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Part One: The Path of Devotion


Chapter 1:


Love and Duty - The Path of Perfection


If you want peace and if you want happiness

You must live in love.

Only through love will you find inner peace.

Only through love will you find true happiness.

Love flourishes through giving and forgiving.

Develop your love.

Immerse yourself in love.

These words of Sai are a stream of love

Flowing out to you.


Embodiments of Love,


There are many fields of knowledge but there is only one supreme knowledge. This supreme knowledge is self-knowledge, the knowledge of the immortal self. It is the knowledge of your unchanging reality, your true self ­ that which was never born and which will never die. There are many other types of knowledge. There are the different fields of art, science, commerce and education. But, these will only help you to gain some transitory worldly objectives and worldly pleasures. To realize the eternal bliss that is your own true nature you must have self-knowledge. It is the only knowledge that enables you to know the inner peace and the unending joy which is your own truth, your real identity. When you shine with self-knowledge, you become love itself. You become pure and completely selfless. Then you will always be in perfect harmony with all existence.


Self-Knowledge is God-Knowledge


Self-knowledge is not different from God-knowledge. The sacred knowledge of God and the sacred knowledge of the immortal self are one and the same. They are the one divine wisdom. When you realize the one self everywhere, you become established in unity consciousness. Then you see only the oneness in all the diversity that is around you. From that moment on, you transcend worldly existence and gain the immortality you have been seeking.


What is the basis for this supreme knowledge? Its basis is purity of the mind. To purify your mind you must suffuse your whole life with spirituality. Engage yourself in noble activities. Associate with spiritually-minded people. Observe exemplary conduct in your daily life. Strive to do your duty to perfection. Live your life so that it is one of selfless service and virtuous deeds. And study the wisdom teachings of the ages; put them into daily practice; let these teachings serve as your guideposts. Then your mind will become purified. And with a pure mind you will be able to discriminate between the permanent and the temporary, between that which is beneficial and that which is detrimental to your spiritual progress. Then all your ordinary daily activities will become sacred and God's grace will be showered upon you.


Now, you may be highly learned in secular knowledge, you may be a great scholar or you may be a world-renowned expert in a number of fields. But all your titles and achievements cannot confer on you real wisdom. To be truly wise and remove the grief from your heart, you must know who you really are. You must realize your immortal self. You cannot transcend grief by any other path. Only the knowledge of your true self will allow you to overcome all suffering and misery. This is the only knowledge that can bestow on you all happiness. When you master a worldly field of knowledge you earn the respect of your peers. You may become famous and fulfill your worldly aspirations, but it is only when you acquire self-knowledge that you deserve and earn the grace of God. When you have that, you become ever blissful. You enjoy the ultimate happiness.


Who are those who deserve to learn this sacred knowledge? Is it, as some would contend, exclusively reserved for old people, or does a child deserve to learn it? Is it to be given only to religious initiates or should it be made available also to those who have no previous religious background? Should it be kept for men alone or are women equally eligible? Truly, to gain this wisdom, race, color, age, gender, nationality or social status are of no consequence. The sage Valmiki in his earlier life had been a highway robber, the sage Narada was born of a lowly maidservant; yet, they both became great spiritual lights. Everyone is equally entitled to acquire this supreme wisdom.


The Lord comes to those who have devotion for him; he looks at the heart and not at the outer status. Develop your devotion. Devotion is very important to human life. The Lord said in the Gita, "You become very dear to me when you serve me with a loving heart."


Faith in Yourself and Faith in God


When the Lord counsels you to develop your devotion it does not mean that you should neglect your worldly duties. Prepare yourself thoroughly for all your worldly tasks. Take great care to properly learn the secular knowledge which you need to discharge your duties. Most importantly, always have faith in yourself, faith that you will be able to fulfill the role for which you have taken human life. Faith in yourself and faith in God is the real secret of greatness. In truth, they are the same, for faith in yourself means having faith in your innate divinity.


