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The Inward Aspects of Meditation
by Swami Krishnananda

(Spoken on January 27th, 1973)

Three processes are continuously going on in our consciousness, and they are so much intertwined with our very being that we cannot see them or recognise them. They are our personality; they are ourselves. Aptly has it been said that life is becoming—becoming in the sense that it is a process. This process, when it gets identified with life, ceases to be recognised as such, so we do not know that we are changing, moving, transforming ourselves, and are in the flux of becoming. We cannot know that every day we are growing, decaying, and tending towards another condition. The fact that we cannot see or know or have any sort of experience of this transformation going on within us shows that there is a very intense form of identification of our being with this process. This situation has led some philosophical thinkers, especially in the West, to conclude that being is a process. There was a great philosopher who wrote a book called Process and Reality. Process is reality because we cannot see anything else in the world but process.

We have to contemplate a little as to what this process in which we have been involved is, and what the intention of this process is. It is an important aspect of our study because it is a part of the process that goes on in meditation. This process is the process of meditation itself because spiritual meditation is only an attempt to become conscious of what is actually happening in nature. While nature does things of her own accord without our knowing what happens, in the process of meditation we become conscious and get awakened to nature's ways, laws and workings.

This world process is threefold. The first aspect of it is the grasping of material, value and significance from outside oneself in order that one may augment one's personality, increase the dimension of one's being, and thus feel happier at the higher growth which one has reached. This is one aspect of process: the tendency, desire and insatiable longing to grasp values and material from outside into one's own personality because of the feeling of a lack, a want, a limitation in one's personality.

The finitude of our nature becomes the cause of this perpetual urge within us to long for values outside. This is why we are never satisfied. We always long for things. We have umpteen desires. There is no end for our desires because there is no end for significances in the world. The values that the world contains are so many that our desires can have no end. This is the reason why the finitude of our nature craves for an infinitude of satisfaction. Desire is man, and man is desire. This >purusha, this individual, is made up of desire itself, says the Upanishad, because the finitude of nature cannot be satisfied except by the addition of the infinite to it. Unless the infinite is added on to it, its desire is not going to cease. The infinitude of desire arises from the finitude of being.

But this is only one aspect of the activity of nature, one aspect of the process that we are speaking of. What is that aspect? It is the necessity on the part of every finite individual to add value to oneself from outside so that the finitude can go on exceeding its limitations and approximate itself to the infinite as much as possible. We desire things of the world so that we may tend towards the infinite. How can we become the infinite by grabbing things from outside? It is because we have an idea, wrong though it be, that infinitude is quantitative expansion. When we possess more and more of things, become richer and richer in the things of the world, we seem to be moving nearer and nearer to the infinitude of things. This is why when desires are fulfilled we seem to be happier. But it is a foolish kind of happiness because though the finitude of our nature longs for an infinitude of satisfaction by adding quantities of material from nature outside, yet, at the same time, it has another urge from within it which pinches from inside while it feels satisfied from the other side. This is why the rich people of the world who seem to be adding on quantities to their finitude are unhappy for another reason. They are happy because they are rich, but they are unhappy because they want something else. What is that something else? That is the second aspect of the process.

We are unhappy because we are quantitatively finite, limited to space and conditioned by the body; therefore, we have an insatiable urge from within ourselves to grow wider and wider in quantity, in space, in possession and in magnitude. While this seems to be giving us a satisfaction of being in a direction of movement towards the infinitude of things, we are simultaneously sorry at the core of our hearts. All rich people are also unhappy for reasons they do not know, and this is the reason for the unhappiness of every person in the world.

The other aspect of our personality is selfhood. While the infinite is vast expansion—true, accepted, conceded—the infinite is also a self, a peculiar significance which we cannot understand by a logical analysis. We cannot understand what this selfhood could be. To some extent, we can understand what an infinitude of expansion is because of our being in a world of space and time, of expanse, duration and extension, but we cannot understand what this peculiar thing called the self is. The lack of selfhood in the quantitative addition of multitudes is the cause of the unhappiness of the rich. The wealthy man is unhappy because his self is gone, it is dead, though he has vast possessions. While one aspect of the finitude of our nature seems to be happy on account of its being successful in adding material significance and value from the outside world, it is unhappy that it is not growing in its self. The self is not growing, though the possessions are growing. Therefore, while we are happy because of the increase of possessions, we are unhappy because the self is remaining a finite entity. It does not mean that the self of the wealthy man has grown much. It is the same old self though he has grown wealthy in material, in possession, in quantity, in arithmetical calculation. Hence, there is an urge from within us to also grow in selfhood.

