Be Kind and Serve Vaishnavas III

November 1929.

‘KNOW thyself’, said Solon. ‘Be true to thyself’, says Shakespeare, ‘and it follows as the night the day that thou can’st be false to any man’. Neither of them appear to have supposed that it is very easy to know or be one’s real self. But neither do their words imply that any of them suspected that it is impossible for the mind by its own effort to attain to the knowledge of self.

Sri Chaitanya Deva, in conformity with the teaching of all the Shastras, makes a distinction between the self and mind. The mind appears to us to be identical with the self but is not really the self. The mind is only the apparent self. It functions on the limited plane left without guidance it is in perpetual fetters. The mental is the unfree, bound or fallen state of the self. There is no option for the mind but to submit to the constituent conditions of its nature which impose palpable and severe restrictions on all its activities. The mind is punished by failure if it tries to override any of the limitations of its nature. The fallen soul striving to lead a mental existence chafes against these limitations which are foreign to the nature of the self. But he can never break through the bars of his iron cage so long as he happens to identify himself with the mind, as these form the very stuff of the mental existence of sensuous enjoyment.

The real self or the soul is free from all limitations being of the Divine essence. He functions as himself on the plane of the Absolute to which the mind has no access. The realm of the Absolute is free from all limitations. The function of the free soul on the plane of the Absolute is identical with the loving service of Sri Krishna. The free soul renders spontaneous submission to Sri Krishna. He is, however, permitted the option in exercise of his free will of not wishing to submit to his Lord and Master. So long as he does not of his own deliberate choice avail of this freedom to renounce his allegiance to Sri Krishna, he has full scope for his natural activities.

There is no really free or self-elected submission on the mental and physical plane. The absence of this freedom of choice makes the process of so-called submission on the limited plane also necessarily unfree. ‘Service’ on the mental plane is not ‘free’ service. This pseudo-service on the limited plane which is known as ‘Karma’ entangles us more and more in the meshes of the limited. By the nature of the case it can never free us from fetters due to its activities.

Our choice, therefore, lies between free and unfree service. We come by our adopted or mental nature by unwillingness to submit at all. In this world even when we profess to submit we submit only tentatively. This is the mental asset of submission to the Absolute belongs to the soul and is unconditional. It is not possible nor desirable to submit to anything of this world unconditionally as such submission would mean absence of freedom. But this slavery is unavoidable as it is necessary for soul-functioning on the phenomenal plan to submit unconditionally to all the laws of physical nature. This means that we are in this world always necessarily and wholly unfree. If free service implies free choice on the part of the servant for its performance we have no such choice so long as we function in this world on the mental plane. We make the best of this bad bargain by trying to reconcile ourselves to this unavoidable evil. The sense of spontaneity that at times seems to colour the performance of the so-called duties of this world can be but a delusion born of the habit of enforced submission. This slavery is the misery of the present existence.

It is, says Sri Chaitanya Deva, duty to our unwillingness to serve the Absolute that we are forced to be slaves to have a function at all. So long as we choose to avoid the service of the Absolute we remain under the power of the delusion that the body with mind is the self and under this impression we naturally try to find the solution of the problem of our consequent misery by activities on the limited plane. With this object in view we attend to the needs of the body and mind. We discover that the body and mind want to extend their relationships with the things of this world. They are found to be perpetually unadjusted to their environment. The mind and body want to dominate the world. This is what they mean by so-called adjustment to environment. But they cannot dominate us. We are their masters in as much as they can do nothing without the permission of our will. We, however, choose to exercise this prerogative of a master to serve them. We make the body and mind our sole advisors and agents in all matters. They are our eyes, ears, hands and feet. They represent us in every dealing with this world. We know that they are neither omniscient nor above even gross blunders of all kinds. We vainly try to guard ourselves against the consequences of these defects by the assurance of others who are subject to the same defects. The combination of many similar defective persons does not produce freedom from their common defects. The residual method applied to common defects can yield only those defects as it remainder. Thus even though worldings are found actually to profess not to believe the self to be identical with the body and mind they behave as if have no option of doing anything without this sole help and advice.

