by Swami Krishnananda
The principle that consciousness is existence, chit is sat, also implies that the knowledge that you have gained has to become part of your life, part of your daily existence. Your existence is to be your consciousness; your learning, your knowledge, is your existence. You live in the same way as you know, and your knowledge has a meaning only insofar as it exists. A knowledge that does not exist cannot be regarded as knowledge. A non-existent knowledge is no knowledge. So if the learning, knowledge and wisdom that you have gained through study and the like is to become valid, it has to exist. How will it exist if it is merely in the books, in the libraries, in the tomes and the theses?
Knowledge can exist only if it is a part of your existence, because somebody else's knowledge cannot protect you. It is your knowledge that is of utility to you. If somebody is wise, in what way are you benefited by that? So your wisdom must exist, which means to say that it has to be your existence. The daily life of a person is a manifestation of the kind of existence which is embodied in that personality, and the value of that existence of the individual depends upon the extent of knowledge that is connected with it. The wider the insight, the greater the knowledge, the more secure is the existence.
"Knowledge is all things" is what we hear from ancient masters. It is power, it is righteousness, it is happiness, all because it is existence. Knowledge cannot be power, cannot be righteousness or virtue, cannot bring you joy unless it exists, and the way in which it should exist, as far as you are concerned, is what is important. Knowledge exists for you only if it is identical with your existence; otherwise, the knowledge does not exist for you. Academic, professorial learning need not necessarily be existing for that person. It is a kind of overcoat which one puts on, a dress that you wear for the purpose of a given situation, but you are not the coat; you are not the dress. You know very well you are quite different from what you put on and that the professor's knowledge has no connection with his manner of living.
So, spiritual learning, spiritual insight – the knowledge that you are supposed to gain – is expected to help you in your daily life. Knowledge, here, does not mean mugging up or memorising some texts, learning things by rote. It is an embodied form of yourself. Your personality enhances itself when knowledge increases in you. Your personality is charged with a new kind of vitality; it becomes energised, strengthened, broadened in its vision. One feels more secure. Less and less are the desires, because of the greater satisfaction that one feels in the expanded form of one's own existence due to the entry of real knowledge into one's existence.
A stone exists, a plant or a tree exists, an animal or a creature exists, and a human being also exists. Don't you feel there is a difference in the dimension of the existence of these different species? Would you like to exist like a stone? Perhaps stones exist for a longer period than human beings. A human being cannot live as long as a rock, for instance. But would you like to be a rock because it would enable you to exist for longer than as a man or a woman? Would you like to be a crawling creature, an elephant, a plant or a tree? Even trees are capable of surviving for hundreds of years. Do you like to consider a tree as superior to man because of the longer life that it enjoys? No, you consider man as superior to a tree or to a beast of the jungle, or to a stone. The reason is the transparency of consciousness in the human personality, the widened vision which a person, as a human being, is capable of. Man is more powerful than even an elephant; you know it very well. Man can control even an elephant, a tiger or a lion, though from the point of view of physical survival and physical strength, man is inferior to an elephant or a lion. It is said that knowledge is power, and here is an illustration of the way in which man considers himself to be more secure than the other species in creation. Animals are not as secure as human beings. Man guards himself in many ways; animals cannot do that. All this is to illustrate the fact that knowledge is security, power, satisfaction and true existence.
How will you blend knowledge with your existence? Every day you pass through the hours of the day and night; you have got the routine of your work. How does this knowledge benefit you in any way whatsoever? Are you in any way better, qualitatively, in your existence than you were yesterday – or are you only a quantity and there is no quality? The advantage of education is that every day you feel a greater clarity of your thoughts and a broadened form of your vision of life, a greater satisfaction within your own self, a lesser need for contact with things and persons, and a conviction within that you are approximating to the reality of life in a greater measure than you could have done some years earlier.
Education is, actually, a gaining of insight into the nature of the truths of existence, the realities of life. If the realities of life stare at you even after you are educated, and you are not acquainted with the art of living in this world – you find yourself a stranger in this wide world of nature and society even after you are a degree-holder or a learned person in some way – that education cannot be regarded as real education, because it has not entered into your blood. It is not part of your personality. It is not you; it is a commodity that you are carrying, like luggage on the head. It is a property, and a property is not identical with the owner of the property. The property can leave you any day because it is something owned as an external item, not actually being a part of your own existence. If the knowledge that you have gained is only luggage that you are carrying, like bedding, and you can throw it away at any time you like – it is not you, but it is yours – then consciousness is not existence in this case. Existence does not possess consciousness. Consciousness is not a quality of existence; it is not a property. And, also, existence does not own consciousness as an external appendage. Existence is consciousness. Sat is chit. Satyamjnanam-anantam brahma (Tait. 2.1.1), the Taittiriya Upanishad has told us: "Truth – Knowledge – Infinity is Brahman, the Absolute." That is to say, Reality, Existence, Consciousness, Infinity mean one and the same thing.
