A- A+

Sessions with Ashram Residents
by Swami Krishnananda

Session 13: Consciousness Alone Exists

We read in the medieval history of India that there was a mighty and glorious empire in the southern part of the country, called the Vijayanagar Empire, though now its glory is dead and gone. It appears that the architects employed by the king of that country had hung an iron statue in mid-air. Nobody could understand how an iron statue could be hanging in space. Nobody bothered about it; everybody admired it, praised it, and went away. Later on, when history changed, modern scientists came to India. They were curious to know what this mystery is. By investigation they found there were four magnetic pillars on the ground, to which nobody paid any attention. These pillars were holding in unison, with equal force, the iron statue. Because of the equal force exerted on all four sides, the statue did not fall.

Now, the existence of the statue in mid-air is a question which is similar to the question of our own personal existence in this world. I am not talking of the statue, but the existence, the location of the statue in the air with no support, really. It is only a propelling of that statue by several forces contributing to its apparent stability in the air.

We are none the better. We appear to be existing as solid bodies, and totally independent. This solidity of our existence and the total independence that we assume in our own selves would be something like the statue assuming an independent existence of its own in mid-air and assuming the stability of its existence, all of which were contributed by other forces.

We have been studying a lot since months and years, but what have we been studying? The point I am emphasising is that we are just locations, not existences. What does it mean? When forces from every side impinge upon our so-called apparent individuality, they create the illusion of a solid individuality. We have seen moving pictures. We are not going to see the pictures, actually speaking. Nobody is interested in the pictures. We want to see the people and the things which look solid and three-dimensional. How can there be a three-dimensional presentation on a two-dimensional flat screen? Nobody bothers. Let it be. We want to see the moving picture. Why does a two-dimensional feature look like a three-dimensional object? If this question can be answered, we can answer every question in the world. This will answer the question of why we appear to be solid objects.

People ask whether God created the world, and why God created the world. Without going into the theological aspects of this question, I may briefly say that God created the world in the same way as the four-dimensional reality created the three-dimensional world. Can anyone imagine what a four-dimensional reality is? This is a deep scientific secret, and ordinary minds cannot understand it. A four-dimensional reality is what is behind the appearance of the three-dimensional solidity of the world, and the appearance of every one of us.

This means the world is an appearance, just as the solidity of the people and the things on a cinema screen is an appearance. They are not there, really speaking, but they can entertain us. We can smile, we can weep, we can curse, and we can jump in joy over a thing which is not there at all. There are only shadows moving on a flat screen. Are we such idiotic people that we can dance in joy by seeing shadows moving on a flat surface? Illusion has no rationality. It defies understanding. “When I see a thing, I am seeing a thing; that's all. Don't argue further. I have seen it.” Whether we have really seen it or not is a different matter.

So is the case with our existence. This is a kind of analysis that I am conducting for your benefit. It is no use moving like a fool throughout one's life. We can go on dancing in joy every day as if everything is fine, in the same way we can go and see the moving pictures every day. “Oh, beautiful!” There is no beauty there; there is nothing existing but a kind of transfiguration of location through the optical act of the sense organs in terms of space. The spatial distance between the screen and our own eyes, which is difficult to explain, creates this illusion of there being a huge palace with people moving, etc. A locational magic is taking place in this, what we may call the world. We cannot call it the world because it is not there, in the same way as people are not there in the screen. But they are there enough to make us weep or dance in joy. How can things which are not there affect us to such an extent that we seem to be hanging on them? Just as we cling to the people on the cinema screen, in the same way we are clinging to our own bodies.

I briefly explained to you why the shadows look like human beings. It is an adjustment of optical operation through the association of space in between. So is the case with all things. The world is said to be an illusion. What is the use of saying that the world is an illusion? You can go on chanting this mantra, but it makes no sense. You must have the brain to go deep into the question of why people always say that the world is not there, really speaking. What is there, then?

I will quote some ideas from the modern scientific philosopher Alfred North Whitehead. He is one of the best we can find, but nobody reads him because nobody can understand what he is saying. But it is necessary to understand what he is saying. He uses a term called ‘actual occasion' to describe the existence of an individual. We are occasions, not existences. We are circumstances, prevailing conditions, and not actually human bodies. Why are we only occasions? An occasion cannot be called a person, and we are confident that we are very solid individuals. But this is not the case.

The universe is not made up of stones and bricks. It is not made up of earth, water, fire, air. It is made up of a law that is operating. The universe is a law, and not a thing. Can a law look like a thing?

I will give another example. If you touch a high-voltage electric wire, it will create a sensation which is difficult to explain. At that time you will not feel the shock of the electricity. You will feel as if some huge, heavy stone is hanging on your hand even though nothing heavy is there. The operation of electricity in a particular manner can give a shock to your nervous system and create a sensation of there being a huge stone hanging on your hand. There is no stone; it is a law that operates on your hand.

What is the meaning of ‘law'? Law is a system. It is difficult to find words to explain what is actually there. It is a performance which has no logical reason. You must have seen magicians performing tricks. The magician can produce things that are not really there. A magician can appear to eat broken glass, drink nitric acid, and spit fire from his mouth, though actually that does not take place and it is only a peculiar psychological trick that the magician is playing. It is just a trick, but a trick, which is just an operation of a particular kind, looks like an existent thing—a creation, as it were. This is an attempt to explain whether God created the world.

