The Esoteric Significance of the Kathopanishad
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 6: The Meaning of Not Coming Back

Great truths appear mysterious because the intellect of man is not endowed with the necessary apparatus to grasp them. There is no mystery in the teachings of the great Master who initiated Nachiketas in the Kathopanishad. We are afraid of mysteries, as if they exist. The facts which rule the world are not necessarily intellectual and logical. The mathematics and the geometry of the human understanding does not seem to be the method according to which the world operates. This is a startling discovery which was made by leaders of science, such as Einstein. The world does not work according to human arithmetic, and our calculations are not the calculations made by the universe. This is the reason why the world appears as a mystery to us, while in fact it is not a mystery. We do not have the necessary endowment to grasp this structure of things as their object.

The world does not seem to be an object of our intellect or understanding. The thing as it is in itself cannot be grasped by human understanding. There does not appear to be anything in man which is adequate to the purpose of what is called a mystery, which is the nature of things. Everything in the world is a mystery because the essential nature of things is not an object of the senses or the understanding of man. What we see with our eyes or think with our minds is not the truth of things. Thus it is that we are not able to understand what it was that great Master Yama communicated to Nachiketas. Whatever be the explanation and the effort of the teacher, what can be grasped only by an intuitive apperception cannot be subjected to the mould of logical thinking.

It is futile on the part of man to make the Ultimate Reality come down to his own level and enter the apparatus of his frail intellect which dissects reality into the subject and the object, while the nature of reality is not so divided. But unless it is so divided, it cannot be grasped by us. This is the reason why we cannot understand why the three angles of a triangle need not necessarily always be equal to two right angles, and how parallel lines can meet in infinity. We can never accept with the mathematical apparatus that we have that parallel lines can ever meet – else, they would not be parallel. But they are said to meet under a different condition of things which is not necessarily the three-dimensional spatial Newtonian scientific structure.

This I am trying to place before you as a sort of analogy to explain why great mysteries cannot be grasped by unprepared, untutored, untrained minds. Sadhana chatushtaya, the fourfold equipment requisite of a student, is a necessity for every one of us. When we approach a great Master or a Teacher or a Guru and attempt to get initiated into super-physical mysteries, we should also be cautious to see that we have the receptive capacity within us to absorb these mysteries which are not necessarily human and limited to our way of thinking.

This is a difficulty with the human mind, which insists on working on its own natural principles of operation even when it is expected to transcend itself for the purpose of knowing things as they are in themselves – an attainment that is achieved by communion rather than by perception. The knowledge of the truths of things is a samadhi, or a samapatti in the language of yoga. It is an intuition; it is a total grasp by the soul within us, rather than a contact with our senses or a conceptual apprehension by our minds. God cannot be thought. Nothing in the world can be thought. What we think and what we sense is a reflected, shadowy form of the original to which I made reference yesterday – that which stands above us.

Another reason why we cannot know the essential reality of things is that we are involved in things. We belong to the phenomenal universe. Who are we to know the world when we ourselves are a part of the world? So, what chance can there be of anyone knowing the essential nature of things when the person knowing or attempting to know things is also one of the things of the world – an object of the senses? An object cannot know an object. It is the subject that knows the object, but we are now in a position of an object rather than a subject. We are sense objects. We can see ourselves as we can see anything else in the world. We are involved in the space-time complex, as anything else in the world is.

This is the reason why we cannot know that we are in a state of dream while we are inside the dream. We know that it is a dream only when we wake up, not before. This is why great mysteries look like unintelligible abstractions, even as the dream concrete perception may consider the waking world as an abstraction because it is only a concept, not communicable to the world of dream experience. But there is a way to it. This is called yoga.

The Kathopanishad, which is the theme of our study, gives in a nutshell the method of the practice of yoga, an outline of the explanation of which I commenced yesterday. Yoga is union of oneself with all things in the world – with the All Self. The individual self, so-called, unites itself with the All Self, the Universal Self, by degrees. Yoga is a graduated step. It is not a sudden jump. It is an ascent, like the growth of an organic, living body. There is no skipping through steps in yoga as we jump, as it were, from one rung of a ladder to another rung when we want to climb a terrace. The rungs of the ladder are not organically connected with one another; they are independent, though we step over each rung as we ascend. But the yoga steps are not like the rungs of a ladder or any such thing which we use for climbing.

Yoga, as an ascent of the spirit, is an organic development like the growth of a child from the womb to a mature adult and a genius, which process takes place without even one’s knowing that it is taking place at all. It is an educational career. In the process of education there are no jumps, even as when we grow from day to day we are not jumping from one day to another day. We are imperceptibly, organically, uniformly, harmoniously, entirely growing into the next stage, which is a larger wholeness inclusive of the lesser or lower wholeness.

The rungs of the ladder cannot be compared to wholenesses of this kind. We cannot say that the higher rung in the ladder is a larger wholeness than the lower rung. But in the rungs of yoga, the higher rung is larger, more inclusive, and therefore, more real than the lower rung, even as we advance in age we become more perspective, perspicacious, more intelligent, more complete than we were when we were inside the womb of the mother.

