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

18. Universal Action

Visitor: Swamiji, is it correct to say that in everything that we are doing, it is not we who are doing it but the Universal is doing it?

Swamiji: Certainly. We should be convinced of it, we should feel it.

Visitor: But, when I misinterpret something then…

Swamiji: When you misinterpret something, the conviction that the Absolute is doing all things is not in the mind. When the conviction that the Absolute is doing everything is deeply rooted in you, you cannot misinterpret anything. You will understand everything correctly. As a matter of fact, this is called intuition. You can see things clearly. Now the conviction is not deep enough.

Visitor: But if I lack conviction, can we say the Universal is lacking conviction?

Swamiji: You are not believing that it is the Universal that is doing everything, you are only saying so. The moment you feel that the Universal is doing it, the question of conviction will not arise.

Visitor: But, whether I believe it or not, I am still a manifestation of the Universal.

Swamiji: Your belief is only in imagining it to be so. Your feeling is not accepting it. You are still feeling that you are an individual, so there is a contradiction. Intellectually there is an assertion that you are the Universal, but the feeling in you ignores that assertion. Don't you see me sitting outside you? If you feel that the Universal alone is real, you won't see me sitting here. The very fact that you see me shows that your conviction is not deep.

Visitor: But that still is a manifestation of the Universal.

Swamiji: It is only a theoretical conviction, not a practical conviction.

Visitor: But what I am saying is, whether I can see it correctly or not, it is there.

Swamiji: That is true, it is there. But what binds you is not the fact as such. The fact may be anything, it does not matter. Your feeling is the cause of your bondage. If you feel that the Absolute is there, you are free. If you don't feel it is there, then you are bound.

Visitor: Then I am bound! But, how can an aspect of the Universal be bound?

Swamiji: It is not bound, but you are wrongly thinking that it is bound. How did you create a tiger in your dream? The tiger was not there. Likewise, imagination distorts itself somewhere along the line. That the Self alone is, is only a scriptural saying for us. We take it to be something external. Bondage is a mystery. Nobody can say how bondage arises. The cause of it cannot be seen as long as you maintain individual consciousness. The cause is only discovered when you get rid of it by actual meditation. When you reach the Absolute, it will not be there at all. You do not ask me why the tiger came in the dream. Nobody puts that question. You do not speak about the treasures that you had in the dream. Likewise, you will never put a question, and you will never think anything about this world when you reach the Absolute. You will speak of it as much as a dream, or perhaps worse. The question will not arise. At the moment the individuality is still maintained.

Stealing is not a proper action. If a thief's intellect says that stealing is not good, yet his feeling makes him steal, there is no coordination between feeling and intellect. Likewise, intellect may conclude that the Absolute exists, but your feeling says 'No, I am Mr. So and so'. When feeling joins hands with intellect it is called intuition, and it occurs through meditation.

Visitor: What do you think is responsible for feeling?

Swamiji: Ego. Ego and feeling are the same. That feeling that you exist is the ego, and the two are not different. You cannot say which is the ego and which feeling. Feeling is a function of the ego, and ego is the substance of the feeling. It is not made up of any hard object. It is an ethereal something. Ego and personality are nothing but a knot in consciousness.

Visitor: Can it be removed by the grace of God?

Swamiji: Well, if you believe in the grace of God, it will work. But if you believe you are so-and-so, it will not work. What is the grace of God? It is the effect of your intense belief that God alone exists. That belief does not come easily. Always we believe in self-effort. When you feel that you exist, then self-effort comes. It is the automatic corollary of the feeling that you exist. Nobody can sit quiet without doing something as long as he feels that he exists. Bodily consciousness will insist that he should act. That action proceeds automatically from his existing as an individual.

Visitor: But why then do people pray to the Lord?

Swamiji: They feel that they exist in the body. When the prayer comes from the soul, then it is good and it will work. If it does not come from the soul but only from the lips, the body remains unaffected even in prayer as a hard rock. Thus, the prayer will not work. Mere copper wire will not bring anything. Electricity must be there behind it. If it is disconnected, it is only wire, nothing else. The feeling should be there, but if you think of something else at that time, it will serve no purpose.

Visitor: Swamiji, how is it that the Absolute, which has the ability to do anything it wants, has allowed for manifestations that are not conscious of their reality, such as we?

