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

9. Universal Action

A pleasant morning. The usual small gathering around Swami Krishnanandaji with ashramites as also foreign visitors. Swamiji greets visitors as they drop in one by one. Some of the questions have not been taken down but Swamiji's answers have been recorded and are given below.

Swamiji: You are nothing, you are something. That is called mutual sacrifice. You give me what you have and I do not have, and I give you what I have and you do not have; that is how it goes on. The sun and the ocean and the earth are all collaborating in making rain. If the ocean is not there no rain will occur, but if the ocean is there and no sun, then also there can be no rain. The gravitation of the earth is equally necessary, otherwise the water will not fall. You see how many things are necessary for rain. These are only three factors. There are many others such as the mountains, the trees, etc., which all help in bringing about a little thing called 'rain'. You do not know how many factors there are contributing to the fact that you are breathing. You think breathing is a simple process. It is not so. It is very complex, and it is made possible by various systems in the body. Even your breathing is God's will ultimately. Let us realise that. We should not think that we are the masters. We do pranayama, but we cannot do even pranayama unless God wills. He is the driver of the vehicle of life. The vehicle will not go unless the driver is there. Again, the driver alone is not sufficient though control is necessary; the wheels have to be in good condition and the body of the vehicle should be built. This is karma yoga in the Bhagavadgita: a little action comprising many factors, and one who thinks that only one factor is sufficient is ignorant.

Nobody ever does anything independently. Everything is done with the collaboration of the other forces of nature, so that every action is a cosmic action. There is no such thing as an individual action. Any universal action, even if a leaf falls from a tree, the whole universe is aware of it. I think Christ said: “Even if a sparrow falls it is the will of God… “ There is no such thing as chance in the world. Everything is ordered methodically by a great purpose which is beyond human understanding.

There was a gardener working in his field and, nearby, another man was building a house. The first man prayed to God. “'Please God send rain.” His neighbour was at the same time praying, “God, let there be no rain. I am building a house”. So what should God do? The doctor prays for more patients and the patient prays, “May I heal quickly”.

Q: Where is the heart located in us?

Swamiji: The heart gets fixed on something which you are thinking in the mind. When you are thinking of me, your thought is fixed on me, and when you are thinking of a mountain, it is fixed on a mountain. It has no place of its own. It is fixed on something of which it is thinking at that particular time. It shifts its location from moment to moment. It has no house of its own. What it is interested in, that is its house. It is a universal, all-pervading something, so it cannot have a location, but it can tie itself into a knot on what it is thinking of any particular object. You belong to that thing which you love from the depth of your heart. When you start loving something, you are tied to it. Essentially you are independent, absolutely independent, but you appear to be dependent when you are hanging on to something else for support.

Q: Because you are always thinking of that something?

Swamiji: You are loving it, not merely thinking of it. You have an affection for it—that is why you are dependent. When you love an object you are depending on that object, otherwise you would not love it, and to that extent your independence is gone. You are selling your independence by loving objects in the world and purchasing trouble.

Q: Is thinking inside or outside space and time?

Swamiji: It is always in space and time. Mind cannot think except in space and time, and space is inside, outside, both. You can see some part outside of you or you can see some part inside, but still it is spatial. If you think of something it is always in space, even if it is merely a concept—psychological—it is still a spatial concept. You cannot imagine anything except as it is located in space.

Q: But thought itself is outside space?

Swamiji: God is transcendental to space. The very fact that you think of space shows that God is not in space.

Q. If you can get outside of space and time, in that state?

Swamiji: When you think of an object, it is always outside. Otherwise, what is an object?

Q: But is your thinking outside space and time, Swamiji?

Swamiji: No, you cannot be outside space and time. Everything is in space and time.

Q: But is your thinking outside space and time?

Swamiji: Just as your Atman, or soul, is transcendent to space, though to normal experience it does not appear to be so. You can only infer by argument that it is transcendent. The fact that you can see something in space and time should imply that you are transcendent to space and time. Again it is by argument, by inference. You cannot actually experience it unless you enter into the object by meditation.

Q: Then when you go into a state of bliss, why can't you think?

Swamiji: No, you do not enter bliss like that. It is only a corollary of the state of identification of subject with object. When you enter into the object by absorption, you feel a great happiness. It comes only as a result of absorption with the object. The first thing is absorption, then follows bliss. Bliss is only an effect that follows from the union of the subject with the object.

Q: At that stage are you outside space and time?

