Love, Continence, Drugs
by Swami Krishnananda

(Taken from an issue of The Divine Life Magazine printed in 1973)

The essence of the question is whether love for people is compatible with yoga practice. The doubt also arises whether love for people is itself a way of contacting Reality.

I do not think that a detailed answer to this question is necessary, because this subject has been touched upon in adequate comprehension in our classes. There is no such thing as contacting Reality with another, because Reality is not ‘another’. That which is an 'other' to you is not Reality. That which is real can never be ‘another’; this is very important to remember. And that which is outside you, and is an 'other', shall always remain alien to your nature. It is also a psychological fact that anything that is totally different from you cannot become a true object of your love. So, there is no such thing as ‘loving another’. It is just a misnomer. And wherever there is an apparent affection or love for another, it arises on account of a misapprehension of one's relation to another.

There are two aspects of the factor of love. One is internal; the other is external. That which is the rational cause behind the very possibility of affection is different from its outer form or shape. The confusion between the inner cause and the outer form is the reason behind the failure of all lovers in the world. We have seen that lovers have not succeeded in the end; they always ended in some kind of sorrow. The reason is that they could not reconcile the outer form of love with the inner anatomy of it. Because its anatomy is never visible to the eyes, we see only the shapes that it takes outside. We, in all our affections and loves, imagine that our heart goes for an object outside. We are concerned with the form, the shape and the object-ness of the object in all forms of affection, but we do not have time enough to think as to why we should love at all. What is the harm if we do not love? Who is the loser? Is it true that we are loving another for the sake of another?

Many people hold the opinion that we love others for their good. “I love that person, that thing, for his, her or its benefit.” Is it true that you are looking for its benefit and its good? If that had been the case, it is really wonderful; it should be so. If your love for another is for the benefit of another, nothing can be more praiseworthy than that attitude. But is it a fact? Are you honest in holding this opinion? On a careful analysis you will find that this is not a fact, and you are only masquerading your selfishness in the form of a so-called interest in the good of others, because you will find that when love is not received back in an equal manner, when there is no reciprocation of love, your love vanishes into the winds. Just imagine a circumstance where nobody loves you; rather, everybody everywhere hates you. Will you have as much affection for people as you profess to have? It is impossible to love where love is not reciprocated in some form, and such a love which is not reciprocated takes the form of hatred. Sometimes the best friend becomes the greatest enemy, and it is difficult to tackle this enemy because of its having once been a friend. In our Epic stories we have the instance of Vibhishana standing against Ravana. Nobody could be a greater foe to Ravana than Vibhishana because he knew the ins and outs of all the tactics of Ravana. When love becomes hatred, nothing can be more dangerous; not even an atom bomb can devastate you so vehemently as love turned into hatred.

The wonder is, why should love become hatred? It is a contradiction. Can love become hatred? If it can become hatred, it cannot be called love, and if today it is not love, it could not have been love even earlier. Love that has become hatred today could not have been love yesterday. Yesterday, also, it was a hidden hatred and it was outwardly taking the shape of affection. It is political affection, we may say. In a sense, all our affections are political, not genuine – political in the sense that they can be withdrawn when they are not reciprocated. This is the psychological truth about our affections and loves in the world. But there is a greater truth hidden behind it. Why do we love?

The reason behind it is that we do not recognise Reality in some expression in the object of our love. The question which the student has put was whether Reality can be contacted through love for people. Reality cannot be contacted through love for people, though Reality is the reason behind our love for people. The reason is that your own higher Self is immanently present in the object. So it summons you, "I am here," and you yourself are calling yourself in another form. The Infinite is summoning the Infinite in all affection. It is you summoning yourself in the object, or through the form of the object, when you love an object. Otherwise, love is impossible. Where you are not present, love is absent; remember this. Love is present only where you are present. If you are not there, love is also not there. So, this is the philosophical, or metaphysical, as well as the self-rooted analysis of love. Individually, where you are present, there is selfishness. Universally, where you are present, it becomes divine affection. Both these aspects are true in all forms of affection.

So, is Reality involved in our love? Yes, because our true nature as Universal Consciousness is the ultimate reason behind our being attracted to objects of the world. Otherwise, attraction would be impossible. Not only human affection, but also the cohesive force of chemical elements, and even the gravitational pull of planets, is explicable only on account of this universal force existing in things. In the material realm it is called cohesive force, gravitational pull, chemical reaction, etc. But in the psychological level it is called love, and in the spiritual realm it is called Self-realisation. All these mean the same thing, ultimately. In that sense you may say you are contacting Reality in love; but it is true only theoretically, metaphysically. In practice, the fact is different because what happens is that you do not contact Reality; you contact only the vestment of it. One form of it as the subject comes in contact with another form of it as the object. The two forms collide in love. Though the collision may be occasioned by an internal reality which is the common substratum of both, the reason behind it is something and the effect that it produces is another thing. The forms which come in contact with each other in affection are under a misapprehension. Thus, we think that loves unite with each other.

