(Spoken on October 30, 1983)
We have the usual opinion that we live in a world of undesirables, a world which abounds in that which is not agreeable and which is a source of pain and anxiety throughout our existence in the world. There is nothing that we can choose here as something which is dear to our heart in every sense, at all times and in every condition. Thus, life is described as a vale of sorrows. It is explained as a burning pit of live coals, a well of grief, and even our lightning-like flashes of passing satisfactions are described as only deceptive forms taken by sorrows. This is indeed a matter for deep consideration, and is the meditation of the spirit of man.
The conditions which are basic and essential cannot be changed. The intention of human effort seems to be to bring about a change of values so that the world of sorrow becomes by the effort of man a world of delight. It is the feeling of the effort-ridden human mind that its pursuits and projects can transform the world of sorrow into a world of joy. This is usually the historical notion of all human effort. It is made to appear that man has the power to bring about conditions which do not exist and conditions which are sympathetic with human nature.
The transformations which man expects to be brought about in the world of nature and the world of human society seem to be such as to become fit for comradeship by the form of human thought and human behaviour. Anything that fits into our nature is an object of joy. The world has to get modified in such a way that it has to fit into our pattern of thought and our outlook of existence, which means to say that we have a set pattern of thinking and an eternally valid form of behaviour so that once the world is tuned up to our nature, the world is at once transformed from hell to heaven.
The basic error in such a way of thinking entertained by the mind of man should be obvious on the very surface of it to any intelligible investigative attitude. Does the world require to be transformed in such a way as to get coordinated and harmonised with the whims, fancies and vicissitudes of human nature, which condition is unavoidable and definitely called for if man is to be happy? Man’s happiness is the coordination of the outside with the inside, which is his own basic nature. The world of nature outside has to be set in balance with the prevailing conditions of the human mind.
Here is the philosophy and the psychology of human effort. It is difficult to clearly understand whether in these enterprises man is trying to transform himself into the pattern of the outside world or endeavouring to change the world into the pattern of his own nature. Often man would like to say that the world has to be transformed, and he needs no such transformation because to require a change of values in one’s own self and a transformation of one’s own personality to answer to the requirements of the laws of nature outside would be a Herculean task indeed. Man needs to know how nature works in order that he may be in a position to go hand in hand with its purposes, activities and processes of action. No one can adapt one’s nature to outside conditions unless those conditions become an object of one’s knowledge. Unknown things are always sources of fear, and the secrets of nature are not entirely known to even the sharpest human mind.
By means of its vast geological and astronomical history, nature has managed to reveal profounder and profounder secrets hidden within it, such that it becomes difficult to believe that the whole of it has been unravelled even at the present moment. On the one hand, there is this difficulty of encompassing by the instruments of human understanding the structural pattern of the whole of nature outside, and that is part of the difficulty. We cannot tune ourselves to the requirements of the world outside because our knowledge of the world is awfully poor. Therefore, we get awakened occasionally to the necessity for adapting ourselves to conditions outside only when we are pulled up by our ears or given a kick by the laws of nature which apparently shakes us up from our slumber, and when things become visible to our eyes we feel forced to adapt ourselves to those visible conditions.
But the visible conditions are not necessarily all the conditions. The visibility of certain circumstances in the world of nature is only a partial manifestation of what nature is capable of acting and projecting from its own bosom. Hence, it appears that all effort from man’s side is basically futile. He has never succeeded in gaining mastery over the world; therefore, he has also not succeeded in assuring himself that he is happy in every way.
The tentative comfort and security that one may occasionally feel for a short period of time passes like a bubble which gives way immediately, and one finds oneself in a new condition altogether which requires a new type of adjustment and a new methodology that is to be adopted for the purpose on hand.
Now, the history of human psychology and activity are demonstrations before us of the usual practice befriended and taken as final by human nature, a demonstration which indicates that perhaps man is somehow to be contented with the little straws that he can catch hold of for a psychological satisfaction of having obtained a little security even in this violent flood of the flux of nature.
