by Swami Krishnananda
Ignorance precedes every kind of action in the direction of the possession of the requirements of the senses. We run after things on account of an ignorance, which covers our consciousness, of the reason behind the very existence of this hunger. There is only one need that we have, and not more than onethe need to become one with That from which we have been separated, and out of which we have been thrown. That is all. The divinities within are hungering. It is not the tongue or the ear or the nose that asks for things; it is the divinities within that are hungry. Indra, Varuna, Surya, etc., are the deities which are superintending over every part of our body. They are the rulers, they are the masters, they are the actual occupants of this habitat called this body. They ask for a reunion and a rehabilitation with the status they have lost. This hunger for reunion with the Universal manifests itself in a diversified form through the senses as desire to see, desire to hear, desire to taste, desire to touch, and so on. Hence, these are artificially created tentative satisfactions, because no other satisfaction is available. When everything has gone, whatever is available satisfies us.
The senses are thus duping us in this way by making us think that our need is something different from what it really is. What the child cries for is something, and what we give it is something else. It may be having an acute stomach ache, but we give it a sugar candy. We say, Take this sugar candy. Dont weep. We do not know why the child is weeping. It has some ailment. It cannot express itself, poor thing! It has some deep-rooted agony which it is not able to speak out in its own language. But we are trying to pacify it, pamper it by things which are actually not what it needs. So is the case with the hunger or the thirst of the soul.
The word soul is very important in this context. Here the soul means the jiva, or the individualised divinity. It has been satisfied with this body. Enter this abode, said the great Lord, and the jivas entered this abode of the human being. This abode has become a source of inadequate satisfaction, unfortunately, even though they thought that the human body is the best of all the productions. They did not want the earlier onesthe horse, the bull, etc.
But the human individuality also is found inadequate to the purpose because of the fact that it is conditioned by the five sense organs and the mind, which works in terms of the activities of the senses. The restless activities of the senses for contact with objects throughout the day, in all the walks of life, are for the appeasement of the hunger of the soul. Whatever work we do in this world, whatever status we are occupying is for the satisfaction of the appetite of this soul which is asking for a union with that which it has lost. But we fail miserably in this attempt because our activities in life are not a remedy for the trouble in which we are at present. We seem to be satisfied only because we have not understood what our problems are. We are totally ignorant of our actual situation.
The senses are tired of these activities. They get exhausted. How long can we go on grabbing things? We can do it for one day, one month, one year, ten years; but throughout our life we cannot engage ourselves in this activity. It is futile, ultimately. It is futile because it does not satisfy us. We eat today, tomorrow also we eat, and every day we eat; but we cannot be satisfied, and the appeasement of the hunger does not take place. Not only that, any amount of getting will not satisfy a person. Whatever be the possession that we have, it will not satisfy us. It does not satisfy us because it is not what we want. Our need is one thing, and we are getting something else through the sense organs. So there is natural fatigue.
The wearing out of the senses, the exhaustion of the mind and the tiresomeness of the whole physical system bring about certain conditions. There are what are called the avasthasthe jagrat, svapna and sushupti states. We are sunk into the cycle of waking, dreaming and sleeping due to a complex of psychophysical activity taking place on account of our weddedness to the activities of the senses.
When the divinities entered the body, perhaps they did not enter the physical body first. It must have been the astral body, though this is not very clearly stated in the Upanishad, because there is a gradual hardening of the individuality through the causal and the subtle states into the physical state. The physical one is the grossest manifestation and the most exteriorised form of the appetition of the individual. It is here, in this physical condition in which we are, that we are in the worst of conditions because we are completely isolated, cut off from things, as it is clear to every one of us. In the subtle condition, at least there is an apparent feeling of affinity of one for the other. But in the so-called waking condition of physicality, there is a complete isolation; you have nothing to do with me, and I have nothing to do with you. This is the present state of affairs.
