Discourse: an extended communication dealing with some particular topic(s). Many hundred discourses were given by Sri Brahmananda Saraswati in the years he served as the Shankaracharya of Northern India. 108 of his regular discourses from that period have been translated into English. Another selection of some hundred discourses has recently been published in Hindi. There are many hundred more discourses in store in Hindi. They were features in the pamphlets that his math (Shankaracharya seat) issued daily for a long time.
Some work is being done to preserve the pamphlets for the future and the good of many, and translate them into English. Here are fragments from the first of the discourses in translation. Further down is information of the sources used here, and other mentions. - T.K.
1. By contact with the Supreme Self the individual soul can enjoy real happiness
By contact with the Supreme Self, the individual being can enjoy real happiness, for only in that Self is ultimate happiness rooted.
One can only share what one has.
No one can get happy in the world [samsara]* without the kindness* of God [Bhagavan*], . . . The rest remain in the trap of unhappiness and sorrow.
* Samsara: Rounds of births and deaths, not just one earthly life.
A man who does not have a child assumes the man who does to be happy, yet the man with children is unhappy for wanting something else.
The essence of happiness is Paramatma, who is Sat Chit Ananda.*
*Sat-Chit-Ananda means Being-Consciousness-Bliss.
Coming into contact with true happiness makes the individual soul* happy.
The Sanskrit term used is jiva, which translates as soul, spirit.
Paramatma* can deliver any object desired without ever running out of supplies.
* Paramatma is the Supreme Self, or Supreme Atman, That is: Atman beyond.
To gain Paramatma's favour, we must conscientiously follow the basic rules of keeping pure and behaving properly as enjoined on followers.
Many norms and half-norms (guidelines) are outlined in scriptures. Examples: [Yajnavalkya Yoga] - [Sivananda yoga guidelines]. However, Guru Dev's follower Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was "quietly insisting that the experience of transcending, and the resultant refinement of mind and body, would enable people to live higher values in a natural way. "It is much easier," he said, "to raise man's consciousness than to get him to act righteously." (Forem 2012:250) Suggestion: Before you have got sensitive to Guru Dev's subtle guidance or all Self-realised, you may stick to the profitable ways that are enjoined by Guru Dev - to your ability. And apply "common sense". That means most often "be reasonable and fair and not overcome". To "learn from the best" may help us on and up into deeply sensing and adjusting to Righteousness from within.
Only one who is inclined towards the Supreme [Paramatma] can get happy and peaceful in this world [in samsara]. Others cannot.
Seeking happiness in worldly life is like trying to quench your thirst by gathering small dewdrops.
From the storehouse of bliss one can get bliss.
2. If it is not possible to help others, at least don't cause harm.
The heavy load of life can be lifted only through the grace of Bhagavan.
Conduct yourself such that in this very life you may receive the grace of Bhagavan and are not forced to return to [an earthling body] . . . follow the [best of the fit] injunctions of the Veda Sastra* (Vedic scriptures).
*These are: The Vedas, Upanishads; Bhagavad Gita; Canonical, epic poems like the Mahabharata and Ramayana; Puranas (a class of sacred writings containing popular myths and legends and other traditional lore); Brahmanas, Agamas, Darshanas, Sutras, Vedangas, Nibandhas, the Dharma Shastras (law-texts aimed at regulations of society) and still more scriptures and texts. [Some are here]
Whatever your station*, social status or stage of life, carry on your enjoined duties and continue to take the name of God**.
* Mental repetitions of such names (there are hundreds) in deep meditation, should work well. It is mantra meditation. Compare a verse in the Manu Samhita: "An offering, consisting of muttered prayers, is ten times more efficacious than a sacrifice performed according to the rules (of the Veda); a (prayer) which is inaudible (to others) surpasses it a hundred times, and the mental [prayerful mantra-recitation in tune with sacred texts can be] a thousand times." (2:85)].
If it is not possible to assist others, then at least see to it that you do not harm anyone.
It is essential to see Bhagavan immanent everywhere. If you do that, you cannot sin. Further, whatever sin you have done in the past will be destroyed then. But see to it that you do not sin once you have started taking the name of God [i.e. started meditating regularly and well by mentally repeating a fit mantra in deepening states of mind], for it will be very difficult to free yourself from sins that are done after that. So be fearful of sinning from you have started taking the name of the Lord [i.e. started adequate mantra meditation.]
