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Question and Answer Session 2
by Swami Krishnananda

(Given on April 15, 1982.)

Question: Worshipful Swamiji Maharaj, please explain reason and feeling.

Swamiji: This question was asked by Arjuna at the beginning of the Seventeenth Chapter of the Bhagavadgita, though he did not say 'reason' and 'feeling'; he said 'feeling' and 'scripture'.

A great metaphysician, a British philosopher who wrote a great book called Appearance and Reality, wrote in his Preface, “Metaphysics is the finding of reasons for what we believe upon instinct.” You argue only on the basis of what you feel, so the reason seems to be a handmaid to your feelings. You cannot argue against your feelings, as you know very well. While reason is a very necessary and useful instrument, it cannot go counter to your feelings. In a way, you may say feeling rules reason like a housewife rules the family.

Question: Can reason create feeling, and vice versa?

Swamiji: Reason and feeling have to blend together. Reason does not mean arid logic minus feeling, nor does feeling mean emotionalism minus understanding. Both are partialities of the personality. You are not supposed to be sentimental and weak in your emotions under the impression that you are devoted, nor are you supposed to be a feelingless armchair philosopher imagining that you are a metaphysician or a logician.

Reason has to marry feeling, and they should be a single, undivided family. Feeling is in the heart, the reason is in the brain, and they come together in intuition. Intuition is the union of the head with the heart. When feeling and reason come together, there is no disparity between them. You do not argue, and you do not feel; you are, that is all. Your perceptions, judgments and opinions will then be the outcome of what you are, and not what you think and feel. Thus it is that pure unimaginative, unfeeling reason will not succeed. It will come a cropper, come in conflict with other people who can also argue in the same way. Every reason has a counter reason. Anything can be proved, and also disproved. Mere crying, weeping, emotional sentimentalism without understanding the pros and cons of circumstances is not a virtue. They have to be blended together in equal proportions—50% and 50%—so that it is an undivided brotherhood.

Question: Sadhakas, devotees and disciples cannot change their nature; hence, the lower nature remains after so many years of satsanga. Then what is ananya-prokte?

Swamiji: They have not done Guru seva. They are only machines, bulldozers. A bulldozer can go to a Guru one thousand times, but it is not going to be different. It will crush the Guru himself. Many Gurus have been crushed by disciples because they are bulldozers, so this kind of discipleship is no good. Nobody has a hundred percent faith in any Guru. This is a matter to be expected. You always condition the Guru to your own mould. “If this is the way in which the Guru will speak and behave, then okay. Otherwise, I will go to another Guru.” Hence, you are the Guru, rather than that person. There is a hypocritical attitude of disciples when they approach Gurus, which is a very sorry state of affairs. It is not possible to gain any spiritual experience because there is a suspicious attitude at the back of even the self-surrender of the disciple. I think I cannot give any other answer. We have to blame our own selves.

Question: When I sit for meditation, the mind, like a monkey, jumps away. On rare occasions a few seconds of concentration can be achieved, and that is peaceful, but mostly it is difficult to contemplate. Kindly advise how to achieve concentration.

Swamiji: It is not possible to concentrate fully on anything for which you have not got true love and affection. Wherever your heart is, there your thoughts are, your mind is, your reason is, and you yourself are. It is not true that we have a full hundred-percent affection for anything in this world. Therefore, we have not got real friends in this world. We have only conditioned friends. For certain purposes, under different conditions, so-and-so is my friend. When the conditions are lifted, the friendship ceases. Likewise, the spiritual concentration that we are practising on something is not an object of whole-souled devotion. We have multifaceted love. It is not possible to focus all love only in one direction because there are what we call responsibilities, commitments, etc. We are unable to integrate them into one focus.

