बलं वाव विज्ञानाद्भूयोऽपि ह शतं विज्ञानवतामेको बलवानाकम्पयते स यदा बली भवत्यथोत्थाता भवत्युत्तिष्ठन्परिचरिता भवति परिचरन्नुपसत्ता भवत्युपसीदन्द्रष्टा भवति श्रोता भवति मन्ता भवति बोद्धा भवति कर्ता भवति विज्ञाता भवति बलेन वै पृथिवी तिष्ठति बलेनान्तरिक्षं बलेन द्यौर्बलेन पर्वता बलेन देवमनुष्या बलेन पशवश्च वयांसि च तृणवनस्पतयः श्वापदान्याकीटपतङ्गपिपीलकं बलेन लोकस्तिष्ठति बलमुपास्स्वेति ॥ ७.८.१ ॥
balaṃ vāva vijñānādbhūyo’pi ha śataṃ vijñānavatāmeko balavānākampayate sa yadā balī bhavatyathotthātā bhavatyuttiṣṭhanparicaritā bhavati paricarannupasattā bhavatyupasīdandraṣṭā bhavati śrotā bhavati mantā bhavati boddhā bhavati kartā bhavati vijñātā bhavati balena vai pṛthivī tiṣṭhati balenāntarikṣaṃ balena dyaurbalena parvatā balena devamanuṣyā balena paśavaśca vayāṃsi ca tṛṇavanaspatayaḥ śvāpadānyākīṭapataṅgapipīlakaṃ balena lokastiṣṭhati balamupāssveti || 7.8.1 ||
1. Strength is certainly superior to understanding. One strong person can make even a hundred people of understanding shake with fear. If a person is strong, he will be enthusiastic and up and about. He will then start serving his teacher, and while serving his teacher he will be close to him. While sitting close to the teacher, he Will watch him and listen to what he says. Then he will think it over and try to understand. He will then act on it, and finally he will grasp the inner meaning. Strength supports the earth. It also supports the interspace, heaven, the mountains, gods and human beings, cattle, birds, creepers, and trees. It supports animals of prey as well as worms, fleas, and ants. It supports the whole world. Worship strength.
Balanm vāva vijñānāt bhūyaḥ, strength is superior to understanding; ekaḥ balavān, one strong person; api ha śatam vijñānavatāin ākampayate, can make even a hundred persons of understanding shake [with fear]; yadā saḥ balī bhavati, when a person is strong [he is full of enthusiasm]; atha utthātā bhavati, he is then up and about; uttiṣṭhan, being up; paricaritā bhavati, he looks after [his teacher]; paricaran, attending to the needs [of his teacher]; upasattā bhavati, he sits near [the teacher]; upasīdan, sitting near him; draṣṭā bhavati, he watches [what the teacher does]; śrotā bhavati, he listens [to what the. teacher says]; mantā bhavati, [and] thinks it over; boddhā bhavati, he tries to understand the meaning; kartā bhavati, he does what he is supposed to do; vijñātā bhavati, he grasps the meaning [of what the teacher had said]; balena vai pṛthivī tiṣṭhati, through power the whole world is sustained; balena antarikṣam, through power, the interspace [is sustained]; balena dyauḥ, through power, heaven; balena parvatāḥ, through strength, the mountains; balena deva-manuṣyāḥ, through strength, gods and human beings; balena paśavaḥ ca, through strength, cattle; vayāṃsi ca tṛṇa-vanaspatayaḥ, and birds and creepers and big trees; śvāpadāni, animals of prey; ākīṭa-pataṅga-pipīlikam, worms, fleas, and ants; balena lokaḥ tiṣṭhati, through strength the whole world is sustained; balam upāssva iti, worship strength.
What is higher than understanding? Strength. You might remember that startling remark Swami Vivekananda made in the course of a lecture: ‘You will reach heaven quicker by playing football than by reading the Gita.’ Why do we play football? To be strong, to have strong muscles and a healthy body. How will you understand what Śrī Kṛṣṇa is saying unless you have a strong body and nerves? If you are weak, you can never grasp the real meaning of the Gītā. As the Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad 3.2.4 says, ‘Nāyamātmā balahīnena labhyaḥ—This Self cannot be known by the weak.’
This, of course, does not mean just physical strength. Intellectual strength is also necessary—in fact, strength at all levels. Everyone follows a strong person. Gandhi was very strong-minded. If he made up his mind to do something, nothing on earth could make him change—even if he had to do it alone. He meant what he said, and that is why he commanded so much respect. It is very important to mean what you say and say what you mean. Weak people cannot do that.
Sanatkumāra says that in the presence of a strong man, a hundred men of understanding tremble. If you are strong you will be enterprising, but weak people are always vacillating. They never know their minds. A strong person will start acting immediately. He is never idle. If a person wants to gain anything materially, he has to work hard. How often does someone gain something by a fluke? And this is even more important if one is seeking the Truth. Lots of us say, ‘Oh, when will I realize the Self?’ But are we prepared to work hard to do it? In ancient days if people wanted to learn the Vedas they would have to go to a teacher and live with him. Besides attending to their studies, the students would serve the teacher. They would have many duties to perform. It was a difficult life.
There was a devotee who used to come with his classmates to Belur Math when Swami Brahmananda was there. He noticed that Swami Brahmananda would sometimes ask one of his disciples to bring him a glass of water, or do some other little service. This devotee always hoped that some day Swami Brahmananda would ask him to do something. Finally one day the postman came with a parcel for Swami Brahmananda, who wanted someone to unpack it for him. As if in answer to this devotee’s prayers, Swami Brahmananda turned to him and said: ‘Would you do me this favour? Take this pared, unpack it, and bring me the contents. But look, be sure you don’t tear the paper or cut the ropes with which it is tied.’ So, with great care, the devotee did as he was asked.
Sri Ramakrishna was also like this—punctilious. If you are a seeker of Truth, you have to be correct in every detail. You may think that attaining Self-knowledge is only a matter of renunciation and practice of meditation and so on. But how can you meditate if your mind is not attentive to every detail?
Through service the teacher watches the student. He sees whether the student is careless or absent-minded or lazy. When you serve the teacher you become intimate, and if you are intimate, he will gladly share his knowledge with you. A good teacher is always looking for a good student, and he is happy when he finds a student who is attentive, humble, keen to learn, and who loves him.
Swami Nirvanananda was considered the best of Swami Brahmananda’s attendants. Swami Brahmananda was always surrounded by young people who loved him and wanted to serve him. But none could surpass Swami Nirvanananda because he would not wait for Swami Brahmananda to tell him what he needed. Swami Nirvanananda would anticipate his needs beforehand. Whether it was a cup of tea, a glass of water, or something to eat, it would be there before Swami Brahmananda would ask. Most of the time Swami Brahmananda would be on a high spiritual plane, forgetful of his physical needs. A good attendant had to know what he needed beforehand and provide it.
Religion is not just something intellectual. It is a transformation of the whole personality. The teacher is the mould, and you try to form yourself according to that mould. How? First you hear what the teacher says, and then you reason: ‘Why did he say that? What did he mean by that?’ Then you watch what he does. Very soon the truth of what the teacher says reveals itself to you. You realize what he is saying, and then you act accordingly.
This earth is an example of what strength can do. The earth sustains everything through its own strength. In fact, everything in nature is sustained by its own inherent strength. It is not strength borrowed from something else. Similarly, we must support ourselves by our own strength.
So Sanatkumāra says first you rise. That is to say, once you have decided to attain Self-knowledge, don’t be idle. Begin immediately, As Swami Vivekananda