by Swami Krishnananda
It does not mean that this imitation corresponds to facts. That we, as human beings, want other existences to also correspond to our own existence does not show that we see things in the true perspective or that we see things really. The history of a thing is not what happens to that thing in a particular country or in a village, but what happens to it in creation. That is the history of a thing. If the answer to the question “Did Christ exist?” is “Yes, he did exist,” and we doubt whether this answer is correct, the doubt would have meaning only if the idea of Christ or Krishna or Buddha or some other person is from the point of view of his social or phenomenal existence.
We all exist in India, in Rishikesh, in this world, but we also exist in this cosmos. We do not only exist in this Bhajan Hall or in Muni-ki-Reti or Rishikesh, but we also exist elsewhere. Some of us are visitors, some are residents of this place, some are yatris on their way to Badri, and some have come from foreign countries. These are all descriptions of persons and are all true, but there is something more true. We belong to the creation of God. Now, what is our status from the point of view of creation? I think that is the real test of things, and that the study of a person can be complete and free from all doubts only when we study from this angle of vision and not any other way.
We criticise allopaths because they look at a person from the historical angle and take things bit by bit. However, the homeopath, the naturopath or even the vaidya of Ayurveda do not see the patient as some kind of machine that can be dismantled, but as an organism; and, therefore, they feel that they should not meddle with the patient’s soul, as the allopath would.
Studying one person as he is individually – whether Julius Caesar, Mark Anthony, Plato or Shankaracharya – and taking each person as associated with his given personal body alone, is called a biography. This is not the correct way to study people, because they have wider relations which we are not able see with our limited vision. They have a greater relationship, more intense than we can see, and until that relationship is studied, the biography is not properly written; the history is not properly written.
Ishwara, the Creator, God, the incarnations of God like Krishna, Buddha, Christ, etc., our own selves, individual jivas here, all exist from one point of view, but are non-existent from another point of view. We all have some existence. “Do we exist from the historical point of view?” is a question you may put to me. Now I will put a question to you: What is history? A student in high school has one conception of history, a professor in a university has a more profound conception, and a farmer in a field has some other conception of history. Therefore, one’s concept of history is, to some extent, responsible for the nature of the answer.
There is no such thing as a non-existent person, because a person must exist in order to have any value. If we deny value to a person, then of course there is nothing, or no meaning, to it. We know how many people worship Buddha or Christ. So much value is attached to them. If they are non-existent, all religion falls to the ground in one second. Then there is no Christianity, no Buddhism, no Islam, because we cut at the root the value which we attach to their seers or the incarnations by saying they are not historical.
The historicity of a thing is the attaching of value to a thing from one angle of vision. The mind of the human being sees things only in space and time; but religion emphasises that God is not in space and time. If we say that anything that is not in space and time cannot be, then we are denying God because He is not in space and time, even though we believe in the existence of God as trans-spatial or trans-temporal.
This especially applies to such divine beings like Dakshinamurthy. We do not know what these beings were. How can we say whether Dakshinamurthy really existed, whether he was a historical being? When we take the whole of creation in its total perspective, everything becomes historical. But if by history we understand only that which is localised in space and time, in this physical realm, then God and His incarnations in the other realms of being are not historical at all.
The world is not merely this Earth. We are told there are seven planes above and seven planes below. We are even told that we have worlds within us. The subconscious, the unconscious minds – do they really exist? They do not exist in space and time. We identify our existence with our experience, and anything we do not see or experience, we deny. This is a poor state of affairs, where we think that what we think is the complete truth and we deny everything else. We deny knowledge to our own perception.
The great Avataras, the incarnations of Ishwara, existed – some in the historical sense of our own present mind, and some in the historical sense of the cosmos. There is a difference between cosmic history and British or Indian history. The history of the cosmos is different altogether. Vyasa tried to take all things into consideration, and the Bhagavata is such an attempt of writing cosmic history where things are given significance from the spiritual perspective also.
A person exists not merely as a body, but as a spirit. We exist as historical beings. Now, what are we? Are we bodies? Maybe. When we write the biography of a person, we write about the activities of the body or the movements of the mind. When we write about Napoleon, we do not write about his spiritual existence, as if that is not important.
If the existence of the soul of the person is to be taken into consideration, as it must, then the history of a person, of a machine, of the Earth, would immediately assume a different significance. Our way of looking at things would change. We would not identify with what our eyes see, and we would know there are things our eyes are not able to see. We would not immediately make a remark. It is a hasty way of perceiving.
Before judging a thing we have to understand it completely, and before understanding a thing we have to take all factors into consideration – which is humanly impossible. And it is humanly impossible to say whether a person existed or not. We, as spiritual seekers, are expected to not have such a narrow way of looking at things, but to have more charitable views. There are more things than our philosophy dreams of. We should not think that our philosophy is complete and we can wind up things into our philosophy. Philosophy, after all, is a product of the brain. But there are more things than we dream of in our philosophy.
