Mahavakya and Their Influence

A discussion on Mahavakya from the Upanishads and from the Kailasa Parampara, focussing on ten of Gurudeva's Mahavakya, grouping them under - Self Realization, Nature of God, Nature of Man, A Joyful, Peaceful Life and Hindu Solidarity. This is followed by a lively session of testimonies from a number of participants on how one/more of Gurudeva's Mahavakya affected their lives. Bodhinatha concludes with an explanation on how the soul matures through the human body. "Interesting process," he says!

Unedited Transcript:

Good morning, everyone! Nice morning!

So, I thought I would repeat an idea we did a few years ago, which is talking about Mahavakya. My first thought was, "This is Mahasamadhi, what is a good topic? Mahavakya." They go together, right? There is a Great Samadhi and there is a Great Statement. So, Mahavakya means great sayings. A number of great sayings relate to our teachings. Some come from the Upanishads, others come from the Kailasa Parampara - Chellappaswami, Yogaswami and Gurudeva himself. They all have some great sayings and so, I thought I would go through some of them, kind-of get you into the spirit of great sayings and let you do the work. Many of you who want to write down one great saying of Gurudeva's which influenced you and then you can tell us about it, in the second half.

So, the four great sayings or Mahavakya from the Upanishads - you probably know most of them - the first one is a little obscure.

Prajanam Brahma—Pure consciousness is God. That is the one you don't hear very often.

Aham Brahmasmi—That one is very popular. I am God.

Tat tvam asi—Thou art That.

Ayam atma Brahma —The soul is God.

Certainly these ideas permeate all of the Paramapara teachings, even Gurudeva's in a very direct way, claiming the identity of the soul with God. Or, more specifically, as Gurudeva likes to say, the essence of the soul is identical with Siva. We, in our essence are always one with God. There's never a time we are not, we just don't realize it, we don't see it.

Chellappaswami, excuse my Tamil. This is written in English, so I don't know what is long and what is short. It is much better when it is in Tamil script. This is written in English.

Oru pollappum illai—There is not one wrong thing.

Eppavo mudintha kariyam—It has been accomplished long ago.

Naam ariyom—We do not know.

Muluthum unmai—All is truth.

There is a very interesting emphasis there, which flows through Yogaswami, comes through Yogaswami and Gurudeva as well, and it is found in the Mahavakya - Naam ariyom. We do not know. In other words, that is backwards from what we usually think. We go to school to learn. We are supposed to know. Great spiritual teachers are supposed to know. They know all about God. They know all about this and they know all about that. And, so, what does this great spiritual teacher say? "We do not know." He is not supposed to say that! He is supposed to say, "Ah ... I know the answers! What question do you want the answer for? I will tell you the answer." He is supposed to be all-knowing and give us the answers. But, Chellappaswami says, "Naam ariyom." We don't know.

What does he mean? He means that our intellect, our normal knowing faculty, our reasoning faculty, can't really grasp the deeper truths. As Yogaswami said, he likes to scold. He would scold those people who read a lot of books, he would scold them and tell them, "It is not in books, you fool!" I am sure he had a fiery way, "Not in books, you fool!" So, meaning, you will never understand the deeper spiritual truths from reading books. Just by sitting down and thinking, you won't figure it out. That is the part of us that does not know, the intellect. We have to go deeper than the intellect. We have to go into the super-conscious. We have to experience it in a profound way and then we know, but even then, we cannot really explain it. The deeper truths cannot be explained, so that would be another Mahavakyam that Chellappaswami could say, "Well, it can't be explained."

It is like anything profound, you can't really explain it. Even our beautiful Kauai sky, you know. A few clouds, then there is a rainbow, another rainbow, the sun is coming up over here and the moon is going down over there. You come out and see one of these fantastic Kauai skies, you can't really explain it to someone who has not seen it. Even something as simple as that. We need to experience the more profound aspects of spirituality in order to understand them.