The other aspect of the process of the world, of the universe, of creation as a whole, is the conversion of the quantitative values into a selfhood of experience. The quantity gets transformed into a quality. The vastness of possession should become an intensity of selfhood, and only then can there be real happiness. Where the self is lacking, where the self is absent, there is also an absence of life. Where the soul is not, life also is not.

Thus, this process which we are speaking of brings one kind of satisfaction. While it moves externally in one direction by adding on external material to the finitude of nature, it also feels the pinch of finitude of the self from within and vigorously struggles to transform the magnitude that has been added on to itself into a selfhood. This can be done only when material gets converted into the state of consciousness because the self is consciousness. This is a herculean task, sometimes looking almost impossible. Matter cannot be converted into spirit, as is our usual experience. The extension and magnitude of possession cannot easily be transformed into a value of consciousness. However much we may be rich outwardly, a possession lacks selfhood, and how could we convert it into ourselves?

Thus, the second aspect of the process is a spiritual one, while the earlier one was a temporal urge of finitude. The spiritual urge is always the urge of selfhood because self and spirit mean one and the same thing—the Atman, as we know it. The Atman is the spirit, and it is the urge of the Atman that we call the spiritual nature. It is the Self. Where the Atman is absent, where the spirit of the Self is absent, quantity remains merely a lifeless corpse. It is like a huge Kumbhakarna lying down on the field without life in it. It may be a huge body, but it has no life. Such would be our life of possession and status if our selfhood were wrested from it. Though we are giants in our possessions and social status, we remain puny in our consciousness. Being puny in spirit and giant in matter is the cause of the unhappiness of the finitude of nature.

There is a perpetual transformation and re-transformation going on within and without, on one side moving outwardly towards the external extension of magnitude, and on the other side tending inwardly towards the spirit for the intensification of consciousness and the charging of this magnitude with the selfhood of consciousness. These two processes go on side by side, one overlapping the other and one becoming indistinguishable from the other as the activity goes on advancing further and further. There is no limit to finitude and the resources of nature, so the more we try to add selfhood on to the magnitude of nature, nature seems to be still wider and wider, and there seems to be no end to the resources of things. There is another attempt on the part of this increased intensity of consciousness to add on a larger group of material from outside, so internally and externally there is a desire to grow higher and higher. We become restless because of this unsuccessful endeavour on our part. The more we go deep within us, we find ourselves to be deeper than we have already recognised. The deeper we go, the deeper still we seem to be; and the farther we go outwardly into the resources of nature, the vaster nature appears to be. There is no end for the significance of life, either outwardly or inwardly. Thus, the process of nature goes on endlessly, achieving no satisfaction in the end because we will never come to an end of anything, whether we move outwardly or inwardly.

There is a story in the Yoga Vasishtha that the Kumaras, the sons of Brahma, wanted to know the limits of the cosmos, and went on peregrinating, travelling, touring. Right from the time of creation they have been touring to find out how vast this universe is, and they are touring even now. It has not come to an end because it will never come to an end. Why? There are specially placed mirrors kept in some museums. There is one image, and there are two mirrors on either side of the image. An infinitude of images appears on either side. Where is the end of it? There is no end. However far we may go, it is still further because spatial projection, like the horizon that we see in front of us, cannot have a limit. The story of the Kumaras measuring the extent of the universe in the Yoga Vasishtha is only a symbolic illustration of the truth that there is no limit for things because the Real is unlimited. Thus, we are not going to see the end of things either by an external movement or by an internal movement. Neither extroversion nor introversion is to be our methodology of approach.

There is also a Puranic story where the depth and the height of Lord Siva could not be measured by the deities. Lord Siva appeared as a huge conflagration which went down into Patala. Nobody could know how deep it went, and it went up beyond the skies to the heavens, so its height also nobody could measure. Limitless above and limitless below was that manifestation. These are all religious and spiritual symbols which tell us that spirit is infinite, and the infinite is not a within or a without, and so any kind of process that we are engaged in either voluntarily or otherwise is not going to take us to the Infinite because desire of any kind is contrary to the nature of the spirit.

