Everything About Spiritual Life
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 9: The Meaning of Spiritual Living

I have been always taking the standpoint of pure spiritual living, as you might have noticed. I have not been talking to you like a professor of philosophy, taking up some theme and haranguing on it. My intention was to make you not only good people but also divinely inspired persons, spiritual people, and that is why I spoke to you from an angle which is a little different from a professorial or academic lecture. It was centralised in the subject of pure spiritual living.

Here, I would like you to remember the meaning of spiritual living. Usually, the concept of spirituality is vague. It is associated with a kind of abstention from work in the world: detachment from family circumstances, and being away from the crowd of people; having practically nothing to do with the work-a-day life of people in the world; being far away from human contact as much as possible; living physically alone in some place unknown and unseen as far as possible; sitting and pursuing a routine of daily prayer, a meditation on a godhead whom one has chosen as the ishta devata; having nothing to do with this world, nothing to do with people, even with the nearest and the dearest. This is our idea of spirituality.

But there is something more about it. The universe is an organism. This is something everyone has to keep in mind in order to understand what spiritual living is. If the universe is an organism and a living entity which is comprehensive, a totality in itself, then true spiritual awareness would be a little different from the ordinary concept of spirituality as hibernation, detachment, being physically away from things, etc. In the earlier stages of spiritual living, it is absolutely necessary to be away from objects of temptation – from noise, from disturbance of any kind, from interference in your prayers and meditations, from people who are too worldly in their nature – and it would be good to be away from them as much as possible. It is to be accepted that this is a preliminary step that one has to take, and it is very essential. All the scriptures mention that you have to be detached from every event, circumstance, condition, person, or thing which will contaminate you with a desire to come in contact with them through the sense organs.

But this is not the whole of spiritual living. I have to repeat the word ‘organism’ once again. It is the life of the universe taken as a completeness in itself, which you have to befriend as an integral part thereof, so that in a moment’s contemplation in this manner, you feel lifted up automatically to a realm of experience which is neither of this world nor of the other world, but of all things put together. It is an awakening, as it happens when we wake up from the world of dream.

Spiritual consciousness may be compared, in some way, to what happens when we wake up from dream and assume a different consciousness altogether, which is called waking consciousness. The dream world may be considered as something like this world that we are living in. Everything that you see in this world, with all its paraphernalia, you see in the world of dream also. You may be attached to certain things in the world of dream. There are lovable things and detestable things in the world of dream also. You live in the world of dream in the same way as you are living here in this so-called waking world. When you wake up from dream, you assume an awareness, a state of consciousness, which integrally subsumes within itself all that you have seen and experienced in the world of dream. This is another illustration of what an organism is. The waking consciousness, in comparison with the world of dream, is an organism which includes the entire space-time world of dream experience.

If this does not take place, you can be sure that you have not woken up properly. Some memory of the objects of the world of dream, if they persist even in your so-called waking condition, would indicate that you are still half asleep, and not fully awakened. A fully awakened condition is a state of consciousness which withdraws into itself all the objects seen in the dream world also. That would be real awakening; and if spiritual life is to be regarded as a life of awakening, this has to take place even in the context of waking life.

A total rising-up into a comprehensiveness of experience, which includes all that you consider here as an external world of people and things, will all get subsumed under your awakened consciousness, so that you find yourself as a person who is usually called a super-person or a superman. These words are also not adequate to explain that condition. You will be a universal man as if you are the only man living in the universe, because all other men, all other things you consider as existing and populating the world of your experience, get melted down, as it were, into a larger personality which you assumed, into which your earlier personality of individuality also gets included. The so-called Mr. and Mrs. consciousness, or whatever consciousness you have in this world, will not persist in spiritual life.

You may feel this is a very farfetched experience, but there is nothing wrong in attempting to achieve this experience even in our little initial stage of participation in spiritual life. The ascent through the stages of spirituality is actually ascent through several degrees of completion, several degrees of ascent through wholes. The movement along the ascending process of spiritual experience is not a movement from the finite to the infinite, but is a complete finitude satisfied within itself and not a finitude contending with other finitudes. A finite, which faces in opposition another finitude, is not complete in itself because it is opposed by other finites. It exists by participation in the existence of other finites, as we are doing every day. Our life in this world, as persons, is conditioned by the existence and operation of other people in the world. All the other finitudes in this world determine the character of our living, so that no person can live absolutely independently. There is a necessity to have cooperation from nature, from things of varieties of types, and from people in general. That is why we cannot easily live a totally isolated, individual life. We have always to live a social life. This is our predicament, where our finitude as an individual is not a holistic experience but something contending with, participating with, other finitudes.

