by Swami Krishnananda
You will have to follow these processes very carefully, stage by stage, and it is essential that you should not miss the link or the argument—otherwise you will not be able to do anything. The thoughts have to be trained in a very comprehensive manner. No link can be missed, else there will be a difficulty in concentration of the mind. You should try to close your eyes and think over the series of thoughts which we have gone through previously, otherwise you will forget the earliest ones and remember only the later ones.
You are going to build up your lives with these lessons and not merely learn something and leave. It is very important to remember—you are not doing this just to learn something, but to transform your lives. Unless these thoughts enter your lives, they will not help you. Hence, it is necessary to think deeply over every aspect of the question, and see that everything is clear—clear as daylight. If any thought cannot be assimilated into your life, it means that you have not understood it and traced it out. A problem should not remain a problem for all times—it should be resolved.
We have discovered that there are three faces of an experience, and it is an erroneous notion to conclude that an experience is only unilateral. Most people who are uneducated and illiterate in this true spirit think that all difficulties come from outside. They think, “All my troubles are from others, not from me. The world is the source of trouble for me.” This is a primitive way of thinking. “The world goes on changing, irrespective of my suffering. The world does not seem to care for me. The history of nations, the change of the world, the seasons, society—all these seem to be unconcerned with me,” is a complaint of the observer of the world. This is the first stage of thinking, the most rudimentary form of it. “All that happens, happens only in the world, and nothing happens in me.” This again is the adhibhuta view of things, bereft of any connection with the adhyatma.
The fact that we are also somehow involved in the changes of the world is a later stage of thinking. It is not true that all change is only outside. In a higher way of thinking, there also seems to be some corresponding change in us. The person may realise, “I am not as unconnected with things as I thought myself to be. Somehow there seems to be some relation of mine, some contribution of mine to the changes—historical as well as social—in the world.” A still higher way of thinking is that the changes are accounted for not merely by outside forces or our own actions, but that there is something else also present, which is the divine element. This is the adhidaiva about which we have already spoken.
From the outside we come to the inside, then we go to another element which seems to be comprehending both the without and the within. That third element has a voice in everything that happens in the world. We cannot simply brush it aside as non-existent or unconnected to events that take place in the world. Unconnected with it, unrelated to it, or without reference to it, nothing can be done and nothing can happen. Our thought ascends through stages, beginning with the purely external—which we may call the materialistic view of things—to the internal psychological or the idealistic view of things. Then it proceeds to a superior synthesised view of things, to which it is difficult to give any appropriate name at the present moment. It is not realism and it is not idealism—it is something more than both. This third aspect is invisible, though in a sense more real than both the visible terms related in perception and experience.
Unfortunately for us the invisible seems to be the reality. The reality is not visible, and the visible is not the whole reality. It is this third element which is so important and which superintends the ‘I and the Thou’, the subject and the object. We arrived at this conclusion by a very careful analysis of the nature of the perception of the object, through which we discovered that there is a connecting conscious link between the seer and the seen which is superior to both—transcending them and yet immanent in them. The adhidaiva is transcendent to the adhibhuta and the adhyatma and yet immanent in both. This is why we are often told that God is both transcendent and immanent. He is ‘above’ and also ‘in’.
The God element, the celestial element, the adhidaiva element—or any other gradation of our concept of God—is the presiding principle over the experiences of the subject and the object and is transcendent and immanent simultaneously. It is the connecting link between the seer and the seen. The conflict between the two, seer and seen, is resolved only by the third element. We are always in a state of conflict between ourselves and the world outside, and it cannot be resolved by any method we can employ, except by the introduction of a third thing—the unseen and yet more real.
People in the world are not aware that there is a third element involved in experience, because the third element is not seen. We believe only what we can see. This is most unfortunate, because our troubles can be attributed only to this ignorance, which is an ignorance of the fact of a superior element involved in experience. What do we then do in our ignorance? We try to resolve this conflict in our own way, without reference to this third invisible element. There is for us no question of the third element, because we do not know that it exists at all, and yet we feel the conflict is present when “the shoe pinches”, as they say. The world is painful, it is annoying, and it is difficult to get on with things because of an irreconcilable dualism between ourselves and the world outside. We do not know what to do with this world in front of us. It sometimes looks so rigid, so annoying and so unreasonable.
We employ our own individualised methods of adjusting, adapting and reconciling, but all these fail in the end. How long can we go on adapting? The world goes on changing so vehemently that we are not in a position to adjust ourselves properly with it. We think that we can adjust ourselves to it in one condition today, but then in a moment it changes so that we have to work to adapt ourselves to its vicissitudes. This is indeed very unfortunate, and we cannot understand where we really stand. We try many methods. Politicians try to restore unity in the world by some kind of external adjustments, but they too have failed. We have had very great statesmen down through history, yet they did not succeed. They were wiser than those that exist today, but despite all their efforts they are now all gone, and today we may not even remember them. The world is the same old thing in spite of all the great men that trod the earth.
