Spiritual Aspiration and Practice
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 5: Raising the Curtain of Space-Time

For the sake of sadhana, some thousands have come to this ashram. This has obviously a practical implication, as you all must be aware. These functions have been arranged not for a diversion, as a change from your routine of work. It is not a mela or a fair. You have taken the trouble of travelling a long distance and undergoing some inconveniences also in this ashram in connection with the accommodation, all for what purpose?

The sincerity and the honesty behind this adventure on the part of everyone is to see that you benefit inwardly, spiritually, wholly, perfectly and substantially. We are not having a dance drama in the ashram. It is a very serious occupation. If the mind has not been satisfied, if the heart has not felt the touch of a transformation inside, if a modicum of change has not taken place in you for the betterment of your true being, your coming here may not be of much utility.

In this direction it is that we have been speaking and hearing many things connected with this important aspect of our own personal life, because one day or other this personal life will cease. It may be today; it may be tomorrow. We have lived a very comfortable social and physical life. All this will go like a wisp of the wind when the call comes from above. When the time comes to leave this world, one may feel finally that one has achieved nothing, and done nothing worthwhile in this world.

This should not be the fate of anyone. When you go, go smiling with a tremendous satisfaction that you have used this life for that purpose for which you have been brought here by the law of God. This satisfaction can arise in your mind only if you have done something for the benefit of your soul, and not merely for your family members, your office and your political structure. All these external associations, which I mentioned as a foisting of false values on you by the interference of space and time, will make a mockery of you in the end. They will show their teeth, “See what you have done”; and we do not want to see the teeth of space and time when we leave this world.

The question arises now, after hearing all this that has been told, how can we overcome these impediments that seem to be there between us and the great blessedness that we are expecting to attain. Space and time were considered as a metaphysical barrier, a natural obstruction which manages to twist our very process of thinking and compels us to think wrongly, even if we feel that we are thinking rightly. The Yoga Sastra is before us. The obstruction is the spatial and the temporal way of thinking, to which we give the designation space and time.

For the time being, we shall confine ourselves to space only. If that impediment is over, time also will go. You will find that when the dog goes, the tail also will vanish. Space is nothing but the distance that you maintain between yourself and another. It is the distance that is maintained between consciousness and its objects. This is called space. From all the considerations on which we bestowed thought earlier, it will be clear to you that there is no such distance between things. There is some apparent distance between the head and the feet, maybe some five feet or six feet. You can measure this distance, and you accept that there is a distance, but really it is an organic oneness that is there between the head and the foot. You will never feel that you are so long, so high, so wide, etc., when you are looking at yourself or dealing with yourself. Are you always thinking that you are five feet or six feet? Why don’t you feel that your foot is so far away from your head, though it is a fact that there is some distance? The distance-consciousness gets transcended by the pervasion of an integral consciousness which is ‘you’. I am here. I do not say my head is here, my legs are there, though they are also there.

Now, here the spatial intervention is overcome by the very consciousness of the pervasion of your true being over and above all the limbs and the structural variety of your body. So I mentioned to you that distance is nothing but the spatial difference that you seem to be seeing between yourself and another thing that you considered as an object. The moment you think something, that ‘something’ is not the same as the thought. You don’t think the thought itself. You think through the mind about something which is not the thought. Thus you create a gulf, psychologically or even physically, between the thought and its object. This is called space.

As long as this spatial distance is there between consciousness and its object, physically seeing or mentally conceived, you can never have contact with that object. Even if you see an object through glass, you cannot touch that object because of the impediment, the obstruction of a glass pane between you and the object. No object can be contacted in this world. Nothing can be possessed, finally. There will be bereavement, separation, isolation, loss and a feeling of desolation in the end, after having tried your best to possess things and own all the wealth of the world. This is so because of the fact this spatial distance between you and that which you considered as your possession or belonging will never allow you to possess anything.