Another point, another Mahavakya of Chellappaswami that is relevant today, is the first one. Oru pollappum illai. There is not one wrong thing. People these days, like to think that there is lots of wrong things. The world should not be as it is. This is terrible, all these things are going wrong, they are worried about it, talking about it, that somehow it is wrong. It could be avoided. Then, Chellappa's Mahavakya says, "Well, that is not really the right way of looking at it." If you are looking at it from God's point of view, we would understand why it is happening, what set it in motion in the past. Maybe, it could have been avoided in some way or changed. But, whatever happens is put in motion in the past and plays out in the present. So, really all you can do is change the future. Put energy into doing things that create a better future. It is pointless to think about the present and think it could be otherwise than it is because it is the result of what has been set in motion in the past. That is one of the meanings of, "There is not one wrong thing." Everything is a result of karma. Everything was put in motion in the past somehow. We just can't see it.

So, moving on ...Yogaswami. Of course, His most famous Mahavakiam is - Thannai ari. Know thyself. It is also Gurudeva's most dominant Mahavakiam, Know thyself. Yogaswami also says:

Sarvam Sivam Ceyal—Siva is doing it all

Sarvam Sivamayam—All is Siva. All is pervaded by Siva.

Summa Iru—Be still.

Those are Yogaswami's Mahavakya. The most important, of course, is Know thyself. Thannai Ari.

So, I gathered a few of Gurudeva's Mahavakya. Ten, that I think are important. These may catalyze you. You are welcome to choose one of these, if you want to explain it. The idea is to talk about in a way that relates it to your life, how this Mahakavya has influenced my life. So, if you find one here that you want to choose, that is fine. Maybe, I took all the best ones!

First Group. There are two. Two, in most of these groups.

The purpose of life is to realize the self.

The ultimate reason we are here on Earth is to realize the timeless, formless, spaceless Self God.

That, of course, is very important because it is so easy to get involved in life and forget the real purpose. We get involved in all the day-to-day details of life, all the challenges of life, all the problems of our family and relatives, problems at work, health problems, financial problems, domestic problems, political problems, economic problems. We get involved in problems and we lose the overview. We know what we are doing today, what time are we going for work, what are we having for dinner. We have forgotten the purpose of life. Fortunately, Gurudeva doesn't just say it one or twice, he keeps repeating it throughout his teachings to bring us back to the point that the purpose of life is to realize the Self.

What does that mean? Really, when it comes down to it, how many of us are going to realize the Self today? It means the purpose of life is to make spiritual progress. That is another way of saying the same thing. That is a step-down version, a less philosophical version is to live our life, so we make spiritual progress. We can live life and not make any spiritual progress at all. It does not at all matter. We can live life and go backwards spiritually. We can be worse off at the end of out life than we were at the beginning of our life because we have free will. We have free will. So, Gurudeva is saying, let us live our life wisely, so we make spiritual progress.

One of the ways I find helpful in understanding what that means is Gurdeva's explanation of moksha, which is another way of talking about realizing the Self, moksha. "Moksha, liberation from rebirth on Earth comes," - He gives two things - "when all karmas have been resolved and when realization of the Self has been achieved." Not just one thing. He does not say, "Moksha comes when realization of the Self has been achieved." He says, "when all karmas have been resolved and realization of the Self has been achieved."

So, what does that tell us? How we manage our karma is very important. That is the key to making spiritual progress. That is not our official talk this morning. We have a series of classes on managing karma. But, the basic idea is, when our karma comes back to us - in other words, when people treat us the way we don't want to be treated - that is our karma coming back to us. We receive it gracefully, we don't react, we thank them for mistreating us. That is a whole class in itself, why we thank them for mistreating us. But, we are grateful that our karma came back and if we accept it as our karma and don't react to it, it is gone. If we react, get mad at the person who brought our karma back to us, then we are creating a new karma, a negative karma. The idea is to lessen the karmas we carry.The negative karmas, we lessen them. We bring a certain number into life, and how we react to what happens in life determines how many we take out of this life.

Let's say, we bring 120 negative karmas into this life. We can take out 150, if we just react in an uncontrolled way. Or, we can get rid of twenty of them and leave this life with only 100 left. That is spiritual progress, lessening the karmas, resolving them. Karma basically is created by mistreating other people. That is what creates karma and so, the action is we get mistreated by other people. That is the cycle and then, if we aren't wise enough, we will do the same thing. "They did this to me, I am going to give them back." The endless cycle of standing still, mistreating and retaliation, mistreating-retaliation, like Israel and Palestine. They are just getting stuck, there is no progress.

That is one of the ways of stepping that statement down to a practical level. The purpose of life is to realize the Self means we are moving closer towards moksha by resolving karma. That is one of the aspects of it.

