By Swami Krishnananda

The presumptuousness of human nature strives to insist that it is all-in-all, and is the sole agent of its ideas and actions. Here is the seed of human bondage, which shoots forth trunks and branches, leaves and fruits and flowers in the form of experiences, of which the world consists. What we call the world is a fabric of experience. Whatever we feel within ourselves is the world for us. Whatever we sense is the world for us in as much as whatever we feel, think and do is mostly a reproduction of what the senses report to us. Our world is a world of sense. It is not an intellectual world or even, more moderately, a psychological world, a world of feelings and emotions, though it appears as if the world is psychological, emotional, volitional and intellectual.

The secret is that it is sensory at the root because our understanding, our willing, our feeling, our emotion and our deeds are all effectuations of sensory contacts, sensory experience. What do the senses tell us? That we are independent human beings. This humanity of ours is a body, an indivisible entity that each one of us appears to be. The purpose of the senses is to harden the ego by plastering it with the concrete and cement of contractual experience. The ego may feel frightened if the senses are not to support it perpetually from moment to moment. Every day is a day of sensory experience which only confirms to our ego, and everything that is associated with it, that the world is nothing more than or less than sensory experience. We believe what we see with our eyes, and we cannot believe what we do not see with our eyes. We believe what we hear with our ears and what any other sense organ tells us.

This is a reflex action taking place within ourselves on the foundation of sensory experience. We have to understand what it is that we mean by sense experience. It is a total impact produced upon us by every type of communication we receive through the avenues of our personality. The eyes, the ears, the senses of taste, touch and smell all act together in one group as a single body of information, as if five evidences in a court speak in one language, with one word.

So, we have no choice. We have to choose what is given to us by the senses because we have no other source of information except what is received by them. A judge in a court has to believe what evidence comes. He calls for reports, but cannot go beyond the evidences available. There are only five witnesses to the world – the five senses of knowledge – and there are no more evidences available. Finally, it has to be decided that what is communicated as valid by the five senses is to be the judgment of the ego and anything that is the structure of what we appear to be..

We have founded our life on this report, the judgment passed by our own centre, which is the ego which struggles to maintain itself as the only competent judiciary in this world. Each individual, each person, each man, woman and child are conditioned by this assumption and presumption that each one is a final judge for one's own self. Here is the beginning as well as the end of the fate of the human being. The world is not really made in the way in which it is reported by the senses and judged by the ego. The world escapes the notice of the instruments of sensory perception. The constitution of the world is totally different from the way it is understood and reported by the senses or judged by the ego of man.

It is not possible for any human being to understand what the world is made of. One can know the world only as it is reflected through the media of the senses. This means to say that the world is what each one understands it to be for one's own self by the information so gathered, as mentioned earlier. World is world, man is man. That the world is constituted differently from the way it is understood by the human being is the folly of human nature and the sorrow of humanity.

The world is incapable of being judged by any man in as much as the relationship of the human being to nature or to the world as a whole is not purely sensory. It is super-sensible in a very important way. The way in which we are connected to the world is not sensory or even psychological, intellectual, volitional or emotional. There is a more central relationship that seems to be between us and the world outside. This relationship is the conditioning factor of human pleasure and pain, and the whole destiny of mankind. The history of humanity, of wars, of kings and queens and comings and goings is not a making of human beings wholly. The history that we study in our universities and colleges is a political history, a cultural history, a literary history, a social and economic history, but the causes behind the movement of human beings creating this sort of history are beyond the operation of the human movement.

Who causes history? Man creates history, is what man may say. This is not true. History is not made by man. On the other hand, the historical process utilises man as an instrument of its purpose. There is a difference between history as we read in books and the historical process, which is a different thing altogether. World history is not what we read from the book of H.G. Wells or Edward Gibbon. These are chronicles that have been subject to the perception of human understanding and senses. The Encyclopaedia Britannica is not a chronicle of actual facts. It is a report of what is evidenced by the senses to man and judged by human understanding on the basis of these reports. Human history is a part of world history, and world history is always understood by us as meaning only human history; for us, world history is man's movements and the political and other circumstances of human life. Man thinks that he alone exists in this world and that God has not made anybody else except man. So presumptuous is man! So goes man, as if he alone has been created and the world is for his sake: he is to enjoy it, condition it, use it, harness it and appropriate it, and do anything that he likes with it. This is not true.