We try many forms of social adjustment. We try methods of social uplift and innovations of various kinds—in the family, in the economy and in other types of social relations. In every type of concern we try to bring some kind of adjustment and harmony into society, so that the world may become better than it was. We have failed, and I don’t know if anyone has ever fully succeeded to his satisfaction in improving the world. Everyone has failed. Why should it be so? Why should the world be so intractable and unavailable to any kind of human approach?
We see the world today—is it better than two thousand years ago? Sometimes it looks worse. Why should it be like this? Because we have employed innumerable methods in an attempt to correct the world, but the world does not stand in need of correction. The world needs understanding and not correction. The world needs understanding minds, not minds that try to conquer the world or rectify it. “What is wrong with me,” the world will retort. “Why do you want to correct me?” The world has less egoism than the human mind, and it is only where the ego is present that rectification may be called for. Do we see ego in the wind? Do we see ego in the rivers that flow, ego in the sun that shines, or ego in the seasons? We don’t see egoism in nature. Egoism is only present in mankind, who is forever complaining.
What kind of correction do we want to make in this egoless poor thing called nature? What is wrong with the world? All attempts at reform have failed—the human approach, the sociological approach, the political approach and the commercial approach—because of our artificial ways of understanding the world or nature, and because we are totally unaware of the true remedy. We cannot jump into the world and correct it; that would be impossible. We have to correct it through a higher power. That which transcends us and the world can alone correct the world. What power do we have when we are ourselves a part of the world? Being a part of the world we cannot have the power to correct the world, because that which belongs to the world has all the characteristics of the world which is to be corrected. In this case, the defective element tries to remove the defect. The individual is defective in the sense that the individual cannot stand apart from a nature already supposed to be defective. Who then is to correct nature, unless it is a power and an understanding superior to the whole of nature in its completeness?
We cannot set right anything in this world. So it is that human approaches fail in every field of life. Every man dies with a sense of remorse. When people pass away from this world, they go rigid and discontented. “Oh, it is all hopeless; I have made a mistake.” This we will realise, and this everyone has to realise. The day of realisation may come too late when nothing else can be done. Everyone leaves this world with a discontented heart, because everyone muddles with things in a confused manner and with a lack of proper understanding of things.
It is for this reason that we are so afraid of death. We do not know what happens to us once death comes. Suddenly we are strangers to this world, carried on by a power of which we have no knowledge. We have lived in discontent, and we die in discontent. What is the good of living like this? Sometimes it seems that trees and plants are better off than us. Man is so miserable, and it is high time that a remedy be sought to deal with this illness of man’s mind which has always been regarded as something superior to the animal and vegetable kingdoms, but which passed away in a condition more unfortunate than the animal kingdom. All this is because we have floundered and made a mess of our lives in this relation to the world outside. We have tried to take the law into our own hands, and here it is that we have committed a mistake. We should not take the law into our own hands. The simple truth to remember is that we cannot administer this law to the world. The adhyatma cannot rectify the adhibhuta in its physical and psychological sense. Man cannot do anything to the world, because the world keeps him in its grips. Man is in the grip of the material laws; hence it is that man has failed in understanding the world and in controlling nature.
The only way to approach it is through a proper method. That which understands nature is also that which has power over nature. The purpose of the human being should not be to tackle nature, but rather to probe into that force which can manipulate nature with an authority superior to the powers of nature itself. All this comes through a simple truth which we have to remember: we cannot do anything unless we approach the world through the adhidaiva. We have tried to control, understand and utilise nature, but it has not come under our control even till this day. We have tried to contact nature for the sake of utilising it, but our contacts have been futile, so we have not been able to harness it properly. How then do we contact nature: through the eyes, the ears, through the sense organs, through the hands, through the feet and through these external avenues of sensation.
Yoga, on the other hand, has a quite different method of contact. If I were to be asked what yoga is, I could put it into one sentence: “It is knowing things as the adhidaiva would know things.” This is not a knowing as a man would know. The adhidaiva has a consciousness of the adhibhuta and the adhyatma which is quite different in nature and structure from the knowledge that the adhyatma had, independently of the adhibhuta. Yoga is the diving into that consciousness which acts as the connecting link between the adhibhuta and the adhyatma.
