Divine Will and its applications explained by
Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati
How does one find the right duty or the will of God in spite of social, political and family conflicts?
If we are to live according to the will of God, then first of all our attitudes need to change. Without that effort, one cannot live according to the will of God. The change takes place in the ideology of the mind. We think, “I am the doer” – aham karta – and that we can do things to influence our situation, environment and society. We have very inflated ideas about ourselves, especially when we are young and hot-blooded. In everyday situations, we become the actors identifying with the act. When we identify with the act, we experience every thought, emotion and feeling that appears in that act. “I am the doer, I am the enjoyer” – aham karta, aham bhokta. If we think that we can set things right, we are following the dictates of our mind, not God.
In order to recognize the will of God, this attitude has to change to naham karta –“I am not the doer,” naham bhokta – “I am not the enjoyer.” It is said, “Make me an instrument of Thy will.” Become an instrument so that the divine will can then take over your life. To become that instrument, we have to work hard. Radha once asked Krishna, “Why do you like the flute so much?” Krishna replied, “I like the flute because it is empty, and when the flute is empty, you can create any sound from it.” If there are obstructions inside the flute, the sound will not come. In order to become the conveyor of God’s will, the attitude of “I am the doer, I am the performer, I am the enjoyer” has to change. One has to become empty. The character, lifestyle, attitude, belief and strength of those who have followed that will is defined by this change of attitude – letting go of the individual identity and merging with the cosmic identity.
However, in the absence of the ability to let go of the idea of identity, we can imbibe and follow the teachings of those who have followed the divine will. The basis of any such teaching is finding what is appropriate in life. True religious or spiritual teachings – without any social impositions – give us the understanding of appropriate behaviour, function, performance and thought patterns that uplift us, unite us with other people and bring out the human qualities in us. Without social impositions means connecting with the true spiritual component. The problem arises when different social conditions begin to influence our spiritual ideas. We are all subject to social conditionings. The software that our mind contains and we are born with is not made by us, but by the higher intelligence. Throughout our life, we function according to the programming of that software. The commands of the software are known as chitta vrittis. We are living that programming, and cannot change it unless we become a programmer ourselves and know the program language.
So, what do we do? We just try to understand our life by incorporating the good and the beautiful that life has to offer. When we are able to do this, we are adhering to the path of dharma. Begin by putting into your life components of goodness, and an illuminated attitude and behaviour.
—Ganga Darshan, October 2005
What is the yogic path that can help us surrender to the divine will?
Bhakti yoga is the only yoga which indicates the way to Ishwara pranidhana, letting go to surrender to the divine will. The path of bhakti is definitely superior to karma yoga, raja yoga, kriya yoga, kundalini yoga or any other yoga. All other yogas work at one level of the personality. Karma yoga will deal with action, performance, the expression of the senses or the intellect, and it will bring in the component of creativity. Raja yoga will enhance and deepen your awareness and perceptions. It will lead you towards becoming the drashta, the observer, and bring in the component of awareness. Hatha yoga will bring in the component of purity. Jnana yoga will bring in the component of applying wisdom, not just knowing but being wisdom-ful.
Only bhakti yoga works at the level of ego, removing the component of arrogance from ego, ahamkara, and surrendering to the divine will. Ego is the last thing in everyone’s life which has to be transformed and transcended. That is the last barrier one has to cross. It will happen when the arrogance of the ego submits to the divine will, and that is the path of bhakti. Other yogas help you to cultivate a new idea, habit, perception or lifestyle. They help to cultivate a different you, where you are in harmony with yourself, nature and the divine, whereas bhakti yoga takes you to and makes you prostrate in front of God.
Let us take an example. Once somebody left behind their cigarettes and lighter in Jyoti Mandir – they surrendered that habit. That is also a kind of offering you can make. The offering need not be of flowers and love all the time, the offering can be of a habit as well. By giving up a habit we are actually surrendering to the cosmic will. We are giving up a need, a dependency, and becoming more self-aware, more responsible for our health and well-being. We are connecting with our courage and strength. This is a miracle in which we have submitted a part of our conditioning which comes from the ego, and that is also bhakti.
—Ganga Darshan, September 2000
How can one experience freedom and surrender to the divine will at the same time?
‘Freedom’ as a concept can be viewed from different angles. There are people who have spiritual inclinations, who believe one is bound by this world, by this body and mind, and that in order to attain realization one has to become free from the bondage of the senses, mind, emotions, etc. That is one vision of freedom people pursue.
Another perspective of freedom is to be free from rules and regulations, to rebel against the set norms of society, and to want to do things that are not commonly done. That gives a feeling of power and control, a feeling that we are doing something greater than society expects from us.
