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Facets of Spirituality
by Swami Krishnananda
Compiled by S. Bhagyalakshmi

May 1979: Part 2

A visitor: Ishvara is associated with sleep, Hiranyagarbha with the dream state and Virat with the waking state. Does this mean that all our individual experiences come out of sleep, as the world comes out of Ishvara?

Swamiji: The consciousness in the waking state, the dream state and the deep sleep state is more and more dull in the jiva, in that order—but the reverse is the case of the Cosmic, where Ishvara is greater and antecedent to Hiranyagarbha, and Hiranyagarbha is greater than and comes before the Virat. It is like seeing a reflection of yourself in the water while standing on the bank of a river; the reflection is upside down. Everything is upside down here in the individual, [laughing] as in sirsasana when everything is upside down for us.

You must see the object as the subject. When you think of someone or something as an object, it is an insult to that person or thing. When the object becomes the subject, it is yoga. You are not able to see that the object depends on the subject and that the subject is in the object. When you do see it so, you are a yogi.

Visitor: How do Vedas provide knowledge of Nirguna Brahman, if they were revealed by Saguna Brahman?

Swamiji: If the Vedas are eternal, they cannot be said to come from anyone else. If they come from someone else, they cannot be eternal. So to say Ishvara created (or revealed) the Vedas is only a way of speaking. The Vedas are a thorn to remove the thorn of ignorance. They negate the Vyavaharika plane, but do not give any knowledge of Brahman. A tiger in the dream experience can remove the dream experience by waking you up with fear!

Visitor: In the Bhasyam on the Brahmasutras, Sankara says the gods have knowledge of the Vedas. Are the gods omniscient and on the level of Ishvara?

Swamiji: Only Ishvara can really be omniscient. The 'knowledge of the Gods' is only a concession. It cannot be equated to Ishvara. No one can be equal to Him.

Visitor: In Mundaka Upanishad 3.1.1, Sankara says, God is pure, wise, free and Omniscient. Then how can He be limited by Cosmic Ignorance—Maya? Maya is often called the upadhi of Ishvara. Is it not a mistake to call it an imperfection?

Swamiji: You can see the sun. But suppose you have a cataract in your eye, then you cannot see the sun properly. But that is your fault, not the sun's. It is an imperfection of your vision to say that Brahman has limitations or adjuncts.

Visitor: Some Advaitins say sarva-mukti means we attain Ishvara when all (everyone) finally attain Brahman; but Ishvara is not different from Brahman, so how can we attain this entity?

Swamiji: This is only a theory that may appeal to your sentiments. It is not real. When you say 'all attain', you have an idea of a finite number of souls. But really the souls are infinite in number. There can be no end and no question of all attaining anything. So this is a democratic theory that can be misunderstood. There is no ontological entity called Ishvara to be attained. Ishvara is like the 'x' in a mathematical equation. It has no ultimate value, but it helps you to solve the problem (of Reality) just like 'x' created by you for the purpose of solving the problem. You think that Ishvara is Infinite and the world is finite. You think that the finite has come from the Infinite. But it really is not so.

All these theories of cause and effect (i.e., creation) appeal to you. But if the Sruti tells the Ultimate Truth that the Infinite has come from the Infinite (which means nothing is really produced), you won't be able to accept it. But the Sruti teach us metaphysically, not literally. They mean to teach non-difference, not really creation as different from the Creator.

The Infinite is also in the finite, the whole is in the part. The soul pervades the body, that is how the Infinite can be in the finite, as it is said in the Gita. The ocean is in the drop; but really the ocean, which is so, vast cannot be in the tiny drop. So the Lord says in the Gita: “I am in all creatures, yet I am not in them...” [laughing] No one can be as difficult as God. He is a master of confusion. For, really the drops are in the ocean and the ocean is in the drops in a way which we don't understand. The essence of the ocean and the essence of the drops are the same. It is water. They are not two, they are one.

An ashramite: Swamiji, someone with a definite purpose of his own, in order to provoke me into an argument, remarked in the presence of a religious Muslim who had married a Hindu, “Hinduism is nothing but one god fighting with another!” I knew his mind, and so refused to say anything and get excited. But what is the meaning of these so-called wars between Vishnu and Brahma, for instance, when Lord Siva vanquishes them both and quells their pride? Lord Siva establishes at the same time that He is the Most Supreme! Is it because in such contexts the Manifested God gets accretions of their level, which is lower than that of the Supreme Being? The Puranas and the Epics are full of such incidents of war among the Gods.