Worldly knowledge can only give you food and shelter, whereas self-knowledge gives you the greatest treasure of all, the realization of your own reality. Still, without some worldly knowledge, you will not be able to obtain the knowledge of the eternal. You should not be careless in the sphere of worldly knowledge. Spiritual knowledge needs to be balanced with worldly knowledge. The sages Valmiki and Vyasa were honored by everyone. They wrote many holy scriptures, including those timeless epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. They were great spiritual lights, but they were also very well versed in worldly knowledge. Otherwise, how could they ever have written such great classics?


Everything in the world is derived from God. When everything comes from him, what can you possibly offer him? The only thing you can offer him is your love. That is all he expects from you. That is why a great poet sang,


Beloved Lord,

You are the all-pervading reality.

When the entire universe is filled with you,

How can I build a temple to you?

When you are effulgent like millions upon millions of suns,

How can I offer you my small candle light?

When you are the indwelling reality of all beings,

How can I call you by a particular name?

When the entire universe is in your stomach,

How can I offer you a little food in worship?

All I can offer you is my love,

And all I can hope to do is to empty myself in you,

Who are the ocean of divine love.

The Formless takes a Form


For the sake of human satisfaction you give name and form to the Lord. But in reality he does not have any form at all. Yet, he will take on a form so that you can express your devotion to him and worship him, and thereby satisfy some of your spiritual yearnings. Whatever form of the Lord you choose to follow, worship him with a loving heart.


Ramakrishna was not a learned man in secular matters; he was barely literate. But his mind was always engaged in worshipping the divine mother. With his heart brimming with love, he dedicated his entire life to the worship of the divine mother. He was living on only five rupees per month; that was enough for all his needs. Through his intense, one-pointed devotion, he became luminous. Today he is well-known throughout the world; you can find Ramakrishna Missions everywhere. He is universally honored.


Similarly, a robber like Ratnakara became the great sage Valmiki because of his love for God. Prahlada was the son of a demon, nevertheless he became luminous and pure with the divine love he had for God. Hanuman, a monkey, by repeating the name of Rama, became a glorious being who is honored throughout India. Jatayu was a bird, who because of his great love for Rama merged in the divine principle when he gave up his life. For devotion towards God, race, creed, gender or any other distinctions make no difference at all. Everyone is equally eligible.


The chapter on devotion is the most important chapter in the Gita. That is why we have started with it today. Devotion is not merely repeating the name of God. It is an undying and pure love for God. It is completely selfless in its nature, bereft of any worldly desires. It is pure, permanent and eternal. This divine love should be practiced constantly in your daily life.


Divine Consciousness


To begin with, you must know who you really are. Are you the body? If you are the body then why do you say, "This is my body"? Since you call it, "my body", you must be something different from the body. When you say, "my heart", then that means that you are something different from your heart. Your heart is an object possessed by you, its owner. You declare, "This is my brother, this is my sister, this is my mind, my body, my intellect". The unchanging element in all of these declarations is my. There is a true I, which stands behind this little my and gives rise to it. It is really the deepest consciousness in everyone and in everything. It is the universal I, the divine consciousness. This divine consciousness is all-pervading. It is within you, around you, below you, above you, and beside you. Truly, it is you.


This divine consciousness can be found everywhere, in everything in the world. But to realize it, the mind must be turned inwards. You must become inner-directed and search out your own truth. You must realize that you are not this, you are not that... you are not the mind, you are not the body, you are not the intellect. Then who are you? The answer comes, "I am I". This is the right path to follow for self-realization. This can only develop when you follow the path of love, the path of devotion. To search for God there is no other way.


Everywhere you look, the formless has taken on forms. God is present everywhere. But in order that you may comprehend him, he has taken on a particular name and form. He is everywhere as the formless divinity, but before you can get that realization, you have to develop your love and devotion for the Lord with form. Therefore, in the beginning, you enter the devotional path at the lowest rung, and worship the Lord with a name and form. Then steadily, inch by inch, you rise to a higher state. You withdraw your mind from the external world and worship the formless, until finally you realize your own reality as the formless divine principle. That is self-realization.


