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

26. Guru Gyan

This morning it is rather warm. Swami Krishnanandaji Maharaj sits inside the Kutir. A few devotees are around him but there is a stream of Ashram staff who come and go with their papers and problems. Along with attending to correspondence and occasional jokes Swamiji answers serious questions and problems posed by the devotees.

Question: Swamiji, how does one realise God?

Swamiji: If you can be independent of the world, you will see God in everything. The differences of opposites prevent you from seeing God in everything, because opposites do not exist in God.

When God's will passes through your personality, it is your 'free-will'. When the cosmic urge manifests itself through you, your personality makes 'effort', that is, causes the freewill to act, the effort one makes to act. Effort, from the layman's point of view, appears as an isolated activity. When you are writing, the nib moves. Is it the nib that is writing? The eyes are unable to see what is behind the visible form. When the little finger moves, the child thinks that it is the little finger only that is moving. But mature minds with knowledge of the working of the human body know that the whole physiology of the body is taking part in the movement of the little finger.

Q: Is a Guru necessary for success in meditation?

Swamiji: Meditation is the summing up of all our spiritual activities; the purpose of all activities is to be one with everything. But even in meditation, space and time come in, and this is what spiritual activities try to overcome.

Until bodily consciousness ends you cannot merge with the cosmos. Intellectual solutions do not end it. The heart will rebel against them. So the intellect and the heart are to be brought into harmony. In this, only studying under a Guru can help. This harmonising is a super-mundane effort. Biological, physiological and intellectual perception must be gone through before the universal percept can come in. In attaining this goal, the Guru will help. So complete dedication to the Guru helps in the process of first harmonising the conflicting biological, physiological and intellectual perceptions and then going beyond them—that is, going beyond the mind. You may suffer a great deal. That is your purgatory. Unfortunately, these days it is hard to find such a Guru who can help you so fundamentally. Nor is to be found such a devoted, courageous disciple who wants the solution. You must learn to climb on your own shoulders. Such is the difficulty in real meditation. But if you have sincerity, the true urge to meditate—and not merely as an experiment—and the confidence in eventual success you will find vistas opening up miraculously and you will merge with the cosmos.

Q: What is prana?

Swamiji: It is the vibratory motion of the whole cosmos, it is the energy which is cosmically called Hiranyagarbha. Prana is the higher personality of the individual.

Q: Is it an object?

Swamiji: It is not an object, but a principle. Nothing can exist without its unifying power. It is impersonal, beyond individuality, and the ego and all pervading.

Q: Is it identical with dharma, and also with the ultimate Truth?

Swamiji: It is dharma in the sense that it is a law that integrates the individual with the universe. It is energy, electrical energy, for instance, to which everything can be reduced by the process of reduction of the gross into the subtle. What modern science calls electricity is something like a gross form of prana. The word 'dharma' is not applicable to prana because the former means a law, and only in this sense it is applicable to the latter. Considered that prana is also a law of the universe, dharma and prana could mean the same. Prana is a universal law because it coordinates, harmonises, integrates and brings together every element in the entire creation.

Q: Is prana the ultimate Truth?

Swamiji: It is not, because a vibration, a motion is transient, and this is not the characteristic of unchanging Truth. But tentatively you can call it Truth inasmuch as it is the subtle essence of the cosmos. It is, relatively but not actually, the Truth.

Q: What is its origin? Has it anything to do with prakriti?

Swamiji: The origin is the Atman, the Supreme Being itself. It is the breath of that Being. Prakriti is also prana itself. Prakriti is a potential condition of prana. Prakriti is a Sankhya term, and ultimately means the same thing as in the Upanishadic language the term prana means. The two terms are different ways of expressing the same thing.

Q: Are the gunas dependent on the power of prana?

Swamiji: The three gunas are the three ways in which the universal prana operates. When it works by way of destruction and division or isolation of one thing from another, it is tamasic. It is rajasic when it works by way of stability of things. When it is subtle enough to become transparent and therefore capable of revealing the harmony of things, it is sattvic and is superior to the other two gunas.

Q: Is prana identical with Existence?

Swamiji: Since prana is an expression of existence, how can you say they are identical? Prana is an expression, a vibration, a motion, a manifestation, relatively, of the Reality, and, therefore, we should not call it Existence as such, because it is a manifestation of the Eternal Being, but it is not the Eternal Being itself.

Q: If its existence is Existence itself, is it co-related with the will of God as the originator of the Universe?

Swamiji: Yes. The will of God manifests itself as cosmic prana in its grosser form. But cosmic prana at a higher level is called God.

Q: What is prana 'mrityu' or the Death Principle?

Swamiji: It is the Principle of Death only in the individual and not in the cosmos, because the cosmos does not die as the individual dies. There is death in the individual but not in the universal, it can withdraw itself from the physical embodiment called the body. At the time of death the prana in the individual withdraws itself from the physical body, and gets absorbed in the mind and it is this psycho-physiological complex, the blend of prana, senses, the mind, the intellect, etc., which is called the subtle body, that reincarnates in a new existence. So prana 'mrityu' is not death by itself, but it is what causes death by extricating itself from the physical body when the purpose of the physical body is completed.

Q: Is prana playing with prana which is present in all manifestations through prana, i.e. Shakti itself? What else can it be other than the substance of everything of thought and matter?

Swamiji: The answer is not different from what has been said already. Prana, thought, matter— they are interconnected and convertible. The movement of thought is prana, and the thinking aspect of prana is thought. Matter, of course, is something grosser, it is the visible individualisation of things that we call prana. But the energy that is behind matter is prana. Higher than prana is thought, which is the cosmic thinking principle.

