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

28. Parabhakti

The summer sun has become too strong for the devotees to gather for darshan in the open outside Rev. Swami Krishnananda's Kutir, Guru Kripa. What worried the devotees was that if they were to gather there Swamiji would not shift his chair from his fixed place where the sun would be fierce on his head, and he was still not quite out of a severe bout of asthma. He also refused to consider a Shamiana being put up overhead. One is led to conclude from this and his other routine personal habits that he likes to live with nature to the maximum extent practicable. Maybe he thinks that the view of the mountains far and near, the open sky and the Ganga that glimmers as it liltingly flows under the bright sun will be marred by the crude intervention of a Shamiana. Perhaps Swamiji also feels that the monkeys frisking about on the trees above and on the low parapet wall around the open space may get scared by this intrusion. The monkeys invariably form a part of the morning Darshan-hour. So do birds. This morning we gathered inside his kutir, and so it would be for the rest of the summer and the rainy season, till winter comes.

A student, who had been studying Kabir, asked whether nirguna bhakti was not superior to other forms of bhakti. Rev. K. by his characteristic vivisecting sharp and analytical questions had brought the student finally to the point.

Swamiji: What is nirguna? Without any quality. And you want to love that which is without quality? How can you love something which has no quality? Because love is attraction for some quality, and anything that has no quality is not capable of attracting one. So where do we stand now?

Student: Kabir sings of such an object.

Swamiji: What is your understanding of nirguna? Do not worry about what other people say. Your reason must accept what they say. You cannot accept what others say unless your own reason is able to substantiate it. It is not possible to love something without any quality, something which has no characteristics. The question is what characteristics it has. You have got a peculiar idea of the word nirguna. Actually, the word does not mean “bereft of qualities”. What it means is that it is a kind of quality which is different from the qualities you see in the world. Or, as some say, it is a thing which possesses all qualities, whether you term them good or bad, and yet is nirguna. Because everything is in it, the question of good or bad does not arise. The question of good or bad comes only in comparison with another and when everything is in it, there is no question of comparison. Therefore, either it is an embodiment of every conceivable quality or it is something which has no quality.

Now, to have “no quality” is also a quality. That is one definition. So it is just impossible to conceive of anything without any attributes. When you conceive what you call God, or whatever, in your mind as a substance or reality or Being which is inclusive of every quality, not only some qualities which you like, then you have conceived rightly. You think God should send rain, or warmth, He should give you long life, wealth, promotion etc. God, you believe, is a person capable of blessing you with all that you require. But you do not expect him to punish you for wrong doing. If He does, then you do not like that God. A retributory justice is not what He should give; God should act in such a way that it will always give satisfaction to your ego. This is the conditioned quality you attribute to God.

You cannot say that a judge is bad if he has ordered somebody to be hanged. Even if you have sentimental objections, you do not call the judge a bad man. God is like a judge—He is the dispenser of the Universal Law. His is the quality of Perfection, and what you call nirguna is nothing but attribution to God the quality of Utter Perfection and All-Inclusiveness and exclusion of nothing. When you conceive that, it is called parabhakti, and is the same as jnana. But if you think of Him as a conditioned being, as a father, mother, and so on and so forth with sentimental attributes foisted upon Him then it is saguna bhakti

But then, you have to proceed from saguna to nirguna. You cannot think of God as all-inclusive, Absolute. It is not possible for all minds to conceive such a thing, though He is that ultimately. In the beginning you must take Him as an ideal which is conducive to your sentiments. Then, as you will be gradually expanding your sentiments into larger dimensions, you will find that He includes every other sentiment also.

What is good for you may be bad for somebody else. There is a popular story of two people: a farmer who wanted rain immediately over his dry fields and a man who was building his house. When the farmer prays for rain, the other man prays to God not to send rain because his house under construction will fall. Now what do you say? Should God send rain or should He not? Both are neighbours, and both pray for the particular favour they are in need of. That is to say, that our devotion quite often is human, sentimental, and very limited. To think of God like that is like bargaining with the shopkeeper or the tongawalas. In spiritual terms you think of Him as the dispenser of Universal Affection, as Universal Perfection. It need not necessarily be sentimental satisfaction, but it will be legal justice which may not give sentimental satisfaction. And if you can see satisfaction in that justice, then you are a spiritual man. Love and law should go together, God combines both qualities. He may not give you what you want, because you may have asked for something which is wrong. Why should He give it to you just because you ask for it?

Question: Love, we say, is what we want to offer God. What is love?

Swamiji: It is attraction towards something, any kind of attraction, any pull, anything pulling another thing is called love. Even if an apple falls from the tree it is love only, as you may put it. You can interpret it psychologically, socially, politically, spiritually, morally—at any level. Anyway, ultimately there is one law only that works in love. When that law works through emotion you call it love, when that law works through physical objects you call it gravitation, when the law works through the mind you call it sanity, when the law works through society you call it organisation, when that law works through government you call it the constitution; when the law works through God it is moksha. That is all. It is the same thing working in various ways.