It is not easy for any one of us to discover a source of utter perfection and true satisfaction which needs no emendation under different conditions. We have been placed in a dubious state of affairs. On one side we have a great trust in ourselves and a belief in our own capacities. On the other side we have a distrust in what is hidden at the back of nature. We cannot take things for granted because political history as well as the history of scientific discoveries have placed before us new vistas of the possibilities of nature and the deeper layers of its structure, so that we do not and cannot have the certainty even now at this moment that all the layers of nature have been dug out in spite of the farthest reaches of the knowledge of political science, sociology and scientific research. There seems to be an endless movement towards the horizon of nature, a horizon which we never seem to touch with our fingers because it recedes further and further the more we move in the direction of its visibility.
The more we try to touch the bottom of nature, the deeper it seems to be, so that the depths into which we seem to have entered whether in the field of philosophy, psychology, sociology, science or politics cannot be considered as the finale of our researches and findings. We have never come to the end of things though several eons have evidently passed since the commencement of conscious effort on the part of living beings, particularly man. But where is this going to finally end, if after ages and ages we are still on the path and the destination is not only not reached but even not cognisable by the powers of the mind, much less perceptible to the senses? What for is all this effort? Is effort itself to be considered as the aim of life and drudgery the goal of existence, setting the only reward that we get for having been born on this Earth? Man has set the goal; he has done nothing else and even today he is engaged in doing only that, but he has obtained nothing more worth the while than his ancestors seem to have obtained.
The essential knowledge of the reality of things as available to the human mind today towards the end of the twentieth century is not very much different in quality from the knowledge of this very same reality which the Palaeolithic man may have had. The concrete material world is as hard to our touch today as it was centuries back. The hunger and thirst of man and the needs of human nature are today not different from the needs felt by the original man, may it be Adam or Eve. What advancements have we made?
These advancements we boast of are certain mechanisms we have manufactured for our own doom and increase of sorrow because a quantitative revolution that we may bring about industrially, economically or in any other field of action – a mere quantitative revolutionary improvement that we may be enamoured of today and call advancement of culture, coming of the modern age, etc. – is an eyewash. It is a besmearing of one’s own eyes with the illusion that the desired end has been reached, while the roots of agony are today at the very basic nature of man even as it was in the era of Cain and Abel. There is not an iota of improvement in the quality of our thinking, and no advance has been made. These boasts may be set aside if only we are to be honest to our own selves. Else, we may go on patting ourselves on our backs and be seated on our own thrones in the kingdom that we have ourselves manufactured, though it may be a prison into which we have cast ourselves.
The orientation that is required has not been brought about, very, very unfortunately, due to the instinctive and impulsive nature in the human being which asks for immediate comfort and pleasure rather than knowledge and illumination. Else, why is this craze for endless gadgets and mechanical devices if they are not intended to satisfy the crying soul that its expectations have been taken care of and its needs have been fulfilled entirely?
A camouflage of promise is given to the Self, the very soul of ours, when we scratch it with the instruments that we have manufactured and the physical satisfactions which we may mistake for the aim of the very soul that is in a state of anguish. The anguish of the soul of man cannot be extinguished by the manufactures and the revolutions of industry and mechanisation. The anguish of the soul is caused by the fall described in the language of the Bible. The splitting of the sparks from the conflagration of the Almighty, as described in the Upanishads, the segregation of the part from the whole, and the intensity of sense activity over and above the calls of the higher reason are not unimportant features in our life in this world. What has happened to us is not loss of material property. We have not lost it, because we never possessed it; therefore, to imagine that we have lost a material comfort and that it is essential to run after it with any means whatsoever would be to totally ignore what has happened to us.
The condition in which we are has been totally lost sight of. Blindfolded, we are moving in a direction that is opposite to the one that is to be pursued for the recovery of that which we have lost. We have lost no property; we have lost no belonging, and therefore, we do not have to pursue material possessions in this world as if we have lost them. As I mentioned, we never owned them, and therefore, we cannot say that we have lost them.