Not only that, you cannot even come in contact with that thing. You look that you are in contact with some reality, but you are away from it. The curtain is there between you. Here the curtain is spatial difference. ‘Difference’ – mark this word. There is a difference between you and that which you want to possess. If this difference continues, how will you possess that? How can you possess anything when there is a difference between you and that which you want to possess? Is it not a fool’s paradise in which we seem to be living to feel a false satisfaction that we have property? Even the distance imagined between the feet and the head is a spatial intervention. That is why it is called a mortal frame. Consciousness has no distance, due to which presence you do not feel the distance between the feet and the head. Yet, you can measure visibly this distance; that measuring process is made possible on account of the body being involved in space. The thing being in space means it is somewhere, and not somewhere else. A thing is somewhere only, and not everywhere. You are also somewhere and not everywhere.

This great problem is before the spiritual seeker. For ever and ever, you will be in this mess. Even the gods in their battles with demons are not always successful. Though they try with their might, it is not always to much avail. Great masters tell us that the demons in the world are larger in number than the gods. That is to say, the objects of the world are larger than the subjective awareness of things. That is the implication.

Now we are face to face with a terrible situation. Are we to go from this world achieving nothing, or are we to become better spiritual entities in our next birth? Merely because you want something, it shall not come. It has to be asked for by the thing that you really are, and you should not ask with your tongue or your mouth. If the soul asks for a thing, it has to be supplied instantaneously. As Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj used to humorously say, the whole thing is a question of demand and supply. Ask and it shall be given. You may say you are asking every day, but you are asking through the mind, through the speech, through the throat, through the tongue, through your outer expression; the soul does not want.

Go deep into your own recesses and put a question: Do you really want that which you are thinking you want? You will be posing a tremendous question before yourself. We may not call ourselves hypocrites as it is a very strong word, but we may be convinced by impartially looking at our own selves that we maintain a dual personality even in respect of our own selves. We seem to be wanting a betterment of our existence, but we would not like to give up the so-called associations with which we seem to be connected on account of these pleasurable situations created by space-time contact. This world is something for us, even now. Maybe God is great, but what does it matter? The world has something. Don’t you feel that, or do you feel it is nothing? Nobody will say that, because the soul has not felt the touch of the contact with that which it sees perfectly, because the screen is there in front of it. It is seeing God through the screen.

The yoga system is the panacea before you. This is a medical science for the illness of humanity. Abolish the distance between you and that which you want, and it shall be yours. Instantaneously, the treasures of heaven will be on your lap, provided you do not maintain a distance between you and them, because you are unnecessarily creating a problem by feeling that they are outside you, separate from you, and yet wanting them. If they are not yours, they cannot come to you. If they are outside you, they mind their business. How can you ask for them? So let this psychological distance between you and the thing that you want, it may be God Himself, be lifted. Let the curtain be lifted. How do you do this? This is the secret of spiritual meditation.

Everybody is doing some meditation, but the crux of the matter may not be in your hand always. You go up to a certain distance in your meditation; when the final step is to be taken, you are forced back. “Thus far and no further,” says that which is there as a guard who will not allow you entry into that forbidden area.

Devair atrāpi vicikitsitam purā, na hi suvijñeyam, aṇur eṣa dharmaḥ (Katha 1.1.21): “Even the gods are in doubt about this matter, my dear child,” says Yamadharma Raja to Nachiketas, “You little lad, coming and asking me questions of this kind of how you can pierce through space. Not Indra’s grandfather can understand this.” So where are we? Not so bad is the case, though the problem is very serious. ‘Yoga samadhi’ is the word we use for describing this intricate process of our plunging ourselves into this tremendous onslaught, we may say, with that which we want to grasp and make our own. If there is no distance between us and that which we want to make our own, it shall be ours in this moment, at this instant.

Again comes the question of how to proceed. There are various methods prescribed. I can only suggest to you one or two at this moment. You must listen to me carefully in this matter. Instead of looking at a thing, look through that thing. Now I am seeing you in front of me. It shall be my endeavour to enter into you through my mind, thinking process, or consciousness and not see you, but see as you are seeing me. I hope you catch the point. This process can be applied to anything, even to a pillar. There is a pole. The pole is outside you. You have no right or authority over it. It is its own, and you are different. You enter into the pole by feeling that you yourself are the pole. The pole will dance immediately. That is how materials can move by the thought of a person. You have heard that Sri Krishna lifted the mountain. How is it possible? Who will lift a mountain?

