India’s Ancient Culture
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 8: India’s Concept of Totality

The Vedas and Upanishads cater to the intuitional and direct apprehension faculties of the human individual. Intuition is the faculty which was the cause of the coming of these great scriptures, the Vedas and the Upanishads, but they can also be apprehended through direct apprehension. You cannot read the Veda and the Upanishad like a school textbook whose meaning is clear on a proper linguistic analysis or from the point of view of grammar. The Vedas and the Upanishads are not to be studied from the point of view of etymology, grammar or linguistics.

These days, people are attempting to translate the Vedas into the English language, and other languages. I was presented with one or two volumes of that translation with the original Sanskrit mantras printed on one page. What I found was that it is a grammatically construed translation. I asked one of the sponsors of this great project, “What are the steps that you take? In what direction are you moving when you are embarking upon the translation of the Vedas? Do you appreciate that when the Vedas have infinite meaning – due to which it is that they are considered as the foundation of India’s culture – is the Veda to be understood merely as a Sanskrit poem which requires only knowledge of etymology, meter and grammar for its meaning? Is the Veda not a foundation for an all-round appreciation of life outside and inside, subjective, objective, spiritual, material, social and transcendent? How would you bring out all these connotations of the Veda?”

“This is not our business, and we cannot say anything in this matter,” was his reply.

It was Sri Aurobindo and some of his followers who tried to look at the Veda from an integral point of view, and delved into the inner content of the Veda mantras, whereby they could decipher certain potentials of cosmic powers behind the otherwise anthropological names that are found in the Vedas, such as Indra, Varuna, Mitra, etc. These names of gods in heaven are actually significances, indications of the powers of Nature, and when I say Nature, you should not identify it with trees and rivers and mountains, the geographical earth. Nature has revealed itself in various degrees of its manifestation of reality. By Nature, we mean all that this cosmos is, and all the potentials and powers that are hidden in the cosmos are to be considered as the superintending principles of Natural activity.

There is a famous doctrine in the Upanishad called the Panchagni Vidya. This tells us how even the grossest and the most obvious of occurrences in the world – such as rainfall, which we consider as something commonplace – have been considered as objects of meditation through this Panchagni Vidya. By Panchagni, what is intended is the visualisation of a fivefold stratification of the working of cosmic powers before they actually become visible to the eyes. Rain does not fall merely because clouds gather. You must also know why clouds gather. We are told that clouds are caused by the heat of the sun in summer, which brings about a vaporisation of the waters of the ocean. Winds collaborating with this activity move the condensed form of this vapour as clouds in different directions, and when the clouds come in contact with certain atmospheric pressures, especially near mountains and forests, they drop as water.

But there is something mysterious behind the action of the rays of the sun on the water of the ocean. Why should the rays of the sun act on the waters of the ocean in that particular manner? The moon causes tides in the ocean. The full moon is the day when there is high tide. The waves rise up as if they are being pulled above the surface of the earth towards the moon. The moon does not pull only the waters; it pulls the entire earth. Because water is liquid, we can see it rising above its normal levels, but the influence of the moon upon the solid parts of the earth cannot be seen with the eyes because solid objects do not rise up. Nevertheless, the influence of the moon is there on the earth, and is not merely an influence on some part of the earth. The entire planet is pulled up due to the law of gravitation, and when this total pull of the moon over the earth is exerted during the full moon, our brains also are pulled up. People think in a different manner on full moon and new moon days, it is said, and people whose minds are not normal in the accepted sense of the term feel the accentuation of this pull and behave a little erratically on these days. The word ‘luna’ applies to the moon. Anything connected with the moon is lunar, and even the word ‘lunatic’ comes from that very word – highly influenced by the movement of the moon. So is the case with the sun. The power which the sun exerts upon the other planets is much more than the moon exerting its power on the earth.

