothing good. Everything is neutral. That’s why we call it “nature.” Nature is neutral.

Take a pen knife, for example. Is it good or bad? Fire: good or bad? Poison: good or bad? Deadly cobra poison can be a medicine. If you know how to use something, it’s good. If you don’t know how to use it, it’s bad. If you cut the fruit with a knife, a knife is good. But if you cut the throat… So, who makes the knife good or bad? You. If you know how to use it, there’s nothing bad in this world.

To give a further example. A stone: is it good or bad? If you throw it at somebody, it’s bad. If you build a house, it’s good. Take anything in life. Selfishness. Selfishness is also good in a way. Vay? Because selfishness teaches you a lesson not to be selfish. Because by selfishness you get into trouble and then learn a lesson. God didn’t create anything without any use. Sometimes, people say, “Oh, Idon’tknow whatl am doing here. I am really a good-for-nothing person. I’m not useful to anybody, anything. I am not doing anything.” I tell that person, “No; you have a use. You know what use? You are an example for others not to be like you.” Right? We have to have an example, no? So, that is a use for evil.


Question: Do you believe in Jesus Christ? Do you believe that Jesus Christ was a real person who walked on the earth, and, if so, do you believe that he was the son of God who becameflesh to save man?

Answer: I do believe in Jesus Christ. But Christ is not a man. Christ is an attainment-Christhood expressed in that body whom you call Jesus Christ. Like Buddha. Buddha is not a person. It’s a Buddhahood, Bodhisattva. A totally enlightened being is called Buddha. That was expressed through a person. You call him Buddha. Otherwise, how can you say, “May Jesus Christ be bom in you?” If Christ is a person, how can he be bom in you? It’s an experience. And that experience was expressed to us, lived among us through a body, as a human body whom we call Jesus Christ. But now the body is no more. Can you say Jesus Christ is not there? Experience is always there. These bodies and the symbols are vehicles to express certain qualities. In that way, I believe that Jesus Christ was alive and, as a human being, walked on the earth, and he was the son of God. But the only thing I don’t want to say is that he was the only son of God. NVhy? God created you and me, right? If God created everything and everybody, then are we not children of God? Then how can Jesus have claimed, “Only I am the son of God?” No. We adore Jesus, respect him. And because of that we say to him, “Oh, you are the only Son. ” But that doesn’t mean that you are not that, also. We are all children of God and we can have, equally, the same experience, but Jesus brought it out.

That is, we can express the same Christhood, Buddhahood, Mohammedhood. The experience is the same. Because this experience is manifested through particular individuals, we call them experienced people, and we adore them and respect them; but that experience belongs to every one of us. Because God made everybody in His own image. We are all God’s image. It is there in us. We have to realize that. That’s what you call God- realization. How do we realize that we are God? “Blessed are the pure in heart. They shall see God in them.”

So, all the so-called spiritual practices are to clean up the mind, calm the mind, steady the mind like a mirror. The mind becomes a mirror. In that mirror you see yourself as God. If the mirror is unclean, you see your image as unclean. So, clean up the mirror.

Now, I will ask you another question. Do you all have faces? Does everyone have a face? Yes? Are you sure? How do you know that you have a face? Have you seen it? How did you see it? Did you see your face? Oh, you say that you have seen your face in the mirror. But what you’ve seen in the mirror is not your face. Rather, you’ve seen a reflection of your face, but you have not seen your face (even though you do have a face). Because since you are the subject, you can never become an object of yourself. That is, you can only see the reflection. Likewise, you are God. If you want to see yourself as God, you can see only a reflection of you. But God reflects where? In a clean mirror. For instance, you see a face in a mirror. Suppose the mirror is crooked. How would you see your face? Crooked. Do you run to the hospital? No. You correct the mirror, right?

In the same way, when you think you are not clean, you are this or that, it’s not true. You are the pure Self, the image of God. You are seeing your image in a dirty mirror, which is your mind. The color of the mind shows that you are a colored person. But you are not colored; your mind is colored; your mind is crooked. You see, you are not crooked. Your reflector is crooked. The reflector is the mind. Clean up the mind. That’s why I refer to the Beatitude, to which I would like to add a few more words: “Blessed are the pure in heart. They shall see themselves as God.” Because you are the image of God. How do you know that you are the image of God? You have to see it. How do you see it? You have to have a mirror. What’s your miffor? The mind. So, clean up the mind, and you see yourself as God.

We are all children of God and we can have, equally, the same experience…

A Good Shave

Question: Consider the barber who shaves all the people who live in a village who do not shave themselves. Does the barber shave himself?

