Lifting the Curtain of Space and Time
by Swami Krishnananda

(Spoken on August 28, 1983.)

Our whole occupation of our life may be said to constitute a perpetual series of meditations, inasmuch as our responsibilities and performances in life are contemplations on the achievements we aspire for and the ideals we would like to materialise in our own lives in the future. The present, what we call the ‘is’, sets itself to the task of expanding its inner being in the direction of what ought to be, which it considers as the perfection to be longed for, realised and experienced.

The mind of man is continuously active throughout the day and through the various processes of the waking condition. This activity, though it may not be concentrated on a particular given or pinpointed ideal, is nevertheless concentrated on ideals. This feature of the mind which compels it to engage itself in ideals which are not yet realised is in fact the meditative activity of the mind. It is a meditation because throughout our occupations day and night our sole intention seems to be the maintenance of a balance in ourselves in respect of the achievements we expect and the ideals we wish to realise. What torments us, annoys us and keeps us in a state of anguish and insecurity is our apprehension that the future expectations may perhaps not be in harmony with the present conditions in which we are. This anguish is the sorrow of life, a difficulty caused by a doubt as to the very possibility of setting in tune the present with the future, the longings with the practicability of their materialisation or realisation. Whatever be the anxiety that we have to pass through in the achievement of these purposes, there is certainly a deep desire to see that we are not in conflict with the ideals that we wish to realise.

In a very poor prosaic empirical sense, all expectations are meditations on ideals not yet realised. Thus, we may say that the mind is always in a state of meditation, but it does not entirely succeed in the fulfilment of its expectations in life because of an inadequate understanding of the very nature of the ideal it longs for and the purpose of its realisation. What we lack is not so much of material accompaniment or appurtenance, but an understanding of what we are actually in need of.

Our longings are basically pious in the sense that they ask for a perfection of spirit, a freedom from tension, and a harmony with the atmosphere. But this pious longing is infected with an untutored attempt of the mind to realise ideals which may sometimes set themselves in opposition to factors which are also essential for this fulfilment. A narrow-minded approach of the mind is a poor man’s empirical life in the market, in the streets, in the offices, and everywhere.

The eagerness to fulfil one’s longing, to materialise one’s expectations, forgets in its enthusiasm that the fulfilment of the expectation is not a linear movement or a headlong running in a single given direction but a gathering of a large harvest of life in which several other conditions also are involved and have to be borne in mind. There are people who wish to amass wealth. This is an expectation, no doubt, but very few who are eager in this peculiar expectation of wealth in a large measure realise what are the means for the fulfilment of these expectations. An inadequate means is applied to an otherwise-harmless ideal. By exploitation, by deceit, and even by stealth, robbery and hoodwinking, man believes he can be comfortable and wealthy in this world. These are the poor backgrounds of his mind that operate in a poverty-stricken, famished manner because they are basically uneducated in the art of living.

The fulfilment of an expectation, whatever it be in this life, is not a simple affair. Life is too complex for the little man’s uneducated mind to find a straight beaten track upon which it can drive its vehicle of activity. The movement of life is not like movement on a straight road. It is not a geometrical movement in a given spatial direction as is the case when we walk on the road to reach a particular destination on the geographical points of the Earth. Life is not geometry, it also does not seem to be arithmetic, and it cannot be equated with any kind of calculative method. It is a different thing altogether, and this difference is the difficulty about it.

We apply linear logic and the methods of calculation of our arithmetical system even in our little desires to become comfortable, successful, and even wealthy. But employing any of these methods will not lead to ultimate success because the desire to fulfil an expectation is nothing but a desire to extract some values from life as a whole. The expected ideal is a part of the reality of life, and hence, the fulfilment of our longing, expectation or desire is the methodology we adopt to bring out the essence of a meaning or value from life in its essentiality. What we call life is an organic living process of inclusiveness, yet man, not knowing this fact of the basic structure of this living mechanism of the universe, employs a totally contrary method of fulfilling his expectations.

