by Swami Krishnananda
In tracing the evolution of the mind in the previous session, we came to a point where life seems to be a series of occasions when the mind feels an irreconcilability with its object. All our thoughts have corresponding objects before them. We think things, persons and various conditions. The anxieties and sufferings of life can all be boiled down to attempts on the part of the mind to reconcile itself with its object.
The mind does not always succeed with this attempt because it can never become the object, and the objects cannot become the mind; yet, there is an unsuccessful attempt at bridging this gulf, which is the story of all human history. Every attempt of one individual to overcome another, in any manner or any capacity whatsoever, is only an outer expression of the internal tendency of the mind to overcome its object.
Why should the mind try to overcome the object or reconcile with the object? Why not be independent of the object and unconcerned with it? Originally, in its evolution, the primitive state of mind thought that the objects are absolutely independent of itself, that the world has no relation to it at all. Animals react only to stimulus. There is no judgement of values, no understanding the world, no raising the question as to why there should be a stimulus from outside. The animal mind does not question because there is no purpose in questioning. Its purpose is to react to stimulus whenever it arises from the outside world. It is the human mind that feels the difficulty in a greater intensity than the animal mind.
As I tried to analyse last time, our sufferings seem to be many times more serious and complex than the sufferings of animals. The reason is that in our level of evolution, Truth reveals itself in a greater degree than in the animal mind. When Truth reveals itself in a more extensive manner, it beckons the variety to itself in a more intensified manner. Our vision of Truth is vaster than in the mind of animals. It does not mean that we have a real consciousness of truth. The vision presses itself forward in our minds merely by the fact of the evolutionary process, not because of a self-analysis that we have been practising. This is not a deliberate invention or a discovery of the evolution of the Truth consciousness in our mind. It has pressed itself forward merely on account of a level that the mind has reached above the animal level. Somehow or the other we happen to be on a higher degree, just as we appear to be in a waking condition now which is more real than the dream world. The apparently higher level of the human mind drags itself forward in the evolutionary process, and together with it also drags the degree of Truth corresponding to its level.
Now, what is this Truth to which we seem to be awakened in the human consciousness? The Truth is that the vision or the perception or the sensory reactions of the lower levels were not wholly true. It is not true that the world is absolutely unrelated to us. It is also not true that we can get on merely by reacting to stimuli. We cannot live like animals for a long time because the stimulus is also a reminder from the outer expression of Truth. “I am here. Look at me,” says Truth to the animal mind. But when there is this call from the outer expression of Truth, there is only a kicking back, as it were, which is the response which, in the animal state, the mind reveals in respect of this stimulus. There is no understanding of why this stimulus is there or ought to be there. Even on the animal level the pressure of Reality is felt, and it is this pressure of Truth that manifests itself as the urge for evolution. If there were no Truth, there would be no evolution at all.
“You are not fully ripe; you have to mature more and more,” is perhaps the inaudible voice from the cosmos. This voice from the Silence, as we may call it, urges us forward, pushes us, as it were, and never leaves us at any single given level. This is why we are never happy. Never can a single created being be happy, because evolution is not complete. We are moving, and we have to move further. Now, at the human level, a peculiar psychological difficulty arises which we call discrimination or discriminative understanding, wherein we rise above the primitive notion that the world is absolutely unrelated to us, and seem to feel, unconsciously though, that there is something hidden in the secrecy of things which is impossible to completely avoid in life. It is not possible to brush aside the realities of life totally in our self-centred existences. Selfish people have tried their best to live lives localised to their own bodies, but all these have been failures throughout history. No one who has been wholly selfish was successful in life because selfishness goes counter to the demands of the human mind, which the mind makes itself, which are necessary due to the very stage in which it finds itself by evolution.
The mind realises that it is somehow or the other dependent on the objects of the world for many purposes. If the world is absolutely unrelated to us, we should not be dependent on it, and there should be no commerce between us and the world. But the truth seems to be different; we have dependences of various kinds. From morning to evening we realise the extent of our dependence on the world. We want air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat, people to talk to, and many other social relationships, without which life seems to wither away into an airy nothing.
The animal consciousness, or rather the notion that the world is not related to oneself organically, is not true. This fact comes into high relief in the human level of realisation. “I have to deal with the world,” is the conclusion of the human mind in its higher evolution. And the manner of dealing with the world is the business of existence. The whole education of the human being is the process of the training of the human mind to understand the way in which it has to deal with the world. Thus, education is a kind of training in adjustment of values, and ultimately training in the adjustment of oneself with the world in its completeness.
