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Swami Krishnananda in Conversation
by Swami Krishnananda
Compiled by S. Bhagyalakshmi

1. Informal Darshan Hours

This morning, to begin with, there were barely two or three gathered around Swamiji. So Swami Krishnananda asked Smt. Bhagyalakshmi to read her notes on the study of the Chhandogya Upanishad. Gradually the audience increased and soon the usual 15 to 20 were present. More kept joining in. In the course of the reading, Swami Krishnananda pointed out, rather discussed, how a theme must be presented or what the teacher must know to be a good, successful teacher. Mainly (1) the speaker should have the confidence that he has something, definite and new to say, (2) he should get the confidence of the audience, (3) the explanation should be in simple language and it must be spoken clearly. Having good matter and knowing the matter is not enough, (4) he must be sure that he is being understood and is taking the listener along with him as he progresses in his presentation, (5) he should have no doubt about any point he speaks on. His ideas should be clear-cut in his own mind.

An ashramite:  What is revolution Swamiji?

Swamiji: When evolution takes place rapidly it is revolution, when revolution takes place very slowly you call it devolution (Laughs. So does the gathering).

Another ashramite: Is present-day education revolution or evolution?

Swamiji: When a change takes place rapidly and you cannot catch up with its speed, you call it revolution. But if it goes on very slowly, you can understand every bit of the change and that is evolution and that takes place gradually.

Ashramite: What is psychological pressure, Swamiji?

Swamiji: Psychological conflict. Evolution is a change that goes on very slowly, so gradually, that you don't notice the change at all. You were only 2 feet tall and now you are 5' 6”. You have grown so gradually that you never felt that you are growing so tall. This is evolution. But if you suddenly grow from 2' to 5' 6”, then it is revolution. This change is so remarkably different, a revolutionary effect has taken place. It looks unpleasant if you can't catch up with speed. When your mind is able to adjust itself slowly and gradually you call it an evolutionary process.

Ashramite: If you change so completely that you are different, it is not revolution? You throw yourself completely, so totally into the new way that it is all different; it too must be revolution?

Swamiji: That point is very different. Are you doing that all at once or slowly, so that each stage of change is understood? When each stage is understood and appreciated, you can't feel the movement at all. When you are thrust into it by surprise you suddenly see the effect and you can't appreciate it and your mind can't cope with it. You call it revolution.

Ashramite: Rebellion is the beginning of revolution?

Swamiji: Same thing. (Papers arrive for his attention. Dealing with and disposing of them Swamiji continues as if there was no break.) When you are normal and do not have temperature you do not feel the change taking place in your system though every minute there is change in every cell of your body. And that is ordinary, gradual and so the effect of the change is not felt by the body. But if you have 104 degrees temperature? The whole body is changing so intensely and forcefully in every cell, that you feel the effect of the change.

When the enemy's attack is very severe only then you feel his presence, otherwise you ignore it. The defence system which is working in the body is working every day. Your system is throwing out unwanted things every minute and replacing dead matter, yet nobody is noticeably changed by the work of the mechanism. You do not notice it because it is a gradual evolutionary process. But if the body acts in such a way that it wants to throw out the unwanted things in the hectic haste, there is then a revolutionary activity. Something strong has got into the system and a strong reaction is set up, as you see.

Ashramite: That is only a “reaction”, not a revolution.

Swamiji: That is still a revolutionary reaction. If it is pleasant you don't call it a reaction. The dictionary meaning of reaction would suggest that it is an unpleasant thing. You always regard reaction as an unpleasant thing but it is not necessarily so.

Ashramite: When?

Swamiji: You see, when you take food, certain juices in the stomach are secreted. It is a reaction set up by the body, but it is not unpleasant. It is a very pleasant thing. The same secretion can be unpleasant also as in high temperature or vomiting, purging, etc. So every reaction need not necessarily be only unpleasant.

Ashramite: It is not Karmaphala going to him?

Swamiji: Karmaphala does no 'go' to anybody. It is a system of law by which balance is maintained by nature. Any reaction in respect of action is a law operating to maintain the balance which has been disturbed by the action. Every action is the disturbance of the balance that is to be maintained by the reaction that is set up. You are interfering with the thing by your action, whatever you do, and nature can't brook that kind of interference. So it sets up reaction in the direction of that force from where the action has proceeded and then you feel its impact. Every action is a kick that you give to the balance of nature and it gives you another kick back—with equal force. It is thus that it maintains the balance. You don't like the kick coming back, so you call it Prarabdha or Fate and God's unkindness and all that. (Even while speaking, some business is attended to and disposed of.) You can't interfere with nature. The very act of 'doing' implies that you are outside the area (of the law of nature), where you are performing the action. That is why Sankaracharya took up cudgels and ruled out the practicability of action producing a result called Moksha. This is not possible. Moksha is the realisation of your identity with the whole of the atmosphere, and action is the opposite of it. You are denying that identity in every action you are performing. So how can contradictory factors meet and agree with each other?

