by His Divine Grace B. S. Tirtha Maharaj
All major religions teach love of God. Love means reposing one’s affection completely upon a person. Therefore, for real love both the lover and the beloved must have form, must be personalities.What is the difficulty in understanding this real love? After the Gita class one day, in the monsoon month of July some years ago, I announced my plan of going on a world tour. I required the services of a reliable travel agency and a student suggested an agency in Mumbai. “Who should I contact?” I enquired.
“Kottapurathu Eappan Verghese,” came the reply. “I shall speak to him over the phone. You will get a good price Swamiji,” the student said.Next morning as I entered the travel agency, an immaculately dressed, handsome young man with an infectious smile, extending his hand, assuredly but courteously enquired, “You are Tirtha Maharaj, right?”This instant recognition immediately relieved me of anxiety that we all generally experience when we call on strangers. Due to years of cultivated practice, I had no other option than disappointing the pleasant young man, though unintentionally, by folding my hands in response.
This compelled him to withdraw his extended hand but did not seem to affect his happy countenance with which he received me.After I was seated comfortably and before I could even place on table my itinerary, a boy from the next-door restaurant walked towards us with a tray of cups of hot tea. Mr. Verghese offered me a cup first before accepting one himself. Politely but firmly, I refused. “You prefer coffee is it?” he asked. “We reject both,” I said.”It’s strange, but why?” he questioned.
“In our institution, both tea and coffee are prohibited,” I replied.”But all over India, Hindus do drink tea and coffee,” he said visibly surprised. “We are not Hindus.We practice eternal religion, Sanatana Dharma, according to which consumption of any intoxicant is a sin,” I explained.Mr. Verghese looked at the steaming hot innocuous beige-coloured liquid and unable to conceal his amazement argued, “Swamiji, this has no alcoholic content. This is plain tea.””You may not accept tea or coffee as intoxicant but it is definitely a stimulant by which you become artificially activated,” I responded.
I continued, “Dyutam, panam, striyah, soona yatra adharmah caturvidhah which means ‘gambling, intoxication, illicit sexual relationships and meat-eating’ are considered as major sins in Vedic literature. If an alcoholic does not get his drink at a particular time he is daily habituated to, then he cannot concentrate his mind on anything at that time. Similarly, if you do not get your cup of tea or coffee when you wake up in the morning for any reason, you feel disgusted. Isn’t it?””Yes no doubt. It really frustrates and irritates. You are right. All addictions agitate the mind,” he accepted. His admission confirmed that he could discern the logic behind what I explained.
I observed through the office window, the rain was gradually intensifying. I further clarified, “I am not a Hindu, I am a Vaishnava, Sanatana Dharmist. The word HINDU is a misnomer. You will not find this word in any of the scriptures or Vedic literature that belong to the so-called Hindus. The practitioners of Sanatana Dharma whose life pattern was based on Vedic regulations originally had their settlements near the banks of SINDHU or INDUS River. They had commercial transactions with Iranians through sea that simply referred to them, for the sake of convenience as H(S)INDUS. That is all.
And this got stuck to this date.” The young man got more interested as I was the only customer in their premises due to torrential downpour outside.”Swamiji, what exactly you preach when you travel outside India,” he asked in a relaxed manner.”The science of self realization,” I said, “We teach who you are.” “What exactly does that mean and how does one really realize that?” he asked sincerely. “Do you honestly think that I do not know who I am?” I responded enthusiastically, “Self realization means realizing one’s true identity. Right now, we claim ourselves to be Indian, British, American or Gujarati, Marathi, Punjabi, and so on. These are merely designations based on bodily conception of life.
We are not the body. Our true identity is that we are spirit soul dwelling inside the body. This has to be understood. It is not very difficult. Just like, you are not the three-piece suit that you are wearing. The real you is the one inside this dress. Similarly, the gross body consisting of hands, legs, nose, eyes, etc., is not the real you. It is the spirit soul residing in this body, which is the actual self. The body is only a dress. Just as we give up worn-out garments and wear new ones, so the soul, at the time of death, gives up the body, which has become useless and accepts a new one.
Every embodied living being is a spirit soul. Understanding this is called self realization.””But, Swamiji, for an average person, it is difficult to conceive that he is not the body and is something beyond it.” The tone was not argumentative but reflective of serious concern.”No. It is not difficult. By common sense we can understand this. Generally, we all say, ‘My leg,my hand,my eyes,’ Nobody says, ‘I hand’ or ‘I leg’. During sickness, when diagnosed by a physician, we tell him, ‘My whole body is paining’, isn’t it? That means, ‘I’ must be other than this body to whom it belongs,” I said.”I see your point,” he musingly said. I continued, “We say ‘My pair of shoes’ and ‘My foot’.
