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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Sadhana in Monastic Life

Spirituality is the life-force of the Order. Revered Swamiji has established this Order for “One’s own liberation and for the good of the world.” Sri Ramakrishna also said, “The only aim of human life is to attain God.” Work can never be the aim, for work is merely a means. It is true that Swamiji used to talk about work, but he also always encouraged regular meditation and other spiritual practices. If anybody was absent at the time of meditation on any day without reason, he would not get food from the monastery that day as a punishment. He had to beg his food int the village. Swami Brahmananda used to say, “Everybody will work due to their natural tendency, but how many want to lead the life of meditation? that is why I always inspire the boys to perform spiritual practices.” Revered Swami Shivananda used to say: “Meditation and japa were important in the past, are important at present, and will be important in the future also. Without doing meditation and japa, it is impossible to work in accordance with Sri Ramakrishna’s and Swamiji’s ideals. Work and worship should go hand in hand.” In this way all our teachers have told us to perform spiritual practices seriously along with our work. We also realize it in the heart of our hearts. … Brothers, you are all Sri Ramakrishna’s children. In the midst of the glamour of wealth and the din and bustle of work, don’t forget the ideal for which you have left hearth and home making your parents shed tears. Be firm-minded and up and doing to reach that ideal even at the cost of your lives. “Either the fulfilment of sadhana, or the fall of the body”—maintaining this spirit, we are to advance with indomitable energy, keeping Sri Ramakrishna’s and Swamiji’s ideal before us. May the Lord be our helper.

Swami Achalananda
Monks’ Conference, 1946
Monastic Disciples of Swami Vivekananda, 295–6

Love the foundation of the Order

The foundation of this Order is love and respect amongst its members. Revered Swami Shivananda used to say: “Sri Ramakrishna bound us through love, and this organization is built through this bond of love. As long as this bond remains intact, the Oder will run smoothly.” Speaking personally, we could come here leaving our hearth and home only due to the attraction of the selfless love of revered Swamiji and other monks, and being charmed by their love we are living under their shelter. I don’t think there is any difference of opinion about this. … If we fail to maintain mutual respect and love for one another, we are sure to reap disastrous fruits in the near future. The work of the Order should be performed through love and not merely under the weight of rigid rules and regulations. Otherwise, dissatisfaction and aversion to work arise in the minds of the workers, the master-servant relationship is formed amongst them, and work, instead of being performed as a spiritual practice becomes a source of bondage. … Therefore I earnestly request the administrative heads of the Math and Mission and heads and managers of the branch centres that along with rules and regulations, they should make love also a basis of conducting the work of the organization. Workers too, in their turn, should show proper respect to the seniors and perform their allotted work with the feeling that they are doing the work of Sri Ramakrishna and Swamiji. Then alone will our lives be peaceful, and the work of the Order will also go on smoothly.

Swami Achalananda
Monks’ Conference, 1946
Monastic Disciples of Swami Vivekananda, 294–5

Monday, November 24, 2014

Vedanta Student’s life

When you deal with others and mix with other people, show that you possess self-control, and what you are practising try to live. Do not lose your temper, because if you want to help other people, you must first set an example. An example is better than precepts. So, remembering that, each student and each member of the Vedanta Society will help others by living a right example and by showing in the household and to others that he possesses self-control, as also in his business. If you show that, then you would be a worthy member of the Society as well as a worthy student. …

Give resignation to the Divine Will, and in unselfishness, to help others and to work for humanity. Now … this Society is based upon entirely unselfish principles. We have started, I think, for the first time an organization where there is no paid servant to do the work. Everything is done voluntarily through love, and not for money. … We are working with that one principle, to help others without seeking any return, and by helping the work, this work which we are doing not for ourselves without seeking any return, and you would practise that which we teach, and you will show wonderful power, and gain the most wonderful result. That is the purification of the heart. …

We have given our lives to the work, and those who are ready to follow the path are welcome, and as Christ gave His life to help humanity, so all the members of the Vedanta Society are living the Christ-life and following that noble example in his or her own individual way.

Swami Abhedananda
Question and Answer class, May 23, 1905, New York
from The Complete Works of Swami Abhedananda, 10.296–7

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Love and Lust

There can be no love so long as there is lust—even a speck of it, as it were, in the heart. None but those with great renunciation have a right to the Love Divine.

—Swami Vivekananda
Complete Works, 5.345

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Become a True Monk

Dispassion, renunciation of ego, love, devotion, and living faith—these are the signs of a true monk. No garb ever made a monk. For a householder to neglect his duty, for a brahmachari to give up his vows, for a monk to be restless with passions, these are hypocrisies. The gerua robe is the sign of renunciation; to one who is dispassionate it is merely an ornament. But if the mind runs after lust and gold and is made restless by the passions then the wearing of the robe becomes a farce. Color your mind and heart with the color of renunciation, dispassion, and devotion to God. Then only will you become a true monk.

