(Spoken on June 20, 1996)
A visitor: I read that when the purpose of a person's life is fulfilled, then he dies.
Swamiji: The purpose of a person's life cannot be fulfilled in any life. A birth takes place due to some actions performed in the previous birth. The actions generate a force, like an electric current. That electrical force, which is the effect of actions done in the previous birth, becomes hard, congealed, into this form of body, and these energies which are produced by the actions of the previous birth want to release themselves. The way in which they release themselves is the action, the work that people do. Hence, people are not independently doing anything. They think like that, but really it is not so. They are forced by the potentialities of the karmas of the past. When the karmas of the past release themselves completely, the body becomes unfit for any more of this process. They cannot work through this body afterwards. It does not mean that the purpose is fulfilled. The purpose cannot be fulfilled because the karmas are very large in number, and so only a little portion of the karma is given for experience in one life. So when the particular portion that is allotted for experience in this body is withdrawn through exhaustion, the body is cast off; but the remainder of the karma, which also tries to manifest itself, takes another form of another type of body, not necessarily like this. It can be big or small, or whatever it is. And that is called rebirth.
Visitor: Why do monks wear this cloth?
Swamiji: It is not necessary. A monk can be without this cloth also. It is a social insignia, a symbol, to distinguish these people from the common public. A policeman wears a uniform because he is not like other people. He is doing some other work. His function is different, so to distinguish his function from the common public, he puts on this uniform. Similarly, we are a different type of people, unlike other people. So to distinguish ourselves in society from the common public, an insignia, a symbol, is put. It is not an essential thing. A policeman can do his work without this cloth, but yet it is necessary for the purpose of social concourse. So this cloth is not important. One can be a big monk even without this cloth, but socially it is necessary to distinguish himself from other common folk. That's all. It is a simple matter.
Visitor: What is the purpose of staying in an ashram?
Swamiji: You are not concerned with anybody in this ashram, so nobody troubles you, nobody talks to you, nobody says anything to you, whereas at your home the external is a part of your skin. You have to live in the midst of an atmosphere without concourse with which you cannot live. So you must be a good psychologist, and a strong understanding of your position is necessary. If the internal is stronger than the external or the external is stronger than the internal, there is no harmony between the external and the internal. Life is a harmony between what is outside and what is inside. If one thing is heavy, the balance on one side is tilting too much. Either you dislike the world or you dislike yourself. One of the two will come. If you are very strong inside, you will pooh-pooh the whole world as useless, and if the world outside is stronger, you will say, “I am a helpless man. I am very weak.” Neither the world nor you should go to the extreme of influencing the other. The two – the internal and the external – are not supposed to influence each other. They have to stand parallel, as the two wheels of a cart go parallelly and the two horses pull parallelly, one not influencing the other. They don't influence each other. Similarly, life in its essence is nothing but the parallel movement of the outer and the inner, the world and man, or God and the individual. This is my brief lecture to you.
Another visitor: Will India become a different country?
Swamiji: We are not thinking of India. We are thinking of the world as a whole because the world is an organic unity, and people are human beings everywhere, you may call them Westerners or Easterners. The distinction between the ways of thinking between the West and the East arises on account of various geographical, historical and ethical backgrounds. In the West especially, that conditioning factor makes people think in an empirical way, a sense-oriented way, an intellectual and logical way, an outward-looking way, and not feel the necessity to look inside the heart of a person. The need for it has not been felt. Everything looks all right. But in the East, originally, right from the time of the Upanishads and the Bhagavadgita, the emphasis was on a type of internal investigation.
Now, you have to understand the meaning of ‘internal'. It is not internal to the physical body of a person. Is it internal in the sense of pure universal subjectivity. I have to endorse and qualify this word ‘subjectivity' by the word ‘universal'. By merely saying ‘subjectivity', it will become a kind of internality that is not approved by psychologists such as Carl Jung. He made a distinction between the extrovert and the introvert. I am not speaking of the introvert, not even of the extrovert. The introvert is as bad as the extrovert because they are both a partial way of thinking. Now, when I speak of the internal way of thinking as adumbrated by the ancient masters, what I mean is an internality operating the whole cosmos. There is a soul in the universe, as there is a soul in the human being. That central controlling power, which decides the movement of every atom in the world and keeps all the atoms in a state of cohesion so that we have a universe rather than chaos, should be considered as universally internal to the operation of the so-called external appearance of the universe. Religions call this course as God. We call it the Absolute.
The union, the communion or even the attempt at the union of one's own internal nature with this universal centre is called a spiritual quest, and spirituality does not mean a performance externally. It does not mean temple-going, reading scriptures or doing any kind of ritual. It is an internal necessity felt for the attunement of the deepest subjectivity of a person with the universal subjectivity of the Absolute. If this is possible, spirituality succeeds. Inasmuch as this is the ultimate truth, it has to succeed because truth always succeeds, though it takes its own time. There is an old saying, “God's mill grinds slowly but finely.” God has a mill which grinds everything, but He will grind it very slowly, not quickly as we do. He does everything in perfection, and so it takes time to achieve the perfection through the process which today we call the evolutionary process.
The evolution of the universe is from greater externality to greater and greater internality in the manner that I explained to you, culminating in universality. Universal consciousness, identical with universal existence, is the centre of spirituality. This is God-consciousness. This is perfection of not merely the human being; the whole universe is aiming at this through the universal process. It has to succeed one day or the other. But the onslaught of the sense organs – the power of the empirical pressure exerted by the necessity to include the desires of the senses – many a time takes an upper hand, and in the process of history it sometimes looks as if materialism succeeds. But it cannot succeed. One day or the other the cycle will come back.
Therefore, one day everything will be all right. If God is there, everything will be all right in due time, in the manner necessary, slowly, gradually, through the developmental process of the evolution of consciousness. You have to be very optimistic, positive and expectant, and sure that everything will be all right one day. If God is all right, you also will be all right. The only thing is, you must have the courage to feel strength inside that the great truth is working through the heart of everybody, big or small, poor or rich, and it has to succeed one day or the other. Only it is a question of time. So all is well, my dear boy. All is well, no problem.
Visitor: But you do agree that this is the time of materialism?
Swamiji: Materialism sometimes has the prerogative of gaining the upper hand. Once upon a time, such as during the time of the Upanishads, the Bhagavadgita, etc., there was pure internality. Then it became externality, and finally it will become universality. It is a question of time. You should not expect it tomorrow.
Visitor: There was a time, at least to me, when man had reached a much higher level than today. So there has been a descent.
Swamiji: There were people in the East as well as in the West who have plumbed the depths of being, but they were in ancient times. Afterwards the whole thing was clouded by a further development in a more and more exteriorised fashion.
Visitor: So you agree with me.
Swamiji: But if it has come down, it has to go up also, so no problem.
Visitor: I want to learn some of your tenets.
Swamiji: What I told you just now is my tenet, and what I told you just now is not Hinduism.
Visitor: It's yourself.
Swamiji: You may call it myself.