The yoga practice is succinctly described in the Kathopanishad. The practice of yoga is an endeavour on the part of the whole of man, not merely our mind or the intellect, to commune itself with the whole of reality in one of its levels. These are very crucial points that we have to concentrate upon. We cannot afford to wool gather or sleep here when these methods of practice are considered as essentials in our life. This is not a study of some supernatural mystery but a study of the very science of existence, the very art of living itself.

We are complete persons and not fractions of individuals, as every one of us knows. There is a peculiarity in every living being, by which it regards itself as a completeness. An ant is a complete whole; it is not a fraction of a living being. A baby is a complete being, a boy or a girl is a complete living being, every person is complete in himself or herself, and every organism is complete in itself. Whatever be the size physically in its quantum, from the point of view of the organic structure and the awareness of this structure, it is a wholeness. No living being will regard itself as a fraction or a part. This is a mystery. We can call it only a mystery; there is no better word to explain this difficulty before us. How is it that every living being considers himself, herself or itself as a whole while, at the same time, we have a feeling that we are finite, inadequate shreds of reality? We are sorrow-stricken in every way because we feel that we are finite in our body, in our possessions. Even in our life there is nothing complete. We do not possess the complete wealth of the world. We cannot live a complete duration of our life. We cannot be complete friends of everybody, nor can anyone become complete friends of ourselves. Everything seems to be fragmentary, and nothing is whole as far as we can imagine in the atmosphere of our life. Yet, nevertheless, we feel that we are wholes. I am a whole being; I am not a fragment of being. This is a point which requires deep study and analysis. Notwithstanding the fact that no person in the world can regard himself or herself as a whole, there is a subtle feeling that each one is a whole. I stand by myself.

This wholeness that we feel in ourselves is the indivisibility of reality that pushes itself forward in every nook and corner of the world, in every cranny and creek, in every sand particle and atom. Every atom is a completeness by itself; it is not a fragment. A nucleus around which a few electrons revolve is a total atom. It is not a half atom, a one-fourth atom. Even if some of the limbs of our body are amputated, we will not feel that we are fifty-percent persons or one-fourth or seventy-five percent. If all the limbs are severed, we are still wholes. A person with no legs and no hands is not a half person; he is a whole person nevertheless. This is a proof that we do not seem to be bodies. We are not the body; otherwise, if the limbs are severed we would feel that some of our existence has gone, that we are only eighty-five percent. No one feels like that. This shows a person is not the body. Here is a great proof which is obvious and standing before us, staring in its reality.

There is a peculiar novelty in each person, each organic living body, which is a wholeness in itself, and it is not a physical, material, economic wholeness. Materially, physically, economically, we cannot be wholes. Nevertheless, we are wholes in a different sense. This mystical transcendent wholeness in us is the real I, the real we. Remember, it is proven hereby that we cannot identify ourselves with this body or anything connected with the body – the wealth, the land, the buildings, or even relations of every kind because they can be severed – but the sense of wholeness that we feel in ourselves cannot be severed from us. The feeling that we are one self-identical individual cannot get dismembered by any amount of affection of the physical body.

This wholeness of ours is a mystical, spiritual wholeness. What we are in ourselves is difficult to understand. If we are not the body, what else are we? There is no immediate answer to this question. A very vigilant and cautious approach is expected on our part to try to know what we really are. While we are little human beings compared to many others in the world, in comparison with the large universe in front of us, we still seem to be important persons. There is a status enjoyed by each individual. There is a self-respect which each one of us expects from others and enjoys even within one’s own self. Even if we are absolutely alone to ourselves, we have a sense of self-regard: I am. We do not feel that we are one-millionth of a human being because we are dissociated from other people. This mystery is the mystery of reality.

In communion, which is the yoga, it is this real wholeness in us that is to get united with the real wholeness of the world. Inasmuch as all things are made in almost a similar manner, the analysis that applies to our wholeness or our self-existent, self-complete, self-sufficient being will also apply to everyone else and everything else. In the same way as we do not seem to be physical bodies, nothing else in the world also can be called a physical body. What applies to us applies to everybody else also. By a little fragment of an analysis we have come to know that we do not appear to be the physical body. If that is the case, no one else is a physical body either. Then when we speak to a person, to whom are we speaking? When we befriend an individual, whom are we befriending? When we encounter a thing, what are we encountering? Not the physical body, not the physical structure which does not seem to be the essential nature of anything, including our own self.

The yoga practice is an attempt at the coming together in union of the essentiality of ourselves with the essentiality of everything else. Only in this real union can we be true friends of anybody. At present we are only artificially concocted relative friends of people, due to which reason we can be separated from our friends. There can be bereavement, which is so common in this world.

Yoga is not physical contact, it is not sense perception, it is not coming in contact with the physical nature of things because, remember, the physical nature is not the real nature of things. It is an investiture, it is a cover, a shroud, which has been put on by another mystery which is that we are not able to understand what we really are.

