by Swami Krishnananda
(Spoken on Christmas Eve in 1972)
Grammar is the fundamental of linguistic science. Likewise, these sections of the Gospel according to Matthew, called the Sermon on the Mount, are considered to be the grammar of religious science – which means to say, the basic principles of the development of a religious consciousness can be gathered from these pithy, pointed, significant sayings of Christ that are embodied in these sections. The development of consciousness or the direction of the religious instinct in us is towards a purpose. Every activity has an end in view. There is an aim and a purpose behind the movement of even our mind and consciousness, let alone our bodily activities or social advocacies.
As on this particular occasion today we are supposed to contemplate and infuse into our personalities the true religious spirit as the great mastermind would like us to have it, enshrining it in our hearts, it would be befitting for us as seekers of Truth on our path to go a little deeper into the secrets of these religious principles or doctrines as embodied in the gospel sections mentioned already. There are apparently enigmatic instructions, impractical suggestions and difficult disciplines when we actually go through these stimulating instructions. Most of you, if not all, must have read these parables and thought over them profoundly.
The religious aspirant is a more serious person than any other serious person in the world because nothing can be more serious to us than religion. It is life and death to us, and we know how serious this matter could be to any person. How is religion is a matter of life and death, the alpha and omega of our lives? It is because of the fact that we do not understand the grammar or the fundamentals of the religious science that we regard religion as a kind of avocation, as a kind of practice among the many practices to which we are accustomed in our day-to-day existence. But, unfortunately for us and to the glory of the great saints and sages who have told it to us, religion is not an avocation. It is not a vocation, it is not an activity of ours, and we cannot say that we have no time to be religious. We may have no time to do a job, we may have no time to go to a particular place, we may have no time to go to a school or a college, but we cannot say we have no time to be religious because religion is a state in which we are, and by which we conduct ourselves in life. It is something like saying we have no time to breathe or we have no time to be, no time to exist. No one would say this because while temporal activities in the world of space and time require time and space, the enshrining of the religious spirit within oneself does not require space and time. It is something supernormal, supernatural, superphysical.
In these few minutes there is no opportunity to discuss in detail what Christ told us in the Sermon on the Mount. I will only give you one short enigmatic, baffling, and mysterious truth which he spoke to us, on which most people may not have thought properly. “Repent ye, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” We are on the borderland of the Kingdom of Heaven. From where has it come, and how is it at hand? What is meant by ‘kingdom’? It is a vast stretch of land, a large area of space gloriously ruled by an emperor; that is perhaps what we mean by a kingdom. Now, how can Christ say that it is at hand? And he makes it worse by saying that the Kingdom of Heaven is within us. Matters become worse because a kingdom cannot be within us. It is impossible to conceive such a statement as having any meaning at all. If I say that France is in your heart or India is in your head, what does it mean? It will convey no sense to you. You will think that it is nonsense. But this wonderful nonsense was spoken to us by Christ. “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you.” How could this be? How could such a doctrine be inculcated and carry any significance?
Here is the very rock bottom of the religious consciousness. This is a very short statement of an eternal truth, a precise enunciation of a reality that is undying. The greatest truths are always enigmatic because they are so simple. That which is very simple is more difficult to understand than that which is acutely and logically presented. The simpler we become, the more difficult we are to understand. The most simple of beings is God Himself, and therefore we cannot even see Him.
Such spiritual precepts as these come to us as vivifying elements, energizing tonics, infusing into our spirit the light of God, and giving us the message from the far heavens. The word ‘heaven’ and the word ‘kingdom’ – the Kingdom of Heaven which is so significant in this biblical chapter – is of eternal significance. Its significance is not merely historical, linguistic or scriptural. It is a spiritual significance. And these incarnations, these masters that abounded through the centuries on this Earth plane, spoke the language of Eternity through the tongue of the human being. That is why we are unable to understand the hidden meaning behind these spiritual precepts. You may be speaking in the Hebrew tongue, or in Latin or in English, but you may be conveying an eternal message which cannot be limited to the linguistic formula of spoken words.