Are you lifting your hand? But an ant cannot lift your hand. Your hand is like a hill to a little ant, but you do not feel the weight of it. An elephant has such thick legs that even two people cannot lift it, but does it feel the weight of its leg? The elephant is so large that even a hundred people cannot lift it, but the elephant moves easily, as anybody knows. How is it that the weight of the body is not felt, even by a heavy person? There are stout people who do not feel their weight. They walk, but you cannot lift them. The consciousness of their body is identified with their body and their weight. Sri Krishna lifted the mountain because his relationship with the mountain was like the relationship of the body with its hand. I can tell the hand, “lift,” and it lifts. So he told the mountain, “lift,” and it lifted itself. It was not the mountain that he lifted. He lifted his own arm. By an expansion of his personality, he became the hill itself and opened his mouth and swallowed all the food.

Somebody else cannot be controlled. You can control only yourself. Nothing can be managed unless you are part of that management. If you are a boss, the subordinates will not obey. You also become part and parcel of the atmosphere of the structure of the working pattern. You are the soul of the atmosphere of work, not a chairman sitting somewhere and ordering people to work. A chairman cannot always succeed. The administration of an office is nothing but the pervasion of the spirit of the administrator to the entire atmosphere of work, even if it is very large. Then he becomes an object of affection and consolation, and his word is respected, not feared.

So, in our meditations, which we practise for the purpose of the liberation of our soul, the soul has to divest itself of its spatial difference between itself and anything in this world. In the Chhandogya Upanishad there is a passage in the eighth chapter: Think a thing; it is with you. Think of your departed father; there he is standing before you. Think of the wealth of the world, and it is on your lap. Think of the gods in heaven, and they will descend just now. You may say, “I will think a hundred times, but nobody will come.” It is because you are not thinking properly. You are thinking that they are outside.

Moving away from the main subject for a little diversion, I shall relate to you what happened in the ashram of Saga Bharadwaja when Bharata went in search of Rama and had to stop for a night in the ashram of Sage Bharadwaja. The sage was living in a little hut in a thick forest filled with thorns and bushes, Bharata, knowing that the great master should not be disturbed by the noise of his trumpeting elephants and army, etc., which also followed him, told them to stop several miles away. He removed his royal dress, removed his footwear, put on an ordinary cloth, and humbly went to the sage. He prostrated himself and said, “I am Bharata coming in search of my brother. Please bless me.”

The sage said, “Bharata! Oh, you are coming from Ayodhya. You have come alone?”

“No, Master. Thousands have come with me. I did not want to bring them here lest there will be disturbance in this holy atmosphere.”

“No problem, all of them will come here today. Thousands will have dinner here.” Bharata was intrigued, amused, and did not know what to say. How could the sage feed some thousands, with animals also? Nothing was there; he had only a little hut in the jungle. The great master felt that Bharata did not believe him, that he thought that he was a pauper. “I am telling you, royal Bharata, bring all people just now, including horses and chariots and elephants and footmen and everybody. They shall have dinner here in my cottage.”

Great masters’ words have to be respected. Bharata could not understand what kind of dinner the sage was going to give. Bharata brought all of them. What did the sage do? He want into the yajnasala, took some ghee and poured it into the fire and said, “Indra, come; Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati, flow; Kubhera, bring your treasures; gods in heaven, I have a good guest here. I want to feed him sumptuously with a divine dinner. Come!” Light flashed in the whole forest. There was celestial music from all sides. The denizens of heaven descended with golden plates, with dishes mortals have not tasted. There were gardens and swimming pools and peacocks singing everywhere, and palatial buildings, hundreds and thousands of houses everywhere, and attendants and music and bands everywhere.

