by Swami Krishnananda
It is necessary for us to recollect the passage we have traversed in the study of our own life. Very often, if not always, we expect that the world in which we live should be made in the way in which we see it, and in the manner we understand it. This is an attitude of self-confidence which brooks no interference from any other point of view of understanding. Man expects to live in man’s world only, as we see obviously demonstrated in our own personal lives. As we are men, we expect only men to be alive—as if no one else can coexist with man, as that would interfere with his outlook of life and way of understanding.
This has been a very staunch behaviour of man throughout his history, and any failure in the fulfilment of his outlook has been attributed to causes other than the real ones. We have not learned to be charitable in our feelings. There has been a very egoistic presentation of even our feelings in regard to things. Do you not believe that true charity is your ability to feel in the way others feel? To compel others to coordinate themselves with your own feelings is the autocrat’s attitude. This is not charity.
Charity expects not merely a concession grudgingly given to another’s viewpoint, but an acceptance of the presence of other equally valid points of view, so that man is not the sole master of creation. There are others who can call themselves masters in a similar manner. So man’s viewpoint, or his philosophy, need not be the final word; but he wants that his word should be final. Here is the great discovery behind the causes of man’s failure in life.
Unfortunately for us, the world does not behave the way we expect it to behave. This should awaken our mind to a further concession that perhaps we are not the rulers of the world. Many times it has been proven to us that the world is ruling over us; we are not ruling it. We have been subjected to the operation of the laws of the world in all the facets through which it manifests itself, and our voices have not been heard. Our prayers have been a cry in the wilderness. The sun has always managed to rise only in the east; it does not rise in any other direction. The day and the night, the seasons, nature’s vicissitudes, and all other concomitances of these processes have managed to maintain their position, regardless of what we would like their attitude towards us to be.
But more than all this, topping the list of all our difficulties, there is the unsolved problem of birth and death that clinches the whole matter before us. The final judgement is delivered by the world upon everyone here when it declares that it is not going to listen to our opinion in the matter of this great order which we regard as the phenomenon of dying and being born. We have absolutely no say in this matter. This is the last bolt that the world has struck upon us. “If you talk more, I will deal with you in this matter, in this way.” No man has escaped the notice of this operating law called birth and death.
While we may, under a pressure of necessity, accept that there is such a thing called subjection to birth and death, and we also concede that we have no control over this phenomenon, we try to push this event to a future date with the power of our imagination. We want to rule somehow or other, even in hell. The desire to rule is predominant in man and, somehow or other, he wants to make his voice heard and accepted, at least in some measure. So what does man say? “My dear friend, world, law of nature, you are telling me that you are not going to listen to my wish that I would like to be free from this turmoil of birth and death. But let me also be given a little choice, at least in some percentage. I am not going to die just now, though it may be true that one day I have to die.” So man cajoles himself, pats himself on the back and convinces himself from the bottom of his heart that his death, the call from the law of nature, is a distant possibility.
Previously, I gave you a faint idea as to how this world is unreal; it is a maya. I tried to present this fact before you in a new fashion, and not in the metaphysical way of Acharya Sankara or philosophers whom you have read. In a more intelligent and acceptable commonsense way, I tried to explain how the world is not as real as you are imagining it to be. Another difficulty here is that you are in another illusion, a different facet of this very same maya, which compels you to convince yourselves that the great call from the heavens is in the distant future, and not a possibility of this moment.
Who tells you this? Which document has recorded that it is in the distant future? No proof, no evidence comes forth that your conviction is right. Nevertheless, your conviction is your conviction, and everybody has to accept it. “What I say, I say, and it is forever.” Here again is man in his true colour. Everywhere man has demonstrated his stupidity. He has never behaved like an intelligent, wise individual; and he has asserted his ego to the utmost extent possible. The defiance of the existing laws, even in the teeth of utter failure, is the predominant conduct of the ego.
Now I come to the point from where I began. The world does not appear to be constituted in the way in which we think it is constituted, and our laws and regulations are not going to operate here. They have to be subjected to the higher law. What is this higher law?
I have taken up for these days’ discussion a theme which I have designated as ‘Religion and Social Values’, which epithet will give you an idea as to the goal so that I may not baffle you with any philosophical disquisition or lofty ideas which go over your heads—things which are usually associated with religion, philosophy, meditation, etc. It is, again, necessary to stand on our own feet and not stand in the air, without any support at the bottom. We have to move onwards and forward, ascend in the direction of the basic urges of the spirit within us under the circumstances which we have been able to discover with this little psychological and sociological analysis.
Many religions have failed; and seekers and sadhakas also have not always succeeded in their pursuits. I do not know if you have come across any person who could confidently say that he has attained full success and complete achievement in his efforts towards leading a spiritual life. A sorry face is cut by everyone finally, notwithstanding the herculean efforts in the path of meditation, japa, worship, and religious pursuits.
Is it not essential on our part to discover the causes of our failure? Or, are we to attribute it to God’s unkindness and the idiocy of the public around us? Our earlier analysis pointed out to some extent that our suffering is not due to the wickedness of other people, even though there may be untoward persons in the world. It is also unkind to call God unkind. An unkind God would not have planted in us an aspiration for kindness. An evil God who is bereft of the sense of goodness cannot enshrine the sense of goodness in our mind. How could the idea of goodness, rectitude and propriety arise in our mind if such a thing were not to exist in this world? How could a thing that does not exist anywhere in the world operate in our mind?
