The Nature of the True Religious Life
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 15: Awakening to the Destiny of the Universe

Perhaps I have mentioned sometime that the first thought that occurs to our mind when we get up in the morning will tell us something about ourselves. The basic substance of our life persists and calls for our attention as the first thought in the morning. Many times we are so muddled in our minds that there would be no time to find out what the first thought has been today, for instance. Many of us may not even remember what we thought when we woke up in the morning because the mind flows like a series of waves one following the other, giving no rest and respite for the earlier phase.

A disciplined mind will be able to keep a watch over itself. It is only the undisciplined, chaotic thoughts that clamour with a great noise without having much meaning behind their demands. When there is a shout from a large mob, we do not know what each person is speaking. Likewise, there is generally a mob of requirements when our mind begins to work.

Often our thoughts are like a medley of forest growth, and not a well-ordered garden where everything finds its own place in an artistic manner. Our thoughts are rarely artistic. They are a muddle and a jungle mostly, so that any thought can occur at any time for any reason whatsoever, and for any purpose. This situation is a specimen of an undisciplined mind that can say anything and think anything at any time under an impulse, whether internal or external. A control over the processes of thought requires a great program to be chalked out and adhered to in our day-to-day living. An earnestness on our part plays a very important role in achieving success in this direction.

A time will come by this process of disciplining the mind that you will have only a set of thoughts which alone will occur to your mind, and extraneous, irrelevant and unsubstantial ideas will not find a place there. Just as a person who is embarking upon a particular project has a set of ideas concerning that project only and no other thought can enter his mind on account of the intensity of the upsurge of ideas concerning the project, likewise, the intensity of a clarified conception of the goal of life will take the upper hand, and ideas and thoughts concerning these procedures to be adopted in the achievement of the goal will persist again and again, even in the middle of stray thoughts that may occasionally come due to past habit.

It does not mean that every one of us goes to bed with a peaceful mind, whatever be our effort to achieve this state. Some sort of an anxiety or a pending work occupies the attention of the mind, and the greatest bondage is pending work. To go to bed with something that has to be done the next morning is a thing on which one has to bestow sufficient attention. The wisdom of life, whatever the nature of it be, calls for the recognition of our true status in this world. Any sort of over-estimation is unwarranted in a world of this kind. Great men have come and gone in a trice, and the world has its own legal operations in respect of every one of us.

Really, we have no pending work. Such a thing does not exist, really speaking. But we involve ourselves in a sort of responsibility which we take on our head as a heavy load for reasons which even we ourselves cannot easily explain, and they tell upon us physically, socially, psychologically, and even ethically.

Every insistent demand in life may be regarded as a duty that we have to perform. The word ‘insistent’ is to be underlined here, and it is up to us to find out what it is that is so insistent. An insistent demand is one whose neglect may prove detrimental even to the achievement of our goal in some indirect manner, like a serious illness which is ignored. Though illness may not have a direct connection with the great goal of life, it has an indirect relationship which is obvious.

There are small things in life which may miss our attention due to the great exuberance of aspiration for God. But that would be like the fate of a managing director of a huge factory concerning himself only with the large output that he is expecting from his organisation, forgetting that the personnel in the factory are not reliable and the machines are not in order. Such an enthusiasm would not be part of the wisdom of life. The mechanism of living may be requiring repairs of various types, and though in extraordinary circumstances an overwhelming love for God may set right all matters by the operation of a law that does not belong to this world, normally one should not expect that law to descend upon us instantly. That is a miracle which can take place, but we should not expect that it should take place every moment. Normally speaking, not taking into consideration these extraordinary conditions and supernormal possibilities, common sense and vigilance are expected of a seeker.

It is absolutely essential for every serious student of yoga to have a thoroughgoing systematic minutiae of the daily routines because a progressive following of a systemised routine for the day builds up the strength of one’s personality, even as breakfast or lunch or dinner taken at regular hours contribute to the health of the body, while this benefit will not accrue if we are irregular in the intake of the food. Anything that is regular and systematised has the characteristic of strengthening itself inwardly, and the system that I am referring to in the daily routine mainly refers to a specified time to be allotted for a particular phase of sadhana such as swadhaya or study, japa or meditation or even relaxation, which also may be regarded as a part of your daily routine.

