by Swami Krishnananda
You have come here in order to gain something. A lot of knowledge has been gathered, and this is now going to be your guiding light and the outline of your daily conduct and practice. When you go back home, you go filled with a new confidence, a confidence that gets gradually diluted as the days pass. It is essential, therefore, to recharge yourself like a self-charging battery by a daily reconsideration of these lessons and a reinforcement of these aspects of learning and knowledge which have been imparted to you by learned men, by sadhakas and mahatmas.
The first and foremost of truths that we have to bear in mind is that the central aim of life is the realisation of God. It is the end and the purpose of our life. This end is of such a nature that it determines at every step of our practice the means that we adopt for the realisation of this goal. This end, this destination that is before us, is not like a distant place that we are going to reach after some years, a place which is practically unconnected with the journey that we are undertaking and the place from which we began. This goal before us is vitally connected with the journey that we are undertaking, and is also very intimately related to us from the very first step that we take.
The journey on the path of the spirit is like the growth of the human body. It is not like walking to Badrinath or undertaking a train journey to a distant place. The journey that we undertake through a vehicle or the distance that we cover on foot is quite different from the way in which we approach God. I give you the example of the growth of the human body to its perfection. We know the difference between the relationship that one place has with another place and the relationship that a child has with the condition or stage of the adult which it is to reach by a gradual organic growth of its personality. The child and the adult are not two different persons, while Rishikesh and Badrinath are two different places. When we walk from Rishikesh to Badrinath, we cover a distance between two places. But this covering of distance between two places is methodologically different from the distance that a child covers between itself and the stage of the adult.
The child becomes the adult; it grows into the adult. In one sense, we can say there is an evolution of the child into the adult. The childhood condition grows into the condition of the adult. While the adult condition is the goal of the condition of the child, and the process of the growth of the child into the state of the adult may be regarded as the journey of the childhood stage to the stage of the adult – or in another sense we may say the distance between the stage of the child and the condition of the adult is covered by the process of the evolution of the childhood stage – it is in another sense we speak of the covering of the distance between Rishikesh and Badrinath.
The distance that we cover between our mortal state of humanity and the state of Godhood is not like walking from Rishikesh to Badrinath. Most of religious people have this notion in our minds. We have to go to Brahmaloka, Vaikuntha, Kailasa after death. We reach the Father in heaven, who is in the distant realm beyond, which is something like going to New York or to the moon. We have still a conception of covering space or distance in terms of miles when we think of reaching God. Vaikuntha is very far, many millions of miles away from this place. This is our concept. We may be educated persons, having read many scriptures and listened to discourses by saints and sages, but this peculiar notion of distance between us and God does not leave us: God is far away from us in space, many miles far off, as one place is far off from another place, and going to God is something like going from Rishikesh to Badri. Not so! It is not like that. In our sadhana, this false notion has to be shed at the very outset.
God is the goal of our life in the same way as the adult is the goal of the child. He is not the goal of our life as Badrinath is the goal of the pedestrian walking from Rishikesh. We know the difference very well, and we know also how far God is from us. How far is the adult from the child – how many miles? We cannot conceive this distance in terms of miles. The adult is not so many miles away from the child. As a matter of fact, the spatial measurement in terms of distance is inapplicable in the case of the measurement of the difference between the adult and the child or the childhood condition from the condition of the adult. The adult is implicit in the child. The adult is not something that comes out of the child as something different. As the adult is immanent in the child – implicit, latent, patent in the child – or, in another way, we may say that tree is in the seed, God is in us.
So when we have to reach God through the practice of sadhana, we have to adopt the same means as a child adopts when growing into an adult. It is not to go from place to place. For the child to become the adult, it has not to move in a vehicle; it has not to purchase a ticket; it has not to walk in space. It has to grow within itself into a new condition of experience, because that goal of God-realisation is already here. It is not away. It cannot be walked to. In all the expositions of Acharya Sankara particularly, he was never tired of repeating this one important point that God is not reached as a place is reached by walking.
The reaching of God by a sadhaka, or a student of yoga, is not like the reaching of a village or a town by walking or moving towards it by means of a vehicle. It is like growing into a new type of experience. Or, it is like waking from sleep. How far is the waking condition from the dream condition? How many miles distance? If we are to measure the distance between the condition of dream in which we are and the waking into which we have to rise, how many miles apart are they? I will give you a third example. We have gone to sleep. We are asleep on a bed in Sivananda Ashram, and suddenly we have an experience that we have flown by jet to New York City. We have gone away. We are many miles away from the place where we are sleeping. It is very clear that we have gone thousands of miles away and are now in New York. But how far is that New York from the bed on which we are sleeping? How many miles away? For all practical purposes it is some thousands of miles away, but really how far is it from the bed on which we are sleeping? It is not away at all; it is just there. The New York City to which we had flown is just there on our bed. It is not many miles away. So is God far away from us. He looks like millions and millions of miles away in the same way as the dream New York is away from the bed on which we are sleeping, or as the adult is far away from the child from which it has to grow.