There is a great difficulty in every one of us. We cannot integrate our occupations into one activity. They appear to be different activities. The work that you do in your hospital or school or college or in your office does not seem to go hand in hand with your duties in the family, and so on. But they have to be somehow brought together because they are connected with the vital purpose for which you are existing. You have to understand that everything you do has some connection with the ultimate purpose, though it is not easy to discover that they are so connected. It requires a little bit of reasoning. You take a cup of tea. What connection has it got with God-realisation? Why should you purchase a train ticket and travel to some place? God-realisation and the train ticket seem to have no connection, but you know there is some connection. Everything that you feel must be done has a connection with that for which you are living.

This is an art of integrating various occupations, even various affections. You may have varieties of loves and affections which may all appear to be different from one another, but they are all capable of being brought together into a single focus if you know the reason behind these affections. “I love my money, my property, my brother and sister; I love my status, my respected position, and one hundred things.” They appear to be one hundred things, but they are not really a hundred things. They are like branches of a tree, ramifications of a central root and stem. It requires a little analysis to know how your affections can be brought together into a single focus of concentration, and then you realise that the particular thing on which you are engaged in concentration is not outside the other things which attract your attention. This so-called thing—your Ishta-devata, your God, whatever you call it—is capable of bestowing upon you the same satisfaction that other objects which attract your attention are also capable of doing.

One anna is included in one rupee. When you get one rupee, one anna is already there, one paisa is there. You need not say that you have lost one paisa because you have got one rupee. It is there inside. The ocean contains all the drops in all the rivers. The whole is inclusive of the parts. Here is a crucial point. The object on which you are concentrating, at least from the spiritual point of view, is not one among the many things in the world. It is a whole which contains all the things in the world. This is hard to concentrate upon because you have always a misconception that even God, what to speak of other things, is something different from other things which distract your attention. God, the object of your meditation, is a total. It is a whole which also includes the other thing which distracts your attention. So why should the mind go here and there? Please have some common sense.

If you have full faith in the truth that the object, so-called, on which you are concentrating spiritually, is inclusive of every other thing for which you also have some affection, with which you are concerned, then the mind will not jump from place to place. When you have got the whole, you need not think of the parts. The parts are included in the whole. This requires training under a Guru to think as a whole and not bit by bit. Then concentration is successful.

Question: When everything is predestined, how is an individual instrumental and responsible for his or her karma? Kindly enlighten us about the compatibility between prarabdha, or destiny, and voluntary karma.

Swamiji: This question is wrongly put. You mention compatibility between two things, as if they are two things. They are not two things. It is one law operating. There is no such thing as predestination, and so on. They are all wrong names that we give to a particular way in which the law of the universe operates. This has been mentioned in a half verse of the Panchadasi of Sage Vidyaranya. Īśaḥ puruṣa kārasya rūpeṇāpi vivartate (Pan. 6.177): There is one law operating everywhere. If you want to call it predestination, you can call it that; there is no objection. If you want to call it God's will, call it by that name. If you call it by any other name, okay, satisfy yourself. But you are a part of that operative area, and you forget that. So there is no question of compatibility and incompatibility. You are imagining that you are outside the world, and then this question arises.

When you say 'God's will', 'predestination', etc., you are thinking of some universal law operating, and you are feeling that there is a conflict between your will and that so-called universal will. You have already imagined that you are outside the world, that you are outside God's realm. God thinks something, you think another thing, and what is the compatibility between the two? You cannot think something independent of God's will because that would imply that you are outside God's existence, outside the creation of God. So we have a prejudice in our heads, a bifurcated thinking in our minds, cutting off subject from object, the world from the individual, etc.

It is on the basis of this imagined bifurcation, or disparity between the thinker and the thought, that we ask questions of this kind. The question cannot arise, will not arise, and no answer will be given if you accept that you cannot stand outside the creation of God. Then you yourself will answer this question for yourself. If you imagine you are outside, well, you have to pay a heavy price for this mistake. I don't think that any answer is required for this question because this question is wrongly put, under a false assumption that man is outside God, outside the world, outside the universe, which is not the case. And what I have told you earlier explains this matter. They are one thing only, not two things.

