The Epic of Consciousness
by Swami Krishnananda


Part I

The greens and highs and far off twinkling lights,
Blue dome above which beauteous roofs the earth,
The gentle caress breeze of morn bestows,
Blossoms of smile from greeting foliage,
The blush of niggard half-wake flowing streams,
Chuckles of risen plumes ready to fly,
The glorious orb as Eastern monarch robed
Majestic rising from horizon's throne,
Do ruffle life; amazed the world beholds
Horizon's vault and moral law within,
Which twain as marvels reach of mind elude.

The finite's gaze at depths beyond limits
Propels the probe of calculus and science,
Which with the tools of empiric methods
Stretches a world of forces and of thoughts,
A four-dimensioned region, where to see
Would also make it seen in fusion's state.
So goes physic which knowing knows not things
Which thingness shed and rounded firm exist.
But man's attempts as based on sense's needs
Are outward-turned, and so futile remain.
For, what is not can scarce become what is,
And perceived forms are wrenched out abstractions,
Just modes of space and time's beguiling pace,
Substanceless grasps by dizzied consciousness
That moves for norms; in movement loses aim.

Physic, chemic, life's processes when looked
As things of sense and mind's bereaved contents
Lie dead as void, for abstractions are they.
Nor can the mind be known as thing studied,
For, who studies if mind itself which thinks
Becomes the thought as observed flung-out thing?
Studies of mind in webs of space-time maze
Which do commerce with thinker and the thought
Do ill succeed in knowledge aspired for.
With such disabled psychic implements
Does man on earth a paradise engrave
By aesthetic which lulls the mind to tunes,
Or enraptures with beauty's magnet pulls
Of form and shape, symmetry and design.
The stroke and dash of urging tunes and forms
Benumb the mind by chords of sympathy,
Which causes stir and stimulating waves
Breeding reflection of perfection's touch,
But not contacting great perfection's soul,
With promise made but no fulfilment reached.
So all the artifice which longing builds,
Ethic, civic. and social customs bred,
Holding and wealth, or body politic,
The do's and don'ts of moral's irate prongs,
Touch not the fringe of truth's abysmal deeps
Which still gyrating tantalise all life
And keep one hoping ev'n in fatal pangs.

In history the Time-Spirit unrolls
Potentials seed-like bursting into form
As kings and thrones and laws and wars and deaths -
Endless pageant of risings, acts and falls.
Babylon rose as babe of culture's springs;
And Ormuz dazzled high in gloried pomp;
There Assyria in its rude powers
Strode mighty with its potentates and strifes;
Pharaoh glazed rich Egypt's appetites
And mystic rites of trans-world glorify;
Greekish sinews form Spartan commonwealth,
With deified aim of man's material frame,
And reason's flag Athens does raise to skies;
The Roman arms with thud of feet do rule
With law's rigour and brute's magnificence;
With God Israel's lords strike a covenant;
Christ's apostles spread gospel's peace and love;
The deserts rise with prayers swords do chant;
The Eastern norms do set up monarch's seats,
Who wear the crown and speak to farmer's weeds,
Bring blend of labour, trade and spirit's rule
In one gamut of undivided song.
Virtue and wealth and human love do serve
The goal of freedom that the soul e'r seeks.
Hierarchies roll of rulers, intrigues, griefs,
On earth's own limbs which pride designates states.

The story that is life I now narrate,
Which toil we name for latent call of joy,
The pull of sense in senseless exertions,
Meaning's insistence in meaningless sweat,
And labour's torment, day's relentless whip
Which lashes forth its awesome ruthlessness
on backs that bend with gruelling servitude,
And brains that reel in duty's crushing weight,
As death and breath in contest ev'r engaged
Phenomenon's 'to be' or 'not to be'.

Is this enactment unkind Nature's whim,
Or do the gods in play and fun revel?
How does the fame of kingdoms reach to dust,
How crowns are trampled, princes end in clay,
Empires in melting cauldron Time does cast,
Virtue and vice, friend and foe rolled up lie
On earth's sepulchre, common bed of all,
Perish the loves of cleaving hearts by fate
And rancour lives in masks of holy writs,
In court of Judge the great and small do kneel
And cringing stay as levelled stuff sans pride,
As things of use, not men of dignity?

