The Next Step in Meditation

By Sri Swami Krishnananda

Courtesy of

Question: Swamiji, you said that we should forget we are human beings. How is it to be done – that is, how are we to forget that we are human beings?

Swamiji: I will tell you one thing now. How can you forget that this is a table? By knowing that it is wood, that it is made of wood. It is wood or it is a table? Tell me what it is.

Reply: Both.

Swamiji: Not both. ‘Table’ is only a name that you have given to the wood that is kept in a particular manner. When wood is kept in a particular manner, you call it a table. So it is you that has given it that name, isn’t it? Why do you give it the name ‘table’? You say that it is two things, but there are no two things. There is only wood fashioned in a particular manner. Likewise, you can find what you are made of. Find out. You are not Moti Ma. That name was given to you by somebody, and you are accepting it. But you are made of something. When you know what that something is, you will immediately forget that you are a human being, just as you forget that this is a table. Find out what the substance is of which you are made, and do not worry about the shape that it is taken. Why do you worry about the shape? Think of the substance. Then you will forget the idea that you are a human being, a man, a woman, etc. You are neither a man nor a woman; that idea also will go.

Swamiji addresses the gathering as a continuation of the talk on the previous day:

I was telling you that there is something which seems to be controlling everything, something far superior to your understanding, your capacity, your powers. I gave the example that everything seems to be forced upon you: your birth, your growth, your old age, and your passing away from this world. You cannot say that you will not leave this world. You have to quit. What is this mystery? Something is there over which you have no say at all. You cannot order the movement of the sun and the stars, or control the seasons. Everything seems to be going on according to some rule or law about which you have nothing to say. You are a nobody in this big kingdom where some peculiar law seems to be operating. This is what we were thinking about yesterday.

We also investigated into the phenomenon of change and transformation, the tendency of everything to become something else. One cannot rest in one state. Always there is an urge to become something else, to change one’s condition into another condition. All these things seem to indicate that there is something which is working for the fulfilment of its great plan in its own way, using us all as instruments perhaps, of which we have no knowledge. What is this plan? Everything should be changing. Everything should be born and everything should die – not only people, but everything in the world should come and go. We must try to find out what this power is, where this force is, where this plan of the universe is.

Last time I mentioned that we cannot see it with our eyes because the eyes can see only what is scattered here and there, and out of the scattered things a few things only can be seen. The ears, the eyes, the nose and all the sense organs cannot comprehend the whole thing. They channelise themselves in some particular direction. The eyes can see something, the ears can hear something, and so on, but we cannot see or hear the entire thing. Our faculties are inadequate for the purpose of seeing the whole structure of the world.

I also gave you the example of how you can mistake a human being for the head of a snake or the mouth of a lizard if only the nose is projected and the rest of the body is covered. If I cover the person entirely and project only the nose, you will not understand what this is, and will think this is some animal projecting its snout. You will not know it is a human being because you cannot see the whole. When the cloth is removed you will know it is a human being. All this is because when you see only a part, you can mistake it for something else.

This is what happens in our daily life. We see mountains and rivers and trees and people and whatnot. All these are little bits, parts of this vast structure of the universe, and we can never see the entire universe because our senses are limited in their operative capacity. This has to be understood. This is the purpose of meditation. We are now discussing the details of meditation, how we can see this mystery which is invisible to the eyes, inaudible to the ears, and so on. And why is it invisible?  There is a reason why we cannot see it, which will also indirectly tell us how we can see it. We cannot see it with our eyes because it is not like anything in the world. It has got some other character altogether.

