(Spoken on September 28, 1979 at the 30th All India Divine Life Society Conference.)
This is the first session of The Divine Life Conference, which inaugurates the proceedings. Many of you might have attended similar conferences, and you must all be having some idea as to what a conference should be. This is a Divine Life conference, and naturally ideas of such conferences get associated with living a religious life, the pursuit of the way of the spirit, the art of divine living, and the like, which are our concepts of the aims and objectives of conferences of this type.
Conferences come and conferences go, and we go on in the same way as we were due to peculiar difficulties which speak from within us in a language in which conferences are not addressed. The discourses are spoken in one language, but our problems are expressed from within us in a different language.
Our difficulties are not expressed in Sanskrit or Hindi or English, or any known human tongue. There is an agonising welling up of a controlling organisation from within us which is a language by itself, and each one of you may try to find a little time to think over this mysterious aspect of the life of each one of us. Our personal language is not anything that is known to the world. We do not speak in any known human tongue to our own selves, and our sorrows are not expressible in any language. Therefore, if any enterprise or project along the line of divine living is to be vitally connected with the redress of human sorrow, it has to be expressed in a language which is acceptable to the human sentiment. Thus it is that we find that we have not been able to strike a rapprochement between our own personal lives and the congregational life that we live in the world.
This conference, in my opinion, has a special significance of its own. It has a distinctiveness from ordinary satsangas or prayer meetings and worships in which we pour forth our feelings to God the Almighty as our Maker and the Maker of all things. This conference has the specific purpose of evoking the dormant powers in responsible representatives of divine living who are gathered here in the cause of a noble and exalted purpose which includes the good of the individual as well as the good of society.
We have a double purpose in holding these conferences: to do good in the way in which it has to be done for the well-being of mankind, and to prepare ourselves for this arduous task. The spreading of the gospel of divine life is possible only from a source which lives a divine life. You all may be under the impression that you are Divine Lifers because you belong to The Divine Life Society branches, you do japa and prayer, you read scriptures, and you believe that God exists. You also believe that God is a great power. The belief in God with which you associate yourselves somehow or the other may make you feel that you are thoroughly religious people and spiritual stalwarts, but the world today requires a new weapon to launch forth the energy of divine living.
Unless we are fully equipped with the power of counterforces in this world, our efforts would not be of much avail. Your imagination that you are a student of the Bhagavadgita or that you are a devotee of God may be worth its while and genuine, no doubt, but your knowledge of the circumstances of the world may be very poor, due to which the strength that you have in yourself may not be up to the mark.
If you read the Ramayana of Valmiki or Tulsidas, or read the Mahabharata or epics of this type, you will find that the counterforces to divine aims were terrific. The epics such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata are great examples before us to demonstrate that these opposing forces were not of a meagre nature. They were strong enough. The strength of counterforces arises due to a conviction which goes deep into the soul of the person or the group of people concerned, and the force becomes inseparable from the soul of the person. The strength of the enemy or the strength of anything that is invincible lies in the union of the conviction of that person, or the organisation of persons, remaining inseparable from their source. The more your conviction becomes a part of your soul, the more is your strength to implement it, and that strength does not lie in the practice of any religion in an official sense. Your energies, your powers, your capacities are not in the length of time which you have spent in the study of the Gita or the rolling of the beads, but your strength depends upon the extent to which your concept or notion of divinity has been driven into the bottom of your soul.
Today the counterforce can be called materialism. It is not anything else but this. The strong opponent of the divine power is called the material power. That which goads you to hold Divine Life conferences and sets your mind to thinking along these lines of conferences of religion and spirituality is stipulated by the presence of material powers. If it did not exist, these conferences would not be necessary.
Now, you may all be under the impression that you are religious people or spiritual seekers, and are not materialists, of course. But to come to a conclusion whether you are materialists or not is not an easy affair because you have to know, first of all, what materialism means in order to come to a decision as to whether you are that, or you are something else.
