by Swami Krishnananda
We noticed earlier that in our knowledge of things, in our perceptions, three phases or processes are involved, namely, that which is the seen object, that which is the seeing consciousness—the individual concerned—and the third thing, which is an intermediary superintending principle which makes the very perception possible.
On account of the transcendent character of this intermediary principle, it cannot be perceived by an individual. It is that which finally sees all things. While the seer (as the individual subject) sees an external object in space and time, this so-called thing which we cannot understand—which eludes the grasp of all understanding—is the seer of both the subject and the object.
I see you, and you see me. When the one sees the other, the seer is called the subject and the seen is called the object. But there is a seer of both the seer and the object; that is the transcendent seer. Inasmuch as this transcendence is operating between every subjective side and every objective side in the various levels of the developmental process of creation, there is nothing secret in this world. Everything is known to someone. You cannot hide yourself in a corner and do something, unknown to people. A great hymn in the Atharva Veda says that while two people in a dark cave quietly whisper to each other, thinking that nobody sees them and nobody knows what they are saying, there is someone who listens to this whisper, which is like thunder reverberating through the cosmos.
Therefore, be very cautious. Everything is public in this world. There is no private life, because your privacy is known to another super-public intervening principle which knows the movement of every single leaf in a tree, which can count every hair of everyone created in the world, and knows the number of the winkings of the eye of everything that is created. As the Upanishads put it, this is a terror before everybody. Mahad bhayam vajram udyatam, says the Katha Upanishad. Great fear is this, that you cannot exist without being known by somebody. You cannot do anything independently or privately without being observed by someone.
Just imagine for a moment: If this is a fact that has gone deep into your heart, how would you live in this world? You may say that it would be difficult to live in the world; but I say that only then will you live correctly. Your real life will start only after you accept this great principle operating everywhere, within and without—not as a terror, as the Upanishad puts it, but as your great protector and caretaker. It sees that you do not go wrong. The law is not there to punish you; it is to guard you, and to see that everything is well.
This transcendence of the process of perception of things is the divinity of the cosmos. The study of the object as such, pure objectivity, is the function of physics and chemistry, we may say. The study of the pure individuality of the subject is psychology, and the study of that which is the eluding transcendence may be called by any name we like: religion, philosophy, theology, spirituality, or yoga.
So, what is religion, philosophy, yoga? It is not merely the study of what is going on inside you, and also not merely the study of the objective universe by observation and experiment. It is a total operation of your whole experiential condition. The life of yoga, spirituality, religion—the life of God—is something difficult for an ordinary individualised point of view to grasp because we are used to thinking always in one of two ways: either I think of myself, or I think of something else, other than myself. But we forget there is something totally different from me, as well as from the other. The world consists of only two things: that which is seen and that which is seeing. But who knows that there is a third thing? The world does not know it, so the world also does not know what is yoga, or what is spiritual life. It also does not know what is religion.
If this definition of true religion were to go into your hearts, I think the world would become a heaven in three days. There would be no conflict, no wars, no suspicion, no doubt, no fear from anything. There are some who think that they can bring heaven to the earth. Well, it may be possible, but it is only a question of ‘maybe’. The practicality of it is so remote that it is almost an impossibility because of the simple fact that the egoism of human individuality is so vehement, hard like flint, that it will never permit this acceptance of the world being ruled by something other than what sees or what is seen. No man will accept it; no man can know it.
Therefore, it looks as if the world will remain like this. It can become a heaven under special conditions—which one may or may not be able to fulfil. On the objective side, I said it is a kind of physical science that is the area of study. Inwardly, it is a study of the mind and psychology. Transcendentally, it is religion.
Now, here the word ‘transcendence’ has to be explained properly. You may be under the impression, because of the conditioning of the mind to certain usual ways of thinking, that transcendence means somewhere higher, some kilometres above. That is not the case. It is not a spatial, geographical ‘higher up’ that is called transcendence.
Our mind is conditioned very much, right from its inception, into the process of thinking only in a certain regimented fashion, and new ways of thinking cannot be introduced into it so easily. The mind always resents change; it wants only stereotyped things. It will immediately resent any change you introduce. “This is no good,” is what the mind will tell you. Transcendence is not above you in a physical sense. It is not merely an ascension from the level of the seer and the seen, but also an inclusiveness of both the seer and the seen.
