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

12. Symbolism of the Ideal

A visitor: Swamiji, why is a perfect ideal concept which is God, represented by a stone or stone images?

Swamiji: These lingas, or symbols, have a great truth in them which cannot be explained or understood easily. God is everywhere and therefore why not in an idol? You say that the statue is so unlike the high idealistic concept in your mind that it can be an obstacle to the contemplation of the concept in the mind. It is because of this that you feel scandalised that the linga or symbol should represent this idealistic value poorly. This view is very different from the great value inherent in the linga, which a prosaic mind cannot see.

Now, a currency note is only a scrap of paper in the hands of a monkey; it has no value for the monkey. Because the government has symbolised it as money, this piece of paper has value for you equivalent to the amount printed on it and arbitrarily decided upon by the government without reference to you. If the government can give value to the currency note which otherwise is only a piece of paper, why cannot divine value be symbolised in the stone idol? Now supposing I give you the photo, which, again, is only paper, of the president of a country and ask you to spit on it, won't you feel scandalised and take it a sacrilege? It is just a paper, and yet you connect it with the president. Why?

We have wrong ideas of God, the world and ourselves, and hence wrong notions get into our heads. We need a thorough revaluation of all our values and to rid ourselves of all prejudices before we can understand God, the world and the relationship between them and thus come to the naked Truth. A poet has said: “The starry heavens above and the moral law within are two mysteries.” And another, “Man alone can go to heaven, man alone can go to hell.” Animals cannot go to either.

The visitor now placed another problem before Swamiji. One day her Guru said he would show her God because she wanted to see God with her eyes. The Guru told her to wait outside a room. He went inside and after some time came out, closing the door behind him. “You want to see God? Open that door and you will see God.” “When I opened the door”, said the lady, “and saw what was inside, I exclaimed: 'This is only a man!'” “The Guru answered: “If you cannot see God in man, where else will you see him?” What does that mean? she asked. Swamiji remarked that her first question is answered by her Guru's statement, God is everywhere and everything is related to everything else.

An ashramite: If animals cannot go to hell or heaven, how can they evolve?

Swamiji: The animal is pushed up by nature to higher stages of evolution up to the stage of man who has a new faculty, namely, the ego. And here nature gives freedom. But freedom to talk perversities will not help him to evolve to still higher planes. His own effort alone can help man in his evolution. He alone has the freedom to fall or to become superman and God Himself. Animals are fortunate for they do not have an ego. Man alone has an ego.

Another visitor: Space is comprehensible, is understandable, but what is time? Why is it said that space and time are created together? There seems no common ground for these two? Is time synonymous with mutation?

Swamiji: Space is not common to you and me but time, which has mutability, is common to me and to you. Space is the involvement of consciousness in it. Space, time, objects come simultaneously together. Time is consciousness of the succession of events. It is only an idea. Time is consciousness of change, mutability in objects. Time is consciousness of involvement in space.

Another visitor: What is the meaning of the expression 'envy' quite often used in the Bhagavadgita? How can you envy the Guru? And it is instructed that the Guru's words should be heard without envy and the Gita should be heard without envy.

Swamiji: The word 'envy' is used to mean that even when in the presence of the Guru there is no faith in God's presence, it is distrust in Guru himself. God's presence must be seen everywhere, even in the words of the Guru.

There is a book called The Practice of the Presence of God by one Brother Lawrence. It is a very interesting book, a great book. Brother Lawrence saw God even in the vegetables as he was preparing them for food; so great was his ability of seeing God or feeling His presence in everything and every act. And if you try to sense the Presence of God in this way, you are never away from His Presence.

Visitor: How to practise vairagya—dispassion?

Swamiji: You neither ask for water in the mirage nor shoot at rainbows. Dispassion is not desiring something even if available. The treasure on the cinema screen does not tempt you, and you do not have to practise vairagya over it.

Visitor: Is Yoga Vasishta the highest philosophical treatise?

Swamiji: It deals with the highest peak of spirituality.

Now time is up. You all go for lunch. God bless you all.