Following your own dharma* and taking the name of the Lord will eliminate all the accumulated sins from your previous births, bestowing happiness and peace.
*Dharma has many meanings, but deep down it is aligned with rita, Operating Truth; Order that upholds human life and universe. Dharma translates to duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues and "right ways of living". [WP, sv. "Dharma"]
3. Free to think along into God
A thief is free to steal, but he is subject to judgment, whether he likes it or not.
Man can choose virtuous acts, for which he will go to heavenly realms and can enjoy divine pleasures, or he can choose evil acts, for which he will go to a hell and suffer extremely fearsome and sorrowful results.
In Hinduism and Buddhism, hells are graded, like seven heavens in the Catholic Church. There are different hells for different criminals. In one such hell, fierce serpents prey on former tormenters: roles are being reversed.
Humans are free to act - If we wish, we can even meet in person with Paramatma, who is omnipotent and Sat Chit Ananda
As for the fruits of our actions, scriptures tell us: "By dharma doing, sin is destroyed." So if someone commits a sin at some time, he should do meritorious acts to destroy the bad karma: Virtue will increase and thereby eliminate the effect of sins. Therefore, by repeating the [inwardly glowing] name of Bhagavan [heartfelt enough and over a long enough time], sin is destroyed.
If an individual has committed sin, he should plunge into virtuous action and should also take the [most] fit name of God with faith and devotion.
There are hundreds of names of God, and many likable mantras around.
In this fashion the accumulated sins will be destroyed, and within a short time virtue will begin to accumulate, by the help of which he will reach the good end [sadgati].
A true spiritual path leads to the good end – maybe little by little, and maybe fast. It is individual.
Because the mind has become sullied with impressions, it is difficult to generate love [prema] for Bhagavan, but if one contemplates on God even with a crude mind, one can obtain his grace. Whatever the condition of the mind, whatever sins may have been committed in the past- the power of righteousness in [a good] name of Bhagavan makes it impossible to continue doing evil in the present.
Mantra-meditation is the reference. The ancient perspective: "An offering, consisting of muttered prayers, is ten times more efficacious than a sacrifice performed according to the rules (of the Veda); a (prayer) which is inaudible (to others) surpasses it a hundred times, and the mental (recitation of sacred syllables) a thousand times." [Manu Samhita 2:85]
4. Do not waste the higher powers of mind
Many consider themselves to be highly intelligent, yet their intelligence [buddhi] does not go beyond their bellies. They devote their time to "bandaging the ulcers in their stomachs", and thus "their whole lives are wasted".
Abraham Maslow has set up a pyramid of needs and higher ends. Self-realization is the acme of it. For your good, try to steer well and better than those who get stuck in low-life levels and spend their efforts on low pursuits. Take graded lore into account and devote a lot of time to efforts said to pay well in a larger perspective. Much of this is aired through the teachings of Sanatan Dharma, or Hinduism.
There is more to get nourished by than food for the body.
Abraham Maslow has theorised that humans and nourishment comes on various levels, like:
There can be no greater loss in a life than wasting it.
There is no alternative to serving, and no one is free from the necessity of worship [in best or fit ways]. If you do not worship God [adequately], who is "omniscient and capable of anything," then you will serve at the feet of some merchant [seth], or wealthy person [sahukar]. [Paul Mason explains that since many Sanskrit words have multiple meanings, translations can differ. Accordingly, one translation has 'service' and another 'worship'. Interestingly, these two tend to merge a lot for devotees:]
'No one can avoid worshipping . . . If you do not worship Bhagwan [the Lord] then you will fall down worshipping the raja [prince], the nobleman, the merchant and the moneylender.'
The great-minded will depend on Paramatma, who will assist us in this world and the next.
Regardless of how much wealth one accumulates, it will always be limited.
He is most clever who [attunes very well] to Paramatma, God, who can grant happiness everywhere in this world and the next.
[Or:] The most intelligent is the one who worships Paramatma to always stay happy in this and the other world.
[Thus: The smartest find time for deep meditations on the Lord and alignment with God also - by a gladdening method for approaching Atma(n) first, and onwards. Methods are prescribed in the Vedas.]