But a rise of a wholeness from the lower category to the higher category is a different thing altogether. In this little wholeness that you experience even in the initial stage, all other finites get blended together. In every stage of your spiritual experience, you are a complete man. You are not a part. An ant is a complete individual, and an elephant is a complete individual. They are not parts. Many ants do not make an elephant. Each one is complete in itself. So, everything is a completion in itself in the sense that it is not a means to somebody else. You are not a means to other finites, and other finites are not a means to you. Even if you have to live a very happy organised life in this world of human society, you have to introduce into your relationship with people a kind of integrated consciousness so that all that humanity looks like one person. Then you are well protected by people.

The entire humanity is not a multitude of people, but one common consciousness of humanness. All people make one Man only, one Person – that is the great Man, with a capital ‘M’. In theological parlance, we say Christ is the son of Man. He is not the son of any particular man. He is the son of Man, the total Man, who includes and allows the submergence of every individual man. It is a consciousness rather than the perception of many people in the world. When you look at many people in the world, you are not seeing humanity as a whole. It is an experience inwardly, wherein you withdraw into yourself the consciousness of everybody in the world, so that you think like a universal Man, as if all people in the world are cells, little participants in the experience of this great Man, total Man, universal Man, where your individuality also gets transcended together with the transcendence of individuality of all other people. In a way, we may say, this is what is called God. This universal Man is God, and this God is not in high heavens, somewhere sitting far away.

God is not sitting in the heavens, because heaven also is included within the consciousness of this organismic experience. That is why we have to accept that God is not only all things, everywhere, at all times; God is the only Being that can Be, and nothing else can be. This consciousness of the only thing that can be, and the state of there being nothing else other than this one Being, including all other beings, all space, all time, all causal objects, including all things – if you can adjust your mind, your consciousness, to this ascending form of an experience, you are in the centre of the sea of spiritual experience. Spirituality, therefore, is not an abandoning of anything; it is inclusion of all things.

That which is to be abandoned in the earlier stages is also to be included later on. The enemy becomes the friend at one stage. There is an old Chinese proverb, or perhaps it is a proverb from Zen: In the beginning, when you are starting to live a spiritual life and have not taken even the first step, trees are trees, mountains are mountains, and rivers are rivers. When you are in a state of practice of spirituality, trees are not trees, mountains are not mountains, and rivers are not rivers. When you have a total experience of this universal organism, trees are again trees, mountains are mountains, and rivers are rivers. That to which you were attached or from which you were repulsed in ordinary sensory life is indicated by the statement, “In the beginning, trees are trees, mountains are mountains, rivers are rivers,” as it is the case with every one of us. Trees cannot be something else; trees are trees only. But when you detach yourself, when you are practising sadhana, when you practise renunciation, trees are not trees, and nothing is what it is, because your connection with them through a perceptional faculty has been withdrawn. They do not any more exist as objects of perception for you because you have withdrawn the consciousness of perceptivity. But when you have assumed the highest state of organismic experience where trees, mountains, and rivers get included, they are trees, mountains, and rivers, but they do not appear as standing outside as objects of perception.

There are cells in our body – millions and millions of cells which constitute this whole personality of ours. Each cell is different from another cell. It is one point of view; it is perfectly so. But if each cell is really different from every other cell, you would feel that you are a forest or a jungle of little animals fighting with one another, and you would not know what that experience would be. It cannot be called an experience at all. There will be no experience, because that would be a state of warfare and struggle for existence of each cell in respect of every other cell. In spite of the fact that each cell of your body is different from the other, you do not feel that there are so many cells in the body. You can examine them scientifically and see that even now they are independent and are operating in their own way. They have got their own characteristics which make the personality of an individual, the human being; nevertheless, you do not feel that they are operating separately or independently. In a similar manner, in this holistic organismic experience of the universe, these trees will be there, mountains will be there, rivers will be there, people will be there. There is nothing wrong with them; let them be there. You are not going to abolish the world in Self-realisation. In the same way, in your feeling of your total being as one total person, you are not destroying your cells or withdrawing yourself from the existence of cells, abolishing their existence; they get integrated into a larger consciousness.

