by Swami Krishnananda
Our brief deliberations yesterday amounted to a necessity to know what exactly we are, and what it is that we are looking for, or wanting to contact, or attain. It was noticed that neither of these attempts on our part is an easy affair. When we tried to know what exactly is the stuff out of which we are made, we stumbled upon some inscrutable situation which was not a clear answer to our question.
Similar is the case with our endeavour to know what stuff constitutes this world of objects; what is our relationship with this world? We found that there is a difficulty on either side. We have, right from the beginning of our life, from our babyhood onwards, developed a kind of outlook of life with varieties of conditioning factors behind but we are not aware that our mind is thus conditioned. It is so because the very effort to know whether we are conditioned or not is again conditioned by that series of factors with which we are born when we came out of the mother's womb.
Even to know what has happened to us, and what our position here is, has become a difficult affair because we have come to this world with a background which influences us to such an extent that we can think only in terms of that background.
Something about our previous lives is known to everyone. We have been in the process of various linkages of births and deaths. This is not the first birth of ours; it is probably also not going to be the last. We are in the position of a link in a long chain of the developmental process of universal evolution.
In every birth that we take, we begin to operate in terms of a mind which thinks in terms of what it can behold through the sense organs. What does it behold? It sees only objects – varieties and varieties, an endless series of things, persons, objects, colours, sounds, and whatnot.
Whenever a form is presented before the mind in the process of sensory perception, it receives an impression of that object, as a film inserted in a camera receives the impression of the object that is placed before it. If you go on presenting the same object several times before this photographic film of the mind, or present several other objects continuously at different times of life, a series of impressions will be laid one over the other on the canvas of the mind. The mind will look like a coloured glass or a tainted medium and its operations will be through this cloud which has grown over it as fungus grows on walls during the rainy season.
When we think at this moment, and look at the world of persons and things through the sense organs, what exactly is it that we are seeing – only that structure, form and behaviour permitted by the layer of this cloud of impressions formed upon the mind by continuous presentation of object forms throughout the various incarnations through which we have passed. We are not seeing things as they really are.
If you put on a coloured glass and look at things, you will see objects coloured, having the same hue as is the tint of the glass. If the glass is convex or concave, you will see how the object will be presented before your eyes; or you have a broken lens, tattered in many places. If through the broken edges of the glass you see objects or persons outside, what will you see? Such is the situation in which we seem to be placed today.
When you sit for Yoga practice and meditation on whatever be your aim, who is going to think? This kind of mind, which is already born with prejudices of various types and can think like a human being only. An animal will think like an animal. A frog will think like a frog, an ant will think like an ant. Now, who is actually conducting this meditation? Is it a man or a woman, or an ant, or an elephant? Who is actually doing Yoga meditation? Who is reaching God? Is it man reaching God, or animal reaching God? Who is going towards God?
Even as human beings, we do not think as human beings ought to think. Though we appear to be human beings for all practical purposes, we seem to have also characteristics which cannot be equated with a real human being. This is so because we have passed through lower stages of evolution whose impressions also are there in the mind, which we are carrying today.
We can sleep like a rock and be not conscious of anything because we were once upon a time in the inanimate condition of evolution, which we call the lowest earth condition. We breathe and have hunger and thirst, as you can see it operating in the plant kingdom. We have qualities of a beast which can be brought out into the surface of our mind when we feel that it is called for. Do we always behave like human beings?
The individual homo sapiens, the man, the woman, is not a real human being. There is a mixture of various conditions of the lower levels, also. One can be a hundred percent tamasika like a rock when one is unconscious, or is asleep. One can be just hungry and thirsty, wanting food and drink and nothing else as a vegetable, or plant. One can roar like a lion, show one's teeth like a tiger, bite like a snake or sting like a scorpion. All these qualities human beings have.
Such people that we are, are trying to face God Almighty in our meditational process. Is it a wonder that the mind cannot concentrate? What will it concentrate on in the muddle and dustbin that the mind is, filled with all the rubbish of previous incarnations and prejudices that have gone to the very bloodstream of the personality? These do not stand outside us; they have become ourselves.