5. The Divine and Mundane.
You may not be able to fulfil every desire. [Mod]
In this world, do what is required to maintain the body, and concentrate your efforts on attaining the greater vision of Paramatma.
The divine and the mundane must go hand in hand. For it would be impossible to keep up the body if you were to abandon all karma.
On seeing that even great and powerful ones cannot fulfil all their desires, why hope to fulfil all your dreams?
Conduct the affairs of the world with deep wisdom, being focused on the Ultimate Reality and get established in That*.
*A difficult, composite term to deal with: Paramartha consists of parama, highest, sublime, uppermost, superior, and artha, comprehension, wealth, goal, gain - depending on the context. "Highest Wealth" (God), "Uppermost Gain", "Sublime Truth" etc. stands for Self-consciousness, Supreme Reality, Supreme Truth and Absolute Existence. it leaves many translator options.
6. Dealing with Karma All Along
Face the bad with equanimity.
A human being cannot sit quietly doing nothing for very long. It is natural to act [and acts are likely to cre have consequences and perhaps create impressions inside or outside or both].
The fruits of doings within a brief span remain unexhausted even over a long period of time, and unexhausted actions accumulate from life to life [And carry over as tendencies to this and that].
Vedic scriptures have explained how to exhaust the forms of karma: They are removed by profound knowledge jnana, or by undivided in-depth focus on God, Bhagavan.
Lessen bad karma then, and also consider it wrong enough to get stuck or hindered by good karma as long as there are better, good things to attain.
On attaining human birth, one should exhaust the store of karma. All sorts of accumulated karmas cannot be exhausted by experiences only. Karma that has started to "sprout" or work in a life, can be spent only by experience. And by dedicating current actions to Bhagavan, one can avoid bondage.
In these ways, having burnt up accumulated karma by the fire of knowledge, commenced karma by experience, and current karma(s) by dedicating them to Bhagavan (when they are performed), one can be freed from [karma] bondage.
The three forms of karma referred to are sanchita (amassed total karma), prarabdha (karma portioned out for this life) and kriyamana (the karma being creating in the present; its fruits (results) may be experienced later and much later, as the case may be).
If for some reason you are unable to undertake a spiritual practice [sadhana], and are thus impaired when it comes to attaining profound knowledge, at least you should start dedicating your current actions to Bhagavan. Then what you do in this life will not cause future bondage.
Not even a sage, jnani, can escape the karma that has begun to take effect. Occasions that result from such karma must be faced resolutely. One should not lose heart even in calamitous times. In the same way, do not become negligent when enjoying happy occasions. If you act in this way, merit will accumulate.
There are many more Guru Dev discourses than 108. Another 100 or so have recently been published in Hindi. And there are many hundreds left still, we are informed here: Shankaracharya Swami Brahmanand ji.
Satsang, or satsanga, sat-sanga, sat-sanga literally means "contact with the Real or Truth Itself", from Sat (reality, truth) and sang(h)a, "association", "assembly," "company" or "community". In practice, satsang is associating with gurus, saints, or sadhus. Contact with them is thought to be purifying and uplifting and stimulatingin a right way. (See Feuerstein 1990)
Contact with Reality or Truth, or with a benevolent guru is satsanga. Assembled persons who who listen to, talk about, and assimilate some truths of scriptures, and follow up by reflecting on, discussing and assimilating the old meanings is also termed a satsang. The aftermath of such a convening ones is reflecting on some central meanings, and perhaps bringing the most fit ones into one's own living.
Shankaracharya Brahmananda, also called Guru Dev, held satsangas where he discoursed on topics that were close to the hearts of listeners. Guru Dev's ashram produced many, many newsletters that contained discourses and sermons of Guru Dev.
A set of 108 discourses of Guru Dev in Hindu are the basis of four English versions to date. The discourses originally appeared in Guru Dev's ashram newsletter, 'Shri Shankaracharya Upadesha' between 1949 and 1953. [◦Link]
About 250 more discourses by Guru Dev may be published in the future, informs Paul Mason. His site contains much other Guru Dev material.
Maharishi wrote a book in Hindu of Guru Dev gist, Amrit Kana (Nectar Droplets). Paul Mason has translated it into English (2009).
The first and second versions on the list are not copyrighted, so one can use them for forming one's gist quite freely. Fair Use regulations may hindre free use of copyrighted material.
