The Mahaprasad or ‘the Great Favour’ II
SREE SAJJANA-TOSHANI OR THE HARMONIST APRIL 1929
The awakened soul says in effect to the mind and body, ‘I am not identical with you. I do not want what you require. I have so long believed that I was identical with yourselves and that our interests were the same. But I now find that I am really and categorically different from you. I am made wholly of the principle of self-consciousness while both of you are made of dead matter. Being matter you can act and be acted upon by matter under the laws of Nature.
Nature makes and unmakes you but she has no power over me. I am not benefited by your growth or harmed by your decay. You grow and decay by the laws that govern your relationships with this physical universe. Falsely identifying myself with you I find myself compelled to suffer pain and pleasure due to physical vicissitudes that overtake you. I find myself unnaturally yoked to your functions such as eating, drinking, producing thought etc. etc and am forced to believe them to be my own functions by which I am benefited. I shall have of course to stay with you as long as it is intended by providence that I should and suffer the consequences of this unnatural alliance with you. But I shall from this time do nothing to please you. I shall permit you to do only what I consider to be necessary for my well being viz. getting back into my natural position of free conscious existence unhampered by the unnatural domination by longing for material enjoyment. I refuse to be any more a slave of the sensuous inclinations of the mind and body.’
This awakening is the result of unconscious association with liberated souls who are always coming down into this world to help us out of the fetters of worldliness. The awakened soul is now in a position to listen consciously to the voice of the Absolute Truth which is ever knocking at the closed portals of our offending ears for admission. It now believes in the tidings of the spiritual Scriptures and also in the necessity of understanding and adopting in life the teachings of the Scripture. As soon as this disposition is sincere the necessity of seeking the help of a proper spiritual preceptor is really felt. It begins to distinguish between a liberated and bound soul. It also realises clearly that it can be helped only by the former. It is the inevitable characteristic of the bound soul to deceive itself and others. The bound soul can never understand nor is ever willing to recognise its utter incompetence to grasp the real meaning of the spiritual truths recorded in the Shastras because they are under the domination of the mind and body which being things of this world are naturally unfit to understand the nature of spiritual communications. But awakened souls have no other function than helping the bound jiva to regain its spiritual consciousness. The co-operation of the bound jiva is necessary for this recovery of its lost consciousness. As long as the bound jiva retains any liking for things of this world it is unwilling to believe the words of the sadhu or the real meaning of the spiritual scriptures. The sadhus and the shastras tell us that we have really nothing to do with the things of this world but much to do with the things of another world which is categorically different from this, that it is possible for us to enter upon our proper function even in this life, that the method by which this deliverance from the thraldom of our present false temporary existence can be obtained is recorded in the shastras but in order to be able to really understand the message of the holy scriptures it is necessary to listen to its exposition from the lips of a sadhu who alone possesses a real knowledge of it.
If we are thus convinced of the necessity of consulting a real sadhu we should be able to find him out and he will explain to us the mode of life recommended by the shastras, which should lead in this world, for the benefit of our souls. The sadhu is a transcendental person whose life is wholly regulated by the scriptures. The Absolute Truth is never partial or less than complete. The awakened soul of the sadhu is necessarily and completely free from all touch of untruth or half truth. The life recommended by the scriptures is the life that is led by the sadhu. It is not possible for worldly people to understand unassisted the nature of spiritual living because it is categorically different from the life led by themselves. This difference between the two is not confined to this or that isolated aspect. It is to be found in every single detail of conduct. The change from worldly to spiritual life is not of the nature of reform but is truly a complete revolution.
