by Swami Krishnananda
(Talk given on New Year's Eve, 1995)
Here before us is the holy astronomical commandment that we humbly receive as what is known as the coming of a New Year. This ashram, Sivananda Ashram, the Divine Life Society, has now seen sixty New Years after its birth. Sixty cycles of time have passed in the history of this ashram. This revolution of sixty years is regarded, according to tradition, as a great achievement in the life process of anything.
Whether anything moves or nothing moves, we cannot say because our judgments are based on the apparatus of understanding with which we are endowed, and the instrument of knowledge conditions and determines the nature of our judgment. We are told ever and ever that everything passes. Years roll on, and we have new years. The meaning of the coming of a fresh year is not always intelligible to the human mind. What does actually happen when a new year comes and stands before us? Physically, to normal perception, it will appear that nothing happens. The same today will continue tomorrow. Whatever we have been experiencing today, we will experience tomorrow also.
Then what is the newness of the year? Where is the freshness of it? It is the cussedness of human nature that prevents people from knowing what is actually happening. We cannot even know that we have been growing from our babyhood to adulthood. We did grow, and there was moment-to-moment newness in our life, but never for a moment did we think that we are becoming newer and newer every moment. We felt that we are static, and nothing is happening to us, and nothing has happened to us. What a wonder! Every minute constituent of human personality has changed from its inception in order that it has to become an adult corporate body. But why is such a continuous movement never known to be existing at all? We do not know that anything is happening to us. We are perfectly all right. We are static and solid individualities always, and we never become something else.
This phenomenon of something perpetually taking place and yet not being known by anybody is the mystery of the universe. We belong to different realms of being, and we belong, simultaneously, to all levels of being. At one stroke, we are everywhere. This is the reason why we feel that we are not changing at all. There is an unchanging eternality presiding over all the movements of our nature, due to which we feel that we are solid like a rock and we are perfectly stable.
But there is another world to which we also belong which is called the sense world – the world presented by the sense organs of colour and sound and activity. Involved in it, we are hurrying forward into a destination whose end is not clear to the mind. It is like an animal that has a rope around its neck and is pulled forward by the owner thereof, though the animal may not be aware as to where it is being dragged.
The problem that we are facing in life is this mysterious dual operation taking place in us – a false complacence of everything being fine and stable and secure – and, on the other hand, a helpless hurrying forward through every cell of our body and every part of our mind towards a destination of which no one can have any idea.
How did the world come about? When did it begin? What was there in the world when it started? Where were all of us at the commencement of the world? Or, were we not there? How many years have passed since creation took place? And how many beings lived and died during this process ever since the commencement of the world – if at all we can say there is such as thing called a commencement of time? How can time commence – because, for the time to begin, there must be a prior state where time was not. A timeless situation cannot be imagined to be causing another condition called the time process. There will be no connection between timelessness and time.
We are no wiser in delving into these mysteries of the commencement of time and the end towards which time is perhaps moving. We sometimes designate the time process as evolution; but in what direction is the evolution? There is nothing that does not move in this world; and when it moves, it carries everything inside it -as when a vehicle moves, all those who are seated in the vehicle also move.
Every particle of matter, every plant, every tree, every animal, every human being, anything whatsoever moves helplessly in the direction taken by this wonderful evolutionary process which we call the drama of creation, preservation and destruction. We have heard in our scriptures that God created the world once and He made arrangements for preserving it and he will destroy it one day. But this process of creation, preservation and destruction is going on perpetually even now in our own body. Every moment there is a creation of new components of body. Every moment there is a tendency to preserve the stability of these components. Every moment there is also a tendency of these components to deteriorate, dismember and get destroyed into a vacuous nothingness. Creation, preservation, and destruction are continuous. It is not that yesterday there was creation, today there is preservation and tomorrow there shall be destruction. It is a movement from eternity to eternity. But what we call the New Year is a psychological acceptance of a natural occurrence which rings into our ears the message of perpetual deterioration of everything that is created, and a perpetual longing for the fulfilment of a perennial existence. The New Year is, rather, a reminder to everyone that unconsciously some activity is taking place everywhere, and at least at some time we should be conscious of what is taking place really. Unconsciously being dragged on is one thing, and consciously accepting this movement is another thing.