This new concept into which I will try to introduce your minds is different from the usual man-in-the-street concept of God being spatially distant from us. God is not spatially distant. He is not even away temporally. Even in time, He is not in a future. Just as in space He is not an outside object, even as the dream New York is not spatially away from the bed on which we are sleeping, even as the adult is not spatially away from the childhood, likewise, even from the point of view of time God is not in the future. He is not a future because that so-called futurity of God-experience is hidden in the present of human experience. Can we say that the waking experience is a future to the dream experience? It is not so, because the waking is the cause for our dream experience. The waking impressions have been the motive force behind our experience of dream. In a sense we may say the waking mind envelopes everything that we experience in dream. In and out, the waking mind is in the dream mind. The dream experience is an expression of the waking mind which has separated itself into the experiencer and the experienced, the subject and the object; and all the panorama, the variety that we have in dream, is indwelt by the waking mind. So when we have awakened into the waking world from the condition of dream, something else has not been introduced into our experience. The waking mind has merely withdrawn the aberration of its activity in the form of objects of dream, absorbed all the objects into itself, and the vast world of dream has gone into our heads once again when we wake up into a new consciousness of jagrata avastha.
God-experience is not, therefore, a distance to be covered in space. It is also not a future; it is not a tomorrow. It is an infinity and an eternity – feeble words that we are using to express the inexplicable. We have no words to explain what is going to take place. We are carrying God with us wherever we go, just as the child carries the adult condition in it wherever it moves.
Contemplate on this condition for a few seconds. You will not be able to think. Your mind will stop thinking. To be God or to have God-experience is to grow from humanity into a condition which is already implicit here, as the adult condition is implicit in the childhood condition. So it is a growth personally into a more mature state of experience rather than a moving in space. Everything seems to be in our hands now. Just as when the child moves into the condition of the adult it grows in every respect – in strength, in understanding and in the comprehensiveness of its experience – similarly, when we move towards Divinity, we grow comprehensively in every respect.
Inasmuch as it is difficult to explain all these things in language, scriptures give us only metaphors, analogies and comparisons. That which is divine and godly cannot be explained with language of the mortal tongue. Everything is explained in an epic style and in a Puranic language of image, art and comparison. The various stages of growth into greater and greater experiences of comprehensiveness are described in some of the Upanishads. Every day the child grows. Tomorrow’s child is not today’s child, and yet it is the same child. Tomorrow’s child is different from today’s child in the sense that its mind has grown into greater maturity of comprehension and comprehensiveness. Likewise, tomorrow’s sadhaka is not today’s sadhaka, though it is the same sadhaka from another angle of vision.
Humanity has to grow into a different state of experience. We do not know how many stages we have to pass through but, broadly speaking, the Upanishads give us an idea of the stages of growth that we have to undergo. We have come from the lower stages to the stage of humanity. According to the scheme of evolution, from inanimate matter experiences rise to the plant kingdom, and higher up we grow into animal life, and from animal life we have come to the consciousness of manhood – humanity, or manavata.
But from the state of humanity there are higher stages still into which we have to grow. These are symbolically described in the Upanishads as the stages of Gandharvas, Pitris, Devas, etc. In knowledge and happiness, in power and comprehensiveness, the condition of the Gandharvas is supposed to be one hundred times greater than the condition of man. The Gandharvas are a hundred times more happy, a hundred times more intelligent, a hundred times more powerful and a hundred times more inclusive in their experience than humanity.
A hundred times more than the Gandharvas in every respect are the Pitris. A hundred times more than the Pitris in every respect are the Devas or celestials. Do not make the mistake of thinking that the celestials are up above. They are up above as the adult is up above the child. It is only a higher experience into which we are rising. A hundred times more comprehensive than the Devas is Indra, the ruler of the gods. His knowledge, his happiness, his independence of spirit, his power, all these are one hundred times more than the Devas whom he rules. A hundred times more than Indra is Brihaspati, in every respect – knowledge, power and happiness. A hundred times more than Brihaspati is Prajapati, Brahma the Creator, Hiranyagarbha or Virat, whatever we call it.
Beyond that the mind cannot go, even in symbolic explanation. The Supreme Absolute is non-mathematically related to these conditions. It is not a hundred times merely, nor a million times, in the same sense as the waking experience is not merely a hundred times more than the dream experience, mathematically. It is a quite different thing altogether in quality. The happiness that we have in waking life is not mathematically multiplied by a factor to raise it above the dream happiness. We know how different waking experience is from dream experience. We cannot simply multiply it mathematically; it is quite different in quality in every respect. Similarly, the experience of the Absolute cannot be graded in this way by the multiplication of factors.
All these stages through which we have to pass are not a spatial rising, though they look like a spatial rising. They may look like the rise of consciousness from one world to another world, but they are worlds within the experience which is inseparable from our consciousness.
Now you know how you have to conceive God-realisation as the goal of your life. It is man rising to the state of superman, manava becoming atimanava, the seed growing into the tree, the child becoming the adult, the dream arising into waking experience, the relative merging into the Universal, the individual growing into the Absolute, the particular rising to the all-comprehensive Virat.
