What Are the Noble Truths?

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The subject of today’s discourse is, “What Are the Noble Truths?”

Ánandádhyeva khalvimáni bhútáni jáyante
Ánandena játáni jiivanti ánandaḿ prayantyabhisaḿvishantiiti.

This universe has emanated from the Supreme Bliss or Ánandam; it is being maintained in Ánandam, and will finally dissolve in Ánandam. Some people say that this universe is full of sorrows; there is no joy in it, About three thousand years ago, many philosophical queries first sprouted in the human mind. Prior to this there were scriptures but no philosophical treatises. Acarya Kapila was the first philosopher. Out of great admiration people used to call him ádividván, “the first scholar.” According to some persons, truth is fourfold: caturáryasatyam. What are those four noble truths? – 1) sorrow, 2) the cause of sorrow, 3) the cessation of sorrow, 4) the means to the cessation of sorrow.

Now, what was the overall outcome of this pessimistic outlook, the viewpoint of looking upon the world as filled with sorrow? People became victims of an escapist psychology and began to renounce home and hearth. They wanted to relinquish all their allotted duties and escape – but where? There was no answer. In an attempt to escape from one’s sins and misdeeds you may retire to the Himalayas from Kanpur, but you cannot go beyond that. So the question arises, where will you escape to? Suppose you commit some wrong, and to escape the evil outcome of those misdeeds and avoid punishment you try to hide yourself in the sky or in an unknown place or at the bottom of the sea or in a mountain cave. But can you really hide yourself anywhere? In fact in this universe there is not an inch of space where one can conceal oneself to avoid sorrow. If one accepts this world as a reality, one will have to undergo sorrows and miseries; there is no escape. Wherever people go in the universe, sorrows and miseries also accompany them.

But to a sádhaka or a devotee, this world is not full of sorrows, rather it is full of joys. Sádhakas renounce their family lives not to escape from the sorrows of the world but for the attainment of Supreme Blessedness. Those monks and nuns who renounce family life do not hide themselves in mountain caves; rather they dedicate themselves to the service of all. Transcending the limits of their small families, they identify themselves with the greater happiness of a bigger family.

The scriptures say that this universe has emerged from Ánandam or Supreme Bliss. The word Ánandam has two interpretations: first, a particular state where the amount of bliss is so great that no one can possibly be deprived of it; and second, a state where there is no feeling of pain or pleasure, joy or sorrow, at all. According to our philosophy, Ánandam means infinite happiness, sukham anantam ánandam.

Where did this universe come from – what is the source of its emanation? Sorrow is not a personal entity; hence out of sorrow nothing can be created. But Ánandam or the Infinite Happiness is a personal Entity. Parama Puruśa in His eternal stance is ánandasvarúpa, the embodiment of bliss. When He descends from His eternal stance to His transitory form then whatever emanates from Him in that state certainly imparts less bliss than that which flows? His Eternal Being. The stage in which Parama Puruśa does not create and does not even desire to create anything, is His Eternal Stance. And the state of bliss in which Parama Puruśa in that condition is called nityánanda. On the other hand when Parama Puruśa creates this universe, the living world, He is said to be in His liilábháva or transitory from, and the bliss which He imparts in that state is called His liilánanda.

Now the universal question of all human beings is this: Why did Parama Puruśa come within the scope of liilabháva? What was the necessity for this? Why did He create the universe? We understand that this is all His liilá, His divine sport. He has no doubt created human beings, animals and so many finite objects, but after all these microcosms are undergoing a great deal of suffering with regard to their food, clothing, housing, education, medical care, etc. Had He not come within the scope of liilabháva, had He not created this universe, this problem would not have arisen at all. Then what was the necessity of doing all this?

Yes, the jiṋániis or philosophers may complain that it would have been better if Parama Puruśa had not created this universe but instead remained in His Eternal Stance. But those philosophers do not realize that had Parama Puruśa remained in His Eternal Stance, then they themselves would not have been born, and then how could they have disseminated their philosophical knowledge? Similarly, the karmiis or people of action should also realize that as Parama Puruśa has composed this dream of creation, there are some roles which are happy and some which are sad. And if there are no unhappy roles, whom will the karmiis serve? As long as there is sorrow there is scope to serve, otherwise there would be no scope to serve anyone.