Everything moves towards God; but conscious movement towards God is called spiritual sadhana. An unconscious activity is no activity. It has no value. Action should be consciously motivated. In the astronomical universe, as we are told, endless activity is taking place in which we are perpetually involved. We are involved in the very process that is taking place in the galaxies which we wrongly imagine are very far away from us. We look at the sky on a dark night when the sky is clear and see the galaxy, the Milky Way and, therefore, we come to a conclusion it is very, very far. But we cannot know we are involved inside it. When we look at the Milky Way, actually what we are doing is looking at part of our own body, to which even the solar system belongs. If the toe has an eye, it can look up and see the head as if it is far away. But the head is not far away from the toe. It is a connected organism. So are the stars; so is everything that is contained within this large expanse of space and time process. We cannot imagine that we are capable of cosily sitting calmly, unknown and undetected by the cosmic forces. Every breath that we breathe is thundering forth with a loud noise in the highest of heavens, just as every little pain in any part of the body is known to the whole body.
Now we must awaken to the fact of our really belonging to a world of which we are inseparable. Otherwise, the toe with its imagined eyesight can imagine that it is some light years away from the head – which it looks at as a distant object. Nothing in the world is distant. The absence of distance in the makeup of a thing is called organism. It is a living completeness. Such is creation, and it has to be so because it is an emanation from an indivisible substance. That which emanates from indivisibility has also to be indivisible. Dividedness cannot proceed from an indivisible cause, just as our own bodily functioning is a wholesome, total operation going on from moment to moment, minute to minute, second to second.
There is one action taking place everywhere, into which we are pulled forward; and we may imagine that we are also contributing something to the activity of the world. But our cooperation is incomplete. We have our own personality, assumed vehemently in our own selves, which objects to its being included in the operation of any other organisation – and, therefore, that organisation to which everything belongs compels this diffident part of it to move with it by transforming it into a new constituent individuality, which is known as the process of birth and death. Our defined attitude compels us to undergo this process of changing of vestures called the body and mind. .
The arrogance of human nature and the assertiveness of the ego – the intense satisfaction one feels of being located in a little six-foot body – prevents the entry of cosmic energy into oneself; therefore, that particular formation of individual constitution perishes for the purpose of remodelling itself into a new condition which will be able to consciously participate in the requirement of the larger organism of the universe. In every activity, God calls man. It is the summoning of God which is the coming of the new years or the going of the old years. God calling is life. Difficult it is to appreciate in the circumstance of inveterate longing to live in the body and a weddedness to the erroneous perception of natural and social living.
What can we expect in the new year that is ahead of us and is now coming on our heads? To accept it humbly. The great lesson that we can make our own in our daily life is an adoption of humility of spirit and a humbleness before the might of God. There is a ‘greater’ than what we are in our own selves. We carry it wherever we go. Something more than what we are is sitting within us and making us perpetually restless and insecure. This ‘higher that what we are’ – which is called the higher self or whatever we may call it – insists that the ‘lower than what it is’ should give access to what is above. It is a war between the lower and the higher within our own selves.
The lower and the higher are not two different physical existences. They are two densities of operation, two pressures continuously being exerted within our own selves – two voices speaking at the same time, one trying to drown out the voice of the other. In this warlike operation of two kinds of voice, we have the history of mankind whereby human history becomes a panorama of perpetual ignorance of the future and an inner longing to live perennially, forever and ever.
Deep meditation on this cosmic mystery may be considered our perennial duty. Everything is meditating, says the Upanishad. In this meditative activity of harmonious arrangement of ourselves with what is actually happening around us, we set ourselves in tune with the powers that rule the world and the powers that direct our vision ahead.