The Problems of Spiritual Life
by Swami Krishnananda


December 12, 1990 a.m.

Larry: I practised some meditation this morning.

SWAMIJI: And every day, with deep concentration, by plumbing into yourself.

Larry: I tried to remove myself from myself, as you suggested.

SWAMIJI: You lose yourself in order to gain yourself.

Larry: I tried to project myself a few feet away from myself.

SWAMIJI: Yes; this is perfectly correct. Project yourself away from yourself and become a larger being than what you appear to be. You are a small person now inside the body. I wish you to become bigger. When you place yourself away from your body, you will become larger than you are. Your dimension has increased, and you can place yourself even in the sun and the moon and the stars, not merely on carpet, so that the dimension becomes so big that you almost look like Universal Existence. You can simply place yourself at the periphery of space itself as far as possible, so that you are so far away from what you appear to be now that you look like an inclusive universality yourself, everything absorbing into yourself, and nothing is outside you. “I am what I am”, “I am that I am”, whatever you call it—this is the technique of meditation. It has to be done every day for as long a period as possible. This is the primary duty of a person. All other duties are subsidiary, secondary. Otherwise, you will be taking care of the pennies and losing the pounds. All the business of life is only a question of taking care of pennies, while losing pounds. That should not be.

All things you gain when you lose yourself. You can gain the whole world but lose yourself. The entire enterprise of people, everywhere in the world, is an adventure towards gaining the world and losing oneself. We are very much concerned about things in the world outside, but not bothered about ourselves, as if the world can be there even without us. When you are not there, your world also goes with it.

So, take care of yourself, and all things shall be taken care of. When you water the root of a tree, you do not have to water the branches and the leaves separately. The branches may be hundreds in number; nevertheless, hundreds of branches and leaves will be taken care of very effectively by watering and manuring one single thing, which is the root of the tree. The multitudinous variety and the diversity of this world need not worry you provided you know the root, and that you take care of. The world will be taken care of automatically, as the root will take care of all the branches and the leaves and fruits.

“God first, the world next, yourself last.” This is what Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj used to say—the cause first, the effect afterwards. God was first; the world came afterwards and you are the last one, so you cannot place yourself in the position of the first. The first is the largest, inclusive of what is produced, and inclusive of yourself. Meditation is our duty. It is not something that you are doing as an occupation; it is the art of being yourself. Nothing can be more profitable for a person than to be one’s own self. “To thine own self be true.” To be true to everything else except to your own self, is not of any avail.

Larry: Is there a thought that I can concentrate on, or something I can. . .

SWAMIJI: You can concentrate on God, wherever God be, according to you. God is somewhere, and on that you meditate. Each one has to choose one’s own point of concentration according to one’s understanding and predilection. Some say He is inside, some say He is outside, some say He is everywhere. Let it be whatever it is. Your definition is for your meditation. Did I give you a book on Self-realisation, last time?

Larry: Yes.

SWAMIJI: Did you read it?

Larry: Yes, at the time, I read it.

SWAMIJI: You might not remember all things mentioned there, because every question that you are raising to me I have answered there to some extent. If you read it again, you will find the answer to every question of yours.

Larry: I find that it is important to go over it, and go over it.

SWAMIJI: You have to read it again and again. It is a concentrated stuff.

Larry: Even when I hear an answer, I need to repeat the answer and hear it again and again.

SWAMIJI: If you read that book again and again, you will find that most of the things will be clear to you. It is an in-depth analysis of consciousness itself.

Larry: I am trying to understand now what Cosmic Will is.

SWAMIJI: Cosmic Will? It is the function of Cosmic Existence. Consciousness of existence is what you may call ‘will’, if you like. The Universal Existence is conscious that it is existing, and that consciousness of its existence you may call by any name you like. You may call it ‘will’. Will is only an affirmation of consciousness. You may call it ‘Cosmic Will’, if you like, because it is Cosmic Consciousness.

Larry: Cosmic Consciousness has taken this form of the universe—the form of the world?