If you are in a position to recognise the immanent cause behind love, you can contact Reality. This is what is called universal love, and the saint's love for humanity. This is wonderful. But this is only a possibility, not a practicability for all human beings in a general sense, because when you love a person or an object, you forget the immanent Reality in it; you go after the form alone outside. If name and form are to be cast aside, and if love is to be recognised as it is in itself, then love becomes experience, and it is no more called love. It is God's love for the universe, or Spirit loving Itself, the Universal recognising Itself. The saint's love for mankind and the saint's love for the world are love of the Self as universality.

Thus, in that sense, contact with other people, communication with others, affection for things, is another form of universal love, if you are a saint or a sage; but in all ordinary conditions, you are misguided and you forget the immanency of Truth; you go only for the forms – in which case, you will be a failure in life.

The second question is a doubt that arises in the mind: "Is brahmacharya really essential for yoga, or can we get on without it?" The question arises on account of a subtle longing, perhaps, in the mind, for somehow or other acquiescing in the pleasures of life, though yoga promises many more wonderful things. "Why not have the pleasures of the world also, together with the pleasures of Truth?" That may be the subtle desire. Desires are very subtle; it is difficult to understand them, and we cannot know what is happening to our minds when we think external things.

Is brahmacharya necessary for yoga, or can yoga be practised without brahmacharya? The answer is that you cannot be a yogin without being a brahmacharin. Now, it may be pointed out that brahmacharya is different from one's either living a married life or not living a married life. It is quite different, and has a different connotation altogether. A married person may be in a position to live the life of brahmacharya under certain given conditions; and an unmarried person may not be able to live a life of brahmacharya under certain other circumstances. So, brahrnacharya is not entirely a question of marriage or non-marriage. It is an inner attitude of the mind, and a discipline of desire.

You may be wondering why it is that brahmacharya is emphasised in yoga and what the purpose behind it is. Why is there so much emphasis? The reason is this, that brahmacharya means the conservation of the energy of your personality. In yoga, especially in its aspect as meditation, your mind is supposed to become tremendously powerful. A weak mind cannot concentrate; you know it very well. Brahmacharya is the energy in our whole personality, pervading equanimously through every pore and every cell, and it is difficult to distinguish it from mental power. The power of the mind and the power of brahmacharya are indistinguishable. You may say that one is an expression of the other.

Energy is said to be incapable of being spent. You know the law of the conservation of energy. The sum total of energy in the cosmos is the same, our physicists tell us; it never increases or decreases. So also is the sum total of energy in our personality. This is true; but what happens to the wealth of a country, for example? The sum total of the wealth of a country may be said to be the same; it never increases or decreases. My money may go to you, your money may come to me, and it may go to a third person, but it never goes out of the country. Wherever it may go, it is within the land, so the country neither becomes rich nor poor; it is the same, but people may be suffering or enjoying personally due to the shifting of its location.

Likewise, we may say, something happens to the energy in the body. The sum total may be the same, like the sum total of the wealth of our nation, but individually, in the practical manipulation of affairs, we find that the mind gets channelised in certain directions, like the channelisation of economic power. If my wealth goes to you, I shall be crying and you will be laughing, happy. But the country is not affected by it, whether I gain or you gain it. The general theoretical sum total may be the same, but practically it affects you. The channelisation of energy is what is to be prevented by the practice of brahmacharya. The different senses, the powers of the senses, which work through the sense organs, are the avenues of the channelisation of force. Just as there are individuals in a country among whom wealth can be distributed equally or unequally, the energy of the system may be distributed equally or unequally among the sense organs. Sometimes it gets centralised in one sense, or two or three senses, and then you feel a lopsided development of your personality. There is an unequal distribution of energy in the system when there is lack of brahmacharya, just as there is unequal distribution of economic power in a country, against which people have been revolting always.

The Yoga System emphasises brahmacharya for the sake of the maintenance of balance in the system. It does not want unequal distribution of any kind of force in the body. Otherwise, what will happen is that the mind will lean in that direction where there is an excess of the distribution of energy. The mind will think of that centre to which the energy has been directed in a larger proportion. The energy gets concentrated in a particular direction when the mind drives it in that direction for its own purpose. Its purpose is the satisfaction of an immediate need or an urge. Yoga is not very much concerned with immediate needs merely; it has concern with ultimate needs. If you concern yourself too much with immediate needs alone, you may lose sight of the ultimate end.