Question: Yesterday Swamiji replied that for kama jaya one should stay with his Guru. Did Swamiji mean physically being with his Guru, as is only possible for a fortunate few?

Swamiji: If it is possible to live physically, you are thrice blessed, and if you have such an opportunity, don't miss that opportunity. If you cannot live physically with your Guru for a protracted period, live for as long a period as possible, even if it be for three days or one day. If that also is not possible, keep correspondence with your Guru, if that is practicable and permissible. If that also is not possible, meditate on the form of your Guru, and his blessing will come. But I do not think that it is totally impossible. You have some guide in this world whom you respect and adore, and it will not be entirely impossible to contact that person. Your difficulties will be obviated by that particular person whom you have chosen as your guide. He will say, “This is what I prescribe for you under these circumstances.” This question should not be put to me; it should be put to your own Guru, whoever the Guru is.

Question: What is samarpana-bhava? How can it be practised?

Swamiji: Samarpana-bhava is the spirit of self-dedication. You offer yourself. It is just as when you do samarpana of plantain and food, etc., to Gurudev and God in your worship, but here you do not offer material or physical objects to your deity. You say, “I am here, and everything that is with me also is here.” In this way King Janaka offered himself to Yajnavalkya, the Master: “Here I am, and everything that is mine is at your disposal.” Shivaji, the great ruler, told Ramdas, “Here I am, your servant. Do whatever you like with me.” This complete offering of oneself to the deity that you are adoring as your God is samarpana, also known as atma-samarpana.

Question: Should the sadhaka stick to one system of yoga, or should he combine all the systems in his practice?

Swamiji: It is better to combine all the systems integrally. However, again this is a kind of medical prescription. The doctor alone can tell the patient what medicines he should take. In one condition of your mind you may have to practise one particular technique for some time, and in another condition of your mind you may have to synthesise. “Today you take this capsule; tomorrow you take this, and that one also,” the doctor will say. And the third day you take three of them, and the fourth day you stop them all. So the doctor knows the type of medicine that is to be taken by the patient under different conditions of the body. Again, it is a question of a purely personal relationship between the Guru and the disciple. A generalised, universal answer cannot be given. But if you insist on a universal answer, it is better to combine all the factors in an integrated way, as perhaps the Bhagavadgita proclaims in its great gospel.

Question: If God is all in all and is the indweller in our hearts, then who is doing all the papa or punya? Who is responsible for the karmas?

Swamiji: All the punyas, virtues, are done by God, and the papas, sins, are done by you only. Nādatte kasyacit pāpaṁ na caiva sukṛtaṁ vibhuḥ, ajñānenāvṛtaṁ jñānaṁ tena muhyanti jantavaḥ (B.G. 5.15): God has no connection with virtue and vice, good and bad, beautiful and ugly. These things do not exist there. You will be surprised to hear this, how they do not exist. I will give an illustration. When Bhagavan Sri Krishna showed the Visvarupa to Arjuna, what did he see there? Did Arjuna see cow dung or a scorpion crawling and stinging somebody, somebody attacking somebody, very horrible sights? He saw that all these so-called ugly, evil things are connected in such a way that they look like a complete picture where there is no disparity, contrast and contradiction between one and another.

If one limb of the body operates upon another limb of the body in a particular manner, you cannot call it a virtue or a vice. It does not do a good thing or a bad thing. When I take a morsel of food and put it into my mouth, it is not a great charity that I am doing. And if my tongue is bitten by my teeth, it is not an evil act that has been done by the teeth. If I put the food into another man's mouth, you may say it is a virtuous act, but if I put it into my own mouth, it is not a virtue. So if I bite somebody, it is an evil act, but if I bite my own tongue, there is nothing to say.