This means we make no distinction between shoes and feet.We place them both in genitive case grammatically. Both foot and shoe are mine and not ‘I’. Is it difficult to understand?””Wonderful,” he admitted, “This I am sure, everyone can understand,” he exclaimed.”But to realize this is very important,” I emphasized. “You may know something but yet you may not realize it. I wanted to further elucidate the subtle nuances of self-realization.”How come that?” he tried to probe.”For example, if I buy my return-ticket to London from you and on reaching London, I die; naturally,my folks will send the body back to Bombay.
In that case, can they use the return ticket for sending my body back? I questioned him.”No.We shall issue a fresh cargo ticket for transportation,” he was categorical.”Why? The price was already paid in full for my return journey. Then why can the same ticket be not used?” I contended.”No. The policy is that we should treat the dead body of a person as cargo and not as a passenger. This policy is universally accepted by airlines all over the world,” he stressed.”Why is this distinction made? After all, living or dead, the aircraft carries the same body,” I demanded to know.
“I don’t know. All that I know is that this is the system we all follow,” he said in an apologetic voice, mixed with a sense of discomfiture due to his inability to provide a convincing answer.”It is easy to understand,” I declared triumphantly, “The spirit soul or atma is the passenger in actuality and the body is merely cargo. That is why when the atma is present in the body while travelling, the person is treated as passenger and when absent from it while returning, body is placed with other luggage. You may say that airlines may not have this understanding but this is sufficient for you to realize that you are not the body.
To clarify further, a pilot of an aircraft or a driver of an automobile, are both different from the vehicles they drive. Similarly, atma is different from the body. Drivers are sentient but the vehicles are dull matter. Similarly, atma is conscious and body is made of matter. Therefore a living traveller is considered as passenger whereas a dead body is treated as cargo. This policy adopted by the airlines reveals their superficial understanding, but they do not realize its factual import,” I explained.The young man appeared totally flabbergasted.
There was complete silence for a few seconds. This silence was actually more deafening than the high decibel jingle outside due to incessant rainfall and the blowing of horns by utterly impatient motorists caught up in a traffic jam. I was still the lone customer inside the agent’s office.Encouraged by lack of customers and regaining his momentarily lost composure, the young man became further inquisitive. “Understanding our spiritual identity is what you call self-realization?” he asked.”Yes.
But this is only preliminary stage of realization. However, the perfect stage is to know that I am an atomic, individual spirit soul and God is the Supreme individual spirit soul. The relationship between the Lord and the living entities is one of master and servant. Our original constitutional position is that we are eternal servants of God,” I enthused.”I always had this idea that the God is formless, he confessed.”No. God has a form. He is a person,” I almost roared, “All things created by God have forms.
Then why shouldn’t the creator himself have a form, what kind of logic is that? There is even a corroborative statement found in the Bible ‘Man is made in the image of God’. Isn’t it? Image means form, personality. Hence God is a person, the Supreme Person,” I stressed.”Swamiji, in that case, are you not limiting God to a form like that of ours?” he debated.”Then, what is your concept of God?” I queried.”The whole world agrees that God is omnipotent,” he replied with confidence.
“I began a fresh explanation saying, “The dictionary meaning of ‘omnipotence’ is ‘absolute power’. That means that God is so powerful that He can be as big as the Himalaya Mountains or become smaller than an atom or appear in a 5 feet 8 inches tall human form. In fact, by definition, He can appear in any form He likes because He is omnipotent.””Somehow it is difficult to conceive that God is a person like you and me, he declared,” he was intransigent.
“Look, any institution, be it a corporate organization or a University, a college or for that matter, a travel agency like yours or even Therefore, behind all these, there must be a great designer,” I tried to explain hoping he would understand.I further stressed, “For you kind information, even universally acknowledged scientists like Newton accepted that God is a person.
Due to misplaced confidence and strong faith that by empirical means perfect knowledge can be achieved, the modern-day generation of both pseudointellectuals and speculative philosophers, apart from the conceited scientists, consider it a fashion to reject the idea that God is a person because of contemptuous disregard for authentic Vedic information and a penchant for empirical scientific pronouncements couched in highfalutin technical jargon.””All major religions teach love of God. Love means reposing one’s affection completely upon a person.
Therefore, for real love both the lover and the beloved must have form, must be personalities.What is the difficulty in understanding this real love?” I earnestly asked.Just then there was a telephone call. The young man politely requested the caller to call back after ten minutes. The rain was slowing down. I took this opportunity to drift away from the subject matter realizing the actual purpose of my visit and discussed my itinerary to speed the ticketing process.When I took leave of the young man, he said, “You have made my day. I feel thoroughly enlightened.
I am indeed enchanted to have your acquaintance Swamiji,” he said in a positive tone. To conform to general etiquette and the accepted social norm, I got up from my seat and made a deliberate deviation from age old practice by extending my hand for a shake but the young man, this time, responded to greet me back with Namaste by folding his hands with joint palms. Is there any need to mention here that I got rock bottom price for my air tickets??