by Swami Krishnananda
In the previous chapter we were studying the nature of conflict—a very important difficulty in which we often find ourselves. The special feature about this psychological conflict is that, when we are in it, we do not always realise that we are in it. So, that psychological conflict does not become an object of our observation, does not become a part of our being, and therefore we cannot see this conflict, observe it or study it. Just as we cannot see our own eyes, we cannot see this conflict in our minds. The conflict would have lost its meaning if it had been possible for us to see it or observe it—just as a thief who is detected is no more a thief. The thief succeeds as long as he is not detected. Just as we cannot see darkness with the help of a torch, conflict cannot be seen through. It is in us—that is all, and that is the matter. The difficulty becomes a real difficulty only when it is not known to us as a difficulty. It is not an object before us in any sense of the term. When a person gets involved in this inescapable conflict between the ideal and the real, and at the same time it is not possible to detect his own workings in any manner whatsoever, then the mind divides the contra-events in order to work its way through. There is a twofold mystery about this conflict. The one is that we do not know that we are in a state of conflict, though we are in it. The second is that we cannot go on in a state of conflict forever, and it has to be resolved.
How are we going to resolve the conflict without knowing that we are in a state of conflict? This is a peculiar mystery of this psychological phenomenon. We conduct ourselves in a spontaneous manner—the spontaneity being the very nature of the working of the mind in conflict. It takes avenues of expression in order to relieve tension. All this we do without knowing what we are doing. When we are hungry for example and try to eat our meal, we do not logically argue about how this hunger arises—the physiological, anatomical and biological factors involved in the phenomena of hunger are not contemplated by us. We just eat our food, and there the matter ends. Like that, we just automatically do certain things to resolve conflict.
Now, this ‘we’ or rather the ‘I’ is a shape taken by the conflict itself. There are many layers of this ‘I’, and the outermost layer is the layer of mental conflict. We are slowly going to study what this ‘I’ really is, but suffice it to say for the time being that for all practical purposes of outer life, this ‘I’ is nothing but a bundle of conflicts knit together like a cloth made up of threads. We are nothing except a huge mass of conflicts of the mind. Just as a fabric is called a cloth, though it is made up of many threads, we regard this bundle of conflicts as ‘I’. So we are a huge vehicle of conflicts moving hither and thither, radiating the air of conflict wherever we go, because we ourselves are in a state of conflict. As we are not happy, we cannot make others around us happy.
But conflict is not our true and healthy state—it is an unnatural state. That which is against nature is untruth. That which is unnatural cannot continue for a long time; it is nature that continues. Nature us truth. Untruth does not succeed—truth alone succeeds. Have you heard the great adage, “Satyam eva jayate”. (Truth alone is victorious.) The truth of harmony tries to establish itself in and through this conflict of mind, and we see the avenues of the expression of conflict in very many ways. Some of these conflicts are called defence mechanisms, or we may say certain contrivances which the mind makes use of in releasing itself. Some of these are the attempts of the mind to utilise other persons and the objects of the world as instruments in bringing about a release of conflict. When there is no peace within us, we just try to forget the fact that we have no peace within, and we try to drown ourselves in certain outer phenomena. We just engage ourselves in hectic activity and forget the boredom of life.
We might have seen people carrying their radios with them wherever they go. Whether they are in the bathroom, or at the lunch table, or in the meditation room, it makes no difference—the radio must be there. They go to the market to purchase something, and the radio is hanging on their shoulders. They try to drown themselves in the sound of this instrument, because they have no peace within. They want to manufacture some peace artificially with instruments that they have created, because there is no peace inside. “If I have not got something, I will import it from outside. I will drown myself in a loud sound so that I may not hear any other sounds. I do not want to hear the sound of my own mind, because it is very inconvenient. So let me hear the sound of the radio, tuned very high; or let me just move about from place to place.” These people never sit in any place; they become a permanent tourist throughout their lives so that they have no time to think of their problems, because to think of problems is another problem. “Better not to think about them—let them die out,” these people imagine to themselves.
