BROTHER BHUMANANDA told us during the opening class, “When you read from Master’s writings, always ask yourself, ‘What does Master want me to do with this Truth? How does it apply to my own life?’” Then during the satsanga he said, “Just asking for right understanding instantly lifts you to a higher plane of consciousness.”
Q. What does gender have to do with spirituality? Is the soul one sex, or both, or neither?
A. Gender is a temporary garb. Each soul has been both male and female many times in past incarnations. Notice how some men express more feminine aspects than others – this is because they were recently a female in a previous incarnation. Likewise with some women who express more masculine aspects – they were probably a male in their last incarnation. The soul is a perfect integration of both male and female aspects – reason and feeling. Some perfect examples of this integration are Master and Daya Ma.
When Bhumananda was fairly new in the ashram, Brother Premamoy, who was in charge of training the new monks, told him he was too intellectual. So Brother said he worked on himself and now when he has a problem he always goes first to his heart (the center of feeling, feminine aspect), and secondly to his head (the center of reason, masculine aspect.)
Q. Is it wiser to pick one aspect of God to concentrate upon and stick with that one aspect?
A. Father, Mother, Friend, Beloved, Guru, are all different windows through which we can feel God. It is fine to change. Go with where your needs are. It’s hard to go against the flow of the river. If your heart is going a certain way, go with the flow of your heart. Each of us has some very deep needs. Seek there – that is the starting point. Your heart will tell you what those needs are. Each soul is completely unique. God made no two the same – and He will respond to you in the way that satisfies those deep needs.
Q. How best to help dear ones who fall prey to chronic depression?
A. The number one best way to help is through prayer. Pray, “Heavenly Father, Thou art with him. He is well.”
Encourage the person to seek professional help – even get help for yourself to be strong so you can get through the tough times that may come. Getting help from a psychologist is consistent with SRF teachings. If you break an arm, you don’t just pray, do you? God gave us doctors and medicine for a reason – they are God’s channels. Additional support is okay.
There is a story about a devotee of God who was caught in a raging flood. As the waters carried him away, he clung for life to a log and prayed and prayed to the Lord to save him. A boat came to rescue him, but he declined help and cried, “No, no, I’m waiting for the Lord to rescue me.” So the boat left. In a little while a helicopter approached, but again the man refused help, “No, no, I’m waiting for the Lord to rescue me.” Eventually the man was carried off by the swirling waters and was never seen again. When he arrived in the afterlife he asked God, “I prayed and prayed to you but you never came to rescue me. Why?” The Lord responded, “Why my child, I sent a boat and I sent a helicopter to rescue you, but you refused My help.” Use the channels God gave us!
If you suffer from depression or any illness, use prayer to ask to be guided to the right person to help you. Interview them and try to feel in your heart – ask your heart, “Is this one right for me, Lord?” Ask God to work through that person to help you. In this way you are dealing with God. There is no separation between sadhana and the rest of our lives. Relate all to God.
Encourage the person who is depressed to help others. Helping others is in itself a very healing thing to do and is especially helpful in the case of depression, which may often otherwise lead to withdrawal from the world and from others. Give patience and understanding.
Don’t fall into the hole with them. Know that you can’t control the outcome. Put God first. God will take care of things. This doesn’t mean that He will change things – and that’s often the hardest thing to accept – but God has His reasons and we have only a limited perspective. God sees things from eternity. To Him, a struggle of 20, 30, 40 years, even a lifetime, is a small measure of time compared to eternity.
Q. As an SRF monk, in your role as a speaker do you feel fulfilled by speaking and ‘getting the word out’?
A. Brother responded that he feels fulfilled “by doing what Master wants”. Brother Anandamoy told the monks who are speakers, “The number one requirement to be an SRF speaker is to live the life.” Before he speaks Brother prays to his guru, “Master, I really have nothing to offer them, but if you flow through me, all will be beautiful.” Brother said that if one day he was told that he was not fit to be a speaker any more he would feel just as happy and fulfilled filing cards in the back room of an office – it’s all the same to him.
Q. If a person in a very incompatible marriage relationship breaks away, will he be karmically bound to that person?
A. If an honest and full effort has been made in the relationship, then no, the lesson has been learned. The lesson may have been simply to learn that not all relationships were meant to work out. But one must forgive. Master said both parties should try with all their hearts. Master understood that sometimes separation was for the best. But he stressed: don’t separate with hatred in your heart because that hatred will draw you back together. Ask your heart, “Have I done my best?” You must be honest with yourself. Master once asked a woman who was seeking his counsel this question, and after a few moments tears welled up and she answered, “No, I cannot say that.”
Q. Does the state of mind of a pregnant mother have an effect on the unborn child?
A. Yes, the thoughts and feelings of the mother profoundly impact the child in her womb. Even the relationship between the husband and wife has an effect. If they are loving and understanding toward one another, there is a very tender and powerful vibration present which affects the unborn child.
Q. Do mentally ill people accumulate karma due to evil ways?
A. If a person’s previous life was evil they may incarnate next time as an insane person. Insane people have no free will and thus do not accumulate karma during that life. This offers an opportunity to burn off tremendous past karma so in their next life they begin with a clean slate.
Q. How can we best cope with the negative environment in the world today?
A. Tune it out. TV, movies, etc. Brother said he hasn’t watched TV in 20 years. He did see TV a little bit recently when he was visiting his mother in the hospital and he was taken aback by the lack of morals and blatant sexuality portrayed there. Brother told a story of how one time he and another monk were caught in heavy traffic in a car on their way to one of the temples where Brother was to speak. For two hours in heavy rain they were stuck in one spot directly in front of a billboard which was an advertisement for a topless bar! Inwardly Brother thought, “Divine Mother, thanks a lot.” But during all that time he looked at the billboard for only that split second – because he chose to not look at it for the rest of the two hours.
Q. How should we make decisions about if and when to share our spiritual beliefs with others?
A. Use discrimination. Obviously, if you are with someone who is propounding their church as the ‘only way’, then better to say nothing. Usually its best to give an interested person the ‘Autobiography’. But sometimes better (for instance someone who is more scientifically minded) is ‘Science of Religion’. Another good introduction is ‘Where There is Light’.
Q. Regarding suicide:
A. Suicide is not an option. A person may think suicide will end suffering but it won’t, because though the body is gone, all the problems and issues are still there, plus now the added burden of having committed suicide which only adds to their karma. Why create more karma? We will never be given more than we can endure. But the tricky part is that is seems more than we can endure. Our problems are conquerable – we were meant to conquer them – that is why they came into our lives – to bring out the hidden strength within us.
Q. Regarding trying to open the heart:
A. Sometimes it feels like you’re trying to start a cold engine. If you can’t feel devotion, ask God to help you. Tell Him you want to love Him. Keep on. A little ember will start. Keep on keeping on. Eventually the ember becomes a blaze. Some devotees place too much emphasis on what they receive in spiritual experiences. Brother went years receiving almost nothing in meditation – no experiences. But he knew this was his path and he didn’t let the lack of experiences influence him – he kept on. Gyanamata said, “Act rightly and in due time the right feelings of peace and joy will come.” To want to love God is to love God. There is no difference.
2003 SRF Retreat, Brother Bhumananda, devotee notes
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