The great clarity in your mind regarding the goal that you wish to achieve in life will also suggest at the same time the appurtenances that you have to gather in this life for the purpose of the achievement. When you wish to build a house, you draw a plan first. You do not suddenly order some cement and bricks, thinking that a house has to be built, but not knowing what sort of material would be required in quantity or quality. If you build a house, you have a plan first; an architectural drawing is prepared, and then on the basis of this plan you contemplate the further requirements of the project – the quantity of the material, the nature of the material, the personnel who have to work, the expenses that you have to incur, and such other relative factors.

Something like that is this great building of the edifice of your own life. You cannot live a satisfactory life in this world unless it is planned properly. An unplanned life cannot be called life at all. It is just existence. And the plan of life would be the shape that your life would take in all its details in light of the goal towards which the life is directed. The nature of the building that you are required to build will depend upon the thing that you want to do in that building. Is it going to be a factory, a chapel, a temple, residential quarters, a hostel, or a hospital? What is it? The kind of thing for which the building is meant will also decide the nature of the plan and all that follows in the project.

Likewise, the purpose for which you are living in this world will also decide the way in which you have to live in the world. How should I live? This question can be answered by putting another question: Why are you living? What is the purpose of your being here at all? The purpose of your life will tell you the way in which you have to live. And when you know the way in which you are expected to live in light of the purpose that is to be achieved, this will also decide the details of every aspect such as the social, the physical, the psychological, the ethical, and the spiritual.

Your needs in life are the details of your life. Many times it appears to us that we are involved in a big conspectus of unintelligible relations and needs which cannot be tabulated in a list. What do you want? If you put a question to a person, he will not be able to give an answer immediately. What do I want? He will be simply drowned in the question itself. This feeling that you are getting drowned in the nature of this question arises because the mind is not clear as to the circumstances of its own life. The main difficulty is that we do not know why we are living here. Every other difficulty follows from this difficulty.

Many feel many things in their own minds. “I work because I have to take care of my family. I have to take care of my family because it is recorded in the scriptures that it is one’s duty to take care of one’s family.” Here the matter ends. The whole question is answered by this little statement, “I have to serve my family, I have to take care of my husband, my wife, my children. I have to work for my nation, my country. I have to work for humanity, my brother. I live for this purpose.” This is a simple, obvious and offhand answer that can come out from anyone’s mind, but this is an untrained answer. This answer comes from a mind which has not been educated properly in the art of existence. It is a prosaic mind, not a poetic one.

This training that the Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy conducts for the benefit of people is only to introduce a sort of educational discipline into the minds of people, and not merely to thrust some wisdom from outside, which cannot be done. It is a sort of properly gearing the mind and enabling it to move along the required track by simultaneously making it possible for it to condition its own operations in the light of the direction in which it is moving.

We are moving all in one direction, in some direction. The world moves in one direction, and everything that is within the world also is moving in some direction. This is perhaps what is meant by the term ‘evolution’. Evolution is the direction in which the world, and everything that is in the world, takes. Though it is known that there is some sort of a direction in the movement of the world and its contents, it is not known what this direction is. The philosophers of evolution merely mention that there is evolution, and there is a movement from one species to another with a larger organisational setup in the advancing species. This is some sort of a statement in regard to the direction the world is taking. But where does the evolution stop? Where does it end?

Latterly, we had many evolutionist philosophers in the West who contemplated the possibilities of the direction which the world is taking in its movements. In India, people had declared that the world is moving towards God. Man exists for the sake of the Realisation of God. This has been declared. But it was not so easily declared in the West because doubt and wonder were the beginnings of philosophy there, and not so much intuition and vision as we seem to be having as the background of philosophical disquisitions in India. The darshana of India is a vision of truth, but Greek philosophy or German philosophy did not begin with an intuition of the values of life but a scepticism, a doubting of every possibility and eventuality and also, in the case of Greek philosophy particularly, it began with the wonder of the world. There seems to be a miraculous secret operating behind the systematic movements of nature.

