Chapter 1: The Phenomenon and the Noumenon
You must be affectionate, kind and compassionate, serviceful, and charitable, they say. All this is very, very important indeed, but there is something more important than all these things, which is the destiny of the soul of the human individual – what happens, finally.
This world shall vanish one day, with all its humanity. If it had a beginning, it shall have an end, also. Even the solar system may not survive eternally. It would not be a wise complacence on the part of anyone to imagine that everything is fine, as it appears on the surface to the sense organs. Things come, and things go. People are born, and people die. Empires rise, and empires fall. Caesars and Napoleons have come, and many have gone, also, at the same time. Nothing remains. What is this drama?
In this mysterious presentation of the history of the universe, the history of humanity, nothing seems to be enduring, and even when something appears to be enduring for sometime, we do not know for how long it will endure. None of us knows how many minutes more we will be in this world, let alone years. There may be only a few minutes, for some reason. We have to learn by past experience, and by history.
What is the aim behind all this pageantry, this drama, this enactment of humanity? Why are we busy? What are we busy about? What for are we working and running about, having projects and embarking upon all kinds of activities, as if everything is milk and honey in this world?
Now we come to what we generally call the philosophical implication of human culture, and human history. There is something super-physical, super-sensory, super-perceptional, super-social and super-personal. There must be something towards which the whole universe seems to be gravitating, without the acceptance of which, all that we do in this world would look meaningless.
If there is meaning in life, it cannot be on the basis of what we see with our eyes, because it is passing. It is a transition, a fluxation; it is finally unreliable. We cannot rely even on our own security for a long time. There is no security anywhere. Everything is dubious; yet, we live and work as if we are immortals. Nobody believes that tomorrow is the end, though it can be. How is it that there is a contradiction in human thought so that every one of us seems to be under the impression that we shall be living for eternity, though we know very well that this is a false assumption? How is it possible for us to entertain a false assumption, which is entertained by everybody in the world?
We think in total opposition to the facts. While the vanishing of all things is a fact, the disbelief in the vanishing of all things also seems to be a fact. Everybody has to accept that at any moment anything can happen. But, at the same time, we have a hope that nothing will happen, everything shall be fine, and tomorrow shall be a better day. We never think that tomorrow may be a worse day, though there is no argument against it.
On the one hand, something tells us that everything is insecure, and no one can say what will happen the next moment. At the same time, we feel that nothing will happen – everything is OK; tomorrow is a better day, and I shall live for another fifty years, at least. Though I know that I shall die, I will not die tomorrow. Nobody will believe that they will die tomorrow.
Now, here are certain points for us to consider. There is eternity masquerading in this mortal frame of the human individual, the great act of the universe which is peeping through every pore of our perceptional faculties. We belong to two worlds at the same time, as it were - the mortal and the immortal. Our involvement in the body, in the space-time complex, in causation, in human society, in anything that is external, is the mortal aspect of our personality. Everything that is spatio-temporal, causally bound and involved in cause-and-effect relation shall perish; yet, there is something in us which is not so bound. We are not mortals basically, essentially, in our roots. The immortal in us summons us every moment of time. That is why we cannot be satisfied with all the treasures of the world if they are to be offered to us.
If the whole earth is to be presented to us, we shall not feel secure. If all the sky also is under our possession, we cannot be secure. Endless is our longing. We want endless wealth, endless possessions, and endless duration of life in this world. Infinity is our asking, eternity is our desire. Nobody wants anything less than eternal duration, eternal continuance. Even if one is an emperor of the whole world, taking for granted that such a thing is practicable, would that person like to live for only three minutes more? No, Even if I have all the treasures of the whole world, infinity is in my grasp, if it is only for a few minutes, that is of no use.
So, it has to also be eternal. Our infinitude should go together with eternity, also. Space and time should blend together, embrace each other in a fullness. You may call this the Absolute, if you like.
The realisation of this in actual life, the attainment of cosmic universality, which is identical with spiritual Selfhood, is the ultimate aim of life, for which purpose we are finally busy in this world. We are not busy for any extraneous purpose. We are active in this world from morning to evening, not because the earth can give us anything or offer us anything worth the while; all these services that we are rendering, all the work that we do, in any capacity whatsoever, is a preparatory process for the realisation of this universal Selfhood – you may call it God-realisation. This is, in brief, the aim and object of this ashram of Swami Sivananda.