by Swami Krishnananda
‘What a pity! A hero speaking like this! I thought you are made of a better stuff. At this crucial moment you are failing. Having renounced kith and kin, homestead and chattel, and taken to the path of God-realisation, you are still speaking in terms of humanity, in terms of your personal immortality, and in terms of justification of the values of the world of Nature. You want to have the same earthly satisfaction even in God?’ There is a story, very interesting. Narayana and Lakshmi were seated in Vaikuntha. Lakshmi cast a glance over the whole world and saw a pig wallowing in a mire, eating rubbish. She was really sorry. She told Narayana, ‘What is this creation of yours? If you wish, you can give salvation to anyone in a moment and this is the compassion that you have! Look at this poor pig. Can you not bring it back to Vaikuntha? Why does it stink in mire?’ Narayana said, ‘It does not want to come. If it does not want to come, what can I do?’ ‘O, who will not want to come to Vaikuntha, the glorious paradise?’ Lakshmi said. ‘But I tell you, it does not want to come,’ said Narayana. Lakshmi again said, ‘Impossible! No one with sense will dislike to come to the glorious heaven of Vaikuntha.’ Narayana said, ‘Well, You can send a messenger to the pig and call it to Vaikuntha.’ Narada was sent as a messenger, who spoke to the pig, ‘Friend, well, Narayana is calling you in Vaikuntha.’ The pig said ‘Narayana? Which Narayana? Where? And what is this Vaikuntha? And why are you troubling me, disturbing me?’ ‘No, no, no, I am not disturbing you. Why are you suffering here?’ ‘What suffering? I am not suffering, I am happy. I have my family, everything is okay.’ ‘No, in this quagmire, in this dirt, you are living. Narayana’s Vaikuntha is paradise. Immortality is what you gain there. Nectar is what you drink.’ ‘Nectar? What is nectar?’ ‘It is a glorious elixir which will make you deathless.’ ‘I cannot understand anything. I shall ask my Mrs.’ Mr. Pig went to the Mrs. and said, ‘Somebody has come and he says he is from Narayana in some Vaikuntha, and they want us to go there. They say we will be happy, there. What do you say?’ ‘But...will we...get our food there?’ she asked. ‘The food we eat everyday?’ Mr. Pig came back to Narada and asked, ‘Can we get the daily bread we eat here?’ ‘O, horrible!’ Narada cried. ‘You are asking for this dirty stuff in Vaikuntha? Nothing, nothing of the kind. That you cannot have. You shall have the divine elixir.’ ‘Then, you mind your business. You cannot give us even our food, and you want us to starve — in Vaikuntha? To that place you are taking us! We do not want to come, you go, go, sir.’ Narada came back. ‘I am sorry,’ he told Narayana and Lakshmi, ‘They do not want to come.’ And, turning to Lakshmi, Narayana said, ‘What did I say?’
Well, this is a story about every one of us. It is not merely a tale to hear, it has some connection with all of us. Such is the poor understanding we have of God and such the nature of the oksha that we are thinking of in our minds, in a peculiar manner of our own. Don’t you think that we would like to exist somehow in this very way even in the garden of Eden, in the presence of the Almighty? And would you like to be swallowed up by the lion of God? No, that is a terrible thing! No one can gainsay that there is a basic love for bodily existence and our idea of immortality is of a long duration of existence in this very state of affairs in which we are living today. Only, we would not like to have the pin-pricks of daily life we are trying to get over. We want to have a free hand in everything, but with the justification of this ego’s desires. The attachments which were the basis of the arguments of Arjuna, mentioned in the first chapter, are the opposite of the spiritual gospel that Krishna gave in the Bhagavadgita. Yes, Arjuna was prepared for renunciation also, if it came to that. He suggested, ‘I renounce the whole thing and become a mendicant. If that is spiritual life and religion, I am ready.’ Now we are ready for that, really. Suddenly we say, ‘We renounce father and mother renounce every connection with the world. We shall have nothing to do with people. We seek God.’ We move from one place to another place in this very world, and satisfy ourselves that the renunciation is complete. The great renunciation which the Bhagavadgita speaks of is not this much merely. It is not just a coming away from California to the Himalayas. It is a different thing altogether, which would not be easy for all people to understand; and if it had been so easy we would not be bungling in our spiritual life in the way we do every day. Arjuna could not grasp it, how can we probe it? We stumble into the same rut of thinking in spite of all our arguments and abilities and our efforts to get at the significance of true spiritual life. We cannot properly appreciate the connection that exists between God and the world, between God and ourselves and between one person and another person. And the whole of metaphysical