Therefore, it is the opinion of great Masters that in Self-realisation, God-realisation, spiritual experience or whatever you may call it, nothing happens to the world. You are not going to destroy the world and melt it down into liquid. It is just what it is. If you consider it as a liquid, even now it is a liquid only. It is not a solid object. If you think it is something else, let it be that; it does not matter. But it is this consciousness that brings meaning to all these individualities of cells in the universal organism.

Gradually, you step from the lower degree to the higher degree of this total experience. Every experience is total. To give a humorous analogy, if you can conceive it, it is as if you are rising from the ant experience up to the frog experience, from the frog experience you enter into the experience of a larger animal such as a horse, from this you rise into an elephant’s consciousness and then a mammoth consciousness, and so on. A larger and larger inclusiveness of experience is experienced, but it is not a partitioned finitude of experience.

There is a difference between the initial stages of spirituality and the slightly advanced stages. Ārurukṣor muner yogaṁ karma kāraṇam ucyate, yogārūḍhasya tasyaiva śamaḥ kāraṇam ucyate (Gita 6.3) is a description of this condition in the sixth chapter of the Bhagavadgita. Effort to detach oneself from the objects of sense is the beginning of yoga practice. Effort is necessary in the earlier stages; activity is involved. You are doing something in the initial stages of yoga: karma kāraṇam ucyate. But once you are established in the higher levels, śamaḥ kāraṇam ucyate: cessation of activity becomes the motivating force behind spiritual experience. This cessation of activity is not to be regarded as sitting quiet without doing anything.

When you say that the sun is not doing anything, is the sun completely inactive, doing nothing at all, and only we are active? All the activity of this world, every kind of life in this world, whether it is vegetable life, plant life, animal life or human life, anything that is vital anywhere in this world is due to the activity of the sun. Yet, the sun has no hands and feet. The sun’s activity consists in its very existence. The sun’s being itself is the activity.

Do you think God is running about here and there to take care of the world – checking what people are doing, what is happening somewhere? Would God be worrying about that? His total existence itself is a consciousness of everything that is taking place anywhere. In a similar manner, this so-called cessation in the higher stages of yoga is inclusive of all the activities which constituted the earlier stages. When an electric fan moves slowly, you can see that it is active. When it works at the highest speed, you will not see that it is moving. It looks still, as it were. You cannot see the motion of a fan because of the rapidity of the action. If you want to know whether the fan is moving or not, stick your finger in and see what happens. A complete cessation of the activity of the fan is actually the highest form of its activity.

A sage or a saint, or a yoga student, is not a foolish person sitting somewhere without concern with the world. Many people think, “Oh, you are doing yoga. Selfish man! Go and sit somewhere, attain God for yourself, and what happens to the world of people?” This is a crude, pragmatic, foolish, materialist, sense-ridden opinion in regard to the practice of yoga. If one of the family members in a house takes to yoga, what do the other members feel? “Look at this foolish fellow! He has no concern with the other people. He is sitting independently there, doing some yoga for his own purpose, selfish man!” Yoga practice may be considered as a selfish adventure in the same way as a very active, highly accentuated movement of an electric fan may look like a do-nothing. That so-called idle, non-active, unconcerned, detached yogi is not a do-nothing. He is not unconcerned with the affairs of the world. All the affairs of the world get merged into his activity. The service that he does to humanity as a whole through this kind of contemplation is 101% greater in value than all the humdrum movements of social workers who run about here and there with their hands and feet to do some good to people. Their activity is perishable; it has a beginning and an end, and if you examine the motivation behind this social welfare activity, you will find selfishness behind it. An unselfish social worker’s movement may be motivated by some kind of subtle personality consciousness, which cannot be completely obviated.

But here is the so-called inactive individual, sitting alone, unconcerned with all activities, but his consciousness touches the corners of the whole world. The so-called individual, isolated, unconcerned with humanity, is concerned with everybody. His yoga is the highest activity that one can think of, where he vibrates through the cells of the very components of the universe. This is real spiritual life. Nobody can understand a spiritual person because he ceases to be a person at that time. He is a visible form, a concentrated presentation as it were, of the working of the whole cosmos.

This is also the definition of an Avatara or Incarnation. An Incarnation is the pinpointed, concentrated, visible form of the working of the whole cosmos. That is why the Incarnation is so powerful, like a lens kept in the sun, drawing the energy of the entire sun and burning things that are near it. A yogi is like a lens; he draws the energy of the whole cosmos into himself, and his strength is like the strength of a powerful lens drawing the energy of the entire sun into himself.