How come this world which's deaf to human feel,
From where the sun and moon and stars and sky?
Which rule it is that causes birth of life,
And kills the babe ere does it ope its eyes,
Destroys the good, enables evil's thrive,
Enforces yet the norm of righteous deeds,
Proclaims the law of altruistic moods,
And goodness sees through eyes of what one sees?

Hearken the clarion God's mandate which blows,
Benign beckon from High of high's domain.
The Might of mights with Cosmic Eye descries
The charming vast, creation call the wise;
Resplendent realm whose Centre's everywhere,
Where gods do dwell and angels blessed live,
Sages and masters, self-conquered divines,
Who know not self in all-pervading bliss
Of transcendence where Oneness' law does reign
In midst of things, relations and their ways;-
The worlds of life and deathless immortals,
Who live in one another as do waves,
Where one is here as well as there at once,
Where one is each and each is everyone
As lights commingled, gold is poured in gold,
Beatitude of Soul's bottomless sea.

As thunders break and split the skies in twain,
And cyclones rush and scatter broadcast things,
Did one day sound the rampage in heaven,
Dismembered fell the erstwhile Joys above,
Headlong below with topsy-turvy eyes
Which see the right as left and left as right,
The 'in' as 'out' and 'out' as 'in' in daze.
So mortals came as fallen stars bereaved;
Hunger and thirst and heat and cold did blow
As winds rapacious, monstrous mates of man,
When shackled physique caught in greed its grub
Which's tenfold sense's sensate passion's due.
Lo, man, as death's heir what dost thou now crave -
Thy dish is spread out, take it as this world.

Came grief as sulphur slowly simmers hot
In mount's bowels to spit as darting fume,
From darkness spurt as cloud of unknowing
With cast down sense and faces backward turned.
The crude unconscious downward fallen's root
Erupts as brute which sleeps with raven's glut.
The clutch of fall as hunger seeks its prey
Which all the world in all its forms becomes.
The law of fish and law of jungle roars.
Where eater's eaten, eaten eats relished.
The life of each is life of other sworn,
Thus death does live as life of all that moves.

Grown up the law of give-and-take controls
As tit-for-tat, the selfish gesture's rule,
When man to man as object does become
To harness, swindle, capture and deceive.
Life lost its moorings, dread negation dawned
And beast-like jaws did notes of threat release.
The eye, then, sees the shadows as the light,
By instinct's peep which's intellect christened.
The reason tarnished with its freedom false
Does attribute all change to objects viewed,
Knowing not itself intertwined with things;
All wrong and evil foisted peers 'out there'
On things and persons and the world alike.
Thus matter henpecks its own lord, the mind,
Distorting value, misplaced visions's child,
Seeking contortions labelled as delights.

What dost thou seek? A fill of thrill of soul?
How does it come? From where does rapture rise?
The scattered streams of what the eyes see not
Inundate all the bones, and that is joy!
As glass does shine as light when sun it beams,
So all delights of earth are rains from gods
Who pour the blaze celestial and its mirth
On mortal frames which corpse-like lie below.
And, lo, the dead does wake by nectar's touch,
Whose where and how 'tis not for born to gauge.

O gorgeous Flood! Divine Inebriant!
Do come and bathe the seeker's anguished self
Which writhes and longs for that it can't behold,
Nor touch, nor taste, nor smell, nor e'n hear.
But beauty, sweetness, strength and glory great
Do there abide, and That itself is all.
And how can things reside in what is soul,
For resting needs another than the prop
Which's omni-space and omni-time's content.
When lust for glee and greed for gold do lash
As canine waves of death's billowing brine,
The lustrous gem of death-defying peace
Is pushed below the darkened dungeon's depths
Which wakes as owl that sees its day in night,
Darkness parading as the god of hell -
For god, indeed, it is as deity praised -
And tastes the stink as angels' thrice-blessing.