The laws of the fulfilment of human aspiration are different from the merchant’s laws, the commercial man’s laws, the moneylender’s laws or the rules and regulations of a crass politician. It is impossible to apply the law of give-and-take in respect of the world in which we are living, from which we expect the fulfilment of our longings; and in order to materialise these we engage ourselves in deep thought, a contemplation on the unfulfilled ideal.

Mostly, man’s life on Earth is a failure. Man does not go victorious. The majority of people find themselves in an awkward condition when the last moment of life pursues them, and repentance is the heritage they seem to carry with them to the other world. “Oh, I have made an error. I have not conducted myself properly. Everything that I tried to do has turned into ashes in my mouth.” These are the grievances and repentances of a dying man who goes with nothing from the world and yet has spent all his life with tremendous expectations, none of which have cared for him even a wit.

It does not mean that the world is unjust, that it is not considerate enough to fulfil a man’s desires. Nothing of the kind is true. There is no injustice in the inner constitution of the universe. There is perfect order that is basically maintained at the root of all things, the centre of the cosmos. The satya and the rita, the perfect legal judicial system and the eternal justice, are planted in the hearts of all things. No one can be denied his justifiable due. But how is it that many a time we fail in our life? We do not succeed, and our absence of victory in the battle of life is to be attributed to a wrong method of warfare in this battle.

Actually, the problem is not so much a confrontation that we are facing in life but rather a difficulty in understanding life. This difficulty presents itself as a kind of opposition, as if the world is counterpoised in front of us, contrary in its nature and quite alien to our characteristics. Human nature is to be always set in a state of balance with the nature of things in general. The greatest forgetfulness of man is that he belongs to nature. He is a part of the world, but no selfish man can believe this truth. No self-centred individual will ever agree that he is part of the world. The world is a tool for him, an instrument. It is a puppet in his hands which he wishes to harness for purposes of his own. He considers himself as the centre of all things and everyone else as an instrument which has to bend before the needs of his individuality, but this will not work under the scheme of things. The world cannot bend before any individual. It has never done this, and it shall never do this at any time, because the world is not anybody’s servant. It is not going to be a tool of any person, or an instrument in anyone’s hands. The other way around seems to be the truth. Man is a part of the world because the world is a whole and the human individuality is an integral part thereof. Any success, any victory, any achievement, any worthwhile attainment, any reading of meaning, any satisfaction, any fulfilment, any completion of objectives or perspectives in life is to be considered as nothing but a participation in the reality and the law of life.

We are expected to participate in the world’s processes, rather than to contend with its purpose. No one can utilise the world. Thus, no one can utilise anyone. There is no such thing as this under the order that prevails in the world because what is expected of man, of any human being, is not the thrusting of the personal impulse expecting the larger world to lean down before it; rather, what would be the duty of the human being or living being is to recognise its essential uniformity with the structure of the world.

Man has yet to learn to be unselfish. This is not for him. “This is not for me. I am not for it,” would be an immediate response of the desire-felt selfish individual in the world, whether a politician or a wealth-seeking individual. He cannot believe that sacrifice of himself would be a justifiable mandate that he can obey in any manner whatsoever. Sacrifice is an anathema because every sacrifice is a loss not only of what one has but also of what one is. Thus, nobody wishes to do any sacrifice, but one would expect everyone else to make the sacrifice for one’s own self. Here is the essence of what we call the ego-ridden individual speaking. The world has to be melted into the liquid of submission into the selfish individual’s expectation and longings. This can never happen and nobody ever succeeds, not even a hundred Napoleons or Caesars. They all get melted, rather than the world melting in front of them, because truth alone triumphs: satyameva jayate. Untruth cannot triumph, and the expectations of the selfish individual that the world should yield fruits according to its own whimsical longings would certainly be a violation of the law of the world.