There is another judiciary above the human judiciary, which is the principle which issues mandates for the movements of nature. One of the persons who has tried to understand the inner motivating factors behind human history was the great writer Arnold Toynbee, who wrote twelve volumes called ‘A Study of History'. This study of history by Arnold Toynbee is not what is read in colleges. It is something different. It is a philosophy of history. Why should history take place at all in the way in which it takes place? Why should events occur in the world in the way they occur? Why does man behave in the way he behaves? Why should there be kings and queens and emperors and comings and goings and enthronings and dethronings and wars, victories and defeats? Why should these be there at all? We may say it is man's foolishness, man's wisdom, man's needs. Nothing of the kind is the truth. It is cosmic history.

We have in the Srimad Bhagavata Purana perhaps the first attempt ever made to write what is called cosmic history – the processes of the universe or the circumstances of creation as a whole, energised by a will which is the maker of history. This will is the central authority to issue any kind of order, just as a Chief Justice in a Supreme Court issues a judicial order which is supposed to be the guideline for the whole country of which he is the judge. No man, no individual, no citizen, no subordinate, no official can refute, contradict or bypass this mandate of the central authority, and any event that takes place in the country under the pressure of the indications given by this central judicial authority cannot be regarded as an individual action. Though they are all conditioned from various sides by certain secondary factors such as the human body and the instruments of activity, the authority is central; therefore, it is finally motivated, instrumentalised and fulfilled according to the purpose indicated by the central judgment.

Thus, the history of the cosmos, the story of the universe and the processes of mankind's coming ever since man came to this Earth are all centrally ordained by one single will, of which man has no knowledge. Neither I do anything, nor you do anything, nor even can we do anything. It is not merely that one does not do anything; the other way around is that no one can do anything because of the great restraint that is exercised on every part of nature by a central governing purpose which is the original will of the Creator.

The Rigveda, towards its concluding portion, makes mention of a cosmological principle wherein it is indicated that the incidents that are to take place in the whole creation are already visualised at the time of creation, just as a central constitution, when it is laid before the parliament in a particular country or a nation, indicates the guidelines for the further movements of every type of official purpose or action. Dhata, or the Supreme Creator, Ishwara, God the Almighty, is the seed out of which the whole tree of the universe has arisen, and there can be nothing in this tree which is not in the seed. Whatever be the largeness or the expanse of the banyan, after all, it can contain nothing which was not in that tiny seed of the banyan tree. We may say, “How beautiful, how grand, how mighty, how strong, how shady!” and so forth, but whatever be our grandiose description of the expanse of the banyan tree, all that grandiose beauty, whatever the secret or mystery of it is, was contained in that little tiny seed in a minute latent potential form. So is this world.

It is difficult to say whether Hinduism is a purely idealistic belief system or pragmatic. Perhaps, the truth lies somewhere in between the two extremes. It acknowledges the reality or the illusion or the predicament in which beings are caught and offers possibilities that are not of this world. Although those possibilities fall in the realm of idealism, Hinduism promises that when you reach there by whatever means, you will know them to be not idealistic or unrealistic at all, but an integral part of your consciousness and awareness as cognizable realities. By asserting that the transcendental reality of the self can be known by the self only, it affirms that idealism can be realized by the self in its ideal and purest state. The problem is that you will not know it unless you reach that state and know it by yourself.

Events in this world are not man's creations. They are the will of nature, the volition of God operating, and when there are transmutations, transformations, historical processes, as we call it, taking place in various forms – kings ascending and descending from thrones, and so on – these are not caused by people. They are caused by the will or the purpose of the nature that is the mother of everything, and of which we are all parts.

Human wisdom consists in the realisation of the fact that man is not an independent universe by himself. There is no independent man in this world, nor is there even any independent atom and molecule. The rotation of electrons, the movement of molecules, planets and the solar system, the actions of every human being or even of an ant, and even the shaking of a leaf in a tree is mysteriously, ununderstandably, conditioned by the original seed of the cosmos, which is the will of Ishwara, the creative, purposive volition of God the Almighty, or the central substance of the cosmos. This is a thing which is totally obliterated from the human vision due to the affirmation of the human ego which sees only in a blinded fashion the repercussions created upon its own self in the form of the ego by the wrong information conveyed in a diversified manner by the different sense organs.