But we have lost something else which we did really own, and which is certainly our property, and that is our own selves. We have lost nothing outside ourselves, but have lost our own selves. “What availeth man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?” is a gospel truth indeed. But we may read the gospel and chant it a thousand times when Christmas comes near, but the soul has been lost; it is certainly lost, and it is not going to be regained. The paradise lost is lost forever, as it were. Though we have been told again and again that there are chances of regaining it, we never believe that we have lost the paradise of the soul. We seem to think that we have lost the paradise of material comfort, as if the world is made up of material possessions to be owned by somebody other than the world itself. Who is to own the world as a property? Who is to enjoy the world? Not the world itself. The world does not require to possess itself, and if all the world is a property, whose property it can be?
Put a question to your own self: Who is it that is asking for the property of the world? “I possess this land, that land, and this building, that building, and this wealth, that wealth. The whole Earth I would like to have.” Who is making this statement? From where does this statement come that we shall have the whole Earth as our property? Is the Earth itself saying that? No. And who is there on this Earth other than the Earth? Let this question be put by each one for one’s own self.
Something that is not in this world is trying to possess the world, and he who has properties or contents of the world cannot hope to possess the world. It would be like the world trying to possess itself. To the extent we are part of the world, we cannot possess it. But there is that in us which is not a part of this world, and therefore, it is that part which is not a part of this world that is asking for the world. May we probe into this matter. Here is the door that is being opened for what we generally call meditation.
The meditation that people speak of and are eagerly engaged in day in and day out is the cogitation of the soul on its own real state. Where was it, where is it now, and where shall it be in the future? The fact that we seem to have a longing for all the things in the world, the world in its entirety, would be a logical indication, an insignia that perhaps we do not belong to this world. If we have been total contents of this world only, merged in the world, the desire to possess property would not arise because property does not possess property. The owner of the property is different from property, and therefore, if there is any desire for anything in this world, that should be an indication that we are not of this world. Else, a desire for things in this world should not arise.
So such a base and undesirable impulse called desire, which we condemn so much, seems to highlight a great fact before our own eyes. This morbid longing we call desire for things in the world is also a flag hoisted before us of the kingdom of heaven, because it tells us that this idiotic manifestation of our psyche in the form of a longing for things in the world should be our instructor. It should be our instructor in the sense that it at least points out that there is a basic error in our general outlook of things. That true possessor’s character as an essential percipient or observer of nature is the crucial issue before us. The world of observation is not so important as the position of the observer himself in this context of observation.
Today we do not speak of spectators of the world but of participants in the world, and a participant in the world of perception is no more a bystander or an observer of the world of nature. A participant is more than a spectator, different from an observer. A participant is one that is inseparable from that which is observed or that in which one participates. So the observer of the world is not a person, it is not a Mr. so-and-so, it is not one isolated unit of thought that is envisaged in this vast nature, this world of space, time and causation. Such an observation is not possible because a knowledge of the world implies an entry into the very process of the knowledge of the world.
The knower of the world, the knower of nature, the knower of the object through the means of knowledge cannot be isolated from the process of knowledge, and therefore, not from the object of knowledge also. There is a commingling of the seer and the seen through the process of seeing in the very act of the knowledge of even the littlest thing in this world. This merging of the threefold position of the knowledge context – the seer, the seeing and the seen – is majestically explained in a verse of the Bhagavadgita: brahmārpaṇaṁ brahma havir brahmāgnau brahmaṇā hutam, brahmaiva tena gantavyaṁ brahmakarmasamādhinā (Gita 4.24). The offerer, the offering and that to which it is offered all stand in unison as a single position, and not as a threefold position. In the knowledge of the world, in the asking for the world, in the desire for things, in the craving for property we seem to be basically demonstrating our togetherness with our world as a whole.
So the errors of perception in the form of longing for things are also indications of a higher fact that is automatically revealed in this very process. The evil of the world itself becomes an instructor to overcome the evils of the world. The greatest evil is desire, and it becomes a mentor, a pointer to the fact of our inseparability from the object of perception, which is the world of nature.
