June 2021
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Collected words from talks of Swami Tirtha


(from a lecture of Swami Tirtha, 09.01.2016 evening, Sofia)
Asato maa sad gamaya… “From the unreal lead me to reality”.
Do you agree with this chant? This prayer comes from a very ancient scripture in India. It comes from an Upanishad[1] . Upanishad means “secret teachings”. We are all searching for secrets. Once we organized a lecture series and the title was “Secret teachings”. You know a public lecture about secret teachings… But I have to tell you three times more people came than usual. Because we want to find the secrets. We feel that life in general is too boring without the secrets. And actually this mantra is contained in such a secret scripture. Also it means that we can learn the secret in the close company of sadhus, saintly people. I have to declare it publicly that secrets are not for the public. But as we are in a very close intimate circle now, we can talk about them.
So, mantra – what is the meaning of mantra? Mantra is a formula of prayer to liberate our consciousness. And a good mantra will always contain the essence of existence, also will contain a deep meaning, and something more that I will tell you at the end. These three phases of this mantra, of this prayer are very essential. What is the first line? Asato maa sad gamaya; asat means ‘non-real, unreal, illusory’. “From the unreal lead me to reality!” Who will lead us from the unreal, from the illusory reflection, to reality? The divine guidance – manifested in our spiritual masters, in our saints. Also in the divine call that we all feel in our inner hearts. This best conviction that we have – this will always guide us in a proper manner. And you know we have tried the unreal so many times. We have tried to find our happiness in this unreal reflection of illusion. I don’t know how much success you have gained; I have gained no success at all there. Let’s try to find our fulfillment in the sat, in the real reality.
But if I tell you that spiritual reality is very real, you might say: “Ah, but it is very unreal for me. My present-day reality is pain, some sufferings, some limitations – this is my reality today.” If I say that life is a mystic experience, you might say: “It’s so far away from me!” But if you tell me that life is suffering, that sounds very unreal for me. So, who is more right – you or me? Whose message is more powerful – mine or yours? Of course this is not a competition, but I hope that my message is stronger.
So, this prayer contains something very essential about our experience called life. From the unreal, from the reflection, we have to come to the original. That makes it very meaningful.
The second line says: “From the darkness lead me to the light!” I think everybody understands. Darkness usually is equal to ignorance, limitations or suffering; while light means knowledge, faith, happiness. Therefore from the darkness we want to find our way to the light. So please, my Lord, from the darkness, lead me to the light!
And the third line says something very important: “From death lead me to eternity!” This is like an ultimate limitation of life – death. It is so unfamiliar for us that we try to reject it, or hide it, or neglect it. Nevertheless it will come, sooner or later. It’s another experience. But as we are not aware of the necessity of death in order to experience eternal life, therefore it looks a little strange for us. Actually we, human beings, are so much life-pro, that we want to reject death. This non-existence is such a weird concept, because we are so much alive.
(to be continued)
1. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.3.28


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