Now, the question is: Why should they act in this manner? The Panchagni Vidya says there is something above even the phenomenon of the planetary actions or the solar action on the water, etc. Up to the invisible realm we are taken by the Panchagni Vidya doctrine. A central action seems to be taking place somewhere – you may call it in modern terms interstellar space – and today science also has been telling us that there are certain things called cosmic rays coming from interstellar distance; how they originate, no one knows even to this day. The action of the cosmic rays upon the whole atmosphere of the solar system is something that has been observed but not fully explained in a scientific manner. Every little activity, every event, historical or economic, all these are conditioned from the centre of the cosmos in a manner very unintelligible to us.

This is a suggestive observation from the point of view of the in-depth analysis made by the seers of the Vedas and the Upanishads, and it can be appreciated only from the point of view of a deeper insight into the nature of things. The Vedas and the Upanishads are sacred not merely because we carry them on the head as a textbook for our daily guidance; they are repositories of wisdom that is beyond the comprehension of the sense organs, and even the mind. So the translations of the Vedas available these days are only the shell, the outer covering, as it were, of the form of the mantras that we have, but not the inner wisdom of it.

The Upanishads too are difficult to understand. Their meditations are deep. Every little event in the world, everything that happens anywhere, is considered an object of meditation. The Upanishads do not meditate merely on that conceptualised, ethereal Absolute. If you read the Chhandogya Upanishad – for instance, in its earlier chapters, prior to the Fifth – fantastic forms of meditation are delineated, some which are beyond our comprehension, and some which look very funny, fantastic, and even meaningless from a purely historical point of view. The littlest things, the most insignificant things, the commonplace occurrences in nature, every event in society and all thoughts in the mind are taken as objects of meditation, from which route you can rise gradually through the levels of the manifestation of nature to the highest cosmic comprehension.

Deep is the Veda, and deeper are the Upanishads. The Bhagavadgita is said to have taken up the task of making this great subject a little more easy for us from an epic point of view. As I mentioned yesterday, the Bhagavadgita forms a part of the Mahabharata, so it has an epic style, not the intuitional side of the Veda mantras or the Upanishadic proclamations. We had occasion yesterday to take into account some of the deeper aspects of human life portrayed for us in the Mahabharata of Sri Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa. The epics are the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Some people include in this list of the epics another great work called the Harivamsa, which is an appendix to the Mahabharata. The Mahabharata contains eighteen books. As we have eighteen chapters in the Gita, there are eighteen parvas, or knots, you may say, halting places, in the Mahabharata. Adi Parva is the first one, Sabha Parva is the second one, Aranya-parva  or Vana Parva is the third one, Virata Parva is the fourth one, Udyoga Parva is the fifth one, Bhishma Parva is six, Drona Parva is seven, Karna Parva is eight, Shalya Parva is nine, Sauptika Parva is ten, Stri Parva is eleven, Shanti Parva is twelve, Anushasana Parva is thirteen, Ashvamedhika Parva is fourteen, Ashramavasika Parva is fifteen, Mausala Parva is sixteen, Mahaprasthanika Parva is seventeen, Svargarohana Parva is eighteen. These are the eighteen books of the Mahabharata, as we have seven books of the Ramayana: Bala Kanda, Ayodhya Kanda, Aranya Kanda, Kishkindha Kanda, Sundara Kanda, Yuddha Kanda and Uttara Kanda.

The nineteenth book of the Mahabharata is the Harivamsa. It is regarded as a kind of appendix. One of the reasons perhaps behind the division of the Harivamsa from the Mahabharata as the nineteenth book is that the life of Bhagavan Sri Krishna as incorporated in the eighteen books of the Mahabharata takes into account only the public picture of the life of Sri Krishna; his earlier life in Dvarka, Brindavan, Mathura, etc., does not find a place in the Mahabharata in spite of the fact that it is in the Bhagavata. Historians and students of the epics tell us there was no Bhagavata at the time of the writing of the Mahabharata. The Mahabharata was written first, and to have a supplement to the Mahabharata in order that the other aspects of the life of Sri Krishna may also be incorporated in the great epic, Vyasa seems to have written the nineteenth book, which contains the earlier life of Krishna including Dvarka, Lila, etc.; so in a way the eighteen books of the Mahabharata plus the nineteenth one, the Harivamsa, apart from there being the story of the Pandava-Kaurava war, also consist of the complete life of Bhagavan Sri Krishna.

