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Everything About Spiritual Life
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 10: Living in Harmony through Sacrifice

The organismic concept of the universe is given to us in the eighth chapter of the Bhagavadgita in two verses: Akṣaraṁ brahma paramaṁ svabhāvodhyātmam ucyate, bhūtabhāvodbhavakaro visargaḥ karmasaṁjñitaḥ (8.3); adhibhūtaṁ kṣaro bhāvaḥ puruṣaś cādhidaivatam, adhiyajñoham evātra dehe dehabhṛtāṁ vara (8.4).

These two verses of the Bhagavadgita are very important cosmologically and from the point of view of an assistance to meditation. It is not easy for the mind to conceive of a total completeness. It has never been our habit to take anything completely. Everything is only partially taken notice of, never completely. We move from one titbit to another titbit, and a holistic complete view is quite alien for our mind. Something is grabbed and something is abandoned. Whenever we conceive of any particular object, at the same time we have excluded other things which do not come under the purview or gamut of this description. As we have noted to some extent previously, meditation is not a partial view of things. It is a complete picture of the whole structure of creation that we have to present before our mind.

There is the Supreme Absolute, aksharam brahma. It is all in all. Imperishable Absolute is aksharam brahma. Then, we are also here. Whatever be our acquiescence in the finality of the nature of the Absolute Being, we also seem to be persisting together with it: “I am there to conceive the Absolute; I want to reach it; I do meditation for attaining it; I persist together with my aspiration for that all-in-all Absolute.” This persisting individuality is the svabhava or the nature of individuality as such, mankind as such, or anything for the matter of that. The self-assertion of a particular individual is the svabhava of that individual. It is natural for an individual to assert itself as a self-complete reality – wrongly, of course, because no individual finite existence can be regarded as complete in itself. Yet, each one of us regards our own self as complete – so much so that this wrong notion of one's own completeness rises to such an extent that we become arrogant, very proud of our strength: “I am all in all. Who is there before me?” Such bragging is not uncommon among people who take the standpoint of this erroneous individuality, this finitude which assumes the infinite arrogance of an all-comprehensiveness.

However, we have to accept in the process of our analysis that there is an individual who is aspiring to unite itself with the Absolute, and that individual has its own constitutive nature. That unavoidable constitutive nature of the individual is called svabhava, natural disposition. Akṣaraṁ brahma paramaṁ svabhāvodhyātmam ucyate. Here, adhyatma is the individual selfhood of mine or yours or anybody else's, which has its own characteristic self-assertive finality assumed by itself.

Of course, there is a great contradiction on the very surface of it because, on the one hand, this finitude, this individual aspires for the Absolute and accepts that the Absolute is all in all; yet, at the same time, this ‘me' persists as that which seeks to unite itself with the Absolute. Who is going to unite itself with the Absolute when the Absolute is all in all? This question will not arise before this inveterate assertiveness of the individual, which somehow or other accepts the finality of the Absolute and also the finality of one's own self: “I have to be there in order that I may accept the nature of the Absolute.” For the time being, tentatively, we may take for granted that there is this individual aspiring for the Absolute, whose nature is self-assertion in this manner: svabhāvodhyātmam ucyate.

Bhūtabhāvodbhavakaro visargaḥ: There is the cosmological emanation of the evolutes of the universe from this Absolute Brahman. The Supreme Absolute is what is called Ontological Being – Being as such. From this Being as such, which is what we call the Absolute Parabrahman, the universe is supposed to emanate. This process is cosmological, a gradual coming down from the universal transparency of completeness to a gradual particularisation and condensation into objectivity of experience. The Universal objectivises itself in creation, the ‘I' becomes the ‘thou', the subject becomes the object. In the earliest of stages, this subject becoming the object is not just identical with the psychological subject of an individual becoming empirically an object in cognition or sensory perception. The universal subject envisages itself as a universal object. Universal self-alienation may be the proper description of this condition, though unthinkable for us at this moment.

What is the first evolute? Space, time and vibration are regarded as the first evolutes of the Supreme Being, which is, in a different way, given to us in the second chapter of the Taittiriya Upanishad. Tasmād vā etasmād ātmana ākāśas sambhūtaḥ (2.1.1.): From that Universal Selfhood of the Absolute, akasha, the so-called vacuous emptiness before us, manifested itself. Ākāśad vāyuḥ: The vibration set up in the constituent components of space became wind, air. Friction caused by air becomes heat, vāyor agniḥ. The condensation of this heat becomes water, anger āpaḥ. The solidification of water becomes earth, adbhyaḥ pṛthivī. In this manner, gradual condensation takes place in the cosmological scheme of creation. So there is the Absolute, akshara brahma, then the individual svabhava or the nature of self-assertiveness on the part of the aspiring consciousness, then the emanation of all the gradational evolutes, to which we have already made reference in our study of the Sankhya categories, etc.

