by Swami Krishnananda
The attempt at being spiritual is the effort of the deepest reality of our nature to come to manifestation, and to overcome this prejudice of our being in space, time, and causal relationship. That we are in space, time and cause is an error of thought. If that had been the ultimate truth of things, all the problems of life would have been finished in a minute – each one would have thought that anything can be done by anyone. There is no need for rule, law, regulation, government, or anything of the kind. Any kind of system, any kind of methodology or organisation is an indication that things are not really disconnected in space and time. Why do we want a government? Why do we want a system of working at all? Why should there be any kind of organisation if everything is disconnected? Organisation is the bringing together of factors which are apparently different; but if they are really different, we cannot bring them together, so all our effort will be a failure. Everything would be meaningless in this life. But that is not what our heart speaks. It says there is some unity among things; always we speak of organisation and methodology of working, of system, law and order, rule, and so on. Why are we speaking about these things if everything is disconnected?
Thus, the whole of human life is a drama of two scenes – being and doing. Being is what we are. Doing is what we try to manifest in order that this being may become more and more complete. Why do we do anything? Why do we act? Why do we work? Why do we perform any function? Why do we establish a relationship with anything in the world – people or other things? It is because our being is limited. There is a Prof. Jack ‘being’, and an Elizabeth ‘being’, and so on – small beings – and they feel so finite and miserable. We want to expand our being, which we are trying to do by connecting ourself with other beings – this being, that being, and hundreds of beings. If many beings join together, it looks as if the being has become very large. That is why we feel happy when we are in the midst of many friends and many well-wishers, so that if we have a world government without any army of nationals, we will be very happy, perhaps. We have a feeling like that. Why should there be many nations and many armies? Let there be only one government for the whole world. Then we feel more secure. Why do we feel like that? Because at that time we have a sensation of having united many beings into a larger unity, whereas now we feel we are limited beings.
Thus, even our doing or our action is only a need felt for expanding our being. Thus, ultimately, being is the truth, not doing, because our doing is only for the sake of being. Our present being is insufficient. It is limited. It is physical. It is only in one place, cut off from other people, other beings by space, time, etc. We want to expand that being, but we are doing it in an inadequate manner. Merely because we shake hands with people, simply because we take tea with people at the same table, merely because we speak to people in a conference, it does not mean that our being has become large. However much we may try to sit together with thousands of people and have a friendly attitude towards them, still they are they, and we are we. One day or other, we will fight. Why? This is an artificial method of bringing about the largeness of being, or the unity of people. How can we become one with that person? We can sit on his lap, we can sit on his head – even then, we are different from that person, isn’t it?
That is why mere sociological, political, economic and external methods of unity have failed, right from historical times. All the great empires have fallen, including the Roman empire, the Grecian empire, Assyrian, Babylonian – everything has gone to dust because these were all erroneous methods attempted by people, with a pious motive no doubt, for bringing about a unity which cannot be brought about by merely piling up particulars.
The joining of people into a social unity is only a grouping of particulars into a heap, and that is not real unity. What we are trying is to have a single being, ultimately. All our beings should join together into a single being, like a single ocean having all the drops within it. We cannot see many drops in the ocean. Though there are many drops, they are all one only. The whole ocean is one drop only, ultimately – isn’t it? It is a big drop, but it contains small drops. We cannot separate them. But, if we join many stones or sand particles together, we cannot call it a single unity. Each sand particle is different from other sand particles. So, our joining together socially, politically, economically, and externally is something like trying to join millions of sand particles together. They will never join. Sand particles are different from one another in spite of their being in one basket.