The sense organs are not our friends; they are our enemies. They are enemies who have entered the camp of our own habitat and given us information which is not intended for our welfare. And we, as credible beings, listen to the words of these enemies in the garb of our friends; we act upon their advice, and we reap sorrow. The day that we pass is full of tensions and agonising pressures from every side. This is the reason why we have no time to think in a poised, calm, leisurely and dispassionate manner.

We never knHow is it that we have been thrown into this despairing condition of a total oblivion in regard to what is taking place in the very environment in which we are living? We may call it by any name – avidya, maya, ignorance – but the words do not matter; the facts are there. We have been given a blow on the head, as it were, by an event which we call the fall of man from the originality of his pristine affiliation with the purpose of nature, God the Almighty.ow what dispassionate thinking is because all thinking is a ray projected by the ego. It is an I that is speaking. Unfortunately, this I, is the lord of this body, fed by this body, sustained by it, and pampered by it in every way so that we do not know which is the body and which is the ego. The ego seems to be a kind of bodily self-consciousness. This is the utter ruin of what we call the spiritual ideal and the aim which man is supposed to be pursuing. The progressions and retrogressions in human history and the rise and fall of empires, the births and deaths of human individuals, the coming and going of all things in nature are purposively motivated by a central authority of which no individual can have any consciousness or alliance.

How is it that we have been thrown into this despairing condition of a total oblivion in regard to what is taking place in the very environment in which we are living? We may call it by any name – avidya, maya, ignorance – but the words do not matter; the facts are there. We have been given a blow on the head, as it were, by an event which we call the fall of man from the originality of his pristine affiliation with the purpose of nature, God the Almighty.

We are living in an ashram. We are living in an atmosphere of culture, education and understanding. At least, we hope we are in that atmosphere. We expect to be in such an environment which is the blessed incentive provided to us for finding a few minutes every day to awaken ourselves to this fact of the cosmic purpose that is behind even the winking of our eyes and the breathing of our breaths.

But no man can change man. “What a pity,” says the poet, “what man has made of man.” Freedom has been given to man, as Milton says in his great poem ‘Paradise Lost'. Freedom has been given to man, but what kind of freedom? Either to stand or to fall. But man has chosen the freedom to fall because it is easier to fall than to stand. We know it is difficult to stand up but easy to lie down, and easy to swim with the current of the Ganga and difficult to swim against the current. Why do we always like to lie down? Because it is easier than to stand. Effort is needed to stand on two legs, but no effort is necessary to lie down. It becomes a natural, comfortable posture.

Thus, it is that man has chosen the freedom to fall, and not exercised the other freedom to stand in unison with God. The freedom to stand in union with God is an unpleasant thing to that incentive or pressure in man's egoism which seeks to assert itself. Anyone in a body, a congregation or a meeting who wishes to assert his own opinion will feel great agonising pain when the law of the body impinges upon that person contrary to his or her own opinion because the larger law is painful to the selfish law. Any law is painful, any discipline is unwelcome because discipline, law, regulation, rule, is a name that we give to that procedure which restrains the operation of an individual ego; therefore, it is always painful to the ego. It is resented by every man, every woman, every child, which means to say we resent every discipline, every law, every rule, every regulation, which again means we resent the way in which nature operates. Consequently, we resent God Himself. Man is the enemy of God, so what would God do to man? He would unleash the forces of nature, which He does in the form of wars and battles and revolts and many other catastrophes and cataclysms that He visits upon the whole world as He applies the surgeon's knife under given conditions.

Man's blessedness is not in the affirmation of his ego, but in the reaffirmation of his allegiance to the One from where he came. Man does not know from where he came. He thinks he comes from his father and mother, from Punjab, or from Madras. To whom are you related? Who is your nearest relative? My brother, my sister, my father, my mother. We have no other relative except these people. We are limited to this relationship geographically, nationally and even socially.

The other operations that are superintending over our little actions, and even our thoughts and sense activities, are unknown to us. Do we know that divinities operate upon our senses? No one knows that. People may sit for a few minutes and hear that the sun operates upon the eye, the divinities are superintending over the senses, and then we close the book and come back and we ourselves are the operators of everything. The operation of divinity is only in the classroom. Afterwards, we are the masters of even the gods themselves. Let the gods mind their business. The ego is stronger than any instruction that can be given to it. It is violent, rebellious, unyielding and stronger than flint.

