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Facets of Spirituality
by Swami Krishnananda
Compiled by S. Bhagyalakshmi


A visitor: What is Truth, Swamiji?

Swamiji: Jesus was asked, what is Truth? There was no time for him to answer it. Before he could answer, he was condemned to be crucified. Truth—the Ultimate Reality—is that which cannot be contradicted. That is what they call the Absolute. When you say the Absolute, you mean it is not related to something else. And it can't be defined by characteristics other than itself. You can't say, it is like this… When you say it is like this, you are referring to something else in comparison. And you can't. When you say you are so-and-so's son, you are defining yourself in terms of somebody else. But you have no definition of your own. But THAT is not like that. You cannot define It in terms of somebody else, because that somebody else also is within It—not outside It.

Visitor: It may mean limiting it.

Swamiji: Yes, yes, denying it almost. Defining it is denying it, they say. All determination is a negation. Definition is determination; determination is negation, almost so in the ultimate sense.

Visitor: In defining the soul, we say I am not the body, I am not the mind, I am the knowledge and the Brahman of this knowledge—why can't it be said like this? I am this also and that also instead of not this, not this!

Swamiji: It means the same thing. They are not different statements. When you say “I am not this”, what is it that you are denying? You are denying something. Isn't it? What are you denying?

Visitor: I am not this body, I am not this mind…

Swamiji: Why do you deny the body when you say it is a part of Brahman?

Visitor: That's what I am asking.

Swamiji: There's a point in it. It is not so simple as you say. There's a point in that denial also. Your idea that something is outside is denied. Even the idea of the body is the idea of externality, the popular man's idea of something external, and you deny everything external. And together with this, it is not denying the body as such but as the externalised existence of it. When it is non-externalised, it ceases to be the body. This is as good as denying it, so that you are actually including it. To say that you are everything is the same as saying you're nothing. They are not two different things, for to say it is everything, you must be able to comprehend that state. You can't conceive everything that statement asks you to, and therefore such statements have no meaning. The moment you say “everything”, you have some preconceived idea about it, that it is the totality of many things, or something like that. Even the idea of totality can't be there unless you have some idea of space, etc., and even the idea of space is not permitted because it is an idea of externality. So ultimately you are reducing yourself to the same predicament.

There are two methods, the Yoga Vasistha mentions: either you affirm that you are nothing or affirm that you are everything, but don't affirm that you are something. That, it says, is the only cause of bondage. But nobody can affirm like that. You cannot say you are nothing because you have got an element of existence which affirms itself, and it can't deny itself. It is very hard to deny anything when it does exist. Nor can you include everything in yourself. There are many problems in it. You think over it, and you will see that the idea of your individuality, and of everything, is different from yourself. It is so inveterate that you can't say you are a cobra, you are a frog, and the like. You may say that in a linguistic manner, but actually the feelings will not permit such an affirmation of universality unless you are a supernormal person. You can't affirm a thing which belongs to a state of reality in which you are not at present. Do you understand? “I am the President of India.” What is the use of affirming this? You are not in that set of circumstances that can give meaning to this affirmation, and so on. Similarly, you are not in that level of consciousness where universal affirmations, or such an affirmation, can be made. It is a particular level. You may become the President of India, there's no objection to that, but at present that affirmation is irrelevant. And so if you make a statement, it is but a grammatical sentence, there is no correlation of reality behind it. Likewise, if you say “I am Brahman”, you must be fit to conceive such an idea, then it will have meaning, for it will actually be from that level of your life that you speak. Otherwise, it will merely be a grammatical statement that you make. It has a subject and an object and a predicate, but no practical connotation. So you should never make affirmations beyond your capacity. Your capacity is comprehensive in the present level of experience, which are good as far as they go. But you must be sure whether any statement you make is fit for that state you are in—whether the prescription is fit for your ailment or not, then only the next question arises.

Visitor: When the sun is rising over one half of the world, that half is illumined but the other half is in darkness. So when you say ‘illumined intellect' that is...

Swamiji: It is not illumined intellect if it is only partially illumined. You don't mean that half the intellect is in darkness?

