God as man and man as God
Satguru Sri Sivananda Murty is a spiritual master and mentor par excellence. Lord Sri Rama lived the life of an ideal human being. His exemplary life throws light on various facets of human existence and guides humanity as regards an ideal son, citizen, husband, ruler ; even an ideal opponent or adversary. Lord Sri Krishna gave us the philosophical basis for such a life, covering various aspects relating to Gyana, Moksha, Bhakti, Yoga, Karma etc. As Sri Rama, the Lord showed us how to be, by practically living such a life; while as Sri Krishna, He gave us the theoretical underpinning for it. Satguru Sri Sivananda Murty is a rare and unique combination of the theory and practice of Sanathana Dharma, where the ideal and blemishless life of Lord Sri Rama, i.e. God as man, is blended perfectly with the highest mystic state of spiritual excellence of Lord Sri Krishna, i.e. man as God, in a seamless union of the human and the superhuman.
Purpose of creation and role of the Satguru
The Satguru has said that the purpose of creation, the intent of the creator, is to help the Jivatma ( i.e the embodied soul) to evolve, through a qualitative evolution of consciousness. He has defined liberation (Moksha) as the culmination of existence into a state of freedom. Freedom in the material context is only limited freedom, because our lives are part of the world process and subject to the law of karma. True and absolute freedom has to be only in the realm of the spiritual. To put it differently, the insentient and the destructible i.e the body, which is inherently limited, can never be free. Only the sentient and the indestructible i.e consciousness alone can be free. Jeevatma, being consciousness which is “bound” by conditioning, can emerge into freedom only by casting away all conditionings. This unconditioned consciousness is the consciousness of the central Self in each individual and its attainment leads to the awareness of one’s true nature i.e Self awareness.
Unless there is an unbound consciousness to tell the bound Jivatma what its true nature is, the Jiva will be ignorant of it, without a goal and deprived of a final purpose of existence. Satguru Sri Sivananda Murty is that unbound consciousness which shows the goal, lending meaning and purpose to the Jivatma’s evolution in the direction of that goal, while simultaneously facilitating the movement towards the goal. The ultimate goal is the unmanifest original which is unqualified and eternal, called variously as Brahman, Self, Truth, Nirguna or God. This is the goal of realization for seekers of Moksha. There is also the qualified God that pervades creation in all its functions and manifestations. Thus there is an Absolute and a Relative aspect to Him; an essential and an apparent nature. The goal of evolution is to understand this distinction between the essential and the apparent. Unless there is a guide who has understood this distinction, it is not possible for the Jivatma to make the journey. Satguru Sri Sivananda Murty is a spiritual Master who has understood this distinction perfectly.
For the Jivatma which is bound in qualified material existence and is, therefore, ignorant of the absolute reality, the relative alone is real and the absolute is only a concept. Therefore, the journey to the spiritual realm must necessarily start from within the confines of the material realm of qualified existence. The Master first tackles the relative i.e. the material. Otherwise, any talk of the absolute will fall on deaf ears. This recognition, that the objective concerns of material existence must be first dealt with, before one can transcend them, is clearly reflected in the sequence of the fourfold purpose of human existence i.e Dharma (righteousness), Artha (material acquisition), Kama (desire fulfillment) and Moksha (final liberation from existence in the material world).
Concerns of material existence are many and multilayered. They could be individual, domestic, professional, financial etc. They could relate to culture, religion, society or the nation. They could even be global, such as global warming and climate change. In today’s age there is a breakdown of traditional values and social structures. Life has become materialistic, hedonistic, consumerist, fast-paced, transitory, uncertain and stressful. Consequently, concerns of material existence have acquired an unhealthy primacy leading to a highly destabilizing effect on life, because the apparent has overpowered the essential. Swinging between temptations and traumas, man has become prey to confusion, conflict and chaos. Everyone, be they elites or commoners, is getting lured by the material world in this age of Kali. All this has made the journey from the material to the spiritual more difficult.
The path of evolution
The Master has called the body a bundle of desires. Since the Jiva, being in body consciousness, identifies itself with the body, it is also a bundle of desires. The Master has equated Dharma with desirelesness. The Rishis showed the path of Dharma wherein in the Jiva or Soul evolves through a series of births and finally arrives at a stage where it desires Moksha. This is the path of Pravritthi, wherein one takes to material life with the right attitude about Dharma. The Master has said that Dharma alone is the path of evolution. He has said that man is the author of his future. The consequences of our actions may be pleasurable or painful in accordance with our own past choices. Karma neither rewards nor punishes; whether it is a reward or a punishment is for us to construe. Therefore, the right attitude is all important and Master has defined it saying “ we have come into this world to repay our debts, not to collect our dues”. The Master’s prescription is that without deviating from the path of Dharma i.e righteousness and moral values, one should go through material life and be done with it. There are no obstacles in the path of a householder, provided he follows Dharma. Such a person goes through material life, leaves it behind and then takes to the path of renunciation, never to look back. On the other hand, directly taking up the path of Nivritthi or renunciation for achieving Moksha is risky. Samskaras, or tendencies inherited from previous births, may surface later from deep within the sub-conscious of any renunciate and he may become a prey to the temptations of life. The Master says that this is worse than a regular materialistic life because this is a fall whereas a normal materialistic life is not a fall but is natural.