The other point, a Mahavakya: We are in truth, the truth we seek.

This is a beautiful statement. What does it point out? It points out, as we mentioned earlier that, in the deepest aspect of us, we are already one with God. God is there. Like Yogaswami said, "There is one thing that God cannot do. He cannot separate Himself from us." Meaning, God is in there, no matter how adharmic a person acts. Any way a person can get, God is still inside there. He is inside of everyone, can't separate Himself. So, we are already That which we seek. We are already one with God. But, that is in a center of us that most people cannot experience. It is there but most people don't get that deeply in themselves, so they don't see it. That does not mean it is not true, just because they don't see it. It is true.

Gurudeva adds the idea, that the soul body is maturing. The soul body is becoming like the Primal Soul. I call it "the mystery of being and becoming." Meaning, being means we are Siva, that is the essence of the soul. Becoming means our soul body is becoming more like Siva. That is the soul body. Both things are true. We are Siva. We are becoming Siva. Gurudeva gives us two and therefore, that is monistic theism. The monism is - we are Siva. The theism is - We are separate from Siva and are becoming like Siva by worshipping Siva. So, we are monistic theists. Our actions and our philosophy has two perspectives.

Moving on ... Group Two - Nature of God

God Siva is Immanent Love and Transcendent Reality.

This is very helpful in that it takes Siva out of just the Transcendent, which is kind of hard to think about all the time! It is like living in a space station for twenty years or something. It is unnatural to focus on that. We need to come down to Earth and God Siva is Immanent Love, is a nice way of stating that. God Siva is a consciousness that permeates everything and is a Consciousness of Divine Love and is a Consciousness that each of us can tune in to. In deeper meditation, we can experience an aspect of Siva as a Loving Consciousness that pervades all. That is a wonderful experience.

Nature of God - God Siva is the Life of our life.

That is a very useful one, which allows everyone to experience God. As Gurudeva explains, all you have to do is look deeply into the eyes of another person. Past their personality, their emotions, see the pure life force in them and that is God. So, every one can experience God. It is not that hard. Because God is within everyone, we treat everyone gently and with respect, because God is in there. You don't want to be violent and disrespectful or unkind to people because God is in there. That is how we are really treating God. That is the way to treat the other person.

So, we are all familiar with that one. It also allows us to get along with people we don't want to get along with! "Oh, I don't like that person because they do this, this, to me." You can easily play the situation where you don't want to get along with somebody because of how they are. That is not the wisest way to look at it. That is seeing the part of them that they need to improve. It is not seeing the divine part of them which is already perfect. So, Gurudeva's approach is that everyone is a divine being, no matter how they act. There are no evil people in the world, despite President Bush calling some people evil. From the Hindu point of view, there aren't any evil people. Every one is divine. God is within everyone. There are just people that are violent. There are people that are criminal but they are not evil. Eventually, they will stop doing that. Society needs to harness them, to help them stop doing that. But, every one is a divine being.

Group Three - Nature of Man

Man is not man. Man is God.

Of course, that is the philosophy and that is how we started in the Upanishad. Aham brahmasmi. Tat tvam asi. Man is God. Man is not man, man is God. The essence of the soul is God in everyone. So, of course, that is just Hindu teachings. Almost all Hindus believe that. There are some who don't like Vishnavites maintain duality. Most Hindus believe in the unity of man with God.

What is unique about Gurudeva is, he helps us change our self-concept to one of being a divine being. In other words, he brings it down, helps us bring it into our life. Instead of thinking of ourself as an unworthy person or a slob person, or the person who does the wrong things or stupid person, whatever image we come up with because of our upbringing. Gurudeva says, "No. Forget that. You are a divine being." Man is God. You are a divine being. You need to think of yourself as a divine being.

That in itself, is a wonderful class. But, he gives us tools such as the writing down the past and burning it up, Vasana Daha Tantra. Gives us a tool of affirmation to change our image. Gives us the philosophy of being divine being. He helps us. Give us lots of ways we can change the self concept we have, and make a self concept in which we are a divine being, a person. A divine being evolving in the experiences of life, that is this Mahavakya.