This is a very peculiar, picturesque answer I am giving to this question. Because there is outsideness, externality, you are having this problem in your mind. God is a complete whole. Again I am coming to the point: You are included in that, so you cannot put such questions. You are raising questions because you have already placed yourself outside God's creation and are unnecessarily fighting with God. What is your duty towards me, and what is my duty towards you? This was the question Arjuna raised, and Sri Krishna had to struggle hard to hammer upon the mind of Arjuna that one Being operates universally, and the other people who are doing are not outside. So this punya-papa should not arise. The question should not arise.

This is a highly advanced answer, but for tentatively convincing your mind I will say that when you do a papa, you do not believe God is doing everything. You are a hypocrite of the first water. You have no faith that God is everywhere. You first deny God, and only then do you commit the evil. Unless you deny God's existence, you cannot do wrong. So why do you say God is doing everything? You are trying to deceive God by uttering a statement like this. If God is doing everything, you cannot have the feeling that you are doing something. Then why does this question arise? When you say you are doing something and this question arises, you have automatically denied the omnipresence of God, so you are a double dealer, a hypocrite. This question is a hypocritical question. It is not honest, I am very sorry to say.

Question: What is the difference between so ham and tat tvam asi?

Swamiji: They are practically the same. So ham means, “I am he.” Perhaps one is telling one's own self, “I am that.” And tat tvam asi means telling somebody else, “You are that.” So they are practically the same thing: I am that, you are that. They mean one and the same thing.

Question: It is said that a dip in the holy Sarayu confers mukti. Is it so?

Swamiji: Maybe. As I am not competent to answer this, I should not say anything about it. When great Masters have said that, you have to believe it; otherwise, don't bother about it. Why are you taking a dip there? Things which cannot be demonstrated should not be attempted. If you have faith, take a dip. What do you lose? Take a dip. If you can get merit, it is well and good. If you don't get it, you have not lost anything.

Question: It is said that God made this body that is man, and entered into it. He also takes embodiments as Avataras. What is the difference between a jiva, an Avatara, and Brahman?

Swamiji: A jiva is unconscious of its relationship with Brahman. A jiva is a spark of Brahman itself which is unconscious that it is a spark of the Supreme Being. An emperor's son who thinks he is a shepherd because he lives with shepherds is something like the jiva, which does not know that it is heir apparent to that great heritage. An Incarnation is a self-conscious embodiment, self-conscious in the sense that the particular embodiment called an Avatara is conscious of its relationship with the Ultimate Truth. An embodiment which is conscious of its relationship with the supreme Brahman is an Avatara. The very same embodiment which is not so conscious, and thinks it is only the body, is the jiva. This is the answer to the question.

Question: As you said, one does not have absolute faith in anyone, including one's Guru. Then what is the process of surrendering completely?

Swamiji: In the course of time you will find yourself prepared for this great act of surrender. No one can say how knowledge arises in a person. Somehow it comes. Things seem to happen, rather than the other way around, that things are being done. It does not appear that things are being done by people. Things are happening somehow or other by the operation of certain powers. Likewise, you cannot create the spirit of self-surrender in yourself by effort, because the spirit of self-surrender is the spirit of a higher consciousness, the awakening into the existence of a larger reality which includes your own being, and the question is how that larger consciousness arises in you. It is something like asking, “How do you wake up from sleep?” No one knows how we wake up from sleep. We wake up. Something happens. Likewise, by the operation of the universe, by the mystery of God's creation, a circumstance will be created by which you will be brought in contact with a suitable medium called the Guru. That spirit also will arise in you in the course of time. However, from your part, as far as you are concerned now, you may sincerely aspire for that great day. “Oh God, when will that blessed day come to me?” Pray like this. It will come.

Question: How can one know that the Guru is perfect?

Swamiji: You need not have any Guru. A person who has a question like this need not have a Guru because that person himself is greater than anybody else.

Question: How can one be so sure of others when he is not sure of himself?

