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Religion and Social Values
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 5: The Yoga of Life

At the close of the Sadhana Week, when your mind is gradually gravitating towards your homes, what are the thoughts, the ideas, the conclusions that you would be able to carry with you? What has happened to you after all, having come from a long distance, spending some money from your pocket, taking leave with some difficulty from your offices, staying here for some days, struggling in the small rooms of this Ashram? What has happened to you, finally, is a point on which you may bestow thought.

Most of us are accustomed to activities in the world. Everything that we do is only an activity. Whether we worship God, undertake a journey to Tirupati or visit the holy shrines of Badrinath and Kedarnath, all these programs come under the category of activity. Man knows nothing but activity. If we sit, it is an activity. If we stand, it is an activity. If we do something, it is an activity; if we do not do anything, it is also some sort of a negative activity. If we think of God, it is an activity; if we don't think of God, it is also an activity.

Now, most of us, human beings as we are and capable of thinking only in human terms, cannot escape the difficulty of assessing everything in terms of human values. When we turn to religion, when we take to spirituality, mostly we have a business attitude. What will it bring to us? Commercial thinking is so impetuous and insatiable that we cannot exercise our mind except in terms of a give-and-take bargain.

Why should we go to God unless we are to gain something by this adventure? So, again, we are commercial. Why should we offer prayers to God, do japa, study scriptures? Why go to Mahatmas? Why do anything if something is not to come to us as a recompense, as a salary for the work we have done? Every action has to produce a result which is pleasant, conducive, beneficial, and to the growth of our satisfaction. If this is not assured, man will not budge an inch.

Are we going to conclude that this is the state of affairs, finally? When we grow old and our legs begin to totter, are we going to dispatch ourselves from this world with this prosaic way of thinking into which we have been shackled right from our childhood? And is our religion, our prayer and our holiness of attitude a commerce, after all? Have we only opened another shop in the name of religion and spirituality, where someone sells spirituality, and another purchases it at some cost of what he calls austerity and discipline? Is our austerity, discipline, and prayerful conduct in religion and spirituality the price we pay for a commodity that we purchase from the shop of spirituality? Or has it any other significance? 

Is it because of the fact that some security will accrue to us that we take to religion? Possibly so. We are insecure in this world. We are afraid of events that may devolve upon us as an avalanche of uncertain and uncomfortable experiences. We feel that God will protect us against all odds of life, bless us with a lengthy duration of existence in this world, and keep our family intact; and we shall be protected from adversities which tell upon our longings—again, longings which are calculated upon our material, social, personal existence. If these are our conclusions finally, it is unfortunate.

God is not a human being with whom we can speak as if we talk to a boss. And with all our maturity of age, white hair, grey beard and learning, a susceptible weakness in us will persist, irrespective of our studies and hearing that God is a father who is in heaven to take care of us, as a parent does, in our material living. This difficulty cannot escape us, whatever be our learning. When we pray to God, we are praying to a God of a creative capability that oversteps the limits of the Earth. There is a peculiar kink in the mind of the human being—a twist, a contortion, due to which the assigning of transcendence to God in our love of religion and practice of spirituality is not easily avoided.

We have heard it said again and again, and it has been dinned into our ears by adepts and scriptures, that God is only a name that we have given to the reality of things. The word ‘God' unfortunately has an association which is anthropomorphic, though grammatically this need not be the meaning of the term ‘God'. By normal practice, a magnified human form gets associated with the concept of God; and our littleness, our incapacity and our mortality get counterbalanced by this magnitude of the Almighty, Whom we have placed as a counterpart of everything that we lack in this world. God is regarded by us as the place of fulfilment of everything that we lack here, so that perhaps we are running after God for the acquisition of all those things which we have not been given and are denied in this world. If death overtakes us here, we shall not be overtaken by death in God, so this is a joy. “Let me go to God. I shall not die there, because death is a fear. I am poverty-stricken, unwanted, and cowed down by society as a nobody here. This shall not be my fate in God; I shall be hallowed. The flag of my greatness will be hoisted up by the angels in heaven, and all my desires will be fulfilled.” There is again a totally human, physical, social, empirical, anthropomorphic reading of the meaning of God in our religious practice and spiritual outlook.