Karma is the word used here in the Bhagavadgita to designate this cosmic emanative process. Here, it is not referring to the work that is done by a person, which is also called karma. It is a cosmic emergence of a force that disperses itself in all directions, something like the Big Bang, as the modern scientists tell us – a sudden vibration, like the bindu or the nada of the tantriks – and the split of the original vacuous apparent universality into a dual conception of the right and the left, the subjective and the objective, that which causes and that which is caused. This is the karma philosophically conceived, as mentioned in this verse of the Bhagavadgita, visargaḥ karmasaṁjñitaḥ.

Adhibhūtaṁ kṣaro bhāvaḥ.  The entire objective universe is called adhibhuta. It is material in its nature. In the language of the Bhagavadgita, the material universe is called adhibhuta in this particular verse. Puruṣaś cādhidaivatam. There is a Universal Man gazing at all this process that is taking place, which we have in a most dramatic manner described in the Purusha Sukta of the Rigveda. The Great Being, I-am-what-I-am, the One Man, the Cosmic Man, the Only Man, superintends over all this process of creation, in all manner, whatever it be. The Supreme superintendence over this process of creation is done by the Absolute itself putting on the role of the Purusha, as he is called.

Adhiyajñoham evātra. Then there is a field of activity, which is called yajna. In Indian cultural parlance, all activity is a sacrifice. This is something peculiar that you have to note. Everything is sacrifice, whatever be the work that you do. It is a sacrifice because a part of you gets alienated in the performance of your work. What part of you gets alienated, in what direction, will be the subject of the fourth chapter of the Bhagavadgita, which is something very interesting and detailed. What is the alienation? What happens to you when you do work? Are you doing a sacrifice in doing work?

There are two concepts of sacrifice. “I have sacrificed a lot for this purpose.” People sometimes speak like that, by which they mean that they have lost much of their legacy or heritage for some purpose. “Do you know how much sacrifice I have done for this?” They feel they have lost something. But yajna, the true spiritual sacrifice which is the connotation of work according to the Bhagavadgita, is not a sacrifice of something that you would like to possess but are now losing. In this sacrifice, you do not lose, but you gain. Here is the difference between your ordinary concept of sacrifice and the Bhagavadgita concept of sacrifice. “I have sacrificed all my belongings to my children, and now my children have everything and I have nothing. I have come to the ashram here.” Very poor condition of a person! “I have sacrificed my life, everything, for the independence of India. Nobody bothers about me.” Everything is a complaint. You have done a lot of sacrifice and lost everything, and got no recompense. This kind of sacrifice is no sacrifice. It is a tragedy of the very concept of the true nature of work.

In actual spiritual sacrifice, you do not lose anything. What actually happens is that you create, through this process of spiritual sacrifice, an avenue for the entry of a larger universality into your own self, so that at every step of the sacrifice you perform, you become bigger and bigger, more and more important, stronger and larger in your dimension. What you lose in your spiritual sacrifice is your finitude, and you cannot say the loss of finitude is a loss, really speaking. It is like losing illness in the process of treatment of a disease. “Oh, I have lost so much of my illness.” Will you complain like that? The gaining of health involves the loss of illness at the same time, but it is not really a loss. It is the loss of a defect in your personality, which is the disease, as you call it.

So, in actual spiritual sacrifice, more and more of the finitude of your personality gets erased out, scrubbed off, and larger dimensions of the Universal Being are allowed to enter into you, so that in every act of sacrifice you become more and more divine, more and more spiritual, more and more godly. The superintending principle over this entire arena of spiritual sacrifice, the whole activity of the world, whatever it be – political, social, economic, including warfare – the whole thing is superintended over by some being. “I am the superintending principle of all that,” says this Great Being.

A diversification of the Absolute in all these ways takes place in the process of creation. Your own existence as an individual, the whole universe which has emanated from the Absolute, your activity in this world, the divinity that superintends over all your activities, and even the processes of creation – these are the ramified forms of the performance of the single Absolute, you may say. In this manner, conceive the Total Reality. When you open your eyes and look at the world, you are seeing adhibhuta. When you close your eyes and contemplate within you, you are seeing adhyatma. When you see the evolutionary process of the universe, you are seeing karma as an emanation of the universe from the Absolute. When you see the great majestic, mathematical precision of work in nature – everything is tiptop and fine, neat and clean, and nothing is out of order in this universe – that perfection that you see in this world process is God operating through all activity, inwardly as well as outwardly. Because of the presence of this universal God, the world looks beautiful, and you have a hope that one day or the other you will be better. You will not curse yourself that you are going to be worse.