But the thoughts do not die out, as I mentioned in the previous chapter. They are there, watching for an opportunity to catch us. We think otherwise, and take a very light view of things. We allow these difficult conditions to lie underneath by just trying to forget them. However, we cannot forget the existence of a creditor—he is not going to leave us like that. We may say he is not there, but he knows he is there. While the forgetting of these problems by engaging oneself in something quite different is one of the methods of the mind, there are other ways which it adopts, such as associating ourselves with larger groups of people or busying ourselves with some work of the family. We become a social worker, or at least think that we are one, though we might not be in a position to do any good to society or think of larger things such as world problems, world peace and world brotherhood. We have no peace within us, and we want to bring peace to the world. We become a sort of important person due to talking about world peace, world brotherhood, international harmony and many other things of the same kind. While there is no intrinsic importance in us, we have an artificial importance in the eyes of the people to whom we are talking about these big things. We talk only of the world—nothing smaller than that—and this is one of the ways of the extension of the difficulty of the mind into outer conditions of life. The mind imagines that by going on expanding its field of activities it will be able to be free from the conflicts that are within.
We know that when we are very much aggrieved, we go and cry before someone, “These are my difficulties, oh, see how bad.” When grief is shared, it is lessened. Joy shared increases, as they say. If we have won a lottery we shout everywhere, “Oh, I won it!” Our happiness is increased by others knowing it. But, if we are grieved and we say so, the grief is diminished, because other minds share a sympathy and a part of our troubles. So, the mind tries this device in releasing its conflicts within by engaging itself in fields of activity wider than its own personality. But all this ends only as an attempt with no success, because this extension of the field of work has no end. How far and how long can we go on extending? From our personality we have to go out to society. We may roam around the whole globe, but after that, what will happen? The Earth is the limit of our action, and we cannot go beyond it.
Well, we may try to go to the moon or any other planet, but the cosmos is so wide that we will never see its boundaries. We ask for more and more, and the more has another more beyond it. We have an infinity of space outside us, and the extension of the field of activity of the mind will have no end, just as when we see ourselves in two mirrors kept on opposite sides, we will see an infinity of depth, and we will not know where it ends. Space, and therefore the universe, has no limits.
To try to increase the field of one’s work is not a solution to one’s problems. We may gather the assistance of many people outside, but how many will we collect altogether? The whole world? Even then there are many things left out. Creation is not exhausted by this small Earth. Even if we roam around the whole solar system, creation is not encompassed. The intention of the mind is to reach the limit of its activity, and this limit is never reached by external movements. Any amount of external activity—though it may become a temporary substitute just to forget the monotony of life—life nevertheless becomes a monotony to many people. They just cannot tolerate it, but they do not know what to do with it, so they try to forget it in these manners. But though these may become temporal aids, they are not going to be solutions. We put off the creditor by saying, “Come tomorrow, sir, or after one month,” but he will eventually come. It may be after five years, but he is going to come.
Likewise we tell this conflict, “My dear friend, go a little further—to society, to the country, to the world, to the sun, to the moon, to Jupiter you go.” But he will come back. He may go because we put him off, but how long can we put off things? So, conflicts of mind cannot be put off like that—we have to deal with them. All our social attitudes are attempts at substitution and putting things off, and not at finding solutions.
This was the ground that I tried to pave in the previous chapter, and it is here that we have finally landed. We do not know where to go now, but we have to work like physicians and not merely like sick children who do not know what is happening to them. A physician tries to understand. He does not become flabbergasted by looking at a patient. We should not get upset: “Oh, what a misery!” This is not going to be our solution. Just beating our breasts or hitting our heads against the wall is not a solution. A solution would be to calmly sit and think as to what this is all about. “Why should I be in this condition? What is wrong with me? Why does it often appear that others are happy and I am not? Why should it be like this? Is it true that others are happier than I? If it seems to be so, what should be the reason? Am I a sinner while others are not? What is right with others and wrong with me?”
Generally, though, we think that something is right with us and wrong with others. This is very interesting. “The whole world is dead wrong, it doesn’t understand me, and this world is not meant for me.” We are the so-called prophets—we try to become prophets, and sometimes even incarnations. Psychology is a very interesting subject, and becomes more interesting when our own minds become the subject of study. Don’t become a professor of psychology just to teach the nature of others’ minds. What about your mind, sir, did you study it? “Physician, heal thyself! Teacher, teach thyself! Mind, study thyself!” This must be the motto, at least for a sincere student.
