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Everything About Spiritual Life
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 6: Space and Time

Last time I cited two verses of the Bhagavadgita: uddhared ātmanātmānaṁ nātmānam avasādayet ātmaiva hy ātmano bandhur ātmaiva ripur ātmanaḥ. Bandhur ātmātmanas tasya yenātmaivātmanā jitaḥ, anātmanas tu śatrutve vartetātmaiva śatruvat (Gita 6.5-6). We discussed the hidden meaning of these two verses – the raising of oneself by oneself.

We belong to two realms of being, the phenomenal and the noumenal, as philosophers generally tell us. The phenomenality of our life consists in our limitation to the conditions of space, time, and causation. We think of everything in terms length, breadth, and height. This is the quantitative assessment of the things of the world. Everything is a quantity – it has some substance, and it is measurable in terms of length, breadth, and height. This is one of the conditions to which our mind is subject. You cannot think of anything without attributing to it a quantity, some shape, which is a characteristic of our involvement in spatial characteristics. The mental involvement in space, whatever it be, compels us to think in terms of quantity – length, breadth, and height. This is the specialty of space.

We also attribute a quality to an object. It is not that a particular thing is only constituted of length, breadth, and height. It has some quality, a characteristic that determines its essentiality, individuality, and distinguishes it from other things. If a particular object has no specific quality of its own, it cannot be distinguished from other objects. So, the multiplicity of things we perceive in the world is due to the characterisation of things in terms of the qualitative measurement.

One thing is quantity, another thing is quality, and the third thing is relation. Everything is related to something else. We connect one thing with another, we compare one thing with another, contrast one thing with another. This process takes place automatically in our mind, without much of an effort. Every object has a mode or a condition of existence; it is in some situation, some context, some predicament. This is a philosophical finding, a way of analysis of experience, by which we note that quantity, quality, relation, and mode are inseparable from the object, whatever be that object. This conditioning of the mind is the phenomenality thereof.

You are forced to think only in certain ways, and you cannot think in any other manner. The compulsion of the mind to think in a particular manner divests it of its real freedom. Why should you imagine that a thing should be only of this nature, and it cannot be of any other nature? Apart from this fourfold characterisation of any object, there is also a fluxation, a change, and a mutability that we attribute to things. Nothing exists in the same condition for a long time. There is, if you would like to put it so, an evolution of things. There is a transition involved in the very existence of things, and because they are characterised by transitional process, they cannot even be said to be existing, truly speaking. A thing which changes its characteristics by the process of self-transformation, or the evolutionary process, cannot be said to be existing; it is only moving.

Many thinkers have opined that the world is a process, rather than a thing. It is a movement, rather than a substance. Everything changes; nothing is static in this world. This is how we are forced to think in our minds – all is change, and nothing is static. But, the awareness that everything is changing cannot be associated with the process of change itself. Awareness cannot change. If the bed of the river moves with the same speed as the river, you can imagine what will happen to the river. The river has a speed of movement because the bed itself does not move. Just imagine that the riverbed also flows with the same speed as the waters of a river; the consciousness of movement will not be there.

Change implies the observation that change obtains in this world of phenomena, but the observation itself cannot be attributed to the process of changing. Change cannot know that it is changing. There should be a witness, an observer, in order that the change can become a content of the observation. You see a river that is flowing; if you also start flowing together with the water, you cannot know that there is a flow at all. You say that a railway train is moving; but suppose you also are moving with the same speed along parallel lines, you will not know that the train is moving. So, movement cannot know movement. A motionless staticity – something which is to be called permanent – has to be there in order that the evolutionary process of the world can be conceived. Change implies changelessness.

The observation that all things are phenomenal is not an act of the phenomenal setup itself. Phenomenality cannot recognise itself as a phenomenal existence. There is a non-phenomenal reality which has to be accepted as the observing medium, so that you can know that the world is phenomenal. Everything is passing away.

The consciousness of death is an interesting theme which is to be studied carefully. We do not like to hear the word ‘death'. It is something abominable even to hear, because we associate this word with a negation of true being, a negation of your existence. Now, is it possible to negate existence? We have already noticed that existence cannot be nullified. It would be a contradiction to say that existence can be non-existent. Such a thing has no meaning. It is an absurd statement.

There is something in us which defies the process of dying. If dying is itself our real nature, we would not be frightened about dying because nobody can be afraid of what is normal and natural. There is an admixture of the noumenal and phenomenal character in our personality, due to which there is a fear of death. The phenomenal side tells us that nothing can be permanent. Everything has to pass away into something else. Everyone knows that no one can live eternally in this world. Knowing well that you cannot live long, why should there be a fear of death? Because it is an accepted fact that everything has to go. While the fact of everything going out of its present condition is accepted, still there is a fear and wish that it should not take place. Knowing well that everyone has to die, one does not want to die. Here is a contradiction in our feeling. We are trying to negative a process which is inevitable and unavoidable.