Q: So the word 'love' as we use it in the ordinary world is love working though the emotions? At the emotional level?

Swamiji: Yes. There is only one love working everywhere. It is interpreted in various ways. When, therefore, you talk of God as nirguna you attribute no qualities to Him. But that is a mistaken notion. It has all the qualities, any quality can be attributed to it, and it is present there, just as in a block of stone any statue is present.

Q: Then there is no difference between saguna and nirguna?

Swamiji: There is no difference. The difference is created by your mind.

Q: But the words indicate the difference between the two. There is an external quality in one which is absent in the other: the visible and the invisible.

Swamiji: There is no difference like that; anything that you say about Him is an attribute. God is neither saguna nor nirguna. You cannot call Him by any discriminating name like this. Whatever you say about Him is a quality that you attribute to Him and by attributing a quality you condition Him in space and time. Nirguna itself is a quality you are attributing to Him. You may think of Him in any way. He is not like that. Nobody can think God as He is. Yet there is no harm in thinking Him as you want to see Him. It is acceptable to Him (laughs).

Q: Which is the Self the Upanishads condemned?

Swamiji: Upanishads never condemn anything; they raise you up.

Q: I mean the distinction between the Self that loves everything and “self-love”. Which is the Self referred to here?

Swamiji: There are Infinite “Selfs”. Any Self can be taken to mean that Self.

Q: What is that self-love?

Swamiji: Love is “pull”. In this context, which is the Self that is “pulling”?

Q: Kindly explain.

Swamiji: The subject is pulling the object, and the object is pulling the subject, the manifest and unmanifest Self, the Absolute—the Self which is “pulling”. Anything outside you pulls you, therefore, you are not really separate from that thing. You are seeing with your eye.

Q: Is there any “outside”?

Swamiji: It may not be there, but you think it is there. Why do you get frightened by the tiger in the dream when it is not there? So, even if it is not there it still works (laughs). You are outside it. And that pulls you. Yes! That which pulls you is what, according to your viewpoint, is outside you, and it can be at any level—from the physical up to the Absolute. There is the social level, sensory level, mental level, intellectual level, moral level, and there is the Absolute level. And each succeeding level transcends the previous level, so that you cannot say that the world contains anything but the “Self”. The whole universe is nothing but the Self.

Q: The whole world is nothing but the Self, and this is what is meant by the honey—

Swamiji: The Upanishads use the word “honey” to explain the pull one exerts upon another; the Upanishads really mean to explain the basic independence of things by the use of the word honey. Honey means—you eat and when you get satisfaction, you call it sweet. Any satisfaction of a need or an urge is sweet, it is honey. Because you get satisfaction of any kind of urge, it is sweet, it is “honey”. This is why people want objects. That pull is exerted because of the basic inseparability of things; or else the pull is not there. There is an invisible connection between one thing and another which the eye cannot see—but that pull still works. And that is the thing that keeps you hopeful always for a better future. Always you think, tomorrow will be better; we never say ultimately everything will go to dogs; we say, on the other hand, whatever be the difficulty on hand, one day it will be all right. This is the hope which every person entertains. How does that hope come? This is not logically deducible. It comes from a source which is trans-empirical.

Q: Swamiji, you have said that everything is a completeness, a whole by itself and rests in the whole universe. Yet you state there is a link between all the wholes that are in the universal whole. Which is this link when each whole has an independence of its own?

Swamiji: The higher Self is the link between the lower subject and object. You are seeing someone sitting there. You are the subject, he is the object, and there is some link between you. That link is the Self which is transcending you both. And that Self which links you both is also the subject to another object which is still higher and which you can't see now. And that is again linked by a still higher Self. Like that it goes on endlessly until you reach the Absolute. These are the planes of existence.

Q: So the link is not with the Absolute directly but only with a higher self?

Swamiji: It is a manifestation at a lower level. It is like a Patwari is the Government, a Tehsildar is the Government, a District Magistrate is the Government. Which is the Government? They are all different degrees of Government. So all are Government. Similarly everything is Self, but various levels of manifestation (a deep pause). If you are able to speak like this always, you will not even eat your lunch. You feel so happy even to think like this. There are certain things which can make you happy even without physical possession. As, for example, when you read Shakespeare or Kalidas, why are you happy, my dear friend? I put this question to you. Yes, there is a larger self which is evoked by the study of such things. So it is the Self that gives happiness, and not objects.

This is made clear by the statement that the Atman is satisfied by the Atman. The deeper you go into the Self, the less you feel the need for external objects. The higher the Self, the better is the satisfaction. This is what you have been studying in your Kabir. You must realise that there is a connection between the subject and the object. You have got a wrong notion that one thing is different from another. It is thus that you have got love for or hatred of things. But if you know that both are linked together for a higher purpose, you will attribute reality to that rather than to you and that object. And that is what you call spiritual meditation.