You have to listen to all this very carefully. This so-called transcendence, which you cannot observe or understand, is inside you and also inside the object, apart from being above both the seer and the seen. Philosophically, we may say the transcendent is also immanent. In religious parlance, people say that God is above the world and also in the world. We have heard it said many times, but still we may not be able to understand what the meaning of this statement “above the world” is at all. Above the world means beyond the sun and the sky, beyond space and time. ‘Look up’ is what we think of God being above the world; and ‘immanent’ means we think He is hidden inside a particle of sand, etc. It is a peculiar arrangement of consciousness that is to be understood as both a transcendence and immanence.
How could one be both above and below? The mind cannot grasp this point. Can a thing be inside as well as outside? That which is inside is only inside. How can it be outside? We have never seen such a thing.
I will give an example how transcendence can also be immanence. We have all passed through certain stages of education. The lower classes are transcended by the higher classes; the higher class is above the lower class. In what sense is it above? Is it two feet above or one kilometre up? It is a logical ascendance, and is not physically something higher up. The higher degree of education is above the lower degree and, therefore, we may call it a transcendent level—transcendent because, in a very special sense, it is above the one which we have already overcome . But it is also immanent. How?
That which we have transcended as a lower category of education is included in the higher. We do not reject the lower when we go to the higher; the lower is automatically absorbed into the higher. The lower is inside the higher—but not inside as something sitting inside a room. This is also a logical concept. We have to apply our mind very cautiously in understanding what this transcendence and immanence mean. It is not a physicality of transcendence or immanence; it is not something being on the terrace above and something being in the room below. These ideas of physical spatiality have to be abandoned when we think purely in logical or scientific terms.
This situation is what we may call the cosmic structural pattern of this world—these phenomena. We are living in this kind of world. What is our situation finally when we live like this, in this atmosphere that has been described? All instruction in every branch of knowledge is included here. The study of the nature of the Ultimate Reality is considered as inclusive of every other study of arts and sciences that we can think. The nature of the Universal Self is inclusive of the characteristics of every other thing which appears to be other than the Self.
Now, this “other than the Self”, or the anti-Self, the non-Self, or the anatman, as people sometimes call it, is also to be understood properly. What is meant by the anatman, or the non-Self, when we have already been told that everything is included in the Self? Where is the otherness of the Self?
If we wrongly imagine that in our higher degrees of education we have rejected the lower degrees as something outside our higher level, then that lower becomes an anatman to us—while it is not so. The anatman does not exist, because it has been automatically absorbed into the Atman that is above; yet by the interference of the old habit of thinking through space and time, that which is below, or transcended, may be regarded as something outside that which has risen above.
People always say, “I am above.” Such mistakes are committed even in official circles. Suppose there is an official. He is above all his subordinates. Certainly, everybody knows that. In what sense is he above? Is he sitting on top, on a pedestal? Suppose there is a District Collector or a Commissioner who has a large jurisdiction around him. The Collector is ruling the entire district. He pervades the district as an authority connected with that area. But he does not physically pervade. His operative transcendence—the Collectorness, we may say—is pervasive. There is a difference between the personality of the Collector and the Collectorness that is in him, because if the Collectorness is removed by retirement or by any other way, he becomes a pauper and he no longer has authority over anything.
All the residents in the district are, in a way, subordinate to this one person—not because he is physically larger than other people, but because there is an element which is what is called the ruling principle. This ruling principle is invisible. We cannot see the Collector, really speaking; we see only the person. What we see is the physicality of a person. The Collectorness in him cannot be seen, though we conceptually foist it on him and say, “The Collector is coming.” The coming is only of the physical body. Because of the presence of that transcendent Collectorness in him as an immanence, we mix up two things and say that when the person is coming, the Collector is coming.
The transcendence which pervades the entire district is also immanent in that particular person. We should not look upon him as a person, but as an operative transcendence, a vehicle by which the entire district moves—something like an avatara or incarnation, we may say. The universal element pervading the entire district is incarnated in that particular individuality, so although he appears as one person like other persons, he has a greater power than any other person in the district. The greater power is due to the transcendence of his invisible authority—which is also present inwardly as an immanence, so he is visible and invisible at the same time.
Therefore, the transcendence is an abstraction, as it were, to the unthinking mind; and even the concept of God, Whom you are aspiring for through your studies and yoga practices, may look like an abstraction. This is why you cannot sit for meditation for a long time and cannot completely devote yourself to it. There is a fear inside you that the object of your aspiration—the Universal, this transcendent—appears to be merely a concept in your mind, and the reality is the solid world that is in front of you. Actually, the reverse is the case.