Visitor: Yes, that's what I am coming to. Are we to take it as a sort of a transparent layer which gets illumined or...?

Swamiji: It depends upon your concept of the intellect. If you think that intellect is a material substance, naturally you will give it a shape. Square, round, tall, short, thick or thin, transparent or opaque or whatever it is—you've to add all these adjectives to your definition of it. What is your definition of intellect? Is it made of matter? If so, what is its size? All these questions arise.

Visitor: This is only putting it academically. What is intellect, what is intelligence?

Swamiji: Intelligence is that which illumines the intellect. It is the energy that makes the intellect shine in respect of itself as well as in respect of others. The electric energy is the source of the illumination of the bulb. The bulb you can say is intellect. It is jada—lifeless. It has no consciousness. It can't shine on its own, just as that the bulb can't shine unless the power is charged into it. Here the illuminating power is the intelligence.

Visitor: When, for example, you say intellectual curiosity, what is that?

Swamiji: That is a psychological state.

Visitor: It has nothing to do with this question of an illumined intellect?

Swamiji: The intellect has its own functions, and one of its functions is ‘curiosity'. It understands, it doubts, it is curious. Curiosity is eagerness to know something. And that is a condition.

An ashramite: It has to be shunned.

Swamiji: Why do you shun it? I have a curiosity to know the Absolute. I will not shun that idea! Why should I?

Visitor: When you put the question in order to know the transcendent, we do not call it curiosity. Otherwise, don't put questions out of mere curiosity, we say.

Swamiji: That is so. Every question is not transcendent. When you put a question which can't be answered at the present level of your understanding, it is called transcendental, and you should not put such a question. But curiosity is permissible in certain circumstances. It becomes a curiosity when the answer cannot help you in any practical way and is irrelevant or meaningless. When it is out of a practical desire which can be implemented, you need not call it curiosity, you can call it a natural aspiration for understanding. But when it is impractical, you call it curiosity, for then it becomes unnecessarily asking about something you can't understand.

Ashramite: But it is the urge to evolve—curiosity?

Swamiji: No. no. Curiosity is a desire which can't be implemented—that is what his meaning is. Otherwise, you don't shun it.

Visitor: Is it chitta, the subconscious? The subconscious or the unconscious? You can call it both put together. All of them have the same function. But...

Swamiji: No. They do not carry out the same functions. The chitta remembers—memory is the function of the chitta. Understanding is the function of the intellect. Thinking and doubting are the functions of the mind.

Visitor: Desiring also?

Swamiji: Yes, desiring is also a function of the mind.

Visitor: Is mind consciousness?

Swamiji: Consciousness is the background of the function of all psychic apparatus. It is the light behind the total consciousness of the psyche.

Visitor: Can it also be called....

Swamiji: It is called the Atman. What you call the Atman is the Supreme.

Visitor: Mind is Atman?

Swamiji: No, mind is only the instrument of the Atman.

Visitor: Is consciousness the Atman?

Swamiji: Yes, yes. That's how we define it for all practical purposes.

Visitor: Then what are the functions of the mind?

Swamiji: Thinking and doubting.

Visitor: Mind is jada, `unconscious' matter?

Swamiji: It is like a mirror. Does the mirror shine or not? It can't shine itself. But it shines when the light falls on it.

So the mind can't think if it does not have the consciousness of the Atmanbehind it. It reflects the consciousness of the Atman; it shines as if it were its own light.

Visitor: Like the Atman?

Swamiji: Yes, yes. It behaves like a glass when the light passes through the glass. You can't see the glass, it is so transparent. But it is still there as a material substance.

Visitor: Then chitta is the unconscious?

Swamiji: The subconscious and unconscious have to be combined. It has the character of unconsciousness, and it has the character of the subconscious also. They work in different ways at different times. It is a total mass which works in different ways under different types of pressure. It is a big conglomeration. They are only names for the different functions of your individual way of thinking. And it includes understanding, discrimination, doubting, etc., etc.—hundreds of things.

Visitor: Judgement is the function of—?

Swamiji: The intellect. ‘Buddhi' is the Sanskrit word and ‘intellect' is its English equivalent.