The evolutionary doctrines, which are not the subject of our discussion now, seem to indicate that the world is taking a direction and it is not merely blindly moving. It is not true that the world is blind or is blindfolded. It is an intelligent something. The way in which it is very dextrously manufacturing beautiful flowers in the Valley of Flowers in the Himalayas, the way in which almost unrecognised, unwanted butterflies are carrying artistic patterns on their bodies, the way in which systematically, correct to the second, the planets are moving around the sun, the way in which the parts of the body are miraculously collaborating among themselves for a purpose no one knows, and such other umpteen endless countless instances of mysterious intelligences operating behind the events of nature seem to prove that the world is not blind. It is not an ignorant, inert mass. The mathematics of the Earth which moves around the sun and rotates on its axis is more precise than the intelligence of the best mathematician in the world. It is such precision, such exactness – not exactness to the minute, not to the second, but even to the hundredth or thousandth fraction of a second. They saw all these things cannot be explained if we are living in an unintelligent, meaningless, blind world.

This intelligence which manifests itself in the progressive evolution of the species of various types seems to be working for a great purpose which is secretly hidden but sometimes manifests itself even before our own eyes under special circumstances.

Thus, a great need seems to be pressing upon the mind of every person in the world to educate himself or herself in the direction of a learning which will enlighten the mind as to what this direction is. Academicians have called this sort of learning as philosophy, especially Plato who considered philosophy as an indispensible science of life – indispensible because no one can forego, no one can avoid, no one can feel it is unnecessary. It is the only necessary discipline for every person in the world.

People such as Plato felt that philosophy is the supreme science or the art of awakening the mind of man to the destiny of the universe. This awakening, this discipline which may regarded as the essence of true education and culture, will also direct the daily routine of our life. Otherwise, our daily routine will go on changing according to the whims and fancies of our mind, the emotions and the frustrations of life, and the like.

So I come back to the point that there is a necessity to maintain a daily routine which will be consonant with the purpose which you are working for with a little meal that you eat and the water that you drink and the activities in which you are engaged. You are not engaging yourself in the enterprises of life for nothing. You are neither working for man, nor for your father or mother, nor for anybody in this world. You are working for the fulfilment of the purpose of the universe, which looks like something which involves your relationship with your father, mother, relations, friends, and what not. All these relationships appear to be a part and parcel of our duty in life on account of the fact that fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, brethren and all these people are involved, included in, this great evolutionary urge of the universe.

Yet, it has to be remembered that this principle purpose is not merely a relativistic attendance in respect of our outward connections, but is an onward or upward movement. We don’t know whether it is onward or upward, or it is neither or both. It is this central purpose which should form the substance of education. If this essential content or core of education is missed, education becomes a corpse which has the structure of the human body but it is worth nothing, fit for cremation or burial.

The educated person is a happy person; this is what Socrates said, and anyone can say, but education today makes one miserable, for reasons which each educated person knows. The world begins to present itself as a true reality after our education is over. Until then we are small saplings, knowing nothing of the world. When our educational career is over, we find ourselves in hot water because the world then looks at us in its true colour which was hidden from view on account of our immersion in books, and also because of our happy dependence on people who took care of us, whom we regarded as our sole support, and we had no worries of any kind. When our education is over, those who helped us in education tell us, “Now you stand on your own legs.” Then we find our legs are weak and we cannot stand, because strength has not been imparted to the limbs by the education that we have been given. This is unfortunate, and all ministers of education are crying hoarse on this point, finding no solution to it. But a solution has to be found.

So seekers of truth, practicants of yoga and those who are dedicated to spiritual living are expected to awaken themselves to this great point, namely, a persistent maintenance of the consciousness of the purpose for which one exists and lives and does anything in the world. This enables seekers to maintain the daily routine.

