by Swami Krishnananda
There are people who say that this world of material existence is the only reality; there is nothing beyond this world of objective existence. We call them materialists. There are those who say the world does not exist at all; only God exists in heaven. There are those who feel that God exists and the world also exists; and these people try to bring about an organic relationship between God and the world – making the world, as it were, the body of God Himself. These are viewpoints. Which is the real thing, finally?
That is real which consciousness considers as real. Consciousness is real; it is something that has to be accepted. If consciousness is real – and you cannot regard consciousness as unreal – then whatever consciousness accepts as real, also is real. It can accept even an illusion as real under certain circumstances. You should not say it is wrong. It is an illusion because the consciousness, which is real, accepts it as real. There are people who, in a specific condition of the mind, say that they are seeing something, though you do not see anything. You may say, "There is nothing there," but the mind of the person says, "I see it." There is nothing against the statement: "I see it; that's all. Because I see it, it is real."
The definition of reality is very enigmatic. It can be a conceptual acceptance of a particular notion as very real, or it can actually be a physical, tangible object. Even what you think in your mind is real, because you cannot think unrealities. There is no such thing as unreality, because you will not be able to assert that something is unreal unless you are visualising it before you. When you visualise it, it becomes real. So there is no such thing as an illusory perception. By comparing and contrasting it with another point of view, you say it is illusory or real. When it is perceived, it is real. Animals in the desert run after mirages, thinking that there is actual water and they want to drink it. There is no water in the mirage, but there is no use of saying so. "I see the water there, and therefore I will go for it." If the water in the mirage is not there, who will run after it? So when you perceive a thing, it is real. When you conceive a thing, it also is real.
Taking this issue very realistically, a particular type of spiritual practice has been developed – a very intricate process which analyses threadbare every kind of conscious involvement and does not take anything for granted. This is especially the case where people renounce things and imagine that they have no contact with anything. The idea of renunciation is a very subtle and intriguing issue. What do you mean by having renounced something? You have disconnected yourself from something. But if you are convinced that the thing from which you have disconnected yourself really exists, you have not really disconnected yourself from it. The consciousness of the existence of something will compel you to pay attention to it even if you do not like it. It does not mean that things that you do not like do not exist. And the very fact that they exist is a great problem before you. And every problem in the world is a real problem. There are no such things as unreal problems because if they are unreal, they cannot be problems. So there is no unreal problem. There is only the thing that you think in your mind as a question or problem before you.
The consciousness of something being there in any form whatsoever is a real question. "I have renounced the family and have become a sannyasin." This is an assertion of a particular type of consciousness. But is that consciousness aware of the fact of having renounced something which is already existing? The mind does not believe that the thing from which one has disconnected oneself does not exist. On the one hand, there may be a memory of having lived with something which was, once upon a time, a real object of personal contact. Even if personal, physical contact is not there, conceptional contact will be there. The memory of an object also is an actual contact of consciousness with reality. So, one cannot easily psychologically disconnect from anything, because the memory of that thing persists – and not only that, there may be a subtle lingering of the satisfactions of the life which one led at the time of real physical contact. The memory of the satisfaction of the past is a vicious element entering into the consciousness of actual renunciation. The very consciousness of externality has to be obliterated in order that the renunciation may be complete. We cannot understand what actually we are thinking in our mind, as generally we are accustomed to abrupt thinking and sudden conclusions are arrived at without actually going into the background of our considerations and thoughts. As we are impressed by certain ideas, we consider them as final ideas.
The spiritual path is not a mere imaginary movement along some idealistic lines with no consideration whatsoever in regard to that which the consciousness still accepts as reality. Though you may deny the world idealistically, you will feel it just in front of you. You cannot disconnect the consciousness from its being aware of that thing which you reject as not being there at all. There is a conflict of consciousness in this process. There are circumstances which annoy us every day – like hunger and thirst, heat and cold, etc. Hunger and thirst, heat and cold, do not really exist as objects. They are certain circumstances created in our body due to the molecular structure of the body not being able to cope with the circumstances prevailing outside in the world. When the energy produced by the molecular activity in the body cannot harmonise itself with the energy produced by the sun's heat, we feel that it is very hot. If the molecular energy in the body is more intense in the production of energy than the conditions prevailing outside in the atmosphere, we feel very cold. "It is chilly," we say. There is no heat and cold actually existing outside except the action and reaction taking place between outside conditions and the inner circumstantial structure of the body. So is the case with every kind of experience.
This novel path of spiritual attempt, to which I made reference, takes into consideration all these problems. And every problem has to be taken one by one until it does not exist even to the consciousness which otherwise accepted it as existing. The consciousness should not have even a memory of something existing – otherwise, it is really existing. You should not think that memory is an unnecessary intervention with your experiences. Memory is as active and consequent as actual perception of things. Memory can give you joy. Memory can also bring grief. It is not merely actual physical contact that brings about joy and grief.
