by Swami Krishnananda
Message given on Christmas Eve, the 24th of December, 1973.
"Empty thyself and I shall fill thee." This is a wondrous single sentence message of Jesus the Christ. The Spirit is not a quantity, and it is opposed to all quantitative measurements and conceptions. "Blessed are the poor in spirit," is another suggestive statement of the Christ. We cannot understand what is meant to be poor. For us, to be poor is not to have money, grains and gold, not to have a field, a house and friends, and not to be recognised in society. That would be poverty, economically. We cannot think of poverty except in an economic, material and social sense. Likewise, the idea of emptying oneself – as far as our minds can understand – is a physical displacement of content, which is far from the idea of the Spirit which is implied in the above single-sentence message. The Christ-consciousness, and not the personality of Christ, is what is to be taken into account here in our understanding of this statement. There is a difference between Christ and Christ-consciousness. This fact was repeatedly emphasised by the Christ himself in many of his declarations as recorded in the New Testament. He never regarded himself as a person, nor did he ever indicate that it was a person who was speaking when he spoke. He always referred to "Him that sent me". He was very much fond of referring to "Him that sent me". He said, "I am here to proclaim the Law of Him who sent me here. It is not my law that I am demonstrating or proclaiming to the world." The Spirit that spoke through him was not a creature of time.
There is a very humorous and most significant statement of his. "Before Abraham was, I am." What does it mean? "Before Abraham was, I am" is a contradiction, grammatically. It conveys no sense. It is a blunder of grammar to say "I am before Abraham was". But that is the real Christ that spoke. And it is from the standpoint of that reality of Christ that the 'present' was precedent even to the 'past'. The present precedes the past. How could it be? And that is what is implied in saying, "Before Abraham was, I am." The Spirit is a present and not an event or a content or a creature in the passage of time which is usually dissected into the past, present and future. The Spirit has no past, no present and no future. And this is the Christ-consciousness.
From the above point of view, what would it mean to empty oneself and what would it mean to be filled by It? This is the great philosophy of the Spirit. We are heading towards real Yoga when we speak about these things. Christ was a great Yogin, a Master Yogin, one of the greatest Yogins the world has produced, a Yogin in the true sense of the term. He was perpetually in unison with the Spirit, drew sustenance from the Spirit and operated upon the Law of the Spirit in the world or the realm of matter. Mathematics was not his way of thinking. Otherwise how could a single loaf become a basketful, overflowing, flooding and capable of feeding thousands and yet remaining full after the feeding was over. It was not arithmetic that worked there, because one cannot become many and many are not the same as the one. Our consciousness has grown upon it several accretions or layers of material concrescence. The philosophical way of thinking is slightly different from the ordinary way of thinking of the man in the street.
I do not mean that we should be philosophers. But we should know the techniques of philosophical thinking, i.e., the art of thinking in a peculiar manner which differs entirely from the give-and-take, economic or commercial attitude of thinking which man usually entertains in his mind. All our thinking is commercial. We cannot think in any other way. But the Spirit is non-commercial, because it is non-material. Anything that we speak of in regard to the Spirit has to be metempirical, and we have to shed the prejudice of earthly ways of thinking even before we take the first step in the practice of the way of the Spirit. All prejudices have to be shed. This is one of the conditions of emptying ourselves. It does not mean that we have to vomit what we have eaten. We have to vomit the prejudices of the mind. Hard it is to overcome a prejudice. And prejudice has grown like a fungus or a mushroom on our very consciousness itself. We take for granted many things. Unproved hypotheses are taken for granted; and they become the byword of the street, of the home, of society, of administration and of even international understanding. Everything is based on certain prejudices. But the Spirit does not care for either the nation or the international setup. It is something superior in its value and content. To be spiritual is hard even to think and conceive; more difficult it is to practise the way of the Spirit. Personal and logical attempts and the so-called scientific attitudes do not help us here. Science itself has become a dogma, though it parades its knowledge of non-dogmatism. Logic is based again on a dogma, of certain presupposed values which themselves cannot be proved by logic itself. There is no such thing as non-dogmatic thinking as far as the ordinary man is concerned. Everything is a dogma. You take for granted that the world is. Who told you that the world is? It is something taken for granted. It is a hypothesis. You cannot prove it by logic, except by saying that you see it. And that you see it, is not a great proof, for you can see even a phantasmagoria if your head is reeling. That the world is, that the body is a content thereof, and that the world is ruled by the quantitative measurements of arithmetic and commercial laws, are hypotheses on which we base our arguments, even in law courts.