We have a rock bottom of misunderstanding due to our overwhelming occupation with the surface activities of life. We give excessive importance to the sensations emanating from our personality and the reports we receive in respect of these sensations. We are hungry, and we think that hunger is appeased by taking our daily meal. A daily meal is not a medicine for hunger. Hunger will persist, as if we have eaten nothing yesterday. The irrepressible appetite of the body is proof that breakfast and lunch are not going to satisfy this body; otherwise, it should have kept quiet after having been fed well. It is not going to keep quiet. A voracious, insatiable, infinite asking is the attitude of this body. Any amount of wheat and rice cannot satisfy it. All the granary of the world will not suffice to satisfy the hunger of the stomach. This is the attitude of this little body. The whole world cannot satisfy it.
Our mind also cannot be satisfied by any amount of entertainment. It is always dissatisfied. It has an impulse to ask for things whose nature it is not able to understand. It asks for peace. Many people say, “We want nothing but peace of mind,” without knowing what they mean by ‘peace of mind’. “I want only peace of mind.” “But what is your idea of peace of mind?” “I do not know. I have come to ask you.” Even what they expect and what they need is not clear to their own minds.
Is peace of mind a cessation of noise from the trucks and cars that ply nearby? If no vehicles move and there is no noise, and nobody speaks in your ears, can you say you have peace of mind? That is not peace of mind. If no noise is made anywhere near you, and you hear nothing, you see nothing— that also cannot be called peace of mind. So, what is it that you are asking for? You do not know. Are you not asking for a thing whose characteristic you yourself do not know?
You love beautiful things, artistic arrangements. There is what is called the aesthetic impulse. Why does this impulse arise in you? How is it that you love only beauty and not ugliness? What is wrong with ugly things? You cannot answer this question. Ugly things are ugly things; beautiful things are beautiful things. “I do not like ugly things.” Why do you not like ugly things? What defects do you see in that which you call ugly? Why do you give it that name? Who asked you to give that peculiar designation of ugliness to that which you do not like? And why do you not like it? You cannot answer this question. “I like this. I do not like this. That is all.” The matter ends.
There is an insatiable hunger of the intellect and the reason to know more and more. Here again, an insatiable appetite operates within you, in the body, in the mind and in the intellect. You pursue your studies, and pursue them further and further. You go to foreign countries and pursue studies more and more, and they never end. There is something which you cannot understand even afterwards. Finally—I come to the point—there is something which keeps you in terrible insecurity of what will happen to you tomorrow, or even the next moment. “The greatest wonder in the world,” said Yudhishthira, “is that man, while he accepts the eventuality of dying, imagines that he is exempt from this phenomenon.”
You carry dead bodies to the cremation grounds and drop crocodile tears for a few minutes, but never do you feel, “This is the way I have to tread. Even if it be true that this is the way I have to walk, it is not today.” What can be a greater wonder than this? What can be a greater wonder than the fact that you are asking for things which you cannot understand? How is it that you cannot understand anything, and yet you are asking for everything? Here comes the need for a larger outlook and a deeper study of things. The present educational career is inadequate. It is empirical, it is sensory, it is a make-believe; it is a tentative adjustment and a workable arrangement, not an in-depth entry into the facts of things.
You stand on unstable ground when you conduct yourselves in this world on the basis of the knowledge that you have acquired through your studies. Your studies are not studies of the truths of things. That is why with all your studies, degrees and qualifications, you are still at a loss, and find yourself in a most unhappy situation, and do not know how to live in this world. This difficulty manifests itself after your studies are over. As long as you are a student, you have no problems because you are with your books; parents, or somebody, take care of you. You have no worry of any kind. But when the studies are over, the world looks at you as it is really: “Now, what do you say about me?”
Just as an unsatisfied wife may keep quiet as long as her husband is in the office but puts forth her grievances the moment he returns from work, nature seems to be behaving in a similar way. It keeps quiet as long as you are studying in your colleges. “All things are over. Now what do you say about me?”—and it keeps you restless afterwards. This is because you have been following a wrong path even in your studies and educational career; and neither your parents, your government, your society nor your friends have been good enough or intelligent enough to tell you what your problems are going to be when you become an adult. They have managed to keep you in the dark, because they themselves are in the dark.
Here comes the need for a new type of education. You may call it religion. If you have any other name for it, you can bring that name forward. It is a participation in the order of the universe that you are required to extend, and not an interest evinced to utilise nature for your personal purpose. Scientific inventions and political manoeuvres, even sociological pursuits and projects, have been adventures in the direction of grabbing something from nature, controlling it, bending it down, and harnessing it for one’s own social purposes. This would not be successful, because the world is not the slave of any man. Oftentimes, man has been proven to be the slave of natural laws. Nature can suddenly burst a bomb on the head of all humanity, which she has been keeping secretly tucked under the arm because the time for it has not come. The whole Earth can shake, and the matter ends there in one second.
A few days back I read in a newspaper that after some months there will be an alignment of seven or eight planets with the Sun, and the Earth can be shaken. A bolt, a jerk, a kick can be given to the Earth by the other planets; and we know very well what we can expect if a kick is given to the whole Earth. We hope that a kick will not be given because such a kick has never been given up to this time, and we always believe that a thing which has never happened will not happen. This is our logic.
There is, therefore, a necessity to undergo a new and true type of education. Here again, we have some problem. We may feel a need, but we may not be able to fulfil that need easily because circumstances in the world are not favourable. People frighten us by saying that Kali Yuga has come and this is not an age to gain an insight into the reality of things. Their gospel is that until Treta Yuga comes, until the Kalki Avatar is over, man has no hope. But the whole world is a mystery still, and this gospel is not the final word. I do not think that the Kali Age which people speak of is confined merely to the time calculations given in our almanacs. It is a perpetual process which can be called by this name of the cyclic movements of Krita, Treta, Dvapara and Kali.