Bharata said, “Am I going crazy, am I seeing things properly? Am I seeing, or am I dreaming?”

“All of you may be seated,” and the celestial angels served food in a masterly fashion, dishes which no mortal has tasted anywhere. The soldiers felt, it seems, “Let Bharata go in search of Rama, but we shall stay here. Why should we go to Ayodhya? This is a nice place.” Anyway, the story is an indication of the power of consciousness when it identifies itself with the fourteen worlds. Viswarupa was the work that Sage Bharadwaja demonstrated.

Whatever one achieved, another can also achieve. Everybody is the heir apparent to the throne of immortality. You are the possessor of the treasures of God. Children of the Immortal, fear not, says the Upanishad – amṛtasya putrāḥ (Svet. Up. 2.5). In your meditation, then, what are you supposed to do? Abolish the consciousness of a difference between you and that which you think and see. Turn the tables round. Instead of looking at a thing, look through the thing. This is one simple recipe I am placing before you. I am not going into the details of any other yoga technique. This little thing will do for you. If you think through that thing which you otherwise think as an external somebody or something, immediately you become that thing. You have a control over that thing in the same way as you have a control over the limbs of your body. “Come!” means it comes; “Go!” means it goes; “Bring!” means it brings – not merely this thing or that thing, but the world as such.

When Sri Sukadeva – the great sage who later gave the Bhagavata Mahaurana to Parikshit – as a little lad of sixteen years was unclad, walking unconscious of the body, the great master Vyasa Krishna Dwaipayana summoned him: Putreti tan-mayatayā taravo 'bhinedus (S.B. 1.2.2). “My dear child, were are you?” Krishna Dwaipayana called loudly, and the response came from where? From every leaf of every tree, from every flower, from every plant, and from every stone: “Father, I am here.” Everywhere were reverberations of this response, “Father, I am here.” Where are you? Everywhere. The soul had permeated into the fibrous structure of a leaf of the tree.

You may be thinking, “This is a terrible thing; we are not meant for it.” I am telling you that you are meant for it. Suspicion about one’s own self is a worse evil than suspicion about other people. You doubt your own self. Can there be a greater tragedy for you than that? “We are our own traitors,” says the poet. Doubts are our traitors. There are no traitors in this world but our doubts about our own selves. You say, “I am incapable.” Why don’t you say, “I am capable. There is nothing wrong with me. I am honest in my asking. I love God sincerely. I have not deceived people. I have not harmed anybody. What is wrong with me? Why should I have any diffidence? Certainly I will have it. Yes, I have girded up my loins for this achievement.” Swami Sivanandaji says, Patanjali Maharshi says, the Bhagavadgita says, the Upanishad says, the Bible says, this says, that says the same message.

I come to the point once again that I mentioned to you yesterday: find one hour for yourself to think like this. If you can find more time and you can entertain this inward thought even in your busy hours, there is nothing wrong. Even if you are very busy, very much occupied, you cannot afford to forget this essential thing. If a large amount of cash is in your hand, will you forget that it is there, even if you are busy in an office? You may be doing any work, but you will be conscious that there is something. If you can be conscious of the treasure in your pocket together with all the work that you do, why should you be not conscious of this greater treasure when you are busy with other works? It is a question of wanting. This is a want. You see the value of that which is in your pocket, but do not seem to be seeing that much value in that which looks like an abstract occupation of the mind and not a reality for you. Very unfortunately, you feel the world as a reality, and that for which you are asking as an ethereal, other-worldly abstraction. The reverse is the case. This world is an ethereal abstraction; it is an illusion, and the reality is somewhere else.