Ashramite: What does it all mean?

Swamiji: In every action, you are positing your independence of nature, whereas in Moksha you annul the so-called independence and become one with it. That is why Sankara said that action cannot bring this result called Moksha. This is why also Shri Krishna said in the XIth Chapter: “Nothing that man does can enable him to see the Cosmic Form. Everything you do is opposed to that law of becoming one with Nature. No charity, no study, no tapas, no philanthropy, nothing that a person does is effective enough to enable a person to even visualise the Cosmic Being.” 'Being' is different from 'becoming'. And every action is a becoming process whereas God is Being, the Supreme Being you call Him. So, unless you become a part of Being, you cannot know what `Being' is Knowing is the same as doing. 'Sat' is 'Chit', and action is opposed to it, unless it ceases to be action and becomes Karma Yoga—when your action becomes a cosmic movement or activity as defined in the Bhagavadgita.

An action ceases to be activity and does not set up reaction, provided it is of the nature of this cosmic movement! But if you are doing it as persons X, Y or Z, then it is action. It will rebound upon you like a boomerang. When you do an action, do you feel that God is doing it? That the abstract is moving in yourself? Or, do you think I am an individual living in Rishikesh doing something? That would be the test. But you cannot feel that it is the abstract that is working. No one can feel like that. You can't imagine it also. It requires a great attunement of consciousness in the atmosphere. That also is meditation; which means that you must be perpetually in a state of meditation in order to be able to perform Karma Yoga or that non-reactionary action. Well, one cannot be in a state of meditation all the time. You see people as objects external to you and you can never for a moment imagine or accept that they are organically connected with you. And until that acceptance comes, action will produce reaction. Verbally asserting “I am one with all” will not cut ice. Your feelings are not in conformity with your verbal assertion.

Ashramite: What does Swamiji mean by atmosphere? What is being in harmony with the atmosphere?

Swamiji: Atmosphere is that which is around you and you understand what is around you. The whole universe is around you. The Milky Way and the stars and beyond that too; they are all around you.

Ashramite: It is not in the sense of climatic condition or…

Swamiji: Everything around you—you may call it anything. You wish to tell me that it is only the climatic condition?

Ashramite: I mean, it is not restricted to only that?

Swamiji: Why should it be restricted to that? The whole cosmos is around you, including Brahma-loka, the seventh heaven and what not. Even God is outside you according to your concept of things.

Ashramite: Yes.

Swamij: So he also sets up reactions in the form of reincarnation of yourself, a rebirth which he inflicts upon you. He won't let you off easily like that. Everything is suffering. Schopenhauer is right in one sense. The most wretched experiences are an infliction on man. What Schopenhauer says in the whole of his three volumes is a curse upon the world. Nothing but that. He is not a foolish man. He has told a great truth, though it does not appeal to our sense of complacency and pleasure. A man who is happy is an idiot and because he is an idiot he is happy. He does not understand the situation he is in (laughter all around). If you actually understand the situation you are in, you will never smile a second time. You don't know that you are going to the butcher's shop; you don't know that! You are very happy (laughs).

Ashramite: There is a saying ...

Swamiji: There are sayings and sayings, maxims and maxims. Each one has to be taken with a pinch of salt (laughs, as also others). Hear all but take to no one. Or you take it with the tongue in the cheek. You cannot accept it fully. You say the world is a wretched thing. This is also not a cent per cent correct statement. The world is heavy is another statement.

So you have to take a little bit of it also by Jahad Ajahad Lakshna as Nilakanthanandaji will tell you. Jahad Ajahad Lakshna. You have not heard his lecture and what he has been trying to tell you for years together, you are unnecessarily sitting merely in a corner, wool-gathering, not hearing what he says. Now listen. When you say 'this' is 'that' man, how do you reconcile the two? 'This' and 'that' are not identical. They are opposed to each other. Even grammatically 'this' can't be 'that', and if they are identical you won't use the words saying 'this' is `that' man. What do you mean then? You have implied something in that statement, “This is that Devadatta.”