So, we need to have that thought. Furthermore, if we are raising children, then we want to get our children to have that thought too. We are teachers in school or when we work with younger people, it is important that they have that concept, raised in ways in which to look at themselves as a worthy individual. No that everything they do is right, but the basic distinction we use there is between the person and the behavior. We can think this way about ourselves but it is usually presented in the context of correcting children. One thing you don't want to say is, "Oh! You sure are stupid, you are dumb." That is the wrong thing to do, wrong thing to say about ourselves, if we do something wrong. We are not dumb, we are divine. Our behavior is dumb. What we did is dumb. What we did was wrong. But, that is not who we are. We are not what we do. You can do the wrong thing, you can do something really wrong. But, that still does not change who we are. We are a divine being-in-learning. So, if we learn from our mistakes, that is the important thing. Not the mistake itself, but the learning from it and feeling good about the whole process. Sometimes we get burdened when we make major mistakes. We lose our self-confidence and our self-image. But, we need to keep going. We need to say, "Well, as long as I learned from that mistake, I have figured out how not to do it again, then I am evolving spiritually." Then no matter now big the mistake, you just need to figure out how not to do it again.

Okay, I did the next one. Sometimes, I do that, I know what is coming up!

There is no intrinsic evil.

This is a very helpful teaching in that it distinguishes between someone's actions and their intrinsic nature. Some men act in good, helpful ways while others act in evil, harmful ways. Yet the intrinsic nature of both is the same, each has a divine soul as their essence.

That is what I was just explaining. There is no intrinsic evil.

Group Four - A Joyful, Peaceful Life

Life is meant to be lived joyously.

That is always a nice one. That is very important. Sometimes, I say, our form of Saivism is called, 'Saivism of the Smile'! We don't want to be too serious. We practice Hinduism with fun. Hinduism should be fun. Sometimes, we get too serious, too strict, too technical, somber. We don't laugh enough, we don't have enough fun. We think religion requires us to be somber, not have fun and not smile. If we are having fun and smiling, it must not be religion. That is not correct. That is an incorrect approach. Religion should be lots of fun, a joyous time and we can still be strict with ourselves and smile and have fun. The idea is, we are strict. We are disciplined. We follow a certain routine. But, we are not somber. We are not serious-looking all the time. We have a joyous time and enjoy life. So, life is meant to be lived joyously!

I'm all right, right now.

That is a great one. That addresses the tendency to worry about the future. What if this, what if this, that is going to happen, this is going to happen. That is the tendency of the mind to worry, either about ourselves or tendency of parents to worry about their children - when are they going to come home, what is going on. They just worry. Worry is not a productive state of mind. Because, we are jumping around, we never come to a conclusion. That is different from thinking about something. Worry is when you think it through and you are almost get to a conclusion and then you change the subject because you will have to stop worrying if you allowed yourself to think it through. Right? "That's over, I see. I can't think about it any more." worry loves to rehash the same thing. You almost come to a conclusion and then you stop thinking about it and then, you think about it again and stop thinking about it and you never really come to a positive conclusion regarding the matter. That is worry.

So, Gurudeva says, "I'm all right, right now." Ask yourself the question, "Am I not all right, right now?" and answer, "I'm all right, right now." Until you really convince yourself. Because, what happens in the future we really don't know, what is going to happen. There is no point worrying about it.

This is a good one. For world peace, stop the war in the home.

Gurudeva would get really fiery on this one. Children and spouses getting beaten in the home, unkind words spoken in the home, arguments in the home that are nor resolved and so forth. Also, so many times, Gurudeva would go to conferences talking about World Peace. And, of coursethe Conference does not make the World a more peaceful place. Gurudeva even went to the United Nations, for the Millennium Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders. The Summit didn't make the World a more peaceful place. Gurudeva's reaction to all of that is, it is just too pie-in-the-sky, you know, there is nothing pragmatic here. Let us bring it down-to-earth. What can make the World a more peaceful place is each home becoming peaceful. You can take a home that is not peaceful and make it peaceful, the world is one step toward, is one step closer to being a peaceful place. That is the physical. So, that is encouraging individuals to have peaceful homes and live in a peaceful way. If you have enough people live in a peaceful way, then you have a peaceful community. If you have enough communities live in a peaceful way, you have a peaceful nation and, so forth. It is a very nice statement, brings it down to Earth!

