The First Step in Meditation

By Sri Swami Krishnananda

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Our eyes are telling us that everything is different from every other thing. If we look at the body of a person, we will find that every part is different from every other part, but they are not really disconnected. Even the nose is connected with the leg, but if we see only one of the parts, the leg or the nose, then we will not be able to understand their connection. They are so far apart, with one here and one there, but if we look at the whole body, we will know they are connected.

We are able to see the connection because we are able to see the whole body. But if I see only one part of your body and not the rest, then I cannot know the connection between one part and another part. That would be an incorrect or wrong perception of the parts of the body.

Likewise, with all these things that we see in the world – everything, whatever it is – one thing is here, one thing is there, and there seems to be no connection. Why is it that we are not able to see the connection? It is because we are not able to see the whole world together, just as if we cannot see the whole body together we will not know the connection between the parts of the body. We cannot even see the whole of India because our eyes are limited in their perception. They cannot go more than a few yards, so how can we see the entire creation? We cannot see it, and that is our mistake.

It is because of this error born of the weakness of the perceptive faculty such as the eyes, etc., this defect in our very way of seeing things, that we imagine that things are different from one another. One country is different from another country, one person is different from another person, one thing is different from another thing. The Sun is 93 million miles away from here, and we think there is no connection between the Sun and the Earth, in the same way as I may think there is no connection between the head and the leg if I cannot see the whole body.

In meditation this mistake should be removed, rectified, by putting forth some effort. You may ask me, “Why should there be effort?” If you can see the whole thing with your eyes, effort is not necessary. But we cannot see the whole universe with the present faculties of perception, so we have to put forth some rational effort to understand. We cannot understand the connection of things merely by seeing them because however much we may try, we see things as different, not connected. How can we see their connection?

In meditation, therefore, a little effort of the mind is necessary in order to know things correctly. You can know a thing by seeing it, touching it, hearing it, tasting it or smelling it, but you cannot see, touch, hear, taste or smell this entire totality of creation, which means your five senses are useless in knowing the real nature and interconnection of the things of the world, the way in which it is made.

There is another way of knowing, which is called inference. Not everything can be seen, heard or touched, and so forth. Certain things can only be inferred. For example, there is so much water flowing very forcefully in the Ganga, carrying lots of trees, wooden planks and clay, and the force is increasing, so we can infer from this that there must have been heavy rains upstream. The rains are far off, some 20 or 30 miles from here, and we cannot see, hear, touch, smell, or taste them, but we can infer this. Otherwise, how can there be so much water in the Ganga? There must have been rain. This is another way of knowing. One way of knowing is seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting, etc. If we cannot employ this method, we infer there must have been heavy rains.

There is another humorous example. There is a person who does not eat from morning to night. He fasts from sunrise to sunset, but he is growing stouter and stouter, fatter every day. How is it possible? We will think that perhaps this person is eating at night; otherwise, how could he become so stout? There are many such examples of inference, things which have to be inferred by the effort of your mind and understanding and reason.

Now I am coming to a very interesting point: what we should think in meditation. In meditation we have to use our reason, our intellect, to understand the truth of things.  As the truth of things is not necessarily what is known through the senses, it has to be inferred. From certain causes we infer certain effects. If something is, something else must be.

For example, now we see this table. We can infer that this table must have been made by somebody because tables do not grow from the earth. If there is a table, there must be a maker of the table. We have not seen that person, but we infer that without that person, how can there be a table?

There is a third way of knowing. There is a country called America. I have not gone to America myself. I have not seen it, nor can I infer that it exists because there is no proof. But there are many people who have gone to America and say they have seen it, so there must be some truth in it. If so many people say they have seen America, perhaps it is so. I have not seen it and cannot infer it, but I am believing in the words of all those people who cannot be said to be telling a lie.

Also, it is not necessary that many people confirm things. Even if one person says so it can be believed, provided that person is trustworthy. He is your best friend, suppose. You have got a very dear friend, and that friend will never tell a lie to you. That person says, “I have gone in a plane and crossed the seas, and went to a country and saw so many things. That country is called America.” Well, such a dear friend and trustworthy person cannot tell me a lie, so even if one person says it, it is all right, provided that the person is believable.