So while man’s daily activity is a sort of puerile meditation, a contemplation on the ideals that one expects to materialise, they cannot easily materialise because all success, whatever be the meaning that we may attach to it, is the direct outcome of participation in the reality of the world, the laws prevailing in the universe. Man is not an observer of the world. He is a participator in the world, which is what even our modern scientists are discovering. No one can see the world, and therefore, no one can contact the world through the senses or the mind. The world is not an object to be contacted. No contact, no external coming in union in a spatial sense, is the law of life. Every contact by means of the mind and the senses is the womb of pain: ye hi saṁsparśajā bhogā duḥkhayonaya eva te, ādyantavantaḥ (Gita 5.22). But every pleasure of life is born of contact of the senses with objects. Unfortunately for man who longs for such satisfaction, there are no such objects in this world. Therefore, no contacts are possible. Hence, no one can have real success if success is to be interpreted as a personal egoistic satisfaction borne of exploiting the means by way of converting the world into a bundle of objects. Hence, these sensory meditations of the selfish individual are going to be an utter failure in the end. Thus goes man, and thus goes everyone through the history of life’s expectations.

The yoga system, the purely distilled method of true fulfilment in life, is not the selfish man’s technique of coming in contact with the world as an object, as it were, but the inward way of communing rather than contacting. There is no point in trying to contact anyone or anything in the world. What is required is a communion of oneself with another. Yoga is not contact; it is communion. It is communion in the sense of a ceasing of one’s isolation from that with which one seeks communion. Friendship, intense loves and passions, desires of any kind which are at their apex, are indications in the world of nature of the necessity on the part of everyone to commune with what one considers as objects.

The desires of man are indicators, pointers as it were, of the necessity to commune with everything. Intense desires are the suggestions that one has to cease to be in the enjoyment of the object. All enjoyment is the cessation of personality consciousness. In the intense satisfactions of union with the objects of desire, one forgets oneself for a moment – forgets not only oneself, but forgets also that there is an object outside. There is neither an inside nor an outside at the time of the fulfilment we call joy. The joy of life is that condition of consciousness where one does not know that oneself is, or another is. The consciousness of oneself seeking an object and the consciousness of there being an object which has to be contacted for the purpose of this fulfilment is a preliminary stage. This is a state of suffering, agony and anxiety, which precedes the condition of real communion. All sorrows vanish at the time of communion because there is a sudden engulfing of the whole of experience by a larger condition which includes the one which longed for the object, and also that which was longed for. The joy of life is the coming together of the seer and the seen, the subject and the object, the desirer and the object that is desired for. The two have to melt into a single being. That experience of the melting of two into a singleness of experience is called joy.

Joy is not in oneself, nor is it in another, but it is in another thing altogether which is neither oneself or another. That third thing which is neither oneself nor another flashes forth like the spark of lightning for the moment, as it were, at the time of this fleeting joy which we call life’s expectations.

But these are only suggestions as to how yoga can be practised. The joys of empirical contact are errors of mental activity, but these errors are also indications of the presence of a higher fulfilment. The shadow, though it is not a reality in itself, suggests that it is the shadow of something which must be a reality.

Thus, the fleeting joys of life, which are the phenomenon produced by an illusory contact of the subject and the object, are shadows no doubt, but they are shadows of something which itself cannot be a shadow. Plato told us there is an archetype or an original which casts its shadow in mankind here. In a very important sense we are all shadows of originals, and our own originals, the originals of all these people seated here in this hall, are not in this world. We people seated here are shadows of our own selves. Therefore, we are really not seated here. Our own selves are somewhere else. The shadows of our own selves are here pursuing shadowy objects, and expecting shadowy satisfactions from shadowy contacts employed through shadowy methods.

Our own originals are somewhere else. They are the archetypes and are in the heavens, called Brahmaloka in India. The originals are the truths which are considered as the exalted originals in which God reveals Himself and manifests Himself, as is described in the Tenth Chapter of the Bhagavadgita: “I am present in everything. I am present not in an ordinary sense, but am present in the exaltation of everything.” There is an exalted condition of every planet, says astrology. Likewise, there is an exalted condition of everyone and everything in this world. That is the presence of God.

