By Pravrajika Virajaprana
Pravrajika Virajaprana is a nun of the Vedanta Society of Northern California, San Francisco, USA. This essay was originally published in the Vedanta Kesari. With this essay we conclude our one-year’s observance of Sri Sarada Devi’s 150th birthday celebration.
I tell you one thing:
If you want peace, do not find fault with others.
Rather learn to see your own faults.
Learn to make the world your own.
No one is a stranger, my child;
The whole world is your own.
—Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi.
During these turbulent times, we need assurance, support, and security. Above all we want peace—peace in our personal lives and peace with our fellow beings. Holy Mother, being none other than Sri Jagaddhatri, the support and nurse of the universe, has given us a potent prescription for finding peace: “I tell you one thing, if you want peace, do not find fault with others. Rather learn to see your own faults. Learn to make the world your own. No one is a stranger, my child; the whole world is your own.” This was Mother’s last message to a woman devotee and through that devotee to all of us. This message contains the whole of Vedanta philosophy—universalism, oneness of all beings, global outlook, all-embracing compassion, and practical advice for its realization, service, the worship of God in humanity. This is the way Mother lived throughout her life. Let’s look at Mother’s prescription closely.
“If you want peace”—well, we all want peace or so we claim. But are we ready to pay the price for peace? What is the significance of the preposition “if”? The word “if” implies there may be a doubt whether we really want it. We should sincerely ask ourselves, before we complain that we don’t have it, if we really want peace of mind, if we are earnest in our determination to achieve this peace.
Spiritual peace requires self-sacrifice. In The Imitation of Christ, Thomas à Kempis has remarked, “All men desire peace, but very few desire those things that make for peace.” Sri Ramakrishna used to say that two things were necessary to find God: yearning and sincerity. This statement seems like an oversimplification; it is so straightforward. Yet Sri Ramakrishna said, “People shed bucketfuls of tears for their near and dear ones, but how many cry for God?” It’s not that easy to have real yearning. But if we really want lasting peace, which means discovering our divinity within, and are determined in our resolve, Mother advised us not to see the faults of others.
This is a very pragmatic yet comprehensive part of Mother’s prescription. The natural tendency of the mind is to externalize itself. Swami Turiyananda said that we always see others’ sushupti, deep sleep, never our own. Mother wisely said, “The mind is everything: it is in the mind alone that one feels pure and impure. A man, first of all, must make his own mind guilty and then alone he can see another man’s guilt. Does anything ever happen if you enumerate his faults? It only injures you.”
Mother had deep insight into the complexities of the human mind. That is why she encouraged those wanting lasting peace to strive for it from the inside out. According to Mother, the source of any trouble or problem in our lives, uncomfortable as it may be to accept, is within us. Our emotional responses are not reflecting the truth, but merely our reactions to what is happening to us or around us. If we want peace, there is no power on earth that can make us peaceless. Mother said: “Everything depends on one’s mind. Nothing can be achieved without purity of mind. There is evil in your mind. That is why you can’t find peace. He who has a pure mind sees everything pure.”
Mother taught us not so much through words as through her example. Not finding fault with others was deeply ingrained in her character. When she says that faultfinding is the obstruction to peace, she strikes at the root of peacelessness. Not seeing the faults of others doesn’t mean not recognizing the limitations of others; we all have shortcomings. What Mother meant was not evaluating the person on that basis; instead we should try to see the divine within the person.
Mother compassionately told a disciple, “To err is human. One must not take that into account. It is harmful for oneself. One gets into the habit of finding fault. . . . Do not look for faults in others, or your own eyes will become faulty.” Again she warned us, “Don’t hurt others’ feelings. By indulging in rude words one’s nature becomes rude. One’s sensitivity is lost if one has no control over one’s speech. And once a man casts all consideration for others to the winds, he stops at nothing.” Mother is cautioning us not to allow negative thoughts to gain entry into our minds. She once remarked, “I cannot see anybody’s faults. If a man does a trifle for me, I try to remember him even for that. To see the faults of others! One should never do it. I never do so. Forgiveness is tapasyâ.”
Mother had a delicate knack of dealing with erring humanity. She deeply felt for others and sympathized with them in their difficulties. Further Mother was a realist. She knew that there was no ideal situation in life—within the family (her crazy family was a handful), in work or human relationships. There is always a hitch somewhere. Perfection cannot be found in this world. Since we can’t change people or circumstances, we have to change ourselves, our attitude of how we look at things. This is the way to peace. Seeing defects in everything and everyone around us doesn’t change anything. If we soak our mind in the dye of others’ faults, it becomes stained. Instead, if we look for others’ good qualities, we will become virtuous.
In dealing with difficult, recalcitrant people Mother responded with love and compassion. She was always generous and non-judging. Because she respected others and treated them with dignity, she was able to bring out their honourable qualities. A striking example is Mother’s interaction with Amzad, a thief, who took refuge in Mother, doing many small jobs and errands for her. Mother has shown us, if we cultivate noble tendencies and ignore others’ irritating negative qualities, peace of mind will come. Further Mother saw the divine in others, her every action was servic e to God in man; it was worship. She was unmindful of wayward or disreputable qualities in others because she saw the real person, the divine, beneath the qualities. This prompted her to say, “Amzad is as much my son as Sharat [Swami Saradananda] is.”