It says in one of the Puranas that even after writing his magnum opus, the masterpieces Mahabharata and Harivamsa, Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa, the author, was not feeling very happy inside. He was in a state of despondency and restlessness, as if something was missing. At that time it is said that Narada, the great sage, came and asked Vyasa, “What is it that you are brooding over?”

“I have written the Mahabharata epic so that in that book I have left nothing unsaid.” There is a verse in the Mahabharata itself which says, “Whatever is there anywhere in this world you will find in the Mahabharata, and whatever is not in the Mahabharata will not be found anywhere in the world.” It is also said, “All the knowledge of the world is what Vyasa has spat in the Mahabharata.” He spat it. That means to say, the words which constitute the entire Mahabharata are also the whole literature of the world – spiritual, social, and every blessed thing is there. Whatever you want to know about dharma, artha, kama or moksha is in the Mahabharata, and if you do not find something there, you will not find it anywhere else in the world. Such a great thing was written, and still he was not feeling very satisfied.

Narada said, “I will tell you why you are not feeling happy. You have not sufficiently sung the blissful aspect of Bhagavan Sri Krishna. No doubt you have explained in great detail his powers, his glory, his might, his statesmanship, his strength, and his public picture. Beautiful! But he is not merely that. God is not merely power, glory, majesty, elephantine strength, which, of course, He is also, but He is also beauty, love, tenderness, affection. That aspect you have not touched. This is why you do not feel fully satisfied. I request you to write another text altogether which will lay special emphasis on his beauty, tenderness, goodness, lovableness, and affection. All these aspects must be brought out.”

Sri Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa is said to have written the Bhagavata Mahapurana as his last work. It is also called Samadhi Bhasha. That is to say, after the departure of Narada, Vyasa entered into deep meditation and sank into samadhi, and whatever he visualised in that condition of samadhi got expressed in the new work called Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana; therefore, the Bhagavata is also called the Samadhi Bhasha, the language of super-consciousness.

The style of the Mahabharata is different from the style of the Srimad Bhagavata, which is a very difficult style. People say if you want to test the learning of a person, you must see to what extent he has understood the Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana. If you want to test the scholarship of a person, put him questions on the Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana’s meaning and see what answers come. That is, the language and the style of the Puranas in general, which follow the style of the Mahabharata, are simple from the point of view of ordinary spoken Sanskrit. If you have some knowledge of Sanskrit you will know how to read the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the other Puranas, but the Bhagavata is not like that. It is knotted. Every sloka is very hard. In spite of eight thousand verses being there in the Mahabharata, which are very hard to understand, which Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa seems to have composed to halt the memory of Ganesha when he was writing – in spite of that, there is some simplicity about the style of the Mahabharata; but the Bhagavata is not like that.

And this Samadhi Bhasha of Sri Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa, which is the Bhagavata Mahapurana, is also constituted of twelve books, not eighteen. The first one is the introductory chapter, the second one goes into details of creation, etc., the third one has further details of creation, and so on. It is the tenth book that is entirely devoted to the life of Bhagavan Sri Krishna.

The tenth book of the Srimad Bhagavata has two parts. The first part of the tenth chapter or skanda, which is ninety chapters in length, is devoted to the early boyhood days of Krishna in Brindavan and Mathura, his childhood days. It ends with the death of Kamsa. Krishna’s more public family life, in a mature age, is the subject of the second part of the tenth book of the Bhagavata, but he does not touch the points that we have in the Mahabharata. All the great things that we hear about Bhagavan Sri Krishna in the Mahabharata we will not find in the Srimad Bhagavata and similarly, vice versa, what we have in the Bhagavata we will not find in the Mahabharata. So the Mahabharata and the Bhagavata put together may be regarded as a complete epic picture of social and divine comedy, also with a touch of tragedy in the end.