This contradiction arises on account of two factors involved in our own personal existence. There is a deathless noumenality in us, and also a dying phenomenality in us. That which is deathless in us – Pure Being, eternal in its nature – when it gets combined with the phenomenality of passing away, creates a feeling of discomfort. It is explicable only because of an admixture of two factors which enter into our mind, pressing us from two different directions, causing a third peculiar situation of fear of death to arise.

Fear of death is actually a wish that death should not take place, while everyone knows that it will take place. The physical or psychophysical involvement of our personality is what is called the phenomenality of our life, which is involved in time, but the Timeless Being, which masquerades in this process of the world, tells us that such a thing is not possible and it should not take place. It says that a perpetuity is something that would be welcome. Timeless Eternity, as it is called, is hidden beneath the phenomenality of the temporal or time process. You may say that God is hiddenly immanent in this world in some such manner as this particular context or situation.

Eternity is making itself present in that which is not eternal, namely the time process. Our asking for endless things, and endless things for all time to come – which is a peculiar characteristic in our aspirations – is accounted for by our involvement in space on the one hand, and in time on the other hand. We wish to defy time by our asking for deathlessness, or the longest life which will never end; and we wish to defy the limitations of space by our longing for endless possessions. There are two great desires in the human being – endless expanse and the possession that one can have. You would like to rule the whole Earth and the entire skies, if possible; and that power to rule the whole world and all space should also be a perpetual blessing. If you are the emperor of the whole world for only one second, that would not be a satisfaction to you. It is only fifty percent of the matter. The emperor of the world is in possession of the vastest comprehensiveness of objectivity, but temporality infests this possession and kills him. We do not wish to be finitely located to one little place with nothing to possess, but would like to have all the world for our own selves; at the same time, we would like to have the whole world for ourselves for endless time. Here, we are trying to overcome the limitations of space as well as time – an impossibility on the face of it, but our desires are really an asking for the impossible.

Here is a continuation of what I told you yesterday – the necessity for self-control or self-restraint. All desires are an asking for the impossible, because perpetuity in time is not possible as time is a process, and not an existence. Endless, unlimited possession also is unthinkable because there is an end for everything. Modern science tells us that even space is limited, and it is not unlimited as it appears to our visual perception. All desires involve a self-contradiction, asking for that which they should not ask for. “May I live long, for ever and ever, as long as the sun and the moon last, as long as the earth continues to exist.” This will be our prayer, if it could have any meaning. Jivema sharadah shatam shrinuyama sharadah shatam. We pray every day in our sandhya vandana process. Why is it sharadah shatam? It may be thousands of years also.

And you do not wish to live for an endless period of time like a non-entity in this world. Would you like to live like a nobody? That is a vacuous type of existence. Your endless existence should be filled with an endless inclusiveness, so that you have infinity and eternity, as it were, within yourself. Here, we have an indication of what we are really made of – potentially, at least. Infinity and eternity are dancing within our own hearts, but unfortunately are dancing to the tune of the clamours of the sense organs, which tell us something quite contrary to the inner aspiration potentially felt in that manner.

Self-restraint, self-control is necessary in order that we may not live in a fool's paradise where everything is apparently there, but nothing is really there. You cannot catch the wind and bind it; you cannot survive by catching hold of a piece of straw in a flooded river, nor can you have perpetual satisfaction in this world by catching hold of a moment of a fluxation which the universe is. Actually, we cannot even say that there is such a thing called ‘moment'. The moment also is a kind of three-dimensional conception that we introduce into the process of time. A process cannot be partitioned into bits; that is why we call it a process. It is a continuity, and not a divisibility.

Therefore, neither your asking for endless possession in terms of having all the objects of the world – the entire Earth itself – nor your desire for endless living in the time process are justifiable; and all desire is only this much. Hence, it would mean that desires are unjustifiable movements of the mind. They are illogical phenomena – unjustifiable, illogical, and infested with a kind of foolishness, we may say, from which we have to keep ourselves clean. In the Kathopanishad there is an anomalous statement, parāñci khāni vyatṛṇat svayambhῡs tasmāt parāṅ paśyati nāntarātman (Katha Up 2.1.1), which has two meanings. When God created the world, it appears that He punished us at the same time with a tendency to look outward, and never to look in a universal fashion. Our consciousness is infected – punished, as it were – with an impetuous tendency to see outside itself, and never look into its own Self.

