by Swami Krishnananda
In the previous chapter we were studying the nature of conflict—a very important difficulty in which we often find ourselves. The special feature about this psychological conflict is that, when we are in it, we do not always realise that we are in it. So, that psychological conflict does not become an object of our observation, does not become a part of our being, and therefore we cannot see this conflict, observe it or study it. Just as we cannot see our own eyes, we cannot see this conflict in our minds. The conflict would have lost its meaning if it had been possible for us to see it or observe it—just as a thief who is detected is no more a thief. The thief succeeds as long as he is not detected. Just as we cannot see darkness with the help of a torch, conflict cannot be seen through. It is in us—that is all, and that is the matter. The difficulty becomes a real difficulty only when it is not known to us as a difficulty. It is not an object before us in any sense of the term. When a person gets involved in this inescapable conflict between the ideal and the real, and at the same time it is not possible to detect his own workings in any manner whatsoever, then the mind divides the contra-events in order to work its way through. There is a twofold mystery about this conflict. The one is that we do not know that we are in a state of conflict, though we are in it. The second is that we cannot go on in a state of conflict forever, and it has to be resolved.
How are we going to resolve the conflict without knowing that we are in a state of conflict? This is a peculiar mystery of this psychological phenomenon. We conduct ourselves in a spontaneous manner—the spontaneity being the very nature of the working of the mind in conflict. It takes avenues of expression in order to relieve tension. All this we do without knowing what we are doing. When we are hungry for example and try to eat our meal, we do not logically argue about how this hunger arises—the physiological, anatomical and biological factors involved in the phenomena of hunger are not contemplated by us. We just eat our food, and there the matter ends. Like that, we just automatically do certain things to resolve conflict.
Now, this ‘we’ or rather the ‘I’ is a shape taken by the conflict itself. There are many layers of this ‘I’, and the outermost layer is the layer of mental conflict. We are slowly going to study what this ‘I’ really is, but suffice it to say for the time being that for all practical purposes of outer life, this ‘I’ is nothing but a bundle of conflicts knit together like a cloth made up of threads. We are nothing except a huge mass of conflicts of the mind. Just as a fabric is called a cloth, though it is made up of many threads, we regard this bundle of conflicts as ‘I’. So we are a huge vehicle of conflicts moving hither and thither, radiating the air of conflict wherever we go, because we ourselves are in a state of conflict. As we are not happy, we cannot make others around us happy.
But conflict is not our true and healthy state—it is an unnatural state. That which is against nature is untruth. That which is unnatural cannot continue for a long time; it is nature that continues. Nature us truth. Untruth does not succeed—truth alone succeeds. Have you heard the great adage, “Satyam eva jayate”. (Truth alone is victorious.) The truth of harmony tries to establish itself in and through this conflict of mind, and we see the avenues of the expression of conflict in very many ways. Some of these conflicts are called defence mechanisms, or we may say certain contrivances which the mind makes use of in releasing itself. Some of these are the attempts of the mind to utilise other persons and the objects of the world as instruments in bringing about a release of conflict. When there is no peace within us, we just try to forget the fact that we have no peace within, and we try to drown ourselves in certain outer phenomena. We just engage ourselves in hectic activity and forget the boredom of life.
We might have seen people carrying their radios with them wherever they go. Whether they are in the bathroom, or at the lunch table, or in the meditation room, it makes no difference—the radio must be there. They go to the market to purchase something, and the radio is hanging on their shoulders. They try to drown themselves in the sound of this instrument, because they have no peace within. They want to manufacture some peace artificially with instruments that they have created, because there is no peace inside. “If I have not got something, I will import it from outside. I will drown myself in a loud sound so that I may not hear any other sounds. I do not want to hear the sound of my own mind, because it is very inconvenient. So let me hear the sound of the radio, tuned very high; or let me just move about from place to place.” These people never sit in any place; they become a permanent tourist throughout their lives so that they have no time to think of their problems, because to think of problems is another problem. “Better not to think about them—let them die out,” these people imagine to themselves.
