The Ascent of the Spirit
by Swami Krishnananda

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Chapter 23: The Infinite Life

Life is neither a history nor a science but an enigma which poses itself as a greater reality than any other value with which one is likely to identify it. The significance of life does not lie in any pattern comparable with an analogical succession of temporal events we call history, nor is it identifiable with a mathematically calculable equation or a procedural system of induction or deduction by which set effects can be said to follow from set causes. Life is nothing of this sort. It, thus, defies an assessment or judgment of its meaning by any type of traditional routine or stereotyped method of procedure, all which are obviously the outcome of a historical or a mathematical attitude which one adopts in the appreciation of the usual demands of life. The interconnectedness and the organic character of the innumerable aspects that go to constitute the significance of life make it almost impossible for an isolated individual to probe into its secrets, because any individualistic approach to life would be an attempt to subject it to the empirical or traditional notions of a three-dimensional approach to things, which is what is precisely meant by the historical or the mathematical way of thinking. It is this erroneous approach that has converted the system of living into a mechanised form of the ethics of sheer do’s and don’ts, which, again, are the corollaries following from the general mechanistic attitude to life. Life is not a machine and hence any system of conduct or behaviour which fixes standard modes of thought and action would stultify the truth of the organic character of existence, which is exactly the essence of life.

The individual finds itself in a world of space-time-relations and there is at once a jump of the individual consciousness to evaluate and interpret life’s meaning in terms of the machine of a stereotyped conduct with a fixed value attached to every person and every thing, for all time to come, so that the evolution or progress of the individual through life’s processes gets tethered up to the procrustean bed of the ‘simple location’ of all things, a fallacy according to which anything is capable of being only in one place, in one condition, at any one time, without any vital connection with other things around it and without relevance to the changing circumstances of the outer atmosphere. It is this erroneous understanding of oneself and one’s external relations that has made life an inscrutable something so that it has never been approached in the manner consonant with its nature or inner structure, the result being a pursuing of the will-o’-the-wisp throughout ore’s career in life, without knowing either its beginning or end towards which it is moving.

The Universe, we are told, was originally a single Infinite Atom, known to us as Brahmanda, or the Cosmic Egg of ancient mystical history, and It split Itself into two, the two becoming the further split parts, again and again, into the innumerable ‘individuals’, now called persons, things, objects. This is the reason for one part rushing for union with another, for, the parts cannot rest except as ‘features’ in the Whole which is ‘wholly’ present in and compels recognition in and through every part. Every part seeks only the Whole.

But, this union is erroneously attempted by the parts by an ‘externalised’ spatio-temporal, physical-psychological contact with the ‘objects’, through the feelings of sense-and-ego-touch in respect of them. Nay, this cannot be, because nothing is outside the Universal Selfhood of Consciousness, and there are, therefore, no objects, each so-called object being merely a phase of this Selfhood. Thus, the longed-for union with the ‘objects’ can be successful only when they become the Subject itself, which longs for them; that is, in the end, the Universal Subject.

From Nature-Oneness there arises a space-distinction and time-duration, the original principle of isolation of one thing from another, the separation of individuality as a ‘located’ ‘subject’ of empirical experience, which sets off all Nature, from which it has risen, as an opposing ‘external’ object. Then, again, the individual sets off other such individuals as its further objects. There is, then, a reversal of the position of consciousness: the object becomes the subject, as it were, due to the transference of the latter to the former for the purpose of contacting outside what is complementary in character to the deficiencies experienced in the psycho-physical form of the latter, and the individual subject, seeing, thus, its own self in an ‘other’, dashes forth towards it, and struggles for union with it. For the Self can love nothing but the Self alone.

Through the grades of the bodily self, object-self, ego-self, family-self, community-self, nation-self, world-self and the Universal-Self, Consciousness endeavours to encompass everything that it sees, touches, hears, smells, or tastes. One’s nearness to the object is obviously the intention here, and hence its merger in oneself must necessarily be the final aim; the greatest happiness, then, is when the object ‘becomes’ the subject. Consciousness rushes out to unite itself with its content when the latter is dissociated from consciousness, and there is, then, the agonising vehemence of consciousness to perpetuate itself by reproduction of its ‘form’ by fusion with its isolated content. This is the tragedy of life, where the subject, instead of realising its being in all things, strives to immortalise its physical and psychical form by a sensory commingling of the temporal ingredients of mortal individuality.

The Universal Being is known as the virat. The virat or the Universal Body is one integrated comprehensiveness, where all ‘points-of-view’ are the glory of a Single Universal ‘Point-of-view’; and, out of the all-grasping, all-uniting level of being which is the virat, consciousness selects a given point-of-view and thus becomes the individual self. Thus arise the countless separate individuals. The content of experience at this level is grouped with reference to an individual point-of-view.

There is subsequently the lesser level of sensing, thinking, feeling and willing, where consciousness selects specific patterns which are worked up into the objects of perception and cognition, all which become the content of the ordinary human consciousness, or earth-consciousness. This is the level of the sense-life or the desire-life, busy preparing the food which it wishes to devour, an act which is engaged in at the still lower level of the actual craving of the consciousness to swallow the forms physically by sense-contact and an externalised attempt to unite itself with them. The effect of diversification from virat downwards does not end merely with the perception of individuals by individuals, for in this plurality itself is hidden the roots from which ramify the further tendencies to a more intensified hunger for physical food and thirst for sense-contact. Once the unity of the Virat-Consciousness has been lost, the separated parts writhe to complete themselves by a passionate outward-turned seeking. This is the craving of individuals for self-completion, the burning thirst which drives the soul from itself to range throughout the world, seeking its food, devouring all its meats. This thirst, this craving is not merely a psychological function, taking these forms of mentation for mere attributes of the individual’s urges, but it is the fibre and essence of the very constitution of the individual itself. It is this raging tempest of sense-life, this constitutional appetition of the individual that explains the terrible law of Nature by which life sustains itself by destroying life either in absorption through love or abolition through hatred. What a travesty of the truth which proclaims that the worst of tragic scenes are also a manifestation of the tendency to the unity and inseparability of all things! But here, in these frenzied shapes which life has put on under subjection to the downward pulls of outgoing passions, the individual sees not the unity within, which is after all the real cause behind every thought, feeling or action.

