by Swami Krishnananda
The inaugural message given at the 24th All India Divine Life Conference held at the Convention Hall of the Ashoka Hotel, New Delhi, on 29th of December, 1973.
It would not be easy for many of you to envisage the purpose of a Divine Life Conference. At the outset I may take the liberty of pointing out that this is not a religious conference, in the sense religion is interpreted and understood by the popular mind. It is not the intention of this conference to tell you something stereotyped or to give you a diversion from the boredom of your daily life. With the benign blessings of most worshipful Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj and the grace of the Almighty, this conference has been inaugurated and conceived to point out to the human mind in general a way of extricating itself from the meshes in which it seems to be involved. Man has to become man in order that he may accelerate his progress to a state which is superhuman.
Mankind today may be said to be in a state of complacence, in a kind of slumber, which is mistaken for a consciousness of progress and cultural advancement. Nothing can be worse for man than to mistake the false for the true, and vice versa. Ignorance is bliss, is an old adage with which we are familiar. We have to be cautious to see if we are in this condition. Are we in a fool's paradise imagining that we are well off, not knowing what will happen to us in the future? The greatest threat to the enlightenment of the mind of mankind, I may point out, is what may be designated as the material glamour. The world is before us as a thick screen through which it may be difficult to penetrate into the truth that is behind it. Today, our world prides itself over its achievements which it calls science. And, on a careful scrutiny and an investigation into the true situation and affairs in which we are, we would discover that the very forte of science shall be its own refutation. It requires a little thought to realise that the structure of science on which the material values of life are based is really fixed on a shaky foundation. It requires courage of an uncanny nature and a novel type of boldness to plumb the depths of this false system of values that is presented before us as the majesty of matter, the glory of earthly paradise.
Today the eyes of science are themselves slowly getting opened up to the truth of the matter. It is becoming self-conscious. Generally, we are conscious of others, but we are rarely conscious of our own selves. In the consciousness of the world of objects, of persons and things, and human relations and what not, we first forget ourselves. We cut the ground from under our own feet and then go headlong into that arena where even the angels fear to tread, as they say. We are really in a pitiable situation. We are not so secure as we might be made to imagine. The future is not in our hands because we are rid of the knowledge of the future. We are dispossessed of that real worth of man's existence and seem to be possessed of straw and dust and the husk that we call the material values of life. May I put a question – what do you mean by matter, over which you pride yourself so much and whose knowledge has given you a sense of confidence and a sense of security, though it is baseless and foundationless? How do you know what matter is made of and what the true values of life are? The very force behind the argument of the materialist is the reality of matter, the stability of the world as it is perceived by the senses, the realism of sensory perception. But, is this true? Can we take for granted the presentation of the world in terms of the senses? The very notion of the existence of material values, the material stuff or substance with which the world seems to be made – this very concept should be subjected to further analysis and investigation. It cannot be taken for granted on its surface value. The notion of the existence of the material substances and material values of life is conditioned by higher values of which we have at present no knowledge adequately. Who knows the existence of matter? Matter is unconscious. A great thinker of the modern times, who is known as a top scientist, has himself come to the conclusion that today we are heading towards the dematerialisation of matter itself. But, a counter argument to this conclusion was brought forth by another thinker saying that rarified matter does not cease to be matter, thereby pointing out that the world is still material and we are materially constituted in our own personalities. But, this argument and counter argument are both, again, liable to a further investigation.
There is a very subtle, silken thread which connects our perception of values with the reality of things. The cause of the very observation of the material values of life cannot itself be material. To state the whole position simply and precisely, matter cannot know matter. If the whole world is only material, then the very knowledge of the existence and operation of material forces will itself be a work of matter. It would be a self-contradiction of the whole position to argue that matter can be conscious of matter. As you know, the constitution of matter is not inclusive of that principle we call awareness. There must be someone to know that the world is. And who knows that the world exists? Does the world itself know it? Is it the world that knows that the world exists? What do we mean by the world? Our definitions have to be polished a little more. We have to become a little more subtle. And we should not follow the logic of the man of straw or the man in the street who takes for granted whatever is presented before his senses. We have to become very courageous in this matter. Today, the time has come for us when we have to meet materialist doctrines with the very logic of materialism. The argument of materialism has to be combated by the very same argument, because it is based and built on quicksand. It has no moral courage. It appears gaudy, picturesque, magnificent to the unwary senses of man. But it has no inner toughness or moral strength. It can be blown by a wisp of wind. This truth is not known to us.
You must have heard of the magnificence of a person called Ravana in ancient times. He shook the whole earth. He terrified even the gods, as they say. But his glamour was materialist glamour. It was the glory of the senses which had mistaken falsehood for truth. And the austere, barefooted, single person called Rama could face this immensity of material power called Ravana. Ravana had no moral strength. He had only the material force with him, the power of quantity. He had no qualitative worth in his personality. There was no substance. It was essenceless. That was the life that Ravana lived, Hiranyakasipu lived, and the materialists live. They appear to be powerful, but they have no strength. So, in the name of God and in the hallowed name of Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, may I call upon you all to develop this inner strength in you which is not material but which is the controller of material forces. It is the discoverer of the element of matter. And you are superior to the entire quantitative power of the material world. The single spark that shines and glories within your heart is more strong, more powerful and capable of working greater wonders than the magic of science that is today blindfolding your eyes.
