by Swami Krishnananda
(Spoken at a Retreat on December 27, 1996)
What I am going to tell you today may be considered as a kind of development of what I told you yesterday. You have to bring back to your memories the various aspects of spiritual life which I tried to highlight in as comprehensive a manner as possible yesterday. Now something more about it.
Throughout the ancient and medieval periods of European history there has been a cleavage between the state and the church. The state was the secular side, and the church was the spiritual side. There was no commerce between the two aspects of life. Catholic Christianity, headed by the Pope, had suzerainty over even the kings of the different states, and the secular ruler of a particular state could not completely go against the mandates of the Vatican. This state of affairs continued for a long time in European history. There had been no connection between the spiritual and the secular. The king was the man of the earth, and the Pope was the man of God; that was the difference.
It went on like this for a long time, through the medieval ages, until King Henry VIII of England felt a need to confront the Pope. He had his own peculiarities, and whoever has read British history will know what those peculiarities were. In order to obey the mandate of the Pope, he condescended to commit the most heinous crimes to human nature. Later, he could not get on with this condition. He severed his connection from the Pope and said he was the head of the English Church. He became the secular head, as well as the spiritual one. Added to this, the rise of Protestant Christianity made the power of the Pope a little weak, and the gulf between the secular and the spiritual slowly started getting narrowed down.
Now, as spiritual seekers, what do we understand from this dichotomy imagined between the secular and the spiritual? Is there such a thing called the secular? Is there anything called spiritual which is incompatible with the secular needs of people? Is a human being a composite of two departments? Have you noticed in your own personal life a secular side and a spiritual side, or do you feel that you are a whole, integrated person? It is not possible for you to distinguish between the demands of your relation to the world and the demands of your relation to God. They cannot stand as two watertight compartments.
It is a very interesting subject. Is there anything called the secular? Does it exist at all? If it exists, it is tantamount to an opposition to the requirements of divine living. Is the world opposing spiritual life? Has God created a world which is constituted of evil, with nothing good in this world? Can you say that God has created an evil world? You would not say that. Then, how has the secular idea arisen in the mind of people?
I mentioned yesterday your involvement in the total operation of the universe. I mentioned that you are a part of human society. Now, would you call this aspect of your life a secular aspect? Do you consider what usually goes by the name of the secular is something redundant, worth giving up as early as possible, and you would like to be spiritual minus association with human society? I mentioned yesterday that such a thing is not possible. Human society is not outside you. You yourself are a part of human society. People do not understand that they themselves constitute an element in the structure of human society.
So, you are involved in the vast sea of humanity. Humanity is the nature of a human being. It is not sitting outside somewhere. When we speak of society, we generally imagine that it is external to us, forgetting for the time being that we are vitally connected with this vast arena of human involvement we call society. Society is a total structure. It is an integrated operation taking place under the commands of human requirement. If such an integrated approach to the structure of human society were not necessary, we would not be living in human society. That it is inseparable from you shows that the secular is inseparable from yourself. If you are not satisfied with imagining that you are a secular individual, you will say, "No, it is not like that; I am not secular. I am a pure spirit inside, aspiring for God."
Now, tell me what your status is actually. Being a part of human society, and being a part of the community of spiritual seekers – are these two aspects contradictory? Do you belong to two worlds at the same time? You will not accept that you are living in two worlds, with one leg here and another leg there, upstairs. You are everywhere; wherever human society is, there you are. And, I added yesterday, wherever nature is, there you also are.
Keep in mind the subtlety of thinking involved in this process. You are everywhere, as you are a unit of human society, which is everywhere. You are also everywhere because you are a part of nature, which has no distinctions of inward and outward, right and left, or up and down. It is a total integrated operation, and it is inseparable from you.
The whole of nature is working through you, through this bodily structure called an individuality. Earth, water, fire, air, and ether – these elements constitute your body. As long as the world of five elements continues to exist, you will be existing. You will be existing as a miniature universe, a miniature nature, appearing to be moving independently, as it were, though such an independence is not granted. Where is the independence?
Now, we come back to this question of the secular and the spiritual. Did you notice that the very idea of this disparity between the secular and the spiritual is ill-founded? It is based on wrong thinking, right from the beginning. It is the consequence of the child-like imagination that God is above and the earth is below. Do you believe that God is above and the earth is below? This is again a peculiar trait of the baby mind of humanity, which looks up in order to see God, and looks down in order to see the world, and looks sideways in order to see human society. Is human society spread out sideways? Is the earth down below, and is God above the skies?
