by Swami Krishnananda
The relativity of space and time is the reason why it is possible for everyone to transcend space and time, and attain realisation of the Ultimate Reality. If space and time were a hard screen of steel or iron, impregnable and impossible to cross over, they would permanently obstruct our attempt to go beyond them. Inasmuch as the whole world, including our body, is a product of the space-time operation, there is only space-time and there is nothing else anywhere. It is a dance of the activity of the space-time complex that appears as this whole world and even as individuals like us. Some philosophers say that we are totally caught within the phenomena and there is no possibility of contacting the Ultimate Reality. If that is the case, we are doomed forever.
But it is also said that space and time are relative. You must understand the meaning of the word ‘relative’. In the sense of relativity, one thing hanging on the other is called relation. If one thing exists because of another thing, neither of them exists independently. As there is a borrowed existence on both sides, no side can exist entirely independently. Time is necessary for space; space is necessary for time. In order to understand this mystery of the relation between space and time, modern thinkers have abandoned the use of the word ‘and’ between space and time; they call it space-time. There are no words to say anything beyond this peculiar combination. What can we call the combination of space-time? We always see space and time, but we never see space-time. It is a necessary logical deduction that is arrived at by the observation of action through the interaction of space and time.
As we are also the product of this relative interaction between space and time, the whole world-stuff being that, there is nothing permanently existing anywhere—neither our body, nor the world of nature, nor the sun, moon and stars. The whole thing is a mysterious performance, something like a magical performance, projected by an indescribable phenomenon we poorly call space-time. It is a poor description because we have no way of saying anything more than that.
But Self-realisation is a great possibility. If we are mere puppets, products of this indescribable phenomenon of the space-time complex, then there is nothing more to say. It is like living in a concentration camp without knowing where we are staying, why we have come, and what we are supposed to think. It is a complete blockage of even the process of thinking because of space-time intervening even in the process of thinking. Philosophers who are very acute in this matter conclude that even the mind cannot act without space and time. So who is going to think that which is above space and time?
This subject, which is so intriguing to any mind, has been discussed in detail in the ancient philosophical text called the Yoga Vasishtha. The intention of the writer of the Yoga Vasishtha is that scientific arguments will lead us nowhere. We have already seen the consequence of philosophical arguments which conclude that we can do nothing as we are slaves under the pressure of the operation of space and time. But this is not so. How is it not so?
There is a story beautifully narrated in the Yoga Vasishtha, which is a long Sanskrit poem comprised of thirty-two thousand verses. It contains many stories illustrating the nature of the relativity of all things and that nothing really exists by itself.
What is this story? There was, in ancient times, a king called Padma. He had a queen called Lila, and ruled a large kingdom extending thousands of miles. The queen was so attached to her husband that she did not want him ever to die. With grief in her mind as to how the death of her husband could be averted, she consulted the courtiers, ministers and learned pundits of the king’s assembly.
“Is there any way to prevent the death of my husband?” the queen asked.
They all said, “There is nobody who can prevent the death of your husband. There is no remedy for that. Everybody who is born must die.”
Shocked to the core, weeping, striking her breast with grief, the queen went inside her room and burst forth in agony, deeply praying to the goddess of learning, Saraswati. Many days passed in the queen’s great austere prayer to have a blessing from the goddess of knowledge.
The goddess appeared and asked Lila, “What do you want?”
“I do not want my husband to die. Please bless me,” Lila cried. “Bless me with this boon.”
The goddess did not answer the question. She simply said, “When he dies, cover his body with a cloth, and remember me.”
After many years, the king died in a room of the palace. The queen was at her wits’ end. She again wept and cried, and called Saraswati, “Please come and bless me. I have lost everything.”
Again Saraswati, the great goddess, appeared. “What are you asking for?”
“I want to see my husband, wherever he is,” the queen replied.
“Oh, I see,” Saraswati said. “I shall take you to the place where your husband is living.”
Saraswati touched the queen’s head, and they were transported to another order of space and time where her husband had reincarnated and was ruling another empire.
The queen looked around. “Where am I?”
