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Sessions with Ashram Residents
by Swami Krishnananda

Session 21: The Self is the Friend and the Enemy of the Self

Swamiji: Uddhared ātmanātmānaṁ nātmānam avasādayet, ātmaiva hyātmano bandhur ātmaiva ripur ātmanaḥ; bandhur ātmātmanas tasya yenātmaivātmanā jitaḥ, anātmanas tu śatrutve vartetātmaiva śatruvat (B.G. 6.5-6). Can all of you write an essay on the meaning of this sloka? The word ātma is used so many times, and every time it is used in a different sense, so it is not easy to write such an essay unless you know what is the meaning of this ātma used on different occasions.

The self should be pulled up by the self. Now, what is the meaning? Ordinarily it has no meaning because one cannot pull up one's own self. It is not possible. It is like lifting one's own self. Somebody has to lift you. How can you lift yourself? So there is some difficulty in knowing the meaning of that. You should not fall down and deprecate and throw despondency on the self. The self should not make the self despondent. Now, which self will lift which self? The self is the friend of the self. The self is the enemy of the self. The commentary is given here: bandhur ātmātmanas tasya yenātmaivātmanā jitaḥ. Though it is a commentary, a very difficult commentary it is. The self is the friend of that self which has conquered the self by the self. Anātmanas tu śatrutve vartetātmaiva śatruvat: The self is the enemy of the self where the self has not been conquered by the self. So how many times is the world ‘self' used there? You can count. The whole two verses are filled with ‘self' only.

It is the essence of spiritual practice. The whole of sadhana is in these two slokas. The sixth chapter is the yoga of self-control, self-restraint, self-sufficiency, self-conquest, Self-realisation. You can call it by any name. Self-conquest, self-control, Self-realisation, self-sufficiency all mean the same thing.

An ashramite: All these things I think come in the lower self, and Self-realisation is in the higher self.

Swamiji: Now you are thinking of two selfs, the lower and the higher. Actually, lower and higher selfs are not mentioned in the sloka. It simply says “the self by the self”. The self that is not conquered by the self is the lower self. How can the self conquer the self? Will you conquer your own self? The self is to be conquered by the self. The self should not deprecate the self. The self is the friend of the self. The self is the enemy of the self. What is the meaning of all this? How can one thing be a friend of oneself or an enemy of oneself?

We are afraid of ourselves. We have fear from nobody else. We have great fear from ourselves. Now, when I say ‘we', who is this ‘we'? That is the whole point. The self has a fear of the self. The self is happy with the self.

Ashramite: The Self is the same in everyone.

Swamiji: You write an essay on that, whether it is the same or not. If it is the same, then why is one a boss and another a servant? Why are you making such a distinction? Is there a Self in the servant or not? Or is he a different Self from the Self in the boss? Is it the same Self, only one is a servant and the other is a boss? So that means two different Selfs are there. You said the same Self is everywhere, so then why are you saying that somebody is a servant? How do you answer this question? Here is the point. It is very difficult, sir. It is not an easy matter.

Ashramite: The servant Self has more limitations.

Swamiji: Who created the limitations? The Self does not create limitations for its own self. There is a time when we have to think of these matters. When we are entangled too much in externals, the self jumps out from itself, as it were, into the field of self-destruction, we may say. I must use words very carefully whenever I am speaking of the Self. The self can jump out of itself and become a greater self, or it can jump out of itself and destroy itself. Both it can do. It depends upon what kind of jump it is attempting, actually.

There is the larger self and the smaller self. If the smaller self jumps out to the higher self, it is a great achievement. But if the smaller self jumps out of itself into the pit of self-destruction, then it is a great pity indeed. The Self is everything, no more commentary is necessary; but in what sense is it everything? It is your father, it is your mother, it is your brother, it is your friend, it is your enemy, it is your protector, it is everything. It is you yourself, and it is also not yourself. Anything can be said about it. The Bhagavadgita uses the word ‘self' in any number of connotations. Sometimes the word Atman is used for the body also. Sometimes it is used for prana, sometimes for the sense organs, sometimes for the intellect. The word used in the Bhagavadgita is Atman, and in English you can call it Self. But what is the meaning of the Atman? Is it inside you or outside you, is it everywhere or only in one place, or is there anything outside it? These are the questions which arise. Is the Self inside you or is it also outside you? It is not outside because there are people sitting here.

Ashramite: It is in the heart of every living thing.

