22. The Observer in Quantum Physics
(Darshan given on September 24th, 1995.)
Swamiji: [To a professor of physics] According to the top-level findings of modern physics, is the universe external to the observer, or is it not external to the observer?
Visitor: It is within the consciousness of the observer. Quantum physics says that the observer's consciousness is co-related with a measurement.
Swamiji: You are bypassing the question. According to quantum physics, is the universe external to the observer or not external to the observer? You answer to the point. Why are you talking about consciousness?
Visitor: The observer is a conscious being.
Swamiji: The observer is a consciousness?
Visitor: The observer is a conscious being.
Swamiji: You are saying ‘conscious being', not ‘consciousness'.
Visitor: They mean the same thing.
Swamiji: No. It is not the same thing. ‘Conscious being' is not the same as ‘consciousness' because consciousness is not any being at all. It is not anybody's being because the whole problem is if the observer can exist outside the universe and then observe it, he does not belong to the universe. It comes to that. Do you understand me? Is it true that a person does not belong to the universe?
Visitor: It is impossible.
Swamiji: Then how can a person who is involved in the observed universe observe it? How is it possible to observe it?
Visitor: It is not possible.
Swamiji: Then how to answer this question? If the observer cannot stand outside the object that is observed, how is there a possibility of observing anything? Then the whole of science falls down in one second because science is nothing but the process of observation and experiment, and that collapses if this conclusion is drawn.
Visitor: Swamiji, I have another question. I have been thinking over this point for several days. What is the relationship between a person's material fulfilment and his spiritual fulfilment?
Swamiji: Is there such a thing called matter?
Visitor: No, I want to talk in a very commonsense way.
Swamiji: Can you be wise in your laboratory and a fool in public? That cannot be.
Visitor: No, as an ordinary man.
Swamiji: An ordinary man cannot be a good physicist. Will a professor be very wise in the classroom and foolish in the house?
If material fulfilment – to put it in your own language – is understood from the point of view of its nature as such, and not as it appears to your sense organs, then it can be regarded as a step toward spiritual realisation. Material fulfilment need not necessarily be sensual fulfilment, but it is not easy to understand the difference between metaphysical fulfilment and sensual fulfilment. You can enjoy an object as a necessary ingredient of your personality, or you can enjoy it as something perceived by the sense organs. No man in the world can ever think that the object of enjoyment is a necessary ingredient of his organism. It is not a necessary part of his organism; it stands outside, unconnected with the person, and such a thing cannot fulfil the requirement of a person. It will end in bereavement and sorrow, as happens in the case of any sensory enjoyment. But if you are able to understand the location of the object of enjoyment as a part and parcel of the whole cosmos of which you are also a part, it becomes what you call a philosophical, metaphysical enjoyment, and not a sensory enjoyment. I want you to make a distinction between metaphysical enjoyment and sensory enjoyment. Sensory enjoyment is obnoxious, and it will bring you sorrow. Metaphysical enjoyment will enrich your personality, widen your dimension of being, and you will take further steps towards what you call spiritual realisation. I have told something very intriguing, which is not easy to grasp. You will have to stay here many days to understand the meaning of what I said.
Any enjoyment under the impression you are external to the object that you are enjoying will bring sorrow. That is why everybody has sorrow, whoever tries to enjoy the objects of sense. Nobody is free from that grief. You will repent one day. But there is another way of non-sensual enjoyment. You can love a thing in the sense of what is called platonic love – not sensual love, but platonic love. It is a love of that which is, towards that which is. This is why I called it metaphysical, and not sensual. A thing as it is in itself comes in contact with a thing as it is in itself, and not as it appears. You are something unique from the appearance of your personality, as the object also is something unique from what it appears to be to your sense organs. Your reality, which is hidden, should come in contact with the reality of the object. That is platonic love, and you can enjoy it in that sense. You may call it spiritual love, if you like. But no brain will catch this point because people are wedded to wrong thinking and a sensory way of looking at things. Are you making any sense of what I am saying?
Visitor: I am understanding a little bit, but I will take longer. That is why I am taking a cup of tea and enjoying it.
Swamiji: You can enjoy a cup of tea, no objection, but you should not think it is coming from a marketplace, and so on. It is something organically involved in your being. It is a necessity. If it is not a necessity, you should not take it. Anything that is necessary is inseparable from your existence; otherwise, it cannot become necessary. Then it becomes your own person, in one sense. It enriches your person; that is why you are taking it. It widens your being, and is no more a sensual object. Then you cannot get attached to it. This is a little bit of philosophical thinking. Brood over it.
Another visitor: When I meditate, what should I concentrate on?
Swamiji: You should concentrate on your main chosen object.
Visitor: I am confused, actually.
Swamiji: What confusion have you got? You have chosen the main ideal for meditation. Carry on with it.
Visitor: Some pictures appear in my mind, and they go on changing.
Swamiji: These pictures are potentials of your own mind, and they will go away gradually by intense meditation on the object that you have chosen for meditation. Do not bother about them at all. They will exhaust themselves by coming out, as dust rises when you sweep the floor and afterwards it settles. In the beginning it is like the rising of dust because you are sweeping your mind in meditation. Then afterwards it settles, it goes away, and you do not have any problem. So don't consider it as a confusion. It is a normal experience of anybody. Carry on with it.
Another visitor: Is the object of meditation to remove all thoughts from the mind?
Swamiji: Removing something cannot be called yoga. Attaining something is yoga. You have to attain something. What will you attain? Removing is a negative process.
Visitor: We make a clean slate of our mind so that…
Swamiji: Still, it is a negative state only. When you make a clean slate, you have removed something from the mind, but what have you achieved? You see, not having darkness is different from actually having daylight. There is a difference. You cannot say absence of darkness is the same as daylight. One is a positive thing, the other is a negative thing. What do you want to get finally from meditation? What are you expecting?
Visitor: Self-realisation and the highest states that the mind…
Swamiji: If you have no worldly desires of any kind, then you will get Self-realisation, but if there is even one desire connected with external objects, society, people or any kind of arrangement in life, then it will be hard to do. So it is up to each person to decide whether there are lurking desires of any kind which pertain to this world. If there is nothing of the kind, then your path is clear.
Visitor: It is vairagya.
Swamiji: It is much more than vairagya, much more. You have nothing to gain from this world. That is the state which will pave the way directly to what you call Self-realisation. But if you think there is something in this world which you would like to have, then it will act as an obstacle on your path, and it has to be very clear in the mind of every person whether there is anything that you would like to have in this world or you want nothing from this world. Everything in the world is of no use to you.