by Swami Krishnananda
The different classes which you will be attending in the Academy are supposed to represent the different needs of your psychological personality, which mostly receive scant attention from us on account of an overemphasis laid on certain needs only, due to the pressure of circumstances. For instance, when we are intensely hungry physically, we are likely to be clamouring for food and thinking only that aspect of our needs in a pre-eminent manner, notwithstanding the fact that it is not our only need.
And, many a time, we are prone to commit a dual mistake in this attitude of our life. Firstly, there is a proclivity in our mind due to which we are likely to channelise our attention wholly and exclusively in the direction of a particular necessity or pressure felt, as if that is the only thing that we need and there is nothing else that we want. Now, this overemphasis on only a particular need of our life, to the exclusion of other needs, may have a dual background. There may be a partial consciousness in our mind of the presence of other needs also, even at the time of this excessive pressure felt in a given direction, but there can also be occasions when we may not be even aware that there are necessities in life other than the one under whose pressure we are operating now. Intense passions, whether they are sensory or psychological, are examples of the condition when we totally forget the other aspects of our needs, and lay total emphasis on only one need. This is a specialty of an over-mastering desire of any kind.
Most of us who are well-educated persons may not be regarded as these specimens of individuals who can be so easily overcome by a single pressure, to the total ignorance of the presence of all other values of life. Education precisely means only this much: the capacity of the mind to recognise all the values of life connected with one’s existence, and not to overemphasise any particular value, which many a time gets identified with a desire. A person who cannot think in this all-comprehensive manner even in respect of his own existence cannot be considered to be an educated person, much less a cultured person. That would be the specimen of an animal walking with two legs.
And, if education is to be understood as merely the obtaining of a paper certificate with somebody’s stamp, then whatever be our outlook of life and the depth of our understanding, we will find that we are not safe in this world – because the troubles of life are not to be faced with certificates. The world is made up of such stuff that we cannot easily understand what it is made of. No piece of paper with us, whatever stamp may be on it, will be of any use to us when the world stares at us with tooth and claw.
All this difficulty, even after being well-educated in the ordinary accepted sense of the term, arises because of what I mentioned in the beginning: an overemphasis on certain values of life. We have today a peculiar trend of thinking called job-oriented education. People are after that, and they are after nothing else. There is no denying that jobs are very important. One has to find an occupation in life. We have to do some work and earn our bread – accepted. This is a very important need. But is it the only need of our life? And can we brook total ignorance of the voices of the other values of life merely because a particular voice is loudly crying before us, drowning out the others? Do we mean to say that a well-placed person economically, and in a job so-called, is a safe person in the world? Is his need in life answered properly by the occupation of a position we call a job? If education means only the manufacturing of an instrument by which we can securely ground ourselves economically and physically in life, that would be the death of education.
It is not that we are going to be secure in this world and be scot free merely because we have bread and jam to eat up to the brim. There are troubles which can threaten us and shake the very ground under our feet, in spite of all the commodities that we may be hoarding in our house which make us physically secure. The tragedy of modern life may be said to consist mainly in an overemphasis laid on certain pressures exerted by the sense organs and even by the mind and the ego of the personality. We are often politically oriented, socially oriented, economically oriented, family oriented, sex oriented and pleasure oriented. All these are not unknown to us in our daily life.
But oftentimes, all these aspects do not come in a heap or a crowd. They come one at a time, two at a time, three at a time – not all at a time. We have not been able to face all of them at the same time; one or two come and speak to us in their own language. Often, the language which they use is so vehement that we are likely to accede to their request even to the detriment of the needs of other values of life. We can commit burglary, assault people – if only our stomach is to be filled with food. This tragedy of outlook can arise due to a hundred percent emphasis laid on one need only: the maintenance of the body, maybe the maintenance of a family.
But one does not know that life is not constituted merely of these necessities. We are neither political units entirely, nor persons involved in society wholly, nor physical bodies one hundred percent, nor anything exclusively, for the matter of that, though it is true that we are all these things also, at the same time. We are sons and daughters of some people; we may be bosses or subordinates, we may be rich or poor, we may be happy or unhappy under given conditions – but we are none of these entirely. We may be something in ourselves other than being a daughter or son of somebody, other than being associated with circumstances which we call political, social or economic. If these associations are cut off, we may be still somebody. Do we mean to say that we will be nobody if we have nothing with us? If we are nobody in the political field, nobody in society, we have no family, perhaps we have not even food to eat – have we reduced ourselves to a nothing, or are we something even then? We will feel that we are not a zero, that we are not going to be a nothing or a nobody even if everything is going to be taken away from us vitally, externally.