Whatever be your present condition, you do not think that tomorrow you will be worse. Even a poor person receiving a very meagre income and suffering in the family does not think that this will be the permanent state of affairs. The presence of divinity in all things is the reason why we hope for better things. We do not even believe that we will be annihilated in death. Nobody thinks that he will be extinct. “No, I will do many good things, and I will be rewarded.” If you are going to be extinct and completely annihilated in death, nobody will try to lift a finger. Why should you do any good thing in the world or anything at all when tomorrow you are going to be annihilated? But something in you – the God present in you, the infinite present in you, the Absolute present in you – tells you that you are going to continue to exist even after this body is discarded. Therefore, even when a person is about to die, he wants to do some good things, some charity. Where is the need for doing charity when you are about to pass away from this world? It is because you know that charity, that gift that you give, will be repaid to you in a future life. If the future life does not exist, the activities of this present life have no meaning. There is no ethics, no morality, and nothing is of any kind of worth here if the futurity is abolished completely. That hope that you will be continuing in the future is because of the planting of God-consciousness in yourself.

So, you see God pervading everywhere – in and out, top and bottom – externally in adhibhuta, internally in adhidaiva, in the process of creation called visarga, karma, and in the whole activity of yajna, which is the duty that you perform. This is how you can bring a holistic concept before your meditation. It is another way of the description of the organismic structure of the whole universe before you.

Seven questions are raised by Arjuna in the beginning of the eighth chapter of the Bhagavadgita, and six questions are answered by these categories that I have mentioned. The other one is what happens when you depart from this world, to which a lengthy answer is given by Bhagavan Sri Krishna. The first six, which are very important ontological principles, are just skipped without any commentary, just making mention of them; but the phenomenon of dying takes a longer description.

What happens when you pass away? Nothing happens. To our solace and satisfaction, we may tell ourselves actually nothing happens even if we die. What happens when you go to sleep and wake up in the morning? When you wake up, you will only continue the entire life process of the previous day. As I mentioned, the continuance of life is guaranteed by your very hope of your activities being rewarded, and this continuance is not taking place in a haphazard manner. It is just like awakening from sleep. Whatever you have been thinking, whatever you have been doing in this world, will be carried forward as in a balance sheet of account in your next birth. What happens after death? Whatever you have done here, whatever you have thought and felt here, that will be carried forward. And where will you be reborn? You will be reborn only under those conditions where your unfulfilled work can find materialisation. Just be guarded here in this matter.

You must be guarded. You will be reborn in that place, under such conditions, where you will be able to materialise your thoughts and feelings, and the fruits of your actions in this present life. Is it not important, therefore, for you to go on keeping a diary of what you have done today? Can you just go scot-free, as if you are a king or the lord of all things and everything is in your hand?  Can you say, “I am the lord of the waves; stop the waves!” The waves would not stop like that. But most of us are callous about our own welfare. Carefree we are with our life. Do you know that what you have done today will be your experience of tomorrow? What have you done two days back? If you want a blessedness tomorrow, will you have thorns sown in the field of your life today? Today you sow the seeds of thorns, and tomorrow you expect apples. No, apples will not come. You will see a vast area filled only with thorns in your future life. It is, therefore, very important for every one of you to keep a diary of what you have been thinking: “I have woken up in the morning. Now it is past ten o' clock, and what ideas occurred to my mind right from the time I woke up?” Do not think this is a joke. This is a serious matter. You are the maker of your destiny. Nobody will reward you and nobody will punish you, except yourself. Your thoughts and feelings will reward you.

The whole universe works like a computer. It is not a friend or an enemy of any person. As you feed it, so it will reward. Every day, keep a note of what ideas, thoughts, feelings have arisen in your mind. They will fructify in your future. Sometimes, it is said – as in the Bhagavadgita, for instance – the last thought will determine your condition in the next birth. So, you will be foolishly thinking, “I can think a good thought when I am about to pass away. Now I shall do whatever I like.” Don't be under this impression. The last thought is the butter that will come out of the milk of the whole life that you have lived for so many years. When you churn milk, butter comes out. Likewise, the so-called last thought during the passing from this world is not just one thought, isolatedly standing there to take you to heaven or somewhere else. It is the energy sucked in a total fashion from all the thoughts and feelings that you entertained right from your birth onwards. Therefore, the last thought is not actually a last thought, it is a total thought of your whole life. The word ‘last' is not a proper description of the condition. It is not the ‘last'. The fourth state of consciousness above waking, dream and sleep is not the fourth numerically, it is a transcendent inclusiveness of the first three stages.