This is a defect which we are required to get over by our contact with mighty masters. As we are not human beings essentially, it is not necessary for us to transfer human characteristics to God. We have been convinced that we are only human beings and nothing more, nothing less. We are associating ourselves with a false definition. Why go to the extent of the problem of considering oneself as a human being? We cannot even forget that we are men or women. This idea of one's being a male or a female persists to the grave, and it may perhaps pursue us beyond the grave. We are limited to a concept, which again is limited to a minor concept, which again is limited to further details, so that we are bundles of limitations, involvements, complexities, and a mess of everything.

The decentralisation of our personality, which has been locked up in these three knots of the heart referred to by the great masters as avidya-kama-karma—ignorance, desire and action—is the principle function of religion and spirituality.

It is not possible for us to discuss all these details within a few minutes, or even a few days. Discipline in spirituality and religion is a long-term process under a great master for years together— and, as our scriptures proclaim, sometimes it can extend even up to twelve years. Often it is a lifelong process of discipline because the limitations of our mind, which are physical, biological and social, are capable of entering our very blood and veins with such intensity that a little discourse or a few minutes of japa or instruction from a Guru for a few minutes may not suffice for us to free ourselves from this malady. We are involved in a problem which is not merely skin-deep, but it has gone into our marrow. We are totally a heap of limitations.

Since this is the last day of your participation in this course called Sadhana Week, there is neither the time nor the circumstance to go into a description of all the points involved in your spiritual practice. I shall place before you only a few important items which you can remember with benefit, setting aside the other difficulty that you have always—that you have no time to devote for deeper and higher thinking, as you have pressing calls of the life in which you are placed at present—which is a matter for each one of you to consider independently.

The way in which you pass your day is the way in which you can assess yourself, to some extent. The way in which you conduct yourself with other people, the opinion that you have in regard to the atmosphere around, the thoughts that persist in your mind repeatedly throughout the day, the agonies and the anguishes and the anxieties that keep you alert throughout the day are points to be perpetually recorded in your diary.

There is often an urgency felt by us the moment we wake up in the morning. We wake up with a sudden jerk and a shock of immediacy of action. The business of life is adjourned due to the pressures of bodily fatigue to get hours of sleep. If this pressure of fatigue were not to tell upon us, we would not sleep but would work even in the night. But the body has its own say. It does not permit us to work twenty-four hours of the day. And the moment we are awake, we are pursued forcefully by the ideas of commitments with which we have gone to sleep. We are, as it were, in the midst of an ocean where waves are dashing upon one another and we have no moment's respite to take a dip or a bath in it. But we have to take a bath in the ocean even when the waves continue to move, because if we wait for the waves to subside, we will never take our bath.

So the pressures of existence, the commitments of our life, are not going to cease, even till death. It is a chronic disease that we have been born into. In the midst of these pressures of life, we have to take a few minutes off in the interest of our own future welfare. Don't you, when you are in service, try to save a little money for your future, for the days after your retirement? Or do you spend everything that very day and become a pauper, waiting for your next salary due on the first of the month? Every wise person lays aside something for the future, as he knows that a day will come when he needs these amenities.

Don't you think that this should be the logic that you have to apply to the whole of your life? When you retire from this life, what will sustain you? While you have some sort of an idea as to when you will retire from this official career of yours—after sixty-five, after completing thirty years of service, and so on—there is no such saying in the matter of your retirement from life itself. This is a greater difficulty before you than the difficulty that you have in your official career. You may be given an order of retirement from the Central Authorities without any previous notice.

The wisdom of life, partially at least, consists in preparing oneself for retirement at any moment of time. To be unprepared is not wisdom. You should never say, “I was unprepared. I was taken unawares. I was scared by an event for which I was not ready.” There should be nothing for which you are not ready in this world. Every moment of time you have to be prepared for everything which you can think of or conceive in your mind. If the Earth gives way under your feet, you should not be under the impression that it is something unexpected. If the Sun drops on your head, you should not say “I never thought this could happen.” There is nothing which cannot happen in this world. Such a precarious relationship obtains between ourselves and the natural forces of things.

One of the aspects of wise living is to be ready for action at any moment of time for any eventuality that can overtake you without your knowledge. But how will you be prepared? What are the appurtenances with which you can equip yourself? Nothing will follow you. No pension will be given to you when you retire from life. But the pension that perhaps may follow you is your participation in the natural laws of the universe. The charitable feelings that you have expressed in your life, the goodness that has emanated from you and the unselfishness that has characterised your personality—or, in other words, what you have given— will follow you. What you have taken will not follow you, but will act as a great chain of bondage even in the future life.

