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The Brahma Sutra on the Final Salvation of the Soul
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 4: The Cosmic Introversion of Consciousness

There has been always a contradiction between the individual personalistic affirmation and the nature of the world, which is regarded as an external principle. But the world is sticking to us; this is a point that must have been made clear by our earlier analysis. Not only is it sticking to us like an external medium, but it is inseparable from the very substance of our own individual makeup. This has been dilated upon earlier in our discussions.

The elements which constitute the world substance are the very elements that constitute the individual substance. The building bricks of the cosmos are also the building bricks of the individual personality, such that no sensible demarcation can be observed between the world and the individual. Philosophic thought, right from the earliest of times till the present day, has been an arduous struggle to enunciate the basic and true meaning of this relation between the world and the individual.

A peculiar trait in the consciousness of individuality wishes to repel the interference of the world in any manner whatsoever with individual self-affirmation. We would not like the world to interfere with us. This is our basic trait. If the world interferes with us, we seem to be losing our prerogative of freedom of choice and self-respect.

This controversy is actually the meaning behind the great epic stories of Deva-asura-sangama, the fight between the gods and the demons, as we call it. Now, in this case of the epic of the struggle between the world and the individual, it is up to you to decide who is the Deva and who is the Asura. That which opposes a true state of affairs is the Asura; that which inveterately and unreasonably clings to a position, though it is not justifiable, that is the Asura. When this conflict precipitates itself into a real struggle for the survival of the world as a whole on one side, and the individual on the other side, a reaction from the world takes place, because the inclusiveness of the individual in the world is the fact. This fact will react upon the falsely assumed individuality of any person. That reaction is what is called karma in our Sanskrit language.

Karma is not necessarily the thing that we are doing. Any work is karma: “I am doing my karma. I am enjoying my karma.” People glibly talk about karma without much knowing what it means. It is the nemesis or a judicial reaction discharged by the cosmos against the foolish and unjustifiable affirmation of individuality by any person. It is a kind of punishment that is meted out to the individual. But in what form does this punishment come before us? It comes as an impossibility to continue in this body for an indefinite period.

Why is it necessary that we should die at a particular time? Why not live for any number of years? That is not possible because of the defect of our own thinking. I have mentioned earlier that before the birth of the individual, an intention is there behind it which regulates the nature of the experiences in this individual life, and also the tenure of the continuance, and everything connected with the individual. The intention is very feeble; it is not strong enough. It is a big thing asking for a small thing. We go to an emperor who can give us anything, and ask him to give us one penny as a charity. Even in asking, a person is so poor. This is what is happening to the individual intention. It wants to assert its individuality. The same is the story of the biblical fall of man, the Lucifer asserting a position totally opposed to God's almighty nature. All religions tell the same story. The Aitareya Upanishad tells us the same thing which the bible says in its Genesis.

Now, this situation of an apparent conflict between the worldly fact and the individual affirmation of falsehood creates this force of rebirth. I mentioned why we should be reborn. Why can we not live long? That is not possible, because our intention to be born as a particular individual is limited by its gravity and potentiality. There is no desire to live eternally in this body; even that desire we do not have, though we think that is a practicable and desirable thing. It is not possible, because our desires are foolish in their nature, basically. We want certain things. These “certain things” should be underlined. If this intention or the desire was for all things, without any exclusion, then there would have been no problem for us because we have included within the campus of our desire everything that is conceivable in the whole cosmos. So, the cosmos cannot react upon us, because we have taken everything into ourselves. Or, we do not want anything; we become a void altogether. But that also is not possible.

The reaction is set up because of a mistake that we are making. We want certain things and, in this act of wanting certain things, we necessarily avoid certain other things. These other things that are avoided are the cause of our trouble. They immediately assert themselves because these so-called “other things” that we are not including in our fulfilment of desire are also part of the organism of creation. They cannot tolerate exclusion like that, so they kick up a row. That is the karma that we are suffering.

So we have made a mistake even in wanting to continue living in this body. It is said that ignorance is the cause of our birth, the cause of our suffering, and also the cause of our repeated transmigration. It is said that when we are in another world after departing from this world, something clings to us. Karma potential clings to us. Bhuta-sukshma, the tanmatras of the elements themselves, cling to us. This is what the Brahma Sutras told us in detail.