What are we really? Philosophically conducted analysis reveals that we are more than the body. What else have we got within us other than the body? Let a psychologist or biologist answer this question: What else can a human being be if he or she is not the physical body? ‘The mind’ may be an answer. But we seem to be existing even when the mind is not operating. There are illustrations from our own life where the mind need not necessarily actively participate in our existence. For instance, in deep sleep the mind does not operate. We do not think. We are not aware of any object. There is no perceptional activity of the mind in the state of deep sleep. Nevertheless, we know that we existed. The existence of a person is not annihilated in the state of deep sleep though the body and the mind do not actively participate in this existence. Do we exist in the state of deep sleep? We do exist – not as a body, as we are not aware of it; not as a mind, as it was not working. Minus the body, minus the mind, minus the intellect, minus the reason, what else are we?

We cannot directly apperceive the nature of our true existence because, as I mentioned earlier, we are involved in the phenomenal world and, therefore, we have only phenomenal appurtenances by which we are able to perceive ourselves – wrongly – as objects of sense, as we erroneously perceive objects of sense outside. In the same way as I look at you, I am looking at myself. In what way am I better than you? If you are an object of sense for me, I am equally so. But by inference, by a sort of deductive logic, we may say, we infer that we can exist under certain conditions even without the association of the body and the mind as, for instance, in the state of deep sleep, which is a very important phenomenon through which we are passing every day but it misses our attention, for very inscrutable reasons.

How do we know that we are existing in deep sleep? Not because our eyes are open, not because our mind is thinking or our reason is operating. When nothing was there, who knew that there was a person existing? We are a mystery. It is not that the teaching of the Kathopanishad is a mystery; we ourselves are a mystery. We cannot know what we ourselves are. We are stifled in our existence by certain operations which are hanging heavily upon ourselves. I mentioned the space-time-cause relation. These are the difficulties before us. This is Ravana, Kumbhakarna, Inderjit, whatever we may call it, or space-time-cause. They cannot be overcome by any effort of any person because every person who is trying to put forth an effort in the direction of overcoming space, time and cause is already involved in space, time and cause. So there is no ordinary, empirical, sensory, physical, material way of getting over this mortality of existence. We have to seek a super-natural method which is not an intellectual, rational, scientific method. ‘Intuitive method’ is the name we give to it. Though this word is uttered, we will not know what it actually means.

The knowledge that we have that we exist is an intuition; it is not a perception. Even if we close our eyes, plug our ears, and desensitise all our sense organs, we will know that we are. This knowledge that we are is an indication of what we consider as intuitive grasp. We need not require a proof to demonstrate that we are existing, while we may require a proof to show that other things are existing. What is the proof that we are existing? There is no proof because every proof proceeds from the fact of our existence. The fact that we exist does not require a proof inasmuch as it is the basis of every other proof. I am. There is no proof for this I am-ness.

Now, forgetting for the time being the way in which we proceed with arguments and logical analysis on the basis of this assumption of our existence, we have to pinpoint our attention on what this ‘I’ is to which I made reference as the wholeness in us. By communion of this wholeness with the wholeness of other things, we find ourselves in a state of yoga. This wholeness in us is the ‘I’, which cannot be dismembered, cut into parts. We cannot cut the ‘I’ into two parts – half the ‘I’ is there, half the ‘I’ is somewhere else. A limb can be severed, but the ‘I’ cannot be so split because the ‘I’ is not an object. It is not a substance, it is not a thing, it cannot be grasped even by the mind itself because the mind was not there in sleep and yet we know that we were. We knew that we were only by our ‘I’. The ‘I’ knew itself: I am I.

The ‘I’ was known not by the senses or the psychological apparatus of knowledge, but by an intuitive self-identical consciousness. We are poverty-stricken in words here. Language cannot explain what this is. Self-identical means the ‘I’ is one with the ‘I’; it cannot be identical with anything else. This union of the ‘I’ as a subject with its own self as an object is called intuition. This must apply to everything else in the world also in the way the ‘I’ in us, the ‘I’ that we are, is the subject as well as the object. It knows itself as existing in the state of deep sleep, not as something outside in space and time. There was no consciousness of space and time in deep sleep.

What was that ‘I’ which existed in the state of deep sleep? This is ‘I am I’. Even the ‘am’ should not exist there as a verb; that also is a dichotomy. We are splitting the ‘I’ into two parts, as it were, logically though, by introducing a verb called ‘am’. I said language is not intended to explain reality. Ananya-prokte gatir atra nāsty (Katha 1.2.8), says the Upanishad. A non-separate person, non-separate consciousness, non-separate being only can communicate this non-separate knowledge to the non-separate disciple. Naiṣā tarkeṇa matir āpaneyā, proktānyenaiva sujñānāya preṣṭha (Katha 1.2.9): No amount of argument will suffice here. The argument has to cease. The disciple has to unite himself or herself or itself, or whatever we may call it. All he, she, it ceases here when the disciple stands as a naked spirit before the Guru. It is not a man or a woman that is a disciple; it is a spirit, a spark of light that inwardly surrenders itself to the light that is Guru – who is not a body. Remember this point again.

This ‘I’ that we are, which is not the physical body or the mind, is the mystery that we are. Every person, every organism is a mystery by itself. That is why it asserts itself as ‘I am I’. This is why we want respect, we want a word of thanks, we want to be received properly with a warm welcome, we want to be spoken to with a kind word, we wish that our existence be recognised by others. Otherwise, we feel slighted. “Oh, I was not even looked at. I went there. They didn’t speak to me. I was nobody.” Our greatness has not been diminished merely because others have not spoken to us. Our greatness is still there. Yet we feel as if we are disregarded because of the non-recognition meted out to us by other people. We wish that our existence be recognised. There is no other desire in a person except this. This is the last desire that a person has. We may call it egoism in a crude form, but it is a subtle, peculiar, mysterious so-called something which defies definition – this ‘I am I’ which wants to be recognised: I am here.