Even now the evolution of Truth is not complete. While it is true that in the realisation of there being some sort of a value in the objects of the world we have risen to a higher level, yet there is a pinch felt from within that we are not independent after all. We are living a slavish life, as it were, depending on the things of the world, and nobody wishes to be a slave. We may pour milk and honey on a slave; yet, he will not be happy: “Oh, I am serving this person; I am dependent.” The very consciousness of dependence gnaws into the vitals so that any amount of satisfaction otherwise given is not going to be complete.
Even the mere consciousness that the world has a relation to us in the sense that we are dependent upon it to a large extent is not going to satisfy us. We are not happy with this understanding. What is the use of knowing that we are slaves? “Can I become independent?” is the question.
So man tries to be independent. He struggles against the odds of life, and fights with nature. There are various types of struggles to overcome the dependence in which man seems to be involved. There is struggle for existence, struggle for life, which is another name for struggle for independence of the spirit. “Can I achieve independence in this life?” is the question of the human mind – a question it puts to itself, because the answer cannot come from anyone else. It is a question that is put by each one to one’s own self. Dependence is a kind of death: sarvam paravasam dukham, says the scripture. Sarvam atmavasam sukham: The more we are self-dependent, the more are we happy. The more we are dependent on others, the more also is our unhappiness. Whatever be the salary that we get, it makes no difference if we are dependent. We are subservient, and this makes the mind unhappy.
So it is not merely the possession of material wealth that can make us happy, but a sort of conscious independence which tries to assert itself even in a slavish mentality. Even a slave asserts himself one day or the other. There is an assertion of independence in each atom and in every cranny of creation. The process of evolution may be described as a process of a larger and larger seeking of freedom; the more we evolve in life, the more also are we free in the expression of our consciousness. From matter to life, from life to mind, from mind to intellect is evolution, and also from freedom to freedom: from lower freedom to higher freedom, from more restricted to a more unrestricted freedom. The human mind is deliberately conscious of its situations. It can, to some extent, change its destiny with a free will – a freedom of choice. In this sense, we call it freer than the animal instinctive mind; but as we have seen just now, we are not really free. If we were, we would be happy also, because freedom is happiness.
Knowledge is power, but our knowledge has not led us to power. We have been crying for freedom for centuries and are wretched even today, in spite of our education. No one is free and happy. There is an agony in the heart silently felt as a permanently raised question, to which no answer is found. The whole life seems to be a big question mark. “What” and “why” are the questions, whatever be the object of the situation before us. What is the answer?
Nobody can give the answer. The life of the human being, the life of the cosmos, has remained an enigma, and may remain an enigma forever as long as the mind is the answerer of the question. So is this predicament of the human mind, where it is in a state of conflict between itself and the world outside: on one side, we cannot leave the world, because we will die without it; on the other side, we do not want to be dependent upon it. This is the great human psychological conflict. Conflict is of the mind with its objects, and a theoretical knowledge that its object is there and its character is such and such is not going to help the mind much, because what the mind needs is not an understanding or a knowledge of the object, or scientific knowledge, for that matter. It is not this knowledge that we are seeking. We are seeking freedom. We do not want science, we want freedom, but what the world gives us is a kind of tempting information which today we call education. We want scientific advance in our life, bereft of the freedom which we are seeking. It is like taking food without appeasing hunger. I am given food, but I am not satisfied, for some reason. It is not food that I want, I want appeasement of hunger; so the problem is not solved.
We are given tinsel which appears to be satisfying. The knowledge which we are provided today is only a kind of promise that is being made – a promise which is never fulfilled. Therefore, the mind struggles to overcome this opposition, and in this the mind has been a failure. Mostly in all kinds of struggles of the mind with nature, it has been a failure; nature has won victory. The world has managed to keep the human mind under subjection. We are slaves of the world even today. No one can be independent. We are caught up in it so inextricably that slavishness is not the word; we are worse than that. But the mind is not going to cease its effort, and there is a push behind the mind to urge it forward. “Go ahead!” says the urge of Truth.
At this present stage of our analysis, we should not worry ourselves as to what Truth is. It is enough if we know that there is an urge. It is due to this urge that we go to sleep and that we wake up. Due to fatigue after this effort of the day we fall asleep, but what is the good of going to sleep and feeling a want to go to sleep forever? For, we sleep but again wake up. The effort is not complete, and the Truth wakes us up. While it is the Truth that makes us fall asleep, it is also the Truth that wakes us up again for continuing the action that was left pending earlier. Therefore, human evolution is a continuous march of the human mind in search of freedom from dependence on the world, from the clutches of nature, from the agonising conflict of irreconcilability that it feels between itself and the world of creation.
The mind then tries to overcome this conflict by a trick. Many times we can imagine that we are free, and then we can be happy. Why strive for freedom when we can just think that we are free? This is a kind of self-deception into which the mind enters. While we cannot succeed in the battle of life, we can run away from it and proclaim victory because what is really necessary is a proclamation, and not real victory. So the mind tries to proclaim victory over the world, which it does not have. The world has defeated it. “Get away from me,” says the world. “You puny mind, you cannot understand me.”