Seekers of Truth – students of yoga – have to understand this point. If your efforts in life have not made you a little happier than you were yesterday, your efforts in any direction whatsoever are a waste. You may be a student, you may be a business person, you may be an industrialist, you may be an official; all that goes well, of course, but what is the outcome of these efforts? Are you sweating for nothing? All your endeavours in life – in business, at work, in studies – all these efforts are intended to make you qualitatively better. The quality is the point to be underlined. Is the quality of your life today superior to the quality you enjoyed earlier? For this purpose, a special kind of discipline has to be undergone in one's life. In Sanskrit this is called sadhana.
Sadhana is a practice; it is a discipline; it is a manner of streamlining one's life – conducting oneself in daily life in a specifically ordered and scientific way. Doing anything that one thinks, going anywhere one likes – that is not a disciplined life. Even if it is necessary for you to do varieties of things in a particular day, those varieties have to be beautifully blended into the pattern of a unity, which is the day for you. The whole day is a unity of purpose. In every act of ours, every day, we are expected to take a further step of advance towards the realisation of Truth, an advance in the direction of Reality, which means to say an effort in the direction of imbibing in one's own personal life those characteristics which are to be found in Reality Itself. I am not going to tell you again what Reality means because throughout our studies of the Upanishads we have been discussing only this – what the Ultimate Reality is.
To the extent the quality or the characteristic of the Ultimate Reality has become part and parcel of your own personal life, to that extent you are really educated in the wisdom of life. Otherwise, your life will be drudgery, a meaningless meandering in the desert of life, and you will leave this world in the way you came to this world. Our life, whatever be its span, is expected to be transformed into a school of education. Everyone is a student in this world; no one can be a master entirely. Everyone is a student in the sense that life cannot be fully understood even if one lives in this world, physically, for a hundred years. Life is a great mystery, and its mystery cannot be unravelled so easily. It remains a mystery because of the externality which is imposed upon it. Anything that is outside you is always a mystery for you; unknown things are difficult to understand. The world is unknown; it stands outside you as incapable of accommodation with you; you cannot accommodate yourself to the world. You are not able to fully accommodate yourself even to a neighbour, a person next door, a person sitting on your right or on your left, so near. If even to that person you cannot fully accommodate yourself, what to speak of the world as a whole? But, the more you are in a position to adjust and adapt your personality to the conditions of life, the more can you be said to be fit for living in this world. Some people say there is a principle of the survival of the fittest. Only the fittest survive in this world. Unfit persons are thrown into a limbo; nature discards them. Actually, who is the fittest? You become fit only insofar as you are in harmony with the law of nature, in all its manifestations; and each one of you is a witness to the success that you have achieved in this art.
You are all educated, and you know something of what life is. But what is it that you know about life? Do you curse it as something impossible to understand and accommodate; or do you think it is a heaven in which you are living; or is it something totally impossible for you and you cannot say what it is all about? Your studies in schools and colleges and academies are expected to be the process of burnishing your personality, transforming the iron that you are into the gold that you ought to be by widening the compass of your existence. "What does it mean?" – you may ask me. The widening of the area of your location is also involved in the expansion of your consciousness. In a relativistic way, we may say – not, of course, absolutely – the existential jurisdiction of a person appears to be expanded to the extent of the authority that one has over that corresponding area. An authorised person is one who has knowledge of the area over which he has that authority. An official who rules a particular area of administration has, relatively at least, expanded the location of his individuality. That is the meaning of the power and the authority that one exercises. It is relative in the sense that the person has not really expanded into the area of that jurisdiction because when an official retires, he becomes a little puny nothing in spite of his having wielded great authority or power earlier, during his periods of administration. But here, in our case, where Reality is to be a part of our existence, it is not like an official holding authority but an actual power which we can wield automatically as the spontaneous consequence of our identity with existence and consciousness.
