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

3. Appearance and Reality

A visitor: Is space-time absolute? That is, is space absolute? Is time absolute?

Swamiji: Space-time categories are not absolute.

Visitor: Newton, in his Philosophy of Mathematics, says that time-space is absolute. And his theories were based on such a concept.

Swamiji: These theories have been refuted by Einstein's Theory of Relativity. Space-time is not Absolute. There is no extra-cosmic existence of the Absolute. But the Absolute is both immanent and transcendent. Have you read Bradley's Appearance and Reality?

Visitor: Yes, Swamiji. This was my text for my M.A. in Philosophy.

Swamiji: Have you read Sankaracharya's commentary translated into English?

Visitor: No. Max Mueller's translation of Sankara's commentary on Vedanta is not one of the books I have studied, but I have studied Sankara's commentaries translated by others. Is morality an attribute of the mind determined by a 'social necessity' or is it an inherent aspect of spirituality? Is higher reason identical with the Self?

Swamiji: The higher reason is nothing but a reflection of the Universality which you are aspiring for. It is quite obvious that you are aspiring for the Universal. That is why you want large things, you are not satisfied with small things.

Visitor: But Swamiji, the Westerner when he says that higher reason…

Swamiji: No, he does not understand properly what he is saying.

Visitor: But can it be identified with what he calls the Self?

Swamiji: No, you cannot identify it with Self. It is the reflection of the Selfhood of things. Nobody can be conscious of the Self. When you become conscious of the Self, you cease to be a human being anymore. That is what samadhi is. What you call the Self is the object of your Realisation in Samadhi. Nobody can be conscious of it because it is Realisation in samadhi. Nobody can be conscious of it because it is not an object. When you say you are 'conscious' of something, you mean something should be the content of consciousness. And the Self is not a content. It is consciousness itself. It is the Self that knows everything—who is-to know it? “Vijnyatara mapare tena vijaniyat”: Who can know the knower? If there is to be a knower of the knower, it is a contradiction. The knower cannot be known because the moment you say the knower is an object, he ceases to be a subject. So it is a self-revealing intuition and not a perception through the senses or even through understanding. This is what will take us to Patanjali and the various levels of samadhi that he mentions. We have to read Patanjali to get out of this maze.

Visitor: Is creativity an attribute of the mind or that of the soul?

Swamiji: Creativity of the mind is an attribute of the mind. It takes for granted that something comes from something. Here, we come to Kant. You have a habit of thinking in casual terms. Something must come from something. But why should that be so? Who told you this? That is the habit of the mind; you believe that the world must come from something and you believe that there must be a God outside the world. And then you start finding fault with God—the God whom we ourselves manufactured from out of our brain. So the habit of casual thinking is the reason behind positing God who is extracosmic. It is not the higher reason speaking, it is the lower mind only.

An ashramite: What! God is extra-cosmic also!

Swamiji: Your mind is saying that. But it is not the truth.

Another ashramite: What is procession, Swamiji?

Swamiji: Procession is something coming from something: effect following from cause. But this is not true. Modern physics has refuted this concept of causality. As everything proceeds from everything, you cannot know which is the cause and which is the effect. Everything is pushing something else. So which is the cause and which is the effect? How can you find that out? It is not moving in a linear fashion, to put it in classical language. There is interconnection of things. When everything is connected to everything, how can you know which is the cause and which is the effect? So we are not thinking in a proper way when we think in a linear time process which has past, present and future. But time is not a linear movement, it is a universal movement. Sir Arthur Eddington has made a distinction between causality and causation. According to him, causation is what you are thinking of as a habit of your mind, that something comes from something. But causality is the capacity of everything to produce anything at any time. Anything can produce anything at any time. Then there is the dissertation of Alfred North Whitehead, whose theme is similar. Everything is connected to everything. It is like one wave in the ocean pushing another wave and becoming the mother of another wave. And that pushes this. “Tasmat virada jayata virajo adipurushah”. The Purusha Sukta says Virat created the Purusha and Purusha created the Virat. The mother created the son and the son created the mother. This is the causality of Eddington or relativity where the effect can produce the cause. How can the effect produce the cause? Because there is no such thing as effect, there is no such thing as cause. Anything can be anything. This is a transcendental causal concept which goes beyond the empirical idea of one thing following another. It is taken for granted. What authority have you to grant that? Your mind is not working properly, it means. Why should you say that it is granted that one thing follows from another. You have taken for granted that this is east. But is it true? You say that the sun is rising in the east. That concept is also wrong. For it is not 'rising' or 'falling'. When the sun is 'rising' here, it is 'setting' somewhere else! Then why do you believe your mind? There is no such thing as east and west, it is only in your head, nor is the sun 'rising'. Again, the earth looks flat—it does not look round. Will you believe your mind on this statement that the earth is flat?

Visitor: I understand. Now, two people placed in a particular place see one thing with different aspects of the mind. Is it due to the unreality of the thing?