And what is the bhakta’s view? According to them, when Parama Puruśa was in His Eternal Stance He was all alone; there was no second entity besides Him. He had the power to speak but there was no one to talk. He had the capacity to be angry, but there was no one on whom He could vent His anger. “Why was this work not done in time? You will have to complete it within such-and-such a time” – to whom could He speak thus? There was no one to hear Him. What a pitiable condition.

The devotee says to the philosopher, “Look philosopher, I do not understand your theory of action – I only know that I exist and my Lord exists. What purpose does it serve to scavenge amidst the garbage? I knew only that my Lord was alone, and to remove this monotonous loneliness He created a universe within His mind and divided His creation into numerous fragments.” These entities or fragments are not external to Him… they are the internal creations of Parama Puruśa, He is continuing His divine sport with the numerous entities of His creation. He does not continue His play with any external entity that will complain and say, “Parama Puruśa is giving me trouble”… after all He is playing with His own limbs, with His own creations. Therefore no one has anything to complain about.

If Parama Puruśa is continuing His play with His own limbs, is it to undergo sorrow? Certainly not it is to enjoy eternal bliss. Can we imagine that He can create this vast world of living beings only to become steeped in sorrows and miseries? Not at all. Rather He created this universe to play with all and remain in a state of bliss. This was His main intention. Obviously there is no sorrow behind this creation; rather there is joy, there is bliss. As I told you earlier, sorrow is not a personal entity, but ánandam is a personal entity, because it comes from the identity of Parama Puruśa Himself. And that Ánandam has been transformed into the innumerable microcosmic identities. Thus Ánandam or the Supreme Bliss is the penultimate cause of the creation of the universe.

Sá váeśa tadá draśt́á na pashyad drshyamekaŕat́;
Mene sasta nivátmánaḿ supta shakti suśaptádrk.

The infinite energy that was lying in my Parama Puruśa is manifesting itself through the creation of this universe. Parama Puruśa is creating and will continue to create: in His drama there will always be new characters every moment. Some will be rich, some poor, some intelligent, some foolish, some stout, some thin, some black, some white – but all are the dramatis personae of His drama. The one who is playing the role of a king today and the one who is playing the role of a subject are all acting according to His direction. Those who are playing the roles of unhappy characters are standing on the theatrical stage and shedding tears, and those who are playing the roles of happy people are laughing. But all these tears and laughter are within the drama. A devotee well understands this secret of His drama. He who is playing the role of a king in the drama may be a poor man in real life, and at the end of the play he goes home and chews on dry crusts of bread. But in the drama he was a king.

In fact, all the people in this universe are playing the roles allotted to them, but that does not mean that they will truly become that role – they will be as He wishes them to become. Each and every living being is the progeny of Parama Puruśa. All exist with Him, and ultimately they will all merge in Him. So no one should even belittle oneself. A drop of water and the entire quantity of water in the ocean are all the same water. The difference is only that one is very small in quantity and the other is vast. When the drop of water identifies itself with the ocean, then no one will call it a drop any longer – for it has become one with the ocean.

Now, it may be said that the microcosms are very small – how will they become vast? Páshabaddho bhavetjiiváh páshasamuktah bhavecchivah. But how to get rid of the bondages? By doing sádhaná and kiirtana one will have to move forward: one must not be caught in the snares of bondage. Human beings come onto this earth for a very short period, and they must make the fullest utilization of the short span of their lives. They should always remember that they may be tiny, seemingly insignificant portions of this universe, but after all they exist within Him and remain with Him. Usually they do not realize this because they are bound by the snares of Máyá. They do not realize that however insignificant they may seem, they are with Him; and as there cannot be anything outside of Parama Puruśa they also exist within Him, and thus He has become their personal property. Those who are wise from the worldly point of view are less devotional; they say, “As Parama Puruśa belongs to all, thus He belongs to me also.” The karmiis (people of action) say, “As Parama Puruśa is mine, He belongs to everyone else as well”. But the devotees say, “As Parama Puruśa is my personal property, He belongs to me and to me alone. I am ready to give up everything else, but not Him.”

People say that human beings are assailed by their individual sins and misdeeds. This is no doubt true, but at the same time it is equally true that human beings are the progeny of Parama Puruśa. If Parama Puruśa is púrńávatár (the complete Lord), then human beings also can be kálávatára or aḿshávatára or khánd́ávatára (partial manifestation of Lord), and can become one with Him. He is always with human beings: He is watching whatever they do, for they are all within His vast mind.