The purpose of this conference is, therefore, to awaken our consciousness to a state of its own self-consciousness. We are not here to preach religion which people generally define as a kind of opium. It is to call a dog a bad name and hang it, as they say. We do not know what religion is, and then we call it opium. We do not know what the world is, and we call it a reality. And we do not know who we ourselves are! We are in a world of total ignorance, darkness and misconception. We have no idea of our own selves; we do not know what we are made of; we do not know what our relationship is with the world and human society; we do not know what is beneath our own skin! This is the life that we live today. And yet we are great, gloried! We do not know what will happen to us tomorrow, or the next moment. We are controlled by forces over which we have absolutely no power or restrictive capacity. Our greatness is our simple ignorance! If today we appear to be great, it is because we are fools! This would be the predicament in which we are and which we will certainly discover, if we go deeply into the matter honestly and dispassionately, dispossessing ourselves of the apparent vestures of borrowed glory.
The world shall desert us one day. The friends of the world are not going to be with us always. Today's things are not seen tomorrow. The things of this moment may not be there the next moment. We do not know how many minutes more we have to breathe in this world. We do not know how long the heart will beat indefatigably. All these are mysteries beyond our control. Are we not Homo sapiens? Are we not human beings who are supposed to be superior to animals? And should we continue the animal state of life and existence, of breathing, eating, sleeping and procreating? We have the same fear as the animals have. We have the same insecurity as the animals have. And we are subject to the same propensities as the animals are. What is the superiority of man, except that he can fight better and kill other people more ferociously than animals can do! Are we not here to utilise that rare endowment which is the prerogative of the so-called humanity in man? Material possession and material comfort do not distinguish man from animal. The electricity that we have, the power over matter that we seem to possess, the planes and the jets, the physical comforts and the good dishes, the tables and chairs, all these do not make man. This is a foolishness in which we seem to be involved. Man is a character, an attitude, a conduct, a system of values and a state of consciousness. That is man. And, if this achievement is far from us, are we human beings? Can we call ourselves men and women? Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj gave this message of universal awakening. He came to the world to shake up man from the sleep of ignorance. Now our eyes have been opened and we can see things as they really are.
Man, beware of your own self much more than anything else in this world. You are your strength and also your weakness. Man can stand or fall. He has the rationality which can be used or abused. Therefore, let us not be afraid of material forces. Let us not be afraid of materialists or atheists. They will not stand before us. They are nothing. They have no energy. And if today Bharatavarsha, India, stands fearless and powerful in the comity of nations, it is because of an eternal value that she has been nurturing within her bosom from centuries. If repeated onslaughts and attacks could not deter her from her position and daunt her, if today Indian culture, Bharatiyan culture is as glorious and powerful as it was, it is because of a rare value that our country, our nation has been embosoming in herself. We need not be afraid of anything – not of atom bombs, not of any material force, not of any opposition. India is powerful. Our country has its own glory, a glory which is identical with her very existence and structure. Our country, our culture, our nation is inseparable from its own citizens. And it is the citizen of India who can say that he is a citizen of the world. It is only the citizen of Bharatavarsha that can confidently and scientifically prove to the mankind of this world that mankind is one. It is the citizen of Bharatavarsha who has no enemies, really speaking. He is the friend of all. He declares, "Vasudhaiva kutumbakam: My family is the whole world, nay the entire universe; I do not belong to India only, I belong to the cosmos. The glory of the earth is mankind's glory. This earth is one of the planets of the solar system. I belong to the solar system, nay to the Milky Way itself and the cosmos, the universe." And within this structural pattern of the environment of the universe of which we are the real citizens, there is a light that shines perennially without shedding a shadow. That is the Intelligence which is reflected faintly, though in a distorted manner, in the intellect of each one of us here. The Intelligence of the cosmos is far superior to the reflected intelligence of the human beings. And our evolution up to the stage of the human being is not the end of the matter. The great glorious scriptures of our country tell us that we have come only half the way. We are still to journey. The evolution is not complete. Man is to become a superman, as he has already become man from the lower state of animal. We are told that from matter there is evolution up to the vegetative level, then up to the animals, and from animal we have come to man. But man is not the end or the destination of the process of evolution. Man has to become a superman. He has to become a divine being. He has to become a god, and he has to finally attune himself with that one God of the whole universe. There are not many gods. The term 'God' is not a concoction of the theological brain; it is a scientific fact. It is the principle that sustains all the values of the world, of which we are all integral parts. So to contemplate the Reality of the universe, to contemplate God or Isvara is to contemplate the very stuff of our own being. So, science and religion are inseparable, if they are dispassionately looked at and studied.
The world is one, knowledge is one, the aim of humanity is one, and we need not dub ourselves as religionists, creedists, philosophers, spiritualists, Mahatmas, Sadhakas, etc. Let us call ourselves pure human beings who aspire for the glory of mankind as a whole. And this glorious destination of mankind is single. As rivers enter the single ocean, all values of life shall commingle in the ocean of that Eternity, that Infinity, that Supreme Repository of absolute value. This is, in my own humble way, to give you an outline of what is ahead of us, the task before us and the duty that we are supposed to execute in a dispassionate manner, realising honestly, logically and scientifically that we are one whole. The whole of mankind is a single whole. We are not divided among ourselves as we appear to be. We are one and we can face any force that is un-divine. Let us be courageous, let us be bold and let us invoke the blessing of the Almighty who is the only Reality before us and who is the glorious destination, the magnificent Goal of mankind, of the whole universe.