Being the Cosmic Whole
by Swami Krishnananda

Discourse 6: The Rising of the Total Phenomenal Being

There are gems of instructions scattered over the whole of the Kathopanishad. This Upanishad is not merely a philosophical thesis but a practical guide in the exercise called yoga meditation. We have heard a lot about the foundations of spiritual life, and in connection with the conversation between the great Master Lord Yama and the young boy Nachiketas, we have also tried to understand the difficulty in touching this subject. Now let us go further along that line.

Yacched vāṅ manasī prājñas tad yacchej jñāna-ātmani, jñānam ātmani mahati niyacchet, tad yacchec chānta ātmani (Katha 1.3.13) is a little verse of two lines. Yacched vāṅ manasī prājñas. Vak means speech. It is indicative of all the sense organs. The sense organs have to be deposited in the mind as the first step in yoga. Now, what does this mean, actually?

The mind is a repository of great energy, but much of that energy leaks out through externalising caused by the impetuous activity of the sense organs. Day and night we are seeing something, hearing something, touching something, smelling something. This sensory activity could not have been possible but for the cooperation of the mind with the sense organs. Suppose there are five holes in an earthen pot and you have filled the whole pot with water. However much you may go on adding water, the five holes will leak all the water out; similarly, there is no possibility of replenishing this energy because of the sense organs. You do a lot of concentration, meditation, self-withdrawal, but simultaneously you are thinking of objects. Now, what is the meaning of an object? Why is it said that you should not allow the senses to go along the lines of objects?

The objects by themselves are not harmful. Nothing in the world directly harms another thing. The reaction that our consciousness produces in regard to certain things determines whether the thing is object or subject. I have mentioned earlier that when I see you, you are the object. When you see me, I am the object. Now between these two persons, who is really the object and who is the subject? There is no such thing as object-subject diversity.

The introduction of a factor called space-time prevents us from knowing the exact nature of things in the world. We have decided that things are outside, and nobody need tell us that they are outside. The word ‘outside’ explains all the problems of life. Anything that is outside is debarred from any kind of connection with one’s own self. We say, “This person is an outsider,” which means to say we do not want to have any relationship with that person.

This word ‘outside’ is a very serious matter. If a thing is outside, we cannot have any kind of relationship with it. The outsideness of the thing we ignorantly call an object will not allow us to have any relationship with it. In this interrelated universe everything is hanging on something else; everything is depending on some other factor. There is a cosmic interdependence of interrelated factors, in which case we cannot say there are subjects and objects. When I depend on you and you depend on me, there is a relativity of connection, but there is not a watertight, compartmentalised relationship between us. I have sacrificed something for you in considering you also as a subject, as I am. This is the principle of mutual cooperation. Why should anybody cooperate with another person if they are totally different from one another? In spite of the apparent spatiotemporal difference between one and another, there is an undercurrent of a common denominator which keeps us perpetually aware of the existence of other things and other people.

If they are actually an other, unconnected with us, then we will not even know that people are existing anywhere. This is a subtle matter. The people do not give trouble; things in the world do not give trouble. Our concept of the location of people and things in the relationship that we have maintained with them gives trouble.

The mind should absorb the sense organs: yacched vāṅ manasī prājñas. A wise person should not allow the consciousness embedded in the mind to flow out. The word ‘out’ comes again. The word ‘outsideness’ is a fallacious invention due to the interference of the thing called distance, which is created by space. If one thing is different from another, it is because there is a distance between the two. Distance is the characteristic of space. Everything is involved in spatial concept. You cannot find anything which is not located in some spatial corner. Here is the difficulty in the practice of yoga. You have to overcome space itself in order that there may be a commonwealth of individuals forming a universal family.

As long as there is special concession given to the externality of things, they cannot be possessed. You can never become a friend of anybody because that person is outside you. There is always mutual suspicion, separation, and fear. The fear arises on account of your not knowing what the next person will do.

Nobody can be happy in this world, not because there is no possibility of being happy but because we have perceptionally created a dichotomy between ourselves and the objects we consider as our benefactors. You first keep a person aside and then want something from that person. You are doing this perpetually. First and foremost you regard things in the world as alien, unconnected, because you never consider that you yourself are an object like other objects. It is an abominable concept. Nobody will say they are an object. There is a prejudice of pure subjectivity on behalf of oneself, and an uncharitable feeling towards things which we consider as external to us. This is the reason why we cannot concentrate on anything without vacillation of the mind.

When it is said the sense organs should be settled in the mind, it means the power house should create energy, but you should not utilise that energy by turning on gadgets because then there is a diminution of the force of the power generated at the power house, and there is a leakage of current.

The generation of energy in us is due to the self-satisfaction of the mind in itself. The mind is immensely powerful. It can break mountains if it is allowed to exercise its force. With one thought you can bless, with one thought you can curse. No dynamic force in the world can compare itself with the mind. The mind is not an ethereal something pervading inside us. It is the energy quantum of the whole personality. Your strength, whether it is mental or physical, is due to the inwardised activity of this quantum of energy.

Never allow the mind to think of something other than what it is. This is a difficult thing. There are complaints: I cannot concentrate, and my mind goes in different directions. What is the different direction? The conviction that there are things outside us should be removed. It requires great courage and intellectual power to realise that the things are not outside us. You should never use the words ‘outside’, ‘alien’, ‘at a distance’. There is not even a one-millimetre distance between ourselves and another thing in the world. The world impinges upon you, and tells you that it is you and you are it.