SWAMIJI: Without losing itself it has taken this shape. It has not become, as milk becomes yogurt. It has become, as a solid stone becomes a statue. The stone has not become the statue, but it has all the patterns of the statue inside it. The statues are not there, but yet they are there, because any statue can be carved from a block of stone. Likewise, in the Absolute there is no world, and no form, and yet, you can say everything is there. A potful of ink has all the pictures inside it, though there is no picture in the ink. Both ways can be said in regard to the ink. There are no statues in a stone, and no pictures in ink; and yet they are there.

Larry: Yesterday you said that ultimately we all move towards the Absolute, that this whole life is a process of evolution towards the Absolute. I am trying to understand why the process began in such a way.

SWAMIJI: Again you are asking the same question, “Why?” Don’t use the word ‘why’ in future. You only ask, “How?” “How can I reach that state?” you ask me. Do not say, “Why, why, why?” I have told you many times, this ‘why’ cannot arise. You are finding the cause in the effect—impossible.

Larry: I am trying to understand the cause of it.

SWAMIJI: There is no such thing as a cause unless there is a visible effect. You have got an idea that every effect has a cause, but it is only an empirical way of the thinking of consciousness caught up in space and time. There is no such thing as cause and effect; it is one indivisible mass. You will get the answer automatically, as the answer to the dream when you wake up. When you wake up, you get the answer to the dream. Before waking up, why do you put questions? Wake up first. Then you will not have to bother about asking questions. You will never ask me any question regarding the dream that you had yesterday, because it is clear to you already. Now you are already inside the dream, and you are asking questions. My suggestion is that you wake up first, and then you will find your answer. This waking takes place when you become the very object you are seeking.

Our duty is to move practically in the direction of realisation and not unnecessarily ask, “Why should we move, why have we come?” That question you cannot answer and you need not answer. As you move onward, the questions will be answered gradually, stage by stage. The light will dawn so intensely that at every step you will find an answer coming from within yourself. The question is the actual practice.

Larry: So there was a cause, but not in the sense that we understand it.

SWAMIJI: Yes, yes, it is a cause only in a theoretical sense. God does not cause anything. He just is what He is. But from our point of view, it looks that all this causation is taking place. Our work is to do something practically, and be at it—and every moment you will find some answer coming to you from within. The horizon will go on becoming brighter and brighter.

Larry: So there is no time and no space in reality, either? It just is.

SWAMIJI: It is just what it is. The great word “I-am-what-I-am” is the final truth, and nothing more can be said about it.

Sarah: That one is to move towards God, one is to move towards the Absolute, to merge with the Absolute—how do you know that’s not just part of the dream, the illusion in this dream?

SWAMIJI: It is a part of the dream only—perfectly right. Even your movement towards the Absolute is a part of the dream, but there are dreams that can cut off a dream. One dream can sever another dream, just as when you are dreaming that there is a tiger jumping on you, you will wake up from the dream because of the tiger jumping on you. The tiger is a dream object, and your feeling fear of the tiger also is a dream object, yet that tiger-dream has woken you up by the fright. The false tiger has ended the false dream and created a real waking.

The Guru is like the tiger in a dream; the disciple is the dreamer. Both are within the dream only, and yet one is the tiger and another is the person dreaming. The growling of the tiger, though it is also only a part of the dream, can wake you up by the fright of it. So, there are two kinds of dream: that which will help you in waking from the dream, and that which will make you enter the dream and be there only. You are perfectly right. The entire process is only within the dream, it is not outside; and yet there is a point in it. There are two categories of dream—that which continues the dream and another which ends the dream. Your practice of sadhana, meditation, is like a tiger, though it is also a part of the dream.

Sarah: I see sometimes that the desire for God can’t be as strong as desire for a car, or for anything.

