Religion and Social Values
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 1: The Circumstances in Which We Have to Live in the World

During this period of Sadhana Week, it is obviously your intention to gather a new strength into your own selves and return home as a rejuvenated personality, and not as a person who has attended a festival, a mela or a rejoicing—after which, generally, your energies are depleted. You go as a weakened person after a dramatic performance or a presentation which stimulates your vitals, stirs up your emotions, and agitates the cells of your body. Sadhana Week is not a dramatic performance. It is not an enactment by performers on a stage, and it is not your function to witness the presentations as if they are performances in a theatre.

You have come with a different purpose, with personal difficulties which are eagerly waiting to come to the surface of your consciousness when the door opens and when you are left to your own selves. The din and bustle of life—the activities, the responsibilities, and the types of relationships you maintain in human society—manage to keep you out of yourself. They so dexterously operate that you feel you are leading a normal life.

That which is normal does not present any difficulties before us. Anything that pinches us, like a nail in the bottom of the shoe—that which irks us and keeps us out of alignment, whether outwardly in our social relationships or inwardly within our own selves—these symptoms which keep us restless in any measure, and anxious to some extent, may be considered as symptoms of certain behaviours and operations within our own selves which cannot be regarded as normal.

The normalcy of the physical body, which we call health, is also a state where we are buoyant with a new type of freedom. The greatest freedom is health, in which condition of freedom from every shackle we feel buoyant and often forget our own selves. The healthier we are, the less we think of ourselves. When an illness of any kind enters our body, we become conscious that we are. We begin to be aware of each limb of the body. An eye, an ear, a tooth, a finger, a toe, or any blessed part of our body attracts our attention when it is set out of tune with the normal function of the body.

So is the illness of man in general. The continuous consciousness of ourselves and people around us, with a consciousness attending upon it as an awareness of our peculiar adjustable relationship with people which keeps us perpetually aware of our personal relationship with others, keeps us also in a state of anxiety of an indescribable character. No one knows definitely what would happen to oneself the next moment, and there is an apprehension that something untoward may happen.

While anxiety about the future may be permitted if nothing unpleasant is going to be expected in the future, it becomes intolerable when we always expect something which may be to the detriment of our well-being. This anxiety, this apprehension, arises from our own selves. It does not come from outside; it does not drop from the trees. There is a wholesale maladjustment of ourselves right from the outer skin down to the deepest of whatever we can be, and so whatever we speak is an artificial expression of our conduct. We do not and cannot reveal the whole of ourselves in our expressions. When we think, we are guardedly thinking about circumstances, lest repercussions may impinge upon us. We are always at daggers drawn, under a pressure of a feeling that we are not in our own homes. There is a necessity felt by every one of us to be vigilant, as if we are on a battlefield.

Go down deep into your own mind and think for yourself. Who has peace in this world? That tentative comfort that you may be enjoying in life—either due to your placement in society, your financial status or your physical condition—is, again, a matter of apprehension. Who can be always healthy? Who can be always wealthy? And who can be always secure in this world? Hence, who can always have peace? This medical analysis of the mental states of people will reveal not happy conclusions. But unhappiness is loathsome. Illness is what we detest, and comfort is the aim of our social and physical existence. While inwardly we are secretly made to be conscious of something which is at sixes and sevens with the world, outwardly we are pressurised, due to another circumstance, to comfort ourselves that everything is all right.

There is a very peculiar attitude that we develop towards our own selves which can be very safely defined by a single word: duplicity. We do not maintain a true relationship with our own selves. At the very outset, we manage to be untrue to our own selves in order that we may live in an untrue relationship with people. It is sometimes felt that in order to justify one falsehood, another falsehood may have to be heaped over it. A single falsehood does not stand on its own legs. We are acutely aware of something peculiar in our own selves which cannot stand the logic of nature or, perhaps, the will of God; and with this circumstance, we have to live in this world.

We have been forced to accept that we somehow have to live in this world. We do not ask people, “Is it necessary for me to live in this world?” The question is already answered by our own selves: It is necessary. That it is necessary to live in this world is not learned by us from books. It is not a sermon that we have received from our Gurus or Masters. We have come to a conclusion definitely, by our own selves, for reasons we alone know: It is necessary to exist in this world. A hypothesis is already taken for granted. And this necessity to exist is—very, very unfortunately for us—involved in a network of complicated adjustments that we are required to make every moment of time, so that every minute that we pass seems to be an artificial existence. We are perpetually aware as to what is around us, as a field marshal may be looking around in the battlefield to see what is moving and operating in all ten directions. What rest can we have here? But rest we must have. We have already concluded that it must be there; and we have to move Earth and heaven to gain this acquisition.