You have been experiencing a perpetual harassment in your lives in spite of your religion and so-called spirituality. This harassment comes from material forces, as has been mentioned already. Now, this trouble in you, in your personal lives and in society, should be identified somehow or other with a kind of secret affiliation of yourselves with material powers. You are not wholly non-material. Materialism does not mean the doctrine of Lucretius or Charvaka. You may not be paying tribute to Charvaka or the materialist philosophers of ancient Greece, etc., but you may be materialists in a different and more important sense.
Materialism is a belief that life is impossible without depending on something outside you; and if you have such a belief, you are certainly materialists. Who among you can have the guts to feel from the bottom of oneself that one can live totally independently without hanging on external powers, which are certainly material? One cannot hang on material powers as one’s support unless one believes in the reality of those powers, and the one who believes it is a materialist. Therefore, you can judge for yourself whether you are all materialists or something else.
Now, this peculiar subtle entry of an unbecoming circumstance into your personal lives has been the woe and the sorrow of every one of you. You must be able to diagnose the inner structure of your own psychological life in a very honest and sincere manner, believing that you are doing this analysis in the face of God, in the presence of the Almighty, in the court of the Universal Judge of the cosmos, not having a subtle diffidence caused by a simultaneous unfortunate feeling that God may not be seeing you.
I am sure that you have a subtle feeling of that type also in you. Who is certain that you cannot hide certain aspects of your life from the omniscience of the divine eye? You are not fully convinced about the existence of God, and Divine Life conferences merely of a social type will not cut ice before the problems of human nature unless you, dear friends seated here, though very small in number compared to the large population of humanity, are able to gird up your loins in the cause of God, and not have a subtle affiliation as a fifth columnist with materialist powers also; and I have told you what these material forces are.
Friends, I tell you once again, it is not easy to love God, and you should not have any kind of foolhardy notion that you are already that. If you had been that, you would not be shedding tears. The problem is that you have not been able to convince yourselves as to the supremacy of God’s existence, what to speak of your learning, your philosophies and your religions. The religion of God has not been the way of your living. You have a social and political religion, to put it properly, which you have been following in your outward life, but you have a secret materialist living in your own hearts, because it is not true that you are always working through your souls. You work through the body and through the senses. You have a great affection for the friends of the senses and the body, and though it is true that the soul can take care of you if you entirely depend on it, you are not in a position to lay full trust in it.
The trust in God or the trust in the soul cannot arise so easily, because of the suspicion that your wishes may not be fulfilled by such a kind of total surrender to the Self, or what we call God. You have immediate requirements, and these immediate requirements are of such a pressing nature that you have a suspicion whether that wish, that requirement, can be fulfilled by a remote so-called Creator. This is the truth of things, and you will see if you touch your own hearts that this is a fact which you cannot deny.
Considering the whole situation in this light, I appeal to you all as followers of the great path laid before you by Worshipful Gurudev Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj that you are not going to be merely members or delegates of conferences, but you are going to be representatives of divine power. Your very existence is a divine living, and it is a Divine Life Society. The Divine Life Society is not any kind of social organisation. It is not a show of buildings. It is an ardent fervour that you feel within you. I have heard with my own ears Sri Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj telling us in a small satsanga that every devotee of God is a branch of The Divine Life Society. It is not in Orissa, it is not in Lucknow, it is not in New York. It is in the heart of every searcher or seeker of the Truth of things.
A person who really leads a truly religious life is a branch of The Divine Life Society, which does not mean Hinduism or any kind of religion or the commonly accepted character of denomination. It was the imperative emphasis of the founder of The Divine Life Society that divine life is not Hinduism, and in a sense it is not even religion at all if you are associating religion with a cult or a creed or a faith, or anything that has to abrogate something other than itself. It is an all-embracing, absorbing, oceanic parent which is ready to redeem anything that requires succour, and which establishes an inward friendship with creation as a whole.
The life of Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj himself was an ostensible commentary on the gospel of divine life. Again, I have to reiterate that you are not expected to merely look at your watch and wait for the time when you have to get up for your lunch and then attend another session of the conference, etc., as if it is a business and a kind of transaction, something that you have to do and then forget about. Not so is religion; not so is divine life. Divine life is not something that you have to do and then forget it. As a matter of fact, it is not something that you have to do at all; it is something that has to be yourself. Divine living is living—underline the word ‘living’—and it is not merely an external expression or a social demonstration so that you may receive encomiums or certificates from people.
