The Problems of Spiritual Life
by Swami Krishnananda

December 16, 1990

Larry: Why was the universe created?

SWAMIJI: The answer is inside the cause; it is not in the effect. If the effect has entered the cause, immediately the answer comes. The effect cannot carry the answer. The effect can only carry a question. The answer is hidden inside the cave of the cause, from where the effect has come. It is like trying to climb on one’s own shoulders. The effect has to enter the cause and then you will find “by knowing which, all things are known”, as the Upanishad says. What is that by knowing which, all things are known? Know It. That is the cause. Now you are the effect. The effect must enter the cause and you will then find everything is clear like daylight. For that purpose, you have to practise Yoga. Do something in right earnest.

Larry: And is it true that the effect, when it enters the cause, can understand the cause? Does it not give up its mind?

SWAMIJI: There is no question of understanding the cause. It has to become the cause, and it becomes omniscient then. It becomes God-conscious.

Larry: And that is possible on the part of a human being?

SWAMIJI: There is no human being in that stage. There are only two things: the cause and the effect. You can call yourself human, if you like. Every effect has to enter the cause—it must go. There is no question of possibility. It has to; there is no other alternative. Every effect has to enter the cause and be it.

Larry: And then it understands why the effect took place?

SWAMIJI: There is no understanding. It becomes being itself. It is much more than understanding.

Larry: And that is the natural evolution.

SWAMIJI: Yes, perfectly right.

Larry: I don’t have any more questions.

SWAMIJI: It is a great achievement that you have exhausted your questions. Nothing can be greater. It is a wonderful achievement.

Larry: Yes. And I guess I have to figure out what to do now that I have exhausted my questions.

SWAMIJI: You feel empty because all the questions have gone out? When you empty yourself, you will find that you are also filled automatically. “Empty thyself, and I shall fill thee,” is a great proclamation. The world will enter you like a cyclonic flood when you have emptied yourself of the ego-personality. The whole sea will enter you. Now you have blocked its entry. The whole universe will enter you in one second; like a whirlwind it will come and dash upon you and invade you and take possession of you and melt you down into its bosom. Be prepared for that day.

Sarah: In Western religions, when people purify themselves and reach to a high level, they still see God as a king or maybe as Jesus, but still as a figure. Even though they’ll say God is one, they don’t go to the point to say that He is a Universal Absolute Being in the same expressions that people use here. What has stopped them?

SWAMIJI: Their mind can go only to that level; it has not gone further. The mind stops at certain levels. There are stages of evolution of the mind. It can accept certain things, and beyond that it cannot go. It does not mean that the mind will be thinking only like that forever. For some time it will think like that; afterwards, it will evolve further. You cannot expect everybody in the world to think alike. Do you want all people in the world to think the same thought? How is it possible? They are born at different times and so they will also think differently, but everybody will think everything at the proper time. It is a question of time and evolutionary process.

Evolution is an ascent. It is a rising, as you have come from mineral to plant and plant to animal and animal to man; and even in the stage of human thought, there are varieties of levels, and everyone is not in the same level. It is not possible for everyone to be in the same psychological level. Otherwise, everybody would be the same—all people in the world would be thinking the same thought. That is not possible because of differing stages of psychological evolution.

Sarah: So, does that mean that things began at different stages? It did not all begin at the same time?

SWAMIJI: It began with matter, and then became vegetable. Vegetables do not think of God, and you cannot find fault with them merely because trees are not meditating on God Almighty. What do you say? They are also existing in one level, and it is perfectly all right. Just because you have some idea of God, you don’t expect a cow to also think like that. Why should you so expect? It has got its own way of thinking. It has one level, one stage, and you should not compare. The mind can think only up to one level; it cannot go beyond. But, afterwards, it will change its vision by a further advance of perspective.

Sarah: How come there are still rocks? Is evolution connected with chronological time?

SWAMIJI: It is not chronological; rather, it is an all-round, universal movement. It is not beginning somewhere and ending somewhere else. It is a wholesome cosmological self-adjustment.

Sarah: And why are some minds allowed to develop?

SWAMIJI: Nobody is so allowing. It takes place automatically. No one is allowing a child to grow into an adult. It is a spontaneous movement of the universe into higher levels. It is automatic; nobody is ‘allowing’ it. There is nobody there to do that work. There is none outside the world. The world itself is doing it within itself.

Sarah: When one gets to a high level, let’s say of God as king or Jesus, what. . .

SWAMIJI: That is one stage of thinking. You are thinking in terms of time. When you think of anything in terms of time and space, it looks very far and distant. That is why God looks distant. You are thinking in terms of space and time—because space is very wide and it has distance; therefore, when the mind thinks in terms of that, naturally, you foist the distance on God also, and He seems to be far away. God, however, is not a temporal level. It is eternity.