You know a lot, but your existence should also be equal to that lot which you know. If you are very wide in your learning, your personality also has become wide to that extent. You are able to comprehend the existence not only of the area covered by your knowledge ,but even the existence of things outside you, to the extent that knowledge is capable of communicating itself with them. If you know something, you have some authority over that thing. But if the thing remains totally outside you and defies your approach to it, your knowledge of it is perfunctory, purely of the name and form complex of that object; the essence of the thing is not understood. Spiritually speaking, from the point of view of yoga practice at least, the knowledge of a thing is actually the entry of your consciousness into that thing.
For instance, now you know that you are existing. Your knowledge that you are existing is not an artificial knowledge foisted upon you, because your knowledge that you are existing is identical with your existence. Therefore, you have complete control over your own personality; you can lift your hand, you can move your legs, you can operate any part of your body. But you cannot operate anything outside you, because your consciousness has remained locked up within your physical personality; it has not entered into the being of other persons or things. Yoga is union with reality; this is what you have heard. But what kind of reality is it with which you are supposed to be identical? It is the reality of that which you know, as I mentioned.
What is it that you know? Here is the whole point about your education. You tell me what it is that you know, what it is that you have learnt in your studies. "I know many things." Okay, let that be so; you may know all things. But, to what extent is the existence of those things which you know a part and parcel of your existence? Are you friendly? Are you accommodating? Are you one with them? Or are you, in your own meditative consciousness at least, able to feel that you are a larger individual, cosmically oriented, and not Mr. So-and-so or some particular individual? This is a very subtle point which you may not easily be able to understand, because the understanding of such a principle is a part and parcel of actual practice. What I am telling you is not a theory; it is a principle of actual practice, and whoever has not attempted this practice will not be able to make out the meaning of what I am saying. All life is actual practice. Life is not a theory. You are not just wool-gathering and wasting your time in theoretically computing things. Life is a valuable procedure of daily contact with Truth, and this contact is achieved gradually, stage by stage.
Reality by itself has no degrees. It is a composite, compact, indivisible perfection, but it appears to be manifest to some degree from our point of view, on account of the layers of personality in which our consciousness is shrouded. We are physical, we are vital, we are mental, we are sensory, we are intellectual, and we also aspire for the Spirit. We are social, we are political and we are many other things, as we know, in our daily life. These layers of personality determine, to a large extent, the manner of our contact with Reality. From the standpoint of our own life, we have to achieve this perfection of contact with Reality.
The gradations of the practice of yoga, for instance, in Patanjali's System – yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, samadhi as mentioned – or the stages of knowledge which have been adumbrated in scriptures like the Upanishads and the Yoga Vasishtha, or the psychic centres through which the consciousness is to rise gradually from the lower to the higher, or the cosmic contemplations of the different realms of being – Bhu-loka, Bhuvar-loka and other realms as are mentioned in the scriptures – all these suggest the involvement of our consciousness in certain degrees. We have to move gradually from the lowest of the degrees, the most palpable, tangible and visible involvement, to the higher ones.
In the yoga practice, in the life that is spiritual, abrupt action is not permitted. Nature does not move by leaps and bounds. Nature always moves through a process of evolution – as, for instance, you have evolved from babyhood to an adult condition. You did not jump from the babyhood to this adult stage in one day. So smooth and so harmonious and spontaneous was the growth of your personality from childhood that you never noticed that you were growing; otherwise, if there were jerks every minute when you were growing, you would have found life very hard. Without jerks, without jumps, without leaps, without skipping stages, the life of spirituality has to be attempted; yoga has to be practised.
When you actually come to the practice, you will find that you will not even be able to start or to take the first step without proper guidance. Like a jackal which knows many tricks but may not be able to use even a single trick when danger comes upon it, you will find yourself at a loss in choosing the vital way or the proper method of starting yoga, or your spiritual life, because you know so much. Sometimes too much knowledge is a dangerous thing. It is said that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but sometimes too much knowledge may confuse your mind. All the libraries are in your head, but how will you start; from which side are you to take the initial step?
The involvements of your personality in life are the indicators of where you have to start. What are you involved in? What are your difficulties? What is it that you like and what is it that you do not like? There are people who are involved in something or the other in life. You are involved, of course, in human society because you are citizens of a nation, of a country, of a locality, of a village, of a state, of a community, of something. No human being, none of you, is totally isolated from human society; you are connected to other people. Your connection to other people, in some way, is your social involvement. Your belonging to a particular country may be your political involvement. You cannot say there is no involvement. You require protection from society and political administration, so that is also involvement. Now, how will you handle these things? How will you free your consciousness from involvement of this kind? What is your relationship to the external society?