Swamiji: Certainly so. When you are not sure of yourself, how can you be sure of others? So be sure of yourself first. Physician, heal thyself first.

Question: I request you to kindly throw some more light on your statement that the world is non-three-dimensional. Can we call it a zero-dimensional or an infinitely dimensional space-time continuum?

Swamiji: You can call it either way. Zero and infinity perhaps mean one and the same thing. When you are nothing, you will be everything, and when you are everything, you will be nothing. These are strange statements which look like contradictions, but these contradictions show that all extremes meet at one point. So your statement is correct. You may say it is zero, or you may call it infinite.

Question: It is said that not a blade of grass moves without the will of God. It is also said that man is the creator of his destiny. If everything is done by Him, how is man responsible for his destiny, and why does he enjoy the fruit of his actions?

Swamiji: Man is the creator of his destiny to the extent he is able to be conscious that God is doing everything. The consciousness that God is doing everything itself is the greatest achievement of man. Again we are coming to the question of how this consciousness arises. We cannot answer this question. Even Acharya Sankara did not answer this question of how knowledge arises in the jiva. He said it is by the grace of Ishvara. Īśvarānugrahādeva puṃsāmadvaitavāsanā (Avadhuta Gita 1). This is the first verse of the Avadhuta Gita of Sage Dattatreya: By the grace of the Almighty, the consciousness of the unity of things arises.

If you are conscious of good and evil, you are responsible for what you do. Adam and Eve became responsible when they were conscious that they were naked. One felt “I am a man”, the other felt “I am a woman”, and they ran here and there to cover themselves with bark. When the great Almighty called Adam, he said, “I cannot come, my dear Master. I am naked.” We have eaten the fruit of the forbidden tree. The knowledge of good and evil is the reason why such questions arise in us. When you are aware that God does everything, you will not be able to think that there is such a thing as good and evil, right and wrong, or even of your own existence. Then your responsibility will merge into the will of God. The will of the citizen of the country is in harmony with the will of the nation. They are not opposites. The citizen does not fight with the nation or the national spirit; when they fight, it is a failure of democracy.

Likewise, the destiny of man is the same as the will of God. We are unable to understand this harmony between the two because we are somehow or other accustomed to think that we are different from God, outside the universe, a question I tried to broach yesterday. The difficulty is in our thinking itself. So to the extent you are conscious that you exist independently, to that extent your responsibility arises. To the extent that you are able to rise above this consciousness that you exist independently, to that extent you have no responsibility in this world. God will take care of you. Your responsibility arises to the extent you are conscious that you are, so if you are there, you have a responsibility. If you are not there, you have no responsibility. First of all, decide whether you are there or not.

Question: Kindly suggest some good commentaries on the Gita in English and Hindi.

Swamiji: For a medium understanding, for commonplace people, I should say the best commentary available both in English and in Hindi is the discourse on the Bhagavadgita by the great sage Jnaneshwar Maharaj. It is a very handy compendium, very easy to understand and very thrilling, stimulating. It is available both in Hindi and in English.

There are different approaches to the Gita; otherwise, there would not be so many commentaries. Those who feel that the gospel of the Bhagavadgita is an urge to intense altruistic servicefullness and activity would like Tilak's Gita. More rational minds who are metaphysical in their outlook may like Sri Aurobindo's Essays on the Gita. Those who are practical and are not bothered much about theories would like the commentary of Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj. I think, for the present, this is sufficient.

Question: In the present-day world one often finds that his colleagues or competitors in service or business achieve status, power or wealth by adopting unfair and unethical practices. Society not only accepts them, but accords them recognition and respectability. This deflects others and tempts them to do wrong things. What is your advice in such situations?