There is another difficulty with us. When we are there, nobody else should be there. This is why there is a desire to be a despot, a tyrant and a dictator. People wish to be dictators and rulers of the whole world and nobody should stand against them. “I am everything.” This desire to assert oneself as the all is also a reflection of our essential nature, crudely manifested in a distorted way as a tyrant or a dictator, which is an unfortunate morbid manifestation of our essential nature.

Now I will tell you why we wish to be tyrants and dictators. The desire is piously motivated, spiritually oriented, but outwardly it becomes a demon because it passes through the body and social relations, as a clean light from the sun may get split into various segments when it passes through a prism. This ‘I’ that we are, which was the residuum of the last remnant that we could discover in the state of deep sleep, is not a physical body, not a psychological operation, but a mere awareness, a consciousness. This consciousness is the reason why we are able to remember that we slept yesterday. “I was sleeping well, and I was happy though I was not thinking anything.” Who is saying this? We did not exist there as a mind to say this, yet memory persists subsequent to the fact of sleeping. By inference from this memory we can draw a conclusion that there was something from which we draw the inference. That something could not have been anything other than the bare principle of experience or consciousness.

Now, this so-called ‘I’ or experience, which is consciousness, cannot be split or cut like the limbs of the body. It is indivisible. Akhanda is consciousness. This consciousness cannot be cut into parts because the very consciousness of the division among consciousness is also a consciousness. To imagine that consciousness is separated into parts, consciousness should be present even in the gap between the imagined parts. This shows that consciousness cannot be separated. It is indivisible, and indivisibility is the same as infinity. Our essential nature is indivisible infinitude. It is not some person sitting here. This is revealed by a very acute inferential logical analysis of our true nature. We are infinite, and there cannot be two infinites. Only one infinite can be there. So this consciousness which is the Infinite, which cannot brook a second, devilishly manifests itself through the body and becomes a dictator, and says “I alone should be; you all go to hell”. This is the reason why there is pride and joy in the satisfaction of the ego. The joy of the ego is due to the joy arising out of the Infinite that we are wrongly getting deflected through the limited aperture of our wrongly oriented egoism. That is the reason why we want to be a totalitarian dictator, an emperor of the whole Earth, or the whole universe if possible.

Now I am coming to the point of the practice of yoga. This little ‘I’ in us, in spite of the fact that we are only a crawling insect like an ant, is nevertheless a whole. The Infinite cannot be cut into parts as bees, ants, human beings, etc. It is wholly present even in the fragment of the body. The Infinite is wholly present even in a part. This is a difficult thing for the mind to understand. Inasmuch as the total Infinite is present even in the smallest grain of sand, every creature feels that it is a whole in itself and it is not a part. This wholeness which persists even in the little individuality of a human individual, a human personality, is to be taken advantage of in the practice of yoga.

So when we concentrate on whatever be the object of our meditation, the whole of us should go towards it. True love is the whole being of ours pouring forth in the direction of that object which we truly love. But in our affections, we are not wholly loving anything. We have always a reserve; we always fragmentarily love things, with dissected affections scattered over different things in the world. So it is that we are not honest lovers of anything in this world. There is always some little bit of reservation on our part. But in yoga, no such reservation is permissible.

In self-surrender, in the dedication of oneself to the Guru, for instance, we cannot reserve something for ourselves and give a part to the Guru or a god. This wholeness in us is that which contemplates in the art of meditation. It is not merely the mind or the body; it is us that contemplates the great Reality.

Now, in the same way as this great Infinite is manifest entirely in each individual, it is manifest in every other individual also. This is the reason why we are expected to give due respect to everybody else and consider others as ends in themselves and not a means to our end. We are not the only end. Others also feel like that.

The Infinite that presses itself forward as the real ‘I’ and the wholeness in us does this action in everybody else also. So everybody asserts himself or herself: “I am important. I require respect and recognition.” Everybody is an end and not a means. Nobody can exploit another person in this world. Nobody is a servant of another. We become apparently subservient servants of other people due to pressure of circumstances socially or perhaps physically, but really, in the heart of our hearts, we would not like to be satellites of anybody. We would not wish to serve any person. We would like to be served by others.

The reason is that we are wholes, and a whole cannot become a part of somebody else, as a servant of a boss. So we resent being a servant. But willy-nilly we grudgingly become a servant of a boss because other reasons are there which have restricted our empirical existence. We are not metaphysically surrendering ourselves to the boss, though we empirically become a satellite of the boss because of reasons well known to us.