Last one ... Hindu Solidarity: A Unity in Diversity

This is a very useful concept. He is talking about the importance of Hindus standing together but he is allowing for them to do so by maintaining diversity. Quite often, when you find people talking or groups talking about Hindu solidarity, they want Hindusim to change, so that every one believes the same thing and practices the same thing. They want unity without diversity. Or, to be strong, we all need to think the same way. We all need to have one scripture. We all need to have one belief, one God, one this, one that. We want to change the nature of Hinduism just to achieve solidarity. That is kind of unproductive. That takes the power off Hinduism. It is like eating the same meal, one food as a meal, you know. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. 365 days a year, you know. It is like turning Hinduism into that! Taking all the diversity out of cuisine by making everything a one meal or one food. You wouldn't want to eat after a while. It is like diversity in cuisine. Enjoy, it makes a good meal. So, that is diversity in Hinduism that makes it what it is. It is a very diverse set of practices.

That is a very nice statement that allows Hindus to unite, which is important. In countries that they all stand together, like Hindus do pretty well in Malaysia, thanks to the Malaysian Hindu Sangam. They stand up and get some things done in the country. There have rights preserved, temples protected, they all have a one-voice and the Sangam does not try and create a unity without diversity. It knows better, They know that it is the diversity in Hinduism in Malaysia, it is how it is always going to be. So, it has to accept that and work around it.

So, those are some Mahavakya to get you thinking. We are trying to stop the class or ... how much longer? So, now it is your turn to do the work. The idea is to choose a Mahavakya of Gurudeva's that you feel has impacted your life in a meaningful way. It can be one we talked about or another one. You could write down how it impacted your life. Everyone can do that and then, those who want to share can as much time as you want to share a Mahavakya and how it impacted your life. If you can't think of a Mahavakya, I have brought the calender.

Lord Ganesha is always there to steady our minds and open the proper doors as we all progress. Never ever fails.

Each page has a Mahavakya, if you can't think of one.

Love is the sum of all spiritual laws. That's a nice one! Each page has one. This, I am going to pass it around in case someone wants to find a Mahavakya in there. So, I am going to stretch for ten minutes and come back and then, hear some of your work.

So, we have a volunteer? Who would like to go first? You have to speak up.

Participant: Lean on your own spine. This is one of Gurudeva's earliest admonitions to us. [voice very faint] When I was a Brahmacharini from 1968 to 1981, I lived alone most of the time, and moved around a lot. I had many different jobs and sometimes no job at all. Leaning on my own spine enabled me to deal with the many, many kinds of experiences I went through. I went through them alone with on one to help me except the Gods, Gurudeva and my own resources. Having lived that way for so many years, I was able to develop strength and wonderful confidence. [voice very faint] I also tried to teach my children to lean on their own spine, so they can go through life's expereinces with a survivor spirit.

Bodhinatha: Thank you, thank you. Lean on your own spine. Could I have a pen? I will write down. Would you like to read it?

Participant: Life is meant to be lived joyously. When we are in a positive atmosphere of mind experiences, then we are more loving [voice is faint], we see the picture as OK {voice is faint] than when we are not taking difficulties and challenges in one's stride. If you are ing the enjoyment of life, sharing the joy of the moment with others and handle the circumstances by seeking the loving grace of God, Gods and Satguru in our hearts and in our minds, we better nurture the higher nature qualities - acceptance, tolerance, patience and trust in God's loving Presence in all situations - helping us to stay truly in touch with the heart nature of loving kindness. Being secure on a foundation for enjoying one's friends and the joy of living life, we are better able to talk properly to others when they are troubled, giving them an overview of the goodness of life and caring for each other.

Bodhinatha: Yes, that is very good. Thank you.

Participant: I am all right, right now. This kills worry in an instant, kills nervousness in a hurry and dispels sadness in a jiffy.

Bodhinatha: Sounds like you have used it a few times! That is good!

Participant: Ellam mudinja kathai. That means, eveyrthing finished long ago. We have to now look for the future and the present.

Bodhinatha: Thank you.

Participant: Gurudeva asked me if I loved and believed in Lord Ganesha. This was back in the late seventies. I replied that I would like to love and believe in Lord Ganesha. But, I had not yet had a personal experience with Lord Ganesha. So, Gurudeva then sent me to New York, to live next to and pursue at the new Ganesha Temple in Flushing for three months. He said, in this way I would come to know a lot about Lord Ganesha. "By the way," he said, "call me from time to time, and let me know how it is going."