It is absolutely essential—very, very essential for every one of us to keep in mind always—that we do not exploit society, exploit the world, exploit anyone, in the sense that we do not enjoy life at the expense of anybody else. In other words, your life should not show a debit side even by one inch of width when the day closes for you. Let alone life closing—even when the day closes, you must be able to retire with a satisfaction, and not with a grief: “After all, I have wasted my day today. I have done nothing.”

A few minutes of qualitative adjustment of your mind with the great reality of things is the asset that will follow you. Can you not find a few minutes when you wake up in the morning? Instead of rushing to your bathroom or to the table for tea, can you not cease from suddenly rising from your bed and opening the door to call out to your servants or engaging yourself in an urgent work? Wake up a few minutes earlier, if possible, and contemplate your position in this life. All that will accrue to you and follow you, all that you can expect in this world is dependent upon the relation that obtains between you and things outside—the people around, and the world in total.

Contemplate for a few minutes on the origin of all things—with which everyone is connected, and you are also connected. Contemplate for a few minutes that this world, this whole life, is like a vast tree, as the Bhagavadgita explains. We are all the leaves, the flowers, the fruits. One leaf does not touch another leaf. Each leaf is independent. One is ‘X', another is ‘Y', a third is ‘Z'. What connection have we among ourselves? We work for our own gain, our own welfare, our own good—everything our own, my own, for myself, and nothing else.

But in this tree of life, we are the leaves with the twigs and the flowers and the fruits—unrelated, as it were—yet, we are connected to the twigs and the branches, to the central root of this tree of the universe, which is again based on the seed from which it has sprouted. Contemplate the multitude of things as a widespread ramification of this vast tree of the cosmos of which you are also one. And you are not only a witness of this tree. You are not standing outside the tree and looking at it. You are one of the twigs, one of the leaves, one of the ramifications of this vast tree. When you look at the tree of which you are a part, you cannot see it. You cannot see a thing of which you are a part.

How do you see the world, then? What is it that you are looking at? This is a misconception. That you are able to open your eyes and look at the world as if it is an object of your senses shows the inadequacy of the education you have undergone and the knowledge that you possess. Once again, go deep into your own logical way of thinking. “How would I envisage this world, how would I look at people, how would I speak, how would I think, how would I feel, and how would I act when I am not a witness of this large tree of the universe but am one of these ramifications themselves?” You would find that thinking is not possible. How would a tree think about itself? That would be the way in which you would be thinking about life as a whole. You cannot imagine how a tree would think about itself, because you have always been looking at the tree as if you own it as a property in your garden. You have never had the time to imagine how one can think one's own self as unrelated, because no such relation is possible, all relations getting involved in the very concept of relation itself. This is the stretch of imagination which you have to extend to yourself for a few minutes. You will find that the mind is thrilled. Your imaginations rise up from the mire in which they are clogged. When you are able to contemplate in this manner, you are in a true state of meditation.

Have you not heard it said again and again that meditation is communion with the object of meditation? It is not thinking the object. It is establishing a vital connection with the object, becoming en rapport with the object, establishing relationship with that which is inseparable from the object. And, finally, the intention is to enter into the object, to think as the object thinks—to think as the tree thinks, to think as the world thinks, to think as another man thinks. You have not been taught this art. How can you think as another man thinks? How can you think as a brick thinks, or a stone thinks, or a tree thinks? Meditation is this.

Once you succeed in this adjustment of your mind in the way I suggested, the whole of yoga is known by you. All the yogas, all the scriptures, all the admonitions, all that is religion and spirituality is summed up in this single, simple technique of your capacity to see things as things see themselves—wherein comes the possibility of your entering into the ecstatic possession of yourself in a larger consciousness, called samadhi in yoga parlance. Samadhi is the condition where you are united with that which you are thinking in your mind. What are you thinking in your mind? There are many people sitting around you, and a large world around you astronomically expanded in space and time—unthinkable, astounding, miraculous and fearsome. This is the object which is ahead of you, in front of you.

If you can think in terms of the very same thing which you regard as an object, you will walk on this world as a tiger cub walks on its own mother, and it will not terrify you. You cannot go near a lion or a ferocious Bengal tiger, but its own child walks over it, bites its ears, sniffs its nose, scratches it. The little cub is not afraid of its mother or its father. Why are you afraid? It is because the intimacy of the mother to the child and the child to the mother is greater than the intimacy that seems to be among ourselves, even as family members, friends, relations, etc. The whole of yoga is summed up in this great art of your capability to unite yourself with things which are now the objects of your thought. Let a few minutes be spent in this manner when you get up in the morning, and make this a daily practice.