The Veda says, “I am afraid of these people who approach me without the knowledge of the epics and the Puranas,” because the epics and the Puranas – especially the reference is to the Mahabharata and the Bhagavata – explain the inner meaning and potentiality of the Vedas. But if you approach the Vedas directly without having understood the inner meaning of the epics and the Puranas, the Mahabharata and the Bhagavata, the Veda is afraid “This man is going to kill me”. You will slaughter the Veda if you try to understand it without having read the Mahabharata and the Bhagavata with your own brain and intellect. As I mentioned, the intellect and the brain are not sufficient for the Vedas. The Vedas are deeper intuitions, and as common people cannot have access into this required insight, they have to slowly proceed towards the inner content of the Vedas by having mastered the more easily explained theme of this sacred text through the Mahabharata and the Bhagavata.

Though the epics are two, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the Puranas are eighteen in number. The most important of the eighteen Puranas are the Vishnu Purana and the Bhagavata Purana. Actually, the life of Sri Krishna as we have in the Bhagavata is a condensed and more amplified form of whatever we have about him in the Harivamsa of the Mahabharata and the Vishnu Purana. It is Vyasa’s last work, his Samadhi Bhasha, the final work, and Vyasa perhaps put his pen down after he completed writing the Srimad Bhagavata, as it is sometimes said that Shakespeare put his pen down after writing The Tempest. Shakespeare  threw his magic wand into the sea, and Vyasa did not write anything more afterwards, is the story that we hear.

Sometimes the Yoga Vasishtha is also considered as one of the epics, though not normally speaking, because in one verse of the Valmiki Ramayana there is some peculiar suggestion that Valmiki wrote the story of Rama together with a supplement. What that supplement is, is not mentioned. The Yoga Vasishtha is also said to be, according to common consensus, the work of Valmiki only. As the Harivamsa and the Bhagavata are the work of Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa who wrote the Mahabharata, the Yoga Vasishtha is attributed to the pen of Valmiki.

If you read the Yoga Vasishtha, you will find the style, the language and the method of writing is similar to the Valmiki Ramayana. Mostly, the thirty-two lettered anushtup chanda metre is used in the whole of the Ramayana, but every chapter will end with a little longer verse. Similar is the style of the Yoga Vasishtha. The whole thing is in thirty-two-lettered anustup metre, but every chapter will end with another metre altogether, and the mellifluous movement, the sweetness, as it were, of a musical way of writing, we find both in the Ramayana of Valmiki, the story of Rama, and in the Yoga Vasishtha. Therefore, many people think the Yoga Vasishtha also should be included under the category of the epics. So if all these aspects are taken into consideration, we have four epics: the Ramayana, the story of Rama, the Yoga Vasishtha, an appendix to it, the Mahabharata, and the Harivamsa. This is the large literature of Hinduism.

You will find, if you travel from the Himalayas to Kanyakumari, all people who are called Hindus follow the religion of the epics and the Puranas only. You will not find any Hindu anywhere who lives according to the Vedas and the Upanishads, or even the Bhagavadgita. These are all beyond them. They will read the Gita, they will chant the Vedas and study the Upanishads, but in practical life the outlook of the religion of the Hindus today is not of the type of the Vedas and the Upanishads and the Gita. Everybody is a worshiper of some god or the other who is not mentioned in the Vedas or the Upanishads or the Gita. Our gods are epic gods only. We have got Ganesha, Devi, Durga, Narayana, Vishnu, Suriya, Kumara, etc., who do not find a place in the Vedas, the Upanishads or the Bhagavadgita. We worship our own epic gods and Purana gods. It is something very interesting. Historians of religion may be interested in finding out how religion of the Hindus today has become an epic religion, a Purana religion, rather than a Veda religion or an Upanishad or Gita religion. Why it has become like that is something for scholars to investigate. Anyhow, the fact stands as it is.

So we have a brief outline of the content of the Vedas and the Upanishads and the Smritis, as I mentioned, and also the epics and the Puranas.