Work, Worship and Wisdom


Without flowers you cannot have fruits. The maturation of the flowers into the unripe fruits and then into the ripe fruits, is the path of self-realization. The flowering stage is the path of service. When it progresses to the unripe fruits it is the path of devotion. When the fruits become ripe and full of the sweet nectar of wisdom, then it becomes the path of self-knowledge. At that point, the flowers of good works and service have transformed themselves through love and devotion into the sweet fruits of wisdom. Therefore, good works lead naturally to worship and detachment, and on to wisdom. On the spiritual path, it is not enough to just worship; you must also engage in good works. But your works become worship when you steep every deed with love for the Lord and offer all your works to him.


As long as you are in this world, you must be engaged in work. Work is very important for human beings. It is through your work and activities that you learn to harmonize thoughts, words and deeds. For great souls, thoughts, words and deeds are always one. At first you will yearn for the fruits of your work. In the beginning, when there is still a great deal of desire, you will not be able to perform your work without a desire to enjoy the fruits. Later, however, you will become totally selfless and unconcerned with the fruits of your work. In that way, gradually, your work becomes converted into worship and, in time, you will be doing everything only for the love of God.


Truth is one, but the sages call it by many names. The divinity is one, but many names are used to speak of this one absolute reality. From the one come the many. When a child is born it is called a baby. As it grows up it becomes a youth. After twenty years it becomes an adult and later a parent. Later still in life, it becomes a grandparent. But these are all one and the same entity. Similarly, the ultimate reality is always one and the same. When you realize this unity and remain firmly established in the one divinity underlying all the changing names and forms, you will have achieved something that is truly worthwhile.


Extinction of Delusion


Have a clear understanding of the Gita in your heart. What is the essence of the Gita teachings? Some say that it is the path of service and action, and others say that it is the path of love and devotion. Still others say that it is the path of knowledge and wisdom. But these are all partial truths. The Gita starts with a verse whose first word is dharma, which means duty or right action. The concluding verse of the Gita ends with the word 'my'. When these words are taken together they become 'my duty' or 'my work'. That summarizes the whole teaching of the Gita. It means you should perform your prescribed duty to the very limits of the human capacity for excellence and perfection, doing the work that is appropriate to your stage of life.


When you are a student study your lessons well. When you are a householder perform your work and family responsibilities properly. When you are retired perform the duties appropriate to that stage, and if you have renounced the world to engage yourself in contemplation of the reality, then stick to that path. When you follow your prescribed duty in the very best way possible, discharging your duty sincerely and conscientiously, then there will be no confusion or misery.


Arjuna had to perform his duty on the battlefield. His calling was to be a warrior and to combat evil and protect the good. But, when he saw his friends and relations arrayed on both sides of the battlefield, he forgot his strong resolve to fight for right, the fight for which he had been preparing for so long. He became full of attachments and delusion, and threw down his bow. He abandoned his duty and became miserable. Krishna taught Arjuna how to free himself from despair by adhering to his prescribed duty. Krishna taught Arjuna the truth of the immortal self, and showed him that his duty was to follow the inner promptings of the Lord, who was enshrined in his heart. When Krishna finished his teachings, he asked Arjuna, "Have your attachments and delusions disappeared?" Arjuna picked up his bow and answered, "My despair has completely vanished. All my delusion is now gone. I will do as you command!"


As long as you have delusion you will be in a state of bondage. When you suffer from delusion and infatuation, liberation is impossible. Liberation has nothing to do with worldly pleasures. It is not an air-conditioned car or a comfortable life. It is the complete destruction of delusion. It is the extinction of all worldly attachments, the incineration of all selfish desires.


From now on, do your duty to perfection and become ideals for mankind. Apply the teachings of the Gita in your daily life and be blessed with grace. Many of you are just wasting your time. Start today to reform yourself. Don't waste time. Time is God. Every day spend some time on these holy teachings and contemplate their inner meaning. Once they are understood, put them into practice. Only in this way will you be able to attain a sacred life, a life of purity and perfection, which is the mark of a true human being.


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