Saraswati, who was beside her, said, “This is the empire of your own husband who has reincarnated into another space-time.”
“Where is my husband? He was an old man, seventy-two years old,” the queen said. “And this husband is seventy-two years old though he died only yesterday.”
“Don’t ask questions. Just listen to whatever I say,” said Saraswati.
“No, it is not possible,” Lila cried. “What are you saying? A person who died yesterday has been reborn and is now seventy-two years old? Are you saying that he was born in this world seventy-two years ago, having died only yesterday? I cannot believe this. Don’t confuse my mind. Oh, Goddess, bless me. What are you saying?”
Saraswati said, “I will confuse you further. Somewhere in another space-time there was a Brahmin couple who were very poor, living in a little room. Poverty was their only property, misery was their fate. One day they saw a large procession in which the king of the country was being carried on a palanquin. ‘Oh,’ they said, ‘What a glory! If only we too could have that experience of being king and queen.’ With this deep thought, they died.”
Continuing her story, the goddess Saraswati said, “Listen to me carefully. This Brahmin couple who died eight days ago were reborn as yourself and your husband in another space-time, where your king ruled for fifty years, and died.”
“What are you saying?” the queen said. “People who died eight days ago have been reborn in a kingdom where the husband ruled for fifty years? What is the connection between eight days and the fifty years of our lives?”
“Keep quiet and listen to me further. This old man is your own husband, born again in another space-time. He is seventy-two years old.”
Again Lila was shocked. “How is it possible?”
Saraswati continued. “Don’t utter these words, ‘How is it possible?’ Yesterday can become tomorrow; tomorrow can become the present. There is no systematic arrangement of the order of space and time existing permanently everywhere in the cosmos. This idea of past, present and future is connected with the way in which the consciousness perceives the operation of space-time outside; and in the operational process of any individual observer being conditioned by space-time there is an interaction of relativity between seeing and the nature of the object, so that you cannot know what is actually happening. But if this relationship of the observer and the observed phenomena of space and time changes during the process of evolution, then immediately today becomes tomorrow, and a person can come tomorrow and leave yesterday. In this circumstance of there being an infinite number of space-time relations on the basis of infinite types of connection between the seer and the seen, there are infinite universes, and infinite gods are ruling these infinite universes.”
“Where is my husband now?” asked Lila.
Saraswati replied, “Here he is, a seventy-two-year-old man.”
As they were speaking, the empire of this seventy-two-year-old man was invaded by inimical forces. Suddenly war broke out, and the old king rushed with this military force and entered the barrage of military operations. In the Yoga Vasishtha this war is described in very great detail. Every little thing that happened in the war is described. Sometimes the invader appeared to win; sometimes the king appeared to win. Finally, the old king died.
Lila cried, “You tell me this is my husband, and now he has died a second time. Oh, I am going crazy. I don’t want to hear anything more.”
Saraswati said, “No, you cannot be crazy because of my grace. I am only enlightening you. Now, what do you want?”
“I want to see my husband,” the queen said.
When Lila said she wanted to see her husband, she did not mean that she wanted to see the old man. She wanted to see that form which was dead in a room in a different place.
It so happened that the old king who had just died in battle also had a queen, and by chance her name was also Lila. This is a mystery which the Yoga Vasishtha does not explain.
Then Saraswati, the goddess, said, “Here is your husband. He has a queen like you, and she resembles you. Her name is Lila.”
“Oh! I did not expect that my husband would have another queen. I am the queen,” Lila said.
Saraswati replied, “In the relative cosmos, you cannot say ‘mine’. There is no ‘mine’, and neither you nor anybody else has any interconnection. This interconnection is a false operation of a dancing process of space and time, and you are confused because you are attached to a particular relationship of space and time.”
“Now, where am I finally?” said the queen. “I want my husband.”
Immediately Saraswati’s grace operated. She allowed the soul of the old king to enter the corpse which Lila had covered with a cloth. The king got up, as if from a long dream. He could not understand that he was ruling an empire in a different space-time, and that he had waged a war and had died there. Nothing was known to him. He simply shook himself and woke up.