Answer: Who asked this question? You are the poet. Unfortunately, the barber cannot give a good shave if he doesn’t know how to shave himself. He has to know how to shave himself. If he doesn’t know how to shave himself, he can’t do the best job. So, it comes from within. You can give somebody what you have; you cannot give somebody what you do not have. So the barber first has to learn better how to shave himself. Then, he will have a good shave, a clean shave. But, unfortunately, we are all trying to shave others. That’s what the world is going through. We want transformation outside. You want everybody to change, but you don’t want to change yourself. However, if you don’t change yourself, you cannot see a clean person outside, because you see the whole world through your eyes. If your eyes arej aundiced, you will see everybody wearing yellow. Correct your eye, and you will see it clearly.

Self-refonnation is more important, but we are always trying to change others, not ourselves. So, to go back to the analogy, the barber has to shave himself well to give a good shave outside. Because the world is created by our own mind. What we think, we see outside. For example, a crook will always see everybody as crook. He won’t see a really good person. And a good person will always see some good in everybody, because he sees people with his own good heart, good eye. The other fellow doesn’t see that because his eyes are bad. That’s why, of all the lessons, all the lessons in every scripture ultimately come down to this saying, “Know yourself. Know yourself.”

You should know yourself, who you are, first, and, then, you have known others. Otherwise, you are projecting your image onto others. The world is a clean place. To make another analogy, we have seen movies, right? How does the movie house function? What is there on the screen before the movie starts? The screen is clear, all white, is it not so? A crystal clear, silver screen. There’s nothing wrong with the screen. Then, go to the proj ection room where the image is projected. Behind the film, there is clear light, right? The projection room has clear light inside it. Outside, there is a clear screen. How do the pictures come? In between the film rolls. There’s nothing wrong with the original light or the outside screen. It all depends upon the film roll.

Our mind is like that. Our mind is a film roll. We register so many things. We record so many things with colors and no colors. Our Self is the light. The image of God is the light. The world is the screen. You project onto the screen, onto the world, what you have recorded here. Clean up your mind, and you see a clean world. For instance, record a wedding scene, and you see a wedding scene outside. Record something, and you see crooked people outside. So, it all boils down to one thing: clean up your mind, clean up your mind, clean up your mind!

Loss of Faith

Question: What can be done for a friend who loses hisfaith and abandons his belief in all things intangible?

Answer: Ask him how he knew his father. I ask you: How do you know your father? Yes; your mother told you. But your mother could have pointed to anybody, so that means that you believed mother’s word. Even to know your father, you have to believe in somebody’s word- mother’s word. Therefore, start with that belief and work with that. And if the father behaves like a father, your belief enhances; it develops. But, we have to have at least a little faith to start working. Even if you believe only in yourself?

Once, I was in Moscow, talking to some monks there, Russian Orthodox monks. But, I didn’t know Russian and the monks didn’t know English, so I had to use an interpreter. The government gave me an interpreter, a Communist girl who interpreted our talks. So, when monks sit together and talk, what do they talk about? God, God, God. Too many times “God.” And this girl got tired of translating “God.” At one point, she looked at me and said, “We are non-believers!” And I asked her, “My child, all right; you can not believe. But, tell me, what is it that you don’t believe?” “Oh, I don*t belie\,e in the church. I don’t believe in the Bible. I don’t believe in all these rituals … .. Okay,” I replied. “You don’t have to. But do you believe in friendship? Do you have friends?” “Yes,” she answered. “So, you believe in friendship. Do you believe in love? You are a beautiful little girl.” “Yes,” she said. Then, I went one step further. “Do you believe in comradeship? (You know, Russians call each other “comrade”). Do you believe?” “YES!” She sat up, “YES!” She was a staunch communist, no? “You said you are a non-believer, I told her. Yet, you seem to believe in so many things. How can you call yourself ‘non-belie\,er?”‘ “I guess I’m not,” she replied. And I said, “Remember that what you believe in is real religion: friendship, universal brotherhood, love, comradery. Those qualities are “-hat really makes a person religious. notjust going to church and reading the Bible. If a person doesn’t believe in these things. ~~-hat good is it to go to the Bible? Religions are there to teach you how to believe in friendship. universal brotherhood, unin~ersal lo% e. So. in that sense, I would say you are the real religious person.” The girl thought, “Huh?” And she thoroughly changed. In fact, when we left for Leningrad, she came to the railway station to see us off, and with tears in her eyes, she said, “I wish I could come with you all.”

We all have beliefs. Maybe you don’t have to believe what someone else believes, but you have your own belief. Start with that. The other thing is that life, itself, will teach you to believe in something. Because with life everything is an obstacle. For example, say you believe in money. Do you think that money will make you happy always? Are all rich people happy? Are all the powerful kings happy? We have seen in our time, for example, the Shah of Iran. He was the king of kings. What happened to him? Toward the end of his life, he didn’t even have a country in which he could put down his head and lie down and rest. And what about Marcos from the Philippines? His wife had 2,000 pairs of shoes. Where is she now? Where is he? So, money is not making happy people. Power doesn’t make them happy either. The moment you get power, you have to shield yourself in a bulletproof car. I’d rather be an ordinary man than ride in a bulletproof car with too many people to guard me with guns. That person is not happy. No; nothing can make you happy. Look at the Olympics. Some people showed their golden medals. You know how many others cried and went away? Some people’s happiness made so many otherpeople unhappy. And how long will their happiness last? Until next year, when another person jumps half an inch more. And this year’s beauty queen who was crowned Queen of the Year. Next year, where is she? She’s gone. Or even in this same year, the next day, if she gets a simple pimple, gone is her beauty.

