The Attainment of the Infinite
by Swami Krishnananda


Chapter 4: Attaining Spiritual Aloneness

Since the goal of life is a Supreme Aloneness known as kaivalya, and God Himself is alone to Himself, spiritual practice or sadhana in the direction of the attainment of this supreme Aloneness also consists of a development of a kind of aloneness in our own selves.

Are we alone in this world, or are we not alone in this world? There are two types of aloneness. One is a desolate, depressing feeling of being discarded by human society, and having been subjected to an unfortunate psychological aloneness, as if in a prison. This is one kind of aloneness, where an external force is exercised upon us to be alone to ourselves. It is a punishment of a legal nature, and not a happy, welcome condition.

There is another kind of aloneness which we impose upon our own selves, due to being disgusted with certain things, being unhappy with conditions prevailing in society and circumstances around. One would like to be away from these circumstances, and be alone to oneself somewhere else.

When people are angry, they wish not to speak to any person. "Do not talk to me!" is a retort of an angry person. They do not want to eat. They want to sit alone somewhere, because of the intensity of anger. That is also a kind of aloneness imposed by oneself, upon oneself, for totally negative reasons.

There are various other types of aloneness, which one feels within oneself when one has lost everything that one had: all the property has gone; relatives have deserted the person; the business has failed; the stock market has gone down; millions have been lost; the very earth is shaking under the feet, and one feels at that time an aloneness of a wretched type.

I have heard of a person who was always busy in stock market dealings, and in one particular instance, that person lost everything in one second. That very day he died of a heart attack because of the wretchedness that he felt within himself, an aloneness which entered into his vitals and took away his energy.

But kaivalya, which is aloneness, is not a psychological aloneness. It is not a loneliness that is felt by the mind attached to this body. It is the loneliness of the spirit that is within us. Our soul is alone by itself.

That we are, truly speaking, alone in this world is something very easy to understand. All the associations that we are speaking of – money, power, and social relations – are conditions artificially created by the coming together of a certain favourable atmosphere, because when a person is born as a little child, that child is totally alone to itself. It has no property; it has no consciousness of relations. It cannot know that it belongs to anybody, or anyone belongs to it.

There is a gap of some years which we call life in this world. When that span of life is over, another aloneness creeps into oneself, which is the time of departure from this world. A sense of agonising aloneness is felt at that time. In something like a second childhood, the aged person starts behaving as if he is a crawling baby; the mind blabbers and chatters and starts saying anything and everything, as an illiterate, untutored child would speak. Erratic desires arise in the mind at that time. While really in childhood the consciousness of external relations is not there, in old age, at the time of passing, there is the other side of the feeling of aloneness, that everyone has left them.

When a person is passing, relations come near. "Do you know who I am?" they ask. "Do you recognise me?" Sometimes the consciousness of recognition fails. Even if the eyes see, and through the eyes one can recognise who the person is, one cannot fully express that relation. Hearing also fails, afterwards, and eyes fail. The mind alone starts thinking, but the mind also fails. Only the prana remains, afterwards. When the prana fails, there is exit from this body. This exit is, to a person who has been accustomed to social living and a grandiose public existence, the worst thing that can be imagined.

It is necessary to have that amount of wisdom in everyone, especially as spiritual seekers, that when aloneness was the condition of our coming into this world, and aloneness is the condition into which we shall enter when we are departing, how is it that we do not feel alone in the middle, and we have a totally different feeling of having so many things, which we never brought when we came, nor shall we take when we go?

So, all relationship of every kind is a total illusion that is foisted upon the socially conditioned mind of an individual, because if that sense of aloneness, which was at the time of birth, and which shall be at the time of passing, continues for some fifty or sixty years in the middle also, the person may perish due to the grief of it.

But nature's cleverness sees to it that the individual does not perish before due time, so an illusory satisfaction is created that one has everything: "So much land I have got." The land was existing there even before the birth of this person, and it shall be there, unaffected, even after the person leaves this world, but yet he thinks, "It is my land. Hundreds and hundreds of acres of land are mine. I have got so many friends, so many relations."

Like flies leaving one place and going to another place, all things shall leave a person at any moment. Bereavement is the law of nature, because of the fact that association is an artificial, contrived situation that cannot stand for all time.