Yes, this that Devadatta, the person whom I saw in Bombay one year back is this person who I see today in Rishikesh. So, when you say 'this' is 'that' you have eliminated Bombay as a special context and one year as a time context also. You eliminated those things and eliminated this contradictory aspect of Rishikesh being opposed to Bombay. They are not identical and 'last year' is not this moment. So you eliminate all this and take only the 'person'. The 'person' is identical. So likewise, you say some statement which is partially correct and partially wrong, according to the context in which it is involved; you remove the context and take it as it is from one angle of vision. Take the statement 50% only of the nature of reality. The statement is only 50% correct. In another statement also, you take another 50% only, and that also is 50% correct which ignores the other 50%. For instance, take the statement: “The whole universe is a manifestation of God and God alone is shining here in the names and forms of the universe. It is perfection and glorious.” This is the import of what Hegel says. And he is right. Leibnitz says the same and so is he right. But you have forgotten the other aspect of it, that the world is a manifestation. Notwithstanding the reality of the universe, the fact is that it is a manifestation of God. No one ever feels like that, that the world is God-manifested. You always feel it is just the opposite. Schopenhauer is correct too when he says that the universe is an estrangement from Reality, a prison house where you cry every moment for a little solace which you cannot get under the conditions prevailing. This statement is not hundred per cent true either. The Universe is perfection in its essential core. The Universe, as it is, is perfect, but things as they appear are imperfect, and inasmuch as we are part of the appearance, we are involved in the appearance. We cannot see the perfection in things. We see only imperfection, but if you do not stick to your standpoint and rise to the level of what it really is you will never see imperfection. (Looking at a lady in front) You see, you have got long hair. You never feel it is an ugly, dirty thing on you. You keep it very tidy; but if you take one hair out, you see it as a thing unbearable and it is a thing of ugliness; you can't bear the sight of it.

The whole body is full of hair, so well kept that you never feel the ugliness of it. You never say it is a wretched thing sticking to your body. But you remove it, and it is a dirty thing in one second and you can't bear even the sight of it. You throw it far off like this (acts the meaning of the statement). Cut the nail, and you can't bear to keep it in your hand. But on the finger even if it grows long, it is perfectly all right. You can even go into the temple with a long nail; but you cut a piece of the nail and take it to the temple—and see what happens! What is the difference? The same thing sticking to your body is sacred; removed from the body, it is unholy. What does it mean? How do you see your concepts of sacredness and unsacredness? If you take a hair and put it on Lord Krishna, the priest will curse you. But you carry so much hair on your head and take it all into the temple when you walk into it—nobody bothers about it.

Ashramite: We put it all on Him when we bow down at His feet.

Swamiji: Yes, in prostration the whole thing falls also. But you don't bother about it. It is very sacred. You advise that it is but a part of us. Ah! Yes! So, when there is organic connectedness, there is perfection. Where there is disconnectedness, there is imperfection. You have a thing as part of you, then it is beautiful and pleasant. Why is it so? It is psychologically part of my being, you say. So, anything that is part of you is good. Anything that is not connected psychologically as part of you is ugly. The world is not part of you, so you curse it as the devil's creation but when you realise that it is part of you, it is a majestic manifestation of God's glory. So I am telling you Schoepenhauer is right too. Dr. Hegel is wrong and so is Schoepenhauer wrong too (Quotes): “A man and no man took an axe and no axe and cut a tree and no tree, on which a bird and no bird was sitting and not sitting.” This is what a mystical Master is said to have written somewhere: What is the meaning of that sentence? “This is the world,” he says. You don't know what it means. (Laughs heartily). You have said something. You can't make sense out of it. Likewise, it is with the world. It looks as if it is there but you can't understand what it is. You can't deal with it. (Laughs).

A Guru had been discoursing on the omnipresence of God, and that He alone is the substance of all creation: “Everything is Narayana”. A few days later one of the disciples of the Guru was walking along the road. Just then an elephant was being driven along the road and the mahout was shouting a warning: “Keep away from the road.” But that disciple did not heed the warning because he had the discourse in his mind. The elephant caught him with its trunk and threw him down with great violence. The poor disciple was all but broken to pieces. The matter came to the ears of the Guru. “Why did you not move out of its way? The mahout was shouting the warning all the way,” said the Guru. Answered the disciple, “Guru Maharaj said that everything in creation was only Narayana—therefore the elephant was also Narayana, like I was Narayana too. How could Narayana hurt Narayana?” “The Mahout was also Narayana. Why did you not listen to that Narayana?” (Turning to a Tamil devotee who knows only Tamil and speaking in Tamil): What have you understood?

Devotee: Something general

Swamiji: You see I am a man with no work. So I just go on rattling off something, just chatting away. Neither I nor these people have any work. (Addressing a messenger who awaits attention) Yes, come.

Devotee: Why, Swamiji? You are talking on good subjects.