Actually, what is it that is clinging to us? The anger of that which we have excluded from our campus of desire is the karma potential. That is the material force; it is an energy that is impinging upon us, telling us, “You cannot escape from me. And if you have ignored me, I shall pursue you in another incarnation.” And the nature of the body that we enter in the next birth, and the conditions prevailing in the new life, will depend upon what are the things in our previous lives that we have avoided and excluded from the entire organism of the cosmos. We go on avoiding things every time we are born, because nobody can conceive how vast the world is. Therefore, even if we ask for everything, still we will eliminate something else. That will create the trouble. This is the karma potential causing birth.

Our point is that we want salvation of the soul. Unless a person is integrated totally in one's consciousness, any kind of spiritual practice is not possible. There is a great discipline that is called for before we embark upon the great science and the art of the liberation of the spirit. It is not just going to fall into our mouth like an apple from the tree. That is not possible. A tremendous introversion of consciousness, in a cosmical sense, is called for in our meditations, in our affirmation of the condition necessary for the liberation of the soul.

I have deliberately used the words “the cosmical introversion of consciousness”. It is not the psychological introversion which psychoanalysts speak of; that kind of psychological introversion will lead to what is called narcissism. It is a kind of malady in the consciousness. Introversion opposed to extroversion is not what we are speaking of here. It is a universal introversion of consciousness. This is the metaphysical side of it, not merely the psychological side. The whole consciousness that is extroverted through the sense organs in the direction of objects of sense gets bundled up, as it were, and turned back into the source of its origin, which is as large as the universe itself.

We have to understand what we are actually made of. We should have no hurry, no unnecessary enthusiasm; doing something hurriedly without actually analysing our situation, not knowing our position in this world, and embarking upon anything without any knowledge will not bring much fruit.

What is your relationship to things outside? You must answer this question. How are you connected to this world? When you look at the world, what do you think about it? Maintain a diary. We have the system of a spiritual diary. You can have your own diary, according to your need. Every day you are seeing things. You are seeing the world of nature – of trees, the sun and moon and stars, heat and cold, wind and rain. What do you think about these things? Are you just ignoring their existence, or do you have something to say about it? If you have something to say, write down your feelings about these seasonal changes, the winds of the cosmos, the heat and the cold, the thorns, and all sorts of things.

You see so many people around you. What is your opinion about these people? Are they some wretched interferences, or are they something meaningful? Have you any relationship with them, or would you simply allow them to go to the dogs? What do you think about the people around you? Write it down. Whether it is justifiable or not, be honest to yourself. Do not deceive yourself by writing something wrong. When you look at the world of people, you see a marketplace, bus drivers, and everywhere so many things moving about. What is your feeling about them? Are you insensitive to their existence? Are you totally dead to the perception of these things outside, or are you conscious of them? If you are conscious of them, what is the nature of that consciousness about people around? What is the nature of consciousness about the nature of the whole world itself? Finally, what do you think about your own self? Do you think that you are a wonderful person? Do you feel you lack nothing? Or do you feel that you are very useless, a miserable person: “I wanted this and nothing comes of it. People are very bad. They will not give me what I want.”

You may be a big official, but when you are disrobed of all the authority of official performance and alone in your own little room, are you feeling that you are a very mighty person, wanting nothing? Or do you feel, “No. This so-called importance that is foisted upon me is a false accretion that has grown over me by political and social conditions; by myself I am nobody.” Are you feeling like that?

If you are a poor nothing, you will never get anything. You have already reduced yourself to a beggarly condition, and you want to become the emperor of the world. No. Unless you deserve a thing, you should not desire a thing. Now you are desiring salvation, a transcendence of cosmic bondage. You want to scale the heights of space and time. You must have power for that: “Such energy have I.” Or, if you say, “Oh no, this is not for me,” all right. Then, it will not be for you.

Do not condemn yourself. Do not deprecate yourself. Do not make yourself miserable. Do not be melancholy. Do not say you are unfit. You are totally fit. Your thought about yourself will make you what you are. You are just that which you think about yourself. If you think you are a useless nobody, then you will become that only. Education, especially in the spiritual field, is a new thing altogether, in comparison with the other types of education with which you are acquainted. You are all educated people,  very learned persons,  but what have you learned? You have learned something, gathered information about what is happening in the world, in physics, chemistry, mathematics and geography, but what have you studied about your own self? You have studied the objects of the world, but you are also one of the objects of the world. Why have you ignored studying yourself? How will you study other things, ignoring your own basic existence? Self-knowledge is the primary knowledge. If you know yourself in depth, you will know the world also in depth.