You must be very cautious. The words that you utter, the thoughts that you entertain, and the feelings that you have in your heart will punish you. Yamadanda is something told in the Puranas. The Lord of death will stand there as a ‘black man'. This ‘black man' is nothing but your black thoughts, and the danda or the club that he holds to punish you is the reaction set up by your own evil thoughts. What are the evil thoughts? Any thought that is contrary to the universality of Being is an evil thought. In this sense, we may say, there will not be enough space in hell if all the people in the world end up there, because no one today in this world actually thinks and feels in harmony with the nature of things. There is a chaotic feeling and a cluster of confused ideas in the mind of people. We somehow drag on. We say we get on in life somehow or other. We are not living our life, we are dragging through it somehow, helplessly. This is not the way of living. We should not drag through our life, but live life. To live life will be to set our present condition of existence in harmony with the structure of the whole world, as described in the six answers Bhagavan Sri Krishna gave to Arjuna's questions: aksharam brahma paramam, etc.

Whatever you think at the time of death, that you become, which is another way of saying that whatever be the essence of all the things you thought in your mind and felt through your personality will be boiled at the time of death. The essence of all your feelings and thoughts throughout your life will come up to the surface. That is the last thought, and you will gravitate, like a rocket, to that atmosphere where your unfulfilled desires, your incomplete thoughts and feelings, will condense and congeal into a solid personality, which is called rebirth. It is being born once again in a physical formation of a specific type through which alone those actions and feelings of your earlier life can find a fulfilment. So, you can be born anywhere.

But, you may wonder, “Where am I going to be born, in which place? You can find it out just now by the chart of your way of life, today, in this world. It is not difficult to know what will happen to you after death. You can know it today itself. What you are thinking today, that you will be doing in the next birth also. Towards the end of the eighth chapter of the Bhagavadgita there is a very detailed description of the bright path of ascent and the smoky path of descent, about which you need not bother much now because here we are concerned with practical meditation. I am mentioning these instances only to enable you to concentrate your mind in a proper manner, to muster the energies of your personality to conserve the vitality that usually gets depleted through the avenues of sense perception. Every moment, you are an anatman – an other-than-yourself, an other-than-what-you-are. A worse thing cannot be conceived. Whenever you cling to an object outside, brood over it and hug it, you have become other than what you are. Can you conceive of a greater tragedy than to become other than what you are? Abolition of oneself, and becoming another, is what is taking place in sensory perception and emotional attachment to things.

Here is the Bhagavadgita before you, a wonderful textbook. Everyone should read the Bhagavadgita under a competent teacher and guide. Even if you read it many times, you will not make much meaning out of it. It seems to be saying many different things. But if you have a competent guide, you will know that what is described in the Bhagavadgita is the quintessence of the cosmological descent and ascending process, the Supreme Being presented in all its variety for your meditations. This is the Bhagavadgita. Everybody should read it with very good commentaries.

I will suggest to you certain commentaries of the Bhagavadgita. One of them, which is easy to read, is Swami Jnaneswar Maharaj's commentary called Jnaneswari. A simple, easy-to-understand commentary is written by Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj. And there are larger commentaries, such as the one published in Gita Press. The founder of Gita Press was a saintly man, a venerated person called Jaydayal Goenka. He gave a large commentary on each verse of the Bhagavadgita, and it is available in Hindi as well as English. So, we have Gita commentaries by Jnaneswar, Sivanandaji Maharaj, and Jaydayal Goenka. Then there are the traditional commentaries of the acharyas – Sankaracharya, Ramanujacharya, Madhvacharya.

All these commentaries may create confusion in your mind. So, take one only, according to your predilection, whether you are a devoted type, or a psychic type, or a rational type, or an active type, as the case may be. I think that the great message of life for you is the Bhagavadgita, which is supposed to be the quintessence of the Upanishads, which are the quintessence of the Vedas. The whole culture of India is in the Bhagavadgita, all which is, finally, intended to enable you to live a total, integrated life of non-sensuous completeness, never being a slave of your sense organs and desiring to see, to hear, to touch, to eat, and to smell. All sense organs crave for their satisfaction. You go to movie theatres, clubs, and so on, only for the sake of the satisfaction of this malady created by the sense organs. It is a waste of time.

Study the Bhagavadgita, and the Upanishads, and be under a good guide. Every one of you should have a good guide. You may consider that person as a Guru, if you like. If you do not use a big word like ‘Guru', have at least some kind of referee. If you have any difficulty, refer to that person. Have a referee, a mentor, a teacher, whoever he is. Find somebody. Among so many people you have seen in the world, somebody must have impressed you very much. Be friendly with that person until you find a better one, under the dispensation of God Himself. You will find everything is all right.

Therefore, every day of your life it is necessary to be in harmony with nature, in harmony with God who created nature, in harmony with people in society, and in harmony with all created beings. The last word of the Gita is that harmony is yoga – samatvaṁ yoga ucyate (Gita 2.48) – a setting up of equilibrium in your personality in respect of society outside, nature in front of you, and God above. That kind of harmony, simultaneously introduced into your personality, is the process of the cosmic awakening of your so-called individuality. May God bless you.