The following list of topics serve as headings of the 108 satsangs with Guru Dev. Crowding listeners wrote down what he said, and thereby preserved the orally given teachings.
Rameshwar Prasad Tivari describes Guru Dev's teachings as to the point and easy to grasp for the listeners. Responding to demands for his teachings, Guru Dev's ashram published a daily newsletter, Shri Shankaracharya Upadesha. Thousands of copies were printed and sold out. Then it was decided to gather His teachings from various devotees and publish them in book form to preserve them better. They aim at making human life fulfilling.
Key points from the first published Guru Dev discourses in English translation have been shown above. I like to present gist, as gist can be more easily be brought to mind after a little time in advanced practices of such as lojong. Gist, or keynotes, may help learning in other ways too.
The select Guru Dev ideas are in part made simpler on this page, in line with major Plain English guidelines. A strategy: "Render what holds and remain relevant a long way, and leave the rest". A still better solution to some would be to get a complete English translation, such as 108 Discourses of Guru Dev by Paul Mason (2009). He includes the original Hindi, offers new discourse titles from Guru Dev's discourses, and a newly made English translation. Most sanskrit terms go a bit unexplained. For the interested reader I recommend a Sanskrit-English dictionary to complement it, such as A Concise Dictionary of Indian Philosophy (3rd ed.) by John Grimes
I am not the only one to render core ideas of Guru Dev according to personal understanding: Take a look at Guru Dev's disciple, known as Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the West. Maharishi tells it took him years to attune to Guru Dev's thinking. That was after earning a physics degree at Allahabad University, and then living close to him for two and a half years, also serving as his secretary. In 1952, toward the end of Guru Dev's life, Maharishi published the book of Guru Dev ideas, Amrit Kana (Nectar Droplets) (see Mason 2009 at the bottom of this page).
I wrote a book . . . about two hundred pages . . . in Hindi, account of Guru Dev. . . . Not the instances were cited, but the inferences drawn from the instances. [In Mason 2009b: Foreword]
"Inferences" form the basis of the art of rendering. Carefully selected core ideas and salient points may bring some help in grasping Guru Dev's thought. In this way Guru Dev's ideas may be made to stand out for an easy grasp, and serve calm, relaxed pondering also, for example by an old yoga method called lojong.
I have settled on rendering some translated Guru Dev ideas in simple words first and foremost as I have interpreted (inferred) and formulated them, since"thoughts go free."
Guru Dev formulates general principles, and many are priceless, I would say. Guru Dev's discourses were aimed at his public in India. He represents Advaita Vedanta, the non-dualist form of Vedanta, yet his discourses are rife inkey terms in the Sanatan Dharma, "eternal, righteous ways" etc. One may say he adapts his teachings to common people. This bit of background knowledge can be helpful for making out what he speaks about, what perspectives he brings, the "twin platform" of Advaita and Sanatan Dharma concept, aiming to help lots of folks.
The order of the Guru Dev discourses that follow, are as in the four versions listed above (and in the book list at bottom of the page). The number of a discourse is maintained as a means to identify the source of the kernel.
In case additions in square brackets - [ . . .] - appear, they are by me. And to comply with Plain English, I prefer succinct terms to long-winded ones if they mean just the same. For example, acquire means get, and purchase means buy, and so on. Also, I may shape the way words are arranged (the syntax) differently than others, as the case may be.
As for translations and similar, there are various levels in the art of conveying meanings from one setting to another, from "then and there" to a "now and here". There are "different strokes for different folks" here too:
Rising in part above transmitting thoughts of others, is telling things in your own words. Guru Dev used to discourse mainly from experience. Telling things from own experiences might be assisted by references - to scriptures and the like. Guru Dev's discourses have got added notes to them by Dr Cynthia Ann Humes. They help in that that pinpoint which scripture passages he quotes at times.
It may be very good to compare different translations with one another. The reasons are many: Terms often carry many meanings and shades of meaning, allowing for a fair amount of translator options at times; different translators read different meanings into sentences and formulate the content differently. Besides, some translations are better than others. Some have better or more clarifying notes added also.