If we now return to the question ‘Is the soul benefited by eating?’ we find that the holy Scriptures give a definite reply. They forbid us to eat. They tell us that we must do nothing but serve the spiritual. By eating any kind of food which is a material substance only the mind and body are benefited and not the soul. By giving up eating body and mind suffer death which, however, has no jurisdiction over the soul. The body and mind, in as much as they happen to be material, cannot serve the spiritual. They stand in the way and prevent our soul from serving its transcendental Lord. If we allow our body and mind to die of starvation such process also does not benefit the soul because the body and mind is immediately renewed in some other form. The proper use of our body and mind would be their employment in the service of God if that were possible. The shastras say that this is possible if we place our bodies wholly at the disposal of the sadhus or in other words agree to a complete change of our present mode of life. It means a revolutionary change. We must actually give up all connection with this world already formed by the mind and body and dedicate them entirely for the service of the Lord which is to be learnt at the feet of the sadhu who possesses the identical kind of life. If we are sincerely prepared by body, mind and speech to forego all mundane ambitions and to serve nothing but the Absolute Truth for Its own sake the Lord Himself who is the Absolute Truth is pleased to accept our body and mind offered for such purpose, and by His acceptance makes them fit for spiritual service. The change is understood dimly at first by the person himself. The sadhus are privileged to notice it but the change is not really intelligible to bound jivas. To the view of sinful persons the activities of the mind and body thus spiritualised appear to be as much material as those of the material body and mind without being really so.
The person who is liberated from the bondage of the world continues to perform the ordinary natural functions of the body and mind apparently in the same way as one who is in the bound state. He also appears to eat and drink, sleep and die like ordinary worldly people. The process of eating of such a person is thus described in the Shastras. A person whose body and mind have been accepted by the Lord is privileged to approach the Lord and offer Him food and drink. The Lord is pleased to accept the food offered by such a person. By the acceptance of the Lord the food is spiritualised in the same way as the body and mind are spiritualised by their dedication to the Lord. This dedication of all food to the Lord is in the case of such a person truly an act of renunciation of all material food. The food that is accepted by the Lord is spiritualised and is changed into mahaprasad or ‘the great blessing’. The sadhu accepts the mahaprasad not for the purpose of appeasing hunger or for the acquisition of bodily or mental health and strength or for any other worldly purpose but with the object of being enabled thereby to avoid the traps laid for him during his sojourn into this world by sensuous temptations of all kinds including that of eating and obtain by thus honouring the mahaprasad the inclination for the spiritual service of the Lord. Honouring the mahaprasad is thus different from eating although to the uninitiated the two may appear to be identical. The external form appears to remain the same although the real nature of the activity is radically changed. The result is that whereas by eating the sensuous inclination is strengthened, by honouring the mahaprasad gluttony and its attendant vices are radically cured.
Mahaprasad literally means ‘the great favour’. The benefit to the soul that results by honouring the mahaprasad is also open to the bound jiva. The Lord does not accept food offered by the bound jiva. But if the bound jiva honours mahaprasad his soul is benefited in the way already described. The food that has been offered by the sadhus to the Lord is categorically different from ordinary food. To take ordinary food is harmful for the soul. By honouring mahaprasad not only is the soul saved from the bad effect of eating but is positively benefited by obtaining the inclination for spiritual service. The shastras, therefore, tell us to give up eating and honour the mahaprasad. ‘If the palate is conquered every other sense is conquered.’ We can never be freed from the attraction of sensuous temptations until we give up eating altogether and learn to honour the mahaprasad. By honouring the mahaprasad our sensuousness is diminished and ultimately disappears altogether and it is only then that we are enabled to understand the real meaning of the shastras.
The sadhu helps the fallen jiva to regain his natural state of freedom from sin and constant service of the Lord by bringing about descent of the transcendental sound in the form of words uttered by his lips and the mahaprasad in the shape of food that is offered by him to the Lord. The sound uttered by the sadhu and the mahaprasad are not things of this world. They are not identical with ordinary sound or ordinary food which are only means for the gratification of our sensuous inclinations and appetites. The Word of God and mahaprasad cannot be enjoyed or in other words cannot be used for the gratification of the senses, because they are spiritual. Those who enjoy the kirtan or any spiritual discourse or eat the mahaprasad for appeasing hunger or gratification of the palate are guilty of sacrilegious acts which serve only to prolong the state of sin and ignorance of the greatest possible calamity that can befall the human soul.