So tell me anything, one thing that will, ultimately, always make you happy. Money doesn’t make you happy Power doesn’t make you happy. Position doesn’t make you happy. Why? Because you are all depending on other things to be happy. You cannot depend on things to make you happy. That’s borrowed happiness. You are happy without anything. Independently, you are happy. Nobody can make you unhappy if you decide not to be unhappy. Nobody. Because you are happiness personified. That is the image of God in you. So, knowing oneself truly, realizing the Self is the only way to be happy always. Otherwise, when you don’t have faith in that, when you believe in all these things, then experience them. Wherever you go, things will make you happy for awhile, and, then, the same thing will make you unhappy. I have seen hundreds of people who won huge amounts of money in lottery. The very next day, thousands of people came to their door: “I am your friend. I am your cousin.” Andthe income tax officertookhalf away. Ultimately, they are all unhappy.

So, the world is there to teach you that nothing is going to make you happy. When you learn enough lessons in the world, then there’s no other way for you other than to go back within yourself. That is the reason the world is created. Wherever you turn, temporarily it will make you happy. But before that, you were unhappy. Temporarily, you are happy; afterwards, you are unhappy. The world is there to teach us: “Don’t come to me for happiness, because it is within you. You should learn to be independently happy, not dependently happy.” So, tell this gentlemen that if he doesn’t want to believe in anything, it doesn’t matter. Tell him to plunge deeply into the world. Let him get bitten by that. And then, one day, he will himself come back and say, “I am sick of all these things.” Don’t we hear people saying, “I am sick and tired of the whole thing.” I say that when you are a sick person, then you are ready to seek, then you become a good seeker. Who will be a good seeker? The one who becomes a good sicker in the world, because you can’t force people; you can’t make them believe. They have to learn by themselves. When everything fails, they begin to believe in themselves.

Soul Never Dies

Question: How might I become convinced of the immortality ofthe individual human soul?

Answer: After ten years, you go to a village and you ask for a friend whom you knew, and someone says, “Oh, Mr. Albert? He is dead andgone.” What does he mean by that? Don’t we hear that term, “He is dead and gone?” What does it mean? “He is dead and gone.” Gone where? He is dead and gone. So what is dead and what is gone?

In today’s usage, we use that expression withoutknowing the meaning. The soul never dies. Never. Because it is the image of God. If God dies, the soul will die. So what dies then? The body. Actually, the body also is not dead completely. It disintegrates. It’s composed of materials, elements. That’s why the priest, toward the end of the funeral ceremony, what does he say? “Earth to earth, water to water, fire to fire.” That means that the elements go back to their elements.

The elements made the body, and the body disintegrated. But the soul goes off looking for another body, because it still has to enjoy some experiences in life. That’s why we are all in this body. Our soul wanted to enjoy something that could be done only as a human, so we got human bodies. When we finish enjoyment in the human body, suppose we want to enjoy something different, like flying. Can you do it in the human body? But your wish should be fulfilled, no? How can it be fulfilled? By giving you a bird’s body. Yes. Our wishes, our desires bring bodies to us. We create the body according to our desire.

You see somebody and say, “Look at him; he’s a crook.” He is a good-looking, handsome man, so why do you say he’s a crook? What do you see? The body or the mind? [Someone in the audience: “You see the actions.”) Even without the action, sometimes you simply say, “Oh, I don’t like to see him, his horrible face.” Why? The mind is horrible. You are expressing your own inner mind through your faces, through your bodies. You change the mind and thinking, you change the face. Somebody will say, “Oh, he seems to be so happy today.” Is she seeing the happiness? What is she seeing? The face. Why? The happiness makes the face look happy. The sadness makes the face sad. That means that every thought makes the change in the body. As you think, so you become. Think of good thoughts, you are a good person. Think of sad thoughts, evil thoughts, hatred thoughts, you will become that.

That is what. Our soul carries that thought. Our soul doesn’t die. It takes bodies according to its wish. For instance, sometimes you think, “Oh, look at him. He is cunning like a fox.” He’s not a fox; he’s a man, yet you call him a fox. But the mind is foxy. That’s why, again, all religion is asking us is to take care of the mind, to keep the mind clean, to free the mind from all these dirty thoughts and let it become a mirror, a clean miffor so you that you can see yourself clean. Logic and Universal Truth

Question: I am a student of logic, mathematics, physics, that type of thing, and I would call that truth, universal truth. But paradox refers to something that can either be or not be. How do you resolve that?