The virat is not an outwardly related mechanistic system; it is an organic oneness wherein all persons and things are ‘present in’ rather than ‘perceived by’ the consciousness. It is only here, in this state of consciousness, that one can have real control over everything, and not when objects are ‘perceived’, for, then, they would remain ‘outside’ and so beyond one’s sway or control. The first withdrawal is from the ‘klishta-vrittis’ and the second withdrawal is from the ‘aklishta-vrittis’. While in the former there is a subdual of passion for things, in the latter there is an avoidance of even their ‘perceptibility’ as something external. In this, latter condition, the universe of objects does not merely stand ‘related’ to consciousness, for that would be mere perception—but fuses into the essential essence of consciousness, not as a union of two characters but as a ‘re-cognition’ of the basic singleness of existence. As a matter of fact, passions, whether of the senses or of the ego, cannot cease as long as the ‘aklishta-vrittis’ persist. Successful and true withdrawal is, thus, not a closing of one’s eyes to existing attractions but an abolition of their very meaning in a blissful embrace of their ‘being’ by the consciousness in itself. This is the union of the ‘sat’ of things with the ‘chit’ of the experiencer, which is at once a flood of ‘ananda’, not to be dreamt of by the itchings of sensation of all the worlds put together.

But this is a real torture to the pleasure-loving mind, because this requisite withdrawal looks like a real tearing oneself away from all the concentrated joy-centres, called objects. It all comes as a death-knell to the delights of sense and so no one, usually, attempts this withdrawal. Lo! the glamour of form, the taste of the elixir of relativistic excitement and the rapture of the physical and psychical contacts in space;all this kicks up such dust and raises such clamorous din that the ‘oceanic within’ is not allowed to be seen or even heard of. The splashes of the poison-mixed nectar jetting forth through the pores of the senses from the bursting abundance of bliss within keep the whole creation enchanted and spell-bound, and everyone runs out to reach up to the distant drops that have splashed forth and are sprinkled on the external forms rather than realise the ‘whereabouts’ of this sweetness that is mixed up with the venom of ‘outwardness’ in all sense-pleasures. As the snakes in the story of ‘amritamanthana’ had only their tongues split by licking the sharp-edged grass on which the pot of celestial nectar was merely placed—such was its odour which drew the soul of all the senses in one single torrent of longing-the craving mind has only its senses jangled and mutilated, worn out and sapped of all vitality, in its search for the nectar of joy in the barbed forms of the objects of the world. A daily ‘amritamanthana’ is human struggle for the joy which one wishes to churn out of life. Alas! The demons of the senses obtain only the fuming poison of being wrenched from their pleasure-centres, their hearts writhing for a breath, for they feel like getting suffocated and killed by the agonising rush of upsurging grief as the loss of touch with the objects of their joy. Both the gods of the divine aspirations and the demons of the senses crave for nectar, the latter wanting it in the world of objects. But the nectar cannot be thus had where it is not—what the demons get is the poison of sorrow instead of the nectar of satisfaction. The nectar cannot be imprisoned in this or that object.

For, this nectar of the Absolute does not come up filled in a pot or a vessel that can be grabbed by someone exclusively; it wells up as a universal deluge, drowning everyone and everything, devastating the dirt-ridden huts of clay-made bodies and cleansing the earth of all its sins for ever and ever! The soul’s boundaries burst with the joy which it is unable to contain, it sobs, sheds tears and dances in a maddened ecstasy of ananda. Noone knows what it has seen! Lo! Who can tell what is seen here! Speech dumbed. The mind is hushed. The sun, moon and the stars fade away into this supernal Radiance. The galaxies melt and the fourteen worlds tumble into this blazing Splendour which at once transforms them all into waves of bliss which dash against one another in that joy of the meeting of soul with soul, and of all souls in the One Soul.

The majestic ‘virat’ sports within Itself and makes laws of conditioning autonomy in the ‘Whole’ that It is. It looks at Itself with Its myriad centres, each a whole by Itself, which all act at the same time as heads and eyes and ears and hands and feet and minds and mouths and tongues, within and without all things; creating supporting, involving, distending, contracting and absorbing everything; It beholds Its own Glory without forfeiting Its Self-mastery as an Integrality which is impossible of separateness into an object which It has to contact by way of an outward coming together in a space that would never allow real union of what is really an ‘other’. It exists as an eternally active Cosmic Art of dynamic Dance of heightened bliss-infinite, which goes by the name of Creation of a universe of panoramic expressions of gorgeous beauty and a variety of experience in the indivisible delight of Self-recognition and Self-union in everything;everything is everywhere at every time in every form:—a transporting scene of the anguish of souls to merge into the Inward Selfhood of Unlimited Being, in an experience of ‘I-am-I’, and nothing else! This is the Wonder of all wonders, the Wonder of ‘That which is’! It is only here that all the desires are really fulfilled, and never before.