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

30. Realising Brahman

Ishvara is like the government—it is not perceptible, but it is everywhere. You cannot say where it is, but if you do something wrong you will feel its effects. You say the Government is in Delhi, but if you break the law you will feel the government's presence here. Ishvara is a logical concept—not an ontological or metaphysical one.

When you realise Brahman, even the Mahavakyas will not matter much to you. “Aham Brahmasmi” will be only words, and you will be beyond words. You will attain that Silence which is beyond all theories. You will not want your books then. If one would attain God by books, you could spend a few days in the National Library in Calcutta and have realisation. But getting God is not that easy. Even if you memorised the Encyclopaedia Britannica you would not have knowledge.

There are different names of God: Ishvara, Hiranyagarbha, Virat, but they are names of one single being, just as Michael is one person but he can be analysed medically, physically, psychologically etc. If you exist as an individual, He (Ishvara) exists also as an individual. But once you lose your individuality, even He goes.

Actually, Ishvara is not different from Brahman. The same ultimate reality is there. The name Ishvara is given only for relational purposes. Brahman is Ishvara in relation to us. Just as the same man may be a father, brother or son. You call it Ishvara because of your isolation from it. You pray to your own higher nature which is so vast that it looks like another entity altogether.

Because Ishvara is a cosmic individual you pray to Him—like you bow to an individual who is a leader of the nation whom you yourself have elected—whom you yourself have put in that supreme position. To think as God thinks is our goal, the problem is that we think as men think.

When milk becomes curd, milk ceases to exist—it is totally in the other. But when God 'becomes' the world, it yet continues to exist in itself. Really nothing ceases to exist, for there is no difference between cause and effect.

Q: Is logic the same as metaphysics? Is the law of the mind the same as the law of the universe? Logic is the manifestation in the mental realm of the Ultimate Metaphysical Principle. Vedanta Metaphysics asserts that Reality is non-dual. So the psychology, epistemology or logic of Vedanta must be based on this non-difference of knower and the known.

Swamiji: This is based on the problem of whether there is a metaphysical thing-in-itself— noumenon—on which the logic of phenomenon is based. This is a great mystery—but it is not unsolvable. Kant died before he got the answer.

Q: In Advaita, Brahman is self-luminous and yet self-consciousness is said to apply only to Isvara, not to Brahman. Please explain.

Swamiji: Self-luminous, svayam prakasa, means Consciousness Itself. You are not aware that you are aware. It is awareness pure and simple. The question of self-consciousness, as you think of it, is an individual subject opposed to an object. The Absolute does not have self-consciousness. Rather it is Consciousness-Itself. Ishvara is the highest self-conscious being. It is the universe being aware of itself as existing. You cannot imagine what this kind of self-consciousness is. Ishvara is aware of the object as identical with Himself. He regards the objects of the world as you regard your hands and feet. Hands and feet are objects in one sense, for they can be seen by you, but they are vitally related to you just as the whole world is related to God.

Brahman is Consciousness Itself. Ishvara is Self-Consciousness. Jivanmukta, you may say, is a little lower. He has not merged completely into Brahman, until final death of body and still needs some external objects, to maintain life.

Q. If life is a movement from ananda to ananda, why is it we should be detached from it?

Swamiji: If you know life is ananda, then everything is fine. What do you want detachment from? You want detachment from wife, children, and property because you think these are the causes of sorrow—you want to renounce liabilities. Really you should think about being attached to life. God is not such a fool that He cannot understand these tricks of the human mind. They say stone walls do not a prison make, so do not stone walls make an ashram or a church. So you leave stone walls of your home for other stone walls. What is the difference? Religion is a construed idea—in this sense it is the opium of the people. You see religiosity, conservatism, will get you on with ordinary life, but won't cut ice with God! Religious groupism, sectarianism, has the same purpose as political groupism in terms of parties or nationalities. Whether the left leg is broken or the right leg is broken—it is the same. You cannot be religious unless and until you renounce religiosity. Don't call yourself a Hindu, Christian, Advaitin etc. There was a man at Stanford University who wrote the Religion of no Religion (or William Centwell Smith wrote the End of Religions). When you know that you know nothing—still you have knowledge. Cut it all away and something remains.