When discretion takes the upper hand in our life, we shall realise that we are always alone to ourselves. There are no friends in this world, because the association of people in the form of friendship is conditioned by certain arrangements of agreement: "If you do this, I am your friend. If you do not do this, I am not your friend." So, we have put an 'if', even in the friendship. And if that 'if' is lifted, no person can be a friend of any other person. It is a kind of contract, as it were, that one enters into when there is an organisation and an association. There cannot be an organisation or an association of people, unless there is an agreement to behave in a particular manner, and conduct themselves in a requisite manner, for a purpose which is in agreement among themselves. So goes society; so the community goes; so states go; so nations go. If the agreement is broken for any reason whatsoever, the person stands alone to himself.

A spiritual seeker has to know this aloneness in oneself. It is not good to feel aloneness only at the time of departure from this body, because surely it will come as a shock at that time. That we are going to lose everything is something that need not be thrust upon us at a time when we are not expecting it; we must be prepared for it, even now.

When the worst happens we will know how to face it, because there cannot be anything worse than death, where we are dispossessed of everything that we thought is ours. Considering that associations of wealth and relations are intensely conditional and cannot be relied upon – anyone can turn one's back against us for some reason or other – it is necessary to find peace in one's own self. If peace is borrowed from associations and connections with external things like wealth and relations of people, that borrowed happiness and peace will go like the money of a creditor, which will not stand with us for a long time. We cannot live by borrowed peace.

An intrinsic strength should be developed within our own selves. It is not a strength extrinsically foisted upon us by authority, power, election and position. Intrinsic strength is that which one feels within oneself, even if everything goes. But what kind of strength can there be when everything goes? You will be wondering how one can feel intrinsically strong and satisfied if everything departs, and everything collapses. What kind of intrinsic strength can be there? That intrinsic strength comes by our friendship, not with human beings and monetary existence, but by our friendship with nature as a whole.

We are not friends of nature. We are opposed to nature, oftentimes, because we feel that we are totally independently constituted, though the fact is that our personality is a borrowed existence made up by the substances borrowed from nature outside. We do not exist independent of earth, water, fire, air and ether, which constitute our body. But we are not grateful to nature. We do not recognise that our existence is nothing but a borrowed existence and that we live because of nature's cooperation with us.

When nature protects us, our aloneness expands itself into the largeness of nature itself. The whole universe is nature, in one way. Whatever is the environment around us, about which I spoke on the first day itself, is the thing and the substance out of which we are made. Cosmic operations come together in a pinpointed, pressure point-like manner, and form our individuality. Cosmic substances, which are spread out in all directions, for some reason concentrate themselves at a point and create a situation which is called 'my individuality'.

If this is known by us, and if we think in terms of those forces which have contributed to the formation of our personality, we shall not depend for our existence on frail relationships with untrustworthy human beings and unreliable wealth of the world, but will rely upon what is our trustworthy friend. That which is a reliable associate of our own selves is that which will not desert us at any moment. The very wind that blows, the very sun that shines, and the air that we breathe, which are cosmically operating, are the fingers of God working everywhere.

Philosophers and mystics say that spiritual life is a process of the movement of the alone to the Alone; it is the small 'a' rising gradually to the highest capital 'A'. Everything is alone in this world. The connection of one thing with another thing is artificial. Two things cannot be joined together, under any circumstance. Nature's law is aloneness, finally. Nature is indivisible oneness, and aloneness, by itself.

All things stand by themselves in their cooperative makeup, which arises on account of the functioning of the total nature in everyone. Though we look like many people sitting here, we are all little chips of the old block of Universal Substance, which makes us look similar to one another, as statues made of marble have a similarity of the substance out of which they are made, because all are marble in spite of the shape and the contour of the carved figure.

The collecting of oneself into an aloneness by oneself, at least during meditation, is an utter necessity. There should be some time in your life when you feel that you are alone to yourself. People mostly are miserable when they are totally alone. When we have no work to do, when we have finished the day's duty and had our lunch and dinner, if nobody comes to talk, we just walk out to the marketplace or the club so that we may see people and have a chat with them, because to be alone to oneself, unbefriended, unseen and unsung, is misery.

Does anyone feel miserable when one is alone to oneself? "Where is my husband? Where is my wife? Where are my children? Where are my relations? I was expecting these guests; where are they?" If they do not come, we are not happy.

