Monastic Interreligious Dialogue | An Interview with Swami Harshananda

13/01/2012 18:40

An Interview with Swami Harshananda
Swami Harshananda: Christians often invite me to speak. Some Christian nuns live near here. They wear the ochre sari. Mary Margaret Funk: Do you have a problem with Christians wearing the sanyasis robe? Swami Harshananda: Hinduism is a configuration of many cults. Vedas are the unifying authority. As long as there is no active proselytizing, we have no quarrel. We are happy when everyone follows their own internal conversion. We accept all. We have no barriers mentally. I give lectures. There are tears at my presentations on the Gita. I cry when I study deeply about Christ and how he gave himself up on the Cross. Christians and Hindus are in dialogue. Fr. Anthony from the local seminary is doing his Ph.D dissertation on Hinduism. Hinduism has suffered from historical problems. Many Indians, after their conversion to Christianity or Islam, follow an anti-national split. We currently have more problems with Moslems than with Christians. Fundamentalism allows for no dialogue. If Christian monastics wear the ochre robe to further Indianization —which is to join our culture, observe our values and harmonize —that’s ok. But if Christians feel superior, misappropriate and accept the reverence given by the Hindu people and cheat them and fool themselves, then that’s an appearance but not authentic. We are filled with indignation at fraudulent use of the Hindu customs. They must appreciate the cloth and wear the ochre reverently. In 1950 at my initiation I was taught three reasons for the ochre color: (1) orange is the color of fire that is life. At initiation this flame represents the life of a renunciate never to be extinguished. (2) Ochre is the color of the earth. It reminds me that all material things will pass away. Non-attachment is my path. (3) A special color is like a dog with a tag. This identifies to myself and others that I belong to a way of life with vows separating me from other ways of life. I live for God and not for the world. Twenty years ago nuns asked for some help to know the Gayatri Mantra because the last 405 generations were praying to the God of light. We had a common understanding about that universal mantra. Page 1 of 5

They should be free from indolence and raging passions. You need to study Yoga of Patanjali. Even in heaven or hell there is no past or http://monasticdialog. Render service to garlic). Mary Margaret Funk: I’m writing a book on the eight Classic Thoughts of John Cassian (food. Usually the youth of 12-25 years become restless in mind and body without strict discipline. Human birth is the most valuable time to realize God. We like to use the image of a lamp that is dirty or covered with soot. Do you have a similar list? Swami Harshananda: The eight Thoughts are the Steps of Yoga. (2) Study of Scriptures / devotion to God. We use the austerities of early rising. anger. You would know that they are ok by their calmness and harmony with all living beings. pure body. Secondly. or the full text Patanjali Yoga Sutras by Swami Pradhavananda published here (Ramakrishna Math. not accepting gifts (austerities). things. alcohol. onions. Bangalore-560019). celibacy. Repeat the Name of God. Swami Harshananda. i.Monastic Interreligious Dialogue | An Interview with Swami Harshananda 13/01/2012 18:40 The concepts of Redemption are also identical with the earliest Scriptures: Repent. There are prerequisites to meditation. not stealing—vow poverty. Forgiveness. We use manual labor to assist in the control of the sexual impulses. One should avoid harmful vibrations of another’s attitude.e. The Atman transcends the level of sex consciousness. The soul passes through many lifetimes both male and female. (l) speak truth. mind and speech. Avoid food that is contaminated by the bad character of the one who prepares or serves it. You must do yogas before practice of meditation. The first two are moral and ethical. Follow the rules for the unclean. sex. It can be cleansed to see God’s Presence which formerly we could not feel because of impurity. a brief survey by myself. In a ritual we celebrate that we are not the body. Sex consciousness is like a shirt—you put it on and take it off through spiritual practice. These two books are the sources for what you are asking. About things—Common sense prevails in our attitude about things. radishes. stabilize the mind and reach union with God. vain glory and pride). acedia. About sex—Brahmacharya—First you want the mind to move at the level of God. dejection. But to be specific: about food—Avoid those foods that are intrinsically harmful to the inner life (meat. we start with young boys in their studies with a strict code of life.php?id=616 Page 2 of 5 .

