The Soul is the Ultimate Existence
by Swami Krishnananda


(Spoken on Swamiji's 56th birthday on April 25, 1978)

The more one has the opportunity to think, the less one feels the need to speak. It may look like an irony and an enigma, but perhaps it contains a great truth. The bestowal of greater and greater thought implies the drawing of oneself towards oneself more and more. That means to say, the more we become ourselves, the less we become the other. All means of communication, speech included, becomes a necessity in life when there is a purpose to be filled by the employment of these means.

The ultimate purpose of all these means of communication will amount to, finally, a coming back to one’s own self, if we deeply ponder over it. The apparent movement of ourselves towards other persons, other things, and other objectives in life are only an appearance of the basic urge of the soul to move towards its own Self, inasmuch as it can act only in terms of what it sees. And the human soul has found itself in a predicament where it sees through the senses, the bodily apparatus, and it moves under the impression that it is moving towards something other than itself for the purpose of completing its own need, not knowing the fact that this completeness which it seeks is not to be imported from any external emporium of trade, again a great enigma for the soul. It searches for values in things, and not merely the existence of things.

The existence of things is the highest value of things. The search of the soul for perfection outside is due to the fact that it makes a distinction between the existence of things and the value of things. Otherwise, where would be the need for anyone to move towards things that exist if existence itself would be a satisfaction? We create a distinction between the value of the object and the existence of the object. We are never satisfied with the existence as such of anything. A flower may be in the garden. The flower exists in the garden, but we are never satisfied unless it becomes ours. It must be plucked from the plant and brought home, and perhaps it should adorn our head, etc.

The bare minimum of existence does not satisfy us. We are not satisfied even with our own existence, and we are not satisfied with the existence of anyone else. There is no satisfaction with the existence of anything. We always want to enhance that existence by adjuncts from an apparent external source, under the impression that the adjunct is something which is other than existence. The values that we are trying to impose upon the existence of things are also existences by themselves, unfortunately. So there is no such thing as a value other than existence because a non-existent value cannot add to the quantity or the quality of the existence of the object which it is supposed to qualify.

There is a great muddle in thinking, a complete confusion and a pursuit of the will-o’-the-wisp in all endeavours in life. Never can we be happy in life until we are satisfied with things as they are. This is a terrific truth, a blow, as it were, to all human enterprise. But human enterprise, again, is a misnomer. There is a great supreme manufacturer, the Reality of realities, which cannot be regarded as an external source of inspiration. All our scriptures – Ramayana, Mahabharata, Srimad Bhagavata, Bhagavadgita – and all religions and scriptures of the world hammer upon the point of the omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence of God, which gets defeated the moment we begin to impose our personality on this superior operation of the Absolute.

It appears many a time that our practical life is a refutation of all that is studied in the scriptures because, on the one hand, there is an acceptance of the omnipresence of perfection everywhere. This is an important thing to remember.  The omnipresence of perfection means that every point of space is filled with perfection. There is plenitude and completeness in every nook and corner of every speck, atom and electron. That is the outcome of what we learn from the great masters, the saints and the sages, the prophets, the avataras and the scriptures. We accept it, and we have no other choice than to accept it.

But our life seems to be a stultification of this scripturally accepted truth, the religious theory which is supposed to be the guide for our practical attitude in life. Theory is nothing but a technique of practice. There is nothing in theory but the methodology that has to be adopted in our day-to-day existence. Theory is not meant only for memorising in books. It is not meant only to be committed to memory by rote. What is the use of theoretical knowledge in engineering if it has no use in practical existence? There is a vital connection between theory and practice. The connection is so vital that they are inseparable. They are the obverse and reverse of the same coin. What we know, we act; knowledge and action are identical. Perhaps this is the principle of karma yoga. When action becomes knowledge, it is karma yoga. Otherwise, it becomes binding karma which has a nemesis and a retribution which rebounds upon us like a boomerang.

The great principle of spirituality is the affirmation of the spirit, and nothing but that. The affirmation of the spirit is not merely a chanting of the mantra of the omnipresence of God, but the soul’s acceptance of the perfection of the Supreme Being.