Hence, what is the sadhana that we have to practice to achieve this state? Every stage is a completeness by itself. Every day the child is a completeness by itself. It is not a partiality. It is not that today it is a half child, tomorrow it becomes a three-fourths child and so on, and after some days it becomes a whole child. We do not say that. Every day it is a whole child; and yet, tomorrow’s child is not today’s child. The wholeness differs every day; from a lesser wholeness it has grown into a greater wholeness. It is not a fraction of a child growing into a bigger fraction; it is not a one-sixteenth child becoming larger in size in a mathematical fraction. It is not a small child mathematically, but a whole child today. From wholeness to wholeness we grow from day to day in sadhana. This is, again, a very important thing to remember. The consciousness is whole; it is never a part at any time. That is why we cannot have a half man, a half child or a one-fourth human being, and so on. In every stage, even in the lowest stage of humanity, it is a whole human being. It is from wholeness to wholeness that we rise. In the intensity of consciousness, in the quality of our experience, we grow higher and higher until we reach God-experience – an incomprehensible stage of maturity of experience.
Therefore, the sadhana that we have to adopt – the means that we have to employ towards this experience – is not the usual routine of practice: rolling the beads, going to a temple, waving the lights, reading a book, visiting a holy shrine, and prostrating before a Mahatma. All these are good enough as far as they go, but they are insufficient and inadequate when they lack the spirit of this peculiar scheme of the evolution of consciousness from the lower to the higher stages.
When the spirit of sadhana is lacking, the routine of sadhana is like a corpse. You may be a very busy sadhaka, but you may be lacking the spirit of sadhana. Draw a distinction between the spirit of sadhana from the routine of it. Whatever be the number of times you may roll the beads, if the spirit of it is lacking, you will gain nothing.
The spirit is to be acquired from the state of mind in which you are. The mind is the medium of the expression of the spirit of sadhana. What you feel, the bhava that you enshrine in your mind, the attitude consciously adopted by you in your practice, is the real sadhana, just as a person is not merely the body or the physiological structure. When life is rid of it, well, there is no person at all. When the life of a person is sucked out, the person no more exists though the physiological structure is there as a corpse. The corpse has all the features of a human being, but we know how different the corpse is from a living body. We cremate that corpse though it is a human being, because the vitality is sapped out. What we call a human person is not the physiological appearance, because that is cast to the cremation ground when the spirit is withdrawn from it.
Likewise, sadhana becomes a mere corpse, fit to be cremated, when the spirit is taken away from it. When it is bereft of the spirit, sadhana is as meaningful as a human being with the life taken away. Why you do not achieve much success in your meditation or sadhaha is because of the fact that it is only a corpse of sadhana, and not a living body. It is a corpse, but you mistake it for a living body because it has the shape of a living person. The sadhana may outwardly have all the characteristics of real sadhana, but really inwardly it may be bereft of life. Just as a corpse cannot grow, so is sadhana incapable of growth when the spirit is lacking.
Then, what is the spirit of sadhana apart from the routine shape or the outline contour of the body of sadhana? The body, or the physiological shape of sadhana, is rolling the beads, going to a temple, getting up early in the morning, taking a bath, reading a few verses from the Gita, etc. This is the outer feature of sadhana. But you may be doing all these thing without even thinking of it. The mind may be elsewhere while you pass through all these routines every day, just as you walk without thinking about your legs. When you walk, do you think of your legs moving? Yet, the walking is done, automatically. Likewise, the sadhana is likely to get lodged in a featureless, spiritless routine of japa and reading, etc., without the feeling in it being associated.
What performs the wonderful and magnificent task of spiritual practice is the consciousness in it, the spirit in it, the feeling in it, the ‘you’ which is to be underlined. The ‘you’ is not the work that you perform. You are something different from what you do. Your activity and profession is different from what you are. Likewise, the routine of sadhana is different from the spirit of it. The spirit is the feeling part associated with the practice of sadhana. Do you also grow in your feeling every day because of your spiritual practice, or do you have the same wretched feelings which you have been having in your mind for years? You have the same affection, the same loves, hatreds and prejudices, and you have the same way of judging things. You have not made an inch of progress in your attitude towards them.
Sadhana is nothing but the attitude that you have towards things in general. If that attitude is also growing every day, then your sadhana is progressing. But if your attitude does not change, then your sadhana is the same stagnant muddy water which has not grown in its perspicuity. If your heart has not changed, if your feelings are the same, if you are not broadened in the outlook of your life, then your sadhana is not progressing. You have to gradually grow into divinity, and the characteristics of divinity have to be reflected in your personal lives, if you are to be convinced that you are progressing in sadhana.
The qualities of God are to be seen in our lives. It may be a small percentage of divinity, but it does not matter; the percentage is there. The divinity being reflected in our day-to-day conduct may be one percent, or even less than that. What is the characteristic of God? How can we know that divinity is reflected in our mind and our practical conduct? It is by impartiality, impersonality, freedom from prejudice or preconceived notion, freedom from raga and dvesha or personal attachments and unreasoned hatred. These are characteristics of an ordinary human being, and when they are absent they are godly qualities.