Next time that I called, he asked, "How is it going?" I told him that I was helping the priest every morning at pujas in the temple and doing other chores around the temple grounds. I said that I had not yet discovered Lord Ganesha and he was still an image. Gurudeva said --- here it comes! Gurudeva said, "Don't worry. Just fake it until you make it!" [laughter]

I kept trying and aspiring to see Lord Ganesha through prayers and devotional songs and worship. Then, one day, Lord Ganesha was suddenly there before me. I was sitting on the floor below this enormous stone murthi, and I became fully aware of Lord Ganesha as a true being, smiling and listening and blissful."

Bodhinatha: That was nice. Thank you! It is not in any of our ... I remember you shared that once before. Who is next?

"Gurudeva said something on Innersearch. On an isalnd, we went to a program and Gurudeva gave a talk. [voice is feeble] "The energy flowing from my hands is the same energy that flows through you and flows through all forms." Throughout the years, he would often [voice not clear] to that and it would take me right back to that moment because it was powerful."

Bodhinatha: Yes, that is experiential. That reminds me of a story, I will share this.

When I was getting started with Gurudeva, sometimes he would share his inner experiences in meditation. He was saying, sometimes he was working with devotees in Nigeria. This was back in 1960. He would say, "Sometimes I sit in meditation and I find myself as a consciousness flowing through these huge leaves in Africa."

Amazing! That reminds me of the energy flowing through everything. He would just sit there and he was in Africa in his mind, so dynamically, so powerfully present that he could actually see the leaves and feel himself flowing through them. That is a not a Mahavakya on leaves! It is a nice story.

OK ... Who has a Mahavakya?

Participant: This is a little unfair because my wife is not here. We had scheduled a carpet cleaning but she will be here tomorrow.

Give your wife everything that she needs and then give her everything that she wants. As my wife and I were working towards zero-tolerance for disharmony in the home - and, by the way, we have been married 33 years - our anniversary is in two days! 31 years ... my mistake.

So, As my wife and I were working towards zero-tolerance for disharmony in the home, I was blessed to be hosting Gurudeva, while he was in Seattle for a book-signing. It was during the time, he would give me a okanashum to do when I hosted him and one of the things was to blend into the Hindu community and then the book-signing was very successful, we had over a hundred people there. At the time, his talks were focussed on stopping the war in the home. He made the statement. He said, "You know, you are not going to like this. But, give your wife everything she needs and then give her everything that she wants."

So, I heard it over and over again and so, I tried it. And, it works! My feeling on this is that, when a man assumes responsibility to what is happening in the home, and he allows his wife to be the sweet, divine being that she is, then the harmony flows naturally.

And, then another thing, I am very fortunate that my wife does not take advantage of the second part by wanting more than I can handle.

A little aside to this, about zero-disharmony in the home. We have this dog and he is a loud one. And, he is just this wonderful, sweet being and when I brought him hime, I took him to the shrine room and did a puja. I know that dog is a deva. I know he is divine. We cannot raise our voices in our home. Even if we are talking to each other from one room to the other, he will run under the table and hide. So, we absolutely cannot raise our voices. So, that is another thing that sort of keeps us under control, keeps our harmony at home.

Participant: There are two things for me. I don't know where I read this Mahavakya. Fulfillment of bhakti yoga is to go to the next step, to know thyself. This also has affected my life - See God in you and others.

It was after reading Gurudeva's books, I don't see the other people as persons, I always see as a soul. And, I stop seeing as the person, I don't hate anyone in my life since I met Gurudeva. I don't hate at all, anyone and I see God in everyone. That has really affected my life.

Also, about bhakti yoga and the fulfillment of bhakti yoga. If we don't go the next step, that means our bhakti is not fulfilled. We are not searching within of the yoga. That is what I have found from this Vakya."

Bodhinatha: Yes, that is very important. Thank you.