Swamiji: There is no space and time at that time. It simply vanishes. You cannot see outside or inside at that time. Space vanishes.

Q: And at that time can you think?

Swamiji: No. The mind ceases to think. That is why you are happy. As long as you are thinking, you are unhappy… There is no object to think of. The object has become the subject. When object and subject blend together in union there is no idea of space time. That is why you are happy. Happiness is the outcome of the abolition of the consciousness of space and time. When you feel the difference between you and something, there is no happiness. Happiness is the result of union with the object. As long as you maintain distance, there is no happiness. In love, in intense love, the difference between subject and object vanishes and there is happiness. As long as you feel that it is outside you, there is no happiness.

Q: I feel a strong sense of duty towards my parents and also very strongly the separation, difference, between them and I have a hard time pleasing them, and yet their aims for me are different from my beliefs. They are most interested in my material success and…

Swamiji: You see, pleasing them is a little different from performing your duty towards them. They may be having some ideas of their own, which when fulfilled will make them happy, but that is very different from your duty. Suppose they are poor, they have nothing to eat, your duty would be to provide them with food. That is a duty. But if they are unhappy on account of some other desires that they have got… suppose they want a three-storeyed building and they are unable to get it, they are unhappy, and I do not think it is your duty to provide them with a three-storeyed building. It is not necessary for a person, though they cannot be happy because of the desire present in them. Your duty is to feed them and provide them with the minimum necessities of life—food, clothing, shelter, as they call it—because they are your parents. Especially if they are poor and cannot maintain themselves for some reason or the other, I would say it is your duty to do so. If they are well-off then it is a different matter, then there is no problem. So duty is different from pleasure, they are not identical.

Q: Is duty not only in terms of the physical body?

Swamiji: No, not necessarily. There are various types of duty.

Q: Sometimes what people want is not necessarily good for them.

Swamiji: Naturally. I say I want a bicycle. Why do I want a bicycle? But if you do not give me one, I become unhappy. It does not mean that you will make me happy merely by giving me a bicycle. It is a foolish desire, and one should not give in to it. But if I am hungry and I want food because I have not eaten for three days, then it is your duty to give me food. You have to use your common sense and understand the difference between pleasure and necessity, and you must use your understanding to see what is incumbent upon you.

Q. What is my duty to the Absolute…?

Swamiji: Why worry about the Absolute unnecessarily? You should keep quiet. This is like waking sleeping dogs, you understand? Don't wake up sleeping dogs, they say. If you wake them unnecessarily they will growl… (gesticulating) grrrr… and jump on you. (Laughter.) It is a joke, and an interesting joke it is.

It is a very philosophical joke—the Absolute is like a sleeping dog. It does not interfere with you and it does not expect you to interfere with it, and if you unnecessarily poke your nose, it will bark and pounce on you. Do you want this to happen? (Laughter.) How many hours can one sit alone? God is far away and I am not bothered about Him much. Let Him mind His business. I am worrying about you people—about your getting a room or getting food. Am I to think of the Absolute or about your accommodation? Which is more immediate? So I shove God somewhere in the corner and I do not bother about Him but worry about you. You want a room, another wants yoga, another wants medicine, yet another has some other problem to be solved. Now, what do you say? Am I to leave these things for the Absolute? Why don't you follow my path of hard work?

There have been saints who could make God work like a servant. Let me tell you a story from the South. There was a lady who used to visit a holy man every day. She would prostrate before the holy man and keep some sweet porridge, kheer in a vessel. This went on for one year and neither she nor the saint spoke to each other. Then one day the saint asked, “Mother, what is the matter with you?” Then she said, “Maharaj, I am in great sorrow. I want your blessing.” You see, that saint was a great man. According to the story, he was capable of speaking to God Himself. Every night he would speak to God. Everyone used to go to him for his blessings. So this lady said, “I am coming to you for some help. I am grieving to death. I have no child. Will you bless me with one child”. “Oh, well, I'll ask God,” he said. “Please will you talk to God tonight and let me know what his answer is? If I can get a child or not.” “OK, I'll ask God tonight,” the saint said. Next morning she came, “What is the answer from God”? “I am very sorry, he refused. God said, 'No, this lady cannot have children'”. She beat her breast in sorrow. “If God says this, there is no use to live in this world.” She decided to commit suicide and ran to jump into the nearby river. “I'll die. I don't want to stay alive.”