Now, why this should all be there at all is a great question, a tremendous question that the world poses before us. Here we are on the borderland of true psychology, deeper than the so-called depth psychology. The philosophy and the psychology of yoga come to our help here while scientific analysis—whether in the field of physics, biology or psychology—has been attempting only empirical methods. The system of yoga has adopted different means altogether. One may ask, “What is wrong with empirical methods? Don’t we fly in planes and have we not reached the moon?” Well, all this we have done, but we have not done anything for ourselves. We have done many things, but all these things seem to bear no connection with our personal lives and problems.
We are the same persons that we were some centuries back, and our present day’s troubles are the same as they were some centuries back. Two thousand years ago man was suffering from something, and now he is suffering from the same thing. Yes, we have learned to fly like a bird and swim like a fish, but we have not yet learned to walk like a man—this has yet to be learnt. Man needs to be the subject of his own study, because man is the problem. Space and time are not problems, unfortunately. Why should we try to tackle space-time problems? Ultimately, the world has not really been the problem—we have been the problem.
I am reminded that a schoolteacher once asked a student, “Do you know, my dear child, who a politician is?” The student replied, “A politician is one who creates a problem and then tries to solve it.” Likewise, man seems to have created a peculiar problem around himself, and now he finds this problem has to be faced. But he cannot tackle the problem, because it is his dear child. We cannot tackle our children. We can deal with others’ children, but we love our own child so much that we cannot deal with it. We may be a good teacher of others’ children but not a good teacher of our own child—that is the difficulty. So, we may study others’ minds, but not our own minds.
There are some doctors who cannot treat themselves. Though they are physicians, they must go to other doctors. It looks very strange—why should they go to other doctors? But a psychological difficulty is there, and they cannot treat themselves. So, man’s problem is man, and not the world. Our problem is ourselves; my problem is myself and not somebody else or something else—not the sun, not the astronomical world, not society and not anybody else. Let us forget all these. Our problems are in us, and we are the problems.
I began by saying that we are moving vehicles of problems; we are made up of these unanswered questions. This is the outermost layer of the ‘I’ of the human being, the personality of conflict. We do not eat with peace, we do not speak with peace, and we do not sleep with peace. When we eat our meals we are not at peace, because we are thinking of something else. When we go to bed, we do not think of our having gone to bed; we think of something else—about yesterday or tomorrow. We should think of these examples for a few minutes and judge for ourselves whether this is correct or not. Whenever we act, we think of something else other than that.
There are some students in school who, when they are in the mathematics class, think of geography. The teacher is teaching mathematics on the blackboard, and the student opens a geography book. And when the geography teacher comes, he opens a mathematics book. Students do this. We do not know why he is acting like that. He is worried, and it is because he is worried that he thinks of what will come in another forty-five minutes. Likewise, when we are expected to do something or meet someone, we may be anticipating something else. Now we are here, but we may be subconsciously thinking of what is going to take place after an hour. The future is there already touching us, so that we are never wholly living in the present. We are living always in an artificial future which has not yet become a reality to us. We are living in an imaginary world of fantasies, imaginations, reveries and ideals that may be realised or not.
Some philosophers say therefore that the world is like a dream. What else can it be when we live in fantasies and imaginations of the future that have not become the present, and which may not be realised at all? We are always brooding and brooding over something—we ourselves know this—and this is not a happy state of affairs. Yoga goes deep into this problem. Man has to be man. We have to be ourselves and not something other than ourselves. There is always an element of ‘other than me’ in ourselves. A foreign matter is always in our minds—something like a toxin, annoying us constantly. We are not wholly ourselves; we are always something that is not ours. We always have with us something that we are not, something that does not seem to be our nature, and something that does not seem to be real, and we carry these things with us always. This is the false self that we carry with us. Our selves have been carrying another false self, a shadow-like self wherever we have been going, imagining that it is us. Neither can we give it up, nor can we become it, because it is not us. We cannot give it up because we are thinking it is us.