All this is hard thinking. You will find it is not so easy. So take up a scripture, a book, a text which will enable you to rouse thoughts of this kind if you yourself are unable to dig them up from the deeper layers of your mind. In the early morning, chant the name of God, reciting the mantra in a loud tone so that the distractions pulling the mind in different directions may cease, to some extent, in the divine vibration produced by the recitation of the mantra.

There is no need to be too anxious over things and excessively busy, as if the world is sitting on your head and you are the owner of things. Nothing is going to happen to the world even if you die. It has been there, and it will be there. Too much enthusiasm over it is a foolishness and a foolhardy attitude. You are always thinking that you are carrying the world on your shoulders and if you are not there, the world will perish. It shall not. Therefore, too much anxiety over the world is not called for. A little bit of time for thinking in this right manner is essential for your own good, to accumulate assets to prepare for your future journey into a realm where altogether new laws operate, and the present laws will not work. You will be taken by surprise to find yourself in a kingdom where these rules and regulations do not work. Somebody else catches hold of you and accosts you in a language which you may not be able to understand.

A little japa, a little meditation of this type, and a little study—these three should form the essential features of your daily sadhana in the early morning. The first thing in the morning would be a little meditation, as I suggested; then a little bit japa of your mantra; and then, thirdly, study of the scripture because these sublime thoughts will not always come to the mind of their own accord. They have to be forced, to some extent, by a habituation of oneself to study the Bhagavadgita or scriptures of this character which are filled with such invigorating feelings and thoughts.

In the evening, again follow the same program when you return from your office or finish your dinner—only, in the reverse order. Instead of meditation first, japa afterwards and study third, let the study be first, the japa second and meditation the last item, so that when you go to bed, you wind up all your problems and involvements and your dues to things. Do not go to bed with unpaid dues. Struggle hard to pay all your debts before you go to bed because today may be the last day, and it is not proper that you wake up with a pending list of undone works, or dues to be paid, or commitments not attended to, etc. Every day is a clean day. Go to bed with a clean mind—a slate which is perfectly washed of all its impressions of the earlier day.

There should be meditation, japa and study in the early morning, and study, japa and meditation in the evening. And a habit should be formed that throughout the day, at least for one or two minutes in the midst of your work, you recall to memory your duty, the purpose for which you were born, and that which God expects from you, the universe expects from you, people expect from you—not what you expect from people. Do not bring that into the forefront. Do not always be contemplating what you expect from people, from the world and from God. Why should you expect anything? Let others expect something from you. It is better to be humble than to be important.

Thus, in the midst of your office duties or your itinerary, obligations—you may be a railway official moving in a train, or an executive engineer in the Public Works Department having to go here and there and never finding time to sit in one place; or even if you are seated in a particular office, you are overwhelmed with papers and files and problems and difficulties to such an extent that you have difficulty in finding even a moment's rest, but put down your pen for a minute. The world will not go to the dogs just because you have put down your pen for one minute. Withdraw your mind, and contemplate in the way in which you have practised in the morning and evening. Let the day pass with intervals of a minute at least, periodically, with deeper convictions and satisfactions of a superphysical nature.

Remember, God will love you to the extent you love Him. To the extent we want Him, to that extent He also wants us. Often it is said that He wants us wholly, though we want Him only partially. This also is a great truth. But His wanting us wholly is partially manifest and reflected through our narrow individuality. This is why it appears as if He wants us only to the extent we want Him. As sunlight is not restricted to anybody—sunlight shines on everybody, and no one can say the Sun is stingy or miserly in shedding its light on them—still, it may look as if it is stingy and miserly and giving us only a little of it. This is because in our rooms there is only a little slit through which the light can pass, since we have closed the windows and doors and put a curtain all around.

God is all compassionate, and the whole of Him is ready to be at our advantage every moment of time. God is not helping us partially, a little bit, like a stingy man; yet, it may appear that the whole of the grace is not working with us because of the difficulty of our opening ourselves before the influx of these rays of grace.

So open your hearts and repent! You may find it difficult to weep before others on account of the shyness and the difficulty of presenting yourself before the public, so sometimes you may have to weep within yourself due to your contrition and the melting of your heart for the sins you have committed in the earlier days. The faults, the selfishness, the errors, the blunders and the wrongs that you have done to people, even to God Himself, may have to be repented for, wept for, and a vow has to be taken that this shall not be in the future. There is no greater medicine than repentance. All sins shall be destroyed by the melting of the mind in respect of all the errors of the past. Knowledge of God, love of God and surrender of oneself to God is a panacea for all the errors and even the wickedness through which you might have passed in your early life. Nothing in this world can stand before the light of the sun of God.

