(Spoken on July 3, 1983.)
The spirit of community living and the aspiration for cooperative activity visible in human life may be regarded as an open book, by reading between the lines of which we would be able to discover a great secret operating behind human adventures. The visible is perhaps an indicator of an invisible operation which lies at the back of every form of adventure or activity in the human world.
Human life is a great question posed before everyone. It asks everyone living on Earth a question: What am I? The answer to this question which the world raises before mankind is the reaction of man to the atmosphere around him in the form of this vast and spread-out life on Earth in myriad forms of manifestation. Whatever we do, whatever we think in our minds and whatever we aspire for or hope to achieve may be considered as a sort of response to this question mark which the world raises: What do you see in me? What do we see in this world? This is the question the world seems to be raising, and mankind throughout its history has been responding to this query in many a way through the ups and downs of the fates of people and the strengths and weaknesses of humanity in general.
Notwithstanding an ostensible difficulty that anyone may feel in answering this query what life is, there is an obvious and perceptible feature recognisable in human life, namely, a sense for community and cooperative life, tending towards a novel revelation that man loves man. Mankind feels an irresistible impulse from within itself to consider its wide range on this Earth as perhaps a single power which is manifesting from within its heart and its feelings, an aspiration which may be called human longing. There is a speciality common to human nature in general which seeks to connect mankind into an integrated and compact force which wishes to gird up its loins for the realisation of a common purpose, though the specific character of this purpose or commonness of aim does not seem to be clear.
But there is a symbol, an insignia, a pointer that seems to be manifest in our overt activities. We are overwhelmingly immersed in these activities, or rather, I may say, in reading the lines only, and not reading between the lines – immersed in deciphering the meaning of the letter of life rather than the spirit of it. Though this may seem to be the predicament of man today in his involvement in public activity and private life, there is undoubtedly something hidden as an indicator for the betterment of his future in the phenomenon of this very activity and adventure in which he is engaged.
What is this hidden secret? Is there nothing in life other than what is visible to the eyes from the point of view of the common understanding of the generality of mankind? Life seems to be only what is seen by the eyes, heard with the ears and sensed in some way or other by the organs of this psychophysical composition. But man is superior, they say, to the animal in a special and significant endowment with which he is blessed by providence, nature, or whatever we may call it – that endowment being the capacity to study what is implied in the experiences through which he passes, rather than merely be satisfied with the experiences only.
The logical deduction which one can make from the presence of visible existence is the capacity of only the human species. There is a logic in the human understanding, though there is a different kind of instinctive deductive capacity even in animals and in subhuman species. The special endowment of man is what distinguishes him from merely the instinctive level of existence or the biological life of plants and the vegetable world. This endowment is the speciality of human nature. What is this speciality? It is the insight which one can have into what is hidden behind the visible manifestation of life rather than merely be satisfied with the sensible forms of life in general. The animal or the plant is admittedly satisfied with the reaction it sets up to the sensations evoked by the public life of the physical atmosphere of the world, but is man also satisfied in a similar manner? Evidently not. He has the capacity to logically argue the circumstances out and to dig up the hidden treasures of meaning latent within the visible manifestations of impulsion and activity.
Why does love manifest itself in human life more poignantly and significantly than in other species? And what actually is the basis for the urge that has taken possession of man to recognise the value in another man, or rather, the urge for a national or international consciousness, we may say, the consciousness of humankind? Where comes this question of there being such a thing as the consciousness of humanity, which has engaged the attention of all the leaders in the world especially today when it is on the brink of the necessity to recognise that there is evidently something which connects mankind together? And the parochial village life or cave life which could have been adequate for the earlier man seems to be inadequate for the present-day man, for well-known reasons.