At Dakshineswara when Ramakrishna was alive, a poor man in dirty clothes came and recited something in a temple. No one could understand the language, but all present felt a spiritual presence in the temple when he was there. They went to Ramakrishna and told him about it. He said: “You fools, that was a God-realised man, you should have prostrated before him—go, find him.” The people went looking for him and found him in a gutter in Varanasi. The filthy sewerage water was flowing down to the Ganga. The people asked him, “What is truth?” He replied, “When you see this filthy water and the holy Ganga are one you know the Truth.”

One Mouni Swami of South India used to keep a pot of spit, urine, etc. People thought he was a great saint. So they went for initiation. He insisted that they drink the contents of the pot and the people ran away. One half-crazy man went there and, when ordered, he drank the scum in the pot—he went into samadhi. They asked him later what it tasted like—he said it was sweet nectar. These are real men of religion. But you want someone who asks you to read Gita, do japa. You want comfortable answers. This is the father of religion—not religion.

Q: So ultimately we have to give up everything?

Swamiji: What do you mean everything, wife, children?

Q: No, I mean theories, beliefs, sects, etc.

Swamiji: No it's something quite different from that. You must discriminate which thoughts to retain and which to dismiss at any moment. When a man comes to a doctor with 105° temperature and eczema, certainly the doctor treats the fever first.

Common sense is the most uncommon thing in the world. When you have been starving, eating is more important than meditation; but when you are drowning, being saved from the water is more important than eating.

When is the best time for eating? It is when you are hungry. Same with meditation. Samsara is timeless. Time began with creation, so in that sense it is said to be beginningless, or eternal. But remember it is not real. The people you met in dream last night exist for you. Where are they? Your recurring question is based on the assumption that there has been creation—why do you assume this? No one has seen God creating.

Q: But Sruti teaches creation; why would it mislead us?

Swamiji: When you think Sruti misleads you, they cease to be scriptures. A friend ceases to be a friend when he robs you. Tiger in dream can wake you.

If you really investigate all social organizations from UNO down to the family, you will find they are all based on selfishness. (Laughs) Love everyone but trust a few, so they say.

Tantra, when really understood, is a very scientific method. It is living in the law of God and not caring about the laws of man. But Tantra is not for everyone; if one does not have freedom from passions, it may come back on him like an atom bomb! As Pope in his Essay on Man has said, genius and madness are very close to each other.

The world is a psychological complex—it is only a spatiotemporal existence. You say clay and pot are two different things. But clay is the only substance. Pot is simply name and form.

You have to be aware of the presence of higher levels. When you reach a certain level, don't be satisfied. Ethics or morality is judging the lower in terms of the higher. If you judge everything from the point of view of its connection with the whole, you won't make mistakes. The whole is the determining factor—you cannot say that the doctor is wrong when he cuts off the leg to save the body. If you judge, judge its relation to the whole. Every judgement is a universal judgement—you judge yourself. Totality of consciousness is Ishvara.

Q: Steeped in ignorance—wisdom dawns?

Swamiji: When materialism reaches its breaking point, it becomes spirituality (this is modern science). When the thing becomes worst, it reaches the point of the supposed opposite—it is like a circle. You think problems are caused by another—'someone is causing me trouble'. You should analyse yourself and see what it is in you that makes them act that way—why should they trouble you unnecessarily. This analysis of the mind is psychology. From this you can understand sociology and politics—for they mean only organizations of individuals; and from these you can pass on to philosophy and then spirituality.

Ordinarily you are not sure of your goal. The destination must be clear in mind before the journey starts. At least for 30 minutes a day you must give yourself solely to God. That means your feeling, thought, and will are all totally directed to God. Prayer, in that case, is not one talking to another but God talking to Himself. For when the three aspects of your personality are united, it is Intuition. Normally you don't give hundred per cent of yourself to anything—that is why your life is a failure rather than a success. Mentally you are partly here listening and partly taking lunch already, or partly in some shop or elsewhere. Ordinarily you are disintegrated. Your emotions want one thing, your mind another. They must come together in wanting the goal, God-Realization.

Q: In his introduction to Gita, Sankara speaks of both pravritti and nivritti as dharmas. But is not dharma included only in Pravritti?

Swamiji: Dharma in pravritti and nivritti does not mean dharma as a purusartha. Pravritti is a preparatory dharma for nivritti. Moksha is the goal and condition both. Nivritti conditions pravritti, only you don't know it. It is like the fact that you have a U.S. passport and are U.S. citizen—you are bound by that, to some extent, though you don't think of it often.