In the practice of yoga, the true ‘I’ in us rises into action. Now, here is a little bit of psychology to know how we can bring this ‘I’ to the surface of consciousness. Normally the whole ‘I’ does not come to the surface of consciousness in our daily life. We are buried beings, like a huge iceberg. The major part of it is inside the ocean and only a little fragmentary crust is on the surface, say psychoanalysts. We do not behave wholly with anybody in our life because the larger part of our personality is in the lower levels of our being, unconscious mostly, call it subconscious or pre-conscious, etc. The conscious personality of ours, the little intelligence that we are exercising, the reason that is operating, is a deflected apparition, as it were, of the rootedness of us in our unconscious being.

When we go deep into psychoanalysis, our unconscious seems to be connected with the whole race of people. Psychoanalysts such as Carl Jung are fond of saying that there is such a thing called racial unconscious; we may call it the Universal Unconscious. We are slowly touching the border of Ishvara, who is the Universal Unconscious according to the Vedanta philosophy. But Jung is not talking of Ishvara. He is speaking of the presence of some peculiar communicating medium among humanity due to which man likes man only. Man cannot think of a tiger or an ass or a cow. When we work for the welfare of all beings, we are working for the welfare of human beings only, not of scorpions and mosquitoes. We are not interested in them, as if they do not exist at all.

This love of man for man only is due to the presence of a collective unconscious, a racial unconscious, the unconscious of the species, so that the species likes their species only. The cow likes the cow, the ass likes the ass, the crow likes the crow, the frog likes the frog, and man likes man. Psychoanalysts tell us that there is an unconsciousness within us which is not only individual but also wider, due to which we are very conscious of the presence of people and we all go on worrying about what people are doing. We do not worry as to what a deer or a snake is doing in the forest. Let it be, let it not be. We don’t bother. But men are very important because we are men.

The collective unconscious speaks through the individuality of a man only in terms of man. It cannot think in terms of a frog. It cannot think even in terms of a super-human being such as gods, let alone scorpions and mosquitoes. Can we think as angels, gods in heaven or the other higher realms of being? A question was put to me yesterday about these matters. There are beings who are larger, superior to us – angels, as they are called, gods, celestials, masters, adepts, yogis, siddhas. Are we thinking about them? We do not know whether they exist. We are thinking only of these little human beings. So this collective unconscious of human nature is human only. We are restricted even by our unconscious, not merely by the physical body.

When we practice yoga, we are not entering merely inside our physical body, closing our eyes and holding our nostrils and meditating on a little flame of an imagined lamp in the heart, as if we are individuals. Even psychologically, psychoanalytically, we are not individuals. We belong to the whole of humanity. So we touch the whole of humanity when we probe into the depths of our being. And intellect is not necessarily the means of meditation because, as I told you, it is a little iceberg on the top of the ocean of this large unconscious which is at the base. We have to go deep into ourselves. “Know thyself” is an old dictum. This is a very difficult statement. It cannot easily be understood because to know thyself is to know what we are. I have tried to place before you the difficulty of knowing what we are. Very difficult beings we are, indeed. We are mysteries almost touching the borderland of infinitude.

This is why we cannot be satisfied with anything in this world. Even if we are the ruler of the whole Earth, we will be dissatisfied. We will look up and say, “Why are other things there which I have not conquered? I would like to have all the space also.” No man can be satisfied by all the wealth of this world. The Yoga Vasishtha says all the grains and the wheat and the rice and the gold and diamonds, all the power and the status and everything that is blessed that is in the whole world is not adequate to satisfy even one individual in the world. Such is the width, depth, magnitude of our being. We cannot be satisfied by the whole world because we are larger than the world. We are the noumenal perceiver of this phenomenal world. This is the reason why nobody can satisfy us. Though we appear to be limited to this body, we are not really so limited.

So in every level of perception, cognition and contact, we have to be in union. Yoga is union – not contact, not perception. In a beautiful verse the Kathopanishad touches upon this yoga. Indriyebhyaḥ parā hy arthā, arthebhyaś ca param manaḥ, manasaś ca parā buddhir buddher ātmā mahān paraḥ; mahataḥ param avyaktam, avyaktāt puruṣaḥ paraḥ, puruṣān na paraṁ kiñcit: sā kāṣṭhā, sā parā gatiḥ (Katha 1.3.10-11).

There are larger realms of existence. We cannot understand what these larger realms are. I gave you one little example yesterday how we can conceive these higher realms or internal layers of the cosmos. The commonplace example that I mentioned is the structure of a physical object. The hard physical substance, so-called, a stone or a granite piece, is constituted of fine molecules. The molecules are internal to the stone and more pervasive because they are subtler and more ethereal. The atoms are the constituents of the molecules. Molecules are chemical in their nature; atoms are subtler, they are not chemical. Atoms are internal to the structure of the body of the object, internal even to the molecules.

Now, you must understand very carefully in what sense they are internal. I am mentioning this because you have to understand what I mean by saying that you have to concentrate your mind by internalising it. You are not going inside a room when you internalise the mind because it is a spatial concept. The atoms are not spatially inside the stone. They are inside in a different sense altogether. You cannot say that the atoms are inside the stone as we are sitting inside a hall. Not so, because the atoms are the very substance of the stone, while we are not of the substance of this hall. So when we say the electromagnetic movements are inside the hard object, we are using the word ‘inside’ only in a metaphorical way, not literally.