A conditioning factor is something which is to be understood. What do you actually mean by a conditioning factor? It is not sitting outside you, pressing you down as someone external to you. It is yourself, the stuff out of which you are made. You, yourself, are a bundle of the conditions. You are not a solid person but a series of layers of structure. While we seem to be ourselves, we are really not ourselves. We are really many things inside. Anything can be brought out of us by operating upon us in a given condition. I can make you happy or unhappy, laugh or weep or rise up in rage in one second by operating upon your sentiments in a particular manner. Then what are you by yourself? Are you a revengeful animal, which characteristic can manifest itself in you in one second if conditions favourable to this manifestation are made available? Or are you like a vegetable, feeling hungry and thirsty, wanting food and drink only? Or, you are tired and go to sleep. Or, you are so egoistic and self-conscious that you regard every other person in the world as secondary, a number two, and you are number one. You may say that others are equally important as yourself. Theoretically, for the purpose of social concordance, you may accept this position. When things go bad, you will protect yourself and let the world go to dogs. As things are not so bad, even today, we think of other people, other things, protecting animals, and things like ecological considerations. When you are drowning in water, you do not know who is drowning. The self will writhe for what it is worth.
What about the object? We are under the impression that an object is in one place only. This little supporting wooden pillar is here and it cannot be elsewhere. You are sitting in one place and you are not sitting in another place at the same time. Everything is in one place only and it cannot be in another place. This is our idea of a particular object: The object cannot be in two places at a time; also, it can be somewhere at some time and it cannot be necessarily in one place at all times.
Also, we have some idea of the connection of one thing with another thing as is taught to us by our study of astronomy, physics, psychology, etc. The locality spatially, the condition temporally, and the relation by way of cause and effect connection are all inbred notions in our mind. We look at everything, any person, with this background of conditioning: My father is like this and he cannot be anything else.
The father, mother, husband, wife, brother, sister, also have taken many births. This particular location, this form, this shape of this personality whom you consider your relative is also one link in a long chain of the developmental process through which they have passed. They have an infinite series of connections behind and an infinite series in the future also, so that you cannot know who it is that you are actually seeing with your eyes.
Something is pressing forward from behind as the past; another thing is pulling from the front as the future. That which you are going to be in the future also conditions what you are now, apart from the pressure exerted upon you by what you were in the past. What you are now is a mysterious organisation of a presentation – a picture, contour, form, which has been created before you by a pressure from one side and a pull from another side. It is something like one person pushing you from the back with great force, and another person pulling you from the front with an equal force. You do not know what exactly your position is at that time. It is said that every object in this world is a pressure point, rather than a solid something.
This definition of the object applies to us also as so-called subjects. When you look at me, I am in the position of an object of your perception; when I look at you, you are in the position of an object of my perception. You are the subject when you look at me, and I am the subject when I look at you, so both of us are subject as well as object, from two different standpoints. And you know well how a subject knows itself to be, as distinguished from the object. My consideration about myself differs from my consideration of you; the consciousness which is in me as the subjectivity distinguishes itself from you as an object outside. And you cannot look at me and consider me in the same way as you are considering yourself. Though many a time we have a mutual coordination among ourselves, and under special circumstances we try to give up this subjectivist attitude or the objectivist outlook, and mutually, like partners in a business or friends who never get separated, do act; yet this coming together of two people in friendship or collaboration is like two broken glasses getting joined together by a glue. There is here an artificial conjoining of differences.
The whole point is that this individuality is a big illusion before us. Inasmuch as every object, every person, every thing is a location at a particular point in space created by a pressure exerted by an infinite past of impressions of previous lives and an infinite future that is summoning from the front, things are not in one place only. They are everywhere. Since things have connection with the infinite past and connection also with the infinite future, we cannot say to which place we belong. We do not seem to be belonging even to this particular form of creation. There have been infinite types of creation, through which process we have passed so that we belong to all the realms of being at once. To all the seven planes above, seven planes below, as the Purana scriptures say – to all these we belong at the same time. Then, where are we sitting at this moment? We are sitting everywhere!