Swamiji: No, no, no. It is not because of unreality of the thing, but because their minds are in different stages of evolution. Two persons cannot think identically because no two persons can be at the same evolutionary stage. And if both are in the same evolutionary stage they will merge into one another and become one person. The very fact that they exist as two persons shows that they cannot be at the same level. Therefore, they cannot see things in the same way. The structural pattern of the mind of one person differs from that of another on account of the difference in the level of evolution itself. The dream perception is different from the waking perception because dream is one level and waking is another level. In dream you see things, and here in waking perception you also see things. But you see different things in different ways altogether. That is one example to show that mind differs in dimensions of consciousness.

But why go even so far? You were thinking in one way twenty years back, and today you think in a different fashion; you have evolved further. Here is an example of the evolution of the mind. As a small boy in kindergarten, were you thinking in the same way as now. See? The mind has evolved. You think differently now because you have a different comprehension of things. The higher reason is our ultimate resort. We should not depend upon the senses. You cannot depend upon the lower mind also. It simply agrees with whatever the senses say. The fingers say that this chair is hard. The mind also says it is hard; “I agree with it” says the mind. But modern scientists tell us that there is no such thing as hardness. What you call hardness is only an electrical repulsion produced by atoms constituting the thing that you call chair and the substance that you call fingers. There is an electric repulsion of forces, and it looks as if there is hardness. There is no such thing as hardness.

If you have had an electric shock you will feel as if some heavy weight is hanging on your hand, as if a whole mountain weight is pulling your hand. But there is no weight. Nothing is tied to your hand. That feeling is due to the tremendous electric particles when there is contact of one category of structure with another category of structure, and that gives us a sensation of hardness. Another structure gives the idea that there is colour, another structure that there is sound, yet another that there is taste.

Well, really speaking there is neither smell, nor taste, nor hardness, nor light. The whole thing is an illusion; and you will be surprised to come to this conclusion, finally, even ignoring all our scriptural statements and depending only on experimental physics and modern science. You will be horrified to realise that we are in a fool's paradise. Nothing that you see is correct. And also your judgements are wrong. This will immediately awaken you into a new sense of values. And I think anyone with any sense of these values will not get attached to anything. With this awakening, you will not believe your senses. If you can't believe your senses, how can you have attachment? And when there is no attachment, your yoga begins. Yoga is nothing but practical detachment, in different degrees.

Ashramite: All this sounds so heartless, Swamiji.

Swamiji: There is no heart. How can there be heartlessness? The heart is also an imagination of your mind. And so you…

Ashramite: (pointing to the heart) It is there.

Swamiji: It is there because your mind says so. And as long as you believe that what you say is correct, you are caught in the web of samsara. You have great belief in your own feelings and logic. That is what we are trying to refute. There is a logic of the universal which is different from human logic of the lower mind. It is simple logic that your child is the most beautiful and more valuable than others. Is it not good logic? (laughs.)

Visitor: Swamiji, ideas also have an existence...

Swamiji: Ideas? There is nothing that exists except the soul—your Self. And idea is only a rarefied spatio-temporal expression of this Self that is in you. What you call an idea is spatio-temporal, it is an idea of something. Now we are going to argue that there is no such thing as a content of an idea external to it, because the idea of externality arises, again, due to involvement in space and time. If you give up the idea of space-time, the idea of containing a content as something outside an idea ceases to be. So before saying whether an idea exists or not, you must define what an idea is. If it is a concept of something it cannot exist, really speaking. But if it is only the Self that you are identifying with it, then yes.

Visitor: Not the Self, Swamiji. Plato…

Swamiji: Plato's ideas are different from what we are now talking. Plato's ideas are the archetypes or the originals of things. And they are what you call the substances behind qualities. Behind attributes or things you have solid existence. That existence is what Plato calls 'Ideas'. By 'Idea' he does not mean a concept of something. The 'thing-in-itself' of Kant, that is what Plato calls 'Ideas'. It is not an idea in the sense of an idea of a 'pot' occurring in the mind, of something which is outside. Plato was three hundred years before Christ. So his ideas are different from what we think today. He has used the word, unfortunately, because he lived in the period before Christ. It is not a mere wave of psychological pattern that is occurring in the mind. It is an appellation that he has given to the 'substance' of things or the originality of things. The horseness behind the horse, as he used to state… man-ness behind man, thing-ness behind things. What is horseness? There is a generality of the universal behind particulars. Philosophy will make you mad. Don't go near it (laughs).

Ashramite: We love philosophers for all that.

Swamiji: The Srimad Bhagavatam says: kidhyat parangats traveto sukme dete madhyat candra gocara. A person who knows everything is very happy. But the man who stands between these two is suffering. He doesn't say “I know nothing”, and he cannot say “I know everything”. We are such people, we seem to know something—but not all things, yet we cannot believe we know nothing.

Visitor: What is consciousness, Swamiji?

Swamiji: Consciousness proves the existence of all selfs. And inasmuch as consciousness cannot be conscious of a boundary, consciousness alone can be and nothing else can be. That means one thing alone can be and nothing else can be. You just drive this idea into the mind and nothing else. This is called yoga. Says the Bhagavad Gita, once you have established yourself in this thought of the universality of the Self which alone is and nothing else can be, you are in yoga.

Swamiji: All of you now go for your lunch. Namaskar. God bless.