In the same way as molecules are inside the stone, atoms are inside the molecules, and electrons, protons, and nucleus, etc., are inside; in a different sense altogether from the insideness we can think of in our minds, so is our mind internal to us, so is the reason internal, so is the spirit internal. “The spirit, the Atman, is inside me,” people say. It is not inside in the way we are thinking.

It is difficult for an untrained mind to imagine this internality. We are using an unadapted language, using words such as ‘interior’, ‘exterior’, etc., to explain what is not meant to be explained. Remember this analogy of the internality of things. This also explains how realms of being can be one inside the other. All the worlds are crossing each other at one point. They are not kept one over the other, like chapatis heaped up. This is Bhurloka; over that is Bhuvarloka, Svarloka, Maharloka – one roti, another roti, a third roti. It is not like that. They are one over the other as over the electrons is the atom, over the atom is the molecule, over the molecule is the stone, or the reverse way, over the stone is the molecule, over the molecule is the atom, over the atom is the electron. All are at the same point. All the chapatis are not in the same place. They are different. But this internality, or the layer of being, is a different thing altogether. The mind cannot conceive it easily. So this Bhuloka, Bhuvarloka, Svarloka, Maharloka, Janaloka, Tapoloka, Satyaloka are degrees of reality, not solid existences kept one over the other like stacked coins.

Therefore, when we are internalising our consciousness in meditation, we are to understand what it is we are really expected to do because yoga is nothing but this. Higher than the physical world is the structure of the mind, due to which it is that the mind assumes the position of a subject and imagines that it is looking at the world. Though we sometimes wrongly imagine that the mind is inside the body and it is perhaps inside the brain, in the skull, and the mind inside the skull or the brain is contacting the world which is so large, it is really not so. The mind is superior to the physical world: arthebhyaś ca param manaḥ (Katha 1.3.10).

How would the mind be superior to the world? This is the point of difference between the two schools of philosophy called realism and idealism. Is the object prior to thinking, or is thinking prior to the object? We need not enter into this discussion here. The point is that in some special way the mind is superior to the world. Therefore, we feel that we are superior persons. We do not think the world is superior to us; we are superior. We can know the world. We can measure the Milky Way. We can count in terms of light years, which are unimaginable distances. The mind, though it appears to be apparently located within our body and operating in the brain, is really not so. It is an ethereal, pervasive electric force, as it were, which cannot be locked up within the little body or even the brain. Otherwise, how would we explain our little mind knowing all these people sitting here if the mind is only inside our brain? If the mind is only working inside the skull of a person, it cannot go outside. Then no contact of the mind with objects is possible. No one can know that another exists. There will be complete subjectivism of experience. Each one will be brooding about one’s own self, and no one will know that even space exists outside.

But we are aware that there are things outside. I know that you are all seated here. This shows that my mind is not working merely inside me. It is outside me also. Again I am coming to the point of what this outsideness means. When I explained to you what interiority means, simultaneously exteriority is explained. In a very, very special sense, the mind is more pervasive than the imagined location of it inside the skull or the brain. This is why telepathic communication is possible. We can contact a person in London or New York by the mind. How is it possible if the mind is inside the brain only? If it is only inside our skull, how is telepathy possible, how is mesmerism possible, how is hypnotism possible, how can any kind of willpower be possible as something exercised on somebody else? So the mind is not individual, though it is locked up apparently within this body due to intense attachment to this body.

This consciousness of ours becomes hardened by attachment and becomes the so-called thinking principle, the mind, which is the instrument this personality is using to come in contact with empirical objects in space and time. We have to withdraw the senses, and the mind should receive the energy of the senses into itself, thus becoming doubly, triply, quadruply strong, because the mind is usually weak due to the energy of the mind getting leaked out through the apertures of the senses. The pot full of water can go out if there are five holes at the base of the pot. Otherwise, it will be strong and filled to the brim. Our energies are not full to the brim. We feel weak, very much innervated, emaciated, cannot walk, cannot stand, cannot think. Because the mind is distracted, it is thinking one thousand things, and the energy is going out in many directions.

Yesterday I told you something about the way in which the senses have to be withdrawn. The senses have to be withdrawn for the purpose of enabling the mind to concentrate on its goal. The mind, remember again, is not necessarily inside our body. It is a pervasive principle, almost inseparable from the cosmic mind. This is why this verse of the Kathopanishad tells us there is something higher than the mind: buddher ātmā mahān paraḥ (Katha 1.3.10). There are larger realities, wider in their dimension, deeper in their comprehension than what is available to us.

Yoga is a difficult thing. It is a mystery because all things that are non-sensory should appear as mysteries. I began by saying this at the very outset. But by discipline, by living with a great Master and receiving his vibrations, and by sincere prayers, gradually one can achieve this most difficult task. Yoga is most difficult of achievement, but not an impossible thing. It is difficult because yoga is the absolution of our phenomenal personality from involvement in space and time, and regaining its originality in its noumenal being.

In concentration, in meditation, what do we do then? Again I revert to what I told you yesterday: All reality being infinite, universal, the object of our meditation should be considered as an emblem of a universal, as we salute the flag of our government. The government or the nation is a universal principle whose emblem is the little national flag which we salute when we observe a national holiday. The little flag cannot be universal. It is a little nothing. Yet we, great men, presidents, prime ministers, bow our heads before this little strip of cloth. Why? Because it is considered as a symbol of a universal which is national spirit. Likewise is the object of our meditation. People who condemn idol worship, etc., do not understand why they should salute a flag or carry currency notes in their pockets. They are all symbols only; they are idols.