The saga that is man now do listen,
That clay's idol which struts as sovereign born.
When child's begot it grips the mother's breast,
For there beholds the babe its manna hid,
And there, indeed, its all and life condensed.
When grown enthused the budding lad does whirl
As top that loses stand when all busy;
Fantastic deal he cuts across his mind,
That tendril seeking sunlight's direction.
Then flash forth flame and furious surge of youth,
And what do seething tongues of fire consume,
Their fuel kindling, rousing wrath of want -
The sensuous balm and wanton ego's pride,
The twofold snare and net of Nature's wit,
Which when 'tis cast does make one lose his wits.
And raving goes who reigns deranged in deeds,
In judgments, insights, outlooks and visions.
For, which offence can par a war with self -
The feed of sense is but the death of soul.

All taste and sweet is baby's 'I' and 'me',
The grope which tattles apish ignorance.
Sweetest the food in hunger's angry clutch,
And sweet melody young blood's vanity
In prank and gaiety - slumbered carnivore.
It rises strong and grown it wild becomes
And prowls for prey in youthful dalliance,
Whose end and aim and joy and fulfilment
Centres in comely touch and sight and taste,
Ambrosial looks when ichor flows profuse,
When earth with heav'n lives in eternity
And all creation melts in liquid rage
Of all-devouring grasp of mortal's goal,
Which is, and is, and nothing else can be.
So hails the day of promptings full virile,
But age pursues as victim's hunter crawls,
Steady and slow but sure as fall of night.
Impulse recedes and grey hairs speak wisdom
That neighbour's good is one's own good and weal,
That service done is worship God decrees,
Mankind is God, humanity is all.
For country, cause and ideal best adored,
Religion, leader, friend, commune and clan,
For creed and cult the self is immolate.
So goes and frets senile vigour's vision,
Power and pelf till all wither away,
And unsung dotage flings the wonted boast
To limbo rusted unhonoured which lies.

And still the murk of logic's reach prevails:
"Renounce the world, ordains scriptural lore,
The world is nought, and I do forsake all -
My son and daughter, parent, land and wealth.
Position, name and raiment, sleep and rest,
Work, due and duty, love for dear life -
Do all get bundled, thrown to those who live,
While I do famish for the distant peace
And joy of freedom found in world beyond.
Lo, thus I trample glory earth can grant
To flee to thence whose contempt is this world."
So, thus, the muse of heaven cut from life
Dries up the flow of force and strength of need
For promised dream which lies in Eden's heart.

Where, then, is truth? In me, in you, elsewhere,
Above, below, within, without, nowhere?
How does it look if truth is nothingness,
For, nothing does become the thing that is.
If nothing is, then call it all-in-all,
And there it is as consciousness of nil,
Establishing the truth of light in dark,
Which God, the Absolute, do sages name,
The That-which-is, the Thou and That and all.
The 'is' and 'is-not' are not truth's locale.
'This do' and 'this do not' are not morale,
The true is in-between, and not'there out',
Nor in the mind nor social plebiscite.
It's not in seer, not in seen, yet both,
And still above the terminals of ken.
'Some rise by sin and some by virtue fall,'
May well become, then, restraint's puissant chord
To haul up law for sake of justice' rule.
All law is just when wholeness keeps it sane;
It wild becomes when chaos rides on horse,
And thumps a rule when soul in sickness groans.
The 'golden mean' does drink the poison dose.

Since like does cure its like and not despise.
What takes the toll to heights does also raise
When mortal meets the mortal for its end.
In surge of health which soul awakened brings
When en rapport with all its contents stands.
To stand abreast with things is soul's delight,
Not look and eye and sense; for things are self;
To see through things, not see them, is wisdom.

The path is conduct's mean, not deal's excess;
Not abstinence, not indulgence; behold,
Beware, brethren, befriend the world and you;
Hate not the world, nor soul's tabernacle.
Offence and sin are not in you or things
But ill-arranged relation 'twixt the two,
Which twain are arms of single vision whole,
The handling which is life's purpose supreme.
Go, then, ahead, and gird your loins, and prey,
May truth triumph, and peace be unto all.