Swamiji: (Translates this Tamil conversation into English for the benefit of the gathering). We are talking of things about which neither I nor you know anything; we are only chatting.

First ashramite: If activity is non-productive of liberation, why are there so many activities in the form of temple worship, festivities and such like? What is the object of these activities?

Swamiji: Unless these activities are there, the religious life becomes dead. Religion can't even be felt as existence unless it manifests itself as outward activity. So religion is activity for us. That is why it creates also suffering for us, if it is only activity as such. Hence, Sankaracharya refuted the whole thing. If you identify religion with that i.e. mere activity, you can imagine what little religion can do for us. Even today, people have to understand why Sankara refuted activity. It is a very strange thing. Why does he say this? The whole universe runs on activity. Every atom is active and Bhagwan Sri Krishna says 'act'! Sankara says the opposite of it! Now why is it that he says so? Is he out of his mind? What has happened to him? Sankara says action can't give you Moksha. Bhagwan Shri Krishna says that only activity leads to Moksha. They are saying two different things, opposed to each other. Arjuna said, “I will not do any action.” Krishna said, “You are a foolish man. You must act.” Sankara says, “If you act, you will be caught.” You can get nothing out of either of these people's statements. It is not easy to understand either Krishna's or Sankara's mind. They are two enigmatic persons (laughs).

Ashramite: It will all depend on the feelings with which you act.

Swamiji: What action Krishna had in his mind nobody knows. He meant such an action as he himself was doing, not my action, your action. Cooking food in the kitchen or going to the shop for purchases that is not what is meant, though this is also included in it. What action did Krishna do? Tell me, what was the motive behind his action? If that is the motive behind your action also, that is liberation. And what good did Krishna get by his activity? He took part in the Mahabharata War and this and that battle, a variety of activities. Why should he have done all that? He got nothing out of it. He was a perfect man, very well placed. He did nothing to get anything from the people he helped in their hour of need. But he was as busy as a bee, running about. For what purpose? We can't understand this, and unless you understand this, you can't understand the Bhagavad Gita.

Devotee: What was it Swamiji?

Swamiji: Why does the sun rise from the East? What does it gain by that? Why does the wind keep blowing? It can keep quiet. Unnecessarily does it blow, buzzing (acts the wind blowing, producing the noises of wind in the open) What is the point? (Gathering enjoys Swamiji's acting.)

A voice: Cleansing process

Swamiji: Eh? (Voice repeats) It is much more than that. It is not interested in cleansing the house. You think the wind is thinking, “I will clean this poor man's house”? Is that the intention of it? It is not so. It is not cleaning your house. Incidentally it may clean it by chance. Its intention is different.

Voice: It has been disturbed.

Swamiji: Why should it blow? It can also keep quiet. Sometimes it blows, sometimes it does not blow. It does not always blow (laughter). It is following a law, without any intention or purpose behind it. When you touch a live wire, it gives you a kick. Its intention is not to punish you. It does not say “You idiot! I will punish you.” Nor does it say, “I have great love for you. I will burn in your stove and cool your refrigerator.” It has no love for you nor does it hate you. It follows a law, and so long as you are obedient to that law, follow its way of working, it is your friend. If you collaborate with its working, it is your friend. But if you don't obey its orders or cooperate with its law, it is your enemy. It is a law, neighbour a friend nor an enemy to you. If you know how it works and collaborate with it, it is your friend. But if you don't collaborate with it, it will give you a kick like the electric wire, and you suffer. Krishna was the incarnation of the principle of existence itself. It is a law that is operating. It has no motive behind it. He is telling you that you should not act with a motive behind it. The motive should not be there at all. It is just an impersonal law. The Sun is shining. What for? It has no special love for you. It does not say, “Poor man is feeling cold; let me warm him.” It is not doing it for your sake. It is a cosmic principle that is operating for some cosmic purpose in the process of which incidentally it warms you also. It is not a great friend of yours nor is it your enemy. It is just like the judge in the Supreme Court. Is he a friend or an enemy? What do you call him, the Chief Judge of the Supreme Court? Your good friend or a bad man? He is not either. God is like that. He is neither this nor that. Yet both. He is a very helpful man and a very bad man also. It depends upon what is your attitude towards him. So is the feeling that the Sun is a very good man. You cannot go near him nor can he do you any harm. Action then is spontaneity. It is a consciousness of attunement with all creation. That is Karma of the Bhagawad Gita, and nobody usually can act like that. Nobody can do Karmayoga! What we do is not Karmayoga. It is ordinary Karma. Action is consciousness of duality, separation. The ideas of good and bad etc. are transcended in the ideal of Karmayoga. It is cosmic activity. If God sends a cyclone and destroys millions of people you can't say he is a bad man. But if you do it you are a bad person. You can't blast the wind on somebody's head and kill him. Why, what is the difference? Let alone such mysterious things. If the Judge executes a man, he has done justice but if you kill a man you have committed a murder. Then what? Both have done the same action. In his case you call it dispensation of justice and in your case it is crime. How is it? The same action is interpreted in two ways.