Whether we wish to be endless outwardly or inwardly, we cannot get rid of the notion of space because our concept of endlessness is infinitude of extent in space. But spirit is not space, it is not time, it is not endlessness. The Infinite is not endlessness. It is not an uncountable number that we call the Infinite. The Infinite is not the total of a large group of finites. All things put together everywhere do not make the Infinite, so that even if we possess the whole universe we cannot be said to be really rich because the Infinite that the spirit is longing for is not in possession.

There is a calculus of bliss in the Upanishads wherein we are told that the joys of the higher realms are larger and larger in extent than the lower ones by hundreds multiplied by one another, the calculus reaching to Prajapati Brahma. We are still not at the end of it because the calculus only gives us a multiplication table: one into a hundred into a hundred into a hundred. And what is this ‘one'? Whatever be the number of times with which we multiply a unit, it does not become qualitatively different. One fool multiplied by a hundred fools, then by another hundred fools, are all still fools. Although they are many in number, qualitatively they are not different. One sheep multiplied by a hundred sheep—or a hundred sheep times a hundred sheep—are sheep only, finally. They do not become wise geniuses merely because they are multiplied by hundreds. This calculus is only to give us a hint as to the existence of higher forms of happiness. It is not an explanation of the nature of bliss. The spirit cannot be multiplied, and it cannot be understood by any kind of arithmetical increase of quantity.

The process of the world is not the spirit; the process is not reality. This is the reason why the processes of the world do not satisfy us. Thus, in our advance in spiritual meditation, we seem to be longing for higher and higher joys through processes of this kind which continue endlessly in the field of nature and her activities until the spirit gets tired of this outward pursuit and turns back upon itself. Until this takes place, until the time when the spirit returns to itself and sees its own being rather than the process of becoming, its end is not going to be reached. The end of the search of the soul is not a mathematical limit that is reached but an indescribable, incalculable and unthinkable event, if at all we can call it an event, which takes place within one's own consciousness.

The desire of the soul is to remain desireless. It has no other desire. Late in the process of evolution we come to know that this is the truth of things: that the purpose and purport of all activities is to return to the consciousness which has started the activity of the search. It does not come to us early. In the beginning we appear to be very wise, and it is only later on that we come to know that our wisdom was shallow.

There is no compatibility between process and being. While in the beginning meditation appears to be an activity of the mind, and thus a process, later it becomes a self-seeking process. It becomes a process of the return of the soul to itself. While earlier it appears to be a process tending towards externality and expansion, later it returns to itself, making a complete circle of its activity. We go round and round throughout the world and finally come back to our own self, not being satisfied with anything else in the world.

Hence, in the beginning meditation is an external movement. Later it is a movement towards one's self. There is an expansive tendency of consciousness earlier, and then an integrating tendency of consciousness to merge into the Selfhood of itself. But when it comes back to itself, it does not lose this expanded value that it seems to have gained by its outward movement. Nehābhikramanāśo'sti pratyavāyo na vidyate (B.G. 2.40), as the Bhagavadgita tells us: What we have gained through activity is not lost. It only gets transformed, sublimated.

The partial joy of having acquired possessions by the expanse, the addition of magnitude which seems to have come by the external movements of consciousness, does not actually get destroyed when it returns to itself. It only gets transformed. The world is not negated in consciousness. The world is transformed and transfigured into a different substance altogether when consciousness returns to itself after having scaled the heights of external nature. This is a very peculiar psychological transformation that takes place in the higher reaches of meditation. The lower stages do not satisfy us. The higher we go, the still higher seems to be our aim, objective and goal. While in this process of going higher and higher we leave behind everything that is low, it does not mean that we reject what is low. The lower values get transformed and consumed by the fire of the higher experience. It is like melting gold, removing its dross, and extracting its essence.

In the reaches of meditation, which are difficult to explain, there is a process of external advance and an inward integration simultaneously taking place—the one moving outwardly towards the immensity of temporal values, and the other tending towards eternal values wherein the temporal values get transformed and subsumed—so that when we reach God, the world is not ignored. It is melted and cast into the mould of God. It begins to shine in the light of God. The prodigal son returns, having been properly educated in the wisdom of things and knowing things better now. Hence, every step in meditation is an advance towards a higher integration, and this integration is of such a character that while it rejects the insufficiency and finitude implied even in the expanded magnitude of things, it absorbs the values that are embedded in these finite magnitudes into its higher nature.