The inward suspicion with regard to one’s own capabilities in the understanding of the nature of this world, and the powers that one can wield in this world, go hand in hand with the suspicion that we develop with everyone else in the world. We cannot trust anybody wholly, because we cannot trust ourselves wholly. This is because the trust, or the distrust, as the case may be, is only a description of an attitude that we generally develop in regard to anything—firstly, in regard to our own selves, and secondly, in regard to others. The distrust in regard to ourselves—in regard to the knowledge that we have and the powers that we wield—naturally has to condition the feelings that we have in regard to other people in the world, so that we cannot wholly trust our own brother. We have to be guarded even with him, for a secret reason which each one knows and no one can publicise. What a pitiable state of affairs that we have a secret attitude which conditions our public attitude in respect of the whole world—a secret which cannot be publicised, yet which conditions our public behaviour.

This very difficult-to-understand situation of our own mental operations is perhaps the background of very bitter analyses which were ruthlessly conducted by psychoanalysis about the nature of man in this world. Medical examination is not always a pleasant thing to undergo. Very unpleasant it is, for various reasons. And even to find time to go deep into our own mental makeup is not a happy thing. When we go into the corners of the citadel in which we are living, we will not scent fragrance, and perhaps we will not find even a clean floor to sit upon. Within ourselves is a world of dustbins, cobwebs, and undiscovered, uninhabited abysmal niches which refuse to come to the surface, or into the daylight of understanding. There are corners in our own selves which we do not want to see.

Are there not corners in your own room which you hide from visitors because they are not clean? There is a basket where you have thrown torn pieces of paper. There is an old cloth which you have been using for wiping your floor. There is a kitchen which is all pell-mell. You have only a drawing room with a beautiful sofa to receive VVIPs. Such a drawing room we have within our own selves; but the unwanted corners, unfortunately for us, are a majority in their number. The drawing room within ourselves is very small in extent, and very few VVIPs can go inside. But we manage to behave very well with these VIPs, and shake hands with them knowing very well what we have inside our hearts: quarrels, disharmonies, court cases, daily skirmishes and a doubt as to whether it is good to die or live with such peculiar, suspicious surroundings within our own precincts. Nevertheless, we manage to shake hands with people and sit in parlance.

This sad state of affairs cannot go on for a long time. Every dog has his day, and we have our day. But that day cannot be every day. This is the beginning of a right pursuit in the direction of the true values of life. As we know very well, by common sense, that no enterprise can be embarked upon in life without perfect health of the body, the basic prerequisite of any adventure is physical health, first and foremost. Likewise, in your noble pursuits with whose sublime notions you have come to this Sadhana Week, the fulfilment of these purposes requires a basic presupposition and requirement: mental health.

Everyone here is mentally healthy; it is perfectly clear. But the mental health that we are considering and referring to under the circumstances of the nature of the aspiration with which you have come here is something different from the normalcy of the mental operations of man. And if you like to call it so, you may say there is a supernormal condition of mental functions. It is this that can be the means of the fulfilment of your noble aspirations in the field of religion or spirituality, or on the path of God-realisation. An unhealthy mind is like a sick body, which will retard any progress in any direction—because sickness attracts attention immediately, and it will not permit the diverting of the mind in any other way.

The sickness of the mind from a purely philosophical, religious or spiritual point of view is not that particular sickness which is treated in facilities for the psychopathological. This is a different thing altogether, which requires a different set of instruments to gauge the performances of each one’s own mind.

The other difficulty with us is that another person cannot easily help us in this matter, because very few can go into our own mind. Though there are ways and means of studying another’s mind, these are not easy ways. They require deep training and a highly impersonal conduct of the mind to appreciate the exact conditions in which another’s mind operates. But we are the best judge of our own self.

The personal and social conditions of life take much of our time. Do you not believe that the large part of the day is taken up by your social engagements and personal needs? Are you not convinced that you have very little time to devote to what you call religion, or the path of the spirit? Do you not have a perpetual complaint that you cannot afford to find time for religious pursuits or to live a spiritual life, inasmuch as you have other engagements—the calls of life which are pressing in their nature? Do you not also believe that these pressing circumstances which pull your attention in their direction are very important for you? Be very, very honest and dispassionate in this analysis. Do not misguide yourself that you are a lover of God. There is no need to placate oneself in matters which are very serious.

Now, the time that you have to devote to secular pursuits, as they are usually called, is large in extent. These pursuits are very pressing, with great commitments and impossible obligations in life, due to which you have to run and catch the fastest vehicle that can take you to your destination. Let each one ponder over one’s own obligations and aspirations in their collaborative relationship. How is it that you have persuaded yourself to believe that the larger part of the day has to go to that which presses very heavily upon your head? This persuasion comes because of the reality you associate to these obligations. They are very real, very necessary, and their reality is of such an intensive nature that any neglect on your side will catch you by the throat. You know it very well.

