Chapter 51: Methodist Ministers
Mike: What is the relationship between contemplation and action?
Swamiji: There is the subtle feeling of difference between the two. If you say that they are not different, that they are identical, then there is no question of any kind. Do you think that they are two different things? Is meditation one occupation, and action another occupation? If that is the case, there is no harmony between the two, and there is definitely a contradiction; but if the two are only two names for one and the same thing, then the question does not arise in doing both things, because they are not two things.
The right hand and the left hand do two different things; I can write with my right hand, and lift an object with the left hand. They are two different actions, isn't it? But, they are your actions, and therefore, they are not two different actions. Though apparently lifting an object and writing with the hand are not identical actions – they are totally contrary, you may say – yet, it is you who are doing it. Therefore, there is no difference between two different types of activity – call it meditation, call it social service, or anything you like.
All this hinges, finally, upon the relationship between yourself and the social atmosphere outside. Are you a totally independent individual seeking the salvation of yourself, which, of course, is a most worthwhile thing; or, are you also connected with society, and not totally independent of society, in which case, you have a duty towards society?
Here is a question of the relationship between the individual and society. In what way are you connected to society? You may say you have no duty towards society: "I am myself; in what way am I connected with the world? I can do whatever I like." Each one is independent. You can just now go that way, and he can go this way, so what connection is there between you? Yet, there seems to be a connection with even the trees and mountains. You cannot say that the trees, the mountains, the sun, the moon, and the stars are disconnected from you.
You breathe the air of the atmosphere; are you connected to the air, or are you independent? You live in sunlight, without which you will perish; are you connected with the sun and the moon? You drink the water which God has given to you; are you connected to the water, or independent of water? You require heat; are you connected with heat, or totally independent? You want space to live; are you independent of space, or connected to space?
So, are you independent at all, in any sense? Or, are you cosmically involved in a network of relations with the whole of creation, in which case, call it meditation, call it work, do anything, and it is within the framework of the whole of creation. What do you say?
Mike: I understand you to be saying that contemplation and action are two aspects of a deeper reality, the same thing, and we certainly have found that to be true in our own life, and in our desire to develop our own spiritual life, and to help others do so.
Swamiji: Inasmuch as you are entwined with the cosmical setup, there is no such thing as "your own." That word has no meaning. "My own" does not apply to the facts operating in the world. You are connected organically with the entire creational setup, so there is no such thing as "my own." This "my own" will mean the universal whole. All of creation is with you. God has created you, and God has created the world, and not kept you apart from the world. As you are not outside the world, there is no contradiction of any kind in your life, if we think of it deeply. Seeking God, and seeking the peace of society, do not seem to be two things because, if at all you are doing anything, you are doing it within the campus of God's creation.
So, there is no such thing as "my own" – "my salvation." When you seek salvation, you must understand the implications of it. The whole thing comes up with you, with which you are connected. An organism cannot be split into two parts, and the universe is an organism as is your body, as is society, as is a family relation, as is anything. The whole of reality is an organism which cannot be split into parts.
So, when you do one thing, you have done other things, also, at the same time. Do you remember the old word of a poet, "When you touch a flower in the garden, you have disturbed the stars in heaven"? So, there is no difference between contemplation and action. There is no difference between you and me, also, finally.
Here is a great vista before us of what true spiritual life is. It is Godly life, which cannot be separated from earthly life, social life, or any kind of life. All life is one, so whenever you do anything, it looks as if the whole world is doing it through you. You are living a total life, and not a personal life. Personal satisfaction, personal salvation, all these words do not carry much meaning in the setup of the total organism of the cosmos. If God is a whole, His creation, also, is a whole, and you are equally a whole. So, fractions, fragmentations, do not exist here. This is, you may say, a cosmic, holistic thinking. So, what is your question? I have said something, and I think I have answered your question, from my point of view.
Alan: I think that we are of the mind that in the Christian tradition, we are discovering anew, maybe, or for the first time, the unity of all of creation, in the sense that we are truly connected, not only with our fellow humans, but with all of creation; and I think for myself, I am coming to understand that out of our tradition, this is what has been best in our tradition, but at times has been lost.
Swamiji: What is lost?
Alan: The unity of creation. The awareness...
Swamiji: You have lost the consciousness of unity.
Alan: Yes. The awareness that we are truly connected with one another.
Swamiji: Yes. We have, therefore, to revive our consciousness of the fact of unity of existence, overcoming the unfortunate limitation consciousness, finitude consciousness, selfish consciousness, physical consciousness, and all that. This, I think, is how we can really worship God. To think like God would be the greatest worship, and perhaps to act, also, as God would act. What do you say?
Mike: The great teacher in our tradition was Jesus, who said, "Love your neighbour as yourself."
Swamiji: Why love? You are inseparable from the neighbour. This is much more than love, actually. Your self is implanted in the self of the neighbour. The Self of God is present everywhere, so it is not merely love. It is much more than that. You have to be more friendly with a person than you would like in a social manner – love another person in a condescending manner. You are not condescending in your love. It is the soul communing itself with another soul, so it is much more than a social teaching. It is a spiritual gospel. It is a divine teaching.
Alan: We also have an expression in our tradition, from one of the disciples of Jesus, who encourages people to put on the mind of Christ – to find unity with the Christ within.
Swamiji: If we can think as Christ thought, then there would be no problem, afterwards. We have to know what he thought, and you think like that. Let us see. Then, no problem will come to you.
Mike: Thank you.
Swamiji: Thank you very much. God bless you. We had a very wonderful satsanga. Satsanga means a holy gathering. We have actually thought of God just now, and I think He should be pleased with us.