Now, these persons who tell us certain great truths about the world, about creation, about the universe, etc., are the people who have seen these things by going there by some method. Just as we go by a plane to America, they have gone to the truth of things by some other method. So the third method of knowing a thing is to listen to what trustworthy people say. These trustworthy people may be living, or they may not be living and have simply left records of what they have seen. We have got the great sayings of Christ, and the great sayings of the masters of the Upanishads, the Vedas, etc. Christ is not here before our eyes, but the New Testament is the record of his sayings, and we cannot say Christ told a lie. He was such a good person, regarded as a great ideal and an example of humanity. The great seers of the Upanishads have all left records called the scriptures. Therefore, scripture also is a help in knowing the truth of things. And thirdly, there are persons who are actually alive and are available to you, in whom you have got faith; they are the Gurus. So the word of the Guru, and the word of the scriptures are also a help in knowing the truth of things.

Thus, there are three great ways of knowing a thing: we see it directly, or we infer it by our reason, or we accept it because it is recorded in a great scripture of the masters or a great sage alive today is telling us.

What is the final conclusion? There is some mysterious thing in this world which our senses cannot perceive, and because we cannot understand this mystery we seem to be in a great dilemma, a great confusion. We have got great anxiety from doubts and questions arising in the mind. Why have you come from your country to India? You have everything in Italy; you are happy people, but something is telling you inside that there is something else. You have got questions in your mind, doubts and anxious feelings. Something seems to be wrong somewhere due to which you are unhappy, and you have heard that there are people in India who know these mysteries, so you have come in search of these people.

Now I am again coming to the central point of what you have to meditate upon. You have to meditate on the true nature of things, which you cannot see with your eyes, so you have to reject for the time being what you see with your eyes or hear with your ears because the senses tell you all false things, not correct things.

You can exercise your reason for the time being on the basis of what you have heard from me. You can regard me as a trustworthy person who will not tell a lie. I am telling you something which is for your good. Why should I tell you a lie? What do I gain? I gain nothing, so you believe that this gentleman who was talking to you must be telling something for your good. Therefore, you can have faith in what I say, and can exercise inference on the basis of what I tell you.

How do you exercise your reasoning and inferential faculty? In this manner. If everything is different from every other thing, as the senses tell us, if there is no connection at all between one thing and another thing, then there would be no such thing as mutual cooperation, a give-and-take policy. All things will fall apart. I will take the example of what is called love. How can one person love another if there is no connection between them? The very word ‘love’ will have no meaning if there is no connection between things. Love is possible because there is a connection between things, and if we say there is no connection, well, there is no love. So there is something wrong with what the senses tell. They say that one person is different from another person. But the fact of love and the feeling for another person which comes out from one’s heart in spite of what the senses tell is proof that there is some connection. If there is no connection, how can we love something? Even hatred is impossible if there is no connection because that is also a kind of connection only. Love and hatred, or any kind of cooperative activity among people, is impossible if there is no implied connection among things.

We should not believe our eyes and ears. The psychological faculties inside us give us some new truth other than what the senses tell. Also, apart from the fact that love, etc., prove that there is connection among things, there is also another important thing which we should remember, namely, our connection with the world as a whole.

We have an idea that we are inside the world and the world is outside us, but it is not true. We are neither inside the world, nor is the world outside us. They are inseparable. We and the world are inseparable. Just as our hand, for example, is not inside the body or outside the body because it is inseparable from the body, likewise, there is an inseparable connection between us and the world. When we think, therefore, we should not think in a separatist fashion, which is an incorrect view of things. That is the second aspect to remember.

There is a third aspect, which is that everything in the world is changing. We cannot see anything in this world which is unchanging. A child becomes an adult, an adult becomes a youth, a youth becomes old, and old age leads to death. Similarly, a seed becomes a tendril, a tendril becomes a plant, a plant becomes a tree, and a tree grows old, dries up, shrivels and falls down. The seasons are also a proof of the various changes taking place in nature. Scientists tell us that stars also become old. The Sun was young once upon a time and now he is slowly getting older and older. Astronomers say that one day, after billions of years, the Sun will also become so old that he will become very cold like a moon.

Everything seems to be changing, but what change is, is another philosophical subject. What do we mean by change? Change is a tendency of a thing to become something else. When we have a tendency to become something else, that tendency is called change. Now, why do we have this tendency to become something else? Becoming something else seems to be essential; otherwise, there will not be change. So change seems to be an essential nature of things. Otherwise, why will they change?