Monastic Interreligious Dialogue | An Interview with Swami Harshananda 13/01/2012 18:40 future.” I bow my head. For the serious seekers. so I logically need to refrain from anger. Say: “I can’t overcome this without your help. so will I reap. To renounce everything is a synasis. Say to yourself: “In a previous lifetime I made other people or things suffer. Take half. look at the poor. mind. things visible and desires of the heart that are invisible regarding visible things. To improve body. Humility attributes the good we see in ourselves to the Glory of God and the mistakes to Let me remedy a past mistake. Listen to sound teachings. We have that marvelous teaching about Karma. Please take it away. Never take what is offered. Never look at persons as lower than yourself. not himself. Prayer helps. The method to reduce and overcome dejection is to reduce desires and wants that make us “need-centered” or even “greed-centered. There are two causes of anger: (1) when deprived of something. Regarding the Three Renunciations—In the yogas you dedicate all to God. Passions and prejudices are obstacles in the spiritual journey. We must make the best of our time granted for spiritual pursuits. Root out greed. Take only what is given. Blame ourself and not God. Maintain the body in good condition. to draw the line. but keep at a distance. It helps to make efforts to prepare for good quality of my practices. You need to cultivate “no achievement” attitude. Use food to keep healthy. study the great saints. It’s the unseen hand that deals the cards about human efforts. or (2) when someone seems to have made me suffer. Know when to set boundaries. About dejection—We feel dejected when we feel our limitations. Humility is essential.php?id=616 Page 3 of 5 . but those who are more evolved and provide you with aspirations.. All previous past conhttp://monasticdialog. Be humble. About anger—Anger is attachment and desire. speech is our task during this lifetime. Vivekananda named the Ramakrishna Society after his Master. If you are looking at spiritual matters. Never ask. Let me reform. Anger is taking me away from the spiritual path. Sanyasis is to give up all for the sake of God-Realization. receive only enough gifts for your spiritual well-being. especially the renunciate. Monastics give up all attachment to things and only use whatever helps us go to God. We have a ritual fire that demonstrates that only with God is our life present. But know that many high saints have ended up in oblivion.” Replace anger with devotion.” Cultivate contentment..” Dejection is ego. As I sow. If you are thinking about worldly matters. Think of anger as an “Evil God. A householder sees everything with an attitude that all is from God.

images fall off. Thou and Thine.php?id=616 Page 4 of 5 . About vainglory and pride—Study the Bhagavad Gita ch. it might be a negative concept that makes one weak and perpetuates the attitude. If anything. but ultimately you are making progress. they would try to hide their greatness. never appear greater than you are.Monastic Interreligious Dialogue | An Interview with Swami Harshananda 13/01/2012 18:40 nections are disconnected. Monks can cheat. 2: 54-72 on the characteristics of the Perfect. Without any worry on the part of the individual. nor is the individual. You feel dejected compared to the highest level. It is like climbing a mountain —you go up and then come down for a Only the guru would know if I am qualified and ready to meditate. One practice I recommend for someone experiencing acedia is to keep company with holy people: Satsang. “Seeking” is not an accurate term either.” It doesn’t call the individual a sinner. The characteristics of humility are: no boasting. We would say that the person is “ignorant. This “down” feeling is a natural sequence for climbers. To empty the mind is not for the spiritually uninvolved. Pride is the absence of humility. Prayer in the life of an honest seeker will reveal God. Less of world and more of God. The interior practice of prayer helps the self-will to diminish.” “clean the lamp. One must prepare for meditation by following the thought system in the Scriptures. This has not been helpful to the monastic life over the years.” “wipe the mirror” are better images. A humble monk would never make any comments on their stage in the spiritual life. but look at the point of origin and take comfort that you have come a long way. We see many fraudulent monks go to the USA to get quick disciples. God reveals Himself. because God is not lost. Thoughts enter uninvited. “Uncovering the veil. Images will fall off. The vibrations will heal you. About acedia—We feel that everyone comes to the stage of acedia. Mary Margaret Funk: Can gurus read hearts today? http://monasticdialog. Regarding Pure Prayer—We are not able to realize God by self-effort. Regarding being a sinner—Hinduism speaks to the “lost. but they only cheat themselves and also society that counts on them to be monks.” If we think of being a sinner. Repeat the Name of God. only light remains. In both Buddhist and Hindu cultures manual labor has been removed from the monks so that they can perform spiritual austerities. With the cast system there is an incentive for a lower cast person to want to do the monk’s labor out of reverence.

com/a. The Hindu belief is that human energy is one. Mary Margaret Funk: Thank you for your time. Mary Margaret Funk: What is the motivation for celibacy? Swami Harshananda: All walks of life require celibacy.” The Swami (a friend of mine) went away and prayed.g. Mary Margaret Funk: Do you have a practice of “manifestation of thoughts”? Swami Harshananda: It is best to manifest thoughts to someone highly evolved. The disciple said: “You tell me. I’ve enjoyed this interview. We believe that celibacy is best imaged like a river that sometimes needs a dam to channel water toward one direction. He came back and gave him a mantra. e. Any pure heart and mind can get this insight. I will study the Patanjali and those chapters in the Bagavad Gita you suggested. a touch or a word. We channel energies —sublimate lower energies to a higher life. The parents can’t explain their faith that they learned by living in this culture but is not exported to their new environment. The disciple reported and showed great progress in the spiritual life. http://monasticdialog. Ordinary gurus can size up an individual and see how they are fit for the spiritual life. So an ordinary guru can pray and be quite effective in reading hearts.Monastic Interreligious Dialogue | An Interview with Swami Harshananda 13/01/2012 18:40 Swami Harshananda: An extraordinary SadGuru could read hearts and transmit by a glance. The spiritual path requires all manifestations of energies to be directed toward God Realization. Hinduism is not Poly-theism but has many internal paths with various forms. It seems that the wisdom stored in the Hindu tradition can be quite helpful to all of us. Their measure of perception is according to the purity of their life. Once a swami asked a disciple about his mantra.php?id=616 Page 5 of 5 . We don’t think much of whether it is male or female energies since we are probably both and have been both several times in a previous life. Basic training was in the home and is now lost. Swami Harshananda: Yes. this kind of writing is necessary for the second generation of Hindu immigrants that come to the USA. Bhakhti. But only manifest thoughts with someone on the same path.

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