SWAMIJI: That is because you don’t understand what God is. Your understanding of God is so poor that you are unable to get attracted to it. If you give a gold necklace to a cow, will it be really happy to put it on its neck? It only wants grass. What do you say? Now which is better, grass or a gold necklace? The appreciation of the value of it is dependent upon your comprehension of what that substance is. Our understanding of the car is more clear than our understanding of God; the car is a solid, tangible substance and you can sit in it, whereas you cannot sit in God, which looks like a mere thought. But the reverse is the case: the car is the thought actually; the reality is God only. To understand that, active effort is necessary on your part to decondition yourself from the conditioned effects under whose weight you are thinking generally. All our thoughts are deeply conditioned, and you have to decondition yourself with sufficient effort. The invisible is the real; the visible is not the real.

Sarah: What is the meaning of prayer? Is it not meaningless?

SWAMIJI: Prayer? Prayer is an affirmation of consciousness for rousing itself to a dimension higher than its own self. You are mentally asking for something that is more than what you are. You may call it God, or anything you like. An aspiration or an affirmation of a longing, an aspiration for something larger than you, greater than you—that is your prayer, which you may express in words or merely by thought. Either way it is effective.

Sarah: And is it that the higher self is God, or that is still not the level of God?

SWAMIJI: Yes, you can call it God. Anything that is higher than you is a manifestation of God, in some degree; there are levels of God-experience.

Sarah: But does that higher self not also have prayers, and have a higher self protecting it?

SWAMIJI: The higher self will pray for a self that is still higher. There are various degrees of this self-manifestation.

Sarah: And does it go ultimately to the Absolute or is there a break—is there something significantly different before there is a break?

SWAMIJI: No. There is no question of breaking. It gradually rises from the lower whole to the higher whole until it reaches the Absolute Whole. Then there is no further prayer, and all that. It ceases in All-ness.

Sarah: And let us say my higher self—what is the conditioning of my higher self? The higher self that has no body?

SWAMIJI: There are various higher selves—not one. Your mental self is higher than your physical self, your intellectual self is higher than your mental self, your spiritual self is higher than your intellectual self, and the Absolute Self is still greater than all these lower selves—yet they are all degrees of yourself only. You yourself are rising, rung by rung, on the ladder of evolution, upward. You are climbing on your own shoulders, gradually.

Sarah: And a soul, higher self, ten rungs above me (just to give an example, ten), what is it that stops it from being on the hundredth rung?

SWAMIJI: Yes; many, many rungs are there. The cessation is the reaching of the infinitude of it, because beyond the Infinite nothing can be. When you reach the endlessness of that dimension, it stops because nothing can be beyond endlessness. That is what you call the Absolute, and there the evolution ceases, as the river stops moving when it reaches the ocean. What stops the lower from rising to the higher is the feeling of self-sufficiency of the lower.

Sarah: Is it gradual, or is there a point that it is then ocean?

SWAMIJI: It is gradual—very spontaneous and gradual, not an abrupt movement.

Sarah: And going the other way down? How can the Absolute, which is so infinite, even going down, down, down, down—how can it come down to this physical body?

SWAMIJI: It does not actually come down—it looks as if it is coming down. As I told you in an analogy, the block of stone does not become a statue, and it does not come down to the level of a statue. There is no statue inside it, but it can be imagined to contain all the statues, and in that sense you may say it has come down to the level of the statue. The stone never becomes a statue; yet, you can imagine all the statues inside it. The Absolute has never become things, but you can imagine that it has become, because all the potentialities of becoming are in it. It never becomes anything, because what ‘becomes’ is perishable.

Sarah: Then how can we go up?

SWAMIJI: The going up is also a part of the conceptual process, comparable to dream. Actually the process does not exist at all. It doesn’t take place, but your consciousness is involved in such a peculiar form of network that it looks as if there is a gradual movement. As I told you, there is neither a tiger in dream, nor the man who sees the dream, and yet it looks as if there are two things. The whole process is a play of consciousness, appearing solidly real at every stage, because consciousness is also existence.

Larry: If the analogy of the stone containing all the statues is used, then even when one wakes up, by necessity, the dreamer must still be in the stone. The dreamer must always be dreaming.

SWAMIJI: “When one wakes up” means what? Who wakes up?

Larry: The Absolute wakes up.