Sarah: Why doesn’t the Truth, or Brahman, break through those misconceptions? If people have gotten so high at that point, why wouldn’t their misconceptions break? If they were real seekers of Truth, why didn’t it?

SWAMIJI: That misconception also will go away in due course. It cannot always be there; it has to pass. Everything has its own time and course. It will break through; it is a question of time.

Larry: Swamiji, this morning you said that the effect cannot know the cause—unless through meditation or through Self-realisation, there the effect can know the cause. In Western religions, I think the concept is a little different in the sense that, for example, in the Jewish religion, the cause has come and spoken to the effect.

SWAMIJI: It cannot speak to the effect. How can it speak, as if they are two different things? The speaking is possible only when the effect has surrendered itself to the cause.

Larry: The cause can speak to itself.

SWAMIJI: Then why do you call it an effect, if that is the case? Why do you bring an unnecessary word when the cause is speaking to itself? You have already created duality by using the word ‘effect’.

Larry: Nonetheless, the appearance is that we have a limited consciousness.

SWAMIJI: ‘We’ means that effect only. ‘You’ are the effect.

Larry: I am the effect, so I live in a state of ignorance.

SWAMIJI: Forget all these words, ‘ignorance’ and all that. You have placed yourself outside the context of the cause. That is what you mean by ignorance. Ignorance is only that much, the effect standing outside the cause and looking at it as an ‘object’.

Larry: I have placed myself outside. . .

SWAMIJI: Yes, outside the context of the cause. And you are looking at it as if it is outside you, and then calling it the world. All the things that you are talking about are this much. You have projected the cause as an external object and are placing yourself outside it, as a subject looking at it, while the truth is the other way round. You cannot consider the cause as an object of yours. It came first; you came afterwards. That is why you consider God Himself as an object and are thinking of Him as something sitting somewhere else. This is what has happened to us.

Larry: The different states of consciousness—deep sleep, dream, waking—are not differences in consciousness?

SWAMIJI: No, they are not differences in consciousness. If they are differences in consciousness you will not know that you have had three states. In that case, each state will be different from the other, and there would be no link of one with the other. But consciousness is continuous. It does not change in the three states; otherwise, the person who wakes would be different from the one who dreams, and the one who dreams different from the one who sleeps. A connecting link has to be there, and you are aware that you are the same person who had the experiences.

Larry: As I begin my practice, what kind of obstacles should I be conscious of?

SWAMIJI: Your own desires not fulfilled — they are the obstacles. If you have any desire that you have not fulfilled, that will come and stand before you as a creditor.

Larry: So, I should fulfil my desires and move through them?

SWAMIJI: You have to face them by fulfilling, or not fulfilling, as the case may be. How you will handle them depends on the circumstances of the case. But, they should not be there.

Larry: Will it not be that my desires have no end?

SWAMIJI: They can be ended in one minute if you only know why they arise. It does not take a lot of time to end them, provided you know why they have arisen. You must diagnose the case. If you know why they are there, then, you will know also how to tackle them. They arise due to some misconception. It is not that you really want anything. Anyway, they can be handled with some caution. Small desires can be fulfilled. Big desires also can be fulfilled, provided they are not going to be harmful or deleterious to your spiritual health.

And desires there can be which you cannot fulfil in this birth, for instance, if you want to be the king of the world. This idea may not be feasible. If you want to be a huge business magnate, though it is not an impossible thing, the possibility is so remote that it may be an obstacle even to think like that. Such ideas should not arise at all. All the desires should be within the reasonable limit. If it is within reason, you may fulfil it. But what happens to these desires is that once you fulfil them, they want to repeat themselves. Desires do not get exhausted by fulfilment. They sometimes become more intense after fulfilment due to the habit that is formed by the mind. Certain desires may thereby extinguish themselves also; others may repeat themselves on account of the pleasure that one feels in the fulfilment.

There are varieties of desires. They are not of the same kind or category. And you must know what are your desires. Apart from the desire for creature comforts, what other desires are there? Creature comforts are no trouble. Food, clothing, shelter — these are the minimal needs. But there are other things that rise out of egoism.

At present, why do you worry about all these things? You have no obstacles now. Just now, you do not have any difficulty. When they come, then only you think. Why are you imagining them?

Larry: Because I know when I am in Rishikesh I have no obstacles. When I am in Toronto, it is a very different world.