Therefore, the yogi is not an idle person. He is not individually sitting somewhere in Uttarkashi. He is not sitting anywhere. He is everywhere because of his consciousness pervading all things. Thus, spiritual life can be regarded as the greatest service that one can think of. But people who can see things only through their eyes and only understand things through their sense organs wrongly think that a spiritual man is a runaway, that he has abandoned all duties. But he has not abandoned any duty; he has subsumed the lesser duties in the higher duties. Sarvadharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja (Gita18.66): All the duties have to be abandoned, says Bhagavan Sri Krishna. Abandoned for what purpose? For the sake of a higher Truth.

All the lesser obligations get melted down into the call of a higher duty, which includes the lower duties also. The love of God is greater than all kinds of love that you can evince in regard to the people in the world. You may love every person in the world, yet it is only a feeble apology for what you can consider as love of God, because love of people considered as isolated individuals is fragmentary, sense-ridden, perishable, and artificial, whereas love of God is genuine, permanent, inclusive, and absorbs into its theme the loves that you can think of in respect of anything anywhere.

All love is included in God-love. So, a person who loves God is not a foolish person loving something individually which is for his own personal satisfaction. Spiritual satisfaction is not personal satisfaction; it is universal satisfaction. Yatheha kṣudhitā bālā mātaraṃ paryupāsate, evaṃ sarvāṇi bhūtāny agnihotram upāsata (Chhand 5.24.5), says the Chhandogya Upanishad. As hungry children sit round their mother and wait of their meal, so the whole universe of beings wait for the satisfaction of this one person who is the Super Person.

You know the story of Bhagavan Sri Krishna eating one leaf from the vessel of Draupadi. That little leaf that went into his stomach satisfied the whole world because he was not an individual person. So is the case of a yogi. Sri Krishna was the greatest of yogis you can think of, and every yogi is like that. You can also become like that.

It is difficult to understand the mind of a true spiritual seeker. A worldly minded, materialistic, sense-oriented individual cannot appreciate spirituality. They will think it is a running away from the affairs of life. Even if it is genuine, they will think it is a kind of pursuit of salvation for oneself, and so on. This is the story that will be told to you by the sense organs.

Spirituality is of a different calibre altogether. It is a working in a different realm of being, and not in this world of space and time. It is towards this end that we are trying to gradually take you, not only for your individual satisfaction, but for the satisfaction of everyone with whom you will come in contact. Your vibrations will benefit everyone who is near you. Maybe, if the vibration is strong enough, it can benefit the whole world. The greatest people of the world are not those people whose names you read in the scriptures, or who are advertised in the newspapers. These are not the greatest people. The greatest people of the world are unknown to mankind. They do not do anything, but only think One Thought. That is the greatest service that they are doing, like Nara-Narayana in Badri ashrama. We think that they are not doing any work, and they are unconcerned with the world. We are told, according to our tradition, that the meditations of Nara-Narayana in Badrinath are for the welfare of the whole of creation, the entire world of humanity.

The highest meditations are unknown to the public eye. Famous individuals, Nobel laureates, people who are advertised, and those about whom you read in books are number two. The greatest souls are Nara-Narayana. They are not seen in newspapers. Nobody advertises their existence, and you will not see their names mentioned anywhere, but they may be doing a work which none else can do. One thought, and that is enough. That one thought is equal to the activity of the whole of humanity for all ages to come. That is the real meditation. Towards this great purpose of the centrality of your consciousness in yoga meditation, which is the aim and objective of your life, which is all the service that you can render to all people, which is the highest activity that you can think of, which is the very purpose for which everyone exists in this world, that is the thing towards which your mind is to be slowly motivated and gradually allowed to centre itself, so that you cease to be a human being. You become the centre of attraction for all things – a magnet, as it were – towards which things will be pulled. You can pull God Himself towards you.

It is a great thing to hear. Can you pull God towards you? You can, provided you can think and operate in your consciousness as God does. You think that it is enough if you love God, but God has to love you. Don’t you think God should love you? Is it enough that you love Him, and he simply ignores you completely? When God loves you, the very particles of nature will start dancing like the rasa dance which is described in the Srimad Bhagavata. The very leaves will vibrate, and the Earth will shake. If God starts loving you, miracles will take place from every corner. So be prepared for that greatness. Together with your love of God, may God love you.