This object of our meditation is to be chosen very cautiously, carefully. This is the process of initiation. Our Guru, our teacher, our superior will select for us the proper object of our meditation. We can select it for ourselves if we are intelligent enough, but mostly we do not know what it is that we love most. Ask any person, “What is it in this world that you love most, in comparison with which there is nothing?” Nobody will say there is any such thing because there is nothing in this world which they love the most, superlatively. Everything is loved little by little, but wholeheartedly, entirely, completely, a hundred percent, how can they love anything?

But yoga is a hundred percent love for our object. Why should we love that object a hundred percent? Why should we love our national spirit? Because we are included in that. In loving the nation, we are loving our own self. Otherwise, who would be a patriot? The nation is the spirit which includes our own spirit. The welfare of the nation is our welfare. That’s why there are martyrs who sacrifice themselves for the national good, the communal good, or even the family good. Likewise, we are becoming spiritual martyrs in surrendering our individuality to the universal that is recognised in this emblem of the object of our meditation. We cannot see the whole nation with our eyes because it is an imperceptible force, so we keep a symbol and then salute to that spirit by bowing our head before the symbol. Likewise, the true Universal cannot be seen, and hence we require a symbol. How can we think the Absolute except through a symbol or some medium on which we can hang the coat of our mind? It requires a nail to hang upon.

This object of our meditation, therefore, is not one among the many objects. The nation is not one person; it is all the persons. Thus it is that the object of our meditation is not one object. The fact that we somehow or other get into the wrong notion that the object on which we are meditating is one among the many things is the reason why the mind jumps from object to object. If we somehow believe that the national spirit is only one little petty thing, how can we love our nation? Unless we are sure that the welfare of the whole nation is our welfare and we are included in it and everybody is included in it, we cannot pay respect to our national spirit. Thus it is that we cannot truly love or pay respect to our object of meditation if we think it is one petty object. It is a little idol made of stone or wood, etc. It is not wood, it is not stone. It is the vibrating centre of the whole Universal for our purpose.

You must have heard that great saints talk to idols. Great masters such as Tukaram, Purandaradas, could make the idol of Panduranga dance on the two bricks on which the idol is supposed to be standing in Pandharpur. Who can imagine this mystery? There was a lady who could daily dance with Sri Venkateswara in Tirupati. She was a great devotee who would dress herself beautifully every night and go out of the house at about 11:00 pm. Nobody would know where this nicely dressed lady was going at midnight. She used to return about 5:00 in the morning tired, exhausted, perspiring, as if she had done hard work. People were wondering where this lady went every night. She went beautifully dressed at about 11:00 in the night and came back tired in the morning. What was happening to this person? Perhaps Purandaradas himself wanted to know what this great lady was doing. The saint was directed to her. He went, and saw this miracle of this lady going every night and coming back in the early morning exhausted, perspiring, with heaving breath. He was not able to understand, and he could not ask her.  One day he could not contain himself. He could not any more tolerate this sight. He asked, “Mother, where are you going every day? Every night you are missing here, and you come back tired.”

“I am glad that you put this question. I shall tell you where I am going,” she replied.

The story goes that Purandaradas, the great saint, was given this blessing of visualising as to what was happening in the night in Tirupati’s holy of holies. She was summoning Lord Venkateswara. A live being was emanating from that image, and Narayana was dancing with this lady, and a rasa dance was going on there, and she returned tired in the early morning when that Great Being once again entered that idol of Tirupati Venkateswara.

Well, this is by the way, a kind of digression to point out how the universals can dance in little particulars, and the whole world is a dance of these universals. Else, governments cannot exist, money cannot exist, we cannot ask for anything, we would not be praying to God, and we would not be working hard in this world which is so mortal. All this drama of the universe can be explained only by the fact of the Universal being present in every little particular. Sri Krishna was present with every Gopi in the Rasa dance. This is a symbolic description, a Puranic illustration of God being present imminently, infinitely – underline the word. In every little particular, with every little Gopi, who was an individual, Sri Krishna, the Whole Immanent, Infinite, was present.

Narada went to Dwarka to see how Sri Krishna was living with 16,000 women. He could not understand how one person can be with 16,000. Narada found the one Lord in each place. In one house, in one palace, he was receiving guests, in another palace he was performing agnihotra and offering sacred oblation in the fire, in a third place he was taking lunch, and in a fourth place he was taking rest. He was there in every place simultaneously. The Universal was present in every particular.

Now I am digressing again to stimulate your minds a little bit into the fact that the world is not wholly material and you are not physical bodies, and the truths of things are not exhausted by what you see with your eyes. The object of your meditation, therefore, is a universal that is implanted in that little object, such as Narayana in the Tirupati Venkateswara image, the whole economic power in a currency note, and the electric force or the electromagnetic energy contained in an atom. You know the power of the atom. It can burst and devastate even large areas. The universal force is present even in an atom.