Thus, the meditation should be carried on every day. Adopt only one method: See through the thing by being that thing. It may be anything in this world. Immediately you will become the friend of all people. You need not read Dale Carnegie to become friends of people; here is the Dale Carnegie. In one second you are the friend of all people, and whatever you feel about others, others also will feel. The world is ready to be at your service, provided you are ready to consider it as your friend and well-wisher. Are you not inextricably involved in the fabric of the structure of the universe? Where is your friend; where is your enemy? Why harbour evil in the heart of hearts, making remarks about things and talking nonsense about whatever you see? As I told you, you cannot see things properly because the demons have attacked the eyes. Therefore, you see beautiful and ugly, pleasant and unpleasant, sweet and bitter, soft and hard, though no such things exist in the world. The beautiful and the ugly do not exist, and so on. The demonical attack of space and time is the cause of your seeing such duality perception, the worst thing being the duality between you and others, between yourself and the world, between yourself and God Himself.

Thus, get up in the morning and be seated on your own bed. If you want to have your ablutions, okay, have it; if not, be seated there itself. Close your eyes for a few minutes and chant Aaaaauuuuummmmmmmm, Aaaaauuuuummmmmmmm, Aaaaauuuuummmmmmmm. Do not say Om, Om, Om, Om, Om. Chant sonorously, nicely, melodiously, musically, harmoniously, beautifully, and a vibration will be generated in your body. You will feel a thrill, as if ants are crawling through your nerves. The distracted manner in which the pranas move in many directions through the body will get focussed into a harmonious movement of the pranas. You will feel the titillation and sensation of movement throughout the body; a pleasurable sensation will be felt inside if this chant sonorously, calmly, beautifully is carried on for at least fifteen minutes. You will be healthier in your body, more composed in your mind, and blissful within. Then, after this chanting, the mind operates in the direction of these principles that have been placed before you.

You will not be able to remember all these things always. For several days you have heard so many things. Some five percent of what you have heard may be in your mind; ninety-five percent has gone because of the inability of the mind to grasp everything that is told. So Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj’s advice is: When you go to a satsanga, have a diary or a paper and a pencil with you. Take down striking points that have been told to you. Who can remember everything? This has struck you, this has struck you; write it down. Then go to your room and ponder over these thoughts. You have attended many satsangas; many mahatmas, many great, learned people might have told you interesting things. One thousand things you have heard, and how much can you remember? Make a note of all these things. Let your diary be a scripture for you. Go on brooding, thinking, contemplating.

After hearing all this, you will have a problem of how – how, how? In the earlier stages you seem to be quite at hand with all these things that I told you. It is after several days of attempt that you will find that you are not up to the mark. You will never be able to practise this technique that I told you. The mind will refuse to do that. At that time, take a trip from your house to the place where you find guidance. Be there for one or two days and tell your guide, “I have missed the point. Simple though it appeared, I am not able to catch it. I cannot turn the tables round and make the mind think reversely. I think objectively, but subjectively I cannot think. I can think the object, but I cannot think as the object. This is not possible.” You have understood what I said. Even now you know what it is. Perhaps you are able to think it just now, but after some time it goes. You will think of roti, chapatti, sabji, this and that. It is still an outside object only.

The daily practice of a session in the early morning hours or in the evening, as the case may be, for even a few minutes, will have a salubrious effect on your personality. All this mental exercise is hard, for reasons of your own. Take a passage of a scripture such as the eleventh chapter of the Bhagavadgita – nāhaṁ vedair na tapasā na dānena na cejyayā, śakya evaṁvidho draṣṭuṁ dṛṣṭavān asi māṁ yathā (Gita 11.53): “Nobody can behold Me in this way as you have seen me, O Arjuna. Everybody sees Me as if I am in heaven, in Vaikunta, in Kailasa, or Brahmaloka. They do not know where I am, really. I am there where the seer of Me himself is, herself is, itself is.” This great being whom you are beholding is not anywhere else than in the heart of hearts of the one who beholds. This is the reason why there was fright in the mind of Arjuna when he beheld it. It looks as if you are about to swallow the whole ocean through your little mouth, and it has inundated your whole personality.

The eleventh chapter of the Bhagavadgita may be studied every day. A passage from the Upanishad may be studied – īśāvāsyam idaṁ sarvam (Isa Up. 1.1) – or any other passage of any other Upanishad, or some passage from the Ramayana or the Srimad Bhagavata. When Sri Krishna was tending the cows and Brahma took away all the cattle, He became not merely the cattle; he became the cows, the cowherds, and even the sticks of the cowherds with the same height and length, and with the same knots. Every little thing was perfect.

