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Darshan with Swami Krishnananda during 1997
by Swami Krishnananda

38. Dharma and Morality

(Darshan given on July 21st, 1997.)

A visitor: I am studying dharma in the Bhagavadgita.

Swamiji: Do you understand the Bhagavadgita? What do you understand already? What is your dharma?

Visitor: My particular dharma is helping other people.

Swamiji: You have no other dharma?

Visitor: Yes, there are many levels. I have other things.

Swamiji: So don't make any statement so quickly. Dharma changes its nature like a chameleon. Wherever it sits, that colour it is. So whatever be the circumstance in which you are finding yourself, that circumstance will decide the dharma of that time. It is not an eternally solid, stone-like concept. It is a flexible, adjustable consciousness of what you ought to do under a given condition. 'Under a given condition' – you must underline that. It is not that you should do the same thing always. Under different conditions of time and circumstance and involvement, you may be obliged to take steps which are proper for that particular context. If you are hungry, you must eat. If you have tummy trouble, you should not eat. Now, eating is your dharma, or not eating is your dharma? It depends upon the condition. You said, “I am serving other people.” You must have a very clear idea about this matter. What prompted you to think that service of others is good? Who told you this?

Visitor: That's what I was brought up to believe.

Swamiji: Now, 'others' means all people in the world; that is 'others'. Do you believe that you are also part of people in the world?

Visitor: Yes.

Swamiji: So there are no other people, actually. The word 'other' must be removed because you are thinking that people are outside you, but you are forgetting that you are also included in that mob of people which is society. So it is not service of others; it is service of humanity. Give up the idea of others. Other people whom you are seeing may look like others to you, but they will look upon you as an other. So who is the other in this world?

If you can give up the idea of otherness, the concept of totality will arise in your mind. Do you understand me? This is the dharma of the Gita. You look at the total situation of the whole universe. What is the total situation of the whole universe? Whatever you are expected to do to that, that is your duty. It is not to others. There are no others in this world. Everybody is me, and other than me is another. Now, who is the another, and who is the me? The another also is a me from one point of view. So the ideas of I, me, he, she, it have no meaning, really speaking. You must give up this concept: I, she, he, it, myself, himself, this, that. It is humanity speaking. It is a total mass of human consciousness, and when you try to serve that, you are serving yourself also simultaneously. So you are not excluding.

It is not serving other people. It is serving the whole total of human consciousness. This is like actually serving God Himself. This is the Gita. Serving God and serving humanity are identical, provided you have a correct concept of humanity. And don't say 'others'. The word 'other' must be removed.

So briefly I told you something about the Gita, but much more is there. For the time being this is sufficient.

Another visitor: The way we live in the West is causing problems for people, for individuals and for the planet, as well as encouraging spiritual practice, meditation and living with morality.

Swamiji: What is your definition of morality?

Visitor: It involves not killing, not lying, not taking what's not given.

Swamiji: Suppose these things are all practised by a person. Suppose there is a person who is practising all these things that you have said. Can he be called a moral man?

Visitor: Externally.

Swamiji: You are putting conditions. When you give a definition, you should not put conditions. You must give an unadulterated definition.

Visitor: Well, in the end morality also means letting go, not being attached. No attachments.

Swamiji: Suppose a person is not attached. Can you call him a moral man?

Visitor: If he is living compassionately and following these things without being attached, I think so.

Swamiji: No, a person may not be attached to anything, but he may not be a good man.

Visitor: No, but if he's doing good things. . .

Swamiji: He need not be good. How do you know? How do you judge a man?

Visitor: I don't try to judge people. I judge myself.

Swamiji: Even the great critic Immanuel Kant has failed completely, miserably, in touching the subject. He ought not to have touched this subject, really speaking. He unnecessarily went beyond the limit. He was a person who said that nothing true can be known by the faculties available to the human being.

Visitor: And that was unfortunate because it was a mistake.

Swamiji: Whatever it is, he was a very great man.

Visitor: Yes.

Swamiji: And everything is phenomenon, so you are caught up in phenomena. And phenomena cannot know that it is phenomena. Somebody other than phenomena only can know that it is phenomena. You understand me? You cannot know something is moving unless something is not moving. If everything is moving, you cannot know there is movement at all. What do you say? So he was caught in his own logic that if everything is phenomenal, he should not posit the existence of anything that is not phenomenal. He said that which is not phenomenal cannot be known, but when he said that, he has an idea of what that thing is. He has already transcended that phenomena.

Visitor: He had the idea of the noumenal.

Swamiji: Yes. But then he made matters worse by writing another book called The Critique of Practical Reason where he says you cannot prove God by reason because it is noumenal. The noumenal cannot be known, because you are caught in the phenomenal. He says the moral impulse in a man justifies the existence of God. Now, the moral principle is as unreliable a thing as the phenomenal reason of the human being. If the phenomenal reason cannot justify God, the morality also cannot justify anything because it is only another faculty of the human being.

Visitor: I agree.

Swamiji: So Kant is a miserable failure in all his greatness because morality doesn't come from God. It is a faculty of the human being only. He says it is phenomenal. Then how will you prove God?

