Question: Isn’t it possible to reach the goal through proper study of the scriptures, without taking recourse in yama niyamas (the dos and don’ts for a spiritual seeker), meditation, selfless service, etc.?
Amma: By studying the scriptures, we are able to understand the means by which we can realize God. From the scriptures we can learn about the Self. However, merely knowing about the ways and the means will not take us to the goal. To reach the goal we have to follow the path that is indicated. Say that a man is in need of a certain object. He inquires about it and learns that it is available at a distant place. From a map he learns the route leading to the place and the locality of the shop where the object is available. But unless he goes to the place and buys the object, he cannot get it.
Or say that a person wants to buy some medicine. The pharmacy is situated on the other side of a river. So he takes the ferry. But when he reaches the other shore, he refuses to get off the boat and go to the shop. Some people are like that. They will hold onto their notions instead of trying to advance further towards the Goal. Such attachment will only lead to bondage.
By studying the scriptures the path to knowing the Self or God is revealed. If we want to reach the goal, it is our duty to follow the path prescribed by the scriptures, performing the required spiritual practices. To merely study the scriptures is not enough.
We also have to cultivate the attitude of bowing down to everything. Presently, we are egoistic. We should learn to bow down. The paddy bends down when the crop is ripe. When the vellacka (young seed that is to become a coconut) grows into a coconut, it hangs down. This example illustrates that when our knowledge is perfect, we will naturally be humble.
Studying the scriptures can be compared to building a wall around an orchard, and performing spiritual practices is to grow the fruit trees within those walls. The wall will offer protection to the trees; but to gain anything from it, we have to grow the trees.
Studying the scriptures can also be compared to erecting a compound wall, and doing spiritual practices to building a house within, in which we are protected from the sun and the rain. If you wish to abide in the Self, it is not enough to acquire scriptural knowledge; you have to do spiritual practices, such as the observance of yama niyamas, prayer, meditation and japa (the repetition of a mantra).
However, once a seeker gains supreme love for God, the observance of yama niyamas becomes superfluous. Before real Love all barriers and boundaries disappear. For a true devotee, there is only God. Throughout the whole universe, he cannot see anything but God. Just as a moth becomes alone with the fire that it is drawn to, a devotee becomes one with God through love. For the soul who experiences himself or herself and everything as God, yama niyamas are insignificant.
Through meditation, you can gain immense power. Just as all the water in a tank can flow through a single tap, the Supreme Power flows through a tapasvi. And because of the tapasvi’s compassion, the Power that flows through him or her benefits the whole world.