by Swami Krishnananda
Message given on New Year's Eve, the 31st of December, 1973.
But, are we prepared for it? This unpreparedness sits secretly in the heart of even a spiritual aspirant. We cannot wholly trust God or depend on His favour, due to the fact that we are still humanly limited and our notions of success or advancement are humanly conditioned. They have not taken a divine shape. A real spiritual seeker is a divine person. He is not an ordinary being. But we maintain human sentiments still, and then try to rouse in ourselves the spirit of aspiration for God. This is very unfortunate. The principle of this feature is stated by Manu in his Smriti, where he says in a half verse: sarvam paravasam dukham, sarvam atmavasam sukham – Wherever there is dependence there is sorrow, and joy is the result of independence.
Now, we do not know what real independence is. We are never independent. We are dependent on a hundred factors outside, due to which we seem to even exist and breathe in this world. Dependence on God is made up of a different stuff altogether. Though a spiritual aspirant may look at people, see the world outside even as anybody else does, he will not merely see things, but he will also start seeing through things. A spiritual seeker does not look upon another person as a son or a father, a brother or a sister, but as a symbol of a more significant reality. The Divine Truth, the Supreme Being, who is supposed to be present perpetually in each and every living or non-living thing in the world, appears as persons and things, a truth which we all know by reading scriptures, etc. But all this is brushed aside by our sentiments as a light affair. Our understanding never cooperates with our feelings, and our feelings do not go hand in hand with our understanding. We are something in our feelings, and something else in our understanding. We are very learned persons. We know that God is the only Reality, that He manifests Himself as all these things that we see – sahasra shirsha purushaha. All these things are known to us, and we repeat them a hundred times. But our feelings revolt against this kind of conviction intellectually arrived at. We cannot look upon another person as a manifestation of God, though we may go on repeating it like a parrot a hundred times. It is impossible because when a person or a thing is envisaged as a manifestation of God, that particular person or thing ceases to be individual in the sense our sentiments would like to take it to be.
A new value begins to be visualised in persons and things outside when the spirit begins to behold thing. The vision of a sadhaka is a spiritual vision. It is not a vision of the eyes merely. We are not looking at things with our eyes. We are looking through the eyes at the object from the standpoint of the spirit, which alone can be called spirituality. The standpoint of the spirit is spirituality, not the standpoint of a person. The idea of personality is outgrown when the spiritual attitude manifests itself in outward life. We do not smile at each other as friends in ordinary human relationship. Though we may contemplate this inner secret of the subtle bond that exists among human beings, we still stumble upon our own sentiments. We get angry, and we are emotionally attracted and repelled. We are still mortals to the very core.
Yet, it is essential to go on re-interpreting our relationship spiritually in our day-to-day practice of sadhana. There is no use doing sadhana with buried human sentiments inside one’s own self. These sentiments do not always come to the surface of consciousness; they come out only when it is necessary. As I have already mentioned, when we lose things that we regard as dear and when things happen which we have not expected, we are shocked. But why should we not expect it?
A sadhaka is one who expects anything and everything, and therefore he can stand on his own legs spiritually and independently. There is no use depending on outside factors for our happiness. As I have already pointed out, these outside factors are temporary relationships due to the operation of karmic forces, the prarabdha karma as we call it. All that we have today with us, all our possessions – our wealth, our prosperity, our security – is the effect of our past karmas. If we are rich today, it is because of some karma from our previous lives. But we should remember that we will not be rich always, and we will not be friendly with people always. These external relationships will change and transform themselves suddenly when the effect of those karmas is exhausted. Then another set of results of another set of karmas will manifest themselves, and then it is that a poor man becomes a rich man or a rich man becomes poor, friends become enemies and enemies become friends. Overnight a millionaire can become a pauper if the old karma's momentum is exhausted. He is simply thrown somewhere else, into the limbo of another side of life altogether. Suddenly a poor beggar can become rich if his karma for poverty, which is the result of some previous action, has been exhausted.
Hence, we are living in a relative world of various conditions. These conditions can change, and therefore we must be prepared for these changes. If the very earth under our feet gives way, we should not be surprised. It is also expected. But, we are not prepared for such a fierce onslaught of natural forces because we are accustomed to physical comfort and egoistic satisfaction due to personal relationships with people
It is impossible for us to look upon the world as a manifestation of God, because though it is easy to say this, when we think about it and begin to feel it and manifest it in our life, our heart will quake. That would be something impossible for the mind to contain, and would mean another set of circumstances altogether around us. But, this is the psychological background which every sadhaka should prepare for, and this alone can keep us safe and secure and happy throughout the day and night. We stand on our own ground, and therefore we are happy and possessed of a sense of security and strength.
We should not be moody. Moodiness is caused when pent-up emotions of a human and even subhuman character start coming to the surface with vehemence, when spiritual understanding becomes feeble and sometimes even gets misdirected. Suffice it to say, it is hard to become a spiritual seeker. Merely smiling with your lips, shaking hands with friends, and sitting together in a gathering, is not spirituality.