Answer: That’s what you call maya. In the Hindu tradition, it’s called maya.: that which is not is maya, paradox, like the footprints of a bird in the sky. Can the bird leave footprints in the sky? No. But you say, “footprints of a bird.” It’s a paradox. Life, itself, is a paradox. We are all, all of us, wonderful liars. We are all liars. What’s your name? [“Greg.”] Greg. Since when? [“Since I was bom.”] Before that? [“I didn’t have a name.”] So, it’s a temporary name, right? Greg is not your name. Your parents argued between themselves and gave you the name. But before that, you were nothing but an “it. ” When you were in your mother’s womb, everybody pointed out the tummy of the mother and what did they ask? “Honey, what is it going to be?” That was your name: “It.” Not only your name; everybody’s name. When each of us was in the womb, that was our name-it. Do you agree with me? [“Yes!”] So, we are all it. But because there are millions of its to distinguish betweenthis it and that it-we give different names. Only when the nurse came out of the delivery room and told the people, “It is a boy,” then did you become a boy. It is a boy.

Why? Because God is a big It. And we are the image of God. We are all it. Not just us but everything. It is a microphone. It is a cup. It is a taperecorder-it is, it is, it is. Is it not so? Why do you add an it to that? Focus on that point. It is a fan. It is aroof. It is a floor. Originally, it is all it. Then, it got the name and form as floor, roof, microphone, and things like that. So, universally, we are all it.

Probably, you don’t like the term it. I, then. Call yourself I. If I ask you, “Please write on the chalkboard who you are, you will say, “I am so-and-so;” “I am a boy;” “I am a girl;” “I am a man;” I am an officer;” I am a prisoner.” It doesn’t matter. I am a doctor. I am a graduate. I am a foolish fellow. I am American. I am Italian. Different answers: I am fat. I am thin. I am sick. I am poor. I am rich. Write down all the answers. What is the common element in all of them? I am. So, we all have something common. What is it? I am. All other things are different. Thus, which is the better half of the answer? I am. Why do we call ourselves, “I am, I am, I am, I am?” Because we are all the image of God. Who is God? God is an I AM.

Do you know the story of when Moses went to the mountains and God spoke to him? God spoke to Moses, and Moses wanted to know who was speaking to him. So Moses asked, “Sir, who is it speaking to me?” And what was God’s answer? He said, “I AM.” Then Moses waited for a little while. Nothing more came, so he asked, “I AM who, Sir?” Then only did God say, “Moses, I AM That I AM. I have not become somebody. I have not become a boy or a girl or rich or poor, sick or healthy, American or European. No. I AM.” That’s why we, even today, call ourselves “I am.” That’s the image of God in us. But for various reasons, just to play different parts in the drama, we put on differentmakeup. It has to be different, otherwise we cannot play. If everybody were to be I AM, then you wouldn’t be able to play your part.

You know the chessboard? The board is made of wood and the pawns made of wood. Yes. They are all nothing but chips of the same block. But when they are carved into king, queen, bishop and pawn and put on the board, they seem to come to life. The Queen wants to go everywhere. The queens have the right to go everywhere, hmm? Even kings have restrictions. In any case, as long as they are on the board, they follow the rules, they have certain names, certain forms, certain duties, rights. But when the game is over, you put them all in a box. Would the queen refuse to rub against the bishop there? No. B ecause there’s no queen and no bishop. They’re all chips of the same block. So, we play our parts, whatever is given to us, as long as we are on the chessboard of world, until we are put in the box. In that box, we don’t complain, “Who is next to me.”

So, this is the whole drama going on in the world. In the drama, let us play our parts. Everybody is equally important. Just look at this institution, itself. Who is important? Only the officers? Without you fellows, what would be the good of the officers; they would lose their jobs. So, who is important here? [“We are!”] That’s what. You keep them in jobs. And we play our games. As long as we play, let us play well, but without forgetting that we are only playing our parts. These are all temporary. When this part is over, the costume is taken off; then, we may have to play another part. It doesn’t matter. Otherwise, we are all equal. There’s no rich and poor, good and bad. Everybody is equal to play the drama. Therefore, accept your part; play it well till the time comes when you are put in the box. Don’t allow your mind to become sad or depressed. No. It’s all a drama: “I’m joyful. I’m happy. I’m playing my part.” Yes. Because you can make yourself happy. Nobody is going to make you happy. Nobody can make you happy. Whatever the condition is, don’t forget that. You are the image of God, so you are always happy. This is only temporary. This part will come and go.

Thank you and God bless you all. 0


– Swami Satchidananda

Spring 1997, IYM


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