Even in this world there are many things which we cannot see with our eyes. Not all things in the world can be seen. X-rays cannot be seen, radio waves cannot be seen, broadcasting station vibrations cannot be seen, but they exist. Why can we not see the waves of the broadcasting station moving through all space? It is because they are very subtle. The frequency of the wavelength of these energies coming from broadcasting stations are quite different from the frequency of the light rays of the sun or the sound waves which can be caught by our ears. Our ears and eyes are made up of a very gross pattern or structure, so it can catch only low-frequency forces. High-frequency energies cannot be caught either by the eyes or the ears. This is why we cannot hear with our naked ears the high frequency waves emitted from the broadcasting station. This is only an illustration to show that even in this world there are many things which cannot be seen or heard due to their subtlety.

Now, this mysterious thing which seems to be operating as a wonderful law in the whole universe is not only subtle and, therefore, cannot be seen and heard, but it has got another peculiar characteristic which is quite different from the nature of anything in this world. The peculiar characteristic of this mysterious something is that it is everywhere. There is nothing in this world which can be said to be everywhere. Everything is somewhere; nothing can be everywhere, but this is something which is everywhere. That is one peculiar characteristic of it. You are somewhere, I am somewhere, the trees are somewhere, the sun is somewhere, the moon is somewhere, and everything is somewhere, but nothing is everywhere. However, this is everywhere. That is one difference.

Now, certain things follow from the nature of being everywhere. What is it that follows? When a thing is everywhere, it must be indivisible. It cannot be divided into parts, cut into bits, because if it can be divided, it is not everywhere because it is not there in the gap between the parts. Therefore, anything that is everywhere should automatically be indivisible. This is understood. Indivisible means impossible of division into bits or parts. This is a very interesting feature which we must bear in mind. The mind cannot understand these things because it has never seen such things. If a thing is everywhere, it has to be indivisible. This is the first point to remember.

Now, I am very gradually taking your mind to something more and more important for the purpose of meditation. One thing is understood now: That which is everywhere has to be indivisible. If it is everywhere and also indivisible, it should include you also. You me, this, that, every blessed thing – this tape recorder, this table, these horses and tongas, these motorcars, everything – should be included in that. Otherwise, you cannot say that it is everywhere. So the indivisible substance which that wonderful thing is includes every little bit of thing that you see in this world, visible or invisible. Therefore, you are also included in that. This is a very important point to remember. When you are also included in that, how can you see it? Now you have got the answer to why you cannot see it with your eyes.

If it were outside you, it could have perhaps been an object of seeing. If it is outside you it is divisible, and then it is not everywhere. If it is everywhere, it is indivisible, and then it includes you, so naturally you cannot see it because how can you see your own self? It is invisible because the seer that you are gets included in that which is to be seen. This is the difficulty before us. Well, this is a terrible problem. How can you see it then, if this is what has happened?

Well, now let us come to the third point. The first point to be remembered is that it is everywhere and, therefore, indivisible. The second point is that you are also included in it, which is perhaps the reason that you are unable to see it. Now the third point is, what is its essential nature? What is it made of – wood, iron, gold, silver? Let us first of all know what you are made of; then we shall try to find out what it is made of because you are a part of that. Inasmuch as you are a part of that, what you are made of must perhaps be the same thing that it is also made of. If you are made of something different, then there will be a gap between you two; but we have already concluded that it is indivisibile.

Inasmuch as you and that cannot be divided because it is accepted to be indivisible, and because of the fact that an indivisible substance should be made up of a homogeneous character or nature, if we investigate into the nature of your own substance and find out what it is, perhaps indirectly we can come to know what it is also made of. Inasmuch as you are not separate from that, your essential nature must be its essential nature also. So first you have to find out what you are made of.

Your body is made up of five elements – earth, water, fire, air, ether – which the world is also made of. So physically speaking, you are one with physical nature because the five elements outside are also in your body. Your physical existence seems to be coextensive with the physical nature outside.

Now let us ponder a little further. Are you made up of the five elements only? Is it true? Or is there something else in you? For all practical purposes, it looks that there is nothing in you except this body. “I am hungry,” means the body is hungry; “I am thirsty,” means the body is thirsty; “I am tired,” means the body is tired; “I am born,” means the body is born; “I am dying,” means the body is dying. So whenever we make any reference to ourselves, we refer to the body only, as if there is nothing else in us.