To recapitulate, the culture of India is based on a spiritual outlook of life. This spiritual outlook, on which we have been bestowing thought, is to be known in its proper spirit. What actually do we mean by ‘spiritual outlook of life’? All people in the world, learned or unlearned, have a wrong notion that to live a spiritual life is not to live according to the norms of the social and physical life of the world. One becomes a little funny, queer, when becoming a spiritual person. This is what people think. This is far from the fact. One does not become uncommon, queer or fantastic when one becomes a spiritual person. On the other hand, a spiritually oriented person is an integrated individuality. A mighty superman-like individual is the spiritual person. The world and God are not to be segregated. The wrong notion that spirituality concerns some reality that is outside or beyond the world, and that secularism is a matter-of-fact existence in the physical world, is a total misconstruing of the facts.

Spirituality is the way of living according to that structure which blends together the here and the hereafter, the secular and the transcendent, the visible and the invisible, matter and spirit, the inward and the outward, the here and the hereafter. The word ‘integration’ may perhaps bring out the true meaning of it. To be religious is not to be leaning oneself away from the contact of things in the world; it is to be in the world as a spirit that pervades the whole cosmos. To be a human being, healthy and wise, is not to be only concerned with the soul inside and to cast out the body. The body and the soul have to be kept together in a state of union, in a blend, and in an integrated completeness. The health of a person is not merely in the soul or the body, but is a putting together of these two phases into a comprehensiveness so that one permeates the other.

Spiritual life is, therefore, a permeation of a transcendent outlook of life which takes into consideration the transcendence or the super-physical reality of the cosmos, but at the same time it takes the whole world as the footstool on which it stands. The world is like a footstool on which we are standing, and the legs are not unimportant. In the Cosmic Form of the Universal Reality described for us in the epics and the Puranas, the whole physical universe is pictured, portrayed, as the feet of the Virat Purusha. The higher realms are the thighs, the trunk, the neck, the head, etc.

So the relationship between the world and God is something like the relationship of the lower extremities of the body and the higher part. You cannot say that the lower is not at all necessary, and to be a spiritual person is only to concern oneself with the head. Bernard Shaw said, it seems, that the real man is the brain only, and all the other parts of the body are only servants of this brain. The brain is to be carried here and there, and so legs are there. The brain has to see, so eyes are there. The brain wants this and that, and all the limbs are cooperative servants, as it were, for the benefit of the brain. This is one view.

Well, it is not like that. The total view of things is actually a consideration for the benefit of every part that constitutes the whole. The universe is one whole, and there we have got the God of the universe who created the world, and we have got creation itself. God and creation are intriguing features which we have to fathom properly from their own essential point of view. God created the world, or there is God and there is world. There is a transcendent spiritual entity which we are trying to attain in our meditations, but there is also the world in which we are staying.

Are you connected with the world in some way? That connection of yours with the world is the reason why you are so concerned with the events taking place in this world. Your physical body is a part and parcel of this physical nature. Therefore, hunger and thirst, heat and cold, fatigue, desire for security of some kind, and a subtle desire to continue living in this world for as long a time as possible – all these are the impact of the world of creation upon our individual existence. We do belong to this world. Therefore, a spiritual person is not outside this world.

Secondly, the wrong notion that the world has to be renounced for becoming a spiritual individual is also to be clarified. There is much about this theme of renunciation in religious and spiritual life. The world has to be renounced in order that you may become spiritual and religious. What kind of world are you renouncing? Please consider this matter seriously. Are you renouncing the trees in the forest? They do not belong to you, and even if they are there in your garden, that is not the thing that you are going to renounce. Poor things, why do you renounce them? Are you renouncing the sun and the moon and the stars? You say, “I am a religious man. I have no connection to the sun and the moon and the stars. I have renounced them. I have renounced all the rivers, I have renounced the ocean, I have renounced the mountains, I have renounced the very ground on which I am standing.” Is this the way you are renouncing the world? And if this is not so, what else is the world? Tell me. Generally, people renounce people; they cannot renounce the ground, they cannot renounce mountains and rivers and trees, so what they say is, “Goodbye, my friend. I will not talk to you from tomorrow.” This is called renunciation.

