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Questions by readers- Answers by The Mother! These answers are in no way definitive; nor do they make any claims to authenticity. These are supposed to answer the seeking. The insights contained in these answers issue from patrons of The Mother, among who are saints, holy men, scholars and advanced seekers. To submit a question, send email to not feel disappointed if The Mother does not publish the answer to your questions. The Editorial Board will choose questions to be published in The Mother depending upon its significance and service to the spiritual seekers at large. However, we will strive to answer most queries and personally communicate the answers to those who put forth genuine queries. Editor.

Kinkar Vithal Ramanuja


What is Grace (Kripa)? Can Grace be gained by effort?
Grace is like rain. It’s something that comes from above.It descends like rain and it’s always there.Yes, Grace is always there. But we are not always ready.Our effort lies in tilling the field and keeping it ready. All it needs is rain.If the field is not kept ready...then the rain of Grace is wasted.You may ask: I have put in efforts, but there’s no grace in view? Well, it’s there, it is coming, you will have to wait.It is well worth heeding Shirdi Sai Baba’s mantra in this regard: SABURI (patience).Grace is there, we have to be patient to see it.

How does one recognise a true Guru?
Only a true disciple can recognize a true Guru.There are some distinctive traits however. The Guru is a person on seeing whom one always becomes happy.He is always happy.True Guru does not criticize anyone.He does not hurt anyone, does not retaliate even if he is deliberately hurt.He is ever rapt in activities that are beneficial to the world, he has no idle moment.And there are many more characteristics which a true disciple can see.

Why is Japa on the fingers (kara-maalaa) preferred?
Japa on the fingers is preferred because the ancient rishis discovered that different phalanges of the fingers are high energy centres which get activated upon pressing (with the tip of the thumb) during the course of Japa. These in turn send currents to the whole matrix of kundalini energy coursing through the chakras. Just like one switch board with many buttons is a control panel which can operate many electrical devices like fans, lights fridge, microwave etc in different locations, human palm serves as an activator of a panel for spiritual energy.

Why is doing prayer on the asana recommended?
Asana has the power of the Guru invested in it. This piece of woollen blanket carries Guru’s Kripa and Guru’s Shakti. In the initial stages of sadhana asana is a must. As far as possible keep the asana clean. Don’t wash it with water, dry it in the sun after dusting to clean it and make it pure. Washing with water can drain the spiritual energy from the asana. If it tears, you can attach another asana to it with wool.

I want to surrender, but I can't. How to develop a sense of surrender?
Look, surrender doesn’t happen by coercion. It’s not like a cop holding a gun to you saying “Surrender, or I’ll shoot you!” The Surrender in spirituality has to come from within. It usually arises when you feel either oppressed or depressed. Surrender (Sharanagati) is not possible without the feeling of Vipannataa (utter incapacity). It's only when one is helpless, it’s only when one feels “I have nothing” (akinchanataa), only when one feels like a destitute (dinataa) that true surrender appears. That’swhen you see your limitations, you understand how small you are, and then you surrender to the Supreme. Then, like Arjuna you say, Sishyasthe Aham Shaadhi Maam Tvaam Prapannam (I am your disciple, Guide me, Help me) (Gita 2-7).As I said, Surrender has to come from within.

What text is recommended to read every day?
There is no hard and fast rule. You can read the text that will rouse the sentiments of devotion for your Ishta Devata or the Guru. Bhagawad Gita, Guru Gita, Hanuman Chalisa, Vishnu Sahasranaam are all good for daily recitation. It depends upon what you want to evoke.

What’s the importance of not eating onion/garlic? Being vegetarian, is it not enough?
Lot of people think that onion and garlic are medically beneficial. However they are spirituallydamaging when eaten by an aspiring sadhak. There is a difference between one leaf and another, a catcus leaf or brambles do not compare with Tulsi... one can hurt and the other soothes. In the same way though onion and garlic are vegetarian, they can be severely damaging spiritually.

Is it not enough to serve people? Isn’t Manava Seva (service to human beings) Madhava Seva (service to God)?

Yes Manava Seva is enough as long as we recognize Manava as Madhava. If you do not understand this principle in its entirety then the ego is seen to operate in your charity and service. When you are sitting on a higher pedestal and throwing mere alms to the beggar, where’s the Madhava? There’s no God there. On the other hand, if you envision God in every being, your heart is automatically filled with a desire to offer Seva. You don’t need lofty ideals of philanthropy. Service happens automatically because there’s God in the other beings that you serve. That is both Manava Seva and Madhava Seva. This was achieved by Swami Vivekananda. He coined a beautiful term Daridra Narayana Seva— service unto the poor and the lowly. That’s Manava and Madhava seva rolled into one. Just daridra seva won’t do!

If one is doing Japa, is there a need to do dhyana separately.
Actually Japa leads to dhyana and once you’re in the higher stages of dhyana and samadhi, you don’t need to do Japa. At that stage, your fingers won’t reach for the mala or move on your palm to count. As soon as you sit down to think of God, you are only shedding tears and more tears. This is a high state of devotion.

One gets there stage by stage. Japa and Naam first, which gradually leads to dhyana. It’s like the young girl who plays with her dolls throughout her childhood and sometimes even in her teenage. She’ll play with her Barbie, feed her, put her to sleep by her side and practically live with her. But when the girl grows up and gets married she throws the doll away. That’s how it is. As you advance, the lower things are discarded.

Is Naam a sadhana in itself? How does it fit into overall sadhana?
Yes Naam is a sadhana in itself. In the course of Naam you perform Laya Yoga, Mantra Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga etc automatically. By having recourse to Naam alone one can achieve complete spiritual fulfilment.

Tell us something about Ramanujacharya?
Shankara said Brahma satya jagan mithya. Brahma or the Absolute alone is true; the world is an illusory falsehood. That is Advaita. Whereas Sri Ramanuja’s Vishishtadvaita philosophy says Brahma Satya, Jagan Satya. Both the Absolute and the world are true. According to Sri Ramanuja Brahma is ultimate and He has numerous attributes. It is incorrect to say that Brahma is Nirguna (without attributes).

According to Sri Ramanuja Brahma, the ultimate truth, is different from individual self. At the same time Brahma is in every entity of this universe, which is His creation. Brahma is Paramatma (supreme Soul) and individual self is Jeevatma (individual soul). They could be compared to an ocean and drop of water simultaneously.

So, if I can see this world, why will I say it is false? I see Gangaji, how can I say Gangaji is false?
One day a learned advaitin was giving a discourse in a village. He said, Brahma is everywhere, the world is an illusion.  A poor farmer who had been listening to the discourse raised his hand carrying a Krishna idol and asked: “Sir, if you say Brahma is everywhere, I am assuming, He is in this Krishna idol as well!”

How does fasting help sadhana?
Father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi said a fast in the body is a feast for the mind. Fasting surely helps sadhana. You see, human body is a machine and every machine needs rest and servicing. Fasting is that servicing. It’s good to fast once in a week or a fortnight. Every religion has fasting as one part of their spiritual practice. Ramadan in Islam, Lent in Christianity, Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av in Judaism, Poornima/ Ekadashi/ Navaratri in Hinduism.

The food or the dietary intake is made up of 3 parts: one subtle part creates the mind (antakarana) and virya (vital fluid), the second creates the body, and the third part ‘mala’ is excreted and discharged. Scriptures recommend mitahara (moderate eating). This is how mitahara is practiced. Take half stomachful of wholesome food. Fill a quarter with pure water. Leave the rest free (for air). That’s also fasting!