Correct Perception
by Swami Krishnananda

(Spoken to a French-speaking group on December 27th, 1972)

Swamiji: All your activities, whether they are personal, social, political or international, are all directed to a single aim: that you want to exist and live somehow or other. But why do you want to exist? That is my question. Why are you struggling so much? Suppose everybody is destroyed, the whole world is destroyed, the sun, moon, stars are all destroyed, the whole cosmos has perished; what is the harm? Why are you so worried about it? Why are you so worried about existing? Suppose everything perishes; what is the harm? Who is going to be the loser, because you are not there to see it? Can anybody answer this question? When everybody perishes, nobody is there to see that everybody has perished, so what is the trouble? But you do not want that to happen. Why?

Visitor: Because everybody thinks, “Death is for the others, the destruction of the whole world is for the others, but I will exist.” This is in the subconscious.

Swamiji: No, you are also afraid that you may perish if you do not act properly. Somebody may attack you and destroy you, and you do not want that. But why? Why is it that you don’t want that? The answer to this question is the beginning of philosophy.

Visitor: Because I am afraid.

Swamiji: Why are you afraid?

Visitor: Because I don’t know what is afterwards.

Swamiji: Let anything be afterwards. Even if you protect yourself with great care, one day you will perish, and it may be even tomorrow. Why are you worrying about it now, when you have no control over anything? You do not know your breath, how long it will go on, and yet you are worrying about it, is it? You said, “I do not know what is afterwards.” Merely because you are struggling hard it does not mean you will know it. You are not aware of it, and you will not know it at any time. Even if you live a hundred years, you cannot know what is afterwards. Then why are you struggling to live a hundred years? Is there not some confusion in your understanding of things?

This is the beginning of philosophical thinking. Otherwise, everything is all right. We have our hot tea and a little lunch; we go about and see mountains and rivers, and we think that everything is all right. We are happy because we do not know the truth. If we know the truth of things, we will be miserable just now. Some people say knowledge is happiness, but knowledge is also grief if we know the truth of things.

I will tell you why knowledge is also unhappiness. You are happy if you see a person or a thing which is most beautiful. But suppose you see that person or object through a powerful microscope. Will you see that beauty there? Do you understand what I mean? Now, do you think that you are right, or the microscope is right? Who is right? Naturally, you will say that the microscope is seeing correctly and you are not seeing correctly. So your vision is wrong, and how can you be happy by having a wrong vision of things? And yet you say, “I am happy. Oh, beautiful vision, and beautiful scenery, and beautiful persons.” Such a thing does not exist, really speaking. So the knowledge that you gain through the microscope is real knowledge, and that which you gain through your real life is not real knowledge.

Imagine that there is such a big microscope through which you can see the whole world. You will not see any person through this microscope. You will only see some forces working in the interrelationship. You will not see any person or any thing in this world through a microscope. Now you tell me, which is the correct perception, the perception through the microscope or the perception of your naked eye? If the microscopic perception is correct, why do you believe your eyes and then make remarks on the basis of sensory perception?

Thus you come to the conclusion that your very perception is erroneous. You cannot know what is in this world by merely seeing with naked eyes. If your sensory perceptions are wrong, your thinking also is wrong because that is based on your perception. If your thinking itself is wrong, how can you live in this world? Now, let any wise person among you answer my question. I have put you in a very difficult situation. Now you will realise that you are not wise persons as you imagined. Ahh! The beginning of wisdom is the realisation that you are not wise people. To imagine that you are wise is not wisdom. When you realise that you have no wisdom, you really have wisdom. This is the philosophy or the way of thinking adopted by the great philosopher Socrates. When you realise that you know nothing, then you start knowing things properly. But we have some egoism in our minds, on account of which we imagine we are very great and wise people.

Now I am coming to the point from where I started, that a correct vision of things such as that which you obtain through a microscope is different from the knowledge of things that we get through the senses. When you see things with a powerful vision, you will see the interconnectedness of things rather than the difference of things. Now you are seeing many people sitting here. When you see through a microscope you will not see these people, but forces coming together. When you see only the waves of the ocean, you will see many waves, but when you see the ocean, you will see the base of the waves.

You are not persons and things, but forces that have taken a shape or a form, and to these forms we have given a name such as Mr., Mrs., this, that, etc. But these forms or shapes which we call personalities are ultimately made up of the same substance. If we reduce the contents of our body, they get dissolved into the five elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether. Whether it is a man or a woman, it makes no difference; when the body is dissolved, it becomes the five elements. So both man and woman are made up of the same substance of the five elements. Then why do we say this is a man and this is a woman? We make this distinction on account of the difference in the structure of the forces. We call one form a man and another form a woman, just as we say this is a table and this is a chair though both are made up of the same wood. We do not know that both tables and chairs are made up of the same substance. That is why we speak of tables and chairs as if they are two things.