Swamiji: The more you act with spontaneity the more you act with divinity. This means that you do not have to be conscious of others. This also means you are effortless and impersonal. Nothing is attained when you make too personal an effort—it gives anxiety. The magician's tricks are spontaneous to him, anxiety to us.

Desire for Moksha is not desire for any one object—it is so wide that it dissolves. It is not really a desire—when you are cured of disease, you are healthy.

Q: If rebirth is true why don't all people remember their last birth?

Swamiji: Because of intense concentration on this body, you forget the past body; and because you have desire for more pleasure, you take a new, young, body. It is a mercy that you don't remember everything. A person is a friend of yours now. Maybe you had hated him in your last birth. If you remembered, you would be burdened by memories of the previous birth. If you love a thing constantly without break, it is meditation. If a cobra comes in the room, everyone will be wholly concerned with it. Similarly in surgical operations, or in tight rope walking across Ganga. You cannot have wholehearted concentration on anything unless there is necessity. And you don't feel the necessity of knowing God.

Consciousness has still desires to satisfy. Dream has a beginning from the point of view of waking, but in itself you cannot say when it begins or ends. When you are in dream, you cannot determine the beginning. When you wake up, you know when you went to sleep and when you woke up. Avidya is like that.

By intense sadhana we can experience some bad things in dream that would have happened in waking life. In dream you fall from the tree and you may avert it in real life. By intense meditation, you can save time—pass a needle through many lotus petals instantly. You can compress rebirths into one life if you really yearn for it. God is timeless, so you can have God instantly. Love of God can break these formalities.

A young man approached a Guru, wanting to be his disciple. The Guru replied: “It is not easy being a disciple, you have to do whatever the Guru tells you to do. You will get no respect, whereas the Guru will get all the respect etc.” The young man replied, “Then make me a Guru.” (Swamiji laughs throughout.)

Q: Can everyone work miracles?

Swamiji: You also worked a miracle—your consciousness materialised this body. But it took some time to do this because the will was not strong. Thus, you forget that you were responsible for this. All the pains you get are because of pleasures you desired at one time.

Q: Are murtis useful? Often we see worshippers of one deity hating worshippers of another.

Swamiji: As the mind cannot conceive the universality of existence, it grabs, catches hold of some names and forms as symbols. A currency note is only a piece of paper, a flag is only a piece of cloth, but you worship these. Anybody who doesn't like something is a fanatic. He is like a horse with blinkers.

You don't blame a scorpion when it stings you because it is of such a low level, self-consciousness is lacking. But you hold men responsible because you say they have self-consciousness and take premeditated actions.

Q: What is the relation between God with form and God as formless?

Swamiji: The form (sakara) is present in the formless (nirakara), just as the statue is present in the block of stone. You may not see the statue, but the sculptor may already have an idea of it. All the statues are present in the same block of stone—simultaneously. Self-preservation—desire to preserve the ego/personality makes us like certain things which preserve our personality and makes us hate certain things which seem to go against our personality.

Q: Is one free from karma if one acts according to the will of God?

Swamiji: If you feel you are doing anything, don't talk about the will of God making you do it. If your self-consciousness is there you will get reaction. A fountain pen doesn't write, it is only an instrument.

When you have made your best effort and still realise you are utterly helpless then you surrender and some other, higher power will work.

A man said he renounced all and went to a forest to meditate, taking some money with him. Someone asked, “Why do you take money?” “Suppose God doesn't come—I must have some money.”

You should not pray to God for anything except spiritual enlightenment—illumination—wisdom.

Nothing is absolutely unimportant. If you neglect one aspect and go to extremes, you will see the aspects you have considered unimportant will reappear. Extremes are easy; via media is more difficult.

It is not wisdom to complain. Make the best of any circumstances; when you learn from it, you will be free from it. If it is unavoidable, you can't complain. If it is avoidable, you have already avoided it, so there is no problem. Your strength, your resources are shown only when you are tested—when you are opposed. If everyone opposes you, you will see your inner strength come out. Even God may look weak unless he is opposed. A rich man doesn't always show his money—only when it is necessary.

Q: If one acts without concern for fruits, dedicating all to God, can he put forth his best effort?

Swamiji: When you surrender yourself, ego, this is the highest achievement, and you no longer act with your own personality but act only as an instrument of God. The question of self-effort no longer arises at that stage, for you no longer feel that you exist as an individual. When you think you are a person, it naturally follows that you think you act with your own efforts.