To make it more clear, I may say that the shadow has an element of the reality in it. There is a connection of the shadow to the reality of which it is a shadow, and therefore, there is an indication or a suggestion given to us of the existence of higher worlds. The world as a whole is an indication of the presence of God, and our longings are nothing but the pulls exerted by our own higher originals from above in respect of the shadows that we are here. We are pulling our own selves when we desire things, and are really not desiring anything other than ourselves. We are befooled due to a lack of understanding and inadequate education. It is well known that every desire is a pull toward the object of desire, but it is not the object that pulls us; it is a pull exerted by our own larger self which includes the so-called object which we seem to be expecting for the purpose of our satisfaction.

A few minutes ago I mentioned that the joy is neither in the object nor in the subject. The joy is in a third condition which exceeds the limits of both the desirer and the object that is desired for. This third thing which exceeds the limit of both the desire and the object is the higher self. This higher self has, again, degrees of manifestation until it reaches the highest self, which has nothing in front of it. So who pulls you, who drags you, who compels you, who attracts you when you love an object or long for contact with an object? It is not the object that pulls you and it is not the object that is beautiful; the beauty is nothing but a reflection of the third principal which you wrongly interpose, read, in the externalised form of it as it appears in the object.

A spatially and temporally projected universal looks like a beauty of things; therefore, things are not beautiful. They look so because of our projection of our ideal upon that object, the ideal being a third element altogether which includes both the object, so-called, and one’s own self which is the little, fragile, desiring human nature. What is man’s desire then? Not name, not fame, not power, not wealth, not even a physically lengthened life on Earth. It is another thing altogether that we are asking for.

So the little distracted meditations of man for the fulfilment of his brittle longings, which go to waste in the end due to the inadequate methods employed for their fulfilment, are indications of higher purpose in life. The world is a pointer to God. Our desires are suggestions that there is a higher reality above them. The yoga meditation, therefore, is a transmutation of the little meditations of the man who expects the faint joys of sense contact. Vidyaranya Mahamuni in the Fifteenth Chapter of the Panchadasi says that sense delight is a doorway to absolute delight. It is a doorway in a very specific sense: through that doorway you can peek and behold a larger radiance which gets deflected through this paned window of sense satisfaction as an object of desire.

Yoga, therefore, is not coming in contact. That is not possible, and also it is not necessary or practicable. A part that belongs to a whole cannot come in contact with the whole. You cannot contact your own self. The whole is the larger self of the part, and therefore, it cannot contact it. It can only unite itself with it in what I call union, communion, and entry into the very selfhood, as it were, of that whole to which it integrally belongs. So yoga is the sense of an inward belonging of one’s own self to the self of everything – finally, to the self of the universe.

The world, therefore, is not an evil. It is a shadow, an indicator, a pointer; it is a suggestion that this life on Earth is a passage, a journey, a movement, and not a halting place. It is not a paradise in which we can rejoice as if the end of our life has been reached. Life is a journey and we are all pedestrians, brethren with a common purpose, and all these little rounds of our coming and going in the different planes of existence are resting places, inns or choultries, dharamshalas, as it were, where we can rest our head for the night and proceed with our journey the next morning.

But man believes that this is the end of things. He believes that he is the finale of everything. This Earthly life is the goal he sets before himself, and he does not believe that there is a beyond. Na sāmparāyaḥ pratibhāti bālam (Katha Up. 1.2.6) says the Katha Upanishad: Childish minds do not understand that there is a beyond. The Great Beyond is the higher Self of all beings. There is a gradational ascent of the degrees of the Self of all beings, and in every fulfilment, every satisfaction and every completion of a desire, the higher Self reveals itself, reflects itself in the mirror of space and time.

In our joys we really do not contact anything substantially. We only see things very vaguely, and hit our heads against a glass pane in the same way as a bee may behold a beautiful flower on which it wants to land, but which it cannot contact. Though the bee sees and beholds the flower through the pane, the glass is an obstruction. Many a bee hits its head against the pane and dies there. They do not understand that they cannot contact the flower, though it is visible. Thus, the joy of the Ultimate Being is visible in this world in some way, but it cannot be contacted in the way we are adopting because the pane of space and time is there, hanging heavily before us. It has to be lifted. Yoga is the lifting of this curtain of space and time, which is an immediate and instantaneous communion of everyone with everyone else. Here is the goal before us which has to be attained by everyone by proper means.