Saraswati, for whatever reason, also brought the second Lila back to the very room where the king had died and re-entered his corpse, so now he had two queens.
Lila could not understand this. “I don’t understand anything. Don’t make me mad!”
“No, you will not be mad, by my grace. I am only trying to enlighten you,” Saraswati said.
Then King Padma ruled the kingdom once again, with two queens.
“I will tell you something more,” said the goddess.
“Don’t tell me anything more,” Lila said. “It is enough for me!”
“No, I want to illumine you properly. The entire kingdom of thousands of miles that your husband was ruling was actually inside the room of that Brahmin couple who died.”
Lila said, “The room was so small, approximately ten feet by twelve feet in that kingdom, whereas my husband’s kingdom was thousands of miles.”
“Space-time operations are mysterious. They can delude you into the belief of anything whatsoever, and you will not know what is really happening. The large kingdom of Padma was actually inside the room of the Brahmin couple, which was so small.”
Saraswati continued. “Now I shall go further. The large kingdom of the old king is inside this room where your husband died.”
“Sufficient,” Lila said. “I don’t want to hear anything more!”
The goddess said, “I am telling you all this so that you can understand that nothing whatsoever is existing independently. Neither are you existing, nor your husband, nor the world. Nothing is there. You cannot say what is there. Anything can be anywhere at any time, and in any form. Yesterday, today, tomorrow—there is no meaning in these things. A great chaos of perception has been presented before you by space-time. Because of this mysterious, unexpected, shocking operation of space-time, you are unable to know that you are also involved in it. If you are involved in the world of space and time, you cannot make any reference to the world of space and time because that reference will apply to you also. No one can say, ‘I am here’ or ‘that is there’ because this ‘I’ is vitally connected to the existence of ‘that’, and ‘that’ is vitally connected to the existence of ‘this’. What do you understand from this? Everything is interrelated in such a way that nothing can exist independently. Everything exists by the operation of all the things that are taking place in the universe, so that every individual, so-called, is a universal unit.”
I will tell you something very interesting. This philosophy is the subject of the doctrine propounded by the great American philosopher Alfred North Whitehead. I am not going to say anything about Alfred North Whitehead except that he is as intricate and as surprising as this story of Lila. Nothing is in one place. That idea of space is again due to the involvement of the operation of space-time, of which you are also made.
What is the conclusion? The conclusion is that nothing is going to obstruct you in your Self-realisation. There is nobody so daring that they can put a stop to your attempt, because there is no ‘you’, and also there is no separate effort. The whole universe in its totality is aspiring for itself in its highest possibilities. Sadhana is done by the universe, not by you, me or anybody. Neither you nor I exist there. It is like everything being everywhere, as the story indicates. You do not know what is where. Who is dying? Who is being born? And how much land do you have? Where is your land? “Well,” you say, “I have so many acres of land.” This is what the king said, but it was all inside somebody else’s room.
Your entire property is inside the room of somebody else, but you do not know this. You are unnecessarily, madly, clinging to this and that. Either you cling to individuals, or you cling to circumstances such as your property. Neither of them exist. Can it be? It is sufficient for you to illumine yourself and awaken from the dream of this world perception.
“Are you satisfied? I have shown you your husband,” Saraswati said.
“You have shown me my husband,” Lila reluctantly replied. She was very upset. She didn’t want to say anything because everything might suddenly change and her husband may be anywhere else.
King Padma, who was rejuvenated by the entry of his departed soul, along with his two Lilas, ruled the kingdom once again. The Yoga Vasishtha says that due to the wisdom imparted to the queen by the goddess Saraswati, both the king and queen attained liberation instantaneously.
This is the story of liberation, which is stunning, shocking, and impossible to understand because the world phenomena are not supposed to be understood. Who is going to understand, when the person who is trying to understand is a product of the very thing that he is trying to understand? This is why every action is a total action. Nobody does anything anywhere, and anybody who thinks that he or she is doing something is a fool because somebody else is operating in a total fashion at the back of this so-called individuality.
“Everything has been done by Me,” Lord Krishna told Arjuna in the Bhagavadgita. “I have already done what you are trying to do now.”