A good governmental system cannot close its eyes to the ultimate needs of its set-up and look only to the particular interests of people. The general good of the whole nation is the concern of the government, not merely your need or my need, individually or particularly. But this truth gets lost sight of many a time, and the mind in its immediate desires and longings gets lodged in certain objects. Wherever the mind is, there the energy also is. This fact can be amply demonstrated in certain practices of meditation. For example, people who meditate on the centre of the eyebrows, or on any part of the body above the neck, feel a kind of headache in the beginning. The reason is that the mind is there, and when the mind is there, the blood also rushes to that spot. Where the blood rushes, the energy goes, and when there is centralisation of energy in a particular spot, you feel headache.

The same thing happens when you love an object outside. You get identified with that thing so much, and pour your energy, your affection and everything on it, that it becomes your temporary self. You cease to be yourself and become something else.

The practice of brahmacharya, therefore, is a scientific and a psychological necessity. It is not an ethical question merely. Sometimes the doubt arises: "It is only the social ethic that is trying to torture people unnecessarily." This is not so. Brahmacharya is not an ethical canon merely. It is a scientific necessity, based on a psychological truth. You defend yourself, protect your forces and integrate your personality in the practice of brahmacharya rather than allow yourself to get disintegrated. You know how immensely necessary it is to integrate your personality rather than disintegrate it. The forces that keep your limbs intact are the forces of brahmacharya; the forces which keep you healthy are the forces of brahmacharya; the forces which enable you to concentrate your mind, retain memory and have good attention are the forces of brahmacharya. The forces that give strength to the body are those of brahmacharya. And finally, of course, it goes without saying, these energies combine to establish such a balance and harmony in your system that rajas, distraction, and tamas, inertia, cease, and sattva, harmony, reveals itself. Sattva is another name for balance of forces. And it is in the state of the balance of forces, which is sattva, that Truth gets revealed.

The next question is: “Can you induce this system of spiritual harmony by the intake of certain medicines or drugs?” This is not possible. When you take a strong dose of coffee or tea, or perhaps when you smoke a cigar, you seem to be energised, and it looks as though you are in a state of mental concentration. Yes, when you take a strong dose of coffee you will find, for a few seconds, that your mind is concentrated. But it is only for a few seconds, and then it drops down. The reason is that it is not concentration of mind but the stirring up of the nervous system. Drugs act upon the nerves, not on the mind so much. Inasmuch as the mind is connected with the action of the nerves, it looks as though the mind also is influenced by the action of the nerves.

Suppose the person to my left pushes me; that impact of the push that I have received from my friend on the left may be communicated to my friend on the right, because of my being pushed. I may push the person to my right, though I am not actually pushing, but the push I received from the left causes me to contact the person directly.

First of all, there is no actual psychological influence on the person who receives this push, though he feels the push. Secondly, that person who has received the push may give another push back to keep his balance. This the mind may do, and it does it. The intake of any drug, narcotic or any kind of stimulant, even a cup of tea, gives a push to the nerves. Then the nerves push the mind, and it looks as if the mind has been stirred up. But the mind will immediately react in a twofold manner: It may give a push back to the nerves, and when it does, then you feel a debilitated condition of your system. After a heavy dose of narcotics you will find that you have become weak physically; you are not strong, because the strength was only a temporary feeling that has been induced artificially. The mind gives a push back, because the push was previously given to it without its wanting it. If I want to be pushed, of course, I may keep quiet, but if I do not want to receive the push, and you unnecessarily push me, then I shall give you a push back; I'll retaliate. The mind is not prepared to accept this push. Even a monkey does not want to be taken unawares; immediately he will make faces if you go near him unawares. So, in all intakes of narcotics, drugs, pharmacological preparations, etc., the action is directly upon the nervous system, the cellular constitution of the body, and upon the mind, sympathetically.

The mind will retaliate against the stimulation that it has received from the intake of drugs; that is one thing. And secondly, it will not be really influenced, because an influence is different from a push. You know the difference. I can influence you and make you do a work, but I can also push you and make you do a work, and that is another thing. Sometimes you are compelled to do a thing on account of the forces that are exerted upon you; it may be against your own will. But if I influence you internally, then you will do the work more satisfactorily and joyously than under compulsion.

