by Swami Krishnananda
It is very important to remember what I told you yesterday, because it is the basic principles of spiritual life, what we call the theorem of the entire structure of our life’s aspirations, from which follow many consequences. These consequences are the activities of life, the hopes of mankind, the troubles of people, and the tensions of every individual. All blessed things follow automatically from the nature of life.
The point I tried to bring out is that all action is a tendency towards expansion of being. There is no such thing as activity, really speaking. It is only an effort of being to expand itself. So, the false distinction apparently made between being and doing has to be overcome. There is no such thing as a distinction between being and doing. There is no doing; it is only being moving within itself for its own sake, for its own expansion and intensity. Our activities in life are the attempts we make to come in contact with external realities for the purpose of the expansion of our finite being. This is the essence of what I mentioned yesterday.
So far, everything looks fine. It looks philosophical. But there are dangerous aspects of this movement of consciousness in its relationship with other persons and things. Our relationship with people and things outside is like a double-edged sword; it can cut both ways. It is like fire; it can cook our food or burn our house. It is like water – without which we cannot live, but which can destroy us if we get drowned in it. So is the relationship with persons and things. It is a wonderful thing to conceive philosophically, but dangerous when it is misconceived and misapplied.
Yesterday I gave you only the philosophical side – the metaphysical, or rather the spiritual aspect of our relationship with persons and things outside. You learned that activities are also relationships, and all relationships are movements of Being in its universal expanse for Self-realisation, or realisation of itself.
Now, today, we may dwell upon the other aspect of this feature of human life called relationship – namely, the erroneous movements of relationship, not merely the grand philosophical aspects of it. When human relationship becomes philosophical, it becomes karma yoga. When it becomes unphilosophical, it becomes passion, desire, a source of bondage. The same movement – as I mentioned, the same fire, the same water, the same sword, the same knife – can work both ways. When our relationship with things outside is philosophically motivated and intelligently directed with a conscious purpose present in the mind always, never missed at any moment of time, it becomes yoga. All activity is yoga. All relationship is good relationship. Everything is fine and grand and beautiful in this majestic creation of God.
But, in this very majestic creation of God also is Satan. There is Mara. This is a peculiar thing we cannot understand: how error crept into the grand structure of God’s creation. What is evil? Though there is ultimately no such thing as evil, a person caught up in a peculiar movement of consciousness cannot realise that there is an erroneous movement of consciousness. We cannot detect mistakes when we get identified with the mistakes. A judge cannot examine a case if he is himself involved in the case. He must be a witness of the case; only then he can pass the correct judgment. If we ourselves are involved in the mistake, we cannot detect the mistake. We cannot know what mistakes we are committing because we have identified our consciousness with the mistake itself. We have become the embodiment of the blunder; we are embodiments of the mistake. How can we know that we are committing mistakes? Who is to know this when we ourselves are that?
Therefore, a Guru is necessary. We cannot know our mistakes. When we do a wrong, who will tell us that we are doing a wrong? We cannot know it, because we have identified ourselves with it. Sometimes Guru’s grace, sometimes God’s blessings come and enlighten us, illumine us. Our meritorious deeds done in the previous lives come and awaken us. When everything goes wrong, the intellect can detect that something is wrong; but if the intellect itself goes wrong, then who will detect the mistake? That is our pitiable condition. So, again I emphasise the need for a Guru. When we are on a wrong path, who will find out that we are on the wrong path? A Guru is necessary.
When consciousness establishes relationship with other persons and things – which is normally called social relationship – it can go on the right path or it can go on the wrong path. When it goes on the right path, it is called humanitarianism, humanism, charitableness, philanthropy, karma yoga, and so many beautiful things which everybody holds in high esteem. But when it goes on the wrong path, it is called egoism; it is called passion, anger, and greed. Our relationship with other persons and things can be exploited for our individual pleasure, satisfaction, and not necessarily for the good of other people. We can also serve people only for our own satisfaction, though outwardly it may look that we are philanthropic. Even good deeds can be misapplied for bad purposes. The devil can come in the garb of a great saint. All these are not impossible.