The impossibility of understanding this mystery, the difficulty of knowing what all this really means, has led philosophers to quarrel among themselves as to whether the world is real or unreal, some saying it is real, some saying it is unreal. We cannot say in a slipshod manner whether the world is real or unreal because it is not so simple a thing as that, and it cannot be answered in one moment. Philosophers may quarrel among themselves, polemics may continue endlessly, but this question will not be answered as long as the significance of the spiritual advance of the soul is not understood.

‘The world' is a particular term that we use whose meaning is not clear; therefore, the very question whether the world is real or unreal cannot be answered because the meaning of the word itself is not clear to us. What do we mean by ‘the world'? What is the world? When we ask the question whether the world is real or unreal, what is the idea of the world that we have in our mind? This idea is also responsible for the nature of the answer that will come. There is a temporal and also an eternal aspect in us. While the temporal aspect can be called unreal, the eternal aspect is not unreal. In a system, in an organism, in a living body there are tendencies to illness together with the health of the system. While we may say that the tendency to ill health is not natural, and therefore not real, the aspect of health should be regarded as real because it is natural.

The eternal values are sometimes designated as sat-chit-ananda, as opposed to nama and rupa. Asti bhāti priyam rūpam nāma chetyamśapañchakam, ādyatrayam brahmarūpam jagadrūpam tato dvayam (Sarasvatirahasya Up. 23-24). There are five aspects in anything and everything. Everything is constituted of five aspects: asti, bhati, priya, nama and rupa. Asti is existence, bhati is the capacity to shine, and priya is the capacity to give satisfaction. Nama is name, and rupa is form. Everything, it is said, has these five aspects. Everything exists, everything is known, everything can give joy, everything has a name, and everything has a form.

Now, this name and form are not real. That is what we call the world, really speaking. The existence-consciousness-joy aspect of the thing is not unreal. It is there. Everything can give us joy under different circumstances. Joy is present in everything. Everything can be known. Everything exists. If we abstract the existence-consciousness-joy aspect of the thing, of anything for the matter of that, and free it from the limitations of name and form, we get the real world. The word ‘real' is to be underlined. Names and forms are relative to one another, and therefore, being subject to relativity of transformation—change in space, time and cause—they cannot be called reality. Reality has been defined as uncontradictability. That is reality. When a thing is not contradicted by any other experience, condition, event or transformation, it can be called real. But if there is something else vying with it, creating a tension with it, setting up a relativity with it and causing a transformation on account of it—thus, tending towards a higher condition—that condition which is subject to a higher transformation cannot be called real. Only the substantiality of things, known as existence, consciousness and joy, is not subject to transformation, while the name-form nexus is subject to change and transformation.

The process of the world, what we call process or transformation, is nothing but the relativity of name and form undergoing change under different conditions, while the substance behind this transformation does not undergo change. This difficult process of transformation is explained in a nutshell in the Sutras of Patanjali. When he describes dhyana, meditation, and the psychological changes and transformations that take place in meditation, Patanjali mentions these processes as being in a very subtle form as parinamas of various kinds—nirodha parinama, etc. The consciousness returns to itself by freeing itself from all these transformations, and rests in itself. All transformations are ultimately connected with the activities of the mind. In the beginning they are activities within a small circle—finite, very much limited. These limited activities of the mind are the transformations of what are known as vishayakara vritti. Vritti is a transformation of the mind. A transformation in respect of an object or a group of objects is called vishayakara vritti.

This threefold process already described affects the vishayakara vritti in such a way that it gets expanded into larger and larger circles of operation until it reaches the largest form of vritti, called the brahmakara vritti. The totality of magnitude of things is grasped by a single vritti, so that we do not have many minds. There is only one mind. All minds collaborate into the formation of a single mentation. In the deep form of meditation, the mind assumes a vritti or a transformation known as brahmakara vritti, a term signifying a totality of vrittis, the highest reach of mental transformation, beyond which there is nothing.