Shall I tell a small humorous story? An old Swami told this story to me. There were two thieves. They were just moving about on a rainy night, and nearby some black thing was floating on the water. One of the thieves told the other, “My dear friend, it looks like a blanket. Why don’t you go and bring it? This is a cold night, and it will be helpful.” The other thief jumped in the water to catch the blanket, but he was struggling with it. He didn’t come back. Two minutes passed, five minutes, ten minutes. The other thief on the bank said, “If you cannot retrieve it, then leave it.” The thief in the water said, “I am leaving it, but it is not leaving me. It is a crocodile and not a blanket! I was trying to leave the ‘blanket’, but the ‘blanket’ is not leaving me.” It was a crocodile and he had mistaken it for a blanket. Likewise, we try to catch a blanket, but the blanket is catching hold of us. We cannot leave it, because it is catching hold of us so tightly. We begin by thinking that something is pleasurable because it is desirable—like this blanket business—but afterwards it assumes its true nature as a crocodile and catches us by the throat. We want to drop it, but it won’t let itself be dropped. It has become a part of our body, as it were, and it clasps its hands so tightly over our throats.
These ‘crocodiles’ are our pet desires, ambitions and cravings, sometimes acquired by heredity and sometimes they are newly created by our own wrong thinking and imaginations of the future. What a mess we have created in our minds. It should be very clear why we are unhappy in this world. We have a cloud of confusion covering the light of our minds, and we cannot see through this cloud properly. We try to see the world through this cloud of conflicts, but because we see unclearly through this mist of conflict, we see a world of conflict in front of us. The whole world is chaos. We begin to see that the world is not all right, because we see the world through this screen of darkness that holds sway over our own minds. This screen has become dark through many layers of conflict getting layered, one over the other for years and years together. Yoga philosophy and psychology tells us that we have been doing so for ages. We have passed through several births; we should not imagine that this is our first birth. We have been living through many bodily incarnations. Through the process of evolution we have come to this present level of the state of mankind. The layers of wrong thinking and unfulfilled desires are all there with us, which we have carried through the different incarnations of the mind.
This cloud has to be dispelled; this is the purpose of yoga. When the clouds disperse, the sun shines automatically. In the same way, we need not create happiness—it is already there. Happiness is nothing but the release of these conflicts and tensions. You become the true ‘you’, and then you will know how happy you are. You must become the true ‘you’—not the untrue ‘you.’ The untrue ‘you’ is this cloud, this conflict—so many things and layers that we have created around ourselves. We have many layers of self—a communal self, a national self and so on. We say, “I am a Belgian, a German, an American.” This is the national self that is hanging on us.
Sometimes we belong to a community, and we begin to associate ourselves with it. We talk about it again and again, and we cannot extricate ourselves from the idea that we ourselves are a part of that community. “I am a Hindu, a Maharasthrian; I am this, I am that.” These are the communal selves . Then we have the family selves. We have got family names which are called surnames, and to each person a surname is attached. It is a family heritage. We have so many associations. Then come the personal associations of “I am a judge, a teacher, a businessman, a professor.” These are also selves we have created, but they are false selves. Socially also we have created these false selves. As if the inner problems were not sufficient, we have created additional problems by adding all these from outside. Inwardly there are also many layers; I shall touch upon these inner layers a little later on. Layers and layers of self are covering the true self. Like layers of clouds can make the sun dark, layers of the false self have made our true selves a mass of darkness, confusion, and therefore unhappiness.
In the previous chapter I was trying to give a broad outline of the basis on which doctors of psychoanalysis work, inasmuch as they feel that there seems to be a conflict between the inner ideal and the outer reality of society, which has become the cause of mental sickness. Health would be assured if this conflict could be resolved by the bringing out of these buried ideals into the daylight of outer life. Then the conflict would be resolved and the person would become happy and healthy. This is a simple analysis of the science of modern psychology and its therapeutic techniques. But the question is whether this society is a reality by itself. Are we going to be perfectly normal and wholly happy merely because our inner ideals and desires have been set in tune with the outer society, which we have been regarding as reality?
For psychologists, reality means the social world—we must be in tune with the world outside. For us ‘world’ means mankind. The world of human beings is called the world as far as we are concerned; we are not concerned with the astronomical world, that does not worry us so much. So if the world of human society is to be regarded as the reality, then the attunement of our minds with it should assure us human happiness. But we saw in our earlier discussion that this is not the case. People who are well off in society are not always found to be happy. They have a secret problem which they cannot understand or much less explain.
