“When there is only ONE why are there so many different religions in the world? What have you to say about those who insist that only one religion is the right one?”
Ma: Because He is infinite, there is an infinite variety of conceptions of Him, an infinite variety of paths to Him. He is everything, every kind of belief and also the disbelief of the atheist. The belief in non-belief is also a belief. It implies that you admit belief when you disbelieve. He is in all forms and in the formless.
“From what you have said I gather that you consider the formless (Nirguna) to be nearer to Truth than God with form (Saguna)?”
Ma: Is ice anything but water? Saguna is as much He as Nirguna. To say that there is only One Atma and all forms are illusion would imply that the formless was nearer to Truth than form. But I say every form and also the formless are He and He alone.
“What is the purpose and the fruit of puja and japa?”
Ma: For puja particular asanas, mudras and bija-mantras are used according to the particular aspect of the Godhead that one worships. One has to ‘engage’ in [the outer ritual of] puja, so that real puja may come about. Just as one takes sanyasa (outwardly), in order that real inner sanyasa may come. What now is real puja? To give oneself entirely to the object of one’s worship. Then the proper asanas and mudras come about spontaneously. The object of the puja is the darshan of Him whom one worships. When one’s dedication becomes complete, then He reveals Himself. To find Him means to find one’s Self and to find one’s Self means to find Him. It is said that the worshipper has to become one with he object of his worship in order to be able to perform real puja. So the object and fruit of puja is that the one who worships and He who is worshipped become one. The purpose of japa is the revelation of the essence of Him whose name one repeats, then the japa has been fruitful. The object of engaging in the japa of Rama is the revelation of what Rama is in reality. The same holds true for every mantra, be it of Krishna, Shiva etc.
“You said: ‘Seek God for His own sake’. But if one seeks Him with selfishness, will he also attain to Him?”
Ma: Of course, if you seek God —with whatever motive— you will get something of Him, and if you pray for anything of this world you will also get it. But these things are not worth asking for. One should not seek God with any motive, but only for His own sake. Seek God because it is your nature to do so, because you cannot remain without Him. Whether and when He reveals Himself to you is His affair. Yours is to call out to Him constantly, not to waste your energy on anything else.
It is not right to compare and reason saying: “Such and such a person has done sadhana for so many years and yet has not got anywhere”. How can you judge what is happening to anyone inwardly? Sometimes it seems that a person who does sadhana seems to have changed for the worse. But how do you know that this tendency has not always been in him and has now come out so that it may be dealt with and purified as a result of his endeavours? To say: “I have done so much sadhana but have not been transformed”, is also the wrong attitude. Yours is only to seek God and call out to Him unceasingly and not look to the result of what you are doing.
It is well to remember that whatever one enjoys of worldly happiness, be it good food or whatever else, uses up that merit (punya) that one has accumulated. Therefore it is good to think always of God and to enjoy whatever comes as coming from Him. One should also remember that whatever suffering one has to go through expiates one’s sins and evil deeds.
It is difficult for the householder to always find time to sit down for his prayers. It is also difficult to always cultivate the company of saints or to attend religious meetings. But it is easy and always possible to keep company with God in the shape of His name or the mantra received from the Guru. One cannot always have an image or picture of a deity in front of one’s eyes, but the vigraha of God as akshara [the indestructible Divine sound inherent in the mantra] can be one’s constant companion under all circumstances.
If you desire the things of this world you will be unhappy, and if you advance towards God you will be happy. This is how He teaches you to come to Him. If you had no troubles, you would not think of Him. But you desire all kinds of things and so you are unhappy.
There is a story about a donkey that is an apt illustration of just how things are in this world. A dhobi [laundryman] kept a few donkeys to carry the clothes he collected for washing. Since he was poor, his house was too small to hold the donkeys and he left them outside during the night. He also could not afford enough rope to tie them all up. The donkeys would often run away and the dhobi had to spend hours trying to find them. So he thought of a clever solution. He simply touched a short piece of rope to their legs, and they, thinking they had been tied, remained standing in the same place all night. Exactly the same happens in the world. Maya touches you and you imagine you are bound. You think: how can I do without my children, my husband, my wife my parents, etc, and so you remain where you are and do not advance towards Him.
“How can one think of Him if one does not know who he is?”
Ma: Sometimes you may want to buy something that you have not actually seen but only heard about and of which you have some idea, You think of it and then go to the bazaar and look for it until you finally find it. Here you are on the level of belief and acceptance of what you have been told. In fact there is nothing but God. But as you accept the authority of the Guru therefore meditate on Him according to the Guru’s instructions, even though you do not know who or what He really is. Carry out the Guru’s orders. The mantra is the seed. When you have the seed, you potentially have the whole tree. You have only to bury the seed in the earth and tend it. The tree will grow of itself. When you have found a Guru and received His instructions, you have potentially found everything; just as the seed is potentially the tree. … The seed is laid by the Guru; but when the earth is not properly prepared the tree won’t grow. An ordinary seed dies if it is not tended, whereas the seed that the Guru sows is immortal. But the earth has to be dug up and made soft, then the stones have to be removed and it has to be ploughed etc. When the seed is not watered, it cannot develop. The regular practice according to the Guru’s instruction provides the nourishment.
From: Death Must Die. Based on the Diaries of Atmananda, by Ram Alexander