I am again coming to the point of the five elements, of which all the bodies are made. The five elements are earth, water, fire, air and ether. Think for a few minutes what the five elements are and where they are. Earth, water, fire, air, ether are not different elements but constituents of a single force. Earth can be dissolved by water, water can be extinguished and reduced to gas by fire, fire can be extinguished by air, and air can be lost into space. The ultimate cause of all things is ether, from where air, fire, water and earth have come. Just as all bodies can be dissolved into the five elements, so also earth can be dissolved into water, water into fire, fire into air, air into ether, so that finally ether only exists.

Again think of what I have said. You exist as different personalities, which is a false perception. You are made of the five elements. Now I say even the five elements do not exist. They are only ether finally, which has become the five elements. So this wonderful structure of the diversified world is nothing but various formations of the universal ether in which you and I are all included. Where is ether, tell me? Everywhere. And you are made up of that. That means your substance is everywhere. And yet, you think that you are only in one place. So this is another misconception in your mind. Wonderful! The substance out of which you are made is everywhere, which means to say that you are essentially everywhere, and yet you think, “I am coming from France, and I am in India,” and so on. This is a misconception. Yoga is the art of realising that you are everywhere.

In the beginning you put a question to me about meditation. I am coming to that point. All this I have told you as an introduction to what meditation is. You cannot meditate unless you know on what to meditate. Meditation is the direction of consciousness on reality. Reality is that which is the cause of all things. You cannot call the effect as the reality, because the effect goes to the cause. Now you have realised that the cause of all things is ether, and so you have to meditate on the characteristic of ether, which is everywhere. Inasmuch as ether is the cause of all things, you may imagine that ether is the ultimate reality, but I am going to tell you that there is something greater than ether. Ether is not the ultimate reality; that also is an effect of something else. We have to find out what is beyond ether. Now, I put a question to you: How do you know that ether exists? You know through your consciousness. If the consciousness were not there, you would not know that ether exists. So consciousness is prior to ether, and ether is afterwards. Consciousness is the cause, ether is the effect.

Now I will tell you something more interesting. Ether is all-pervading everywhere, and your consciousness knows that either is everywhere. If your consciousness is only inside your head, which is so small, how can it know that it is everywhere? The cause should be at least as large as the effect. If consciousness is the cause and ether is the effect, and if ether is all-pervading, consciousness also must be all-pervading. So consciousness is all-pervading; remember that. If consciousness is all-pervading and ether is all-pervading, how can there be two all-pervading things? Ah, so if an all-pervading thing can be only one, there should be only ether or only consciousness, not two things. You cannot say that only ether exists and not consciousness. Otherwise, how will you know that ether exists? And this logic comes to the conclusion that ether is not there; it is only consciousness that is appearing within itself, and consciousness is all-pervading. That is why it is able to think of the all-pervading ether. Your essential faculty is consciousness.

If your consciousness is all-pervading, only that can exist, and nothing else can exist outside it. If your consciousness only exists, what about these people that you are seeing in front of you? Where are they existing? All these persons and things that you see as if they are outside, they are only forms of that one consciousness, of which you are also a part. This consciousness, therefore, is universal, and that is the only reality. So I told you meditation is consciousness of Reality. Now you know what is Reality. This universal Reality is called God, this is called the Absolute, and this is called the Ultimate Reality substance. Only this exists, and nothing else can exist. All these varieties of the world – the sun, moon, stars and the entire cosmos – are nothing but a form of this consciousness. So when you meditate you should not think of any object, because the object does not exist. That which exists is the universal consciousness, and that is meditation.

This is very difficult to practise because the mind will refuse to think like that, but you should try your best and sit thinking like this for at least one hour every day. Your consciousness will expand more and more, and you will become more and more powerful. By gradual and protracted meditation you will become a master of all things and not a servant of anybody. This is the aim of yoga. Yoga is nothing but union with this consciousness, and inasmuch as the Universal has no love or hatred for anything, you also should not have love or hatred for anything if you want to be a yogi. To love or hate anything is contrary to reality, and so your emotions should be free from love and hatred.

If you have not understood anything, you can ask me about it. You will not be able to meditate like this, but once you succeed in it, you will be the happiest of persons in the world. Let anybody ask me if you have not understood.

Visitor: To start meditating on universal consciousness, is it possible to give it a personal image which represents it?