But the brahmakara vritti is not the goal. As it is described in the Vedanta Shastras, it is like the clearing nut, the soap nut, which clears water of its dirt and then itself settles down, or like the peel of the lemon fruit, which digests the food that we eat but itself cannot be digested and will come out. Or as Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj used to humorously say, it is like a schoolteacher whose students become big geniuses but he remains a teacher till his death; or it is like a ladder which enables us to go up but it itself remains down. The brahmakara vritti takes us to the largest, widest possible limits of mental perception but itself is extinguished like camphor, burning without any residue. The brahmakara vritti is the last vritti that the mind reaches, where it is not the ordinary mind that operates. It is not this asuddha manas, manas ridden with tamoguna and rajoguna, but the sattvic buddhi in the manas. The brahmakara vritti is not the vicious mind of raga-dvesha that is taken to its apotheosis. It undergoes a qualitative transformation until it reaches the state of omniscience. Knowledge of all things, power over everything is the character of the brahmakara vritti, and having reached this state of supreme aishvarya, it settles down to the spirit. In one sense this is called Ishvara, Hiranyagarbha, Virat merging into Brahman. These are the wonders of consciousness, the miracles of the spiritual process of meditation, the mysteries that we have to pass through when we enter into the path of the spirit.

We are likely to make a mistake of imagining that the changes and transformations that take place in meditation will occur only when we are inside the meditation hall, but it is not so. The activities of the mind are not confined only to the puja room or the meditation hall. They go on continuously everywhere as long as our mind is in contact with things, so that anything that happens anywhere, even a monkey jumping on us on the road outside, can be connected with what is taking place in our spiritual life. We should not think that these events are unconnected with our life. Somebody abusing us, spitting at us or causing us annoyance on the roadside or in a market is not outside the evolution of our spirit. It is part of our spiritual activity. We are not to make this blunder of thinking that the spirit is only inside the temple, the church, the puja room or the meditation hall. The spirit is everywhere. It is in the marketplace, it is in the bathroom, it is on the battlefield, it is in the skies, it is under the bowels of the earth. Therefore, any predicament whatsoever, at any time, anywhere in our life is connected with our spiritual life so that we cannot say that the outward events of life bear no significance to our spiritual advance.

We have daily oppositions, temptations, annoyances, difficulties and problems in our houses, in institutions, in offices, in the marketplace, in the shop, and they are connected with our personal life. The temptations and the oppositions that we are told about in scriptures, etc., as taking place in the path of the spirit of a seeker do not take place merely when we are closing our eyes. They will take place in the world outside in the midday sun because the spiritual life is not only inside our body, and it is not only a thought that occurs to our mind when we close our eyes in meditation. It is an event which takes place outwardly and inwardly in nature so that wherever we are, we are in a meditational field. While we may have been unconscious of it in the state of ignorance, we become conscious of it now when we are properly educated in the knowledge of the spirit.

The people that we see around us are a part of our spiritual evolution. Their contact with us and our contact with them, the events that take place in these contexts, the words that we speak, the words that are spoken to us, and the changes and reactions taking place in our own mind during these contacts are all processes of the spiritual nature of the seeker. We are not seeing people outside. They are only events that occur outside in our spiritual path. The persons that we see are only events; they are processes of nature. As we grow wiser and wiser, as we grow more and more educated, as we have greater insight into the truth of things, we will begin to realise more and more that the persons and things and events of the world outside are processes. They are not substances, things or solids unconnected with our life.

Then it is that we become stable. Then it is that we will be able to meditate even on the road. Even when we are speaking to a person, even when we are arguing in a courtroom we can be meditating because God is not absent in the court. The Spirit is there also. Even in the operation theatre, even in the court, even in the shop where we purchase things for our daily use, there we are in a state of meditation because our personality is entwined with every event in the world. It is inexplicably involved in every object, every person, every thing. As I already mentioned, we were ignorant of it earlier, and now we are conscious of it. It is not that a new truth has been created today. It was there even before, much before we were born, but now we are awakening ourselves to the existence of this fact. We are opening our eyes, getting up from a sleep, as it were, while earlier we were slumbering and mistaking things.

Hence, wherever we are, we are in a spiritual world. We are in a spiritual seat. All processes are spiritual processes, and all processes are connected with our personal life. There is nothing in this world which is unconnected with us, there is nothing in this world which bears no relation to us, and there is nothing in this world which will not influence us, positively or negatively; our wisdom consists in entering into the significance of these relations and transforming them into values that are contributory to our advance in meditation.