We thus allow ourselves to drift helplessly and hopelessly on the tide of the impulses of the body and the mind. But the strangest part of the whole affair is that we do not lose an iota of our interest in this enforced wild goose chase. A high degree of this perversity is even extolled by us who are its victims as the climax of wisdom and the cause of every well being. This debased partiality which all of us cherish for a course that must appear to the impartial reason as wholly futile and disastrous is responsible for the universal neglect to recognise fully the real nature of the problem of human misery and to make any serious attempt to find its solution even when their nature is put clearly before us. The thirst of the body and mind for dominating the world to extend the scope of sensuous enjoyment is un-appeasable and is only whetted by every act of enjoyment of the object of their desire. The thirst itself is a variable quantity. The futile endeavour to appease the unappeasable to pander to the uncertain and changeable is considered as the proper method of attaining satisfaction of the self who has, as a matter of fact nothing to do with these wants of the body and mind.

It is of course never possible nor desirable to stop the very activities of the body and mind. But at the same time we also need not identify ourselves with them in the way we are accustomed to do. The self is different from the body and mind. The wants of the self are also different from those of the body and the mind. It is necessary to be fully aware of the fact that the body and mind which appear to us to be identical with self are not the self. They are wholly separate entities with separate and incompatible affinities. The body and mind their interests impose themselves on us as those of the self with the full consent of the latter who being wholly oblivious of his real nature and different interest supposes himself to be identical with them.

The self is then found to be busily engaged in trying to alleviate the miseries of the body and mind, or in other words to serve the body and mind being under the impression that he is identical with them and that it is his business to serve himself by serving them. The result has been and is bound to be that no manner or degree of so called satisfaction of the needs of body and mind brings any satisfaction to the self. The self being false to himself cannot be true to the body and mind. His endeavour to minister to the wants of the body and mind of others is called ‘charity’. This so-called ‘charity’ instead of relieving only serves to augment and perpetuate the miseries of himself and others by encouraging all in the pursuit of a false method and hope. Pandering to the body and mind is the greatest possible cruelty to the self. By its means the self is committed more deeply to the course of being an aider and abetter in establishing the ignorant unwholesome and unnatural domination of his dishonest and worthless underlings over himself. The force of this fatal delusion may be conceived from the fact that the very tidings of his real nature and function sounds to the deluded soul as nothing short of a proposal of self annihilation.

Are we not all of us more or less conscious of the terrible unreality and puerility of every form of mental and physical endeavour inspired by the desire to minister to the needs of the body and mind as an occupation for the soul? But are we not all of us more or less resolved not to miss any part of such endeavour even for gaining the plane of activities that can be clearly proved to be really worthy of the soul? It is not also the fact that every proposal for the attainment of the plane of the reality ever appears to our deluded souls to be unreal in comparison with and for the sole reason of its being different from and incompatible with our present activities dictated by the body and mind? The nature of our delusion should be clearly understood. We are willingly pursuing a course that we know must aggravate our miseries. We perversely cherish on obstinate preference for the wrong course knowing it to be both foolish and suicidal, but are not ashamed of proclaiming against our conviction our ‘honest’ willingness to be freed from ignorance and misery and in proof our sincerity we redouble our zeal in pursuit of the wrong course!

The function of the self may be described as being true to his real nature. It is our only duty to know ourselves. At present we are wholly ignorant of ourselves. We suppose the body and mind to be ourselves. But this is a stupid mistake. The real self is also self-conscious. He is now knowingly in the state of self-delusion. In other words he knows being self conscious that he is deluding himself. He cannot come out of this self elected unnatural condition with the help of the delusion itself. He must be wiling to rely on Truth. It is necessary for him to learn to distrust the counsel of the body and mind. It is necessary for him to turn for advice to those who are not themselves under the sway of the body and mind. From them alone, under the circumstances, it is possible for him to learn the truth regarding himself. No doubt the body and mind will try their best to dissuade their victim from adopting such a course. But we have the power as soon as we have the will to disobey them and to listen and act up to the voice of Truth. This truth is to be found only in the revealed scriptures. But those records have also been elaborately misinterpreted by deluded souls. They do not mean what souls under the thralldom of the body and mind represent them to mean. The mind and body with shameless stupidity try to discredit scriptural truth by asserting their own inability to recognize the Truth manifested in them. But the admittedly blind cannot also claim to see or show the way to any person. They can only delude themselves and others by such claims.

