“The mind cannot dwell on God if it is immersed day and night in worldliness, in worldly duties and responsibilities; it is most necessary to go into solitude now and then and think of God. To fix the mind on God is very difficult, in the beginning, unless one practices meditation in solitude. When a tree is young it should be fenced all around; otherwise it may be destroyed by cattle." This was the third commandment of Sri Ramakrishna. The tradition of retiring into solitude is immemorial. As soon as his temple duties were over Sri Ramakrishna would retire into the surrounding jungle for practicing meditation. Most of his disciples wandered off to the Himalayas, and to various other holy places to perform hard austerities. Many early Christian holy men took to the deserts and engaged themselves in a life of unceasing prayer and contemplation. Later they became known as the desert fathers. Christ went into the desert and prayed for forty days.
Life progresses by continual affirmation and negation. If we are to understand the proper value and significance of a thing, we have to observe it with a detached vision. By renouncing we gain. Our day’s work would have lost all charm and ground down our soul if we had not the oblivion of nightly sleep. This is a truth, the profundity of which often escapes us. We think that to do the best in anything we must be attached to it. We forget that attachment binds and to that extent limits our powers and capacity to accomplish. It is in inner detachment that we go beyond limitations and that our being flows in unimpeded streams.
To learn and practice such detachment we must time and again retreat and introspect about our journey, its direction, its speed and destination. We must have a break and a pause which make as hold on to the eternal and the permanent more strongly. We gain strength thereby to look upon the world and its concerns with an amused eye. After all, to act is not our vocation. To think or to feel also is not our nature. To be, that is our real nature. To be, to become the eternal, beyond all change and necessity of change, that is the goal.
Fortunately, we can withdraw ourselves from the ramifications of the surface and dive deep. Ramakrishna Math, Hyderabad, organizes spiritual retreat programmes generally once in three months. These half-a-day retreats consist of vedic chanting, Nama sankeertana, introspection, inspiring discourses by Swamijis and small meditation sessions. On a typical retreat-day about 1000 devotees and delegates gather and try to give themselves a break from their everyday mundane affairs.
It is natural for us to lose ourselves in the multifarious thoughts and activities of relative life. We do not require to make efforts to plunge into them. We are always in them. We are continuously being dragged on by them. What we require is to be disengaged from their tentacles. For lives and lives, for millions of births, we have been habituated to live on surface. This deep-rooted habit cannot of course be overcome in a day. But slowly, gradually and regularly let us learn and practice. Such retreats help many people. Also one has to make a habit of practicing daily what one learns on such occasions.
Adi Sankaracharya Jayanti discourse by Swami Stithikantananda Maharaj on April 26, 2012
Srimad Ramanujacharya Jayanti darshan and discourse by Swami Poornananda Maharaj on April 27, 2012