However, apart from the fact that human history seems to have expanded its gamut of operation beyond the village, the city and even the nation to a complex of international collaboration, yet there is something more to be said about it. And what is that? What impulsion can be the explanation for this longing of man to recognise that there is such a thing called humanity as a whole? Why is man not locked up within his own brain? The mind of man, at least according to certain branches of psychology and even philosophy, is within the human organism. The mind of the human being is within the particular human being only. It is in the skull of the human individual. It is in the brain, in the heart. It is within the organism, not outside in the wall, in the mountain, in the table, in the chair. It is within you. Everyone knows my mind is within me, not outside me. But my mind it is that has stretched itself out of my body, wrenched itself out of the shackles of bondage within the human organism, and seems to be reaching up to the distant corners of the Earth and engaging itself in the large historical, political, social activity of bringing humanity together into a single living body, which is an aspiration of man today. Perhaps he will realise it one day or the other.
But why should there be this urge? This is a philosophical question. The ‘why’ of a phenomenon may be said to be investigative and, in a sense, super-normal. What explanation can man offer to the operation of this impulse within him to recognise value beyond himself, outside his own brain, within which is locked up his mind, his consciousness? If the mind of man is only within his brain, within his body, he cannot even know that the world exists because the knowledge of the existence of the world or of anything outside is practicable only if there is a means of communication between the mind of man and the object of his consciousness. Taking for granted for the time being that the human mind is only a subject for studies in psychology and it has little to do with sociology for the larger life of mankind, we will be in a difficulty when we try to explain how man has been forced to engage himself in this great adventure of survival, not merely of himself as an individual but as a unit in the large complex of mankind. This impulse is necessarily to be investigated into because, as I mentioned, it is only the human understanding that is capable of diving into these implications of visible phenomena, whether these phenomena are social, political, religious or otherwise.
Man’s investigative understanding cannot be satisfied merely with what it comes in contact with in the empirical circles of individual existence. He is curious to know why he is urged in this direction. The common man has no such impulse within him. A person who is satisfied merely with living a social, a political or even a so-called international life purely in the sense of a surface communication among people may not have this investigative capacity. He may not even feel the need to go into these matters.
But there is a higher reason in the human individual which, though it gets stifled many a time due to the clamours of the senses and the needs of life, raises its voice now and then, and in rare specimens of stalwarts among people in the world, the reason manifests itself as a brilliant radiance shedding a light which is not of this world, because anything that is totally a part of this world cannot know the world. An object cannot know itself. There is a necessity for something else to even know that there is such a thing as the object or the world. Who knows that there is a world? Does the world itself know it?
Now, a question of this kind cannot arise in an untutored and untrained mind engaged in and satisfied merely with a sensory reaction to the objects of the world. There are occasions when we may be compelled to enter into these inquiries. This is a very important issue indeed in our life. Why are we so much interested in community living, national living, international living, and perhaps in the welfare of all living beings? Why is this impulse in man? Why should it be there at all? It is there no doubt, as everybody knows, but how has this arisen? How does one scientifically or even logically explain the operation of this peculiar impulse in the individual to outstrip, to go beyond the limitations of one’s own psychophysical organism, to break the limits of even the operation of the mind within the brain and reach up to the corners of the whole Earth? And today man is not satisfied even with these reaches. He has a desire to reach beyond the Earth into regions extending beyond the world of ordinary living.
These questions may be called philosophical because they range beyond the ordinary expectations of the common intellect of man or even the capacities of his intellect. Here the higher reason speaks in a language which does not belong to any country or nationality. This superior reason tells us that what we have within us is something which is not of this world. That is why we wish to overcome the limitations of this world. Otherwise, it is inexplicable as to how the world itself, if it were all reality, would be thinking of breaking through its own barriers. The limitations of the world or the limitations of human life cannot be dissatisfying unless there is something else other than these areas of limitation which also are certain belongings of the human being only.
We seem to have something within us which is not entirely a property of this world. If we were entirely of a longing of this world, sunk in this material world and exhausted completely in the phenomena that are visible, it would be impossible for us to know that there is any kind of limitation at all. We would never be unhappy for any reason. Unhappiness of every kind, sorrow of any character is an indication that there is something in the human individual which is not satisfied with anything in this world, and this endowment, this impulse arising from the human being, cannot be considered as a property of this world because anything that is an integral part of this visible world only, this world which is limited so much, cannot raise this question. A thing that is involved in the world cannot raise a question about the world. This is a philosopher’s insight, and an ordinary, untutored mind will not find time even to think in this manner.
