by Swami Krishnananda
In the context of gaining an insight into the process of knowledge, the perception of things, the knowledge of the world, we had to undertake an inquiry into the circumstance in which the individual is placed in this worldour placement in this universe. It was in this connection that it became necessary for us to have some sort of an outline knowledge of cosmology, the doctrine of creation. Brahman, the Supreme, becomes Ishvara, Hiranyagarbha and Virat, a theme we touched upon last time. What is called Virat in Sanskrit is, practically, the consciousness that animates the physical cosmos. Just as there is an intelligence within us, there is an intelligence in the universe.
Our intelligence is not only in one part of our body; it is pervading the whole of our personality and our being. We are conscious of what we are, in every cell. That is why we assert that the body is me. Just as our consciousness pervades the whole of our individuality, there is another consciousness which pervades the whole cosmos. This eminent consciousness, hiddenly present in the whole universe, is Virat. It is difficult to describe what Virat isjust as we cannot say what we are. We are not any of the limbs of the body, because we are all things that the body is. Likewise, the Virat is not any particular thing in the universe, but all things in the universe.
Yet, we know that we are not merely the body. When we say I have come, we do not mean that our body has come. There is something which is significant behind our statement that we are or that we are doing something, etc. We always have a subconscious feeling that we own the body, or we have entered into the body, or we are utilising the body as an instrument, etc., though this fact is not consciously operating in the mind. We always say my body. We never say I am the body.
A similar situation operates, or prevails, in the universe. The consciousness that pervades the cosmos is inseparable from the cosmos in the same way as our consciousness cannot be isolated from our body and our personality. In a famous Sanskrit text on philosophy called the Panchadasi, there is a verse which tells us that Gods creation commences with the will to manifest, the ideation to become manifold, and is complete with the manifestation of Virat through the processes already mentioned, the intermediary stage of which is called Hiranyagarbha.
But, Gods creation does not bind us. God never does anything unjust. God is not interested in hurling us into sorrow. Then from where has sorrow come? Why are we so much grieved? This is a mystery. It is a mystery because we do not know how we have fallen from the Virat. In theology this is the famous doctrine of the fall of man, the angel becoming mortal and becoming self-conscious as the body.
It is not possible for us to know how we have fallen, because the moment we are aware of how this has happened we shall revert to the original condition. Some inscrutable weapon of nature wields a force upon us in such a way that we are not enabled to turn back and see what is behind us. We can see only what is ahead of us, in front of us. We are tightly chained, as it were, as the analogy of the cave given by Plato in his Republic makes out. The prisoners are chained so tightly in the cave, which is dark, that they cannot turn back and see what is light. They can only see the shadows in front of them. Natural forces prevent us from looking back and seeing the source from where we have come. Our necks are stiff and our eyes are turned outwardly to what is ahead, and not to what is behind. The very need for seeing or perceiving arises because of this fall, this pit of consciousness, this isolation of us from the whole.
When the act of separation takes place, a blow is dealt on the individual with such force that it becomes unconscious. If someone is hit on the head with vehemence, that person will fall down in an unconscious state. The isolation of the individual from God, the Universal Being, is such a stroke dealt on the individual that it falls unconsciousdead, as it were. We have those reminiscences every day, by going into deep sleep. We are reminded again and again, daily, that this stroke has been dealt upon us. We are wretched beings; this is being told to us every day, as a prisoner may be repeatedly told every day that he is a prisoner so that he becomes worse and worse by listening to this declaration of his circumstances. The condition of sleep into which we fall every day tells us what we really are. We are bundles of ignorance, and it prevents us from knowing anything beyond it. It is a dark screen, a heavy cloud hanging over us.
What we call the intellect, the reason, the mind, the senses, and anything that is our endowment as individuals is what is reflected through this screen of ignorance, and not the original consciousness. We are not seeing or knowing things through even a speck of Virat-consciousness. There is a qualitative distinction between the consciousness present in us and the consciousness that is in the cosmos because the consciousness of Virat is original, and ours is a reflection. The reflection loses the originality of the cause from where it has come, just as the reflected sun has not the heat or the burning capacity of the sun, although the reflection looks like the original. When consciousness, pure and pristineVirat in its essentialitypasses through the prism of this ignorance, it is deflected into individualities and becomes topsy-turvy in a specific sense, so that we see, like in a mirror, the left as right and the right as left. The cause looks like the effect, and the effect looks like the cause.
The universe, from where we have come, looks like an object of sense. Nothing can be worse for man. The so-called individuality of ours, the jivatva, is a chip of the whole block of the universe. We have fallen from the Whole. The Virat-consciousness, which is latent in this universeour mother and father which Virat iswe are gazing at that Virat with our eyes, as this physical universe.