This is not true because the world includes your own self. Are you standing outside the world? Neither are you outside nature, nor are you outside human society. So when you consider renunciation of the world, you must take into your mind the fact that you are not outside that which you are trying to renounce.

What does it imply, finally? The renunciation of the world may also imply the renunciation of whatever you are. But you keep yourself intact with all your ego and all your longings, and want to cut off relationships with things other than yourself. It is like the leg saying, “I have no connection with the body.” The leg is a part of the body, and renunciation of the body is not possible as long as the leg is integrally and vitally connected with the performances of the whole body.

Renunciation does not mean physically being away from something, because that is not possible. Wherever you go, you are in the natural world only. How can you be physically away from the world on which you are standing? Actually, the concept of nature, the visualisation of things – or rather, to put more plainly, the notion, wrongly entertained by us, that the world is outside us – is to be renounced. Renunciation is the abandonment of the wrong notion that the world is outside you as an object of perception. The world cannot be outside you because you, as the perceiver of the world, also are included in this totality called Nature.

These days, modern physicists tell us that scientific observations are not finally reliable because the perceiver’s presence in the act of the observation of a particular phenomenon is to be taken into consideration. The observer, the scientist so-called working in a laboratory, should not ignore the fact that his very presence, and the very presence of the instrument that he is using, disturb the object that he is trying to observe so that nobody can observe the true nature of a thing as long as instruments are necessary, and instruments disturb.

The holistic nature of any object – that is to say, the inclusive character of any object, which is related to the subject also, in a way – makes it difficult for any particular subject, such as the scientist, for instance, to have a clear insight into the nature of the object. The subject, who is the perceiver, the scientist, influences the very existence of the object. Your very conception of the object, your knowledge of the object, your awareness that something is there outside you, implies the fact of your connection with the object. Unless you are in some way related to the object, the knowledge of the existence of the object itself would not be possible. The object is not totally outside the process of perception. If it is totally outside, perception would be impossible. Inasmuch as perception seems to be vitally connected with the object, and perception proceeds from the perceiver, the perceiver is connected vitally with the object so that there is no such thing as a real perception of an object as totally outside. If this is true, the world cannot be renounced as we generally do when we are moving from one place to another place. You have to lift yourself up totally, holistically, completely, from the very phenomenon of world perception, including your existence in that atmosphere. This is very hard.

It is not easy to live a spiritual life. Religion is difficult because you may have a traditionally bound, ritualistically construed idea of renunciation of the world. What most people do is that they go from one place to another place and stay there. This is what they call renunciation. Nothing happens. They are the same people, the same individual, with the same mind, the same world, the same nature, the same problem; everything is the same because actually they have moved nowhere.

When you are moving within the dream world, wherever you go, you are inside the dream world only. What is the use of moving in the dream world? Your dream has to be cut off, and you have to awaken yourself from the dream world. If you travel within the dream world, it does not become religion. Even if you are a great yogi within the dream world, it is, after all, a dream yoga, so it will not help you. The point is that you have to wake up from the dream itself into the reality of the actual visualisation of Reality. This is why religion becomes difficult, and most people who have taken to religion and spirituality, and even to meditation, have not succeeded satisfactorily either for their benefit or for anyone else’s benefit. Many illusions present themselves, and then they come down to the ordinary level.

The difficulty of practising true religion or spirituality from the point of view of the integrality in the outlook of things that is necessary for a religious or a spiritual seeker makes it incumbent upon every spiritual seeker to go slowly. Slow and steady wins the race. Haste makes waste, so don’t be in a hurry. You have to, first of all, find out your capacity – to what extent you can understand and appreciate the values of things in the world.

Illusions come first; enlightenment comes afterwards. The gods and the demons who were said to have churned the ocean of milk for extracting nectar out of it did not get nectar. The story of Samudra Manthana, or the churning of the ocean for the purpose of getting nectar, as we have it described in the Puranas, is the story of spiritual assent. You churn the life of your personality and the whole world itself for the sake of the nectar of immortality. When you churn life, God does not come first. The devil comes first as poisonous fumes. They expected nectar from the ocean but what they got was dust, a suffocating poison. The worst of things came while they were searching for the best of things.