Therefore, spirituality – now I am coming to the original point – spirituality is not mere social relationship, though many people think it is also a part of spirituality. It can manifest itself as social relationship later on, but itself is not identical with it. Spirituality is the consciousness of being. In Sanskrit we call it sat; sat means Pure Being. It is not limited being, because anything that is limited is unhappy. That is why we want to become more rich and more powerful. How much richness do we want? We want the whole of Brazil; we want the whole of South America; we want the whole of both Americas. We want the whole world, sky, sun, moon, stars – and even then we are not happy. Why is it that we have such desires? We want to expand our power to unlimitedness; we want to expand out being to unlimitedness. Until that is achieved, we will not be happy. So, man is unhappy. Man is unhappy because of his limited being.
Spirituality, to again come to the point, is the expansion of being. And whatever we do as an action is also a part of being. It is meant for expanding being. That is why they say karma yoga is a yoga by itself for attaining God-realisation. You will be wondering what the connection between karma and God is. The connection is simple. Every kind of relationship with others is an attempt of the soul to come to a unity of being, in a largeness which expands to entire infinitude. This Supreme Being is called God. We call God Supreme Being because there is only one Being. And all beings put together, many people sitting together, is not one being – just as, in the analogy mentioned earlier, many sand particles put together do not make one sand particle. We merge in the Being of God, as all drops merge in the ocean.
Therefore, in our attempt at being a spiritual Being, we are not trying to establish an externalised relationship with things, because externality is abolished in the Infinite. In the Infinite, there is no externality. It is universality, so we must make a distinction between universality and externality. All our activities are externalised; therefore, whatever be the apparent success of our externalised actions, ultimately they are a failure unless they are charged with a spiritual consciousness which is the consciousness of a real unity of Being. It is a single Being that is working, ultimately. That is what our religions tell us. It is God working.
When we say God works, it does not mean that somebody else is working. We also have a wrong notion of God, that God means somebody else. We make a distinction between God, world, and man. That is again due to the prejudice of space, time, and cause. Why do we think that God is in the heavens and outside us? It is because of space. We bring a spatial distinction even between us and God. The concept of God transcends the idea of space, time, and cause. That is the real Being, inseparable from our being, and inseparable from the beings of other people also, so that there can be only one Being. This consciousness of the totality of Being – not merely an aggregate of particulars, but the real merger of Being – is the aim of spirituality. This consciousness has to be manifest in our action, even when there is activity.
Somebody asked me, “Are you not disturbed and distracted when you are working?” Two days back, some visitors came to me. “Swamiji, you are working so much. Are you not distracted in your meditations?”
I said, “I am not working. If I am working, I will be distracted.” I asked him one question: “What do you see? This is a table. Is this a desk or is it wood? What is it?” I said.
He said, “It is a desk.”
I said, “I say it is wood, because ‘desk’ is only a name that you give to a particular position of wood. The position of wood is not a thing by itself, so you cannot say that there is such a thing as a desk. Only wood is there; the wood placed in a particular context is called a desk. Can you call a context or a position as a thing by itself? No. I can place the same wood in another position and it becomes a cot. In a third position, it becomes a chair, doesn’t it? So there is no such thing as chair, no such thing as table, no such thing as desk, except the wood. I am also, in my own humble way, trying to see no such thing as work. It is only consciousness that exists, just as only wood exists behind the table.”
He said, “It is very difficult to understand these things.”
I said, “It is very difficult. What can I do? But once you become habituated to this way of thinking, all your activity becomes a manifestation of your being. You yourself are moving in your actions, like the ocean moving through the waves. So you are not doing something external to you and, therefore, karma cannot bind you. That karma which will not bind you is called karma yoga. When you yourself are the action, how can it bind you? You don’t bind your own self. If you have so many confusions in the head – it is something outside you, proceeding from you through space and time, in respect of somebody else – then it will react upon you. That is called the nemesis of karma. That is binding karma.”
It is very difficult, therefore, to even conceive what real spirituality is. I have only given an idea of it. It is impossible to maintain even a consciousness of what spirituality is. Even the idea of it is impossible to entertain in the mind, let alone practice it. It will not enter the heads of people. But once it becomes a part of our natural way of thinking, we become supermen from that very moment. This is the aim of our life.