Teachings of Swami Satchitananda7 min read

1. Be Fearless

A Parable A certain man was going somewhere on a journey and took some food with him as he went. As he went along, he found himself being followed by a number of dogs. He began to think that the dogs were following him to bite him and became frightened. He began to shout and scream, and seemed to fancy that he had fallen into some terrible calamity. Seeing what a trouble he was in, a bystander came up to him and said: “You silly dunce, what have you got to be frightened over? The dogs are not after you, they’re after that food you’re carrying. You’re screaming for nothing. If you don’t believe me, just throw away that food and see. You’ll find that none of the dogs will continue to follow you.”

The man threw away the food, and from then on none of the dogs continued to follow him, they all stayed behind where the food was. The next day he made the same journey, also taking food, and once again the dogs came after him. But this time he experienced no fear whatever. He had acquired the firm conviction that the dogs were not going to do any harm to him, all they were interested in was the food.

Dear reader, do not allow yourself to think that the pain of birth and death or the pain that occurs between birth and death exists in you. It exists in the mind. Not an atom of it exists in you. The pain of bondage to worldly experience and the desire for release from it and so forth, all this empirical experience that you suppose to be yours is not following you but is following the food you are carrying in the form of the mind. How can there be desire for release in you either, since in your real nature you are the supreme Self, the one undifferentiated consciousness? Throw away the food you are carrying called the mind. That experience you have had in deep sleep is an experience of what it is like when the mind is absent. Then you yourself alone were present. Tell me, was there any pain? Was there any trace of bondage or liberation ? Was there any such thing as being limited or as being all-pervasive? Were bondage or liberation capable of confronting you at that time?

Dear one, realize from now on that you are the relationless Absolute (Brahman) itself. If you still hesitate, if you still feel yourself identified with your mind, know that the mind itself is only imaginary and not real. If the mind had any reality in its nature it would not go out of existence in deep sleep. What is real never goes out of existence, and what is unreal has no real existence ever. The non-existence of the mind is proved by direct experience in deep sleep. It is itself imaginary, like the snake imagined through error in a rope, which is seen and yet which does not exist. It’s like a scene on the stage. And thou art the unchanging Witness of both the “existence” and the non-existence of the mind. What have you to fear from it?

2.    Thirst—Contentment—Dispassion—True Knowledge

Thirst: Whoever is afflicted with the disease of thirst never enjoys rest. Even if he were to acquire the throne of Indra, most exalted of the gods, he would not experience peace. He would always remain restless and out of sorts. And this is not all. Other evils crowd round him. He undergoes disgrace of various sorts continually, experiences physical suffering, and unmanly dependence on others becomes his constant companion. A man like that could be called a dog. He is even worse off than a dog, because a dog does not labour under feelings of guilt, but a man cannot easily stand the feeling of disgrace.

Contentment: The man of contentment feels happy in that contentment alone, he does not desire anything else, At least, he is not tormented by obvious desires, and yet he is not entirely free from desires internally either. These dormant internal desires should not be called desires but should be labelled “attachment.” For example, when the man of contentment accidentally acquires a pleasurable object which he made no effort to get he is normally pleased. From this it is clear that when he acquired the object a sleeping desire awoke in him and expressed itself in his feeling of thanks and gratitude. The man of contentment may certainly be called a man, but he is a man of a rather ordinary type. He is happy indeed compared to a dog, but on account of the presence of his sleeping desires he does not experience perfect happiness. He has relative happiness but not absolute happiness.

Dispassion: The finest of men is he who has acquired the wealth of dispassion or indifference to objects. He experiences extreme joy. He sees the defects inherent in sense-enjoyment and hence feels no longing for objects. He knows that they come and go and that their inner nature is pain. He cultivates indifference zealously and whatever objects come to him unsought, he enjoys them without much fervour. He pursues solitude, finds conversation about profit and loss painful, seeks joy in conversation on philosophical matters. He could be called a king or emperor among men, but even his happiness is only relative. For although he sees that the objects of the world are impermanent, and so feels no desire for them, yet he still feels the desire for eternal happiness apart from the world. He could be called one with desire for direct knowledge of the Absolute, called in Sanskrit a “jijnasu.” His desires do not go out to the objects of the world because he knows that they are unreal, impermanent and of the nature of pain.

True Knowledge: The man of true knowledge should not really be called a man, he is veritably God in person. In worldly experience of pleasure and pain he feels neither attachment nor non-attachment! What he has he enjoys, and even if desires should arise for what he has not, he retains the firm conviction in the midst of them that he is himself the Absolute, untouched by anything. He knows that in all things it is the ego that is the agent and also the enjoyer, and he knows that he is himself not the ego but the infinite undifferentiated consciousness in which the illusion of the ego arises, so that he never considers himself to be the agent in any act. He knows that he is not the one who forms desires and also that there is no possibility of the presence of attachment or aversion or desire in him. Thus when good or bad empirical experiences arise he does not adopt them with ego-feeling, and for this reason his mind is not stained by them. He sees the mind, senses and body as nothing other than the supreme universal Self.

As the Sanskrit verse has it: “This is the nature of the man of true knowledge, that although he sees the objects of the world he sees nothing as different from the universal Self.” Or again: “Agency, enjoyment, roguery, madness, stupidity, bondage and liberation are all mere imaginations of the mind. They do not exist in the supreme Self, the Absolute, which is the ‘Alone’ and beyond which nothing else exists.”

Enjoyment or non-enjoyment, acceptance and rejection, duty and not-duty, obtaining and avoiding cannot penetrate into the Self in its essential nature. They belong to the ego, which can be known as different from the Self. When you have known the ego as different, how can these things affect you any longer? One who has realized this no longer takes any notice of the fixed or moving bodies of the world and he removes from his house that perch on which the bird of ego-feeling used to come to rest.