SWAMIJI: It will never dream again, once there is the waking; that is what the scriptures say. The dream will end forever. If you say that It again dreams, then you are bringing in the question of cause and effect, that It is going to cause something to become the effect. That It has caused an effect is a conceptional necessity. In the Absolute, the concept of cause ceases, and it will never take place again.

That there is a possibility of its coming up again is a thought that arises in the bound mind because you have decided that it has already taken place. It is an involvement in the mind due to the feeling that a cause is already there, and that, once again, it can take place, but the point is that it was not there, and so it will not be there. The causal relation is the direct corollary of the very structural pattern of all thinking, the very law of phenomenal perception.

Larry: So, if it is not there, it is not there now, either?

SWAMIJI: It is not there even now, but you cannot accommodate yourself to that thought; therefore, you have to move through the process of imagining that there is a cause. You have to accept that there is a tiger, as in dream perception. It will cause your waking, though it is not there finally. You can gain assistance from even non-existent things, provided that you believe that they are existing there, as in the case of an x in a mathematical equation.

Larry: But to suggest that one will wake up means a continuance of time—means change.

SWAMIJI: The waking up is a part of your process in time only, but time negates itself when it reaches infinitude; then the dream vanishes. The process of time will cease when it reaches All-ness. That is why I am saying that your meditation should be on an infinitude of consciousness, so that the time process will cease and a timeless experience ensues.

Larry: Then, there never was a world.

SWAMIJI: There never was a world, and there can never be one. It is difficult to reach God. It is grand to hear all these things, though it appears to be so difficult. You will find finally that there is nothing so difficult as God-experience, and yet nothing so simple as attainment. In a trice you will understand what it is. It is simple because it is yourself, and it is also difficult because it is yourself. Nobody can be so difficult as yourself. Everybody else is simple; you are the difficult thing. The nearer is a thing to you, the more difficult it becomes to comprehend. You can understand the stars and the moon and all these, astronomically, but you cannot understand yourself because of the absence of distance between that which knows and that which is known. It is a quandary that you yourself are a problem and yet you cannot be a problem to yourself.

Larry: If one person wakes up…

SWAMIJI: There is no question of one person. When you wake up from a dream, all the friends that you saw in the dream also have woken up. They are not sitting there separately in your erstwhile dream, once you are awake.

Larry: Yesterday, you said that we are all like drops in the ocean.

SWAMIJI: Yes; all those friends that you saw in dream, you may consider are in the ocean of your dream.

Larry: But then that is my question: Is the ocean only in my mind? Or is it there by itself?

SWAMIJI: There is no question of my mind. Who was it that was dreaming that there are many people? Was it the friend’s mind dreaming or you are dreaming?

Larry: I am dreaming.

SWAMIJI: What about that friend’s mind, who also saw a friend in the dream? Do you think he has no mind? Or he may be dreaming that you are dreaming him!

Larry: No, I imagined him to have a mind.

SWAMIJI: Why don’t you think that he is imagining you? He is as real as you are.

Larry: Because it is my dream.

SWAMIJI: It may be his dream! You may be in his dream.

Larry: That is what I mean. So, if he is a separate drop in the ocean. . .

SWAMIJI: Actually, the dreamer is neither your mind nor his mind. It is something collective—a total mind, which includes both you and others. It is not your mind that is dreaming, nor the mind of the person who you are seeing. It is something connecting all things put together, including the mountains, etc. There is a total mind, an all-mind working, whether in dream or waking. All thought is a gestalt, a total.

Larry: Then, it is not a question of me waking up; it’s a question of the Absolute waking up.

SWAMIJI: It is not ‘me’ in the sense of ‘one’ person. It is a total mind waking up continuously, and all that you see there is within the total framework, including the dreamer. It is a holistic rising, not one single individual separately waking.

Larry: Then, the effort that I make to wake up is…

SWAMIJI: This ‘I’ is a tricky word that you are using, for it can mean many things.

