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Darshan with Swami Krishnananda during 1996
by Swami Krishnananda

38. Knowing Consciousness

(Darshan given on June 15th, 1996.)

A visitor: I want to know what consciousness is.

Swamiji: Suppose you know it. What happens to you afterwards? In what way will you be better after you know it? You will be the same person afterwards; the only difference is you will have the satisfaction that you know what consciousness is, but this may not make a difference in your life.

Visitor: The realisation of the identity with consciousness will be different.

Swamiji: Oh. Now you are going into deep waters, little by little. Have you studied Christian theology, or read any book on Christian mysticism?

Visitor: St. John of the Cross. The problem is that there is a little duality, if I am not mistaken.

Swamiji: Does St. John of the Cross mention duality?

Visitor: There is an intimacy, a closeness, but...

Swamiji: You don't want that duality? You would like to abolish it? I will give you another look which will tell you something about consciousness, but I will not give you the entire thing today. I will give you only a little. I should not let the cat out of the bag completely. Little by little I will tell you and when you go, you may have some idea about it.

Many people raise questions of this kind. Hundreds come here, and finally they get stuck when they encounter subjects like this. Everything is all right for some time, up to some limit; beyond that, it is a black curtain and a mountain in front. We can't go further because we are mostly accustomed to thinking in terms of psychology, sociology, political science, physics. This is the way in which we think. All our thought is conditioned by social relations, physical limitations, and psychological restrictions of various types. We are thinking only under the conditions in which the mind can work. The mind can work only under certain conditions; it cannot break the conditions. There are certain ways in which we do things, and the mind cannot think in any other way. Certain philosophers have tried to analyse these limitations. They have also gone deep into the subject of why the mind can think only in some ways and cannot think in any other way.

For instance, everything that the mind thinks has some shape, some quantity, some dimension. The mind cannot think dimensionless things, so everything that the mind thinks has some quantum. That is one thing. And you cannot think of a quantity without some quality also attached to it. A qualityless, purely attributeless thing you cannot think; and also, you have the necessity to relate one thing to another thing.

You have come from Goa, you said. That is a relation you are establishing with the geographical unit called Goa. You may also be the son of a father, a brother of somebody, or a boss or subordinate of somebody. These are kinds of relationships. So firstly you think in terms of quantity, then you think in terms of quality, then you think in terms of relation, and then you think in terms of the condition in which you are. Everything is in some condition.

Generally it is said that all thoughts are related to circumstances of this type. You go on thinking, and whatever you think in the mind is within this fourfold structure. But who made this law that you should think only in this way? Nobody can put a question like that because the question itself is raised only under these conditions. Even the question of who made this law is made by the condition itself, which is like trying to climb on one's own shoulders. You cannot go beyond.

That is why they say that the mind cannot catch Reality. The intellect is a failure where it is a question of contacting Reality as it is in itself. You said you want to know what consciousness is. It is one name that we give to the Ultimate Reality. We shall not go into that subject now. I will leave it at that. I am just mentioning the difficulty the mind faces in contacting such things which cannot be called a quantity.

For instance, you mentioned the name of God. We are aspiring for God, but He is not a substance, not a kind of quantity or a huge body. Sometimes we think that God, the Supreme Being, is like a huge human being. This is the compulsion of the mind to think in terms of quantity. We expand the quantity to the dimension of space so that He may look a little attractive, like a huge human being, as big as space itself. We cannot think of God in any other way than as a human being, because we are conditioned by the human way of thinking. We cannot think like a frog or like any animal; we think like human beings. Hence, our God is a human being only, and He is mostly male. See how many limitations we have got? Sometimes people have tried to think of God as a woman also; Devi worship is an attempt to overcome this male obsession, but we can't get over it.

So our mind is limited, but why has this problem arisen? It has arisen because we think in terms of four restricting factors. Also we think in terms of sense organs. We think in terms of what we see, hear, smell, touch, and taste. Can you think anything which you cannot see, hear, smell, touch or taste? This is also a limitation. Our thought is sensorially conditioned. Actually, the mind is a slave of the sense organs, inasmuch as it is receiving information only through the sense organs and it has to accept what the sense organs provide. It cannot think independently.

Some philosophers came to the conclusion that it is impossible under the existing conditions to contact Reality. If you try to understand Reality, you are understanding through the intellect, the mind, which is subservient to the reports of the sense organs, and inasmuch as sense information cannot be regarded as adequate to define Reality, no man can contact it, ordinarily speaking. But there are extraordinary conditions under which contact can be established. That is why people go to Gurus, Masters, etc. They can tell you the extraordinary conditions where the human has to cease to be human for the time being. Your thought of God should not merely be a psychological interpretation, and it should not be socially conditioned, politically interpreted, and so on. You don't want an economical God or a political God, and so on. You want God as He is. How will you think of God as He is?

For that, a great admonition of the yoga masters is sense control – the control of the sense organs. Our energy is moving in a direction of the objects of sense, and our thinking is so vehemently sensorially oriented that we think in terms of objects only. I mentioned to you quantity, quality, etc.; these are characteristics of objects, and we are transporting the characteristics of objects to the Ultimate Reality, also. That is why there are differences in thinking religiously. We have got so many religions.

The sense organs become restrained if you can look without seeing, hear without listening, taste without enjoying, as it is said mystically. These are all very mystifying ways of expressing things. You can see things, but you need not be interested in them. It is your interest in what you see with the eyes or contact with the senses that draws the energy of the person in the direction of an object of sense. So spiritual seekers try to go inward, into the light that will be available within. That light is almost stifled because of the pressure of the sense organs.

By the practice of yoga, which is also known as spirituality, when you can think as God would think, you will be able to contact God. You have to think as God thinks. How will you think as God thinks? It requires a great sacrifice of the ego-ridden personality, the spirit of surrender of the psychophysical individuality, and a real asking for it. The ultimate requirement from you is a real asking for it. Your heart asks, and it is restless without it. It is searching for it wherever it goes, and it can think nothing but that; like a child who has lost its mother in a crowd, and so it yells and cries; like a calf who has lost its mother and goes here and there in the herd of cows; like a person who has lost his purse containing thousands of dollars and cannot sleep, who goes to bus stands and railway stations everywhere looking for his purse. These are all examples of restlessness because of the desire to have what you consider as most vital.

If you consider God as so vital that you can't live without Him, and the whole thing is misery without the contact with Him, that it is life and death for you – if an asking of that type arises from your heart of hearts, God Himself will see to it that the needful is done. God hears what we are saying now. He is not deaf. Even this conversation between us is heard by Him, and if He accepts your asking as sincerely arising from the bottom of your heart, He may bless you instantaneously. So be happy.