You do not change of your own accord; something seems to be compelling you to change. You were a small baby once upon a time, and you became a bigger and bigger person. Did you become bigger by your effort? Did you start pulling your limbs every day in order to become bigger? Something was compelling you, forcing you, making you become bigger and bigger. What was that something? It was not you. If it were you, you would have known it: “Yes, I am becoming bigger by my own effort.” You are not growing old also due to your effort. You are not dying due to your effort. You do not say, “Let me die today.” You cannot help it. Similarly, you did not come to this world by your effort. Something forced you into a mother’s womb. Something forced you in every matter.

Now another point of inference comes. “Oh, there seems to be something other than me, which is greater than me; otherwise, why this compulsion? Everything seems to be driven by a force, and everybody seems to be under the compulsion of this single force. So now I can conclude by inference that this force must be there.” Of course, you have not seen it with your eyes, but you conclude by inference and deduction that there must be something which is universally working everywhere, compelling people and things to change into something else.

In meditation you gather all these thoughts, and detach your mind from unnecessary affections and interests of the world because they are not all right. There is something very wrong with all the things in the world, and it is not true that things are as they appear to be. This is why it is foolishness to take too much interest in these things – going to cinemas, reading novels, going to clubs and parties, drinking and dancing – which do not seem to mean anything finally because after all these things you are the same person. You have not become better. Even if you go on travelling, sightseeing, throughout the world, you remain the same person. This will help you in detaching your mind from unnecessary engagements, enterprises, affections, loves, hatreds, and all sorts of psychological complications.

In meditation, what the mind does is, it automatically withdraws itself. When it has no interest in a thing, naturally it will not go to that. Why do you have an interest in a thing? It is because you believe in the reality of it. Now that I have told you there is something wrong with these things, that they are not as real as they appear, you distrust the appearances of things. Therefore, your mind will not go to these things and so you will not be thinking of them. Then what else will you think? If you do not think anything of this world because everything seems to be changing and is not as it appears to be, the mind will try to concentrate on what the truth of things is. This is the first step in meditation.

There are many stages of meditation. The first step is to withdraw the mind from the interest it takes in the things of the world. This can happen because of your inferential conclusion from the knowledge that you have gained through study of scriptures and the words of great people. This conclusion you have come to is that it is not all right to take an interest in the appearances of the world. You have to concentrate on the ultimate truth of the world. There is a universal force, perhaps, which has created this world, which has created everybody and is controlling everything. It has made you take birth in this world, and is making you die in this world. If everything is done by somebody else and you have no say in the matter at all, then it is a very serious matter, isn’t it? You have to think over this again and again, and you have to consult that person who does all these things: “Who is this person that compels everyone like this? If I cannot see him or it, or whatever it is, then life is worthless because that seems to be the truth. The truth is something other than what I see with my eyes, and until I see that, until I actually realise it, my life is incomplete.” This is the beginning of true knowledge.

So now when you sit for meditation, you will have greater peace because the mind will be satisfied. “After all, there is no point in unnecessarily meandering and running about through the various things and objects of the world. I must concentrate on the inner secret of things.” It is difficult to understand what the secret is, but at least you have come to the conclusion that there is something. What that something is, let us see later on, gradually. It is enough if you understand now that there is something other than what you see with your eyes.

Today in your meditation, gather up your thoughts, emotions and feelings and try to concentrate your mind on this supreme mystery of life. You will be very happy, and will gain great strength. It is not merely a psychological exercise. It will give you great joy and inner power, and you will feel happy everywhere, even when you are walking on the road. A yogi is a yogi everywhere, not merely in the meditation hall. He is a yogi in the shop, in the bazaar, in the street, in his office, and in the bathroom. Everywhere a yogi is a yogi only. He does not cease to be a yogi.

So be a true lover of God, a real lover of Truth, which means to say you are a lover of Truth always, not only for a few minutes. You are not a lover of Truth only in the meditation hall. Always, all throughout the day and night you are a lover of Truth and you are a lover of God and the seeker of Reality and a spark of Divinity trying to find out the divine nature of things. With this humble submission, try to concentrate your mind.

Articles by Swami Krishnananda:

  1. Swami Krishnananda — The First Step in Meditation
  2. Swami Krishnananda — The Next Step in Meditation
  3. Swami Krishnananda — The Philosophy of Life
  4. Swami Krishnananda — The Gods and the Celestial Heavens