But the Christ didn't come to rule the world of Caesar. As he put it, "Give unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's." Don't mix up the two elements. The Christ has nothing to do with what is Caesar's, which is a quantitative measurement like that of silver and gold, of give and take, of commerce and trade, of the quantitative mathematics of the feeble mind caught up in the network of space and time. The Christ-consciousness stands far above this common way of give-and-take thinking. It is from this superior and sublime point of view that we have to understand what it is to empty oneself and to be filled by the Spirit. When He says, "Empty thyself and I shall fill thee," it is not that the Christ as Jesus, the personality, is going to sit on your head. He cannot fill you, as a person. How can one person fill another person? It is unthinkable and meaningless. It was the consciousness that was meant as being capable of filling the emptied vessel of human personality. How can Spirit fill you? The Spirit is not a content, because the very idea of a content is again quantitative, and the Spirit is not a quantitative measure. It is not like water or any other liquid that can fill a vessel. It has no weight. It has no length and breadth. It is not here or there. It is the quintessential value that is immanently present as the very constitutive stuff, the very fibre, pith and being of anything that can be or anything that ever is. The Spirit cannot be thought of, because the Spirit is the very pre-supposition of thought. Even before you start thinking, the Spirit is there behind it impelling your thought. So there is no such thing as thinking the Spirit, and, therefore, there is no such thing also as measuring the Spirit with the yardstick of human thought. How can the Spirit fill you, unless you have the capacity to receive It or contain It! Where is the container for the Spirit!
This wonderful gospel, "Empty thyself and I shall fill thee", is complemented by another equally wonderstatement of his, "The kingdom of heaven is within you." How can the kingdom of heaven be within you? You are such a small frail personality, a little body, occupying one or two feet of width of the earth. How can the kingdom of heaven be contained inside you? All his statements seem to be marvellously conspicuous and significant of something that the human mind has not been habituated to think or understand. Have you ever seen a kingdom being contained within the personality of a human being? Yet, it is said by the Christ. It is something like saying that the ocean is in a drop, which is unthinkable. All these statements of the Christ appear to be inscrutable because we cannot understand what the Spirit is from the point of view of which he spoke always. The very standpoint was quite different.
You know that today people say we have a kind of arithmetic where two and two need not necessarily make four as in the Euclidean way of thinking in geometry and arithmetic. Plane geometry is different from spherical geometry, for example. Ordinary geometry of the triangle is different from trigonometry. The values, the measuring and the calculating rules of geometry on a surface do not apply to geometry in a sphere. It is on account of this that they say that under certain given conditions of the physical bodies of the cosmos, the three angles of a triangle need not necessarily make two right angles, though usually this is the rule, according to Euclid. The three angles of a triangle always make two right angles; but this is not true always. There are conditions of existence even in the physical world, in the macro-cosmos for example, or in the micro-cosmos, the subatomic layer as they call it, where this geometry does not hold good. Two and two need not make four. It can be less or it can be more. You think the man has gone crazy because he blabbers something which makes no sense. But, these people say that it is not they who are crazy, but those who hold on to the prejudice that two and two make four only and not more or not less. The world is wider than we can think of. If even humanly conceivable arithmetic and mathematics can elude the grasp of ordinary understanding, as pointed out by these discoveries of modern day, what to talk of the Spirit! The Spirit is non-mathematical and non-measurable, because of its being non-material. And our minds are used to thinking only in terms of measurements and calculations. Therefore, a kingdom cannot be conceived to be contained within a person. The Kingdom of heaven cannot be contained by you. A vast realm or a huge empire cannot be inside the personality of a human being. Yet, this is possible, under certain other given conditions. The part can contain the whole. Is it possible? Have you ever seen a part containing the whole? You have heard of the whole including the part. How can a part include the whole? It is impossible, because the whole is superior to the part quantitatively, again. We again think only in terms of quantity. Because many parts make the whole, the whole cannot be any one part. This is our quantitative way of thinking. But the whole need not necessarily be a quantitative totality. There are wholes which are not necessarily totals of the parts in a material sense.
I shall give you one small example of this kind of peculiar totality, which is not merely the sum of the parts of which it is constituted. The wholeness of the personality of your own body is an example. You have a sense of wholeness of your being. You have ten fingers, ten toes, two eyes and several other limbs of the body. And you have a sense of togetherness and wholeness, compactness and totality in your being. You never think that you are made up of members. You do not go on thinking: "I have ten fingers, ten toes, two eyes." Who thinks like that? You never think of the limbs of your body and never for a moment calculate in terms of the discrete parts of which your body is formed. But you always imagine yourself to be a total – "I", "I am here", "I have come", "look at me". When you talk of 'I' or 'my' or 'me', you do not refer to any limb of the body, nor do you also refer to a totality of the limbs of your body. You refer to another significant wholeness that is present in each and every part of the body, which gives you the confidence of your being a single indivisible something. This indivisibility that you are, which is not a mathematical or a physical totality of the limbs of your body, is wholly present in each one of the parts. This is a very difficult idea to imagine. Every part of your body is a wholeness as far as it is concerned.