First and foremost, I repeat, you are not poor, helpless people. Nobody in the world is so poor as not to be able to reach the highest pinnacle of perfection, just as nobody is so poor as not to be able to do a little charity to anybody. You will say, “I am just a poor man; what charity can I do?” You have got something, in spite of your being poor. That gesture of goodwill and compassion, and the feeling of cooperation in any manner whatsoever evinced through your mind, is itself charity. Your thought is charity, and not the penny that you are giving to people.

In spiritual life, you have to be confident, and very strong everywhere. Really you must be strong. Even just now, you can reformulate yourself in a few minutes, if you are confident: “Things are not so bad as I thought. All the elements of the world are with me, if I only adjust them in the proper way.” It is like tuning a radio: if you wrongly tune it, it will make jarring noise, but if you accurately do it, the whole cosmos will sing. You are the receiving set of the cosmic music, and if you tune it properly, the world will immediately speak. The world is not eyeless and mindless, in the same way as you are not eyeless and mindless. You are the child of the Immortal, says the Upanishad: You are the progeny of the Immortal Being, so you cannot be a miserable person when you are born to the Immortal Being. These confidences, these affirmations, this positive feeling of health and welfare, joy and freedom, and happiness within yourself, will make you fit to take the first step in spiritual life. That first step is called nitya-anitya vastu viveka: the capacity to distinguish between what is true and what is not true.   This whole world of involvement is presented before us; there is a shell which covers it, and there is a kernel that is inside it. We have to know the art of removing the shell to see the core of it inside.

The form and the name and the fluxation of everything in the world is the false shadow that is cast over an essence inside by space and time, which is called “existence-as-such”. Everything is existing. The nature of a thing, basically, is immortal existence. Existence cannot perish, because even the perishable nature is a form of existence only. Nobody can destroy existence. It is pure sat.

The existence of a thing is also the object of a consciousness of the existence of a thing. You are existing now, but you are conscious that you are existing. Now, your consciousness of existence and your existence are not two different things. Your consciousness of existence is identical with your existence. By knowing that you are conscious that you are existing, you are feeling happy. This is the meaning of saying that you are sat-chit-ananda – existence-consciousness-happiness. The only thing is, you are thinking yourself to be a small existence, a small consciousness, with a small joy. Existence is all-pervading. It cannot be demarcated into parts. It is not a finite thing. You switch on this tiny so-called existence of yourself to the ocean of the all-pervading sea; then, you will see a flood entering into you.

Then, you will not pursue things which are ephemeral in this world. We have no confidence in our own selves; therefore, we run after the marketplace and all sorts of things, and purchase, and eat, and so on. You will get what you want. If you ask anything from the bottom of your heart, it shall be given to you. The Person who gives to you is sitting here. He is not sitting far away. Ask, and it shall be given; but your heart should ask, not only the mouth or throat. If your deepest feeling says “I want this”, it shall come to you. It is the law of nature. Whatever you may want, it will come to you. The resources of the world are so large that they can never be used up, and they cannot be denied. This discrimination is the essence of nitya-anitya vastu viveka, the differentiating between what is false and what is true.

The forms and the names and the fluxations and the impermanences of things are the false aspect of existent things, but the eternal aspect is pure existence – the confidence that we have got in our own selves that we are existing. We are not doubting that we are existing. A doubtless certainty of our own existence is persisting because of the eternity that is masquerading in our own selves. If the eternity had not been within us, speaking in a voice that is timeless in its nature, you would not be struggling to survive and exist in this world. Even if one is going to die tomorrow, nobody will believe that. The eternity says, “You cannot believe that you will die tomorrow.” The perishable side, the phenomenal side, the space-time side, which is conditioning this body, will warn you that you may pass away tomorrow; but the eternity says, “You will survive.”

Nobody feels that they will die tomorrow, even if that may be a possibility. The reason is the conflict between eternity and time. The time process, the phenomenal process in which we are involved, tells, “Be cautious. Anytime will be the last time.” And eternity says, “No. You will live another fifty or sixty years.” Is this contradiction not seen in everybody? There is a conflict between eternity and time. That is the reason why we feel two things at the same time: “Hari baba! Anytime I will go!” Or, you will say, “No! I will not go immediately. Many years I will live.” Both things you are saying simultaneously because there is eternity, and there is also time. The distinction between the two is the nitya-anitya vastu viveka. Acharya Sankara insisted that unless you are able to distinguish between the temporal and the eternal, you will never be able to catch what is actually there.