Common sense, and the yogic perspective, should enable us to understand that there are limitations and restrictions imposed upon everything in this creation. The senses have limitations, the mind has limitations, feelings have limitations, even our concepts are limited, and the laws created by human society are also limited. So, rather than thinking of freedom, we should think about our responsibilities. Just as a part of us seeks freedom, there is a part within us that seeks the fulfilment of responsibilities. If we connect with responsibility, freedom comes naturally. There is no freedom in the idea of ‘freedom’, but there is freedom in responsibility. How is this possible?
Let us start by understanding what the responsibilities are. From the yogic perspective, there are four responsibilities: artha, kama, dharma and moksha. We are responsible for our own emancipation, and the effort we make is the effort of moksha. That is the responsibility that goes with the desire for moksha. We are responsible for the growth of our own nature and personality, for developing the beauty inherent within us, and for becoming a better person. These are the responsibilities of dharma. Similarly, there are the responsibilities of kama, emotional fulfilment, and artha, material fulfilment.
Once we look at the positive, constructive and creative side of these four responsibilities, it is possible to become free from the bondage that is self-created, and which inhibits and restricts the expressions of the mind and senses. This is where viveka, discrimination, plays an important role. When we are dealing with the responsibilities of kama, how do we know which desire is appropriate and will uplift us, and which is inappropriate and will push us further into obsessions and darkness? Here viveka-buddhi, or the discriminative ability, plays a major role in deciding in which direction we need to go.
In reality there are only two directions in life. One is known as pravritti and the other nivritti. Pravritti means ‘subject to the world’ and nivritti means ‘subject to the divine will’. When we are walking the path of pravritti, we are subject to the world. Here, the nature of the mind and senses is guided and coloured by gross and material aspirations. That is when we feel bondage, when we are not able to connect with the positive ‘me’. We feel restricted in our expressions. We feel something is lacking in our life. We feel motivation but we are unable to fulfil that motivation. This happens when there is association with the pravritti path, the gross, the material, the sensorial.
Then there is the nivritti path where we subject ourselves to the divine will. That divine will is not the will of the senses and mind, or of the emotions. Rather it is the will which comes up spontaneously from the depth of our being, and with which we connect.
When we are connecting with the higher will, God’s will or the cosmic will, our inspiration and faith make us free from the limitations imposed when the senses and personality are directed out into the realm of prakriti, the material world. So, rather than craving for freedom, one should be aware of the responsibilities towards oneself and towards one’s own growth. Just as there are social responsibilities, communal responsibilities and personal responsibilities, connecting with the responsibilities that belong to the realm of moksha and dharma will make one free.
—Ganga Darshan, December 2001
Once upon a time there lived a man in a tranquil little village. It was a time when not many people lived on the planet, when human beings could commune with God, and demons and God lived together. Every morning people would go to their farms and every evening return to a warm house. Life was very contented and happy.
One day, God appeared in front of the man and said, “See that huge rock in the field. Go and push it.” The man looked at the rock and thought, “Well, for the first time in the history of humanity God has asked a human being to do something.” So from then on, every morning he would get up, perform his morning asana, pranayama and shatkarmas, have his breakfast, go to the rock and start pushing.
After many years the man became a bit tired of going through the same routine day after day. This was the moment the devil had been waiting for. The devil entered the man’s head and said, “Look, you have been pushing this rock for many years now. What have you achieved? It has not moved at all, not even half an inch. What is the use of doing something you can never accomplish?” The man thought, “The devil is right. I have spent twenty years of my life pushing that rock. It has not moved an inch!” So he said, “No more!” and sat down. He stopped doing his morning asana, pranayama, and shatkarmas.
When God returned, he saw that the man had not pushed the rock for many months. When he asked why, the man said, “This is a futile exercise. I have pushed the rock for twenty years and nothing has happened. The rock is still here! Nothing has moved. Not even an inch. I am only wasting my time. Knowing that it is an impossible feat, I have stopped making the effort.”
God looked at the man, smiled and said, “I asked you to push the rock. I did not ask you to move the rock; that was your own idea. My instruction was clear. As far as moving the rock is concerned, I can do it with a click of my fingers. The entire rock can become dust before you can even say my name. I asked you to push the rock and that is what you should have done.”
What should our perspective and attitude be in life? We are asked to push something and we expect it to move. Our focus and awareness is on moving, not on pushing. After every tiny bit of effort we put into pushing, we look down to see whether we are moving forward or not. So whenever you encounter an obstacle – push. Push means Pray Until Something Happens!
—Ganga Darshan, January 2005