To be conscious that you are in the presence of God perpetually would be a true divine living, and you can know very well what would be your feelings and attitudes if you are always to be conscious of your proximity to the great Creator of the universe. There is no need to expatiate on this theme. If you are to be in the presence of the Creator and then think and feel and act, what would be the type of your thinking and feeling and acting? If you think and feel and act in your public life or private life in a manner which would be different from the way in which you would be conducting yourself in the presence of God, you cannot regard yourself as a religious person or a spiritual seeker, and that would not be divine life.
The very conviction of your being a true Divine Lifer in the light in which I have tried to place it before you would create a surge of satisfaction from inside you. You would be an unbounded source of happiness even if you are absolutely alone in a corner of this earth, and you would not be seeking a friend to speak to or an audience to address yourself to. You would be immensely feeling a flood of joy within you on account of an indescribable immanence and proximity of an invisible something.
I am trying to voice the feelings of Sri Gurudev. Again, I try to hammer this idea into your minds that you should aspire to be Godmen and divine souls, and not merely business people or people interested only in transactions of give and take. If your idea is rooted in mere human and social relationship minus that integrating and inundating power of God, that would not be a proper respect paid to the great founder of The Divine Life Society.
To be true disciples of this great miracle of this modern age, Revered Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, would be to live as he lived and to think as he thought. Very few of you will be in a position to think as he thought. Very few of you can have that large-heartedness which is uncanny and unveiled in a personality of this type. You are born businesspeople, which means to say, you always like to take things, and you go on calculating how much has come. This kind of economic calculating for the striking of a balance sheet from one side only and not from the other side, considering only the income and not the duties that you owe to creation, would not be the characteristic of a true disciple of Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj.
We have been a few blessed souls here who had the occasion to live with Sri Gurudev physically for a considerable number of years, and we really feel like shedding tears if we even think of him, not because he gave us bread and butter and jam to eat, or gave us anything comfortable in the material sense of the term, but because he demonstrated before us a possibility of living in the presence of God by the example which he himself set, an art which human beings are not usually acquainted with. God is the greatest giver, and He takes the least. Perhaps He takes nothing. And in my humble opinion, Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj was a replica of this oceanic flood of giving.
Again, each one of you seated here is to think for yourself from within yourself, to dive into yourself and go into your feelings, into your souls, and see to what extent you have been able to appreciate and to live by this great gospel and practical living of Sri Gurudev. If your soul turns a deaf ear to this inward spiritual gospel of the great founder, you would not be a true disciple or even a devotee of God.
You have to first of all remember that you do not live by bread alone, and the greed for money, physical comfort and social approbation have to be shed as an accretion that has unfortunately grown upon your souls as cancer grows on your body, and it has to be shed immediately. This is not easy unless you train yourself.
We have started the Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy only to bring into our own memories and minds this divine message of Sri Gurudev. The intention is not to teach something technical, historical, academic or philosophical. The idea is very simple, very humble, and very insignificant, if you would like to call it that, and its insignificance lies in the fact that it does not seek any kind of approbation in the eyes of the public, but it seeks recognition in the great eye of God the Almighty. If we can succeed in rousing up even one individual to the status of God-consciousness, The Divine Life Society would have done a great service, and the Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy would have served its purpose.
It is not quantity that we seek, but quality. You may not be thousands in number; you may be very few, even two hundred, but it does not matter. We do not require two hundred; even one is enough if that one has enough strength of soul force to declare that it can stand on its own legs and draw sustenance from the five elements, from the sun and the moon and the stars, and requires no help from anybody. The world, the creation that is before us, is itself our support, and God is our support. God is never dead. He is never away from us, and if our connection with Him is spiritual, which means to say, indivisible, then the help that comes from Him is perpetual, and so it comes without asking. If this gospel can be planted in your hearts, even in the heart of a single person here, God will be immensely satisfied, and the blessings of Sri Gurudev will be abundant. I have spoken with an intense feeling for the grand aim which Gurudev lived and the purpose for which, I believe, God has created this world itself.