Chapter 32: Intellectual Understanding
Norma (Lebanon): We foreigners come here because we have been unable to solve the problem that we have set before ourselves, and we come for your help. Many times when I come here with a question in mind, I have found that by thinking about it enough, I come either to some form of an answer, or I feel from reading your book Problems of Spiritual Life, that in any event you will give me an answer that "you will only be able to know if you do this," and that I am sort of putting the cart before the horse. In life we apply ourselves to a dramatic problem, and eventually see the problem as a whole, and solve it by having seen it as a whole; but day after day, maybe year after year, I try to change my way of thinking, and it doesn't work. Maybe for ten minutes at a time I can see that "a thing is a thing because I call it a thing," and by calling it "a thing" I posit "I." I can understand this, but the understanding of it does not alter my condition.
Swamiji: You are not supposed merely to understand it. You have to apply that understanding in your practical life.
Norma: I apply that understanding, but it is as if I cannot be aware all the time, for some reason. So, what I am asking is, why?
Swamiji: That understanding has to become part of your living itself. That is the essence of living spiritual life. Understanding is not sufficient.
Norma: Yes, I know.
Swamiji: The understanding is only an information given to you so that you may apply it in your personal life. This virtually means meditation. You deeply sink into your heart the content of your understanding, and become it, practically, and change your personality into the character of that thing which you have understood. The object of your understanding has entered you to such an extent that you have yourself become that. Knowledge has become being. Your knowledge, your understanding, has become yourself. Do you understand?
Norma: I understand, but then I go out and I live; I interact, let's say. For some time, I maintain some sense of this, and then everything goes screwy on me. I become "I" and again think "this person wants that from me." Even if I can control this to some degree, and not become scatter-brained at the first moment...
Swamiji: You can hold it only to some degree, in the earlier stages. You are just beginning it and, therefore, you may be able to retain such a consciousness for some minutes, or say for an hour, if you are able to sit quietly and meditate; but it is not possible to keep it in mind for all times, throughout the day.
Norma: And, are you able to, then?
Swamiji: Well, we are trying to do that. We are existing only for that purpose; otherwise, what is the good of living?
Norma: Yes, but most of us don't do that. And even when you read the religious texts, they say if you want to get there, you are going to be one in a million. They don't get there.
Swamiji: Day in and day out, you have to brood over this matter. You have no other work in this world, except this. You are saying that you have a lot of work to do, and your mind goes here and there.
Norma: No, I am saying that though I know, I can see that this is counterproductive to me, it seems that it is sometimes impossible for my mind to change.
Swamiji: That is because you have not been able to make your understanding a part of your life. You are living in one way, and your understanding is somewhere else, in a book, or in the intellect. You are not an intellect, you are a soul; so, what you call understanding is the appreciation of truth by the intellect. This appreciation has to enter your soul. This is what I mean by saying that knowledge is being. It requires great practice for a protracted period, and whatever you have understood in this respect is not inadequate; it is sufficient.
You know something, and it is good enough. The only thing is that you must have a little time to sit alone by yourself. You may be a busy person; that is all right, but even then, at least in the earlier stages, you must find an hour or two, or even less than that, as much as possible, to sit quietly and identify your consciousness with what you say is your understanding. Later on, if God wills, you may be able to think it throughout the day, and your distractions of life will not then upset you.
They are really not distractions. They are only different things which you are not able to harmonise into an integrated whole. The things of the world are not distractions. They look like that because you are unable to place them properly in their proper context.
God has not created distractions. He has created a universe which is complete in itself. And so, you have to see the whole world as God Himself would see it, as a total whole, in which all distractive elements find a proper place. And in their own place, they are perfectly all right. If you take them out of context, they look irregular and undesirable, and all that. Put everything in its own context and everything is all right. The whole world is perfect, and you are also perfect, because you are a part of that. This kind of meditation is what I have suggested in my little book Problems of Spiritual Life. Think over that. When you go to Lebanon afterwards, you can write to us, if you have any questions.
God's creation is full of contradictions. Nothing is like something else. One leaf in the tree is not like another leaf in the same tree. One person is not like another person. Everything is different. There is so much contradiction; yet, it is a perfect blend of harmony and beauty of creation. This is symbolised in the contradictions of the family of Lord Shiva, and the perfect harmony also that He maintains. The worst poison of the snake is the nectar on His body. Nothing will harm Him. So, God is all perfection, and in Him every contradiction that you see in life is harmonised beautifully.
In our own body, there are pleasant things and unpleasant things also; yet, they are all harmonised in our personality. You have got lungs, heart, stomach, entrails, blood, bone, flesh, marrow. They are all unpleasant things to see, but they are encased in a bag of skin so that the person looks nice. Suppose the skin is removed; how beautiful will that person look? You would run away from that person as if a ghost is coming. Such a contradiction and horror! An unpleasant admixture of things in our own body is made to look beautiful with a skin covering, and we are looking wonderful. So, even in our own body there is this contradiction harmonised. We are also like a little cosmos, a symbol of God. They say the human being is a mirror of God, symbolising the Almighty. Whatever God has, you also have.