But, people find very little time to think along these lines because the greatest poverty is not the poverty of physical possessions, but what we may call the poverty of thinking. We are poor in thinking itself, not merely in our economic or physical needs. The poverty of thinking is the real poverty of man, which is the poverty even to understand what is good for one’s own self. Do we mean to say that all of us are quite clear as to what is necessary for us in our life? From time to time, from moment to moment, we shift our centres of understanding as to our needs – again, according to the pressure of circumstances. We seem to be puppets of certain pressures, and this would not be a credit to us if we are to consider ourselves to be free individuals.
How can we regard ourselves as free in any way if we are to work under a pressure – whether it is egoistic, sensory, psychological, political, social, or economic? If something is pulling us, pressing us and striking us to the ground, and we are yielding to the pressure and acting according to its dictates, do we call it freedom? Have we ever considered the possibility that we act under pressures of various types, and this goes by the name of freedom? Really, if we go deep into the matter, even the little act of taking our daily meal by choice cannot be considered as an act of freedom. We are not eating a particular diet because we have chosen independently by act of free will. We are pressurised by the peculiar operation of the alimentary canal, the physiological organs, the condition of our liver and so on, which compel us to eat only this food and not that, so even here we have no freedom. This is only to give one obvious physical example; and there are many other examples to show that we are puppets, really speaking, though we may wrongly appear to ourselves to be free individuals.
It is difficult to understand what we are really seeking. The understanding in this regard is difficult to acquire because clear, impartial, all-comprehensive understanding cannot operate except as an expression of real freedom of what we really are. The expression of what we really are – not what we appear to be – is what we call freedom. But most of us are appearances rather than realities. We work in a particular manner because we are something politically, something socially, something in relation to something, something physically, and something under a given psychological condition. We are always something under some condition, and because we are tentatively something in that condition, we have to behave in a particular manner. That manner in which we behave under a given condition due to a tentative pressure, whether it is external or internal, cannot be regarded as an act of real freedom, because freedom is what we exercise from the bottom of the truth of our being. Unless we know what we really are, we cannot know what freedom is. Merely shouting slogans of freedom cannot make us free, because these slogans are again an outcome of the herd instinct. If many people say something, we also believe it is so. We are always under the pressure of something or the other, from morning to evening, and we never have the leisure to think independent of these conditions which are hanging on us.
We are grief-stricken. Sometimes knowingly, sometimes unknowingly, we have a sorrow in our minds. We are not really happy people, and we try to appear as if we are happy by drinking, by eating, by a diversion, by going to a picture house, by dancing in a club or by running from place to place in high-speed vehicles. For the time being, we have forgotten that the devil is behind us. If we run fast, the devil is unable to catch us. But it shall catch us, one day or the other.
And what is this devil? It is that which we are unable to understand, that which escapes our attention, that mystery of life which we are unable to probe into. That is the devil that is trying to catch us. And we are trying to run away from it by various gadgets, physical as well as psychological, that we manufacture. We have a blanket to cover ourselves with when it is very cold, we have an electric fan when it is very hot, we have some food to eat when we are hungry, and we have various other entertainments when we are bored with our existence. This is a type of escapist life that we are living – a running away from a problem, and not a solution of a problem.
These difficulties are natural to humanity as a whole. It is not my problem or your problem or anybody’s problem; it is perhaps inseparable from the species of humanity. Particularly in our studies, we have to confine ourselves to the factors which go with human nature. We are human beings, and there is no great point in our going into the details of what we would be if we were not human beings. We have to take reality as it is itself. As human beings, we have certain limitations and we have certain privileges. We have a privilege and a facility – an advantage especially endowed upon us as human beings – when compared with the other species like the animals, the plants, or inanimate matter. But we have certain weaknesses also, and we know very well what the human weaknesses are. We cannot face the forces of nature. We cannot face even an animal; it has strength greater than ours. But we have certain other facilities by which we can get over these problems created by the weaknesses of human nature.
A correct understanding of ourself is essential before we try to understand what is outside us. With the so-called scientific outlook prevalent these days, we are likely to again lay overemphasis on external nature rather than the experimenter or the observer, the scientist himself. Is the scientist less important than that which he is observing? And do we not believe that his capacity to observe contributes as much to the conclusions he arrives at as the nature of the object that he is observing? But this is easily missed. We again lay too much emphasis on the reality of externals as if they are all the reality, not knowing that the character of reality that the world presents before us is certainly conditioned by the way in which we are able to receive this knowledge.