Swamiji: The subject-object opposition in time and space, the affirmation of the ego as superior to and supreme over everything, causes the clash, no matter at what level. This clash of the positive and the negative, both of which are inherent in everything finite, produces a spark as a Higher Synthesis and is absorbed in the Higher Synthesis. But this level of the present Higher Synthesis is, again, not the highest; it is still only in the process of evolution into the next Higher Synthesis. So this clash and this spark are repeated, so is the absorption of the spark into the next Higher Synthesis, from level to level. This clash or 'war' between the gods—deities of the different levels—goes on until the last Higher Synthesis is absorbed into the Absolute. This process of the sparks getting absorbed thus is explained in the Puranas and the Epics as one god warring with another and a third god conquering (absorbing) both within Itself.

Visitor: What is the benefit of sirsasana? Swami Sivanandaji says it is good for memory and brain power; Rajneesh says it makes you stupid. Who is right?

Swamiji: Sirsasana is the best asana. But it should be done only for a maximum of five minutes. You will get good memory immediately. Something can be good and bad also. Someone says, “Eat this, it is good for you, you will be strong.” Another says, “Don't eat it, it is bad for you, you will get diarrhoea.” Actually, your memory improves as your body consciousness decreases. The more the body consciousness, the less the memory and the ability to concentrate.

Visitor: Swamiji, what is the locus of avidya? It is in the jiva as the Bhamati school asserts; or is it in Brahman as the Vaishvanara school asserts?

Swamiji: Avidya can have no locus, no place to be in, for it is not real. Each thinks it belongs to the other. A guest showed up at a wedding party. The father of the bride thought that the man had been invited by the groom's family, and the family of the groom thought he was a guest invited by the bride's family. He stayed there many days enjoying their hospitality. Finally, one day the bride's father and the groom's father were talking about him. When they were about to ask him where he really belonged, he vanished. [Revered Swamiji laughed heartily when he gave this illustration.] Avidya is like that. It is not real, so it vanishes the moment you enquire about it.

Ishvara is like the government. It is not perceptible, but it is everywhere. You cannot say where it is, but if you do something wrong you will feel its effects. You say the government is in Delhi, but if you break the law (or if you want an extension of your visa, etc.), you will feel the government's presence here! Ishvara is a logical thing, not an ontological or metaphysical entity, not the Reality. The government is like our body. When you are aware of your body, it means something is wrong with it; my head aches, you say. When a king rules righteously, no one is aware of his rule. Even so, when you realise Brahman even the Mahavakyas will not matter much to you. 'Aham Brahmasmi' will then be only words, and you will be beyond words. You will attain that silence which is beyond all theories. Would you want your books even then? If one could attain God by books, you could spend a few days in the National Library in Calcutta and have realisation. But getting God is not so easy. Even if you memorised the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica, you would not have knowledge of God.

There are different names of God: Ishvara, Hiranyagarbha, Virat, but they are the names of one Single Being. Just as you are one person but you can be analysed medically, physically, psychologically, etc. If you exist as an individual, He (Ishvara) also exists. But once you lose your individuality, even Ishvara goes on realisation of the Absolute. Actually, Ishvara is not different from Brahman. The same Ultimate Reality is there in both. The name Ishvara is given only for relational purposes (Brahman is Ishvara in relation to us)—just as the same man may be a father, brother, son, etc. You call It Ishvara because of your isolation from It. You pray to your own higher nature, which is so vast that it looks to you like another person altogether. Because Ishvara is a Cosmic Individual, you pray to Him—like you bow to an individual who is a leader of the nation, whom you yourself have elected, whom you yourself have put it that supreme position!

To think universally, as God thinks, is our goal. The only problem is we think as man thinks. When the milk becomes curd, it ceases to exist; it is totally in the other form—the curd. But when God 'becomes' the world, He continues to exist in Himself. Really nothing ceases to exist, for there is no difference between cause and effect.

Visitor: Is logic the same as metaphysics? Is the law of the mind the same as the law of the Universe?

Logic is the manifestation in the mental realm of the Ultimate Metaphysical Principle. Vedanta metaphysics asserts that Reality is non-dual. So the psychology, and the epistemology or logic of Vedanta must be based on this non-difference of the knower and the known?

Swamiji: This is based on the problem of whether there is a metaphysical thing in itself (noumenon), on which the logic of phenomenon is based. This is a great mystery, but it is unsolvable. Even Kant died before he got the answer. Ishvara is thought to be logically the highest, whereas Brahman is metaphysically or intuitionally the highest. But these are not two. The law of Ultimate Existence manifests itself in various ways: law of cohesion, integration, love, sanity—so the universal cosmic law regulates our individual and social and mental life.