“Thy Kingdom come.” “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you.” “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” These are impossible to understand by an ordinary mind. Though they carry a grammatical sense, a dictionary meaning, their spiritual connotation cannot be easily grasped by the commonsense mind of the human being because they purport to convey that which is super-temporal in the language of the temporal, the spatial, and the limited. When Eternity is carried through the vehicle of temporal language, we have an enigma before us. What is called a spiritual knotty point is only this much: the eternal verity carried to us though the vehicle of temporality. If it is purely the temporal truth that is conveyed, we will understand it. The three angles of a triangle make two right angles. It is easy to understand. You know what it means because I am only giving you a temporal truth through temporal language. Two and two make four. Yes, you understand what I mean. But if I say that the Kingdom of Heaven is within you, you will wonder what I am saying, what I mean, because this is not a temporal truth that is being enunciated. This is something beyond the ken of human perception, conception and calculation; and nevertheless, it is given to us in language, so we are scratching our heads through the scriptures. As they say, only a Shakespeare can understand a Shakespeare. Perhaps only a Christ can understand a Christ, and not others.
In our Sanskrit we also have a similar statement: devo bhutva devam yajet. We have to worship God by being God. Otherwise we cannot worship Him because we cannot be on a different pedestal from the being of God and then worship Him in truth, in spirit. As the Christ would say, in Spirit; and Bhagavan Sri Krishna would say, tattvataha, in Reality. We know God in Spirit or in Reality, comprehend Him as He is through a faculty within us which can be regarded as akin to His nature. This is the meaning of knowing God in Spirit, in Truth.
There is something superhuman in the human being, an element which carries the spark of God. There is an element of divinity in the human being which can be regarded as the passage of the mortal to the immortal. There must be some connecting link between us and God so that we may reach Him. If there is absolutely no relationship between us and God, the question of reaching Him does not arise. If we want to reach one place from another place, there must be a road connecting the two places. Now, what is the road or the path or the passage or the link between us and God? Space, time, objects? Nothing of the kind because we say God is infinite, and therefore the question of space does not arise. And what is it in us that can be called similar in character and texture to the being of God – body, mind, senses? Nothing, because the body perishes, the senses are distracting, the mind is fickle. All these are limited to the logical and mathematical boundary of calculation and causation in space and time. If God is infinite, the “I am” or the “I am that I am” is another enigmatic statement. “My name is I am that I am.” What is meant by this? This supernormal peculiarity which can alone be regarded as a connecting link between man and God is present in man – of which he is oblivious, to which he closes his eyes every day on account of attachment to the bodily encasement and being confounded by sensory apparitions. Attraction, colour, sound and motion keep us active. What is the world? Colour, sound, motion – this is the world, and if we deduct these three factors from the world, the world does not exist for us. And we cannot equate any of these principles with God-consciousness.
The Kingdom of Heaven is the being of God. It is not a spatial expanse like Asia, Europe or America. It is not a continent that we call the Kingdom of God. It is the being of God that is the Kingdom of God. This is a very unusual expression of Christ, to give us a truth which is eternal. The Kingdom of God, inasmuch as it is the very being of God, has to be where God is.
A clergyman was giving a discourse and, in a very commonplace way, began to speak on God. He said, “God is in heaven, my dear friends. All should be well with the world.” God is in heaven. Then one of the interested devotees from the audience got up and said, “Who created heaven?” The clergyman said, “God created heaven.” “Where was God before He created heaven?” No answer for this. If you say that God is in heaven and God also created heaven, where was He before He created it? There must be some other place. And who created that place? Well, now you come a cropper.
This is the difficulty in understanding scriptural truths that convey eternal meaning. We always think in terms of our country, our society and our way of looking at things, but the spiritual envisionment of values or the spiritual way of looking at things is different altogether, which is really the beginning of the development of the religious consciousness within us. Religion is nothing but the rising of God-consciousness within us. It is not churchgoing or bell ringing that we call religion. It is not an activity that we do, as in an office or a factory. It is a spirit that rouses itself within us that we call religion. It is a new kind of awakening and a new life that dawns in our hearts. It is a state of being, to put it precisely and concisely.