Taking all these issues into consideration, a novel path has been chosen by a system of practices known as tantra sadhana. This is a highly misunderstood technique, because we always compare it with some secretive and unintelligible behaviour on the spiritual path, especially as the prosaic perceptions and the ordinary socially conditioned concepts do not go hand in hand with this practice.
Every object, whatever it be – whether you like it or dislike it – is clinging to your consciousness. Just because you do not like something, it does not mean it is outside consciousness. You should not say, "I like only God and I hate the world." Maybe; wonderful! But the object, which is the world that you hate, is sticking to your consciousness as vehemently as that which you love intensely – call it God, or whatever it is. The negative and the positive are actually one operation taking place; they are not two different things. You cannot love without hating, and you cannot hate without loving. They are the obverse and reverse of the same coin. The integral approach that is the true nature of spiritual evolution takes into consideration the pitfalls to which a person can be subjected by going to extremes of thinking, either by way of liking or by way of disliking.
Every action is a psychological operation. It is not a movement of the limbs of the body – the hands and feet. What is actually done with the hands and feet are not to be considered as actions unless the mind considers these movements as actions. The mind is the real doer of everything, and it is the mind that actually practises sadhana. It is not the body. Physical isolation from physical objects does not mean mental isolation from those objects. Like a medical expert diagnosing a disease threadbare from every point of view, the situation of a person in this world is to be analysed threadbare before one takes to spiritual practice.
What is it that you want, finally? You cannot answer this question abruptly. You will be stunned by the very question itself. What is it that you want, finally? You want everything; there is nothing that you do not want. Even those things which some people reject as unnecessary may be very necessary for you, and what you consider as unnecessary may be necessary for somebody else. The objects of the world, or any human context in society, is not to be judged unilaterally from one's own particular point of view; the other side of the matter also needs to taken into consideration. What you think about things and people is not the only important thing. What things and people think about you is also equally important. It is a mutual give-and-take policy of psychological action.
The tantra technique actually is a diagnostic method of handling human passions and prejudices which sometimes persist, even at the penultimate state of spiritual experience. You have heard of tapasvins who did great austerity and had powers of some kind, but the subliminal impulses would not leave them. For instance, intense passion and intense anger, and greed also, oftentimes, are demonstrated in the lives of certain tapasvins whom you can read about in the Puranas, epics, etc. You should not be in a hurry when you take to the spiritual path. The first step has to be taken very carefully, and the second step should not be taken until the first step is firm and there is no chance of your regressing. Quickly you go, and quickly you fall, also.
The conditions of life are neither good nor bad. This is the dictum of tantra sadhana. The goodness and the badness with which you associate objects are mental judgments that arise on account of positioning the things in the world in a particular context, forgetting that they can be positioned in another context also. They say, "Dirt is matter out of place." When matter is not in the proper context, it looks dirty. A good thing can be an abominable thing – like cow dung, for instance. It is a very nice, beautiful thing in the field which is tilled by the farmer. He will not consider cow dung as a dirty thing. It is very necessary and wonderful, beautiful and highly valued – because without that, the crop cannot grow. But throw the same cow dung on your dining table. How will it look? What was good? The context will determine the nature of the object. A paddy plant growing in a rose garden is considered to be a weed, and you pluck it out. A rose plant growing in a paddy field is a weed, and you pluck it out. So what is actually a weed? It depends upon the conditions in which a particular thing is located.
The tantra dictum is that you should not define things from your point of view, but define things from their point of view. When you love a thing, transfer yourself to the thing that you love and then see what happens to you. You cannot love yourself as an object. All love is directed to something which is other than one's own self. You do not run after your own self; you run after that which is other than yourself. Suppose you transfer your consciousness to that which you intensely love – your love will immediately cease, because love has become the very thing which you are. It is the same case with that which you hate. Transfer your consciousness to that which you hate. The hate becomes yourself only, and you cannot hate yourself. The transference of consciousness to the conditions – whatever they are – is one of the techniques prescribed.
But it is humanly impossible to think like this, because the habits of social involvement and psychological obsession prevent you from taking a liberal view of anything in this world. God has not created evil anywhere; otherwise, He would be the author of the evil of things. Do you say that God is of that nature? If God is not the creator of evil, then who created evil? Are you the creator of evil? Then you are to be judged for that. Who are you detesting when you perceive an evil object? Are you detesting God who created it? Are you detesting yourself because you perceive it? You cannot even answer this question. Your mind is in confusion. That is evil which is totally disharmonious with a particular condition that is prevailing. A snake does not die though it has within itself a tremendous poison which can kill anybody. If the poison is so deadly, the snake should also die. So is the case with a scorpion's sting. It carries a terrible thing in its own body, but it does not die from it.