Swamiji: Ultimately everything is conscious. Even the atom is conscious, but you do not know that it is conscious. You say a brick is unconscious. It is not so. Modern science has realised the relationship between life and matter. There is no difference between life and matter, it is a continuity. There is a difference of density, degree of manifestation. There is no such thing as spirit and matter in isolation, and completely cut off from each other. When you reach the Absolute, even the densities of manifestation will vanish. It is only from our point of view that they appear of various degrees. At one stroke the whole thing will vanish. When you see a bulldog in a dream, it is part of your mind, and you cannot say your mind is unconscious. So the conscious mind can appear as an unconscious building. The so-called inanimate objects are not inanimate. They look inanimate because they are externalised in space and time.

Visitor: I understand that, but we are manifestations that have false perceptions. Why was that allowed?

Swamiji: Why do you allow the idea of a building in the dream? There is no such building at all. The same thing has happened in the waking state. What you have done in a dream, the cosmic mind has done in your waking state. If you understand that there is no unconscious object in a dream, then even in the cosmic mind there is no unconscious object. And you ask me why it is allowed. I say, why did you allow the building to come up in your dream? The world has not come about in the same way as the building has not come about in the dream, except in the head of the person. Likewise, the world does not exist except as an idea of God. There is no world like the one that exists in your thought, it does not exist. You are only the cosmic idea, or cosmic meditation vibrating. Why has the electron become a stone? If you see the stone with a microscope, you will not see the stone at all but electrons. If you ask me why the electrons have become a stone, what answer can I give you? It is just what it is. It is a mystery.

Visitor: Swamiji, I cannot sit in meditation in a particular posture for more than half an hour.

Swamiji: You sit in any posture that is convenient to you. I am not prescribing any posture. Whichever posture you use should enable you to sit in meditation at least for one hour continually.

Visitor: That is, sitting on the wooden stool?

Swamiji: Okay, you sit on the wooden stool. You see, posture has no great religious significance. It is only a technique of so seating yourself as does not make you think of the body every now and then. If you sit in a posture which will cause strain to the body you will naturally be thinking of the body again and again, so they say you sit in such a posture as would not compel you to think of the body again and again. It is not necessary to sit, for instance, in padmasana if it makes you think of the body too much. You can sit in an easy chair. The point is, it should enable you to forget that you have a body at all. You prepare your own posture so that you can sit for at least one hour at a time without thinking of the posture itself. In samadhi you are not thinking of the object, you have become the object itself. So this is the distinction between the three stages. First three ideas, then two ideas, then one idea only—the thing outside yourself and the object. That is concentration. In meditation there is no outside idea, only yourself and the object. In samadhi there is only the object; even you don't exist. You are identical with it. So from this test you can find out where you stand. How many thoughts occupy your mind. These will tell you where you are.

As for prayer, it does not mean just uttering some words. It is not muttering a mantra or chanting a formula. It is a surge of the feeling inside where your whole soul wells up into consciousness and gravitates towards God. You feel as if you are pulled by a magnet, cosmic in its nature, towards your goal of life. If that feeling is there, then that is your real prayer, otherwise it is a mere uttering of words.

Q: If anyone meditates, concentrates on an object, is he thinking or is he not thinking?

Swamiji: There is no such thing as thinking unless you become it. You can become it by abolishing your separation from it. You meditate as if you are that, not as if you are thinking.

Visitor: What is that?

Swamiji: It may be a tree, or anything—it does not matter. If you want to have the intuition of the tree you must feel that you are the tree itself, not Mr. So-and-so thinking of the tree, because then it remains an object and you cannot know it. Intuition is the absorption of your mind in that object. It may be a particle of sand, it doesn't matter.

Visitor: But there are so many trees, ideas… it becomes an obstacle…

Swamiji: It is not an obstacle. The idea itself is the subject. As a matter of fact, the tree is nothing but an idea of the tree. That idea is the object before you, and with that you enter into yourself. You are thinking that that idea is arising from the mind as if the idea is different from the mind. You must identify yourself with the idea itself so that the idea does not arise outside. There should be no spatial distinction between you and the object. That is called samadhi. Samadhi is nothing but abolition of spatial difference. There is no space between you and the object, you are one with it.