Let us have this faith. Faith works miracles. Faith is the greatest treasure in this world. It is faith in God that we need today—not learning, not much work, and not running here and there. It is a deeply felt conviction that God is within us and around us. This conviction will draw into ourselves the grace of the Almighty in all the abundance of the light of the Sun, which is radiating through the vast space. 

Never harm other people. Never even think harm to others. “Let that man die!” Do not think like this. “Cursed be that man!” Do not say such words. Do not utter harsh words. Do not call someone a dog, etc., even when you are in an angry mood. After all, anger is a passion. It is an unnatural condition of yours. In sober moods, such words will not occur from you. Regard others as you regard your own self. The whole of ethics and morality is centred in this little admonition that others are exactly as you are. What you think, others also can think; what you do, others also can do; and how you behave, others also can behave. Hence, any unwarranted attitudes in respect of people and things in general have to be overcome, with great difficulty, by severe self-discipline. 

Occasionally, you have to find time to sit before a great master because no book, no meditation that you practise will be of such advantage and benefit to you as a few minutes of seatedness before a radiating personality of a God-centred person. Again, these are difficult things in this world. But God is not dead, and righteousness is still alive. Dharma cannot perish, and goodness is still active, and the problems of life shall not persist always, just as one cannot always be in a state of fever or high temperature. These are temporary phases through which we pass. The world is not going to be destroyed. We are not heading towards doom, as astrologers may predict or astronomers sometimes tell us. Doom is not the end of the world. Perfection is the end of the world, as God is the centrality of the universe.

As the evolution of the universe is towards the realisation of God, we are moving from lesser perfection to larger perfection. The goal ahead of us that we can expect in the long run is largeness, abundance, plenty, perfection, and finally, deathlessness—and not the opposite of it. We are not descending into hell, but are ascending, which is the urge of the universe. The world is not going down and down; it is going up and up. Even in the apparent descent of the world process through history, etc., it is actually trying to ascend—even as when we are physically ill, we are not going down in our health; it is only a temporary descent for the sake of regaining health under the existing conditions of an onslaught of toxic matter, etc., in the physical body.

The turmoils of life, the difficulties and problems, are the temporary phases through which the world passes in confronting untoward atmospheres around it, finally aiming at the health of the universe. The world is positive and not negative. And we are bound to succeed. We are not going to be defeated, finally. Victory is not only the birthright of everyone, but of the whole world. Satyam evam jayate: What ultimately will succeed is the truth of things. Nanritam: Untruth will not succeed. So you should not be afraid that untruth may succeed one day. Though it sometimes appears that it does succeed, it will not. All undivine forces appear to succeed in the beginning. In the earlier stages they appear to be stronger than God, but this is only a drama that is played by the will of God Himself.

Therefore, undaunted and hearing nothing, with deep conviction in ourselves that truth shall succeed and nothing can be a greater truth than God's existence, our duty in this world is a bringing together of our love of God with our relationship to mankind. This is the coming together of jnana and karma, as they say. The duty that we owe to people outside has to go hand in hand with the devotion that we have to evince to God Almighty.

Thus, religion and practical life are not opposites. They are two aspects, two faces of a single duty which is the yoga of life. What is the yoga of life? It is the movement of the spirit of man towards the Godhead of the universe. In this movement, which is not merely personal, social or individual but a larger universal movement, we take with us not only our relationship to little things like family but our larger relationship to the whole world, until we go to the Super-Relative Being where all relationships find their ultimate form, their true being, and fulfilment becomes the final career of things—a complete satisfaction of all sides of our nature.

Every desire is fulfilled in its true form in God. Nothing is abandoned, nothing is lost. You are not a loser at any time. You are always a gainer, so that in God you find the greatest gain wherein the whole world is involved. All your family members also will be seen there, all your wealth, all your position, all that you wanted here is found in its true form—not in the reflected, distorted form in which it is realised here.

These thoughts may, with benefit, be carried by you when you leave this hall, when you leave the Ashram. Train yourself, and do not forget to keep these noble ideas in your pocket as your treasures, as your vade mecum, as that which will bring you all that you need and protect you at every moment— here, as well as hereafter.