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Creating a relationship with God
From a talk by Swami Nirliptananda

Part four in a series of discourses on the Bhagavad Gita. 

London, England, UK
When we do wrong we come to suffering and when we do good in the world we come to happiness. Thus spoke Lord Krishna, being very practical about life, about what life is all about. How is it that we come to suffering and why is it that we come to happiness when we do right or wrong? Because by doing wrong things all the time our nature becomes corrupted. When we think negatively and do negative things all the time, our nature itself turns negative by this attitude. When our nature has turned negative, our knowledge gets distorted. Then we do wrong things while we think that they are right — the untruth gets mistaken for the truth while the truth gets mistaken for the untruth. So, that inner principle, rather than guiding us on the right path — which brings happiness — guides us on the contrary along the wrong path which brings only misery, though we think it will bring happiness. Lord Krishna said that knowledge is veiled by ignorance and that by this the mortals get deluded.

Ignorance means darkness. Ignorance is like a glowing light in a hurricane lamp that we cannot see despite the light burning in the lamp, because the shade is full of soot. It does not mean that the light is not there, even though it is dark and we cannot see, but around this light is ignorance. Knowledge veiled by ignorance means that the knowledge is there but is covered by ignorance, and as a result of that we become deluded: we take the wrong for the right and the right for the wrong, the unreal for the real and the real for the unreal.

When we live in this world with attachment, our whole mind gets indoctrinated by it. When we get absorbed in this world of maya — deception — it creates the tendency to go only for temporary things and we think that is what it is all about. By running after the temporary all the time, we get lost in the world, our mind becomes unstable, our nature turns restless and, ultimately, we will find that we do not get anywhere, that our whole life is destroyed.

Lord Krishna said that ‘like the sun’ knowledge reveals the Supreme within us, disclosing the truth about things to us. The Supreme is God Who reveals Himself within us when ignorance is destroyed by Self-knowledge. We get Self-knowledge by tapasya — austerity — which destroys sin. Our scriptures and philosophy say that ignorance is sin; when that is obliterated through tapasya our nature and our mind become pure. When we go against particular habits that we have developed in our lives which are not positive but negative, and which we tend to follow blindly, without thinking, that is tapasya. It is going against our inner negative instincts, being aware that they are not the right type of things. It is like cleaning the lantern shade by rubbing it, not leaving it. When the shade is clean we get Self-knowledge. It is like standing in front of a mirror that is covered with dust — we cannot see our image in it but by cleaning it the mirror reflects our image. It does not mean that our image was not there. It was there all the time when we were standing in front of it. Only when ignorance is destroyed does the Supreme reveal Itself in us just like the sun. And what is brighter than the sun? We cannot see clearer than by sunlight. Self-knowledge reveals God in us like the sun reveals the truth of things, making everything clear to us.

Thinking about God

Lord Krishna said that we attain Self-knowledge through shradda. Shradda is an inner conviction — not faith or belief — that the Self, that God, exists. It is like, for example, entering a cave on a winter day and the moment we enter we feel some heat. Though we have not seen where it is coming from, we have a feeling that there is a fire somewhere. By following that feeling, going towards where the heat is coming from, we will ultimately find the fire. That inner feeling, that inner conviction, knowing that there is something though we cannot explain it for we have not seen anything, is shradda. When we follow that inner conviction all the time, it gets stronger and stronger as we get nearer and nearer to our goal. At some stage we know for sure that there is something and we, incessantly, go towards it.

Through that inner sense we feel a connection with God and when we feel that we start to practise tapasya, meaning that we do not go with the world because the world will drag us into its net. We know that God is there and, so, we start; we do not forget Him — that is the point. And, gradually, we start to think about Him all the time. Thinking about God all the time is another form of meditation; the same senses that we usually use in this fleeting, temporary, material world begin to find an inner delight, an inner joy by thinking of Him. When that happens, the senses get sublimated, purified, controlled. With the senses under control, the nature gets cleansed and Self-knowledge is attained, soon followed by supreme peace, supreme happiness and absolute bliss. So, through tapasya we cleanse our nature, our mind, and through the resulting Self-knowledge we attain liberation.

As Lord Krishna explained in the Bhagavad Gita*, when our nature becomes negative, it will lead us into negativity all the time, and when we get more and more into negativity, thinking that it is the right path, we are going in the wrong direction. Finally, by getting so much absorbed in that wrong direction, bad things start to happen, for the nature itself has grown negative and, ultimately, we will destroy ourselves. Attachment comes by taking delight only in material things all the time while we forget God. Then the mind gets attached to these things, creating a bondage through which we get deeper and deeper into them, forgetting the Lord absolutely. When we forget Him, problems start. Lord Krishna therefore advises us to let everything be as an offering to God: whatever we do, whatever we eat, whatever sacrifices we make, whatever gifts we offer, whatever charities we give to, whatever we do in life. In this way, our mind gets attached to Him and we start to think: "The Lord has given us this, He has done that for us, He will take care of us." That type of attitude will help us to remember the Lord all the time, thus creating a relationship with Him. On the other hand, if we forget Him, we will create a relationship with the material world and the material world can never give us happiness or real satisfaction.

We are our best friends

By going against our nature we do not get trapped in the material world. By thinking about Him, offering our food to Him, offering what we have to Him, having a relationship with Him, we will feel happiness and peace, because through that relationship we will get inner satisfaction, inner strength, inner courage to do more things, and we will feel protected.

Ignorance, as Lord Krishna told us, means to get attached to the world, to get lost in the world, and knowledge means to be and work in the world — not running away from it — but not to forget God. We are our enemies, we are our best friends. When we try to find out about God, our nature will act like our own friend, but when we follow the path of ignorance, our nature will act like our own enemy.

Repeating the name of God — japa — or our mantra while we walk or work will help us to remember God all the time. And when we go to a temple we will get recharged like a battery by the living presence there. Thus we can work in the world, yet not be a part of it. Through this, the knowledge comes, and the more the knowledge comes, the safer we are in this world. By remembering the Lord, by having a relationship with Him, we will follow the right direction, the path of Truth.  OM Tat Sat Hari Om.

* The Bhagavad Gita, or ‘Song of God’, one of the sacred Hindu texts, recounts the dialogue between Krishna, an incarnation of Vishnu, and Arjuna, His disciple.

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First published April 1999, Last modified: 15-Oct-2005