Our real stuff is of a different nature, and that has to be remoulded and transformed. Our relationship with God is not an individual relationship. It is not a relationship of one person with another person. Spiritual relation is divine relation, the relation of the soul to the infinite background on which it is sustained. To love God is not easy, because God is not a person like a human being. And, therefore, it is also difficult to trust God. Our understanding of the nature of God is humanly conditioned, socially limited, personally interpreted, and so it falls to the ground when we are actually in need of its support. Even yogis and seekers of Truth cannot reach God so easily, unless there is that strength within them by which they can take to the spiritual point of view, the standpoint of the Spirit in the judgment of things outside and the understanding of life in general. The spiritual seeker is a God-man, and we stand alone in front of that Mighty Alone, the Great Creator of the Cosmos. When we face Him and stand before Him, we do not stand before a human being or a humanly interpreted personality. Divine values are transempirical. The God whom we are aspiring for is no doubt in the world, yet He is different in His character and substance.
Thus, to take to the spiritual path, to lead a spiritual life and to practice spiritual sadhana would be to die completely to the old prejudices of our life. “Die to live,” as Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj used to say. To take to spiritual life is a veritable death. Are we prepared for death? Nobody is prepared for it. We have our own small preferences, likings, weaknesses and sentiments which assume large proportions when they are given a long rope. We remain human beings till the end and die like human beings, repenting for not having utilised our life properly as it ought to have been. We are still the old, old persons with the same desires and the same weaknesses. May this be shed.
May we carry this message of the spiritual seeker on this eve of the New Year. May we carry this message of God in our own bosoms, enshrine it in ourselves and practise its principles as veritable God-men in this world. We are perpetually connected to God. He is not separated from us even by an inch; and yet, it appears as if He is totally dead to us, just as the waking world of experiences is regarded as totally absent in the dream world. How far is God from us? He is as far from us as the bed on which we sleep at night. Do we know what this means? In the state of dream, we cannot know that we are sleeping on a bed. We are in another world altogether, a different realm, and we do not know where we are and what has happened to us. But, we are really sleeping on a bed. How far is that bed from us? We are on it and are in contact with it. We are lying on it and yet it is not there, for all practical purposes. We are in a fairyland of dream. Similarly, God is as far from us as the very bed on which we are sleeping. We are touching Him, we are lying on Him, and yet how far He is! We are crying for Him in the same way as a dreaming person cries for the bed which he thinks he lost though he is lying on it. Such a state of affairs has taken place, unfortunately.
We have to reconstruct our consciousness from the point of view of the laws and regulations of spiritual life, and then we will realise God just as a dreaming person will realise that he is sleeping on the bed when he wakes up. He will know where he is. What happened to him was only a reshuffling of the constituents of his consciousness. He has not travelled somewhere to catch the bed. He has not moved an inch, he is just there, and yet what a difference it makes to him. He comes to a different world altogether merely because of the change in the constituents of consciousness. Similarly, we are on God even now. We are sitting on His chest, as it were. We are living and moving and having our being on Him, and yet we are crying for Him as if He is far away. What a pity!
We can imagine what sort of spiritual practice is expected of us to realise that, on the basis of which our very existence and activity are possible. What should we do to realise that on which we are seated? We are not to run about here and there, frantically in search of it. We are on it. Why are we searching for it? But our mind has wandered away in a dreamland, and therefore it looks as if we have lost it.
So, spiritual sadhana is not a hectic activity of the physical personality or the social individual; it is a spiritual retransformation of the very consciousness which we really are. It is difficult to conceive what spiritual sadhana is. Though we advertise it, print books on it, and talk about it to others, it has not really entered our spirit, and so we are still weeping. Our weeping has not stopped. It is necessary, therefore, to reinterpret ourselves, understand our situaiton once again in a proper form and perspective, and stand undaunted, confident and perspicuous in our understanding. Can any of us believe that we are in the very presence of God just now? But, this is the fact.
It is therefore imperative for us to reconsider our position in this world, to reconsider our relationships to other people and things, and reconsider the very meaning of sadhana. If the Truth is properly grasped, we should regard ourselves as thrice blessed. It is a hard thing to understand, and is very difficult to absorb into our feelings and emotions. Though our intellect may appreciate it and come to a sort of logical conviction, the feelings will not retain it for more than a few seconds because of the human and the temporal conditions into which our consciousness seems to have fallen, by which it is conditioned and in which it is involved. We have to raise ourselves from this mire of limiting sentiments and emotions, which are merely a state of human consciousness, and raise ourselves to a higher pedestal of appreciation, understanding and meditation. We have to truly become spiritual seekers. We must be capable of smiling always and never be melancholy and depressed. That would be the stuff of a spiritual sadhaka. May this message enter us. May God bless us.