The blessedness of man is not in losing the paradise, but in gaining it. When Milton wrote his great poem ‘Paradise Lost' which thrilled the literary audience of England, people came to him: “Friend, you have written about loss. But what about gain?” He never wrote about gain. Then under the advice of many friends he wrote another poem called ‘Paradise Regained'. Maybe he was not very eager to write that poem, and so it is not as forceful and charged with such feeling and power of literary beauty as is ‘Paradise Lost', because tragedies are more touching than comedies. We feel torn to pieces when we are witnessing a tragic drama. We are shred into pieces, broken, as it were, into glass pieces, when we see a tragic occurrence. We are not so much elated by a comedy.

This again is an indication of the way in which man is made, a study in psychoanalysis. Tragedies seem to be more near to the way in which man's mind operates than comedies. Man, himself is a great tragedy of creation. It is mentioned in a scripture, perhaps in the Old Testament of the Bible, that God thought, “I will never create man again. I will destroy man forever. I will root him out completely,” and so on, in spite of the fact that man has been regarded as the final touch of God's wisdom. So, there is this position today in human history which demonstrates that the paradise has been lost and it has not been regained, and we are struggling to regain it. But it cannot be regained unless the law is obeyed.

All these things of the world follow us when the law of the righteousness of God is obeyed because the blessedness of man consists in obedience to law, and not breaking law. If man takes law into his own hands, the cudgels of God descend upon him, and God's mills grind very slowly, but very finely. God is a very leisurely person, as it were, highly majestic, very profound, dignified. He will not open his mouth and perhaps will say nothing, knowing everything at the same time. He does not act like a dog barking, but is like a lion that takes action when it is necessary.

This is demonstrated in the Mahabharata in the history of Bhagavan Sri Krishna. He was not a person to take action in one second. He did nothing at all. Everything is silence, as if nothing is taking place. It is all watching, understanding, knowing, omniscience because God has given man some kind of freedom, and the long rope has to be exhausted. The cow that is tethered to a rope has the freedom to move to the extent of the rope. and no one will interfere with it. No restraint is exercised upon the cow to the extent of the length of that rope with which it is tethered to a peg. But the restraint is felt when it tries to go beyond the length of that rope.

So, man never feels much sorrow or grief. He thinks he is very happy in this world of milk and honey, as long as he is within the ambit of the length of the rope that is given to him in the form of individual freedom. But there is a limit to this freedom, and when he tries to overstep this limit and break this boundary set by this rope of restraint exercised upon him by the law of nature, he is pulled back. This pulling back is the history of man. Very few of us have leisure; we are all very busy people for nothing, but those who have real leisure will benefit by the study of these great classics such as the Mahabharata, Milton's ‘Paradise Lost and Regained', Gibbon's ‘The Fall of the Roman Empire', Arnold Toynbee's ‘A Study of History', and epics of this nature which tell the whole story of man right from the beginning till the end, right from the beginning of creation itself and ending with the great blessedness that is awaiting us, the salvation of the soul.

Our salvation or freedom does not consist in what we are trying to do with our hands and feet. Human action is not necessarily a fulfilment of the law of God, though it can be in harmony with the law of God. Karma yoga is an instance on the point. The Bhagavad Gita is very difficult to understand. No one can understand it unless one thinks like Lord Krishna himself because it is an ordainment or an ordinance issued by God from the point of view of his vision of creation, and we can understand what it says only when we are able to raise ourselves to that status of vision where we see things in the way in which the whole universe sees, as the body sees every limb to which it is connected, or of which it is the organ. Every limb of the body is known to the body, and the body has an outlook, a vision or an understanding of every cell, every part, every limb, every finger. That vision is a total vision without any partiality of friend and foe. The bodily organism has no friendship or animosity in regard to any of its limbs, though it may separate some part if it becomes diseased, without being angry with that part. Another limb may be very strong, but it does not mean that the body has any friendship towards it. It is a totally impartial organic outlook of the whole system in regard to the limbs which belong to it.