When you get up in the morning, what are you supposed to do? What is your occupation going to be throughout the day today, for instance, from morning till evening? Though your present occupation today will have some connection with the empirical associations of yourself in society, it has to be grounded finally in the purpose for which this empirical association also exists and persists.

You have empirical and social requirements which call your attention insistently every day. Yet, notwithstanding this, this immediate requirement is finally rooted in another requirement which conditions this immediate requirement. An empirical necessity is conditioned by a transcendent necessity. The heaven conditions the Earth. All that happens in the world, they say, has happened first in the heavens, and then it has descended into the world. We belong to all the realms, not merely to this Earth. So any manifestation of a particular event in the physical realm is supposed to be a descent into a grosser form of a subtle occurrence which has already taken place in ethereal form in the higher realms. As medical people say, diseases occur inside first, and then they manifest themselves outside. The fruit ripens inside and then ripens outside later on. So the central core behind the urges for any activity or performance in life is something transcendent, and then it appears as an empirical occurrence outside in space and time when it descends into our eyes.

With these associated ideas, you will be able to chalk out a program of your life and a program of your day. The program of the day, of any particular day, is one link in the chain of the great development of your own life. What you wish to achieve in your life is to be achieved in part, in some proportion, in one particular day. If the whole of your life can be regarded as a big body of your life, every day is a cell or a part of this body. Hence, whatever I do today and whatever I do any day will bear an inextricable connection towards the fulfilment of the final purpose.

Every day we take a bath, we go to sleep, we take meals, we go for a walk, we relax in various ways, we study books, and we have many other occupations. All these are intended to maintain a social and personal health, which is the aim behind them. And this immediate requirement and necessity of ours has again a purpose behind it which is superior to it, transcendent to it, and beyond it. So the highest one conditions the immediately following one, and the immediately following one conditions the next following one and finally, even the little minute things in the world are conditioned by the final will of God. Towards this end we are moving, and this would give us an idea of the nature of the daily routine.

The spiritual diary of Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj is perhaps, to my knowledge, a prescription that has occurred for the first time by a great adept in yoga. A self-checking is what is made possible by the maintenance of this spiritual diary. If you have seen the type of diary that is prescribed here by the founder of this institution, you will be able to chalk out a similar, equivalent diary for your own purpose, suited to your own predilection and the way in which you are living, etc.

You know how carefully business people maintain accounts. Every day they are conscious what transactions are taking place, and every day they close their accounts with a clear idea of the financial position: Is it an asset or is it a liability? If it is an asset or a liability, they know how it has come. And the nature of the assets or the liabilities of a particular day during the close of the accounts in the evening will tell what they have to do tomorrow. How careful people are in political fields and in business fields! Such is the caution that one has to exert by an assessment of one’s performances during a particular day. As it is important to note the nature of the thought that occurs to you early in the morning, it is also essential to guard yourself about the thought that goes with your mind at the end of the day.

A noble, sublime thought should be carried with the mind when it goes to sleep. The future depends on the present, is often told us. The last thought determines the future life, say the scriptures. Often the last thought of today may be really the last thought. It may not occur tomorrow. And if it occurs tomorrow, well, God be thanked for it.

We continue this process in this manner by conducting ourselves in this disciplined way, struggling and striving our best to see that the basic or fundamental thought persists through the details of thought which are connected with our daily duties. It is true that many of us may have to perform many types of duty due to the kind of occupation with which are connected. It is not only one form of work that we have to do; the form, the type, the kind may go on changing almost every hour in the case of a person who is very busy in many enterprises. Yet, with all these busy involvements, a seriously concerned person should be able to find time to withdraw himself or herself every day for a maximum period of time. I have used the words ‘maximum period of time’ without saying whether it is one hour or two hours, or three hours, because it depends upon the quality of the thought, rather than the quantity.