The general may win the battle;
The king may subdue his kingdom;
But he who rules his own mind
Is the greatest of them all!

Let the strong wind of dispassion rise in your minds, that the trees of desire be uprooted. Then, even as birds fly from the shelter of trees before a strong wind, will the ignorance of selfishness, jealousy, hatred, and egoism take flight from your hearts. Then shall peace follow and fill your lives, even as calm follows the storm.

—Swami Premananda,
from Swami Premananda: Teachings and Reminiscences, p. 74.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Swami Atmananda on Monastic Life

Atmananda would keep only a minimum number of clothes and other personal belongings. Normally he would keep with him one shirt, two pieces of cloth, and one vest. He would say: “If one can manage with only a single piece of cloth, one should not keep more. Should one engage the mind which should be offered to God in looking after one’s belongings?” Occasionally he used to pack all his belongings, tie them at the end of a stick, and check whether he could, if necessary carry his own luggage himself.

Atmananda loved orderliness. His few belongings were kept very nicely arranged; even a broom was carefully placed in its own particular place. Regarding the importance of keeping things in order, he said: “It is a sign of control over one’s mind. Those who are haphazard externally are so internally also. A good artist can become a good monk. An artist must have concentration of mind without which spiritual practice is impossible.” He would also say, “Everything must be in its proper place.” … He would often say: “A monk should live in such a way that he can be prepared to depart from the ashrama in five minutes. Likewise, he should also be ready to depart from this world as soon as the final call comes. He should be completely unattached.” …

According to him, ”If a monk depends solely on God, he will never be in want of anything.” His counsel to monks was: “Do you know what sannyasa means? It is to sacrifice the body for the good of the world, for the welfare of the people, by eating whose food you are maintaining your monastic life.”

Though non-acceptance of gifts was one of the cardinal principles of Atmananda’s life, he never rejected the affectionate gifts given by any devotee or monk. He would gladly accept the presents but would at once send them to the general store of the ashrama for the use of all. …

He disliked unrestrained mixing of the monastic members with lay devotees and advised the former to always keep their distance. To monks who mixed too much with householders he would say, “This will harm your spirit of renunciation and lead to your ruin.” He would also tell them: “Don’t remain in the town after dusk. The mind gets attached to worldliness by seeing the attractive glamour and beauty of the city at night. Finish your work early and return to the ashrama before evening. The prayer rug protects the monk. While walking along the street don’t look right or left out of curiosity.”

He would be annoyed if he found monastics engaged in gossip or political discussions and would say: “Gossip ruins a man. Therefore beware of it. If you have no work, you might as well sleep in your room, but do not indulge in gossip. If someone comes to you for idle talk, start reading a book. You will find that the person will not stay long.” He would say to the young monks: “When one is unable to remove the undesirable impressions already existing in the mind, why gather new impressions? It is not good for a monk to cherish such desires as ‘I shall see this,’ or ‘I shall know that,’ etc.” He also did not like to see the monks reading newspapers. Once a monk asked him, ”Unless we read the newspaper how shall we get information about floods, famine, and other calamities?" “Are you the head of the ashrama?" Atmananda asked in reply. Then he said: “The superior who is in charge of the ashrama will gather all the information and instruct you accordingly. Simply obey his orders. The goal of life is to realize God. For that purpose only, strict monastic vows are adopted. Therefore whatever stands in the way of following these vows and whatever distracts the mind should be mercilessly abandoned.” In the Dhaka monastery the newspapers were kept in the library and were not allowed inside the monks’ quarters. To the new entrants he would often say: How will you spend your days in our old age when you won’t have the capacity to work? This is why it is necessary to form right now good habits like those of meditation, japa, reading the scriptures, and holy discussion. If you waste your time now by gossiping then in your old age also you will have to do the same. Make a routine and follow it strictly. Of course, some time should be provided for talking after meals or for an evening walk.”

Atmananda also did not like the idea of monks mixing too much with women devotees. When women devotees would visit the ashrama, he would talk to them only as a duty and only by way of answering their questions. He would say, “There should be an ashrama where there is not even a female sweeper.” One day some students and teachers of a local girls’ school visited the Dhaka ashrama, and Atmananda asked a brahmachari to distribute prasad to them. Seeing that the brahmachari was taking much time doing this, Atmananda later said to him by way of advice: “Unmarried girls are like poisonous snakes. Never be in their company for long.”

—Monastic Disciples of Swami Vivekananda, 191–195

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The End of Misery

The miseries of the world cannot be cured by physical help only. Until man’s nature changes, these physical needs will always arise, and miseries will always be felt, and no amount of physical help will cure them completely. The only solution of this problem is to make mankind pure. Ignorance is the mother of all the evil and all the misery we see. Let men have light, let them be pure and spiritually strong and educated, then alone will misery cease in the world, not before. We may convert every house in the country into a charity asylum, we may fill the land with hospitals, but the misery of man will still continue to exist until man’s character changes.

—Swami Vivekananda, Karma Yoga
Complete Works
, 1.53.