There are countless incidents in Mother’s life when in spite of rude, outrageous behavior she patiently did whatever was needed for the other person’s good. She never condemned others or heeded others’ criticism or gossip. No matter how much she was inconvenienced or insulted, she never took it personally; she always excused or overlooked reprehensible behavior. At the same time she didn’t condone immoral or unethical actions, but she had her own way of changing the tendencies of the person. She remarked to someone: “Suppose one of my children has smeared himself with dirt. It is I, and no one else, who shall have to wash him clean and take him in my arms. To make mistakes is man’s very nature; but few of those who criticize know how to correct them.”
Once when some people of questionable character brought some fruit for offering, members of her household objected. Mother scolded, “I know who is good and who is bad.” Again she would say, “I am the mother of the wicked, as I am the mother of the virtuous.” Mother always magnified good qualities, even if slight. She never made people feel small. On the contrary all felt elevated and full of worth as her child. It was as if Mother lived in a world made up entirely of her own children.
Next, Mother says, “Don’t find fault with others. Rather learn to see your own faults.” This introspection is essential according to Mother to assess where we stand. Though we all have shortcomings, Mother wanted us to emphasize our divinity. As children of God we are perfect, but as seekers we have our limitations and acknowledging those limitations makes us humble, which in turn enables us to overcome them. But more importantly through the practice of introspection, we will find our deeper connection with God. Turning within doesn’t mean shutting out people or neglecting our duties or family. On the contrary it brings complete involvement with and dedication to people and work because we recognize that all belong to God. In this way our heart can expand with selfless love; we become less inclined to see the faults of others because our focus is on God within the person. Mother’s life is a perfect illustration of this.
Mother continues, “Learn to make the whole world your own.” This part of her prescription has a deep relevance in today’s world. If we truly want to have peace on earth, we have to have peace among the peoples of the world, and, of course, before having peace with others, we have to be peaceful within ourselves. Now more than ever compassion, sympathetic understanding, and acceptance are needed.
All of us want to feel validated as human beings; we want to feel that we have some worth, some purpose. Mother advised us to feel for others, to identify with them, extending the rights and privileges that we expect for ourselves. She implores us, “Learn to make,” which implies effort; we have to work at it. Making the whole world our own is based on the oneness of all beings. But this truth is not readily apparent to us now. We have to assert the truth, to be willing to take chances, make mistakes, and try again. If the world is our own, then we are intimately connected with all beings in an all-embracing universal brotherhood, which brings mutual love, respect, and harmony.
By saying “no one is a stranger,” Mother has removed all the artificiality that separates us. She ispointing out the underlying unity behind the apparent diversity; the other person is not separate from me. Fear, suspicion, hatred, exclusiveness, revenge arise in us from the selfish idea of being separate from others. The Upanishads say, “When there is perception of another, there is fear.” Duality always brings fear, but when everyone is your own, where is fear, whom to fear, when you feel the interconnectedness as Mother has shown us.
She didn’t talk or philosophize; what she was transparently shone in her daily life. In these beautifully simple words, “No one is a stranger,” we find a broad and all-encompassing outlook on human relationships, if we desire to live a truly peaceful and harmonious life. When some of the women in her household rejected British cloth, she retorted, “They are my children too. Can I afford to be partial?”
So in divine love as Mother embodied, where there is no stranger, insecurity and fear of others cease. Further, there is no favoritism or special personal attachment for anyone. This is one of the most touching and elevating aspects of Mother’s character, her all-inclusive love. Everyone who came to her felt full to the brim. Her love was boundless, without borders or conditions. Unlike us, her love for one person was not diminished by her affection for another. Forgetfulness of self and loving and caring for others bring the greatest peace.
Being rooted in the Self as Mother was, she loved and comforted everyone without the slightest distinction of caste, religion, country, or any other consideration. Streams of people came to her—educated, uneducated, wise, foolish, wicked, good, saintly, worldly, men, women, children, and some with serious problems or concerns. Whoever came to her was her child. Mother had a wonderful way of just accepting a person for what she or he was and then lifting the person up. This is how she could transform people. Her unquestioning acceptance brought out the best. Her heart was open to all, even to the most depraved; whatever the consequences, she took them willingly as Mother.
Once she said, “There is no sin left undone by some of those who come to me, but the moment they address me as ‘Mother’ I forget everything else and give them perhaps more than they deserve. Yet, who else will carry their burdens and bear their afflictions?” Seeing the divine in all, her love and respect extended to animals, birds, and insects as well—even to inanimate objects. Mother always gave each one its due, be it the household broom, the ashrama cat or cow.
This is how we learn to make the whole world our own, psychologically and spiritually. When we follow Mother’s prescription for peace, our loving concern for others that initially we have to cultivate will naturally express itself through our relationships with them. She concludes the prescription, “No one is a stranger, my child; the whole world is your own.” Mother reiterates and emphasizes the final assertion: “the whole world is your own.” Mother’s prescription is the essence of Advaita Vedanta, non-duality. In recognizing others as our own, we are asserting this truth. When this truth is actualized in our life it brings supreme peace.
Mother has demonstrated how living in the world, we can rise above it and enjoy inner peace in the midst of life’s turmoil and worry, by lifting our consciousness to a higher level through our spiritual practices, especially through japam, repetition of the Lord’s name, and prayer—in particular, prayer for others. Sending positive thoughts of love, peace and goodwill benefits not only others, but oneself as well.
She said, “If you want peace now, in this life, practice the spiritual disciplines prescribed.” Her prescription for peace eloquently sums up not only her own life of silent loving service, but also how she wanted us to live. Through her infinite grace Mother has given us this message so thatwe may find peace for ourselves and for others.