SWAMIJI: One of the obstacles may be your career itself. You may be occupied with your profession, may have to give a lot of time for that work, and very little time may be left for you to be alone to yourself. All these are the common difficulties one may face in life. You may get tired, exhausted, and may not like to sit for meditation. These may be the little difficulties. That may not be a major problem. These are minor things. You can adjust yourself.

But the greatest obstacle is another thing. It is the inability of the mind to accommodate itself to the very thought of God. That is the real obstacle. The mind cannot accept the thought of God — that is all. The trouble doesn't come from outside; it doesn't come from people. It comes from your mind. Finally, it will say, "This is not for me."

Therefore, every day you must find time to ponder over this, and do meditation. If you miss it for a few days, the habit will break. If you cannot think abstractly, at least have a little scripture to read which will enable you to raise your thoughts to the levels required. Every day, continuously, you cannot go on thinking like this. It is a question of years of practice. Not even a saint can maintain such a consciousness all the twenty-four hours. It is not possible. So one has to be very cautious.

Doubts will arise in the mind. The greatest tragedy is doubt: "Oh, it may not be like this! I may be on the wrong path. Perhaps it is different." Or, "I may not be fit for it." Or, "What is the good of it, finally?" These are the questions that can come up. These questions can arise after ten years even. You will be wondering how they arise. The mind can keep quiet in ambush. "I will teach this man a lesson. He is pressing me. I shall keep quiet for some time." And after years, it can come up and catch you unawares and make you go somewhere else. That is why you have to keep good company, read good books, and have good habits, and all that is prescribed.

The inability to contain the thought of God correctly is the only obstacle finally. All other obstacles are minor and they will run away if this difficulty does not arise. Other obstacles are nothing before this; they are practically insignificant. That we are discussing so much about this matter is itself a proof of doubt still persisting in the mind. It is not cleared completely. Some cloud is there hanging. It may be a thin cloud, but afterwards it can become thick. After all, "why"; this question will persist in the mind. "After all, what will happen to me? What am I pursuing? Am I in a phantasm?" Therefore, keep the good company of a person who is saintly, or at least a scripture, something must be with you. Nobody maintains God-consciousness throughout one's life.

Larry: Is that not part of the process if it does slip from the mind?

SWAMIJI: If it is a part of the process, how does it benefit you? You are not any way better by knowing that it is a part of the process. You will be once again the same old man that you were years back. You will not know that it is a part of the process at that time, because to know that it is a part of the process also is a kind of understanding. You will not say so, at that time. You will get caught up in a whirl, and the whole thing will dwindle down.

Even those who start with noble thoughts of God-realisation being the only aim in life, often, towards the end of their life, start world-uplifting organisations and think that they are meant for saving mankind, as prophets. "The world is in great trouble. I have to raise humanity." These ideas may arise towards the end of life, and all God-realisation enthusiasm may wither away.

The Devil can come in any form. It will tell you, "Why are you going to God when others are here suffering? You are a fool!" The voice will come and whisper in your ear, and you will suddenly accept that. "Oh yes, yes, there is a point in it," you will think. "Why should I go to God alone? I can take my family also with me. Why should I leave the world here and go to God? How selfish I am! Oh, you are right, you are right. Let me work for the welfare of humanity. I will take all people in a big boat."

What is wrong with this thought? It looks very sensible and reasonable. Though it is most idiotic to think like that, it seems very rational. "So many are suffering, and you are going to God alone? What do you mean? Are you so selfish, sir?" The consciousness of God-Being has been swept away by the whirlwind of psychosocial agitation.

This world-uplifting idea may not come to you because that comes only in the case of very advanced people. You are just beginning to be engaged and so these ideas will not come to you. You are not likely to think that you are a prophet come to save humanity and all that, but it is also a possibility. The world will look so real, people around will be so meaningful, the events of history will be so very significant to you that you will come back to the lowest level from where you rose, under the impression that you have risen to the highest level. So, these are the obstacles, to give you some general idea of such things.

Sarah: I thought when the pot smashes, it doesn't get rebuilt. Once you have God-realisation, how can you slip back?

SWAMIJI: Such a person has not attained God-realisation. He is only conceptually thinking like that; actually he has not got it, It is a notion of the realisation, not an actual experience. The mind has its own tricks. It is very intelligent and knows how to handle you. A guide is necessary here.

Every now and then you must refer yourself to that guide. When you pass through some experience you must immediately refer: "I am passing through these experiences; what do you say about this?" You should not stand on your own two feet completely for all times. Now and then a check-up of experience is necessary. Without a guide it is difficult. Also, sometimes you may meditate wrongly, as this friend [another student present at darshan] is meditating on the point between the eyebrows, and he cannot sleep in the night. There are errors galore, and at each step one has to be aware of their chameleon-like shapes and colours.