Now, this being the true connotation of the highest reaches of religion, and religion being the way to God, as we usually put it, and God being infinite, spaceless and timeless, and the Kingdom of God being identical with the being of God, we would be very near the possibility of understanding what could have been meant by the statement, “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you.” We are almost coming near the truth of what this statement was, or is. The being of God is within you – that is the meaning of “the Kingdom of Heaven is within you”. And what is meant by the being of God or the existence of God? This again, to us, is a temporal concept. To us, to be or to exist is to occupy some place. If we occupy some area, we say we exist, but God’s existence does not occupy a place or a space.
We have to meticulously brush aside our usual prejudiced way of thinking when we begin to think seriously in a religious fashion. Occupation of a space or locality does not necessarily mean existing. The idea of existence in the human mind is limited to space and time, but God’s being, as we have already accepted, is super-spatial, non-spatial, and there is nothing of that kind in us except some invisible principle which we cannot easily designate in our language. It is not body because body occupies place, it is not mind because mind thinks in terms of place and time, and it is not the senses because they are only doing what the mind does, and vice versa. What else have we which is akin to God’s nature, which can be regarded as a passage to God or the way to God, by which profundity of meaning in us we are able to comprehend this dictum of Christ?
Usually we can see nothing within us other than the body, the senses and the mind, but if we go a little deeper into this structure of our being, we will realise that we cannot be the body because we think that there is a body, and the thinker cannot be identified with the body. Body and mind cannot be identified with each other because when we say, “I think that I have a body”, the thinker cannot be identified with the object that is thought. Then are we the thought? Here I am reminded of the great cogito ergo sum of Descartes: I think, therefore I am. I think the body; therefore, I have a mind and I think; and because I think, I must be. If I am not, I will not be thinking. So I am first, then I think, and I think there is a body. All these paraphernalia of perceptions come later on, but the fundamental acceptance here is that I am.
How do we know that we are? Now, this question has no answer. How do we know that we are? This is an intuition in us. It is not a perception. It is not a thought in our mind because the question of how we know is itself a mental activity, and so the answer to this question will also be a mental activity. But there is something behind the mind: I am. God said, “I am that I am.” This is what the Book of Genesis tells us. And we also say “I am”. So there is something common between us and God. The I-amness in us and the “I am that I am” in God are similar in nature, and so we can reach God who is “I am that I am” through the real “I am” in us – not the body. We cannot climb to God though the body and the senses and the objects of the world.
The deepest spiritual essence in us is known as “I am”. We call it light, we call it consciousness, we call it spirit. We do not know how to express it in language. And this Universal I-amness, this Universal “I am that I am”, is God. And this Universal God who is the supreme “I am” also includes our individual “I am”, like a drop containing the ocean. The whole ocean is in the drop; the drop is in the ocean. Likewise, God is in us, and we are in God. So, “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you” is very clear. It does not mean that a country is within you, it is not a spatial expanse that is within you, it is the spirit that is within you; and if you seek it, everything shall be added unto you. Do not ask for things. When you get the ocean, you have already got the drop. Why do you ask for a drop separately? “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” All your planes and cars, radios, tape recorders and computers – everything will come to you if you touch this bottom of being. You will be flooded with the resources of the cosmos. You will not be a poor person anymore. You will be the richest conceivable being. God is not a poor person. There cannot be anyone richer than God, and if you have a kinship with God, how can you be poor? The son of an emperor is not poor because he inherits the riches and the resources of the whole kingdom of his father.
Thus, wondrous, soul-enrapturing truths are given to us in these statements. “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you” and by knowing it, “all these things shall be added unto you”. Blessed is that person who can grasp the meaning of this teaching, and blessed is he who can delve deep into the spirit of this teaching. Thrice blessed is that person who considers God thus as the only goal of life.
To bring the message of the Immortal, the Supreme Father, Christ came down to the Earth level. May his grace be upon you all. God bless you.