Here again is the question of relativity. Even before the Mahabharata war took place, Lord Krishna said, “I have already destroyed these people.”
“How is it possible, when they are still here?” asked Arjuna.
“The war has yet to take place, but I have already destroyed them. The very root of these warriors’ existence in another space-time was plucked out by the universal power, and they exist only as phantoms, pantomimes. Your attacking them in war is only an instrument of action. They do not exist, really speaking. I have already withdrawn their souls. The whole Mahabharata war is only a pantomime show. Actually, nothing is happening. I have done everything,” Lord Krishna replied.
This is the Ultimate Reality speaking to everyone involved in space and time. Here is the Bhagavadgita. Nobody reads the Bhagavadgita with this kind of insight. They go on chanting it again and again, but why has the Lord said that? He says that something that has not taken place as yet has already been done.
This is the foundation through which you have to operate your mind. After hearing this, you cannot get attached to anything. The very word ‘attached’ will look like a foolish description because that to which you are attached exists only because of your relation to yourself, and the meaning that you see in the object to which you are attached is due to your existing in one particular form. Unless both are there, parallelly acting, one action cannot take place in respect of another. Neither can you love a thing nor hate a thing unless there is an action and reaction between both on a common level.
The perception of this or that in any manner whatsoever is an interaction taking place, and actually it is not your work. Therefore, you can possess nothing in this world. There is bereavement everywhere. You lose everything. Whoever has possessed anything will lose it one day or the other. Whoever was born will also die. The whole misery of life is due to the wrong belief that there are permanent things, solidly existing like a stone wall. There are no stone walls here. They are all like mist appearing as a pillar, which will melt into nothing by the rise of the sun of knowledge.
This is a great subject for meditation, and cannot be forgotten by anyone. If you miss the import of what I have told you, you have missed the entire meaning of life. You may be busy in your own way, but do not be so busy that you do not know the reason why you are busy. Highly penetrating understanding coupled with true dispassion must be behind it. You do japa any number of times, but nothing will come out of it because the foundation itself is wrong. You think you are doing japa or achieving something else, but neither are you doing anything nor are you achieving something else. It is a total action taking place by the operation of space and time, of which you have no knowledge because, as I mentioned, you are in a concentration camp and are completely controlled by forces which you cannot know because you yourself are subject to these operations. You are brainwashed totally, which is why you cannot understand anything, and if you do all this activity, all this work, service and meditation with a confused mind, it will bring a confused result.
That is why it is insisted that before you start anything, you must have a clear understanding, viveka. Viveka means clear understanding of the nature of things—the capacity to discriminate between what is really there and what is not there. If this is known, if this story has enlightened you, you will know that you cannot have any kind of inward longing for anything in this world. Vairagya automatically follows, as sunlight is automatically followed by the departure of the darkness of night. Detachment and desirelessness need not be exercised with effort; they automatically go when the structure of the whole universe is understood. Therefore, viveka and vairagya are considered to be primary qualifications. They are not two things, just as space and time are not two things. They are one only. This is rational conviction, which consists of the illumined perception of things through viveka and an automatic detachment from all conditions which cause attachment.
But there is also a need for emotional training. There are tumults, cyclones and gales, tempestuous movements taking place in the feelings of a person. They have to be subdued. Generally, the intellect and the emotion do not act together. Often the intellect defeats the purpose of the emotion, and the emotion defeats the purpose of the understanding. People live a torn life, and have a dual personality. On one side they are very intelligent, and on the other side they are very foolish. It should not be this way.
Your feelings, longings, and the operation of your emotions should be harmonised with what you have concluded by your reasoning and understanding. Then this combination of reason and feeling, like a chemical action of two substances, bursts forth into what is called intuition. Intuition is nothing but the blend of understanding and emotion. When they are two different operations, you can neither know what you are doing through emotion, nor can you know what you are thinking. On both sides you are making mistakes. When they are blended together into a coherent totality, there is a bursting of the intuition directly into the nature of things. This is the second qualification. The last qualification is intense longing for liberation. Who likes to be in bondage? If you have a longing for liberation, you have done your duty. That longing itself will take you to moksha.