Then, vairagya automatically dawns. Who will ask for tinsels on the roadside when a diamond is in your hand? So, vairagya, a distaste for things that have no value, will automatically arise inside. Vairagya is not distaste for things which have value. That distaste cannot arise. If you feel in your mind that there is something here which you want to give up but it has a value, then you cannot give it up. You must realise that it has no value; then it is real renunciation. Else, the inner voice will say, “You are a foolish man. It has great value. You have thrown it aside. No! Go!” Then you will be thinking, “I made a mistake.”

That aspect of life which has really no value from the point of view of eternity has to be renounced. It is not the world that you have to renounce. Nobody can renounce it, because you are sitting on it. It is the wrong notion of the world being outside you that has to be renounced. Therefore, actually vairagya, or renunciation, is the renunciation of a false notion in your head. It is not the renunciation of a thing. A thing cannot be renounced. Things were existing even before you were born. How will you renounce the world? But you have a wrong notion about them: “This is mine; this is not mine.”

The fact is, nothing is yours and, also, nothing can be called not yours. The idea of possession and non-possession is called attachment. That has to be renounced. So vairagya, renunciation, is a psychological abandonment of the false notion of things being outside, while they are integrally involved in our own selves. This is spiritual vairagya, eternity speaking through you, which is quite different from the ordinary abandonment: “I left everything.” This kind of glib talk has no meaning. You cannot give up everything like that; it will pursue you even in Timbuktu. It will not leave you.

So, a very subtle thing it is. Nitya-anitya vastu viveka will automatically engender a vairagya of a positive nature, where when you abandon a thing, you will not feel that you have lost something, but that you have gained something. Here, abandonment of a falsity of the externality of the world will fill you with a positivity of its involvement in yourself. Otherwise, you will feel, “What is vairagya? I have left everything. It is all gone – land, property, money, everything. My pension is committed. I am a poor fellow. I will go to Sivananda Ashram.” This is not vairagya. You will become a wretched man afterwards. It is no good.

You must be happy inside: “I am filled with things. The world has entered into me now, by my renunciation of the false idea that it is outside me. This is nitya-anitya vastu viveka. Then, other things are mentioned, very important disciplines: sama, dama, uparati, etc. And lastly, it is said, there is wanting it: mumukshutva. Mumukshutva is wanting. This is the highest qualification.

I have already mentioned that if you ask for a thing, it should come. If you want a thing, it must come. It is so because timeless eternity is already inside you, so when timeless eternity asks for a thing, it should be given by the timeless eternity. When God asks for a thing, God has to give it. The eternity within us asking is nothing but God Himself asking. And what is He asking? He is asking for Himself. The eternity in you is asking for its own self.

See how happy you can be? Without moving a finger, you can be happy here. But you should have no doubts. Doubts are our traitors. If traitors there are in the world, they are doubts. You doubt: “Oh, this may not be possible. I might have gone wrong. I have heard so many things, so many discourses on the Upanishads, but I think this may not be fitting for me. It is not for me. No, it will not come.” Then, it will not come. Chanchala buddhi, the fickle mind, cannot practise anything. You must have will power and confidence: “I have the power to get what I want. I shall be released from this bondage in this birth. I do not want another birth. Why not?” You tell yourself: “What is my defect? I have no defects. I have cleared all my debts. I am attached to nothing, and I am very clear about my relationship with the Eternal Being. God is inside me, and God is outside me. He is with me. He is all things for me. I am perfectly all right. My sins have been destroyed. I have no sins at all. No karma is there. I have cleaned myself completely. I am not going to be reborn again.”

Tell yourself, like Buddha: “Till the bones crack and the flesh melts, I shall not get up from this place.” This is the determination of Buddha, and likewise you can make a determination: “I will not be born again into this world of phenomena. I am perfectly fit for liberation. There is no defect in me. I have no attachment to anything. I have understood the point properly. God is speaking inside me. I am perfectly okay.” Go on saying like this, not merely uttering through words, but feeling deeply that your greatest discipline is this. This is the discipline that you have to practise, in its essential nature.