Why I am telling all this is, nobody can understand what morality is.

Visitor: In the Bhagavadgita you have…

Swamiji: No, don't bring any book into it. Don't quote any book. Use pure reason. You tell rationally. Logically you describe what it is, what you mean by that. If this is there, morality is there. If this is not there, morality is not there.

Visitor: A pure heart…

Swamiji: Again you are bringing another word, which is very mystifying. When you say 'pure', you don't know what is pure.

Visitor: Not selfish. We know what selfish means.

Swamiji: This is only a dictionary meaning. It is an intriguing thing, intriguing. Now I cannot give lectures on that. It's a very big subject. You go into deep waters, and if you go so deep, you may enter into samadhi here. A great mystery. The whole universe is a mystery. We will simply get frightened by the grandeur. The grandeur also can frighten. The frightening thing is not a fearful thing but a grand thing – so grand that it is frightening. That is the structure of the universe. You can't understand. You don't know where you stand actually.

The human being cannot know where he is. We are passing through in a spaceship. Is it not a good thing to hear that? Why do you say, “I am in India”? Don't say like that. Say, “I am in a spaceship. I am going through space.” If you think like that, you will be more happy than saying you are in Rishikesh. Say, “I am in a spaceship. It is rattling through space. And it is the Milky Way, it is the vast space-time complex. Where am I living now? I'm not in America, India, and all that. I am in the vast space-time continuum.”

When you think like that, your personality will melt completely. You will melt into liquid. You won't exist. That's what I meant by saying that you may enter samadhi afterwards, that samadhi may come. If you think too much, you will liquefy your personality. It will abolish itself by the majesty of this wonderful thing that we are talking about. It is a terror, beauty, magnificence, grandeur. You cannot explain what it is, and you cannot stand it. That is why when it was shown to Arjuna he said, “Enough, enough, enough, enough!” because he was about to melt completely. He said, “No, come down! God bless.”

It is a very great thing to think like this. You will get stimulated inside afterwards. To some extent, you get purified also. Automatically you are purified by even thinking like this. You feel as if God is entering into you slowly, little by little. That is why satsanga is very important. Satsanga means this kind of discussion. Every day you must do that, then something will happen. You should not waste your time in chitchatting and going about here and there, sightseeing. No use. The company of good people, people who think alike and discuss these matters with great sincerity, is a very good thing. Nothing is equal to satsanga. It's the greatest thing that you can think of.

[Later on]

Swamiji: If reason cannot understand what is beyond phenomenon, morality also cannot justify God.

Visitor: No, it does not justify.

Swamiji: He says it justifies.

Visitor: This is not about Kant. This is about thinking about morality.

Swamiji: He is talking of morality only: The moral urge inside justifies the existence of God.

Visitor: No, no.

Swamiji: He is wrong in that because the moral urge also is a phenomenon only.

Visitor: Yes.

Swamiji: So what justifies the existence of God? He has ruled out all the teleological, cosmological, ontological arguments. There is a thing called the ontological argument. That is the only thing that can prove the existence of God. I hope you know it already. The consciousness of infinity is not possible unless infinity exists. A finite individual cannot even be aware that there can be anything called the infinite. How can a little tiny brain which is entirely finite imagine there is something called the infinite? The potential for the existence of the infinite must be planted in the finite itself; therefore, the consciousness of the limitation of finite individuality proves that there is something beyond the finite. You cannot be even conscious that you are finite unless there is something beyond the finite. You cannot know that you are a poor man unless you know what is a rich man. This is called the ontological argument: The consciousness of the presence of the infinite proves the existence of the infinite. So God exists by the ontological argument, and Kant refuted it without understanding things properly.

Visitor: My question is about just morality as a vehicle towards realisation with an outside and an inside.

Swamiji: Is it moral for a tiger to go and eat a cow?

Visitor: It's the tiger's nature.

Swamiji: Is it moral or not?

Visitor: It is the tiger's nature, so it's okay.

Swamiji: It is permitted? So how many kinds of morality you have got? One permits...

Visitor: No, morality for human being…

Swamiji: No, morality, why should you give it only to human being? It applies to the whole world.

Visitor: Morality has to do with what we can do or we can't do. A tiger has to eat.

Swamiji: Then we also will eat another man.

Visitor: No, because we have the ability to eat only vegetables. We can avoid eating tigers and other men.

Swamiji: The consciousness of something being right and the consciousness of something being wrong arises in the mind in a mysterious manner. Who told you that something is right and something is wrong?

Visitor: Most of the time we know right away.

Swamiji: No, you are brought up, so it is conditioned by your upbringing.

Visitor: That's true, yes.

Swamiji: So it is not automatically arising in your mind.

Visitor: No, but right now I know that I should be talking and not be looking around, or something like that.

Swamiji: Nothing can be proved except that you are existing. That is the only certain thing. And whatever follows from the fact of the certainty of your existence also exists. All other talks are unnecessary things. If the infinite exists because you are existing, then you will know at that time what to do. That is morality. You need not have to read books for that.