On an earlier occasion we centred our discussion upon a theme that when knowledge becomes a conscious activity in the psychological sense of the term, and our personality is buried deep and isolated from this knowledge, knowledge becomes a burden on our head, a kind of shirt that we put on which has no connection with our body. Whatever be the beauty of the shirt, it has no real connection with us. We know it very well. The gorgeous decoration of dress does not add to the beauty of the person in any manner whatsoever because the person is something different from the dress, and if our knowledge is also going to be a shirt that we put on, well, we can take it off and we are the same person. The ugliness within seeps out in spite of the beauty of the clothes outside.

The great pity of human existence is that life and knowledge have become two different things. The great gospel of the Bhagavadgita, which is cried out from the housetops, is nothing but this principle. There is no hope of success, no hope of satisfaction, and no hope of any kind whatsoever as long as our ideal is separated from the real. The ideal is God, but the real is something different, which is the terrific truth before us. The real is not God. The real is something different, which frightens us, keeps us in anxiety, holds us in suspense, keeps us in doubt, and always agonises us from within, which is impossible of explanation under the acceptance of the great doctrine of perfection being present in every nook and corner of the world.

Religion fails when knowledge is isolated from life. It has failed. It is on its deathbed, almost; it is moribund. And there are revolutionary sentiments in forces today in the world which cry down all religion as the opiate of the masses and a phantasmagoria that is presented before the weak mind. All this unfortunate situation has arisen due to our own making. The leaders of mankind, the protagonists of religion and the great professors and teachers of philosophy have been wearing a cloak of knowledge, a garment of religious doctrine which has no connection whatsoever with the soul’s crying need. When the soul asks for something other than what it is intellectually made to accept by force of circumstances and social atmosphere, its agony is increased.

Religion is not opium. It is the remedy for all the illness of life. It is the panacea for the agony of the spirit. And our sorrows are not in our brains, in our physical bodies, in our families, in society or in the political atmosphere. Our sorrows are in our souls. It is the soul that is weeping, and when the soul has a cancer within, well, no amount of fragrant water thrown over it in the form of social conferences or beautiful descriptions of an ideal will work.

The reality of life is the soul of things. Even when we speak casually, we say it is the soul of the matter, by which we mean the essence of the entire circumstance, the reality of things. Our reality is the soul, and it is the reality of everything. So when we speak, the soul has to speak; when we think, the soul has to think; when we act, the soul has to act; and when a need is fulfilled, the need of the soul has to be fulfilled. There is no use merely fulfilling the need of our tummy, or our sentiments, or our social circumstances, or our whim and fancy. This is not going to do anything for this world.

Again to come to the point, the soul is the ultimate existence, and when we are satisfied with the ultimate soul of all things, the existence as such of things, we begin to love all things as we love our own selves. ‘The love of all things as we love our own selves’ is another way of putting the love of soul for itself. The love of one’s own for another is nothing but soul of the individual soul for the Supreme Soul, which manifests itself in various gradations.

There are selves and selves and selves, like layers and layers, and ultimately there is nothing but the Self in the universe. Even what we call the world outside is a self that is empirically manifest in space and time. What we call the family is also our outwardly projected self. What we call the society and the international setup and the whole cosmic manifestation is nothing but the self which is apparently seen in space-time causal relations. There is nothing but that. So when the Self is affirmed in its true connotation, in its indivisibility of being as existence and not a value isolated outside, we are spiritual, we are religious, we are God-loving.

To love God is not merely to go to a temple or a church. To love God is not merely to read a scripture. To love God is to love the higher Self of one’s own self. The self that is conquered is the self that is befitting union with the higher Self; otherwise, our own self becomes the source of our fear. We do not fear other people. We fear our own selves, really speaking. It is the devil that is working from within us that frightens us. Rama and Ravana both are inside. By inside, I do not mean within our physical individuality, but inside the whole creation, out of which we cannot keep our foot apart. There is only inside, ultimately; there is no outside anywhere. The whole cosmos is an inside, if we would like to put it that way, and we are that.

So there is a drama of the Mahabharata, the Ramayana going on always through the centripetal and centrifugal forces, which is the battle of life. The Mahabharata and the Bhagavadgita tell us that the symbol of life is a battle. The Bhagavadgita was given in a battlefield, which means to say, struggle is the law of existence, and the struggle is nothing but the law of the higher self and the lower self – existence and value, perception and reality.

May we imbibe the true wisdom of the soul of all things, and not merely an empirical knowledge, and live a religious life, which is nothing but a spiritual life. May God bless you all!