Swamiji: Then it is also outside you. Now you have modified your definition. If it is everywhere, there will be no place where it is not; and if it is everywhere, it is also everything. All the things are it only. So when you are opening your eyes and looking at things, what are you seeing, actually? Are you seeing the world of objects, or are you seeing the Atman? Here is the whole difference between spiritual perception and ordinary perception. If you cast your eyes around and see the Atman everywhere, it is spiritual perception. But if you cast your eyes everywhere and see only objects of attraction and repulsion, then that is the perception of bondage. So your vision determines your interpretation of things and the consequence that follows from it.

It is a very crucial matter. Books cannot help a person. It requires the Guru's instruction. Go and meet the Gurus, prostrate yourself before them, and learn the great truth. Knowledge has to be communicated to the student by a competent Master. A printed book cannot do this. Printed books are only symbols, like algebra, and you have to read the meaning in them. A Guru is not like that. He is a vibrating awareness, so when he thinks, what is called shaktipada takes place. Shaktipada means the descent of power; the descent of divine power is called shaktipada. Even if the Guru merely looks at you, the energy of the Guru will enter into you. He can speak to you, and the energy will enter into you, but he need not speak or look at you; he can simply think you and there will be shaktipada. You may be in London and the Guru may be in India, but his thought about you will be enough because the mind does not take time to travel. The mind travels faster than the speed of light. It can reach Brahmaloka just now in one second, but light will not reach. Though light is the fastest thing conceivable, the mind is faster. How much time will light take to reach Brahmaloka? But as soon as you think, it has already reached. There is a thing called a fax nowadays. Immediately it reaches there; the moment you send something it goes there because it travels by the speed of electricity. The speed of electricity is the same as the speed of light. But here it is something different. It is still faster than that.

Another ashramite: Swamiji, the Isavasya Upanishad says that the Self is faster than the mind. What is it?

Swamiji: The Self exists even before the mind thinks. The mind has to think something. You are internalising it. You should not internalise and externalise the Self. You must universalise it. Here is the whole point. We always make a mistake of externalising and internalising. That is a mistake in perception. Old habits die hard. You are used to using the words ‘my, my, my' and so on. How long will you go on using this word ‘my'?

Ashramite: Swamiji, if the disciple who is far away is receptive, then he or she will get the message from the Guru. Otherwise, do you think the Guru will be able to send a message to a person who is not receptive?

Swamiji: Even then it will reach. It depends upon the bombarding strength of the Guru's thought. A stone cannot become smooth, but the Ganga makes the stone as smooth as butter by rubbing, rubbing, rubbing. See how smooth, butter-like, are the hard stones? See the power of water. Otherwise, no matter how much you rub the stone, it won't become smooth. That is the impact of bombardment.

The Self is like a live wire. Who will go near it? You cannot simply make a joke of it. You cannot even think it. If you think it properly, it will give a shock, but if you are simply joking with it, it will be like a rope. It won't give a shock. Without a shudder in your body you cannot write an essay on this subject because you are writing about yourself only, and nobody can be more fearful than your own self. It is very surprising that we are afraid of our own selves. As we cannot manifest our fear of ourselves in public life, we throw it on somebody else. It is a psychological mechanism.

When you have hatred for your own self you cannot manifest it properly, so you throw it on someone else and hate the other person. This is called displacement in psychoanalysis. It is a very serious subject. Self-love can become other-love. Self-hatred can become other-hatred. Self-fear can become other-fear. Psychology is a very important subject. You cannot know what is happening to you. You are thinking that everything is all right, but it is not like that.

You have got the highest cosmic potentiality inside. That is also an important point. You have got the worst in you, and also the best, and all the degrees of difference between the lowest and the highest. The whole universe is jumping inside. The whole universe is inside you in all the degrees of manifestation. From the ant and the crawling insect, from the stone up to the Absolute, everything is inside you. At different moments different things will manifest themselves, so sometimes you look like one thing, sometimes you look like another thing. That is why you have moods. You feel despondency and happiness and all kinds of things because these moods arise from various levels of your personality which manifest themselves under different exigencies. It is very difficult. Spiritual practice is not for ordinary human beings.

Ashramite: The substance of the entire creation, that particular substance is within every living being?

Swamiji: You are made up of that only. It is not within; you are made of that. The entire setup is inside you. All the rungs of the ladder of evolution are inside you. That is why it is a frightening thing to understand. You can deal with the sun and the moon and the stars and the satellites and the rockets; you can understand all of them, but you cannot know yourself. The nearer you come to yourself, the more frightening it becomes. You can manage everything outside and face somebody else, but you cannot face your own self.

Ashramite: Swamiji, our senses can comprehend only what is finite. For example, we cannot visualise the infinite.

Swamiji: The senses cannot visualise. Only the higher reason can have some concept of it.

Ashramite: Then if we have realised the Self, what happens?