Their coming, their cooperation, their feeling of at-one-ment with us makes us feel happy – my child, my daughter, my son, my this, my that. If these are dissociated for any reason, a predicament that can come upon us at any time, we shall be lost souls in one instant. It is necessary for a spiritual seeker to feel that he or she is never a lost soul. The soul is ever complete in itself. It only requires recognition of the aloneness.

So, when we sit for meditation, or even without being in a state of meditation, when we are without any kind of outer association, we can gather ourselves into this conviction of our being always guarded by the powers of the quarters in heaven. "This person who is satisfied in one's own self is guarded by the quarters," say the scriptures. "All the eight quarters of heaven will bend before you and offer obeisance to you," says the Upanishad. "Be confident that you are in perpetual friendly association with the permanent forces of nature; they can never desert you."

For this purpose, to get accommodated to a satisfaction of being alone to oneself, intense practice of inner enquiry about one's own self is necessary. Big man or small man, with authority or without authority, whatever it is, let each one put a question to one's own self: "What is my value? What is my worth? Is there any worth in me, independent of any kind of external association?" When you are alone in your bedroom, when nobody sees you, when you are isolated in a little corner of your own house, divest yourself of the importance that is foisted on you by external conditions. Put a question to yourself: "What is my importance in this world?"

Sincerely if you put a question to yourself, you will find that there is no great importance associated with oneself. But, is it necessary to feel always that one is an unimportant person? There is an importance attached to us intrinsically, which we have forgotten, and we feel miserable, unimportant, finite, limited, localised, and wretched, because of our association of importance with conditions of the outside world which are artificially made to be connected with ourselves. A deliberate dissociation of psychological connection with things, not necessarily forced upon us by conditions of life, should land us in the ascertainment of our true nature of substantiality, or unsubstantiality.

If we have a strength of our own inside, born of a conviction of inclusiveness and perfect adjustment of thought, coextensive with nature as a whole, there should be no difficulty in being alone to oneself. It is actually a large aloneness, an expanded form of aloneness – not socially expanded, but metaphysically expanded, spiritually expanded. Your soul has touched the souls of things outside, and so that aloneness that you feel at that time is a spiritual aloneness, a reflection of God's aloneness, as it were.

I am reminded of a line from Milton's Paradise Lost where Adam, having being created, sees around him large nature, one thing having connection with another thing. There are trees and animals; they live in a brood, but he has nothing with him. He complains to God Almighty: "My Lord, I am alone. You have not given me any friends."

The Lord Almighty God answers him: "My dear child, do you know that I am alone? I have no friends. I have no associations. I am alone to myself. Do you know that? Can you say that I am an unhappy person because I have nobody around me, and I am alone? Learn this from me." This is an answer that the Lord is supposed to be speaking to Adam when he complains of the lack of facilities of social association. This is not in the Bible; it is only Milton's idea.

In the beginning, the aloneness that we feel in ourselves is most unhappy, most unwanted, and grief is the nature of that aloneness that we feel. "Oh, nobody wants me." Everybody wants us, if we only want everything. The world reacts upon us in the manner we react towards itself. But, we have no feeling for things of this nature, and our feeling is in respect of social associations only.

Our intrinsic strength does not depend upon any kind of social contact, because that is brittle and it can break at any moment. It may be there; it does not matter. Let it be there, but we cannot depend on it always. There is no one in this world who finally wants us, and really wants us. Any condition which is unfavourable will reveal this fact. Do you believe that always there will be favourable conditions prevailing everywhere?

The so-called favourable circumstances, in the midst of which we are living, are supposed to be the product of some of the karmas that we performed in our previous lives. We must have done some charity, some good deeds, some service to people. That potency of good action that we performed, in respect of the society around us, brings to us now, in this world of human relations, a satisfaction of being in the midst of friends, relations, and cooperations. But as karmas perish, together with their fruit, their results also perish; that which has come will also depart.

 The Mahabharata gives a concluding message: "Any kind of accumulation, whatever be its nature, will end in the dissolution of that accumulation. The collecting of things will end in the dismemberment of the parts of that collection. All who rise in authority and power in society will end in fall unto the lowest level. All relations end with bereavement."