The body will die one day, so you will cease to exist at that time. But is it true? Will you cease to exist completely at death? That is a very serious matter because anybody can die at any time, even five minutes later. Then what is the good of doing so many things in this world, being so busy, when at any time you can quit, you can be annihilated, and you become nothing? Then there seems to be no point in doing anything in this world. This is a very miserable state of affairs.

But are you going to be annihilated? Is it true? This can be known by an analysis of our own nature. Let us see whether things are really so bad. Are we going to be abolished completely, root and branch? Our hopes and aspirations tell us it is not as bad as that, it cannot be, there must be something more.

Now, let us find out if you are only these five elements, only the body, or is there anything else in you? For this, there is a way of knowing things. Yesterday I told you other means of knowledge also exist, such as inference, scriptural testimony, etc. Now let us infer certain things from other experiences that we are having.

Throughout the day when you are awake, you are thinking that you are only this five-elemental body, and nothing else. But you have certain experiences other than this waking state. You go to sleep every day, and sometimes you dream. Now, when you are dreaming, you may dream very fantastic things. All sorts of things may come to your mind. You may be wandering from place to place in dream though you are sleeping on your bed and not actually moving. Sometimes you might have had a good supper before sleeping, but you may feel that you are hungry in dream, which is quite different from the fact. The body is not travelling, it is not hungry, and you are not even conscious of the body.

Let us take only one example of this fact of dream. Do you exist in dream, or do you die? You do not die. You exist. But what happened to the body at that time? In dream you were not aware that you are this person. You were something else, and that means you can exist even without being conscious of this body. You had completely contrary experiences in dream, quite different from what you would feel when you are awake. So your existence, your life, is not entirely dependent upon this body. That is what you can find out by inference. You were alive in dream, not dead, and you can live even without connecting yourself with this body. This means you are not necessarily this body, and being conscious of this body is not a necessary part of your life. If it were a necessary part, it must persist in dream consciousness also.

Deep sleep is another phenomenon, in which you do not even dream and are completely unconscious like a stone or a corpse. You do not even know whether you are a man or a woman, a human being or a stone. And when you get up, you feel that you had a good sleep.

Now, I will ask you a very interesting question. When you were sleeping, you were not aware of anything? You were not even conscious of consciousness. No mind was working. In the waking condition, the body is working. In the dreaming condition, the mind is working but the body is not working. Now in deep sleep, the mind is also not working. It has simply wound up all its work and stopped its functions. It is almost dead with no consciousness. Now when you get up and say that you had a very nice sleep, what do you mean by that? This means you remember that you slept, but how can a person who is unconscious remember anything? That is a contradiction of psychological phenomena. Unconscious things cannot remember anything, and yet you are remembering while you are unconscious. Both things were there. Very strange! You were totally unconscious in sleep, yet you remember.

This is something very interesting to investigate. How can an unconscious person remember anything? A stone does not remember. How do you remember that you slept when you were unconscious like a stone? Nobody thinks about these matters. Everyone is very busy. But it is very interesting that you were unconscious, and yet you remember.

To understand what the matter here actually is, you have to understand what is meant by memory, by remembrance. You went to Rishikesh yesterday, and today you are remembering this experience because it has produced an impression in your mind. Just as a camera captures impressions of objects that are in front of it, likewise, memory is only a groove, a mark, an impression that is made on the mind by some kind of conscious experience. If you were unconscious when you went to Rishikesh, you would not remember that you went there. The fact that you remember going there shows that you were conscious at that time, as remembrance is possible only if there is consciousness during that experience.