As the knowledge of the self is intuitive and not impartible in the mechanical way it is necessary not to expect such enlightenment by the familiar methods which produce and perpetuate ignorance. It is necessary to listen, without open or covert bias for mental or physical methods, to the words of the spiritual exponents of the revealed scriptures both as regards method and object of spiritual living. The exclusive service of Sri Krishna, the Greatest of Spiritual Teachers, is the eternal function of the soul, in his natural condition. In order to learn what such service is, it is necessary and worth our while to give our nights and days to the words of the Spiritual Teacher to be able to follow what the Teacher says on the subject. His words should clear up our doubts and confirm our faith in the Teacher. Faith purged of all doubts will enable us to attain to the function of our true selves. This must be so because we are all of us the eternal servants of Sri Krishna. It is the function of the servant of the Lord that is of the Spiritual Teacher imparted to us by the words and example.

To have faith the Spiritual Preceptor is the same thing as having faith in one’s real self. One sees oneself with the eye of enlightened faith which is the reward and concomitant of the service of the Spiritual Teacher.

No sooner we know ourselves in this manner than we actually begin to live. We awake from our delirium and are freed from the fears and anxieties of our feverish hallucinations. Then we begin to function in the natural and healthy manner. But the body and mind contest every inch of the ground and fight tooth and nail to plunge us back into the condition of themselves. All this sinister effort is bound to be futile against the pure vision and perfect wisdom of the awakened soul resolved to embark upon the exclusive service of the All-holy, All-loving, All-powerful, Reality who is no other than Sri Krishna Himself.

There is no duty except to the Supreme Person (Purusottama). The duty of function of the soul is to serve the Supreme Person. Service of Sri Krishna is the method of being true to oneself. Knowledge of the self is realisation of the self as servant of Sri Krishna. Knowledge, existence, function of the soul are indivisibly bound up with one another. They form only different aspects of the one Reality in His differentiated form of Jivas who are infinite in number and eternally engaged in serving their undifferentiated plenary Lord, Sri Krishna. The very existence of the Jiva would be meaningless without his function of the service of Krishna. The cessation or distortion of the function is identical with cessation or distortion of his existence. The function in the normal condition is also, therefore, necessarily without break or intermission and in perfect harmony with the actual relationship of the jiva with Sri Krishna. Distortion or disharmony is ignorance, misery, the abnormal and fallen state. The condition of harmony is the natural state, true enlightenment, real and eternal existence.

Those to whom the state of disharmony appears to be desirable and reasonable are really ignorant of the nature Truth. There is always the possibility of disharmony in the case of the jiva. But we should not confound actual with potential disharmony. Actual disharmony is not necessary at all for any purpose whatsoever. In the case of the jiva potential disharmony is an integral part of his constitution. This explains the necessity of spiritual submission in the case of the jiva to Him Who is free from potential disharmony, if he is to be assured of real safety against the danger of actual disharmony which is perpetually suspended over his head like the sward of Democles as the punishment of the refusal to serve the Truth. The jiva in the normal state is the spiritual protégé of the Supreme Plenary Person, Sri Krishna.

The Jiva is unable to maintain his normal condition of freedom from ignorance and misery except by throwing himself unreservedly upon the protection of Sri Krishna. The crux of all religions consists of the methods proposed by them for the attainment and retention of his natural condition by the fallen Jiva.

Sri Chaitanya says that there is and can be but one method for the attainment and retention of spiritual life viz. the grace of Sri Krishna. The Jiva is bound to be miserable if he functions in the manner that is contrary to his nature. It is his nature to function under the accepted protection of Sri Krishna vouchsafed by His grace. It is not enough if he simply agrees on his part to be under His protection. It is entirely with the protector whether He will extend His protection to any one. The redemption of the fallen soul is therefore entirely a matter of causeless Divine mercy. But at the same time it is also the Divine Will proclaimed by His causeless mercy that those who seek His mercy in the spirit of sincere and unreserved submission will obtain it. This is the Magna Charta of the spiritual liberties of the Jiva but with this all important difference that this Charter has not been obtained by successful insurrection against the Source of Truth and mercy by erring and disloyal subjects of the Supreme Lord. Sri Krishna always remains the autocratic source of all rights and liberties of the Jiva. The Jiva can claim everything he requires for his well being by grace and by grace only. His demand is specifically fulfilled by Sri Krishna if the condition of unconditional submission is fulfilled by himself, Krishna being the Sole Judge. Free service of Sri Krishna is free from all unwholesome imagined by the dogmatists and as free thinkers alike.

(To be continued)