But, there is no such thing as knowing the Virat as an object of sense. Such a thing is impossible because the universe is not an object of anybody. Since everybody is a part of the universe, no one can see it as an object; yet, we manage to look upon it as if it were an object. Here is the secret behind the failure of all scientific observations and even logical philosophies. Science and philosophy in the academic sense cannot take us to reality, because scientific methods based on observation and experiment take for granted that the world is outside consciousness, which it is not. The observing scientist is a part of that which he is observing and, therefore, no observation can become complete or correct. Every discovery is superseded by a further discovery, so that we never come to an end of scientific knowledge. We can never catch the truth, for the reason mentioned.
Logical academic philosophy, also, is not in a better position. Insofar as logic is based to a large extent on sense perception, certain things are taken as hypotheses. Even logic accepts the distinction between the subject and the object, the seer and the seen, the knower and the known, ourselves and the world, though this distinction does not obtain, finally, in the nature of reality. So, logic is inapplicable to reality, and science is inadequate to the purpose. Therefore, our perception of the world is an erroneous recognition of what is ahead of us, in front of us.
All perception is descriptive, and not an insight into the real nature of things. When we look at an object, we are not looking at it as it is in itself. This is a phenomenal world. The object that is seen by our eyes, or contacted by the senses, is known as it appears to the senseseven as a person putting on spectacles with specialised lenses will see the objects only as conditioned by the makeup of the lens, and not as it is in itself. The nature of the glass will decide upon the nature of the object seen through the glass.
The whole of our individuality is like a glass which we have put on, which our true consciousness is wearing, through which it beholds the universe. We have decided that we are just bodies and individuals; and through this lens of individuality consciousness which penetrates and beholds the reality outside, we behold the world as constituted of individualities like ourselves. All perception, in the epistemological sense, is far, far removed from a true insight into things. Thus, a distinction has to be drawn between sense perception and insight, or intuition. Intuition actually means an entry into the object through the whole of our being, to the whole of the object. The entirety of us contacts the entirety of the objectnot through sensation, but through a commingling of being. Being enters being.
What we call yoga, the union par excellence, is the union of our being with the being of the object, whatever be that object. It can be a table or a desk, a pencil or a fountain pen, or a wristwatch, or a human being, or any blessed thing in the world. We can enter into it, and be that. It is then that we gain mastery over it. We have full control over it because we have a knowledge of itknowledge which is not sensory, phenomenal, externalised or mediate, but is inside it, immediate, non-contactual, and is a commingling of the self with the Self. In the language of yoga this is samadhi, sakshatkara, or actual Realisation of the true nature of the objectinsight, and complete mastery.
Knowledge and power go together where knowledge is identical with the being of what is known. Otherwise, we have no control over anything in the world. We cannot have any say in any matter in this world, because everything in the world is independent of us. We have already declared the independence of everything in the world by saying that it is outside us. Therefore, we have no connection with it, and all our relationships with things and persons in the world is an artificial makeup. It is artificial because we have decided that it is really outside and it is not part of us. Anything that is not a part of me is not my friend and, therefore, I have no say in the matter of that friend who is only apparently so.
But the world resents this attitude, as a part of our body may resent our thinking that it is not us, as may happen in paralysis, schizophrenia and such illnesses where the body parts split themselves off psychologically and the one appears as manyfalsely, not in fact or in reality. Hence, all of our knowledge is phenomenal knowledge, untrue knowledge, finallynot an entry into reality, not reliable in the end. We know nothing; we are ignoramuses, finally. Even our philosophical learning and scientific knowledge is, therefore, not of any utility when the time for it comes. So, in this study of epistemology, or the theory of perception, what we finally understand by analysis is that any mediate knowledge of the objects we gain through the operation of the senses is conditioned by space-time and the limitations of the mind itself.
Our social life is a child born of this erroneous knowledge. Our family relations, our community life, and every blessed thing that we can call social is brittle, finallylike glass. It can break at any moment of time, and that is why we have no real contact and relationship or friendship with anybody for all time to come. Nobody is our friend for all time. Such a thing is not possible, because the world is made in such a wayat least, we have accepted that the world has been made in such a way. As our knowledge, which is perceptional, is far removed from the reality of things, all our social relationships based on this knowledge also lose their sense, finally. Nobody belongs to us, and we belong to nobody in this world.
Nothing is our belonging. We have no property whatsoever. Nobody can own a thing which is outside oneself and with which one has no contact and relationship, as it has been accepted by this epistemological knowledge which holds that things are totally outside. There is a contradiction in our way of living in the world. Life is a contradiction because, on the one hand, we want a sort of intimate relationship with things and, on the other hand, we have openly declared that things have no connection with us. Otherwise, there would be no need for the senses to struggle so hard to come in contact with objects. We are friends and enemies of people at the same time. We are double dealers, artificial in our living, and sorrow is the consequence. We know why we are unhappy in the world by a sort of analysis of our own selves and our relationships with things and the world as a whole.