This means that if you remember today that you slept yesterday, there must have been some sort of consciousness there to create the impression in order to remember it. Absolute unconsciousness cannot produce a conscious remembering. Unconsciousness cannot produce consciousness. This is important to remember. If you were fully unconscious in sleep, you could not have a conscious memory afterwards; but you do have a conscious memory. That shows you could not have been fully unconscious like a stone or a wooden log.

What was there in sleep? You were not aware of the body and the mind was not working, so what was remaining there? You are thinking that this body is essential and you cannot exist without it, but the dream phenomena shows that you can exist without this body and even the mind. This is what we conclude now.

Now another conclusion follows. You are very happy in sleep, so happy that you would not like to get up. Someone has to shake you to wake you up. Your happiness in sleep is greater than any happiness of this world – eating, drinking, and so on. If you have not slept for days and are offered a good lunch, you would prefer to sleep because that sleeping happiness is greater than this lunch happiness. As a matter of fact, when you are overpowered by sleep, nothing can attract you because sleep becomes a greater attraction than anything else. No beautiful pictures, cinema, will attract you at that time.

Now, in sleep you could exist without body and mind and be very happy. It is not an experience of sorrow or grief. If it is a pain, who will go to sleep? It is a great happiness. So there is existence, there is happiness, and also it could not have been an unconscious state. That is what we conclude now. If it had been an unconscious condition, we could not remember it afterwards. So there must have been consciousness. Something has happened there which covered our understanding of consciousness. What that something is, we have to see later on. Something is obstructing your knowing what is happening in sleep. Consciousness could not have been completely obliterated or destroyed because if that had been the case, memory would have been impossible. So consciousness must be there, happiness was there, and you were existing. There was nothing else – no body, no mind, no friends, no relatives, no office work, no society, no consciousness of your nationality, etc. Everything has gone; only you are existing, and you are happy. Therefore, by inference you can conclude that there must have been consciousness.

Only three things were there, not anything else, and these things were existence, consciousness, happiness. These are the only things that are possible to extract out of your personality finally. Everything else is an outer accretion that has grown upon you.

Now, you have to find out the essential nature of this wonderful universal reality. To find that out, you must know your nature, because if you know what your nature is, you may know what its nature is because it is indivisible from you. What is your nature? Not body, not mind, not man, not woman, not white, not black, not south, not north, not tall, not short, not thin, not stout – all these things have gone when you were in sleep. Only existence was there, consciousness was there, happiness was there. So your essential nature is existence, consciousness, happiness.

It is a great consolation, isn’t it? The final conclusion is that your essential nature is existence, consciousness, happiness, and not Mr. So-and-so, Mrs. So-and-so. They are all false ideas coming to you because of this body. If the body is not there, you are not Mr. or Mrs., not even human beings. This answers Moti Ma’s question – you are not even a human being, but something else.

Now, inasmuch as that wonderful, all pervading something must be indivisible, and you are inseparable from that, and your nature is existence, consciousness, happiness, its nature also must be existence, consciousness, happiness. What is the ultimate nature of things? It is existence, consciousness, happiness, and not body, mind, relationship, wealth, name, fame, power, and so on. All these things that we value so much in this world are not everywhere. They are only in some place. But reality must be everywhere; otherwise, it will be finite. And inasmuch as reality has to be everywhere, and inasmuch as it has to be existence, consciousness, joy, then that should be the object of our meditation.

You should meditate on this wonderful reality which is everywhere, whose nature is existence, consciousness, joy. You are not separate from that because if you are separate, it cannot be indivisible. Do not forget this point. This also answers the question of why you cannot see it. Meditation is so difficult because it cannot be seen. Why can it not be seen? One reason is, as I told you, you are one with that, so it is not an object. Another essential factor is that it is consciousness. That is what we concluded just now. The essential nature of this wonderful something is consciousness.

Now, consciousness means something which knows things. The knowing principle is what is called consciousness. It is the knower, that which knows, and the nature of this all-pervading reality is consciousness. That which is everywhere is the knower of things. It is not an object that can be known. Because it is everywhere, and because it is made up of consciousness, and because it is the knower of all things, therefore, it cannot be a known object. Therefore, you cannot see it.

