The Value of a Life – Guru Dev

Periodically in history there comes someone who radiates presence so profoundly, they move a generation who go on to change the world. While the changers are celebrated, we can loose sight of the source of that inspiration.

One such rare luminary was Swami Brahmananda Saraswati. He had a presence that could be felt from miles away. His silence alone communicated the truth and drew people within. He left home at age 9 to seek a guru and lived much of his life alone in the forest and mountains. In 1941, he was finally convinced to step forward as the Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math, the north seat. The seat had unusually been vacant for 165 years as no one had been qualified. He served for 12 years, the 43rd in the lineage since Shankara himself, over 2,500 years ago.

While you may think you’ve never heard of him, if you’ve ever sung along to the Beatles song Across the Universe, you’ve sung his praises. That song has also literally been beamed across the universe. He was Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s teacher, along with a number of swamis who have traveled the world. You’ve undoubtedly seen his picture in the background of a number of famous scenes.

Here is a couple of notable quotes of his.

To get a human body is a rare thing – make full use of it. There are four million kinds of lives which a soul can gather. After that one gets a chance to be human, to get a human body. Therefore, one should not waste this chance. Every second in human life is very valuable. If you don’t value this, then you will weep in the end.

Because you’re human, God has given you power to think and decide what is good and bad. Therefore, you can do the best possible kind of action. You should never consider yourself weak or a fallen creature.

Whatever may have happened up to now may be because you didn’t know, but now be careful. After getting a human body, if you don’t reach God, then you have sold a diamond at the price of spinach.

To be born a human is more fortunate than to be born a deva. Taking birth as a deva is considered comparable to taking birth as any other life form. Birth as a god is attained by those who perform certain sacrifices and karma, etc. associated with divinity, with the intention to enjoy divine pleasures. The minds of the devatas wander incessantly because of the abundance of enjoyable things in the heavenly realms, and hence they cannot perform purushartha [actions consistent with the goals of human life and evolution].

For this reason, the human birth is considered superior, because here, by doing as much purushartha as possible, one can eventually become one with God.

A human being is like a lump of pure gold, whereas gods are like pieces of fine jewelry. Having been perfected as jewelry, their progression is complete and they cannot be further improved.

On the other hand, gold which has not yet been crafted by the jeweler is completely unrestricted in its potential. Hence the birth of a human being is said to be the very best birth for action.

Having attained this birth, one should not act carelessly, but should conscientiously perform the best purushartha. Fulfilling one’s own dharma while keeping faith in Paramatma is the greatest purushartha.

Strive to become one with God in this lifetime. Have firm faith in the Vedas and shastras and keep the company of those wise people who also have faith in them. Only then will the purpose of your life be fulfilled.

from Rocks Are Melting: The Everyday Teachings of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati

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6 Responses to The Value of a Life – Guru Dev

  1. Paul e Brown says:

    I first met L.B. in 1968…And then he was the first person to check my meditation. He was the on the first course in Iowa City: I was on othe second. Thank You L.B. and Jai Guru Dev

  2. Davidya says:

    Hi Paul
    I met LB Shriver in the late 70’s. Watched part of his last talk online recently. He called it his last and live issue of his old newsletter, Survival in Paradise.

    For other readers, I left off the authors as there is a list and I didn’t want to distract from the original quotes in explaining.
    Rocks are Melting was:
    Compiled by Rameswar Tiwari
    Edited and Introduction by L. B. Shriver
    Translation Edited and Annotation by Cynthia A. Humes

    But LB was the force behind it as the below link explains. This is an unpublished book. If readers are interested, a PDF of a late draft has been posted on his memorial site.
    http://lbshriver.wordpress.com/guru-dev-lectures/

    As one comment there mentions, it would be a good companion to Paul Mason’s book (the first volume), given it’s a unique translation of the same 108 lectures. They are translated from a careful handwritten Hindi transcription of original wire recordings. (over 60 years ago)

    LB was a writer and commentator who’s observations and humor were not always warmly received by his targets. As another comment mentioned “LB, one of my favorite public nuisances.”

    I’m grateful his friends have been compiling and sharing his work at the above site. The book deserves publication.

  3. sabrina says:

    As I commented on another post, Guru Dev appeared in all his brilliance in my initial TM meditation in 1976, and it was a great blessing. I loved to meditate and went on to the TM Sidhis and continual unfolding all my life. All gratitude for him.

  4. Davidya says:

    Hi Sabrina
    While Guru Dev did not appear in my first mediation, it was nonetheless profound and returned me to the path. I recognized my connection with him a little later. As mentioned above, he has had a profound effect on my journey – both directly and through others. And I’ve seen this with many others also. Remarkable on so many levels.

    Thanks for sharing.
    I recently posted…The Means Destroy IgnoranceMy Profile

  5. Davidya says:

    In comments above, I mentioned the details of the source of this quote. It turns out the book was published a few months after this article was written. Not sure why this information was not added to the web site. It is a more polished version than the link above.

    It’s also published under a different title:
    The Sweet Teachings of the Blessed Sankaracarya Swami Brahmananda Saraswati

    It’s on Amazon. If the subject interests, this is the kind of book that’s printed in a single run so it’s useful to get a copy earlier rather than later. When it becomes rare, the price climbs. Theres already a seller offering an edition for 4x the price.

  6. Davidya says:

    It’s also useful to mention this comment on Amazon by Paul Mason, the author of another translation:

    I’m so glad that Cynthia Humes’ English translation of the Hindi book of 108 discourses of Shankaracharya Swami Brahamanand Saraswati is at last available to book readers. Cynthia prepared this translation many years ago, yet due to one thing and another it was put to one side. Now those interested in this teacher, sometimes known as Guru Dev, have an alternate translation to read. I understand that there have been four translations made, my own ‘108 Discourses’, which also includes the original Devanagari text, Cynthia Humes’, the translations L B Shriver commissioned and those hard-to-find translations by Mouni. Let’s hope that in the fullness of time, all four versions will sit side-by-side on the shelves of those who prize these teachings. Jai Guru Dev

    This is actually 3 – his own, the Shriver edition that LB commissioned and was translated by Humes we’re discussing here, and the Mouni one I’m not familiar with.

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