philosophy is supposed to deal with these supreme principles — God, world and soul — an understanding of whose internal relationship is supposed to be philosophy proper, ontology as they call it these days. But these principles elude our grasp, because, even in our endeavour to grasp the internal relationship among these ultimate principles, we commit a basic mistake, an error which worms itself into the very situation of understanding. We remain as justifiable ego-centres, we remain ‘ourselves’, we remain just what we are today. Even a whit of difference does not take place in us, though we are trying to lift ourselves into that status where we can comprehend the cosmic principles that we are discussing in this philosophy. We remain the same Mr. and Mrs., the same boy or girl, the same businessmen, industrialists, thinking of God, world and soul. So our philosophy becomes a jungle of words, a forest of incoherent ideas, tiring and not satisfying, and we get fed up with all philosophy; because we have not been discussing philosophy really, we were justifying our own way or thinking in the name of philosophy and trying to bring down God Himself to this world of our personal egoistic relationships and compelling Him to answer to our needs that are psychological, empirical, relational, whatever they be. We are these Arjunas. And we cannot face this problem of the spirit finally. If we are cast into the fire ordeal of the requirements of true spiritual living, we would be utter failures and we would feel that none of us is fit for that life. We are just go-lucky people with an inward complacence that we are leading a religious life. But religion does not become religion and the spiritual does not become spirituality unless our outlook in respect of the whole of life gets tuned up to the demands of the nature of God and the internal relationship that subsists among God, world and soul. There should be a harmony between our way of thinking today and the essential nature of the internal relationship of God, world and soul, as it is essentially. Though it may not be an utter harmony that we achieve, there should be at least a tendency of our way of thinking towards that requirement of ultimate harmony. Even the first step taken in this direction is a step in the right direction and is an admirable achievement indeed.
The universal has to be implanted in the particular. God has to descend into the heart of man. At least as a little iota of reality, a spark of that Fire should be present in us. Then we can be said to be set on the spiritual path. What we call the spiritual way of living is the way of God, the way of the Absolute, the way of the Tao, as they call it. Though we might have not achieved it, contacted it, or understand it fully, we should be sure of moving in that direction, rightly. Even if we move only one inch in the direction of Badrinath, it is an achievement in that pilgrimage. But if we move in the direction of Delhi, it cannot be called a movement in the direction of the shrine. Though it may not be easy to comprehend all the requirements of spiritual life, there should at least be a satisfaction in us that we are after the Goal. It is therefore necessary to make a thorough-going search of our own psychic nature, the world of desires which has various layers of manifestation, only the uppermost one being visible and intelligible to us in some partial manner. The lower layers are not known to us. Psychologists and psychoanalysts have tried their best to understand the deeper levels of the human psyche. These are the worlds of desires. And the predominant desire working in the conscious level may make it appear that the underground world does not exist at all. But it does exist and will thrust forth its tentacles one day, and decide everything. This is one of the reasons, evidently, why psychoanalysts like Freud thought that the religions of the world are an illusion. If religion is only a complacent attitude manifest by the underground world of desires in its outer form of social piety and external adjustments of values, religion would remain an illusion, no doubt. But if religion means an entry of even the least percentage of the universal into this particular existence of ours as individuals, that would be true religion, and it has no connection with the world of desires or the psyche. So, there is a popular religion of the masses, the so-called pious that live in the light of human relationships, and there is the true religion of God, which is the subject of the Bhagavadgita. This is the reason which will explain why I said at the beginning that the message of the Gita is not meant for the ordinary man. It requires a great alertness of our personality, the total being, to grasp its message; because we will realise that the message is supposed to have been delivered by the Cosmic Form which included within itself everything existent everywhere, at any time, and we have to tune ourselves to that situation if we are to absorb its implications and its proper significance.