But you may ask me, “How can I see it then? My intention is to see it; otherwise, why should I meditate? What is the purpose of meditating if I cannot see it at all?” You can see it, but in a very special manner, not like ordinary things in the world. How can you see it?

Again I repeat, the essential nature is consciousness, which means to say, the essential nature is knowing. It is the knowing, all-pervading something – not the known object, but the knowing something. That which knows is everywhere, so everywhere there is only the knower, not the known. Therefore, objects do not exist. This is also another thing that follows. Objects of perception cannot exist. So what you see as this world is not real, not correct, because if the objects exist, this cannot exist. If this exists, they cannot exist. And if this is everywhere as an indivisible being, as consciousness, the objects which are other than that in nature must be an error of perception. They cannot be true reality.

The question again comes, “How can you know it?” I will answer it by another question. How can you know consciousness? How do you know that you are conscious? Not by seeing, not by hearing, not by touching, not by tasting, not by smelling, not by asking somebody whether you are conscious. Even if somebody says you are conscious, this is not the way in which you know it. You have a direct intuitive perception of yourself. It is not even a perception. It is something quite different. You are conscious that you are by a direct apprehension which cannot be explained in language.  You are conscious that you are, but it is not through the eyes, the ears, etc.

But if you are so much engaged in seeing something, a very interesting film, for example, you will not be even conscious that you are existing. You forget yourself. So when you are conscious of an object, you are unconscious of the subject, which is yourself. You forget yourself when you are absorbed in an object, and if you want to be conscious of yourself, you must forget about the object. If you are thinking of that, this cannot be known. So if you want to know, if you want to see this all-pervading consciousness, you must withdraw your mind from object consciousness.

Hence, the next step in meditation is the withdrawal of interest, the withdrawal of affection, the withdrawal of emotions like love and hatred, the withdrawal of all kinds of external relationships because consciousness cannot have an external relationship. It is indivisible, again to come to the point. So meditation is a very, very hard job, not for ordinary persons. Now you also understand how important it is because that is the life-maker, life-giver. Without that, life is worthless. You are living like a fool if you do not understand this great truth. What is the good of living in this world like a fool, without knowing the truth of things? So meditation is not meant only for monks and nuns, or only for people in monasteries or ashrams. It is for every person in the world, whoever wants to be worthwhile. Otherwise, you are a worthless being.

This is the great objective, the great aim and purpose of meditation. What are you meditating upon? It is this wonderful thing, the great reality, the marvel, the great mystery whose laws are working in such a way that you cannot be independent of the operation of that law because you are a part of that law. You have already understood that you are a part of that, you are indivisible in the same way as that is indivisible, and so its law is your law. Therefore, you are not really compelled by any person. It appears as if you are compelled because you have a false notion that you are separate from it. When you try to tune your mind and consciousness to that which is everywhere, you will feel that law and freedom are identical. Law is not a harasser; it is not a punishment that is imposed upon you by others. It is the freedom of the universal will that is working through all individuals. When you become one with it, you understand that law and freedom are identical. But if you are having some wrong notion that you are separate from it, then you feel that law is a harassing principle. It is punishing you, troubling you from outside. The universal is a great enemy for the individual as long as you think that it is outside. But it is not an enemy; nobody can be a greater friend than that. That is your friend and your enemy. You are inseparable.

This is to give you a general idea of what you should meditate on. There are many more things. You can go on listening for your whole life; it has no end. I am trying to give you only an outline of a few essentials which many will not tell you, and it is very difficult to get this knowledge from books. Whatever you read, you will not understand much. There are so many things, and you will not find them all in one book. And even if it is there, it will not enter your mind because it is so subtle. This is enough for the day. God bless you.

Spoken to a group, 16 April 1974

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