by Swami Krishnananda
God loves only Himself; He cannot love anybody else. This is the intriguing feature of God, the mystery of God, the greatness of God, and the glory of Godwhich is also, simultaneously, a message to us as to how we have to conduct ourselves in this world. How can we please God if He can be pleased only with Himself, and nobody else? We can please a person by raising his salary, giving him a cup of tea, asking him, Hello, how are you? There are also many other ways in which we can please a person. But, how can we please God if nothing can please Him, and He can be pleased only with Himself? I am that I am.
Here is the foundation of yoga practicethe rock bottom of religion and spiritual endeavour. All that we have been studying up to this time is a preparation for a great ordeal on our partthe ordeal of preparing ourselves for this final onslaught into this great, grand mystery which is called by various names as the goal, as salvation, as Nirvana, as beatitude, as God, as Ishvara, and such other epithets. God pulls the world, said Aristotle, as the beloved pulls the lover. The way in which this pull is exerted is not mechanical. It is not calculable like a gravitational force. It is soul pulling soul. Only those who have had experience of the souls activity in the world will know what the pull of the soul can be. And, religion commences only when the soul begins to wake up into the consciousness of its destiny not by making merry with the body and the senses.
In Hindu literature there is an old story. There was a pilgrim who was on a long journey, and in order to take rest he went to an inn, a dharmshala, which was managed by a panchayat, a body of five people. This pilgrim asked for a little place to rest during the night and was provided with the inns hospitality, and he comfortably laid himself down. After taking rest and enjoying hospitality and when everything was fine, he began to exercise authority over that inn. He began to say that all the property was his and the whole building belonged to him. This was an appropriation of property which did not belong to him, an authority which he unwarrantedly began to exercise over things with which he had no concern, which belonged to a body of people. And, when he thus exercised such an unwarrented authority, he was turned out.
This story indicates the predicament of the soul which, on its journey to its destination, takes a little rest in this body on this Earth. This body is owned by a group; it is superintended by deities who manage it through the senses. The body moves, acts and performs its functions by the operation of the senses which are, again, motivated by deities, divinities. The senses are agents, as it were, of certain authorities. The Sun rules the eyes; the Ashvinis rule the sense of smell; Varuna rules the sense of taste; Vayu rules the sense of touch; the Digdevatas rule the sense of hearing. There is nothing in this body which is owned by any particular person. It is a public trust, as it were; and a pilgrim who is allowed to take rest there cannot occupy it as his propertywhich, unfortunately, is what has happened.
One becomes conscious of a large democratic relationship that operates in the world, where property does not belong to anyone yet everyone has a right to everything in some measure, in proportion to the percentage of cooperation expected from each part of this large body of organisation. But the soul of man, due to some mysterious occurrence, gets entangled in possessorship, ownership, doership and, consequently, enjoyership. Whoever owns has to enjoy the fruits thereof.
In a railway train there was a passenger carrying a large quantity of sugarcane. He tossed several quintals of sugarcane into the carriage without any permission from the authorities without any ticket for the sugarcane. He sat there, and it occupied practically half of the carriage. When the inspector came, he asked, Whose is this? The gentleman who actually kept the sugarcane there was afraid of saying that it was his, because he knew the consequences. He said it was not his. Everybody said it was not theirs. Everyone was afraid to say that it was theirs, because they would be hauled off immediately. But another passenger sitting there thought that because nobody said it was theirs, he would take it. So he said that the sugarcane was his, and immediately he was arrested. Then he said, No, it is not mine! I merely said it is mine because if nobody owns it, I thought I can use it. But I didnt know you would trouble me like this. No, it is not mine.
These are all humorous stories which illustrate our own position in this world. Due to the imagined joy that seems to accrue from association with this body and its relations, we have become owners of this body and the proprietors of this world. But when troubles arise, we disown everything and, finally, we are cast out by the owners thereof. The divinities take possession of the real propertythe five elements which constitute this bodyand exercise their true authority. The body belongs to the five elements, and it does not belong to us, who tentatively remain there as tenants.
The soul awakens after many, many years of experience, ages of coming and going, receiving kicks and blows from all sides; and even after passing through hardships of every kind, one rarely learns the lesson of life. There is always a desire for pleasure and a hope that pleasure will come, whether it really comes or not. Human birth is very rare. Tradition holds that several million species have to be experienced, passed through, undergone, in order that the soul will awaken itself into human consciousness. But when one enters into the human level, he experiences a kind of itching. He scratches his body for a little pleasure.
There was a blind man caught up in a fort which had only one exit. He could not see where the exit was in order to get out, so he would feel all around the walls of the fort with his hands. As the story goes, there were eighty-four facetsto illustrate the eighty-four lakhs of yonisand the blind man would touch these facets with his hands and grope to find the exit. But by chance it so happened that every time he was nearing the place where the exit was, he would experience an itching sensation on his head. When his hands were busy scratching his head, he missed the exit; and again he would go round and round the fort looking for the exit. Every time he reached the exit he would again have to scratch his head, so that he would miss it and never come out.
This is the blind souls struggle to gain an exit out of this bondage of mortal life; but when it is provided with a little, narrow, straight gate through which it can pass, which is the purpose of attaining this human life, there is an itching for pleasure and we go on scratching the body and the senses. The whole personality seems to be yielding to some sort of pleasure by scratching, itching, irritation, titillation of the nerves and, thus, we miss the exit.
Yah prapya manusham lokam mukti-dvaram apavritam griheshu khaga-vat saktas tam arudha-cyutam viduh, says Bhagavan Sri Krishna in his message to Udhava, as it is recorded in the Eleventh Skanda of the Srimad Bhagavata. Having attained this great blessedness of a higher reason with which the human being is endowed, by which we can have an inkling of the higher existence beyond the human levelhaving been endowed with this opportunity, one misses that opportunity. Such a person is a fallen one. Having ascended, he falls.