What a reality is enshrined in these secular calls of life! How can you ignore them in the name of God, in the name of religion, in the name of Guru, in the name of the Divine Name? If you say, “God is a greater reality. Guru is more important than any other wealth or occupation that I have. Religion is my pursuit,” have you been able to instil the religious spirit or the spiritual outlook into your daily occupations? Or, are you still regarding them as two different departments of activity?

Here again, there is a jumble in our thinking. We are not very clear in our thoughts. Often, we think that religion is different from secular life. To be an executive engineer is not leading a spiritual life; the engineer is convinced about it. He is convinced, at the same time, that he has to devote the larger part of his time to his executive engineer’s work. Again, the consequent persuasion follows. Somehow, sneakingly, the feeling enters that the larger part of the day—which is to be devoted to his job—is a larger, greater, more intensive reality than the call of religion or spirituality. Here the cat is out of the bag, as they say; the truth comes out.

There is a very difficult knot that you have tied within your own selves, and that inside core of this psychological knot is utter darkness. No light can penetrate it, so you cannot know that you are in this circumstance. You cannot be aware what the trouble is. Sometimes, you feel that there is no trouble at all. Especially when you are physically healthy and financially wealthy—social status is there and everybody smiles at your face—it may appear that nothing is wrong in this world. But you cannot expect such rewards from life always.

Sometimes, you may be warned that this is not the true state of affairs. You get warnings from various sides—from your office, from your social relationships, from your own body also—that things are not exactly as you think. There is something different from what you are imagining in your mind. Now, this is a point which is not visible outside to the naked eye because it is only inside, not outside. But the urges of your mind, which channelise themselves through the avenues of the senses, pull you out of yourself in the direction of your activities in office and factory, etc. so forcefully and impetuously that you have no consciousness that there is a dark patch within your own self, which even an X-ray cannot discover. This dark patch obstructs the movement of light from within you. And, just as a dark spot in a moving film may be projected on the screen and you will see the black spot on the screen, although actually it is not on the screen—it is in the film that is moving through the projector, which is seen outside—likewise, you will project this black spot onto other people. You will see all people in this world as evil: “There is no good man anywhere. Everyone is wretched, stupid and idiotic.” This difficulty, which is sociological, may be a consequence of a psychological lacuna, as you can understand from the illustration of how a defect in the film can make the screen outside appear defective inasmuch as nobody looks at the film but everyone sees only the screen outside.

There is much to say about our own selves; but we cannot become objects of our own study. Since all our studies are laboratory investigations and observations through telescopes, microscopes, etc., we cannot study our own selves. This little lacuna, this knot, this confusion, this dark spot, this rubbish within cannot be seen by ourselves because there is no instrument that we can apply against us. It is not an object; it is a subject, to put it more precisely. As we are subjects, we cannot become objects. We cannot become other than what we are; hence, we cannot study our own selves. The syllabuses of our educational institutions do not prescribe the study of one’s own self. It is all a study of somebody else, as if somebody else is the most important thing in the world, and one has nothing to say about one’s own self. The truth is the other way around.

Due to a total misguiding movement of the mind, an overemphasis is laid on that which is not ourselves, while secretly our love for our own selves is the most intense. There is an altruistic manifestation of a secret selfishness in man, mostly. Thus, the world goes. It is not for nothing that the great master said that the world is maya, a tremendous illusion. In what sense it is an illusion, you will have to study for your own self. At least, in one sense, I have mentioned to you what it is like: a projection of a picture which is not the true picture of the world, and an engagement of your whole personality in the witnessing and visualisation of the performance of this untrue picture of the world. Do you not call this maya? What else is maya, if not this?

Now you should be a little clear as to why you are unhappy in this world. Nobody makes you unhappy—not your boss, not your subordinate, not your husband, not your wife, not anybody. “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” as the poet put it. There is something very strange within our own selves in many a sense, not only in one sense. Anatomically and physiologically, we are strange complexes. The more we study the anatomical, physiological and biological structure of man, the greater is the miracle and marvel that we see in our own self. Strange is the bodily performance—the muscular and the nervous operation of man. Strange is the way in which the vital breath blows. Miraculous is the way in which we are breathing and how the lungs operate. Wonder again is the way in which we digest our food and one substance is chemically converted and transmuted into another substance in the alimentary canal. Wonder again is the way in which we are thinking and apprehending two things at the same time—a very, very unsatisfactory worldly environment around us, and a great hope for perfection on the other side.

There is a still greater marvel within every one of us which is the cause of these marvellous operations in our intellect, our reason, our mind, our breathing, our body, and in our social relationships, also. There is a marvel behind marvels. Every discovery of man, scientifically, artistically or philosophically has been a revelation of a marvel that works in this world. Every scientist discovers a marvel. “Oh, what a wonder!” he cries out in the joy of his discovery. Psychologists discover a marvel. Biologists cry out, “Eureka! What a marvel!”—all this because the secret of life is itself a great marvel.