Samyogaha viprayoantah: "As logs of wood incidentally meet each other on the surface of the ocean due to the wind blowing in one particular direction," says Sri Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa in the Mahabharata conclusion, "they become friends, not knowing that their friendship and coming together on the surface of the ocean is due to the wind that blows in a particular direction."

We meet each other; we are friendly with people; we have got relations. We come together in a fraternity of relationship in the same way as logs of wood meet each other on the surface of the ocean. But the logs have no independent thinking process in their minds. The logs cannot control this connection. The wind must be blowing from somewhere. Some super-operation is active in bringing us in contact with certain things in the world, but it can operate in the other direction, also, because nature has no friends and no enemies.

When the biting winter is making us feel very uncomfortable and a little sunbath in the winter is very pleasant, we cannot say that the sun is our great friend, because he is giving the warmth when we are shivering with cold in winter. And in the hot summer, if a person has sunstroke and is about to collapse, we cannot say that the sun is an unkind person. The sun was neither favourable to us, nor unfavourable to us. Some operation is there, superintending beyond human control, which makes it appear that things are of a particular nature.

No one can escape death. It is not necessarily after twenty-five, thirty, forty, or fifty years; it is at any moment. The length of life of a person, the duration for which we will be alive in this world, the experiences that we will pass through during this duration of our life, and all the experiences of pleasure and pain connected with that, are already inscribed on a plate even when we are inside the womb of the mother. Our future, how tall and how wide we will be, how wealthy and how poor, and how long the life will be, with what kind of health and what kind of illness, with what relations or with no relations – everything is decided. Inside the womb itself all things are written, and we cannot change it afterwards, because that which is written inside the womb is actually a result of what we have brought with us from previous births. We will not get anything which we have not actually deserved. Undeserved facility is impossible.

All the facilities that we enjoy in this world, and all the suffering also to which we are subjected, are what we have brought with us. We have sown the seeds of joy and sorrow both in one life, and those seeds will crop up into the joys and the sorrows of our daily experience. There is no use complaining, "So and so is giving me great joy; so and so is causing me great unhappiness." We have ourselves created the joy by some good actions that we have performed in the previous birth. We have miserably failed, and done something which is most untoward; that has reacted upon us. Everybody deserves, and then receives.

We are not given a grace or a gift by anybody. No charity is given by nature to us. There is no such thing as charity, gifts, and just giving for nothing. No; that cannot take place. There is no charity in nature; it will give us what we deserve.

Our cooperation with nature, with God Himself, and our inward communication of our own being with the being of that which is supposed to be blessing us will decide the extent of the blessing that we will receive from nature and God Himself.

Ye yatha mam prapadyante tams tathaiva bhajamyaham, says the Bhagavadgita: "As you think of me, so I will think of you. As you describe me, so I shall describe you. Whatever you have given me, I shall give you back. The only thing is, if you give a small quantum of goodness to nature or God, it will come back to you in large measure, because of the pervasiveness of nature and of God. We may give a little thing, but a large thing comes."

Sudama brought one handful of chura and was hiding it under his armpit in a niggardly fashion, tied in a ragged cloth, which he wanted to offer to Sri Krishna in Dwaraka. He did not want to open it because of the glory around – the large golden plate that was placed before him. Sri Krishna asked him, "My dear friend, what have you brought?" He could not say that he had brought a wretched thing. He was hiding it in his armpit and never wanted Him to know. But Sri Krishna said, "No, you have brought something." He pulled it out. He pulled one handful. When it fell on that large golden plate, it started mountain-like overflowing.

We may give one grain, but we will be given back a mountain of grains in return by God. Give, and it shall be given unto you – pressed, shaken, overflowing, not in the niggardly way you gave.

This is the inner secret of spiritual performance, by which we must recognise our true friend, and our true source of succour, who will protect us when we are in danger. Can you think of any person in the world who will be ready to protect you when you are suffering? You have seen, before your eyes, that people who held high power in society and administration are cudgeled and thrown into the streets, as it were. They are unwanted elements, like animals. Can you trust human beings?

Today he is Caesar in Rome; tomorrow, he is a target of attack from the very friends that he had around him. Remember the words of Shakespeare: "But yesterday, only yesterday, the word of Caesar might have stood against the world. One word from Caesar would face the whole world. But today, no one is so poor as to do him reverence." The king has become a beggar in one minute. And if we think we are also kings, then we should be prepared for that beggarly life one day or the other. We deny a little particle of goodness to God, and we become poor.