This what you will experience in your spiritual life. The total opposite of what you are expecting will be there before you in your meditation, to the shock of your nerves. But if you persist like a Buddha or a Christ or a great yogi with real strength, having an understanding into the nature of why this phenomenon has risen at all, if you persist continuously in spite of these blinding fumes of a darkening venom or smoke that is in front of you, you will come face to face with other problems which are not in any way less difficult to face than the venom, the temptations of various kinds.

Uplifting the world, saving humanity, becoming an avatara purusha, such desires also will come to you many a time. “I have already had a vision of things. Reality has been comprehended. Now my next step is to uplift the world.” All sorts of desires will come to you. These are temptations. Gold and silver and social status, and the offer of a vital potentate in this world, all these will also be presented to you by the gods in heaven. Sthānyupanimantraṇe saṅgasmayākaraṇaṁ punaraniṣṭa prasaṅgāt (Y.S. 3.52) is the sutra of Patanjali: When you advance in meditation, gods in heaven will come down and present temptations of various kinds. And Vyasa, who wrote a commentary on the Sutras of Patanjali, in this connection says, “What do they say? Do you know? ‘Master, you have attained the supreme perfection. We are waiting for you. Come. Here is the river of milk, here is the sea of treacle, here are the golden chariots for you, here is the empire which you are going to rule, here are all your servants. Now here is the fruit of your great tapasya. Come.’” Indra and all the gods will descend. They do not descend immediately; none of you has seen these gods because you have not even scratched the outer crust of meditation and, therefore, these denizens do not come like that so easily. They are not afraid of us. Only when they are frightened by your deep meditation do they start kicking up all this dust before you, and these temptations like the ratnas or jewels that came from the milky ocean during churning are also illustrative of what we are going to expect in our meditations. First comes blinding darkness, venom, the total opposite of what you are expecting, to the shudder of your personality. If you persist in it, temptations of this kind come. Lastly, if you overcome even these temptations, the fear of death will take care of you. “Oh, I am dying. Something is happening. The nerves are cracking!” You will find that you cannot understand what is happening in front of you.

Some such phenomenon arose even during the samudra manthana, or the churning of the ocean. A battle took place between the gods and the asuras. That state of affairs is worse than the earlier temptations and even the venom. How will you face it? The world will fight with you. “Away with you!” the world will say, and how will you face it? The world is so very enormous before your little puny personality. At that time you must have the courage to expand the potentials of your personality inside and be convinced that you are not so puny as you appear. Your potentials inside are as wide as the universe itself. Divinity is larger than the universe. With that strength, with that might of inner awakening, you will face the whole world of temptation and the battle which is presented before you. In the beginning it is venom; next there is temptation, and then there is actual confrontation, battle. All these three stages have to be passed through. Then it is that the sun of knowledge rises and the universe will dance to the tune of your own personal existence. You will become one with the universe. The enemy will become a friend, the outside will merge into the inside, there will be no outside-inside afterwards, and there will be no God, no universe, no creation. There will be one: That Which Is.

Towards that end we are moving gradually through these inner practices of spiritual life, religious life. This is not to be construed as a running away from existing things or physically being away from phenomena of the world, but a transmutation of our very relationship with things. Therefore, you can be religious and spiritual wherever you are in the world; and wherever you are, your problems will be the same.

This being taken care of properly and written down in your diary, you will be able to proceed further in the direction of the appreciation of this in-depth analysis of the culture of India, which is not merely religious in an ordinary fundamentalistic sense of the term. It is not true that India is a religious country and that Indians do not know how to stand the realities of life. The Vedas and the Upanishads and the Bhagavadgita are standing refutations of this wrong notion that the religion of India is otherworldly. It is nothing of the kind. It is neither otherworldly nor worldly. It is a total picture which the universe presents before you, and that is the object of the study of India’s culture.