Swamiji: You can give it a personal image if you cannot think of it in any other way, but that is not the aim. The aim is to go beyond the personal image. Just as you see your national flag and think it is the government, you can have a symbol and think it is the Universal. You see a piece of paper and call it money. It is not money, it is only a piece of paper, and yet you call it money. Money is only a value that you have attached to that piece of paper. Likewise, you can have a symbol of the Universal in the form of an image. No harm. And you can take any form as the symbol of it because all forms are its forms. You can take even a visible form or a conceptual form as the image of it. This is a difficult task. Though it appears that you have understood it, you will not find it easy to think in your mind for a long time. When you are listening to me just now inside this room everything looks all right, but later you will forget everything. You must be able to think like this even in the bazaar and the shops; otherwise, you cannot become a real yogi. Yoga is not only for the meditation hall; it is for the whole life. It is very difficult. Therefore, you require a master, a teacher and a guide.

Visitor: Please tell us something about japa yoga.

Swamiji: Take up only that which is helpful in your meditation. Japa is one of the methods. Chanting of a mantra is also helpful in meditation. If you cannot conceive of a form or an image as mentioned just now, you can use a name. If you utter the name of a tree, immediately the idea of a tree comes to the mind. Every name has a form corresponding to it. Inasmuch as the form of reality is inconceivable, you take a name corresponding to it. We regard the highest symbol of the Universal as Om. Om is the symbol of the Ultimate Reality. Om is a universal name of the universal form. But if you cannot think of the universal name, take ordinary names, such as the name of Jesus or Krishna or Rama. Who can think of the Universal? It is impossible to think it. So if I say Jesus Christ, you can imagine what it is. But Jesus Christ is only a ray of the sun of the Infinite. You can reach the sun through the ray. Likewise, you can reach the Universal through the form, which is the incarnation. But whatever symbol or image conceived in your mind should attract your mind wholly and your mind should not think of anything else. This particular name or symbol of a chosen ideal in your meditation is called a mantra. Constant repetition of the mantra is called japa. If you go on chanting a name again and again, the same form comes to the mind again and again, and the mind takes the shape of that form which it is thinking. So instead of transforming the mind into the shape of the object, it gets transformed into the shape of reality. Therefore, you can take to the recitation or the japa of any mantra according to your convenience or aptitude from a master or a guide. If you cannot chant Sanskrit mantras, you can have formulas in English or French, as you like. No harm.

For example, I will give you a simple formula: I am inseparable from the Universal. This itself is a mantra. Go on chanting mentally or even verbally: I am inseparable from the Universal, I am inseparable from the Universal, I am inseparable from the Universal. If you go on saying it a hundred times, your mind will think only of that. So the mantra need not necessarily be in Sanskrit. It can be in any language because it is only a help in thinking, and any language can help you. The mantra is only a formula to help you in thinking correctly.

Visitor: Some mantras have a special vibration.

Swamiji: Every mantra has a special vibration; every mantra has a vibration of its own. Chanting a Sanskrit mantra is difficult, so I am suggesting for you to have your own ideas in your language. But if you can chant a Sanskrit mantra, it is good. It has its own effect.

Translator: I think the question was whether there are mantras which have more effect through their vibrations.

Swamiji: Yes, there are mantras which have tremendous vibrations, but it is difficult to pronounce them unless you are accustomed to it. You must take to a mantra whose meaning is clear to your mind. The mantra is to be selected according to one’s concept of reality. What is your notion of God or of Reality? Corresponding to that you have to choose the name of the formula. So you cannot have the same mantra for everybody. As each person must be having different ideas about God, correspondingly you have to give different mantras.

What is your concept of God? What is your notion of God? Then you can understand what should be your formula or your mantra. Don’t say your concept is universal. It is difficult to think. You will not be able to think it always. You will always think of a form, and that form must be clear to your mind first. I put a simple question: What do you love most in this world? That is your God, your deity. Some people love their own children. They love nothing else. Very strange! How can they think of God when their love is for their children? Psychologically you must be very clear. There should be no psychological confusion in the mind. What do you love most in this world? Let each person answer to one’s own self. Do you love your own self? Do you love property? Do you love money or your status in society? Or what do you love in this world? Some people love name and fame. Some people love money. Some people love their own bodies. Some people love their father or mother. Some people love their husband or wife. So what is it that is in your mind? Let it be clear. You have to examine your mind as a doctor examines a patient. Unless you are thoroughly analysed psychoanalytically, you cannot clear your mind properly. You should not have desires submerged inside and imagine that you are thinking of God. You may have conscious desires and also subconscious desires of which you may not be aware. This requires training for a long time under an expert guide.

What else? Whatever difficulties or doubts you have got in your mind, you can ask me. What is your ultimate aim in life? Answer this question. Why have you come to India, and what do you want from India? Perhaps each one has different answers. Nobody can give a single answer. You will not be able to answer this question clearly. It is very difficult. Perhaps you have come to see India as a land of culture and beauty and variety, and that is quite different from coming to a person like me because I am not India. India is something different. We are peculiar persons who have grown out of India and have become larger than India. So if you cannot tell me anything now, you can think over this matter deeply tonight when you go to your bungalow, and see me tomorrow morning.