When the lady was running she saw a man coming along, a very unkempt, crazy-looking man. He stopped her and asked her, “Mother, why are you running? Why are you crying? What is the matter?” She said, “Don't talk to me. This is no time to talk. I am going to end my life.” Still he persisted, and reluctantly she replied? “Well, God Himself is not pleased with me. I have talked with the great saint who has told me that God has refused to give me a child.” “Oh! Is that all! This is a small matter. How many children do you want?” “I want one.” “You will have two,” he said. Now she could not understand how it was that when God himself had refused, this man was saying she would get two children, but these words acted like a balm on her heart. Someone had said something which was so satisfying, whether it was going to materialise or not didn't matter. So she gave up the idea of committing suicide and went back home. She had two children, and after some time she brought them to the saint who had said that God had denied her one. “Who are these children?” he asked. “Your children.” “You have children?” he said, “How is it possible? God had told me that you cannot have children. God can't tell lies.”

That night the saint encountered God and asked him. “How is it that you made a fool of me? You told me it is not possible for that lady to have a child, and now she has two children?” God replied, “My dear friend, you must understand my predicament. I have great affection for you because you run after me, you are a devotee who runs after me, but that gentleman who told her that she will have two children, he is a person, a devotee whom I run after. I run after him, while you run after me. That is the difference. So, when he says something, I cannot refuse. If he had said a hundred, I would have given the lady a hundred children.” The saint wondered who this man was after whom God was running, and thought “I have heard of men running after God, but I have never heard of God running after men.” Such a running after of a man by God takes place under very special circumstances. This parable is of tremendous significance. Anyone can run after something great. There is nothing important about it. But can you imagine God running after a devotee? What must be the intensity and the character of his devotion to draw God towards himself and make God run after him! This is the devotion which can be called real sadhana. If sadhana can be so intense that it draws the whole cosmos to itself, then it is real sadhana.

Is it possible to have such a devotion? This type of devotion is another word for the utter surrender of the self to Reality. 'Utter' is the word, which is not possible unless the whole being is concentrated on that object. You may call it God, you may call it the Absolute, you may call it anything. If your whole soul is concentrated on it, that endeavour of yours will be a success. Even a thief can succeed if he concentrates wholeheartedly on that point, but, unfortunately, nobody in this world can be a hundred per cent interested in anything. Even your love for your own baby is not absolute, your love is conditional. Under certain conditions you like a thing. When those conditions change, you stop liking it. A husband cannot love his wife, a wife cannot love her husband unless certain conditions are fulfilled. But the love of God is unconditional. You cannot limit it and say: “Under these conditions I love God.”

You may ask me, “Why should I love God unconditionally?” Everything is done for some purpose. My love for God has a purpose. If the purpose is ulterior, then you regard God as inferior to that purpose. You are regarding the motive behind your love as something superior to God Himself. You are using God as an instrument, you are exploiting God. This is what every devotee is doing; therefore, God is not coming. We may not be consciously thinking like this, but unconsciously we are feeling that if we reach God we will get something. That something is more important to us than God Himself. People say, “If I get a job, I get a salary.” You are not interested in the job but only in the salary. Because the salary is not possible without the job, you say, “I'll take the job.” Likewise you know you cannot get something unless you go to work, so you think it is a very justifiable attitude to use God as an instrument for something that you like, e.g. peace of mind, bliss, immortality—so many things. This is exploitation.

God is the highest end, He is not a means to an end, but subconsciously we feel that He is a means to something. We are grieved by the sorrow of the world and the pains that are inflicted upon us, and we want to get rid of them. We don't want God, we want only freedom from pain and suffering, and we know that cannot happen unless we go to Him, just as you go to the President or Prime Minister for some sanction or permit or something. And that something is your intelligence, not God; we must not forget that. God can understand this; He is omniscient. He knows His devotee is a very shrewd person who wants to use Him, so He says, “I will not go.” He is afraid of you. (Laughter.)

You say you want the Absolute. You cannot get the Absolute unless you want only the Absolute, and you cannot want the Absolute only for certain reasons. You have got certain ideas, you have got the consciousness of the world. You have got the idea that you are a doctor, that you are a lady, that you exist in Rishikesh; you see, you have so many contradictory ideas, ideas which contradict the idea of the Absolute Advaita—without a second. These are impediments. How can you abolish from your mind all ideas of relativity? It is not possible. If it is possible, then you can reach the Absolute. It doesn't take two days or three days. But no human being can achieve this feat. So many ideas are in the mind: “I am a human being; I exist here, I have this. This is the world, the sun is shining, the wind is blowing. These are obstacles to the surrender of the self to the Absolute. You must have the technique of transforming every perception. There is nothing wrong in all the ideas; the sun shining, the wind blowing, etc., they are all manifestations of God, but you should not make a bifurcation between God and the world. You see God as if you are outside God. It is not so.