Such is the way in which God operates, nature operates, the history of the cosmos works, and our blessedness consists only in contemplating this great truth of the universe. Meditation is the duty of man, not action. Action can become meditation when knowledge arises in us that action is not anything that we do, but something happens on account of the rise in this understanding. When action becomes a movement of consciousness, it becomes karma yoga. When the universe begins to work and throb within us and through us as instruments of it, all our actions become karma yoga.

Karma yoga is not an action that I do or you do; it is an action that the world does, nature does, God does. When the universe works through us as instruments, all that we do produces no reaction in respect of us, as a message conveyed by an ambassador is not his message and no reaction from that message will have an impact upon him because he represents another body which has deputed him to convey this message or execute a particular deed. We are like ambassadors, trustees, instruments. Nimittamātraṁ bhava, mayaivaite nihatāḥ pūrvam eva (Gita 11.33), says the great Lord in the Bhagavadgita: Everything has been done by Me, and I do all things. We are only an instrument, a fountain pen. We do not say the pen has written the dramas of Shakespeare, of Kalidasa or any history, but it is true that it has written them; we cannot deny that. So, it is true that we are doing many things, yet we are not doing anything. But if we are so presumptuous as to feel that we are doing anything, we have to reap the harvest of this seed of ignorance which we have sown. It will redound upon us like a boomerang and compel us to pass through the process of transmigration, metempsychosis, birth and death.

We are not here in the Sivananda Ashram to work for our rebirth. That is not the purpose for which we are here. We could have taken rebirth even without coming here. The purpose is to stop this cycle of unending sorrow, the pratitya-samutpada as Buddha calls it, the chain of coming and going, relentlessly, endlessly moving like a wheel without stopping. Such a movement has to be put an end to. The law of cause and effect has to break, which cannot break as long as we live in space and time and cause and relationship. To live in space and in time is to be involved in cause-and-effect relationship because cause and effect relationship is nothing but the way in which space-time operates, and we are all in space and time. And so, the law of action and reaction, which we call cause and effect, has its effect upon us. This will bring about rebirth. We cannot avoid it. So, no one who is conditioned by space, time and cause can avoid rebirth.

Here comes a great crucial point before us. Is there a hope of salvation? Can we attain moksha? Can we contact God the Almighty? “Yes,” is the answer. We can. The paradise lost can be regained. For that, the Son of man has to sacrifice himself on the cross, which means to say, the individual has to be sacrificed on the cross of this utter sacrifice of individuality in jnana yajna, the meditation on the Absolute, wherein the nexus of cause and relation is broken through and the fortress of ignorance is pierced by overcoming the limitations caused by our location in space and time.

In meditation we do not think space and time. In meditation we do not think that we are persons. In meditation we do not think that there are people around us. We do not think that there is anything at all. When the consciousness of objectivity ceases, the consciousness of space-time cause and relation also simultaneously ceases, which puts an end to the consciousness of our bodily individuality and egoism, etc. In one stroke of asanga shastra, as the Bhagavadgita puts it, the axe of detachment, we take one step in the direction of liberation, the final moksha.

Thus, in these few words I have placed before you a few ideas concerning the great duty of every one of us in this universe of God's creation, which is meditation and nothing else, so that every duty that we perform, every little work that we do is also a meditation, and it means nothing else. We are not working for ten hours and meditating for one hour. We are meditating throughout the day and the night. All our operations in the world are meditations on God, and every little work such as washing vessels or sweeping the floor is a meditation on God. We are not the doers of anything. We want nothing in this world. We want nothing in this world because we cannot get anything in this world. This is so because nothing belongs to us. Even this body does not belong to us. Neither I belong to you, nor you belong to me. Every one of us belongs to that Central Authority, the seed of the universe from where everything has emanated as this vast banyan tree of samsara.

Thus, meditation is our duty. Meditation is nothing but a perpetual attempt on our part to gather our consciousness into this centrality of our relations to the whole universal setup wherein we step over the conditioning factors of space-time and causal relation, and we cease to be what we appear to be. There is neither the consciousness of our own self as meditating nor the awareness of any environment outside; we are just before the audience of God. Here is the final word, practically, about meditation, which is described in such large detail in the scriptures of yoga such as the Patanjali Sutras and the Bhagavadgita, the Upanishads, etc., which have to become the theme of our daily prayers, our satsangas, our vocations and our meditations.