Anybody can follow saints, sages, and prophets—even the tail follows the body of the dog but it remains a tail. You have to become that peace, joy, wisdom, on your own. You should bring out those qualities in your life and let people say, “Oh, here is another Jesus, here is another Buddha,” otherwise you are only a follower. That’s not enough. To become that, to have the experience of your True Nature, your divinity, you have to do all that they have done. You have to look at their lives and see how they lived.

Some like to talk about miracles that the prophets performed. But they themselves have said many times, “Don’t worry about miracles.” The sun doesn’t make miracles every day. There is no miracle in the moon, it’s just a moon. A star is just a star, a rose is just a rose. There’s no miracle in that. If miracles are going to make you saints, the great magicians must be saints. Houdini must be a great saint. No. We seem to look for something extraordinary. That’s not necessary.

There is a story of a saint who, when he was a boy, was asked to recite a sentence to learn the letter “d.” The sentence was: Develop the desire to perform virtuous deeds. That was the lesson given to the students to learn. He went home that evening to practice and study, but the next day he didn’t go to school. What happened? They found him at home sitting in a corner repeating the sentence over and over and contemplating each word.

He was asked,” Why not go to school? Don’t you want to learn the other lessons?”

“What’s the good? I still haven’t learned the first lesson.”

“Well, what do you mean, you are saying it.”

“But saying is not learning. If simply saying a truth is enough we can all say that, but that’s not learning. I’m still wondering how to apply it. I still don’t know how to develop the desire to be virtuous and what is virtue? I think it will take me the whole life to learn this first lesson. When I finish, I’ll come for the next lesson.” Probably, he never went to school again. That one line was enough!

If you want to save yourself, understanding one word is enough. If you want to save others, you have to read all the scriptures and then go and preach. But, you have not saved yourself. Others may be saved. You just become a ladder, that’s all. But the ladder never goes up. It sits there. So, if you want to grow, you don’t even have to read too many books. Just one quote, one phrase, one sentence from any scripture is enough. And when you experience the benefit of that, all the learning comes to you.

I don’t mean we have to close the classes. We also need to learn many other things to function well in life. But to save one’s own life, for self-reformation,  to experience the Self, one little thing is enough. But we have to be sincere with that one thing. We have to be serious about that. At the ashram, after meditation, we sit and repeat a prayer that includes the phrase , “Let me cherish no ill feeling towards anyone.” But then we have some ill feeling. What’s the idea of saying that every day? At least when you say that, you think, Oh my gosh I’m saying this prayer, but look at this, I have some ill feeling towards many people. It should prick your heart when you say that, because you are saying it but not doing it. If that happens in your life, then you are really praying, otherwise you are just repeating.

Who wants to be a parrot, a tape recorder just repeating? You should feel it. We are not saying it for somebody else. It is for ourselves. Your own conscience will laugh at you. What is this? You’re saying this prayer over and over but are you practicing this? Are you following this?Are you applying it? We have to question ourselves in this way. That is what you call heartfelt prayer, sincere prayer. Any one prayer, any one line of a prayer is enough to elevate our lives, to make our lives beautiful and to help us experience the divinity, peace, and joy within. Not only do we grow by that, but we help others grow by our examples.

By Sri Swami Satchidananda