If you apply your intelligence, you may not accept that it is so. But, in our daily life, we are still babies only. Spiritual bankruptcy is ingrained in the very nature of thinking. If you go deep into the nature of what true spirituality is, everybody is spiritually bankrupt. There is a vacuum inside.
That is why any amount of worship of God in temples, churches, and religious places has not quenched the thirst of anyone who is longing for a satisfaction which has not been found anywhere in this world. Whatever be your religion, you are an unhappy person. Is it so? You are a spiritual seeker, yet you are an unhappy person. What makes you unhappy and inadequate in your own self? There is no religious leader or spiritual seeker who does not have a sense of a secret inadequacy in one's own self. That is because our concepts of God, society and nature are finite concepts. Our God who is above the sky becomes a finite God; because He is above, He is not below, so you have a finite God. And society is outside, so it is a finite conception of human society. And you consider nature as something outside, so that also is a finite conception of nature. We ourselves are finite individuals, so that we live in a tremendous chaotic assemblage of finitudes in thinking. How would you expect any satisfaction in this world?
I am introducing you to a subject that is very poignant. Spiritual life is not a joke; it is not an entertainment. It is not an experiment: "If it is there, let me see; if it is not there, let it go." It is the fact of life that is vibrating through your heart and telling you, "I am here, as a complete perfection, and I am not outside you. I am not above; I am not below; I am not sideways. I am that which is everywhere."
Every human being, looking like a tiny finitude, carries within its own bosom the potentialities of infinite existence. God is dancing through your heart, society is operating through your veins, and nature is throbbing through the entire system. Are you alone in this world? Then, what is the inadequacy that you feel in yourself? You are not alone in this world. Not only you are in society, but you are the society. Not only are you confronting nature outside, you are the nature. It is not necessary to look to the skies to perceive God; no.
There was a great French mathematician called Laplace; he wrote five volumes on the mechanics of the astronomical universe based on Newton's theory. The book is called "Celestial Mechanics". Napoleon' saw that book and told Laplace: "Sir, in your scheme I am not seeing God anywhere." Laplace's reply was, "Your Highness, I have used the best of telescopes, and I have not seen God anywhere." It is a very humorous conversation between two people.
So, with any amount of looking up you will not see God, because that which you expect to be above you is a fraction of truth. This is why we are not happy in this world. There is nothing that we do in our life that can fully satisfy us, because we have wrenched ourselves from our vital connection with the reality of life. What is the reality of life?
I introduced you to the concept of the truths of life yesterday, and I am telling you today that there is no such thing as the secular and the spiritual. They do not exist. Such distinctions are drawn due to a defect in the perceptional psychology of human nature. We make a distinction philosophically between the phenomena and the noumena, for instance. That distinction also does not exist. To say that the phenomenon is somewhere and the noumenon is somewhere else is another way of saying that spirituality is somewhere and secularity is somewhere else. You cannot think the existence of the noumenon because you have already accepted that you are involved in phenomena. How does a person who is totally phenomena, bound by space, time, and causal relations, have an idea of that which is above phenomena? How can you know that God exists if what you know is just the world external to you?
There is a suggestive inferential consequence following from even the fact of involvement in phenomena. You cannot know that you are a finite individual unless simultaneously you accept that there is something more than the finite. The limitation that you impose upon your finitude is like a fence that you have pitched around yourself, but there must be something outside the fence, also. Why do you want fencing if there is nothing outside the fence? The fencing implies that there is something beyond the fence.
The idea of limitation or finitude suggests, at the same time, the existence of that which is not finite. So God exists, because it is the necessary corollary following from the inviolable acceptance of your being a finite being. If you are finite, the Infinite has to exist; otherwise, you cannot even know that you are finite. You cannot say, "I am a poor person," unless you have an idea of what it is to be not poor. The correlative always follows from the acceptance of a particular position. But we are too dull in our understanding; we only go a little bit, and then do not go sufficiently far.
What is the consequence of all this deliberation? You do not belong to this world only; then, that would be to say that you are only secular, and there is nothing else in you. We consider the secular as the unspiritual; there is no such thing.