Yoga began to contemplate the mysteries behind the phenomenon of unhappiness persisting in spite of one’s having everything in life. We may be the king of the whole world, yet it is doubtful if we are going to be happy; we will have many problems. What is above this world? Why not conquer that? Maybe we have ambitions. Desires cannot be overcome even if we were the kings of this world. Death will come to us when it is time to leave this world. These are important difficulties of a person, even if he is the emperor of the whole world. How long are we going to be the emperor? It may be for a few hours. We may be asked to quit this world to a place of which we have absolutely no knowledge. Do we know when we will have to leave this world? Do we know where we go after leaving the world? No! What a pity, we do not know when to leave this place, and we do not know where we are going. Can there be a worse suffering than this? Yet, we seem to be cosily imagining that everything is okay. In a state of intense ignorance, we may be in a state of bliss. This is also a kind of bliss, as not to know anything is also bliss. That seems to be our final resort.
”But is this fair?” was the question of the seers who saw into the depths of things. They did not see empirically, but in another way altogether. The empirical method does not succeed, because it is unable to link up one thing with another causally, and it does not see through to the ends of things. The empirical method of observation is an external observation of an outer world which has no end at all. How long can we go on peeping through our telescopes? The world has no limits. There are two difficulties in the empirical approach. One is that there is no end to things; however much we may probe, there is something lying beyond what we can see. That is one problem. The second is that we have not seen the truth of things—we have only seen the shadows of these things, only their outer crust. Just as when we look at a person, we cannot see the true self of the person and see only the outer self. Like that, there is a put-on appearance of things which we see through telescopes, microscopes, etc. Qualitatively as well as quantitatively there is a failure in the methods adopted in empirical psychology. Yoga discovered that this is not the way, and we ought to find another way altogether. There is no use merely trying to look at things either through the microscope or the telescope; we have to see through them.
What is the difference between ‘looking at’ and ‘seeing through’? They are quite different things altogether. The inner stuff of things has to be seen. We ought to see the object, the thing or the person as it is in itself or himself. There is no use in gathering information. Glancing over something—this is not knowledge. Yoga psychology is based on a philosophy that commenced with the observation of the fact that there is a deeper conflict in nature than the mere psychological conflict in the mind of the human being. This psychological conflict seems to be based on another conflict which our psychologists do not know. Why should there be this conflict of the ideal with the real? It is due to another, deeper conflict. Here we have entered the philosophy of yoga. There seems to be a conflict between the individual desire and society’s ideal, because these two seem to be irreconcilable—one going one way and another going the other way.
There seems to be a fundamental conflict between man and nature. The conflict between man and society is small when compared to this conflict between man and nature. There is a larger conflict of the irreconcilability between man and nature, because we do not know what this huge cosmos is. Inasmuch as we have not been able to answer this question of the relationship between us and this cosmos, we have not been able also to answer this question of our relation with human society. What we call human society is only a small fraction of the vast universe before us. Just as a finger is a part of a person’s larger body, this so-called society which is apparently troubling us so much is only a part—a very small part, insignificant perhaps—of this vast and magnificent creation. It is creation that is posing a problem, not this small human society. The problem of society is a part of the problem of the world as a whole.
We might not have had the occasion to pose this question, because the small problems were engaging our attention so much. The person just beside us is causing us so much annoyance that we have no time to think of the larger difficulties in life. A person just near us is a problem for us, and we do not know how to deal with him. Our neighbour himself becomes a problem for us. Where is the time to think of the vast world outside? A great principle of philosophical analysis is that, unless one goes to the cause, the effect cannot be known. Our neighbour, the person near us, is only an effect of a larger cause. We cannot do anything with our neighbour or the person near us, because he in the position of an effect. The person near us is not the problem—our intelligible relationship with him is the problem. The relationship between us and the neighbour is so nebulous that it becomes a problem, and we cannot solve it.
This is an effect of a larger question, which is the cause of all problems. The whole situation can be summed up in a single question, “What is our relation with the environment in which we are?” The environment is so big; what is our relation to it? What is the relation between man and nature, the inner and the outer, and the individual and the cosmos? If this question can be answered, all other questions in the world can be answered—the small question of the relation between the employer and the employed, the master and the servant, the husband and the wife, the parent and the child and so on. These are all small questions arising out of this big question of our relation to our environment.