Q: What is prana in relation to the Consciousness of the Absolute?

Swamiji: Consciousness co-vibrating through space and time is called prana, whether it is vibrating universally or individually.

Q: Does prana at any stage dissolve in the Absolute?

Swamiji: Prana, being the manifestation of the Absolute, naturally gets absorbed in the Absolute at the time of the dissolution of the universe and also at the time of liberation of the individual.

Q: Would even the attempt at meditation to realise the identity with prana be bound with cosmic consciousness, or is there a passage to the Absolute transcending the universe and its Shakti?

Swamiji: Everything is cosmic ultimately; because everything is correlated, interconnected. Whenever you breathe, naturally you get connected with cosmic prana. The intention of meditation is to connect one's prana with the Cosmic Prana. Only then does it become a passage to the Eternal. It is not only prana that is trying to connect with the cosmic but everything else that is also in us, for example, mind, intellect, etc. The individual prana in us by means of pranayama should be harmonised with Cosmic Prana which neither inhales nor exhales. Similarly we must harmonise our individual thought with the Cosmic Will or the Universal Thought. So also we have to harmonise our individual understanding with Hiranyagarbha, the Cosmic Intellect.

Q: Why did the substratum, or Cosmic Prana, vanish as the Lord of the mind, Indra, appeared? Are not the Cosmic Mind and the Cosmic Prana inseparable?

Swamiji: They are not inseparable because the cosmic mind is the internal condition of the Cosmic Prana, or in other words, the Cosmic Prana is a grosser manifestation of the Cosmic mind.

The principle of ego is called Indra. While speech can express by means of fire—the principle of nature of reality which is symbolised in Agni as its deity—and while we can act in consonance with the Universal Being by means of the expression of the prana which is symbolised by the deity Vayu approaching the Supreme Being, Indra cannot approach the Being as Indra is the ego. When the ego approached God, God vanished, because God is and the ego is not. So it is that Indra could not see the Absolute. Even so, though speech and prana could visualise the Absolute Being, they could not understand the nature of the Absolute.

In the Kenopanishad, the story of the Yakshakanya explains the limitations of the ego principle which is represented as the deity Indra, the king of the senses, but who affirms its individuality, its duality in opposition to God. So when Indra approaches the Yakshakanya she disappears, while earlier both the fire principle, which represents speech symbolised as the presiding deity Agni, and Prana, symbolised as the deity Vayu, could approach and talk to her. We can act in consonance with the Universal Being symbolised as the Yakshakanya by the expression of speech and prana, and hence these faculties can visualise the Supreme Being but cannot understand the nature of the Absolute. Indra, the ego principle, could not visualise the Absolute, so the vision of the Yakshakanya disappears. But in as much as the ego can comprehend by means of its intellect the higher realms of Reality, the Reality is explained to Indra by another celestial—the consort of Lord Siva, Himavati herself.

Similarly even in our practice of harmonised activity like philanthropic works and social service, we are not able to understand the nature of Reality, though by such harmonised activity we are trying to break our ego down. But in Indra, who is the principle of ego itself, there is a direct opposition towards God, so when he approaches, the Absolute vanishes.

This is a lesson to us as well. We should not meditate when we are possessed by our ego. Such a meditation does not rank ever with studying the scriptures, or doing social service, which, at least to some extent, is good. But when we contemplate on the Absolute with our ego intact it is no good because where there is ego, God vanishes. The meditating principle is not the ego, it is the Universal Being itself. It is God meditating on God ultimately. So if you consider yourself as Mr. So-and-so and then start meditating on God, God does not come to you because He is inclusive of your being also.

The concept of the universal means the affirmation of an idea that other than the object of meditation nothing else exists; that is called universalisation. If you believe God is all, you should not think of non-God at the same time. That is the essence of concentration. If something exists, and only that exists and nothing else exists, and your object of meditation is so complete in itself that other than it cannot be, that is called the universal concept. You should not think of anything except that. How can something be outside of that object? First of all, you have to convince yourself that the object of your meditation is all-pervading and it is all-existence. It should be the only thing that exists. It should not be one of the things in the world. That is concentration.

Spiritual life is not easy. Its prerequisite is a lot of thought. We have to think in a new way altogether; to think only of One thing, and not anything else, because nothing is outside of what you are thinking of. The essence of concentration is exclusive absorption in an omnipresent reality. At that stage everything which up to then was regarded by you as finite becomes an integral part of the Cosmic Being. It is an awakening into the true relationship of things to Reality. When you realise the integral connection with the Absolute, you will realise every particle of sand, in every particle of dust, everywhere, is God Himself. That is meditation. The moment you are aware of this, you are happy. It does not need sitting in the meditation hall with closed eyes. It should not be that you are happy inside the meditation hall and unhappy outside. You must be happy in the street, in the market place, in the bathroom, and not only in the temple or a meditation hall. That is your travelling in space. You must travel in consciousness first.

Q: Is time equal to consciousness?

Swamiji: Time is consciousness of the succession of events. This is different from the Time Spirit, which is Narayana Himself. The hub and the wheel and the spokes—all are a figure of speech, a cliché of the sacred text even. As is the analogy of black rat and white rat eating the thread which means time, that is day and night is the symbolism of time.

Q: How to solve the problems arising out of meditation?

Swamiji: In meditation, you have to determine what you concentrate upon, whether you meditate with or without pranayama. And for how long you should meditate. And search and find out if there are any deep desires which have been suppressed. These will raise their hoods like a stricken cobra. These are the points or questions which must be considered if any problem arises in meditation.