Bhoga is enjoyment and yoga is realisation. We try to enjoy nature rather than to understand or realise it. The enjoyment is known to lead to complications and sufferings later on because of a wrong approach to things. We cannot approach nature by any intelligent method. Our personality is made up of many layers to which I have already made reference—the physical, the vital, the mental, the intellectual and so on. These layers of our personality try to contact nature outside, and we try to grab the world and enjoy it as an object, if possible. The subject can come in contact with an object by means of the sense organs, and there seems to be no other way to accomplish this contact.
We have the five senses of knowledge, and with these alone we can contact the world and enjoy it. If these are defective, there will be no enjoyment and no knowledge of nature outside. We could not possess anything permanently with the sense organs, so therefore we inevitably find this method unsatisfying. Nature has refused to be possessed by means of the powers of sense. We cannot possess anything permanently, and things that appear to be ours today belong to someone else tomorrow. Union ends in separation, life ends in death, all happiness ends in a kind of sorrow—this has been our experience.
Why should it be like this? It is because it is impossible for nature to be possessed through the sense organs. We cannot possess our wealth, we cannot possess our family members, we cannot possess objects of the world, and we cannot be truly related to anything, because our relationships with things have been through the sense organs, which are a part of nature. We try to have physical contact with things, and this we regard as ‘possession’. If something is tightly held in the palm of my hand, I may think that it is in my possession, but this is not so. That which is in the grip of our fists need not be ours. It can flee from us in spite of its being our nearest possession from the physical point of view. Physical proximity of things is not possession, and things can exclude each other even if they are physically proximate.
We may be sitting on the lap of some person, and yet we are independent, and we cannot be controlled by that person. Just because there is physical proximity, it does not mean that we belong to somebody or that somebody belongs to us. This applies to everything in the world, including wealth, relations, position, occupation, etc. All these are physical and spatial relations. Sometimes it appears that there is no real friend in this world. Because of this mysterious aloofness of things from us, whatever our condition may be, we seem to not know what life is. We have been gazing wonderstruck, trying to understand a little bit of what this life means and why it should be so unkind to us. Nature has been insisting that it be understood—that is all. Nature craves to be understood, and if we refuse to understand it, then it appears to be unkind.
We are familiar with law. How can a law be a friend of anyone or an enemy of anyone? Law is an impersonally existent symbol of the relationship of things. If we abide by this impersonal law, we may say that law is friendly, but if we cannot understand the law, it may appear to be very unkind. We cannot therefore designate law as either this or that. Nature is a set of laws, and to be or not be a friend of nature depends to what extent we have understood nature and its laws that are inexorably operating both in us and outside us.
We can never understand nature or the world outside through the sense organs, because as I have already mentioned many times, the sense organs are physically related to the world outside. Earlier I tried to say that the sense powers are conveyed outside through the sense organs. The organs are physical. How can we grasp a thing unless with the hand, and what is the hand if not a physical object? Grasping, which is our idea of possessing, is a physical contact but is not a real relationship with things. So enjoyments, which are nothing but the placement of one object in physical proximity with another object, are not real enjoyments. We cannot really enjoy anything in this world.
We are living in a fool’s paradise. Our so-called enjoyment has been merely a kind of titillation of the nerves and the sense organs—”a scratching of what itches us”, as it is sometimes said. When the nerves are tickled, it looks as if we are enjoying something, but it is not enjoyment. We are mistaken thoroughly, because after the tickling of the nerves, there is a fall of the strength of the nerves and we feel worse than we were before. After enjoyment, whatever be the nature of the enjoyment, we feel more miserable than before the enjoyment came. We want to cling more and more, so we want more and more repetitions of the same kind of enjoyment—the same contacts, same possessions, same quantity, same songs, etc.
We are under the erroneous notion that the repetition of the tickling of the nerves would be enjoyable, but the nerves will get exhausted by being tickled constantly, and they will go on reacting for some time after they cease their contact with the object. However, we inevitably become old. Old age supervenes and the nerves refuse to react with the same intensity as before, and we cannot enjoy as we did earlier. In fact we did not enjoy even earlier except for the fact that we tickled these nerves in order to create a sensation in the whole system. When we are tickled, we feel happiness.
The whole of our lives has been an attempt to repeat the tickling of these nerves which connect themselves with the different sense organs. We have been mistaking this for real enjoyment, but we have never been satisfied with these enjoyments. We have never been satisfied, because we have never really enjoyed anything—we have been only tantalised. We have only been shown something but never given that thing. The nerves have been fooled, and the sense organs have never understood anything. The mind plays second fiddle to the senses and the organs, and we have been living this kind of foolish life. Yet, we try to understand nature and be happy in this world. Impossible!