Question and Answer Session 1
by Swami Krishnananda

(Given on April 14, 1982.)

Question: Active persons cannot be calm and sober, and vice versa. What is the secret and method of being active and sober?

Swamiji: There seems to be a conflict between activity and peace of mind. It is a sensible question indeed because this is the difficulty that we face every day, due to which we feel like renouncing things and going to caves and doing nothing, because doing is a great bondage. But the central gospel of the Bhagavadgita is perhaps that doing need not necessarily be a bondage, and that activity is unavoidable. If at all there is any message to us from the Bhagavadgita, it is this, that action is not an opposite of knowledge, peace of mind, divine aspiration, God’s vision, etc.

Activity seems to conflict with peace of mind or inner composure, etc., due to an erroneous outlook in life. There are many answers to this question given in the Bhagavadgita itself. I am not going to mention all of them, due to lack of time. One of the points that are made out in the Bhagavadgita is that we are all obsessed with the notion that we are the doers of action, and if we are the doers of action, we have to reap the fruits of the action. Naturally, the recompense of the action comes upon us as pleasure or pain, which disturbs our minds.

The Bhagavadgita tells us that no one in this world does anything. Everyone participates in a great activity of the universe; we may call it the activity of God if we like. The human individual and every created being is so inextricably involved in the structure of creation that everyone seems to be moving, doing, acting because the universe is moving, doing, acting. We seem to be moving because the railway train in which we are seated is moving. To imagine that we are carrying the load or the burden of action on our heads and worrying about it would be like the poor rustic who was riding in the railway train and still carrying his baggage on his head in order to lessen the weight which the train was carrying because he wanted the train to move a little bit faster.

Hence, we require a great training and education to understand the mystery of action. It is very difficult to understand what action is. Action is not necessarily what we seem to be doing with our limbs, with our hands and feet. It is a vibration that is set up by the will of God, and it is sympathetically communicated to every lower level of creation. The will of Ishvara is the original action which, like the ripple that moves towards the periphery or the shore of a large lake, makes itself felt in all individuals like us. The push and pull that we feel towards activity of any kind is the vibration of the central core of the cosmos working through us for a purpose which is not mine, not yours. To think that we are acting for our purpose, for anybody’s purpose, would be a mistake. We are participants in a cosmic purpose with universal intention, and therefore, neither do we gain anything nor do we lose anything by a participation of this nature.

The word ‘activity’ has somehow or other conveyed to us a wrong meaning due to association of ideas. We think activity means moving from place to place or vibrating our physical limbs. It is an outpouring of our being in the direction of the fulfilment of an objective or a purpose which to us appears to be purely personal or localised, as if there is my purpose, my objective separate or different from yours, while really the purpose behind this pouring of my being into outward expression in the form of empirical activity is not possible.

This impersonal participation in the purpose of God’s creation is what the Bhagavadgita calls karma yoga. You will not have to gain anything from what you do, nor have you to lose anything. The legs do not gain or lose anything by walking. They are walking for somebody else’s sake. The legs walked to the bank. The money that we draw from the bank does not go to the legs, though they have walked so much. The eyes see, the ears hear, and the enjoyer or the participant is somebody else. We know very well how beautifully the mechanism of a huge engine or a robot operates for an output which is transcendent to the machine itself. We have to realise that every engagement of ours has a purpose transcendent to the engagement itself.

Thus it is that we have to understand the meaning of karma or action as a participation in the larger purpose of God’s creation, and not grab something for our purpose, because we have no purpose here. This is a difficult thing to understand. It requires protracted training under a competent Master.

Question: What is the ultimate result of ananya chintana of the Absolute? Does nama japa lead towards the realisation of the Absolute?

Swamiji: Nama japa certainly leads to communion with the Absolute because it is one of the greatest sadhanas laid down before us by the ancients. Perhaps in this age, japa should be considered as the best sadhana. As Bhagavan Sri Krishna mentions in the Bhagavadgita, yajñānāṃ japayajñosmi (Gita 10.25): Of all spiritual performances, engagements, sadhanas, japa is the best. The recitation of God’s name can direct us to God as the utterance of the name of any object or a person gives us an idea of the person and enables us to communicate ourselves with that person or object.

If japa can be conducted with sincerity for a long period with dedicated spirit, it will be a complete sadhana by itself. There is no doubt about it.

Question: What is the ultimate result of ananya chintana of God?

Swamiji: The ultimate result is union with God, which is called the Absolute in other words.

Question: Jagan mithya: the world is unreal. This statement belongs to the world, so is the statement real or unreal?

Swamiji: The statement is unreal. But there is something in the world which is real because if everything is unreal, you will not know that everything is unreal. The unreality cannot be conscious that everything is unreality. There must be something that is not unreal to know that there is something that is unreal. This is one aspect of the question. It is not true that everything is unreal. There is something which is hiddenly present behind the apparent unrealities which is the thing that says that the world is unreal, whatever that thing be.