Ultimately, meditation is a universal process. It is an activity of the spirit taking place everywhere in nature. It is not a private work of our mind taking place only inside our body. The mind takes a universal form in meditation, and that is why it can effect or bring about changes even in outward circumstances, on account of the intensity of meditation. This is why when we speak, words become truth; when we think, thoughts get materialised when meditation intensifies itself. This is clear proof that consciousness is connected with everything in the world; otherwise, how can it effect material changes? How can words become true, etc.? How can thoughts get materialised? Nature and spirit are intertwined. They work in collaboration. Everywhere, under every circumstance, we are in a period of test. We are put to an examination, as it were, in every condition in which we are. It is not that we can finish the business of life and then go inside and enter into the path of the Spirit. There is no finishing the business and entering into the Spirit, etc. The business also is a part of the Spirit. It is the Spirit itself opposing us. The higher confronts us and seems to oppose us when we are not able to abide by its law.

The Bhagavadgita warns us about this: The higher Self may look like an enemy of ourselves. God Himself may be looking like an enemy and an unfriendly element when we are not able to abide by the law of the higher nature. Uddhared ātmanātmānaṁ nātmānam avasādayet, ātmaiva hyātmano bandhur ātmaiva ripur ātmanaḥ; bandhur ātmātmanas tasya yenātmaivātmanā jitaḥ, anātmanas tu śatrutve vartetātmaiva śatruvat (B.G. 6.5-6): Our higher nature presses itself forward as the law of nature, as the power of the Spirit, as the justice of God. Our own higher Self is pressing us forward to abide by law, and what displeases us in the outer world is our own Self appearing outwardly in nature. We are displeased by our own Self, not somebody else coming in and confronting us. There is nothing in the world except the Self. Idaṁ sarvam, yad ayam ātmā (B.U. 2.4.6), says Yajnavalkya. An eternal truth is declared. Idam brahma, idaṁ kṣatram, ime lokāḥ, ime devāḥ, imāmi bhūtāni, idaṁ sarvam, yad ayam ātmā: All this is the Self. Within and without is the ocean of the Self. There is nothing but that. No persons, no things, no humanity, nothing exists; therefore, when something opposes us, it is our own higher Self that is opposing us as the lower self. If somebody abuses us, calls us a dog, it is our own higher Self coming and attacking us for some reason. We cannot understand it because we have been limited to the body.

Hence, the Self alone exists, ultimately; everywhere it is the activity of the Spirit that is taking place universally, within and without, and the fact that we are confronting our own selves everywhere, positively and negatively as pleasure and pain, is a truth that will slowly be revealed to us. This will make us happy. Then it is that we will really become happy, and not before.

You will begin to realise that you are spread out everywhere, and you are seeing yourself as the friend and the enemy outside. When you see your friend or your enemy, you are only seeing one aspect of yourself. One uncomfortable part of yourself, your enemy, is seen there outside, and a very pleasurable aspect of yourself is seen as your friend, but both are your own self. Your naughty child outside, who is seen as your enemy, cannot be completely ignored. It has to be subsumed, brought back to yourself.

Thus, we come to this great, grand, stupendous realisation that the Self is this universe. What we confront is only the Self that seems to be the objects and persons, and so we are both pleased and displeased with our own Self in one form or the other. Ultimately, all the activity of the world is spiritual activity. When we come to this realisation, we shall be transformed into a state of freedom and happiness that knows no bounds. You will be happy merely because you are existing. Your very existence will give you happiness. “I am happy because I am.” That will be your experience. “I am happy not because I see things or possess things. I am happy because I am.” Look at this. Merely because you are, you are happy.

There is the realisation that you are a wonderful, transformed being. It is the vastness which comprehends the spirituality and the Selfhood of all things. Materiality and externality will vanish; persons and things will not be seen. It is here that you will be able to smile at all things. You will begin to smile at the worst of things because the worst of things is only a part of yourself projecting itself outwardly and coming back to you like a boomerang. Then it is that you will really smile—the smile that comes from your heart, not merely from your lips. This is the joy of the spirit, the joy of real insight that is gained in meditation. This is the wisdom which will be opened up as a wonderful treasure before the seeker of Truth.