We imagine that there is a beginning to creation. It doesn't start at one time. It is a cycle. There is neither beginning nor end. God did not create the world on some day, one Sunday. It is only a story. It is not like that. God is timeless, so naturally He cannot think in time. So the moment you say He started creating at one time, you think God is in time. He is timeless, so the question of creation in time does not arise. It is only our concept. Creation is an eternal process… It is a chain of cause and effect like a circle with neither a beginning nor an end, not a straight line with a beginning and an end. So you have been running around like this eternally.

Visitor: Does this mean that a human being can go back to the vegetable kingdom?

Swamiji: If you think like a vegetable, you will go back. But you will again come up. You can go back and come up again and again. What you will become will depend upon what you think. If you think like a vegetable, you will become vegetable, if you think like an animal, you will become an animal. Animals attack, and if you also attack you will also become animal. Human beings don't attack. So whoever attacks, even though he may be in human form, has the characteristics of an animal. Only the tail is missing.

Visitor: Swamiji, I think I read somewhere that statement: In the beginning…

Swamiji: It is only a saying for a mind that wants such a statement. The child's mind requires a child's answer. A boy was asked: “You see, my dear boy, the Sun is here in the morning, slowly, it goes in the evening and next morning suddenly it comes back. How does it happen?” He replied, “When we are sleeping the Sun must be jumping back.” Now, well, this is a great answer to be given by the boy. There is no rational answer to the mystery. The thing that was there in the west suddenly comes to the east. For all practical purposes, this could be a good answer for the boy. But you say the Earth is moving, etc., etc. That is also a theory, not a final answer. We are thinking we are very wise by simply imagining that the whole Earth moves, and therefore the whole answer is given. But so many other things are moving. The Earth is moving round the sun, the sun is also moving towards some great star called Sirius, and the whole thing is moving in the Milky Way, and the Milky Way is rushing at tremendous speed towards something else. Where are they rushing to all the time? Why are they so restless? The idea that something is created involves several contradictions which cannot be logically explained.

We have a habit of thinking in terms of cause and effect. This is what the great German philosopher, Kant, argued about throughout his life. We have got some habits, and we want to justify everything in terms of those habits. There are four kinds of habits of the mind, says Kant. According to him, these four habits are called Quantity, Quality, Relation, and Morality. Everything has a quantity. Whatever you think has a size. You cannot imagine anything without some size. Everything has a quality of this kind or that. It has some relation to something, some connection, positive or negative. And it is in some condition called moral. You cannot think of anything except in these four ways. The mind is shackled to this way of thinking. Even when you think of God Himself, who is supposed to be above all conditions, even He is thought of in terms of these conditions only. He has size, shape, quality, relationship. He is some state, whether pleased or not, thinking or not, doing something or not. And he has a relationship with you and the world, etc.

Now, you are conditioning the unconditioned and this habit of relating effect to cause is the reason behind your trying to find a cause for the world. You find that the world is in the nature of an effect because it is changing and transforming itself and, as everything has a cause, God also must be having a cause. Without that, how will the world go on? Naturally, according to this argument the creation of the world must have taken place at some time, because we think only in terms of space and time. So we assume certain factors, and on these assumptions we also assume God must have created the world at a certain time. And He must be there.

These are all kinds of corollaries, or effects, that naturally flow from the habit of mind. So, Kant concluded nobody can know what truth is. Because the more you think of truth, the more you condition it. So, metaphysics and reality are an impossibility. That is the final conclusion of a great tome, Critique of Pure Reason, that Emanuel Kant wrote. He spent all his life in writing that book, a great masterpiece. Of course, he did not say it so bluntly as I put it, but finally it boils down to this. The ultimate Reality cannot be known, as the moment you start thinking of it, you condition it. So, as they say, the moment a man opens his mouth he puts his foot into it!

All this is discussed in the Vedas also, in the Rig Veda. The poet humorously says, “Who created the world and how it was created, God only knows; perhaps God Himself does not know.” This is a jocular way of saying what a mystery it is, because eternity does not create itself. The moment it is created, it ceases to be eternal, and you are contradicting yourself by saying that eternity is there and that it creates. That which creates or is created is a thing subject to transformation. If something comes from something, that something from which it comes is subject to transformation. If time can come from eternity, then eternity also is subject to transformation, and anything subject to transformation is not eternal. And to say that eternity is subject to non-eternity is a contradiction in terms.

