by Swami Krishnananda
The whole effort of ours seems, somehow, to be released of the shackles which restrain us like prisoners within the four walls. You know what these shackles are. Each one of you knows what your bondage is. They are the bonds which do not allow you freedom unless you have an adequate knowledge of the way in which you have got into this bondage. You have problems of visa and passport and economic conditions and family relationships and bodily limitations. All these are shackles. You cannot be free like that so easily. But who has put us into this situation of suffering and is keeping us ever restless and unconscious of a future? We are worried about the past, restless about the present, and anxious about the future. Thus, it becomes obvious that we are not merely students of some branch of learning, enabling us to earn our bread. Rather, we are after something which will keep us sober in our minds, and give us peace, if you would like to call it so, under every circumstance. What we lack is not so much bread as peace of mind.
It does not mean that a person who has plenty to eat is a person with sobriety or peace of spirit; nor is it true that a person who is physically starving has no peace of mind. What we are after is quite different from what people generally think they are after in the work-a-day world. We also belong to the work-a-day world; it is true. We are not out of the world. We are on the earth, but being on the earth, being in the world, we are after a serious search for something which is not merely bread, and a building, and a comfortable social and physical life. These are accessories to something else which we are truly seeking. Many of you may not be in a starving condition. You are not beggars. You may have an adequately satisfactory arrangement for your daily meal. You have a proper place to sleep at night. You have clothing. I do not think we have so much difficulty about these matters, which are the physical realities of life. But what is it that you do not have? That is important.
There is something which speaks within us in a language of anxiety. Something is not all right, though you have everything in the physical or social sense. You are respectable people in society. You have a financial status of your own; everything is well, so far as it goes, but you are not happy, really speaking, for a reason which you have not yet found time to go deep into.
We are so busy with the enormous flood of the atmospheric conditions outside that we have been prevented from even finding time to think, let alone the capacity to think. Whether we have a capacity to think correctly or not is a different subject. Have you time to think? That also is not there. Very busy indeed, is everyone. And there is therefore the need to learn also the art of finding time to think in the proper way, because your life is nothing but a mental life and if the mental life is ignored, your physical and social life is not going to make you free. You know very well how important your mind is. There is no need to go on speaking about the nature of the mind and the importance of its working.
With all the comforts and the glories of physical life, if the mind is not in peace, of what avail is this glory of the earth? You may be a king or a queen. Well, wonderful, but the mind is not working. What do you say to this? And you know what it means. There cannot be a greater hell than that. Well, then, the mind is working, but in the wrong direction. That, too, is very unfortunate. What you seek is, therefore, something which is the pre-condition of your physical needs and social relationships. Hence, the subject that we shall take up in these sessions, with which I am personally supposed to be concerned now, would be a series of approaches towards the causes of the effects which our inner and outer lives are.
Our life, whether it is inner or outer, consists of a series. It is not a solid substance. Our existence is not like a hard stone which is immovable and motionless. It is a flux, a series of tendencies, movements, enterprises, etc., which get practically bifurcated into the inward and the outward phases. Life in itself is neither inward nor outward. It is everywhere. But for convenience's sake we make this distinction of being inside and outside, just as we say we are inside the room. But this 'inside' idea arises on account of the wall around. If the wall were not to be there, we would not say that we are inside. We are just on the surface of the earth. But because there is a consciousness of walls on the four sides, there is also a consciousness of an inside and conversely a consciousness of an outside. There is really no such thing as inner life and outer life, just as there is no inside or outside really, unless there is a wall which separates the inside from the outside. But we always speak of an inner life and an outer life as if they are really there. This bifurcation or gulf, so-called, between our inner life and outer life is due to a wall that seems to be there between what we call the inner and the outer. This wall has also to be seen, as to what it is.
Here we have walls made of bricks. But, what is this wall which makes us feel that we have an inner life as distinguished from an outer life? Everything has to be clear before we start doing anything. Yes; we have to see that everything is clear, and there are no doubts and obsessions in the mind. I began by saying that you should decondition yourself first and abandon all conditioned habits. Do not say: "I have read the Upanishads already." Well, you forget the Upanishads for the time being, forget the Gita, forget the Bible, forget your nationality, forget that you are anything whatsoever. But remember that you are a spirit that is seeking solutions to certain serious problems which are universally harassing the minds of everyone. The basic problems are the same everywhere, though the outward expressions of the same are different.
