A Lesson from Nature
The following is a talk given by Shri Anandi Ma at her birthday celebration on October 13th of this year.
Note: The video of this talk may still be available for viewing here.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Through whom this entire universe, in both animate and inanimate aspects, is spread everywhere, to such a guru who is very gentle, who is very peaceful and calm, to that guru I bow down.
Over the past few weeks, whenever I did my spiritual practices I would have intense thoughts of an octopus. This seemed extremely strange; of all the things, why would an octopus come up in memory? So I began to ponder this experience and came up with the feeling that the octopus is part and parcel of God’s infinite creation and there was some reason behind this thought process. I decided to research through the churning of the mind what this was all about. I wanted to find out more about this octopus business.
We all know that the octopus has eight limbs or arms, known as the tentacles, and we can visualize how many objects it can hold simultaneously. What other being can do this? The human mind has not only eight but a thousand and eight such arms and legs and, through the mind and the senses, we extend ourselves and hold onto many aspects in creation. God’s energy, known as maya or illusion, is manifested, but it is the human mind and the senses that attach in a very strong way, with a very strong grip.
The octopus has other quite interesting and very valuable teaching properties. First of all, amongst all the invertebrates it is classified among the most intelligent.
All scriptures state that the most significant aspect of God’s creation is the human being, the human body thereby being the most important. It is only through the human body that it is possible for the soul to practice sadhana, any spiritual practice; therefore it is the only door to liberation from this infinite cycle of life and death that allows the individual to merge with the cosmic. The goal is to uplift the positive aspects of the mind, to be intelligent in the true sense of the word and pursue that absolute goal of meeting one’s Creator again.
Another property of the octopus is that, as an invertebrate, it can easily squeeze itself into very small crevices, nooks and corners. So naturally when it is in danger, it uses this ability to escape from its enemies and hide. When we look at it in a spiritual or a cosmic sense, it is similar to the aspect of creation where even though God’s truth is hidden within His creation, the mind has no boundaries and can go to any tiny nook, crevice, and corner. The Lord and His presence is everywhere through His energy manifesting in creation, but it is very subtle which is why we fail to see it. When we look at wood, we don’t see the fire; something needs to be done, a process needs to unfold to bring the fire out. Similarly, the human needs to put effort into reaching the truth, which is hiding in those nooks and crevices.
The physical property of camouflage lets the octopus hide itself so that its enemies are not able to see it easily. It can match its body to that of the background to appear to be a rock or whatever else is nearby, so that it is missed. So for the enemy the truth appears to be false and quite contrary, and the false appears to be the truth. At the cosmic level, when you analyze this property, you can see what God has created, but He Himself is camouflaged within His creation. We have to be very careful and identify wherever He is hiding.
If for whatever reason the first two defense mechanisms fail, if it cannot find something to hide in or if camouflage is not possible, the octopus has still one more ability−it releases a very dark, black ink so that it is no longer easily visible to the enemy and can escape very quickly. It can move away by jet propulsion at a tremendous speed. It is also one of God’s tricks in creation in that maya, or His illusive forces and energy, keeps us from seeing our true selves or the presence of God. Oftentimes, when we get close maya releases an ink, so to say, and something happens to the mind and we move away from the truth again rather than coming closer. That game of hide and seek may happen a lot in the spiritual path, but one must be determined and continue aggressively until He is caught. Through spiritual practice, you need to attain that grace of God and guru, whereby even if that ink is there, you’re still able to see through to reality and reach it without having your vision blocked by any obstacle the mind projects.
God’s energy, even maya or illusion, is still God’s energy. When the energy within the human body is not activated, it is facing downwards and the individual consciousness is at the worldly, lower level trapped in aspects of fear, hatred, lust, greed, revenge, jealousy and so forth. The ego is the key factor in the spiritual sense. When those aspects are dominant, it’s as if the person is trapped in a spider’s web, unable to get out and that energy binds the soul in that cycle of life and death.
When God’s energy remains untapped, it is binding—that is maya. But when one becomes aware and active, that same illusive energy takes us toward the truth, the experience and the union.
By the grace of God and guru we have been given tools so that these aspects of maya cannot keep us bound. Shaktipat is the most important gift that has been given, along with the Ram mantra, meditation and other further practices such as the Hanuman Chalisa, Rama Raksa Stotram, and other practices. With daily sadhana, as the kundalini rises higher and higher and the limitations of the past are burned away, there is no way that maya can keep you bound or restricted. There will be worldly attractions, but you will be protected by that very energy, and as long as you exercise strong will and determination you can swing the other way.
One incident from the Ramayan comes to memory.
Lord Ram was in the forest and his brother, Bharatji, came and asked him to return home to Ayodhya, saying he would take his place in the forest. As Bharatji was persuading the Lord to return, the other deities were watching and they were very concerned and scared because Bharat’s love was so intense, so powerful that they felt it could change the mind and heart of Ram, and if that happened, Ram’s entire purpose in taking that body, that incarnation would not be fulfilled. So they went to the mother of learning and wisdom and said, “Mother, you are the only one who can intervene in Ram’s heart and mind and change his attitude.” But she was unable to influence that change because the devotion of Bharatji was so intense; through each and every pore of his being, the energy of love and surrender was so profound, that even she could not penetrate that barrier. Instead of being successful in what she was hoping to achieve, she bowed down to that level of faith and devotion and offered her pranams to Bharatji, and left.
So if one is surrendered to God and guru, then nothing is impossible. Through the grace of the guru, God’s energy, dissolved in the aspects of creation and that essential truth, need to be experienced and held onto. Every false attachment needs to be discarded. Through discrimination, adhere only to the absolute truth.
It is my prayer and wish for you today to put forth your efforts. Of course, the grace is always present, but through all the tentacles of the mind and the senses may you let go of the false, let go of all the illusive factors of creation and use all the arms you have, whatever the number that may be, eight or a thousand and eight or ten million and eight, but grab the feet of the Lord, grab the feet of the guru strongly with the tentacles of your mind, and reach the goal. May attachment to the truth lead you to that union and may you experience the truth and attain, as Guruji wished and willed, His sankalpa, the welfare of your true being, your soul. May you have only one attachment—to reach God.
Sarve bhavantu sukhinah
Sarve santu niramayah
Sarve bhadrani pasyantu
Ma kascid dukhabhag bhavet
Ma kascid dukhabhag bhavet
Om shantih shantih shantih
Shri Ramachandra Bhagavan ki jai!