Existence is wider than we can see; and wisdom is deep only when it is associated with humility. The proud person is not a wise person. That is why in the Bhagavadgita, vidya and humility come together. The less we consider the personality shell as complete and the more we know there are things outside it, the more humble we become. It is the empty person that thinks he is complete. The profound person knows he has to be humble before the mighty universe.
We audaciously declare certain things – such as, that we can do this and that – because we do not know what is under our own skin. We are part of a wider existence, and our meaning is the meaning of that which is wider. To forget that is to forget the real meaning of human life. The existence of God, of His creation, of the Atman, are aspects of existence that we cannot see with our eyes. How much of the universe do we see? The cosmos is so deep! Even the physical existence of this universe is so vast that it far outranges our mental horizon. Though it is in us, we cannot see it.
Thus, the human situation is neither really psychological, because the deepest psychological existence of the Atman cannot be seen, nor is it even theological, because God cannot be seen. We are nowhere. We are empty balloons that float in the air, imagining that we are much. The value of any of us is in our association with the really existent, with God, and minus that relation we are nothing.
Dakshinamurthy was one of the incarnations of God. He was supposed to be the manifestation of Lord Siva, and his very body was supposed to be made up of the top of Knowledge. The word ‘dakshinamurthy’ is defined as Knowledge. Dakshina means south. Some say that he sat under a banyan tree, facing south, and taught wisdom by silence, and that he was the very incarnation, or embodiment, of Knowledge – the incarnation of spiritual Realisation, radiating wisdom all over. People had only to sit in front of him. Just as the light of the sun sustains us, the spiritual existence of Dakshinamurthy was a radiating presence of spiritual knowledge.
It is said that Dakshinamurthy especially came to initiate the Kumaras, the first-born sons of Brahma, into the mystery of Self-realisation, and that he taught in silence by a symbol. Gyana Mudra was the symbol with which he taught Knowledge to the Kumaras. The Guru taught in silence, and the disciples understood everything correctly and had no doubts. Dakshinamurthy did not deliver discourses to the Kumaras. He showed them the Gyana Mudra, and they understood.
What is this Gyana Mudra? There are various interpretations, but the common one is that it is that which is other than the three states: waking, dreaming and deep sleep. It is identical with the Supreme Being. There is something in us other than the three states, and that something is not seen by us. There is something in us other than what we experience in the three states. What do we see in the three states? We see persons, the world, problems, etc. In deep sleep we know nothing. There is something other than these three things, and that is the existence of the person. That is the real existent being. Other things are not really existent. That really existent thing in us is the fourth. It is the Supreme Being. This is what Dakshinamurthy taught the Kumaras, and they understood it. There was no need for further elaboration or expansion of the subject. In this way, the whole philosophy of our land is given: Ishwara, the God of the cosmos; Guru, the incarnation of Ishwara in the form of the spiritual teacher; and the Atman which receives this knowledge are the three aspects of this Being which is all–pervading.
But again we come back to where we began while discussing the historicity of things. Ishwara and His creation, which includes the jivas, are not two or three existences; they are one existence. When we take all these three together and study them from this point of view, we are living a spiritual life. But when we take these three things isolatedly, then come the various schools of philosophy and the different religions. Why are there different religions? Because we take these three existences as isolated values.
We do not know where God is; and each one has his own idea of God, and each person or groups of persons have their ideas. We do not connect God with our existence; and when we take only our own individual existence independently, we study only psychology. And when we see only the world, and see neither God nor the Atman, we are materialists. We see only the apparent things of the world. Hence, all these are only limited ways of studying things.
We should not consider God to be some distant person, nor should we think we are isolated beings, nor should we think that the world is existent by itself. All these are defective philosophies, and they have landed us in this condition of the twentieth century. From the phenomenal point of view, it is history; from the individual point of view, it is psychology; from the point of view of the Creator of the world, it is theology; and when we take all three together, it is called philosophy. But, unfortunately, the three are taken together in various manners, and so we have many schools of thought.
Spiritual mystics have the same experience, though philosophers may disagree. Spiritual realisation is One, because existence is One. We should not argue whether such and such a person existed or not. Whenever we attach value to things, to that extent we are historical. From the point of view of Ishwara, the Creator of the world, everything is real or everything is unreal. Everything is real to God, because this is His creation. All these many heads and legs are the heads and legs of Ishwara. So, in that sense, everything is real. But, in another sense, everything is unreal, because nothing exists outside of Him and, therefore, God’s existence is complete existence. If we say the world exists outside God, it is not correct. The world’s and the individual’s existences have a meaning only when they are taken in relation to God’s existence. There is no psychology, no theology, no history, for Ishwara. “I Am”: That is the feeling of Ishwara. He Is: That is the feeling of the bhakta. God alone is, and to serve Him is to serve the whole creation. To render service to God with prayer, meditation, is the real service. Without the consciousness of the omnipresence of God, all our social activities have no meaning. Our way of thinking is not correct because we isolate things. We bifurcate existence. That is not the Truth.
The Truth is that everything exists where it is and where it ought to be, and is integrally related to God and comprehends history, cosmology, theology, etc., and in the one assertion ‘God Is’, we have said everything. No other assertion is necessary.