by Swami Krishnananda
Ronald: What is the purpose of meditation? What is the goal, and how do you know when you have achieved this goal?
SWAMIJI: You should answer your question yourself. What is your method of meditation?
Ronald: I try to be as quiet as I possibly can, and watch my breathing, and then slowly go to the mantra. I move from the breathing to the mantra, and then try to think it without verbalising it – in other words, hear the mantra without any physical movement or physical manifestation – and then, as the thoughts come up, try to act as a disinterested observer. I try not to identify with any one thought, to observe the thought but not cling to it, and then to allow the next thought to emerge.
SWAMIJI: You say that you are trying to go inward, but why do you want to go inward? What do you gain by it? What is the purpose that is in your mind?
Ronald: I want to go inward to appreciate my own being, unmodified by external influences. I want a greater awareness of that thing called my Self.
SWAMIJI: What is the meaning of "going inward"? Are you going inside your stomach? Where is your Self at this moment?
Ronald: My Self is right here. The whole entity encompasses the Self, but I want to become more fully conscious of it – to have a more complete sense of it as opposed to an intimation of it.
SWAMIJI: Do you mean to say that you are not conscious of your Self just now? When you say that you are Ronald, is there not a consciousness of your Self?
Ronald: In a superficial way.
SWAMIJI: Why do you say it is superficial? Is it not a reality?
Ronald: It is a reality, but I would say that there are stages of reality.
SWAMIJI: I am glad to hear all these things. Very good. Now, do you mean to say that your real Self is hidden deeper than the Ronald self? The Ronald consciousness is also a kind of self. You are saying that it is superficial, and meaning thereby that your real Self is deeper than the Ronald consciousness. How far deeper?
Ronald: That I don't know. And I don't know how one knows if one has arrived.
SWAMIJI: Suppose you reach the deepest level of yourself. What happens afterwards? That is the answer to your question of what is the purpose.
Ronald: I would say that I would be a complete person.
SWAMIJI: Will you still be conscious that you are Ronald when you have entered the deepest level of yourself?
Ronald: I would say yes, because if I didn't, it would mean that in that stage I would be limited. I wouldn't have a grasp of something that I had a grasp of before.
SWAMIJI: It means that when you have gone to the deepest level of yourself, you will also be aware of all the other levels of your self which you have transcended; so, you will have a multiple – personality consciousness at that time. You will not be having a unified consciousness, but a multiple consciousness of all the layers of whatever you could be. You will feel that you are many things, instead of being one thing.
Ronald: Well, I would say that it would be a sense of there being many aspects of something, but that it would be one entity there.
SWAMIJI: You mean that these aspects are conceptual, or really existing?
Ronald: Well, they are conceptual.
SWAMIJI: Then they are not really existent levels. They are only some ideas of yours.
Ronald: Well, if you operate on a concept, then it becomes a reality.
SWAMIJI: Now, here is a great question. Is thought identical with reality?
Ronald: Well, if the thought enters the world of action, then it becomes a reality.
SWAMIJI: You have a thought that the world is outside you. You think that the world is there before you. Can you say that the thought itself is the world, because thought is identical with reality? Is the thought of the world, or is thought itself the world?
Ronald: I would say that thought is of the world.
SWAMIJI: Then the concept is not identical with reality; they are two different things. Anyway, you are asking me what the purpose of doing all this is, and you answered your question yourself by saying that you feel complete when you go into the deepest level of yourself. Do you feel that you are satisfied with this answer?
Ronald: Well, I haven't achieved it.
SWAMIJI: No, but when you achieve it, you feel that you are going to be complete. A sense of completeness will supervene in your personality, and that is the purpose of meditation. This is what you think?
SWAMIJI: Whatever you have told me about this purpose of meditation is perfectly all right, but there is something more than that. You have reached only one stage; even if you go to the deepest level of your self in the sense that we have tried to comprehend it, this is not the end of the journey. There is something further. There is something greater than one's deepest self because the word "me" has come. As long as these "I, you, he, she, it" terms continue to persist, we have not reached the ultimate aim of life.
In the ultimate existence, there is no he, she, it, I and you. Nobody will say "my Self, your Self," etc. These ideas are empirical, tentative, relative, connected with personality-consciousness, and the Self is not a person, it is a Super-Person. I am giving a hint that there is something more for you to know than the level you have reached now by this analysis. It will take some time even to understand what this great thing is.
Knowing your deepest Self is identical with knowing God Himself. That will be a terrifying thing to hear! How will knowing the deepest level of my being be the same thing as knowing God? You have an idea of God as the comprehensive Almighty, the universal omnipresent Being. Is He planted in my own heart at the deepest level of my being? Then what is my relationship with God? After having known that in that deepest level you will have a sense of completeness, the question still persists as to what the relationship is between yourself and God. That is the next step.
Whatever we have been discussing up to this time is the first step only. We have not touched the second level. The second level is what your relationship to the cosmos, and to God Himself, is. That is the next step.
There is a book called the Bhagavad Gita. It has eighteen chapters. The first six chapters deal with all these questions, about which we have been discussing just now – about the deepest Self and all that. The next six chapters, from the seventh to the twelfth, touch upon this other question of what your relationship to the cosmos and to the Almighty Himself is, and then there is something more about it in the last six chapters.
An in-depth study of this profundity is necessary. You cannot know the secret of things in a few minutes of discussion. That is why we say that for years you must be at the feet of a master to understand these things. Books do not always clarify these matters. It requires a divine blessing to come upon you. According to Indian tradition, this blessing comes through the Guru, and perhaps it may come through God Himself. It is a quest that will continue throughout your life. It is not a question of a few months or years, and it will continue until you don't have a single doubt in your mind. You are asking how you will know that you have reached it. That is a question of doubt. A person who has reached it will not have any doubt.
How do you know that it is daytime and not night, and how do you know that you are a human being? How do you know that you are Ronald? This is an intuitive perception, and you will have that kind of perception there. You will never have a question afterwards of whether you have reached it or not. A person who feels a doubt whether he has reached it or not has not reached it. He is still outside it. You have to be at the feet of a Guru for long years, and then these questions will be clarified.
We had also this humble blessing of being with a great master, Swami Sivananda. We have been with him physically for some twenty years, and whatever peace of mind we have today is due not to study, but due to being with him. The personality of the master exudes an energy and a kind of blessing that is indescribable. You don't know what this blessing means, actually. You feel energised, clarified, elevated, strengthened, and a new light enters into you by merely having a contact with him and seeing him every day, talking to him, being near him.
Study of books is not sufficient. You may read all the library, but still doubts will persist. The company of a great master is necessary. Now you are on the right path, but it is still a long journey ahead. Be happy that you are on the path, but be also sure that you have to continue on this journey for a long time.
Ronald: Having been given this gift of life, how can we increase the quality of living?