I will tell you a humorous story of why Sudama became so poor. He was a comrade and a schoolmate of Sri Krishna. They were studying under the Guru Sandipani as students. Among many other students, Sri Krishna, the little boy, and Sudama, another boy, and many others went to the forest for cutting wood. That was the system of ancient Guru seva. Wherever there is a gurukula, the students are supposed to bring holy firewood from the forest for the performance of yajna or havana by the Guru. The wife of Sandipani Guru gave some fried channa to Sudama. She tied it in a bundle and gave it to this boy: "It may be raining; you may be cold and hungry. When you return in the evening, you will find it very difficult, so I will give you a bundle of this fried channa. You can eat it on the way."

It appears that, due to fatigue, these boys and Sri Krishna, also little boy, were all lying down. Sudama felt like eating the channa. He took some and was crunching it; Krishna heard and said, "Oh, you are eating something alone to yourself." "No, I am not eating. My teeth are chattering due to cold," he said. This deceptiveness that he showed to a boy like Krishna made him utterly poor, and he became miserable throughout his life. And he had to come for help from the very same person to whom he did not give a little channa. This is a story in the Puranas.

We are mightily guarded; this is something that we have to remember. We are not without friends and relations, but they are in the original heavens and not in the mortal world. Mortal friendship will perish, like anything that is mortal. Mortal association, mortal wealth, and all mortal things go by the very meaning of the word 'mortality'; they cannot stand.

We want immortal satisfaction and unending security – not only for a few minutes. That unending security will be possible only if our real immortal nature associates itself with the immortal source of security. Deathless sources of security alone will give us deathless security. But, if you cling to perishable sources of satisfaction and security, they will go, and whatever they have given will go together with them.

Trust in God is not simply believing in something; it is an inwardness that we are accepting within ourselves that everything is well with us: "If everything goes, still I am perfectly all right, and those things which are invisible to the eyes will come and protect me."

Spiritual life is painful in the beginning stages, because of the hard psychological discipline required. The discipline is inward, mental, psychological, and organic. It is not external discipline that can take us to God. We may eat only once a day, or we may not eat at all for some days; we may not sleep; we may take a bath a hundred times; we may go on rolling the beads. These are external disciplines that we are imposing upon ourselves, but the internal discipline is that which is known to ourselves only, and not to others.

Socially oriented disciplines are not sufficient. There must be a spiritually oriented discipline, which is the discipline of consciousness itself. Be sure that you are perfectly all right, and under any circumstances you are all right: "Let everything go. I shall be all right. Let nobody talk to me; I shall be all right." For some reason, you are all right, but you must be really all right. That confidence should arise in you: "Wherever I am, I shall be perfectly all right." Why should you have any suspicions in this matter? Wherever you are, you are on the surface of the earth only. Wherever you are, you are in the atmosphere of the solar influence and the benefit of the stars. Wherever you are, you are inside the universe; therefore, security and satisfaction should flow to you from all sides.

You are spiritually alone, though socially a unit of human society. The soul has no society. It cannot belong to somebody else. One soul does not belong to another soul. There is no belonging, because of their indivisibility of character. Our indivisibility of innermost selfhood will guard us from any kind of miscalculated feeling of there being security from unsoulfilled externalised associations.

To think like this will bring some unhappiness inside, because one may feel that spiritual discipline is an abandoning of the joys of life; it looks like that. That is, you are prepared for the bereavement of all the satisfactions that you may have in this world. One day, they will leave you; this is a fact, and that very thought is agonising. But that which is really yours will not leave you; that which is going to leave you is not yours.

That which really belongs to you will not leave you, and that which leaves you does not really belong to you. When you leave this world and go to another realm, you will take with you what really belongs to you. What is it that actually belongs to you? It is what you have thought, what you have felt, and what you have actually been contemplating upon in your mind. That will mightily produce an immortal effect, as your true property, finally telling you that you are your only property.

Your property or belonging is yourself only. You have to carry it wherever you go. With that you must be happy. This is the great aloneness that I was trying to explain to you in many ways, so that this mighty inner spiritual aloneness will take refuge in that Absolute Aloneness of God Almighty.