Visitor: Is self-luminosity the same as self-consciousness?

Swamiji: 'Self-luminous' (svayam-prakasa) means consciousness itself. You are not aware that you are aware. It is awareness, pure and simple. The question of self-consciousness, as you think of it, is that of an individual subject as opposed to an object. The Absolute does not have self-consciousness, rather, it is Consciousness itself. Ishvara is the highest self-conscious being. It is the Universal Being aware of itself as existing. You cannot imagine what this kind of self-consciousness is. Ishvara is aware of the object as identical with Himself. He regards the objects of the world as you would regard your hands and feet. Your hands and feet are objects in one sense, for they can be seen by you. But they are vitally related to you, just so is the whole world related to God. Brahman is consciousness itself. Ishvara is self-consciousness. Jivanmukta, you may say, is a little lower. He has not merged completely into Brahman (until the final death of body, and so still needs some external objects to maintain life.)

Visitor: If life is a movement from ananda to ananda, why is it that we should be detached from it?

Swamiji: If you know life is ananda, then everything is fine! What do you want detachment from? You want detachment from wife, children and property, because you think these are the causes of sorrow; you want to renounce liabilities. Really you should think about being attached (to life). God is not such a fool that He cannot understand these tricks of the human mind [emphatically.] “Stone walls do not a prison make', nor do the stone walls make an ashram or church. So you leave the stone walls of your home for other stone walls. What is the difference? Religion is a continued idea of the world, and in this sense it is the opium of the people. Religiosity—conservatism—will enable you to get on in ordinary life, but it won't cut ice with God! Religious groupism (sectarianism) has the same purpose as political groupism (parties or nationalities). Whether the left leg is broken or the right leg is broken, it is a broken leg. You cannot be a religious person until and unless you renounce religiosity. Don't call yourself a Hindu, Christian, Advaitin, etc. There was a man at Stanford University who wrote “The Religion of No Religion”; again there was William Cantwell Smith who wrote “The End of Religions”. When you know that you know nothing, still you have knowledge. Cut it all away, and something remains [With great emphasis.] At Dakshineswar when Ramakrishna was alive, a poor, dirty man came and recited something in a temple. No one could understand the language, but all present felt a spiritual presence in the temple when he was there. They went to Ramakrishna and told him. He said, “You fools, that was a God-realised man, you should have prostrated before him. Go find him out!” The people went looking for him and found him in a gutter in Varanasi. The filthy sewage water was flowing down (to the Ganga). The people asked him, “What is truth?” He replied, “When you see this filthy water and the holy Ganga are one (not different), you know the Truth!”

One Mouni Swami of South India used to keep a pot of spit, urine, rots etc. People thought he was a great saint, so they went for initiation. He insisted that they drink the contents of the pot, and the people ran away. One half-crazy man went there and, when ordered, he drank the scum in the pot. His senses had been conquered and he tasted no 'scum'. He went into samadhi. They asked him later what it tasted like. He said, “It was sweet nectar!” These are real men of religion—but you want someone who tells you to read Gita, do japa; you want comfortable answers.

Visitor: So ultimately we have to give up everything?

Swamiji: What do you mean by everything? Wife, children, etc.?

Visitor: No, I mean theories, beliefs, sects, etc. Are these to be given up to attain God-Realisation?

Swamiji: No, it is something quite different from that. You must discriminate as to which thoughts to retain and which to dismiss at any moment. When a man comes to a doctor with 105 degrees temperature and eczema, certainly the doctor treats the fever first. Common sense is the most uncommon thing in the world (laughs.) When you have been starving, eating is more important than meditation, but when you are drowning, being saved from the water is more important than eating. When is the best time for eating? It is when you are hungry. The same with meditation. Samsara is timeless. Time began with creation, so in that sense, it is said to be beginningless, or eternal. But remember it is not real. Jivas in bondage exist to a realised being just as the people you saw in a dream last night exist for you in the dream. Where are they today? They have been absorbed into your waking consciousness. Your recurring question is based on the assumption that there has been creation. Why do you assume this? No one has seen God creating.

Visitor: But the Srutis teach us there has been creation. Why should they mislead us?

Swamiji: When you think the Srutis mislead you, they cease to be scriptures. A friend ceases to be a friend when he robs you. The tiger in the dream can wake you, though it is unreal.

Visitor: Is not social work an altruistic ideal?

Swamiji: If you investigate all social organisations from the UNO down to the family, you will find that they are all based on selfishness [laughing.] Love everyone but trust a few, they say.