The mind will not concentrate when it is compelled to concentrate. Nobody will do anything, happily, under compulsion. This is a general law everywhere, applicable to everyone. Consciousness is different from mind, and you can never influence consciousness, not even push it. It is like pushing space. You cannot move space by pushing it. Consciousness is incapable of influence from external factors of any kind. We are concerned with consciousness in yoga, not with the mind, ultimately. Even supposing, for the time being, as I said, that the mind can be influenced to some extent, the concentration of the mind is not yoga. The concentration of the mind in yoga is to bring about another condition altogether, which is the spiritual realisation of universal equilibrium.

A doubt arises as to whether you can enter into the Infinite Bliss of Reality by these inducements of mental concentration, by drugs, etc. You, as a person, cannot enter the Infinite. May I ask this question: “Who are you that is putting this question to me? Mr. So and So – Jacob, John? And so you want to enter the Infinite?” It is impossible. Only the Infinite can enter the Infinite, not you or I. Anything that is external to the Infinite cannot enter the Infinite – not drugs, not even the mind if it is an external factor. There is no such thing as someone's entering the Infinite, because there is nobody outside the Infinite. Who is to enter it?

Then what is it that you call the realisation of the Infinite in yoga? It is realisation, not entering. Remember the difference. Realisation is different from entering. You realise that you are inside this room; you are already there, but you are not entering the room. Entering is a question that arises when you are outside it. When you are already there, you have only to be aware that you are there.

The consciousness within you, the consciousness that you really are, is to become aware that it is consciousness. It is not the mind that enters the Infinite. It is not an individual that goes to God. It is not man that confronts the Maker. There is no such thing. It is not one thing going to another thing, not one man speaking to another man, not union between two things. The so-called union which is said to be yoga is only a way of saying that there is really no union of dissimilar elements. It is Self-realisation; that is the proper word, if you would like to use a term. It is Self-realisation, the Self realising Itself as the Infinite, not one thing entering another or the Self entering the Infinite. Also, the Self is the Infinite, so the Self does not enter the Infinite.

A doubt still persists as to whether any artificial means can be employed in Self-realisation. What is an artificial means? By ‘artificial means’ one perhaps thinks any matter other than yoga. Can we become the Infinite or realise It or experience It or enter into It by any means other than yoga? If any other means is competent to make you realise it, then that is yoga. Why do you call it any ‘other’ means? That itself is yoga, because any means that can enable the consciousness to rest in itself by freeing it from the clutches of body, nerves, senses and even the mind, that is yoga.

But my point is that drugs cannot do this, because when you do not want to have this experience, drugs cannot compel you or force you to have it; and if you really want to have it, drugs are not necessary. You want a drug only when you do not want to do a thing. If you cannot go to sleep, you take a tablet. If you yourself can go to sleep, why do you want a tablet from outside? You want a push from outside; that is the whole point. You want a cardamom mixture for digesting food if you cannot digest it yourself, and you want a whip to make you get up and walk. This is the way in which most people live these days, on account of a kind of weakness that has crept into their systems.

The body has become weak; the nerves, the senses, the mind, all are sinking due to a depression, a mood of melancholy and a kind of frustrated feeling that has entered the mind. One cannot do anything for oneself.  You think, “If I cannot even stand up, then what do you do with me? You drive me with a force that is not mine. That force that is not mine should come to my aid and make me move." This is not going to be a successful procedure. This is not going to help you in the experience of infinitude because the Infinite has no concern with another, with any external influence.

Yoga or Self-experience is an inner flowering of consciousness, a growth that takes place within you. It is like your growing up as a whole. By drugs you cannot make yourself suddenly tall in one day. A sapling cannot become a banyan tree in one day by any amount of administration of drugs. A gradual growth is a natural process and any inducement of any kind, whatever be its nature, is unnatural. Lack of strength, lack of concentration of mind, and a subtle desire for enjoyment persisting within us are the causes for these lower urges.

One cannot love two things at the same time. You either have this or have that. You cannot have the Infinite together with a little of the finite with you. There is an unconscious feeling in people's minds that when we experience the Infinite, we as persons are still there. The Infinite is regarded as some kind of objective reality. No, it is not so. God is not an object; the Infinite is not an object. It is a wrong usage of terms. There is not a ‘you’ and, therefore, there is no ‘another’. It is the incrustation of desire for another that is preventing the consciousness from resting in itself. And when the desire is absent, you enter the Infinite automatically; there need not be any doubt. Why worry about drugs, medicines, and so on? There is no obstacle to your experiencing the Infinite except your love for another, which means to say, what is artificially regarded by you as outside the Infinite. If this so-called ‘outside the Infinite’ is the obstacle, and if the Infinite alone is there and you really believe it, you shall enter into It even today.