(1 May '00)
Question: Is it possible to experience supreme bliss living in the world?
Amma: Certainly. It is to be experienced while you are still in the body. It is not something to be attained after death.
Like the mind and body, spirituality and worldliness are two facets of life. They cannot exist totally separated from each other. Spirituality is the science that teaches us how to live a blissful life in the material world.
There are two types of learning. One type of learning is about how we really ought to live. In order to live in peace and happiness, we have to study — that is spirituality. It is the study of the mind.
When you buy a machine, you also receive an instruction book. If you operate the machine according to the instructions, it won’t get damaged. In a similar way, spirituality gives you clear instructions on how you should live. By following those instructions, you will be free from sorrow. When you are travelling to a new place, you won’t feel any worry or tension if you have a reliable map. Similarly, if you use the principles of spirituality as a guide and live your life accordingly, you won’t be overwhelmed by any crises. Spirituality is the practical science of life. It teaches us the nature of the world, how to understand life and live in the best way possible.
We get into the water so that we can come out fresh and clean. We do not intend to remain in the water forever. Similarly, living a householder’s life is only a means by which to remove the obstacles on the path to God. Once you take up the life of a householder, you should move forward understanding the real purpose of life. Your life shouldn’t end where you began. You should free yourself from all bonds and realize God.
The attitude of “mine” is the cause of all bondage. Living a family life should be seen as an opportunity to liberate us from this attitude. We say, “my wife, my child, my mother and father,” etc. But are they really “mine?” If they were “mine,” they would always remain with us and follow us, even in death. Only by living with this awareness will we be able to awaken spiritually. It doesn’t mean that we should relinquish all of our responsibilities. It is our duty to carry out all of our responsibilities, and to do so with joy. At the same time, we should be careful so that we do not too get attached to them.
There is a difference between the attitude of a person who is appearing for a job interview and a person who is reporting for work for the first time. The person who is about to be interviewed will be worried about what sort of questions he will be asked, whether he will be able to answer them properly and if he will finally get the job. His mind will be tense. For the other person who is reporting for work, it is quite different, because he has already been chosen. He will feel a certain happiness. We will also experience a certain joy in our lives, once we understand the principles of spirituality, because then there is no reason to feel tense or worried. If you know that a firecracker is about to explode, you won’t be startled when it goes off. When you understand the nature of the world, you won’t be overwhelmed by trifles.
Suppose you need some money and are thinking about asking a friend for help. You know that he may give you the money, but on the other hand, chances are that he won’t. If he feels generous and decides to help you, you could get more than you expected; but he could also turn his back on you and even pretend he doesn’t know you. So anything is possible. If you are aware of all these possibilities beforehand, you won’t feel overly surprised or disappointed. If he should happen to give you more than you expected, you won’t feel overjoyed, nor will you go to pieces if he doesn’t care to even look at you.
A person who has learned how to swim will rejoice in the waves of the sea, whereas a person who can’t swim will drown in the same situation. A person who understands the principles of spirituality is like someone who knows how to swim — for him, every moment is blissful. He confronts every obstacle with a smile; nothing can unsettle him. Look at the life of Sri Krishna. Even when his kith and kin, the Yadavas, were fighting amongst themselves, the smile on Krishna’s lips never faded. That smile didn’t fade even when he held discussions with the Kauravas as an envoy of the Pandavas. When he acted as Arjuna’s charioteer during the war, a beautiful smile lit his lips. And when Gandhari cursed him, he still smiled. Krishna’s whole life was a big smile. And our lives can be the same, if we allow spirituality into our lives. Then life will be full of joy.
Life should be like a picnic outing. If we see a beautiful site, a pretty house or a flower on the way, we look at it and enjoy it. We look at all the sites but we do not linger there; we simply move on. When it’s time to return, no matter how beautiful the things around us are, we leave them behind and return home, because reaching home is more important than anything. In the same way, in whatever style we may live in this world, we shouldn’t forget our real home to which we must return — we shouldn’t forget our goal. No matter how many beautiful sites we see on our way through life, there is only one place which we can call our own, and where we can rest — and that is our original abode, our true Self.
There was once an old man who had four grown sons. His sons asked him to divide his property and give them each a plot. They wanted to build separate homes on that land. They said, “We will look after you. There are four of us; you can stay with each of us for three months during the year. You will be happy that way.” When the four sons suggested this, their father was happy. And so the property was divided. The family house and the adjoining plot was given to the oldest son, and the other three were given their share of land on which they each built a house. After the division, the father began to stay with the eldest son. For the first few days it was like a festival. But the family’s enthusiasm in looking after the old man soon diminished. As the days went by, the faces of his son and daughter-in-law darkened.
It was difficult for the father, but somehow he forced himself to stay for a month until he felt that they were about to turn him out. He then left and went to stay with his second son. His second son and his wife also showed some enthusiasm in the beginning, but they soon changed, and he was forced to leave after only fifteen days. He then went to his third son, but ended up staying there for only then days because they really didn’t want him there. And so he went to stay with his youngest son. After only five days he discovered that they were about to throw him out. And so he left and spent the rest of his life wandering about without a place to live.
In the beginning, the father had hoped that his children would look after him, but that turned out to be a vain expectation. After barely two months, he had been abandoned by his whole family.
We should understand that this is what so-called human love is often like. A cow is loved for the sake of the milk it gives. When it no longer produces any milk, it is sold to the slaughterhouse. If we have the expectation that certain people will eventually look after us, it will only lead to sorrow. We should carry out our duties without any expectations, and when the time is right, we should turn to our true path, the spiritual path. This doesn’t mean that we should give up all our responsibilities. We have to fulfill our dharma. It is, for example, the duty of parents to take care of their children, but once the children have grown up and can take care of themselves, the parents shouldn’t continue to be attached to them and expect their children to look after them. We should understand the real Goal and move forward on our homeward journey. What is the use of being stuck where we are, saying, “my children,” or “my grandchildren?”
“A bird that is resting on a dry, fragile twig is always ready to fly up, because it knows that the twig could break at any moment. In the same way, even if we live in this world doing all types of actions, we should always be alert, ready to fly to the world of the Self, knowing that nothing in this world is eternal. If we truly understand this, nothing can bind us or make us sorrowful.