Getting to grips with culturally determined differences matters. In some translations Guru Dev appears to contradict himself, but in others he does not. If serious doubts lead you to look up in different translations and compare, better understanding can follow. The instances I have checked, seem to be rooted in mistranslations. Apart for such considerations, the discourses are at times directed to certain groups of people, such as singing pandits. All he says to those, many be a bit context-dependent - and not of very great present interest in the West.
Also, one may also bear in mind that parts of a discourse may or may not contain embellishing ways of wording that may be figurative, as in proverbs. One should allow for that, and for cultural differences too.
On inspecting some cases carefully, it has showed up that Guru Dev talks sense (to me). I may offer some examples:
Veeresalingam has got the first part right as judged from the development of the argument in the discourse. Guru Dev does not contradict himself. "If sing you must, sing in God, or for God, and not for low ends" is part of it.
The example illustrates that one should not always blame or maculate wisdom of a badly translated guru on the grounds of being badly translated. Give him the benefit of doubt - check a little or a lot, till things clear up. And if they still don't, there is hopefully deep, swift meditation for you.
In the following are some gleaned Guru Dev's satsang ideas. Ask the sooner the better: "What is the catch if there is a catch?" For one thing, seemingly simple gleanings may be inadequate if there are words with several meanings involved, and just one meaning is chosen. Aiming for "plain and adequate sayings in themselves", sloppy work may be found to spread out from "plain inadequate" through "plain, but seemingly adequate" to "misleading" - such a range.
Several passages that went into the initial survey above, were glossed over, and several sentences or fragments may have been brought together into one here. The order of those fragments and sendences may or may not be shifted, as the case may be. The markers behind some sayings show what sort of rendering is into it. For example, "Mod" stands for "Modified" [Markers and meanings]. And brief text set off by square brackets within renditions and the like are most often aligned with the looming Hindu heritage. Further, clarifying or expanding mentions or summaries are either in square brackets or indented, so that they stand out as separate from "Guru Dev's foremost ideas" in his cited and contracted utterances.
- T. K.
Aurobindo, Sri. The Secret of the Veda. New ed. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1998.
Grimes, John. A Concise Dictionary of Indian Philosophy: Sanskrit Terms Defined in English. New, rev. 3rd ed. Varanasi: Indica Books, 2009.
Mason, Paul. 108 Discourses of Guru Dev: The Life and Teachings of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath (1941-53). Vol 1. Penzance, Cornwall: Premanand, 2009.
Mason, Paul. The Biography of Guru Dev: The Life and Teachings of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath (1941-53). Vol 2. Penzance, Cornwall: Premanand, 2009.
Mason, Paul. Guru Dev as presented by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi: The Life and Teachings of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath (1941-53). Vol 3. Penzance, Cornwall: Premanand, 2009.
Mason, Paul. Guru Dev: Life and Teachings of Shankaracharya Swami Brahmananda Saraswati. Compiled by Paul Mason. 2012. ⍽▢⍽ Online [◦Link]
Mason, Paul. The Maharishi: The Biography of the Man Who Gave Transcendental Meditation to the World. Rev. ed. Lyndhurst, Hampshire: Evolution, 2005.
Mason, Paul. The Roots of TM; The Transcendental Meditation of Guru Dev and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Penzance, Cornwall: Premanand, 2015.
Nida, Eugene, and Charles Taber. The Theory and Practice of Translation. Leiden: United Bible Societies / Brill, 1974.
Shriver, LB Trusty. The Sweet Teachings of the Blessed Sankaracarya Swami Brahmananda Saraswati. Tr. and contr. Cynthia Ann Humes. Raleigh, NC: Lulu.com, 2013. ⍽▢⍽ Professor Humes supplied the annotations.
Tiwari, Rameswar, compiler, LB Trusty Shriver, ed, and Cynthia Ann Humes, ed. Rocks Are Melting: The Everyday Teachings of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati Fairfield, IA: Clear River Press, 2000. ⍽▢⍽ Scanned hard-copy manuscript, with annotations. May be tried as a companion to Paul Mason's 108 Discourses of Guru Dev.
Yogi, Maharishi Mahesh (presented as Maharshi Bala Brahmachari Mahesh Yogi Maharaj). Beacon Light of the Himalayas: The Dawn of a Happy New Era. Souvenir of the Great Spiritual Development Conference of Kerala, October 1955. in PDF format.
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