Sarvaṁ viṣṇumayaṁ giro ’ṅga-vad ajaḥ sarva-svarūpo babhau (S.B. 10.13.19), says Suka Maharshi in this great context. Sarvaṁ viṣṇumayaṁ: All this is the Absolute Supreme Being. This scripture manifested itself physically as it were, palpably, visibly and materially when Sri Krishna became the bamboo stick and became even the number of the knots, and the same face, same language, same gesticulation and the same face of the cattle, the cow and the calf. O wonder! Sarvaṁ viṣṇumayaṁ giro ’ṅga-vad ajaḥ sarva-svarūpo babhau. You will be thrilled by hearing all this. These little things that you hear are not merely stories told to you but medicines which will purge you of all the dross in your personality. You become clarified, cleansed completely.

This is only a question of a few days here. You will go back, and then will you become a different person? No, you shall not. This is only a recharging of your battery here, but it has to work continuously, even when you are elsewhere. Knowing that this life is short, knowing that any moment can be the day of the call, knowing that nothing can come with you, not even the nearest best friends, be cautious. Don’t be heedless.

Every moment go to bed with a feeling that tomorrow morning you will not wake up. This is one of the instructions of great sages. Your balance sheet is closed tonight, and there are no figures carried forward; otherwise, the figures will come up. Today is the last day, and if tomorrow you wake up, it is a long lease given to you by God; if you do not get up, well and good, you have cleared your accounts. No unfulfilled desire may be maintained in the mind when you go to bed; otherwise, you will have to reap it in the next birth. Don’t owe something to somebody when you go to bed. Discharge the debt today itself; otherwise, you will have to pay it in the next birth. When you go to bed, don’t have the feeling that you owe something to this man. Don’t have the feeling that you have hurt somebody’s feeling. Go immediately and touch the feet of that man and say, “I am very sorry. I cannot sleep because I have done this, uttered this or behaved like this. Excuse me.” Then the heart is calm. Go calmly to your bed – “I have not hurt anybody. I owe no debt to any person, and I have not begged anything from anybody. My accounts are cleared. I go freely.” – because this may be a fact. It may be that you shall get up in the morning, or you may not, also. So why take a risk?

Someone said, “If God does not exist, it does not matter; you may have no fear. But suppose He exists? Be careful. See what will happen to you.” So if you continue to exist tomorrow, okay, it is the grace of God. If you do not exist tomorrow, what will happen? Where will you go? What will be your condition then? Who will receive you? What laws will operate in that new world? Who will call you their own? These people whom you considered as yours will leave you, depart from you at the cremation ground. Those people, those things, those laws whom you disregarded as if they never existed will be there face to face with you: “Do you recognise us?” Don’t have that question posed before you. Be a friend of all the laws of nature, of all the fourteen realms, lokas, etc., till the Satyaloka. Be a friend of the world God has created. Be a blessed soul, and the world will be yours. God shall be yours.

Therefore, have this little programme, as I said. I am repeating the same thing again and again. Be alone to yourself for some time every day, because it is the most difficult thing for you. You are always busy running here and there; but if you want to mind your business, and if you think you are also something worthwhile in this world and not only business is important, then you are also important to some extent. If you honestly feel that something good should be done to you, you have to find time for it. Some price has to be paid for all things, whatever they are. Thus is the message of the great saints and sages and masters of yore.

And be happy. Be happy because you have not borrowed anything from anybody. Be happy that you have not hurt the feelings of anybody. Be happy that you have not uttered unkind words about any other person. You have seen things as God will see; you have performed your actions as God would expect you to perform them. You have lived here as an ambassador of God Almighty, which you really are, as a representative of that which sent you here for its purpose. With this message planted in your heart, rejoice, be thrilled, dance in ecstasy and be blessed.