Going to God is not a movement in space and time. It is a transformation, like waking up from a dream. A little training of the mind is necessary to understand what is necessary, what the point is. You see, it is like a lawyer who cannot take up a case unless he knows what the matter is. So when you say, “I want the Absolute,” you must know what it means. The Absolute is that which includes yourself also. So you are asking for yourself ultimately—and you are already there. So is there any sense in your asking for it? It is in a different cosmic sense that you are asking for yourself, and for that you must give up all little thoughts, all thoughts of worldly objects, and desires of every kind. There should not be any ambition or desire left in your mind. If that is possible then you need not speak to me, you may speak to the Absolute directly.

It will answer your questions provided your heart is clean and clear. “Ask and it shall be given.” That is what Christ said, but your asking should be with the whole, totality, of your being, not merely by your lips. Your whole being should surge forward like a wave of devotion, and it should pull you like a magnet so that it would be impossible for you to exist without it. A great devotee said that it would be impossible to exist in the world without God. It would be like hell for that devotee. If you get such a pain because of the bereavement from Him, and you are restless without Him and you cannot exist without Him, He must come. There is no doubt about it. But be sure that you really want Him and not something else.

Another visitor: What is the relationship between man and the law of the land, his native or visiting land?

Swamiji: All law is created by the human mind and its thoughts. Law is amended now and then by the parliament. You can change laws; that means that you determine the law, the law does not determine you. If man can change law, why should man be afraid of law?

Q: I can see that a man can be afraid of how another man can use the law against him.

Swamiji: Now you are entering into deep waters. You are thinking that another man has made the law. Who made the law?

Q: All the men together.

Swamiji: So law is a manifestation of the total mind.

Q: In theory.

Swamiji: Oh, so now we are entering into philosophy. It is not made by this man or that man, but by the totality of mind. This totality of mind is a very peculiar thing. It is very difficult to understand what is totality. You are a part of the total, so you have a right in the context of the whole or total to which you belong. You need not be afraid of the total, because you also belong to it. It is like a member of the family getting frightened of the family itself.

Now, what is a whole? Many minds put together make a cosmic mind, can you say that? If all the human minds think one thought, can you say that it is the Cosmic Mind thinking? That is not true. There is a quantitative uniformity, but there should be a qualitative identity of this total with what you call the Cosmic Mind. You are a human being, Mr. So-and-so, you are not the total of the limbs of the body. Suppose some limbs are missing, you would still be a whole being? People without limbs still feel themselves to be complete. So what is man? Man is not the body. Likewise, what is mind? It is not the total of the individuals. A parliament does not become depleted merely because ten members are absent, so parliament is not the total of its members. It is something else.

This is what I meant by saying that it is qualitatively different from the whole that you are thinking of, though quantitatively it has some point. I think we should not talk much on this subject. It is a very ticklish subject (laughter). You have to think about this matter. It leads to philosophy. From law you go to philosophy. Some points for you to think about when you go back home.

Q: “I just go through life,” someone says, “doing my work, and I don't worry about these things. I know when I die I go back into the earth.”

Swamiji: Why does he think he goes back to the earth? What is “go back to the earth”?

Q: What he says, in effect, is, there is no reason for all of this. It is just what he considers the Existentialist belief that we just go on. There is no overall cause or reason, and no point in asking all these questions and trying to answer them. What do you say to such a man?

Swamiji: I would say nothing to such a man. Let him go to the earth. He says, “I will do my work.” But why should he do his work? That itself is a reason for life, otherwise he need not do anything, he could just meditate. He will say, “I work to have a house, to be comfortable.” Why does he want a house, to be comfortable, to have food to eat? Everything has a reason, and he sees no reason. I would ask him, “Why do you want to exist? You could perish by simply not eating. Why do you want to work hard and maintain yourself alive? There is a reason behind this also. This is shallow thinking. There is a reason even for the love of life: why the urge to maintain yourself? What the reason is he doesn't understand? Let him go further and not stop halfway. His understanding will become better and better.