So on account of this situation and the fatigue that comes as a consequence thereof, there is the cycle of jagrat, svapna and sushupti experience. And there is a struggle again. This struggle is the battle of life. We are striving hard by one means or the other to get out of this cycle of transmigratory existence, which comes automatically as a result of the impossibility of satisfying desires in the life of one particular body. The body that is given to us, the human body for instance, is inadequate because it cannot last eternally. As it is made up of physical components, naturally it will disintegrate when the time for it comes. The disintegration of the bodily individuality takes place when the forces of the appetite of the individual which gave rise to the manifestation of the body cease and withdraw their momentum. Then the body dies. But the momentum of desire does not cease. It seeks satisfaction once again in some other direction, in some other corner of creation. So there is rebirth, and the whole process continues once again. There is again dissatisfaction, birth and death, etc.; the samsara-chakra continues.
All this entire drama is beautifully explained in one verse of the Panchadasi by the author Sage Vidyaranya, where he says that from the time of the original will of the Universal to become the many, up to the entry of the Universal into the individual, it is the work of God; it is Isvara-srishti, as we call it. But from the time of the assertion of individuality by the jiva in the waking condition, through the physical system, etc., until there is liberation from this mortal experienceall this is Jiva-srishti. The entry into the body, consciousness of there being an individuality, the affirmation of it, the desires expressed through the senses, the sufferings coming as a consequence thereof, and the ultimate liberation from this so-called bondageall these are experiences of the jiva; they are not connected with Isvara.
This, in essence, is the story of the creation given in the Aitareya Upanishad. It asserts at the same time that in spite of all this manifestation, this diversity, variety, subtlety, physicality, etc., He is still the same One Absolute Universal. He has not become something else. This is a very great solacing message to us. If we had been really thrown out from the Garden of Eden and exiled forever as captives thrown into prison, then there would be no hope of liberation, or moksha. What has happened is something else altogether. It is not an actually historical occurrence that has taken place once upon a time. It is not that God was angry with us and drove us out of the Garden. What has happened is that there has been a twist of consciousness. There has been a malady of the mind, and it has to be treated as we treat the mentally ill. The consciousness has to be treated, and the illness of the consciousness has to be removed. Then it regains its original condition.
To come to the analogy of dream once again, our fall from the Garden of Eden, or descent into the mortal body from the original condition of universality, is akin to the condition of entry into dream. We have not become a fly or a moth or a butterfly, as it appears to be in dream. Though we think that we are a butterfly in dream, we have not become a butterfly. We are only imagining through the mind due to a peculiarity in consciousness. But, if we had actually become that, there would be no coming back to the waking consciousness of the human body. It is exactly like a disease of the mind. It is nothing but a consciousness-illness. The consciousness projecting itself externally in an imagined space and time is called creation. There is, therefore, a chance of our returning to the original state by untying these knots through which we have been tied to samsara.
There are grades of knots. These are called granthis in mystical psychology. Granthis are like rope knots but are actually psychic knots, the knots of the mind. We may call them the knots of consciousness, if we like, which have somehow or other got stifled into a consciousness of these knots, so that the knots cannot become aware of there being a long rope behind them. If there is a longish rope with several knots at various places on the rope, the knots do not cease to be the rope, though they are knots; they are knots of the rope itself. There may be a hundred knots, but they are constituted of the very stuff of the rope. But if the structure of the knot becomes conscious of that particular structure only, and not the rope aspect of the structure, that would be bondage, or samsara. Similarly, we are conscious of the name-and-form aspect of our personality, and not the essential part of our personality. We are like this rope that is tied into a knot. The knot is the nama-rupa. It is the form, the shape, the configuration, but it is not the essence. The essence is something else.
Now, we have to slowly untie these knots of nama-rupa and realise the essence, and the way of doing this is the practice of yoga. The various stages of yoga, for instance, are mentioned in the system of Patanjaliyama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi. These are the stages of the untying process of the knots of consciousness, by which we gradually expand the dimension of our being and become conscious of larger and larger vistas of our own personality, getting wider and wider as we go higher and higher until we reach the highest Universal which includes all the particulars.