Larry: All right, the effort that my ego…

SWAMIJI: No; even when you say ‘ego’, carefully you have to use that word. Your ego is not sitting inside your body. It has already touched that about which you are talking, and it is connected with that which you are seeing with your eyes, and it is inseparable from that which you are knowing when you are speaking, so that you cannot say that your ego is inside the body. If it were inside the body, it could not even know that there is something outside it. So, even in ordinary language, in common parlance, there seems to be a mistake that one is making in thinking that the ego is within oneself. If it is totally inside, how will you know that there is something outside? It is not just inside; it is outside also to the extent of the location of that which it is thinking or knowing. Even now you are outside yourself, without which phenomenon you would not know that there is a thing outside you.

Larry: Am I not, is my ego not, aware that there is something outside of myself because of the senses?

SWAMIJI: The ego is unconsciously connected to all things that it knows, but consciously it feels that it is only inside the body. There are levels of mind, conscious and unconscious, both. If it is totally inside, you will be locked up within the prison of your body, and you will not know that you have even your skin.

Larry: So if one drop in the ocean has…

SWAMIJI: Actually (unfortunately!) the drop is connected to all other drops in the ocean. So, anything happening to one drop will be like happening to all the drops together. They are not isolated drops. Again, it is a holistic totality.

Larry: So if one person achieves God-awareness…

SWAMIJI: The idea—one person, many persons—will not arise. The Cosmic Mind wakes up when you reach God. There is only one mind operating in the whole universe. There are not many minds. It is not you that reaches God; it is the Cosmic Being that attains God-universality. The idea of ‘you’ and ‘I’ is to be transcended.

Larry: But some saints and sages have achieved this knowledge, this realisation.

SWAMIJI: This is because you are still thinking from the point of view of an isolated human being, and not from the point of view of that which they have reached. They will not see the world afterwards. It is again the same question of your friends in dream imagining that one man has gone up to waking and others are still in dream only. You have woken up from dream, but the friends that you saw in dream, are they still there having lunch? Is it like that? They have also gone with you. A very complicated involvement of the mind is all this, hard to think in a casual manner.

Larry: Very entertaining!

SWAMIJI: I think now we shall not talk much on this subject, because these people seated here may go crazy afterwards, not being able to swallow these bitter pills. Let them all have peace of mind. What do you say? Better to maintain peace a little bit. Anyway, you have taken down all this in this recorder. You can hear it again, and that will be good enough.

Larry: Just one point of clarification: If the friends are in my imagination, and so if I imagine a Swami or a saint reaching, achieving, this knowledge, this is only…

SWAMIJI: That Swami is one of the persons whom you have seen in dream, including yourself as the so-called dreamer. Forget not to think totally.

Larry: He is just a dream object.

SWAMIJI: Yes, that is all. But you, too, though looking like the dreamer, are a dream object to that which is the ‘Total Dreamer’. Beware!

Larry: So, are there other drops in the ocean or are there no drops in the ocean?

SWAMIJI: There are no drops in the ocean. They look like drops. It is a total whole that is acting, the whole ocean thinking itself as all the drops of which it is organically constituted.

Larry: So, there are no friends, there are no dream objects.

SWAMIJI: Only you yourself are there, inclusive of all things. The Alone goes to the Alone. You are there as the Total Whole of conceptional universality.

Larry: So when I die, when one dies…

SWAMIJI: When one dies, nothing happens except a push towards self-materialisation. Only when you attain Self-realisation something happens, seriously.

Sarah: What happens?

SWAMIJI: Dying is an ordinary causal process of effectuation of karma potencies. You will maintain your individuality even after death, but in Self-realisation, individuality will not be maintained. We are now not discussing death, but Self-realisation—the merging of individuality in the Universal Whole. But that merging does not take place in death; the ego continues, the attachment continues, and the rebirth takes place. There is no virtue in dying. It is no good—like waking up from sleep and being the same person every day. There is no purpose served by that, except experience of one’s own thoughts and deeds.

Larry: So, the dream does not end when one dies.

SWAMIJI: Dying has no such meaning. It should be death of the ego-personality, not death of the body merely. The dream ceases in God-realisation, not merely by physical death.