Yatra to Tiruvannamalai - Discourse in the bus Nimisha Vahini Mahalakshmi on the way to Arunachala
“Why do we go on yatras or pilgrimages? A yatra is all about increasing your inner beauty. What is inner beauty? Whenever the mind is tranquil, serene, and peaceful or whenever we enjoy quietness, solitude, real joy and bliss, we say that there is inner beauty, beatitude and expansiveness. Many of us may be blessed with external beauty or handsomeness, but we can never hold on to it for long because it declines and disappears with age. Only inner beauty and beatitude lasts forever. It not only lasts, it actually increases with the passage of time. So, the most important thing for all of us to establish is inner beauty.
Any journey presupposes learning. Even an ordinary journey has so much to teach us – we gather a lot of new information, meet new people and see new places. On a spiritual journey, many inner secrets about how to lead our lives, bring out the peace within and enjoy inner joy are revealed to us. We sing bhajans with fervour and share whatever we know with each other. All the thoughts that were hitherto concealed inside are flushed out. Thus, the mind is purified and focused on Divinity. All this intensifies our devotion and dedication.
The Musical Saints of India who were the personification of devotion have sung – “O Lord, until You reveal Yourself within me, how can I realise who I am? Until You enthrone Yourself in my mind, how can I stop it from jumping around like a monkey?...” The mind will certainly continue to jump around like a monkey until we realise our true identity. A monkey leaps from branch to branch and tree to tree gathering fruits to eat. It also secretes the surplus fruits between its jaw and cheek and stores them there. When it comes to spirituality, we too behave in a similar manner. Most of us are half baked. We are neither completely knowledgeable, nor are we totally ignorant. Like the monkey which neither swallows the fruits nor spits them out, we accumulate some spiritual knowledge and let it remain idle inside without bothering to put it into practice.
Today, two qualities are preventing all of us from understanding who we are and enjoying constant peace and bliss. They are ‘Vikara’ or crooked thinking and ‘Vikalpa’ or negative resolutions. Vikara is not necessarily bad or evil thinking. It is the devious thinking of the mind that has de-linked itself from the Self. When we disconnect ourselves from the Self, we have no faith in ourselves or trust in others. So, we give birth to two qualities called doubt and suspicion which in turn generate millions of assumptions and presumptions about people and situations. This forms the basis of ‘Vikara’ or crooked thinking. However, the scriptures tell us that when we go on a yatra, all our doubts and suspicions drop away. So, our conflicts, assumptions and presumptions are also removed. The devotees who undertake a pilgrimage do experience this in varying degrees. Some are instantaneously transformed by just one yatra, while others require many yatras. There may even be some who do not undergo any transformation in spite of going on innumerable yatras or pilgrimages. Why is there so much difference in the rate of transformation?
‘Vikalpa’ or wrong resolution is responsible for this. When we undertake a new enterprise or begin some new sadhana, we stand before God in the temple and make a strong resolve or ‘Sankalpa’ saying – “O Lord, through Your Grace let me be successful in completing this task/sadhana. May it be accomplished smoothly and swiftly without any hurdles or hindrances.” This strong resolution activates our will power and also makes us receptive to God’s Grace, and therefore everything is completed smoothly. ‘Vikalpa’ is the very opposite of ‘Sankalpa’. It is the feeling that nothing good will ever happen to us. There are many who say – “I have suffered all my life. No matter what I undertake, it always misfires or fails. That is my fate and there is nothing that I can do about it. Nothing can transform me or my life.” This is a strong ‘Vikalpa’. If we have such ‘Vikalpas’ in us, it will take much longer for us to be transformed because we are already assuming and presuming that we will never improve. If somebody tries to convince such people to the contrary, they argue – “You say that God’s Grace is all powerful. I do not believe this because I have not experienced it. Let God give me some experience and I will believe it…” They want God to prove, before they make up their minds to improve!
If we have fewer ‘Vikalpas’ in us, we go very quickly to the ‘Sankalpa’ mode and make rapid progress on the spiritual path. To help us make this transition quickly, the Sages and Saints emphasised – “Whatever your life may have been like till now, whatever kind of person you are, however much suffering you have undergone…remember you are still pure ‘Chetana’ or Consciousness. From this day, you are a new person and a new life begins for you…You will be completely transformed.” This is the kind of faith with which we must undertake any yatra.
Faith is the key to transformation. Faith takes us to God while ‘Vikara’ and ‘Vikalpa’ push us mercilessly into the hands of Fate or ‘Vidhi’. Faith and dedication propel us towards ‘Nidhi’ or the inner treasure of peace and bliss. By connecting us to our inner core, faith, devotion and surrender silence all wrong patterns of thinking. As much as we empty our minds of such thoughts and offer them to God, to that extent God’s Chaitanya or Energy is reflected inside us. The greater our Chaitanya, the greater is the confidence we have in ourselves. The greater our level of confidence, the greater is the peace we enjoy. This is what all of us must understand.
The wonderful thing about yatras is that they make way for many divine qualities to be established in us. We get the determination and grit that we must experience constant peace and happiness. When we go on a yatra with this awareness, with this purpose, we will get more Grace. If we go merely as spiritual tourists, we will certainly get some Grace, but it will not flow to us constantly. It will not consecrate these divine qualities within us. Our primary purpose of going on a yatra is not to get rid of our troubles and problems, but to remove ‘Vikara’ and establish the ‘Akara’ or divine form of God in ourselves. God says – “My child, I am present in you as all these divine qualities. Recognise Me and establish Me permanently in your mind.” All of us are on this yatra because we want to understand who we are. We have suffered enough in life by identifying ourselves with all the wrong things in life. Now, we are going to remove all kinds of negativity and realise our true identity. With this conviction and faith throbbing in our hearts, with this peace and joy overflowing from within, we will go to the holy beacon Arunachala.
Jai Matha. Hari Om Tat Sat.