But the thoughts do not die out, as I mentioned in the previous chapter. They are there, watching for an opportunity to catch us. We think otherwise, and take a very light view of things. We allow these difficult conditions to lie underneath by just trying to forget them. However, we cannot forget the existence of a creditor—he is not going to leave us like that. We may say he is not there, but he knows he is there. While the forgetting of these problems by engaging oneself in something quite different is one of the methods of the mind, there are other ways which it adopts, such as associating ourselves with larger groups of people or busying ourselves with some work of the family. We become a social worker, or at least think that we are one, though we might not be in a position to do any good to society or think of larger things such as world problems, world peace and world brotherhood. We have no peace within us, and we want to bring peace to the world. We become a sort of important person due to talking about world peace, world brotherhood, international harmony and many other things of the same kind. While there is no intrinsic importance in us, we have an artificial importance in the eyes of the people to whom we are talking about these big things. We talk only of the world—nothing smaller than that—and this is one of the ways of the extension of the difficulty of the mind into outer conditions of life. The mind imagines that by going on expanding its field of activities it will be able to be free from the conflicts that are within.
We know that when we are very much aggrieved, we go and cry before someone, “These are my difficulties, oh, see how bad.” When grief is shared, it is lessened. Joy shared increases, as they say. If we have won a lottery we shout everywhere, “Oh, I won it!” Our happiness is increased by others knowing it. But, if we are grieved and we say so, the grief is diminished, because other minds share a sympathy and a part of our troubles. So, the mind tries this device in releasing its conflicts within by engaging itself in fields of activity wider than its own personality. But all this ends only as an attempt with no success, because this extension of the field of work has no end. How far and how long can we go on extending? From our personality we have to go out to society. We may roam around the whole globe, but after that, what will happen? The Earth is the limit of our action, and we cannot go beyond it.
Well, we may try to go to the moon or any other planet, but the cosmos is so wide that we will never see its boundaries. We ask for more and more, and the more has another more beyond it. We have an infinity of space outside us, and the extension of the field of activity of the mind will have no end, just as when we see ourselves in two mirrors kept on opposite sides, we will see an infinity of depth, and we will not know where it ends. Space, and therefore the universe, has no limits.
To try to increase the field of one’s work is not a solution to one’s problems. We may gather the assistance of many people outside, but how many will we collect altogether? The whole world? Even then there are many things left out. Creation is not exhausted by this small Earth. Even if we roam around the whole solar system, creation is not encompassed. The intention of the mind is to reach the limit of its activity, and this limit is never reached by external movements. Any amount of external activity—though it may become a temporary substitute just to forget the monotony of life—life nevertheless becomes a monotony to many people. They just cannot tolerate it, but they do not know what to do with it, so they try to forget it in these manners. But though these may become temporal aids, they are not going to be solutions. We put off the creditor by saying, “Come tomorrow, sir, or after one month,” but he will eventually come. It may be after five years, but he is going to come.
Likewise we tell this conflict, “My dear friend, go a little further—to society, to the country, to the world, to the sun, to the moon, to Jupiter you go.” But he will come back. He may go because we put him off, but how long can we put off things? So, conflicts of mind cannot be put off like that—we have to deal with them. All our social attitudes are attempts at substitution and putting things off, and not at finding solutions.
This was the ground that I tried to pave in the previous chapter, and it is here that we have finally landed. We do not know where to go now, but we have to work like physicians and not merely like sick children who do not know what is happening to them. A physician tries to understand. He does not become flabbergasted by looking at a patient. We should not get upset: “Oh, what a misery!” This is not going to be our solution. Just beating our breasts or hitting our heads against the wall is not a solution. A solution would be to calmly sit and think as to what this is all about. “Why should I be in this condition? What is wrong with me? Why does it often appear that others are happy and I am not? Why should it be like this? Is it true that others are happier than I? If it seems to be so, what should be the reason? Am I a sinner while others are not? What is right with others and wrong with me?”
Generally, though, we think that something is right with us and wrong with others. This is very interesting. “The whole world is dead wrong, it doesn’t understand me, and this world is not meant for me.” We are the so-called prophets—we try to become prophets, and sometimes even incarnations. Psychology is a very interesting subject, and becomes more interesting when our own minds become the subject of study. Don’t become a professor of psychology just to teach the nature of others’ minds. What about your mind, sir, did you study it? “Physician, heal thyself! Teacher, teach thyself! Mind, study thyself!” This must be the motto, at least for a sincere student.