Being becomes ‘becoming' when consciousness projects itself as a movement towards an object of sense. Being becoming ‘becoming' is a contradiction. Parāṅ paśyati nāntarātman: Nobody will know one's own Self. Everybody knows everything about the stars in the sky. You can count how many stars are there, but you cannot count your thoughts, or the number of your feelings inside. You can know many things about this world – historically, geographically, and so on – but you can know nothing about your own Self. Professors of knowledge are filled with information about everything in the world, everything except themselves. You may profess knowledge, but you cannot possess that knowledge which you actually require.

This is the reason why it is said again and again that only a great spiritual hero will be able to understand what is actually happening to himself. Kaś cid dhīraḥ pratyag-ātmānam aikṣad (Katha Up. 2.1.1.): A great hero only can understand what is actually happening within. Āvṛtta-cakṣur amṛtatvam icchan (Katha Up. 2.1.1): Desiring immortality, a hero on the spiritual path introverts his consciousness and sees what is happening inside. A big play or a game is being enacted in our own hearts, and we will find that whatever is outside in the world is also potentially present in our own selves. The Chhandogya Upanishad tells us that the entire space which is so big – all the stars, the clouds and the rain, the sun that shines, and the moon – all are inside the heart of a person; and this little heart is as wide as the space outside. How is it possible? How can a little heart that seems to be ours contain a vast space as big as all space?

Really speaking, there is no bigness about space. It is not vast, as it appears. It is a sensory illusion that is created by peculiar operation that defies our understanding, as infinite distance can be seen to the right side, as well as the left side. If you keep two mirrors on both sides and place yourself in the middle – you sit in one place, and keep one mirror to the right and one mirror to the left – you will find yourself infinitely projected on both sides. Distance, which is not there, can be seen as if it is there. There is no depth in the mirror; it is a flat surface, but it can project a phenomenon of endless distance, both ways. You can see it in museums. They have kept one image, and two mirrors are placed on both sides; like a Disneyland, they have kept mirrors on all sides so that you may not know where you are standing. You may hit your head against a mirror, thinking that it is a passage, and so on. Such a confusion can arise on account of a misplacement of context in the perception of things.

Really speaking, there is no depth in space, and there is no linear movement of time; they are illusions created by a peculiar kink in the operation of consciousness, as is the case in the dream world, for instance. The distance in spatial expanse in the dream world, and the time process to which you are subject in the dream world, are contained within the little waking consciousness into which the whole world of dream will be absorbed when you wake up. You will be wondering how your little skull – the little movement of your mind inside the brain in the waking life – could project a huge world of distance, the time process, and all the panorama of your waking life. The drama of consciousness is the real drama of life.

Knowing all these things, we should not be entangled in attachments of any kind, because all attachments, all desires, are something like the desires that a dreaming individual may evince in terms of objects that are visualised in dream. They are inside the waking consciousness only, yet the mind runs outside as if they are outside. Similar is the case with this waking world. There is an integrated cosmical structure. An organic Being is finally there, which somehow or other kicked us out. We have separated ourselves from this organic structure of the universe, and we behold it as if we are an observer of this world, of which we are really a part. This is the fall of man, as it is called in the scriptures. The fall of man is the isolation of the part from the whole, and if the part which is integrally connected with the whole appears to stand outside the whole and beholds the whole as an object of itself, what will it see except a topsy-turvy illusion, a delirious perception?

Therefore, all attractions and beauties of life, all things in the world which appear to be desirable, are concoctions. They are a peculiar erroneous evaluation of our consciousness, which has become topsy-turvy in its observations – the external looking like the internal, and the internal looking like the external. Knowing this situation, it is up to the seeker of truth to absolve oneself from these tricky operations of consciousness, which has wrongly visualised itself as isolated from the Whole to which it belongs.

The cosmos is one integrated completeness. We are not merely inside it; we are inseparable from it. The hands and the feet are not inside the body, and they are not outside the body. They are the body. In a similar manner, you can imagine that you are not outside the world, nor also are you inside the world, but you are the world. If that is the case, what are you looking at with your open eyes? You can imagine the error of sensory perception. A deep analysis is called for here in the interest any spiritual seeker.

You will find that this is a hard task, because the habit of consciousness to look outward and place itself in the limited context of an observer of the world is so strong. Indriyani pramathini. I mentioned to you yesterday that these sense organs have tortuous, impetuous, gale-like force, which are nothing but the avenues of the gushing of consciousness in an externalised fashion through an imagined space-time complex.

A spiritual seeker, therefore, is perpetually vigilant. Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, the great saint, had analogies, illustrations, and examples to make complicated things very clear. In one of his statements, he tells how you have to be cautious, and never be wool-gathering. Suppose it is heavily raining, and it is the middle of the night. You find a little shelter – a little thatched hut. You sit there just to have a little respite from the dark and this pouring rain outside. By the starlight, you see that a snake is crawling out of a hole, and another snake is by your side; and behind you is a scorpion. Everywhere you find little creatures coming, dreaded things showing their heads, and you are sitting there because you can't go out in the heavy rain. Will you sleep even though you are tired? The whole night you will be looking all around, from ten directions, to see what is happening. What happened to your fatigue, and your wish to sleep? It has gone because of the fear of what is there around you. You can give several examples of this kind where it is possible for you to get highly concentrated on a thing, and never forget it.