If this is the case, it is a wondrous discovery indeed. Have I something in me which does not belong to this world? Evidently so. Otherwise, how is it possible for me to have a desire to go beyond this world, to possess the whole Earth, to become the owner of the whole world, to possess the moon or the stars, to rule the heavens? If it were possible, I would be glad to be endowed with this power. How could a puny man, locked up within this physical six-foot frame, manifest a longing of this type which exceeds the limitations of even the astronomical universe?
Here is something for man to deeply consider. The pronouncement of ordinary general psychology that man’s mind is only within the brain and is not outside is not true. If behaviourist psychology, hormic psychology or any other branch of study of the human mind were to be entirely correct and man’s mind were to be only his individual property as a physical personality, he would not have these kinds of desires, longings and aspirations. He would not even know that there is another person outside him. How would he know that there is a desk in front of him if his mind is inside his skull?
The great seers of ancient India, who had visions recorded for us in the Vedas and Upanishads and in the great scriptures like the Bhagavadgita, heralded the proclamation of this great truth that man is heir-apparent to something which is non-temporal, metempirical, and not even limited to space and time because space and time are the limitations of this world, and the desire not to die is a desire to break the limitations of time. If possible, we would not like to die.
The longing not to die but to persist forever cannot arise in the mind which is locked up in time. Thus it is that man is not limited by time, really speaking. Otherwise, this desire to live long cannot arise in the mind. He is not even limited to space; otherwise, the desire to break the limitations of the world outside and probe into the corners of creation cannot arise in him. The longing to possess the whole world is not possible if it is locked up in a little space.
There is something in the human mind which ordinarily appears to be so insignificant, but is really so significant. The deepest roots of man do not seem to be a part of this empirical transient world. These roots do not seem to be limited by time and space. Thus, man is not entirely mortal, though that aspect or part of his personality which is involved in space and time may be mortal because all things that are visible and perceptible are transient. The human body also is one among the visible objects, and therefore, it goes with the objects that perish.
But these little inquiries that we have been able to make within these few minutes would have revealed that man is not just a perishable body. There is certainly something in him that cannot perish. If that were not true, he would not strive for survival. The desire to live even for one day more cannot arise in the mind of man if he is completely shackled to the procession of transiency in the world. What is transiency? It is moment-to-moment death. There is dying of every atom every moment, and if the body is also constituted of the same particles, there is only death in this world and nothing significant or living.
But are we only this much? We seem to defy death, and are looking for ways and means to overcome the limitations imposed upon us even by death itself. What could be the reason behind this, except the fact that there is something which is non-temporal, eternal and infinite which is lodged in the little limpid lake of the consciousness of man. The essence of man is immortal. This is proved by the fact that he seeks the immortal. He wishes to possess wealth for all time; he wishes to live in this world for all time; he seeks immortal existence and immortal possession. These are outer symbols of an inner possibility of the deepest recesses of the human being entering into the bosom of a supreme Absolute. This seems to be the direction of the movement of mankind, of the entire process of evolution in the world. This seems to be the goal of all existence.
With this great insight, the great founder of this institution, Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, many years ago when he was physically among us whipped up all our sluggish understandings and stirred us into an activity to come together into a fraternity, a body of collaborative spirits, an organisation of seeking souls, and founded this ashram. He called this institution The Divine Life Society. This is not merely a social organisation. It may be doing social service also, but its motive is not limited merely to social relationship. It is guided by a super-social aspiration which may be called spiritual in a very, very general sense. The whole organisation, the whole ashram, the entire Society is an academy. It is an institution of training, discipline of the reason, the intellect, the mind, the emotion and the spirit of man, and this is the Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy.
This particular day, the third of July, happens to be the anniversary of the day many, many years back when Sri Gurudev envisaged the necessity to found an institution for the training of the human spirit for the realisation of these great aims and objectives, which seems to be the goal towards which mankind is moving. Today we are completing the cycle of this annual occurrence, and these few words I spoke before you are the flowers that I offer at the feet of this great saint and sage, Revered Sri Swami Sivananda. God bless you.