Thus, again to come to the point, the object of your meditation is a degree of the Universal envisaged by the wholeness of you. I am repeating this word again and again so that you may not forget what I am telling you. Your mind is not thinking, your body is not participating. The whole ‘I am I’, the real you which is indivisible, the emblem of the Infinite within is contemplating the emblem of the Infinite which is outside. The Infinite is coming in contact with the Infinite, as it were. This is meditation, this is samadhi. What is samadhi, what is samapatti? The whole that is in you is united with the whole that is outside. “The Alone flies to the Alone,” said Plotinus.

Hence, meditation is a wonder, a miracle; nothing can be equal to it. What happens to you in meditation? You touch the spirit of the universe. You become the friend of everybody: sarvabhūtahite ratāḥ (Gita 12.4). There is nothing that you lack afterwards. Don’t say, “I have no time for meditation. I have got other engagements.” What engagements have you got other than this? What a poor mind we have got! How frail we are in our thinking and how despicable is our reason when we complain that we have no time for meditation. This is because we are somehow given to the wrong notion again that this meditation is one little official duty that we are performing in a corner, like going to a factory or a school or a college. No, it is not like that. The object of meditation is not one particular among many other particulars. It is the whole that we are envisaging through the wholeness that we are. This unity is called samadhi.

This union is not experienced by reason, argument, inference, deduction and induction, etc. By direct unity all rejoicing, satisfaction or any kind of delight is a loss of personality. The more we lose our personality, the more are we happy. In intense joy, in aesthetic perceptions and experiences, in musical performances which we participate in, and dance performances or even cinema, for instance, if we completely get absorbed in the thing that we see, we do not know that we are existing. The measure of the loss of our self-consciousness is the measure of the joy that we feel.

The measure of the loss of self-consciousness means the measure of the loss of the individuality in which we are encased, and the entry into the universality which is our goal. When we enter into an object, we become universal, larger, and therefore, we are happy. When we embrace our friend – “My dear, how are you?” – this joy by embracing a person arises because we become larger in our comprehension at that time because two are there instead of one; there is at least some little extension. This little body is becoming two bodies under the impression that the one has entered the other, though in embracing we do not actually enter but psychologically we seem to be entering, so there is a joy in embracing, kissing, etc., wrongly imagined to be union of one with the other. But the real motive is the spiritual communion of the Self with the whole cosmos. The Atman is longing for God. This is the mystery of life.

And the Kathopanishad tells us beyond the mind, beyond the intellect is the cosmic intellect, Hiranyagarbha, Virat, Ishwara, whatever we may call it, of which we are like drops. This little drop in the ocean is craving to drink the whole ocean within itself. How can a drop drink the ocean? It can, because it is in the ocean. It is not outside. We can absorb the whole Infinite into ourselves. We are not a single person sitting here. We are the whole Infinity ourselves.

Thus, samadhi, yoga, meditation, samapatti, sakshatkara, God-realisation or Brahma-nirvana is the goal of our life. Purusha is the name that is given in the Kathopanishad to this great attainment. Purusha is that which indwells all the particulars – the Universal, the consciousness, or we may call it God. Puruṣān na paraṁ (Katha 1.3.11): Outside the Purusha nothing is. Mattaḥ parataraṁ nānyat kiṁcid asti (Gita 7.7): Outside Me nothing can be; superior to Me nothing can be. Thus the Universal says. How can there be something outside the Infinite? How can there be anything superior to the Absolute or the all-comprehensive Virat? This is the goal of your life, so don’t say, “I have no time, I am engaged, I am occupied.”

This is the message of the Kathopanishad, and of all the Upanishads, and of the Bhagavadgita. This is everyone’s message to everyone else. When one loves another, when one wants status, money, land, property, everything, these are broken glass pieces we hug under the impression that they are the infinites that we are wanting. So we are groping in the darkness of ignorance, searching for the Infinite that we have lost but being satisfied with a little tinsel, a little piece of tin which looks like a shining crystal in the light of the sun.

Manasaś ca parā buddhir buddher ātmā mahān paraḥ; mahataḥ param avyaktam, avyaktāt puruṣaḥ paraḥ puruṣān na paraṁ kiñcit (Katha 1.3.10-11). After reaching that, you will not come back. Don’t be frightened. You will not come back. There is no need of coming back to the dream world once you have woken up. When you have become the owner of the wealth of the whole world, why should you revert to the beggar that you were? Why are you afraid that there is no coming back? It is not back.

Again I insist upon this subtle point of your being able to understand what this coming back, going, etc., is, as interiority or exteriority is. You have to understand the internal and the external in a very special sense, quite different from the way you understand internal, external, etc., in the space-time world. So also this coming and going is a special instruction. When it is said that after reaching God you do not come back, you should not think of coming back on a railway train or a jet plane. It is a spiritual description of an absence of necessity to revert to a lower level or degree of reality when you have included in your being the whole of reality. Why should you come to a fraction of reality when you can obtain the whole of reality? Therefore, it is said sahasraśīrṣā puruṣaḥ (Purusha Sukta 1).

Here is the great goal of life. This is the essence of all culture which unites all races, all religions and faiths, and makes you a friend of everybody. You cannot but be a friend of everyone if this secret is to enter your personality and become the guiding line of your day-to-day activity.