Yes, it is very similar to the talk I gave. Sometimes I talk to groups comprised of all Yogaswami devotees, when we celebrate a Aslesha nakshatra puja, quite often. One of the themes I try and bring out is a similar idea because quite often, devotees of Yogaswami glorify Yogaswami, all his great attainments. But, that was not what Yogaswami wanted them to do. Yogaswami wanted them to strive toward those attainments themselves. To look at Yogaswami as an inspiration as to what each of us can become, not to look at Yogaswami, "Oh, he is up there and we are down here." That is how it normally happens. But to look at Yogaswami, "Oh, there he is way up there. We can become like that, too!" Isn't that inspiring? One day, I will become like that. Turn it around and look at it as Yogaswami's attainment as a personal goal for you. It is a different thing. It is the same idea that bhakti yoga should, in and of itself, not end. We should take it to the next step - to know thyself. All the devotion should really lead into inner experiences.

OK ... we have time for one or two more. Who is next?

Participant: Lord Siva is the Life of our life. [voice is faint]

Bodhinatha: Thank you. That was beautiful.

Sometimes I get asked the question, "What is my soul?" Of course, that which is asking the question is the soul. But, the person is saying, "What is my soul?" Sometimes, we describe it as a body of light, this and that ... But, really, it is you! You are the soul. It is just that you don't see it. It is best known, if we perceive correctly, then we realize that we are the soul. It is the energy that surrounds the soul and we are the soul. It is that which we really are and other things surround it, working out an explanation. Sometimes, the person who asked the question is 6 years old!! "What is my soul?" They are happy to get a simple answer, you can't get that abstract.

So, on that example ... I am thinking of developing this space-suit example. Someone lives in a space-suit for a very, very long time. They forget what it is like to not live in a space-suit. They think, this is just the way things are. This is who I am. They have lost, they have no consciousness of what it feels like to be not to live in a space-suit, they have been in a space-suit for so long. Similarly, we are a soul in a physical body and we are so used to being in a physical body, that we forget what it would like to be for our soul not to be encased in something. We become so identified with the body like someone becoming so identified with the space-suit. Obviously, we are not the space-suit. If we took off the space-suit, we would remember, "Oh! That is what it used to feel like." Similarly, you know, you take off the physical body, you take off the astral body, you realize, "Oh! That is what it feels like just to be a soul."

I am working on it. I don't quite have it. But, I think it has potential. The physical body and the space-suit. OK. Time for one more, one last one. Last but not least ...

Participant: Can I ask one question?

Bodhinatha: Ask one question? Sure!

Participant: "The soul's original character is Godly character. We are God."

Bodhinatha: Yes! Right!

Participant: "That is our original character. When did this negativeness come?"

Bodhinatha: Well, the negativeness comes because we are in a human body, which is both a physical and a mental construct. So, a human body has ... Being in a human body, Gurudeva explains, our nature is three-fold. Spiritual, intellectual and instinctive. Three-fold nature. Spiritual nature, of course, is the soul. Intellectual nature is the thinking mind and the instincts are the animal instincts that comes along with having a physical form. It is the instincts are what get us into trouble. We get angry, we get hurtful and so forth. But, the point is that we need to learn to control them. We need to learn to control the instincts, as well as the intellect. First come the instinct - control the tendency to be angry, to harm others, to get fearful. Then, we control the intellect, the thinking process. So, it does not go wild, endlessly thinking about things without coming to a conclusion. Then, we have to soften the ego. You have to get rid of the sense of "Gee! I am pretty smart and good. I have got my instincts under control. My anger is under control. I am a really spiritual person." Obviously, we have an ego, we have to soften it up through devotional practices. Once we get the instincts, the intellect and the ego under control, then we begin to really feel and act like a spiritual being.

So, it comes by having human form. It comes, like Gurudeva said, in one of the lessons recently, "The soul is temporarily encased in human form." Made it seem very short!! It was in a lesson, last few days. So, when we are no longer encased in a human form, it is not there. then the answer as to why? Because, it is like, it makes us strong. We mature our soul by having to control our instincts. Otherwise, the soul would not mature. It is like the weight. If you want to build a muscle, you have a weight with which you exercise. If you don't do the exercise, the muscle won't mature. You need something to do. So, likewise, if we didn't have the instincts to harness, the soul would not mature.

So, you strengthen the soul by maturing. You control the instincts, the intellect, and the ego and that is what feeds the soul body, causes it to mature by those efforts. That is the idea. It forces us to make the effort and therefore, mature our soul body. Interesting process but when it is looked at from the right perspective, it all makes sense. From another perspective, it is like, "Why do we have to do it that way?" [laughs]

Thank you very much.