But the mind’s vanity is hurt: “I shall be called a fool for having returned from the battlefield defeated.” So it proclaims victory by certain devices that it has manufactured. In psychology and psychoanalysis these are called defence mechanisms by which the mind deceives itself into a sense of satisfaction using a so-called freedom which is really not there.
The difficulty of the human mind is a set of relations it establishes with the world outside, which we call likes and dislikes. Our relations with the world can be summed up with the likes and dislikes of the mind. But on a further investigation we will realise that dislike is actually a liking to avoid certain things, so ultimately there are only likes, no dislikes. There are various kinds of likes, or wants, or feelings of necessity. Connect the mind with the world and with the satisfaction of desires, and the mind tries to overcome the world or gain independence over it: “How am I dependent on the world? It is by my desires for the things of the world. This is what causes my dependence. If I satisfy my desires, I will become independent. Why not try this method?” And so the mind tries to satisfy desires in order to gain independence over the world.
Remember that the mind seeks independence and nothing else. So even in the mind seeking fulfilment of the desires, it is seeking only independence, because to desire is to be dependent. In the satisfaction of the fulfilment of a desire there is an apparent abolition of the conflict between the mind and the object: “The conflict seems to be resolved if I have the object of desire. How am I dependent on the object if the object is already mine? So why not have all things and thus become independent?”
These days, we regard independence as a state of mind where it is satisfied of having possessed everything on Earth. “If the whole world is mine, I am independent of the world.” This is how the mind argues. If the whole world is not mine, and yet I long for it, I am dependent on it. The longing for the world does not cease. To cease the longing, the attempt of the mind is to bring the world under its subjection. We have wars waged between nations. We have Hitlers, Ravanas, Kumbakaranas, and may others with this condition of mind where a specific form of desire called ego ran rampant – became wild, as it were, and wreaked havoc in the world in its attempt at subjugating things.
Desires are of various kinds, the most prominent of them being hunger, sex and ego, and it is these that become uncontrollable passions. While desires can be many, they can be reduced to these three instincts, hunger and thirst being biological, and ego being psychological. All the struggles of life finally will be seen to be the expressions of these three desires.
When they are in a mild form they go as preferences, likings; we like certain things, and so on. But when they become intense, they become wild passions, and then it is that they try to do harm to other people. When desires go out of bounds and cannot be controlled by even the mind from which they arise, they become like wildfire, and everything is destroyed. These are certain ways in which the mind can go off track in its evolutionary process, like railway trains can go off the track if they are run too fast or the engine goes out of order, and so on. If it moves along the track, it will reach its destination; otherwise, it will dash down, killing all people inside it.
The mind is supposed to evolve, not to run amuck. Horses pulling carriages are supposed to move along the trail, but if the horse goes amuck, it can throw the vehicle down into a ditch. The human body, which is like the vehicle pulled by the horse which is the mind, moves onward towards Eternity. A very beautiful image is given in the Kathopanishad: The chariot of this body is being driven by the horses of the senses, and so on. This chariot is supposed to have been driven to Eternity along the prescribed path. But if the horses go uncontrolled, they may run hither and thither and break the carriage to pieces. The destination will not be reached. The desires of the human mind are basically reconcilable with the urge for evolution, but they get entangled with an unnatural relationship of the mind with objects and then become passions.
It is very difficult to understand the good and bad points of human desire. It is not that all desires are devilish, but they can become devils if they are out of control. Fire – is it good or bad? Water – it is good or bad? We cannot say. Water is good; without it we cannot live, but it can drown us also. Likewise is human desire. It has a basic rationality behind it which is explicable by the immanence of the Truth-consciousness which is the urge behind all human desires. So there is a divinity behind all human desires, but there is also a Satan together with it, walking parallel with the divine urge within. The Satanic element is the diversification of the desire – the horse going amuck, we may say. Instead of the horse moving along the path, the horse is running wild into the forest. So is the condition of the human mind in its attempt at fulfilment, not knowing what really happens.
The mind foolishly imagines that freedom can be had if all others are destroyed: “My freedom is challenged by the existence of other people. Then I shall see that they do not exist.” Hitler was such a person: “If anybody opposes me, I shall see that they do not exist, or I shall make them all into satellites.” The human desires try to convert the objects of the world either into satellites, subservient elements, slaves, subordinates, or it sees that they do not exist at all. These are the positive and the negative sides of human desires. In the cruder forms of desires, there is a feeling of restlessness without one’s knowing what is happening inside. But in the finer forms, there is a deliberate attempt to do something with the objects.