The daily difficulties that we confront in our life are not the same. But the basic root-cause will be found finally to be one and the same thing. We think as human beings. That is the essential way of thinking. But, outwardly, one may think as a man, and another may think as a woman; one thinks as a professor, another thinks as a rustic in the field, etc. These are outward forms of outlook. But there is what is called a common denominator of normal thinking, which is the human way of thinking. We do not think as a dog or a cat, and we do not move like a tree towards the sun. We do not think as the non-human species. We think as human beings only, and we cannot think in any other manner. This is a great limitation on us, again, in the way we think.
I have mentioned certain of the limitations which prevent us from generalised thinking, but the human way of thinking also is a bondage. That is why you have been told many a time that the intellect is a barrier. You must have heard from people that the intellect is an obstacle in higher pursuits, because the intellect is an endowment of the human being. It is not present in an earthworm or a centipede. They have some other instincts of their own. And we have a peculiar structure within us we call intellect, reason, etc. We have been told a hundred times that this is an obstacle. But why is it an obstacle when it is the only faculty we have in the end? It is an obstacle because it is present only in a human being and we cannot find it elsewhere. The way of thinking or the outlook of the different species will be different. And in order to be able to enter into a more generalised form of the outlook of life we should not be wedded too much to our own endowment called the intellect. Though it is an aid, it is not enough.
It is a prerogative of the human species only, but the truths of life are not merely human. There are many more things in the world than human values, and we should not be under the impression that we are gods ruling over this world. We have, at times, a pride, which takes us off from our feet and makes us feel that we are angels walking on this earth, looking down upon sub-human creatures. They are all nothing before us, as if they do not exist at all. We are the masters. The world belongs to us. The earth is the property of the human being. When we have such feelings, we say, 'this land is mine'. How does it belong to you? God knows! Anyhow, you have a feeling it is yours. The man that is in us works in an imperious manner. And that humanness in us, while it is a great virtue in many respects, is also going to be a great hindrance in the last resort. Our human character is one link in the chain of the development of the various species of life in creation. There are, also, superior faculties higher than human reason, which belong to superhuman realms of being.
You know that the world is not made up of human beings alone. There are others below us and above us. We are in the middle hanging somewhere on the rope that stretches from the earth to the heavens. We are on a long journey. We are not stationed in this world as permanent proprietors of properties here. We are not owners of anything. We are in a moving flux, as I said. We are on a perpetual journey onward, and we cannot, as a great master said, step into the same water of the river the next moment, because the next moment we step into another water of the same river. Thus, too, the next moment we are not living the same life. Every moment we are in a new life into which we perpetually enter, and the so-called continuity of our personality which makes us feel that we were yesterday the same thing that we are today, and the hope that we shall be tomorrow exactly what we are today, is due to a limitation of the way in which the mind works, the way in which we get tied up to one set of connotations in this movement. The habit of the mind is to look through a small hole or an aperture. The vast expanse of life, of which we are a small part, is out of the range of our perception, due to certain structural defects in the mind.
That is why we feel that we are the same person every day without knowing that we are changing every moment and are heading towards something different altogether until a catastrophic change will take place, when the mind will know that real change has occurred. And that catastrophe is called death. Every moment we are dying, but we are not aware of it because of the capacity of the mind to adjust itself to this little change every moment. And perhaps if our mind were in a position to adjust itself even to that so-called change called death, we would not know that we are dying. We would not even know that something has happened, just as we do not know that we are today different from what we were yesterday. But the mind is not so made. It is so much conditioned to this body that the severance of it from this body looks like a complete severance from existence itself.
There is a continuity, which is life, of which we are a part, and we are not just X, Y, Z, or A, B, C, sitting here; it is not like that. If we open our eyes to fact, we will be surprised that we have been living a fool-hardy life up to this time, and now the time has come when we have to be serious. Our time is short, and there is so much to learn, and a lot to achieve. Obstacles are too many, and we have no time to wool-gather, sleep or while away our time as if there is eternity before us. We cannot take things lightly. Life is precious. We cannot take it as a joke. Every moment of time is as gold because every moment is nothing but a little loss of this span of our life. Every bell that rings tells us that we have lost one hour. It is not a happy thing that we are hearing. Tenacious has to be our effort at gaining insight into that which we seek.
Be humble. Be patient. Do not try to be big, but be small, until you almost become a nothing, which is better for you than to be a large thing in the world, a cynosure of all eyes. There is hope, and so be always confident that you will get what you need. Always remember three things:
Be clear as to what you want;
Be sure that you will get what you want; do not be hesitant. Assert: 'Yes, I am certainly going to get it', and
Start with that effort just now. Do not say 'tomorrow'. 'Everything is clear to me now, and I shall start at it.'
If these three maxims are before you as your guiding lights, you will succeed always, and with everything.