The Foundation of Spiritual Life
by Swami Krishnananda

(Spoken on December 26 morning, 1973 at a conference in Delhi.)

God’s grace be upon you all, is my sincere prayer at this auspicious moment. God bless the whole world, the entire mankind, with His benign abundant grace which is shed upon the whole of creation like the rays of the sun which know no beginning, no middle and no end. May this soul-sustaining and energising, compassionate, divine grace be upon you all.

What I would like to place before you, children of God, seekers of Truth, at this moment is something which would be worthwhile for you to ponder over and contemplate in a consistent and systematic manner. We have heard of gatherings, conferences, religious activities and functions galore through the history of mankind. This is not something new to you, not something with which you are unfamiliar. You have attended temple worships, prayer meetings and religious gatherings a number of times throughout your life. Many have done this, many are doing it, and many will be doing it in the future.

But mankind does not seem to have progressed much, either culturally or spiritually. If we study the history of the human mind as it existed and operated some centuries ago, we will find that it is in the same condition today. We cannot call this ‘advancement’ in the real sense of the term. Therefore, people have turned to religion and spirituality for solace. The solace and peace which man imagined cannot be had from public activities, commercial dealings and engagements in business of any type. The usual workaday activity did not seem to satisfy human nature. The so-called busy life of active work did not give him peace of mind, and so he began to turn to a new type of activity called religion. I would like you to underline this word ‘activity’ because we think that religion also is a kind of activity.

Fortunately or unfortunately for us, we cannot get rid of the idea that life is activity, and we have also a very peculiar definition of activity which we have been carrying with us through centuries of human life. When we turn to religion or to the life spiritual, we seem to have turned ourselves away from one kind of activity to another kind of activity, so we are still in the realm of activity only. People who are ill may move from one kind of medicine to another kind of medicine, but this does not mean that they are cured of the illness. They are still ill; they have only changed the medicine, but have not moved from illness to health. They have only moved from one type of treatment to another type of treatment.

What we would need today is an entirely reoriented type of thinking, a transfiguration to be brought about in the very system of evaluation of the values of life – a new kind of education, to put it in the proper sense of the term. We have to think in a new manner altogether. Before we try to do something new, we have to think new.

I would like to remind you that religion, or the way to God, is not a new kind of activity into which you are asked to enter. It is a rebuilding of the very tissues of your body, a reconstruction of the very set-up of your thinking and an introduction into your life of a vitality, a force and a power which cannot be identified with anything that is visible in this world. To regain health after a period of illness is not to enter into a new kind of work or business or transaction. It would be difficult for you to consider and understand what actually happens when you shift from the level of illness to the level of health. You do not do anything new there. Something happens, and that is what is called health.

When you are suffering from a serious illness of high fever for example, 104, 105 – it may be due to malaria, flu or typhoid – you know what happens and how you feel at that time. The whole of life looks meaningless when you are in such a state of fever. All values lose their sense. You do not want to talk to people. You cannot think at all. When the temperature comes to normal, 98.4, what happens to you? You have not done anything; something has happened to you, and that happening has brought about a complete change in your way of thinking, feeling, understanding and action. A new appetite has arisen in you, and you say you are normal, but you do not know what that normalcy actually means. Your system has become entirely different, and the whole of your personality has become completely new. You are a new man altogether. Health is not the opposite of disease, but it is something entirely different from disease. You cannot compare illness with health, as there is no relationship between them. We cannot even say that they are related as the negative and positive poles of human life. The only comparison or analogy that we can bring before our mind here in this connection is the relation between dream and waking.

What happened to you when you woke up from dream? Did you bring something from the dream world to the waking world? Is it only a continuation of the activity of the dream world? You will realise that waking is not in any way a continuation of the values of the dream world but an entire transfiguration of values. A wholeness, a completeness, a totality, a sense of a new being altogether creeps into you when you wake up from sleep or dream. You have become a whole. You have not moved from the dream to the waking world as you move from one place to another place. It is not shifting yourself bodily from one realm to another realm, from one country to another country, etc. It is not a movement from one place to another place when you move from dream to waking. It is a movement from one sense of values to another sense of values wherein you do not merely change your way of thinking, but your being in itself has been transformed. You are not the same person that you were in dream when you wake up into this consciousness of the world in which you are today. You have grown into a new reality altogether. This would be something worthwhile for you to ponder over deeply.

Some such inscrutable transformation takes place when you shift your sense of values from the earthly way of thinking, with which the man of the street is familiar, to the spiritual way of thinking. Spirituality is not one of the types of business that you do in the world. It is not any business at all. It is to introduce health to your total personality. That would be not merely a change of thinking, but a change of being. The life spiritual is a state of being, and there are degrees in the concept and experience of this being that I am just now referring to. It is difficult to explain in language what your being or existence is, as different from what you think and feel normally in the ordinary sense of psychological activity.