These words that I have placed before you are in the form of an introductory description of the conditions from which you have to move higher on, upwards to that which you are aspiring for in Ashrams, in institutions, in temples, in religious scriptures, and in Sadhana Weeks.

The first step that you have to take in the practice of sadhana, or the learning of the art of spiritual living, is to understand what that first step is. Everyone knows that the first step cannot be the second step; it has to be the first only. But what is the first step? The first step is the very condition in which you are now. If you are studying in the second standard, the first step is the second standard. From there, you move to the third standard. If you are in the tenth standard, the initial step is the tenth standard only; from there, you go to the eleventh standard and onwards. But it has to be finalised as to what is the standard in which you are existing now. Perhaps, none of you are uniformly in a single standard. None of you are born on the same day and at the same minute. Therefore, from the point of view of the evolutionary law of the universe at least, none of you can be said to be literally on a par with another. You may be all disciples of the same Guru; you may be all reading the same scripture; you may all belong to a single religious faith; you may be living in the same house, in the same Ashram or institution. Nevertheless, you may be different from one another from the point of view of a subtle discovery of the standpoint of your own total makeup, psychophysically.

Many of you cannot know your own level, and will not find it easy to discover the circumstances of your life. It requires a superior investigative faculty. Rarely can people know the truths of their own selves. You can know your strengths and weaknesses to some extent, if you are honest to yourself. But if, as it is the case with most people, you are wrongly convinced that milk and honey are flowing in this world and you are on velvet, that would be an overestimation from which you have to guard yourself. There is no need to underestimate yourself as a sinner and a good-for-nothing fellow in this world. That also may not be a true picture of yourself. Nor may it be true that you are on a high pedestal of living and you are a master of all the arts. So, let there be a true assessment of yourself.

How are you going to make this assessment? Many of you would find it difficult to find a guide. People live in distant places or large cities, and have many difficulties in life. How will you find a suitable guide? Where such a guide is possible, go to that guide and ask that superior: “What do you advise me, sir, at this present moment of time in the condition in which you discover me now?” If this is not possible, sit alone for a few minutes before you go to bed at night—after you finish your dinner, chat with your family members and read the newspaper or whatever you do. When all that is done and you are free to go to bed, do not suddenly lie down. Let the family go to sleep, but do not go to sleep. Sit alone and close your eyes: “Am I really a great man inside? Have I any importance? Is there any significance in me which is worth reckoning in life? Is there any importance attached to me?”

Importance—significance, value, greatness, whatever it is—is a description of either your social association or relationship with people, your physical condition, your mental structure, or your physical achievement. “Am I great, spiritually?” Put a question to yourself. “Am I a highly achieved person in the religious and spiritual fields? Am I a highly accomplished person in an intellectual and rational field, or in a scientific field?” You will receive a very, very uncomfortable answer to your question. “Am I a perfectly well-built physical stalwart? Am I really a very significant and valued person in human society?” What else is there in life except the value that you have in respect of your relationship with other people, the value that you attach to your own physical strength, the value that you attach to your own educational or artistic and scientific achievements, or your religious and spiritual heights? In what sense are you important in this world? You would be really sorry when you receive the answers from your own self. Perhaps you would not be able to sleep after a thorough investigation of your own self in all these directions. What is there in you, except these things that I have mentioned?

Most of us are only socially related individuals. We have nothing to call our own except that which is bestowed upon us by our social relationships. Family circumstances also come under social relationship; and nothing can be so brittle as social relationship. If that is the stand we are taking to assess ourselves, sorry indeed is our state of affairs.

Let each one take a diary or a notebook in one’s hand. Keep it secret. You need not show it to anybody else. “What is my importance? What have I achieved? I am twenty years of age—thirty, forty, fifty, sixty years of age. What are my achievements in the social field, the vital, artistic, intellectual, scientific and spiritual fields?” Each one of you will get an answer from your own self. That answer is the stand on which you have to take the first step. The first step that you have to take in your ascent towards the perfection that you are aspiring for is the answer that you get to these questions privately received in your bedroom when you are absolutely alone—unseen, unbefriended, and unknown to people.

But you are too busy. You have no time to sit like this. You come tired, exhausted. Who can sit like this? If you are interested in your own welfare, you should not say, “I am tired, fed up, overworked in the factory or office and also in the house. I have come home and will go to bed.” Who will not be interested in one’s own self? If you are really concerned with your welfare, how will you not find time to think of your welfare? How could you be exhausted? You will not be exhausted.

These preliminary remarks may suffice for this day for you all to contemplate as a foundational arrangement that you can make within your own mental field and discover the nature of the pedestal, or the step in the ladder of evolution, on which you are standing, and from which you have to ascend further.