Swamiji: What is the meaning of “realised the Self”?

Ashramite: ‘Realising' means understanding it.

Swamiji: No, realising it does not mean understanding it. Realising it means becoming it. You become the Universal Being. You become God Himself. And if you become God, what will you do? How will you operate telephones at that time? [Laughter] It is unthinkable. There is no telephone necessary at that time. All needs will vanish in one minute. All your needs will be fulfilled simultaneously so that they will not be there at all afterwards. When every need is fulfilled, there is no need left. It is very difficult to conceive such things.

The smaller we are, the larger is the wealth and property that we require. The larger we are, the fewer are the things that we need from the outside world. It is the poverty of one's own self that makes one feel that we want more and more things from outside. But if you are inwardly rich, the outer wealth looks like a tinsel, like a straw. We don't want it afterwards. All the outer wealth is like a whitewash. A whitewash is not the substance; the substance is something else. We are satisfied with good clothes, but whatever the dress is, the person does not become more beautiful. Remove all the clothes and then see whether he is beautiful or not. He is not beautiful. He is an ugly man, so he wants to put on nice clothes and make it appear as if he is beautiful. All makeup of every kind is like whitewash. The real thing inside is brick and cement. You don't want to show it, so you put plaster and whitewash. Because there is a thin layer of skin on the body, everything looks wonderful. If there is no skin on the body, what will you see in that person? A person with no skin, how will he look? That is why they say all beauty is skin deep. All your evaluation is in the skin only. If the skin is not there, there is nothing in the person.

Ashramite: Swamiji, inwardly rich means a different thing.

Swamiji: If everything goes away from you, nobody wants you, nobody wants to even look at you, everybody condemns you, and still you feel inside you that are a great person, that you have got some importance in you, that is the wealth. There are people who are intrinsically great. For example, an elephant is great not because people are praising it, not because it is putting on good clothes, not because people give votes to it. It doesn't care for your votes. It is what it is. Like that, you have a confidence in yourself. That confidence gives strength. “I have something in me which is in tune with the greatest power in the world, and I can summon it if I want.” This is called intrinsic strength.

The son of the president has a power in himself. He says, “I can summon power immediately if I communicate to my father.” Nobody can do anything to him. He is the son of the president. Like that, you should feel that you are in tune with the greatest power of the universe. Who can shake a hair of your body? But if you feel you are a poor fellow, then you will be dependent upon what others are giving you for your importance. That is borrowed importance. That won't work.

There were some people who were intrinsically great, such as Mahatma Gandhi. He was praised and he was insulted, but it did not make any difference to him. He would not bother. He had some convictions. Great heroes lived in India, and in other parts of the world also. It is because of their inner conviction that they were great. “If everything goes, still I am. That is sufficient for me.” But it should be the real ‘I am': I AM.

You must place yourself in direct and vital connection with That which includes everything. Close your eyes and say, “I am in direct contact with That which includes everything, including myself also.” At that time you will feel a shake-up, a tremor in the body. When you say “including myself also”, then there will be shaking. When concentration intensifies, the body will get a shock. Normally the body does not get a shock because the prana is moving in one direction. The shock is caused by the movement of the prana in some direction. The prana now in our present state of life is moving in harmony with this body, but this thought that I am suggesting is something which is disharmonious with bodily existence. This thought is harmonious with cosmic existence, and the prana cannot suddenly adjust itself to be in harmony with cosmic existence. It has been always doing service to the body in an individualised fashion, and now you are telling it to unite itself with the cosmic circumstance. It cannot accommodate itself. That is why in deep concentration there is a tremor and a shake-up of the body. If that takes place, it means you have really concentrated properly. Otherwise, you simply sit and get up in the same way as you were; then it means it has not worked properly. Your imagination has not been strong enough.

So you are your own friend. Nobody wants you. You must remember this very well. Nobody wants you. Don't have any misconception. If nobody wants you, who will want you? You catch hold of that person who will want you really. Suhṛdaṁ sarvabhūtānāṁ jñātvā māṁ śāntim ṛcchati (B.G. 5.29): “Remember Me as your friend.” The friends whom you befriended will desert you. The friend whom you never thought of in your mind will come to your help, just as a mother whom you didn't care for will come and caress you. Mātā dhātā pitāmahaḥ; gatir bhartā prabhuḥ sākṣī nivāsaḥ śaraṇaṁ suhṛt, prabhavaḥ pralayaḥ sthānaṁ nidhānaṁ bījam avyayam (B.G. 9.17-18): “Everything is Myself.” He is your father, mother, brother, grandfather, everybody. Tune yourself in meditation with intense faith that it will work. Om Namo Narayanaya.