Material life of a householder entails many responsibilities whose fulfillment is inseparable from desire. If desirelessness is Dharma, how can a householder be in Dharma? There is a need to resolve this (apparent) contradiction. Dharma has also been defined by the Master as that which indicates the propriety or appropriateness of a thought, word or a deed in a given context. Being a variable, it encompasses all situations of all people for all times. Understanding and abiding by it demands a maturity, impartiality, honestly and truthfulness, without any considerations of convenience. In this sense, Dharma as the appropriateness of an act, being a variable, is concerned with relative truth while Dharma as desirelessness is concerned with the Nirguna or absolute truth and Moksha.
How does one combine desirelessness within and action without? The Master has never recommended suppression or repression of desire because it would continue to remain in the consciousness, only to surface again later. Through appropriate counseling, the Master helps one to account for one’s motives and aspirations; to look within and observe our desires and thoughts. Interaction with Him helps us to step back from our own thoughts, with which we had earlier identified ourselves. This process of de-linking will gradually lead to transcending that desire, in contrast to suppressing it. Suppression leads to feeling of loss, frustration and even aggression. On the other hand, transcending releases us from frustration and anxiety and promotes freedom and liberation.
The process of evolution
The beauty of being with the Master is that this process takes place almost unconsciously over a period of time and not due to any rigorous and systematic efforts consciously directed towards that goal. As one who is established in the unmanifest original, the Master represents the Self which is the goal of realization for the seekers of Moksha. He also embodies the qualified God (Ishvara) that pervades creation in all its functions, responsible for the workings of nature, being its essence and present as the Atman in the core of all living beings. As Guru he represents the teacher aspect (Bodhamsa) of the supreme. He is thus a unique Trinity of Guru, God and the supreme Self. At the same time He is also a human being, living along with us in our midst like any other householder and therefore easily approachable to all, without distinctions of age, gender, caste or creed.
By constantly associating with him, whether for seeking guidance, counsel, favours or relief, one gradually develops an identification with his consciousness, which is unconditioned, unqualified and universal. Slowly, responsibility gets shifted to Him and one’s sense of doership (kartrutva) recedes into the background. With doership getting attenuated, the desire for enjoyership ( bhoktrutva) also becomes feeble. On his advice, action is done as one’s duty or Dharma and not with an eye on desired consequences. The result is accepted as being in one’s best interests, ensured by the Master who is the best judge of one’s true welfare. Gradually one’s desires and consequent anxieties and fears slip away and the samskaras get exhausted. The Jivatma or personal ego is the expression of the inherent samskaras. With these getting exhausted only a functional non-personal “I” remains in such a person. Master calls it the “assumed” ego, whose functional parameters are structured around one’s duty or Dharma. Alongside the process of deconditioning and depersonalization, the personal “I” recedes and gradually gets replaced by the non-personal “I”. In due course, the “assumed” ego is fully in place; a totally de-conditioned individual in the midst of conditioned existence.
The Master: ideal state of spiritual excellence
How does such a one relate to the world? The Master is a perfect example in this regard. Firmly established in universal consciousness, He is devoid of the particularised and personal “I” and consequently of “Me” and “Mine” as well. His body is merely His instrument and his association or identification with it is merely to take care of its basic physiological requirements, akin to the maintenance of an instrument. In this state, personal motivations towards actions cease to exist. The Master only lives for the world, working selflessly and ceaselessly for the good of others. Though desireless, He does not frown upon the desires of others, for He knows that the mould of body consciousness in which Jivatmas are imprisoned is so strong that it cannot be broken easily. Being egoless and therefore free from desires and impulses, He has no agenda of his own, no personal axe to grind. The world, the environment around Him, sets His agenda of action while Dharma determines the parameters of his response. While we may reap pleasure or pain in accordance with our own past choices, the question that the Master helps us to ask ourselves is whether we should react to these in the same old pattern of conditioned response, thereby setting off another sequence of cause and effect, birth and rebirth. Karma being both action and its consequence (cause and effect), it should be exhausted by experiencing the consequences of past actions while taking care to see that fresh karma is not accumulated due to motivated and desire-driven action.
This is not a prescription for inaction. The Master recommends salvation through action which clears our debt, the past karma. This is possible only if it is selfless action, with equanimity between both reward and punishment. Although one follows this path for one’s own salvation, the indirect good to society is that sin and conflict are avoided and selfless service contributes to the welfare of society. This is the path of Dharma, the evolutionary context for all human interaction, offering a sense of direction towards the ultimate, the path on which the Master guides us. As a human being, he is a friend, philosopher and guide, desiring only that which is good for us. Sharing our trials and tribulations with compassion and understanding, he is forever our companion in our journey. As God, he is the one who, ever so imperceptibly, weans us away from doership and enjoyership, kartrutva and bhoktrutva. God has no doership and enjoyership, being only a witness. Our association with the Master, our emulation of the ideal which he perfectly exemplifies and our gradual identification with his consciousness leads to this marvelous transformation. As the Guru, he stands at the junction of the world and the non-world, the material and the spiritual, delivering us from the duality and plurality of the world and helping us to make the transition to the non-duality, the unity of the non-world. Finally, as the Self, he is the source of origin as well as the ultimate goal for all.