We held our most recent satsang on February 7. If you were unable to attend, you missed a powerful talk by Swami Samachittananda, president of the Ramakrishna Mission Singapore and a monk of the Ramakrishna Order.
Here’s a quick summary of what you missed, although nothing compares to the eloquence of the full talk. Circle March 7 at 3:30pm on your calendar so you can hear Swami Samachittananda’s next talk in its entirety at RVAT’s March satsang. Details of our March event are here.
What Swami Samachittananda discussed at the February Satsang:
Some scriptures are meant for a certain period in history (Smriti), such as Manusmriti, Apastamba Smriti, etc. Rules such as how people should live or things like monks only staying in one place for three days at a time made sense before, but maybe don’t always apply today. As such, many ideas of Smriti must be interpreted for this age.
Some scriptures are more abstract and about eternal ideas which are logical and universal truths. These are called Vedas. Vedas are compilations of the spiritual understandings and experiences of the Sages. Vedas are called “Apaurusheya,” which means not written by any person (Shruti).
The Bhagavad Gita and the Mahabharata are two examples of Smirti. They are meant for a specific age, whereas the Upanishads are an example of Shruti–timeless concepts. If ever there’s a conflict between a Smirti text like the Gita and a Shruti text like the Upanishads, ALWAYS choose the Shruti text as the final word.
There are lots of spiritual subjects, but everything comes back to one idea: How to spiritualize our life today. Let’s dive into that.
We all have a frame of reference, ideas that we live by. But we’re bound by that frame of reference. What you learn in Kindergarten could be good at the time, but you can’t continue that throughout your life as an adult. You must outgrow the earlier frame of reference. What you learned in Kindergarten is just a starting point. It is not the end. If any idea that was useful before is now holding you back, you must discard it to keep growing your spiritual life.
Spiritual ideas are like phones. Sometimes you need to upgrade. Most people don’t upgrade for decades, and they live with the same ideas and practices.
Part of this is that we get conditioned. For instance, we might only meditate at a specific time or place. But really you can meditate anywhere—every place and every time is spiritual. Ideas like “best time to meditate” are good for starting meditation, but there’s a higher truth that one can meditate anytime. Truth can be practiced in all places and at all times! Nothing should hold us back from spiritualizing every moment. Don’t let anything limit you.
Ramakrishna would enter in higher spiritual states any time in a day because he spiritualized everything, so he was constantly in the “right” space for it. Ramakrishna also didn’t stick to one style of worship or one God, and this helped him spiritualize everything. Muslims have really mastered this practice. They pray anywhere, not just in the mosque. For them prayer is important, not the place. Nothing is secular if your attitude is correct. All activities can be spiritual.
Spirituality is a journey, not a destination. Mukti or Moksha is the name for the ultimate freedom. But don’t try to get there in one day. If you want to go out of your country, first you must go out of your house, then your street, then your town, etc. Figure out where you are in the journey and just focus on the next step. Fix the goal and then give utmost importance to the means, as Swami Vivekananda once said.
Each day when you get up can be a joy. Because in the waking state we can remember God.
If you want to be happy, it should be here and now. When I focus on getting something in the world to make me happy, that is a conditioned idea for happiness. Happiness is internal and not external. Happiness is in the mind, not in the object.
Striving to be happy from something external is slavery and dependency. It is like depositing your happiness with those things or persons. It is like saying that you can only get happiness if someone gives it to you. This happiness is not certain. We should achieve that state of mind in which you realize you don’t need external things to make you happy.
All you need for happiness is already right there within you. This you realize when you slowly renounce the dependency on external things that you’ve given control of your happiness.
Covid-19 disrupted a lot, but this is an opportunity for discovering that happiness does not depend on external objects. This is an opportunity to understand that seclusion is not loneliness. This is an opportunity to experience happiness with less and less things, and less and less contacts with others. We can use even the Covid-19 pandemic for spiritualizing our lives.
Peter is an assistant secretary for RVAT, and he lives in Bangkok.