The other aspect of the matter is, unreality can cancel unreality. Whatever you do in this world is unreal only, but it is intended to cancel the absorption of your mind and your personality in the unrealities of the world. A famous example is given to us in some texts. The tiger that you see in dream is unreal, but it can roar so terribly that you can wake up, and that waking up is real. How can an unreal tiger create a real waking? There is no connection at all. How can unreality produce reality? This is the intention behind this question of how unreal things can create realities. Sometimes they do. So the unreal tiger has created a real waking, and we wipe our eyes and see that the tiger is not there. So all the sadhana that you do is gone, the Guru is gone, and your philosophy has gone, religion has gone, everything has gone, but you have come to a new state which was somehow or other motivated by that unreality. That is one side of the matter.

The other side is, it is not true that everything is unreal. There is a reality behind all unreal appearances, and the question that is put here is not by an unreal person. The question is put by a real person, and therefore, there is some secret behind unrealities in spite of the fact that everything is phenomena. The whole world is phenomena, but the consciousness that everything is phenomena itself cannot itself be a phenomenon. If that also is a phenomenon, nobody will know that the world is unreal. This is the answer to your question.

Question: What is the method to know whether I am doing meditation in the right direction and that the time spent in this practice is not a sheer waste of time?

Swamiji: Here you have to consult your Guru. You cannot know it yourself. If you have got such doubts, go to your Guru and ask, “Am I on the right path?” He will inquire into your practices and tell you the correct answer.

Question: There are consequences of actions, and they are the vibrations of the cosmos. Why do we call them bad actions and good actions?

Swamiji: There are no bad actions and good actions from that point of view. It is only from your personal point of view that they seem to be so. When you rise to that level, you will not see good and bad.

Question: Are the seeing of some light, hearing of sound, etc., a must when one advances in meditation?

Swamiji: They are not a must. When you are moving in the direction of Delhi, is it necessary that you should see Rishikesh, Muzaffarnagar and Ghaziabad? It is not necessary, but it is unavoidable because they are on the way. So likewise, they will be on the way. Don’t bother about them.

Question: Is it necessary to observe mauna at fixed hours or will it suffice if one tries to speak as little as possible?

Swamiji: I would feel that speaking measured words is better than having total mauna for a few hours and then shouting afterwards. Harmony is better than extremes. That is my feeling, but anyhow mauna for a few hours is good. It has its own value.

Question: What are the surest methods to attain kama jaya?

Swamiji: Guru-kripa and Ishvara-kripa. You have to live with your Guru for some years. Human effort is not sufficient.

Question: What is the method of attaining Guru-kripa and Ishvara-kripa?

Swamiji: How did you come in contact with your Guru? You know yourself. You have to live with a Guru for years, and then automatically the jaya will take place. Nobody can conquer kama. It manifests itself in some form or the other. In the Mahabharata there is a Gita called Kama Gita. Kama goes on laughing at people who are trying to conquer kama because even the desire to conquer kama is a kama only. Kama is laughing, “Oh, these people are trying to conquer me. That desire itself is me. They don’t understand that. Only I am presenting myself in another way.” So this is a difficult subject. You can write a thesis on this matter because the whole world is desire manifested in some form. The only thing is, when you speak of kama you are thinking of some obstructive desire. That is what is in the mind of the person who put the question.

The energies of the human personality that drag it in the direction of external objects is what we generally call kama or desire, but in a higher sense any aspiration also is a desire only. Even to think of God is desire, but it is the desire which destroys all other binding desires. As long as there is body-consciousness, some sort of desire cannot be avoided. It will pull you. And so, the method that we can conveniently adopt, as far as it is practicable for us, of course, is to be physically away from those conditions of living which may stimulate undesirable desires.

I know you are all thinking that it is impossible because you are living in Connaught Place and Piccadilly and such difficult places. As far as it is practicable, little by little, you have to try to place yourself under circumstances and conditions which may not stimulate such desires. That is the negative side of the practice: to withdraw physically from conditions, objects, things, persons, etc., which will stimulate such desires – to the extent possible. Secondly, you need to find some time to read elevating literature which strengthens the mind and enables you to have an insight into the structure of things.

Desires for objects arise due to lack of knowledge of the true nature of things. A snake is very soft, and a child may go and touch it because it is like velvet. The baby in its ignorance does not know the true nature of the snake. The baby only sees that it is velvet-like, but someone who has knowledge as to what it is made of will not go near it. So likewise, velvet-like objects attract us. Power, name, authority, and so many things are very beautiful, but they are like cobras when we touch them. We do not see this because we are like the child who sees only one side of the matter. Therefore, it requires illumination, deep study, training and discipline under a competent Master.