Q&A with Swami Swaroopananda
QUESTION: Why must the Supreme Self be worshipped like a god? Why isn't it enough to be aware of Its existence?
Answer: Worship is a manifestation of love, and love is an essential quality within spiritual practice. It is essential because it binds the lover and the beloved. If we look at our experience, we can see it is dualistic. We have an experience of a separated self and a separated external reality. In order to bring these two together into union, we have to invoke the energy of love, and one of the best methods to invoke the energy of love is the method of worship.
What is worship? Worship is love in action; it is love expressing itself in action, and it is directed toward the beloved. We call this worship, even though it's not actually possible to worship the inner Self, the innermost reality. On the other hand, the Self can be worshipped through Its external manifestations. What are Its external manifestations? It is said in the Vedas that all of this is Brahman. Everything that you see externally is Brahman; it is nothing but the Self. Therefore, by worshipping the one Self in the many within creation, you are worshipping the innermost reality behind all phenomena, or God. So the method of worshipping the Self is the method of worshipping our fellow beings in the form of selfless service to humanity, or karma yoga. Karma yoga is considered to be one of the better ways of serving the Self.
There is a mode, or a bhava, in Karma yoga, which is called Atma bhava -- to see your own self in the other, and seeing your own self in the other, to know that the self is God, to worship the self in the other. How do you worship the self in the other? By serving the other selflessly, with love, with devotion, and with the feeling that you are serving God himself, who dwells within the other. The same God that dwells within the other also dwells within yourself, because there is only one Self, and this is the One that we worship. The One that we call the Self is identical with God. The Self is God. But God is not just outside; God is not in heaven. God dwells within our own heart as our own innermost reality. And the same God dwells within the heart of every person, therefore, It can be worshipped.
Question: An old friend of mine passed away without me knowing. Is there a ritual to reconnect and just say goodbye? How do I deal with a loss in my absence?
Answer: Personally, you can tune your mind to your friend, send good wishes, and pray that your friend is going to move on. The best prayer is to help your friend to move on; it's not desirable for the friend to dwell here, to continue to dwell here on the physical plane. So the best prayer is to help him move on into the higher realms. If you would like to do a ritual, please see our priest, Krishnan Namboodiri, and he will find a specific ritual for this particular problem. He has been trained in this since he was a child.
As for passing of a friend, we need to remember that when a person dies, the person does not truly die. This is the reality. On the other hand, temporarily of course, it's very painful, and it's very difficult to separate from someone we love. Because we are under the spell of illusion, we truly believe that when a person dies, he ceases to be, and this is not true. When a person dies, the person continues to exist; many times such a person tries to communicate with us, but even if the person is not successful, sooner or later we are going to meet again. This is how it works.
Question: What is the difference between yoga and Vedanta?
Answer: Vedanta is a system of philosophy, and yoga is also a system of philosophy. These are two systems of philosophy among the six systems that we find in India. The purpose of yoga is to learn how to control the mind and ultimately to learn how to meditate and how to attain Samadhi, or super-consciousness. The purpose of Vedanta is to realize Ultimate Reality. In order to realize Ultimate Reality, we need to know how to meditate, we need to know how to attain Samadhi. Samadhi is the vehicle that is used in order to uncover or discover Ultimate Reality. So in order to practice Jnana yoga, which is the yoga of Vedanta, the mastery of yoga, or Raja yoga, is absolutely necessary. The knowledge of meditation is absolutely necessary. So although these are two different systems of philosophy, they are interlinked, or interconnected. One prepares us for the other; one supports the other.
Question:Does absolute consciousness evolve? If it is one with both emptiness and form, and form is always evolving, wouldn't it have to evolve also?
Answer: I'm going to say something that is going to surprise some people. Yes, consciousness does evolve. How does it evolve? It evolves through form. Form is a manifestation of consciousness, and the evolution of consciousness manifests through the evolution of form. So form is not just form. Form is an expression of pure consciousness, and through form pure consciousness evolves.
Swami Swaroopananda, one of the foremost disciples of Swami Vishnudevananda, is the Acharya (spiritual director) of Sivananda Yoga Centers and Ashrams on the West Coast of the United States, in the Middle East, and in the Bahamas. This article is from one of his spontaneous question and answer sessions, which he frequently offers at Sivananda centers and ashrams all over the world.
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