Swamiji: I agree with what you say. It may deflect you into wrong directions when you find the whole atmosphere around you is moving in a wrong direction. So what can I tell you? If possible, do not place yourself in the company of those people; be away from that atmosphere which deflects you or drags you, if practicable. If it is not practicable, develop a little strength of mind to see that you are not affected by that atmosphere outside. But even here, you might find a difficulty. You may be in untold difficulties if you try to stick to your guns of righteousness, virtue, etc. You may lose your job or get harassed by your superiors. Your boss may be taking bribes, and he will turn you out if you don't take bribes. This may be your difficulty.

So here is a choice which you have to make personally between what is, in your opinion, good for you, in spite of intense suffering. It may even be to the point of complete ruin of one's physical and social welfare. Or if you want to accommodate yourself, you are the best judge. I cannot answer you; the question is for yourself. Your circumstances will tell you what you ought to do. Each circumstance should be taken as an isolated unit, and there is no general answer. Sometimes you have to sacrifice something, and if you do not want to sacrifice, then resign your job and cultivate your land and be an independent person. There are some people who did that. They resigned government jobs as they did not want to acquiesce in conditions which they did not respect. But all people cannot do that. Well-to-do people may do that; ordinary people cannot do that, so they may have to suffer. Choose between this predicament of undergoing great suffering because you choose righteousness, or acquiesce in it, eat a little bitter thing, and suffer its consequences.

However, these questions have to be individually considered; each case may vary one from the other in its details, though in generality they may look alike. Each case should be taken independently and examined.

Question: How can I distinguish which is due to prarabdha and which is due to kriyamana karma in day-to-day life?

Swamiji: It is said that what you do deliberately is your own kriyamana karma and what happens of its own accord is prarabdha karma, though sometimes the prarabdha may be behind your kriyamana karma also. The prarabdha may be impelling you to do something; that is a different matter. Generally speaking, if some event takes place without your involvement in it, that may be regarded as a consequence of your prarabdha. But if you deliberately enter into it and purposely do it with premeditation, that is kriyamana karma. Where your egoism and personality are involved and you consciously do it, you should consider it as a fresh karma. Where you are not involved in it but somehow things happen even without you expecting it, that may be considered as prarabdha.

Question: Some days we progress in the spiritual path, but it reduces gradually. What is the reason?

Swamiji: The reason is old karma, bad company and the pressing circumstances of life, all combined.

Question: Why is it written in the Vedas that women are not entitled to pronounce Om and read Vedas? Is it correct?

Swamiji: It is not said in the Vedas. Women are not barred. There were great women who were masters, geniuses, Vedic pundits. It was a later development which arose on account of social circumstances. It was an unfortunate social occurrence which has become a kind of Vedic sanction, as you have tried to put it. Vedas, or anything connected with the Vedas, were regarded as very sacred. It appears to me to be a purely traditional orthodoxy connected with the four days of the women's cycle which later on, somehow or other, got deteriorated into a feeling that women belong to somebody, that they do not possess anything, and it is only a man that possesses. Why this philosophy arose is for the historians to try to find out.

However, these social questions apart and political circumstances aside, the question concerning the Vedas seems to be purely a question of sanctity associated with the Vedas and unholiness associated with these four days. Otherwise, there should be no reason why the Vedas should not be recited by women. They were really recited and studied by women, and there were occasions when even upayana ceremonies were performed by pundits who were women. So it is purely social and circumstantial, and not spiritual.

Question: Kindly explain the process of japa for a beginner. They say one mala of japa on the bank of Mother Ganga has one hundred times the force. Is it a fact?

Swamiji: Yes, yes. It is true. Not only on the bank of Mother Ganga, but any holy place has a vibration of its own. A particular spot where a great man lived vibrates with the spiritual prowess of that person who lived there, like Uttarakhand for instance. Mother Ganga, of course, is a holy river and has its own vibrations. Therefore, the vibrations that you are trying to set up within yourself by chanting the holy mantra get accentuated, enhanced in their intensity, and receive additional power by the atmosphere which is already charged with the vibrations of these holy forces.