The quality of your withdrawal and concentration on the great purpose of life should be so intense that it should be able to overwhelm any kind of impact that may tell upon your system by contact with your social existence in the world. Due to your existence in this world in the way in which you are living, influences impinge upon you every moment of time, and these influences dash upon you like waves in the ocean every moment, almost. But the quality of your withdrawal, though not the quantity, should be so intense that it should be able to withstand the onslaught of these dashing waves in the ocean of life. And it is up to every one of us to find out what amount of time may have to be allotted for this purpose of constructively guarding ourselves against the onslaughts and vicissitudes of outward life. It is not that everyone has to sit meditating for three hours. If it is an advanced and strong mind, even a few minutes of withdrawal would be sufficient.

But who has got such a strong mind? So you may have to conduct yourself in this way for a little protracted time, preferably in the morning when you have not yet commenced the duties of the day, and also in the evening when you have retired from the day’s work. It is hard for a common man to maintain an equilibrium of thinking in the midst of heavy duties which come like a flood upon one’s mind. But gradual practice and persistent effort will give you such strength that you will never forget the basic factor which underlies the outward movements of life’s names and forms.

So today I have concerned myself principally with this necessity on the part of every one of us to maintain a self-checking diary. You may call it spiritual diary or any kind of diary, for the matter of that. We have many weaknesses, and these are dangerous things. The enemy can enter into our fortress of sadhana by the ingress of these weaknesses. They have to be guarded with a powerful sentry, with an army of competent personnel, with tremendous discrimination, study, satsanga with great saints and sages, etc. Sometimes you are not strong enough. Then align yourself with a strong power if you have not got enough strength in your own self. Likewise, when you feel that you are not in a position to guard yourself through the avenues of your weaknesses, then you have to be in the company of a great person. That is alignment, as they call it in politics. You get aligned with a powerful source, and then have no fear from enemies who are likely to attack through these weaknesses in your personality. This alignment should be with a great person, a Guru preferably; otherwise, you should have such strength that you can yourself face all these eventualities.

We have to be sincerely conscious of the weaknesses of our mind and our emotions. We should not imagine that we have no weaknesses and no desires. This kind of patting oneself on the back will do no good afterwards. We can get on in life, but we cannot get on finally because these weaknesses are like deep sores in one’s own soul. What is the good of imagining that there are no weaknesses? Who is benefitted by that? This is a kind of self-deception and also a deception of the public. Well, it can go on for some time, but it will not help us for a long time.

The acceptance of weakness is not a weakness in itself. Many times you do not want to accept a weakness, thinking that it itself is a weakness – which is not so, because thereby you try to find a recipe for this weakness, like the acceptance of an illness. If there is a chronic illness, what is the good of hiding it? The exposure of this illness will also be a good avenue for finding a remedy or recipe or medicine for it. Many times we may be able to find a remedy ourselves for our weaknesses, but this requires sometimes, though not always, the assistance of a competent master.

Deep meditation on God is the final medicine for weaknesses of every type. God is the greatest Guru – gurur brahma, gurur vishnu, gurur devo maheshwara. We are born with human weaknesses which are the specific characteristics of the species of man. Every man has a weakness which is common to every man. It is not the weakness of this person or that person. It is a weakness of humanity as such. This cannot be overcome by human means only. A human weakness cannot be remedied by human means. It requires a superhuman means, and this superhuman means is japa, meditation, swadhaya, among many other things.

Satsanga is the supreme thing. Of all great advantages of spiritual life, satsanga stands supreme. Everything comes afterwards. Nothing can compare to the company of a great man. All other things that you do come afterwards. The protection that you have, the satisfaction that you feel and the energy that enters into you in the company of a great personality surpasses every other advantage that may accrue to you by your own personal sadhana. So wherever there is an opportunity of satsanga, it should not be missed. As long as possible this should continue, and you should hunt for the opportunities of this satsanga.

Added to it is japa. With sincere meditations and prayers to God to illumine your mind, humbly surrender yourself before the great Almighty and offer your supplication to this great Being: “I am at your feet. Help me.” And help shall descend through the Guru, or directly through any miraculous source from the great Creator who has millions of eyes and who sees you every minute, inwardly and outwardly.

And so, life is blessed. It is not a curse, as many may imagine under difficult circumstances. The kingdom of heaven is a blessed area, and we are in it. So God’s grace and blessings go with you all.