Sahasrashiirśá Puruśah sahasrákśah sahasrapát;
Sa bhúmiḿ vishvato vrtvá’tyatiśt́haddasháuṋgulam.

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Puruśa evedaḿ sarvaḿ yadbhútaḿ yacca bhavyam;
Utámrtatvasyesháno yadannenátirohati.(1)

A unit entity has a small mind, but Parama Puruśa has an infinite mind; then how far can you get through debate and argument? If you starve for two days, on the third day your power of thinking will be paralysed. You possess so little power, whereas Parama Puruśa possesses a vast mind. You see with only two eyes, whereas the Supreme Entity has innumerable eyes. You take the help of your mental eyes to see the images in your mind; but to see you Parama Puruśa does not require any eyes at all, because you are within His mind.

Sahasrapáda: When you move from one place to another you require a vehicle, but Parama Puruśa’s legs are extended everywhere; He does not need to move from one place to another. If you go to another place from here you cannot think that Parama Puruśa has gone far from you, because in fact you are where you were. He has entered each and every part of your mind; whatever you are thinking, have thought or will think in the future is all know to Him. Does that mean, then, that He is terrible, or frightening? Not at all. On the contrary He is all-merciful: He is showering His compassion on all. He scolds people only out of love, out of a spirit of welfare for all.

Puruśa evedaḿ sarvaḿ yadbhútaḿ yacca bhavyam: Whatever has been, is being and will be created is all within the Macrocosmic Mind. Even time, space and person all emanate from His mind. Therefore He is already of what was created and what is going to be created. If you perform virtuous deeds and thus elevate yourselves to higher realms, Parama Puruśa will be there with you. Conversely, if you degrade yourself to hell due to your misdeeds, there also He will be with you, because human beings are all a part and parcel of Him. Hence under no circumstances should people worry about anything. If you really go to hell then there also you will do sádhaná and kiirtana and wherever you do kiirtana, there Parama Puruśa will have to come because he Himself has said, “Náhaḿ tiśt́hámi vaekuńt́he, yoginám hrdaye na ca, madbhaktáh yatra gáyanti tatra tiśt́hámi Nárada.”-“I do not reside in heaven, nor in the hearts of yogis; but wherever my devotees sing kiirtana I remain there. For me there is no difference between a literate and illiterate person between a scholar and a fool.”

So when Parama Puruśa is with you in all circumstances, and when you are not alone, then how can you say that the world is full of sorrows? Rather the world is certainly full of joy because it is from joy that the universe has emerged, in joy it is being maintained, and finally the culminating point of all movement is the Supreme Bliss. I have often told you that one of the names of Parama Puruśa is Hari. Harati pápánii ityarthe Hari: that is, the Entity who steals all the sins of the microcosms is Hari. All the microcosms are part and parcel of Parama Puruśa: all are His progeny, His dear children. Human beings out of ignorance commit sins, and supposedly for this they are sent to hell. But if some bad actions are committed, naturally their consequences also must be undergone. One who attains an animal life as a result of one’s sins will have to undergo many afflictions in that animal birth. Parama Puruśa dearly loves His children, and thus he sometimes scolds them and tries to rectify them through punishment. Certainly He cannot want His sons and daughters to undergo pains an troubles; rather He wants them progress physically, mentally, an spiritually.

And what does He do to protect you? He must lighten the burden of your sins, and thus he steals them away from you. He tells his affectionate devotees, “Surrender all your sins to me;” but the devotees’ hearts are always filled with love for Him – how can they give their sins to Him? They will rather say, “I will feed Him with dainties and delicacies, and sing sweet devotional songs to Him – how can I give my sins to Him? I cannot.” But until one’s sins are surrendered, one will have to undergo the vicious cycle of endless births and deaths. So what does Parama Puruśa do in that case? Without taking the permission of the devotees, He surreptitiously steals their sins, and thus they become liberated from the bondages of all their sins. As this burden of sins is removed, the devotees can move forward at a much faster speed and arrive sooner at their destination. For this act of stealing, one of the names of Parama Puruśa is Hari.

Kalyáńamastu – may you all be blessed.
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Footnotes

(1) Rgveda Puruśasúktam. –Trans.

20 March 1979 DMC, Kanpur
Published in:
Subháśita Saḿgraha Part 11