The whole theory is an explanation satisfying our temporal intelligence, but it cannot satisfy that higher aspiration which sees truth as it is. Man's mind is incapable of reaching God, for the mere reason that God is what God is. He just cannot be what you think He is. That is not possible. He cannot be subjected to analysis by the logical intellect. He is not the object, He is the subject itself. He is the Universal Subject, and therefore to analyse Him is to convert Him into an object, which is a travesty of the truth.

Visitor: Can we say that the world existed eternally?

Swamiji: Why do you call it the world? Something existed eternally, you can call it the world, God, anything, the Absolute which is a word that is supposed to signify 'unchangeable something', an unchangeable, perpetual something, which does not bear relationship with anything else. That something is designated as the Absolute. You can call it by any name.

Visitor: But creation is changeable, and as such was it existing eternally?

Swamiji: Now you are saying it is changeable because you have cut yourself off from creation. If you become one with creation, perhaps you will think differently. You are looking at creation as an object outside you. That is the whole trouble. You cannot understand anything if you cut it from the subject that knows it. This is the effect of modern science also. The moment you try to observe a particle through a microscope, the microscope disturbs the position of the particle. It means that the means you adopt in trying to understand the thing, to analyse it, disturbs the position and the character of the object, so it happens that without the means you cannot know it, and even with the means you cannot know it.

Similarly with this creation and God, or whatever it is. You cannot know anything unless you enter into it. The moment you set yourself outside it, you see through the spectacles of space and time like a man with jaundiced eyes. There is no such thing as space and time for creation as such because space and time are part of creation only. Space and time is the pre-condition of creation, so there cannot be creation without space and time. Space, time and object all rise together, so your mind tells you that you are outside the creation, else you would not be making the statement. Actually, you are a part of creation, so when you say you are thinking of creation, creation itself is thinking of creation. When somebody asks you a question about creation, you must ask him the counter question: “Who is putting the question? You have placed yourself in a false position by separating yourself from the total creation of which you are a part, so you cannot know about creation unless you first give up the idea that you are outside it.”

You do an action for a purpose, but God's action is not action in the sense of a human being's action. It is the spontaneous manifestation of cosmic nature. Nature means that which is not artificial, which is not produced at any time, which is not manifested, which is not created. In your case, action is something which is motivated and is created at some time.

Visitor: But you also said that that should be done by me. There is nothing in the three worlds that should be done by me.

Swamiji: What does the Sun gain by shining? Nothing! And yet it shines. It is only an outward example symbolic of expressing that there is no motive behind it. It just exists in the form it is. The universe is not what it is for some purpose, because if you say it is for some purpose you are isolating the purpose from itself. It is its own nature and just exists, and the action of God is nothing but God being Itself. God's being Itself is called action, just as the Sun's being itself is called shining, but in our case it is not like that; therefore, we are not happy about action.

Visitor: This world would perish if I did not perform action.

Swamiji: If reality does not exist appearance, also cannot. It would collapse. It is something like saying that if the ocean does not exist, the waves cannot exist. The order of the universe is nothing but the symmetry of the Atman—what you call system. It is nothing but a manifestation of Atman's perfection.

Visitor: In the fourth discourse on the Bhagavad Gita, “Inaction in action and action in inaction”…

Swamiji: When you physically act but mentally are not connected with that action, that is inaction in action; when physically you are not doing but mentally you are active, that is action in inaction.

Visitor: Which is better, Swamiji?

Swamiji: No question—both are no good! (Laughter.) But if you want to draw a comparison, you can say that inaction in action is good. You must mentally ignore it though physically you are active. Karmayoga is nothing but that. It is intense action while mentally maintaining the poise. You are stabilised in mind but physically you are very active. You maintain an outlook on life which is permanent, and on the basis of that you work. You should not get disturbed by anything that you do or anything that happens. The rain falls on the mountain top, but the mountain has no concept of the rainfall. However much the rain falls, the mountain is steady.

Visitor: That is a sage's reaction.

Swamiji: Yet, it appears as if he is reacting, but he is not really acting. Nothing affects him because he is not concerned with it. Reaction arises because of your concern with things but if you are not concerned, it won't affect you. You are not bothered about either this way or that way. There is an old saying that when a cow gives birth you are concerned as to whether it is a bull or a heifer. If it is a heifer you are very happy, if it is a bull you are not so happy. But if a jackal gives birth you are not bothered. There is no reaction from you of either joy or of disappointment.