The spiritual path is called the razor’s edge for this very reason. In the Upanishad, the word kshurasya dhara is used – razor’s edge, which means two things. The spiritual path is a razor’s edge in two ways. It is sharp and cutting – as dangerous as the edge of a razor. If we go a little wrong, it will cut our nose. It is like handling six thousand volts of live wire or even a higher voltage. If we are working with high voltage tension wires and are good engineers, we shall be careful; but if we are a little blunderous, we know the consequences. The spiritual path is like a high voltage wire. It can spotlight our whole life with a blaze of illumination, or it can burn us to ashes. It can do both things.
One of the admirers of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa once came to him and said, “You touched Vivekananda; why don’t you touch me also? You gave him cosmic consciousness by touch. What mistake have I committed? Why should I not also be touched?” Sri Ramakrishna said nothing. He kept quiet. But this man went on insisting and asking this question again and again: “Why don’t you touch me? Why don’t you touch me?”
One day Sri Ramakrishna said, “You fellow, you want me to touch you? Come here, I’ll touch you. You’ll become ashes just now!”
“Oh no!” He said, and ran away from there. “Don’t touch me! Don’t touch me! Don’t touch me!”
The idea is that there is no use merely being touched by a high tension wire unless we are good conductors of that force. If we are good conductors, we will pass that force through us. We will receive it properly. Otherwise, it will be like passing 6,000 volts through a small filament of an electric bulb that can bear only 220 volts. It will simply fuse in a second and burst. Nothing will be left of it. Our scriptures tell us that nobody should try to practice yoga unless proper preparation has already made by way of discipline. In the raja yoga of Patanjali, the terms yama and niyama are used. In Vedantic terminology, sadhana chatushtaya and such other terms are used, the details of which are given in yoga texts and philosophical treatises.
When our relationship with things gets twisted, it returns to us like a boomerang instead of expanding itself into universality. This wrong twisting of consciousness, making it turn back upon us, is karma; it is not karma yoga. When it has a tendency to expand into universality, it becomes karma yoga. When it turns back upon us to bind us, that becomes karma, action.
Why should certain relationships turn back upon us, and why should certain others expand into universality? The reason is simple. The motive behind our relationship is the important factor. Why do we have any relationship with people and things? What is the intention behind it? Why do we speak to people? Why do we want to see anybody? Why do we want to do any work in this world? We should put these questions to ourselves. Let answers come from the deepest conscience of our being. “Why do I do so many things from morning to evening? What is the purpose? Why do I serve people? Why do I talk to people? Why do I do anything at all?” It is difficult to get answers to these questions.
We ourselves will not be able to answer these questions easily, because we may have wrong answers given by a bad friend who is sitting inside. We have a good friend, and also a bad friend. Both are inside us. Sometimes the wrong friend speaks and tells us, “My dear friend, what you are doing is very nice. Go ahead.” He wants us to fall into the pit. But at other times the good friend speaks, “No! This is not all right. Your motive is not pure. The intention is not pious, and what you are deeply thinking in your subconscious is different from what it appears on your conscious level.”
Occasionally, the bad friend catches hold of the throat of the good friend. He says, “Keep quiet! Don’t speak. When I speak, you don’t speak.” The good friend says, “All right. Do whatever you like.” Then we hear only the voice of the bad friend, and we start shouting the glory of our own individual personality and start announcing our importance and asserting the rectitude of everything that we do, and find fault with everybody else in the world. “If anything is wrong, it is somebody else’s mistake. It is not mine. I have not made any mistake. All mistakes are made by somebody else. That person is wrong. That man is harassing me. He is selfish, and I am unselfish. I am good, and that person is bad.” This is our activity, directed by the advice given by the bad friend. But the good friend, once he gets the upper hand speaks. “No! If there is any mistake, it is your mistake because you have not been able to adjust your mind and consciousness properly with the setup of things.”