Do you believe that three straight lines positioned in a particular manner form a triangle? There are no triangles there. There are three straight lines that have been kept in some particular way to look like a triangle. A non-existent triangle can be seen to be existing by adjusting three straight lines. Mathematics is a mysterious law. It is not just adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, and so on. Mathematics is a principle of operation not only through the sense organs, but also through the mind. The whole thing is a chaos which looks like a system of order.

I mention once again the manner in which a four-dimensional realm looks like a three-dimensional solid world. A four-dimensional realm is unthinkable. The only example of the unthinkability of this phenomenon is the appearance of solid objects on a cinema screen. In a similar manner, how does this huge, stout, heavy object looking like a physical world emanate from a non-existent mathematical equation? You must learn the laws of modern physics. Sir James Jeans, the great physicist and philosopher, wrote a thesis to prove that God is only a mathematical mind. A mathematical mind does not mean a mind that totals and deducts figures, and so on. That is a very initial, rudimentary state of mathematics. Mathematics is a magic which can topple things and create things. A great German physicist called Max Planck wrote only a few pages, which led to what is called the quantum mechanics of today. He got a Nobel Prize for three pages of writing. It was just an equation, but who can understand what this equation is? God has magically produced an equation which cannot be understood by a mind that cannot calculate in a super-mathematical manner.

These astounding revelations in science have compelled a non-believing, mighty scientist like Sir Arthur Eddington to conclude finally, against his scientific will, that the stuff of the world is consciousness. The world is not there; there is only the thinker that the world exists. It is not the world that is existing; there is only the mind which is thinking that the world is existing. That mind we may call the mind of God.

Suffice it to say that there is a great scientific reason to believe that only God exists. Only a mathematical central mind exists. It is another way of saying consciousness alone exists. The mighty waves of consciousness dashing one over the other, creating a huge tumult, as it were, in the form of space and time, present this magical show of this wonderful world, not knowing that we are included in this wave-like dashing of the sea of consciousness. Since consciousness cannot see itself, it gets befuddled and confused, and creates a network of a false operation of there being another thing outside itself. We are living in an utterly foolish phenomenon not even worth mentioning. If consciousness is the utter truth, it is everywhere. We cannot have consciousness only in one place because if that were the case, the consciousness should be aware that it is in one place only, and it should be aware at the same time that it is not in another place. To be aware that you are not in another place, you have to be already there in that place where you think that you are not. This analysis goes to prove that consciousness is universal existence. Nothing else can exist.

Then who are we? Once again we raise the same question. We are fools. There is no better word for us. In one of the Upanishads, God Himself is considered as a magician. Māyām tu prakṛitiṁ viddhi, māyinam tu maheśvaram (S.U. 4.10) is the sloka in the Upanishad. The visible, solid world is the magical show performed by God, who is the magician. The question of whether God created the world does not arise.

We say two and two make four. Do two and two create four? It is a law. If two and two cannot be said to be manufacturing a thing called four, God cannot be said to be manufacturing this world. But yet, four comes out of two and two. This obsession with the causal law makes us confine ourselves to an idiotic conclusion that there must be a cause for everything. The question “Why should there be a cause for everything?” cannot be answered, but this belief in a causal law is instilled into our minds. Our minds are made up of the operation of such a thing called the causal law. Therefore, whatever we may learn, we apply this causal law to it. Why should one thing cause another thing? Who told us this? Have we seen the world being produced by a creator?

Because these terrible truths cannot enter the mind of anybody, the scriptures tell stories: There was God in the beginning. He thought, “Let Me manufacture the world; let Me become manifold.” We have to say that. We are like kindergarten students who can understand only kindergarten pictorial presentations. Abstract things are not told to children. It will not enter their heads.

This is a kind of self-analysis which will be astounding to you. You will no more pat yourself on your back. You will not want anything afterwards. If you are dancing like a wave in the cosmic sea of consciousness, what do you want in that condition? The question does not arise. What is this life? The question does not arise. What do you dislike? The question does not arise. Where are you existing? The question does not arise. Every question—philosophical, theological, religious, spiritual—falls flat before this conclusion.

This is a very in-depth analysis of ourselves as persons, and of everything, of even a particle of sand. This vision may be called God-vision. If this vision arises in our consciousness, we are actually visualising God Himself, the astounding majesty that we call God. God is not a huge man sitting on a throne in heaven, as some scriptures say.

The more we speak on this subject, the less we find words to say what it is. Great sages keep mum. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad says that after learning everything and becoming a great scholar, we should become like a child: bālyena tiṣṭhāset; bālyaṁ ca pāṇḍityaṁ ca nirvidya, atha muniḥ (B.U. 3.5.1). To become like a child does not mean becoming ignorant like a child, but being a simple, innocent, flexible, beautiful, contented existence. That is a child. That state must also be renounced, and then we become silent. We become silent not merely in words, but we also become silent in our minds.

All sorts of examples are given. It is like a person getting drowned in an ocean of nectar. Well, getting drowned is not a very happy thing, but it is getting drowned in a nectar which immortalises everything. You are drowning yourself in that. Do you want to drown yourself in God? Even that you do not want. You want to meet God, but drowning, no. “I cannot drown myself in anything, even in God Himself.” This is what we are: inveterate egoists, self-esteem raised to the heights, and non-receptive to any kind of good advice. This network of what we call the egoism of the personality should either be broken open, like cutting the Gordian knot, or it should be reduced to liquid so that the knot does not exist. When the knot is liquefied, the bubble enters the ocean.