Thus, the knowledge of the world is the world knowing itself. It is not anyone knowing the world because that ‘anyone’ cannot stand as a spectator of the world in the knowledge process. The very difficulty we feel in keeping the world outside us as an object of the senses has been the root of our troubles. There is what we may call a schizophrenic activity in the process of the very perception of the world – an unnecessary dichotomy created in a condition which is otherwise unitary and incapable of division into the seer and the seen. Thus, every thought, which is usually the thought of an object outside the thought, is a participant in the object thereof. Hence, if we are careful enough to investigate into the rise and the action of our thought process, we would be perpetually in a state of meditation because meditation is union with things, and we seem to be always in a state of union with all things. If it is true that without such a union no knowledge of anything is possible, the knowledge of a thing is union with that thing.
But there is something more to be said about this interesting phenomenon. On the one hand it appears that no knowledge of anything is possible unless there is a participation of the knower with the thing that is known, in which case there is a merging of the participating knower in the object that is known. But there is a malady that has managed to creep in between the knower and the object that is known through a medium called sense action. It is an interference in the true knowledge process. This interference which is sensory activity is connected with the structure of what we call space and time, which acts as the dividing and splitting characteristics in what is otherwise a continuum of knowledge and experience.
Hence, on the one hand, it is acceptable to our investigative understanding that we seem to be always in a divine kingdom of ends rather than means because of it not being possible for any seer or participator to stand outside that which is the object of observation or participation. On the other hand, the objects of the world seem to repel us and run away from us, and we cannot catch them as we cannot catch our own shadows. The more we run after our shadow, the more does it recede from us. Sarvaṁ tam parādād yo'nyatrātmano sarvaṁ veda (Brihad. Up. 2.4.6) says the Brihanaranyaka Upanishad: Everything shall run away from you when you pursue anything as other than you – which means to say, all efforts of man are futile in the end if they are motivated by what today we call a scientific approach, or even a political approach. A political solution is no solution, and perhaps a scientific solution also is not a solution if by science we mean the classical approach to the material world of things which is somehow made to stand outside the observer or the participant.
Hence, we have to seek a new method of this solution of the problems of life, and these methods for a solution of human conflicts have to be characteristic of the true nature of things. We cannot employ methods which are dissonant with the true or essential nature of things. We cannot approach the world of nature as a Criminal Investigation Department Officer. That kind of approach will be repulsive to nature because the whole world of nature is a very subtle radar-like mechanism which can feel what our intentions are, even before these intentions arise in our mind. Even our subconscious will be known to the world. Our subconscious reactions to the world of nature outside are more important than our outer reactions through conscious participation. The world will know us even before we start thinking it. It is not, therefore, possible for any device that man may connive for conquering nature to really conquer nature. No man can conquer nature because man is not outside it.
Thus, we seem to be in a position to conclude that the problem of life is the problem of the severance of man from his own mother, his own parent, and to put it in a theological style, the severance of human nature from the divine angelic nature which was his originality when he was in the garden of Eden, in Brahmaloka, in the Viratswarupa.
So we are summoned to an action of meditation from moment to moment even through the very act of the perception of things in the world. Our desires and our sensory knowledge of things also are pointers to a need for a deeper contemplative attitude on our own side, such that we are from moment to moment ever perpetually and unremittingly in union with all things. We have only to bring into memory this fact. All freedom is a reminiscence of this original fact. It is not a manufacture or a mere future transformation in a material sense. The whole world is in a state of meditation, says the Chhandogya Upanishad. The Earth, the Sun, the Moon, the stars, and every atom and corpuscle in nature seems to be positioned in such a way that it is in a mood of meditation because it is expecting cooperation from everything outside in the same way as it cooperates with all things, so that the world is a wondrous harmony which reflects every facet in every other facet and the world is a veritable meditation in itself. The whole universe is a body of meditation because the universe is the will of God which is the thought, the original sankalpa, of the Supreme Being. The universe is the thought of the Almighty, and therefore, it is an eternal meditation by itself. Hence, our participation in meditation is participation in eternity, a blessed participation in the very holy Being of the Almighty.