Now, why this should all be there at all is a great question, a tremendous question that the world poses before us. Here we are on the borderland of true psychology, deeper than the so-called depth psychology. The philosophy and the psychology of yoga come to our help here while scientific analysis—whether in the field of physics, biology or psychology—has been attempting only empirical methods. The system of yoga has adopted different means altogether. One may ask, “What is wrong with empirical methods? Don’t we fly in planes and have we not reached the moon?” Well, all this we have done, but we have not done anything for ourselves. We have done many things, but all these things seem to bear no connection with our personal lives and problems.
We are the same persons that we were some centuries back, and our present day’s troubles are the same as they were some centuries back. Two thousand years ago man was suffering from something, and now he is suffering from the same thing. Yes, we have learned to fly like a bird and swim like a fish, but we have not yet learned to walk like a man—this has yet to be learnt. Man needs to be the subject of his own study, because man is the problem. Space and time are not problems, unfortunately. Why should we try to tackle space-time problems? Ultimately, the world has not really been the problem—we have been the problem.
I am reminded that a schoolteacher once asked a student, “Do you know, my dear child, who a politician is?” The student replied, “A politician is one who creates a problem and then tries to solve it.” Likewise, man seems to have created a peculiar problem around himself, and now he finds this problem has to be faced. But he cannot tackle the problem, because it is his dear child. We cannot tackle our children. We can deal with others’ children, but we love our own child so much that we cannot deal with it. We may be a good teacher of others’ children but not a good teacher of our own child—that is the difficulty. So, we may study others’ minds, but not our own minds.
There are some doctors who cannot treat themselves. Though they are physicians, they must go to other doctors. It looks very strange—why should they go to other doctors? But a psychological difficulty is there, and they cannot treat themselves. So, man’s problem is man, and not the world. Our problem is ourselves; my problem is myself and not somebody else or something else—not the sun, not the astronomical world, not society and not anybody else. Let us forget all these. Our problems are in us, and we are the problems.
I began by saying that we are moving vehicles of problems; we are made up of these unanswered questions. This is the outermost layer of the ‘I’ of the human being, the personality of conflict. We do not eat with peace, we do not speak with peace, and we do not sleep with peace. When we eat our meals we are not at peace, because we are thinking of something else. When we go to bed, we do not think of our having gone to bed; we think of something else—about yesterday or tomorrow. We should think of these examples for a few minutes and judge for ourselves whether this is correct or not. Whenever we act, we think of something else other than that.
There are some students in school who, when they are in the mathematics class, think of geography. The teacher is teaching mathematics on the blackboard, and the student opens a geography book. And when the geography teacher comes, he opens a mathematics book. Students do this. We do not know why he is acting like that. He is worried, and it is because he is worried that he thinks of what will come in another forty-five minutes. Likewise, when we are expected to do something or meet someone, we may be anticipating something else. Now we are here, but we may be subconsciously thinking of what is going to take place after an hour. The future is there already touching us, so that we are never wholly living in the present. We are living always in an artificial future which has not yet become a reality to us. We are living in an imaginary world of fantasies, imaginations, reveries and ideals that may be realised or not.
Some philosophers say therefore that the world is like a dream. What else can it be when we live in fantasies and imaginations of the future that have not become the present, and which may not be realised at all? We are always brooding and brooding over something—we ourselves know this—and this is not a happy state of affairs. Yoga goes deep into this problem. Man has to be man. We have to be ourselves and not something other than ourselves. There is always an element of ‘other than me’ in ourselves. A foreign matter is always in our minds—something like a toxin, annoying us constantly. We are not wholly ourselves; we are always something that is not ours. We always have with us something that we are not, something that does not seem to be our nature, and something that does not seem to be real, and we carry these things with us always. This is the false self that we carry with us. Our selves have been carrying another false self, a shadow-like self wherever we have been going, imagining that it is us. Neither can we give it up, nor can we become it, because it is not us. We cannot give it up because we are thinking it is us.