While everything that you do produces an ulterior effect in the empirical world, an effect that is different from the cause, as people would generally like to put it, when you change your sense of being from one degree to another degree, there is no production of an effect as different from a temporal cause, but something altogether different happens. The entry of the sense of spiritual values into our being is the same thing as the entry of God into our being. Spiritual life and divine life are one and the same thing. We are usually accustomed to identify life with activity, but life is not activity, though it is connected with activity and vice versa. The activities of the world are intended to bring about a reorientation in the lives of the individuals concerned, to bring about a new kind of experience which is not distinguishable from your own being. You feel a sense of relief of tension when a desirable result is produced by the activity in which you are engaged. Why do you work from morning to evening? What is the purpose? Why do you sweat and toil? Why do you run about? It is to create in your own self, and in the atmosphere in which you are a consciousness, an awareness of a new type of values and a relief of tension which becomes identical with the feeling of happiness and satisfaction within. You feel relieved, which means to say you feel happy, and you are happy not because you are physically in contact with something, which is usually the case when you are in a world of activity and work, toil and labour. This toil and labour and work and sweating is intended to relieve you from the necessity to come in contact with things of the world so that you feel a sense of relief from within your own self.

This relief is different from the agitation of nerves and the feeling of insecurity and anxiety that you usually feel when you come in contact with other persons and things in the world. Contact is not the way to happiness, is the great truth we have been bequeathed by Bhagavan Sri Krishna in his gospel the Bhagavadgita. Ye hi saṁsparśajā bhogā duḥkhayonaya eva te (Gita 5.22): Contact is not the source of happiness, is not the way to happiness, but the way to pain. Every kind of contact, physical, psychological, merely conceptual or by word, is an artificial process of pressing down the tension of the nerves and the mind, like pressing a spring with the force of your thumb, and when the force is lifted, the spring comes up again. It will regain its original position. Every kind of contact, whether physical or psychological, is an artificial contrivance conceived by the mind to gain a temporary relief from the agony of life which has arisen on account of our separation from reality or truth, satyam, which we say alone triumphs: satyam eva jayate (Mundaka Up. 3.1.6). We are cut off from the source of abundance and real wealth like a schizophrenic who imagines that he is something different from who he really is, and he cries and weeps and sobs, and runs about and hits his head against the wall that something has happened to him.

I remember an incident which Swami Anandaji Maharaj used to mention occasionally. It appears our revered Jawaharlal Nehruji went to inspect a mental hospital, and saw a very learned professor of philosophy who was an inmate of the mental hospital. He went and had a talk with him, a philosophical disquisition. The patient talked very beautifully, very sensibly, logically and there was no indication at all that he was mentally sick. After half an hour of talk, Nehru came back to the superintendent of the hospital and said, “What is wrong with this man? Why do you put them in the hospital? He is perfectly all right. I had a talk with him for half an hour, and he has such philosophical insight that it is rare to find. What is wrong with him?”

Then the superintendent said, “I will tell you just now what is wrong with him.”

The superintendent went near the patient and was about to touch him. Then the professor said, “Don’t touch! Don’t touch! Don’t you know I am made of glass? I will break!”

“This is what is wrong with the man,” the superintendent said. “He thinks that he is made of glass.” A kind of kink had entered the professor’s mind, a twist in his brain which had completely changed his very concept of reality in regards to his own personality. He was worrying about something on account of a twist in his consciousness. Nothing else had happened to him.

Something like that has happened to mankind as a whole. Every individual has by a peculiar freak, as it were, isolated itself from the very source of which it is an integral part, and to come to normalcy in this context would be to regain that state of health of consciousness which is the actual treatment. When a schizophrenic realises that he is a healthy human being he is cured of his illness, and this has taken place on account of his realisation of his own self-identity. Nothing else has happened to him.

In our attempt at spiritual practice, which we call sadhana, we try to bring about this inner transformation which is the sense of wholeness that we introduce into every kind of work and activity of ours, so that we cannot distinguish between spirituality and work. Your spiritual life is not confined to your puja room or temple or to the venue of the conference but is wherever you are and whichever condition you may be finding yourself in. All the circumstances in which you are placed become a source of supply of energy to you. To touch spiritual life is to touch a live wire. Energy infuses itself into you. Spirituality is the nature of God, and God being present everywhere, you can contact Him in any place, at any time and in any manner whatsoever provided the sense of wholeness, totality of being, a completeness of purpose is enshrined in your heart.

This is the foundation of spiritual life, and this is the basic rock-bottom of all sadhana. Whatever be the name it takes or assumes, sadhana is one, spiritual life is one, as God to Whom the sadhana is directed is also one. Finally you will realise that mankind is also one. We are not many individuals. We are a corporate body, a single power that aspires to reach the destiny of evolution which is cosmic salvation, towards which we are really heading.