A voice: A judge is obeying the law.

Swamiji: I am coming to that. You must understand the law. (The Press Section has brought Swamiji's article under print for some instructions and it is discussed and disposed of by Swamiji).

(Turning to the gathering asked a devotee) Have you read the previous articles on Comparative Philosophy, which have been appearing in the D.L.S. monthlies?

Devotee: Yes, Swamiji.

Swamiji: Now, some philosopher says that this is the worst type of world imaginable. There can be nothing worse than this. Yet, other philosophers say there is nothing wrong with it. Everything is O.K. Who is right?

Devotee: Both of them are wrong Swamiji. They have not seen the other world.

Swamiji: Schopenhauer says that even imagination cannot reach a thing worse than what has been created in the world. If there is anything of 100% wretchedness, it is what is called this world. And the other man says nothing can be so grand and beautiful and perfect as this world. This is another man's mind.

Devotee: Schopenhauer is the one who wrote 'The World as Will'?

Swamiji: Whatever it is, he is the man who says the world is wretchedness, utter evil, and Leibnitz says that it is most perfect thing that God could ever have imagined.

Devotee: The beauty lies in the beholder's eyes. A judge is obeying a law and it is impersonal and we are trying to get protection from the law which also is impersonal. There is no contradiction in the two viewpoints of the action in the judge convicting the murderer.

Swamiji: But you are not understanding it fully. You are only trying to get protection but are not getting it. Because only if you know the law, if you understand it, will you be able to collaborate with it. Then it protects you. God is a Cosmic Being. His vision is cosmic. It does not get involved with the particular, the empirical. Whenever there is an imbalance in the Cosmos, He corrects the imbalance. Such corrections invariably bring about a counter-effect in the cosmos. God has no motive with reference to an individual personality of the empirical world. (Messengers and papers. These are attended to and disposed of. And Swamiji continues to talk as if there is no interruption.) You see in some countries they have a law that you should not spit on the road. A man who does not know that such a low exists spits on the road. The policeman catches him and the man is given punishment as per the law. The policeman is not your enemy nor the law. You did not understand and collaborate with the law, and so got punished. Now for this who is responsible? Only you. It is just a law operating. Of course, you can say that the Government that made the law is responsible for your punishment, but the Government again is an impersonal thing.

This morning all the while there has been a lot of traffic noise coming from the road: the piercing sound of a variety of motor horns has been a din all the while. It is the Badrinath gate time, between 10 to 11 A.M. There is always so much noise from this traffic. Every driver wants to get ahead of the other. There is also a necessity to warn the people on the road, of course. These drivers drive so fast.

Devotee: In other countries, there are laws to regulate the speed and severe punishment for transgressing them. Use of horns is also forbidden except to avert an accident.

Ashramite: But the Government also provides facilities to help the drivers by way of good roads and such laws....

Devotee: Why doesn't this Government also make these laws?

Swamiji: God didn't give them the brains to make it (laughs). Anyhow, for everything He alone is to be blamed. Is it not? (Laughs. Addressing a young Italian couple): Any difficulties in your mind?

Visitor: None for the moment.

A voice: There are no barriers in their meditation. Is that what they mean?

Swamiji: You can't easily meditate like that without any barrier, as you put it. First there is the ego which will not give up its duality. Then your health becomes an obstacle. Patanjali has recounted them all in his Sutras. But once you get over them, you feel the whole cosmos is yours. For God has no barriers. When you pass a needle through a pack of rose petals, you feel it has not taken any time to pierce through them and this fast pace of the needle makes you think that a revolution has taken place; but it is only evolution that was there, and yet the needle has pierced through every single petal. It is like that in meditation also. Even if you are not conscious of the barriers being overcome, there are barriers and you have to pass through every level of experience; not a sudden revolutionary leap, but a steady progress from stage to stage. In the case of adepts of meditation, it looks as if they reach straight to Samadhi. But there is no short-cut to meditation, however quickly it might be reached. It is the unfoldment, progressively of the layers of your personality towards the centre of Reality - the Atman. You may call it the stepping over or transcending the layers of your personality, one by one without missing a single step, however small and however fast the progress is.

Namaskar, thank you for giving me darshan. Hari Om!