Can you remember two Sanskrit terms? The inner and the outer are signified by two technical Sanskrit terms—the adhyatma and the adhibhuta. I won’t use many words in Sanskrit, but these are very important ones. Try to remember them. The adhyatma is the inner, the adhibhuta is the outer. What is the relation between the two, and what are the meanings of these words? Adhyatma is that which pertains to the Self. Atman is the Self, you know. What is the nature of the Self? Let us not worry about that now. Adhyatma is that which pertains to the Self; adhibhuta is that which pertains to the world of objects. Put in metaphysical language, what is the relation between the subject and the object? While we have concentrated all other questions into this basic question of the relation between the subject and the object, we seem to be confronted by another difficulty, namely, the meaning of ‘relation’ itself. What do we mean by ‘relation’, or ‘the relation between the subject and the object’? That is the question no doubt, but what is ‘relation’? How do we explain relation or define it? We may say a relation is a kind of connection. We think of connection in the sense of links of a chain. For example, one link is touching another link, that link will touch just another, and so on forming a chain. This is called relation, as far as our minds can think of it. But relation is not so simple as that.
We have been just glibly talking about relation. In this sense, when I touch this desk, my finger is supposed to be in relation with this desk. The question then becomes, what is ‘touch’? Is my finger really in relation with this desk? Is a link in a chain really touching another link? We may say, “Yes, it is touching,” but what is this touch? Does one link enter into touch with another link? Is there a relation of one link with another link? In a chain, does one link enter into another link, or does it lie outside another link? It does not enter—it remains outside. In a relation of this kind, which is perhaps the larger amount of relations in the world, the connected items lie outside each other. The child may be related to the mother, but it does not enter into the mother, or the mother does not enter into the child. They are outside each other and exclusive, even though the child may be so near the mother that she feels it as an inseparable part of herself. Yet, one is outside the other.
Exclusive relationship is the so-called relationship of most things in this world. That is why, though things seem to be related to one another, sometimes they depart from one another. There is then bereavement, separation and agony of various kinds. Friends turn away from each other. Relations—the very dear kith and kin—leave each other. There is separation of various kinds, and finally there is death. This relation of one thing with another does not promise actual connection between one object or person and another, because the related terms have not entered into each other. They have been always lying outside each other, and their relationship has been psychological rather than factual. There is no factual relationship between one link and another. There is a temporary, utilitarian or practical relationship which works through life. Something may work in some way, but it may not be the ultimate fact.
We have a working knowledge of things, as people say. We do not have a real knowledge—just a working knowledge which goes with life. We have been getting on with things through various kinds of relationships. The adhyatma and the adhibhuta, the subject and the object, man and nature, have been in this sort of relationship—not really related, but only apparently connected. So we have not been able to know what to do with this world. Nature has always been lying outside us. It has never become a part of us; it has never become ours. We have never been able to control or master nature fully, because it was always something different from us, and not ours. Ever since creation, this has been the situation. We have never been able to possess a thing properly. If we could possess it really, why should it leave us after some time? We lose things, as we say. Why should we lose a thing that is really ours? The reason is that it is not ours. We have been thinking that it was ours, but it asserts its real nature of not being ours when it leaves us. “I am not yours, my dear friend. Don’t think I am not going.” Things may leave us; it may be a person, it may be our own relationships, our own possessions—whatever it is—all that we possess may leave us.
We may be thinking that it is ours, but a time comes when those things assert their independence. “Oh, we are absolutely independent, just as you are. You think that we belong to you, as well as we may think that you belong to us. Why should I belong to you, sir? Why shouldn’t you belong to me?” Why do we say some objects are ours, some persons are ours? What makes us think like that? The others also may think that we belong to them. Instead of other things belonging to us, we may belong to something else. There is a relativity of belonging and relationship. Sometimes we are told that this is the world of relativity, one thing hanging on another and nothing absolutely independent by itself. We hang on something else; that thing hangs on us. This is a simple, crude explanation of the relativity of things, which we will look into in the next chapter.