You may say that the mind is very mischievous, the senses are strong, desires are powerful, or that you are unable to concentrate your mind. These arguments arise on account of your lukewarm affection for the ideal that you are choosing. If you are walking on the road and thousands of people also are moving, vehicles are making noise, blowing horns, and there is all kinds of noise and different types of people pushing you, elbowing you from different sides, and you are carrying a large fortune in your pocket, you can never forget that the fortune is in your pocket. You may be tired, you may be thirsty, you have not eaten for several days, and you would like to rest, but that fortune in your pocket, which is your very life, as it were, will not permit you to think anything else except that. The value that you see in a thing will enable you to concentrate on it.

Perhaps, we cannot see enough value in living a spiritual life. There are so many mistakes we commit in the very thought of what spiritual life is. Often, we think it is an other-worldly life. We think that it is a movement towards a reality that is not in this world, that it is far away from us, that God is not in this world, and that we have to die here in order that we may reach the Absolute which is above this world. The transcendent character of the world, of felicity, God above in heaven – these ideas arise in us because of the limitations to which the sense organs are subject by the operation of space, time, and cause. God is not transcendent. He is neither outside nor inside, nor we can say that He is everywhere. All these ideas arise on account of definitions that we attribute to Him in terms of space, time, and causation. Neither is He inside, nor is He outside, nor is He above.

Where is He? It is an Indeterminate Being as such, which is your potential Being also. It is only here that you have the possibility of being immortal, deathless; everything else will die and pass away. If you know the value of attaining God, you will think nothing else in your mind. But you do not believe that there is as much value as the scriptures, saints and sages say because you think that there is some value in this world also. Who can say that this world is valueless? This pull from the world, which is apparently full of value, contaminates your love for God who is apparently transcendent to your sensory perception. Even the concept of God is vitiated by the involvement of the mind in space, time, and cause. That is why you find even a few minutes of meditation is very difficult. Neither can you do japa, nor chant the name of God, study, svadhyaya, or concentrate – nothing is possible because this world, which is working havoc in terms of our vicious activity of the sense organs, prevents you from knowing the true noumenal indivisibility of Being which is independent of and completely free from the phenomenal texture of your temporal personality.

Lots of time is to be devoted for this purpose. It is not a question of a few minutes of scratching your head. Spiritual life is a whole-time occupation. You will live for it, and die for it. Spiritual life is not one kind of activity among other activities in which you are getting involved: “I have to go to the factory, I have to go to the shop, I have to maintain a family, and I have to do meditation also.” So, you consider meditation on God as one among the many other activities of life, not knowing that it is not an activity at all. It is an inwardness of your Being to which you enter, and it comprehends all other things in your enumeration. The factory-going, working, amassing wealth, and all other things are included within this.

The indivisible Being, which is the God whom you are aspiring for in your meditations, is inclusive of all things. The mind will not accept this truth. It will say, “It is not so. The world is there. It is beautiful, and it can give a lot of satisfaction.” Who can say it is not? Do you think that this world is hell? The mind says, “It is like heaven. I can get whatever I want from this world,” and it gives a little corner in a limbo of your existence for the seat of God; and finally, you will find that God is completely excommunicated from this world. The world kicks God outside. As in Aesop's fable, the camel kicked the Arab out of the tent. This is what is happening to poor God. We have given Him a little niche of our life, grudgingly; we have no time for Him, but we do not understand that all time is included in Him.

Why do you want time for thinking God when it is Timeless Existence? Do you want time to think God? It is Pure Being as such; it is your existence. Do you want time to exist? How much time do you want to exist? It is a meaningless question. Existence does not require a time. If that is the case, the thought of God, meditation on God, or the absorption of your consciousness in God does not require time, because it is a timeless operation of your consciousness.

Knowing all this, withdraw your sense objects. Never be a slave to the temptations of the senses, and do not play second fiddle to the mind, which is just dancing to the tune of the sense organs. Be under the guidance of a good teacher, a master, a guide, because however much you may hear, your mind will not retain all these things. When you go out, 90% of this goes out. Nothing is there; the whole thing is washed off because the mind is powerful. Repeated study, continuous svadhyaya, satsanga with saints and sages, Gurupadesha, an honest search for God and a real wanting it is required. ‘Real wanting' is to be underlined. If you really want it, it has to come. As it is well said by a great master, “Ask, and it shall be given.” If you ask for it, it shall be given. If you don't ask, it is a mistake. So, be happy. God bless you.