People who are free from ordinary impulsive desires, who have no tumult of waves in the mind and emotions, will be able to appreciate this. If there is a disturbance in the emotional power and it dashes hither and thither with the waves of disturbance, then concentration is not possible. It is no use simply trying to concentrate with desires submerged in the mind. Even if one says, “I have no desire. I am free from all things,” this is only a conscious level of the mind speaking. That this is not the whole truth will be revealed sometimes in dream experience. Those things which you have prevented from entering your mind will find an opportunity to manifest themselves as impulses in dream experience where the intellectual prohibition is lifted.

People can behave in any way they like if there is no checking police force or governmental system. Just imagine there is no government. Anybody can do anything, and great chaos will be there. In a similar manner, because of the power of the intellect which subdues the impulsive activity of desires in the waking state, it takes an opportunity to rise up from ambush, and tells you that you are not what you appear to be. These impulses may be even prenatal, impulses of childhood, the experiences that you have passed through in your family in early babyhood. Because of the maturity of your understanding and the educational qualification and a conviction inside that you are perfectly all right in human society, it looks that you have no emotions.

Are there people in the world who have no emotions? You will be immediately disturbed by one single thought, one word, one action. Because of a rational pressure that we exert on our feelings, it appears that we have no feelings at all. When we speak to one another, we do not speak through the feelings. We speak through the rationality embedded in our intellect. That means we do not speak from the bottom of our heart. When that is understood properly, we can also know, to some extent, what our problem in life is.

We have brought from several incarnations the impulses of our feelings and thoughts, expressions and actions, which pursue us throughout the various births that we take. We have not just now been born into this world. We have not dropped suddenly like an apple from the tree into this world, into the mother’s womb. We have brought forth all the limbs of the chain of our existence throughout an incalculable number of years. They are pressing us for a forward action. And together with this, there is a pressure from the future possibilities of our life. We are buffeted from behind and from the front. We are getting crushed, as it were, in the middle. The future possibilities pull us ahead. The past actions put an impact upon us so that we are feeling as if we are an independent solid entity, a phenomenon projected by the two forces of past and future, presenting a phenomenal apparition-like existence in our situation. We do not seem to be existing at all, only existing ontologically speaking.

Great effort must be exerted. Tām yogam iti manyante sthirām indriya-dhāraṇām apramattas tadā bhavati, yogo hi prabhavāpyayau (Katha 2.3.11). Desire, apramattas – don’t be heedless. Any moment some dacoits will rise up from ambush and throw us in a wrong direction, though we are determined to sit for meditation.

The present and past collide with each other in a little interspace we call present. We do not know whether there is anything called the present. The pressure of the past and the pull of the future join together and produce a psychological concussion making us feel like an apparition, totally helpless, and we do not know in what direction we are drifting.

Yoga comes and goes: yogo hi prabhavāpyayau. You will not be always in the state of yoga. In a minute you will slip out, and you will be once again in a mortal, phenomenal state. Again you have to struggle. In one of the Upanishads it is said that you must bite your teeth, hold your breath, clench your fists, and be determined that you will not get up until the mind is concentrated. Do a practical exercise as if you are preparing for pugilism, fighting. Now you are fighting with your mind only: “Don’t disturb me like that.” Very difficult, very difficult! Then what happens?

In case you succeed in concentrating your mind even against the impulses of the sense organs moving outside, old desires manifest themselves as enchanting things in the world. There are many enchanting. You cannot know how many glorious things the world can present before you.

There are no glorious things in the world, really speaking. It is all a makeup of the dexterous activity of the three qualities sattva, rajas and tamas. It is like an expert in dancing gesticulating in different directions, preventing us from concentrating on any posture of that person. We are dumbfounded by the action of the dancer – sometimes this side, sometimes that side. Very difficult! Like that is the activity of the three qualities sattva, rajas and tamas: the stability of the mind, which is its basic quality, the distraction due to rajas, and an enthralling lassitude and lethargy which will not allow us to do it.

When you persist in concentration against the wish of the mind, it will put a stop to all the activity, and you will think you are in samadhi. Completely dark it will be. You will have to shake up your body and find out that you are not actually concentrating. Sometimes sattva and tamas look alike. Sattva is utter stability, perfect balance. In tamas also there is a kind of balance. In a state of perfect balance we go to sleep, and in a mood of great satisfaction we are allowing the mind to be in balance.

The whole point in the Kathopanishad is to not be heedless. Do not think that everything is all right, because at any moment anything can drop on your head. Everything seems secure, but tonight an earthquake comes. You cannot know what will happen the next moment. Trouble arises from all sides, not only from one side. From ten directions it will come, and you will be flabbergasted.

Therefore, apramattas ta: Do not be heedless. You must be prepared to expect anything from this unstable world. In the great Sanatsujatiya, the great sage Sanatsujata, the son of Brahma, told Vidura of the Mahabharata that heedlessness is itself death. It is carelessness about one’s own welfare: “Let it go, what does it matter?” This ‘don’t care’ attitude will not work here. Vigilance. Sthirām indriya-dhāraṇām. Straight you sit, and vertically move the consciousness. Do not allow it to move horizontally in the direction of external spatiotemporal objects. You are ascending, not horizontally moving. When you ascend you carry with you the forces of the whole world, as if the whole world is rising with you. Because of your intimate relationship with everything in the world, the rising is a total rising of all the forces constituting the world, and it is not an individual moving. The whole world wakes up in cooperation with you.