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 lose 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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