The discussions, the studies we have conducted up to this time seem to point to a very, very important, matter-of-fact duty that is ahead of usthe actual living of the knowledge. The lectures that you hear, the instructions that you receive, the information that you gather from books in the library, and other types of enlightenment that you gain by mutual conversation and discussion among friends and colleagues, is a kind of light which points the way that you have to tread towards the destination. But, it is only a pointer to the way; it is not itself the end or the finale of your efforts. All knowledge in this world today is a type of information, a guidance, a torchlight. The torchlight does not walk for you; the walking has to be done by you alone, but the torchlight helps you in walking.
The knowledge that we gain in this world in the manner mentioned is called paroksha jnana, or indirect knowledge not direct experience. But it is an indicator or a pointer to the nature of aparoksha jnana, or direct experience. All knowledge is futile if it is divested of the life principal, the Being, behind it.
Knowledge is not an awareness of something which is outside us. We already have that knowledge in plenty. We have scientific knowledge, artistic knowledge, and the types of knowledge we gain in our educational institutions. But, this is not knowledge which is identical with life. We are not happy with this knowledge. There is one touchstone by which we can have some idea as to the worth of our knowledge: To what extent are we better today than we were earlier, when we did not have this knowledge?
There are certain characteristics of real knowledge, an inquiry into whose nature will give us an idea as to what sort of knowledge we have, or whether we have any knowledge at all. A person endowed with real knowledge is happy inside happy not because of possessing any external object, but merely because of the fact that there is knowledge. The very fact of knowledge itself is the source of happiness.
Knowledge is satisfaction. We are able to remain satisfied, contented, happy and delighted within ourselves merely because of the fact that we are. This happiness of knowledge, the knowledge that I am referring to here in this context, does not arise from our relationship to other people or from contact with the objects of sense. We can merely be seated somewhere and we can be happy for reasons that only we know. This is the special feature of knowledge which is organically related to our being. Knowledge is not only happiness, it is also goodness, virtue and righteousness. A person with true knowledge will not do unrighteous deeds. He will not harm any person or do anything detrimental to the welfare of somebody else. No danger will come from that person to anyone else. Fearlessness is what emanates from that source of true knowledge. No one will be afraid of that person, and that person will not be afraid of anybody. True knowledge is, also, power.
When true knowledge arises, we are happy. When true knowledge arises, we give fearlessness to all; and when true knowledge arises, we, too, are fearless, and no one can frighten us. Knowledge is, therefore, happiness; knowledge is virtue; knowledge is power. Each one may touch ones own heart and feel the extent to which one has attained this knowledge. Are we happy because we have some knowledge? Are we endowed with some confidence in ourselves? Are we unadulteratedly good in our heart, or have we any tendency within us even to wreak vengeance or see the ill of others? These special features of true knowledge distinguish it from academic knowledge or learning, which is quite different from the vital knowledge that is Self-illumination.
I began by saying that God loves only Himselfa strange statement, but a statement with a profound meaning. When Moses asked God, What shall I say that I have seen? God said, Say that you have seen that I am what I am. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad says that aham asmi was the consciousness of God at the time of the creative will He manifested at the time of creation. With all our effort, we cannot understand what all this means, because the senses of the human being are so very powerful and rush outward, like a flood, with such force that we are always carried beyond ourselves, outward in movement. We can never be aware of the condition where it is just Awareness, free from awareness of something or related to something outside. This I am that I am, or aham asmi, is a consciousness which does not stand in need of being conscious of something else. Not that it is unconscious of the existence of others, but the very question does not arise, on account of the coming together of the great I in an inclusion of all the little Is, so that this affirmation of God is an affirmation of the whole world at once.
I am. You are. Everybody says I am. Even an ant feels that it is. There is a self-affirming attitude even in an atom and a molecule. It struggles to maintain itself by an adjustment of its organisation. The survival instinct, the impulse to exist somehow or other, visible even in the minutest forms of creation, is a feeble indication of the final structure of the universe and the aim towards which everything is movingthe direction of evolution and the goal of life itself.
Yoga is the union of the I of the seeker with the I of that which he seeksthe latter I being the total I, or the I which includes every other I. When we confront the object by yoga, in our deep meditation, we confront everybody else in the world. But this step is taken only towards the end and is a cumulative completion of the earlier stages of a similar type, where a gathering up of consciousness in this manner is effected by concentration on lesser forms of this total.
The universe is constituted of levels of wholes, or completions. Everything in the world is a whole, complete in itself; and all levels of existence may be said to be levels of wholes, or completions. Take the gross example of us being seated here in this hall. We are many persons here, but each person is a whole by himself or herself. We are not fractions of individuals. Even when we become members of a society or a parliament, and in that sense we may be fractions of that body called the society, the parliament or the organisation, nevertheless we maintain a wholeness in ourselves. Each member himself is a completion. No member feels that he is only a part or a fraction. Nevertheless, that wholeness which each individual member feels is a fraction of a larger organisation which is the thing to which he integrally belongs. Each cell in the body is a whole by itself, and the body is, also, a whole by itself. So, the little cell which is the whole belongs to another whole, which is the whole body. One whole begins to feel its association with another whole to form a larger whole; it is not a fraction.
Perhaps there are no fractions in this world. Everything is complete. Even a molecule is complete. Our little attachments to things of this world, to family, relations, etc., indicate the impulse from within us to enter into larger wholes from the lower wholes that we are. We are not satisfied to be in a corner, alone to ourselves. We feel restless. We like to go about, talk to friends, shake hands and meet people in order that we may become larger wholes than we were earlier when we were little wholes sitting in a cornerthough we were also wholes even earlier.