The World Is an Ashram in which All Are Doing Sadhana

Following listening to Gurudeva's original talk entitled "The Eternal Now," given in 1961, this auspicious Mahasivaratri night Bodhinatha reads two recent lessons from Dancing with Siva about the essence of the path of experience, along with some supporting quotes from Gurudeva's guru, Yogaswami. The point both gurus are making is that we need to look at the world as an ashram, a training school for spiritual advancement. Many people say they have no time to pursue spiritual life. A change in our approach is needed, one that views all our activities as spiritual activities, not separating the spiritual and secular. The second point is that to progress spiritually we need to learn from our experiences in the world. We need to learn from a mistake in order to not repeat it.

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Questions? Bodhinatha is the successor of "Gurudeva," Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami. If you have questions on subjects about spiritual life you will find answers in Gurudeva's books and teachings. Learn about ways to study these teachings by visiting The Master Course site or writing to mastercourse@hindu.org.

Unedited Transcript:

Good Evening, everyone! I listened to a wonderful message from Gurudeva from 1961. That is 43 years ago, a timeless message. I guess that is the nature of the eternal now. I am all right right now, certainly a key.

One of the things that Gurudeva has given us in helping us to study the material, is he has organized it into daily lessons. Of course, most of us know that but some of us don't. So I am mentioning it for anyone, any of our guests present tonight who aren't aware. Every day we have one lesson from 'Dancing with Siva', one from 'Living with Siva' and one from 'Merging with Siva' and the sutra that we can study. They come on e-mail. So, first thing in the morning when you come in, there it is staring you in the face. I was looking at that today. I was looking at all the mail that came in and thought that it is a nice message to read tonight, to start my talk. It is a short talk.

It is actually Sloka 2. We are starting over with 'Dancing with Siva' and it is Sloka 2. "We are all growing toward God, and experience is the path. Through experience we mature out of fear into fearlessness, out of anger into love, out of conflict into peace, out of darkness into light and union with God."

Gurudeva has a Bhashya on this. It says, "We have taken birth in a physical body to grow and evolve into our divine potential. We are inwardly already one with God. Our religion contains the knowledge of how to realize this oneness and not create unwanted experiences along the way. The peerless path is following the way of our spiritual forefathers, discovering the mystical meaning of the scriptures. The peerless path is commitment, study, discipline, practice and the maturing of yoga into wisdom. In the beginning stages, we suffer until we learn."

That is an important point. It comes up later. I will read it again. In the beginning stages, we suffer until we learn. That relates to Gurudeva message there about anger, worry, doubt.

"Learning leads us to service; and selfless service is the beginning of spiritual striving. Service leads us to understanding. Understanding leads us to meditate deeply and without distractions. Finally, meditation leads us to surrender in God. This is the straight and certain path, the San Marga, leading to Self Realization - the inmost purpose of life - and subsequently to moksha, freedom from rebirth. The Vedas wisely affirm, "By austerity, goodness is obtained. From goodness, understanding is reached. From understanding, the Self is obtained, and he who obtains the Self is freed from the cycle of birth and death."

I just want to share a portion of the previous day's 'Dancing with Siva' lesson because it ties in so beautifully.

This is Sloka 1. "Rishis proclaim that we are not our body, mind or emotions. We are divine souls on a wondrous journey. We came from God, live in God and are evolving into oneness with God. We are, in truth, the Truth we seek."

The first line of Gurudeva's bhasya, "We are immortal souls living and growing in the great school of earthly experience in which we have lived many lives."

There are two statements in Paramaguru Yogaswami's. 'Words of our Master'. This is a collection of his statements throughout his life. 'Words of our Master' beautifully echo Gurudeva thoughts.

The first is, "The world is a training school. Some are in kindergarten, some are in the B.A. class."

The second is, "The world is an ashram, a training ground for the achievement of freedom. Each one does his part according to his own measure. There is nothing that is evil."

The first point that both Gurudeva and Yogaswami are making is that we need to look at the world as an ashram, a training school for spiritual advancement. Why is this important?

It is important because many Hindus do not look at the world from this perspective and therefore are not making as much spiritual progress as they could in this lifetime. This is apparent when they explain to you, which happens to me quite often, that they are so busy with the activities of raising a family and pursuing a profession, that they have almost no time to pursue spiritual life.

Have you ever heard anyone say that? Have you ever said that? I have heard it a lot.

Their perspective is that the time devoted to family and profession has nothing to do with their spiritual life and progress. That the only time that counts for spiritual time is the time at the temple or in the family shrine room. Clearly, life is being divided into secular activities and spiritual activities. Family and profession are secular activities. Temple and shrine room are spiritual activities.

This, of course, is not the perspective of Gurudeva and Yogaswami. To them, all activities of life are spiritual activities, when we view them as such. What exactly does this mean?

It means we can benefit spiritually from our family and professional activities, just as much as we do from the time we spend at the temple and in the home shrine room if we simply hold the right perspective.

Another view of the world held by some Hindus is the perspective that the world is an illusion. That for spiritual progress to occur, the world must simply be renounced. You have heard that one?

For advanced renunciate monks, this can be a helpful perspective. For the rest of Hindu humanity, it is definitely not a helpful perspective as it keeps us from engaging in the world with a positive spiritual attitude toward it.

The second point that both Gurudeva and Yogaswami are making is that to progress spiritually, we need to learn from our experiences in the world. As we emphasized earlier, Gurudeva's statement is that we suffer until we learn. This, of course, means that as long as we keep making the same mistakes, we will experience the same consequences and continue to suffer. We need therefore, to learn from the mistake in order not to repeat it.

This is a common theme in my talks and on the recent India Innersearch program I mentioned at one point in a series of classes on, 'Becoming a More Spiritual Person'. If you are going to only remember one point from these classes then it is this. When you make a mistake rather than saying, "I should not have done it," and feeling sad and depressed, learn to say instead, "I should not do it again."

So we change the emphasis. We want to learn from the mistake. In other words, learn to be self-reflective enough, to figure out how you can avoid repeating this mistake in the future. Pin point exactly what you need to do differently to get the results you want, next time. Focus on improving your behavior and becoming a more spiritual person.

Remember Paramaguru Yogaswami's statement. "The world is an ashram, a training ground for the achievement of freedom."

Aum Namah Sivaya.