Meditation is nothing but the recognition in consciousness of the connecting link between subject and object. Then you will have regard neither for yourself nor for somebody else. Neither will you love yourself nor hate another, because you are connected with something else which is transcendent to both. And like that, there are many levels of transcendence until you reach that ultimate transcendence, which you call God. And that thought itself will make you happy. Not only happiness, it will give you all power. You need not run from shop to shop for anything then; you can get everything by such thinking itself, everything will flow to you by the power of this thought. If you know how to manipulate the thought.

When the relationship between circumstances is not understood, you feel they are uncongenial. When you feel that your hand is not congenial to you and you cut it off, it is called schizophrenia. When you lose sight of the connection between circumstances, you feel like hanging yourself. It is unhealthy thinking, improper because proper understanding is not there.

Q: What is the pratyahara for it?

Swamiji: There is no pratyahara. You have to be properly educated. What we learn is but trash. True education is nothing but the insight into reality. If you lack that insight you are an uneducated being despite all certificates you may possess; they are meaningless. By insight into reality, I don't mean the highest Reality but the reality immediately above. There are various degrees of reality, and reality is nothing but the Self. When you have insight into the reality immediately above, you are supposed to be an educated man. If you cling to the lower one, then you are an untutored rustic who takes things only by the perception of it through the senses and does not apply reason properly. When you judge the lower in terms of the higher, it is called morality. Ethics, justice, righteousness, etc., is nothing but judging the lower in terms of the higher. But if you cannot have the consciousness of the higher, how can you judge? You can have only a limited view.

Then in answer to another question Swamiji said:

It is a peculiar notion that love of God means hatred of the world. Love of God is love of righteousness. “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.” It does not specifically say “love”, while love may be included in righteousness. But righteousness is the proper word: the Cosmic Justice. Cosmic Law includes love; as a matter of fact, there is nothing above this law. Happiness, power and sense of perception, everything follows. We are afraid of law, justice... because we think of it as a punishment inflicted upon us. Love is nothing but justice of things. What can be done if you don't like justice? How can there be love and happiness without justice? Health is a satisfaction you get out of maintaining the physical laws of the body. But if you say, “Oh! I don't want any law. I won't even follow the law of the physical body,” it will not do. Law is the operation of the harmony in things, balance that is maintained at all levels. That is what is called law. It is not an infliction. It is a system of working in a harmonious manner.

But we do not like harmony; we have often some selfish motive, an axe to grind. We do not treat others as we expect to be treated ourselves. Here lies the mistake. We can't be happy with onesided favours. How can you be happy if your family is suffering, how can the family be happy if the community is suffering, how can the community be happy if the whole nation is suffering, how can the nation be happy if the whole world is suffering, and how can the world be happy if the whole cosmos is going out of order? So which is the proper thing to think of, ultimately? Your family or larger things? (Laughs.) If all the planets go out of order from their orbits, what is the use of your U.N.O., your family love, etc. They can crash on you and crush you in one moment.

There is a law higher than you are thinking of. Ignoring it completely, you are busy thinking of your bank balance and such petty, silly, things. You are exhorted to give in charity, love your neighbour as yourself, and so on. Why should you love your neighbour as yourself? Because yourself is present there; that pulls you automatically. Why should you have otherwise to love your neighbour as yourself? What purpose? Only because yourself is there that pulls it.

So again the higher self is operating even when you do social work and even ordinary government service. Everything is conditioned by that one law only. The divine law.

Q: How to distinguish illusion from reality? The mind can give a false vision by the illusion it produces in place of reality. What is an unreality?

Swamiji: Illusion is not an unreality. It is the wrong juxtaposition of reality. The mind can never produce what it has never conceived. It cannot hence replace reality. The snake in the rope, for instance. You have seen the snake and know what it is. The rope is there in reality. Both the snake and the rope are realities. The illusion of the snake in the rope is the juxtaposition of two realities in their wrong context. The mistake you have made is just this. Each exists somewhere. So illusion is not a part of non-existence. That is why we talk of the world as an illusion. The world is illusion, unreal because of the idea that the mountains, the trees, the rivers and the people are outside you. It is this conception of the world that is unreal, while the world itself is real in the sense that it is a degree of reality which makes it an illusion. It is the externality-consciousness which you call the world. The thing as such is perfectly all right, just as the tiger in the dream. The tiger in the dream is neither real nor unreal. It is real in the sense that it is an idea in the head, but it is unreal in the sense that it is outside you. If you know that it is inside you, you will not feel frightened of the tiger you have imagined in the dream. So, if you think of the whole world contained in a cosmic form, you will not be frightened of the world. But you have an idea that it is outside you, and that frightens you like the tiger in the dream. It is not outside. There is one organic completeness working everywhere.